Terraforming Mars


Terraforming Mars

Stronghold Games - Jacob Fryxelius, Isaac Fryxelius

Stronghold Games - Jacob Fryxelius, Isaac Fryxelius

Terraforming Mars allows you to live out Elon Musk's wettest of dreams, putting you in the driver's seat of one of a group of private companies working to, well, terraform Mars. You'll engage in cutthroat tactics, nuke the planet, plant trees, and build cities to steak your claim and become the heroes who made Mars inhabitable. 

Each player will take the helm of a unique corporation with different powers and starting resources. Players all terraform the planet together while trying to raise their Terraform Score, representing their contribution to the task. Highest score wins. You can raise your Terraform Rating a number of ways, such as raising the global temperature, raising the oxygen levels, or creating oceans in the great craters on Mars. Your Terraform Rating is also how much funding the governments on Earth will grant you at the beginning of each round. You will use this funding to buy cards at the beginning of a round, and play those cards through the course of the round. Each turn you can take two actions, which include playing cards from your hand. These cards can be used to gather resources, gain access to special actions, build cities or special tiles, or a number of other things. The cards are what really make this game shine. Each of the over two hundred cards in the game are unique, and because of that each game will be very different. Some cards are nasty, adding just the right amount of take-that for me, but if that isn't your thing those cards can be left out of the game without affecting gameplay much at all. The iconography on the cards may be imposing, but unlike games like Race for the Galaxy, they also all include clear written descriptions of what the iconography means on every card.

Other actions include buying city and forest tiles, and buying one of the various options for end game scoring. Savvy tile placement is key to the game, as it is a way to gain resources, valuable free cards, and end game points. This adds a good amount of player interaction, as players maneuver to block opponents and set themselves up for large windfalls of points in the endgame. The endgame bonuses available for purchase add an extra level of planning and depth. There are two types of bonuses: a milestone bonus available for purchase after you reach certain milestones during the game,  and endgame bonuses you can activate to add end game scoring parameters to the game. The end game bonuses add a great element of trying to guess what your opponents are working on, and waiting until just the right moment to activate the bonus and be secure that you'll be the one to take those points in the end game, rather than hand them to another player. 

Also included in the box is a fantastic solo game, where you race against a timer to fully terraform the planet yourself. The solo game is tense and has a good level of difficulty. The solo game is nearly as fun as the multiplayer game, and plays pretty quickly. It's one I have been coming back too often.

The components are the only place the game doesn't shine. The player mats are thin, the cards are average quality, the art is an odd mix of stock photos and art, and the resource cubes, while the have a nice metallic finish, are just the standard plastic cubes you'll find in any game. The components aren't bad by any means, but for $70 MSRP, you would typically expect more.  

Despite the subpar art and components, the gameplay carries Terraforming Mars, and makes it one of the most fun gameplay experiences you'll have with a game from the past few years. Terraforming Mars has all the hallmarks of a classic euro, and I expect it to be talked about for a long time in the future.

Final Score:

Art: 6/10

Components: 5/10

Theme: 8/10

Gameplay: 10/10

Overall: 10/10




Star Wars: Rebellion


Star Wars: Rebellion

Fantasy Flight Games - Corey Konieczka

Fantasy Flight Games - Corey Konieczka

A long time ago at a computer far, far away, a younger, and already Star Wars obsessed, version of myself was frantically playing a game called Star Wars: Rebellion. While my 9 year old self couldn't quite grasp every detail of the game, I was engrossed in sending my characters on mission, rescuing them from capture, and either running from the terrifying Empire or hunting the Rebel scum. When Fantasy Flight announced a board game with the same name last year, I was beyond excited. Could this board game possibly measure up to the PC game of my childhood? Let's take a look.

Rebellion is an epic-scale Star Wars game for two "or four" players. One player takes command of the heroic Rebellion, who must keep their base hidden, turn public support to their side by completing missions and run the clock out to win the game; while the Empire builds up powerful armies and armadas to comb the galaxy and find and crush the Rebel base before they run out of time. 

I won't go too far into how to play the game, but the core of the game is centered around your assigning your leaders to various tasks. These tasks can include sending leaders on missions represented by cards in your hand, opposing enemy missions, moving your armadas around the galaxy, or leading troops in battle. There's a real balance that must be struck here, as mission can do much for you, but if you send out to many leaders you'll be helpless to defend. Sure, the Rebel player could send Han and Chewie out to sabotage a key Imperial planet, but then who will stop Darth Vader from capturing Luke or turning him to the Dark Side? Moving also requires leaders, and will help spread influence. During production phases, you'll start to produce new ships and troops based on what planets you control, with powerful planets taking longer to produce. 

The missions and maneuvering around the board is a ton of fun. Battles, on the other hand, are the games weakness. If a leader is involved in the battle you'll draw a few cards, but battles are really little more than rolling dice and seeing what happens. The battles slow the game down and offer few strategic choices, but still occasionally have flairs of excitement, especially when the Rebels have a chance to destroy a Death Star. 

One more thing to mention is the four player game. It..... isn't great. If you have played other Star Wars games like The Queen's Gambit or Star Wars Risk, it work the same way, with each player on a side basically playing half of a game. A few more mechanics are thrown in that muddy the game up, and it adds to the downtime as the sides whisper and plot their moves together. It's functional, but not great. 

If the game was mechanics alone you would have an above average game of space hide-and-seek, but the theme elevates this game. Star Wars oozes out of every bit of this game. Fantastic little miniatures breathe life into the board, Fantasy Flight's brilliant Star Wars artwork graces every card, and the feeling of an awesome armada of ships hunting down a ragtag group of Rebels all make it feel like you're playing out an alternate version of the original trilogy. You can have Chewie train with Yoda, have the Death Star blow up Tatooine, or turn Mon Mothma to the dark side. Each game plays out differently, and it always feels great. If you want a game that really feels like Star Wars, Star Wars: Rebellion is the best game out there, and more than lives up to the legacy of its namesake video game.  

Final Score

Art: 10/10

Production: 10/10

Theme: 10/10

Gameplay: 8.5/10

Overall: 9.5/10


A Feast For Odin

Every day for the next 10 days I'll be writing up a short review of my top games of 2016. Today we tackle my number 4 game of the year.

A Feast For Odin

Z-Man Games - Uwe Rosenberg; Dennis Lohausen

Z-Man Games - Uwe Rosenberg; Dennis Lohausen

Uwe Rosenberg is one of the most iconic game designers in the hobby. With games like Caverna, Patchwork, and Agricola under his belt; Rosenberg has pushed boundaries and created mechanisms. A Feast For Odin feels like something of a combination of his past games, and it is beautiful.

A Feast For Odin is the type of epic worker placement game that Rosenberg has become known for, and works very similarly to his other games; you go and gather resources, build things, feed your people, etc. Instead of the wooden resource tokens and animeeples we've grown accustomed to in Rosenberg's games, all of the resources and animals are represented by tiles of various sizes that are used to cover spaces on different grids on player boards. You'll want to position these tiles to cover negative point spaces, increase your income, and generate resources. Throughout the game you can also construct buildings and discover new lands that will grant further opportunities to gain item, income, and points; but also has the potential for you to lose points in the end game. You'll gain these tiles by going to one of the 60+ action spaces; where you'll try to build, trade, sail, and raid you way to victory. 

The components are very solid. There are few wooden tokens and pieces in the game, but the ones there are on par with those found in Rosenberg's other games. The tiles are good quality, and the star of the show is the included game trays, which hold the plethora of tiles found in the game, and help keep set up and tear down quick. It can't be said that Feast For Odin is dripping with theme, but the actions and tile art give off a good viking flavor. 

If you've played and of Rosenberg's past worker placement games, you'll pick this game up quickly, but this is by no means an Agricola variant. The tile laying in this game give it an added layer that makes it shine above Agricola, Caverna, or any of his past games. 

Final Score:

Art: 7/10

Components: 8/10

Theme: 7/10

Gameplay: 9.5/10

Overall: 9.5/10

Board Game News Roundup - 1/11/17

Portal Games announced pre-orders for the greatly anticipated First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet start this week.

Mysterium Digital is finally coming to iOS, Android and Steam this Thursday.

The hotly anticipated game Caravan has a new name and publisher. I worte some more about the HERE.

A cool looking, post-apocalyptic game called Dubai: Rebuild the Ruins coming to Kickstarter on Feb. 28th from Greater Than Games and Cardboard Edison. It's got unique player powers, worker placement, rondels, and low down-time; so it should be worth checking out.

Asmodee continues to buy everything.

WizKids announced Dice Stars' official release today. You can pick it up for $19.99 MSRP.

Fireside Games announces a game about fires. 

UPDATE: So, Weird News About Caravan

Caravan has been a hotly anticipated game since it was announced last year. It was a game coming from the fantastic Plaid Hat Games and was going to release as two sets with totally different themes; Spice Road for the euro crowd and Crystal Golem for the Ameritrashers. Well, it appears both those facts have changed.....

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CGE - Filip Neduk; Jakub Politzer

CGE - Filip Neduk; Jakub Politzer

You're running through the narrow, metallic halls, grabbing ammo and power-ups as you go. As you turn a corner you come face to face with your foe. Quickly you grab your trusty shot gun and blast him to hell. No, I'm not describing an arena shooter from 1999, I'm talking you through a turn in a diceless, euro-style majority control game.

Adrenaline's theme isn't unique, but the way it handles it is. Combat oriented games almost universally use die rolls to simulate everything. Attacking? Roll to see if you hit. Then roll to see how much damage you did. Now the defense rolls to see what they can block, etc. Now I like dice chucking as much as anyone, but Adrenaline's combat system is refreshingly simple. Is your weapon loaded? Is your enemy in range? Then shoot them! No armour checks, no buffs to track, just BANG! 

Further enhancing the theme is the fact that every weapon in the game is a unique homage to the genre Adrenaline is representing. You run around the map fragging your foes with arc cannons, chain saws, and other weapons that, if you're like me, will leave you nostalgic for the glory days of Unreal Tournament . As you run around the map you'll pick up ammo that you'll use to either buy new weapons, or reload spent ones. You'll also grab power-ups that will allow you to do things like teleport around the map. You'll use these weapons and power-ups to maim and murder the other players. Each point of damage you inflict to them, you'll place one of your damage markers on their health tracker. When they die, all players will score based on how much damage they did to the victim, as well as bonuses for being the first to hit them and dealing the killing blow. Don't worry too much about dying, however. As you taking damage your adrenaline starts pumping, making your actions better and better. When you finally do die, you respawn and you become worth less points to kill, making you a less attractive target.

As great as the weapons are, they are the source of the one little squabble I have with the game. As I said, each weapon is unique, which is great for replayability, but not so much for new players, so when playing with n00bs, expect them to have to spend some time reading through the weapons manual whenever they go to grab a new gun. 

Other than that, though, no real complaints! The component quality is the solid quality I've come to expect from CGE. Adrenaline was CGEs first foray into miniatures, and while they won't be competing with CMON anytime soon, the minis in Adrenaline are decently detailed and look good on the table. The modular board adds some good replayability, and I really dig the bright neon look it has. 

Adrenaline did something I never expected in turning late 90's arena shooters into a quick, mid-weight ero game, and it does it well. This is a fantastic game that I expect to keep bringing back to the table for a long time.

Final Score:

Art: 7.5/10

Production: 8/10

Theme: 9/10

Gameplay: 8/10

Overall: 8/10





The Board Game News Roundup - 1/10/17

CGE is playtesting a new game by Vladimir Suchy, the designer of great games like Last Will and The Prodigals Club, which they tease as a possible 2017 release.

If Eric Lang is excited, then I'm excited!

Smash Up is showing off their next faction... Teddy Bears?

Hasbro is letting the masses vote on the pieces included in the next Monopoly set. If you can brave the terrible interface, you can cast your vote HERE

Hype Machine: 10 Most Anticipated Board Games of 2016

2015 was a banner year for the board game hobby, but 2016 is looking to give it a run for it's money. There's a number of big releases from both established publishers and up-and-comers. From epic legacy games to little party games, 2016 looks like it's going to produce games we'll be playing for years to come!

However, even with a huge crop of games that look great, there are a few that stand out among their peers. Let's take a look at the ten games that we're looking forward to the most! 

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