Here are some quick reviews of all the new games I’ve been playing lately. You can see the full A-Z list of past reviews 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!
- 5-Minute Marvel (6.5) – This is fast, and kids love it, but the central mechanic of playing cards in your hand that match the symbols on the to of the deck just isn’t very interesting. Fun enough, and great presentation (and the hero powers are a welcome addition), but not something that I’m usually chomping at the bit to play.
- Biblios (10) – Brilliant two part game (like For Sale) where you collect cards and then use them to get more cards. At the end, whoever has the most cards of each color gets the corresponding dice (at whatever point value is showing on the face). The central mechanic is an ingenious push your luck variation where you draw a card for each player, a face down end of game pile, and yourself, the twist being you do them one at a time and decide which pile they go into, thus risking leaving yourself with a shitty card if you wait too long. Simple, elegant, and, most important of all, fun.
- Bonk (7.5) – Fun dexterity game of trying to push a rolling wooden ball into you opponent’s side by rolling little steel balls down a slide and hitting it at the right angles. Fun and chaotic, though, it is awful hard to maintain much control.
- Chronicles of Crime (8) – Clever game that uses VR crime scenes to find QR-encoded evidence to use to question QR encoded suspects. A phone app controls the flow of information, with most being some variation of “this person tells you about this location, and when you go there you find two more people to tell you about more places, where you find more evidence…all eventually leading to enough information to solve the central murder. It is a blast to play, though, in one game we didn’t show one specific piece of physical evidence to the hacker and ended up completely stalling our investigation, which was disappointing.
- Dragonheart (6) – Ok push your luck game where you take turns playing cards in various spots around the board, the twist being that most spots will then claim cards from adjacent spots. It becomes a game of trying to build up certain piles of cards and then snatching them for yourself before your opponent grabs them. In practice there are just a few to many places to put cards to really have much control over mitigating the risk of building up a pile.
- Dungeons and Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon (6.5) – Basically the same game as Castle Ravenloft and The Legend of Drizzt–this one falls somewhere between the two complexity wise. My big problem with all of these games is that 2/3rds of the way to the final battle the endless stream of samey (mechanically) monsters just gets kind of boring (and increasingly tough to keep track of) to fight.
- Dungeon Command (6) – I appreciate the look and general idea behind the game, unfortunately combat is deadly boring, spiced up only by the cards (which tend to get used up pretty quickly). There is some fun to be had here, but as far as tactical miniature combat goes, this is definitely not top-tier stuff.
- Electronic Labyrinth (9) – This electronic version of Labyrinth is, ostensibly, marketed towards children, but it is also an overall improvement on the game, adding a slight memory element and focused quests for each player (along with multiple ways to score points). Don’t let the cutesy book and dialog fool you, this one is good fun for adults too!
- The Enchanted Tower (7) – On the surface this race game of one person with a head start trying to find the key you hid while you race to get there first is a pretty cool concept (and looks great). Unfortunately, the main decision is whether to go right or left as the finder…if you choose correctly, you will probably find the key.
- Factory Funner (10) – The original Factory Fun is one of my favorite games, and this update basically improves on it in all areas. The basic game play of drawing machine tiles and then laying out increasingly complex pipe networks to bring feeder colors to the machines remains the same, it’s the little touches the improve things. The new hexagonal tiles open up so many more options (while the decreased board sizes keep the game challenging). Banning moving machines around cuts way down on AP decision making. Also, the new (or old if you had an original version) “cut out” pipes look much better than the printed Z-man ones.
- Forbidden Desert (8) – This is a nice twist on the Forbidden Island (/Pandemic) original game, with the new emphasis on managing the spread of sand covered tiles while searching for scattered “flying machine” parts. Perhaps a little punishing with a small amount of bad luck, but overall this looks and plays fantastically (and is an amazing value at such a low price point).
- Hellboy: The Board Game (7.5) – I used to love these Ameritrash adventure games, but too often by the time you get to the end game and the board is covered in enemies, it just kind of feels like a slog as you end up spending more time bookkeeping than making meaningful progress. That said, the core combat system (of upgrading or downgrading dice) IS cool, the character abilities are fun and thematic, and it all looks very nice.
- Kissenschlacht (9.5) – This is the king of all catapult games as you try to launch your color of pillows into a central pit (while attempting to knock the other player’s tokens off the bedposts at the same time). The pillows and catapults are just balanced enough to give the launches the perfect level of difficulty, making for a ridiculously fun game.
- Laser Chess (6) – This looks cool as shit while you play (even though you can’t actually see the laser without a ton of dry ice), but at the end of the day it’s just another abstract that I don’t really feel the urge to devote enough time to to get good at. Also, some of the more complex bounces make it even harder than normal in these types of games to see far enough ahead to stop your opponent’s attacks.
- The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth (6.5) – The tiles are beautiful (but WAY too samey), the cards and pieces look great, but, unfortunately there isn’t much substance to back it all up. You basically explore a world that is mostly populated by the same three types of enemies and endless variations of encounters with strange rocks “with something glinting underneath them.” That makes it sound worse than it is, the card driven combat is actually pretty fun, and I do still enjoy playing (despite the end game bogging down in a horde of creatures too often for my liking), it just could have been so much more. I mostly wish the story line and tiles would have had some of Mansions of Madness‘ creativity and variation.
- Master Fox (6.5) – This is a cute game of blindfolded players feeling around in a box for specific animals. This is fun and good for kids, though, for adults, the animals are pretty damn easy to find, making wrong grabs rare.
- The Mind (8) – Very unique game where players all attempt to play their small hands of cards (from a large deck numbered 1-100) in order from lowest to smallest…WITHOUT talking. It’s definitely a cool concept, and mostly works very well, the only issues being when someone has a 32 and someone else has a 33, then it’s basically a crap shoot.
- Mr. Jack (8) – This game of “find the serial killer” uses a clever mechanic of hidden vs seen to enable one player to slowly whittle down a list of suspects in order to catch the other player (by trying to keep the seen/unseen number as even as possible). I like it, though it sure seems awfully difficult for Mr. Jack to win (despite my 7 year old semi routinely beating me with Mr. Jack…but he just got lucky).
- Mystic Vale (9) – This clever variation on deck building fixes the deck size at 20 cards, and instead lets you upgrade the cards themselves with see-through upgrades you can sleeve into the base card. The artwork is amazing, and it’s a very fun concept even if it is absolutely multiplayer solitaire. Also, some of the cards are definitely a bit better than others leading to runaway leaders in most games.
- On Tour (9) – Very clever roll and write game where you slowly fill your map with numbers from 1 to 100 (rolled on 2d10). The goal is to be able to connect the most sequential numbers (good theme implementation with the tour planning idea). There are a few little twists with regions and wild rolls, but nothing that detracts from the welcome simplicity of the game. Definitely recommended!
- Orcs Orcs Orcs (7.5) – This lazily named game combines light deck building with tower defense as you maneuver wizards around a tower while they attack a swarming horde of orcs. It feels a little uninspired, but works quite well, and is actually pretty fun (if, perhaps, 30 minutes too long).
- Pyramid of Pengqueen (8) – This re-theme of the classic Fluch der Mumie pretty much keeps everything the same as one player moves a mummy around a magnetic board attempting to find the other players before they collect enough treasures to win. It feels like their scaling is way off (certain player counts look massively easier for the mummy to win), but the gameplay itself is still quite fun.
- Rhino Hero (8) – Very cute game of building a tower that a little wooden rhino slowly climbs (and unbalances). Adults might want to add a few cards to their hands for this card-stacking tower-building game as it can be fairly easy to empty your hand when playing with seasoned stackers.
- Santa’s Bag (5.5) – In this Christmas-themed set collection game you slowly fill your hand full of cards that you turn in to collect pairs of kids and toys. It’s unassuming enough, but incentives to trade are usually fairly low, so you just kind of end up hoping to top-deck the cards you need for most of the game, which does not make for a very compelling experience.
- Shadows: Amsterdam (9) – Very cool Dixit-style race game where one person on the team lays down a card (or set of cards) and the other person has to figure out which hex those cards were meant to get them to move to. Definitely challenging, but also an excellent implementation of the Dixit mechanic.
- Steam Torpedo (7.5) – In this somewhat unwieldy game of submarine combat you spend your turn maneuvering your submarine (in front, behind, or to the sides of your opponent), running crew members around and then firing weapons, trying to do as much damage as possible to your opponent (thus, running them out of oxygen). There are some cool ideas, but it never really feels like it flows as well as it should, making me always think I’m playing it slightly incorrectly.
- Suspicion (6) – There are some great ideas in this Clue style deduction game, unfortunately, it just seems like it is way too easy to figure out who the other players are, which ultimately makes for a somewhat dry set collection game. I do like the central mechanic of maneuvering the pieces and then seeing who can see the player you are looking for, I just wish there was a bit more challenge in finding them.
- Terror in Meeple City (9) – This is mostly just a flicking game (flick your monster’s discs close enough to buildings that you can drop your monster on them trying to knock down as much stuff as possible) with a ton of chrome, but all the little stuff that is added (from putting your chin on your monster and blowing a building down to throwing cars) is really pretty cool. Definitely a little chaotic, and once you throw in all the special cards probably a little more complex than it needs to be, but still a showstopper for new gamers.
- Trool Park (6.5) – I can’t quite put my finger on the main issue with this game, but there are a few. First, it is so short that it doesn’t quite feel like you have all that many choices in building up your amusement park, you are mostly going with the flow, attempting to grab the best stuff you can and hoping they will score you the most points. Also, some of the graphic design choices are annoying (sun and “fun” is the same color even though they aren’t actually related to each other) and the rulebook is the usual Ankama shit-show. There might be a decent game in here, but I’m definitely having a hard time finding it.
- WARS Trading Card Game (7) – This “deck cycling” game is honestly pretty good–you build up units at locations, which allow you to attack your opponent and remove their cards from the game, first person to have no cards loses. I really liked the clever way that the deck is used as your resources, life, and a few more things all at once. I liked less the 90s style wall of text on most of the cards, making it (as usual) very difficult to know exactly what your opponent can do without coming around and reading his entire side of the table.
- Welcome to the Dungeon (7) – A lot of these Iello Mini games fall a little flat for me, and this was no exception. There is a good push your luck Yahtzee style game to be found here, but the cards over complicate things a bit, and there are a few too many broken combos to be found for my taste.
- Hirelings: The Ascent (4+) – This is really just a shitty roll and move that adults should steer clear of. The rulebook is a wall of text explaining 3 “special” rooms, otherwise, there is absolutely nothing of note to be found here. The art is really really good, the game is really really bad…this does NOT make things a wash however.
- Santa’s Bag (5+) – Adults will quickly tire of this game of drawing until you get the cards you need to claim combinations of toys and children that get the toys for points. Children will quickly tire of the confusing trade sequence. They will still enjoy it, but there are definitely better options for your kids.
- Dungeon Twister: Mercenaries – This expansion focuses primarily on combat, giving everyone abilities that are only useful when you decide to go for a blind bidding dust up. Due to this, it is one of my least favorite expansions–Dungeon Twister is all about the clever moves for me, and combat should only be a last resort, not a primary objective.
- Krosmaster: Arena – Arena Map – This tournament map has a special rule that you can’t target any of the central squares unless you are also in them (along with a few restrictions on teleporting into them). It makes for a nice incentive to mix it up in the middle and is honestly one of the better maps out there.
- Krosmaster: Arena – Brotherhood of the Forgotten (Season 6) – Despite ignoring most of the cooler characters from the cartoon in favor of endless Toxine reskins, there are still some cool characters to be found here. Toxine and Arpagone are SOLID level 3’s, Ruel and Elely are weak but situationally super fun, Oropo is just weak, and most of the level 1’s are quite playable.
- Krosmaster: Arena – Fog Map – This is a range character’s nightmare (especially if you house rule that the central staircase is usable for one MP), but is definitely a nice change of pace for those tired of getting sniped. The 3d terrain looks great, but the gravestones are far too big for being simple move (but not LOS) blockers.
- Krosmaster: Arena – Ice Map – The special ice squares are a fun, dynamic way to move around the map quickly, though they will disproportionately favor melee characters. I also like that this map is a frozen over version of the original elemental map.
- Krosmaster Arena – Ice and Grass Map – This is definitely the weirdest tournament map, with Krosmasters only able to target other Krosmasters standing on the same type of terrain. Honestly, it’s a really cool idea, but in practice it’s way too easy to forget how restrictive that actually is–leading to a fair amount of frustration.
- Krosmaster: Arena – Stalls Map – This is a fairly basic map with the new ability to push the stalls around within the dirt area. The stall-push doesn’t really come into play that much, though opportunities for clever manipulation of the ability definitely exist.
- Mr. Jack Extension – 6 new characters to add to your Mr. Jack games, though none of them are really all that much better than the originals. You’ve got another 2nd turn winner with the 6 move Pink lady, an unintuitive jumper (long jumps over people, adjacent jumps over buildings?) and a few other only mildly interesting variations. Mostly skippable.
- The Quest for El Dorado: Heroes and Hexes – This expansion adds some welcome new cards, and then a host of minor rules (mostly revolving around the new temporary curse mechanic) that are mostly unnecessary. The complexity doesn’t ramp up much, but I’m not sure the new stuff like named characters you add to your deck was really necessary.
- Warhammer Underworlds: Mollog’s Mob – This is one of the coolest looking and most uninteresting teams to play. Basically you will mostly ignore your little guys and instead go on an unholy reign of terror with your big guy. If you roll well, you will win, if you don’t, you will lose. That’s mostly it.