Just Remember What Ol' Jack Burton Does! - Legendary Big Trouble In Little China Review

Big Trouble In Little China is not the highest on my list of nostalgic movies. I like it, it's a good cheesy laugh, just not much of a Kurt Russell fan and I can't even remember when I last watched it. It is however a cult classic and it's no surprise that a board game would be made out of it eventually, though I admit I wasn't expecting Upper Deck to take the mantle and use it in their Legendary deck builder line up. I was expecting the usual "license + miniatures = big bucks" approach that seems to be creating so much hype in games right now.
One thing I noted was that it didn't have the word "Encounters" on the cover. That means it wasn't going to be using the same format as their Alien, Predator or Firefly titles and likely sticking much more closely to the original Marvel layout. I'm not entirely sure why this route was taken as the theme tends to get portrayed much more strongly using the Encounters format, but that's not to say Marvel Legendary doesn't have good theme as well, just not quite as juicy. Encounters has "bits in", Marvel is from concentrate.
So are there any new surprises to be found in this version or is it simply a re-skin?


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One Change, A Thousand Possibilities - Codenames: Pictures Review

I did a review for Codenames and I respected it for what it was, but wasn't bowled over by it like the masses. I like it and think it's fine, but not perfect, but that didn't stop me clocking up 30+ plays of it before I burned out. And side note I'm on the team that says Codenames isn't a party game, it just doesn't feel like a laugh out loud affair compared to something like Times Up or Telestrations - not a criticism, just a question of classification. You could argue that the new adult version called "Undercover" is a party game, but personally I don't see the point of it, it doesn't really feel that "adult" and I'd rather we had less games trying to appeal to the Cards Against Humanity crowd if possible.

Codenames took off like crazy when it came out, don't ask me why as most people don't hype up a word game from experience. Whether it was the publisher advertising or the designers reptuation, who knows? But it's in the Top 20 at BGG (yeah I know, I don't use BGG rankings as a validation, but it's worth mentioning) and it constantly sells copies. Codenames will be an evergreen title for a long time, I guarantee it.
But this one I'm looking at today uses pictures instead of words, which bumps it up a few notches for my interest. I found words to be very limiting in the original for coming up with decent clues - this is subjective I know, but I found that sometimes it got very restrictive to come up with links. I work better with visual imagery than text so maybe this version will be more my cup of tea.


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City of Iron 2nd Ed. Review – Discover Something Different!

I’m still impressed by how Ryan Laukat manages to not only design his own games, but also publish them and illustrate them himself. That’s a tremendous amount of work to put into a game by yourself. Now granted this method has its pros and cons. You don’t get the mis-match between theme, mechanics and art that some games will have, but on the flip side, you run a greater risk of mistakes or issues arising in the final production.
City of Iron , the original, was received well by reviewers, but didn’t take off with all the buzz and there were reported issues with it. Now we’ve got a new edition of City of Iron and having not originally played it before, I’m coming in with a fresh outlook into one of Ryan’s earlier ventures. Is this new edition a complete experience that doesn’t require any more tweaking or reboots?
cityofiron-game-cover

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Mijnlieff Review - Drives Your Spellchecker Insane!

Yes I love theme in games, but that doesn't mean every game I like has to have one dripping from every orifice. Some dry games make the cut in my collection and I have a soft spot for straight up abstract strategy games also, just listen to my Onitama review if you want proof! No luck, just a battle of wits usually between two players, but it does take hours and hours and hours to play. You see there's the difference between these "no-luck" 3 hour dry games that many people like and abstract strategy titles. The latter isn't trying to falsely portray a theme when there isn't one and they use simple rules that deliver depth and smooth gameplay.
The longest of these games for me is probably Chess, which I still love, but even that doesn't take forever. A good abstract could be taught in less than a minute and played in less than 5 for all it matters. Does it provide a solid period of entertainment for that time and does it make me want to play it again and again? Because that's another factor. Repeat plays. We can say that we would play Twilight Imperium 3 over and over again, but let's be real you're likely only doing that a few times in your life at best. With abstracts you need to be willing to play it almost constantly so the urge to come back for more must be strong.
Abstracts also tend to be the big surprises for me because they tend to be made by the smaller publishers and even some indie ones. So I don't tend to hear about them until they're put in front of me and then I'm like "oh this is clever, let's play some more". Well this is the poster child for an "out of nowhere" abstract game. I spotted it at the UK Games Expo in 2015 where it won the Best Abstract Award and then never saw it again until I used it in my Abstract Corner gimmick at my club's recent gathering of friends. Don't ask me what this name means, but this is Mijnlieff. . . . . pronounced as "Mine-Leaf"....yeah work that one out!


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Legendary Encounters: Firefly Review - We Can't Die Because We Are So Very Pretty!

Have no place I can be, since I found Serenity. But you can't take the sky from me! Oh man, love that series, it just had so much potential to go the distance with great characters, great setting, great soundtrack and great visuals. And of course Kaylee, who being honest guys, she's the ultimate dream girlfriend you want right? Intelligent, practical, pretty even when covered in engine grease, loves gadgets and tech and has an adorable rating of 100 cute fluffy kittens. I lost count of how many times I shouted at Simon (in a fun way) for being an idiot when flirting with her. . . . . siiiiiiigh. . . .  Wow I'm getting sidetracked, where was I?

Ah yes, board games. Now this isn't the first game to use the license, there have been several minor fray's, but the biggest release was the original Firefly: The Game. Now whereas it did a great job of representing the theme, it was just far too long and fiddly given it was essentially a luck fest throughout. I personally only liked playing it if we flipped the table at the 90 minute mark to see who won, though friends have suggested giving everyone random starting crew and gear at the start to shorten it, which actually sounds like a good plan, will have to try that next time.

Now the Legendary series did a great job with Marvel and you know I adore Alien to bits (Predator was good too) so I was confident on the announcement that a Firefly version would do well, but as always, representing theme in a deck builder is incredibly difficult and Alien set the bar really, really high, so can Firefly match that?  



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Dead of Winter: The Long Night Review - Now With 90% Recycled Content!

Right, let's tackle the zombie elephant in the room first. When I reviewed the original Dead of Winter, I wasn't the biggest fan. I never hated it, but I felt it didn't live up to the hype and I had some issues with the way it played. And boy did I get ragged online for it, "how dare you insult my baby?!?!" But that's normal when you criticise a game that is hyped beyond measure, you have to expect some zombie trolls to peek out of their lairs.

Now I heard that Plaid Hat were designing a space themed game using the same mechanics and that got me more excited. Alien infiltrators on the space station and cool sci-fi stuff, that sounded great. But then The Long Night got announced and I'm like, seriously, what about the cool space one? We've got a zombie game already, why do we need a second standalone version? But despite this I went in with an open mind, noting all the previous thematic/mechanical oddities and knowing what to expect.

Has anything changed from the original and are the new additions worth forking out the price tag alone for anyone who owns it?



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Isle of Skye Guest Review – The Kennerspiel Carcassonne Killer?

In a previous review on the GamesQuest blog I talked about the Spiel Des Jahres, one of the most prominent board game awards you can get in the industry. The same people who issue that award also have the Kennerspiel Des Jahres which focuses more on games that require an extra element of strategy. Now this doesn’t mean that any game nominated can’t also be considered a family weight or gateway level game, but typically they tend to be more for seasoned gamers.
Isle of Skye has been around for the last year, but for me, was never really seen on the gaming table. It looked nice on appearance, but I glossed over it when passing by. Then I saw it win the UK Games Expo 2016 award out of nowhere, which was the first shock to the system, but then before I knew it Isle of Skye had knocked down strong contenders like Pandemic Legacy and Time Stories to take the Kennerspiel award as well. Two awards in two months just out of the blue.
Comments on the grapevine said that Isle of Skye was a very simple game, yet contained a level of depth and interaction that at first glance is invisible to the naked eye and thus was better than its name and marketing would have you believe.
Well any of my followers will know that gateway games are something I try to focus on where possible and so with these comments and the awards to go with it, I couldn’t sit on the wayside, I had to investigate this further and see what was the big deal. Annoyingly I couldn’t actually go to the Isle of Skye itself and do the review there, budget restrictions and all that, but I guess Portsmouth will suffice (seriously the Isle looks breathtaking, I really want to go there).


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Up, Down, Left, Right! - Dice City: Crossroads Review

It is now undoubtedly clear that the release schedule for Dice City will be frequent and consisting of typically, very small expansions to boost the base game. On the plus side, it keeps a game fresh and in the public eye. On the down side, mini expansions are rarely priced fairly for what you get and certainly if the previous Dice City: All That Glitters expansion is anything to go by, it's not changed here.

We've got All That Glitters already which I've reviewed and later in the year we're expecting the third expansion in the form of Royal Decree, which unlike the first two will actually include a new board. Right now, I'm looking at the second in the line, the new Crossroads expansion, not to be confused with the Tokaido expansion of the same name.




Designer: Vangelis Bagiartakis
Publisher: Artipia Games / AEG
Age: 14+
Players: 1-4
Time: 45-60 minutes
RRP: £18.99


Rows Aren't Good Enough!

There is now an theme with the new building cards to build combos based on what buildings you have in a column on your board as opposed to simply the row. No new mechanics are introduced to incorporate this, it's simply just the abilities on the buildings themselves, so you can actually get away with including this in the base game without having to teach a single new thing about it to a new player. That's like the best of both worlds, where you get to improve on a game without introducing any additional complexity.

Some of the abilities on these are quite powerful, particularly those on the purple "culture" buildings, but they require a little more care in setting them up and you won't always have the consistency to roll those column buildings exactly when you want them too as a balancing tool. Think about it, if you were to fill out your entire blue die row on military buildings, you can guarantee that every roll of the blue die will generate some additional attack values for you. But if you fill out the whole "four" column in the same manner, you still have to roll that four on one of the die and you might even specifically want it on a certain colour. Even with the luck mitigation of removing a die to move another, column bonuses won't trigger as often as a row bonus.



I Want More Gooooooollldddd!


There is a return of the new gold resource here and it functions in exactly the same way as it did before. It's a wild resource that's harder to steal that can be also used to acquire certain more powerful buildings. The main restriction is that you can't use it in place of an ability that says "requires a resource" so you're essentially using it to purchase new buildings rather than use them. Nothing much else to say on this that I haven't already before, the new buildings are cool, but the extra requirements necessary to gain them stop them from being too overpowered.

I do like however that it adds an additional end-game trigger when all of the gold is used up. Unlike normal resources, gold is finite, which fits thematically. When you use a gold resource it's put back in the box and depleting the entire stock of gold triggers the end-game automatically. This is a nice addition as previously despite all of the triggers available, you found that in 99% of games the only trigger that mattered was filling out two rows on your board. I've never seen a single game where the depletion of buildings/bandits ended the game and only once have I seen a depletion of trade ships do it. However gold now potentially throws a trigger into the mix that is actually important to bear in mind especially if multiple players gun for gold during the game.



Great Storage, Fiddly Setup


Every reviewer I bet will have commented that the original Dice City box was too big for what you got in terms of content. Well that was because AEG/Artipia Games had expansions in mind from the get-go and thankfully the original box more than caters for the expansions to date and I'm sure for expansions to come for a long while.

However adding expansions comes at a price in terms of setup time. You can just throw everything together, however I do not recommend this at all as the dilution of the deck will be thrown completely out of whack. Instead the rules suggest several other methods of building the location deck. The Random & Full Set methods are what I suggest you go with, Random being my favourite. It throws enough variety into the game without unbalancing it unnecessarily as you don't know how many copies of a particular building will be included. So you'll be thinking, do I grab that now while it's there or hope another will show up later?

In addition you now have some suggested set-ups focusing on specific themes. The buildings for each category have been cherry picked to fit those themes. They're handy if you want some help deciding on locations. The Epic setup will mean you get to see everything from all the sets, which works well, but involves a bit of time to get all the locations together. As you can see, added expansions does increase the setup time, but stick with one and store your cards efficiently from game to game and you'll be fine.



Verdict

The biggest change here to Dice City is the theme of all the new buildings to reflect columns as well as rows in your city. I actually prefer this to the new gold buildings change in All That Glitters as it adds an extra level of planning and combos to consider when deciding where to build within your city. It also can mitigate the dice luck a little as hopefully you'll have a choice between a solid row ability, but also a solid column ability. You don't even have to teach any new rules for it, it's just simply the wording on the cards themselves which everyone will get if they understand the basic game.

Playing along the same line as the previous expansion, it's a small box that gives you some new buildings and another resource. The price tag of £15-£19 again is a bit steep, but that's going to come down to how much you enjoy the original Dice City as to how expensive you find that. Certainly when you've added in multiple expansions your variety in the buildings each game is going to get better and better, but be aware of the additional setup time. As before this is not a required purchase and recommended only for fans of the original game.



If you are interested in this game you can find a copy at your friendly local gaming store - http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/





YOU WILL LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You have the disposable income and would like to add more to your copy of Dice City


Your main wish was to have more buildings and options available to you each game.


You are keen on the idea of having to consider columns as well as rows in your city for more advanced play.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE THIS GAME IF:


The price tag is too much to ask for what you get included in the box.


You don't want to go through the special set-up rules each game.


You worry that having to deal with columns will make Dice City too complex.

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Twilight Squabble Guest Review - With Great Power Comes No Responsibility!

Twilight Struggle for a long time was the highest ranking game on Board Game Geek. It held the #1 spot for many years and to be honest, I never understood why. I'm not saying it's a bad game at all. The design is fine, the game play is tight (although far too long), the components are a little bland, but the theme is reasonably strong. Although this is only if you have any knowledge about the Cold War to begin with for which I know nothing that doesn't come straight out of a James Bond movie (yeah History isn't my strongest subject), so for me it might as well be an abstract game of Tug Of War.
Well now, completely out of no-where we've got Twilight Squabble, essentially taking the Tug Of War aspect and condensing it down to a 10-15 minute game using only a small deck of cards. It still uses the Cold War theme, but plays in a fraction of the time and for a fraction of the price.
However does down-sizing from a struggle to a squabble come at too high a price in other areas or does it hold on its own?  Well AEG do seem to be the king of the micro-game category these days so already we've got a strong pedigree and I can never listen to anyone talk about history within ten minutes without my eyes glazing over, so it might just work.
Check out the full guest blog post on Games Quest here! 

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Broken Meeple Reviews - #9 - Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition

A new reboot of the original Mansions of Madness, an entertaining "choose your own adventure" style horror game set in the neverending Cthulhu mythos. Whereas the original was a good game it had a lot of fiddly book-keeping and could be easily broken by the DM if it wasn't set up correctly. This new edition has gone down the technology route and brought in an app to represent 50% of the game. Does it work? Let's find out in my review of Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition.




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13 Days Review - Just Let Me Launch One For God's Sake!

For what seems like forever, there is a game at the top end of the BGG rankings (which I admit I don't pay much attention to given its flaws, but I digress) called Twilight Struggle. It was a heavy "tug-o-war" card driven game between 2 players focusing on the Cold War. It involved gaining control and influence over various territories on a map board constantly fighting each other off for control and playing cards based on specific historical events. It was a good design, but too long and sterile for me.

Then recently I got to review a little micro-game version called Twilight Squabble (which you'll get to read when the website I wrote it for as a guest blogger eventually publishes it!). This was effectively supposed to be a 10-15 minute quick version of Twilight Struggle bringing it down to literally a few cards and two small tracks, but retaining the same back and forth style of play. Spoiler alert, I thought it did a good job overall, but probably abstracted too much, going from one extreme to the other. What I ideally want is something in the middle.

13 Days is the potential answer published Jolly Roger Games who astute readers will recognise also published Founding Fathers, which surprised me as to how good it was and made #16 in my Top 100. That's a solid foundation to start with so already I'm hopeful. Based on the Cuban Missile Crisis as a sub-set of the Cold War, this looks to be that sweet spot in the middle between the two previous Twilight games. Does it manage to fit in?



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