Board Game Review — Rolling America

The United States of America is made up of 50 different states, each with that own special something that makes them unique.  But while all the states have their differences, they have similarities too.  In this roll-and-write game from Gamewright, you must insure that neighboring states are filled in with similar numbers, or else you’ll be penalized!  Grab your dice and let’s go for a trip all around the country in Rolling America! 

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Board Game Review — My Little Scythe: Pie in the Sky

The Annual Harvest Tournament between the animal kingdoms determines which kingdom will rule Pomme for the coming year.  However, on the eve of the 3000th festival, something amazing happens.  The Airship Kai, long lost to the ages, suddenly reappears, bringing Fox and Owl Seekers along with it.  Will the Seekers for the upcoming tournament be able to leverage the legendary airship to help them win the tournament?

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Board Game Review – Planet

As planets form, natural habitats develop and animals find their homes.  In Planet, you control the development of your own planet, working towards developing habitats and attracting as many animals as you can.  Can you make your planet the most hospitable?

Game Play

In this game, players construct their planets over the course of 12 rounds, in the hopes of maximizing their natural habitats and attracting as many animals as possible.  Each player starts with an empty magnetic dodecahedral planet.  The magnetic continent tiles are shuffled and divided into 10 stacks of 5 each.  The animal cards are shuffled up and dealt out next to the continent tiles, starting with one next to the third stack, increasing to two for the sixth, and three for the tenth.  Each player also receives a random Natural Habitat card corresponding to one of the five types of habitats in the game.

Each round, the five continent tiles for the round are laid face up on the table.  Starting with the first player for the round, each player chooses one of the tiles and adds it to any empty spot on their planet.  The unused tile(s) for the round are added to an 11th and 12th stack of tiles until those stacks have 5 tiles.  Starting in the third round, players will be able to claim the animals dealt out at the beginning of the game.  The animals all have a preferred habitat, and are either looking for the most distinct regions of that habitat type, or the largest region of that habitat that is either touching or not touching a secondary type.  If one player has more regions or a larger region (depending on what the animal wants), they will claim the card; otherwise, if there is a tie the animal is moved to the next round.  During the last round, the tie for animals looking for the largest region is broken by the player with the second largest region of that type that touches or doesn’t touch the specified second type.  The game ends after 12 rounds of tile drafting, placement, and animal claiming.

At the end of the game, players reveal their natural habitat cards and score points accordingly.  Each card scores points based on the number of spaces of the specified region on the player’s planet.  Then, each player scores points based on the animal cards they have collected over the course of the game.  Each animal matching the player’s natural habitat is worth 1 point, while others are worth 2 points.  After totaling up the points, the player with the most points wins!

Amber’s Review

Please give me a gimmick; I’m typically here for it. Some people use gimmick like it’s a dirty word; I like to think of it as innovation. With the option to hold the whole world in your hands, seeing Planet set up on the table is an instant draw. When you see a dodecahedron with so much blank space, it’s hard to pass up at least a few Planet plays. Blue Orange has piqued my attention with the use of 3D shapes and magnetic tiles. As far as I can remember, I haven’t played anything with components like similar to this before. With games where you can build your dice, full-size swords, I wonder how elements like this will continue to evolve in the future.

With only a few different components, Planet has an easy setup and tear down with the insert. There isn’t a significant table presence to the game, making it more accessible to people with smaller spaces. One crucial element that we haven’t encounter enough is the lack of text on cards and game pieces. Having played many games designed for families, having printed words can be a setback for some players. Players at a lower reading level or those who are not familiar with the games’ language can sometimes struggle when there are many words; it’s a thoughtful choice to limit print on this game. It is also beneficial that the game’s symbology is accessible and easy to identify; even if a player hasn’t been to the tundra or desert, they can tell the areas apart by color or texture.

Unfortunately, I had a hard time playing Planet with one of the main mechanics involving turning your world over and over. I found it slightly disorienting, trying to remember which spaces were next to one another and counting the areas I had adjacent to score points from cards. I do have issues playing other games where spatial recognition is a crucial factor (I’m looking at you, dexterity games!), so I know this is a personal downfall. One solution to help counteract my lack of recognition skills could be to mark tiles with a dry erase pen, so if you are like me and need a little extra help, this could be the solution for you.

Ethan’s Review

Planet is a light and quick tile drafting and placement game.  The core mechanism revolves around players drafting pentagonal terrain tiles for their planets.  I have to say, I can’t think of any other game that uses magnetic dodecahedrons, so it’s certainly innovative and eye-catching.  The component quality of the planets and the tiles is good as well — even though it’s a little challenging to shuffle the magnetic pentagons, they hold up well, and easily remain attached to the planet cores with no fear of falling off.  One interesting thing about the 3D planets, compared to a more traditional tile-laying setup, is that you can’t see all of your terrain tiles at the same time.  While this may cause a little consternation to a player looking at their own planet and trying to figure out where to put a tile or what cards they satisfy, it also means that you can’t tell at a glance who has the biggest terrain piece or most of a given terrain.  Even though by the rules you can look at any other player’s planet at any time, I feel like most players wouldn’t want to do that for fear of slowing down the game, and this makes the tiles to draft and how to place them a bit less obvious.  I think this is good, because otherwise the game is pretty light and simple, though that is good for a family weight game!

One thing I find strange about the game is that in a four player game, there is one tile left over from each of the first ten rounds to form the 11th and 12th stacks, meaning that all but 2 tiles will be drafted (the two leftover tiles from rounds 11 and 12).  However, in a two player game, there are 3 tiles leftover each round, meaning that the 11th and 12th round stacks will be filled up by round 4.  I don’t know if this is an issue with scaling — we’ve only played with two, and it seemed to work pretty well — but it is odd that in a two-player game you will see the leftover tiles from the first rounds again but not those from later rounds.  The other drawback to this game is that it is quite light, so for serious gamers it may be more appropriate as a filler game rather than the main attraction for a game night.  However, it is fun, and the planet-building mechanic is unique and definitely worth a try if you get a chance!

Board Game Review – Slide Quest

Do you remember Labyrinth?  No, not the David Bowie movie, and not that place where Theseus fought the minotaur.  I’m talking about this toy, where you used knobs to tilt the platform and try to navigate the ball towards the goal without falling in one of the many holes.  Slide Quest is essentially that, but cooperative.  Each player will take a side and can tilt that side of the board up, in a quest to navigate the heroic Knight on a quest through up to 20 various levels, facing obstacles and enemies as he goes.  Can you work together to achieve victory in this fast and frantic game?

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Top 5 Games of 2019 : Ethan

While we keep ourselves quarantined, we’ve been thinking back to the game nights of before. Reminiscing on these times had us thinking, wait a minute, we never posted our top lists for 2019! With time now abundant, we got to work, crafting the words to describe the wonders of the year before. What games did Ethan love from the year 2019? Read below to find out!

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Board Game Review – The Alpha

In the forest, when resources become scarce, predators must work hard to find food and assert their dominance over their hunting grounds.  This is not lost on the wolves of the land, who must try to find enough food to feed themselves while not running afoul of or losing their prey to other packs in the region.  Because in the end, when hunting for food only one pack can come out on top and be: The Alpha.

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Board Game Review – My Little Scythe

It is time for the annual Harvest Tournament in the Kingdom of Pomme!  Each year, the seven animal kingdoms send two young siblings to compete in the tournament.  The winners receive not only the glory of victory, but the opportunity for their kingdom to take the crown of Pomme for the coming year!  Will your kingdom be victorious in this year’s Tournament?

Board Game Review — Wavelength

How hot is coffee?  On a scale from hot to cold, it would probably call on the left side of that spectrum, right?  But how far to the left?  There are definitely tings that are hotter, like molten metal or the sun.  And what if you wait for your coffee to cool down before drinking it, or (god forbid) like iced coffee?  In Wavelength, these kinds of discussion and debates are commonplace, as each round one player is trying to get their team to guess where something falls on a scale between two extremes.  You have to put your psychic powers to the test to guess what they’re going for!

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Amber’s Gen Con 2019 Games List

Gen Con 2019 is quickly approaching and nearly everyday I scour the Board Game Geek Gen Con convention preview, checking out what games will be popping up at the con. It’s important to me to go to the con with plan (lest I buy everything in the whole place!), so I’ve got the list locked and loaded, ready to hit the floor! Below I’ve listed some of my selections based on BGG’s prioritizing categories, explaining the whats and the whys!

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Preview – Roll Player: Fiends & Familiars Expansion

Disclaimer: This is not a paid review or sponsored content. A friend of the blog is a demonstrator for Thunderworks Games and brought an early copy of the new Roll Player expansion to a game night at a local meetup so we thought it would be an excellent opportunity for a mini-Roll Player review as well as a preview of the new expansion content! If you’d like to check out Thunderworks Games on twitter, you can find them here.

Roll Player is a game about creating a fantasy roleplaying character (à la Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder). Players start with a race, which determines bonuses or penalties they may receive to specific abilities, and a class, which provides the target ability scores the player wants to aim for. Players also get a background which gives points for placing dice of certain colors in specific spots on their “character sheet” and an alignment card, which will give (or take away) points based on how well the player satisfies it. Throughout the game, players will draft dice to build their characters, placing each one in one of the classic fantasy RPG stats (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma). Each round players can also buy something from the market, whether it be a weapon or armor, a unique ability, or a trait which provides additional end-game scoring opportunities. Once players have drafted 3 dice to each of their abilities (giving each one a range from 3-18, plus or minus any racial bonuses), they earn points for how well they were able to satisfy their class, background, alignment, and trait goals. It is a fun dice-drafting puzzle, and the theme is sure to entice any tabletop roleplayer!

Last year’s Monsters and Minions expansion added on to the base Roll Player game, and let players do something with their characters besides just building them. Each round, players have the option, instead of buying something from the market, to fight a minion. Every minion will give you combat dice based on some condition — for example, get a combat die for every completed column you have on your character sheet. Then, gain rewards depending on how well you fare in combat against the minion. At the end of the game, once characters are fully built, they will face the final monster. This is similar to a minion in that it gives players combat dice, and the better result they get upon rolling them, the more points they can earn (or lose if they do poorly). I thought this expansion made a ton of sense with the base game since in roleplaying games creating the character is only half the fun and it provides an incentive for drafting different dice and making sure your character will survive against the final boss.

This new expansion, Fiends and Familiars, adds… well, fiends and familiars. Fiends are penalties you get for drafting higher-valued dice each round, while familiars provide characters with an animal companion that gives a unique ability as well as three extra slots in which to draft dice. It also adds split dice that are considered 2 different colors, making it easy to complete backstory and familiar color goals, but only range in value from 1-4, making getting higher attribute scores more difficult.

Last night, I got an opportunity to try out Roll Player with just the Fiends and Familiars expansion. We had a three-player game with a new player, one who had played just the base game before, and me, who had played both the base game and the game with the M&M expansion. It seems like the new expansion would’ve integrated well with Monsters & Minions — the most significant difference there is removing more cards from the market deck to keep it the same size. But Fiends & Familiars keeps the “hunt for a minion” action, the final boss monster, and includes new enemies to fight. There are also new classes to choose from, so I was able to play the Conjurer, who actually (somewhat) benefited from taking Fiends by gaining XP, along with the ability to use XP to banish fiends. Otherwise, the initial setup is similar to what players with experience playing the base game are used to. The other new part added is choosing a familiar. Everybody gets two familiars to choose from, and they add a small board above your player board to draft familiar dice to. All of the familiars have power range targets, similar to attributes from your class card, but they look to be generally lower (e.g., 5-7 or 8-9). This gives you an excellent place to draft lower-valued dice without worrying too much about messing up your attributes (which generally want values of at least 14). Familiars also have an ability you can activate when placing a die in their row. As an example, my Ancient Tortoise familiar allowed me to take either an INT or WIS action when I set a die there, so being able to get a choice of what power to use made the familiar doubly helpful!

The other titular mechanism in the game, fiends, added a new challenge. Since we were playing a 3-player game, there were 4 initiative cards available to draft dice from each round, and a fiend was placed on the two higher-valued initiative cards each round. So, as a penalty for drafting higher-valued dice, you must take a fiend, which has a negative effect. Some of the fiends aren’t too bad: for instance, I had a fiend that made weapon cards from the market cost double, and another which prevented me from using weapon’s special abilities, so it was easy enough just to not buy or try to use weapons. Other fiends were more troublesome, preventing you from gaining gold from initiative cards or completing rows and otherwise mucking up the game for you. Fortunately, there is a way to get rid of them: by paying 5 gold or a charisma token, you can banish one of the fiends that are plaguing you. I really liked that this gave another use to charisma tokens, because the discount at the market isn’t always useful, especially when you can choose to hunt for a minion rather than purchase something.

Finally, besides the split dice, there is one other change added by the new expansion. For about the first half of the game, two dice are placed on each initiative card. This makes the start of the game go faster, and it balances getting early fiends a bit by giving you two higher-valued dice for them. You get to place both dice but only activate the attribute power for one, which makes for some pretty exciting decisions. I know there are some powers I rely on more than others (like the STR power of flipping a die over or the CON power of incrementing or decrementing a die by 1), so having to think about the placement to be able to maximize the use of those powers was pretty neat. Then, after a few rounds, the “Call to Adventure” card shows up in the market deck, and you’re back to the usual one die per initiative card.

Altogether, I really liked the Fiends & Familiars expansion to Roll Player! If you’ve played and enjoyed the base game and/or the Monsters & Minions expansion, I think you’ll definitely want this one to round out your collection. I really like what it adds, and I believe the fiends provide an exciting new challenge in balancing what dice you draft, while the familiars give you a few extra spots to dump dice you might not want elsewhere while still providing a benefit! And if you’ve never played it, if you enjoy puzzling out the best place to be able to use dice to meet as many goals as you can, and especially if you enjoy the tabletop RPG character-creation theme, give Roll Player a try!