Board Game Bling - Daedalus Productions - Marvel Dice Masters Case Review

This collectible game was just begging for a decent storage solution. Wizkids sell those very basic plastic trays which do a reasonable job, but still look a bit tacky and you still have to find a way to store all those cards separately. Now whether it’s OCD or just my nature from being an accountant, but being organised is a big part of my life and I like to carry the same premise to board games particularly with ever-expandable ones like CCG/LCG’s and games with a serious amount of different cards (Dominion and Arkham Horror for example).

With 2 starter sets and 2-3 gravity feed boxes under my belt I had plenty of dice and cards to store and that’s only from AvX and Uncanny X-Men. I’ve zero interest in Yu-Gi-Oh and DnD Dice Masters, but with Age of Ultron and Justice League on the horizon, I need to keep my dice organised at all costs. Well how about some wooden trays………….well ok, that’s fine and all, but…… a giant wooden case…….excuse me?

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Episode 28 - Bang For Buck

Everyone asks me about the cost of my game collection and how much money I spend on games in general, so here's an episode featuring my thoughts on the subject. After I give my first impressions of Arcadia Quest and Pirates! Card Game, I discuss whether board gaming is an expensive hobby and then finish up with my Top Ten Games That Give Bang For Your Buck!

05:40 - News
06:54 - First Impressions - Arcadia Quest
12:58 - First Impressions - Pirates! Card Game
17:54 - Discussion - Is Board Gaming Expensive?
31:18 - Top Ten - Bang For Your Buck Games

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We Will Not Go Quietly Into The Night! - 7 Days of Westerplatte Review

Ahhhhh, co-ops how I love them! No kidding I really do and if you’ve kept up with my podcast and other reviews you would know this! Not only do they tend to produce some of the best thematic games, but they tend to be easier to teach to new players. Especially as that person doesn’t have to think they’re about to get beat on constantly by the better gamer – certainly works for my girlfriend anyway, thank you Forbidden Desert.
However historically themed games I don’t tend to go crazy for because it’s not my style. Not that we have many historical co-op games these days, but Freedom: The Underground Railroad springs to mind which was actually a pretty decent game, despite its highly sensitive theme – you can check out my personal review here.
So when you combine one of my most loved genres and one of my least favourite themes, what do you get? Neutrality? Or does one side outweigh the other? I’d like to think that if it’s a co-op game, that side will win the day and certainly it did with Freedom. But will that always be the case?
Here we have 7 Days of Westerplatte and before I played this game, if you asked me what this was in reference to? I would stand there in zombie mode with no clue whatsoever. Yeah, yeah all you historians, put away your pitchforks, my history trivia knowledge is pretty pitiful. I admit that after having given up the subject back in Year 8 of secondary school, much to my joy! But needless to say, since playing this I have been educated and I encourage you all to read this link to learn more before reading the rest of this review.
But does it hold up as a good game in general and can it stand out amongst the competition?

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A Fairy Tale Without A Story - 12 Realms Review

Kickstarter was a big deal for me in 2014. I started off being very hesitant to get involved in any games on the site, then went a bit crazy and started backing lots of items but 80% of them were only by reputable publishers. So far I’ve been quite lucky with what I’ve got with only one or two items either being delayed or not quite what I was hoping for but the high price points might make me hold back more in 2015.

One of the biggest fears I had with Kickstarter which seems to hold merit is that a lot of games published on the site seem to conform to “style over substance”. This is where the visual appeal of the game is blown up to epic proportions, but at the expense of having an actual decent game underneath or jacking the price up to impractical levels. How many copies of Myth do you see these days? How expensive was Cthulhu Wars just to receive the actual game? How much actual replayable gameplay is there really underneath the miniature glossing of Zombicide?

The majority of the times, these kinds of games don’t live up to the hype - certainly not in my books anyway. We do get some great Kickstarter games now and again, but they don’t go mad on visual spectacles (Alien Frontiers, Flashpoint Fire Rescue, Viticulture, etc).

12 Realms at first glance appeals to me by being part of the co-op genre with a solo play variant and also by having a cool thematic look to it. But it was a pricey Kickstarter at one point and it does contain a lot of “bling” so is this just another game that proves my theory?

 "Very striking cover, we'll gloss over the fact there's only 4 realms in the box!"

Designer: Ignazio Corrao
Publisher: Mage Company
# of Players: 1-6
Ages: 11+
Play Time: 90 Minutes
BGG Rank/Rating: 4573 / 6.07

The War of Imagination-Land

Depending on the number of players you will have several realm boards on the table. The premise is that dark invaders have infiltrated the twelve (sorry four!) realms and it’s up to the fairy tale characters of the world to fend them off. Players will take control of a classic character such as Snow White, The Nutcracker or Robin Hood and move about the realms defeating the invaders and collecting artefacts until eventually a Dark Lord will show up who must be defeated to win the game. Each realm has a timer track that increases depending on how many invaders are left to roam freely and if it reaches the end, its game over.

All the cards for each Realm are shuffled together and a pre-determined number of them based on player count are drawn at the start of the turn. Some will be treasures (grab for a gold coin) and some will be artefacts (win condition) but most will be various types of invaders – these are randomly placed in their respective realms. Each hero will then take their turn by performing actions based on the talents they possess. These range from Swiftness to Charm to Fight and more, but the former is what allows you to move around the board. The rest of the talents are required to despatch the invaders – i.e. some need to be charmed away, some can be bribed, others have to be physically fought etc. In order to despatch the invaders, you have to spend talents matching their vulnerabilities, otherwise they remain on the board and increase the timer track.

Heroes can switch to different realms to assist when one becomes over-run for example and can also visit their local towns to buy items and allies that boost their effectiveness in the game.

Play continues on in this fashion with the aim being to have a hero obtain all 3 artefacts within a realm. Once this is done, they and only they can attempt to defeat the Dark Lord of a realm in the same manner as the invaders when they eventually arrive on the board. The players win the game by defeating every Dark Lord and not allowing a realm to fall into darkness.

The Beauty of Wonderland

Now to kick-start this review (no pun intended) we’ll look at the components themselves. These were a big part of the original Kickstarter and they don’t disappoint. Every board is gorgeous and colourful, the cards have detailed fairy tale style artwork and the minatures for the player characters look fantastic, though can be a little “bendy” in aspects such as thin legs and swords.

"The coins are plastic, but even so, they look the business"

Each realm board contrasts in colour with another, one will be bright and pink with roses everywhere, the other will be vibrant green with forest motives for example. You only get four in the base game though which makes the title “12 Realms” a bit odd, but obviously this is intended for expansion in this area. The realm cards are easily associated with their respective realm following the same colour palette.

The miniatures are the best part though, giving even the likes of Fantasy Flight Games a run for their money. Each fairy tale character is represented in great detail and I’ll bet that painters have gone nuts with these. It’s always easier to identify with a physical model rather than a chit token.

So in terms of looks, so far we’re doing well, however things start to take a bit of U-turn at this point when we look at graphical design. The iconography in this game ranges from easily interpreted to downright obscure. “Talents” are easy to tell apart when the game refers to them, but then take one look at the player board and tell me if you can tell what some of those special actions/abilities mean before searching the rulebook. 7 Wonders is renowned for its intense iconography, but at least it’s pretty simplistic for the most part to interpret or at least hazard a guess. Here some abilities look like something I used to deal with in complex Algebra during math studies and it gets worse when you look at the town tiles which have “discard” abilities. They definitely seem beyond the immediate cognitive powers of most children without assistance.   

The rulebook, despite looking nice and colourful is also rather disjointed. Since its early print days it’s gone through some revisions as I hear the original was impossible to follow, but it’s by no means perfect still. You can play the game from it, which I can hardly call a plus point as I kind of expect that from a rulebook, but the chapters are arranged in such an odd fashion that you have to constantly skip back and forth to piece it all together in the right sequence.

Have We Reached The End Of The Book Yet?

The biggest issue I have with the game however isn’t the graphic design. It’s the game play itself, which in one word is just……..boring. Every single turn is a quick-fire rinse and repeat affair of moving and removing tokens, that’s pretty much it. In group play this gets tedious quickly but in solo play it’s an alternative remedy for insomniacs. You spent some talent points, move your miniature around and remove enemies from the board, turn after turn……….that’s really it...............for 60 to 90 minutes!

Each realm despite having a different look also plays out very similarly to each other with the only variation being slightly different abilities on invaders. All the boards are the same with 6 zones for random invader placement and 1 town square and there’s no differentiation between the treasures or artefacts. The town tiles tend to just be “gain X talent” with an obscure discard ability thrown in, most of which tend to relate to moving across multiple realms which is pointless in a solo game where you’re only using one realm. And even the characters, which have the potential to be really flavourful and unique merely have slightly different starting talents (I have more swords, you have more hearts) and a slight variation on the special ability (typically convert X to Y each turn). The rulebook stipulates about some enemies needing to be charmed or bribed etc, but that just equates to “spend X talent to despatch”. And why does a raccoon need to be charmed while some turtle needs to be bribed, we don’t know, it’s purely mechanical.

Taking the above into account, for a game that appears to be thematic, it doesn’t half seem abstracted to me at various times. The strangest rule I have found is that the Dark Lord doesn’t appear until the timer track hits 16+. But the track only increases if you have invaders undefeated on the battlefield. But what if you’re completely on top of the game and never leaving anyone around? The timer doesn’t increase, which means the game never ends and it breaks! You have to actually let the invaders settle in so that the Dark Lord can appear and then by that point you just go and one-shot him with ease. My first game I was doing so well that I had to actually let my realm fall into chaos to bring him out but by that point I had harvested so many bonuses from the town tiles that I could have taken Superman on if he’d shown his face in the realm. It pro-longed the game to an un-necessary level and broke the immersion.

There simply isn’t enough to grip me in the game due to the over-simplistic turns by each player and constantly removing and replacing those talent tokens on your player board quickly gets annoying especially when by the endgame you’ve acquired another 5-10 more of them. Variant rules add in towers which are easily disposed of and a “dark player” to make life more difficult, but they don’t improve the overall basic nature of the gameplay and don’t even make the game that much more difficult full stop – it’s a relative breeze to win this game on most settings.

That being said, it’s going to be simple enough for children to play and if they like the theme, potentially enjoy, but given the obscure iconography and rulebook, it’s going to need parental supervision on standby and I don’t believe the parents will get as much of a kick out of this game as the kids, but at least it’s family time together I guess!

Verdict on 12 Realms

12 Realms conforms to the general fear I have had with Kickstarter in the past – style over substance. 12 Realms is an extremely pretty game with great miniature components; that cannot be denied. But sadly what could have been an interesting twist on the co-op genre ends up being fairly bland and boring, which when you’re talking about fairy tale characters fighting off invaders, is a wonder in itself.

The game is suitable for young kids who have a keen interest in fairy tale stories so there definitely is a market for it, but anybody else is going to left wanting more variation and complexity. But bizarre iconography decisions and a disjointed rulebook are going to mean that someone with gaming experience is going to be required to simply teach the game to them and I feel sorry for that person.

You Will Like This Game If:

  • You want something light and harmless for kids to play
  • You love the look of all the 3D miniatures and colourful board/artwork
  • You enjoy co-op games and don’t want anything even remotely complex

You Will Not Like This Game If:

  • You want a challenge – it’s pretty straightforward except on very hard settings.
  • You want interesting variation – tiles/bonuses boil down to “insert talent here”
  • You want a cheap experience – base game + expansions will fetch a high price.

Kickstarter Expansions

If you feel that 12 Realms is a game you would like or you already own and enjoy the game, you may be interested to know that Mage Company are introducing the next expansions Bedtime Story and Ancestor's Legacy on Kickstarter in April 2015. Check out their preview page here for more information. 


Board Game Bling - Daedalus Productions - Le Havre Insert Review

Now that I’ve reached a point where I have a good sized board game collection (or to put it another way, where the ratio of total board games to total available time becomes a factor) I’ve looked more into how I can pimp up the games I already own.

Sometimes this is with upgraded tokens and meeples, but this can be quite costly when you do it to many games, not like that’s stopped me but just pointing it out! I’ve had some good luck with Stonemaier Games recent Treasure Chest on Kickstarter and I’ll probably do a review of that soon in time for the next batch of chests soon to be released. Otherwise I’m usually resorting to BoardGameExtras and if I’m really desperate and willing to pay the shipping, MeepleSource.

But the primary way to pimp my games currently is replacing the inserts. 90% of the time I find myself having to pull out the insert and use a mix of bags and Hobbycraft boxes to contain all the cards and pieces and this works well to an extent to speed up the setup time and organise my components. This is particularly with regards to LCG’s and deckbuilders where you need to have your cards organised well to stand a chance of keeping up with expansions.

But other games with lots of components and fiddly bits benefit from this approach, particularly those with long setup times and that’s where Daedalus Productions comes in. This was a Kickstarter I was introduced to in late 2014 that included special custom wood inserts for games with the sole purpose of cutting the setup time down considerably and making general gameplay easier. Sounded right up my street and thanks to some side client work I could afford to go nuts and acquire several designs that I felt would benefit me a lot.

Now being a little tight for cash and eager to receive these designs quickly I opted for self-assemble, which meant building the inserts myself. Now I’m no arts and craft expert by any stretch of the phrase so this was a gamble for me. But they’re now all assembled and sitting nicely in my games, but was it a mission to get to that stage and how well are they lasting to being handled in and out of the box on regular occasions? Do they even cut down the setup time as planned?

Well that’s the purpose of these upcoming mini-review articles. I’m going to briefly talk about my experiences assembling the various inserts and give my thoughts about how well the inserts lives up to the claim of organising the game better.
To find out more about Daedalus and their inserts, visit their website here. Note that as stated I didn’t acquire every insert so you won’t hear from me about Eclipse or Merchants of Venus, however suffice to say that I believe inserts for those games are mandatory given the colossal setup for each (really, really, I mean Merchants of Venus takes hours to play already but a third of that time is spent just setting the blasted game up with all of those goods tokens).

Right, rant out of the way, let’s make a start with Le Havre. I’m not going to repeat paragraphs that apply to all inserts after this review is done so you’ll probably find the others are less detailed as a result.

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Louis, Pills Here!! - Pandemic: The Cure Review

Pandemic, now this brings back a few memories and if you’ve ever played board games, you’ve probably heard of it too.
Back at the start of the 2014 I reviewed the original Pandemic game and was less than enthusiastic about it. I didn’t hate the game, but I felt it suffered from a few flaws that made it fall flat compared to all the other Co-Op’s I own which I love to bits. Now, why then. is it still in my collection? Well. it’s a great game to teach to new gamers and despite its flaws I still enjoy it. I also now own the latest expansion “In The Lab” and the game is actually boosted a lot in terms of theme although the expansion does make it a lot more complex.
There seems to be a major trend lately for publishers to release dice versions of games that already exist. BangNationsRace for the GalaxyThrough the Ages and many more have had the dice treatment and for the most part, they tend to act as a decent counterpart or in some cases a direct replacement. Dice hate me on a regular basis, but I love games with custom dice and so the prospect for a potential improvement on Pandemic for me was a solid one. Can replacing the cards with dice resolve the issues I have with the original? Someone pass me the bag…

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These Werewolves Can At Least Keep Their Shirts On! - One Night Ultimate Werewolf Review

Once upon a time, there was a mass party game called Werewolf. And in that game a large group of villagers would discuss amongst themselves about who in their village was actually a werewolf in disguise. Every round someone would be killed off and play would continue in this manner until all the werewolves were discovered or the werewolves devoured enough people.

This was a marmite game for many because two main aspects of the game get referenced a lot. Firstly there’s the classic, frantic negotiations between players as they try to find out who the werewolves are or bluff and cause discord among the villagers. Always the best thing about the game, but on the flip side there’s the issue that players get eliminated throughout the game and when the game takes a long time to finish (when treating this as a mass player experience) it can spoil the experience for many.

I personally wasn’t a fan of Werewolf mainly for that elimination aspect and partially because every villager felt the same, there was no added chaos thrown in. Then Bezier Games announced One Night Ultimate Werewolf, a party style version where the game is done and dusted in less than 5-10 minutes, yet retains everything that was good about the original game. Adding player powers for the chaos factor and keeping it fixed to one round so that the elimination problem is. . . . . . well . . .  eliminated!

So at first glance it’s a party game re-working of Werewolf that keeps everything I like, fixes what I don’t like and adds bonus elements (player powers). Sounds like a great game to sink my teeth into……………ok that was really poor, I apologise now!

"An added bonus is that the box isn’t bloated – nice and compact"

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