Dale Yu: First Impressions of Kingdomino



  • Designer: Bruno Cathala
  • Publisher: blue orange
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Times played: 2, with review copy provided by blue orange


In Kingdomino, players vie to build the best 5×5 grid of dominoes (each starts with a single square piece and then has the chance to add 12 dominoes to the grid).  There are 48 numbered dominoes that are shuffled and then placed in a draw pile – you can use the box for this purpose.  To start the game, the first four tiles are drawn, and then they are placed in numerical order on the table (with the lowest number tile being at the top of the column) and then flipped over.  In the first round, the player pawns are drawn out in random order, and as each pawn comes out, the owner chooses which domino to place his pawn on. Continue reading

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Design by Alexander Cobian
Published by Mayfair Games
3 – 6 Players, 1 hour
Review by Greg J. Schloesser


Yes, another pirate game.  I guess the theme is just so darn enticing and somehow romantic that designers and publishers just cannot resist using it.  I would assume that at some point the game-buying public would become satiated with the theme and say “enough!”  But I also assume that publishers would recognize if the situation reached this point and cease releasing games using the theme.  I guess that has not yet occurred…or my assumptions are way off-base!

Booty is a recent offering in the crowded seas of pirate-themed games.  Designed by Alexander Cobian, players are nasty pirates attempting to grab the most lucrative booty (commodities, weapons, liquor, gold, silver, etc.), control ports in the Caribbean and Atlantic, and influence the market price of their illicitly-gained loot.

The game is primarily one of card acquisition and controlling ports.  Five island tiles, each depicting 3-7 ports, are arranged in a circle, along with the Commodities market tile and the turn order “Rank” board.  A number of cards (3 x the number of players) are revealed, sorted by color and placed in the center of the ring of islands, with the first card being kept face-down.  Each player receives a supply of “might” markers, two secret “legacy” tiles and a handful of coins.  Let the looting begin!

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What Was Hot at BGG.CON, Plus What I Played (Chris Wray)


This year was my first year at BGG.CON.  I’ve been to several major game conventions, plus several smaller ones, and BGG.CON was among my favorites.  Everything ran incredibly smoothly, the library was top notch, and the attendees were friendly.  About 3,000 of us owe an enormous thanks to the entire BGG team.  

While the bigger conventions like Essen or Gen Con sometimes feel like they’re about buying games, BGG.CON felt more like a convention about playing games.  The organizers had shipped over all of the most anticipated games from Essen and had them set up and ready to play.  And the BGG library was the best game library I’ve ever seen.  The games being played were a cool combination of many of the hobby’s classics and the best games of the last year.

Below, I discuss what was hot at the convention, and then I do snap reviews of three games new to me: Adrenaline, Hanamikoji, and Insider.   Continue reading

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Descent: The Road To Legend (Again)


I must start this post with an admission about my sordid gaming past: I Was A Teenage Dungeon Master.

That’s right… for roughly three years “back in the day” I ran a rag-tag group of adventurers through a variety of dungeons & forests set in a fantasy world of my own creation. Armed with the board from AH’s Outdoor Survival (the map of “the world”) and the ‘blue box’ edition of the D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) basic rules, I spent most of my free time (and some of my class time) drawing dungeons & creating stories in preparation for marathon Saturday gaming sessions & quick one-shot adventures on weekdays after school.


The author at age 16, celebrating his birthday with a Dungeons & Dragons cake.Yes, that’s a dinosaur – his mother could not find a dragon.

Our crew never got into miniatures – I think because of economics rather than my current excuse, “the fear of painting.” Similar reasons kept us from playing too many of the “official” modules – the primary ones I remember are The Village of Hommlet (T1) and the Giant trilogy. (I’m still cheesed off that TSR didn’t publish T2 – The Temple of Elemental Evil – until years after I’d stopped playing D&D.) I vividly remember spending my hard-earned allowance money on the first Monster Manual, Player’s Handbook, and Dungeon Master’s Guide… and using the information in those books to dream up even more diabolical adventures.

Then, sometime in the spring of 1981, I stopped playing D&D. I kept playing Traveller (a sci-fi RPG – that’s “role playing game” for those you playing along at home) and a little bit of SPI’s Dragonquest, but you could stick a fork in my time with Dungeons & Dragons.

But I continued to enjoy fantasy games… Particularly those that captured some of the flavor of D&D. For a while, we played Talisman (2nd edition) on a regular basis. Then there was Warlock of Firetop Mountain… and even Space Hulk, which always had a bit of a dungeon crawl meets Aliens feel to the game. Another favorite was Dungeonquest, which I foolishly sold (along with both expansions) back in the mid-90’s. Thanks to the generosity of Keith “I Used To Be A Neutral Good Monk In Mark’s D&D Game” Monaghan, I have the game back in my collection. In the early 90’s, I bought the entire 3rd edition Talisman set… and we spent many happy hours chasing around the board, attempting to defeat the monsters & avoid getting turned into a toad. (Weirdly enough, I never actually played Heroquest and/or Advanced Heroquest. I wonder how that happened?)

Most of those are gone now… Warlock, Space Hulk & Talisman (3rd) all sold at hopped-up E-bay prices to enlarge my oddball collection of games. Every once in a while, I get a hankering to play them, but not enough to give up the pile of other games that they financed. (Dungeonquest, OTOH, is still here… and gets played every 3-4 months or so.)

In the last decade, the same “wish I could level up a character” impulse has led to my complete & total enjoyment of Return of the Heroes (and it’s expansion, Under the Shadow of the Dragon)… and, to a lesser extent, my sort-of enjoyment of Klaus Teuber’s Candamir: The First Settlers (which is a weird cross between The Settlers of Catan & an RPG.) More recently, I’ve had a blast diving into V. Chvátil’s fantasy games Prophecy and Mage Knight, in addition to the puzzle-y charms of Legends of Andor and the creepy ambience and Euro-tinged gameplay of the Space Hulk-influenced Claustrophobia.

It was just over 10 years ago (Memorial Day weekend 2006, to be exact) that I was first introduced to Descent: Journeys in the Dark. Produced by Fantasy Flight Games with one of the largest game boxes I’ve ever seen (I think it may even produce it’s own gravitational field), this dungeon crawl game combined some of the best elements of Space Hulk/Heroquest (the puzzle-cut dungeon boards & the nifty miniatures), Lord of the Rings: Sauron (with one player “running” the game, attempting to thwart the adventurers), and Runebound (the fatigue system & the fantasy world – “Terrinoth” – setting of the game) combined with innovative new ideas first created for FF’s Doom: The Boardgame. I particularly liked the “one roll combat” mechanism.

At the time, I wrote that I was seriously thinking of buying or trading for a copy, due not only to my own enjoyment of the game, but the potential for my boys to eventually enjoy it with me. I noted that I was concerned about the length of the game (3-4 hours per scenario) and the potential for expansions to go awry.

I wasn’t wrong. The early promise of that first wonderful game withered with repeated plays… it took so long to get the game going, the campaign system was clunky, and an adventure took 4+ hours with a full complement of players. My desire to own a copy myself went the way of the dodo… and about the only reference I made to the game was in reviews of Catacombs. (“Catacombs = Descent + Carabande – 3 hours”)

So when I saw that Fantasy Flight Games was rebooting Descent, I was both intrigued and wary. And, for a variety of reasons, I didn’t choose to pick it up… and I didn’t get an opportunity to play it. Continue reading

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Mystery! Motive for Murder

Design by Bruce Glassco
Published by Mayfair Games
1 – 5 Players, 30 – 90 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser


A murder has been committed at the stately mansion, and there appears to be a host of characters who have a motive for doing the dastardly deed.  The murder was sensational and the police are under considerable pressure to solve the crime.  The detective who solves the case and makes the arrest will have his reputation soar and perhaps even earn a coveted promotion.

Murder: Motive for Murder casts players in the roles of these detectives attempting to solve the case by finding the person who had the greatest motive to commit the murder.  It is a strange little game that has some very unusual mechanisms that, unfortunately, just don’t seem to mesh smoothly into an entertaining experience.

At the heart of the game are a collection of “suspect” tiles, each of which depicts a character, his or her name, and four relationship or motives (“caught spying by”, “generous lover of”, “mother of”, etc.) listed along the sides of the tile.  Most sides also depicts a value ranging from 1 – 6, as well as a color (red – hate and/or blue – love).  Each player receives three tiles and one is dealt face-up to the table; this is the victim.

A turn is quite simple:  play a tile to the table, aligning it with a previously placed tile, and place your marker upon it.  No tile can be placed further than two spaces away from the victim.

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Dale Yu: First Impressions of Kilt Castle


Kilt Castle

  • Designer: Guenter Burkhardt
  • Publisher: Zoch
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Times played: 2, with review copy provided by Zoch


This year, there were two Burkhardt games that caught my eye, and each of them uses an interesting (and different) action selection mechanic.  Though Burkhardt is one of the more prolific designers, I have yet to find one of his designs as a personal favorite, though many of them are liked.  At the Zoch press event at SPIEL 2016, I had the chance to play Kilt Castle – one of the aforementioned games.

In this game, players are working together to build the towers of Kilt Castle – the ancestral home of their shared clan.  The board shows an incomplete 5×5 grid of building spaces.  Around the outer border of the board, the building action cards are placed – some of these are single colored while others have combinations of two different colors.   Each player has a supply of 16 plastic towers, with 2 of them having a “2 crest” sticker on the top and 3 having a “1 crest” sticker.   Each player also starts with 10 ducats.  The two multicolored roof tiles start next to the board. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2016, First Impressions | 1 Comment

Fool’s Gold

Design by Joshua Balvin
Published by Passport Studios / Rock Paper Scissors Games
3 – 5 Players, 1 – 1 1/2 hours
Review by Greg J. Schloesser


There’s gold in ‘dem ‘der hills!  Yes, there is gold…and quartz, topaz and benitoite, too!  Folks can get rich staking a claim and digging in those mountains and waters.  Of course, they are much more likely to go bust.

In the mid-to-late 1800s, gold fever caused a massive migration westward by folks seeking to strike it rich by discovering gold and other precious gems and minerals.  Some did, indeed, make a tidy fortune, but most merely subsisted or went broke.  Fool’s Gold by designer Joshua Balvin recreates–at least in part–the frenzy to discover gold and minerals in the great western regions.

The square game board rather blandly depicts a section of the west, with tracks leading from the central mining town to the hills, forest, mountains, river and lake.  Each of these locations has its own unique deck of cards with a mixture of gold, gems, hazards, false alarms and, of course, worthless silt.  There is a specific number and type in each deck, which is listed on the player aid screens.  This is important information as astute players can somewhat calculate the odds of finding gold or gems as opposed to silt.  Of course, dice and the luck-of-the-draw are involved, so luck plays a heavy role.

Continue reading

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Dale Yu: First Impressions of Planet Defenders



Planet Defenders

  • Designer: Wei-Min Ling
  • Publisher: EmperorS4
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 30-60 min
  • Times played: 2 with preview copy provided by EmperorS4


In this new game from EmperorS4, players are trying to protect the planet from rogue robots – that used to defend our own planet.  The game board is made up of a 3×3 array of planet tiles, and on these tiles, the three active Planet Defenders are found (these are the good robots).   The three double sided control tiles are placed on the table. There is a deck of 20 Robot cards – these are the ones attacking you – which are dealt into 4 equal stacks and placed facedown at the edge of the planetary card array.  A deck of technology cards is shuffled and 4 cards are placed face-up next to that deck.  Finally, each player takes his own player board and gets 5 Battery cubes next to it. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2016, First Impressions | 1 Comment

Dale Yu: First Impressions of 1001



  • Designers: David Duperret and Vincent Greco
  • Publisher: TIKI Editions
  • Players: 2-8
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 40-60 minutes
  • Times played: 2 in team version, with review copy provided by TIKI Editions – and once as 2p game


1001 is a team game where players are split into two equal (or as close to equal) team – one for day and one for night.  Each team sits on one side of the table so that they can conspire more easily.  The board is made up of 16 tiles which are randomly arranged in the frame.  Aladdin always starts in the lower left of wherever the castle ends up on the board.  There are holes in the tiles which are then randomly filled with gems.  A Rewards board with 12 cards is also set up on the table.  This board also has the turn track on it.  Each player is given a set of vote cards (numbered 1 thru 4) and then the game begins. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2016, First Impressions

7 Wonders Duel Pantheon (Expansion Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designers: Antoine Bauza, Bruno Cathala
  • Publisher:  Repos Production
  • Players:  2 – 2
  • Ages:  10 and Up
  • Time:  30 Minutes
  • Times Played: > 4


7 Wonders Duel Pantheon is the first expansion for 7 Wonders Duel, winner of the 2016 2-player International Gamers Award.  If you’re unfamiliar with 7 Wonders Duel, check out our review from last year, where I described Antoine Bauza and Bruno Cathala’s creation as “a tense, fast-paced, well-balanced two player game.”

Pantheon was released at Essen, generating considerable attention and coming in #4 on the final Geekbuzz list.  In recent weeks, Pantheon has made its way into North American stores.

What’s new in this expansion?  There are several small changes, such as new wonders and new cards, but these are primarily to integrate a big new gameplay element: Divinity Cards and the Pantheon Board.  Divinities provide in-game bonuses and powers to their purchaser, similar to Wonders.  In Age I, players choose which Divinities they will be able to invoke during Ages II and III.  

In short, Pantheon adds a new layer of depth to 7 Wonders Duel.  If you’re a fan of 7 Wonders Duel, Pantheon freshen it up and give you even more exciting decisions.  I’ve enjoyed my plays so far.   Continue reading

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