Posts filed under ‘Board Game Strategies’

Fluxx Card Game – Goals and the Keepers that Go With Them

Author – Chris Skinner

When playing the Fluxx card game, arguably the most important aspect is the end goal of the game.  One of the niftiest parts about this game is the fact that it doesn’t have a single end goal – it has multiple! 

While the Goals tell you exactly what you need right on them, the Keepers in your hand do not tell you which Goal they go with.  Since there are so many in the original, and even more in the newer versions, we’ve put together a list, forward and backwards, of the Goals you have and what Keepers go with them!

Listed By Goal

  • Squishy Chocolate – Cholocate and Sun
  • Star Gazing – Cosmos and Eye
  • Interstellar Spacecraft – Rocket and Cosmos
  • Time is Money – Time and Money
  • Toast – Bread and Toaster
  • All You Need is Love – Love and no other Keepers
  • Dough – Bread and Money
  • Hippyism – Peace and Love
  • Night and Day – Moon and Sun
  • Rocket to the Moon – Moon and Rocket
  • War = Death – Death and War
  • Winning the Lottery – Dreams and Money
  • 5 Keepers – Five of any Keeper
  • 10 Cards in Hand – 10 cards of any type
  • All that is Certain – Death and Taxes
  • The Appliances – Television and Toaster
  • Dreamland – Dreams and Sleep
  • Milk and Cookies – Cookies and Milk
  • Party Snacks – Party and (either 1 Bread or 1 Chocolate or 1 Cookie)
  • Rocket Science – Brain and Rocket
  • Baked Goods – Bread and Cookies
  • Bed Time – Sleep and Time
  • The Brain (No TV)  – Brain and no TV Keeper anywhere on table
  • Chocolate Cookies – Chocolate and Cookies
  • Chocolate Milk – Chocolate and Milk
  • Death by Chocolate – Chocolate and Death
  • Hearts and Minds – Brain and Love
  • The Mind’s Eye – Brain and Eye
  • Peace (no War) – Peace and no War Creeper anywhere on table

By Keeper

The number in parenthesis indicates the frequency it shows up in Goals

  •  The Brain(4) – Rocket Science, The Brain (no TV), Hearts and Minds, The Mind’s Eye
  • Bread – (4) – Dough, Toast, Party Snacks, Baked Goods
  • Chocolate – (4) – Squishy Chocolate, Party Snacks, Chocolate Cookies, Death By Chocolate
  • Cookies – (4) – Milk and Cookies, Baked Goods, Chocolate Cookies, Party Snacks
  • The Cosmos – (2) – Star Gazing, Interstellar Spacecraft
  • Death – (3) – All That is Certain, Death by Chocolate, War = Death
  • Dreams – (2) – Dreamland, Winning the Lottery
  • The Eye – (2) – Star Gazing, The Mind’s Eye
  • Love – (3) – All You Need Is Love, Hippyism, Hearts and Minds
  • Milk – (2) – Milk and Cookies, Chocolate Milk
  • Money – (3) – Time is Money, Dough, Winning the Lottery
  • The Moon – (2) – Night and Day, Rocket to the Moon
  • The Party – (1) – Party Snacks
  • Peace – (2) – Hippyism, Peace (No War)
  • The Rocket – (3) – Interstellar Spacecraft, Rocket to the Moon, Rocket Science
  • Sleep – (2) – Bed Time, Dreamland
  • Taxes – (1) – All That Is Certain
  • The Sun – (2) – Squishy Chocolate, Night and Day
  • Television – (1) – The Appliances
  • Time – (2) – Time is Money, Bed Time
  • The Toaster – (2) – The Appliances, Toast
  • War – (1) – War = Death

August 21, 2009 at 12:44 am Leave a comment

Dominion Card Game – Card By Card Analysis

Author – Cory Duplantis

We are going to go through each of the 25 Kingdom cards in Dominion and explain what the card does and how you can use each in various ways.  We will also go through common combos with each card.

We assume you have played Dominion or understand how the game is played before reading this article. All of these strategies will not work all of the time.  Because each game of Dominion is different, the setup could require tweaking of various strategies.

Adventurer – Reveal cards in your deck until TWO treasure cards are drawn, discard all other cards – 6 cost

This card is a great card to have in a deck where the gold count in the deck is small.  Since you are guaranteed to get two treasure cards from this one card, it doesn’t matter how big your deck is.  The way this card is played best is by eliminating Coppers (and Silvers if possible) from your deck completely.  This can be done with Chapel, Moneylender, or Remodel.

That is the basic combo with Adventurer

  • Make a very small deck with Chapel.
  • Make sure you only have Silver and/or Gold in your deck.

This way, each Adventurer you play is worth at the least 4 Gold or at most 6 Gold.

Bureaucrat – Gain a Silver card.  Each other player must place a Victory Point card from their hand on top of their deck.  If they do not have a Victory Point card, they must reveal their hand – 4 cost

This card is great for a deck where you want to dramatically increase the size of your deck.  This card can also be used in a strict Remodel deck.  You use Bureaucrat to gain silvers, and then Remodel those silvers into 5 G cards (these cards will depend on what is available for that game).  It is also a good opening card if the Militia is not currently in play.  As the card gives you a silver card each time is played, actually buying gold is useless for you now.  You can use the money you have to buy action cards instead of money.

Cellar – +1 Action, Discard X cards, +X cards – 2 cost

Use this card to discard useless cards in your hand in order to gain other cards.  This card prevails in a +Card deck.  Basically you discard everything except your +Action and +Card cards.  This way you maximize your draws you can get.  It is also a good card to use to end the game.  Since this card only costs 2, you can use it to empty a stack of cards if you are wanting to end the game.  One common mistake however is to have too many Cellars.  Too many cellars is useless because each time you use a cellar, you have one less card in your hand, because the cellar itself had a place in your hand.  So chaining Cellars is almost always useless.

Chancellor – +2 money, deck may be put in discard pile – 3 cost

At first, this card doesn’t seem that great, but after playing with it; it is quite useful.  This card shines in a small deck.  The reason for this is because you should know what cards you have in your deck, thus you should know what should be coming up in your deck.  If one turn you played a good bit of your gold or a good bit of your kingdom cards and know that you only have small money and victory point cards left, then this card is played to shuffle everything back together.  Also, since it is only 3 gold, it is a good starting card.  It gives you an early jump in money, and it also gives you the option to shuffle your deck or not, which is a useful option to have.

Chapel – Trash up to 4 cards from your hand – 2 cost

Well, the use of the chapel is obvious, get rid of cards you do not need.  Many new players do not understand the reasoning behind this.  The reason you want to trash cards is to draw other cards more often.  The smaller the deck, the more often cards are drawn, and therefore are played more often.  Basically instead of drawing a lot of copper, you will have a fewer number of silver and gold, but will draw that money more often.  This card is also vital if Witch is in play and Moat is not.  This card gets rid of those pesky Curse cards that no one wants to have.

Council Room – +4 Cards, +1 Buy, others players draw one card – 5 cost

At first, this card is amazing. WOW! 4 cards and a buy.  You must be very careful with these cards.  This card is only good, if other players are also playing with a big deck.  If there are players playing a small deck, then this card will help them more than helping you.  Since their deck is so small, every card they draw is useful.  On the other hand, if everyone is playing with larger decks, this card is also good.  Also, if this is the only way to purchase multiple cards, then it is also useful.  This card is a good card to combo with a Garden deck.  Since this card gives you a lot of cards as well as a buy, the odds of you drawing lots of gold is good.  Thus, you could purchase a Province as well as a smaller card (like a cellar for instance).  If this card is also one of the few +Card cards, then it is also good.  It is also a good starting card if you draw 5 copper on your first or second hands.  The reason for this is that your odds are great that you will draw 3 or 4 copper the next time your deck is shuffled, which almost always becomes an early Gold.

Feast – Gain a card costing up to 5 money, Trash this card – 4 cost

This card is absolutely great.  Early game, it is great to grab a couple of these for various 5 point cards.  In a game where Witch is in play and moat is not, grab a feast to grab a witch very early to put your opponent(s) on the defensive. Or, use the feast to grab more draw cards like Laboratory.  This card is just a great card to have in the early game.  That said, later in the game it is not so great.  You need to gauge when you think your opponent will end the game and how large your deck is.  If you are going to buy this but never  reshuffle your deck, then your money could have been spent on Victory Point cards, rather than this Feast.  In short, buy these early, but try not to buy them in the late game.

Festival -+2 Actions, +1 Buy, +2 Money- 5 cost

Hmm, where to start with Festival.  Festivals are a tricky card.  At first, it seems like festivals should always get priority because of all the stuff they give.  In some games this is the case, but most games it is not.  Festivals should be used with there isn’t Villages in play, or if there aren’t many +Buy cards.  If you are using this card solely for the +money, then you have wasted 5 money.  While yes, you can chain 4 festivals together to get a Province, you could have spent that 20 money on better draw cards.  That said, if there are not many +Card cards in play, then yes, this is a great card to have.  This card is also very useful in a Library deck strategy which I will discuss shortly.  In short, festivals shouldn’t be a deck strategy.  Use a couple festivals, but do not rely strictly upon them.

Laboratory – +2 cards, +1 action – 5 cost

This card is by far one of my favorite cards.  You get two extra cards in your hand, and you get to play something else.  This card is key to a “money only” deck strategy.  Basically you only buy money, in order to buy up to Gold and fill your deck with Gold.  The +action with the Lab will be used with either a Chapel, to get rid of Coppers or Victory point card in your hand, or with a Cellar for the same reason.  Also, Lab is just an overall good card you can use in most any deck.  Drawing cards, and then being able to play more things is just a fantastic ability.  That said, do not buy strictly Laboratories.  It is useless to go through your whole deck and only end up with 5 gold to spend.  That is pointless.  If you already have 3 Lab’s and you get another 5 money in your hand, use it on a Silver or a Mine, if it is in play.  That way, you can bring in gold faster.

Library – Draw until you have 7 cards in hand.  You may set aside any Action cards drawn this way, as you draw them; discard the set aside cards after you finish drawing  – 5 cost

Basically, with the Library, you want to empty your hand until you only have the Library left.  You then play the Library and redraw 7 cards at which point you continue to play cards.  A basic strategy with the Libray is Festival/Library.  This way, you get rid of cards in your hand so you can draw more cards, as well as give yourself actions to use after you have chosen the Library.  And since the very nature of Library is that you may keep action cards or not, you can gauge whether or not to keep certain action cards or to discard them.  Another good strategy with Library is to Chapel all the Estates out of your deck and then Library.  This way, you are guaranteed to draw money.  While this only works in the beginning, it is still a good opening strategy.

Market – +1 Card, +1 Action, +1 Buy, +1 money – 5 cost

WOW what a card!  So much stuff to use on one turn!  I must get every market I can.  WRONG! (most of the time).  This is the mentality many new guys have when starting Dominion.  While in some occasions this card would be great to have 4 or 5 of, this card just isn’t as amazing as people think.  This card is basically a placeholder copper card.  When you draw it, you automatically get one money.  While this is great and all, you can use the card spot for a more viable card with many more uses (like a Laboratory or a Throne room, or heck even a Duchy at this point).  Yes the Market does give a lot of things in one turn, but again, it is merely a place holder.  If you are looking for a deck that get’s lots of  +Buy cards, then maybe this is an option.  For the most part, stay away from trying to buy too many of these.  While a couple (2 or 3 at most) is good, any more is just a burden and remember, the key to Dominion is deck management.

Militia – +2 money, each opponent discards down to THREE cards – 4 cost

Now this card is a great opening card.  Not only does it give you money at the beginning (which is key) it also reduces your opponent’s hand.  This is great because in the beginning, the game is usually a race to see who can get to a couple of the 5 cost cards the fastest.  That being said, this card is also great with Council Room in play.  If you can chain a couple of Council Rooms together and then finish the chain with a Militia, not only do you get the cards and the buys from the Council Room, but your opponent will more than likely have to discard at least one or two cards that would have made this hand great.  Your opponent discards down to only THREE cards, not discard only TWO cards.  This is a common misconception.  That being said, militia is not one of those cards you want to have more than 3 of in a deck, unless you are playing a heavy Festival/Village deck.  Militia’s main purpose is to give you money; the discard element is merely the bow on top of the present.  It is also to note that if Moat is in play, gosh you might as well pass on Militia if you see your opponent gaining a lot of Moats.  Why spend 4 gold on a card that you will only gain half the use of?  Militia is a great opening card, but mid-late game, it just isn’t terribly powerful.

Mine – Trash a treasure card; gain a treasure card TO YOUR HAND of the next highest value – 5 cost

Mine is one of my favorite cards.  This card does great in nearly every deck, because every deck needs to get rid of copper cards.  And, what better way of getting rid of copper card than by replacing every copper with a silver, or every silver with a gold.  Now for the common question… Which is better to do, Copper à Silver or Silver to à Gold? The honest answer is…it depends (yeah, yeah, it’s a generic answer, I know).  BUT 9/10 Silver à is going to be the most worth-while decision.  The only time this wouldn’t be the case is if Thief is in play, and even then it is still usually a good deal. You want to be able to purchase more powerful cards at all cost.  Yeah, you will draw that other copper, but remember Dominion is all about deck management.  Having 1 Gold and 1 Copper is much better than having 2 Silver.  You will draw the Gold which is automatic Silver if you still need it.  Overall, Gold is better to have, end of story.  Mine is an all around good card, and quite possibly could be in almost every deck strategy.

Moat – +2 cards, Show to have the effects of an attack card negated towards you  – 2 cost

Moat is the only reaction card in the first set of Dominion.  This card is a lifesaver in basically one game – a Witch game.  Every other attack card is kind of meh! on the attack, but the Witch is just MEAN!  This card is good when games are low on +card cards (remember the moat does have an ability other than the reaction) or when the Witch is in play.  Those are basically the only times moats are necessary.  You can also use a Moat for an easy end game strategy since they are so cheap.  Other than that, this card is just mediocre for what it is.  It is a reaction card, and basically only that.

Moneylender – Trash a copper to gain 3 money- 4 cost

I could also say this card works good in most any deck, but not as successful as the Mine.  Since the Moneylender only trashes copper and doesn’t guarantee any money cards in return, this card is tricky.  Many people pick up the Moneylender with the intent of using it like a mini-Mine (Trash a Copper to gain a Silver).  Many people have that intent, but get excited when they have more than 3 money.  Many people feel the need to buy a higher powered card than have the money.  Most of the time, the money cards are good to buy when using the Moneylender, UNLESS it is near the end of the game.  At this point, it is time to buy Victory Points.  Also, buying any more than 2 of these guys is basically useless, unless your deck revolves around +buy and regaining a copper every turn, which is a viable strategy.  With this strategy, you need Festivals as well as Moneylenders.  The optimum hand would be Festival, two Moneylenders, and two copper.  This is an automatic Province as well as another copper to refill the one  you used.  Other than that, there is no need to buy more than 1 or 2 of these guys.

Remodel – Trash a card, Gain a card costing up to 2 more than that card – 4 cost

This card is great – in more ways than one.  This card allows one to transform the early Estates into 4 cost cards.  This card allows 5 cost cards to become gold. This card allows Gold to become Provinces.  This is just an all around great card.  A common strategy with the Remodel is you have lots of +actions and you remodel everything in your deck up to gold.  Once your deck is full of gold, then you remodel the gold into Provinces.  Not many other decks can buy 2, 3, and possibly 4 provinces in one turn.  That is HUGE!  The other advantage Remodel has is it can Remodel CURSES.  That’s right, now you have an easy way to not only get rid of curses, but get an Estate from a Curse.  That is an automatic +2 Victory Points than you would have had.  Remodel is a card that is useful in some decks, but other decks – not so much.  This is also a card to watch out for other people using a lot.  It will easily sneak up behind you.

Smithy – +3 cards – 4 cost

Welcome to the shortest ability of the base game of Dominion.  Smithy is a good opening card to draw.  Odds are that it will allow you to gain an early Gold, which is good.  A VERY common strategy with Smithy is to combine this card with a +2 Action card (Village/Festival).  The reason for this is you play the Village first, then the Smithy which draws 3 cards.  You then have one more action left with which to do as you please.  No doubt this strategy will get you a lot of cards.  The only downfall this combo has is that people become too engulfed with that strategy that they forget to buy money cards.  There is no point in drawing 10 cards in your hand when you can only get 4 money out of it.  While this card is great for the combo, be warned not to disregard the key elements of the game (money and Victory Points).

Spy – +1 card/ +1 Action, Each player (including yourself) reveals the top card and either puts it back or discards it, your choice – 4 cost.

This card is also another one of my all around good cards.  This card, when chained with other draw cards, lets you eliminate cards you don’t want to draw, while ensuring cards you don’t want to get drawn do get drawn.  The way you use this card is it should be played first before anything else.  You want to know what is on top of your deck.  Even if you don’t have any +card card in your hand, this is extremely useful.  It allows you to discard your Victory Point cards that aren’t necessary in your hand.  Spy is just an all around great card to have.  I recommend at least picking two of these cards for your deck – if you can.

Thief – Each other player reveals the top two card of their deck.  You may gain one treasure card from each player.  The other cards are discarded – 4 cost

This is the ultimate “take-that” card in Dominion.  It is just a lot of fun for people who like to hurt their opponents.  With this card in play, getting Gold is almost a sin (assuming a moat is not in play).  This card goes AMAZINGLY well in a Spy deck.  You basically have 5 or so Spies in a deck.  You chain at least 3 of these together until you get a Silver or Gold on top of you opponents deck.  You then Thief that silver/gold and viola, instant free money.  That is a very common strategy with both of these cards in play.  If those cards are not in play however, then the thief is a bit weak.  It is based too much on the luck side of the coin.  Unless you know for certain that you will be getting money, then I would not play a Thief.  Also, if you trash some of their copper, you are helping them, because mid-late game, copper is useless most of the time.  While the Thief is good in some occasions, I would only recommend getting one or at most 2 of these bad boys.

Throne Room – Play one Action card from your hand twice – 4 cost

This card is quite powerful in a strong kingdom deck.  This card is not strong in a money heavy deck.  If you are playing with a lot of kingdoms, grab at least one Throne Room.  It WILL go a long way.  If you are playing a chapel deck, don’t grab this card.  Since you only have a couple of kingdom cards, this card MIGHT be drawn with another kingdom card, but usually it won’t.  This card has endless possibilities though.  Throne Room/Witch is a FANTASTIC way to screw over your opponents early on in a game without Moats.  To give your opponents two useless cards and negative 2 points in ONE turn is just amazing!  That is basically the strategy to Throne Room.  Play it when you can.  There is one rule note, however.  If you play two Throne Rooms back to back, you must play two kingdom cards following it.  You cannot play Throne Room/Throne Room/Witch in order for the Witch to be played 4 times.  Since each Throne Room must have its own target, you must play a separate action card for each.  That doesn’t go without saying you can’t play two Witches back to back, but not the other way around.

Village – +1 card, +2 Actions – 3 cost

Ah! the best new player gimmick out there. WOAH! One card, and two more actions, OMG, I must have all ten of these.  I have seen that before with players and they are dead wrong.  One player only needs 2 or 3 of these at most.  The reason is, is when you are done chaining these things together, you have close to 6 actions left over.  That is a signal that you have too many Villages and not enough Kingdom cards in general.  Yes this card gives you Actions.  You don’t need to flood your deck with as many of these as you can.  This is the same argument that goes with the Village/Smithy strategy be sure to grab some money and other kingdom cards and not just these.  Early game, yes go ahead and buy these, but later on, don’t bother.  Your gold is better used for other buys like 5 or 6 cost cards or even Provinces.  In the end, don’t buy more than 2 of these guys.

Witch – +2 cards, each other player gains a Curse card – 5 cost

Having two MAYBE three of these girls in your deck should suffice quite nicely.

Woodcutter – +1 buy, +2 money – 3 cost

This is a great opening card.  To have a card that acts as a Silver is great.  This card is also great for the Garden.  With the Garden, +buy is a necessity and this is the best low cost card for the job.  This card is basically a free Estate in a Garden deck.  Other than that, the Woodcutter is merely an alright card.  After your deck gets above 20 or so cards, more times than not you can Chapel/Remodel the Woodcutter unless you have tons of actions to use.  This is a great finisher to a chain.  Woodcutter allows for a great starting card as well as a great finisher to a long chain of cards.

Workshop – Gain a card costing up to 4 – 3 cost

This card is just a beauty.  It allows you to gain two cards in one turn, without having to have the gold or the +buy to do it.  This card is used to get spies/gardens/smithies/villages/SILVER, the list goes on and on.  This card is just an all around great card.  This card isn’t however a good starting card.  I would get my first two buys out of the way, and then I would buy the Workshop.  The workshop is not good in a Chapel deck.  There is no need for it.  Basically if you are in need of extra cards in one turn, the Workshop is the easiest way to get it.

Garden – Gain 1 victory point for every 10 cards in your deck at the end of the game

I saved the Garden for last because I wanted to tell show you all the other cards needed to make a good garden deck.  The OPTIMUM cards for a garden deck are Festival, Workshop, Bureaucrat, Council Room. While these are the optimum cards, you can mix this strategy to fit almost every possible set up.  Your goal is to gain more than one card every turn, and two cards if possible.  The festival is good for all its actions, +actions, +buy, and +2 gold.  If anything else, this gives you an estate every turn.   The Workshop allows you to gain a Garden every turn.  Bureaucrat allows you to get a silver every turn.  These two cards are good because they allow you to get cards before your actual buy stage.  Council Room finishes your chain buy drawing four more cards and getting yet another buy.  If everything else in your deck is money, then you are golden to use all your buys on useful cards. At your buy phase you then focus on gaining money, money, and more money.  USE ALL OF YOUR BUYS WHENEVER YOU CAN.  You want to get your deck up to 40/50/60 as fast as you can.  Take a copper every turn you can if you have extra buys.

Get your own copy of Dominion and good luck!

May 6, 2009 at 1:59 am 3 comments

Jamaica Board Game – Review with Strategy Suggestions

Author: Todd Cutrona

Jamaica is a board game for 2-6 players in which each player takes on the role of a pirate as you race around the island of Jamaica.  Aye said Pirates, you scurvy dog!

This game is just plain fun.  Does it have elements of luck?  Absolutely!  Is it a family game?  Yes, but this is not Monopoly…this is FUN!


There are fantastic graphics throughout the game.  The board and cards are great to look at and the player ships are very sturdy.  This is the type of game that attracts onlookers.  The rulebook is designed to look like a treasure map…theme is just dripping from the game.


In the game each player controls a pirate ship and attempts to race around the board, find treasure, win battles and in the end, win the game.


The game ends when one player reaches the finish line. Points are earned based on where you finish on the board, plus treasure cards and gold coins (1 point per).  Add it all up and determine the winner!


Each player has their own stack of player cards.  On each card are two symbols representing the actions that can be taken with that card (see picture below). At any given time each player has three cards in their hands. Action choices are to move forward, backward, get food, take gunpowder, or take gold coins (points).


The starting player roles two dice and then places them on the board in their desired order. Then each player in chooses a card to play that round, all cards are revealed simultaneously.  Actions are based on the dice results.  In the above picture if I chose to play the top card and a 6 & 3 were rolled, then I would move my ship forward 6 places and I would take 3 food into my hull.


If you land on a space with another ship then you must battle!  There is a special battle die that shows consecutive even numbers on 5 of its sides (2-10) and a star on the 6th side.  Before the die is rolled the attacker decides if he/she will add and gunpowder tokens to the result (+1 per token) and then rolls the die.  A roll of a star is an automatic victory.  The defender then adds their gunpowder and rolls.  High score wins and the victor gets to take the items held in their opponents hold or take/give a treasure card.  The treasure cards are acquired at various points on the board and can give bonus points, special powers or curse the player (negative points).


Each ship has 5 hulls to carry items and once you place items into a hull you cannot add to it or relocate it.  Don’t worry the board forces you to spend this loot almost as quickly as you acquire it.   Spaces on the board require a payment of either food or gold when you move your ship on the space.  If you can’t pay the fee then you are forced to move backwards until you find a space that you can afford.


1. Get treasure cards, they are extremely important.

2. Use the movement cost to your advantage.  Move past what you want and if you don’t have enough food/gold, move backwards to land on the space you really wanted (like a treasure card spot).  So, don’t horde too much food.

3. Save your double move forward card till the end of the game and zoom ahead of everyone.

4. You don’t have to win the race to win the game.  Collect gold and treasure cards.

5. Remember that the game has a bluffing element.  I played one game where I got a high bonus treasure card early, but I acted in such a way that everyone thought it was cursed.  So, even though I lost battles, no one stole my treasure card.


With its simple rules and fun pirate theme it should appeal to most families.  Personally I like playing it with 4 or more people as it feels more interesting (more battles).  The game does have some luck, but the card selection allows for moderate control. Great artwork, simple rules, pirates and playable in less than an hour…buy the game you land-lover!

Buy your own copy of Jamaica. There is also a link to a video about the game here.

Here is another of our blog posts about Jamaica.

April 24, 2009 at 2:45 am 1 comment

Twilight Imperium Board Game – A Newbie’s Guide To Ruling The Galaxy

Author – Jeff Woods

Twilight Imperium (3rd Edition) is a board game of galactic conquest and strategy for 3-6 players. With the expansion, up to 8 can play, and rules variants are available for 2 players. It’s published by Fantasy Flight Games.

I have not owned Twilight Imperium very long, and have not played that many games yet. But, it is a game I truly enjoy, and you may as well. It’s not my intention here to go into a lot of detail about every part and every rule. I thought I would write down my thoughts, and why I already love the game, to help you decide if it’s the game for you.

What is Twilight Imperium (TI) all about, you may ask? TI is a massive strategy board game that takes place mostly in outer space. The ‘game board’ is actually a map of the galaxy made of hexes, and is different every time. Players play one of several galactic races trying to take over leadership of the galaxy. You do this through conquest, politics and even economics.

Twilight Imperium Is HUGE!

TI is a huge game, and not just in scope. If you’re considering getting it, make sure you have plenty of table space for the map, all the different cards, and areas for each player to keep track of his stuff. My 4-by-5 foot table is barely big enough for a 4-player game. This is not a light, “hey, let’s play something,” game, but an event that you need to plan for and set aside plenty of time. All the games I’ve played have taken at least four hours. If you’re playing with any optional rules (yes, there are plenty, and lots of markers/chits for those, too) plan for longer.

When you first open the box, be prepared to be overwhelmed. The amount of pieces and parts is staggering. You get map hexes, cards, plastic ships, markers for this and that, and a nicely put-together rulebook. But don’t worry about what to do first; the rulebook itself tells you what piece is what and how to organize things. The production quality of the parts is wonderful. The map hexes and various markers are made from high quality material, and are sure to last a lot of games. One note of warning here, though: the box itself has no dividers. Invest in some baggies, tackle boxes or a combination of both to keep everything organized.

Basic Play

Twilight Imperium is played in rounds, each broken into three phases:

  • The Strategy Phase
  • The Action Phase
  • The Status Phase

The Strategy Phase

During the Strategy Phase, players pick a strategy card that gives them some type of bonus for that round. You may be able to get a free technology upgrade, or resolve a political situation and change the rules of the game, among others.

The Action Phase

During the Action Phase, you move you ships, engage in combat, and play to the bonuses of your particular Strategy Card you picked.

The Status Phase

The Status Phase is mainly a book-keeping phase in which you check your score, repair ships, and ‘reset’ the board for action in the next round. While you’re taking your turn, other players are planning their next moves, trying to sabotage you, and bartering for political gain.

Everything Has A Cost

This is a game where everything you do has a cost. You have a limited number of Command Counters, which allow you to move your fleets, and take advantage of certain strategies. You have, or may not have, Trade Goods (the game’s currency) you can spend to either help build ships, research technology, or buy votes in the political arena. Planets you’ve taken over provide you with resources and influence, which you use to expand your fleets or vote in politics, respectively.

How Do You Win?

You win a game of TI, and leadership of the Galaxy, by achieving objectives, which are random and different every game. An objective could be a simple as controlling 10 planets, to more difficult, like controlling Mecatol Rex (the Capitol planet that’s always in the center of the galaxy) with a number of ships and ground forces.

Why Do I Like Twilight Imperium?

I really like this game because for me it has it all. I love science fiction, so to me the theme is golden. You have large scale space battles, planetary invasions, politics and lots of player interaction. Although it’s possible, it’s highly unlikely that a player is eliminated from the game. The map is random, as are the main objectives for winning, which makes every game different. Each Race that can be played has a different bonus, and adds a bit of role-playing. There is plenty of player interaction, with very little downtime between turns. Even though it can take a long time to play, there’s enough going on to keep most people interested.

Of course, what appeals to some can turn others off. As I said before, it’s a massive game that takes a long time to play. There are a lot of rules, and a lot of steps to accomplishing any goal in the game. If you don’t have the table space, or aren’t into a LOT of bits, this isn’t the game for you.

A Little Advice

Check out the rules (They are 44 pages long), then the FAQ section on Fantasy Flight Games’ website for rules clarifications. Then head over to and peruse through some of the excellent articles there. This is an expensive game, both in money and time. If you’re interested and trying to find buddies that you can play with, let your friends know it’s a little like Risk, but with politics and economics. Although combat and galactic war are big parts of the game, they’re the means to an end, and not the end itself. Although unlikely, it’s possible to win without firing a shot.

And for your first game, set a time to stop, and allow lots of mulligans as you interpret the rules.

Twilight Imperium is a great game for me. I can’t play it as much as I’d like because of the investment in time, but when I do, it’s an event that’s remembered.

You can also check out more information about Twilight Imperium here.

April 15, 2009 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

Settlers of Catan: A Beginner’s Strategy Guide

Settlers of Catan is one of the first Euro-style games to come to America, and has won countless awards. If you’re looking for tips on how to improve your game, the most important place to focus is on your initial two settlement placements. These two decisions, often made in a minute or so, can have as much impact on your chances for victory as a half-hour’s worth of turns later in the game.

Initial Placement

The most obvious thing to consider, and most important, the dots associated with each number. The dots on each number indicate how frequently it is likely to be rolled. Consequently, you should be sure to place both of your settlements at intersections with a high number of surrounding dots. The red numbers (6 and 8 ) have five dots each, so obviously, you’re much better off playing on an intersection of 6, 9, and 3, then of a 4, 5, and 11.

Another thing worth paying attention to isn’t just the total of dots, but the different sorts of numbers you have as well. If you place your initial settlements on two 4s, two 6s, and two 9s, then unless someone rolls a 9, 6, or 4, you aren’t going to get any resources, and can prepare for a long, boring defeat. Diversifying your initial settlement numbers increases the chance that you will get at least something from every roll. And that’s a good thing, because even if it’s not the resource you wanted, you can always trade it for one you do need.

Resource Types
Pay attention to the types of materials available in the game. There are more sheep tiles than any other resource, so sheep tend to be less valuable. The other resources have the same number of tiles – but not the same availability! If two of the three brick spaces have low-dot numbers (like 2 and 11), there will probably be an early brick shortage as players attempt to build roads. This makes a settlement on the single high-dot brick space (a 6 or 8 ) a strong opening placement.

Try to have settlements that gain you compatible pairs of resources, such as wood and brick, or ore and wheat. Wood and brick will allow you to quickly build roads in the early game, working towards more settlements. Ore and wheat will allow you to upgrade your settlements into cities, thus increasing resource production. Either can be very strong

Try to avoid playing both of your initial settlements in the same corner of the map, unless you can guarantee that you won’t get boxed in. It may be tempting to connect your two settlements and get a head start on longest road, but more often than not this strategy won’t work.

Consider the ports. Starting on a port is probably a bad idea because you’ll want your initial settlements on 3-resource intersections. However, being close to a port is important, because building to one early in the game will give you more trading flexibility.

During the Game

Move to a port early, if possible. The 2:1 ports are great if you have high production of the associated resource, otherwise not so much. You’ll want lots of room to play new settlements and possibly reach for longest road, so try to expand towards underpopulated areas. If you’re competing with someone else for the same area, move to block them if you can, but don’t sink roads into going towards somewhere you can be blocked out of too easily.

Development Cards
If you started with decent ore and wheat production, grab a few sheep and buy some development cards. At worst, these are a soldier, sometimes a victory point, and sometimes a special card that will allow you to swing the game in your favor later. Holding lots of soldiers leaves you in a good position to keep the robber off of your property, and sets you up to gain the largest army bonus later in the game.

Resource Cards
Try not to sit around with more than seven cards in your hand, because the robber will be rolled fairly frequently. This means that you should often build something when you can (cities, new settlements, development cards, or even roads). Don’t be afraid to use the ports if you have a large hand of cards; shipping three sheep for a brick may seem like a bad deal, but if it gets your hand back to reasonable size and gives you resources you need, go for it.

And don’t forget about trading with other players. Most people won’t trade with you unless they gain a boost to their position, so be sure that any time you trade, you are also gaining a boost to your position as well. Trade on your turn to get resources you can use immediately.

February 13, 2009 at 3:37 am 1 comment

Axis & Allies: A Basic Strategy Guide for Beginners


For experienced players of Axis and Allies (A&A), many of the moves and actions will seem either natural or scripted, particularly in the opening rounds.  There are certain actions that seem obvious to veterans of A&A.   Fortunately, the Revised Version of A&A has opened up the game to new tactics and strategies, and allows for a wider variety of opening moves.  At the same time, there are still some aspects of the game that new players do not grasp right away – so if you fall into this category then this guide to the basic strategy of A&A is for you.   At the same time, I hope that even experienced players can learn something.

General Strategy

Before we look at each country individually, it may be useful to sketch out a few basic suggestions that apply to each nation.  Specifically, there are three rules you should keep in mind: be ready to adapt, focus on IPC’s, and be efficient in your troop production and movement.

The first rule for A&A is less of a rule than a mindset; it is the realization that no plan is perfect.

The greatest skill you need to develop is the ability to adapt.  The dice are fickle – and sometimes no amount of strategy can help with bad rolls – and so it’s important not to get too fixated on one goal.  If you’re playing Germany, for instance, and you are mercilessly pressing towards Moscow, yet are getting nowhere (let’s say because the British are heavily reinforcing the Russians), this might mean that the Allies have weaknesses elsewhere that you might exploit.  Perhaps you can gain IPCs faster elsewhere – by invading a nearly empty India from Africa for instance.  Those IPC’s will give you the economic superiority to finally beat Russia later in the game.

This brings us to our second general rule: economic superiority is extremely important.

A&A is won primarily by who has the most money.  And to get money, of course, you need land.   You don’t have to hang onto land forever, however.  Beginners tend to spread their troops out in order to defend every country.  This is a serious mistake.  Bigger stacks of troops suffer fewer casualties on average, and so it’s dangerous to spread your troops thinly.  You’re much better off keeping major armies together in order to use them for counterattacks.   For your income levels, all that matters is that you control territory at the end of your turn, not at the beginning.  Only once you think you can hold a territory till your next turn is it worth putting a big stack at the front line.  The exceptions are of course capitals and territories that are worth significant amounts of IPCS.

Rule number three: buy your new units in such quantities that you can get them to the front line as quickly as possible.

Let’s say you’re Japan, and you start with 25 IPC’s.  There is no point in buying 8 infantry units because you don’t have sufficient transports to move them all right away.  Efficiency is the key.  Let’s say you’re Germany – unless you plan some really risky Blitzkrieg your first purchase will likely include quite a number of infantry, because they take longer to get to the frontlines against Russia than tanks.  Late in the game, when you are preparing a final push against a capital, you might buy a large number of planes, because by then other troops will not get there in time to help out.  This principle is self-evident when you think about it, but applying it consistently is the key.

From these general rules you can really tell the importance of economics.  In the next section – a detailed analysis of each nation’s strategies, with a special focus on opening moves – we’ll focus more on specific military strategies.

National Objectives and Strategies


Russia is in many ways the easiest nation to play, primarily because your options are somewhat limited.  You’ll never have a huge navy to worry about and you likely won’t have the resources to build up a big air force.  So what should you do?  In the original A&A the general strategy was to buy massive numbers of infantry.  This is still partially true for the revised version, although now you should invest some money in artillery, tanks, or (not my preference) planes.   These units allow you to counter attack in select places in order to slow down the German advance.  The war with Germany is primarily a war of attrition.  Since you go first, your best opening move is to straighten out your front lines by attacking West Russia with significant numbers of troops.  You might as well give up on Karelia, although you should leave at least one unit to avoid a German blitzkrieg.  Once you take West Russia you will have a very strong base to operate from and it will take Germany a turn or two to build up its forces against you.   On the East Front you should consolidate your infantry, although it’s not always easy to know what to do with them.  If you leave them on the coast you risk having them all wiped out quickly by a Japanese amphibious assault.  On the other hand, it may relieve some pressure from your Allies, because Japan won’t be able to attack everything on its opening turn.  You should note one particularly useful trick – if you do stick close to the coast you allow the possibility of an American bomber to destroy isolated Japanese transports and have a safe place to land.  This is a surprising move that will really annoy the Japanese!


In the Revised A&A, Japan has more of a naval force, so the question is what to do with it all.  Of course Pearl Harbor is a good option, and I strongly recommend that you take out those American ships before they come after you.  However, you also have a bigger British Fleet in India to worry about.  And then there’s the assault on the main land.  The first thing to realize is that you can’t do it all on your first turn.  If you try to destroy the Brits and the Americans on the same turn you’re risking disaster.   Pyrrhic victories are best avoided.  On your first turn you should make sure that at the very least you either buy a transport or a factory (to be placed on the mainland).  It’s key that you get as many troops on the mainland as fast as you can.  It’s also key that you put pressure on Russia soon.   Limiting Russia’s IPC’s will help Germany out tremendously.  Japan has much more breathing room, and so has a duty to help out her partner.

Attacking America is hardly ever a good idea.  Attacking is, however, different from putting pressure on her.  If the US is entirely focused on Western Europe then sending a few troops to Alaska will not only get you a few easy IPCs, but will further divert the attention away from Germany for a little while.   It’s like if you’re friend is being attacked by an angry bear and you help him out by prodding the bear in the back.  Of course you risk having the bear (America) come after you, but that’s not a bad thing if it takes a while for the Americans to build up forces and shift their attentions westwards.

One of the key things the Japanese need to watch out for is that they don’t lose naval and air superiority in the Pacific.  It’s very easy to get caught up in the easy victories on the mainland.  However, if both the British and Americans are building up their navies, then the Japanese should too.  The reason is that the Japanese are very vulnerable if they don’t control the sea.  If the Americans should get a toehold on some of the bigger islands they can build a factory and start pumping out the troops.  Given their economic superiority they will soon make life very difficult for the Japanese.  And once you’re behind in this naval race it’s almost impossible to catch up.

The United States

New players should almost always be assigned to play the United States.  The reason is that it’s the most forgiving nation – if you make a mistake it will not always cost you the war.  The big pitfall for America, however, is to try and fight the war on both fronts.  This is not generally an effective strategy.  Decide where you will help out and stick with it.  America’s opening move depends somewhat on how the Japanese fared on their turn.  If they made some mistakes or took some unexpected losses then it might be a good idea to put the pressure on them.  Most often, however, the American player will try to help out Britain in the Atlantic theatre.  A strong opening move is to start sending troops to Africa, and limit the German attacks there.  Watch out, however, because the Germans may have landed many of their planes in Western Europe or North Africa.  There’s no need to be too hasty.

What else can the Americans do?  Generally speaking building a factory in China is a bad move – you’ll be overrun by the Japanese before you know it.  Once you’ve got some troops in Africa and Britain has built up a bit of a navy you might start to send troops into Finland or Western Europe, depending on the German strengths there.  The main thing here is to figure out a consistent and fast way to get troops across.  If you have two waves of transports then you will always have troops arriving for action every turn.  That makes it more difficult for Germany to react.

If you do decide to attack the Japanese, the key is not to send a huge invasion force when you first send your navy in.  Take enough troops to conquer one of the major Indonesian islands.  Then build a factory on it – now you will have a base in the middle of the theatre of war.  With your economic advantage you will soon out-produce and outfight the Japanese.


Germany is easily the most difficult nation to play.  Particularly the opening turn is very difficult.  Generally speaking on your first turn you should at least set the following three objectives.

First of all, destroy the British fleet wherever you can reach it.  You should use most of your air-force for this task.  If you land your planes in Western Europe or northern Africa you will also be able to stave off early attacks from the Brits and Americans.

Objective 2 is Egypt: this is the gateway to Africa and you need to conquer it right away.  Try to send as many troops from Italy and Africa as you can.  The British will sometimes counterattack from India, so watch out.

Objective number three is to figure out your Russian campaign.  Send as many troops as you can afford east.  However, don’t send them right up to the front lines, as you’re not at a level of strength where you can hold the front against the Russians.  That time will come.  Make this a war of attrition.  It’s a matter of taking and retaking weakly defended territories and leaving a few troops to tempt the Russians into attacking.  If they send in too many troops then you can take out a major army next time.  If they persist with small battles then eventually you should be able to out-produce them and send in your built-up forces for the kill.

What else can you do with Germany?  Well, one strategy is to build an air-craft carrier in the Baltic to make life more difficult for the Brits.  I’m not too fond of this idea, but I have seen it work.  You should conquer major parts of Africa as soon as you can.  It’s almost inevitable that it will be taken back, but you need to get as many IPC’s out of it for as long as you can.  The main thing to remember for Germany is to have patience.  And be ready to adapt.  Often it’s Japan that finally conquers Russia.  If it comes to that time you may have to be ready to send your troops back to Germany to defend the capital and let Japan finish the job.


It can be frustrating to play the Brits because they’re scattered across the globe and their IPC’s dwindle quickly.  Let’s have a look at each theatre of war separately.  In Asia you have a number of options.  You can try to link up your navies, but you’re probably better off sending the Australian sub and transport eastwards to the Atlantic.  If you keep your Navy by India (for instance, if you build a factory in India) then you might send your fighter plane to take out the lone Japanese transport within reach.  This is a bit risky (if you misfire), but generally it’s a safe bet.  You might also try to retake Egypt, or you can withdraw your navy towards Madagascar.  A final option is to launch a suicidal attack against some of the Indonesian islands and isolated Japanese naval units.  I’m not a big fan of this strategy, but I have had opponents pull it off (with a lot of luck).

In terms of the Atlantic theatre, you should ferry your Canadian troops to England, and there you should begin building up a fleet and air-force.   Don’t be too hasty to take out the Baltic German fleet.  Most likely it won’t go anywhere, so build up your air-force to take it out in one fell swoop.  Having a large air-force with Britain is a huge asset.  It allows you help with the defence of Russia, and it gives you a good opportunity to do damage in the Indian Ocean.  In Europe you’ll want to steal IPC’s by taking and retaking Scandinavia and Western Europe.  Once you control the Baltic you might begin sending troops in to trouble Germany’s advance to Moscow.


So these are a few basic strategies for becoming a competent A&A player.  Not everyone will agree with me on each of these points, but I hope that the general thrust of this article is broadly acceptable.  Remember, however, that none of these rules is set in stone – there’s no fail-proof  way to win.  Only if you are able to adapt to changing circumstances will you start to win on a consistent basis.

Happy war gaming!

Buy Axis & Allies

December 25, 2008 at 4:32 pm 10 comments

The Board Game Scrabble As A Strategy Board Game

Author: Lyndon Lampert

Okay, let’s start with a quick quiz:

Name three of your favorite strategy games.

If you’re a fan of the the classics, you would probably put Chess and Go on your list. If you’re a Eurogamer, you’d likely name modern productions like Puerto Rico, BattleLore and Power Grid. I have no argument with any of these choices.

But, would anybody besides me put Scrabble on their favorite strategy game list?

Maybe not, for the much-loved and much-despised Scrabble is generally thought of as a word game and not as a strategy game. And that’s a crying shame, for to win this classic game, you need to be just as savvy in strategy and tactics as you are in spelling.

To win Scrabble consistently, you need to think strategically and tactically in three areas:

1. Plan for the long term

2. Maximize short-term opportunities

3. Avoid giving your opponents tactical advantages

Let’s briefly look at how each of these translates onto the Scrabble “battlefield.”

Plan For The Long Term

In truth, Scrabble offers more tactical, short-term opportunities than strategic, long-term opportunities, but one area of long-term planning can pay off big in this game. The 50-bonus point rule for playing all 7 letters in one word is attractive enough to make it a goal in every game. Those who are able to manage even one of these in a game often win on the basis of that one play, frequently totaling 70 or 80 points for one word.

Good players “build their hand” as they play towards the goal of creating a 7-letter word. Thus, a good strategy is to build and hang onto an “ING” combination when possible. An amazing number of four-letter words can take the “ING” suffix and will put you in position for big points. Other good letter combinations to hold in reserve because they’re so common are “ED”, “ER” and “TH”. And, of course, an “S” can be an invaluable suffix that can make your six-letter word really valuable, as well as enabling it to be tacked onto the end of many words already on the board.

Maximize Short-Term Opportunities

Expert Scrabble players shine in capitalizing on short-term opportunities when they arise. Since the board is always changing, new opportunities are always coming up. Most players pay attention when the chance to play on a red Triple Word space opens up, but all of the colored spaces on the board offer similar excellent scoring opportunities. Rather than “building a word in your rack and seeing where it will go,” then, develop the habit of looking for the “multiplier” spaces on the board first, and figuring out how to maximize your tiles from there.

Another short-term opportunity that skilled Scrabble players utilize effectively is “side-by-side” building. For example, if the word AWE is on the board, playing HEM directly underneath it makes four words and probably scores much higher than if HEM were played elsewhere. Obviously, knowing lots of nifty two-letter words helps this tactic work exceedingly well.

Avoid Giving Your Opponents Tactical Advantages

This may be the single most common error in playing Scrabble.

The rule is simple: don’t set your opponents up for big scores!

Even if you score moderately well on a word, if it sets your opponents up for an even bigger score, you’ll suffer a net loss of points! The most obvious place this happens on the board is when you open up a Triple Word for them. Except in very unusual circumstances, just don’t do it! Play elsewhere, and let someone else set you up for a Triple Word instead.

A corollary to not setting up an opponent is being prepared to make a defensive move when necessary. For instance, if a Triple Word comes available to you, but you can only score 12 points on it, but 20 if you play elsewhere, you may be better off taking the Triple Word anyway, to prevent someone else from taking the Triple Word for a huge score. This is a judgement call, of course, but the general rule is, when a Triple Word is available, take it for yourself if you can, for more often than not, you’ll regret it if you don’t!


Scrabble isn’t quite in the same category as BattleLore, but there’s much more tactical play in it than is often recognized. Scrabble will always be thought of as a word game first, but those who practice some “tactical savviness” will come out on top more often than those who don’t.   

December 12, 2008 at 7:58 pm Leave a comment

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