DM Review: Venetia

•April 6, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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Another diamond in the rough made by Passport Game Studios, Venetia is a game of control and colonies. Now I’m a big fan of competitive games like this so I was pretty excited to dive in, I’d never heard of it before but this game has a lot of historical content to it which, in my book, gives it another few points.

Diving right in the box is high quality, thick and sturdy. The components are easily punched but still thick and sturdy. Another point that I am a big fan of. The cards are also high quality and so far that seems to be the norm for Passport Games, big ups to them for that.

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The initial setup is not very hard as the components are nothing new for people who have a few board games under their belt. One thing of note you’d do well to grab a couple of old dice bags or something similar because this game has a component not unlike eclipse in the form of victory points and battle tokens you have to pick at random. Having a bag to keep these in will be handy.

The game is played in three rounds, each consisting of an era in Venice. In the initial stage of the game everyone bids one member of their house and a card from their hand and the one who wins becomes the Doge for the first round. The Doge gets tokens that can be used for extra actions or victory points. Throughout the game you will draw cards and each card has a number of coins at the bottom. In order to win the next Doge election you will have to bid using these cards by placing them on your color on the top of the board.

The game itself revolves around a set of ‘Action Dice’. You roll the dice and the players begin by selecting one of the three sets of dice. You take a number of actions as indicated on the dice, and in some cases you get to draw a card. If you’re taking less actions by selecting the 2 dice, you draw. If you take four actions everyone else gets to draw a card.

When taking actions on the board you must have a line to the place you wish to go. Every ocean tile and city tile has a number associated to it. In the case of oceans you must place one of your cubes on each tile until you reach this number. Once you have reached that number you place a token on that section and you may start from there from then on. In the case of cities each of the dice do something different. Once die gives you the ability to place multiple tokens on a colony, another lets you put multiple tokens on different colonies and the last makes you draw battle tokens. Battle tokens can be good or bad, just like any other cards you draw. Each city you can colonize requires a number of tokens in it to in order for you to put down a podesta (and get bonus points). The player with the most colonies in a city puts down a podesta and this can change as the game goes on and more players add cubes. When there are more than six cubes on one city everyone has to remove one.

Each epoch changes What happens when you draw a card to take an action. Other empires may show up. The flags and fleets that show up can be taken out with actions and each of those gives you victory points. Easy enough.

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When a podesta is put out you move the token along the bottom track. When you hit the end of the third Epoch the game is over.

In the end I like the mechanic of the action dice, I like the components, I like the theme and feel of the game. I would have like to seen a little more in the way of conflict between players. There are a lot of fiddly bits that come with the game as well. You’ll be moving pieces around a lot. The action cards also range in power which can feel unbalanced. The game does have a little bit of chaos, but such is life. Venetia can get bogged down at times when someone picks four actions and takes forever on their turn. In the end I can honestly say it’s a good game to have but not a must have for your shelf unless you love historical games.

DM Review: Dungeon Raiders

•April 1, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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The DM has a new game to share Dungeon Raiders by Passport Game Studios. Now I’ve seen lots of these types of games through the years so we’ll see how things play out. See what I did there? The first thing to note is that the box is pretty sturdy, as are the cards and components. The cards feel solid unlike some games I’ve played so no cheap cop-outs there, plus for Passport. The cubes are plastic, not the wooden fare we’re used to and I must say I’m quite happy with that. No more snagging or splinters. The rulebook is crazy small and that in my book is another plus, I’m a big fan of games you can just open and play right out of the box.

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Here is are the card decks separated. You have a dungeon deck, heroes, items, action cards, dungeon doors, boss monsters and treasure counters. Fairly simple! You start off by shuffling the 30 dungeon cards, removing 6 to keep it random then turn 12 of the cards over and reshuffle the deck. I was confused first too but bear with me, it makes sense! Once you do that you lay out the item cards (which in my mind represent trips to town) and the dungeon levels. When laying out the dungeon levels you put one random boss monster card on the bottom of the stack then divide the stacks all up in to fives, putting a dungeon door on each stack.

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The dungeon layout goes like so. The first level is the one on the bottom, I’ve discarded the door and laid them out top card on the left-hand side. This bottom row represents the first level of the dungeon. The other four levels are above (under the dungeon doors of course). Divvy out random hero cards (shown below), health cubes per the number in the heart and set your treasure counter to the number of starting gold (the stack on the left). The middle icons represent a number of items you start with as well, take one of those from the stack.

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As you can see above we’re all prepared to start. Warrior, Thief and Knight. Each is given a 1-5 card and their starting items and you’re ready to bid! Why do I say bid? Because that’s kind of what it feels like but that’s a good thing. Each player selects a card to put against the first dungeon card in line. Once everyone has chosen, reveal your cards. Monsters need to be defeated or the lowest bidder takes damage, treasures are won by the highest number, and vaults (like a mini store) mean you buy the item represented by your number.

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Where rules are concerned this game is pretty straight forward. It reminds me a little of a lite version of cut throat caverns and in my opinion that is definitely not a bad thing. With sturdy components, a good price tag and fast and furious setup and game play you can’t go wrong with Dungeon Raiders. In the end the DM says it’s a good buy!

DM Review: Mai-Star or Memoirs of a Geisha

•March 31, 2015 • Leave a Comment

pic1745564_md Pictures taken from BoardGameGeek.com

So recently my players and I cracked open a copy of Mai-Star courtesy of a friend of mine. I’d heard of the game but I did not have the chance to back it. I did not know what to expect but let me just say that I am pleasantly surprised with the game, it is amazing.

You start off with the below components, it’s a simple game to say the least.
Geishas – Each have their own ability, usable once per turn or once per round. Each geisha has stats Entertainment (Mask), Service (Flask), Intelligence (Book). These stats allow you to purchase guests, as described below.
People – These people can end up being either Advertisers which boost your stats or guests which give you points and allow you to take actions. Their bonuses are on the left hand side. The top three are guests, Cost, how many points (income) you get, and effect. The bottom three are the advertising bonuses + to one of your three stats.

Advertisers do not count towards your points and guests do not add to your advertising.

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The first thing you do is shuffle the deck, pick your geisha and set out a score card. Every round you get a different amount of starting cards (5,6,7 respectively). There are three rounds consisting of turns that run until someone has no cards in their hand or the deck runs out of cards. The rules are light and fast. The first player to pick their geisha goes last and the last person to pick goes first. Every round you can perform one action:

Draw a card
Advertise – Place a card from your hand next to your geisha and you gain its advertising bonus
Guest – Place the card above your geisha and perform its action (if any)
Discard up to two cards and draw up to two cards
Swap an advertiser for another card in your hand

Each person plays one action (plus any bonus actions from guests or your abilities) and that is a turn. Once all cards are out of one player’s hand or out of the deck the round ends, you total your score and move on to the next round. Turn in your advertisers and guests and keep your geisha then shuffle and deal again.

Once you have played three rounds you total up your entire score and the highest is the winner. All-in-all this is a great little game that can be fast, furious and frustrating because there apparently is a lot of backstabbing in the line of a geisha’s work.

DM Theory: Ripples in the Pond

•March 23, 2015 • 3 Comments

One tactic I use to keep my players interested in my world is continuity. I’ve mentioned in the past that I’ve had characters meet their retired or (at times) dead characters. This is just a small bit of the gigantic pie that is my world and DMing style. Characters make real ripples in the pond of life as they adventure. I’ve taken my characters through ancient worlds and modern times, past, present, future, it all ends up the same. What they do gives purchase to what happens in the future. It’s not just the big things either.

For example to teach a rather rowdy group the importance of what they called ‘starting quests’ or ‘tutorial quests’ I created an adventure for them. In this adventure the characters lived in a small town on the outskirts of a large kingdom. This town was walled in because it was on the edge of a very dangerous forest known for its excellent selection of hard wood. The first quest they got was to check on an old woman and her older son within the town walls. The two ran an alchemical business in town that had been shut down for a few days. My players scoffed and rolled their eyes at me and demanded a more important task.

I complied and told them that they had heard rumors of a goblin uprising to the south and there were calls for adventurers to come and assist the king’s guard in defending the southern reaches. They left the town in search of gold and glory. Some time down the line they went back to share their glory with the townsfolk they knew so well only to find that the town was completely uninhabited. They later found out that the people they were supposed to check on had an accident in the basement that had opened up an ancient spider warren that contained a huge number of unhatched giant spider egg sacks in stasis. The adventurers all perished trying to kill the spiders.

Later down the line (two sets of characters later actually) the group stumbled upon an abandoned city in the thick of an overgrown forest. This city had been overrun by giant spider creatures from a time in the past. It took them some time to recognize it but when they found the bodies of their old characters in the spider’s warrens they all found a somber lesson of humble pie served up. All of them vowed to me that they would never overlook a ‘tutorial quest’ ever again.

DM Review: Terra Mystica

•March 7, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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So the DM has recently purchased a copy of Terra Mystica. It has held the #2 slot on Board Game Geek for a while now (images borrowed from the same!) and I was curious to say the least. From what I’d seen elsewhere it looked to me like an advanced Settlers of Catan. I like Catan. Terra Mystica did not disappoint in any way shape or form. I will say this though, the rules and initial setup look daunting but everything falls in to place as you go. Setup is the longest part. You establish what race you want and each race has its own abilities to start with and once they build certain structures.

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Once you establish your race you set up your board, which has a similar feel to the mechanics if Eclipse. Each building you place gives you more resources of a certain type. You then set up your starting resources and positions on the cult track. The cult track grants you power (a mana-like resource that renews slowly) and each line of the track represents a different element. Builders, Gold, Power and Priests. Building more structures takes gold and builders (Dwellings, Trade Houses, Temples, a sanctuary and a stronghold). You chose your starting locations after your factions and begin from there. The last person to garden is the first player.

Upgrading your ‘infrastructure’ so-to-speak allows you to add ships to your trade lines (allowing you to build across water and count your water tiles as one long string) and reduces the amount of builders required for terraforming. Each race also has a special ability that can be triggered or used under certain conditions. This upgrade sometimes requires priests (gained from religious structures).

Temples and your Sanctuary grant you favor tiles which update your position on the cult track and grant you certain abilities. The priests you get from those tiles can be spent to move your position on the cult track as well.

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You cycle across each player until everyone has passed (again, similar to Eclipse) and from there you move on to the next round. Simple enough. Terraforming, building, all of these things mesh well in to the game and in the end, this game is definitely worth purchasing. The first play through was a tad rocky at the start because we had to keep referring to the rules but once you establish yourself it is a very excellent game that pulls all of the good from Catan, Eclipse and Lords of Waterdeep but keeps its core effort different from all of the other machines.

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In the end: Buy this game, it needs to be in your library.

Board Game Review: Power Grid

•February 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Images borrowed from Board Game Geek.

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I have owned Power Grid for a little while now, I’ve only had the pleasure of playing it twice before the other night. I am a huge fan of euro games, they are elegant and usually fairly easy to grasp. Power Grid does not disappoint in this regard. Coming from other games such as Arkham Horror and Mansions of Madness this game is a walk in the park. Set up is easy. You lay out the power plants as the rule book denotes, divvy out the money and lay out the starting resources. We determine our first player by pulling a factory from the stack, whoever pulls the highest is first player. This is one of the few games I’ve played so far that starting out as the first player is actually not usually a good thing. You auction first which opens up more power plants for the rest of the players. Every person playing can only win one power plant per round and you don’t have to auction. This phase is fairly straight forward.

The bits are, as expected, high quality. Everything is wooden and thick cardstock. Brown is coal, black is oil, yellow is garbage and red is uranium. Every player has their own color house that serves a representation of your factory. The player help cards are well laid out and quite useful. I found myself referencing that more than the book the few times I have played. Money is called Elektros and honestly the money is the only annoying part of the game, it tends to stick together. I would love to see a phone app for that, but that’s just me!

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The board has two sides, Germany and the US. Although I believe there are other boards out there, including fan-made boards. At the top of the board are the player turn order (upper left), current factory count (upper right), resources divided by cost (lower portion) and in the center are the cities and costs. Building in a city (one region per player at start) costs only 10 initially, but as you expand you pay the conduit cost listed on the pipe and the cost of the city. In phase one you can only have one player per city. Phase two opens up the 15 electro cost slot and phase 3 the 20 electro cost slot. Each phase has a defined qualifier. Phase 2 is X number of cities (depending on how many players you have), and phase 3 in the factory stack. The game ends when one player (again dependent on the number of players you have) connects X number of cities.

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One thing of note is the humor pasted to the outside of the box, go ahead and enjoy that little tidbit if you will. Aside from the art and color schemes, which are great, this is the best part of the box and boards.

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In the end you must buy and play Power Grid. It is like a fun-to-play version of Monopoly. If you enjoy competition and mechanics of Monopoly you’ll never pick it up again once you try Power Grid.

DM Review: The Broken Token

•February 18, 2015 • Leave a Comment

So I recently ordered a set of 9 trays made for the resource tokens that come with the board game Eclipse. The company I chose is The Broken Token (Facebook and Website). First off I had to cancel my original order for monetary issues but they were fast and friendly, a definite plus in my book! So I ended up ordering the token trays off of Amazon instead of at their site although I will most likely use their site for any and all future purchases. Their storefront is well built and has an efficient layout, another plus.

I received a shipping notification at breakneck speed and got the item I ordered so fast it made my head spin. Kudos for that guys! Immediately I was 100% sure that I would be satisfied. They have excellent presentation, as you can see below:

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The trays were assembled in a retail-quality plastic bag and individually wrapped in threes with instructions about the possiblity of adhesive backing. There was definite care put in to the crafting and packing of these trays. I’m sold. Everything fits quite nicely and I do not regret ordering the token trays with the optional bottoms for storage. It’s much easier to get the fiddly bits that come with this game in place with the trays and the included top. You can assemble them and store them by putting a couple rubber bands on them. I may, in the future, order another 9 and use those 9 for tops. We’ll see about that though. They were definitely worth the purchase!

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Honestly I could not be happier with The Broken Token and they have a very wide range of products available on their website for board game organization. My next order is going to be either the Eclipse game insert or the Lords of Waterdeep organizer. Here’s hoping they come up with one for Terra Mystica!

My rating? If you’re a board gamer and you want to store and organize your board games properly, look no further!

 
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