The Top 99: #99-#89

A lot of people do a Top 100 Games list.  But you know me, I’m kind of obsessed with the number 11, so I made a Top 99 list.  My process was that I took every game I have recorded at least two plays of on BGG, and that I have rated an 8 or higher.  The resulting list of 115 games got sorted and organized into what I’ll be revealing over nine posts here.  So, without further ado, here is #99-89 of my Top 99 list.

image by BGG user karel_danek

image by BGG user karel_danek

First of all, I’m going to cheat a little by telling you that Last Will would have been my #100.  This 2011 game from Vladimír Suchy and Czech Games Edition is all about inheriting a fortune and trying to blow it all in order to inherit a LARGER one.  You’ll be buying properties that you hope will depreciate in value, buying extravagant gifts, and basically throwing money around.  It’s a worker placement game that has a really fun concept, but it just barely missed the Top 99.  Still, it’s a great game.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

#99: Donald X. Vaccarino’s 2012 game Infiltration was the first set in the Android Universe (after Android, that is).  This Fantasy Flight title is a push-your-luck game where players are trying to steal data from a research complex.  Every turn, players simultaneously choose an order, then individually carry them out.  Different rooms do different things, and after every round, the proximity alarm increases.  If you haven’t escaped with as much data as possible when the proximity alarm hits 99, you lose.  It’s quite a fun game with a nice variable set up.  I’m sad that FFG won’t be supporting it anymore – it needs some expansions.

image by BGG user Marcel Casasola

image by BGG user Marcel Casasola

#98: Marcel-André Casasola Merkle has one of the longest names in game design, but he also has produced some really good games.  His 2003 game Attika is all about building a city-state on the Greek peninsula.  You’re trying to collect resources in order to construct buildings with the goal of either building all 30 or connecting two of the shrines on the board.  It’s an very good two-player game, though I hear it bogs down a little with three or four players.  I haven’t gotten to play it in a while, and maybe it would go up the list if I did, but I still have fond memories of it.

image by BGG user toulouse

image by BGG user toulouse

#97: The classic dexterity game Crokinole fills this spot on the list.  This game, which can be played with two player, or four players in teams, is all about flicking discs to score maximum points.  On your turn, you place a disc on the outer line and flick it towards the center.  If there’s no other piece on the board, it must end in the center area.  If there are opposing pieces on the board, it must hit one.  Scoring is done based on proximity to the center, and the player/team with the most points scores the difference. Boards are really expensive, but if you can play, this is a lot of fun.  The pegs in the middle are pretty maddening.

image by BGG user jeston

image by BGG user jeston

#96: Castle Panic is a light cooperative game from 2009 that was designed by Justin de Witt.  It’s a tower defense game – every turn, monsters are moving closer to the center of the board where you and your fellow players are trying desperately to keep them at bay.  It has a cool ring shape to the board, and the monsters JUST KEEP COMING.  The rules try to shoehorn in a competitive aspect (only the player who gets the most points from killing monsters is considered to be the winner), but taken as a pure cooperative game, this is a great accessible experience that all ages and experience levels can enjoy.

image by BGG user nello

image by BGG user nello

#95: The 2003 two-player abstract game Six (by Steffen Mühlhäuser) is an absolute wonder of simplicity.  Players either control red or black hexes and are trying to make one of three shapes out of six pieces – a line, a triangle, or a hexagon.  On your turn, you simply place a piece so that it is touching at least one other piece.  When you run out of pieces, you just move them around on the board.  If this breaks the board, the smaller section is lost.  That’s it.  I just explained everything you need to know.  It’s a beautiful game with some great lightweight pieces, and is very easy to learn, if difficult to master.

image by BGG user Kyokai

image by BGG user Kyokai

#93: Pixel Tactics was originally one of the games in the Level 99 Games Minigame Library (2012), but has since taken on a life of its own with several sequels.  Designed by D. Brad Talton, this head-to-head battle game was inspired by the video game world.  Players place their cards in a 3×3 grid, and each unit can do something different based on its position in the grid.  Your goal in the game is to kill your opponent’s leader.  There is a ton of strategy to explore in this little game, and I do enjoy it.  It’s one of the more clever games that I’ve played, though it doesn’t get much play recently.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

#94: Equinox is a two-player abstract game from designer Jason Boomer that was originally produced in 2012.  One player is light, the other is dark, and you’re duking it out.  There are 48 double-sided hexagonal tiles, and you play two per turn – one side is white, the other black.  These tiles will then have scoring effects at the end of the game depending on their color, or may cause other already placed tiles to flip.  The player who has the higest score at the end is the winner.  It’s a really interesting tug-of-war throughout, and all of the tiles could be the one that makes or breaks your entire game based on when it is played.  Good stuff.

image from website

image from Level 99 Games website

#92: Master Plan is another from the Level 99 Games Minigame Library (designed by D. Brad Talton).  When I did my original review, it was my favorite of the bunch, but it has since been surpassed.  This is a real-space game that is set in a super villain game show.  Players take turns moving, placing cards on the table as platforms to jump onto, and drawing new cards.  You could place a springboard to help you move faster.  You could place a switch that allows you to draw and replace a card from the table.  It could be a laser to blast the floor out from someone.  It could be a trapdoor.  It could be a bomb.  The strategy comes in clever placement of platforms, and it’s very entertaining.

image by BGG user ColtsFan76

image by BGG user ColtsFan76

#91: The Pillars of the Earth is a 2006 game by Michael Rieneck and Stefan Stadler that was based on the novel of the same name by Ken Follett.  It’s a worker placement game where players have to gather resources and contribute to the construction of a cathedral.  The game came out near the beginning of the worker placement craze (it was often referred to as Caylus Lite), and features a unique mechanism of pulling workers from a bag to have the option to pay more for the right to go first.  The game attempts to follow the arc of the book through the cards that are played, but you don’t really need to know one to enjoy the other.  It’s a beautiful game, and very well put together.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

#90: Richard Garfield’s King of Tokyo will appear later on this list (spoiler).  His 2014 follow-up King of New York is #90.  Like its predecessor, the game is about monsters destroying a city (and each other).  The core mechanism is the same – roll six dice up to three times to find out what actions are available on your turn.  You can collect energy to spend on cards, you can heal, or you can attack each other.  KONY adds alternate ways to score as well as buildings and military that can be destroyed for extra benefits.  It is definitely a step up in complexity from its older brother, but I put it behind because I just love the simplicity of the original.  King of New York is still very good, and I would recommend it.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

#89: We’ll round out this first set with Kingdom Builder, the 2011 game that won Donald X. Vaccarino his second Spiel des Jahres (and also his second appearance on this list).  This is an area control game where, on your turn, you draw a card, then add three settlements to the indicated terrain type.  As you go, you’ll be trying to fulfill conditions on three random objective cards that are different each game.  There’s a lot of replayability, and while a lot of people deride it for having a lack of decisions, I think it’s a great gateway game.  It’s easy to learn and quick playing, as well as nice to look at.

Coming soon – the top 88!  Thanks for reading!

I’m going to do something a little different with my pre-GenCon coverage this year.  Rather than cram everything in one post that will inevitably miss stuff, I’m going to let fate decide what I’ll talk about.  I’m using Random.org to generate five numbers per post, which I will then cross-reference with the GenCon preview at BGG.  We’ll see what comes up, and maybe we’ll find something worth talking about.  I ran the numbers on June 26 when there were exactly 300 titles on the list.  My numbers that came up were 35, 114, 209, 239, and 253.  So here we go.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Odyssey: Wrath of Poseidon is a game from designer Leo Colovini, and is being published by Ares Games.  In the game, one player is Poseidon and the others are Greek sailors he is trying to keep away from the center island.  Poseidon plays behind a screen, and one his turn, he can play one token to move one or more ships.  The players don’t know where he has moved them.  Each player then moves their ship, which Poseidon mirrors on his board.  He now knows exactly where that player is, but they don’t.  He tells them what they can see (water, islands, etc) in the surrounding spaces, and they need to deduce their position so they can know how to get to the central island.  The game ends when all players make it to the center island, or if eleven turns pass without everyone making it.

Colovini’s games don’t really do much for me.  They tend to be very abstract, which is not a bad thing, but with a little too much going on to really allow anyone to focus on the strategy.  This one seems to be more straightforward than some of his, but I can see how it might get really confusing after a while.  This one is not currently on my watch list for GenCon, but maybe it will interest you.  To see a preview of the game from Origins, follow this link.  It’s available for preview ahead of its planned September release.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Bears! Trail Mix’d is an expansion to Fireside Games’ 2011 release entitled Bears!  It was designed by Anne-Marie de Witt.  Bears! is a dice game where players are trying to collect sets of dice.  In each round, 5 dice per player are rolled, and will show either a bear or a tent.  Each player then rolls their five black dice and starts matching them with dice in the center.  A rifle can be matched with a bear for one point.  A running man can be matched with a tent for two points.  A sleeping bag can be matched with a tent and will score five points if no bears remain in the center at the end of the round, but will lose two if there are bears left.  The expansion adds a single die to the game that will change the rules for each round – extra points, limitations, etc.

Bears! sounds like a fun filler, nothing with too much depth, but something that will have some laughter as people crash into each other’s hands while grabbing dice.  The expansion looks like a cool way to shake things up, and I’m sure they’ll have copies of the original for sale to go with it.  This is one I hadn’t been aware of, but I think it looks worthy of some play.  Here’s a Dice Tower review of the original game.

image by BGG user l4studios

image by BGG user l4studios

WarQuest by Glenn Drover was successfully Kickstarted back in May.  It’s being published by Mr. B Games and L4 Studios.  The game is a large-scale fantasy board game with a 31×46 map 165 detailed miniatures, 22 dice, 151 cards, 80 plastic coins, 25 banner stickers, 120 control markers, 60 VP markers, 20 damage markers, 5 reference boards, and of course, the rulebook.  I haven’t delved at all into how to play, but here’s the BGG description of the game:

WarQuest is a game of grand strategy, conquest, and heroic quests in the fantasy world of Myrathia. Immerse yourself in this chaotic and mystical world! Take on the role of a warlord who seeks to reunite the fractured land under your banner. Recruit wood elves, dwarves, goblins, orcs and beast-men to fill the ranks of your armies and engage in epic battles. Travel across the tormented lands in an effort to drive back chaos by completing desperate quests. Conquer and control strategic cities and regions, and if successful, declare yourself ruler of all Myrathia!

It sounds kind of generic fantasy to me, but Mr. B has a reputation for some good games and Glenn Drover has some hits on his hands as well (Age of Empires III and Railways of the World, for example).  Drover really likes huge games, and it you’re into that, this is probably a good one to check out.  Here’s Undead Viking’s review for more.

image by BGG user Happykali

image by BGG user Happykali

Flick ‘Em Up! is a new Western-themed dexterity game from designers Gaëtan Beaujannot and Jean Yves Monpertuis.  It’s being published by Pretzel Games.  In the game, you’re setting up a western town made up of cardboard set pieces, then trying to complete a given scenario.  You could be trying to rob the bank, or trying to rescue a guy from being hanged, or just trying to have the most people left standing on your team in the end.  You move around the board, shoot others, and do all kinds of actions based on flicking discs around the board.

This has been on top of my most anticipated GenCon game list for several weeks now, so I’m really excited that it randomly came up to be covered here (what ARE the odds [that would be a 1 in 300 chance, I suppose {don’t be a smart aleck}]).  It’s one of the coolest looking games I’ve seen in a while, and looks like it has that kind of feel that Rampage/Terror in Meeple City gives me.  It looks like a ton of fun, and I’m very excited to play this one eventually.  Here’s the Dice Tower review for more information.

image by BGG user Ianotoole

image by BGG user Ianotoole

Fool’s Gold was designed by Joshua Balvin and is being published by Rock Paper Scissors Games.  It’s a dice-rolling, commodity speculation type game set in the mid-1800s during the Gold Rush.  You’re placing people on the paths to various mines in order to get the best choice of cards from that mine.  After five rounds of this, players add up their treasure after removing the color in which they’ve gotten the most (which is Fool’s Gold).  The player with the most gold wins.

This is one I had initially surpassed when looking through the GenCon list, but after taking a second look at it, I think it looks pretty interesting.  It’s a race to find the gold, and you have to spend money to make money.  There’s some luck pushing as you draw, which reminds me a little bit of Thebes.  I don’t know if it will set the world on fire (in fact, I doubt it will), but I think it’s worth a look.  Here’s a link to the Dice Tower review.

So that’s my first random preview.  That was kind of fun, I’m definitely going to do that again.  Hope you enjoyed it too – thanks for reading!


Kickstarter Blitz #18

Time for the monthly Kickstarter Blitz.  A lot of projects to cover this time – I won’t be going into a whole lot of detail, but I’ll try to give a couple of thoughts for each one.

image by BGG user Push_It_Game

image by BGG user Push_It_Game

Push It (Leeson George) is a dexterity game where you are pushing discs around trying to get closest to the center.  From the Kickstarter description:

Push It is a tense game of skill that can be played anywhere. To win, push, flick or judo-chop your pucks so they are closest to the central jack at the end of the round. Sound simple? Well, it is! Find any smooth surface (tables are ideal, and luckily most people have them), whip out your Push It bag, and play with whoever is up to the challenge. The game is quick to learn but hard to master. Come up against a Push It maestro and you’ll soon be put in your place (Warning: friendships can suffer as direct result of Push It). Play Push It either mano-a-mano, 3 player, 4 player or our favourite and most strategic version is two teams of two.

It’s a very portable game, just some discs and a travel bag.  But it looks like a fun game that could easily be played just about anywhere, and they have a great video attached to the project.  So go check it out.

  • End Date: June 28, 2015 @ 5:30 PM CDT
  • Goal: £4,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: November 2015
  • How Much: £15
image by BGG user yahooseriously1

image by BGG user yahooseriously1

Epic Card Game (Robert Dougherty/Darwin Kastle, White Wizard Games) is the fantasy-themed follow up to the ridiculously successful Star Realms.  From the BGG description:

Epic is a card game with a fantasy theme. Starting with 30 cards and 30 points, players have one gold at the beginning of their turn. They play any number of zero cost cards per turn, and up to one card which costs gold. The cards can be champions or events. Players can then try to attack their opponents, and bring their opponents’ points down to zero. The game contains 128 cards (120 playing cards and 8 token cards), each card different from all others. All non-promo cards come with the game box – there is no collectable aspect.

It’s no surprise that this game has flown waaaaay past its original $50,000 goal.  And with a name like Epic, that’s a lot to live up to.  But these guys are really channeling their Magic experience, and I think that this one will be another huge hit for them.

  • End Date: June 30, 2015 @ 9:00 PM CDT
  • Goal: $50,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: September 2015
  • How Much Per Set: $20
image from Kickstarter project page

image from Kickstarter project page

WeyKick (Urich Weyel, Mayday Games) is a magnetic dexterity soccer game that is looking for funding to bring out a six-player version.  From the brief BGG description:

Each player takes control of 1 or 2 footballers by moving magnets below the wooden playing table. The footballers themselves are magnetic and move in response. The players try to kick a small marble ball into their opponents goal. The first player to score ten goals wins.

I’ve played WeyKick in my game group, and it really is a hoot to play.  The basic two player version is a lot of fun, though you are at risk of cracked knuckles from moving the magnets around.  I hope to see this get funded, but it’s got a ways to go.  It is pretty expensive.

  • End Date: July 2, 2015 @ 9:40 AM CDT
  • Goal: $10,000 (not funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: November 2015
  • How Much: $79 small 2-player, $129 large 2-player, $199 6-player; $159 and $249 for hockey versions
image by BGG user shanniganz

image by BGG user shanniganz

Cosmic Kaboom (Matt Loomis, Minion Games) is a space themed dexterity game where you’re trying to collect energy.  From the Kickstarter description:

Each player controls three planets in their color scattered throughout the board. One of these planets will house an energy crystal which supplies players with an energy cube of that color when their ship is flicked into this planet. After an energy cube of each player color is collected, you may toss the space bomb onto the board in an attempt to blow up the other player’s planets. Each planet is worth points (shown on the back of the planet) that you earn when blowing it up. Advancement cards are given to players throughout the game which provide player powers or bonuses to aid in your conquest. The game continues until one entire color of planets has been destroyed, or the majority of the planets have been destroyed. Whoever has the most points becomes the ruler of the universe!

This looks like a pretty fun game that adds the element of resource collection to the dexterity aspect.  The tossing of the space bomb is kind of a brilliant touch, and I think this game looks like something I’d really enjoy.

  • End Date: July 2, 2015 @ 9:00 PM CDT
  • Goal: $9,700 (not funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: February 2016
  • How Much: $24
image by BGG user Krspond

image by BGG user Krspond

Commissioned (Patrick Lysaght, Chara Games) is a biblically based cooperative board game about the Apostles building the church after the death of Jesus.  From the Kickstarter description:

Step into shoes of the earliest Apostles, and experience the fear, faith, and awe of the first century Christian Church. Using your unique faith decks, each player contributes a skill the church needs to succeed. Work together to strengthen your faith decks, grow the church, and collect the New Testament, but be warned! Gladiators, lions, Roman governors, spiritual attacks, and natural disasters stand in your way. Find a way to achieve the scenario victory conditions before either the trial deck runs out or you extinguish (lose) 5 churches. Commissioned takes a historical perspective on the theme allowing players to determine their level of engagement with the details of the first 150 years of church history.

There’s a real dearth of good religious themed games out there, so I’m holding out hope that this will be a good one.  It’s certainly getting some good buzz from some noted reviewers who hold to the Christian faith, so we’ll see how it plays out.

  • End Date: July 3, 2015 @ 7:00 AM CDT
  • Goal: $9,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: February 2016
  • How Much: $39
image by BGG user newrev

image by BGG user newrev

The Gallerist (Vital Lacerda, Eagle-Gryphon Games) is an art-themed game from the creator of Vinhos, CO2, and Kanban.  From the Kickstarter description:

The Age of Art and capitalism has created the need for a new occupation — The Gallerist. Blending the talents of an Art dealer, museum curator, and Artists’ manager, you are about to take on that job! You will promote and nurture Artists; buy, display, and sell their Art; and build and exert your international Influence. As a result, you will achieve the respect needed to draw visitors to your Gallery from all over the world. There’s a lot of work to be done, but don’t worry, you can hire assistants to help you. There’s a long queue of unemployed Art aficionados lined up, hoping to work with someone of your stature. Build your fortune by running the most lucrative Gallery ever, and thus win the game by having visitors in your gallery; exhibiting and selling works of art; investing in artists’ promotion to increase art value; and achieving trends and notoriety as well as curator and dealer goals.

I have yet to play a game by Mr. Lacerda, but he’s earned a reputation for making very deep and thematic strategy games.  He’s definitely on the rise as a game designer, and I usually keep an eye on what he’s doing next.  This one looks to be right in line with his previous efforts.

  • End Date: July 5, 2015 @ 9:00 PM CDT
  • Goal: $30,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: October 2015
  • How Much: $59
image taken from Kickstarter project page

image taken from Kickstarter project page

Boardgames That Tell Stories 2 (Ignacy Trzewiczek) is the second book by Polish game designer Ignacy based on his blog of the same name.  From the Kickstarter description:

Two years ago, Ignacy Trzewiczek had a dream. He had been writing stories and essays on his blog for years and wanted more than anything to have a collection of those stories sitting in his library. With the help of Kickstarter, and backers like you, that dream came true. Now we’re back to do it all again! Ignacy has picked some of the best essays which he published on his Boardgames That Tell Stories blog from 2013 to 2014. Volume 2 will also include new essays which were written exclusively for the book. As with volume 1, this book will feature unique photos and pictures of prototypes of Ignacy’s games!

I haven’t read the original book, but Ignacy runs a great blog, you should check it out.  I’ve heard really good things about the books, and I hope to get to read them sometime in the future.

  • End Date: July 6, 2015 @ 12:46 PM CDT
  • Goal: $3,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: November 2015
  • How Much: $10 digital, $25 hardcover
image by BGG user kbrebach

image by BGG user kbrebach

Monstrous (Kim Brebach, Secret Base Games) is a dexterity game set in ancient Greece.  From the Kickstarter description:

This is Archaic Greece.  Faith in the Pantheon is waning.  Zeus commands you gods to hurl your mythic monsters down, hit the faithless mortals’ cities, strike fear into their hearts, and send them running back into the temples!  Throw your monsters with cunning, combining their powers with location and other monster powers.  Wreak havoc, edge out the other gods, and restore the most Faith in the Pantheon so Zeus declares you the winner!It’s time to get MONSTROUS!

This is a game that appears to follow in the footsteps of Maximum Throwdown in that you are throwing your cards at certain locations, but with text on the cards rather than a bunch of symbols.  The art looks great, and I like this style of game a lot, so I’m keeping an eye on it.  In fact, let’s call this my PICK OF THE MONTH.

  • End Date: July 9, 2015 @ 10:09 AM CDT
  • Goal: $16,500 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: November 2015
  • How Much: $29
image by BGG user scottbalmes

image by BGG user scottbalmes

Loop, Inc. (Scott Almes, Eagle-Gryphon Games) is a game about time traveling where the actions you do in one round are repeated in the next.  From the Kickstarter description:

The game is played over the course of three days, with each day actually being the same day, but a different time through it. During the first day, players will get to perform three actions and send out their one time machine. Actions include gathering components, setting up advertising, and more. Then, at the end of the day, players jump into their time machines and return to the beginning to start the day over again. The catch is, when players go back in time to try the day again, their past selves are still running around. This means they’ll have to perform all the actions from the previous version of the day, as well as three new ones. They’ll also have an additional ship to launch. On the third try, things compound even further… making timing key. At the end of the third day, the player who completed the most profitable trips wins, provided they didn’t cause too many tears in the space time continuum.

I heard Scott Almes talking about this game on a podcast (perhaps the Little Metal Dog Show?) a while ago, and have been looking forward to it since then.  And now it’s up on Kickstarter.  It sounds like a mind bender, and looks quite good to me.

  • End Date: July 9, 2015 @ 9:00 PM CDT
  • Goal: $10,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: October 2015
  • How Much: $39
image by BGG user BL4kLotus

image by BGG user BL4kLotus

Healing Blade: Defenders of Soma (Brandon Patton, Nerdcore Medical) is a fantasy game about fighting disease.  From the BGG description:

The world of Soma is under siege by the Lords of Pestilence. Hideous invaders like Anthrax, Pertussis, Cholera, and the Black Death are running rampant inside the country’s borders, attempting to murder innocents. The only hope for these helpless villagers is that the Apothecary Healers, their god-like saviors, will save them. Led by ancient warriors Penicillin, Cipro, and Tetracycline, the Apothecary Healers rush into battle, destroying wave after wave of attacker just in the knick of time. Yet it’s not that simple: the Apothecary Healers have different specialties, and must be deployed in a sophisticated manner. And worse: the invaders learn quickly how to resist and evade the Apothecary powers, and some become even stronger when they are struck down. Healing Blade: Defenders of Soma immerses you in a fantasy realm that represents the real world struggle against infectious disease and bacterial resistance. It’s a two player card game wherein one player attacks with bacteria, and the other defends with antibiotics. The game requires no prior knowledge of medicine, yet accurately reflects the current state of actual antibiotic use against the most common and most feared bacterial infections. Designed in a collaboration between hardcore gamers and practicing physicians, Defenders of Soma offers a complex strategic gameplay experience, while also increasing familiarity with today’s medical quandries in the face of waning antibiotic effectiveness.

I love the theme on this one – I love that they took a fantastical look at a real world battle.  I haven’t delved into gameplay on this one, but I hope its as good as its theme.

  • End Date: July 9, 2015 @ 10:00 PM CDT
  • Goal: $35,000 (not funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: May 2016
  • How Much: $40
image by BGG user andrewfederspiel

image by BGG user andrewfederspiel

Apotheca (Andrew Federspiel, Knapsack Games) is a game about crafting secret potions while getting the needed ingredients from an unknown market.  From the BGG description:

Players craft potions in a secret marketplace. Hide ingredients to deceive opponents, and use magical powers to mix concoctions. But beware – your opponents are brewing schemes of their own! Apotheca is played on a 4×4 grid. Players gain points by making matches of three potions of the same color in a row. The first player to make three matches wins. It’s easily learned, but the combination of asymmetric powers and secret facedown potions make the game a delicious challenge. On each turn, players take 2 of 4 possible actions: reveal a secret potion and gain a gem of that color; draw, look at, and place secret potions on the board until there are exactly 3; use one of your active apothecary powers; or spend gems to hire new apothecaries. Whenever a player makes a match, they must place it on one of their apothecaries. This removes that apothecary’s power for the rest of the game, so it’s important for players to keep revealing potions, collecting gems and hiring new apothecaries… all while keeping their opponents at bay!

This game looks like there’s much more involved than simply combining ingredients, which is present in most potion making games.  Here, there’s a lot of secret play and deception involved, as well as some deduction of what is where.  It looks interesting.

  • End Date: July 9, 2015 @ 10:59 PM CDT
  • Goal: $20,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: June 2016
  • How Much: $35
image by BGG user huffa2

image by BGG user huffa2

101.1 (David Harding, Grail Games) is an expansion for the two-player computer programming themed card game One Zero One.  From the BGG description:

101.1 adds new command cards to add to the One Zero One base game. These cards can be interchanged with other command sets or simply added to the base game for a larger experience. In summary, these cards are END & CONT: (playing an END card disallows players from playing future cards to a program row, while playing CONT re-opens a locked row); GOSUB: (a card alongside a GOSUB command can be moved to any row with at least three cards in it by the active player); GET (playing your GET card allows you to take and flip a card from your opponent’s hand, adding it to yours); and NEXT: (after playing a NEXT card, your opponent must play their next card to the program display alongside the card you just played). The expansion pack also includes The CPU: (this card serves to run the CPU of the game, allowing players to play One Zero One solo); 60 (now you can extend the length of your program and put even more points up for grabs); and 2x player aid cards.

If you’ve never played One Zero One, it’s an interesting area control game where one player is 1s and the other is 0s.  You’re trying to control different rows for points, and some cards have special abilities to mess with your opponent.  I like it a lot, so I’ll be watching how this expansion works.

  • End Date: July 12, 2015 @ 6:07 AM CDT
  • Goal: $1,500 AUD (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: December 2015
  • How Much: $5 AUD for expansion only, $21 AUD for expansion and base game
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Monster Truck Mayhem (Ben Pinchback/Matt Riddle, Dice Hate Me Games) is a game about the exciting world of Monster Trucks.  From the Kickstarter description:

SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY! Monster Truck Mayhem is invading the SuperMegaDome! Brought to you by Ridback Pub, 101 The Animal, and Big Al’s Sound Emporium, this thrill show spectacular will BLOW YOUR MIND! All your favorite trucks and more will be there… AND SO SHOULD YOU! Car crushing, mud sliding, bus jumping, and general mayhem for only $39! Less than FORTY BUCKS gets you the whole seat… but you will only need the edge Edge EDGE! Monster Truck Mayhem is a real-time dice-rolling racing game, designed by Ben Pinchback & Matt Riddle, creators of the award-winning games Fleet and Eggs & Empires. Players simultaneously roll their dice to race around the SuperMegaDome track, and the winner is the first player to cross the finish line!

Dice Hate Me does really well with their products and the design team of Pinchback and Riddle have a really good track record.  Throw in a fun theme, and color me interested.

  • End Date: July 12, 2015 @ 10:59 PM CDT
  • Goal: $30,000 (not funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: June 2016
  • How Much: $39
image by BGG user Bryan Fischer

image by BGG user Bryan Fischer

Dark Dealings (Michael D. Kelley, Nevermore Games) is a game where you are an evil overlord trying to defend your tower from pesky humans.  From the BGG description:

For Overlords of evil, doom, and sorrow, life is not fair. The local races, hackneyed halflings and dullard dwarves, fail to appreciate the time and toil that goes into perverting the laws of nature and defying death itself. And now, after a few singed villages and poisoned wells, the locals are coming for you and your magical brethren. Stout Heroes of the land, mighty warriors and dexterous thieves, pious paladins and wily wizards, have banded together to bust down your gates and evict you from your dark castle. Luckily, you are in contact with Dark Masters, beings man was not meant to know. They are ready to provide you dastardly traps, potent spells, and decaying corpses for reanimation, if you can demonstrate your bravery by facing the toughest Heroes. Now it’s a competition to see which Overlord can withstand the siege. Well… you never liked your neighbors that much anyway. Dark Dealings is a quick drafting and combat game for 1-6 players. You first draft Heroes, then use them to bid for the Defenses that will eventually be their downfall. Players then take turns flipping and fighting their previously drafted Heroes. The last Overlord standing is the winner!

I love reverse fantasy games, where you get a chance to be the bad guy defending against those goody-goody heroes.  Like Dungeon Lords – it’s good stuff, and usually provides for some nice humorous opportunities.  This one looks good.

  • End Date: July 12, 2015 @ 10:59 PM CDT
  • Goal: $20,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: December 2015
  • How Much: $15
image by BGG user Quined Games

image by BGG user Quined Games

Carson City Big Box (Xavier Georges, Quined Games) is a reprint of a well-respected Western-themed worker placement game from 2009.  From the BGG description:

The year is 1858 in Carson City, Nevada. You have rounded up a team of courageous cowboys, and your plan is to buy up the best parcels of land in this new town, then build them up with the most prosperous ranches, mines, saloons, etc. Carson City: Big Box is a collection of the Carson City base game, the Gold & Guns expansion, and the upcoming Horses & Heroes expansion. The game board has been redesigned and updated to support a sixth player and the Horses & Heroes expansion. The game is played in four rounds, and in each one of them, the players choose one of the characters, which give certain advantages. When several players claim the same action, a duel is fought, and the player with the most firepower wins the action. In the end, the most prominent citizen in Carson City — as measured by victory points that can be won both during and after the game — wins. Carson City: Gold & Guns, the first expansion, contains updated buildings and houses, new buildings, new double-sided characters, the “Indian” character (previously a promotional item at Spiel 2010), and a separate expansion called “The Outlaws”. Carson City: Horses & Heroes, the second expansion, lets players visit the rodeo to claim additional victory points and use horses to unlock special actions. Three new characters are also added to the game.

I’ve never played Carson City, but it’s one that’s on my list to play someday.  The Western theme has been annoying me lately, but that’s partly because I haven’t been playing good Western-themed games (other than Colt Express).  This one is a proven commodity, and this is a good chance to get the game plus some expansions.

  • End Date: July 15, 2015 @ 2:10 AM CDT
  • Goal: €40,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: 2016
  • How Much: €75

I do want to make mention of a couple of other projects that are currently going, but I don’t want to write a whole entry because I’ve talked about them a bit in the past:

  • Zombicide: Black Plague takes the insanely popular franchise and plops it down in an era of medieval fantasy.  It closes July 6 @ 7:00 PM CDT.
  • The third edition of Wok Star is funding, but who knows if people will go for it despite the involvement of Game Salute.  It closes July 14 @ 3:00 PM CDT.

A lot of good stuff up on Kickstarter this month, so check it out.  Thanks for reading!

*There may or may not be a Kickstarter Blitz next month.  My daughter is due to be born July 14, and that may eat up my blogging time.  We’ll see.

Time for a review of an abstract game from an unlikely publisher:

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Castellan is a game that was designed by Beau Beckett and published by Steve Jackson Games, who apparently decided to take a break from all the Munchkin.  It was published in 2013 and is for two players only, though if you get a second set (the green and yellow box), you can play with up to 4.  This is a game that is all about building castle enclosures, and is a bit reminiscent of the childhood game Dots and Boxes (aka Dots, aka Boxes, aka Squares, aka Pigs in a Pen, etc).  You remember that game, right?  Make a quire grid of dots, then take turns adding a line and trying to create a box.  The player who makes the most boxes wins.  Well, this is similar, but not really the same thing.

Each set of the game comes with 108 plastic pieces – 28 long walls, 30 short walls, 32 towers, and 20 keeps (10 per player in their color).  You also get 28 cards, 14 for each player.  There are two types of cards – wall cards and tower cards, and these are shuffled into separate piles for the player to draw from.  They both show walls and towers, but the wall deck tends to have more walls and the tower deck tends to have more towers.  You’ll begin the game with four cards – two wall and two tower.

On your turn, you play as many of your cards as you like (at least one).  These cards will show the pieces you can use on your turn.  You collect them and start building.  You must use all of the pieces – anything you can’t use is passed to an opponent for their next turn.  Whenever you complete a courtyard, you mark it with one of your keeps.  A completed courtyard is an area completely surrounded by walls.  If the area is big enough and you have left yourself some towers in the middle of walls, you can even build within that area.  No one else can build in an area you have claimed.

Once during a game, you can play two keeps in a single area, one on top of the other.  You have now doubled the points for that area.

At the end of your turn, you draw one card, choosing which deck to take it from.  Each card you play that also has a card icon allows you to draw one extra card.  When one player runs out of cards, everyone else draws all remaining cards and take one final super turn.  Once everyone is done, count up your points.  Each enclosure scores one point per tower on the walls.  The player with the most points wins.

image by BGG user bobbytan

image by BGG user bobby tan

COMPONENTS: This is a box filled with plastic.  They’re really nice pieces too – the walls, towers, and keeps are all really well made.  Sometimes, you get a little bit of an issue with trying to cram a tower connecter into the top of a wall slot, but if you go from the bottom, they usually slide right in.  There’s exactly as many pieces in the box as you need (i.e. exactly as many as are shown on the cards), and each one is exactly the right size.  The cards are kind of bland, but they’re functional for what they are.  It’s very clear what you need when you play one.  Great bits in this game.

THEME: There’s a sort of castle building theme here, but it’s pretty weak.  Just look at this one as an abstract game and you’ll be fine.

MECHANICS: This is a fairly basic game.  There is some card play with your hands, and determining when to play what is a crucial part of the game.  There’s some hand management there as you can play as much as you want, but then you won’t have many cards left.  The majority of the game is in the placement of walls and towers and trying to enclose areas for maximum points.  It is nice that there is a different distribution of pieces on each card, making for a crucial decision when determining what you need and what you can play.  The addition of a card icon on some of the cards is nice to help players regain some cards after playing big hands.  Also, the ability to stack a keep for double points is a good thing to have.

The game is very simple mechanically, which is a good thing.  The real complexity of the game comes in the strategy.

STRATEGY LEVEL: As an abstract, this game really is all about the player moves.  You have to be mindful of making enclosures, and want to aim to make at least one per turn.  Creating opportunities for combos is an interesting emerging strategy in the game – this is what I call it when you create a large enclosure, then spin off a smaller enclosure inside it.  The big thing to watch out for is not making things too simple for your opponents – whatever you do, do NOT make a third wall for someone else to finish later.  Knowing when to place your double keep is an important decision, and you should do it with an enclosure that is already scoring you a lot of points.

ACCESSIBILITY: This is an extremely simple game, and one that I think all experience levels of people can get into.  The tactile nature of the walls helps with accessibility because everyone likes building stuff.  And, much as I hate to admit it, the Steve Jackson label also draws people in.  In fact, the first time I played, it was because someone pulled it off the shelf at a gaming event and wanted to learn it because it was a Steve Jackson game.  It’s nothing like Munchkin (thankfully), but people like the company, so there it is.  Overall, I’d put this one as a solid gateway game.

SCALABILITY: With one box, this is a two-player game.  If you want to play 3-4, you need a second set.  With the amount of plastic in the game, you can see why.  No point in getting a full $60 game if you only need components for two players.  And I will say I haven’t played with 2 players yet.  I have played with 3 and 4, and while I really do like the game with those numbers, a) it leads to a significant amount of downtime, particularly when playing with people who suffer from Analysis Paralysis; and b) it makes it nearly impossible to plan ahead because the board will change so much between turns.  Still, with more players, you get a bigger area, and if that’s your thing, go for it.

REPLAYABILITY: There are always going to be new layouts to explore, so I think this game has a lot of replayability.  With just 14 cards per player, you’d think the game would have the potential to go stale after a while, but the way you use your pieces is always going to change.

INTERACTION: There’s not a lot of interaction, other than building off of what your opponents have done.  There’s no way to affect play when it’s not your turn, and you can chat and carry on during other player turns without missing anything.

FOOTPRINT: The layout can get pretty big, especially with four players.  Still, it’s not too bad – I’d say a medium size table should fit your needs.

LEGACY: I’ve referenced Munchkin several times because it’s another Steve Jackson game that I intensely dislike.  It’s far too random, and it takes far too long for me to have fun.  But it’s a huge cash cow for the company, and it allows them to make other games like Castellan.  So for that, I’m grateful.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? Yes.  Castellan is a great game for people who enjoy abstracts, 3-D components, and building stuff.  On my Yeah-Meh-Bleah scale, I give it an earnest


Thanks for reading!

As a faithful Doug (aka listener of the Plaid Hat Podcast), I’ve been hearing them talking about today’s game for a long time.  And now it’s almost here.  Time to take a look at

image by BGG user jfc1005

image by BGG user jfc1005

Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn is a game designed by Isaac Vega that is being published by Plaid Hat Games (it should be released at GenCon).  It’s a 2-4 player card game that takes 60-90 minutes.  According to the mythology of the game, the Phoenixborn are magical humans that are both protectors of the world and mortal enemies of each other.  So, you’ll be playing out a duel between them.

The game comes with 6 Phoenixborn cards, 241 spell/unit cards, 20 reference cards (phases of play and dice), 26 wound tokens, 30 exhaustion tokens, 21 status tokens, 10 charms dice, 10 ceremonial dice, 10 illusions dice, 10 natural dice, and a first player token.  Each player begins with a deck that consists of 30 cards and your Phoenixborn.  You can follow deck suggestions in the rules, or build your own.  If building your own, note that you cannot have more than three copies of a single card, and there are cards specific to particular Phoenixborn that only that character can use.  From the deck you construct, you choose five cards to be your First Five (no more than one copy of each), then shuffle the rest.  You also choose ten dice to use, and have a pile of conjuration cards.

In each round, there are three phases – prepare, player turns, and recovery.

PREPARE PHASE: Each player rolls all dice in their exhausted pool (you have all ten there to start the game).  These are then placed in your active pool.  You may then discard any number of cards from your hand, and draw up to five.  If you don’t have enough cards to draw, your Phoenixborn takes one damage per card that could not be drawn.

image by BGG user jfc1005

image by BGG user jfc1005

PLAYER TURNS: Players alternate turns taking a main action and possibly a side action.  The available main actions are:

  • Play a card with a main action symbol. This is just part of the cost of playing a card.  You could also have to exhaust the card, discard some cards from your hand, or exhaust a die of the appropriate type.
  • Attack a Phoenixborn.  Use your units, and your opponent can also use units to block.  Each unit used becomes exhausted after being used if it’s not destroyed.
  • Attack a Unit.  You’ll only be attacking one, but you can use as many as you want.  The defender’s Phoenixborn can guard the unit.
  • Pass.  If play gets back to you, you may take another main action or pass again.

The available side actions:

  • Play a card with a side action symbol.  As before.
  • Meditate.  Discard any number of cards from your hand, the top of your deck, and/or ready spells from your spellboard.  Each card you discard allows you to change the face of a die.
  • Activate Dice Power Ability.  Exhaust a die in your active pool to carry out its power effect.

When all players have passed on consecutive turns, the round ends.

RECOVERY: First, remove a number of wound tokens from each unit up to their recover value.  Then, remove one exhaustion token from each card that has at least one exhaustion token.  Any number of dice can move from your active pool to your exhausted pool, and the first player token passes.  You then begin a new round.

The game ends when there is only one Phoenixborn left standing.  The controlling player wins.

This game looks like a pretty interesting combination of card play and dice rolling.  You have magic symbols on your dice that are used for activating cards, but can also be used as special actions on their own.  Your cards to are also your timer for the game – run through them too fast and you’ll be hemorrhaging hit points before you know it.  So it looks like a good balancing act.  I’m not too excited about the head-to-head combat aspect of the game, and I wonder how this will fit in next to Plaid Hat’s Summoner Wars line.  It’s also really difficult to know how it will all work without seeing the cards.  But the art all looks really nice, and Plaid Hat has a pretty good track record, so I’m expecting good things.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading!


A quick review today of a kid’s game called

image by BGG user kaylex

image by BGG user kaylex

Animal Upon Animal was first published in Germany as Tier auf Tier in 2005.  HABA is the publisher, and the game was designed by Klaus Miltenberger.  Animal Upon Animal is a 2-4 player game for ages 4 and up that takes around 15 minutes to play.  This is a basic stacking game where you are trying to get all of your animals on top of the pyramid.

The game comes with one wooden die, one wooden crocodile, and four sets of seven other wooden animals – monkeys, penguins, sheep, lizards, hedgehogs, snakes, and toucans.  Each player gets a set of animals, and the crocodile is placed in the center of the table.  This is the base for all animal placements.  The player who can stand on one foot for the longest time (like a flamingo) is the first player.

On your turn, you roll the die.  There are five different symbols that may come up.

  • A single dot means you must place one animal on the stack.
  • Two dots means you must place two animals on the stack.
  • A hand means you must give one animal to another player, and they must place it on the stack.
  • A question mark means the other players determine which animal you must place on the stack.
  • A crocodile means that you add an animal to the base, with its nose or tail touching the front of back of the current base.

If you knock any pieces off the stack, you take them into your hand (no more than two – any more than that goes out of the game).  The player to get rid of all of their animals first is the winner.  The rules don’t say as much, but we always play that the winner then gets to knock over the entire stack.

image by BGG user Count_Zr0

image by BGG user Count_Zr0

COMPONENTS: The pieces in Animal Upon Animal just consist of the 29 animals and the die.  The animals are really well made – they are wooden, for one thing, and they are in irregular shapes to make stacking ultra difficult.  The die is pretty lightweight and probably not at all balanced if you care about that stuff.  But it all works together very well.  The animals are very cute, as you can see.

THEME: There’s a tacked on story to go with the game about the animals climbing onto each other’s backs, but not much of a why.  However, if you’re looking for an immersive theme, you’re looking in the absolute wrong place.  The animals all look like what they represent and are all shaped like what they represent, so what more do you need?  If you feel like you really need a story, I’d adapt Yertle the Turtle.

MECHANICS: This is a stacking game, and there’s not a whole lot more to it.  Play is driven by the die roll which determines what what action can be done this round.  One dot allows for one animal, two dots allows for two – you’d think that the more you get, the better, but that’s just more animals you’re stacking on an already precarious pyramid.  The hand and question mark offset each other – one lets you give an animal of your choice to another player, and the other lets the other players decide which animal YOU must place.  I like that the crocodile side exists as well – young children in particular may get frustrated with a small area to build on, so adding to the base helps with that.

STRATEGY LEVEL: There are two strategy points in this game – what to stack and how to stack.  Looking at the current position of the pyramid, you need to determine a) the best animal for you to use and b) the best position that will make things tough for your opponents.  You have to be careful, however, because you could be given the next animal.  Deciding what to give or what to make someone else stack follows these same guidelines.  OK, it’s not heavy strategy, but it does require you to think spatially.

ACCESSIBILITY: It’s a kid’s game, and one that is engaging even for adults.  In fact, I’d say this is a really good bait game – one you can set up and play quickly to draw people in before hitting them with more gateway style games.

SCALABILITY: This is a 2-4 player game, and I tend to think that it’s better with more.  The stacks can get really crazy the more players you have.  With two, I’d suggest having 14 animals each.  At least for adults – for kids, 7 is still fine.

REPLAYABILITY: There’s a lot of replayability here.  There are infinite ways the game can play out, and who knows how spectacular the crashes will be when they happen.  I’m not saying it won’t get old, but I think there’s a lot of life in the game.

INTERACTION: The interaction here is largely in the placement of your animals.  There’s some in giving animals to others and in deciding what animal someone must use.  Indirectly, the game also provides opportunities for trash talk and/or encouragement.

FOOTPRINT: This game takes up a very small amount of space.  Really, you only need space for the crocodile and maybe a few animals on the end.  I’d recommend NOT using a wobbly table – you’d be better off to use the floor.

LEGACY: In the pantheon of children’s dexterity games, this one rises straight to the top.  It’s a wonderfully made and wonderfully fun game.  It’s certainly MUCH better than Jenga, and I think if it found its way onto mass market shelves, it would absolutely DESTROY the children’s game competition.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? Yes.  It’s fun, it works for kids AND adults, it’s portable, and it’s fast.  I have zero complaints about this game, other than I’m not great at it.  On my Yeah-Meh-Bleah scale, I give this one an enthusiastic


Thanks for reading!

Today’s review is of a new edition for a game previously reviewed on this blog as part of the Level 99 Games Minigame Library:

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

NoirNOIR is a game that was originally published in 2012, one of six games included in the Minigame Library.  It was designed by D. Brad Talton, and published by Level 99 Games.  This was one of the best received games in the library, and was #3 on my list.  Pixel Tactics has been getting lots of support and re-releases, and now we’re getting a bigger edition of NOIR.  I can only hope that Master Plan is close behind.

NOIR is a deduction game that pits players against each other as they try to discover the identities of their opponents.  The original game was for 2 players, with a variant that took it up to 4.  This version contains six game modes, and has something for every number of players between 2 and 9.  In the box, you get 50 Suspect cards, 50 Innocent cards, 35 role cards, and 30 tokens.

The basic idea of the game is that players are trying to find each other on a grid of suspect cards.  This grid will be 5×5, 6×6, or 7×7, depending on the variant being used and the number of players.  Each player will have a secret identity, and the main goal is usually to discover opponent identities in order to eliminate them.  Generally, you can only accuse someone who is next to you, and you move the board around through a process called Shifting.  What this means is you can take a row or column and shift it one space in either direction, moving the card knocked out of the grid to the other side.  You don’t have to move the row or column you’re in, so this is a good method to get yourself out of danger.  You can also Collapse, which means to remove dead Suspects from each row or column, then collapse the board into a smaller form.

You only get one action per turn, and other actions are dependent on the current variant.  Let’s take a look at those.

#1: KILLER vs. INSPECTOR (2 players)

This is the original game, and lays the foundation for the other versions.  The game is set up with 25 Suspects laid out in a 5×5 grid.  The matching Innocent cards are shuffled into an Evidence deck.  One player is the Killer, the other is the Inspector.  Each gets a badge to identify them as such and to describe their possible actions on a turn.

The Killer takes the first turn, and draws an Evidence card from the deck.  This is her secret identity.  She must then kill one of the Suspects adjacent to her position on the board (flip it to its deceased side).  Adjacency includes orthogonally and diagonally touching the Killer’s Suspect card.  The Investigator then draws four cards and chooses one as his secret identity.  It is placed face down in front of him, and the other three remain in his hand.

For the rest of the game, the Killer and Inspector may choose one action available to them.  Either may Shift or Collapse.  The killer can also Kill, which means she flips an adjacent Suspect to its Deceased side.  If that Suspect had already been declared innocent, the Killer may Canvas for the Inspector, who must say if he is adjacent to the victim.  The Killer can also Disguise, which allows her to draw a card from the Evidence deck.  If not Deceased, it becomes her new identity.

The Inspector can Accuse, which allows him to point to an adjacent Suspect and ask if it’s the Killer.  If so, the Inspector wins.  The Inspector can also Exonerate, which allows him to draw a new card from the deck, then put a card from his hand onto the board, marking the Suspect as innocent.  This also allows the Inspector to Canvas for the Killer, who must say if she’s adjacent to the exonerated Suspect.

If the Inspector catches the Killer, he wins.  If the Killer kills the Inspector, or kills 14 people before being caught, she wins.

#2: HITMAN vs. SLEUTH (2 players)

This version plays out much like Killer vs. Inspector with a few twists.  Rather than just killing indiscriminately, the Hitman actually has a Hit List – four cards drawn from the Evidence deck and laid face down.  The first card is revealed so both players know who is on the Hit List.  Setup is otherwise almost the same – a 5×5 grid, the Hitman has a secret identity, and the Sleuth chooses a secret identity from a hand of three (instead of four).

Again, both can Shift or Collapse.  Additionally, the Hitman can Kill, which is a little different.  If you kill the face up suspect on your Hit List, discard it and turn up the next victim.  If they are dead, discard and draw the next one.  If you kill the Sleuth’s secret identity, they replace it with one from their hand.  If you kill one in the Sleuth’s hand, he discards it immediately.  Killing an exonerated suspect does not allow you to Canvas for the Sleuth.  Evade is another Hitman power that is just like the Disguise ability, but if successful, means you have to add a new victim to the end of your Hit List.

The Sleuth can Shift, Collapse, or Exonerate, all of which work just like Killer vs. Inspector.  The Sleuth can also Investigate, which is like Accuse, except that if you’re wrong, the Hitman discards the last card from the Hit List.

The Hitman wins by killing everyone on the Hit List or killing all cards in the Sleuth’s hand.  The Sleuth wins by catching the Hitman.

#3: SPY TAG (3-9 players, but not 7)

For this game, everyone is a spy trying to collect trophies (trophies are other spies).  You either play individually (3-5 players), or in teams of 3 (6 or 9 players) or 4 (8 players).  A 5×5, 6×6, or 7×7 grid is used.  Every spy gets a secret identity.  On your turn, you can Shift or Collapse as usual.  You can also Capture, pointing to a suspect that is adjacent to you and asking if it’s anyone.  If so, flip it to its deceased side and take their secret identity card as a trophy.  They immediately draw a new one.  You can’t capture a teammate, so if it’s one of them when you ask, they don’t answer.  You can also Canvas, which is pointing to an adjacent target.  Anyone adjacent to that Suspect raises their hand.

The goal is to get a certain number of trophies – 4 with 3 players, 3 with 4 or 5, 3 for the team with 6 or 8, and 4 for the team with 9.  The first player or team to accomplish this wins.

#4: MASTER THIEF vs. CHIEF OF POLICE (2 players)

Create a 5×5 grid, then place a treasure token on each Suspect.  The Master Thief draws three cards, selects one as her secret identity, and keeps the others in hand.  The Chief of Police draws three cards, keeps one as his secret identity, then places the others out on the board as uniformed guards.

Either player can Shift, but as there is no killing in this variant, there’s no Collapse action.  The Thief can Steal, taking a treasure token from any adjacent Suspect or her own identity.  The Thief can also perform a Quick Change, which is like Disguise.  She adds her identity to her hand, then puts one down as her new identity (it could even be the one she picked up).  The Chief doesn’t ever know what any of these are.

The Chief can Accuse, pointing to a Suspect adjacent to himself or one of the uniformed officers.  If it’s the current identity of the Thief, the Chief wins.  The Chief can’t catch the identities in your hand.  The Chief can also Deputize, drawing a new uniformed officer and discarding one of the current ones.  This allows the Thief to claim a treasure from anywhere on the board.

The Thief wins if she gets all 25 treasures.  The Chief wins if he arrests her first.

#5: FBI vs. MAFIA (6 or 8 players)

This is a team game, with half of the players on each side.  The board is 6×6 or 7×7, depending on the player count.  In addition to their secret identity, each player has a public role.  Players of the same team are all seated on the same side of the table so they may discuss strategy and show each other pertinent information, but all discussions must be public.  Turns alternate back and forth between the teams.

Each player has different things they can do depending on their role.  Everyone can Shift or Collapse as usual.

  • Bomber (Mafia): Bomb means that you place a Bomb marker on yourself or an adjacent Suspect.  You can also Detonate, killing the Suspect that holds the Bomb and you also kill an adjacent Suspect.  If they also hold a bomb, you can create a nice little chain.  Members of the FBI can disarm a Bomb as an action on their turn.
  • Detective (FBI): Far Accuse means you can accuse anyone within 3 spaces vertically or horizontally, but not adjacent.  Canvas here means that you can pick up the top two cards of the Evidence deck, reveal one, and put the other on the bottom of the deck.  The revealed Suspect is marked as innocent and all adjacent characters (FBI and Mafioso) must raise their hands.
  • Killer (Mafia): Fast Shift means you can move a row or column up to two spaces instead of just one.    You can Kill as in Killer vs. Inspector, but can’t canvas innocents.  Disguise is like Killer vs. Inspector, except a) you’re a good guy, and b) you can show your teammates your new identity.
  • Profiler (FBI): This is only used in 8-player games.  Accuse is the same as Killer vs. Inspector.  You can also Profile, meaning that place an evidence card face up on the corresponding Suspect.  You begin the game with four cards in hand, and this card comes from your hand.  After this, you discard any deceased Suspects in your hand and draw back up to four.  You can then Canvas the placed Suspect for Mafioso.
  • Psycho (Mafia): Swap means that you can switch any two adjacent Suspects on the board.  Your other power involves placing Threat markers, which is done at the end of your turn.  You must place 1-3 Threat markers on Suspects within 3 orthogonal spaces of you, and all Suspects with Threat markers that are adjacent to you at the start of your next turn are immediately killed.  Members of the FBI can remove a Threat marker as an action on their turn.
  • Sniper (Mafia): Fast Shift is the same as Killer.  To Snipe, kill a Suspect up to three spaces away from you diagonally.  Setup means you can move a Bomb, Protection, or Threat marker to an adjacent Suspect without a marker of that type.
  • Suit (FBI): You can Fast Shift, like the Killer.  You can also Accuse as in Killer vs. Inspector.  To Protect, you must have placed a Protection marker on a Suspect that is to be killed.  You can place or remove a Protection marker at the start of your turn, and cannot have more than six in play at a time.  If you are in the same row or column as a Suspect to be killed, you can save their life if they have a Protection marker.  You can’t protect yourself.
  • Undercover (FBI): You can Accuse as in Killer s. Inspector.  Disguise is just like the Killer.  Autopsy is similar to Canvas – you point to an adjacent deceased Suspect, and all adjacent Mafioso must raise their hands.

If the FBI successfully arrests a Mafioso, the corresponding Suspect card is covered up and can no longer be killed.  The Mafioso player removes all of their markers from the board, then draws a new secret identity.  The FBI wins if they capture 4-5 Mafioso.  The Mafioso keeps the identity of any FBI they kill, so it actually counts as a double kill.  If a Mafioso kills another Mafioso, it counts as an arrest for the FBI.  The Mafia wins if they success in killing 18 or 25 Suspects in the game.

#6: HEIST (5-7 players)

This is a one-vs-all scenario.  One player is the Chief of Security in a casino, while the others are a gang of teams trying to rob it.  The board is set up in a 7×7 grid, and everyone gets a secret identity as normal, which thieves can share with each other.  Each thief also gets a level 1 role card (there are two levels).  The Security Chief gets four Uniformed officers (drafted from seven choices) in addition to his secret identity.

Turn structure in this one is kind of odd.  All thieves take their turn, then the Chief of Security takes his.  However, the thieves have secret and exposed actions, and the Chief goes after any exposed action.  So the Chief either goes after all thieves have consecutively taken a secret action, or after a thief takes an exposed action.  The Chief can Shift (no Collapse because there’s no killing), Swap a Uniformed Officer with an adjacent Suspect, Accuse a Suspect adjacent to a Uniformed Officer or his secret identity, or perform Surveillance.  This is similar to Canvas – you choose a 4×4 section of the board, and all thieves in that area raise their hands.

Thieves always start their turn by removing their Steal marker if it’s out on the board.  Then they can Shift, which is an exposed action if they move a Uniformed Officer – otherwise, it’s secret.  They can also Steal, which means they add their steal marker to the quadrant where the vault they’re trying to rob is.  Each vault is in a 3×3 block in one of the corners of the board.  If the Steal marker is the third marker in that particular vault, the vault has successfully been robbed, and the marker is cleared from the table.  Stealing is an exposed action.

Each thief has a role that is secret at the start of the game.  When a thief does an exposed action, it is revealed.  When a thief is arrested, they get a new identity and a new role.  There are level 1 and level 2 roles, and thieves will go through the level 1 roles first.  Each role gives you a special action unique to you.  Here they are:


  • Safecracker: Do not remove your Steal marker at the start of your turn.
  • Runner: Perform a Fast Shift.  This is exposed.
  • Cleaner: Disable an adjacent Uniformed Officers.  If there are any other disabled officers, they wake up.  Disabled officers cannot move or shift.  This is exposed.
  • Decoy: Vanish by shuffling your identity back into the deck and drawing a new one.  This is exposed.
  • Insider: Perform an Inside Job by swapping your position with that of any Uniformed Officer.  This is exposed.
  • Hacker: Hack by stealing from a safe you are standing next to rather than in.  If you’re in the center space, you can steal from any space.  This is exposed.


  • Silencer: Silence an adjacent Uniformed Officer – kill them.  The officer is replaced by a new one from the deck.  This cannot be done more than three times in the game.  This is exposed.
  • Mimic: Duplicate by drawing three evidence cards, choosing one as your new secret identity, then shuffling the others (and your old identity) back into the deck.  This is exposed.
  • Infiltrator: Swap places with an adjacent target instead of shifting.  This is secret, so you could potentially lie about having this role.
  • Sneak: Perform a Stealthy Shift – move a row or column one space without becoming exposed, even if you move a Uniformed Officer.  This is secret.
  • Master Safecracker: Safebreaking here means that you do not remove your Steal marker, and can even add a second one if you are in range for the same vault.  This is exposed.

The thieves win if they rob all four vaults.  The Chief of Security wins if he captures thieves enough that they can no longer draw new roles.

image by BGG user asutbone

image by BGG user asutbone

So, now that I’ve talked about all the different variants, time for the actual review.

COMPONENTS: The original NOIR came with just 50 cards – 25 for the suspect grid, 25 for the evidence deck.  There were also some reference cards to help players keep track of what they could do.  However, the reference cards were double-sided, and there were only four, so you had one with the Killer/Hit Man, one for the Inspector/Sleuth, one for the Spies/Chief of Police, and one for the Setup/Master Thief.  In the Black Box, each possible role has its own reference card, which is a very nice touch.  There’s even one for all nine Spies, as opposed to just one for all in the original.

The cards themselves are pretty good.  There are twice as many as in the base game so you can get up to a 7×7 grid.  A 50th card is included so two 5×5 games can be played at once, which is very considerate.  Also, cards are marked with a 6, 7, or * so you know which ones to take out in order to make sorting easier.  There’s nothing to stop you from just creating your own setup, it’s just harder to find all the matching cards.  The same 25 characters from the original are in the Black Box and use the same art and back (art for the game was done by Level 99’s frequent collaborator Fábio Fontes).  The coloring of the cards is slightly different, and a consistent font is used on all cards, rather than changing the font for the names on every card, as was done in the original.  And that makes me happy – the different font was distracting.

The game also comes with 30 tokens for use in games 4, 5 and 6.  These tokens are all double-sided with money signs on the back (for game #4).  There’s no vault tokens for game #6, but you can just use money.  Tokens are pretty clearly distinguishable.  The box insert has four compartments, and I tried to use one for suspects, one for evidence, one for reference, and one for tokens, but the suspect and evidence decks are a little too tall.  So you have to split them up, and then there’s not really a place for the tokens.  But the insert is fairly tight and holds the cards in place well.

Overall, the components are really good.  My only real complaint is that the rulebook has some glaring errors.  For example, they will often reference that you need to build the grid for the number of players, but never really tell you what that means.  The big culprit here is game #3.  I checked with Level 99, and found out that you get a 5×5 grid with 3-4, 6×6 for 5-6, and 7×7 for 8-9 players.  There’s also some contradictions in the rules where old rules did not get removed in the final edit.  This happened especially in game #6 where you are told that thieves do not share identities, then two paragraphs later you are told that they do (the official ruling is that they do).  You are also told that the security officer gets three uniformed officers and a secret identity, then later are told that the security officer draws seven, chooses four to be uniformed officers, and gets a secret identity (the latter is the official rule).  These are some significant mistakes, and you should be aware that they are there – you may have to be checking the FAQs.  Other than that, the rules are well laid out and generally do a good job of explaining the game.

THEME: This is a deduction game, and has a kind of mystery theme slapped on it.  It works for the most part – there’s a certain amount of abstraction in the grid setup that you have to accept.  But it is kind of fun to play along with the film noir tropes as you play.  Maybe talk in that Humphrey Bogart/James Cagney style or make up some stories about what’s happening.  The theme gets a little stronger with the more complex games, partially because there are more character specific actions.  Killer vs. Inspector is the basic game, and doesn’t really have a terribly strong theme.  Hitman vs. Sleuth is a little more thematic with the hit list, but still not very strong.  Spy Tag is not really strong, but having a lot of people playing at once and trying to catch each other does lend itself well to the theme.  Master Thief vs. Chief of Police feels more thematic as the thief tries to slip past the notice of the cops, one of whom he doesn’t know.  FBI vs. Mafia is probably the strongest theme in the bunch, especially with the way all the different roles work.  Heist is also pretty thematic, but it feels weird that there are so many people moving through a vault throughout the game.  So, overall, the theme is present, but a lot of the story work is going to be done by you in this game.

MECHANICS: I’ve been able to play five of the six variants, only missing out on playing Heist.  But generally, I think they’re all pretty strong mechanically.  The Shift mechanism is the one thing that is present in all variants, and this is the main way to shuffle the board and hopefully confuse your opponent.  Other mechanisms pop up based on the variant.  Most things that affect others require you to be adjacent.  This makes thematic sense – you shouldn’t be able to kill or capture someone if you’re not next to them – but it also serves to give opponents information about your location.  And every little bit of information you can collect is very important in your deduction.  You especially have to be careful about what you say – no secret talk is allowed, so anything you say literally can and will be used against you.

Here are some brief thoughts about how each variant plays:

  1. Killer vs. Inspector: Pretty basic, good as an introduction to the larger game.  Uses Shift, adjacent kills and accusations.  Also has some ways to get some extra info (exonerating) and to get out of a jam (disguise).  Canvasing is also used to gain more information.
  2. Hitman vs. Sleuth: Takes #1 up a notch.  The hit list makes things a little more complicated for the bad guy, and there are penalties for being wrong about Investigations as well as Evading.
  3. Spy Tag: This is the most basic multiplayer version.  It’s just maneuvering, accusing, and canvasing.  More people means more chaos, and I always like that.
  4. Master Thief vs. Chief of Police: The most complex two-player game.  The thief has a hand of disguises that makes it tougher for the chief, but the chief has two extra officers to make things tougher for the thief.  The money tokens on the cards makes shifting a little clunkier as you have more to move.
  5. FBI vs. Mafia: The different roles really make this variant shine.  The Psycho in particular is a tough role since you always have to threaten, then kill.  You just have to control yourself enough not to give too much away.  But all the roles have their own stuff to offer.
  6. Heist: No thoughts, haven’t played it.  But there are a lot of different roles, and the secret vs exposed actions are bound to add much more to the strategy.

I don’t feel like any of the variants are overly clunky.  They’ve all got their own charm, and once you’ve got the hang of the idiosyncrasies of each version, you’re set.

STRATEGY LEVEL: A lot of the strategy in NOIR revolves around maneuvering yourself into position, but a lot of it is shifting stuff around to confuse your opponent(s). There’s a strong memory element to the game, and people who are bad at remembering board states may have a tougher time than others.  But in the team games, you can discuss strategy with your teammates (openly – no secret talk), and that can help with the memory issue.  There can be some luck – after a kill, you have at worst a 1 in 8 shot of guessing who the killer is.  But part of the game is narrowing down your choices, closing the net, trying to swoop in and catch them before they kill again.

ACCESSIBILITY: NOIR ranges in complexity from relatively light (#1 and #3) to medium (#2) to heavier fare (#4, #5, and #6).  So no matter the skill level, you should be able to introduce some variant to people and get them playing quickly.  The memory element is going to be the biggest barrier to accessibility.

REPLAYABILITY: There is a LOT of replayability in this box.  Six variants, different layouts of the board, and different playing styles of different players will all increase the replay value here.  Level 99 is GREAT at providing variety.

SCALABILITY: This is another place where the game really shines.  There are three two-player variants, and three multiplayer.  There’s a variant for every number, though sometimes it’s only one option (3-4 is Spy Tag, 7 is Heist, 8-9 is Spy Tag), but there’s always something you can play.

INTERACTION: This is a game with high interaction.  You have to be paying attention to everything, or you’re going to miss some critical detail your opponent let slip.  There’s nothing you can do to affect the game when it’s not your turn, but the game encourages you to talk to teammates and discuss strategy.  Every little thing tells your opponent something, so you have to be very careful.

FOOTPRINT: NOIR doesn’t take up a lot of space, but you do need room for whatever size grid you’re using, as well as all the players around the table.  So a nine-player game of Spy Tag is going to be a lot bigger than a three-player game of Spy Tag.  Still, even the largest game can probably still fit on a medium-sized table.

LEGACY: This was my third favorite game from the Minigame Library, and was overall one of the most critically lauded.  This new Black Box edition breathes new life into the system, and I think really makes it stand out in the crowd.  As far as deduction games go, this one plays unlike any other and I think is better than most.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? Yes.  If you like deduction games, give NOIR a try.  It’s highly unique, and it’s a lot of fun.  On my Yeah-Meh-Bleah scale, I give it a


Thanks for reading!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 56 other followers