Posts tagged ‘board game’

The Curious Case of the Tomb Board Game

About a year or so ago, AEG released a game called Tomb. It did not get a lot of fanfare at the time. As a matter of fact, we only sold a few copies of it, so we did not even stock it. This year, at GenCon, we met with some of the AEG folks and learned of an expansion for this game, called Cryptmaster. I even spent a little bit of time playing it. It seems promising – and we will get to that in a minute.

So, the premise of Tomb is fairly straightforward. Each player seeds the different tombs with Tomb cards, so it is mildly random – but some of the players have an inkling of what they can expect. Over a few turns, they recruit a raiding party, and they venture into the tomb for a hack-n-slash. This is supposed to be a get-in-get-out dungeon crawl where your raiding party is essentially monster fodder. The box says you should be able to play up to six people and it says the game length is about one to two hours.

The premise is great and our gaming group was revved up and ready to go. They like this kind of stuff, so it was a good bet to open the evening with this. Well, that was not the case.

This game was “broken” when we played with a full set of players. There were six people playing plus myself. We all wanted to really like this game and we wanted to believe that it was slow and plodding because we were learning the game. The game lasted for FOUR HOURS and it became a grind to get through.

Each player had a full raiding party of 5 characters, so there were tons of decisions on what to do, and each player’s turn lasted as long as 10-15 minutes each, so, that is an hour per round. There was very little of the players going back and “banking” treasure, recruiting more characters, drawing more cards, etc.

What started out as a fun adventure went on to be a boring monster kill session. People got up, got food, chatted with other friends, and Gary even mentioned that he had considered getting a shower. One of the players actually had to leave and go pick someone up and was gone for an hour or so. They came back and missed one turn. The essence of this game was lost somewhere in the process. Quick and dirty is how it is promoted!

So, this gets us back to GenCon and our meeting with AEG.

It seems that they are releasing an “expansion” for this game called Tomb: Cryptmaster. Now, I was hooked at the idea of this game from the demo – before I played Tomb.

I believe in the premise of the game, so I am still positive about Cryptmaster and its ability to fix the holes in the core game. Let me share with you what AEG told us (and I paraphrase):

“There were some issues with the original Tomb rules, so we adjusted them for this expansion. As a matter of fact, we would prefer that people buy the expansion as the core game and use the base game to expand your ability/weapons cards, quantity of characters, and a second stack of Tomb cards (about 40 go out per game and there are 200 in the box, so that’s a lot of cards). “

So, essentially the new Tomb expansion is the patch to Tomb. Which, if it plays well is great. Sadly, they should not have released a game that needed a patch.

Something else that is cool is that the new board has four entrances to the crypt. This is good, because it took people a turn or two to get to the back of the crypt. Now, they can zip out to the Inn and re-enter at the back of the crypt.

I am not going to spend a lot of words here spelling out all the changes to the rules that have been incorporated into this new “expansion”.

What I will say is that Best Dang Games was going to offer Tomb, because it seemed like a cool game. But after our experience with it, we are choosing not to carry this game (ALONE). We may try to play it one more time or two, to see if first impressions are accurate. Once Cryptmaster comes out, we will shoot to get a demo copy of that game with high hopes once again. If Cryptmaster passes the “fun” test, we will sell it as a single option and we will offer Tomb and Cryptmaster as a bundle together, since that is how it seems you should play it.

The rules for Cryptmaster are available for download.

If you own Tomb and had a similar experience, you may want to consider downloading these rules and using them, rather than the rules that came in the original box of Tomb. Here are the rules for Cryptmaster. If you have played this game, please leave comments to let us know if we are off base on this. If you went to GenCon and demoed Cryptmaster, let us know what you thought. We really want to like this game.


September 2, 2009 at 2:03 am 2 comments

Chicago Express Video Posted

Our ongoing video reviewer, Cory Duplantis, has delivered yet another video for you. This one is a summary of how to play Chicago Express, the Wabash Cannonball reprint from Rio Grande Games. This is a simulation of running a railroad business in the upper portion of the US. If you are a fan of the train game genre, check it out!

August 25, 2009 at 1:35 am 1 comment

Pillars of the Earth – An Introduction

Builders and Cathedrals – Carcassonne This Is Not

Author – Tristan Angeles

It is the middle of the 12th century, and England is in anarchy, brigands prowl the countryside waiting for undefended travelers to victimize, while in the towns and villages, greedy lords rule over their subjects for their own gain. It is also a time of religion. Europe is in great upheaval as another crusade is sent to the holy lands to retake it in the name of God, while monuments are built for his glory. This is the setting for Mayfair games’ Pillars of the Earth board game, based on the book of the same title by acclaimed author Ken Follett.

Although the story is set in a bloody period of history, the Pillars of the Earth board game downplays the battles, and instead opted for another form of conflict. The game puts the players in the role of master builders looking for favor by contributing to the construction of Kingsbridge Cathedral. The players do this several ways, but it all comes down to efficient management of resources.

Is it a game or Is it Art?

Upon opening the box, you can say both of Pillars of the Earth. Inside is a beautiful board that can probably be mistaken for a painting ( and hey if you get tired of the game why not frame it!), by Michael Menzel. There are also a lot wooden blocks, which is the trademark of German games, for you to use as resources and player pieces. The game also includes cards for craftsmen, resources, events, and privileges etc. The included rulebook is well written, you can understand it easily, and beginners can get into the game by following the rulebook from cover to cover. Lastly, the game includes a six piece wooden cathedral you use as a turn marker.

The Politics of Scarcity

Pillars of the Earth is an easy game you can play upon set up while following the rulebook.  At the beginning, play time will most likely last two hours, but this will be cut short once you and the other players learn the game. Also due to the theme of the game, the game is suitable as a gateway game for friends, and family members who are new to gaming.

Players win the game through efficient resource management and strategically placeing builders through the course of the game. Planning moves is extremely important since a mistake in one turn may set back a player and haunt him for the following turns.

Phases of Play

A turn in Pillars of the Earth basically follows three phases.

In the first phase, players take turns choosing resource cards set up near the board. There are only a few resources, and they are: wood (brown), stone (gray), sand (cream), and metal. Only the first three resources are available in this phase of the turn. You can acquire metal, which is important in the last few turns, later on through builder placement. Aside from the resource cards, there are two random craftsmen cards available for the players choosing. To get a resource, you must allocate a number of workers equal to the number indicated on the card in the forest, quarry, and gravel pit parts of the board. In this part of the game, especially during the first turn, the players must have an idea of what resources and craftsmen they will be using.

The second phase of the turn gives the players the chance to place builders on the board to get several advantages. This is a bit complicated since the turn order is determined by drawing the player’s builders from a bag, which adds a bit of randomness to the game. When a player’s builder is drawn, he may either play it, in which case he/she will pay a cost, or pass and put down the builder on the board and wait for its turn to come up.

In the last phase of the turn, the player’s builders and workers are resolved in order of the numbers in the board. Depending on where the player has placed his builder, he may get several advantages. Placing a builder on the king’s court for example, will exempt him from taxes, and if he is the first player there will also reward him with one metal. On the other hand, placing a builder in Shiring gives the player whichever craftsman card is on the space. At the end of the turn, players have the option of converting the resources they have gathered to points by using their craftsmen.

Rinse and Repeat!

Place a piece of the cathedral on the board after the last phase of the turn. This signifies the end of the turn and the beginning of a new one. Shuffle and randomly place the resource cards on the board and the builders are placed inside the bag. At the end of the sixth turn, the player with the most points wins the game.


Pillars of the Earth is a great game for two to four players, although there has been reviews that say it plays well with two, and some with four. We think the game plays best with three. With four persons, there are not enough spaces on the board and is a little bit crowded, while for two persons there is not enough conflict. Get this game if you want a light strategy, with a little bit of randomness, and short game play.

Check out Pillars of the Earth

July 12, 2009 at 4:41 pm Leave a comment

New Munchkin Quest Board Game Video Posted

Around the holiday season, we put together a video showing you the basics of the card game Munchkin, as well as showing you how to play Munchkin.

In that video, we introduced a new board game – Munchkin Quest.

Here is our new video that introduces you to this game based on the Munchkin card game.

Don’t forget, there is also an expansion to Munchkin Quest! Munchkin Quest 2 – Looking for Trouble.

June 10, 2009 at 2:03 am 2 comments

Two New Settlers of Catan Expansion Videos

We posted a two-part video series for Settlers of Catan. It came to our attention that there were several videos about Settlers of Catan, but none that really showed you what was in the boxes of the expansions or how the expansions help enhance the game. One of the expansions has scenarios, another has campaigns & variants, while the third actually alters the standard gameplay of Settlers of Catan.

Here is Part 1. In it, Barry introduces Catan: Seafarers and Catan: Cities & Knights.

Here is Part 2. In it, Barry introduces Catan: Traders & Barbarians and the 5-6 Player extensions.

May 20, 2009 at 4:01 am Leave a comment

Board Game Night – How Competitive Are You?

One of the main factors in selecting a board game that is appropriate for the people you’re playing with is gauging your group’s competitiveness. Let’s face it; a mismatch in the competitive department can prove disastrous in a group. No matter how much fun Aggressive Al might be having winning big in Settlers of Catan (or even Monopoly for that matter), if Al mercilessly annihilates Peaceable Pam in the process, feelings can be hurt and the evening can be ruined for everyone. (This can be a particularly difficult problem if Al happens to be married to Pam!)

So, what are some practical ideas for choosing games that will be appropriate for a group with an unknown or mixed level of competitiveness? Well, if you’re the game night organizer, you can do much to ease your group into fun games without starting off with a proverbial “knife fight.” Here’s a guide to some games, based on their Competitive Factor.

Take it Easy

With a group of strangers or one of unknown competitiveness, the safest approach is to start off with a game in which it really doesn’t matter who wins, in other words, so-called Party Games that derive their fun from the playing itself. Party Games are generally filled with laughter, and are great ice breakers. Games to consider in this category include Apples to Apples, a classic game of matching descriptions with persons, places or things or Fluxx, where the rules are always changing.

Moving Up

If your group survives the first category with belly laughs instead of angry invectives, you’re probably safe to venture into some games with more strategy, but minimal direct confrontation. Many of these games fall into the “Lighter Eurogame” category. Carcassonne and its many expansions fit this category well, and are relatively easy to explain to new gamers. In Alhambra, you’ll feel more like you’re building your own fortress instead of attacking your opponents, and San Juan and Zooloretto are great alternatives that aren’t directly confrontational, but will still scratch that competitive itch.

Bring it On

For many groups, the lighter Eurogames will hit the sweet spot, for they offer more in the way of strategy than the pure laughter of party games, but won’t likely degenerate into cutthroat competition. However, if your group desires more direct confrontation, many of the heavier Eurogames provide it. The Settlers of Catan is on the lighter side of these more competitive games, but some real nastiness can be done with the Robber option and road blocking, so be careful if you have a “Peaceable Pam” in your group. For those who want more complexity, with opportunities for confrontation, it’s hard to beat Puerto Rico and Power Grid, but none of these should be a first choice with an unknown group of gamers.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Finally, you might want to try a game that is intentionally the opposite of a competitive game, one of the so-called Cooperative Games. In Cooperative Games, the players don’t compete against one another, but against the game itself. Either everyone wins or everyone loses. This might be an excellent choice for a group that likes a cerebral challenge, but is essentially noncompetitive, or a group that has had a bad competitive experience and needs a serious change of pace. Arkham Horror, and Battlestar Galactica can rightly be called semi-cooperative in nature (you may have a secret traitor in your midst!), while Pandemic is a purely cooperative masterpiece.

In truth, most of us probably have a bit of a competitive streak and board games can be an enjoyable way to express it. But if you take care to match your choice of games with your group’s personality, you’re much more likely to get ’em coming back for more instead of indelibly etching a bad experience in their memories.

May 12, 2009 at 2:38 am 1 comment

Axis and Allies Board Games – The Comparison/Review

Author: Andrew Tullsen

I’m going to try to lay out some of the differences and similarities between the different games in the Axis and Allies series. I’m going to assume you know something about the general Axis and Allies system.

Original Milton Bradley Edition

Let’s start with the original Milton Bradley Edition

The game that started it all. This game comes in a rather large box, and is a little outdated. I don’t suggest getting this one. There is a reason why these sell for only $10 on ebay. The box is so big the top dishes easily. The pieces are stored in Styrofoam containers, and a very blocky mold – not a lot of detail. The game has some key flaws, 2 of the main ones being the tech that gives you triple dice for your bombers, and Russia had about a 50-50 chance of defeating Germany if the Russians attacked right away from on turn 1. The game also doesn’t include artillery or destroyers.

Plays from 2-5. OK, let’s move on to the next one.

Revised World Edition (Avalon Hill)

This is the first one I got, so I have a little bit of bias towards it. I love it. I’ve played it so many times that I’ve memorized the entire setup for it. This is being compared to the (Milton Bradley (MB) edition.)

  • The minis in this game are much more detailed.
  • The sea zones are numbered for easier setup and PBEM (Play By EMail).
  • There are a lot more ocean and land spaces, allowing for greater flexibility.
  • It has destroyers and artillery.
  • Starting Setup has changed quite a bit.
  • Submarines can submerge.
  • Tanks got a better defense, Battleships are now double health, Fighters are lowered in cost.

This is the best game of the series. It is the “main” Axis and Allies and gives you the grand strategic battle.

Every first round will be different, as players try out new strategies. Part of the fun is finding out what would happen if you tried this plan or that one. It lets you change history, at least for a few hours.

Included in the back are 6 national advantages for each nation. You can roll or choose them. Some are duds, some are ok, some are really great. These are optional, but we almost always use them when we play.

I think this game plays great with 2 or 5 and well with 3-4.

2 players allow you to manage one whole side, and 5 players lets each player take 1 nation. 3-4 players just require doubling up on some of the nations.

Plays 2-5

Axis and Allies : Europe

As might be expected, this game sets the scene in Europe. The map includes the East US, parts of Africa, and a good bit of Russia. Germany is the only Axis Power, and boy, do they look powerful. Tiger Tanks are all over, the infantry are just piled up in groups waiting to attack,  and their subs dominate the Atlantic. There are Convoy Boxes next to some sea zones. These represent shipments coming in to the allies. The allies will get the value from the convoys if they still own them. But if Germany was the last one to enter those spaces, then that allied cash flow is stopped, but Germany doesn’t get the money from it. The Allies can take these back by moving a ship through them, and perhaps fighting any units there.

  • It includes 2 new units – destroyers and artillery. Destroyers are a good buy for half the price of battleships. Artillery fit in between the infantry and the tank. It attacks/defends on a 2, and allows 1 infantry to also attack on a 2.
  • There is no weapons development process or building new Industrial complexes.
  • Fighters can escort bombers on strategic bombing raids, and enemy fighters can “dogfight” with them.
  • Russia can take control of allied units left in its land and control them.
  • There is a small struggle for the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.
  • The Atlantic is dominated by German subs, until the power of America comes into play. Then it’s just a losing battle for the Germans on that side. But the main battle occurs on the border between Russia and Germany.

There are lots of big battles on that front. You have to win quickly as the Germans in this game, or else you lose.

Plays 2-4

Axis and Allies: Pacific

This version concentrates on the Pacific side of struggle. The map zooms in on that corner, and it includes a lot of islands, and parts of India and China. Pacific takes place right before Pearl Harbor. And as a nice twist, on the first turn, all Allied forces defend on 1’s. That includes Battleships and Fighters. Everything except China (which only has infantry, so it doesn’t make that much of a difference) is unprepared for the Japanese assaults. So Japan tries to cause as much havoc on its first turn as it can. Japan has a ton of troops, so its first turn takes a long time. So many different things you can do. Transport here, attack there, bomb this, sink that…

Japan is trying to get Victory points to win. They are trying to get 22 VPs before the Allies take Japan. Each 10 IPCs they get at the end of their turn is 1 VP. They can also win by taking and holding a capital city (India, New South Wales or the US). The United States are a formidable opponent. With its 75 IPCs per turn, it can field a large fleet quickly.

Similar to Europe, Pacific also incorporates Convoy Routes, and Dogfighting while strategic bombing. US Marines are worth 4, and attack on a 2 when they participate in an amphibious assault. China produces a few units per turn. UK has 2 bases – one in India, and another in Australia. They will try to hold off the might of Japan until the US can intervene. The game also includes things like kamikazes, island bases (let aircraft fly farther) and sea ports (let sea units move farther).

The game retains the main feel of Axis and Allies, but adds a whole new dimension to it. This is a must buy for A+A fans.

Plays 2-3

Check out Axis & Allies: Pacific here.

Axis and Allies: D-Day

D-Day incorporates cards into the game.

D-Day concentrates on 1 day and 1 small section of coast in World War II. The great D-Day landings. This game includes a lot of interesting features.

  • Germany gets blockhouses which fire on the landing zones.
  • There is no buying of troops – your troops come in a set order.
  • Only the Allies get an Air Force. Bombers pick a zone, and roll a single time for hits. Fighters patrol a zone, and then for each unit that leaves or enters, they get to attack it.
  • There are stacking limits per zone, and each battle in a zone goes through only 1 round of combat.
  • There is a set of Order Cards which determine the order of play, and what happens when. These work quite nicely. You just flip the card, and then it tells you what to do next. Basically it is just showing you the phases. After a few games, or a few rounds, you probably won’t need them anymore.

Advanced players can include Fortune and Tactics cards. With fortune cards you roll a die, and then if it’s a 1 or a 6, something good or bad happens (depending on your viewpoint). This roll happens before every order card. Tactics cards come after each order card, and the player mentioned on the card gets to decide when to use it. They can use it when it comes up, or decide to wait.

The Allies’ goal is to control 2 out of 3 of the Cities on the map. The Germans are trying to prevent this from happening. At the end of the game, usually there won’t be a lot of units on the map. Everyone has been wiped out. Because of the static setup, and the set reinforcements, this game holds a lot less replay ability than any of the other Axis and Allies series. D-Day changes almost everything about the main game, retaining only the figures and the stats for the land units. As the Allies, you are struggling getting off the beaches, and the Axis are trying to stem the flood, as the dodge bombs and strafing attacks. This is a fun game, but it doesn’t follow the original rules much at all.

Plays 2-3

Check Out Axis & Allies: D-Day here

Axis and Allies: Battle of the Bulge

And they incorporate hexes! That’s right, but it’s not your usual hex and counter war game. It’s a simple war game, dressed up as Axis and Allies.

Bulge is a mix of D-Day and a war game. Battle of the Bulge has no unit building, only set reinforcements. It has hexes, zone of control, supply tokens, roads and cities.

Each turn you activate supply tokens to activate the hexes and then you can move. Trucks are included which can move your units as far as you want on the roads. They help bring in your reinforcements faster.

The Zone of Control rules used in this game are simply if you move into a hex adjacent to an enemy unit, then you must stop. You never enter an enemy hex either. Like all standard war games, you move adjacent to them, and battle.

The game includes “front-line” markers which show you how far the bulge has progressed. You use these instead of control tokens, to determine how many cities the Axis has taken. It’s nice to watch the bulge grow, or shrink, depending on who you are.

The game doesn’t include the standard 6-sided dice. Now you get 12 12-sided dice. Each unit has an attack value, which indicates how many dice you roll for it. Rolls of 6 less counts as a hit. You pull out the unit strips (kept under the board) to the number of boxes which show the amount of the defending troops. Your hits are placed on the strips in order, counting down. If there is a “1”, put it in the first box, any “2s” go in the 2nd box, and continuing on, you distribute all the dice. If there are more than 6 defending units, you simply re roll your hits, and then place them in the boxes, wrapping around if need be. For every 1 die in a unit box, 1 unit of that type retreats. For every 2 dice in that unit box, 1 unit of that type is destroyed. Note that the defender doesn’t retaliate back. At least not yet. The initiative switches from player to player during the ground combat phase. Each player pays a supply token to attack 1 hex. They resolve it, and then other player can attack 1 hex. This continues until all units that you wanted to attack with have done so.

Battle of the Bulge is a very different system. It is now a simple war game, with Axis and Allies pieces, and some of the basic rules. But it is a completely new game. As the setup and reinforcements never change from game to game, it can feel a little “scripted”, more so than the standard Axis and Allies. Another fun game, and different enough to warrant another purchase.

Plays 2-2

Check out Axis & Allies: Battle of the Bulge here.

Axis and Allies: Guadalcanal

Each of the 3 “closeup” battles (D-Day, Bulge, Guadalcanal) change the game, give it a new twist and surprise us with its ingenuity. Guadalcanal doesn’t disappoint.

Players move simultaneously – Each unit type at time, player 1, then player 2. The 1st player switches every round. The 2nd player can choose to move out and not combat if they want, so they have a bit of power. But they must react to what the 1st player does as well.

Combat is divided into Air, Sea and Land Attack Phases. Each unit can participate in different phases. For instance, Air Units participate in all 3 phases, Artillery in the Sea and Land phases, Infantry in just the Land phase. Each unit has a different attack value or number of dice rolled for that combat phase.

For instance, Bombers have:

  1. Air Attack: 1
  2. Sea Attack: 2
  3. Land Attack: 2

There is a “battle box” where you put all the attacking dice in and roll. Each die is randomly assigned a “target”. If it is a 1 or a 2, then that unit is destroyed. In the final round you get to buy units. Each unit has a different cost, the costs being from about 1/4 to 1/2 the cost of them in the original game. Each island you own gives you 5 reinforcement points which are used to get more units. So there isn’t that static reinforcement chart from D-Day or Bulge.

The game includes Cruisers and Airfields as well. Airfields are built using supply tokens which have to be transported to the island, and are worth 1 VP each turn they are held. And that leads to the end game.

The first person to have 15 Victory Points wins. You can also get a VP for destroying a capital ship (Aircraft carrier or Battleship) of your opponents.

Plays 2-2

Check out Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal here.

Collectors 50th Anniversary Edition

This is the world edition, but it is for the real fans only. I haven’t played it yet, so I’m just going to list some new additions the game has.

  • A new turn order
  • Includes Italy, a new nation and China as a ‘minor’ power
  • Two different setup scenario options (2 different years)
  • More victory cities
  • National Objectives
  • Bigger, Redrawn map with more territories, (3-piece board)
  • Different Strategic Bombing routine
  • New Cruiser Unit, along with new costs for some sea units
  • More technologies

Plays 2-6 players

Best Dang Games Comment:

At the time of this blog post (4/30/2009), the Axis & Allies series is undergoing a reprint under a new name – Axis & Allies 1942. We are expecting this game to be available summer 2009 – but that is merely an estimate. Because of this, many of the different games in this series are going out of print. Please contact us directly if you are interested in one of these games so we can check current availability for you.

Also, regarding the Anniversary Edition, this game is out of print. There is a rumor that it will be an annual release – around the holiday season. Last year, there were two printings of it. During the holiday season, this game was our runnaway best selling game.

Which game of the system do you like the best? Join the conversation and let us know which ones and why.

May 1, 2009 at 2:23 am 1 comment

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