Dale Yu: First Impressions of Hop!



  • Designer: Ludovic Maublanc
  • Publisher: FunForge
  • Players: 3-6
  • Ages: 6+
  • Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Times played: 2, with preview copy provided by FunForge


Hop! is the new game from FunForge, with delightful painted minis and a 3-D board which easily catches the eye of all the passers-by at the show.  In this game, players try to score the most points by the time that one of the players makes it to the highest level of the board.  Cloud tokens and bird tokens are spread out on the table around the board. Each player chooses one of the painted figurines and takes the balloons and bet token that correspond to that player.  The board is a four level affair, with the bottom three tiers having half of each level designated for a particular level (i.e. the bottom most tier is Level 1 on one side and Level 2 on the other). Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2016, First Impressions

Dale Yu: Review of Hop le J’ton


Hop le J’ton (Hop the Chip)

  • Designer: Florent Toscano
  • Publisher: Jeux Opla
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Times played: 5, with review copy provided by Jeux Opla


Hop le J’ton is the third game in the series of games which recreate street games (Hop la puce and Hop la bille).  In this game, players try to place their chips in a way to push the scoring chips off the board.  Each player has a set of chips in their color.  One of each color scoring chip is placed in the center of the playing area – White (1pt), Gray (2pt), Black (3pt).

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Posted in Essen 2016, Reviews


Design by Shadi Torbey
Published by Z-Man Games
1 – 2 Players, 30 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser


I am generally not attracted to solitaire games as I honestly do not have the opportunity often enough to play them.  Whenever I do find myself alone, I usually have household chores to do, game reviews to write, or other tasks to accomplish.  Further, for me gaming is a social activity to be shared with other people.  As such, I tend not to seek games designed primarily for one person.

Castellion by designer Shadi Torbey is designed for both one and two players, but my experience has been strictly solitaire.  I found myself alone and with a bit of time on my hands, so I played the game several times, trying the different difficulty levels.  The game has a decidedly puzzle-like aspect that may well appeal to those who enjoy those types of challenges.

The theme is a bit unusual:  the player (or players) must construct a fantastic, morphing castle to protect the realm against the dreaded menace which threatens to overrun the kingdom.  The challenge is to construct the castle in a fashion so as to meet the requirements on the three “ordeal” cards in effect for that game.

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Cottage Garden (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
  • Publisher: Edition Spielwiese
  • Artists: Andrea Boekhoff
  • Players: 1 – 4
  • Ages: 8 and Up
  • Time: 45-60 Minutes
  • Times Played: 6 (With 1, 2, 3, and 4 Players)


At first glance, Uwe Rosenberg’s Cottage Garden looks vaguely similar to Patchwork, his hit two-player game from 2014. But other than the fact that they both use polyominoes (those Tetris-like shapes common in Uwe Rosenberg games), there really isn’t much similarity. Cottage Garden, which plays 1-4 players, primarily involves a puzzle of polyominoes. It is a lightweight game that just about anybody can enjoy, yet it presents a think-y challenge.

Cottage Garden was released at Essen by Edition Spielwiese, and it was one of the hotter games of the convention. Eric Martin has recently reported that Cottage Garden was picked up by Pegasus Spiele for co-publication. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2016, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Dale Yu: Review of 4 Gods


4 Gods

  • Designer: Christophe Boelinger
  • Publisher: Ludically/Asmodee
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 15-30 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Asmodee NA


4 Gods is the newest game from Christophe Boelinger, who has a number of game designs under his belt, and is probably best known for Archipelago, Earth Reborn and Dungeon Twister – all very different from each other.  This new release continues to show the diversity of Mr. Boelinger’s creativity as 4 Gods feels different than his previous releases.

In this game, players act as Gods who as building a new world – filling it in from the edges.  Though it doesn’t make sense thematically, they don’t know their identities at the start of the process, but as the world is being built, the players will choose which God they are – and then work to have the most and best influence over the new world. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2016, Reviews | 2 Comments

Dale Yu: First Impressions of North American Railways


North American Railways


In North American Railways, there are five different railway companies, each with 5 shares.  To start the game, these are shuffled and two are discarded to the box.  The remaining shares are arranged in a 4×7 grid on the table.  The 36 city cards are then shuffled and placed in a 9×4 grid.  Each player is given a starting amount of money, and a starting player is determined. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2016, First Impressions | 3 Comments

Postcard From Berlin: Games That Tell Refugees’ Stories

By Jeffrey D. Allers

imag1736The current refugee crisis is not a game. There are no clear rules, the information is often untrackable, there are hidden variables that lead to utter chaos, and there is no endgame in site.

And yet, tens of thousands of refugees were welcomed into Berlin—my adopted home city—during the past year. As they have taken up residence in makeshift shelters and previously abandoned buildings all over Berlin, I find myself connecting with many of them in my neighborhood through the shared language and experience of playing board games.

I am often frustrated that I can do little to help them navigate the German bureaucracy or find a job or an apartment, but what I can do is give them the dignity of spending time with them and listening to their stories.

Whenever I play games with others, we share each other’s stories. The games themselves do not have to tell a story; they simply give us a starting point and a framework for interaction. The multicultural game nights I host through Meetup.com are often only the beginning to ongoing stories—relationships that have gone beyond playing games together. And now the same is happening with my new refugee friends.

These are some of their stories, told through the games that connected us for the first time.
Continue reading

Posted in Commentary | 6 Comments

Dale Yu: First Impressions of Oceanos



  • Designer: Antoine Bauza
  • Publisher: IELLO
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Times played: 2, with review copy provided by IELLO


Oceanos has been high on my anticipated list for about a year now! I first heard about it last year at Essen when shooting the breeze with Mr. Bauza, and my interest in the game only increased with the amount of pre-release hype provided by the IELLO folks that I correspond with. The terms which caught my eye were: “Bauza”, “drafting”, “little bit of engine building”. Based on that alone, I knew that this was a game that I had to try…

I was hoping to get my hands on it at GenCon 2016, but it was delayed – and as is often the case, the box with the game arrived on my doorstep on the very day prior to my departure for Essen. As such, I didn’t have any chance to play the game until my return. In the game, each player acts as the captain of an undersea exploration. The players use their submarines – each made up of five upgradable modules – to find animals, treasures, coral reefs all while trying to avoid the Kraken. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2016, First Impressions

Dale Yu: Review of Round House


Round House

  • Designers: Eros Lin, Zong-Ger
  • Publisher: EmperorS4
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 60-90 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by EmperorS4


The round houses (a.k.a., Fujian Tulou) are unique rural dwellings that can be found in the mountain areas in southeastern Fujian, China, dating back to the Ming dynasty (17th century). A round house is a large, multi-floor, enclosed, and fortified earth building housing usually a whole clan, which functions as a village and is known as “a little kingdom for the family”. Players take on the role of the family head and each vies to be the most important member of the Round House. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2016, Reviews

Great Western Trail – Review

  • Designer: Alexander Pfisterpic2888331_md
  • Publisher: Stronghold Games, Eggertspiele. others
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 75-150 min

Great Western Trail capitalizes on the romance of the American west, but if you are looking for fighting and shoot outs – keep looking, if you are happy to reimagine the west as an outstanding strategy game with cowboys, cattle and trains this game could be for you. Brought to us by Alexander Pfister, award winning designer of Mombasa, Isle of Skye, and Broom Service, GWT is one of the hottest new games from Essen 2016.

In short, the game is a true Euro, it incorporates several mechanisms and as a whole makes an interesting and challenging game. A brief summary of the game play is a bit hard to do. Since the rules are easily found eslewhere this is a general summary.  Each player must manage their cattleman, their train and their hand of cattle.

Players have individual player boards img_0823where the can hire cowboys to help with cattle, craftsmen to build and engineers for their train. Player boards also give benefits like supplemental actions.

Players move their cattlemen across the board, stopping along the way at buildings either neutral ones seeded at the beginning of the game or buildings built by players during the game. Buildings give players special actions such as to help manage their hand of cattle, move their train, hire more workers etc.

When the cattlemen arrive at Kansas City they sell cattle. Cattle are represented by cards, they have values and suites. You build a deck of cattle by buying and adding more cows during the game. Cattlemen may sell cattle in their hand and gain money equal to the value of each different cow. Money is used for hiring, gaining more cattle and to build stations for your train. 


Players receive an objective card at the beginning of the game and can obtain more during the game. Objective cards are sources of points but could also potentially lead to negative points if uncompleted.

There are multiple ways to gain VP, from objective cards, cattle cards, buildings, train stations, to name a few. The player with the most VP wins.

My thoughts:

Downsides, the game has a lot of actions and it can take a while to explain, fortunately the game play is not complicated. There may be some potential for AP. The theme may feel pasted on to some.

There is some indirect interaction as you can place hazards and buildings to try and slow your opponents. Also there is competition for station masters along the train track.

What I like about GWT is that it meshes the mechanisms together quite nicely. I’m not a fan of deck builders per se but here as a sum of the whole it works. The planning needed as you move your cattleman is interesting but not overwhelming. Moving your train and the possible negative points that may generated especially at the beginning of the game are challenging. The variety of ways to earn points doesn’t feel like point salad as most are interrelated. I also like that your starting position can be the same or different from your opponents. GWT is a good middleweight game that will see several plays.

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers:

Nathan Beeler: While Great Western Trail had some interesting elements, on the whole felt as long and repetitive as a real cattle drive probably would. With all the other games in the world, most of them at the convention where I tried GWT, I decided to mosey on down the road to seek something better.

Andrea “Liga” Ligabue (1 play): it is just a first impression but I really loved this game. It looks like offering so many possibilities and I really like the deck-building of the cattle’s deck. It offered me the same sensations of Mombasa, one of the best game last year. What I like most is the wide range of choices that seems to offers different path to victory.

Dan Blum (1 play): I thought it generally worked but seemed overstuffed with little mechanisms; each one can provide additional decision points but, while having decisions in a game is good, adding more little decisions does not necessarily make a game better. I am also concerned that the game can be affected by a skewed setup. Since cowboys make the better cows cheaper and make it possible to buy the best ones, and your income comes from the cows, there seems to be a definite rich-get-richer problem if there are few cowboys available early. In our game there was just one cowboy available early, and the player who got that won easily; admittedly she was the only one who had played before, but the income disparity was definitely there and I think would have been an issue regardless.

Craig Massey (1play): I’m not sure how I feel about the game just yet. My initial reaction after the first playing was similar to Dan’s. There are many mechanisms that are woven together that make for interesting decisions, maybe too many. I felt as if many of the decisions are red herrings. I suppose it will take many plays to confirm my suspicions, but ultimately it feels like you just need to buy more and better cows are you are going to fall behind and won’t be able to catch up. The rest of the game is just window dressing.

Doug Garrett (2 plays): GWT is the hit of Essen for me so far. Straightforward actions and clear iconography speed up play once they are understood, and the choices as you proceed through the rondel-esque pathways are interesting and quick to do.  I STRONGLY recommend playing this as a 2-player for your first play, rather than with a full contingent of 4 players, as the game can drag painfully with that many newbies.  Shelley and I reviewed it in Episode 543.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

I love it! Andrea “Liga” Ligabue, Doug G.

I like it. Lorna

Neutral. Dan Blum, Craig Massey

Not for me… Nathan Beeler

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