Tag Archive for board game reviews

Review by Josh: Article 27

Article 27 Board Game box

Article 27: Because everyone should have the power to veto.

Article 27 was recently introduced into my regular gaming group and has since become a favorite. Let’s have a look as to why.


In Article 27, each player will take the role of a UN Security Council member (U.S., England, Russia, France, etc.) and whose goal will be to have the most Influence Points by game end. Influence Points are gained (and spent as bribes) throughout the game during each negotiation phase.


Each player starts with 12 Influence Points, a player mat with screen, their appropriate Face Tokens (used to place atop bribes and distinguish them from others), an “Approve” and “Reject” token, and each player will draw a Hidden Agenda token (kept secret from others of course)

The player who last made a public speech will begin the game as Secretary General and will be given the gavel and the 5-minute timer.

Depending on number of players in the game, face-down color-coded tokens will be placed on the main game board. Each of these will have a symbol on the front that may or may not help a player gain bonus Influence Points at the end of the game, if they have a matching Hidden Agenda token.

How a Round Works:

Every round, players will draw 5 tokens from a bag, starting with the Secretary General of the round. These tokens are privately placed behind player screens, and chronologically in the order they are drawn atop the 5 placeholders on each player mat. Each placeholder has a point value associated with it, where, if that particular color token is incorporated into a Proposal for the round, that player receives or loses the corresponding value of Influence Points. The values are as follows from left-to-right: +5, +3, +1, -2, -4. The tokens drawn can be one of 5 colors: red, blue, green, yellow, and black. A face-down token from each color on the main game board will now be revealed to show its symbol. If a symbol matches that of a player’s Hidden Agenda token, it may influence whether they want that color token to be incorporated into the round’s Proposal or not—regardless of whether it appears on their 5 drawn color tokens behind their screen.

Once all players have drawn their 5 tokens, the Secretary General begins the round of negotiation by banging the gavel and flipping the timer. They have five minutes to deliberate on a proposal before voting must happen. The Secretary General is particularly invested in having the round’s Proposal pass because there are 5 extra Influence Points on the line for them if it passes—none if it fails or is vetoed by another player.

In the following five minutes, players can beg, threaten vetoes (which cost 5 points to kill the Proposal), and bribe other players into accepting or rejecting or bribe the Secretary General himself into including or omitting certain color tokens from the Proposal. Bribes are placed on the appropriate player’s mat in the corresponding section, with the bribing player’s face token atop the bribe (as multiple bribes can be placed, it is important to know who placed what). Bribes MUST be honored if the appropriate action is taken by a bribed player (such as voting to pass a bill, abstaining, rejecting, etc.) But, while bribes may be placed onto a player’s mat to influence their decisions, they DO NOT amount to an acceptance. If a player is bribed 3 points to vote YES on a Proposal but they vote NO instead, the 3 Points are returned to the bribing player.

When five minutes are up, or the Secretary General calls for a vote to close earlier by banging the gavel, it is time for players to accept, reject, abstain, or veto a proposal. Vetoes cost 5 Influence Points. All players will take their voting tokens in their hands, secretly select one, and hold it inward with a closed fist. Once everyone has done so, fists are opened, and votes are counted. A MAJORITY is needed to pass a Proposal. Ties are considered failure.

If a Proposal passes, the colored tokens that were included in the Proposal by the Secretary General, are placed face-up in the scoring area of the board. Tokens not included are placed face-down in the scoring area. This area makes things easy for players to count any tokens matching their Hidden Agenda at the end of the game.

The gavel and Secretary responsibilites passes to the player on their left once everyone has scored their appropriate points, and placed their 5 drawn tokens bag into the bag. Play continues until everyone has had a turn being the Secretary General, or in the case of a 3-player game, everyone will be the gavel-wielder twice.


  • It is nice to have a game with so much player interaction. It is truly a negotiation game, with little else to distract.
  • Game length is roughly 45 minutes. It accommodates 3-6 players.
  • Learning curve is not bad. Stronghold also did a great job with their rulebook and it was not necessary to consult very often upon learning.
  • Excellent components, quality, and a very thorough rulebook is concise, colorful, and clear.
  • Great replayability. Lots of different token combinations each round will ensure that none is like the one before it.


  • I have found it rare (only 1 instance in 5 games played) that a Proposal was voted down. Typically, the players I have played with have found it more beneficial to simply spend 5 points on a veto to swindle others out of many more points for the round if the Proposal is not going their way. Not only does it seem not worthwhile to vote to reject instead of veto, but I have yet to see somebody abstain. These seem like under-utilized features to me.
  • The yellow-colored Agenda-related tokens are EXTREMELY hard to see. I am normally not bothered by things like this, but it is truly difficult to see the symbol on the yellow tokens. As such, I have drawn over them with permanent black marker. The only component mis-step in the game that I can think of.
  • I have found no personal problem with the 5 values displayed on each player mat (the numbers +5 thru -4) but others have argued that the current values allow for everyone to gain 3 points per round if every color is included, so why not do it each time? I find that a silly question. It’s not a co-op game. Why would you want to have everyone win? lol. I would never pass a Proposal with all 5 tokens involved.

Article 27 Rating: 8.5 out of 10 (Highly Enjoyable)

I really enjoy this game and imagine it will be a staple in our gaming group. Everyone I played with liked this game. Nobody hates this game. It was pleasantly surprising to have everyone embrace a negotiation political game that typically my group finds dull. Stronghold has done an excellent job with Article 27 and I encourage you to try it out, if not own it.

Review by Josh: Rex:Final Days of an Empire

Rex: Finals Days of an Empire board game

Rex: Finals Days of an Empire board game

Damn you Fantasy Flight! You make everyone else look bad with your fanciness! The dreadnaught fleet alone makes me want to flip the table in an envious rage. That said, I enjoy Rex a lot. My gaming group has mixed opinions on it though, so it hasn’t won everybody over. Let’s look.


I admit I have not played Twilight Imperium, from which this game is a spinoff in theme and characters. Although I understand in terms of gameplay, it is entirely different and is not the epic 4+ hours that Twilight Imperium boasts. So, you will be getting a review from somebody totally unfamiliar with its predecessors.

Rex is a space-themed conquest game in which 3-6 players are assigned an alien/human race/faction and vie for control of a certain number of key space stations (indicated by a little red star on the game board). If you are playing the game with more than 3 people, then you are allowed to form alliances at certain points in the game. If you choose to do this, the number of these key spaces you need to control to win the game increases. The default is 3 when playing alone. 4 with one ally. All 5 with 2 allies. This is a nice mechanic as the amount of help/allies you receive increases the difficulty of winning. Players have 8 rounds in which to achieve their victory. Each round consists of 7 phases:

1. Influence phase: Influence tokens (essentially currency) are dropped onto the board by revealing the top Influence card which will have 2 random locations on it. Influence will only drop onto board spaces with a blue icon. These provide incentive to travel to spaces that may otherwise be undesirable. The need for cash is pretty great in this game.

2. Bidding Phase: And here is where Influence is most needed/used. 4 Strategy cards (battle tactic and other beneficial cards) are pulled from the pile and kept face-down. Players go around the board, taking turns and bidding a number of influence per card. If they are the highest bidder, they receive the card. Maximum hand size is 4 (except for 1 race who can hold 8).

3. Recruitment Phase: Players recruit a set number of troops from a dead pool for free, and may pay influence to recruit additional troops or any dead leaders for their assigned strength value.

4. Maneuvering Phase:Perhaps the longest phase in the game, this phase has 2 parts. A deployment phase where readied troops (troops not in the dead pool but not yet on the board either) can be deployed onto any space on the board—whether you control it or not. This costs influence, and costs twice as much if you deploy into a space that is already occupied. Allies cannot occupy the same space. The second part is actual movement. You may move 1 set of troops on a space to another set of troops on a space. Movement is typically 2 spaces, but can be increased by certain spaces and strategy cards.

5. Battle Phase: If any 2 players are in the same space (with the exception of the ever-peaceful galactic council) a battle occurs. Battles, at least in my gaming group, are the most contentious part of Rex. Some love it. Some hate it. It is essentially a bidding and bluffing exercise in risk and loss management. 2 players are given little battle cards with a spinning dial on it and mutliple placeholders. The dial indicates how many troops you will be engaging in the battle, and the placeholders are for placing in a command leader. Depending on which placeholder you plop your leader into, this also indicates what strategy cards you will be using, if any. There are weapons and shields that can be deployed. Once both players have set their battle cards, they are revealed simultaneously. Weapons and shields are used first (and determine if a leader is killed) and then leader value + troop value = your battle score. The player with the highest score “wins” the battle and retains control of the space. The other player’s troops are eliminated. No matter what amount of troops you risk on your dial—they are ALWAYS killed. Even if you won the battle. This means if you risked 10 troops against your opponents 4 troops—those 10 troops are killed. Whatever troops you didn’t risk will remain on the space. Some like this. Some hate this.

6. Collection Phase: Any players controlling a space with influence tokens on it will get to pick up those influence tokens (2 tokens per troop). After a bloody battle, you may not be able to pick up the full amount of influence tokens on a space—this needs to be a factor in what you risk in battles.

7. Bombardment Phase: There is a dreadnaught fleet roaming the board (courtesy of the Federation of Sol race). The top bombardment card is revealed and it shows a number of spaces. The player holding the first-turn-token gets to control the dreadnaught fleet for this phase, and will move the fleet that many spaces in a set direction (numbers on space stations must be increasing from 1 – 18). Anything that the fleet passes over is destroyed—influence and troops. The only exception are spaces on the board with shield icons (green symbols)

Rinse and repeat these phases until there is a winner/winning team. In some cases it may not last 8 rounds. In other cases there will not be a clear winner by the end of the 8th round, in which case certain alien races have an instant-win condition in such an event. There is also an optional variant where Betrayal Cards (included in the game) can be distributed at the game’s onset and used to steal a victory from allied players if certain conditions are met.


  • It is nice to have a game with so much player interaction. Not just with battles and bidding, but also with alliances that can constantly change.
  • Game length is anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes. Perhaps longer if it is somebody’s first time playing through.
  • Learning curve is not too bad. The phases are located on little “cheat sheets” to remind people what is happening, and most of the phases are brief.
  • Alien races are pretty well balanced and interesting. They all afford you some great abilities, and lend themselves to particular strategies and alliances, but each game I’ve played so far has been different.
  • Excellent components, quality, and a very thorough rulebook that even includes a lot of backstory to the game.


  • The Maneuvering Phase is the most confusing for players I’ve found. It entails 2 parts and gets people jumbled up—deployment AND movement.
  • The battle mechanic in this game is by far the most polarizing aspect. I enjoy it/don’t mind it while others hotly detest it. I understand both sides of the argument and just caution people to understand the mechanic before playing/purchasing the game if you don’t think your friends will enjoy it. Or, you can always devise your own agreed-upon house rules for how you want combat to go.
  • The other aspect to battle that people have complained about is how 3-way battles go. 3 un-allied races can end up contesting the same space and have to battle it out, but there is no 3-way mechanic. 2 players must fight, and then the winner will fight the 3rd person with whatever troops and leaders they have left-over. This certainly is a difficult feat for the person having to fight 2 back-to-back battles. I agree that a 3rd battle dial would have been nice.

Rex: Final Days of an Empire Rating: 8 out of 10 (Highly Enjoyable)

I like the replayability of this game, as well as the unpredictability and diversity in strategies one can have to win it. The rules are pretty straight-forward and I find the mechanics interesting. Without having played Twilight Imperium, I would say this is a pretty original game. It’s got a bit of Risk-style conquest to it, but without the luck of dice. It’s all about reading your opponent and anticipating what friends and foes will be doing.

Review by Josh: Nuns on the Run

Nuns on the Run board game

Nuns on the Run board game

A big shout-out to Fréderic Moyersoen, the game’s creator, is in order. I think Nuns on the Run is a very unique, ingenius concept in its design. I wish the execution of it had been tidier. Let’s take a look.


Nuns on the Run is essentially a game of Hide-And-Seek with a big twist. The twist being that most players will be novices on a mission to scour an abbey at night to find a key that will unlock the door to their “secret wish” and then get back to their bedroom without the 2-woman team of nuns catching them. 1 or 2 people will play the nun guards while all other players will be a novice. Novices are all given a set of identical movement cards ranging from running to standing still. They are also given a Secret Wish card which they must achieve before the end of the 15th round of play. The Nuns are tasked with preventing any novices from achieving their secret wish, or by catching as many novices as there are players in the game.

Novices will begin in their respective bedrooms and each turn they reveal face-up a movement card of their choice. They do not actually move a physical piece around the board however. They write down the corresponding number of the space they land on, onto a secret movement tracker pad provided in the game. After they record their movement for the round, they must roll a die. The higher the die roll, the louder the novice was when moving this turn. If they are within a die roll’s amount of spaces from a guard, they must put down a noise token in the general direction in which the guard heard a noise. Slower movement cards (such as sneaking as opposed to running) will decrease the noise die roll by a given amount. So, players can move slow and steady but risk not attaining their wish, or they can go faster but be at a constantly higher risk of being heard.

In addition to making noises, novices also have to worry about being “seen.” If at anytime a novice is in a guard’s line of sight, they must put their face token down on the board where they were spotted. Guards can “catch” a novice by landing on their face token—thus stealing their secret wish away and sending them back towards their bedrooms. Until a guard sees a novice or hears a novice, they are forced to walk along pre-set paths according to route cards and corresponding color paths on the board. On the guards’ turn, even if novices are out of sight and aren’t heard making noise, the guards still get to make a listen roll—which works the same way as noise-making but without the movement/sound modifiers involved.


  • Love the game’s concept and theme. Original, fun and appropriate for many age groups.
  • For between 2-8 players it has a lot of flexibility in group sizes.
  • It’s easy to finish a game within 60-90 minutes and moves quickly.
  • Good replayability as secret wishes, paths, and destinations change between games.
  • “Blessing” cards exist to give each player an opportunity to get out of a jam.
  • Very cool board and components. High quality and colorful


  • The rulebook does a very poor job of explaining certain parts of the game. Particularly our group has had problems figuring out when a novice can be heard on the guard’s turn. There’s no explicit direction that says whether movement cards used are in effect for “listen” rolls. Line of sight is also hardly clear at times. A straight line can’t always be drawn from dot-to-dot to determine whether one can be seen. Other vagueries are when one guard spots or hears a novice, and the other guard is nearby—can that guard also “see” or “hear” the novice and give chase? There are a lot of things that need clarifying in this rulebook. House rules can solve a lot of the issues, but expect them to come up repeatedly.
  • The learning curve can be steeper than one would expect because of the vagueness of the rulebook. Expect the first game to take much longer than it should. Subsequent games should be within 60-90 minutes.
  • Depending on which novice you are (which room you start in) and which Secret Wish you are randomly dealt, you could have a very easy time beating everyone else in the game, or a near impossible process. The differences in difficulties can be extreme.

Nuns on the Run Rating: 6.5 out of 10 (Enjoyable in doses)

I would love to give this game a higher score because I love the original concept so much. I think it’s great that 8 people can sit around a board with 2 nuns chasing misbehaving novices around in secret. It’s just so odd and eclectic that I have to smile. And truly—in the right group this can be a very fun game. If you have someone that is good at playing the guards and really giving the novices a run for their money—it gets competitive, tense, and funny.

However, this game suffers from a lot of ambiguity in rules. If you don’t mind sorting a lot of them out for yourself, then I still recommend this game. There are others that will be entirely put off by it and don’t want to expend the effort in sorting out a published game. I can certainly see both sides of the equation.

Review by Josh: Shadow Hunters

Shadow Hunters

I’m a man who values brevity, so here’s the scoop on Shadow Hunters.


All players are dealt a character card at the start of the game. There are 3 types of characters: Shadows, Hunters, and Neutrals. Hunters want to kill all Shadows. Shadows want to kill all Hunters or 3 Neutrals. Neutrals have unique, independent win objectives.

Also on every character card is a health point value (how much damage you can take before you’re out of the game) and a character-specific ability. Character cards are kept face-down at the start of the game and are known only to the players controlling them. The number of players in the game determines how many characters of each type are in the game.

Players take their turns clockwise. A turn consists of:

  1. Move your colored character pawn on the board. This is done by rolling the 2 dice together (a 6-sided and a 4-sided), add the numbers, and move to the indicated card space on the board.
  2. Encounter the space you land on. Typically this means you draw a card from a specific pile (although there are others that allow stealing items or healing). There are 3 colored card piles.
    Black = damaging items/weapons.
    White = helpful/healing items.
    Green = Hermit Cards. These are the best way to figure out who other people are. Example: “I bet you are a Shadow. If so, take 2 damage.” If you drew this card, you hand it face-down to anybody else in the game. They read it and must answer either by moving their pawn on the damage tracker up by 2, or say “No effect.” Then they discard the card face-down. Nobody else knows what happened, just the 2 of you.
  3. Attack (optional) If any character pawns are in range of you on the board (adjacent spaces—3 groups of 2 locations) you may attack one of them. Attacks are made by rolling both dice and subtracting the lower dice roll from the higher dice roll. The result is how much damage the defender takes. This can be modified by both weapons and armor. In the case of rolling doubles, the attack misses.

This sequence of events continues until one team completes a win condition. Along the way players can reveal their characters face-up in order to use their special ability. Typically these are a one-shot (once-per-game only) but not always.


  • Accommodates a good number of players (4-8) for most gaming groups
  • Takes, on average, 45-60 minutes to play once familiar.
  • Excellent replayability as there are many potential characters to be and no game is the same (your allies and enemies will always be different)
  • Fun and simple to setup and begin. Beginning gamers will understand after a round of play, and advanced gamers will find enough depth to hold their attention.


  • Being eliminated early-on in the game can be irksome when you have to wait for everyone else to finish killing each other (although our gaming group allows for the first person eliminated to re-enter the game with a mystery character set aside at the setup).
  • Some Neutral characters have exceptionally difficult win conditions compared to others—making it near impossible for them to win (we remedy this by removing some of these from the game).


I wasn’t expecting to like Shadow Hunters as much as I do. I’m not typically a fan of “anime style” artwork—which this is—and I wasn’t sure there would be enough complexity or depth to merit playing more than once. However, I was very pleasantly surprised by this game that I’d never heard of until it showed up in the same online category as “BANG!” which is another group favorite of ours. Shadow Hunters is a great example of how a theme in a game can be very minimal to non-existant (basically a group of cray cray random people/monsters running around an enchanted forest killing each other) but because the gameplay, alliances, and element of mystery are so solidly present, the game holds true and nobody questions “why are we doing this again?” We accept that we are a school teacher attacking a werewolf. Or whatever the matchup happens to be.

I think this is a very interesting, unique board/card game mix that will appeal to a lot of gamers out there if they can get past the initial weird/foreignness to the game.

Review by Phil: Tomb CryptMaster by AEG

I really want to like this game.

At first glance, the mechanics do not seem overly complicated. Then, however, there appears to be a huge devil (or CryptMaster) in the details when trying to actually raid the dungeon and adjudicate game play.

The Game’s Objective:
Recruit up to 5 characters and raid a series of crypts in a tomb.

Setup Comments:
The game is not hard to setup at all. Place the inn board. Decide between the red or blue tomb board and place it. Shuffle the 6 piles of cards and place on the appropriate spot in the inn.

The filling of the tomb is an interesting little setup mechanic that gives people a little bit of insight into what’s where in a tomb and also shares the setup activity a bit so that the few minutes it takes doesn’t seem long at all.

Game Play:
There are 3 sets of colored (red, green, blue) d10 dice that are used for adjudicating combat, handling traps and/or dispelling curses. The sides of the dice are either blank or have an axe (denoting success) and the reds have the highest frequency of successes. I’d have to look at the dice again but I think the R,G,B dice were 80%, 40%, 60% respectively.
I think it’s important to note the “up to” in the “Recruit up to 5 characters” statement.

At first I wondered at this and its novelty vs. kludginess and ultimately decided that I wasn’t bothered by this as much as I thought I’d be.

IMPORTANT: In several cases, you have a better chance at surviving in the dungeon by taking a beefy fighter with a few items and going it alone. The problem is, you don’t necessarily know this ahead of time UNLESS you happened to place that trap or monster or curse.

Note: In this game’s case, “beefy” means a fighter with a whopping (wait for it) FIVE (5) hit points.

Most, if not all, of the monsters have more than that. Most of the monsters get an outrageous number of dice.

In no particular order:

  • Monster vs. character hit points
  • There’s no good way to stack a party to play & survive the crypts. The randomness is such that if you’ve got the wrong make-up, you should just leave after the first guy hero dies. Though, to be fair, I think I did read a warning to be prepared to have your characters die, a lot. And that they did.
  • The risk/reward ratio seems off.
  • There are some monsters, not even the champion monsters, that seem outrageously overpowered.

I’ve wanted to play this game again before giving it a rating. This review has been sitting for a couple of months now… but I haven’t been able to get anyone to play because Josh keeps warning people away from it. Burn him!

Ultimately my rating for this game is: Playable (with Fixes)

Though… I don’t know what fixes would/should be employed. I reserve the right to amend this review should it be played again.

My Rating Scale

  • Awesome: It’s fun, playable, has great art and few, if any, minor issues
  • Very Good: Just like awesome, only it either lacks something or there’s some issue that makes the game just a little less than awesome.
  • Playable (As Is): Fun, playable with decent art/mechanics with minor issues and at most 1 easily remedied major issues.
  • Playable (with Fixes): Potential for fun, but flawed; the game requires fixing before playing again.
  • OK: Not great fun, but it kills time. It might even be playable but most would ask why.
  • Seriously Flawed: The game is so flawed I am beside myself with how it got published at all. It is also nigh impossible to fix (or just requires way too much to fix, including the creation and printing of new cards/mechanics).

Review by Phil: Mage Knight by WizKids

In brief, the warnings about the time commitment to play this game are all completely true. This was hard to believe prior to playing the game the first time. Everything on the net warns of 4-hour games and there’s even a 3-hour learning curve on top of that while trudging through the first scenario — the one they call short for people not yet familiar with all of the rules. And there are MANY, MANY rules!

That crazy time commitment aside, the game is quite enjoyable once you’ve gotten around the complicated game mechanics and the setup.

Mage Knight photo of components

The Game’s Objective
Mage Knight has several different scenarios that are available, some cooperative, that can be played. The objective is based on the chosen scenario.

The suggestion for the first game – or any game including people unfamiliar with the rules – is First Reconnaissance. For our first game, we played this scenario with 3 players. With the setup, consternation over the 2 20-page rule books and a switch to watch YouTube videos that reviewed the game and discussed combat, etc., we were at this for almost 7 hours.

I kid you not.

However, the good news is that for our second game (a few weeks later) we played Blitz Conquest and we completed the first portion (day) of a 4-portion scenario in under an hour. And the setup was amazingly quick given the first game’s introduction to all of the parts and such.

We stopped playing after ~4.5 hours and were roughly 75% of the way through the scenario.

Setup Comments
The first time we played, setup just seemed to take forever. Part of that, I will admit, is our fault. Their Game Walkthrough book has all of their cards displayed and it gives you the key to determine which of the cards (most with the same card back) is what type of card. They all have the same card backs because they can be acquired as resources for individual decks and should blend in.

The cards themselves are actually pretty packed with information and coded in a way to have all of the mechanics on them. The same is true for the monster and building tokens. The problem is trying to memorize all of the symbols or getting comfortable with quickly looking them up.

The 2nd time we played this game, I had the game setup in under 15 minutes.

Game Play
The game is broken down into rounds (day or night) and individual turns within that round. Depending on the scenario there are a number of rounds that describe the time limit by which some objective must be met.

  1. There are tactics cards that determine turn order in the round and there is a set of tactics cards for both the day and night rounds. Depending on the tactic chosen, an ability is given. Turns progress through all players until someone runs out of cards and declares the last round.
  2. The basic deed cards of each character (the same 16 cards for each player at the start of the game) determine the details of what you can do with your Move and Action. Movement costs are based on the type of terrain and whether it’s day or night.
  3. Actions are determined based on what sort of space you are encountering and/or if you’re choosing to engage another character in PvP combat. During your action, you can encounter Marauding Orcs, Dragons, villages, Mage Towers, a Keep, a Monastery, Ancient Ruins, dungeons, monster dens, etc. At ‘building’ locations, you can perform actions of a commerce-like nature spending influence to recruit follower units or spells. Or you can attack the personnel, suffering a reputation decrease, while also gaining rewards. With Orcs and Dragons, you can only fight them and gain influence when defeating them (as the villagers rejoice).

That brings us to combat. There were some complaints around combat around the table as we were playing. And it is definitely a different set of mechanics combining the opportunity to have ranged attacks occur first (and repeatedly if PvP). Depending on what cards you have and what sort of combat is happening it can be very different.

  • Orcs & Dragons: encountered outside. If you move by them in adjacent hexes they’ll aggro and combat will stop movement and need to occur. When fighting non-players, the target does not get an incoming ranged attack as in PvP.
  • You, however, get a chance to attack the target by range (or siege if it’s fortified). If you can do enough damage to them to kill them, you do not suffer any damage from their melee attack.
  • If you cannot range/siege attack the target to kill it, you then move to the melee phase. You will need to block the damage they can deal.
  • If you block all of the damage, you then move onto your melee attack phase. If you cannot block all of the incoming attack you are going to take at least 1 wound. You can assign wounds to units to avoid taking them into your hand – something that is important to do because holding wound cards decreases the effectiveness of your hand. You take a wound for the incoming damage. You then subtract your armor value. Now repeat until the incoming damage is less than your armor value.

    That is: You’re attacked for 6 damage. You can’t block it all and your armor value is 2. You take 1 wound, subtract your armor (2) from the 6 and there’s 4 damage left over. Repeating that, you take another 2 wounds. Again, if you have enough units you can assign wounds to those units. You’ll have to heal those units before you can use them, however. The moral of the story: block as much damage as you can!

    Note: the above has been corrected on 9/30/12

  • Lastly, you can then melee attack the target. If you do damage >= the target’s armor value, it dies. You gain (or lose) reputation depending on the target and get other rewards based on whatever it says on the card that describes it.

Essentially, that’s it. You do those basic mechanics while trying to accomplish whatever objective is laid out in the scenario.

I think one of the problems with this game is the potential to suffer game fatigue. This game is definitely geared toward a hardcore gamer and even then, if you fail your (personal) fortitude save at any point during the day while playing this game the play time can easily be artificially extended due to failing to pay attention, inserting breaks, playing Gems on an iPhone, etc.

Additional Analysis
I reserve the option of adding something here after playing this a few more times.

Ultimately, my rating for this game is: Very Good

My Rating Scale

  • Awesome: It’s fun, playable, has great art and few, if any, minor issues
  • Very Good: Just like awesome, only it either lacks something or there’s some issue that makes the game just a little less than awesome.
  • Playable (As Is): Fun, playable with decent art/mechanics with minor issues and at most 1 easily remedied major issues.
  • Playable (with Fixes): Potential for fun, but flawed; the game requires fixing before playing again.
  • OK: Not great fun, but it kills time. It might even be playable but most would ask why.
  • Seriously Flawed: The game is so flawed I am beside myself with how it got published at all. It is also nigh impossible to fix (or just requires way too much to fix, including the creation and printing of new cards/mechanics).

Review by Phil: Wiz-War by Fantasy Flight

I… Love… This… Game!

As I have read the rules of many games it seems to me that rules writing is an art that is slowly being lost to mankind. Despite that, this game plays well and is great fun (if you like antagonistic, kill-everyone-else-and-steal-their-treasure games).

The Game’s Objective:
Kill everyone else and…or… steal their treasure. 🙂

Up to 4 players control a wizard that is in a bit of a maze-like series of boards. Each wizard has a similarly-colored board tile (5×5 grid with 1 of 2 different layouts) where a special door (locked for others but open for you) and two treasures rest. You need to travel, by walking or using available portals, to other boards and take treasures and/or “interact” with other wizards.

The first wizard who has two points (any combo of treasures stolen and dropped off in the center of your wizard’s home board and wizard deaths directly caused by your spells) wins.

Setup Comments
The setup and rules, overall, aren’t too bad. Upon encountering the rules at first they may seem daunting and some things could probably be more clearly written but, setup is not long in the default game. There are schools of magic and a wizard can pick one of them so that those spells are included in the game (and available to all wizards). Weeding out the cards takes a little bit of time if you choose to play the default game.

We did that twice and then started playing the just-use-all-of-the-spells variant. That turns setup into 1) shuffle all of the cards, 2) arrange the boards, 3) place wizards and treasures and then go after everyone has been dealt 5 cards (spells).

BGG Image of game board.

Game Play
Game play is simple. In any order you can move 3 squares and cast spells with a single optional attack. Spells are of different types (counterspell, attack spell, neutral spell) with durations of instant, infinite (creations that must be destroyed) or set-duration (based on how you “power” it). Mixed in with spells are energy cards (numeric cards from 2-6) which can also come from spell cards that have energy values that can be acquired by discarding the spell instead of using it.

While it might seem awkward at first, unless you are an accomplished spellcaster, it becomes very quickly second nature as you move about the board, cast some spells, and wait to respond to any would-be attackers with counterspell cards and such.

There is a bit more to the game, as the devil is always in the details, but it’s manageable. Some examples:

  • Your movement and/turn ends as soon as you pick up a treasure.
  • You can only pick up one treasure at a time but this does not include items you can carry.
  • You can cast as many spells as you like and carry whatever you like as long as your total hand count (cards in play and in your hand) is at most 7 — unless you have a spell or item that is increasing that number.
  • You can attack with a spell (or give a weak mage punch for 1 damage) unless you have a spell that increases it (only 2 max attacks in a given round — at least with the cards so far).
  • Your weak mage punch can be bolstered if you’re carrying an item like the fire robe (3pt punch)

I don’t think the game has any major issues. There are some cards that could benefit from some clarification and we’ve discovered two instances that beg that clarification:

  • There is a counterspell card that allows you to temporarily erect a wall between you and the caster attacking you that disappears when hit. There was some discussion regarding whether this spell could be cast in response to another wizard’s movement in order to block that movement.
  • There was another order-of-operations question that was raised that I will recall shortly and add here.

Additional Analysis
A game with as many spell cards as this has is going to have some questions that get raised that will require some clarification and/or house ruling. Despite the above problems, the game is very playable and great fun.

Ultimately my rating for this game is (shocker): Awesome

UPDATE (7/26/2012)
I’ve played this game approximately 10-15 times now and STILL LOVE IT!!

My Rating Scale

  • Awesome: It’s fun, playable, has great art and few, if any, minor issues
  • Playable (As Is): Fun, playable with decent art/mechanics with minor issues and at most 1 easily remedied major issues.
  • Playable (with Fixes): Potential for fun, but flawed; the game requires fixing before playing again.
  • OK: Not great fun, but it kills time. It might even be playable but most would ask why.
  • Seriously Flawed: The game is so flawed I am beside myself with how it got published at all. It is also nigh impossible to fix (or just requires way too much to fix, including the creation and printing of new cards/mechanics).

Review by Phil: Panic Station by Stronghold Games

It’s almost as if this game was never play tested. It goes further: people have commented about certain inconsistencies and/or questions and rules have been revised — such that the rules are up to version 2.2 — AND STILL do not address the issues that prevent this game from being truly playable and fun.

The Game’s Objective
4-6 players use an independently-controllable human and android to explore rooms in a space station to search for the hive of an alien parasite and destroy it. In addition, one of the players becomes infected (the host) and is trying to infect other players so that the alien parasites win.

Setup Comments
Whatever version, and I believe the game came with v2.1, the rules for setup were so obfuscated that it took entirely too long to actually start the game. Some of that time was devoted to applying stickers to tokens which wasn’t too bothersome.
I looked up the v2.2 rules to see if this improved at all. It does not. The biggest of those problems is the purposely, outrageously small number of cards, from a sizable deck, that are available for a given game… but more on that later.

Game Play
Players get 2 Action Points (AP) for each of their uninjured characters (human and android) and can allocate those points between them however they like. Available actions are: explore (placing the next room tile adjacent to your current location), move, fire gun, search location, heal in sick bay, use item, activate computer terminal (available in 2 rooms) and in doing so allows 1 of 3 station-wide activities: perform heat scan (giving a count of infected people), open all security doors (normally requires a key card), reveal location (like explore, but no adjacency requirement).

The Problems

  • Item Cards: We’re instructed to build the available items deck with as many gas cans as there are players (N), the host card and then a random selection of 2N-1 of the remaining item cards. Players get 2 of these items at the start of the game and those 2 cards plus 3 “infection cards” are what make up each players hand.

    The number of cards runs out quickly despite it being SPECIFICALLY called out in the rules as a “rare” event.

    “When trading, players may never use infection cards other than those of their own playing colors, unless they find themselves without any item cards during a trade. In such a rare situation, players may, as an exception, trade an infection card of another player’s color instead of an item.”

    While I’ll admit our played games sample size of 2 is not statistically significant, this happened both times and some back-of-the-envelope math would indicate that it would happen most of the time.

  • Trading: Trades are “forced” so that when someone enters a room with another player, other than the starting room, a trade must occur. You swap items. If one of them is the host, that person can trade an infection card and the other player becomes infected. This can be prevented *IF* that person trades away a gas can (for some odd reason). HOWEVER, that puts a gas can — 1 of N vital resources for destroying the hive and 3 are required — in the hands of the host.
  • Attack: This is a provided exception to the forced trades. A player can spent 1AP to attack the player instead of trading. HOWEVER, given the small size of the deck, it appears as if there’s no way one could attack unless:
    1. The android has bullets
    2. The human has a weapon (knife, gun + bullets, grenade)

    Not being able to attack, in some way, is a serious flaw.

  • Player Elimination: If you kill 1 of the 2 characters a player is using, they are still in the game. If both are killed, the player is eliminated. And when that happens the items in that players hand are “lost forever.”

    That is a serious flaw. If you trade away gas cans to the host to avoid getting infected and then kill that host. You have setup a situation where the non-aliens could win, except they cannot actually destroy the hive if the host had enough gas cans so that 3 were no longer available. This happened in one of the games we played.

Additional Analysis
Given forced trading and a limited number of infection-preventing gas cans, the game favors aliens. And that’s just fine. I’ve seen the movie. Even just one alien can be bad-ass and a slew of them shouldn’t have too difficult a time chomping into nice, tasty humans and laying parasitic eggs. Good times.

This game was disappointing because it had promise.

  • The premise is interesting and different enough. Revealing the map and the slight intrigue is nice.
  • The trade-infection mechanic is a reasonable mechanic despite the low number of available items.
  • The quality of components and the art is nice. I wouldn’t say it’s amazing, but it’s respectable.

Ultimately my rating for this game is: Playable (with Fixes)
(adjusted after Cindy’s comment for clarity)

My Rating Scale

  • Awesome: It’s fun, playable, has great art and few, if any, minor issues
  • Playable (As Is): Fun, playable with decent art/mechanics with minor issues and at most 1 easily remedied major issues.
  • Playable (with Fixes): Potential for fun, but flawed; the game requires fixing before playing again.
  • OK: Not great fun, but it kills time. It might even be playable but most would ask why.
  • Seriously Flawed: The game is so flawed I am beside myself with how it got published at all. It is also nigh impossible to fix (or just requires way too much to fix, including the creation and printing of new cards/mechanics).

A Note on Game Reviews and Reviewers

Before I start this review, I really want to give a shout out to reviewers and reasonable reviews with in-depth comments and ratings that make sense. I’d like to thank everyone who provides reviews to games AFTER, AFTER, AFTER they’ve played the game!

No one benefits from seeing 10 out of 10s or 5 out of 5 stars from people who think “the art is cool” or that the “rules look good.”
OK, thanks.

So, I solemnly swear that no one affiliated with Cray Cray Games will ever write a review of a game we have not played.

Thank you.