Geekgroup.app Review

I’m going to do something a little different today. I’m going to review a game based website.

Those who know me well know that I love having data. I typically don’t use that data much, but I love having if I want it. I track my games played, owned, how much I paid, and where I got it. I track the details of each play. I also track the books I read, TV Shows & Movies I watch, beer I drink, and all of my disc golf plays (Which sadly has been 0 this summer.).

So when Drew invited me to use a site he found called Geekgroup.app, I was very interested. And I’ve enjoyed seeing it add features over a fairly short amount of time. We’ve been using it since April or May sometime.

One of the main features is being able to create a custom group of BGG users, and compile their collections & data. You want to quickly see how your group rates a game? This is the place. You want to use see which of your friends your game tastes match up with the best, that’s here too. The insights are at the very least interesting, if not always useful. The best feature might be just being able to look at all of your collections in one place.

There have been a ton of insights that they have added for your own info too. Mostly stuff that again isn’t all that useful (At least to me.), but still interesting, like what was my longest losing streak, or how long was my longest streak of not playing games.

You can create lists for your info too, including your top 100 rated games. Or seeing my shelf of shame It saves me a bit of time as opposed to using BGG. You can create custom lists, but I haven’t played with that.

There are ways to sort your collection & plays too, but again, I haven’t dug too much into those features. Same thing goes with the tools page, I don’t have much use for a Word Cloud or Heatmap, but it’s cool to have the options.

The last tab/page is activity, which is interesting to see when I rated games and when I added games to my collection.

One negative is that it only updates your data once a week. I don’t sue it often enough to justify that. You can make a one time tip of $2.50 to get daily syncs, manual syncs, and custom group urls. To be honest, I should probably do this just because I like rewarding small developers when they have a good product.

If you are stat junkie like I am, this site is really neat. I consider it a really useful companion to BGG. Some things will work better as time passes, like your yearly collection data, it starts when you join, or maybe that’s just for your groups, I was having trouble finding something individually that hadn’t puled my historical data. There are frequent improvements being made, and I look forward to seeing what else gets added in the future.

How about you, are there other sites out there I should know about? Are there any apps or sites that you frequently use? Let me know in the comments.

Review: Rise of Tribes

I am a sucker for any sort of Civilization/4X game (4X is an abbreviation for games where you Explore, Expand, Exploit, and eXterminate) . I suppose it’s because I’m a history major, and so any sort of game where I can look back on civilizations and help build something huge and grandiose from nothing.

I know that Tapestry by Stonemeier Games is all the rage (and indeed, I did preorder a copy), but I recently picked up a game from 2018. It was funded via Kickstarter, but I found this at a local FLGS. I was trading in some games, and it happened to catch my eye. The owner (who is also a friend of mine) suggested that I might enjoy it as it’s a lighter, quicker civ building game.

Rise of Tribes is published by Breaking Games and was designed by Brad Brooks. Up to 4 players compete to guide their civilization by completing goals and developing research. Each player has the same set of goal cards, and each have a certain number of victory points. The winner is the first player to 15 points. No tie breaker, no equal number of turns. It’s the first to 15.

A photo of the box cover
The Box Cover

The rules are relatively simple; each turn you will roll two dice and use those dice to take 2 of 4 total actions. There are three spots for dice on each action, so when you take an action, you push an existing die off (so the next player can roll it). Depending on the die faces (three in total), you may get a stronger or weaker version of the action you decided to place. So in this manner, you can really mess with someones later turn by ensuring you place the die on an action that will force them to take a weaker one.

A compilation photo of the various components:  Dice, Terrain Hexes, Meeples
Each player color has a different meeple ‘sculpt’. Above, you can see the three die faces. Moons provide weaker actions, while suns provide stronger. Blank is the standard.

Over the course of the game, you will add settlers to the board, move those settlers around, gather resources from hexes based upon the terrain type, and lead your civ to get more goal cards. There is a global population limit for each hex, so if you (and your opponents) ever find yourself with settlers over the limit, then conflict occurs. Conflict is simply taking turns removing settlers until there is only one color of settler left in a space (or until you are at the population limit if you are the only player on that space).

The map is made of modular terrain tiles and has a specific layout for each player count, so it’s just as tight with 2 as it is with 4. Additionally, there is a basic game which uses basic tiles and no variable player powers and an advanced game, which gives each player a specific power of their civilization as well as some additional terrain and a special meeple. I haven’t yet played the advanced game, but I am very interested to see what the variable powers bring to the game.

A photo of a portion of the insert
The game comes with a very functional and helpful insert; it even has a little divider to keep the advanced game components separate from the base game.

I really enjoyed my play of this game. Even if I’ve only played it once, I can see that there is replayability and that it’s something I want to keep playing. It’s a quick(er) civ game that doesn’t feel like you have to focus on going to war or playing “take that” with your neighbors just to survive. The fact that all players have the same goals available to them, but that may not be in the same order can help you guide your strategy and figure out what your opponent is doing, so you can make it difficult for them to accomplish it, but that may also cause you to hurt your standing.

This was a blind buy for me, and I’m glad I did. My wife enjoyed playing it, and I think it’s in that sweet spot of light and heavy that I can get other people in my group to try it out, even if they don’t like heavier civ/4x Games. The dice mechanic was something I hadn’t encountered before, so that was a neat twist on placing dice to get the most out of your actions, and the artwork and components are solid as well.

Have you played Rise of Tribes? If not, what are some of your favorite Civ/4x games? Let us know in the comments below!

Wingspan Review

I wrote a few weeks ago about playing games where the strategy escapes me the first few times and how that usually drives me to try to figure it out. It’s not always heavy games, though.

There’s this new game out that you might have heard of. It’s designed by Elizabeth Hargrave and published by Stonemaier Games. It’s a game about birds. Does the name Wingspan ring any bells?

Of course, that’s a bit tongue in cheek. Wingspan has been a ridiculously hot commodity, so much so that it is already on maybe its 6th print run. Gamers everywhere seem to be clamoring for it. Gamers tend to have a pretty big fear of missing out and want to seek out the new hotness, sometimes even if the game isn’t that great. So does Wingspan live up to the hype?

I had heard about Wingspan and I initially had mixed feelings. A game about birds? That’s…eh. But I knew it was being put out by Stonemaier and so I wanted to give it a shot based on their catalog alone: I haven’t played a Stonemaier game I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. I was determined not to buy a copy though, which I didn’t think would be an issue due to the initial shortage.

Ryan, though, managed to snag a copy, and so at the next game day I asked him to bring it so we could just rip the bandaid off. Let’s get it over with, I thought. Let’s play this game about birds that I don’t want to like so I won’t need to buy it.

And then, we played it. And I did terrible. And I knew I had to have it.

Let’s talk briefly about gameplay. Wingspan is an engine builder, and due to its scoring mechanic, the number of actions you have each turn (I use turn to define the largest chunks of gameplay) diminish. Like other engine builders, there are a variety of ways to chain cards together to make the most of your actions. There’s a variety of end game scoring opportunities too, from private objectives, to turn based objectives, to simply playing cards with high point values or that can hold lots of eggs.

I can usually sniff out a competitive strategy the first time I play an engine builder; it’s one of my favorite mechanisms. With Wingspan, though, even though the rules were extremely light, the strategy wasn’t apparent to me. I sort of floundered here and there, not being able to commit and didn’t really feel like I played well at all. As I told a board game community I’m a part of, “It enraged me and I loved it and I must have it”

To some people, though, gameplay isn’t everything, and I’ll admit I do like games with higher quality bits than just cardboard, and Wingspan doesn’t disappoint.

The game comes with a lot of stuff. Notably, it includes a plastic card tray to hold all the cards, 5 chunky (but not too big) wooden dice, a cardboard birdhouse dice tower, 3 rulebooks that come on the best paper I’ve ever held in my hands, wooden eggs that might be confused for Easter candy and lots and lots of beautifully illustrated cards.

I can’t stress how impressed I am with the work of Beth Sobel, Natalia Rojas and Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo . All of the birds look like they came right out of an Audubon field guide. The iconography and layout is clean and easily recognizable, and the player boards are thematic. I am not a birder, but based upon feedback I’m seeing in the Facebook group that was set up for this game, there are tons of them that vouch for the art being ridiculously authentic, as well as the game being enjoyable. The artwork complements the mechanics, and you really do actually get the theme of birds and building an aviary.

Wingspan has vaulted itself to the top of my “games to play with people who aren’t gamers” list. The rules are easy to grasp, and it’s a fun game to play while you are having a conversation. I’ve enjoyed it at various player counts, from 2 to 4, and it even includes the ever great Automa system so you can play it solo (even though I haven’t yet tried).

I think Wingspan could be easily dismissed, like I almost did, because of the theme, but this would be a mistake. Wingspan is one of those games that has something for just about everyone, although I could see how those who tend to the medium-heavy end of the spectrum might lose interest. It’s definitely worth a play, however, even to just look at the art and play a laid back game.

Palm Island Review

Imagine making a game with 17 cards. Total. That’s it. Now, those 17 cards are double sided, and each edge has something on it based on orientation, but it’s still only 17 cards.

Palm Island is exactly that. Mostly. The basic game is just 17 cards. There are additional things you can earn and therefore add to the deck, but no more than 18 cards. There are additional cards with goals to reach, and even an extra deck so you can play with another person in the box, but really it all comes down to just the 17 basic cards to play. Oh, and you don’t need a table, you can play it completely in your hands.

So let me start with how the cards work. The picture above is the front and back of a basic Canoe House card. See the white corner in the upper right on the first picture? That’s how you need every card oriented at the start. That means that the part on the top is the active part of the card.

So the top part of the pic on the left shows a green arrow that says “Free.” That means you can save that fish for free. You turn it sideways and save it to purchase things. You do this by putting it at the back of the deck. The other parts on the top are what you need to pay to upgrade the card. The yellow U-turn card means you flip it so the bottom is now on the top, but only if you pay a fish. So the next time this card comes around, the 2 fish will be available for free. The blue circular symbol means you can flip it over for the cost of one fish. That means the log and fish would be available the next time this card comes back. As long as you have the resources, you can keep updating the card until there isn’t any cost to pay, like on the bottom part in the right picture. You make the cards more powerful by upgrading them.

A lot of this isn’t going to make much sense. So I’ll show a picture with resources and a card to upgrade.

So, as you can see, I have saved a fish and a wood. They are still in their place in the deck, moving towards the front. But I can upgrade the Canoe House card by paying the fish & the wood, so I turn them back into the deck, making sure the single fish and single wood are still at the top, and then I can flip the card in the front over and move it to the back of the deck.

That’s basically how the game is played. You keep cycling the cards, moving things to the back. If you can’t upgrade them, you don’t change their orientation. You keep doing this until you get to the end of the deck. Oh, the end of the deck…

This card is always at the end of the deck. After the first round, turn it over to 2. When it comes up in round 2, flip it to 3. Keep doing this until you hit turn 8, and then the game is done.

The point of all of this is to score as many points as possible. You score points by counting the number of yellow stars facing up, as you can see above, as you upgrade the card, you get more points for it.

There is one other goal, and that’s Feats. Feats are goals you reach that can get you another card to add to your deck. You don’t get it on the first turn, it starts the game behind the end of turn card, but it can help in subsequent turns.

To get the feats, you reach a goal. Some are for scoring so many points, some are for upgrading things during the game. I’ll keep what the various rewards do a secret, wouldn’t want to be accused of spoilers.

A game in progress.

That’s pretty much it. I guarantee I haven’t done this wonderful little game justice. It plays in 10-15 minutes, and the fact that a table isn’t needed is fantastic. I’ve played the game over 30 times, and still haven’t completed all of the feats. It’s compact and relatively cheap. I think it’s a must have for solo gamers, or gamers who travel and want something to do on the train, bus, or plane. I haven’t played it co-op or competitive yet, but I’d like to give it a try someday.

Have you tried Palm Island? What do you think? Or f you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them. I left out a lot, and I suspect I didn’t explaing thing particularly well either.

Review: Space Base

I love games with dice. Dice drafting, dice collecting, dice manipulation, you name it. If the game includes dice as a means for the mechanic, I’m in.

That is, I was in, until I played Machi Koro. When it came out, I was super excited. I loved the idea of using the dice for resource allocation a la Settlers of Catan. And we played a bunch of Machi Koro when it first came out. But then, we stopped, even with adding in the expansions. It became very samey to us. Either we would pursue the same strategies we always did (Cheese for the win) or the randomness that the expansion(s?) introduced made the game run way to long for what it was. It had so much promise, but I wanted more.

Last year at BGG.Con Spring, I was introduced to Space Base,designed by John D. Clair and published by Alderac Entertainment Group. It was described to me as a more interactive Machi Koro and I was intrigued, so we gave it a shot.

In Space Base, players are trying to be the first to gain 40 points. On your turn, you roll two dice. You can then either take the active benefit of the cards that are either on each of the dice or the benefit of the card on the sum of the dice (so if I rolled a 1 and a 4 on 2d6, I could either take the benefits of the 1 and 4 cards OR the benefit on the 5 card).

Once you’ve taken your actions, you may then buy a card. This allows you to upgrade to more powerful active abilities. Additionally, it also lets you move the card that was in that space to the top of your board, where it becomes a passive ability; that means you get to use it if any other player rolls that number (or combination).

With the transitioning of cards from active to passive, you have a great, lightweight tableau builder where you have meaningful decisions to make on every turn. I’ve glossed over some of the more nuanced rules, but there are tons of different abilities on cards, from those that let you charge up and deploy special powers, to straight up victory points. Knowing when to replace a card is huge in this game, as is managing cards with charges on them.

Space Base is a lightweight game that would be great for people who might have dipped their toes in the water of gaming, but aren’t sure where to go next. I feel it helps to have someone who has played through the game a few times teach it, or at least be close by, because in most of the games I’ve taught of it there have always been a few card clarifications needed.

Now that I’ve traveled to space, I can’t see myself returning to Earth, except maybe when playing a game with people who don’t consider themselves gamers. I wholeheartedly recommend Space Base.

Review: Twilight Imperium 4th Edition

Last weekend I had the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and try a game I had always heard stories about, but never had the time or opportunity to play.  It’s a 4x-esque game of space combat, exploration, wheeling and dealing, and potentially backstabbing (even though we didn’t have a ton of that).

I’m talking about Twilight Imperium (4e).

I had never played any version before, while everyone else at the table had played 3e at least once.  The only thing I knew was that it was a monster game with lots of bits, and that it would take all day.  Both of these things were true.

IMG_20180922_130032

I really enjoyed my play. All in all, it took us about 10 hours (if I recall correctly) and that includes learning.  I really enjoyed the fact that different victory points come out each round, as I felt like I could strategize to try to go for something that was just revealed instead of trying to keep up and finish the goal that was just adopted.

I also liked the idea of spending resources to take actions based on what other players are doing.  It reminded me of the “follow” mechanic in Eminent Domain.  A large portion of the game is managing your Strategy, Fleet and Tactic counters in the game and following other players in these actions consumes some of these counters.  Knowing when to make your move with these is a huge component to playing well and winning

The variable player powers were great as well.  Each face had it’s own strengths and weaknesses.  The one I picked was geared toward diplomacy because I was just meeting these players for the first time so I figured being able to be a middle man would be helpful.

The game was tense up to the last turn.  There were two of us (me included) that actually had victory within our grasp, but the other players were able to come in and wipe us out and occupy our home systems, so we weren’t able to capture victory points.  Ultimately the neighbor I had (whose military power I probably let grow a little too liberally) ended up winning.

I would definitely play TI4e again, but probably not for a few months.  This is definitely my type of game.  If I would have found it while I was in college I am sure we would have played it a few times.  It is definitely a marathon, but we took frequent breaks for food and drinks, and no one took it too seriously, which I could totally see ruining the experience.

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Guest Post: Exploring Strange New Worlds Just to Get Your Butt Kicked – A Review of the Borg Assimilation Expansion for Star Trek:Ascendancy

Hey All:

It’s been a busy week this week, so haven’t had time to write.  Luckily, my friend Eric Carter is back with a guest review of the Borg Assimilation Expansion for Star Trek: Ascendancy.  You might remember our playthrough of the base game, but if not, you can find it here: https://swordboardandpen.com/2018/07/08/guest-session-report-star-trek-ascendancy/

My game collection has evolved over the past decade. It grew into a highly-varied mass of 200 titles and expansions, then shrank to less than half that when I needed to keep my freelance business going. Now my collection grows deliberately with just a few titles added each year. One of the aspects that a game needs to have is the ability to play it solo. If it’s sci-fi themed then deliberation is out the window and it’s time to clear some Kallax space for my new acquisition.

Star Trek:Ascendancy’s base game is not a solo experience, so while the game remained in my sensor range, the $100 price tag kept it out of my tractor beam for quite some time. Finding it at a store closing sale for an unbeatable price resulted in quickly stowing it in the trunk of my shuttlecraft. By the way, I make no apologies for the any Star Trek puns, jokes or wordplay in this review, and I invite you to read this in the voice of Captain Jean-Luc Picard hence forth while you sip on your freshly replicated Earl Gray.

Even though it can be considered a 4X game, base Ascendancy initially feels like a standard engine-building Euro-style game. You begin with meager resources to build up and send out your fleet to establish more resource-generating colonies, which gives you more options for improving your ship’s various abilities and defenses. These decisions have to be balanced out with the goal of the game – being the first player to acquire 5 Ascendancy tokens.
Within these mechanics, the publisher, Gale Force Nine, has built an exceptionally thematic Star Trek experience. The Federation, the Klingons, and the Romulans all have their restrictions and rule exceptions that encourage different playing styles. However, to play solo, you need the Borg:Assimilation expansion.

What the Borg brings to your Ascendancy game is similar to what a tornado brings to a trailer park. The box comes with five Borg cubes that ruthlessly seek out the player’s ships, starbases, and home worlds, assimilating the colonies and civilizations they find along the way. The worlds they take over become a cruel parody of their previous existence… the player’s control markers that potentially house three resource-generating nodes are replaced with obsidian Borg spires, and the resource node spaces become a three-turn countdown timer that heralds a newly-constructed Cube to add to the Borg menace.

These Borg cubes, when they encounter your ships, fight with 9 combat dice. Roughly speaking, a fresh Borg cube has the same strength as a fleet of 9 starships, but unlike a player’s fleet, a Borg cube can regenerate itself after a round of combat. If a cube survives a round and rolled any 6’s during that round, it recovers one of its combat dice from the Cube’s damage tracker. What’s more, the Borg’s shields increase in strength each round, therefore it’s imperative that your ships destroy a Borg cube swiftly before it becomes impossible to overcome. The only advantages you have against the Borg are a First Strike opportunity during the first round of combat, and any Borg advancement cards you’ve happened to get due to successfully destroying a Cube or freeing a Borg-infested world in a previous turn.

The expansion adds Borg-specific system discs and exploration cards, creating even more thematic possibilities to the game. This, however, is where Gale Force Nine has slightly fallen short of perfection. While the plastic playing pieces are exceptionally scuplted, the printed elements of the game do not visually match up with the base game. They are slightly darker and more glossy, which makes them stand out during play.

During one of my first solo games I chose not to Explore because I saw that the next system I would reveal was going to be a Borg system disc, and quite possibly one of the two Warp Conduits that would give the Borg a shortcut to my home world. This is potentially a huge problem for solo play. However, my completionist’s mentality had already compelled me to buy both of the player expansions, namely the Ferengi and Cardassian factions, which also come with additional exploration cards and system discs. Thankfully these all have the exact same production issue, which means that the workaround for the Borg system discs problem is to simply add in even more! In my later games I did just that and now have a very large stack of system discs and exploration cards. I believe the stack was 51 discs high at the start of the game. It’s a simple, yet admittedly costly, solution.

In a solo game against the Borg they begin with their Transwarp Hub system disc already in play and, during their Build phase, must roll higher than the number of Borg cubes currently on the map in order to place a cube. This means that the Borg are already gunning for  you before turn two. Their movement rules send them exploring towards your home planet unless their Command cards tell them otherwise. A compliment to the designers… there is rarely a moment where you as the player need to make any decisions for the Borg’s actions.

One of the joys of playing with an intellectual property such as Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Marvel, etc., is recreating a moment from those beloved stories. One of my plays did this remarkably well by having a seemingly promising game end suddenly after encountering Q, who sent my galaxy-class starship a space lane away onto a Borg Transwarp Conduit, harkening back to the Next Generation episode where Q first brought the Enterprise into contact with the Borg. Earth was assimilated soon after.

Something the Borg expansion makes you forget is that the base game already presents plenty of dangers to your ships. Hazardous systems can destroy them if they’re not shielded, Exploration cards can wreak havoc with your plans, and the simple random configuration of the system discs can mean that  you don’t have the necessary resources available to you to build up your fleets or improve your weapons before the Borg arrive. Most of my games had me struggling to get an engine going before even thinking about futilely resisting.

After four easy defeats I decided to take advantage of the rule variations in the back of the base game. One of them allows for the player to start with 8 Production, 6 Research and 4 Culture instead of the usual 3 of each. Sadly, both games I played this way ended the same as the others.
The next time I play will involve adding in other possible rule variations, and even using two factions. I have a feeling a second faction will help quite a bit, because the Borg won’t be constantly bee-lining for a single home world. However, it may just delay the inevitable, and make the defeat even worse, because if a faction becomes assimilated, the Borg now effectively have two turns to your one. The expansion is not only designed to give a player the option to play alone, but it also gives a multiplayer game a collective threat, something which they must cooperate against or perish. And an assimilated player is just that… they are now Borg, and their turn becomes another turn for the Collective.

Simply put, expect to lose to the Borg resoundingly often. However, if you’re willing to endure these defeats, you’ll have an amazing Star Trek experience. When you finally prevail, it will become a game so legendary that the Klingons will write grand operas about it.

My Half Year in Review

I am writing this and realizing the year is half over, which means that by now I should have played about 25 games from our “What should we play deck” as well as be about halfway done with my 10 x 10 and 5 x 1 Challenges.

The What Should We Play Deck has been a lot of fun.  We have been able to play some new games (and find some new gems) but also revisit games that we haven’t played in a while, for whatever reason.  I always seem to be looking for the new hot thing without realizing how many great games I have sitting on the shelf; case in point, I got out D-Day at Omaha Beach and played a few turns, and I forgot how tense and enjoyable this game is.  I know that this feeling isn’t unique to me, as many gamers probably feel this way, but having this deck guiding what we play instead of me staring at my collection and picking something I’ve played a lot has been really enjoyable.  My wife and I sort of picked “togetherness” as our word for the year, something to strive for, and this has definitely helped with that.  We don’t sit in front of the TV near as much or on our computers; we get our daughter to bed then play a game at least once a week.  I’m excited to keep this going for the rest of the year (and beyond).

I attended BGG.Spring this year and it was tons of fun as well.  I realized I never did a write up, but I played tons of classic games (or at least classic to me) that I don’t own or don’t get the chance to play very often.  I even went out of my comfort zone to ask complete strangers if I could join them in a game.  I want to try to attend a convention a year (or every 2) but I also want to try out a wargame convention as well.  It’s a different clientele than the BGG.cons (at times) so I think it would be another step out of my comfort zone.

My biggest surprise game to me this half year was: Space Base.  This is a dice rolling game that, to me, Is a better Machi Koro.  I haven’t played it a ton, but once I was introduced to it I had to get a copy.

My biggest disappointment game to me this half year was: The Mind.  I know it was up for one of the Spiel awards, but to me, this isn’t a game so much as an activity.  I don’t know.  I liked it more than I thought I would once I finally played it, but don’t want to play it again.

My biggest deep cut (game that I’ve had forever and finally played again) this half year was D-Day Dice.  I had not played it much due to the Kickstarter drama surrounding it, but I finally got over that and once we played it I forgot how much I really enjoy it.

My biggest Finally game (that game that’s sat on my shelf forever and I finally got to play) is a tie between The Colonists and Star Wars Rebellion.  Two very different games (Heavy, thinky Euro and Ameritrash goodness) but these hit just about everything I want in those respective categories, so I’m glad I’ve played them both, and hopefully will play them more frequently.

Most Memorable Gaming Moment So Far: Playing the six map version of Memoir ’44  D-Day landings at BGG.con.  I was really nervous about getting this together, but we ended up having a great time and it’s something I would consider doing every year.  It was organized chaos, and I definitely learned some lessons for if we do it again.

2018 has been a great year for gaming so far, and I’m really excited to see what I get played in the coming months.

Review: Champions of Midgard

One thing that my wife and I wanted to do this year was revisit some older ‘classic’ games that we really used to enjoy, but that have sort have been relegated to the corner of the game shelf as the new hotness arrives.  Sometimes, though, I find a game that revisits mechanics of these classics, and it can even replace the feelings I have for those classic games.  Champions of Midgard is one of those games.

Champions of Midgard is a worker placement/die rolling game designed by Ole Steiness and published by Grey Fox Games.  I would describe it best as a mix between Lords of Waterdeep and Stone Age, because the primary mechanic is worker placement, but there is also die rolling to determine if you defeat monsters or hunt successfully.

In Champions of Midgard, players are trying to vie for the Jarlship by recruiting 3 different types of adventurers and gathering resources that they can use to purchase or lease ships so that they can adventure to battle monsters.  Players can earn glory, but if they aren’t mindful to deal with the trolls that are rampaging outside the village then the villagers get angry with them and give them blame.  If no player defeats a troll each turn, they all take blame, which leads to increasing negative points at the end of the game.  If a player defeats the troll, then they get to give one blame to another player.  To fight monsters, you roll the adventurer dice you’ve assigned to the monster and have to roll enough symbols to meet the defense value of the monster.  You can also roll shields which block some of the damage you would have to take; for each damage you take, you lose a die.

The monsters you fight all have a different color, so there is an element of set collecting to this game as well.  You might try to fight a stronger monster because it’s the last color you need to complete your set (which means more end game victory points).  Each player also has a secret objective they are trying to complete (and a way to gain more throughout the game).

I really, really enjoyed my play of this game, and it’s one I’ve been itching to get to the table since.  It plays quick, is pretty simple to teach and pick up, and there is enough replayability that it would be pretty tough to play the same game twice.  The artwork is awesome and I do feel like it fits the theme really well.

I like the combination of mechanics in this game.  While I like Waterdeep, it can get a little bit samey to me (also because we played it a lot when it first came out) and I really like the dice mechanic in Stone Age.  By combining these two things, Champions is a fun game that provides some tense moments and some really meaningful decisions.

Review: Dice Forge

It’s been a while!! But I am glad to be back, writing.  I’ve had a rough adjustment period with some new medication I’ve been taking, but I’m back in the saddle and looking forward to writing.

With that being said, let’s get on to the review!!

It’s no surprise I love Dice Games.  I don’t know what it is about them, but I really like games that involve dice, especially when they are used in a non-standard way.

I recently saw a game on Instagram that was a “Dice Builder”.  I was immediately intrigued by it, so I did some research and dove in and picked up a copy.  That game is Dice Forge, designed by Régis Bonnessée and published by Asmodee as well as others.

In Dice Forge, players are heroes trying to impress the Gods.  On a players turn, they will roll their dice to gain resources, then they can either purchase faces that upgrade their current dice with more or better rewards or they can go on adventures where they spend resources to gain either one time or every turn abilities.  There are other rules that I won’t discuss, because this is the overall idea of it.

To upgrade your dice, you physically remove the die face you wish and snap the new die face onto it.   So when they say that this is a Dice Builder, they aren’t kidding…you really get to shape your dice to fit into the strategy you wish to follow.

I have already played this game 3 times, which for me is a pretty big statement. I really, really enjoy this game.  It’s a unique mechanic and the different faces that are present can give you a different way to go about planning your path to victory.  It is not a difficult game to pick up but trying to figure out on which dice to place a face provides a little more of a thinky opportunity, especially if you are terrible at probability and math like I am :D.

I would heartily recommend Dice Forge to just about anyone, unless you don’t like luck.  The main issue you can run into is that none of your cool new die faces aren’t being rolled, but it plays quick enough (at least to me) that it isn’t an issue.

This was an impulse purchase, and it’s probably been my best impulse purchase in a long time.  If you are into dice and deck builders, I definitely suggest you pick this one up.

What are some of your favorite “outside the box” games? Let me know in the comments below!