Dale Yu: First Impressions of Adventure Island

Adventure Island

  • Designers: Michael Palm and Lukas Zach
  • Publisher: Pegasus Spiele
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 45-90 minutes per session
  • Times played: 4 sessions so far… (with review copy provided by Pegasus)

Adventure Island is the new cooperative game from Pegasus Spiele.  I had read about it prior to SPIEL 2018, but English versions of the game were not yet available.  One has since come in the mail, and I was quite interested in giving the game a try. Admittedly, this sort of game (cooperative, narrative based) is not usually something that I enjoy – but a recent good weekend with The 7th Continent has me considering this sort of game a bit more than I used to…

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Scorpius Freighter

Design by David Short & Matthew Dunstan
Published by AEG
2 – 4 Players, 90 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Rondels in space.  Well, that isn’t the entire picture, but it is a large part.

Set in a galaxy far, far away, Scorpius Freighter by designers David Short and Matthew Dunstan has players fomenting a revolution in a planetary system that is experiencing heavy-handed control by an oppressive government.  Players attempt to skirt the law by fostering and participating in a growing black market. While they share a common goal of ultimately overthrowing the government, each is also looking out for number one: themselves.

Each smuggler receives a board representing their freighter, which has 16 spaces for various upgrades, cargo holds and equipment.  Three of these are filled to start the game, with the remainder being slowly but steadily constructed as the game progresses. There is also space for the four officers of the crew, with each player receiving a unique set.  These officers give the players special powers and will earn victory points if they are upgraded.

The linear game board depicts three planetary systems around which players will move motherships (one per system) to determine the action available to them each turn.  Each planet is surrounded by six or seven spaces, each of which allows a specific action. Players generally may only move a ship one or two spaces per turn, which does limit their choices.  Fortunately, each turn a player has a choice of three different motherships to move (one per planetary system), so there is usually—but not always—a viable and useful action to perform.

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Scorpius Freighter – Review by Jonathan Franklin

Scorpius Freighter

  • By Matthew Dunstan and David Short
  • Art by Víctor Pérez Corbella, Jay Epperson, and Matt Paquette
  • Published by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG)
  • Players: 2-4
  • Time: 45-75 minutes

2018 was a year of fine-to-good games, but few great ones.  Scorpius Freighter arrived in December from AEG because I requested a copy, something I have generally stopped doing.

Why did I request it?  I like space themes, modularity, and games with multiple interlocking systems.  Scorpius Freighter ticked all those boxes and after reading the rules, it looked like a solid design with some new ideas.  

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L.A.M.A. (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  • Designer: Reiner Knizia
  • Artists: Rey Sommerkamp & Barbara Spelger
  • Publisher: AMIGO
  • Players: 2-6
  • Time: 20 Minutes
  • Times Played: 4

So anyway, are you in or out, Rob? – Charlie “High Fidelity”

Small box card games are a dime a dozen. I have a coffee table full of them to prove this. What isn’t a dime a dozen are good, clever small box card games that inspire repeated plays.

L.A.M.A. is a shedding game. What I mean by that is that you are trying to shed, or get rid of, as many cards from your hand as possible. L.A.M.A. is played over a series of hands and will end as soon as one player has forty points. The player at the table with the fewest points, is the winner.

Everyone will start a hand by being dealt six cards. In L.A.M.A. the deck consists of cards numbered one through six and llama cards. There are eight copies of each of the number cards and eight llama cards in the deck. Place the supply of point chips, single and ten point value, off to the side of the playing area and you are good to go.

Each hand will start with one random card placed face up in the middle of the table, this is the starting point for the players. When it’s a player’s turn, they may do one of three things. First, you can play a card. When playing a card, you play a card of equal value, or one higher than the card currently on top of the discard pile. Sixes can only be topped by another six or a llama card. Llama cards can only be topped with another llama card or a one. Second, you could draw a card. Third, you may quit, or fold if you will.

A hand ends when a player runs out of cards, or when all players quit. At the hand end, players will gain points for the cards left in their hand. You gain face value for your cards, but, if you have multiples of the same card, you will only gain face value one time. Llamas in hand are worth ten points. If you are the player who ended the hand by running out of cards, you can throw one of your point chips back into the supply, usually if you have a ten point chip, that’s what you will throw back, but a single point chip works as well. As soon as a player hits forty points, the game is over and the player with the fewest points is the winner.

One simple decision, should you stay, or should you go? If you stay you are commiting to playing another card or taking one into your hand, if you go, you are committing to points a the end of the round. There are times though, when those points are as good as you are going to get and staying in will only make it worse.

You don’t have a lot of control here. The sooner you get that understanding, the better chance game will become a lot more fun, and it is fun. There really is no way for you to know what your opponents have in hand, so you are just hoping that you have the right cards for the moment. Do you stay on the same card number in hopes that it makes it around to you again, or do you raise it up a level in hopes that your opponents don’t have that card. Fun little decisions abound.

Also, a note on availability. I am not aware of if this will be available in the North American market or not. I do know that Amigo has a facility here and plans on doing their own distribution, but I have not heard one way or the other whether L.A.M.A. will be something they do distribute here. I purchased my copy via Amazon Germany for a very reasonable price.

Simple rules, simple play and interesting choices to make based on what is going on make this  perfect filler, or palate cleanser if you will. Something to play when you want to play something else but need a bit of a break. L.A.M.A. has earned a spot in my Quiver carrying case, now, I just have to decide what game takes its leave.

Thoughts from the Opinionated Gamers:

Chris Wray:  L.A.M.A is the game that is causing me to question my theory about what makes a game good.  I normally say it is the quality of decisions: we gamers like to feel that the decisions we make are interesting and matter.  Though L.A.M.A is fun — so fun that I’ve requested it a couple of times — I find myself puzzled because the decisions don’t seem, at first glance, to be all that interesting.  The only real decisions are which card to play (assuming you have a choice, which you often don’t) and whether to leave the round (which should just be a question of risk aversion).  Yet theres enough to make this a delightful little game that I intend to purchase. This would be a good fit for the non-gamers in your life.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers:

I love it.

I like it. Brandon Kempf, Eric M., Chris Wray


Not for me…

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Dale Yu: A Euro-Gamer’s Take on Too Many Bones

Too Many Bones

  • Designers: Adam Carlson, Josh Carlson
  • Publisher: Chip Theory Games
  • Players: 1-4
  • Age: 12+
  • Time: 1-4 hours per session
  • Played with purchased copy

There are times in my life when I look back at the things I planned to do… and then suddenly realize “Damn, I never did that thing I thought I was gonna do…”.  I had planned to have a Too Many Bones review be my final review in the run up to SPIEL 2018. After all, I had bought the game back at GenCon (August 2018), and I had had a chance to play it a few times by then.

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Dale Yu: Review of Doctor Esker’s Notebook (Spoiler Free)

Doctor Esker’s Notebook

  • Designer: Dave Dobson
  • Publisher: Plankton Games
  • Players: 1+
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Times played: 1, with review copy provided by Plankton Games

From the publisher’s description: Doctor Esker has vanished, leaving behind only a mysterious book full of puzzles written in his own hand. Nobody has cracked his cryptic codes yet. Are you up to the challenge?

The game provides a deck of 72 cards which contain nine devious puzzles to solve. You can play through the puzzles solo or together with family and friends. Great for a party, a game night, or a lazy afternoon.

Each puzzle is composed of a set of cards. You can solve the puzzle by reading, comparing, arranging and pondering the messages, drawings, and artwork on the cards. Solving the puzzle reveals a sequence of numbers. When you think you’ve got it, gather the solution cards corresponding to the number sequence and flip them. If you see a message or image, you’ve solved the puzzle. Persevere to the end and receive Dr. Esker’s greatest praise.

I received a copy in the mail from the publisher, and the game is a self contained affair in a single deck box.  All of the instructions fit on a single card – and I will summarize those here. Go thru the deck and separate the card by back art – this will give you nine puzzle sets.  There are also ten solution cards which should be kept separate. The players should start with the set cleverly labeled “START”. Those cards are flipped over and the puzzle is figured out.  All of the puzzles here are numeric in nature, and you have to work together to solve the puzzle. When you think that you know the answer, you flip over the solution cards that match the code that you found – and if you have done this correctly, the answer cards (in the right order) will tell you which puzzle to do next.

If you get stuck along the way, there are hints available online at the publisher’s website…  The hints are well designed – there are a total of 9 hints for each puzzle: 3 small, 3 medium and 3 large – with the final hint essentially being the solution to the puzzle.  In our game, we had three veteran puzzle solvers playing, and we ended up needing to take 1 small hint and eventually 1 medium hint over the course of the game. We later went back and looked at the clues, and they are well done to give you the nudge that you might need.

I know that it may be hard to visualize how this particular game works – and the publisher has put out a short video on YouTube with a sample puzzle (not one of the nine in the game): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OFOygI5h-U

In short, you work on a puzzle, and when you think that you have the answer, you pull out the matching number cards from the number/answer deck and place them in order and then flip them over.  If you have the right answer, you will see a picture/word/phrase/something that confirms that you have done it right. This is a really neat way of having the game be able to self-check your answers.  I might wish that there were some red herrings on the answer cards because it’s hard to stop yourself from looking at all the different bits on the answer cards and unintentionally making notes of which cards seem to go together for another puzzle answer.  If there were some misleading images/words on those cards, it would be a lot harder to unintentionally (or perhaps intentionally!) spoil the answers to a later puzzle.

So, without spoiling it, what can I say about the puzzles?  The puzzles are varied in difficulty, with some being solved in just a minute or so, and others taking maybe 20 minutes (while needing a medium hint).  But again, though some of the puzzles are quite challenging, you can take as much time as you like with them, and then when you think you’ve hit the wall – look up the first hint and see if this gets you going in the right direction.  In our game, with one of the puzzles, which now looks simple in retrospect – our group had gone the wrong way in trying to solve it. We took a small hint, and the first of the nine hints got us back on track and we soon after solved the puzzle.

Our game took just over 80 minutes, though we were in no rush, and we were interrupted by a few phone calls and an Oreo break or two during the game.  It was a great experience for the three of us, and that number felt good – as the puzzles come on playing card sized cards, they were often held and examined closely, and with maybe more than 3 or 4, there just isn’t enough stuff to go around.

From the Plankton Games website – it appears that there are at least two further adventures planned (if this one does well) – and I hope to try out those other scenarios as I really enjoyed this one.

The game is available at Amazon https://amzn.to/2FqyQNo


Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

James Nathan: I was pleasantly surprised with this! I’m a judgy and cynical person, and was dismissive based upon the box art, but I should not have been. I liked that I knew what pieces went to which puzzle.  I liked how the system worked to check your answers (though I also agree there should perhaps be some misinformation as we did accidentally spoil part of a future answer, though not the exact number).

The puzzles were clever and largely they were both new-to-me and challenging-while-achievable. That’s pretty much what you want, right? For the most part I was engaged in solving the puzzle, putting things together in a new way, and appreciated how creative they were when I finished one.  

Looking forward to more of these.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Craig V, Dale Y
  • I like it. James Nathan
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…
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Dale Yu: Review of Horticulture Master

Horticulture Master

  • Designer: Lin Yen-Kuang
  • Publisher: Mozi Game
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 7+
  • Time: 45-60 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by MOZI

In Horticulture Master, players vie to have the most beautiful garden on their board.  The game has a number of tiles, each depicting a different part of a garden: ornamental grasses, cabins and temples, trellises, docks, rock formations, etc.  Each of these stacks gets an animal marker placed on top of it. There is also a deck of cards which has elements and tools in it. There is a central board which has a display of tiles available to the players as well as a 3×3 array of cards.  Each player starts with an empty garden board and 1 Magic Mushroom card in hand.

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Dale/JaNate: Roll With It – the Opinionated Gamers’ Roll and Write Decathlon

As some of you may have seen on Twitter, this past weekend, Dale and James Nathan brought together a wacky idea that actually ended up with a pretty darn good result…  James Nathan had been toying with the idea of combining games or playing them simultaneously. He posted a mysterious picture of Patchwork pieces with Bamboleo on social media earlier in the week.  That picture got me thinking – what else could we mash up?

By Friday morning, I came up with the idea of playing simultaneous roll-and-writes.  I had just received my review copy of Corinth in the mail from Days of Wonder, and I had just chatted with Brandon Kempf about his roll-and-write review series.  Anyways, my brain is totally about rolling dice. I started to consider all the games in my Roll-and-Write travel kit, and I realized that many of them used the same dice.  So… what if we set up a system where you could roll the dice and then use the results across multiple games? This could be the ultimate challenge for dice chucking and dry erase markering!

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Dale Yu: Review of Narabi


  • Designer: Daniel Fehr
  • Publisher: Z-Man
  • Players: 3-5
  • Ages: 10+
  • Times: 10-15 minutes
  • Times played: 6, with review copy provided by Asmodee NA

Narabi is a pocket sized cooperative game where players work together to “Create tranquility out of disorder”.  There are 15 stone cards, with ten of them numbered from 0-9 – and 15 limit cards, each with a rule printed on them.  There are also 15 card sleeves in the game, and to set up each game, a restriction card is randomly paired up with a stone card and placed in a sleeve so that you can read the restriction text on one side and see the stone on the other.  Try not to read the restriction text as you place the cards in the sleeves.

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Voices in Board Gaming: Interview with James & Sheila Davis

About Today’s Guests: This is the sixth interview in our “Voices in Board Gaming” series here on The Opinionated Gamers.  Today’s guests, Sheila & James Davis, are among the kindest people you’ll ever meet in the hobby. A husband and wife duo, Sheila and James have been doing this for decades, and they’re perhaps best known for their prolific game collection, which as we discuss below, tops 13,000 games. I met them for the first time at the Gathering of Friends, and I was excited to meet them after seeing them on the documentary Going Cardboard being interviewed about their acquisitions over the years. They’ve both answered questions below: paragraphs with “SD” are by Sheila, and paragraphs with “JD” are by James. Without further ado, here are 11 questions for two amazing gamers! 

(1) How did you both you get into the hobby?  What’s kept you in it for so long?

SD: I’ve been playing games since I was a kid.  My mom used to tease that I was a game collector since I had so many games (numbered in the dozens when I was living at home).  It wasn’t until I moved away with my first real job (about 30 years ago) that I learned that there really was such a thing as a game collector.  That’s when I began collecting in earnest.

SD: I like collecting and I like playing games, so it’s a perfect match.  And unlike many other types of collecting, I get to play with my collection.

JD: I agree. Having a game collection is the best of both worlds. Although having so many games does tend to lengthen the time our friends and I spend deciding what to play.

JD: My first clear memory of playing games was Pinochle with my grandpa and dad when I was probably around 10. But I got into the gaming hobby with high school friends. And I’ve never left because of the people. The folks in this hobby are amazing.

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