I have been reviewing games for close to a year and have learned quite a bit about what doesn’t work and what does. I found out producing quality video reviews can be extremely difficult as a one man show. I give mad props to all the video reviewers that have pulled it off successfully. I also discovered I prefer reviewing games from my own collection as opposed to games given to me by publishers. There is a certain freedom about reviewing games you bought and are personally invested in. It can either be look at this great game I bought or look what I just wasted money on. Now, having said all that and finally deciding I will review my own games, SolarFlare Games contacted me about reviewing their upcoming card game Archmage Origins. What? Another game by Dave and the gang at SolarFlare Games? I am in! See how crazy reviewing can be? I have reviewed two of Dave Killingworth’s games and they have been fantastic! The Lords of Rock and Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion set the bar quite high for his games. He is a genius at creating light games that play quick but are tons of fun. Of course I want to give another one of his games a try!
Archmage Origins is designed to be a quick game with minimal setup. Setup takes seconds: you place the monster and spell cards in a 4 X 4 grid face down creating the realm, place the rest of those cards in a pile, and then take one Mage deck. Done! Setup is complete. Next step is deciding on which style of mage battle to engage in, either only playing cards along the two borders of your corner of the realm, or a free for all where you can place your cards along any border. Shuffle your Mage deck and you are ready to battle.
On your turn you look at a card in the realm without letting anyone else see it. If it is a monster card you make a mental note of its rating and ability and place it back down in the same spot on the realm. You then get to secretly look at another card in the realm. If it is a monster card you repeat the prior step. Upon placing it back down you may swap the two cards you looked at and then you must play a Mage card along an outside row or column of the realm. Pretty simple right? Now, if one of the cards you looked at is a spell card then a few additional steps are needed to continue. Set the spell card aside, draw a card from the draw pile to replace the spell card, resolve the text on the card, and discard it.
Let’s talk a little about your Mage deck and scoring. You have a deck of Mage cards numbered 1 through 8. You also have a hold card that you can play one time to ensure a monster stays put in the realm. At the end of your turn you will place one of your Mage cards face down along the side of the realm. When all 8 Mage cards have been played the game is over. Yea it is that quick and easy. Game time is around 10 minutes so no big deal if you lose. Play again and learn from your mistakes. Once all Mage cards are played, all the cards, Mage and Monster, are flipped face up and the scoring begins. Scoring is pretty simple and occurs everywhere different player’s Mage cards intersect. For example if I have a Mage card in row 1 and my opponent has a Mage card in column 1 then we would intersect at row 1 column 1 triggering a scoring resolution. I would then compare my Mage card value to my opponent’s Mage card value and the player with the highest card value wins the monster while any ties stay in the realm. After all scoring is complete each player adds up the ratings of the monsters they won plus 3 points for any spells they have won. The player with the highest score wins and is ruler of the realm! That is all there is to it! A quick, light little game that is simple to learn and easy to irritate your opponent!
I like to describe Archmage Origins as a highly competitive game of memory wrapped in a fantasy theme. The concept behind Archamge Origins is pretty cool as well. Its setting is a prequel to SolarFlare’s upcoming game Dawn of the Archmage. So it is not only a slick little game, it is a great little piece of marketing setting up their first mini game coming later this year to Kickstarter.
A game of Archmage Origins, including setup and teardown, only takes about 10 to 15 minutes making it a great filler game or the perfect game when time is limited. This really isn’t my style of game, my memory is horrible so when you get another one or two people moving cards all around the realm I get lost. However, moving cards around allows you to mentally mess with your opponents and adds a cool little “take that” element that keeps the game exciting which should appeal to many gamers. At $9 I challenge you to find a better light game that offers as much of a challenge.
Tony’s Pros and Cons:
Pros: Super quick setup, quick to play, easy to learn, fun for a wide variety of ages and experience levels, only 9 bucks!
Cons: The memory aspect didn’t appeal to me but will be part of the fun for most players.
Tony’s Epic Scale: 1 (Only 56 cards and 4 tokens with easy to learn rules.)
*Epic Scale is on a scale of 1 to 5 and is a combination of number of components and ruleset. It is used to measure the volume and scale of the game. The higher the epic number means the following: more components, higher complexity rules, longer setup/teardown/playtime or a combination of those compared to lower epic numbers.)*
Value: 9 (Easily worth the price! Hard to find a good game for 9 dollars!)
Art: 6 (Play test version but looks like it will be on par with Alien Invasion. Archmage cards are a little bland.)
Setup/Teardown: 10 (Dave is the master at light, quick games!)
Re-playability: 6 (Good for a couple games at a time.)
Fun Factor: 6 (It wasn’t my style of game. Good game but not one I would seek out to play. Bad memory here!)
OVERALL: 7.4 (While not my favorite SolarFlare game, I can say Dave has worked his light game creation magic again.)
Check out the kickstarter May 9th: www.tinyurl.com/2017AO
As an elementary student, I loved learning about our solar system along with the missions of NASA, and to this day I am still fascinated by astronomy and space exploration. When I first saw a picture of Leaving Earth a few months ago I was excited, but as I looked closer at the picture, I saw cards with rockets having several numbers in different corners. I thought to myself, this is some sort of “math” style game with a pasted-on space theme. I scrolled on by dismissing it as not a “real” space exploration game. Then, about a month ago, I saw more and more posts about Leaving Earth. People were writing about planning missions to different planets and calculating payloads. Many of the comments still referred to the game as too “mathy” so I decided to take a closer look at the game and went to the publisher’s website www.lumenaris.com for more information. After reading the first few pages of the rulebook and following the website demo, I knew this was a game I wanted to try. It had nothing to do with set collection or cribbage style play, but was all about emulating the early days of the space race! What about the math I heard some people refer to? The math is all about calculating the thrust needed to complete your mission. You are a rocket scientist, ground control, and a mission planner all in the same game!
Leaving Earth is about risk management and mission planning. It is about running a government space agency with a limited amount of funds and the expectation of beating your rivals in the space race. You will have to weigh risk with reward by deciding how much money to use toward testing and perfecting technologies with how much to use toward acquiring the necessary components needed for the available missions. It is a race against time as you have 20 years to complete the available missions, and some missions can take 6 or 7 years. Which means you will have to launch your spacecraft well ahead of a safe launch window.
Leaving Earth setup is simple and straightforward. The location cards are laid out according to the book. The planets, planet’s moons, and our moon all have several location cards. Each one presents a different condition on the surface. You randomly select one and place it in its set up location with the unexplored side face up. You have to survey the location or attempt to land on the location to reveal the conditions. The random locations’ condition help keep the replay value high as you never know if a mission can truly be completed from game to game until the location is explored. Sometimes conditions are favorable and sometimes the conditions prevent any spacecraft from landing.
Once the locations are in place every agency is given 25 million dollars and the space race is on! The heart of Leaving Earth is buying technologies and then either thoroughly testing them or taking chances to try and be first. When a technology is bought for 10 million dollars, three outcome cards are placed on the technology card. Outcomes can be success, minor failure, or major failures. It costs five million to remove minor and major failures and 10 million to remove a success. Every dollar spent on testing means delaying launch for actual missions but can guarantee there will not be a catastrophic failure later in the game. Testing also requires you to purchase components to conduct the test, so buying and testing one Saturn rocket could cost $25 million dollars (15 million to buy the rocket and 10 million to remove a success) on top of the 10 million to buy the Saturn technology. The rocket used for testing is then discarded. As you can see, testing alone can require serious budget allocation for many years.
Even before testing begins you will need to evaluate the missions available for the game and determine which technologies you will need and how many components of each one. Let’s talk about the missions first. There are several different mission levels (easy, medium, and hard) and several missions in each level so missions will be different from game to game. This keeps the replay value high and keeps the game from feeling repetitive. The game has 4 different difficulty modes, and each mode determines how many of each mission will be available. You can make the game as easy or as difficult as you want, allowing you to master certain aspects of the game before moving on to more difficult maneuvers and concepts.
Ok, so we have our missions. We know we are going to need technologies, but how do we figure the exact amount? This is where Leaving Earth truly distinguishes itself from any game in my collection. Each location card has a maneuver difficulty to get to another location card. To get from Earth to Suborbital Flight is a maneuver difficulty of 3. So what does that really mean? It means you need to generate enough thrust from your rockets to cover 3 times your payload mass. Let’s break it down a little further. Let’s say you want to send a probe into suborbital flight. Earth to suborbital flight is a difficulty of 3. A probe has a mass of 1 and an atlas rocket has a mass of 4. So, your total spacecraft has a mass of 5 and is performing a difficulty 3 maneuver meaning you will need to generate 15 thrust to move from Earth to suborbital flight. Remember, the required thrust to perform a maneuver is mass multiplied by difficulty so we have: 5 X 3 = 15. Looking at the atlas rocket card we can see it generates 27 thrust so we have plenty of thrust to move to the next location. Rockets fire one time, and then are discarded. Now, if we hadn’t perfected atlas rockets we would have to flip over an outcome card. A major failure would mean the entire craft is destroyed, a minor failure would mean the rocket never generated enough thrust to launch and is now damaged, and a success would mean our craft made it to suborbital flight. If we had the landing technology we could then test the landing of the probe, however, certain locations such as Earth and Venus do not need the landing technology to land a craft. Oh, for those that are not fond of math you can use the handy payload charts provided. No math required! What is the fun of that though?
That covers the basics of Leaving Earth. The first to perform a mission takes the mission card, and the agency with the most mission points at the end of 1976 wins the game. The real challenge in the game is planning missions that require sending an astronaut out to a planet then back home to Earth. You need supplies, and account for the mass of those supplies. You will need technologies such as life support and have to calculate anywhere from 5 to 8 maneuvers. It is challenging but very rewarding.
I was really worried the replay value of Leaving Earth would be low. It seemed once you knew how to get to a location it would be a constant repeat. Rest assured, that is not the case. With numerous missions, several different possibilities for certain locations, and the variations in outcomes of technologies, each game presents a fresh set of challenges. Plus, there is always the push to try and complete missions faster, and at a lower cost. For those worried about the math, I can say it is no more difficult than trying to calculate victory points in other games. In fact, I have done more calculating figuring out who won in a Euro than calculating mission payloads. Plus, with the handy payload charts pretty much all math is done for you if you wish to go that route.
I love Leaving Earth! It truly captures the feel of the space race while feeding my fascination of space exploration. It is a game rooted in science but anyone who likes risk management, and resource management, will be right at home as well. It can be played multiplayer competitive (where it really shines), multiplayer cooperative (still fun), and solo (more precise mission planning and less of a race feel with much less risk taking) which makes it a fantastic game at our house. There are 4 difficulty settings and playing a very hard game can be a little lengthy at almost two-hours, but medium or hard games can be knocked out in about an hour. If I had to find fault in anything it would be not having enough component cards, mainly Saturn rockets and ion thrusters, and the odd size cards which will drive gamers that like to sleeve, such as myself, nuts! The components and box are not the best quality, but considering it is not a mass-produced game I think they suffice. The absolute worst is cutting the sticker holding the box lid down to open the game for the first time.
Tony’s Pros and Cons
Pros: Easy setup. Very engaging, challenging, and rewarding. Good replay value. Great job of replicating the feel of the space race. Makes you feel like a rocket scientist! Not difficult to learn.
Cons: Game box is small and not the best quality. Odd size cards (although not a con for people that do not sleeve their cards.) Component quality isn’t the best but isn’t the worst either. Rules don’t cover every aspect of the game in detail. Not enough of certain component cards for hard or very hard multiplayer games. Be ready to proxy a few Juno rockets for Saturn or Ion thrusters.
Tony’s Epic Scale: 3.5 (Had to go to half scale for this. Rules are a little more advanced than most of my 3s but is manageable. There are a ton of components!)
*Epic Scale is on a scale of 1 to 5 and is a combination of number of components and ruleset)*
Value: 9 (Easily worth the price and shipping from the publisher.)
Art: 7 (Nothing fancy but is perfect for the theme.)
Setup/Teardown: 8 (Not the fastest but you can be playing in 5 minutes!)
Re-playability: 10 (You will be planning missions in your sleep….trust me!)
Fun Factor: 10 (I can’t believe how fun this game is after 10 plus plays!)
Overall: 8.8 (Yes, it is that good!)
Last year I was fortunate to have the opportunity to review a cool little game that was heading to KickStarter. The game was The Lords of Rock by SolarFlare games and it was a hit at our house. If you’re into rock and roll, amazing, over the top art, or ancient gods, then I highly recommend checking it out. Dave Killingsworth was able to create a quick, light family game that was fun and highly entertaining. So, when Dave reached out to me to play test his new game, Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion, I was ecstatic. I was curious to see if he could pull off another gem in the light game category. Needless to say, after numerous, and I mean like 30 plus games, I can safely say that Dave is a light game mastermind! Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion packs a lot of punch in less than 40 minutes.
The forest is created by placing forest cards face down according to the number of characters. Cards are selected from four tiers; 1 through 4 with 4 being the toughest, which means each game is a unique challenge. Once the forest is ready the players select and customize their characters. You randomly start with one gear card and get to select one of two randomly selected ability cards. Along with a unique forest you will always start with a unique randomly generated character. Place the timer token on the number of turns you wish to play; nine for easy, eight for regular, and seven for hard. Every player then places their character outside the forest next to one forest card. You are now ready to enter the forest and kick some alien butt!
Players can take actions based on the number of dice they have in their dice pool. The more dice you have (you gain dice by leveling up your player using the experience gained by eliminating aliens) the more you can do and the better odds you have of defeating monsters or finding gear. You start the game with four dice. Each level gains one extra die. At level two you can allocate five dice for moving, attacking, or searching for gear. You can use the experience points gained at anytime on your turn assuming you are not getting attacked by a pesky alien.
Basically, that is all there is to the game. Keep moving and fighting aliens until one of the end game conditions is met; the forest is cleared, the timer runs out, or all the players get vaporized. Most of our games ended with us running out of time due to some poor decisions early in the game. Along the way you may have to deal with traps, you may find survivors that will help you out, or decide if you should use a noisy weapon, make the decision to use one or two handed weapons, and when to use gear cards. There are many choices and a lot of dice chucking packed into very little time.
SolarFlare Games absolutely nailed another “light” game. Games that can be setup, played, and stored back on the shelf in less than 40 minutes are always a plus at our house. When that same game is engaging, fun, offers numerous meaningful decisions and is full of tension-well, that is even better. If you want a good co-op game but don’t have the time to break out an “epic” game then this is perfect. You seriously have to work together or you won’t succeed. No “lone wolfs” will make it out of the forest alive. Oh, you also get to level up and get loot! So let me go over everything Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion offers one more time. Quick setup, easy rule set, quick play time, meaningful decisions, easily scales in player count and difficulty, great replay-ability, character customization, loot, sweet custom dice, and a very reasonable price! I am very impressed with everything this game offers.
We were on the edge of our seats every game we played. A couple bad dice rolls and soon the panic of watching the timer tick down sets in. This usually led to bad decisions followed by more bad decisions, followed by failure. I loved that we were always torn on how to allocate our dice. Do we try and beat the alien with the bare minimum needed and save some dice for moving or searching or do we go for overkill to make sure we kill the alien but sacrifice performing other actions. Decisions, decisions, decisions!
If you’re not fond of dice chucking, luck, and randomness, then you probably won’t enjoy it as much as someone like me that loves adapting to ever changing game conditions and poor dice rolls. Also, if you’re a “heavy” gamer that scoffs at “light” games then you will probably want to pass on Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion but you will be missing out on a great light game that has features seen in games with much bigger boxes and higher price tags.
Tony’s Pros and Cons
PROs: Quick Setup, easy rule set, great replay-ability, quick game play, tons of decisions, challenging, lots of tension, reasonable price, custom dice.
CONs: Depends on the luck of dice (if that isn’t your thing then I guess that would be a con), there really isn’t much of a con list. How can you find fault in a game that features almost everything an epic game like Zombicide but plays in a quarter of the time!
Tony’s Epic Scale: 1 (quick setup, plays fast, easy rules, low component count)
*Epic Scale is on a scale of 1 to 5 and is a combination of number of components and ruleset)*
VALUE: 8 (I would like to see this in the low $20s but $30 MSRP and $25 on KickStarter is a solid value.)
ART: 7 (I only have the play test version but the art Dave has been posting looks awesome.)
SETUP/TEARDOWN: 10 (It doesn’t get much easier than this!)
Re-playability: 8 (It will take awhile but eventually it will feel the same. Good thing it is compatible with the original Nightmare Forest!)
FUN FACTOR: 8 (Lords of Rock was fun but I liked this even better!)
OVERALL: 8.2 (Dave did it again! Another amazing light game! )
Check out Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion coming to Kickstarter on January 24th!
Up until my purchase of Black Orchestra I have never bought a game on a whim. I always read about games I want to buy and scour the internet for as many opinions and reviews as possible. I research gameplay, setup times, comparisons, and prices before finally pulling the trigger to buy. Something about Black Orchestra made me throw caution to the wind and buy it the day I saw it. I had only heard about it a day or two before buying it and the only details I knew about the game were; the setting takes place in World War II Europe, and try to assassinate Hitler. Oh, and after reading the back of the box I knew it was a co-op from 1 to 5 players. That’s it. I knew nothing about gameplay, replay-ability, or even if it had a good rating on BGG. My boys and I are history buffs, especially World War I and II, so I made the decision to give it a shot. Was it worth it? Is it any good? How does it play? Spoiler alert: I loved it!
In Black Orchestra you play as one (two if you’re playing solo) real historical conspirator that played a major role in the various attempts to eliminate Hitler from power. The trials and tribulations of each conspirator are printed on their gamer card which adds a nice personal touch. Instead of confining their stories to a section of the rule book the players understand their conspirator’s role and sacrifice each play through. The historical accuracy doesn’t stop at the conspirators’ cards though. There are seven stages of event cards with each representing a different timeframe of the war. These decks are filled with actual events for each stage of the war. So, while the randomness of shuffling each event deck won’t have the events in exact chronological order it does set a great tone and provides an excellent backdrop while keeping the game random enough for good replay-ability. The last bits of historical accuracy added to Black Orchestra are the difficulty in assassinating Hitler and the insane randomness of trying to pull off such a daring feat.
Players have three actions each turn to manage their conspirator’s motivation level, suspicion level, as well as Hitler’s Support level. As the level of motivation rises, the conspirators gain special abilities such as being able to perform assassination attempts, but as their suspicion level raises the chance of getting captured increases. Also, each increase in Hitler’s support level means each assassination attempt becomes more difficult. The actions the players have to choose from are:
Conspire: A player can roll up to three dice (one for each action). This can only be used once per turn. Conspire is a gamble to either increase a conspirator’s motivation or lower Hitler’s support level. A roll of a target symbol is placed on the dissent track and once there are three targets on the track the conspirator can decide how to use those dice, however, every eagle rolled raises the conspirator’s suspicion one level. Any numbers rolled are used as extra actions. Our norm was to roll all three dice to start our turn and hoped we got some extra actions to go along with any targets or unfortunate eagles we rolled.
Move: Move one space per action.
Draw a Card: Draw one per action. Drawing cards is how you obtain plot cards and other useful actions. These can range from raising motivation to being immune to the effects of a Gestapo Raid. You are going to need some good cards to have a sporting chance at a good assassination attempt. Once you get to the second motivation level you can hold more cards and holding your max amount of cards is pretty handy.
Search: Flip over an item tile at your current location.
Acquire an item: Pick up an item tile that is face up at your location. Items are necessary to ensure assassination attempts are more successful and can also come in handy when you need to lower your suspicion.
Deliver an Item: Each space has a task associated with it. Tasks usually require the conspirator to turn in a specific item and gain a benefit such as lowering their suspicion level.
Play a Card: Certain cards say play as an action. Play the card then discard it. Also, if the conspirator has a high enough motivation level and has a Plot card in his possession then he can attempt an assassination. Of course, he will want to make sure he has enough dice to cover Hitler’s current support level. One target symbol is needed for every support level. For example, a support level of four will require at least four dice and that is hoping each dice rolled results in a target symbol.
Release a Conspirator From Jail: If the active conspirator is in the Gestapo HQ space and his suspicion level is not at extreme then he can attempt to free a jailed conspirator. One die is rolled. The conspirator is released on anything but an eagle symbol. If the die result is an eagle symbol then the active conspirator goes to jail. I believe 90 percent of our jail breaks ended badly.
Share a Card or Item: Take or give a card or item to a conspirator at your current location. Sharing items and cards is a key action to a successful assassination attempt. Sometimes you just need to load up one conspirator with as much poison or explosives as he can hold and hope like heck he doesn’t get caught!
Teamwork is absolutely essential in pulling off a successful assassination attempt. Conspirators must work together to keep Hitler’s support low so when the rare chance for an assassination attempt arises it can be carried out. The conspirators also have to work together to help each other gain motivation while keeping everyone’s suspicion as low as possible. Often players need to plan coordinated rendezvous so essential items and cards can be transferred from one conspirator to another. Players must be ready and willing to sacrifice their own items and cards when their fellow conspirators are placed in a sudden bad situation from an ill timed unfortunate event card. Usually this entails moving one or more of Hitler’s deputies to the location of the conspirator that is in the best situation to perform a plot attempt.
The game ends when all conspirators are in jail at the same time, the stage seven deck runs out, the event card “Documents Located” is revealed or on a successful assassination attempt.
I can honestly say Black Orchestra is my favorite co-op game and is easily in my top three favorite games of all time. There is zero downtime as you are constantly talking and planning every turn. Some cards can be played anytime so you must always be aware of what is going on during other player’s turns. New situations arise and plans change fast, as an event card is drawn at the end of each player’s turn. The tension is always high and you never get a true feeling that you are safe or things are going as planned. Tough decisions are endless. Not only do you have tough decisions to make on your turn, but if a Gestapo Raid is drawn on another player’s turn then you must decide what cards to discard or keep to maintain a balance of being able to perform a plot while keeping suspicion low. As the event decks close in on stage seven, the chances you are willing to take become greater. The nonstop action, suspense, and tough decisions keep players engaged the entire game. I never before played a game where I literally felt like I let the world down when I lost, or felt such a rush of excitement when I won.
Tony’s Pros and Cons
Pros: Quick setup, easy to learn, varying degree of difficulty, high player interaction, constant player engagement, tons of decisions, great presentation and implementation of a sensitive subject, great component quality (minus the conspirator cards), playing solo offers the same experience as multiplayer.
Cons: I worry about replay-ability after about 20 games, sensitive subject for certain people, conspirator cards are paper thin and the motivation and suspicion cubes are easily bumped off of their track during the game.
Tony’s Epic Scale: 3 (Easy rule set with lots of cards)
*Epic Scale is on a scale of 1 to 5 and is a combination of number of components and ruleset)*
VALUE: 9 (Well worth the 60 dollar price tag!)
ART: 8 (It is a great looking game. The art fits the theme perfectly.)
SETUP/TEARDOWN: 9 (Pick your character and separate some cards!)
Re-Playability: 7 (There is a lot of randomness to keep it fresh for awhile. I worry past about 20 plays though.)
FUN FACTOR: 10 (The most fun I have ever had playing a board game!)
Florenza the Card Game is my first review in which the game is a reimplementation of a game I have already reviewed, Florenza. The premise of Florenza the Card Game is the same as Florenza; become the most influential family in Florence by commissioning the greatest works of art. My dilemma when writing this review was how much I should compare the two games. After all, Florezna the Card Game takes the basic mechanics of Florezna the board game and condenses it. So comparisons would make sense, right? Yes, but, I didn’t want to distract from the card game by constantly bringing up the board game. I decided to write this review with the main focus on Florenza the Card Game and write a follow up review comparing and contrasting the two games. This way, gamers interested in reading about Florenza the Card Game can read a focused review while gamers seeking out comparisons can find all the information about both in one conveniently located review. Now, let’s take a look at Florenza the Card Game.
In order to be the most influential family in Florence you will have to manage your resources as well as the cards in your hand to secure the best artists and build the greatest monuments. Florenza the Card Game setup is quick and straight forward. The rule book is fantastic and lays out everything very clearly. Once setup is complete you will have a top row of seven monument cards, followed by 2 rows of 10 cards containing locations, generic artists, and a captain of the people card, a bottom row of 6 to 10 (depending on the number of players) named artist cards, six decks of resources cards (spice, fabric, marble, wood, gold, and metal), three decks of Florenza cards separated by Roman numerals, and three Fiorini (money) decks (50, 100, and 500). Each player chooses a family card and is then dealt 5 Florenza cards from deck 1, given 300 Fiorini and 1 of each resource card.
Florenza the Card Game is played over five rounds that are separated into 4 phases; Draw Artists and Monument Cards, Draw Florenza Cards, Take Actions, and End of the Round. The Draw Artists and Monuments Cards phase, skipped in round one, replenishes the Artists and Monuments Cards which have been depleted in the last round. In the Draw Florenza Cards phase, also skipped in round 1 as this step is included in the setup, each player draws 4 Florenza cards plus an additional card for each Residence card they have built. Each round additional cards will be available to the players. In round 1 only deck 1 cards are available. In round 2 all cards left over from deck 1 get shuffled into deck 2. In round 3 all cards left over from round 2 get shuffled into deck 3. In round 4 all cards from the discard pile get shuffled into the cards remaining from round 3 and in round 5 only the cards that remain from round 4 are available. The Take Actions phase is the main phase in Florenza the Card Game. This is the phase where the players take turns choosing from the games eight available actions; Play a Florenza Card, Complete a Monument, Reserve a Monument, Reserve an Artist, Activate a Location Card, Send Out Workers, Go to Market, and Search for Inspiration. End of the Round phase is where Monument and Artist cards not used are discarded as well as all but one card from your hand, end of round resources and income are collected and the location cards are reset.
In the Take Action Phase players will be able to choose at least 4 of these actions:
Play A Florenza Card: This allows a player to play a card from their hand such as a Workshop, Church, Residence, Family Palace, etc, as long as the player as the required resources.
Complete a Monument: This allows a player to take any of the Monuments cards in play or ones the player has reserved as long as the player has the resources, money, and ability to hire an artist.
Reserve a Monument: A player may take 1 Monument Card from the Monument Cards in play to play at a later time.
Reserve an Artist: A player may take 1 Artist Card from the available artists and place it in front of them. They may hire this artist by paying the cost when an artist is needed at a later time.
Activate a Location Card: You can activate and turn over an available location. This is how the player can acquire resources, money, or become Captain of the People (which allows you to go first in the next round).
Send Out Workers: Allows a player to take 50 Fiorini from the supply.
Go To Market: A player may choose to sell 1 resource for 100 Fiorini, buy 1 resource for 100 Fiorini, or exchange two resources for one resource.
Search for Inspiration: This allows a player to draw one Florenza Card from the deck.
After five rounds prestige points are tallied up and the player with the most points wins.
I would label Florenza the Card Game as a medium complexity card game which is easy to setup and learn but is a little tricky to truly master. The game is a combination of resource management, hand management, and action selection with a little gambling/luck tossed in. The luck aspect of the game may not sit well with some hard-core euro gamers but I think it gives the game an exciting feel as well as adding to the replayability. I like the risk/reward of reserving artist and monument cards. You can reserve a monument or artist card without having to immediately play it but you get penalized if you haven’t played it by the end of the game. This lets you snag a good card early and gives you time to acquire the necessary resources to play it. At the same time though you don’t know the prestige points of each artist until they are played. The backs of the artist cards have numbers that represent how many of that artist are in the deck and the prestige value each card. So you never know how many prestige points you will actually get until it is time to hire them and flip them over. For example, Leonardo da Vinci has two cards, one worth three prestige points and one worth seven prestige points. Reserving him early without knowing which card he is can be a gamble that pays off if you are lucky. The cards you are dealt each round is completely random which also adds to the luck element of the game. An early hand that includes Residences and Preachers which give you extra actions can go a long way in gaining an early lead.
Overall, I enjoyed playing Florenza the Card Game. The art is fantastic and there are a lot of decisions to make each round. With two players, a game can easily be finished under an hour yet there is plenty of time to make up for an unlucky first draw. The luck of the draw, as well as the luck of selecting Artist Cards added nice variety to the game. This is a game where you have to adapt to your hand each round which made for some exciting game play. If you are fan of long thought out strategies then this one may not be for you.
Tony’s Pros and Cons
Pros: Easy setup, great rulebook, great art, great quality, plays under an hour for two, lots of decisions, new challenges each round.
Cons: I personally don’t have any cons but the luck of the draw and luck in selecting artist cards probably will not make this enjoyable for everybody.
Tony’s Epic Scale: 2 (Lots of cards and a unique setup but the rulebook leaves players with little to question)
*Epic Scale is on a scale of 1 to 5 and is a combination of number of components and ruleset*
Value: 8 (Priced at most places for around $30 makes this a great value for the quality and quantity.)
Art: 7 (Very unique and historic look with amazing detail in each card.)
Setup/Teardown: 7 (The first time is a little intimidating but the rulebook holds your hand through it.)
Re-playability: 7 (Enough combination of luck and strategy to keep coming back to it.)
Fun Factor: 7 (It is a fun game but drags a little with higher play count.)
The hardest aspect of reviewing games is determining the values for each of my five rating metrics. I ventured back into the boardgame hobby this year after a long hiatus and I don’t want to give a perfect 10 knowing there are a ton of games I haven’t seen yet. Is it fair to compare each category to another game? How will I honestly know when a game is a 10? Florenza answered my questions upon opening the box and seeing all the components for the first time. The game is about works of art but the game itself is also a work of art. Not only was the art amazing but the quality of the components were outstanding. I was in awe. Without a doubt Florenza was the most gorgeous game I have seen. This is what a 10 in the art category looks like! However, thick fancy cardboard and the most beautiful bits in the world don’t guarantee a great game. Let’s see if Florenza’s game play and theme match up to its incredible art.
Florenza is a worker placement resource management game where players control one of five Italian families and attempt to make them the most prestigious family in Florenza. The game is set in Italy during the Renaissance period and each family must commission the greatest painters, sculptors, and architects to create the most valuable works of art. The family with the greatest amount of prestige at the end of the eighth round is crowned the winner.
Each player starts with a limited amount of resources; four workers, and two workshops in their district (player boards). Players place their workers one at time choosing from several places on the game board or their player board. Choices include:
Build a workshop: Select a workshop to build and place it face down in the next available workshop spot with the worker token on top. A player can only build a total of eight workshops so careful consideration must be given to which shops to build.
Operate a workshop: Place a worker either on your own or an opponent’s workshop. The workshop must not be occupied by a worker and a fee must be paid to use opponent’s workshops. The benefit from the workshop is not collected at this time.
Give to Charity: Place a worker in the alter area and hire an available priest from the character cards. Giving to charity will allow the player to gain extra workers that can be used in the same round. If a priest is not available then this option can’t be chosen.
Hire an Artist: Place a worker on a work of art either on their district board or main board and hire the necessary artist(s) to complete the work. Artists’ requirements must be paid at this time.
Go to Market: Place a worker in the Market area of the main board to sell, trade, or buy resources.
Send to Work: Place a worker on the Banco Zone of the main board to immediately collect 50 Fiorini.
Once all players have exhausted all their workers the round proceeds through the next phases. These phases include collecting the benefit from the market, gaining benefits from completed workshops, flipping workshops from their building side to finished side and collecting any bonuses, placing a family tile in completed works of art spaces and collecting any bonuses for completing the work of art, collecting prestige certificates for current prestige level, and calculating Captain of the People and Bishop for the next round. Any workshops or works of art that can’t be completed by a player will result in the loss of prestige points.
Captain of the People is decided by the player that obtained the most prestige in the round. The perks of obtaining the Captain of the People are the Captain always goes first and can detain (take out a player’s worker or a named artist for a round). The Bishop is obtained by having the most influence (over 3) at the end of a round. The perks of obtaining the Bishop are the Bishop goes second in the round and can convert an opposing player’s worker (remove one of their workers from play and add one worker from your worker pool to the district board), or expel a named preacher. Both titles are key to having success in Florenza.
Without a doubt, Florenza is one of the most visually appealing games I have played. The character and workshop tiles are beautiful and made of thick cardboard. The game board itself is elegant and could pass as a work of art. The character cards are detailed and look like mini paintings of the artists. The artwork and components represent the theme of Florenza perfectly. Having beautiful components in a game about creating masterpieces is essential in allowing players to immerse themselves in the theme as opposed to just placing generic wood bits to score points.
The beauty of Florezna is not limited to its art though. There is superb depth and strategic decisions in each round. In fact, I was overwhelmed my first few rounds comprehending how the workshops, artists, and works of art all relate. Planning ahead is the key to success in Florenza. Since you don’t pay the construction cost when selecting which workshop or work of art you want to construct, you have the entire round to secure the needed resources. Unfortunately, that leads to lengthy downtime for new players. There are 29 workshops that can be constructed, each having their own unique building requirements and benefits. Then, there are an additional 25 works of art that can be completed, each with their own unique completion requirements and benefits. On top of those choices there are anywhere from 6 to 9 artist tiles that must be selected to complete works of art and each artist has their own unique hiring requirements and benefits. With only eight rounds to gain the most prestige, each round must be used as efficiently as possible. Needless to say, the first few rounds are spent frantically flipping over the workshops/works of art cheat sheet comparing requirements to benefits. Once the initial panic subsides and your strategy is put into motion, game play becomes more fluid with less downtime. Once you get a feel for the game, the gameplay is as amazing as its beauty.
Florenza is a fun and challenging worker placement game. I loved it! Even when you have all eight workers available the struggle between resources and money is difficult. There are so many aspects to this game which will appeal to a wide variety of gamers: city building, worker placement, resource management, economic, and historical. There are only two issues that stood out when playing. First, Florenza’s resource pools are not labeled with the resource name. They are color coded the same as the resource cubes. So instead of saying I need one iron and two spices we would just say I need one brown and two green cubes. This slightly detracts from the elegance and beauty of the game. If the resource pools had labels on the game board then it would be easy to remember which color cubes were which resources. Second, it took longer than I thought it should to setup and play through the first round. Even after reading the entire rulebook, setup and playing through the first round required a lot of stoppage to reference the rulebook. I think the rulebook does a good job explaining the rules but a nice l quick start, or first round example would be beneficial. Give yourself a couple hours to read the rules and play a mock game before breaking Florenza out the first time at game night.
Tony’s Pros and Cons:
Pros: Gorgeous art, high quality components, deep and strategic gameplay.
Cons: Long playtimes with 3+ players.
Tony’s Epic Scale: 3 (Rules, reference cards, character cards, and lots of tiles!)
Value: 8 (Under 50 dollars on Amazon is an amazing deal for this much game!)
Art: 10 (I challenge you to find a better looking higher quality game!)
Teardown/Setup: 7 (After your first game, setup is easy. An insert would be nice.)
Replay ability: 8 (Random artist selection and 29 workshops will keep the game fresh.)
Fun: 8 (As long as you’re looking for a challenge and a game with some planning.)
While scrolling through Facebook back in April of this year I stumbled upon a post from CMON that was promoting their latest game on KickStarter called Masmorra. Up until that point I never knew there were board games on KickStarter, let alone board games where you get a crazy amount of extras and exclusives for helping them fund the game. Needless to say, I was hooked…more like addicted. I pledged for Masmorra then I late pledged for Arcadia Quest: Inferno, I will talk about those experiences in another blog in case you are not familiar with my displeasure with those experiences. Then I spent hours drooling over which game to back next. This is when I came across a unique dungeon crawler called Ravingspire. I love dungeon crawlers so I was in heaven scrolling through all the game videos and content. What pulled me in was this guy, Cory, who was so excited to bring you his game. A unique game that is part board game, part puzzle, part deck builder, part RPG, and all kinds of fun!
My KickStarter excitement slowly faded away as delay after delay pushed Arcadia Quest: Inferno well into next year. I was bummed. Here I had backed several games and at this point I’m starting to realize the downside of KickStarter...delays. Massive delays! My 4th game backed, Ultra Tiny Epic Kingdoms, announced a two month delay. Ugh! I feel like I am never going to get my games! Through all these delays though Vorpal Chainsword Games kept releasing positive updates about Ravingspire. Pictures of expansion cards which were never promised to be ready for the launch but ended up arriving in every KickStarter game, plus production updates kept backers in the loop. Through these constant updates Cory assured us backers that delivery was still on schedule. The estimated delivery date was October, and on October 8th Ravingspire was delivered to my door! I was in awe. My first KickStarter game ever! My faith in humanity, well Kickstarter, restored! Could it be that there are still designers and publishers out there that truly care about their backers? I was nervous opening up the package. I had high expectations for Ravingspire and I didn’t want to be let down. I can honestly say the game exceeded my expectations! It was beautiful! There in the box was this beautiful looking wood book. The game box is actually made of wood and designed to look like an ancient tome. I didn’t know a board game box could be such a beautiful work of art. The components were high quality too with amazing detail and art. The battle mats are awesome. There it is, Ravingspire. Now it is time to play!
The insert for Ravingspire is well done and designed to make setup very quick and easy. You pull out the game board, select your character and corresponding battle mat, and retrieve the foe battle mat. All the different cards; tower, encounter, loot, and starter, have their own area in the insert so creating the initial decks takes very little effort. You create an encounter deck, loot deck, tower deck, and starter deck for your character, then shuffle the foe cards and place them on the foe mat. You are now ready to play Ravingspire! It takes about 15minutes from the time you open that sweet box lid until you are wandering the tower. I guarantee five minutes of that time will be deciding on what character to use. Each character has unique abilities, battle mats, and starter decks.
Each level has room for five encounter cards. On your turn, you draw an encounter card and either try to acquire the card just drawn or another card on the encounter ring. If you can’t acquire any of the cards then you lose sanity. Sanity is the life of each character. Each character starts with ten sanity points. Madness is tracked as a group. Madness starts as the number of players plus two. Each time a player’s sanity drops to zero the madness track drops by one. When the madness track reaches zero the game is over and all the characters have gone mad. Adversaries must be dealt with accordingly when encountered in the encounter deck. Players will lose sanity if any adversaries are in the encounter ring at the end of the round.
The player rolls for movement, draws and deals with an encounter card and then has a chance to rotate the board. Rotating the board and aligning the steps with the doors is how the players advance to the next level. The goal is to reach the locked door on the spire, which is the top level, but to open the door you will need a key. How do you obtain a key? You defeat a foe. Foes are powerful enemies who are out to stop you from escaping the tower. They are brought to the board through chaos cards in the encounter deck. You must acquire better cards than what is in the starter deck to defeat a foe. Defeating a foe is a dangerous task but the rewards are necessary to defeat the final boss. Defeating a foe not only gets you a spire key but allows you to gain valuable loot from the loot deck. Acquiring new cards is not the only way to strengthen your deck. You can use the “well of souls” to banish weak cards in your hand. You need a card equaling 1 skill, 1 charm, or 1 fight or a total value of 5 to banish a card. A strategic combination of gaining strong cards and banishing weak cards is the key to success at Ravingspire.
Once a player has made it to the locked spire door with a key, and a strong hand, he is ready to battle the final boss. A sealed spire card is selected and revealed. Hopefully a combination of skill and luck will allow a victory. If not, well, better luck next time!
Acquiring item cards and defeating foes is done through a battle matrix. A battle matrix consists of a skill value, charm value, fight value, and a brute force value. This is a unique system, and I love it. If a card in the encounter ring has a fight value of 4 and a charm of 5 then you must use the cards in your hand and/or what is slotted on your battle mat to equal or exceed those values to acquire the card. The value and associated matrix icon is located in the upper right hand corner of the card. Battling adversaries and foes uses the same battle matrix logic. If a foe has 11 skill and 4 fight then you need to equal or exceed both of those values to defeat the foe. Foes can’t be beat with brute force making them very dangerous to encounter. Encounter cards have brute force values which allow the player to use any of the matrix types to win. If a player encounters a card with 2 fight, 2 charm, 4 skill, and a brute force of 12 but doesn’t have enough fight to acquire it he can use the brute force value. He will play 1 fight card, a 3 charm card, a 2-charm card, and a 2 skill card from his hand and a slotted loot card with a value of 4. Loot cards have a gold number and no associated matrix icon signifying they can be used as any of the matrix. All the cards used are placed in the discard pile.
I’ll be honest, I love dungeon crawlers. I really love dungeon crawlers, especially ones which don’t require a ton of time to setup, don’t have a million extra tokens to keep track of, don’t require a PHD to learn and explain, and don’t have so many rules that you are constantly flipping through the rule book. Ravingsire is all that and more! I will say, the rule book isn’t the best and leaves a lot of unanswered questions. However, the videos on www.vorpalchainswordgames.com are amazing, and are a must view before playing the game. Watch the videos first! Trust me, watch the videos and have the rulebook by your side for the first play through and all will be smooth. In case you didn’t catch that, watch the videos first!
Ravingspire holds a place in my heart since it was my first fulfilled KickStarter game. Cory ran an amazing campaign, and he was in constant communication. I always knew the status of this game and I never went more than a few weeks without an update. He delivered all four expansions packs with the game which was something he wasn’t sure he could do during the campaign. If there was an issue he addressed it immediately. I can’t emphasize enough how awesome Vorpal Chainsword Games ran this campaign.
I would label Ravingspire as a medium/light dungeon crawler with the focus being on the deck building mechanic. The battle matrix is a fantastic concept. You can’t focus on just one or two of the matrix types and expect to succeed unless you select a character that has an ability to let you use one type for another. The game sets up fast and plays under an hour for solo and under an hour and a half for 2 to 3 players. The replay-ability is huge on this one. The encounter deck has so many cards that you only use about half each game. There are nine characters to choose form and plenty of foes to keep games fresh. The deluxe edition was shipped with four expansions that included more characters, foes, and encounter cards. Three of the expansions add new settings such as steampunk, Wild West, and a Goblin Queen story. For those of you buying retail you will be getting some expansions in the future. The rotating game board is a nice touch and keeps the board game aspect of Ravingspire in touch with the theme. You will go mad trying to get the die rolls you need to align the stairs and the doors.
I would easily say this is my current favorite dungeon crawler. I love the game. Using the battle matrix to build your deck is fun and challenging. The characters and the foes are unique and all have different abilities. The boards and battle mats don’t require a lot of room. A small kitchen table will work fine. Ravingspire sets up quickly and doesn’t have any fiddly components. I highly recommend this game!
Tony’s Pros and Cons
Pros: Quick setup and teardown. Unique rotating game board. Unique battle Matrix for acquiring cards and battling foes. Awesome game box! Battle Mat lets you save cards. Everything has a place and is well marked. Great fantasy art. Fun! Fun! Fun!
Cons: Foe and character cards have inconstant art. Rulebook is not very good at explaining everything needed to play the game.
Tony’s Epic Scale:3(Lots and Lots of cards!)
*Epic Scale is on a scale of 1 to 5 and is a combination of number of components and complexity of rules)*
VALUE: 9 – KickStarter edition was a bargain!
ART: 8 – I love the encounter cards, battle mats, and box, but character cards are a little weak.
SETUP/TEARDOWN: 8 – Fastest of all my dungeon crawlers.
RE-PLAYABILTY: 9 – This came close to being my first ever 10! Probably a 9.5. I may have to introduce decimal scoring after this one.
FUN-FACTOR : 9 – I can’t stop playing it but I may still be in the honeymoon phase.
Ark & Noah By Eagle-Gryphon Games
Until I started reviewing board games I never gave much thought to the impact of a game’s theme. I never cared why certain board games had more appeal than others. I just bought the games I thought were cool and never paid attention to why. Was it the theme, mechanics, components, play time or some combination that was the decision maker? Reviewing board games is completely different. I am playing games outside of my normal selections and so I pay closer attention to what I like and dislike. An energetic designer will want you to review their new worker placement game that takes place in an orchard. Um, I like worker placement games, but how fun can picking fruit be? Suddenly a game you wouldn’t even spend 10 seconds looking over in a store is sitting on your table. Theme can really excite me or turn me off. So when a worker placement game about building Noah’s Ark came along, well, let’s just say the theme didn’t really excite me. Can building Noah’s Ark really be fun? How much variety or strategy can you incorporate into this very specific theme? As it turns out, you can create a very fun and strategic game. For those of you, like me, who would normally pass on a Noah’s Ark theme game, please keep reading!
Ark & Noah is a semi-cooperative worker placement game where the players take on the roles of Noah and his sons trying to complete the Ark before the great flood. Worker placement, action selection, resource management with an element of set collection drives Ark and Noah. You must work together to build and fill the Ark with animals, but only one player will win. You can only select one of the seven actions each round, with two actions for a two-player game, and penalties for holding resources at the end of the game, make each decision meaningful.
Game setup is simple. The board is assembled according to the number of players. Each player picks either Noah or one of his sons, gathers the starting resources, and then places their workers on the completed action space of the action board according to the rules. First player puts his worker on the left most space followed by the next player placing his worker on the next space and so on.
Once the game is setup the first round starts with phase 1: choose actions. The player with his worker on the left most space selects the first action followed by the player with the next worker in order. There are seven actions to choose from and once an action is selected by a player another player may not use that action. The actions to choose from are: Make Pitch, Collect Animals, Gather Food, Exchange, Cut Wood, Build the Ark, and Load the Ark. Although only one worker can be placed on an action space everyone will benefit from each other’s workers. For instance, the player that selects Cut Wood will get four wood boards and all the other players will get two wood boards. The only action that does not benefit everyone is the Exchange action. This allows only the player with the worker on the Exchange action space to perform this action. Let’s look at the actions in more detail.
Make Pitch: Allows the player to take three brown pitch cubes from the supply. All other players will receive one cube. Pitch cubes are used to help build the outer frame of the Ark.
Collect Animals: Allows the player to draw animal tiles. The player draws animal tiles equal to the number of players. He keeps the one he wants and then the other players select the remaining tiles.
Gather Food: Allows the player to take three food tokens from the supply. All other players gain one food token.
Exchange: Allows the player to choose either a victory point, food tile, wooden board, or pitch cube, plus make an exchange of either animal tiles or wooden boards on the Ark. This is where a little “take that” can come into play as players can swap out other player’s boards for their own. This could stop a player from loading animals on the Ark.
Cut Wood: Allows the player to take four wooden boards of their color from the supply. All other players get two wood boards of their color from the supply. Wood is used to build the Ark and corrals inside the Ark.
Build the Ark: Allows the player to add up to eight wooden boards /pitch cubes to the Ark. All other players can add five wooden boards/pitch cubes. This action is where the corrals that hold the animals are built. One victory point is scored for each wooden board/ pitch cube placed on the Ark.
Load the Ark: Allows the player to have eight loading points to load the Ark with food and/or animals. All other players get five loading points. Each animal tile has a loading value and corral size number on it. A corral the exact size of the corral number must be built and have food in each space before animal tiles can be loaded. For example, the lions need a corral of exactly three spaces. If there is a corral of three spaces already built with food in each space, then you can load the lions. This is assuming you own one of the lion tiles, and the other lion tile is either owned by you or another player. You can’t load animals on the Ark if you don’t own at least one of the animal tiles. If you own both tiles then you will score points for both tiles but if you only own one tile, and another player has the matching tile, then you only score points for your tile. In the case of the lions, you would get 6 points for owning one or 12 for owning both the male and female. You may also load food in completed corals. Placing one food costs one loading point and results in gaining one victory point.
After every player has chosen an action by placing their worker on the corresponding action space the second phase begins. The Action Phase starts with the worker on the left side of the board and works its way to the right. One at a time, each worker is placed in the action completed space and the corresponding action is resolved. Once all actions are resolved the round is over. The round tracker is advanced by one and players select their actions for the next round starting with the player that has the left most worker on the Action Board.
The game ends any time after 10 rounds once the entire outside of the Ark is completed. Score is kept during the game by the score tracker located on the Ark board. Besides scoring during the game, there are three end game scoring modifiers. The player with the most boards on the outside edges of the Ark receives five additional victory points. Players also lose one victory point for each wooden board, pitch cube, and food tile they are holding at the end. Players lose victory points equal to the animal’s corral size for each animal tile they hold at the end of the game. The player with the most victory points wins.
I really enjoyed playing Ark & Noah. It is an easy game to setup, learn, and play. It has more depth to it than I originally thought after first reading instructions. I like the fact that you lose points for unused resources, and extra animal tiles you are holding at the end of the game. While it may look like getting resources on another player’s turn is beneficial, and sometimes it is, it can be a strategy that affects the other players. There is a fine line between the cooperative aspect and the competitive aspect of this game. You need help building corrals to load your animals, but completing a corral at the wrong time will usually end with your opponents loading his animals into it. Every round is a mind game filled with trying to guess your opponents plans and deciding the right time to perform each action. There was nothing more devastating than watching my opponent load my high value animals onto the Ark because of my lack of planning. Anticipation is the key to winning Ark & Noah.
As great as this game is it was difficult to get my boys to play it with me. 16 and 20 year olds aren’t really interested in building an ark. They want to conquer the world (Attack! and Scythe), slay monsters and find loot (Ravingspire and War Hammer Quest ACG), or just about anything else that isn’t building an ark. I kept thinking to myself…if we were building a spaceship headed to Mars with these exact same mechanics this game would never leave the table. Ok, so maybe it would leave the table, but it would get tons of play time. It truly is that fun! While it may not resonate with young adult male gamers, Ark & Noah is a great family game. An alternative simple rule set is provided which is geared toward playing with children, and beginners. If you like worker placement, action selection, resource management, or games that will boggle your mind guessing your opponent’s moves, then I highly recommend Ark & Noah...if you don’t mind building an ark! This game would be wonderful for families with tweens, or perhaps to have on the shelves for church lock-ins, or other events where the theme would be more relevant.
Tony’s Pros and Cons
Pros: Easy to learn and quick to setup. Games take under an hour. The competitive/cooperative aspect keeps you guessing your opponents moves and motives. Good replayability. Lots of player interaction with a nice little “take that” aspect. An instruction book that was clear and concise!
Cons: The theme was hard to sell to my boys. We would rather be building a spaceship, submarine, or 15th Century exploration ship.
Tony’s Epic Scale:2 (Easy to learn. A handful of components for each player. Small game board.)
*Epic Scale is on a scale of 1 to 5 and is a combination of number of components and ruleset)*
VALUE: 6 (If you can find it under $50 then this goes up to 8!)
ART: 6 (The game board and pieces serve the theme well but are a little bland.)
SETUP/TEARDOWN: 9 (The game time to setup/teardown time is phenomenal! Close to a 10!)
RE-PLAYABILITY: 7 (I don’t see this game stale after 10 or 15 plays.)
FUN-FACTOR: 6 (A solid 9 with a better theme!)
Attack! Deluxe by Eagle-Gryphon Games
War, 4X, and civilization style games are big hits at my house with Scythe and Mare Nostrum topping our current play list. Axis and Allies is another favorite but the time commitment usually keeps it on the shelf and away from the table. Loving the World War II area I decided to buy Attack! when my boys were young so we would have an easy World War II game to play until they were old enough to play Axis and Allies. Well, at 20 and 16 they are definitely old enough for Axis and Allies, but we still find ourselves not having the time to break it out. So, when I discovered Attack! had an expansion that added depth and naval miniatures to the base game I was excited. I loved the base game but the lack of cool little naval miniatures and sweet custom attack dice which accompany them was a bit of a downer. In fact, the naval ships being represented as cards is the biggest reason we didn’t break out Attack! more often. Hey, I was a sailor in the United States Navy, I have a soft spot for miniature ships. With naval ships, governments, and action cards added to the base game we were ready to conquer the world again Attack! style!
Upon opening Attack! Deluxe I was ecstatic to see they added a nice plastic insert to neatly organize all the miniatures, dice, and cards. Speaking of dice, the first component I pulled out was the green custom naval dice. We can finally fight naval battles in the same manner as land battles which consist of chucking a ton of custom dice. There is something I love about rolling the custom dice for battle. I actually prefer the Attack! custom dice method compared to the Axis and Allies method of a six-sided die with each unit having a defend and attack rating. A balanced force comprised of all the units is needed in Attack! as opposed to Axis and Allies where you can stock up on only infantry to defend your capital city.
Ok, enough about my obsession with dice…let’s look at the additions of governments. There are now four different government types; fascism, communism, democracy, and monarchy. Each type starts with a different bonus technology card. Along with a starting bonus, the government type will dictate the cost of taking over a neutral territory. During setup all the neutral territories (territories not occupied by a player) will have a government marker placed face down. These markers are drawn at random and are kept secret until revealed through a successful Negotiate action or a successful battle as a result of a Move or Blitz action. When a player uses the Negotiate action he secretly looks at the government marker. If the government is the same type as the players he can claim the marker and place an infantry unit on the territory. Markers are used for scoring at the end of the game. If the marker is a compatible government (there are two compatible governments for each government type) then the player must pay four productions to claim it. If the government type is an opposing government (one opposing government for each type) then the player must pay eight production points to claim the territory.
Some of you are probably wondering about the actions I mentioned when talking about the government types. Actions are another new mechanic added to Attack! and they add a lot of strategy without adding complexity. Each year (rounds simulate years) you get four actions, one each for spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Of the eight actions; Move, Blitz, Negotiate, Navigate, Build, Research, Transport, and Burn, only one can be used each year, so each season you must select a different action. To gain an action in the winter you must either select Burn and pay five oil certificates or give up one oil field, then you can select an action that was not selected in a previous season during the year.
The last difference between the base game and the Deluxe version I’ll mention is the inclusion of Action cards. Action cards grant bonuses for each action. Each card has two bonus statements with the bottom bonus being granted to the government type specified on the card. For instance, the Tank Production Action card allows players to gain one extra tank during their Build action but players with the Monarch government gain two tanks during their build action. A player gets an Action card for each successful Negotiate action as well as when a player uses the Research action on Population. The maximum amount of Action cards you are allowed in your hand at one time is five but you are allowed to discard any Action card when acquiring a new card.
Now that I have highlighted some differences between the base version and the Deluxe version it is it time to start playing! Setup is simple. The first player chooses a government board and the associated technology bonus card, then takes three corresponding government markers, followed by the second player, third player etc. We are fans of the blind draw when choosing our governments. Once governments are selected the players are ready to place their forces. The first player places his capital city followed by the second player and so on. Then, in the same format as placing the capital city, the players place their land forces followed by their sea forces. Woohoo again for the naval miniatures! They are finally on the board! Any region without a player’s miniature on it is considered a neutral region and receives a face down government marker.
You can play for 6, 9, or 12 years. I found that 6 years is a little too quick and doesn’t allow time for much research, or a lot of military actions between players. 9 years is a decent game and plays in approximately one and a half hours with a good amount of player to player combat action. If you have time though, approximately two to two and a half hours, then 12 years is the way to go! We usually play the 9-year war because time tends to be a factor, but a 9-year war is plenty of time to get a good World War II war game fix.
The game then proceeds with each player taking one of the actions each season. After 4 seasons the year tracker (the included blue dice) is advanced one year. Usually, you will have only three actions per year so performing actions in the winter can be quite costly but can be vital to winning. The strategy of Attack! is less about building a massive army and more about gaining the most end point scoring conditions. Let’s take a look at each action:
Move allows the player to move at least one land unit from each region he controls to an adjacent region.
Blitz is a concentrated attack on one region. A player may move tanks and planes from three spaces away (with some restrictions) to attack a single region.
Navigate is basically the Move of the sea units. Each sea unit can move to an adjacent sea territory. That’s right—this is when we finally get to move those sweet new ship miniatures!
Negotiate allows a player to peacefully claim an adjacent neutral territory. Be careful, an unsuccessful Negotiate action is a waste of a valuable action for the year. Make sure you have the funds for a worst case scenario.
Build is how new units get placed on the board. Players count their current collection of government markers and get one production point for each, plus one oil certificate for each oil field. The player can then spend their money on new units or hold on to it.
Research is how a player’s nation becomes more efficient. Players can research: Rail Transport to move troops farther per turn, Oil Tech to acquire more oil fields, Factories to place new units farther away from the capital, Minerals to build more advanced units per turn, or Population to gain extra money each Build action without taking over a new region and to guarantee extra victory points at the end of the game.
Transport allows the player to eventually move land units greater distances than the Move action but research in Rail Transport is a must for this action to be effective.
Burn can only be used in the winter season. The player pays five oil certificates or discards one oil field to perform an action that has not yet been performed in this year.
The game ends after the set number of years is completed or one of the players’ capitals is captured. Players score points for each region and sea zone they control, each tech level they have researched, and each population card they have acquired.
I love that Attack! Deluxe sets up just as fast as the base game. In less than 20 minutes the box can be opened, setup completed, and the game started. The box is heavy duty and will survive many more battles than the original box. My original base game box is destroyed. The insert included keeps all the components organized making setup and teardown a breeze. The gameplay features implemented on Attack! Deluxe are fantastic. The Action selection gives Attack! Deluxe depth and makes it more strategic than the base game without adding complexity or compromising the easy to learn and quick to play mantra. If you are a heavy war gamer or looking for a war simulation game then Attack! Deluxe is probably not for you. However, if you are looking for a lighter or quicker playing war game then this is a good fit. This is a perfect gateway war game, as well as a war game that can be played by younger boardgamers with ease. I can honestly say, as a fan of much heavier war games, I love what Attack! Deluxe brings to the table. My boys and I love that we get the strategic world domination feel in less than two hours!
Tony’s Pros and Cons
Pros: Quick to setup and easy to learn. Naval Miniatures and Dice! Action selection and governments add a nice layer of depth. Nice, heavy duty box with a great plastic insert. Fun World War II area war game. A full war game feel in less than 2 hours.
Cons: Rulebook wasn’t clear on what to do with the Action cards once played or Coastal Attacks. The price seems a little high considering you still need the base game.
Tony’s Epic Scale: 3 (The amount of miniatures when combined with base game raises score from 2.)
*Epic Scale is on a scale of 1 to 5 and is a combination of number of components and ruleset)*
Value: 7 (Kind of pricey considering you still need the base game. Great new components.)
Art:7 (Nothing fancy but fits the WW II theme.)
Setup/Teardown: 8 (Awesome new insert helps setup tremendously!)
Re-playability: 8 (New game board and addition of governments ensures lots of re-playability.)
Fun Factor: 8 (The feel of a massive war game without complexity and time commitments.)
Pictures of my old box. Attack! Deluxe box is much thicker and the insert is awesome!
I will start off by apologizing for not reviewing and play testing a few Print and Play versions of games coming soon to KickStarter. I found out the hard way that I do not have the resources to properly play PnP versions. My current printer is a color ink hog and at 40 dollars a cartridge PnP’s can get quite costly. My other option is to have them printed at OfficeMax but that usually sets me back 20 to 30 dollars. As a startup reviewer I don’t want to get into the habit of spending a bunch of money to do reviews. That leaves me with less money to buy boardgames on my wish list. I have made one exception to this rule but those details are for a blog at a much later time. I am not saying I will never do a PnP review again but I am putting a hold on them for the time being.
I can say I am very excited to be reviewing four Eagle-Gryphon games in the near future: Attack Deluxe Expansion (the boys and I are very excited to get to review this expansion), Florenza, Florenza the Card Game, and Ark & Noah. I am so appreciative to get the chance to review these games. This should probably keep me busy for at least two months.
That brings me to my last thought which is about KickStarter. I will be getting my first KickStarter game, Ravingspire, within two weeks. It will be the first KickStarter game I receive despite being about the 4th game I backed. I am looking at you CMON about my first two. This game looks like a great deck building dungeon crawler where you work your way up the spire to face off against the final foe. I will be doing my own little review on this one.
Since going on a KickStarter binge upon first discovering it, again looking at you CMON and all your KS exclusive goodies, I have severally cut back on my pledges. In fact, I have cancelled my pledges on several games before the campaigns have ended. I have come to realize I am not a patient enough person to use KickStarter as a means to add to my boardgame collection. Project delays and GenCon pretty much broke my KS addiction. I will probably limit myself to somewhere around one to three campaigns a year. This will allow my instant gratification flaw to spend more money at my local game store. You’re welcome The Summit Games in Fort Wayne. I love that when I buy 4 boardgames there I get my 5th free. That kind of deal also makes it hard for me to order games online. Plus I like actually having a game to play when I drop 50 to 100 dollars. Maybe as my game collection grows I will find myself backing more games again. Don’t get me wrong. I love KickStarter. I think it is great so many games get funded and produced that normally would have no chance of ever seeing a table. I will continue to do reviews for any designer or publisher that wants a KickStarter preview. I just won’t be backing as many games until I can get some therapy to help with my neurotic impatiens.
A software developer by day and avid game player by night.KickStarter has recently rekindled my love of board games. Now I am looking to help the little guys of KS get their games noticed and funded as well as demonstrate how easy or difficult a game is played its first time through.