It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but, it wasn’t all recovery from Britney Week, I’ve actually been working on a new website feature! If you take a look at the menu bar under the dancing frogs, you’ll see that I’ve got a brand new “mini review” section…board game reviews! I’ve played hundreds and hundreds of different board games, and this new feature is an effort to document my quick thoughts on all the games I’ve played. It will be slow going (I plan to mostly update reviews as I revisit old games and play new ones), but from now on you can find a constantly updated list of board game reviews:
I went ahead a pre-populated the A-Z list with a hundred or so mini reviews to get a jump start on my backlog. And, due to Benny being my primary gaming partner these days, I have included (along with a page of expansion reviews) a page of reviews of games suitable for children– while keeping in mind that not all children will be ready to dive into Magic the Gathering at age 4 like Benny was.
I am using the tried and true Board Game Geek rating guide to give these a score on how much *I* like these games, but all this is just, like, my opinion, man:
- 10 – Outstanding – will always enjoy playing.
- 9 – Excellent – very much enjoy playing.
- 8 – Very good – enjoy playing and would suggest it.
- 7 – Good – usually willing to play.
- 6 – Ok – will play if in the mood.
- 5 – Mediocre – take it or leave it.
- 4 – Not so good – but could play again.
- 3 – Bad – likely won’t play this again.
- 2 – Very bad – won’t play ever again.
- 1 – Awful – defies game description.
With that in mind, here are the most recent games I’ve reviewed that will now be added to the full list of reviewed games!
- Krosmaster Arena (10) – Easily my favorite tactical miniature game. Not as simple as the cutesy pieces might suggest, the fun here is all in your team interactions on a simple board with terrain that either blocks movement, or movement and line of sight. Teams are built by selecting four or so units from hundreds of unique units available to choose from, each with a host of special powers that will interact in unique ways. This has been my go-to gaming pick for the last 2 years, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. It’s also probably the best looking game I own.
- Beasty Bar (10) – A simple game of animals jostling each other in line to get into the titular bar. Each of 12 animals has a special power that manipulates the order of the line as they take their place, and the interactions create a surprisingly deep and fun game. Perhaps a little random as you only have 4 cards in hand to respond to new animals from your opponents, but this is a game that remained fresh and fun no matter how many times I’ve played it.
- Time Stories (10) – Very creative game where you go back in time for 30 “turns” to explore a map and solve a mystery. Except you’ll never solve it the first time through, so each play through you “start over” and make different decisions with the previous run in mind. Once you beat an adventure, you can’t play it again, but new adventure are cheap, and always bring new clever twists. Everything about this, right down to the way it uses its central deck of cards for the locations, is innovative, and, importantly, very very fun.
- Mechs VS Minions (10) – This game came out of nowhere as the League of Legends company’s first board game, and against all odds turned out to be nearly perfect. It’s a cooperative Roborally, with RIDICULOUS production value (that is also RIDICULOUSLY cheap for everything you get), and an awesome series of missions. It really perfectly captures the feeling of careening around a battlefield mowing down scores of minions with an evolving arsenal of cool weapons. After Krosmaster, my favorite game of the last two years.
- Fauna (9) – On the surface, a game about guessing animal weights/lengths/habitats sounds pretty lame, but the structured method of betting on your guesses is astonishingly fun. Constantly tense throughout, this one is always a hit.
- Scrutineyes (6) – Novel combination of Scattergories and hidden picture puzzles. The pictures are very detailed (if a little heavy on bird species), so it should be good for a couple plays before it starts to feel samey. Also, games that use the “Scattergories mechanic” of writing down everything you see and comparing with other players always feel like a slog as you spend most of the game frantically writing instead of doing actual fun stuff.
- Mama Mia (7.5) – Clever game of taking turns putting pizza toppings in a pile and then trying to remember what toppings are in the pile in order to score your “pizza” cards at the right time. It can feel pretty chaotic if you don’t pay attention, but the core mechanism at play here is very solid.
- To Court the King (7.5) – Yahtzee with special powers where you start with 3 dice and slowly add extra dice and reroll abilities based on what you roll. Very fun, though downtime can be annoying with larger numbers of players, and I suspect that once you get a few decent reroll powers and extra dice, there’s not much more to think about.
- Treasure Hunter (7.5) – Drafting is always fun, and this one uses it fairly well in that you also have to try to avoid getting the shitty cards that no one wants at the end of the draft. A lot of cool stuff going on, though some of the drafting choices are a little obvious.
- Things… (7.5) – Party game where everyone writes a response to a question prompts like “Things that you do in a bathroom…” and then you have to guess who wrote what. The scoring is almost an afterthought, and there really isn’t much of a game here, but it’s definitely fun to write ridiculous dirty shit with close friends and guess who wrote what.
- Dr. Eureka (8) – Super cool dexterity game of dumping balls from test tube to test tube without dropping any of them on the table. Simple, but slickly implemented, this is always fast paced fun!
- The Adventurers: The Temple of Chac (8) – If you can overlook the fact that this is just a simple push your luck game hiding under all the chrome, this ends up being remarkeably fun and thematic. I suspect the water path is overpowered, but each Indiana Jones style (complete with a rolling boulder) challenge is very fun and evocative as you race to gather more treasure than your fellow temple robbers.
- The Adventurers: Pyramid of Horus (8.5) – At first I was disappointed that the linear progression of challenges from the first was gone, but, honestly, this one has proven to have better staying power. It is still just a basic push your luck game with a ton of bells and whistles added, but the theme is great, and there is a real sense of urgency as to when you need to quit gathering treasures and get the fuck out of the pyramid. The falling rock end-game timer can be flukey, but this one is still always a hit.
- Castles of Mad King Ludwig (8) – Quite fun game where you draft rooms to add to your ever expanding castle. Rooms need to be placed for optimal points (for instance, don’t put your music room next to your bedroom) as you race to build the most efficient castle. Some of the bells and whistles can feel a little gamey, but the satisfaction of building your castle is definitely fun–if only the graphic design were better!
- Medici (7.5) – Knizia classic game of bidding on like, spices and shit, this is still an impressive design. The twist here is that you pick the amount of cards to put up for auction, with each player needing different items, and thus creating different considerations for each auction. It all works brilliantly of course, but it IS rather dry. Also, I never seem to find myself jumping in at the right moment in games like this.
- Metro (8) – Tile laying game where each player tries to create the longest twisty turny subway tracks for their trains. The decisions are reasonably interesting (if a little random), but building the cool map is undeniably fun.
- La Boca (9.5) – Very clever 3D block puzzle game where you place blocks to try to match the sides of the blocks facing you to a 2D picture of colored squares and rectangles, while your partner does the same with their side of the shared board. Some of the puzzles are a little easy, but it’s a very clever partner puzzle game that even has a great scoring system built in to keep it competitive!
- Pirate’s Cove (6) – This one really didn’t age very well as it quickly becomes apparent that the person who most successfully avoids combat will win. Which isn’t to say there are not good things going on here–it is all very thematic, it looks amazing, and the individual choices are fun–but at its heart this is just a simple bluffing game where the losers of the bluff get punished by having their ship smashed to shit.
- Summoner Wars (9) – Tactical miniature game that uses cards, simple adjacent movement and line of sight, and simple abilities and spells. All in all it works remarkably well, each of the sixteen races play very differently, the abilities are all interesting and simple enough to quickly pick up, and the basic movement and attack system is fun. Even better, they nailed both the game length and the “use cards in hand as resources or units” system for summoning. All brilliant stuff, though I feel like Blue Moon (despite being a very different game) does slightly edge it for simplicity and elegance.
- Haggis (10) – Climbing game that is a great Tichu substitute for those times when you don’t have four players (this plays 2-3 very well). The three face up wild cards that everyone has adds a ton of brain burning decision-making that, honestly, almost makes this my preferred climbing game (though Tichu‘s partnerships are sorely missed).
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