Here are some quick reviews of all the games I’ve been playing lately. You can also check out my full list of previously reviewed games HERE.
I am using the following 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!
- Unlock: Squeek and Sausage (8) – Reasonably good simulation of an escape room that uses a clever mechanism of adding up numbers of cards that go together to get the new card you are looking for. There are a few hiccups, mostly in that the clue system definitely needs some work, the adventure falls into autopilot towards the end as you use up your last few cards, and the final puzzle, while definitely clever, seems a little unfair. Still fun, but I’m also not sure that it’s worth $12 for a game that becomes useless after an hour of play.
- Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective (10) – Sure, this might be just a glorified Choose Your Own Adventure, but this is also a fantastic story game where you race all over London following up on leads as you try to solve various cases before Sherlock Holmes does. The London directory (full of possible leads to interview) is huge, there are a ton of paragraphs (results of following up leads) for each case, and most importantly, it really feels like you are solving a mystery as you scour London and the newspaper for new clues.
- Greedy, Greedy Goblins (7) – Fairly simple game of flipping over tiles in a free for all to put them face down on various mine cards around the table as you push your luck building up a good mine to claim before someone sabotages it. There’s a good amount of variety to make mines better or sabotage other mines, making for a tense game, and the special power cards are simple enough to keep from complicating things too much. Overall another good (though not great) light game from Richard Garfield, who has been on a good (not great) roll lately.
- Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game (7) – The first of the D&D 4th edition board games, this captures the feel of the series as good as any of them. It really works better without the added (though still minor) rules of the later games, though it still boils down to a fair amount of work for a game that at its heart is just “roll high on a 20 sided dice against a new monster each turn to see if you can last 10 turns. Thematic and fun enough, but there’s not much substance under it all.
- Santorini (8) – Abstracts just kind of leave me shrugging usually, but the ridiculous production value (and the host of special powers) in this one keeps my attention. The basic game is pretty cool though it can feel a little attrition-heavy as you slug it out to set up the proper board position.
- Patchwork (9) – Excellent two player game of Tetris-ing different shaped quilt pieces into your square “quilt” board. There is nice tension between picking up large pieces vs picking up smaller pieces with more buttons (income for future rounds). All in all, quite polished and, most importantly, fun.
- Beasts of Balance (8) – Way overpriced, but definitely a cool integration of a stacking game with an app. It is definitely fun to try different strategies to get the most points, though it does seem like the game might have a limited amount of competitive fun in it as there seem to be a few strategies (discovered by my 6 year old) that will get the most points. Still, it looks amazing, the app is cool, and the oddly shaped pieces make the stacking very fun.
- Sushi Go Party! (8) – This new version of Sushi Go! adds a dozen or so extra cards to mix into the included basic cards. From there you pick your “menu” and then deal them out and proceed to draft one card at a time as in the regular version. All in all it improves one of the better light drafting games out there, especially if you are playing it a lot. If I have a complaint, it is that the increased set-up and take down is slightly annoying.
- Minuscule (5.5) – Passable line manipulation game that uses cards to move bugs up or down a line, the closer to first your two secret bugs get, the better! It looks nice and is reasonably fun, but there is precious little control over the line as you are pretty limited by the small hand of cards you have for line manipulation. The advanced variant is better, but still fairly random.
- Cockroach Poker (8.5) – Excellent game that distills the art of bluffing down to its most basic form, and is all the better for it. The scoring system and ability to “look and pass” add slight nuances to the Princess Bride style mental calculations around the game’s central question of “are they lying about what card they said they gave me?”
- Kahuna (7)– The theme (connecting Pacific islands with bridges) is pasted on, but at least it creates a very visually appealing game. Gameplay itself revolves around abstract connection building, with a neat chain effect of knocking down your opponent’s bridges when you control the majority of the bridges leading to an island. It’s fun enough (despite being pretty dry), though, I seem to have an awfully hard time wrapping my head around a good strategy while playing. Also, I’d definitely recommend playing with the variant rule at the back of the rule book that lets you replace an opponent’s bridge that you have removed with your own (if removing their bridge caused them to lose control of the island) as it keeps the game much more fluid and cutthroat.
- Quarriors (8) – I can see why people dislike this game–like other sub-par deck (dice) building games, it does suffer a bit from “buy the most expensive thing you can each turn and you’ll probably win.” However, the dice instead of cards innovation, combined with the cute theme and fun powers make it fairly irresistible anyway. Also, the advanced rules of 2 buys per turn, and forced culling of any creature you score with are far superior and do wonders to prevent runaway leaders.
- Five Crowns (3) – This game takes Rummy and makes it significantly worse. By eliminating the melding on existing sets rules, and extending the game waaay too far, it becomes a game of simply drawing card after card until you have enough wilds to go out in one turn. You will be ready for this one to be over 2 hands in…and that’s before the game really starts to take forever with the high card number hands.
- Exploding Kittens (2) – Absolutely dire “take that” game that tries to skate by entirely on the dubious charms of the Oatmeal creator’s tired back-hair jokes–all without a clue as how to make a remotely playable game (this even has player elimination…in this day and age!) You basically just draw cards and lob attacks at your opponents until everyone else has drawn a HILARIOUS exploding kitten card leaving you the overjoyed winner–honestly, I’d rather play UNO, and I fucking hate UNO.
- Sumo Ham Slam (6) – Fairly random (due to the touchy nature of the magnets) dexterity game of slamming little magnet-controlled plastic sumo hamsters into each other. In theory the game revolves around rolling a dice to feed your hamster little plastic pellets before each fight, but in practice the pellets don’t seem to have a huge effect as long as one person doesn’t have way more than the others. Still pretty fun for the absurdity of it all, but there’s no shame in playing to a lower number of points as this can outstay its welcome (especially with 4 players).
- Aquanemo (2-7) – Draw a card and then find the matching fish to catch with your magnetic pole. Really one of the better options for very young kids (though the magnetic fishing poles are tricky to catch a fish with, so age 2 might be pushing it) as it is a fun, full-fledged game that is easy to grasp and looks great.
- Spot it! (3+) – Even though this is just a clever mathematical trick to create a deck of cards that each shares exactly one item with all other cards, there’s a decent game here as the common item is often surprisingly hard to find. And, like all “find x” games, it’s easy to throw the game to keep younger players competitive. I should point out my favorite way to play is to just draw two cards and race to find the common item…a variant that doesn’t seem to be printed in the rules.
- Beasts of Balance (5+) – Kids will love this overpriced stacking game, especially as it offers hundreds of cool beast hybrids to discover as you mix the various animals together. The stacking element is fun for children too (and fairly easy to keep them from getting frustrated), but the evolving world you see on the app is the real draw here. Warning, they might want to game the system and just keep restarting the game after each new beast discovery.
- My First Carcassonne (3-4) – This is really a bit of a disappointment as the only strategic choice to be made is the fairly obvious act of leaving opponent’s roads open. Otherwise you just draw and close as many of your own roads as possible until you hopefully run out of meeples. Good for the very young, but full Carcassonne (or a variant) would probably be a better choice for the 5+ crowd.
- Minuscule (5+) – A line game where you play cards that move insects in a line up or down, trying to get the two secret insects you drew to the front. Works very well for what it is, even if it feels a little random. I’d probably recommend not using the ants variant even though it seems like it would be a good addition for adults.
- Cockroach Poker (4+) – A bluffing game distilled down to the basics, this is a great way to teach your kids to lie (and, more acceptably, to teach them to identify falsehoods). There can be a bit of trickiness for very young kids in understanding the basic concept of “I tell you this is a certain bug, you tell me if you think it is or isn’t. If you can tell if I’m lying, I have to take the card, if I manage to trick you, you take it.” Otherwise, this is a hit that is just as fun for adults as it is children (and can be played competitively with a mixed group).
- Knusperhexe (4+) – The box and cards form a cute gingerbread house and roof from which you slowly draw cards while hoping not to collapse the whole thing. There is very little in the way of actual decision making in the card aspect of this, but the dexterity game of keeping the roof intact is fun enough, and the whole thing is quite visually pleasing.
- Guess Who (4+) – Classic 20 Questions style game that has cool player “boards” with windows you can shut when you rule out suspects to elevate things a few notches. The visuals in front of you can lead to inspired questions, and kids of all ages can have fun with this one as long as they are careful when they eliminate suspects.
- Enuk (4+) – A great combination of memory and push your luck, this is a huge hit with kids (even makes for a reasonably good game for adults). The food-chain themed luck pushing (if you turn over an animal directly above or below one of your other animals on the pictured food chain, it runs away) is nicely balanced so that no one every loses their entire turn for risking. My only complaint is that the end game really doesn’t work as written (most revealed animals get taken over the course of the game) and always feels like an arbitrary afterthought to an otherwise great game.
- Sumo Ham Slam (5+) – You could probably play this game of slamming magnet-controlled sumo-hamsters into each other with younger children, but two things make it hard to do. One, the magnets are a little touchy, especially if you are trying to make fast, jerky motions (as one would do when trying slam their “hams”), and two, it takes a mature kid to be able to have their ham ruthlessly sumo-slammed into the dirt and still remain a good sport. Otherwise, this will definitely be a hit, especially when the hamsters accidentally “throw up” their food after an especially hard slam.
- Santa’s Bag (5+) – Christmas themed kid’s game of drawing/trading cards to collect sets of materials to build toys (worth varying amounts of points) for kids (worth varying amounts of points depending on their naughty level). It’s pretty decent as a kid’s game, although, the timing of trading (combined with the option to trade with the top of the deck) can be confusing (or at least takes some patience to learn the proper order) even for older kids. Almost there, honestly I think I might recommend doing a few rules tweaks on this one to make it a bit more kid friendly.
- Dungeon Twister: Forces of Darkness – This heavy DT expansion adds a fair amount of complication, but nothing that is unmanageable (though I’m not sure the darkness mechanic is worth the trouble). The “go after your opponent’s wounded” mechanic is cool (though it makes for a fairly bloody game as it is now much harder to heal before they steal your bodies), and there are a few standout characters (the form switching vampire is fun–as is the body snatching ghoul)…some of the others are a little meh (the regenerating dragon and the zombie summons that still lose you a victory point are not super fun to play).
- No Thank You Evil: Story Please – A welcome addition to the base game, this adds a deck of places, adventure hooks, allies, and items to randomly draw (or incorporate however you see fit). Great for a quick pick up game that you don’t want to have to sit down and think up something cool before you play.
- Krosmaster: Arena – Piwate Island – Very nice looking board with the basic variations on “trees and bushes” alongside the new rafts. Honestly, rafts themselves are underwhelming, having little effect on gameplay (aside from non-intuitively blocking pushes and pulls) for the amount of extra rules they use. The included Krosmaster is a winner though–Le Chouque is very fun, unique, and quite powerful with the right teams!