Patrick Brennan: Game Snapshots – 2021 (Part 15)

Patrick Brennan: Game Snapshots – 2021 (Part 15)


Huh – I would have never guessed the Mentalist was Australian

The introduction of New Frontiers on BGA has given my Thursday group a new go-to meaty-enough game for online play. Puerto Rico is one of the group’s all time favourites and has received constant play over the years. A game with the same mechanics (easy to teach!) combined with the Race To The Galaxy theme and its action and effect elements is well suited indeed. It also takes 5 players, which is a bonus – it turns out that not many games do 5 players well online.


I tapped out all the games I wanted to try on Yucata last year some time. While we go back there occasionally to play something specific (for instance Praga!), most of our online gaming is now on BGA. It may have a higher barrier to entry due to poor design but the actual game interface is usually superior and faster. I’ve now played 202 different games on BGA; and there are 162 games left as it stands. Most of these I have little interest in, either because I’ve already explored them physically in years past or they’re just low-ranked games that don’t inspire me. I’ve even stumbled into some BGA-specific games (ie not cardboard-released yet) that, frankly, haven’t excited me. I need to stop doing that. The one big-box game left there that I’ve never played is Madeira, which I need to get to at some point but each time I’ve opened the rules I sigh – it’s a lot of rules to explain.

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Dale Yu: Review of The Key: Theft in Cliffrock Villa

The Key: Theft in Cliffrock Villa

  • Designer: Thomas Sing
  • Publisher: HABA
  • Players: 1-4
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 15-20 minutes
  • Times played: 4 with review copy provided by HABA USA (both solo and multiplayer)

the key theft at cliffrock villa

The Key was one of the games that I was very interested in learning more about in 2020 – but then COVID showed up, and it became a lot harder to get games from Germany over here.  Thankfully, HABA USA has decided to print this one here domestically, and now American gamers can enjoy this one.  From the publisher blurb: “There has been a shocking string of robberies at Cliffrock Villa. Valuable works of art have been stolen! The players start their investigations and combine clues about the perpetrators, time of the crimes, stolen items, and escape plans. They need to generate the right number code to put the thieves behind bars. In the end, it’s not necessarily the fastest investigator who wins the game, but the most efficient one.”  

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Dale Yu: Preview of Altenor Secrets

  • Designer: not credited
  • Publisher: Power of Gamers
  • Players: 2 (in version I was sent), reportedly will play up to 4
  • Age: 14+
  • Time: 60-90 minutes
  • Preview prototype sent to me by publisher

altenor secrets

So I don’t normally do Kickstarter previews, but the timing worked out right for Altenor Secrets this summer. I was sent a preview prototype copy which is a limited 2 player only duel version of the game. Normally this sort of game doesn’t make it to the table, because I rarely have only two player gaming sessions. However, due to the covid pandemic, I have had a much increased amount of 2 player gaming.  And due to the infrequent nature of my two player sessions, I don’t have many games for this player count in my collection and it was nice to have something new to play.

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Dale Yu: Review of Merv

Merv – The Heart of the Silk Road

  • Designer: Fabio Lopiano
  • Publisher: Osprey Games
  • Players: 1-4
  • Age: 14+
  • Time: 90 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by Osprey Games


Merv. Not Griffin, but the city.  “A gateway between the East and the West. A hub of scholarship and trade. The greatest city in the world.”   Wikipedia seems to confirm this – “During the 12th–13th centuries, Merv, known as “Marw al-Shāhijān” (Merv the Great) at the time, was the world’s most populous and largest city, with a population of as many as 500,000 and preceding such medieval metropolises as Constantinople and Baghdad. Within this period Merv was often termed “the mother of the world”, “chief city of Khorasan” and the “capital of the eastern Islamic world”. According to Yaqut al-Hamawi, the city and its remarkable structures were visible from a day’s journey away.  In 1221, the city opened its gates to an invading Mongol horde; the resulting destruction of the city proved totally devastating. Historical accounts contend that the entire population (including refugees) of a million people were slaughtered in one of the bloodiest genocides in world history. Though partly rebuilt after the Mongol destruction, the city never regained its full former prosperity. Between 1788 and 1789, the city was razed for the last time and its population deported. By the 1800s, Merv was completely deserted. Today the site is preserved as a state historical and cultural park. It is the oldest and most perfectly preserved of the oasis cities along the historical Silk Road. A few buildings and structures still stand today, especially those constructed in the last two millennia. UNESCO has listed the site of ancient Merv as a World Heritage Site

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Brandon Kempf – Three Games Gathering of Friends Edition

I have a lot of games. A lot of games that are on my shelves, or on my table being played, that I have told myself that I want to review at some point. For one reason or another, this doesn’t always happen. My goal here on The Opinionated Gamers is that I want to get about one review out per week, but I’d like to write about more games. So I’m taking a page out of Patrick Brennan’s playbook, and we’re going to start writing about games in threes, in snapshot form. This should be a good way for readers to get to know me and my gaming tastes a bit better, and also another way for me to talk about games that I maybe don’t really want to dedicate two thousand words to. Welcome to Three Games.

In August, I was fortunate enough to attend the Gathering of Friends in Niagara Falls. Fortunate in that someone wanted to invite me, fortunate in that invite being accepted and most fortunate that my wife said go for it, and took care of the entirety of the first week of school without me helping with getting the kids motivated for waking up for school and kept everything up and running at home. What that means to you dear reader is that I actually got the opportunity to play a variety of games for the first time in a long while. I met lots of great people, including some from this very website, and I played some games along with a lot of Werewolf (I differentiated games and Werewolf just for you Dale). The first couple days I was there, I basically dedicated myself to Descent Legends of the Dark, which I think I am going to write about soon as well and kind of do a review of it like I did with Gloomhaven Jaws of the Lion. Here are three games that stood out to me at this Gathering, a couple new, and one “old”. 

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Back to the Game Table -Gathering of Friends

Some of the Opinionated Eaters, er I mean Gamers enjoying lunch

I recently attended the Gathering of Friends, an invitation-only convention that is usually held in April but thanks to the pandemic made an August appearance after two cancelled April events.

I didn’t make the decision to attend lightly. At first I was completely on-board, since all attendees had to show proof of vaccination and, at the time, it seemed that was enough. As the date approached, however, there were more breakthrough cases among vaccinated people, and I was nervous. After a lot of research and reflection I decided to attend, but to wear a mask while inside, including in the game room. 

Thanks to my friend Michelle for my super cool new mask

I was also nervous about playing games with other people and how that would go. I am so out-of-practice at interacting with groups of people I was a bit worried that I had lost all of my social skills and I either wouldn’t have fun or wouldn’t be able to function, but it turns out seeing dear friends after far too long of on-line only interactions was enough to keep me going throughout the week. I did play games with many friends via Discord and Skype and various online sites, but there is nothing like being in the actual, physical company of friends, socializing and playing a game.


I did end up playing fewer games than I normally would; I think that was a combination of a few longer games combined with feeling tired earlier than usual and actually getting a good night’s sleep, something I rarely do at a con. Perhaps that is my age showing more than the pandemic, though, since I also went on walks and ate my vegetables. . .

So, overall during the course of the week I played a total of 40 games, 38 of which were unique and 22 of which were new-to-me (or perhaps new to my logging app), and I played with 25 different people.

Here are my overall stats, for those who care about such things.

Highlights of my week included:


My husband kickstarted this game way back in 2018, complete with expansion and small boxes of minis. It’s been sitting on the shelf ever since, taking up a lot of space. During the pandemic we were making an effort to play things we had never played, since we needed to get rid of some games due to space concerns. We sat down with Rising Sun and started to set it up and review the rules when I noticed it needs a minimum of 3 players. Sigh. However, I was intrigued from the little exposure I’d had to it, so we brought it with us and convinced Tim and Ken to give it a try. Our friend Josh had had played before and offered to teach us, which was great (although the rule book is very good and clear, as it turns out) and as he mentioned the negotiation and blind-bidding I thought “uh-oh”, since I am not a fan of either of those mechanics. However, those are just small parts of an area control and influence game, and combined everything worked really well together.  I absolutely loved it, and I can’t wait to play it again. It has some really interesting mechanics, and all of the phases worked well together to make me feel completely immersed in the game and my strategy. see we’ve never reviewed this game at Opinionated Gamers, so after I manage a couple more plays perhaps I will write a more detailed description.

I’ve almost been convinced that I should paint some of the minis; my art skills are terrible, but the minis are really, really cool, so maybe. . . 


Ah. . . memories

I had read our review of this game back in July (which you can read here) and, even though the reviewers were neutral, I was still intrigued. It was definitely the theme that piqued my interest; I spent most of my childhood summers at camp, and I loved it, so waxing nostalgic I grabbed this and convinced three friends to join me.  I am happy to report that I really enjoyed the game. It’s a light deckbuilder, and it has several included decks, so you can mix and match each time you play. I really enjoyed it, as did everyone I played with, and a field trip was made to Target later in the day to look for a copy. We played with a combo that some purport to be broken, but it didn’t cause any problems for us. The theme is spot on and well integrated into the game, so maybe I was swayed by my fond memories of my time at Camp Bishopswood, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and look forward to playing it again.


I play this every year at the Gathering. One year we even played two simultaneous games of this, where when you got lost in time and space you got sent to the other board, where you’d join that investigation. It was chaotic but a lot of fun, which is true of the game in general.  Since we had 7 Tim served as the game master, and ran all the encounters and mythos cards and such, which helped with the game flow. However, we were terrible investigators. We completely neglected the first mystery (you need to solve three to win) in favor of closing gates, which we didn’t do well at all, meaning we had some fairly scary monsters strolling around early on. Alas, we were devoured by Chthulu in the end, but we had a good time.


I love Medici, so I picked this up when it came out. I hated it. It was boring and didn’t have the feel of the board game. However, we were playing it 2 player, so I hung onto to give it a second chance with more players, and I am so glad I did because it turns out to be a great game with 4. I was pleasantly surprised. You can read our full review here.


It turns out my friend Matt had never played this classic game, so we pulled it out for a post-dinner jump back into gaming. It’s probably been 10 years since I last played, but I am happy to report this held up really well. It was still totally annoying when another player reroutes your well-planned expedition, and still totally enjoyable. I am surprised no one has ever reprinted this game; it’s a classic that I am always happy to play. It doesn’t contain anything unusual or innovative, but it is still worth the time. Surprisingly there were several copies of this around the ball room.


We have a review of this coming soon, so I am not going into too much detail, but it’s essentially an area majority game in which you are settling the San Francisco waterfront during the gold rush. It has beautiful bits. I have enjoyed a few games of this two player, but I could see that it would play differently with more and I was very curious to try it. I do think it worked at both the two and four player counts. Stay tuned for more information on this one.


Another game with cool minis that was Kickstarted by my husband. (Are you sending a pattern here?) We’d been meaning to get this to the table for a while, but just hadn’t done it, so we brought it along. The game has three modules – solo, arena and cooperative. We opted for the cooperative mode, where our expedition party would fight various creatures in our attempt to complete our mission. It was a little bit of a slog to learn from the rules; the components come very well organized in various trays, but it’s not at all clear what is what. We treated it as a learning experience, and with a little guidance from a friend passing by who had played, we got started and a good time was had by all. I’ll be curious to pull this one out and try the other modes as well.


It was a bit of an unusual Gathering in the fact that there were no hot new games or any clear pattern of a game being the “hotness”.  Beyond the Sun and Nidavellir were both seeing some play, as was Oath. There were a few established designers with some prototypes at various stages of development, and those were all definitely popular.

There was also a moment where there were not one but two games of Die Schlact der Dinosaurier happening simultaneously.  I had never seen it before and I don’t know how or why there happened to be two unrelated games happening; I only wish I had taken a picture of the very cool components. You can see some of them here, though. 


Mitchell: Mainly I want to commend you, Tery, for being so transparent about your deliberations regarding whether to attend. These are challenging decisions and it’s very helpful to be clear about the difficulty in knowing the best course of action. Also, thanks for writing about WIldlife Adventure. It’s been years since I’ve played that (a family favorite when my kids were kids) and now I’m inspired to get it back out.

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