My Favourite Gaming Themes

Another #BlogMas 2019 blog, another list of stuff.
This time it’s my favourite themes in games
Here goes:

5. Zombies

This might be higher if I get to play more zombie games, but they’re a hit with me so far.

4. Fantasy

If nothing else, fantasy games are usually really quite stunning to look at. Good thing they’re great to play too.

3. Cthulhu

The great old ones must be appeased or they’ll come and take all our meeples away.

2. Dinosaurs

Slap a dinosaur on it, I’m game for a game.
1 Space
Cosmic Encounter
This is the clear winner. Actually, it’s almost impossible for me to resist a space game.

Why Back A Kickstarter Game?

So far I’ve backed 5 games on Kickstarter and will most like back more in the future.
If you don’t know, here’s a bit about what Kickstarter is (by the way, Kickstarter covers just about anything you can think of, not just games:
If you go to gaming conventions, or following gaming news on twitter and instagram there will be prototypes or announcements of upcoming games that, on the surface, look to be worth a closer look. Unfortunately, it’s not easy – or cheep – to produce a game in sufficient quantity and quality to make it worthwhile to put out a game that may not even be that well received. Many of the games makers nowadays are either independent smaller companies that don’t have the ready capital to mass produce a refined product that’s going to readily compete against big named games on the same shelf.
That’s where crowdfunding comes in, using platforms such as Kickstarter. After showing off the prototype or idea, or even being a company that has produced a solid game in the past, they can ask their customers to put money forward to see that game gets made. This can result in two things: Not enough money is given – unfortunate, but provides a useful insight into the game as it stood at that time and also saves the company from investing in producing a thousands of boxes of a game nobody wants. Or, the target funding is reached – this enables the company to hire the artists, buy the resources, and get the game made. Once those games go to the backers and are played, word of mouth and reviews will encourage others to go and buy the game themselves.
So, why do such a thing and just not wait for it to hit the shelves later?
Not meaning to sound like I’m in a job interview, I am passionate about board games. If I find a title or company that I like, I’m going to want to support it. Gamelyn Games and White Wizard games are two such companies and Terraforming Mars is a title that will almost guarantee my support because of the enjoyment I get out of their high quality games.
As an extra benefit, as a backer, I receive certain extra components for the game I’ve backed. If the backers provide a sum of money far surpassing the given goal, these extras can be quite plentiful. They can be as simple as extra cards and boards, special game components or even a mini expansion to the game not otherwise attainable.
For the curious, here are the games I have backed so far:

My Top Games By Type

Yesterday for #Blogmas I did a post on My Best Genre Books listing my favourite book or series from each genre. I thought I’d do something similar for today’s Blogmas by listing my favourite games by type. This can include games that utilise a particular gaming mechanic, or a particular type of game style.
Here goes.

Break Point (Compete to score the most points toward a given target):

A visually impressive game where dice rolls determine all actions as players strive to get the most pips on a card. What makes this one even better is that bad rolls are also rewarded.

Cooperative (Playing as a team to beat the game):

I’ve not been a huge fan of most of the cooperative games I’ve played, but I do enjoy the Legendary games (possibly being deck building games have helped). Even when we inevitably lose horribly, they’re tremendous fun.

Deck Builder (Start with a standard deck and use cards to acquire better ones, increasing the size of the deck):

I’m a sucker for most deck builders to be honest, but this is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of the gaming type.

Dexterity (Steady hands and some assembly required):

Stacking small plastic pieces according to a particular design is hard enough. Having to then slide the finished construct into the centre of the table is plain evil. Looks so good as the city is built up.

Dice Builder (Like a deck builder but, with dice):

Combines a deck-builder with dice, this is a very clever game that sees some powerful dice being reduced to not much due to a bad roll. Still fun though.

Drafting (Keeping a card from a hand and passing the rest to the next player):

Where some games use drafting as just a small part of the gaming experience, 7 Wonders is pure, unadulterated drafting.

Engine-Builder/Tableau (Players placing cards in front of them to build up points and better actions):

Also my favourite game at the moment, this extraordinarily well-themed game has so much to do in it, particularly with all the expansions. So many different engines to try out too.

Miniatures/Combat (Moving pieces about a battleground and getting them to fight each other):

A solid tabletop reinterpretation to the excellent computer game. Manage resources, control areas and battle it out across the planets of the Kropulu Sector.

Party (Plays with a large group of people with simple rules):

Chinese Whispers meets Pictionary, played with the right crowd, this is hilarious.

Point Salad (Do anything to score points):

Do something, get points. Do something else, get points. Do it all in this gorgeous space setting and it’s pure joy.

Programming (Preset the actions to perform, then see how they play out):

Who knew you could rob a train using a programme of cards? Playing the cards seems simple enough, it’s the playback of what’s been played that hurts as all your plans go awry.

Push Your Luck (Gain more, or lose everything):

Never before have I been on such tenterhooks as each gem is pulled from the bag. Heaped in tension and also looking mighty fine.

Resource Management (Using stuff to get more stuff at the loss of other stuff):

Yup, this one again. Each action and decision made centres around what resources are available.

Stacking (Putting stuff on top of other stuff until the thing falls over:

This brilliantly combines app technology with the straightforward stacking game to create a thing of beauty.

Tile Placement (Dominos):

You’d think by now that tile placement must feel a bit old and tired. Carpe Diem has reinvigorated the mechanically wonderfully.

Worker Placement (Placing a ‘worker’ piece to do a thing, stopping others from doing the same thing):

Not only does this game look stunning, it’s very playable and supports a surprisingly effective engine-building game as well.

So there you go. Not an exhaustive list, but a pretty solid one nonetheless. Needless to say, if there’s a glaring game type omission here, let me know and I’ll add it along with my preferred game. If there’s a game you think should be here, either I’ve yet to play it, or I just prefer the one on my list.
Check out these posts for my My favourite 10 Games and My 10 Least Favourite Games for a better idea of what I’m in to, and what I’m not.
If you want to give this a go, by all means help yourself. Don’t be afraid to put the same game forward more than once, if it applies.

My favourite 10 Games

Yesterday for #Blogmas I listed My 10 Least Favourite Games. For today’s Blogmas I thought I’d update my 2017 list of Top Ten Best Board Games as I’ve played a whole load of different games since then.
Again, this is my personal list for the games I enjoy the most. If you personally don’t like any of these games for any reason, you are fully allowed to feel that way. If there’s a game you feel is more deserving that should be on this list, there is a chance I haven’t played it.
Here goes.

10. Splendor by Space Cowboys

A delightful set-collecting game that’s simple and devious at the same time. One of the best filler games out there. The Cities expansion gives some good variety to it too.

9. Carpe Diem by Ravensburger

A game that proves you should never judge a game by its box. Combines the tile-laying strategies of Carcassonne with resource generation and planning to meet two objectives a round. Such a satisfying game.

8. Tiny Epic Galaxies by Gamelyn Games

I enjoy all the Tiny Epic games I’ve picked up (and have picked up most), but I’d still say that Galaxies is the best of the bunch. Careful resource management to build up a galactic empire that’s masterfully developed further with its Beyond the Black expansion.

7. Abyss by Bombyx

Some games are all style and no substance. Abyss looks incredible and plays out so well using push-your-luck mechanics to build a usable hand. The two expansions Leviathan and Behemoth provide so much more interest to the game too.

6. Everdell by Starling Games

Another fantastic-looking game with and impressive (if slightly pointless) 3D cardboard tree). However the cutesy theme and delightful components are mere condiments to a solid engine-building game. Need to get the expansion – heard good things about it.

5. Pulsar 2849 by CGE

You either love point salad games or you hate them. I get that. I’m a lover of this style of game. With so many options to choose from each turn even rubbish dice can be used to do great things.

4. Dinosaur Island by Pandasaurus Games

I love Jurassic Park. The book and the film. This is pretty much the game in all but name. Building your own dinosaur park has never been so much fun, even when the dinosaur break out and eat my paying customers. With an expansion that adds four extra aspects to the game, this games just gets bigger and better.

3. Star Realms by White Wizard Games

Deck-builders have been around for a while now, with different themes and styles. I’m a sucker for the deck-builder, me. Star Realms is, hands down, my personal favourite in the genre where players build up their decks of cards in order to annihilate each other. Complete with an attractive space theme, many complimentary expansions and one of the best digital versions of a game on Steam, this one just keeps on giving.

2. StarCraft: The Boardgame by Fantasy Flight Games

For the longest time this was my straight-up favourite game. Partially because I adore the computer game of which it is based, but also it’s a very satisfying combat and area control minutres game. However, with a game time of 30 minutes per player, a six-player game is more time commitment than can readily be given.

1. Terraforming Mars by Stronghold Games

Thematically, I don’t know of a stronger game than this masterpiece by Stronghold Games. Players play in a semi-cooperative way with the aim of terrforming Mars by increasing the temperature, oxygen content and liquid water levels. Individually, however, each player is trying to score more points than anyone else. With five excellent expansions that provide even more things to do, this engine-building game can be played over and over again.

There are also a host of other games I also really, really enjoy, but these are my current top ten.
Do any of these feature on your top (or bottom) ten?

Games Expo 2019

It’s that special time of the year again, so off we trot to:

We only did the Friday where it’s supposed to be “quieter”, not so sure about that, but I digress.
The morning was spent shopping and just walking up and down the aisles looking at lots of game-related stuff (and some stuff that was not game-related). We were impressed by the greater variety of wares than seen in previous years. Many stalls had a good collection of items the other stalls didn’t stock.
Our first proper stop was at the always amazing GamesLore where I picked up a game for a friend (not saying what as it’s a surprise), one of the few copies of

at the show (and the main item on my shopping list).
Elsewhere (and I can’t recall all the places I bought stuff-sorry), I picked up another game on my shopping list, a game we tried at the TableTop Gaming Live event last September:

Here they were also demonstrating the Disney baddies game Villainous and its first expansion (due out this August). (Get Photos from Sabrina).
White Wizard Games were there with a wonderful stand, courtesy of Eclectic Games full of stuff and Rob Dougherty himself was there demonstrating his new game Sorcerer (which I already got via Kickstarter). There I picked up the fantasy version of Star Realms:

as well as the five character packs:

I also thought I’d picked up enough matching card sleeves to sleeve the lot, but I think I’m one pack short.
From there I also picked up this beauty:

As they didn’t have any for Star Realms or Hero Realms for some reason. This came a bunch of matching card sleeves and a promo card too. Oooooh!
They did have some very nice playing mats, and I caved in and got this one:

Very nice it is too.
Lunchtime called so I partook in a Beast Burger while Sabrina enjoyed a Hazelnut Latte and a bowl of chips.
Refreshed and refuelled we set forth once more with the view to playing something.
The first game we tried our hands at was Seekers of Asterod:

Despite the awful and cumbersome pizza-style box, this Cludo-style space game was actually not all that bad. Not much substance to it, but a fun little game of narrowing down clues to be the first to find the correct planet. As it’s remotely linked to Cludo, Sabrina won.
Providing further proof that you can’t judge a game by its cover or artwork we had a go at Fireworks:

A game where players construct a pretty fireworks display on their boards by chucking a big die at a pile of tiles and collecting the number rolled if any tiles flip over. A game designed to have players spending most of their time under the table retrieving game components. Also the pretty artwork is not easy to make out the two very similar styles of explosion (a non-jaggerdy one and a jaggerdy one). The obviously translated instructions are also not easy to read. Not so impressed with this one. Sabrina one.
Finally we had a go at Ghostbusters: The Card Game:

In this set-collecting game, players take turns playing cards to move the trap and then trapping the card it finishes at. Some cards are slimy and will deduct points to the player with the most, unless they also have Slimer.
Thematically, not really that Ghostbustery, but the artwork was fun, the game-play was easy to pick up and there was enough in it to keep it interesting. A good filler game. Had there been a copy of this for purchase, we might have picked it up.
Two games I was looking out for were Tiny Epic Mechs and Tiny Epic Tactics, but after consulting the good ol’ internet, I learned they’re not out yet.
One stall that surprised us was one sporting a load of Pillowfight Warriors goods. Not so much soft toys but more like actual pillows or cushions shaped like weapons and shields looked fantastic. Thinking of the boys we bought a pair of swords.

After subsequently hacking at family members over the course of the weekend, we may well invest in some more gear from here. They were hugely successful.
Two items that we’d seen earlier were calling to us, so we tracked down a copy of:

that Sabrina liked the look of. I’d bought her the original Herbaceous at last year’s Expo and she’d enjoyed that. This one seems to follow the latest trend of being redone as dice.
I’d previously acquired a few copies of Keyforge, but had yet to get a starter set with the extra bits and counters and stuff. Eventually, I managed to find one of the rapidly dwindling copies of:

from the good people at Zatu Games. Apparently, the UK have had their orders for this title reduced across the board, so there’s less copies about than expected.
This contains my first Age Of Ascension, but has the improvement of the original starter sets in that the 2 decks contained within are standard unique decks rather than specially constructed decks.
On the way out at the Expo Merch desk, we also picked up this nifty poster:

I did a vlog on this too, more of the same but more waving about at the camera:

Game Review: Sorcerer

Sorcerer (Kickstarter edition)

from White Wizard Games
Contents
Box Contents
How to Play
Scores
Further Thoughts and Final Verdict
Expansions

Box Contents

1 rulebook
4 battlegrounds
4 double-sided player boards
Red glass beads
Blue glass beads
7 red cuboids
Double-sided Damage/Omen tokens
Flame tokens
Tree tokens (with Kickstarter expansion)
3 Fate tokens
1 Blood card
1 Moon card (with Kickstarter expansion)
2 Moon tokens (with Kickstarter expansion)
9 Character decks or 10 cards each (4 in base game)
9 Character skill cards (4 in base game)
9 Character avatar Standees (4 in base game)
6 Lineage decks of 20 cards each (4 in base game)
6 Lineage skill cards (4 in base game)
8 Domain decks of 10 cards each (6 in base game)
8 Domain skill cards (6 in base game)
7 custom d6 battle dice
1 large d8

How to play
The object of the game is to win. Winning is achieved by being the first player to control two battlefields (or 3 in a 3+ player game).
Either randomly or by selection each player chooses a Player, Lineage and Domain deck and matching character standee.
After separating out the 3 skill cards, the 40 remaining cards are shuffled to create the grimore (main deck).
The deck is placed on the player’s board along with a blue bead on the 6 of the energy tracker and the red bead on the 6 of the turn tracker. Each player also gets 1 Omen token in their omen pool and the first player get the Fate token.
The skill cards are placed next to the board for player reference.
In a two-player game, three battlegrounds are placed between the players.
In a three + player game, one battleground is placed between each player. The base game allows up to four players. Each battleground gets 2 red cuboids which start off in the middle (an extra counter may be needed in a four-player game).
Certain decks also come with their own special card (i.e. Blood Card or Moon Phase card) which also need to be separated out and put in a place of reference.
Each player deals themselves 6 cards. They may mulligan.
Each player places their avatar in a battlefield, the abilities of their three skill cards will only affect that battlefield.
The Action Phase
Starting with the first player, each player takes turns to perform an action.
To perform an action a player must first spend 1 red action point (move the red bead down the track by one). In this way all players will get to perform six actions.
The actions are:
– Play a card from hand: Each card has an energy cost and must be paid by moving the blue bead down the energy tracker by the requisite number. Spells are played straight to a player’s personal graveyard (discard pile) and actioned accordingly. Minions are played to any battlefield (in a 3+ player game minions can only be played to the battlefields to the left and right of the player and spells can only effect those battlefields). Items are played to already played minions.
– Move a minion: A minion can be moved from one battlefield to an adjacent battlefield (some minions have flight and can move to any legal battlefield).
– Gain two energy: Move the blue energy bead up two spaces.
– Gain two cards: Pick up two cards from the grimoire.
Once all players have performed all six actions the action phase is complete.

The Battle Phase.
Starting with the battlefield on the first player’s left, minions battle one at a time until all minions have battled or been destroyed. In a two-player game, the first player gets first attack in the middle battleground only.
All minions have an attack and defence score. To attack, a minion is tapped (turned sideways) and their attack value is counted (their red value + any extras). That many dice are rolled to determine damage (up to 7 dice). Die rolls can be:
-Blank (a miss!)
-1 skull (a hit!)
-2 Skulls (a double hit!)
-1 star (a critical hit! – or a double hit if the Battle Phase commenced with no opposing minion on that battlefield).
Both players involved in the battle can spend an Omen tokens to force die rerolls to better or worsen the roll outcome. The first player may also flip the Fate token to force a complete reroll (but only once per turn).
Damage done can go to any opposite minion or to the battlefield. The attacking player only gets to choose where damage from a critical hit goes – all other damage is decided by the defending player.
Damage counters are added to minions one at a time to denote damage. If damage = minion defence (the blue number) the minion is destroyed and sent to the graveyard with any items it was carrying.
Damage to the battlefield is indicated by the red cuboid and is placed on the tracker on the defender’s side of the board. When the damage reaches 12, the battlefield is completed and turned over with a red cuboid on the victor’s side. When a player has 2 such victories, they win. In a 3+ player game, the battlefield is reset and the first to win three victories is the winner.

Scores

Number of players Mostly 2 players, but has the capacity for 4 with a little rejigging.
End game conditions A player controls 2 battlegrounds (or 3 in a 3+ player game).
Victory condition The player who controls 2 battlegrounds (or 3 in a 3+ player game).
Replayability If I don’t play it tonight I’m gonna freak! With 96 different deck combinations with just the base game and 432 deck combinations with the current Kickstarter expansions, this has a lot of replayabilty.
Reading Requirements Oh yeah! I forgot it did that! As usual with this type of game, there’s a lot of information that builds up in front of you. No card has too much writing, but it’s easy to forget bits, particularly with the skill cards.
Rules Comprehension I only read through the rules three times The rulebook reads quite well and is laid out logically. The player boards also sport the crucial details so there’s not too much flicking through the rulebook.
Game-Breakability They clearly game-tested the meeple out of this With over a year waiting for this on Kickstarter, there was a lot of testing. However, with 96-432 different deck combinations there will be stronger synergies than others.
Durability Use as directed Don’t get wet! Also the cardboard standees are made from a good rigid cardboard, but could be damaged if caught wrong.
Box Size Under Arm A little bigger than the average box.
Play Area Coffee Table With 2 players, you don’t need too much room, with more players, more room will be needed.
Component Stability Indoors or no wind The standees from the expansions come with tiny bases, but the base game does come with spare bigger ones.
Storage Layout Hey, I can fit all my expansions in here too! Particularly regarding extra cards (all sleeved too). I have heard that those who got the extra battlegrounds have found that the bit of the box that holds them isn’t deep enough to take more.
Aesthetics Photogenic I love the box art particularly. I’d say the battlegrounds are a bit dark and bland, the player boards have two great sides. The card art isn’t to my personal taste but is okay.
Theme Good, if you like that sort of thing. Excepting the artwork, there’s nothing here that really shouts out ‘Sorcerer’ and any theme could be super-imposed over this without changing anything of the game.
Some may find the demonic theme more Torches and pitchforks and I know some will have nothing to do with it because of that.
Turn Time/Involvement Already? I’m still choosing 3 cards to discard from my last turn Although every person has six actions to perform, because they can only do 1 action a turn and the actions are pretty simple, the turns move quite quickly.
It’s a bit slower during the battle phase. With a 3+ player game, it may even be possible to have two simultaneous battles going on if there are enough dice.
Game Length We’ll get a couple of games in before bedtime Provided everyone knows how to play, this should be about 40-60 minutes.
Setup Time Minutes The bulk of the time is spent separating out the different decks. The box comes with some nice dividers for the Character, Lineage and Domain decks, but nothing for the individual decks. I’ve tried using the selection process using just the skill cards, but then there’s sifting through trying to find the relevant decks picked. I may need to make my own dividers to make this easier.

Further Thoughts
The main issue with this game is the demonic theme which will limit who will actually play this with me. I know many of you will scoff at this or not even think this is a thing, but for some, this is a real problem.
Apart from that, this game plays a bit like Smash Up, with the similar deck mixing mechanic and battleground break point goal but with a much better focus on the combat. The Omen token mechanic makes for some interesting extra strategy choices where a player may play a weaker minion purely to increase their Omen stash. The order of battle turns on the battleground also keeps players thinking about what should go where, and when.
As I’ve mentioned above, the artwork isn’t to my taste, but I can look past it to enjoy the simplicity and complexity of the game.
I feel it’s a stronger game as a two-player, but am grateful for the adaptation to accommodate extra players. I’m glad I got it with the extras and will keenly keep an eye out for more.
Final Verdict: Add this to your collection!

Expansions
These came with the Kickstarter but will probably be available as expansions too:
Each of the Character Packs comes with a deck of 10 cards, a Character Skill card and an Avatar Standee. The bases are small but can be swapped out for the extras supplied in the base game.

Each of the Lineage Packs comes with a deck of 20 cards and a Lineage Skill card. Both these packs come with extra rules and counters.

Each of the Domain Packs come with a deck of 10 cards and a Domain Skill card.

Lunatic Asylum Domain Pack – Kickstarter Stretch Goal
Royal Palace Domain Pack – Kickstarter Stretch Goal

The reverse of the player boards features an Egyptian theme – they play exactly the same regardless, but three matching battlefields were made available. I declined having spent enough, but I’ve heard they don’t fit too well in the box.
3 Egyptian Battlefields with red cuboids.

Games Night 13th December 2018

This is it, the final games night in Bedford. I expected a large turn-out for an emotional send-off.

DA popped over from across the road (quickly too – it’s jolly cold out there).

To kick off the evening while waiting for anyone else we played

by White Wizard Games
twice.

We played without characters this time.
In the first game, MC acquired a large number of Outposts and became pretty much invulnerable. DA fell to a hit of 37 points of damage.
The second game was quicker, with MC this time generating a powerful synergy with the Machine Cult and obliterating DA with ease.

By this time we realised no one else was going to make an appearance.


by Space Cowboys
was next.

In the first game we tried it with the Strongholds expansion from

We found that with the strongholds in play, we reserved a lot more cards than usual. I’m very eager to see how this plays out with 3 or 4 players.
DA won that game 17 to 13 by getting 2 nobles in quick succession.

Round two was without any expansions.
This was a much closer game with DA achieving the 15 points needed and MC on 13 points with a 2-point finishing move. Victory goes to DA for getting 15 points first.

To see off Board Games in Bedford we played a final game of

This time it was a very close game, with both players being whittled down to 3 points apiece. DA then struck with 2 points of damage. MC responded with the killing attack with 13 points of damage. Brilliant stuff.

And that is that.

Thank you so much to all the players over last decade; be they regular, sporadic, one-off or full of intentions but never made it. This club would not be what is without you.
Of course, if you ever find yourselves in Aylesbury…