Here are some quick reviews of all the games I’ve been playing lately. I will periodically move these titles down to the full A-Z list found 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!
- Mancala (6) – The basic action of picking up a pile of seeds and then systematically sowing them counter clockwise around the board is quite satisfying, and, on a deep level, just fundamentally works as a game concept. However, as piles get larger and you have to count out the seeds to see where they will end up, the clunkiness of the system begins to show itself. The game works, and there are definitely opportunities for clever play (which also necessitates playing against a skilled opponent), but the difficulty of instantly evaluating the board state due to the many piles of uncounted seeds is a serious debit here.
- 5 Minute Dungeon (7.5) – This real-time dice rolling (a mechanic I don’t typically like, but it works well enough here) game has great production values, and the short play time does not overstay its welcome. There are good opportunities for teamwork (as long as everyone is on their toes) which work well with the real-time element. The only real flaw is that the cute cards are purely for flavor, so the jokes about cacti needing hugs will probably wear thin on multiple playthroughs as you use the same cards over and over for each Boss.
- FITS (9) – Fantastic “Tetris” game of adding pieces one by one to your slanted personal player board, trying to fill up the space as efficiently as possible. There is nothing groundbreaking here, but this still elegantly captures the feel of Tetris with all the usual efficiency and polish you would expect of Reiner Knizia.
- Push a Monster (7.5) – This is just a “kids game,” but a fun one at that. This is basically one of those arcade games where quarters keep getting pushed onto a table until they fall off the edges. It has a nice short play time, and, most importantly, the gimmick doesn’t wear out too quickly.
- Bugs in the Kitchen (8) – Very cool game that uses a battery powered vibrating bug that randomly moves around a maze that the players will slowly shift in their favor based on die rolls. It looks great, and is genuinely fun, though you have to resist the urge to slow play and game the system when the bug is getting close to ending up in your scoring bin.
- Warhammer Underworlds (10) – Games Workshop has the best miniatures in the business, and the ones used for the Warbands here are some of their best work. This is a very simple game on the surface (3 turns of 4 action points–the usual move/attack/charge options), that is given welcome complexity by constructing a deck of cards to play on your team between actions. I am a little burned out on deckbuilding (who has time for that?), but it’s used well in this game, and really ups the strategic ante! It can be awfully dicey, but the play time is so short (really, these games shouldn’t be taking more than 20 minutes) that it hardly matters.
- Cardline: Globetrotter (8.5) – All of the Cardline games are great, but for geography nerds, this is the one to get as putting countries in order of size is about as fun as it gets. It is amazing how little you can know about, say, the relative sizes of Pakistan and Indonesia, making for a very challenging and fun variation of the system. Population, GDP and Carbon emissions are even harder!
- Würfel Bohnanza (9.5) – For all the Yahtzee style (roll, set aside, reroll, repeat) games out there, this is probably my favorite. There are tons of great choices to be made (and I appreciate that the cards tell you the odds) as you try to match the groups of symbols shown on your personal card. The push your luck element is executed perfectly, and the best part is there is even something for other players to do when it’s not their turn!
- Exit: The Game – The Secret Lab (9) – This is a great escape room experience, with a good mix of clever puzzles (though they are a bit on the easy side). I especially like the cool code card that checks all your answers. All in all, a great time, it’s just too bad you can only play it for an hour before you have to just toss it in the trash (you will cut and write all over it as you solve it).
- Cardline: Dinosaurs (6.5) – Despite the cool theme, this one is a step down from the fantastic Cardline: Animals due to the simple fact that most people’s dinosaur knowledge doesn’t extend to accurate estimates for size and weight. I suppose for TRUE dinosaur lovers this would be great, but fuck if I know how many tons more some giant prehistoric shark would be compared to a giant prehistoric sea monster thing. The roughly human sized bird-like dinosaurs seriously clog up the low end too.
- Crossing (6) – Simple game of slowly filling up pots (mushrooms) of gems and then players simultaneously choosing to point at a mushroom (taking the gems), their neighbor’s stash (taking it for yourself), or covering your own stash and locking them away from future thieving opportunities. Again, as simple as it gets, but there are some good bluff decisions to be made here that keeps it worth playing.
- Bonbons (5.5) – Memory variant where you are trying to match cards from the center with your own set of 5 treats, first player to match all 5 wins. The “each player has their own set to match” mechanic doesn’t really work as you are allowed to match another player’s card and claim it for yourself (giving them one of your unmatched ones to replace it), so really you may as well just have a set of 5 cards to match per player out in the center for everyone. Otherwise the game looks great, and is actually pretty hard as all the candy/color variations are fairly subtle!
- Smugglers (6) – Basically someone put a kind of jankety scoring system on the act of rolling a clay ball JUST big enough to fit through a hole at the bottom of a chute. There isn’t much else here, still, for a gimmick game, it really IS kind of fun, just make sure you keep this one as short as possible to keep its welcome from wearing out!
- Babel (7) – Tight little game of building up/moving cards around to create combos to trash your opponent’s side of the board. This is a lot more confrontational than most of the Kosmos 2-player line, and there really is a lot of opportunity for clever moves. Unfortunately, sometimes the most clever plans can be hamstrung by luck of the draw, and the knocking down of temples can make the game overstay its welcome. Worth playing for the right two players, but this will easily fall flat with the wrong two players.
- Ice Cool (8) – Great flicking game that has one player trying to crash into the other players while they try to flick their players through doorways. Once one player passes through all their doorways, the roles rotate, repeat until each player has chased once. The bottom heavy pieces can create some cool skittering effects when flicked just right, the box within a box (within a…) idea is great, and the theme of penguins stealing fish from Penguin school is quite cute. Factor in the closeout pricing the game currently has and you have a real winner!
- Pikoko (7.5) – Just a normal trick taking game with the twist that you are only able to play your neighbors cards (each player’s own cards face away from them making them unable to see their own hand), and you are betting on how many tricks each player will win. This creates some very interesting decisions for gamers, especially in guessing how others might bet/choose to play out their neighbor’s hands (either poorly on purpose, or to maximize tricks). Not one you want to play with new gamers, but for those looking for something new in the massively overcrowded trick taking genre, this one might just fit the bill!
- Bausack (8.5) – This is one of my favorite stacking games due to the super cool pieces (even if they are mostly just left over cabinet making supplies), and the clever bidding mechanism where you horde your precious bidding beans to force others to take super hard pieces to stack, or to claim a super easy piece for yourself. The Bausack version looks the best, but if you can find a cheap Bandu version on ebay, it’s basically the same thing.
- The Potion (6.5) – Simple blind bidding game where all players see a certain amount of potion ingredients and everyone puts an ingredient in their hand. If the players match the potion ingredients exactly, everyone that helped gets to get rid of an ingredient…if they didn’t, everyone that contributed the wrong ingredient gets to get rid of an ingredient. Because you are racing to empty your hand (and because the game is fairly random), it gets a little gamey towards the end where you basically just put the ingredient you most need gone out and hope you get lucky. Extra point for the cool pill bottle box though.
- Hanabi (6) – Unique game where all players hold their cards facing the table, and then each turn they can give one piece of information (regarding a fellow player’s colors or numbers) or play onto the center piles (that you must stack in order from 1-5). You are ONLY allowed to say how many of a color or number someone has (opinions differ on whether using a “plaintive tone” counts as cheating) so a lot of it is memory as you try to remember if that card you were told is a three was one of the 2 yellow ones they said you had 6 turns ago. This IS a good game, but it’s all a bit too much work for me to constantly try to stay focused and remember all your cards.
- Pantone (8) – Very clever game where you choose small, colored rectangular cards and try to use them to get people to guess what they are (for example, if you drew a card that said “Oscar the Grouch, you might use a grey rectangle, with a green rectangle behind it sticking up, and then a sliver of another grey rectangle sticking up behind that. It is surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly) quite hard.
- Tight Squeeze (8) – This game is what the box cover shows…a slowly tightening belt that couples have to squeeze through from feet to head at the same time. There is a spinner and various configurations to make it more difficult, but really, dry humping your way through a tiny belt loop is plenty of fun all by itself.
- Unusual Suspects (8) – One person knows a secret person from an array of choices, and the other players try to narrow down who it is by asking general questions. Because the people are all of different ages, social classes and races, this is basically “Profiling: The Game,” where you must choose between answering the question “which one of these people would be most likely to be a bad driver” honestly, and say “there is no way to know if someone is a bad driver,” or the way a racist would answer and point to the asian guy. The questions thankfully rarely delve into explicit racist stereotypes, but you still won’t feel comfortable answering any of them anyway.
- A la Carte (7) – This is a game full of gimmicks, but they are all implemented pretty skillfully. Most of the game boils down to how good you are shaking irregular shaped “spices” out of small mouthed jars (the crepe flip element especially feels a little tacked on) into your cute little pans. It’s fun enough, but I probably wouldn’t want to play without all the bells and whistles.
- dude (5.5) – Simple game where you draw cards and can say only “dude” in the manner suggested by the font. If you think someone else has the same card you do, and you both say “sweet” (because THAT movie is a timely reference in 2018), then you can both score the card. It’s fun for a bit, but the different dude variations wear out their welcome pretty quickly.
- Small World (10) – This is one of the better game designs of the last decade. Sure, it is just an reimplementation of the underwhelming Vinci, but the host of cool special powers, and the bright and colorful fantasy theme were just what this design needed. The decisions are agonizing, the presentation is top notch, and best of all, it actually kind of feels like the wargame it wants to be!
- Glen More (7) – This is a solid euro about making Scotch, where you draft tiles Thebes style to go into your expanding tableau of activatable victory point producers. This is a good game, but it feels rather bland and I don’t expect I’d get this out enough to remember the best strategies for winning (which, otherwise come to you about halfway through the game).
- CVlizations (7) – This is a simplified version of CV, and, like CV, I think most of the allure is due to the fantastic art, and cool concept. Honestly, as a civilization game, this kind of suffers as this territory doesn’t feel nearly as fresh as the original CV. It’s mostly just a lot of shuffling cubes around to try to buy as many cards as you can…fun enough, but nothing to get excited about.
- Sidewinder (4.5) – Simple dexterity game of tilting a tray back and forth to get a ball to roll “up” to the top and dump into your opponent’s side. On the easy setting, this is reasonably fun, though it can way outstay its welcome if you are both competent ball rollers. On the hard side it makes you want to toss it in the trash.
- Nut so Fast (9) – This is a surprisingly great speed grabbing game, where players take turns flipping cards up looking for groups of four and then grabbing the corresponding nut before anyone else. Periodic silly gesture cards come up (that are surprisingly hard to remember in the heat of the moment) to keep things interesting. This has all been done before, but for some reason this one came off as an especially good version of this kind of game.
- Bugs & Co (6) – Ok game of grabbing tiles in real time and putting them face down in your hand if you want to keep them. The twist is you have to have 3 of the same tile to score it, so you have to remember what you’ve taken, and hope the other players don’t have one of yours. Seems like it might be a better tactic to only take tiles once you know where all three are, but I” not sure the game warrants enough plays to find out.
- Risky Adventure (5) – Below average dice rolling game that tries to throw too many bells and whistle at what is essentially a simple push your luck dice game. Some of the choices are fairly obvious when you need certain cards, and the dice don’t offer enough rerolling variety to really feel like you have much of an effect on their outcome. Overall probably best to avoid this one, nice presentation aside.
- Mancala (4+) – This is actually pretty good for kids, as long as you don’t expect them to play strategically. The simple act of picking up a pile of seeds and sowing them around the board works for even the youngest of kids. Seeing good scoring moves and playing strategically however is something that even adults struggle with on this one.
- Old Maid (4+) – The only thing keeping the age range from going lower on this one is being able to hold all your cards. I suppose there is good fun to be had trying to bluff people into taking the old maid, but that is the ONLY part of this stinker that will get your pulse going.
- 5 Minute Dungeon (5+) – Kids will probably have trouble keeping up with competitive adults, but if you are able to slow down the timer (or use fewer cards), kids will probably love this cooperative real time dungeon crawl.
- Hang Four (5+) – Simple dice rolling game where you hope to roll high numbers (which give you coins), to buy surf boards to complete your surfing dogs. It’s pretty damn random, and there’s not much to really hold your interest, but kids seem to like it, and it plays reasonably fast.
- Cardline: Dinosaurs (5+) – Kids will mostly have no idea which dinosaur goes where, but it’s still fun for them to compare dinosaurs. You can even play semi competitively if you hand pick the dinosaurs to play with and get a good variety of sizes.
- Crossing (4+) – This is a simple “point at one pile or another” game, and if you are the only one pointing at a pile of gems, you get to take them all. Small kids can get upset if you steal their own pile of gems, but aside from that this can be played at a fairly young age.
- Ice Cool (4+) – Small kids can get frustrated at this flicking game as it is pretty hard to control where the spinning penguins go. On the other hand, it looks great, it’s fun, and it’s fairly hard for adults to play too, so it can work for diverse groups as long as the kids don’t get too frustrated.
- Bonbons (4+) – The trying to match the tiles in front of you part can be a little confusing, but otherwise this is straight memory. You can adjust it for younger children by taking out some of the candies.
- Smugglers (5+) – Even though the scoring system is a bit baroque, the simple act of rolling gems into clay balls and rolling them through holes in a cardboard fence is fun for all ages. Kids won’t be competitive, but they should still have fun with this.
- Bugs & Co (4+) – There are a few ways to play this with kids, but the easiest is probably to let them look at tiles they are holding as they play. It’s not the best choice for kids, but they will like the real time element (and take way too many tiles).
- Warhammer Underworlds: Spiteclaw’s Swarm – This warband is very fast (movement 5), and can return to play after being taken out (which is good as most of them have health 2). They are best at running from the enemy and sneaking onto objectives, though the leader can get pretty lethal when he’s upgraded.
- Warhammer Underworlds: Nightvault – Nightvault improves on Shadespire by adding magic and continuing the lethal terrain from the last map pack, both welcome additions. The new 3D terrain can be annoying (as some of it goes on spaces you can move into, but it looks great and is a welcome addition as well!
- One Night Ultimate Vampire – This has the twist of having a middle phase where people can change who the “vampires” are. It’s a good idea, but most of it is a little rules heavy for what wants to be a simple game.
- One Night Ultimate Daybreak – I still need to try this with more players, but at low player counts, this feels like it has too many wolves and almost becomes a game of pretending to be a wolf rather than a villager.
- A la Carte: Dessert – Not exactly necessary, as these are all minor changes to the basic gameplay that do not seem to change things much one way or another. The Menus are nice in that they give a bit of direction in your food choices, and the mixed spice jar is fun (but quite random). New salt recipes and coffee cups are all fine too (though, ultimately unnecessary).
- more dude – Expansion to dude that has a new set of cards with more of an accent theme than the punctuation based original. I prefer the base game as even without hand gestures (which make this too easy), half of these are just too immediately identifiable. A few rules issues too–for example, it is unclear whether or not you can add an “itsa!” in front of “dude” for the Italian one…
- Small World: Realms – The regular Small World maps work just fine and don’t need modularity (especially now that there are other boards), but the scenarios are pretty cool in this expansion and make it worth picking up. Good stuff for all player counts here.
- Small World: Underground – A stand alone expansion that has an entire underworld map to explore with its own rules and races. There are a few extra rules here with the relics and places, but overall they are fun to use and don’t push things further than they need to be pushed.