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Tag Archives: Game Review

village board big So the biggest problem with worker placement games is the huge front end of explaining how the game works. They can be a ton of fun, and they’re great for building tension as you try and figure out how you can manage to accomplish all of the things you need with limited resources. The newest Worker Placement game in my library is Village.

Now, one of the coolest things about this game is that people are going to die, and that’s not entirely a bad thing. In fact, when people die, they go to the village chronicle (the book in the lower right of the board) … well, as long as there is space. If there isn’t space they go to one of the unmarked graves in the lower left of the board. The game ends when the book is full, or all of the unmarked graves are. There are a lot of ways to get victory points, and if you have 3+ people in the chronicle you’ll get victory points. Depending on the number of players there are more or less spots, and there are limited spaces depending on your peoples’ jobs at the time of their demise. In a 4 player game 2 council members will be recorded, and 5 farmers. And it’s first come first serve, so sometimes you do want to die first.

However there’s more to this game than just dying. There are a mess of resource cubes. Each time you do something you earn one of them. And in general you can’t do a thing unless there are still cubes available for that are. So for instance, the council generally starts with 2 cubes. If they’re gone when your turn comes up you’re basically out of luck. Some tasks can be accomplished w/ the appropriate cubes but more often you’ll use time to get things done. Say you want to create a wagon so you can send one of your family off traveling to distant lands. It’ll take 2 time to for your dude to learn how to make a wagon and 2 more to actually make it. On a future turn it’ll only take 2 time to make a wagon… unless of course your dude dies in the meantime. Every 10 time, one of your dudes dies. And it has to be from your oldest generation. You start with four 1st generation people. The family action will get you three generation 2 people, then 3 and then 4.

There’s a market, which may well be the key to high scores, I haven’t yet seen anyone broach 60 points, though the board goes to 80. The game is a little long at 60-90 minutes, and probably will be longer the first few times you play, but it is quite fun once you get the hang of it, and trying to get your people killed off at just the right time can be kind of hilarious, as can be realizing you let one of your mans live too long. I’m certainly looking forwards to playing a game of this where everyone knows how to play.

miskatonicSo as part of one of the many Kickstarter projects I’ve supported I got Miskatonic School for Girls. I love Deck Building Games, I liker player interaction, and I’m a fan of the Lovecraft Mythos. So here’s the premise, each player represents one of the Houses at girls preparatory school. The twist is that the teachers are all Eldritch horrors from beyond time and space. As with many games with a Lovecraftian theme, the goal isn’t so much to win, as to be the last person to lose, or in this case go insane.

Each turn you buy two cards. One is a student (that will generally be in your next hand) and one is a Faculty card, which goes to the player on your left. This is an important point, as long as your opponent is still sane, you are ruining their deck every turn. I bring this up because every card generates Nightmare points (to buy Faculty), Hearts (to buy students) or Either. That is to say a card might have both Nightmare AND Heart points on it… but you only get one. The reason this is important is if you concentrate really hard on hosing the person to your left, you’re going to neglect your own deck, and unless it’s a two player game the person to your right will probably end up winning because you’ll be an easy mark. However if you solely concentrate on honing your own deck you’ll also probably end up going insane, because you won’t be messing with your opponents enough.

One thing this game lacks is one of my favorite things to do in Deck Building games, which is deck thinning. Okay, there’s like 2 cards that do it once per game … which means I stand by my original statement.

On the other hand, this game also has another “game mechanic” which I love, though I use the term in the loosest of all possible senses. See your sanity track is split into 4 colors. When your sanity drops to a new color you have to laugh or cackle crazily to represent yourself going insane. The punishment for failing to do so is to be taunted by the other players. That’s it, the reprobation of your peers is the only enforcement of the rule.

Gauntlet of Fools

Possibly the most fun you will have facing Certain Death. And I do mean Certain, as in everyone dies. The goal isn’t to survive; it’s to have the most gold before you die. More precisely it’s to have the most gold once everyone is dead. The Zombie can earn gold post-mortem after all, at least, as long as someone else is still alive.

So you may have played a dumb game around Xmas called Dirty Santa or Yankee Swap or White Elephant or any of near a dozen other names. Basically it’s Secret Santa with a twist that you can steal presents from other people. Why do I bring that up? Well because that is kind of the root of this game… except instead of presents, you’re stealing heroes. All heroes aren’t created equal, but even if they were, some work better with different weapons, and each hero get a random weapon. The glare makes it a little hard to see, but I’ve got a Priest with a Sword in the picture to the right. Now if everyone just took turns picking heroes, whomever went first would get the best hero, and the last player would be hosed. That’s boring, and you might as well just roll a die to see who wins at that point. This is where the White Elephant comes in… After I’ve picked a Hero (and whatever weapon he’s got this week) the next player can either pick a different hero, or they can steal mine, but to do that they have to make an additional boast.


Now in the game pictured to the right I got the Priest without having to boast at all, but he ended up being pretty crappy and I lost hard. I should probably have stolen the Armorer or one of the other heroes … but then, I didn’t know what we were going to face in the Gauntlet. See once everyone has a Hero (some of whom are hungover or have a hand tied behind their back, are a juggling, or what ever other extravagant boast they’ve made) you start fighting monsters. Whatever monster shows up, everyone faces it. Then the survivors face the next monster, and so on until everyone is dead. There are a couple exceptions like the Spear Trap which just injures everyone (except for maybe the thief) or the Gold Vein which gives everyone money. And then of course there is a the Side Passage … which often leads to an interesting decision… like do I fight the harder monster and maybe get more money or take the sure thing that isn’t worth as much. Other times it can lead  situations like that pictured to the left. “You come to a fork in the road. The sign to the left says “Trap” and the one pointing to the right says “Free Money” which way will you go?”

And yes, that was an actual pull in a recent game… unsurprisingly no one went down the trapped passage. Finally it is worth mentioning that if you get the Armorer with a half way decent weapon you can probably actually survive all the way to the end… since you’ll have to give up the gold from 2-3 successful kills to make yourself nigh invincible this still might not actually win you the game… you don’t actually get any kind of bonus from surviving… However, if you do see the armorer w/ a 4 dice weapon it’s probably worth stealing it unless he’s already Juggling, Blind-Folded, Hopping On One Leg and Hungover… then again, you still might be able to win it skipping breakfast as well.

If you can find a copy of this game at MSRP buy it. It’s pretty hard to find, but well worth adding to your library.

merchant of venus temp

There are so many good games, reviewing just one a week, much less playing only one a week can be a little difficult. However I’ve now played 4 games of Merchant of Venus and it is quite awesome. There are SO many pieces that it looks way more daunting than it actually is. At it’s heart it’s a resource trading game. There are 14 races, and each race sells one “good”. These goods can be delivered to 3-5 other races for various profits. The catch is the location of each race on the map is not only random, but initially secret. The map has a variety of hazard, and navigational problems to trip players up as well.

Setup takes about 10-15 minutes, as does putting it away, but judicious uses of baggies, can keep it closer to 10. Then there is about 15 minutes of explaining how to play to anyone who hasn’t played before. The really hard concept to grasp is the Navigation Gates… These are generally 3-way intersections with arrows pointing out of each intersection. Each turn after you roll your speed dice (generally 3d6) you pick one die to be your Navigation Die… when you hit a nav-gate you have to follow the direction that matches your Nav-Die. Doesn’t sound so bad, except that most of the places w/ nav-gates have a bunch in a row, or worse, the way you want to go you need a “2” on one of your dice and you roll every number but.

There is a LOT of luck, but it’s generally fairly well spread out. The last game we play I would have won if I had rolled 8+ on my speed roll. I failed (got a 6 I think) and wasn’t able to make it to the station where I could sell enough goods to win; on Billy’s turn he needed to roll a 6 on one of his dice to fly through the appropriate gate and win, and he got it. The third player was also nigh on a turn from winning.

There is also the “bonus cup” or in my case, bag. This has passengers, which give you a nice payout if you take them to their destination, but don’t cost anything but cargo space to pick up (and also don’t start on the board at all) and Demand Tokens which ups the value of certain goods at various destinations. Each time you sell a good you put it in the bag and draw a new token from it. If you could take 3 glorious junk to a planet that has three +c60 demand tokens on it, you’d make an extra c360 (each time you fill demand, one of the demand tokens also goes back in the bag).

The game isn’t cheap, but it’s well worth the price, even if you never play the Fantasy Flight version that has a whole mess of extra parts.