Life, Liberty & THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS (Game Review)


  • Designers: Adrian Abela & David Chircop
  • Publishers: Artipia Games & Stronghold Games
  • Players: 1-4
  • Time: 60-90 minutes
  • Ages: 12+
  • Times Played: 7 (with review copy provided by Stronghold Games)



I’m not sure what fascinates us about “life-building” games. Maybe we all imprinted on Milton Bradley’s oft-maligned ode to large families and stock investment (aka The Game of Life). Perhaps some of us managed to blunder into playing Parker Brothers much more enjoyable Careers – the game that first introduced customizable victory conditions and Uranium Mining as lucrative vocational choice.

Even as the technology of game design has advanced over the past 20 years, “life-building” games continue to pop up. Though not my cup of tea, you can dig into the seedier side of life with Steve Jackson’s Chez Geek franchise or 2F’s Funny Friends. Hasbro published a nifty little card game version of The Game of Life (that is sadly out of print)… and more recently Lapuduti (sp?) created CV (and the expansion, CV: Gossip). I really enjoyed my one play of CV… and it sat right on the edge of my “add to my next game order from my friendly online retailer” for a couple of years.

Though the particular game elements vary – CV uses a Yahtzee-like dice manipulation system, Chez Geek is a take-that card game and The Game of Life Card Game is tableau-builder with two different resources (Time & Money) used as action points – the basic idea of all of these games are the same: players start as teenagers and proceed through their lives, acquiring stuff, building relationships, choosing a vocation, and having various life experiences. Points are awarded for fulfilling goals and/or accumulating points – and the winner is the person with the most “satisfaction”. (Cue up the Stones as a soundtrack… and here’s a thought: it would be interesting – and a bit scary – to imagine a Rolling Stones themed “life building” game.)

That brings us to the newest addition to this particular gaming genre: The Pursuit of Happiness from Artipia Games and Stronghold Games. Pursuit uses a worker placement system as you spend time (hourglass markers) to create your best possible life and parlay those life choices into Long Term Happiness. (Why, yes, LTH is secret game code for “victory points”.) Continue reading

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Dale Yu: Review of Mystic Vale


Mystic Vale

  • Designer: John D Clair
  • Publisher: AEG
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 14+
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Times played: 7, with review copy provided by AEG


Mystic Vale was a highly anticipated game for me since I first heard about it via an AEG press release in Spring 2016.  I have always loved deckbuilding games, and this new release promised to be a revolutionary change to the genre.  Instead of changing your deck via adding and deleting cards, Mystic Vale would allow you to change the cards themselves!  So, instead of being a deck builder, a new term was needed to describe the game: a card-crafter. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2016, Reviews | Leave a comment

Dale Yu: Review of Grifters



  • Designers: Jake Tlapek and David Fulton
  • Publisher: Indie Board and Cards
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 14+
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Indie


Grifters is a game set in the Dystopian Universe.  All games set in The Dystopian Universe share a similar art style and most of the games have hidden identity and social deduction game mechanics. The first game set in the Dystopian was The Resistance. The Dystopian Universe became a “shared universe” when Indie Boards and Cards decided to set their reprinting of Coup in the universe they had previously created for The Resistance rather than France. Grifters marked the first game set in the universe that did not feature hidden identity and social game mechanics.

Though I honestly have not been a big fan of previous Dystopian Universe games (mainly due to my general dislike of social deduction games), a quick demo at GenCon 2016 was enough to convince me to take this one home and try it, because as much as I don’t like social deduction games, I really love me some deckbuilding games. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2016, Reviews | Leave a comment

Dale Yu: Essen Preview of Ta-Da!



  • Designer: Steve Avery
  • Publisher: Cool Mini or Not
  • Players: 2-6
  • Ages: 14+
  • Time: ~15 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by CMON


Ta-Da! is a game where players are wizards attending an annual talent show, and each of the players is trying to cast spells to impress their compatriots.  The spells themselves are represented on cards, and each of them take 4 or 5 dice results to be successfully cast.  Each player is given a dice cup and 6 custom dice in the player’s color.  Each of the dice have 2 arrows, 2 confetti explosions, 1 spiral and 1 broken wand face. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2016, Preview | Leave a comment

2015 Designer of the Year Award: Upon Further Consideration…

As most regular readers of this website know, every February I post my Designer of the Year article, in which I choose the person who I feel created the best collection of games during the previous calendar year.  One of the criteria that goes into that selection is how well the titles do with the various Game of the Year awards, many of which aren’t announced until late in the year (in fact, the winners of the IGAs weren’t revealed until this week).  I could delay the article until all the information is available, but that wouldn’t be any fun—nothing is less newsworthy than a 2015 award that’s posted in September of 2016.  So what I do instead is estimate how the awards will turn out.  This has worked very well over the years for two reasons:  first, my projections are usually pretty good; and second, even when they’re not, the DotY decision isn’t such a close one that they become the determining factor.

In 2015, however, neither of those things happened.  Hence, this follow-up note.  In order to set the stage, let me summarize my February article.  2015 was an amazing year for designers, quite possibly the best we’ve ever seen.  After reviewing the record, I concluded there were four designers with more or less equally stunning portfolios:

  • Eric Lang (Blood Rage, Game of Thrones Card Game, XCOM: The Board Game)
  • Matt Leacock (Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, Thunderbirds)
  • Simone Luciani (The Voyages of Marco Polo, Grand Austria Hotel, Council of Four)
  • Alexander Pfister (Mombasa, Isle of Skye, Broom Service)

I finally decided to give the award to Leacock, based on the enormous buzz and significant impact of Pandemic Legacy.  The others finished in a three-way tie for second place.  I didn’t anticipate that the results of the Game of the Year awards would do much to affect that decision.

So what’s happened since I posted that piece?  Pandemic Legacy hasn’t done quite as well with the major awards as most thought it would and Pfister’s games have done a lot better than anyone could have expected.  Check it out:

The SdJ’s were announced in July.  Codenames won the big prize, but in what most considered at least a mild upset, Isle of Skye beat out Pandemic Legacy for the Kennerspiel award.

Next were the DSP’s.  This time, it was Mombasa’s turn to win.  Pandemic Legacy finished fourth and Pfister was the only designer with two top 10 games, as Isle of Skye wound up seventh.

Finally, the IGA Multiplayer award came down to a head-to-head matchup between Mombasa and Pandemic Legacy and the former game won rather handily.  Isle of Skye also got a nomination.  Bruno Cathala’s year also got better, as his 7 Wonders: Duel won the 2-player award and his Raptor was nominated.

So what we have is an historic year for Alexander Pfister.  Three of his 2015 games won major awards and no one else has ever done that in a single year.  Ever!  He wound up with four major wins in all and I’m pretty sure that’s a record as well.  And, oh yeah, his fourth 2015 title, Oh My Goods!, also got some pretty good reviews.  It’s a Golden Year for Herr Pfister and there really can’t be any doubt that he is 2015’s Designer of the Year.

Now, in the rare instances when I’ve had to make changes following the awards season, I’ve simply let the newcomer join the originally named designer and declared co-winners of the award.  After all, you hate taking something away from someone.  But I don’t think I can do that this year and maintain any semblance of credibility.  As remarkable an achievement as Pandemic Legacy was, Pfister’s year just wound up being too good.  So he’s the sole winner and Matt Leacock will just have to try again next year.  Sorry, Matt.

So belated congratulations to Alexander Pfister, who is now officially the Designer of the Year for 2015!  It was an amazing 12 months and the honor is richly deserved.  And while I’m at it, let me redo my rankings for the other leading designers of last year.  Again, this was an astonishingly great year for designers and any of these other seven individuals would have had a strong chance to win the award in a normal year.  Here are the final rankings, with their leading games in parentheses.

  1. Alexander Pfister (Mombasa, Isle of Skye, Broom Service)
  2. Simone Luciani (Voyages of Marco Polo, Grand Austria Hotel, Council of Four)
  3. Eric Lang (Blood Rage, Game of Thrones Card Game, XCOM: The Board Game)
  4. Bruno Cathala (7 Wonders: Duel, Raptor)
  5. Matt Leacock (Pandemic Legacy, Thunderbirds)
  6. Vlaada Chvatil (Codenames, Through the Ages: A New Story)
  7. Daniele Tascini (Voyages of Marco Polo, Council of Four)
  8. Andreas Pelikan (Isle of Skye, Broom Service)
Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Dastardly Dirigibles (Game Review)


  • Designers: Justin De Witt
  • Publishers: Fireside Games
  • Players: 2-5
  • Time: 60 minutes
  • Ages: 8+
  • Times Played: 6 (with review copy provided by Fireside Games)



OK, let’s get this out of the way: the name of this game always makes me think Dick Dastardly and his sidekick, Muttley… and if you don’t know who/what I’m talking about, you’re substantially younger than I am. (You can Google “Wacky Races” if you’re curious… or you can check out their board game on BGG: Dastardly & Muttley in their Flying Machines. No, I’m not making this up…)

But this isn’t a racing game as much as it is a steampunk-themed set-collecting game that makes me smile every time I play it. It’s light… but not helium-filled. Dastardly Dirigibles is a filler with meaningful decisions… and I’m enjoying it a great deal. Continue reading

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Dale Yu: Review of Really Bad Art


Really Bad Art

  • Designer: Forrest-Pruzan Creative
  • Publisher: Wonder Forge
  • Players: 3-6
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: ~15 minutes


When I was in GenCon this August, I got my first look at the set of Wonder Forge games set to be distributed at Target. On my first glance at the new games, I was immediately drawn to the wobbling tower of Stick Stack, a dexterity game. As I got the sales pitch, I knew that I would want to play Suspicion – a deduction game. Being the good journalist that I am, I listened to a description of the third game of the set, Really Bad Art, and I have to admit that I very possibly might have started to zone out (or think about lunch) as soon as I heard the words “speed” and “party game” used together in a single sentence – Sorry Florian!

I was intrigued enough at the first two titles that I jumped on the chance to review the set. I went ahead and accepted the entire set because it seemed more complete to be able to review all of them than just choosing which ones I wanted. I’m glad that I took them all because, as it turns out, Really Bad Art looks to be the gem! Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2016, Reviews | 1 Comment

Dale Yu: Essen Preview of Guns & Steel Renaissance

Guns & Steel Renaissance

  • Designer: Jesse Li
  • Publisher: Moaideas Game Design
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 12+
  • Time: 40-70 minutes
  • Times Played: 2, with preview copy provided by Moaideas Game Design

guns and steel

Guns & Steel: Renaissance is a standalone expansion for Guns & Steel, providing new cards and new mechanisms that can be played by itself, or combined with the base game to provide a rich and dynamic adventure throughout history. I got a chance to play the original version last year, and it was an intriguing and deep game which came in a surprisingly small package.  In a deck of only 55 cards, players vie to build civilization by balancing the advances of technology and science with the power of their military.  The new version of the game provides a new set of civilization cards for the game as well as a few new mechanics.  While the game can be played with the original game, we have only played it standalone, and this review will focus on that way of playing the game.


As I mentioned, the deck is quite small – only 45 civilization cards and 10 Wonder cards.  Each Civilization card is double sided – one side for Development and one side for Resources.   There are 3 types of Developments: Civil (green cards – most help you gain resources), Attack (Red cards – they let you attack opponents), Tactic (blue cards – give special abilities / responses for attacks). Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2016, Preview | 6 Comments

Italian Game of the Year (Gioco dell’Anno): nominations

GiocoAnnoAfter months of careful judgments, the Italian Game of the Year (Gioco dell’Anno) committee, officiated by Roberto Genovese with Beatrice Parisi, Fabrizio Paoli (coordinator), Luca Bonora, Riccardo Busetto, Massimiliano Calimera, Fabio Cambiaghi, Paolo Cupola and Caterina Ligabue, nominated this 5 titles from a list of 33 games:
Continue reading

Posted in Site News | Tagged

International Gamers Awards – winners announced!



The International Gamers Awards committee has announced the recipients for the 2016 IGA in the General Strategy category:

mombasa-coverIn the multi-player category, the award goes to Mombasa, the creation of award winning designer Alexander Pfister and published by eggertspiele.  Rather than delving into the dark past of colonial oppression, Pfister’s design focuses on the economics of the era.  Players represent investors in the various companies who were expanding trade in Africa.  The game is a deep, challenging affair with many roads to victory…or defeat!

The award in the 2-player category goes to 7 Wonders: Duel by designers Antoine Bauza 7-wonders-duel-cover
and Bruno Cathala.  The game, published by Repos Productions, continues the empire-building theme of the award winning 7 Wonders, bringing the game’s exciting atmosphere to a 2-player format.  The game is tense and exciting, but is easy to learn and play.

The International Gamers Awards were founded in 1999 for the express purpose of recognizing outstanding games, their designers, and the companies which publish them.  The awards have gained widespread acclaim and have helped bring these outstanding games to the public’s attention.

The individuals who serve on the General Strategy committee are extremely qualified, knowledgeable and respected within the gaming hobby.  Each and everyone have extensive experience in the playing, reviewing and critiquing of games.

You can learn more about the International Gamers Awards by visiting the website at:


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments