Charterstone (Game Review by Chris Wray) (Spoiler Free)

  • Designer: Jamey Stegmaier
  • Publisher: Stonemaier Games
  • Players: 1 – 6
  • Ages: 10 and Up
  • Time: 45 – 75 Minutes
  • Times Played: 12 (The entire campaign.)


Charterstone is the latest creation of Jamey Stegmaier and his publishing company, Stonemaier Games.  Though the game made a limited appearance at Essen back in October, it was released worldwide in December 2017.  

Charterstone is a competitive legacy game in which players develop a shared village.  The game is a worker placement game at its core, with players going to different action spaces to gather and spend resources, earning victory points along the way.  In the first game of the 12-game campaign there are only a few different actions that can be taken, but as the campaign advances, players unlock new spaces to add to the board.  Each individual game in the campaign has a winner, but there’s also an overall winner across the entire campaign.  And unlike other legacy-style games, Charterstone can be played even after the campaign is complete.  

I bought a copy at Essen, and me and three others recently completed the entire 12-game campaign.  What follows is my spoiler-free review.  Though I admire the idea behind Charterstone, this game ultimately fell flat with me and my group.  It isn’t my lowest-rated game of 2017, but given how much I was looking forward to it, I’m sad to say it is my biggest disappointment.   Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of tummple!



  • Designer: Bruce Shadorf
  • Publisher: Game Factory
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Game Factory

tummple! can be viewed as a reverse Jenga.  Starting from the flat rectangular base pieces, players try to build a wooden structure as high as they can.  The two starting pieces must be directly adjacent and touching along their flat edges.

On a turn, the player rolls the special d12, and then takes the action shows on the die.  The tummple pieces are long wooden rectangles, and the die may ask you to place it on the wide side, the narrow side or even on its end!  If the tummple! side comes up, you can choose to play your wooden piece on any side.  There are also two tump sides – there are the wooden half spheres which come in two varieties: white and yellow.  If you roll one of these sides, you take the corresponding tump and place it onto the structure. Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of Minute Realms

Minute Realms

  • Designer: Stefano Castelli
  • Publisher: dv Giochi
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 15-20 minutes
  • Times played: 8, with review copy provided by dv Giochi

Minute Realms caught my eye in the run-up to Essen as it was billed as the “most compact city building game ever” – and as I’m a big fan of such games, this immediately caught my eye.  I was hoping to get a peek at it at GenCon 2017, but it wasn’t ready then.  So, I waited for Essen and made sure to bring a copy home to try. Continue reading

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James Nathan: Unlock! Mystery Adventures and Unlock! Temple of Ra

Unlock! Mystery Adventures and Unlock! Temple of Ra

Unlock! The House on the Hill
Unlock! The Nautilus’ Traps
Unlock! The Tonipal’s Treasure
Unlock! Temple of Ra

Designer: Cyril Demaegd
Publisher: Space Cowboys
Players: 1+
Ages: 10+
Time: ~60 minutes
Played: Once each. House & Tonipal’s on BGG.CON library copies; Nautilus a friend’s purchased copy; Temple is a free print ‘n play scenario1.


Sometimes I don’t know what I like and all that.  I’m starting this review not knowing what my feelings are on Unlock!.  Let’s go back to the first escape room I’d ever done a few years ago.2

My mind was immediately blown. I’ve subsequently done quite a few more, but still far less than many people I know.  One of those situations where your local circle of influence thinks you’re the expert, but you see yourself at the novice end of a different circle.  As such, folks are often asking for recommendations on local rooms, and I talk about which had good production values, and which had the most creative puzzles, and which felt short for the cost, and I never know what to do with that first one.  It was the most fun, but why? Continue reading

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Dale Yu: The EXIT series from Kosmos – EXIT: The Forgotten Island, EXIT: The Forbidden Castle, EXIT: The Polar Station

The EXIT series from Kosmos

  • Games:  EXIT: The Forgotten Island, EXIT: The Forbidden Castle, EXIT: The Polar Station
  • Designers: Inka and Markus Brand
  • Publisher: Kosmos
  • Players: 1+
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 45-90 minutes (or maybe more)
  • Times played: 1 play of each of the three games with review copies provided by Thames&Kosmos


As you’ve likely noticed, the past few years has been filled with releases in the “Escape Room” genre – games where players work together to solve whatever puzzles come in the box.  We’ve reviewed a number of different releases here on the OG blog.

  • Reviews scheduled for publication in January 2018 (maybe even later today…)

Continue reading

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The Opinionated Gamers “Best Of” 2017



Well, another year has passed, and there is much to be thankful for.  The writers here on the blog have taken some time to write about their favorites for the year.   

It’s been a busy year for us… We’ve added a Twitter account as well as trying to crosspost a bit to Facebook, but don’t worry – the focus here is still on the blog and the written reviews!



Now – onto the individual “best of” lists from our bloggers.  There really is no criteria or instructions given – each writer here has simply made the lists to highlight whatever they felt was worth talking about!  Hopefully they will be an interesting read for you – the lists may also help you figure out how your tastes align with some of our writers to help you gauge future reviews/comments that you see here on the Opinionated Gamers!

Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of Pulsar 2849


Pulsar 2849

  • Designer: Vladimir Suchy
  • Publisher: Czech Games Edition
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages:14+
  • Time: 60-90 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by CGE

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, CGE is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. Is it going to be a fluffy party game like That’s a Question?  Maybe a super crunchy hard core game of Through the Ages or chewy euro like Tzolkin?  This year, CGE’s featured release was from Vladimir Suchy, skewing expectations to the chewier end of the CGE sampler. On the flight to Essen I attempted to read the rules, but the overall complexity and chewiness made them tough to grok. So like a previous game of his, 20th Century, it looked like I’d just have to get it to the table and see how it played. Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of When I Dream


When I Dream

  • Designer: Chris Darsaklis
  • Publisher: REPOS
  • Players: 4-10
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 40-60 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by REPOS

When I Dream is a game where players rotate through roles of being the Dreamer, being Fairies, Boogeymen or Sandmen.  There is a board placed on the table with room for a bed in the center.  There is a deck of 110 double sided dream cards; these are shuffled and they are placed on the bed. A number of role cards are chosen based on the number of players.  One player is designated the Dreamer for the first round, he is given the sleep mask to designate that fact.

The role cards are shuffled and dealt out to the players – there will be one leftover.  Everyone looks at their role secretly.  The Dreamer then covers their eyes with the sleep mask and then the top card from the deck is removed to reveal the Element on the card underneath.  Then, the two minute sand timer is flipped over. Continue reading

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Dale Yu: First Impressions of Twelve Heroes


Twelve Heroes

  • Designer: Takashi Sakaue and Masato Uesugi
  • Publisher: Catch Up Games
  • Players: 2
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with preview copy provided by Catch Up Games

Twelve Heroes is another Japanese game being brought to a wider market by Catch Up Games at Essen SPIEL 2017.  In this two-player only game, players compete over six territory tiles in a race to seven victory points.

The game is set up with players sitting opposite.  The six land tiles are shuffled together and placed face down in three piles of two tiles.  The top card of each pile is then revealed.  The playing area has the territory tiles in the center.  The area just next to these land tiles is the play area.  This is where Hero cards will be played to exert their influence over the land tiles.  Closer to the player is the Camp area – “hired” heroes are kept here.

Each player starts with a deck to twelve Hero cards and seven control tokens in his color.  There are 4 pre-built decks in the box, easily sorted by icon found on the card.  However, the players can come up with whatever method they like to determine their starting decks (such as drafting).  Each player shuffles their deck and draw an initial hand of three cards.  The rest of the deck remains as a draw pile nearby.  A start player is chosen somehow.

Before the game starts in earnest, there is a round of deck management.  Beginning with the starting player, each player can choose to place any number of initially dealt cards on the bottom of his draw pile and draw a matching number of cards from the top of his deck.

Players take turns, going thru the 4 phases of each round until someone wins the game.  The phases are: 1] Control; 2] Upkeep; 3] Income; 4] Military.  The very first round is an exception though – the first player starts with his Military phase, and then the opponent starts from Phase 1 of his turn.

1] Control – In each region, compare the strength of the heroes on each side of the tile.  If your side has a higher total, place a Control cube on an available spot on your side of the card.  If there are no more spots available, you will win this card (and score the VPs printed on the card).  If you win a card, all of your heroes on this tile are discarded while the loser’s cards go back to their camp.  All Food tokens here are discarded.  Then, reveal the next tile at this location (if one is available).  [Remember that the game ends if someone gets more than 7 points!]

2] Upkeep – Each Hero card in your play area must be fed 1 Food token – taken from the Region where they stand.  If you cannot feed all your Heroes, those that do not get Food are discarded.   Note that you cannot use Food tokens from your Camp area; you can only use Food tokens that are at the particular land tile.

3] Income – Take 2 food from the supply and put it in your camp.  Draw a card from your deck and add it to your hand.

4] Military – You get 3 actions to be taken from 4 possibilities – you can do the same action more than once.

Provision – move 1 Food from the supply to your camp

Hire – Put a Hero from your hand into play. You must discard Food from your camp equal to the cost of the card.  IF there is a “when hired” action, it happens now

Deploy – Send a Hero from your Camp into Play. He can bring as much food as you want with him.  If there is a “when deployed” action, it happens now

Move – Move a hero from one Region to an adjacent Region.  The moving Hero can bring as much food as he wants to the new Region.  If there is a “when moved’ action, it happens now.

Once a player has gone through all four phases of his turn, there is a bit of upkeep.  Players must discard their hands down to five cards.

The game ends whenever any player has more than 7 points from collected land tiles.

My thoughts on the game

Thus far, I have been quite intrigued with this game.  In our first game, we played with the pre-arranged decks (based on the icon on the card), and it was a tight game with a lot of back and forth action over the land tiles.  I didn’t write down the scores, but it was pretty close – I think the final score was 7 to 5.  About a week later, we played the game twice more using the recommended drafting technique – and the compositions of our decks were quite different, and we needed to employ all sorts of different strategies to best use the twelve cards in our deck.

The actions are simple, and by the end of our first game, we were fairly proficient in the flow of the game.  There is a nice tension here at each area trying to gain control of the card.  First, you have to move the higher numbered cards into the area.  But, then, once they are there, you have to constantly keep them fed or they will be discarded.  This is harder than it seems as you end up having to move food around from other areas or from your camp.  And, of course, if you are spending energy doing this, you are now taking efforts away from other land cards where your opponent is then surely gaining the upper hand.   

A lot of the special card actions (that trigger upon hiring) involve food generation and movement, but you can also get food to needed areas with the Deploy action – taking some of the stock from your camp…  You need to watch how much you commit to a particular area as well – if you win the card, all of your heroes and food at this location are discarded!  You could end up hamstringing your own efforts if you lose too many resources at a single card.

The scoring amounts of the cards are 2, 2, 2, 3, 3 and 4 VP.  Thus, most games will end up going to the player who first wins 3 cards – though it is possible to win with a 4 and a 3.  However, the 2VP cards only need to be controlled for a single round, so they go quickly.

Though I have just played three times, I have gotten a decent glimpse of the variety of strategies offered  by the different twelve cards.  Heck, I think the game might even be interesting if you just are dealt a random hand of twelve cards and you have to figure it out as you go.

There isn’t much room in my collection for two player games, mostly because I don’t often play games with only 2p, but this one is so far entertaining enough (as well as physically small enough) to make the cut.   


Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y, Eric M
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…


Posted in Essen 2017, First Impressions | 1 Comment

Dale Yu: Review of The Football Game


The Football Game

  • Designers: Simon Pearson, Mark Pearson, Jo Pearson
  • Publisher: London Board Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 60-90 minutes
  • Times played: 4, with review copy provided by publisher


So, if you read my Essen recap from this year, you’ll already know the story about this game – The Football Game was the unfortunate winner of the “my bags are already stuffed full and I don’t have room for this awesome looking game” sweepstakes.  I stumbled into the booth late Saturday morning and got a quick demo from one of the designers.  I was pretty sure that this was a game that I would have to try, and one that I would have to try with my kids.

In short, in The Football Game, each player takes control of a football club (that’s soccer for us Yanks), and hires players and manager, and tries to exceed their preseason expectations.  The three and four player game is played over six rounds, with three scorings along the way. Continue reading

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