Designer: Keith Baker
Genre: Storytelling, Take That
Time: 30-60 minutes
Once upon a daytime dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
A quaint and curious card game I’d never played before—
While my hand I was surveying, suddenly there came a playing,
‘Twas my opponent gently laying, laying cards on my E. Gorr.
“No! My gravedigger,” I muttered, “has fallen dead upon the floor—
Now he can do nothing more.”
Gloom is a card game where players are competing to have the most miserable family. They do this by playing modifier cards on their family members to make them more and more miserable (and hopefully dodging positive life events played on them by opponents), until they eventually shuffle off of this mortal coil. The unique part of Gloom is that its cards are clear, allowing additional modifiers to add on to or replace those already played on a character. Light some candles, turn down the lights, and turn on some Evanescence, because it’s about to get Gloomy…
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Designer: Curt Covert
Genre: Take That, Semi-Coop
Time: 60-90 minutes
When you think of a party of adventurers, you think of a group of friends valiantly questing together, watching each others’ backs and sharing equally in the fame and glory. At least, you used to think that. Now you realize that bands of adventurers, who are actually usually strangers that met in a tavern and are united only by bloodlust and lofty aspirations, are just as likely to stab you in the back as to protect it. And forget sharing in the glory — no, in the Caverns, only the most wily adventurer will get that fame. Everyone else will likely be quickly forgotten in the annals of history — if they even made it out alive! Before getting yourself into this mess, you probably should have paid more attention to that old saying: “Without teamwork, you will never survive. Without betrayal, you’ll never win.”
Welcome to Cutthroat Caverns. This is a semi-cooperative game in which the players take on the role of adventurers, such as you might see in a typical D&D campaign. However, the group is only working together inasmuch as they need help defeating monsters and challenges. Because every monster the team faces only awards prestige to the player who landed the killing blow, there’s bound to be some backstabbery as players fight for that position. But beware — too much messing with each other and everyone is bound to end up dead. But in the end it’s all good fun, because after all, what’s a friendly game without a little sabotage?
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Designer: Christopher Chung
Genre: Tile placement, Set collection
Time: 30 minutes
In Imperial China, the harvest season has just ended. Before the farm workers can enjoy the (literal) fruits of their labor, it is time for the Festival of the Lanterns, celebrating the harvest! During the festival, families and friends gather at the edge of a huge lake to watch as artisans release hundreds of colorful lanterns across the surface of the water. As one of those artisans, you must compete with your fellow craftsmen to put on the best display and earn the most honor before the end of the festival!
Lanterns: The Harvest Festival is a set collection game, where players add tiles to an ever-growing lake in order to claim the titular Lantern cards. By collecting certain sets of different cards, a player can gain points by showing his or her Dedication to the craft. Will you be the most dedicated and honorable artisan?
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Designer: Daniel Solis
Genre: Card Drafting, Set Collection
Time: 20-40 minutes
As a masterful gardener, you’ve tended to all types of trees – big and small, exotic and commonplace… but you never expected to find yourself taking care of the Kodama, the tiny, plushy tree spirits that watch over the forest. The Kodama can be shy or they can be finicky, often preferring trees that are home to certain flora or fauna, or those from which they can get a good view of the night sky. You, along with several other gardeners of similar caliber, will have to grow trees that can best support your new tree-dwelling friends and keep them happy so that they in turn will keep the forest healthy.
Kodama: The Tree Spirits is a spiritual (ha!) successor to Kigi, from the same designer, Daniel Solis. In Kodama, players are each trying to grow a tree that will best house the Kodama, the small tree spirits who live in this forest. To do this, they’ll need to play branches to their trees with elements matching those already existing on the tree, along with well-timed use of the Kodama’s special abilities. Will you be the best caretaker of the Kodama?
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Designer: Hervé Rigal
Genre: Action Point Allowance
Time: 60 minutes
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts
-As You Like It, Act II Scene VII
In Shakespeare, players take on the role of a theatre troupe during the days of the Bard. They have 6 days (rounds) to hire actors, build sets, make costumes, and perform dress rehearsals. Do you have what it takes to put on a show that’s fit to entertain the Queen?
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Designer: François Rouzé
Players: 2-6 (2-8 with Season 2)
Time: 30-60 minutes
In the not-too-distant future (somewhere in time and space), TV entertainment options have all but run out. After all, who wants to watch the 90th season of Survivor (on Mars!) or Who Wants to be a Trillionaire? However, there is one hot new reality show on the market, one where the contestants’ lives are literally on the line… It’s a simple premise, really: drop a few strangers in a dangerous and ever-shifting maze of rooms and have them try to work together to find their way out in the allotted time. Oh yeah, and throw a few guards into the mix to keep it from being too easy on the prisoners. And who cares if a few of them die in the process? Anything for ratings, right?
In Room 25 (and its expansion/sequel Room 25: Season 2) players take on the role of “prisoners” who are trapped in a mysterious and deadly complex, and they have to explore the unknown rooms in search of Room 25, the way out. But while some rooms can help the players out, others will hinder their progress or can even kill them! And on top of that, some of the players could be guards whose job is to prevent the other players from escaping. Can you work together with your fellow players to make it out alive?
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Designer: Geoff Bottone, Colleen Skadl, and Cliff Bohm
Genre: Take That, Player Elimination
Players: 2+ (base game is 2-4, expansions add more characters)
Time: 15-20 minutes per player
You’ve ventured through the deepest dungeons, conquering treacherous traps and fearsome monsters. You’ve slain dragons and recovered lost treasures of unimaginable value. All in a day’s work for a fearless band of adventurers, right? But fighting monsters and looting treasure sure is thirsty work, so after all of your heroic deeds are done, you and your companions head over to The Red Dragon Inn for a pint, or two, or twelve… Just make sure you can maintain at least a modicum of sobriety and at least a coin or two on hand. The inn doesn’t take kindly to deadbeats that can’t pay their tab or heroes passed out all over the bar!
In The Red Dragon Inn, players take on the role of fantasy adventurers such as you might find in any standard tabletop roleplaying game. There’s a fighter, a wizard, a sneak, and a priestess, and many more roles to choose from! On their turn, players can play action cards to affect other players in a variety of ways, such as reducing their fortitude (hitpoints), taking money from them, or even challenging everyone to a round of gambling! Then the player takes a drink, which typically increases their Alcohol level. If a player’s alcohol level exceeds their fortitude, or if they run out of coins, they are ejected from the inn, and the last player standing wins!
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Designer: Reiner Knizia
Genre: Hand Management
Time: 30 minutes
The screech of birds and hum of insects fill the air as you hack your way through the thick jungle undergrowth. You’re searching for the ruins left behind by an ancient civilization. The prospects of fame and fortune fill your head, primarily the fortune — you’re going to have to pay back your investors somehow! As you search through your pack for the next map fragment that will bring you closer to your goal, you come across something odd: a map of the desert. Now why did you have that again? Oh yeah, you couldn’t very well let your adventuring rival get to their treasure first, so you just had to hold on to that piece so they couldn’t get all the way to their goal. All’s fair in adventuring, right?
In Lost Cities, two players take on the roles of explorers planning expeditions to find ancient treasures, mysterious wonders, and… well, lost cities. To do this, players must build up a set of cards in up to five different suits in ascending order. If they can get enough cards in a given suit they can score big, but they have to be careful: each expedition that a player starts comes with a sizeable investment to pay off that could put their score in the negatives! Do you have what it takes to find the Lost Cities?
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Designer: Jamey Stegmaier & Alan Stone
Genre: Worker Placement
Time: 60 minutes
Growing up, life in your society seemed so peaceful, so utopian, so… euphoric. But little did you realize that actually underneath the surface, that society was actually quite dystopian, subjugating its citizens by keeping workers happy, dumb, and loyal. Now that you know the truth, you’ve decided that you can make this world your own and become one of the ruling elite. Now, armed with a couple of workers, recruits, and your own knowledge, you’re ready to make your mark on the world! But it isn’t going to be easy…
Euphoria is a game all about achieving dominance in a dystopian society. To do so, you’ll need to gain influence among the four factions who inhabit the world: the city-dwelling Euphorians, the Wastelanders who reside outside of the city walls, the hard-working underground Subterrans, and the mysterious Icarites who hold stock over the sky from their zeppelins. Can you use your workers wisely to gain enough influence to wrest control over the euphoric dystopia?
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Designer: Sébastien Pauchon
Genre: Set Collection
Time: 20-30 minutes
The glint of gold and scent of exotic spices attract your attention as you enter the bustling marketplace. You are a trader, newly arrived in the city of Jaipur with the hopes of attaining the lofty position of the Maharaja’s personal trader. However, you won’t get the job without facing some tough competition! There happens to be another trader vying for the job who seems to be just as qualified as you are! You’ll have to use all of your skills, cunning, and a little bit of luck in order to secure the place at the palace for yourself!
Jaipur is a 2-player set collection game in which players collect various goods (as well as a camel or two) from the marketplace and try to sell enough goods to earn more than their opponent, which will gain them the Maharaja’s favor. The game is played over 2 or 3 rounds, with a best-2-out-of-3 approach. It’s a fairly light and accessible game that can be picked up quickly and played in less than 30 minutes.
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