Onirim Review

Released 2014
Designer Shadi Torbey
Publisher Asmodee (Website)
Players 1 (technically you can play 2, but really solo game)
Playing Time Physical: 15 – 25 minutes (mainly shuffling)
Digital: 5-10 minutes
Category Card Game
Solo
Hand Management
Set Collection
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Can you escape the nightmares?

Onirim is a game that players either know about or have never heard of. Like all well-kept secrets, not only is Onirim a gem of a game, it is also part of a greater universe – the Oniverse.

Why is it such a well kept secret? I think a big part of this is that the Oniverse are single-player games, and solo games aren’t given a significant push marketing-wise.

The Oniverse shares a common theme, taking place in a dreamscape universe. What more do you need to know to play them? Nothing. That’s something else that the Oniverse games share – you don’t need to know the theme at all. It is light enough for a superficial theme, however, go digging and the lore is surprisingly profound.

So what is Onirim?

If you want to get technical, Onirim is a set collection/deck management game. Make sets of three coloured cards with different symbols to unlock doors, unlock all of the doors to win.

Like all simple games, this does not sound inviting. But if you look at all great games, they all boil down to ‘You just do the thing’. The factor of what makes a decent or good game great is the extra feelings the game can give you, and Onirim manages to get into your head in very subtle ways.

All you have to do is open these doors. What can be hard about that?

So why do I want to keep reading?

As I mentioned in Last Week’s Gaming, I recently started playing Onirim again on my phone. Onirim has been on my solo playlist since it was released five years ago, and when I think of what to play next, it always manages to be on the shortlist.

Why is it always good to play? Firstly, it’s a known quantity that doesn’t ask a lot of time from me. These days, that’s always appreciated. Secondly, it has a free digital version that is spot on in terms of game mechanics and simplifies setup so much.

That’s right – for a change, I can do a board game review AND a video game review at the same time! And because the digital implementation is free, I can also highly recommend playing it to see how you like it.

Got a couple of minutes and want to challenge yourself? Onirim Digital is a great choice

OK, I’m listening. So what is Onirim?

According to the theme, you play as a Dreamwalker trapped in a dream labyrinth. To escape, you need to unlock all of the oneiric doors. Vefore you run out of cards. That’s right – you get to go through the deck once and once only.

When dealing with a random draw pile, getting the right cards is hard enough, but there are nightmares as well. If you are unlucky enough to draw a nightmare card, you will lose cards. The game makes you choose to discard the remaining cards in your hand or the top 5 cards in the deck. When you discard from the deck, if you draw a door card or a nightmare, they stay in ‘Limbo’ and are shuffled back into the deck.

I can discard my hand, but I need the green sun to unlock a door. Lucky I have a key that will beat the nightmare!

You can choose to discard what is left in your hand instead. This makes the cards you lose a known quantity, but sometimes you really need the cards in your hand, so it can be a harrowing decision to make.

Lose track of how many cards you have played or discarded, and you will lose. Get a bad run of drawing nightmares, and you will lose. Each decision counts towards a win, but the luck element has you dreading the next draw. It still surprises me that hundreds of games later (yep, I played a lot over the years), I still get that rush of excitement or disappointment as I win or lose.

I just need to unlock the blue door to win. But I have almost a 50/50 chance of drawing nightmares!

So that’s it? You just play cards out?

Yep. As I said before, just describing the game to someone makes it sound boring and question why anyone would want to play it. But once the rules all click (normally takes one maybe two games), you really start to want to beat such a simple system.

And again, the digital base game is free. You can try it yourself for nothing and decide if you like it or not. Yes, digital expansions will cost but it’s only a couple of dollars each, and by then you will know if you want to add new cards, powers and objectives.

That said, if you like the game I would suggest buying Onirim Second Edition physically. Why? It comes with all expansions and variants, most of which are not available digitally. Use the digital app to try before you buy, and see how much you like it for yourself.

The physical copy. So much potential gaming in those cards - and so much shuffling!

So what can I play Onirim on?

You can get the digital version of Onirim on Steam for PC, and there are Android and iOS versions as well. If the links don’t work for you, just search for Onirim (maybe add Solitaire Card Game) from Asmodee Digital and you can’t go wrong.

Final Thoughts

Onirim is a rare board game. It’s a highly abstract game that makes it easy to immerse yourself. While the core gameplay is simple, the physical version comes with expansions that let you scale the complexity to increase replayability.

Five years later, and I keep coming back to Onirim. I have that much fun with it.

But. Like a match 3/tap to continue mobile game, Onirim is a fun and challenging quick game before mobile gaming was a science. It’s not a campaign/legacy game, and yet it is a game that has continually pulled me back after long absences.

And best of all? You can try the excellent base game digitally for free. Even if you don’t enjoy digital gaming, the implementation is spot on. Also, the in-game tutorial is excellent, making the digital version a great try before you buy experience.

Overall
9/10
9/10

Pros

  • Easy to learn and play
  • You can set your difficulty/complexity with expansions
  • Digital version makes games lightning quick to get into

Cons

  • The physical version is a lot of shuffling and setup
  • High luck factor can put off some players

 

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

5-Minute Marvel Review

Released 2018
Designer Connor Reid
Publisher Spin Master Ltd (Website)
Players 2-5
Playing Time 5 minutes per villain boss
Category Cooperative
Hand Management
Unique player powers
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Can you take down Thanos?

I have mentioned 5-Minute Marvel being played by my group once or twice, and I thought I would give it a full review.

It’s also a retheme of 5-Minute Dungeon, so the review can almost be for both games. I am only going to be talking about the Marvel version though, as 5-Minute Dungeon does have a couple of small differences and expansions.

So what is it?

5-Minute Marvel is a cooperative deck builder game where you choose different heroes to defeat various villains. There is no deep backstory or prior knowledge required, making this an incredibly accessible game.

A mix of heroes included. Some well known, some not so much. All fun 🙂

What do you do?

The first thing you need to keep in mind is the promised five minutes. Yes, you can play a round in five minutes. To play the gauntlet of enemies means fighting six bosses, which takes longer with resets in between.

Setup is pretty quick, and you can have most of the game explained during setup, but there is a disconnect between playtime and the title.

The basics of gameplay are straightforward. Each player chooses a hero, and a villain boss with henchmen is set up at the top of the table. Each ‘bad guy’ has several symbols on it, and players throw down cards that match the symbols to beat it.

Like many cooperative games, you need to be playing with the right group to get the full benefit of the game. Play with people that only shout at others, and no one wants to play. On the flip side, people that don’t speak up to offer advice/cards/etc., and you aren’t playing anything.

The symbols you need to match. Play as many matching symbols as on the enemy, and repeat

The combination of players for 5-Minute Marvel has a lot more tolerance than other cooperative games though. A lot of people will probably be quite happy after the first five minutes – even if you do have to all but force them to play!

The timer is sassing you the whole time.

Using apps with board games can be divisive. I enjoy the integration when done well, like the Mansions of Madness or Chronicles of Crime type implementations. Just as a clock though, and I tend only to set the countdown on my phone.

However, like Klein Klenko’s fuse, the timer in this game gives you lip while you play. The timer is J.A.R.V.I.S., and while Paul Bettany isn’t the voice, the voice acting is fine. Different, but fine. The lack of the MCUs distinct J.A.R.V.I.S./Vision can cause you to stop for a second and lose thought!

The free app is available on iOS and Android and doesn’t take long to download.

It’s not for a whole night game though

Not by a longshot, unless you are playing for a half-hour only. 5-Minute Marvel comes into its own as a filler game, to be played as an opener or closer. Now a few more people in my group know it, I am even tempted to get them to play it as I set up a bigger game. You can get it done that quickly!

5-Minute Marvel is a great diversion, but nothing more really. While you get a good range of heroes (10 to be precise), the same six villains and couple of enemy types can get repetitive quickly. Even a gauntlet run may not be in your best interest after a couple of tries.

The enemies all look great, but when all you concentrate on is the little row of symbols that is lost during gameplay

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Codenames Review (including series)

Released 2015
Designer Vlaada Chvátil
Publisher Czech Games Edition (Website)
Players 2-8+ (best around 6)
Playing Time 15-20 minutes
Category Social Deduction
Word
Party
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Don’t have a lot of players? Just play it in public. People will join you quickly enough 😀

You have heard me talk about Codenames a few times on the site. I keep saying I need to get around to reviewing it. Today, I finally get around to that review!

What I am not reviewing is a single version of Codenames. Back in 2015, Codenames was released. Then came Codenames: Pictures. Later the others arrived. And they just kept coming.

So while I talk about the base game in this review, remember everything I say holds for every other Codenames game – you can even mix and match them!

So what is Codenames?

Codenames is a party social deduction word game. Four years after release, it is still the party game on Board Game Geek. Describing Codenames is the hardest part of the game, and it’s hard to describe because of its simplicity.

You play in two teams, each team having a spymaster. Before you lies a grid of Codenames, and you are trying to find your agents before the other side find theirs.

The theme I have heard explained in many different ways, but I usually just stick with “You have these files/words/images before you, and we have to give you clues that link as many together as possible. First team to find all their tiles wins.” – how many games can you teach that quickly?

Just a bunch of cards and some tiles. Setup is really easy with Codenames.

But because this is espionage, you can’t just blab out to your team where they are though – you need to do it in code. On the spymasters’ turn, they give one word and one number. The word ties into the grid somehow, and the number is how many files are associated with the word.

You might think that sounds too easy, and it can be. Except Vlaada Chvatil put a little twist in – the deadly assassin word. If your team finds the assassin, they are instantly out of the game

Using the app for the spy board. If you put it down, the clues hide!

That doesn’t sound like much of a game.

I agree in describing it that it doesn’t reach out and grab at people. It’s one of those games that you need to play to get excited over. And you will get excited about it. Of all the people I have shown, I know only two people that didn’t enjoy playing it, and that was when we played a three-player variant.

The magic of Codenames is I have been in situations where I scraped up three other people and just started playing in public. By the end of the game, we usually have about eight people playing, and most of them staying for a second round. Most of the people that would wander over would call themselves ‘not gamers’, yet Codenames is simple enough that you can teach someone all of the rules in a single round. It’s this simplicity that lets everyone play.

But I don’t know a bunch of those words – what do I do?

Being at its heart a word game, playing with younger children non-English speakers can be a challenge. Codenames: Pictures helps with this immensely.

It’s the same game, except with some fantastic artwork with multiple meanings. But just because the game uses pictures doesn’t make it easier. It just helps with players maybe not knowing certain words.

It’s like playing with simplified Dixit or Mysterium cards. While I wouldn’t put a child in as spymaster on their first game, their team can help them with the clues. This teamwork makes Codenames very inclusive to a lot of different groups.

Pictures doesn't make the game any easier, unless reading can be an issue

So what is Codenames: Duet?

If you typically game with only one other person, Codenames: Duet is for you. The spymasters’ tablet is double-sided, so each player switches between being clue giver and player each turn.

There are a couple of twists. In Duets, there are three assassins on the board. One of those assassins is shared between both teams, meaning a square you see as a dangerous square has a 2 in 3 chance of being something else when you are receiving clues.

The differences are slight, but at its core Duets is still codenames. There is also no reason why you can’t play Duets in teams. One of the most beautiful thing about Codenames is that it is incredibly flexible.

Two players, one board. Duet is a great two player game.

What about the other Codenames?

There are a few different versions of Codenames, mostly thanks to USAOpoly/the OP and licensing.

Deep Undercover is an ‘adult’ version of Codenames that initially I overlooked. Did I want a Cards Against Humanity type version? After playing it appreciate Deep Undercover as both childish humour and an extra layer of difficulty. How many clues can you give for ‘bum’ when so many cards overlap?

Disney, Marvel and Harry Potter all share Codenames base play but pull all of their cards from their licenses. They also share one flaw – you need to be a fan of the theme to join in fully.

A magical twist to the theme

In Codenames: Marvel, for example, there are a bunch of characters and locations not used in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I am a Marvel fan, and even I had to Google some of the characters to know who they were.

There are also little thematic twists in each version to keep them unique, but the mechanics are the same. The assassin in Harry Potter is a Death Eater. In Marvel, if you guess all of the neutral characters, Thanos collects all of the infinity stones, and it’s a double team loss. There are little twists to keep them fresh, but not enough to make them overly complicated.

Our first game setup. Even with MCU fans at the table, there was a lot of Googling on who was who

Rules Lawyers Beware

There are a few rules in giving clues. You can’t use words that are on the board, or form to make part of a word on the board. You can’t give clues that are positions of words.

So when someone says ‘Right 3’ for example, the team should expect that the clues aren’t three on the right-hand side on the board. They should be wary of picking ‘Writer’, as Right can be interpreted as a part of the word.

I have played Codenames with die-hard players, and I have played with complete casuals. I have heard team arguments about the validity of a clue.

Bottom line, the only person that can rule a clue invalid is the opposing spymaster. When playing with new players or one of the themed games, I try and be forgiving on clues. I might play at the stricter clues, but if someone is unfamiliar with the game or the subject, they still need to be able to play.

Follow the golden rule of gaming – everyone is there to have fun. If you have a player telling everyone why a clue is ‘bad’, maybe let them go back to their heavy euro games :p

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Codenames

Final Thougths

I love Codenames, and if you are looking for a game for every gamers shelf, Codenames will be on the shortlist. Get Codenames: Pictures and Codenames: Duet for instant flexible gameplay.

You can also combine games. Have a player that’s as much a Disney fan as you are? Use the Disney tiles with the Duet spy board!

Codenames is a quick game that people can join in mid-game, making it a great games night opener while people arrive. Its simplicity, combined with social gameplay makes Codenames a modern classic.

Overall
10/10
10/10

Pros

  • Simple to teach and play
  • No one way to win
  • Variety available on the base concept
  • Can combine versions for different experiences

Cons

  • Licensed versions may be too detailed for casual fans
  • Younger children or non-English speakers hard to be spymasters

One Page Dungeon: Volume 1: Fire in the Goblin Forge Review

Released 2019
Designer Noah Patterson
Publisher Micro RPG (Website)
Players 1
Playing Time 15-25 minutes
Category Roll and Write
Solo Game
Dungeon Crawler
DriveThruRPG View on DriveThruRPG
(It’s not yet listed on BGG!)

Sometimes you want a light romp through a dungeon. And sometimes, you can get it.

Dungeon crawlers are a popular style of game and for excellent reasons. Clearing out enemies and grabbing various loot is a fun experience and one replicated in different media. It might not be immediately apparent, but games like Zombicide, Diablo and Destiny all have dungeon crawl DNA.

Another thing all these games have in common is they excel when you are playing in groups. Yes, you can solo your way through most of them, but the experience isn’t quite what it could be.

So a couple of weeks ago when I saw a Facebook post about a solo dungeon adventure, I thought I would give it a shot. That game is One Page Dungeon: Volume 1: Fire in the Goblin Forge.

The What?

Yep, it’s a mouthful. For the rest of the review, I am going to call it One Page Dungeon, but keep in mind if you search for it that there are a lot of One Page Dungeon titles out there.

I was interested in One Page Dungeon for a few reasons. One, the designer Noah Patterson puts his games on DriveThruRPG as Pay What You Want for the first week. It’s a freebie trial. How could I lose?

All you need to play! Well, maybe not as many dice...

Another reason is that I have some weightier solo games like Four Against Darkness, that I just haven’t quite been able to play properly. Not because they aren’t good games, I just haven’t had the time to give them the attention they deserve. One Page Dungeon looked like a simpler version of the theme so that I could get into it quicker. Again, for a free game, it was worth a shot.

Exploring the Goblin Forge

One Page Dungeon was a game that delivered on first impressions. It only took a few minutes to read the rules, but I did need to read them a second time to let them click.

Short version – I played 2 games, went back and paid for the game. It’s worth it, but I really appreciate the ‘try it for free’ approach of Micro RPG.

The game follows the generic dungeon crawl formula. Create a character from your choice of 3, spend some initial gold and go knock down a dungeon door.

Play is straightforward. Roll a die, and place the corresponding room on the map. There are traditional rooms and corridors to place, but mechanically they are the same. You need to think ahead on your placement though – if you ever get into a situation where you can’t place a room, the final boss appears.

Character choices are solid, and you can choose between different styles that play differently

Once you have the room, you then roll for monsters or traps. You can try and sneak through the room, but if you fail, it begins an encounter. Defeat the monster or escape a trap, and you roll on the treasure table for a reward.

You finish the dungeon by defeating the boss – the King Goblin. As mentioned, if you get caught in a dead-end that will bring the King to you. He will also appear once you have accumulated 100+ gold.

When you defeat the boss, you can spend 50 gold to level up or buy new equipment. Then you can try again.

All of this happens in four steps, and one of those iscombat. In combay, you follow an order of three steps. It’s like all roll and writes – here is your order summary, follow that. It’s what makes them so easy to learn and follow, and One Page Dungeon does it well.

So you keep playing the same map?

Not really. Because you create the dungeon as you go, the likelihood of replaying the same dungeon is very slim. Of course, this is a game that depends on dice rolls, so you will quickly get familiar with the creatures and treasure in the 6-8 dice value range.

As you level up, the encounters do get easier. But a few unlucky rolls can quickly turn the tide against you, so there is no cakewalk here.

You can see the ghost of my first run, and already the route and what I have encountered are different

The negatives

If you don’t like rolling dice, this isn’t a game for you. Everything you do in One Page Dungeon depends on a die roll in some way.

And the high luck level leads to one of the biggest things people could see as a negative. On my first run-through, I had a lot of healing items and the like, but getting gold was a grind. The second game, my usual ‘low’ rolls kicked in, so it didn’t take long to play at all.

The rules are straightforward, but I still had a couple of questions. Noah Patterson quickly answered my question on Facebook, which was great! I wasn’t sure if I could drink potions and the like during a fight, and the short answer is yes.

My other gripe is the art. On the cover is the ‘sexy warrior woman’ trope, which to me I can’t see how it fits the game. Most of the art also looks like it was created for a late 00s 3D adventure game.

I don’t know who created the assets, but the mix of hand-drawn items and 3d rendered imagery is jarring. Not enough to detract totally from the game, but if I didn’t already know what the One Page Dungeon was about I probably would have passed over it browsing DriveThruRPG.

It's not the images are terrible, it's just the 'computer game' feel seems out of place

As a short diversion, One Page Dungeon is a bit of fun, but I wouldn’t play multiple games in a row.

So what happens when you get have played enough?

The clue is in the title. One Page Dungeon is only Volume 1 😀 I have grabbed Volume 2 this week, but I haven’t played it yet. As well as a new monster table, you also get more characters to choose from with unique abilities.

Characters are interchangeable between the volumes, so this helps add to replayability as well.

But if you don’t want to get the new volumes, just stop playing. While I can see myself playing Dungeon Crawlers as a whole for years to come, I don’t think this series will be one I will be pulling out of the PnP box for years to come. But in the meantime, I am enjoying playing it – and that’s what counts.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
One Page Dungeon: Volume 1: Fire in the Goblin Forge

Final Thoughts

One Page Dungeon: Volume 1: Fire in the Goblin Forge is not a groundbreaking game or in the running for the Spiel des Jahres. What it is though is a fun diversion, and it does a pretty good job at being such.

For literally a couple of dollars and printing 1-3 pages, One Page Dungeon is a bit of fun and an excellent introduction for people dipping their toes in the roll and write dungeon experience.

While the score of 6.5 reflects that it as better than average, it’s the fact that I can’t see myself playing it down the linethat brings it down from closer to 7.5-8 for me. Even as a one of bit of fun, I think a lot of people will enjoy it.

Overall
6.5/10
6.5/10

Pros

  •  Simple solitaire roll and write
  •  Cheap price point
  •  Great introduction for new players

Cons

  • High luck factor can make game length drag
  • Roll die for everything

Lords of Waterdeep Review

Released 2012
Designer Peter Lee
Rodney Thompson
Publisher Wizards of the Coast (Website)
Players 2 – 5
Playing Time About 25-40 minutes per player (depends on play style)
Category Worker Placement
Hidden Information
Card Drafting
Set Collection
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Why be the one questing, when you can be the one benefiting from the questors?

Seven years is a long time in gaming. Changes in gaming over the last seven years have been phenomenal. Especially when you consider that it is now gamers everywhere that have benefited.

Video gamers have been seeing some pretty rapid improvements with console generations, but Tabletop gaming has only just really seeing this now. There is a reason Monopoly was king for so long – look at what it had as mainstream competition.

Take, for example, today’s game – Lords of Waterdeep. I have referred to it as an old favourite for years, and it’s not even that old!

That is the catch with today’s gaming boom. So many games are being released year on year, that a board game has a single run and then it’s gone, unless it makes it big. Lords of Waterdeep however is still going strong.

Released in 2012, I thought this was such a great gateway game for many types of players, even if there were preconceived notions on what ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ is. Many people agreed, and it became one of the early board game resurgence hits.

Original Box Components. **Image from BGG user vardamir

Today, Lords of Waterdeep is cheered or put down depending on your tastes. One thing I hear it put down for is the theme or lack thereof. I will talk about that in a little while.

I know a few players that have heard bad reviews on the game and won’t give it a second thought. The thing is though, for some reason, people look at Lords of Waterdeep as a deep strategy worker placement game. I often hear “It’s too simple. Game X or Y is so much better” as a justification why not to try it.

Yes, there are ‘better’ games available today, that is the benefit of so many new games coming out. Some forget these new games are building upon the lessons of great games that have come before.

Everyone is different, but if you sit a new gamer down with a lot of heavier games, they would be thoroughly confused and potentially put off playing again. Sometimes, the people teaching forgot they only have the experience that they do by starting with lighter games.

You can't get a player up to speed in one round of Twilight Imperium

Lords of Waterdeep for me is an excellent example of a gateway game. It has simple worker placement, light hidden role mechanics coupled with a theme that most people know that helps guide their learning experiences. There are a few moving pieces, but not enough to overwhelm players or those that enjoy lighter games.

It’s still a bit niche, sure. I wouldn’t call it a must-have item for every gamers shelf. But in today’s environment of Cult of the New, it’s still in print. And that should tell you something.

This is not what you get in the box. Lords of Waterdeep is my most customised game by far.

So what is Lords of Waterdeep?

Lords of Waterdeep has Dungeons & Dragons branding, but there is a bit of an argument on if its a Dungeons & Dragons game. I say that part doesn’t matter, and here’s why.

Most fantasy adventures start with your character and group in a pub, meeting with a stranger about a job. The stranger could be a noble in disguise, a merchant in need, or an agent of another. The setup is so standard that most going on a fantasy adventure are usually surprised by any real twist on the idea.

In Lords of Waterdeep, instead of being the adventurer risking life and limb for coin and fame, you are the noble ‘other’ that is set to benefit from the adventurers’ recklessness bravery.

Even without knowing the game, I bet you have a pretty good idea of what is happening here

And this is where I find most of the arguments come from – its “Not Dungeons & Dragons” if you aren’t the one adventuring.

To that, all I can say is “Fair enough.” If that is what Dungeons & Dragons is to you, then I can see why you would be disappointed in a game like Lords of Waterdeep.

But in your player position overlooking the resources of the city, to me, this theme is a great choice. It doesn’t hurt that the idea is also generic enough that you don’t need Dungeons & Dragons experience at all to get right into the game.

Waterdeep for me holds a special place as an old school role player, but so do places like Greyhawk. If you don’t know what I am talking about, you have probably already guessed they are cities or areas and nodding along with the conversation.

Lords of Waterdeep is my most 'blinged' game, hands down.

And this is a large part of why I love Lords of Waterdeep so much – everyone already has a fair idea thematically of what is happening. You don’t need to understand what an Owlbear is to know you get points for taming one. You do it and get your points, end of story.

OK, but how do you play?

There are two types of resources in the game – gold, and adventurers. During the game, you send agents to different locations to recruit adventurers and collect gold, then cash them to complete your quests. Most of these will give you points. Some special Plot Quests may also give you ongoing benefits rather than a score boost, so choose wisely.

That is the game in a nutshell, but there are a few other elements bought into play.

Waterdeep has several Lords, each with their strengths and goals. At the start of the game, each player is dealt a Lord face down. The Lord gives the player a bonus for certain things completed at the end of the game.

The Lords introduce the hidden role and secret objective mechanics to the game, without players having to learn asymmetrical rules. Each player still does what they were doing before, but some may go for Skullduggery quests over Warfare for end game points.

Each Lord is slightly different, and you randomly get one each game

Intrigue cards also add a small amount of ‘Take That!’ mechanics to the game. Each intrigue card is relatively straightforward on its own, so players don’t have to show what they have to everyone to ask questions.

A common one is a little compulsory quest another player must complete before any of their other pursuits. They are quick to do, and even score the player a few points. Some let you woo adventurers from rivals player boards, stealing their resources. But on their next turn, they will have what you took back again. Intrigues tend to delay rather than destroy.

Some sample Intrigue Cards

Even if you are being picked on by every other player, it is rare you can’t accomplish something during your game. An early mistake will not cost you the entire game, at least not until everyone knows the game inside out.

So what’s wrong with Lords of Waterdeep?

The biggest problem with Lords of Waterdeep is easily game length, especially with new players. Analysis Paralysis players also add to this. I try to tell people it will take about 30 minutes per player, but even this isn’t a great guide.

Partially this is because people that wait until their turn to begin to evaluate the game state will drag out the game. That isn’t unique to Lords of Waterdeep though. Unlike a few other games though, Lords of Waterdeep with it’s fixed choices can start to help players learn how to plan their play on other players turns.

Another thing that can add to the game time is how social you can be during the game. Because it’s a light game and a quick look at the board tells you the game state quickly, I have had plenty of games where I socialised more than I played.

Add more buildings during the game, and people start getting analysis paralysis

Another ‘issue’ some have with Lords of Waterdeep is its age, and that’s not a real negative for me. The comment that there are newer games that do some things better is accurate, but there aren’t many games that do the whole package as well.

Discworld: Ankh Morpork and it’s new version Nanty Narking (can’t wait for it that to arrive!) are almost advanced versions of Lords of Waterdeep. Yedo from Pandasaurus is also an advanced version, and it came out in 2012. But this is an unfair comparison in a lot of ways. Many people love Ticket to Ride, but the fact there are more advanced versions out there doesn’t make the original any less fun to play. Most people that I hear write off Lords of Waterdeep as ‘simple’ seem to forget this.

As a guide, if you own any of the ‘advanced’ games mentioned, Lords of Waterdeep probably isn’t your first choice to buy. It just won’t have the same amount of challenge for you, as it is a lighter experience. But to have it as an introduction in getting more people playing the other games? Yes, that is where it works well.

And this is where Lords of Waterdeep sits for me. It’s a fun light to medium weight game, but if you want something meatier to sink your teeth into then yes it’s not for you.

Wait – you said you wouldn’t play it without the expansions? Why should I?

No, now I wouldn’t play ‘vanilla’ Waterdeep, but I have played it a lot. Everything I have been talking about is all about the base game. The expansions also do just that – add more to the base, not ‘fix’ it.

The Scoundrels of Skullport includes two separate expansions that can be mixed or played separately. It has the bonus of adding a sixth player if you have a larger playgroup. That would be the only reason I would suggest grabbing it immediately. Other than that, standard expansion items really – new quests, lords, buildings and intrigues. They also have new area boards to place your workers.

Another thing I love about the expansions is that they can be played immediately. At its core, the expansion mechanics are almost identical to the base rules so you can jump in almost immediately.

It looks intimidating, but it's just more cards for the pile really

For new people, I remove a couple of the Lords and locations/quests that allow extra workers – the Ambassador and the Lieutenant. The rules these workers aren’t hard and can be thrown in on the second game easily.

As with any game, it is always best if you get the chance to play it with someone that knows it before jumping in and buying it yourself. Unless there is a sale or bundle going, play Lords of Waterdeep before worrying about anything buying Scoundrels of Skullport.

Oh, and did you know there is a digital version?

Interested, but don’t know anyone with the game? Lords of Waterdeep was the first ‘good’ board game conversions I ever played, and one of the reasons I still have an iPad.

You can get it on iOS and Android for AUD$11 – pricey, I fully admit. The app has a reasonable tutorial and multiple levels of AI, and mechanically it nails the game.

Lords Of Waterdeep Tablet
This is the Digital Tablet version, but it shows some of the choices on HALF the board

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Lords of Waterdeep
  • Game Score - 9/10
    9/10

Final Thoughts

I love Lords of Waterdeep. Hands down it is my most ‘blinged’ game ever, that should give an idea of how much I enjoy it.

That said, I would never say it’s my favourite game ever. It is high on my favourite games to teach, and it’s great to play with a variety of players.

I finally got this back to the table a couple of weeks ago, and of the six of us playing (expansions adds more players!) only 3 of us had played before, and one of those only on the app.

We had a great night, playing for about four and a half hours, including dinner and dessert. The new players had the mechanics and timing down pat by the end of the second round, and everyone wants to play it again.

What better recommendation can you have than that?

Overall
9/10
9/10

Pros

  •  Light mechanics make for great introduction to many different games
  •  Different roles make for replayability
  •  High quality card quality and artwork

Cons

  •  Can take a long time to play, especially with ‘Analysis Paralysis’ players
  •  Can outgrow quickly as a deep strategy game
  •  Blinging out your game can get expensive :p

Deep Space D-6 Review

Released 2015
Designer Tony Go
Publisher Print and Play Web Published
Tau Leader Games (Website)
Players 1
Playing Time 20-40 minutes luck depending
Category Dice Rolling
Worker Placement
Push Your Luck
Hand Management
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

To boldly roll where lots have thrown before

There are times when you want to play a game, but no one is around to play with you. Timing, location, last-minute plan changes – there are heaps of reasons why it can happen.

For me, this is a good time for Video Games to step in. But there are also a lot of times I don’t want to look at a screen anymore. Working in front of a screen all day, sometimes I can’t bear the thought of spending another few hours staring at another screen.

I had heard good things about a Board Game Geek solitaire print and play award winner Deep Space D-6 for a couple of years now. It was always one of those ‘next time’ print and play choices. I understood from a mechanical perspective why people enjoyed it, but never took the time to sit down and play a game.

That has all changed in the last few weeks, and I am glad I finally sat down and played Deep Space D-6 without distractions.

It doesn't look like much, but there is a surprising amount of game here

So what is Deep Space D-6?

Mechanically, Deep Space D-6 is a solo dice worker placement game. This is a technically correct sentence, and some people are now interested or turned off.

But hearing the title Deep Space D-6 and looking at the packaging, it’s understandable why people would be confused as to what’s going on.

Deep Space D-6 – is it a Star Trek parody? And why does the box look like a Choose Your Own Adventure Book?

Looking at the back, you see cards, a board with a ship on it, and some dice. Oh, dice – that explains the D-6 in the title. But the cards? Do you choose a route in space or something? It’s hard to follow from the packaging.

You play the role of a captain of a starship. Patrolling a section of space, you receive a distress call and go to investigate. But of course, the request is a trap and know you have to fight your way out of hostile space.

The first thing many new players will encounter - the back of the box
It doesn't look like much if you haven't played, but soon you will see a pitched space battle

You have to make snap decisions in your role of captain, represented by assigning available crew to different tasks. You need to balance ship maintenance with an ever-growing number of threats and random events that never seems to give you a break.

Still confused? Honestly, I don’t blame you. Having the mechanics make sense to me but not quite seeing how the theme integrated everything kept Deep Space D-6 on my ‘next time’ pile for far too long.

Gameplay Basics

There is a very easy to follow play order in Deep Space D-6. When you first begin, the setup has you already in the thick of the action. Threats are already surrounding your ship, and you have to start making choices.

Roll your dice and see if you have anything appearing on your scanners. Then assign your crew, add a new threat to the board, and finally resolve any threat actions.

You do this over and over again for about 20-30 minutes, depending on a few factors like luck and planning. This makes learning the game (or teaching someone else) incredibly simple as you only really need to concentrate on your actions and card text.

To win the game, you need to have drawn all of the threat deck cards. All external threats to the ship (including the big boss the Ouroboros) while having at least 1 hull point. What could be easier?

External Threats on the right, Internal Threats on the left. Sounds like Monday to me!

You can lose the game in a couple of different ways. The most common is being blown up. Just take too much damage, and as soon as your hull hits 0 points, you’re out. You can also have your entire crew incapacitated. If you start your turn and can’t roll any dice, you will lose – so be careful!

Playing Deep Space D-6

This all sounds pretty basic, and it is. But what you can’t picture from looking at the box or even listening to people talk about playing Deep Space D-6 is the incredible feeling of pressure and tension the game gives you. I have played plenty of games that have used timers to create a rushed atmosphere. Tony Go manages to do this while letting you take all of the time you want.

After the first couple of turns, you begin the gamer mantra of “Come on just roll some (Whatever you need to roll) please!”. You know what you need to do, but first, you need the resources (crew) to do it.

Secondly, every turn, you will add a new threat from the threat deck. There are some ‘nothing happens’ cards (Don’t Panic – just needed a towel!) but these can be taken out of the game if you are feeling masochistic.

Do you think I could roll just one shield die? Just one?
And of course as soon as my shields start to come good - they are gone again!

Each turn takes about 30-40 seconds. Some will be longer because you have to stop and think, and threat resolution can take a while as more are added, but a turn itself is speedy.

Because you are playing each turn so quickly, you quickly become so immersed in your game that you don’t notice you have been making quick decisions for 30 minutes. Some actions will cause elation and other despair. You begin dreading what you are going to reveal from the threat deck, but you don’t stop from turning them over.

This is the magic of Deep Space D-6 – in the space of about 10 minutes, you transform from slight confusion opening the box for the first time to complete absorption in trying to save your ship. It’s something that until you experience it yourself, you can appreciate the sentiment from an observers standpoint, but you won’t understand precisely what it feels like.

Replayability and Difficulty

Deep Space D-6’s retail version has a lot of variety going for it already in the box.

Firstly, you can remove the ‘Don’t Panic’ breather cards from the threat deck. This makes for a faster game as you are thinning the pile, but it also means you will have a new problem every turn.

I already mentioned the Ouroboros – the big bad boss of the game. It’s a single gigantic command ship comprised of six individual threat cards you fully defeat by destroying its core.

The more of these you take out, the harder the game
The big bad Ouroboros. It may just look like a few cards, but you will learn to hate this ship.

For your first time playing, you can simply leave the Ouroboros out altogether. You definitely have enough to worry about with the threat deck that this omission would not overly simplify the game.

Personally, I would recommend starting with the first optional Ouroboros setup. When you have cleared the threat deck, take the Ouroboros cards and set up the ship. Think of it as the big final boss appearing and trying to stop you from making it back to friendly space.

There is also the option of randomly shuffling the Ouroboros cards into the threat deck. If you draw one, put it to one side of the play area and reveal another threat card. When you have all six Ouroboros cards out, deal with the Ouroboros as an unveiled threat. You still need to clear the threat deck to win the game though.

This represents a more random timing to the encounter, while also building the tension and suspense as you begin revealing more and more of the Ouroboros. Most will also probably tell you it’s the more ‘advanced’ way to play.

Up in the top right, the Ouroborus is catching up...

The infirmary even has 2 modes of play you can choose from. You can play the standard way and have dice sent to the infirmary usually as a threat effect. Or, you can play where you put one die in the infirmary to make another die wild. This allows you to mitigate bad rolls but lowers your dice pool until a medical officer can treat everyone in the infirmary.

Finally, there are four different ships to master.

The Halcyon is the general all-rounder ship that is good for beginners and getting used to the gameplay. It has a Stasis Beam that lets you stop a threat from activating each turn.

Then you look at the next ship, the Athena Mk. II. On the surface, it appears the Athena has different hull and shield values – nothing unusual. Looking closer, you will see that all of the worker roles have different effects compared to the Halcyon.

The Halcyon (left) and the Athena Mk II (right)

So what’s wrong with it?

Frankly – not much. Not with the game itself at least.

The AG-8 (left) and the Mononoaware on the right.

For example, the Halcyon lets you add up all of your damage and split it amongst multiple targets. The Athena inflicts 2 points of damage to a single threat for each gunnery icon. It’s a subtle adjustment but can make a world of difference in how you play subsequent games.

The same goes for the other two ships – the AG-8 and the Mononoaware. In my head, each board is an expansion that messes with the base rules, giving you new challenges and experiences. I think it will take a long time to be bored with Deep Space D-6.

The component quality is excellent. The dice are solid and roll well, the boards are heavy enough and functional, and the heavy card stock speaks well for durability. The artwork on cards is lacking, but I do like the clean, simple designs this allows.

My biggest issue with Deep Space D-6 is the rules explanations and vagueness of some terms. If you learn to play the game yourself, Tony Go has been very active on the Board Game Geek Forums which is handy. Tau Leader Games also has a pretty good FAQ on their website.

The rules are much better than the PnP, but you shouldn't need to go online for rule clarifications on the second round

While it’s great these are happening, as I got a second edition/print copy, I am a bit disappointed they are still needed. There wasn’t anything game-breaking that I needed to lookup. I was mostly right with my instincts on how things resolved, but that is just gaming experience I think.

If a new gamer pulls a card that doesn’t make sense, they don’t want to have to hunt on the internet for what it means, it should have clarification in the rule book.

Deep Space D-6 is not the first or last game to suffer from this. Hopefully, in a new reprint and/or the upcoming multiplayer Deep Space D-6: Armada, this can be resolved.

More than one player?

Not yet. That said, my favourite round of Deep Space D-6 has been when I taught Alpal how to play. She had a copy from the original Kickstarter, and I have the newer release, and we just set up our games, and I talked through the rounds.

It was the truest multiplayer solitaire gaming session I ever played. We were both in wildly different positions, and it was fun to see what the other was going through.

I was going through the game faster once I left Alpal to play on her own after the first couple of rounds, so she would look up and just see a ton of cards scattered everywhere. She would laugh at my exasperation at being unable to roll anything I wanted, and I enjoyed watching her get just as beaten up by her game.

Things are not looking good for my ship. But I have gotten out of worse!

As I mentioned before though there is a multiplayer version currently in development. If Deep Space D-6 sounds like something you would enjoy but want to play with some more players, maybe hold off for Deep Space D-6: Armada.

Still not sure if you would like it? Try the free print and play!

Still not sure if Deep Space D-6 is for you? Makes perfect sense. I put off trying it for the exact same reason. The good news though is if you don’t mind printing your games, there is a free print and play version available!

It comes with the Halcyon (although it’s not named in this version), some threat cards and the rules. I haven’t made a direct comparison to the retail version, but the cards included are representative of threats in the retail version. There just doesn’t seem to be quite as many, so games will probably run quicker.

Using a conversion chart for the symbols can slow the game down though. When I was looking to play the print and play, I planned to write the pip values over the symbols meaning no lookups. Adds a few minutes to the initial setup, but it will make your life easier.

It may not look quite as nice, but it will save you a lot of time later!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Deep Space D-6

Summary

Deep Space D-6 regularly manages to make me more immersed and invested in a ‘quick filler game’ than a lot of big-box games manage, and that is quite a feat.

There is a lot about Deep Space D-6 that I know will discourage large groups of players. It’s a solo game with a high luck factor with dice rolling and drawing from a deck. There isn’t a lot to the game component-wise. But what is seen by many as drawbacks all make for strengths in Deep Space D-6. It’s great that the print and play is available to everyone, but I also understand that only some people enjoying building their games this way.

I really think if people had the chance to sit and try it, it would catch on even more than it already has. Hopefully, the upcoming Deep Space D-6: Armada with multiple players will help with that 🙂

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  •  Immerses you into gameplay faster than 99% of games I have played
  •  Simple solid core rules that allow for fast play and learning
  •  Free Print and Play to try first that still has a lot of variety in it

Cons

  •  Rules could include a lot more clarifications
  •  To play with multiple people at the same time, multiple copies required

Ganz Schon Clever/That’s Pretty Clever Review

Released 2018
Designer Wolfgang Warsch
Publisher Schmidt Spiele (Website)
Stronghold Games (Website)
Players 1 – 4 (Have been solo playing a lot)
Playing Time Solo with App – 5 min
Physical Game – 8-10 min per player a good guide
Category Roll and Write
Combination Builder
Push your luck
Similar to Worker Placement
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

You just roll the dice and fill in numbers, where is the fun in that?  Wait, how did you score 4x my score?

Roll and Writes continue to come out at an amazing rate, and pretty much all of the publishers are now adding Roll and Writes to their lineups.

Last year, I kept hearing about this amazing one from Wolfgang Warsch (The Mind, The Quacks of Quedlinburg) called Ganz Schon Clever.

And of course, it sold out.  Then I heard Stephen Buonocore talking about it, and an English distribution via Stronghold Games. “Yay!” I think to myself, I can finally play it!

So I ordered it, and lo and behold the German edition lands on my doorstep just prior to moving.  But that didn’t stop me from playing it in the end.

You can play That’s Pretty Clever on almost anything it seems

Sadly putting the physical game in a box (and even sadder, as of this morning it’s still in there!), I thought I would not be playing Ganz Schon Clever until June.

But then on the Google Play store, up popped a recommendation based on apps I purchase.  Ganz Schon Clever! The universe decided I was going to play this game after all.

So I fired it up, started a new game, and was immediately lost.

Where there is a will, there is a way!

Wait, is this an app review or a board game review?

A little bit of everything to be honest. Once you are into a solo game, the digital versions (yep, versions – more on that soon) are a great implementation.

The confusion came simply because of an assumption on my part. I have gotten so used to the start of any digital game being the tutorial, I didn’t stop to read the rules, I just jumped in. The confusion was 100% my fault, and my problem.

The basics of Ganz Schon Clever/That’s Pretty Clever are really simple.  Roll six coloured dice, and select which die you want to use to cross of an area of your play board.

Yellow die are used in the top left corner.  If the pips on the die match the value on a square, cross it off.

In the blue square, you cross off the sum of the blue and white die that roll, but only lock one of them.  This will make sense as you play, but it is the most complicated placement rule in the game.

Fill out the sections to maximise your score. Simple in premise, not so much in execution
The app does make it easy to see your legal choices - and consequences. Sure I can use the 6, but look at all the dice I lose!

The final three sections are filled left to right.

The Green die face value must equal or exceed the value on the sheet.  Orange you can place any value, and Purple must go in ascending order, with a 6 resetting the count.

So as you can see, it looks pretty simple. Roll dice, mark off where you want it to go.  Basically, dice worker placement, right?

Well, sort of.  There are catches, and when first learning the game it’s these little quirks that can catch you out.

The first thing is the old ‘select which die to use’.  It’s true, you can pick any of the rolled die.  But any dice with a value lower than the one you selected get discarded for the rest of the round.

This adds a timing and luck element to the game. You really want to use green for that 5 places, but it’s the first roll of the round and everything else is ones and twos.  You will effectively end the round if you pick it!

It’s these kinds of little quirks that makes That’s Pretty Clever work so well, but it’s also not quite a game you can just roll and teach.

The other thing that takes a game or two to click is the positioning of the dice.  Each section has a different scoring method, and your final score is the total of all the sections.  But on top of that, there are also bonuses that can be utilised.

Some are instant use, like mark of any unmarked yellow square.  Some you can use when you want, like reroll the dice or reuse a die – possibly the most powerful move in the game.

If you ignore a section, you will get very heavily penalised as the fox head multiplies your lowest section score

So you enjoy it?

Solo – absolutely.  Once you know how to play, the digital versions let you belt out a game very quickly.

I will probably only pull out the physical version for a multiplayer game.  And there is the typical catch for a lot of these strategy heavy games – you only really want to play against people at around your experience level.

Because of that, That’s Pretty Clever is going to remain a solo or teaching game in my library I think.

So how can I enjoy it?

If you want to play with others, grab the board game.  Learn together, play together, and have a great time.

Only want to play solo?  Grab the app.  It handles all of the bookkeeping and rules for you and lets you focus solely on your technique.

Want to learn first and give it a try for free? First, go to Board Game Geek and get the English translated rules.  User nyfilmfest has a great easy to follow translation, and it will explain everything I have left out – and there is a fair bit.

Then, go to http://m.brettspielwelt.de/ganzschoenclever/ and give it a spin!

Yes it's in German, but the game is almost 100% iconography. Just remember Wurfeln is basically Roll 😀

The rules are solid and will give you a solid background into the game.  The main difference between the web and app version is stat tracking, so if you want to just play for free and mark down your own high score, go for it!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Ganz Schon Clever/That's Pretty Clever

Final Thoughts

Ganz Schon Clever/That’s Pretty Clever is one of those games that scratches the logical pattern part of my brain really well.  My best game to date is 287, but I want to keep playing until I can break 300.

And that is the first part of what hurts That’s Pretty Clever’s score.  Longevity wise, I think I have cracked the strategy, so it’s a self-imposed goal that keeps me going.

Plus, there is already a follow-up – Twice as Clever – which would probably be the games killer.

Give the web version and/or the app a try, and if you like it, probably just grab Twice as Clever. If you do grab That’s Pretty Clever though, you will enjoy it – even if it might have a limited play span.

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  •  Very addictive gameplay. You always know you can do better.
  •  Free web browser game – limits to solo, but hey!
  •  Small footprint, easy to take with you

Cons

  •  Long term play I don’t think is there
  •  Already followed up by Doppelt So Clever/Twice as Clever
  •  Different scoring sections can be intimidating to new players

Mythos Tales Review

Mythos Tales Cover
Mythos Tales Cover
Released 2016
Designer Hal Eccles, Will Kenyon, Jason Maxwell, Tim Uren
Publisher 8th Summit (Website)
Players 1 – 8 (1 – 2 best)
Playing Time Varies – Allow 3 hours per case
Category Cooperative
Choose your own path
Storytelling
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Tales of otherworldly horror shouldn’t apply to the purchasing process

There is a bit of a story between myself and Mythos Tales. Way back in February 2016, 8th Summit started a Kickstarter project for Mythos Tales. The idea? Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective mixed with Lovecraft. A game I enjoy (check the review) and a universe I love? Instant mix!

A significant promise was to fix proofreading issues that plagued Consulting Detective. As the Space Cowboys reprint wasn’t on a radar, this was great to hear. It all looked like a passion project from a company with a small catalogue.

Then the problems started creeping in. Delays in production are common in Kickstarters. The gaps in communications are never a great sign though. Finally, Mythos Tales was ready! All I had to do was pay for shipping. Well, this is where things got hard. The payment site didn’t exist, and when it finally worked wouldn’t accept most credit cards. Seemed to be a region based card check issue or similar.

Not a problem – I will message them. No one ignores an email asking how to give them money! Well, 8th Summit and Spiral Galaxy (the company fulfilling the project) sure did. I sent an email every couple of weeks for three months. Without any response from Spiral, my pledge was cancelled. So I got my money back, but I wanted the game. So, with a US order to place I got the first edition of Mythos Tales finally.

Mythos Tales Kickstarter PnP Reviews
Cases had been played before hand - I felt safe. I wish I had these PnP cases.

First Edition

So I started playing my new shiny copy of Mythos Tales. I had been looking forward to this for a couple of years at this point.

Like the Ysarti version of Sherlock Homles Consulting Detective, skip this version. Full price for a terrible experience. The map was missing buildings and addresses. The first two cases had major breaking story problems.

You can imagine how layered my disappointment was. I went to BGG where there was an unofficial errata, and the corrections just kept coming. And then even worse – the revisions stopped coming. It looked like everyone stopped trying to make corrections halfway through the story. For myself, after the second case, I couldn’t do it anymore. Mythos Tales was a bad experience in my mind.

Mythos Tales Map Errors
On the left, you think 'Special location?' - On the right, the corrected map

But like Sherlock and Star Wars, a New Hope emerged.

Scrolling through Advent Games, I saw Mythos Tales appear on the New Arrivals list. Curious, I clicked on it to see the description. And sitting there in bold at the top of the entry, I saw this:

**Reprinted Second Edition with fixed updates.

A quick search of BGG showed that corrections from the errata had been included in a new edition. So, with a sale on and hoping that the end product would live up to what I backed, I bought the second edition.

Mythos Tales Second Edition – The Review

You can imagine with all the obstacles I would be against Mythos Tales. It’s why I described my journey to here in such detail. I don’t think anyone can say after hearing the whole story I don’t want to love Mythos Tales. But does it deserve it?

Mythos Tales has eight cases that follow each other in a campaign style game. While anyone can play any case, there are benefits in playing them in order.

The similarities with Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective are immediately clear. You have a map of Arkham, a list of contacts to help you, and a directory. Instead of Holmes as your mentor, you are working with Professor Henry Armitage. There are many names well known to Lovecraft fans like this, which was nice. If you don’t know the mythos, you are not at any disadvantage.

Mythos Tales Components
The nice thing about these type of games is you only need light to read - easy travel games!

The gameplay is almost identical to Consulting Detective as well. You have a casebook with numbered text, and you decide where to go and read the next lot text. There are a couple of new mechanics that are used in individual cases though, which was a bit of fun.

My favourite of these new mechanics was only used in one case and involved Nocturne. Basically, you could take Nocturne and explore ‘Dream Arkham’ as well as the ‘real world’. This added both a unique twist to the story and an alternative storyline to follow.

Another unique twist is that you can get help or a handicap depending on your score in the previous case. The handicap is usually one less turn, but there are other rewards I don’t want to spoil as well.

But?

Of the eight cases, two seemed broken but weren’t. There was a more significant jump in logic required than the rest of the case suggested, but the solution was logical.

One case is straight up broken though. Even after reading every passage, I cannot see how the ‘correct’ solution can ever be attained. You can finish the case sure, but you know that a large piece is missing.

The second edition is a vast improvement for Mythos Tales. That said, there is still a lot of work to go before there is a polished product.

20190204 Mythos Tales
New rules and a teasing of increasing difficulty through the cases makes me look forward to the next game

The errata is now also working against you. There is no distinction between first and second edition. Some of the help threads contradict what is written in the book. Some threads reference something that isn’t there anymore. It can be confusing.

Short version – Skip Case 6. Every other case, just do your best. When it’s done either play it again with different choices or pick it apart as a group, and you will see what I mean.

Should we play Mythos Tales?

If you enjoy Consulting Detective, Legacy of Dragonholt or similar games then yes I think so. The ‘choose your own path’ game system has been around for a long time, and for a good reason. If I was asked Mythos Tales or the original Consulting Detective, it would be a tough choice.

In Mythos Tales, the difficulty gently increases. The introduction of new rules or special conditions is mostly clear. Some more examples of the rules would be helpful, but that is my biggest concern.

Even after all of the problems from the Kickstarter onwards, I enjoyed Mythos Tales. What better result can there be?

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Mythos Tales

Summary

For all of the ups and downs, Mythos Tales is a great take on a known formula.  It still has some corrections required. I also don’t like that all of the cases are in a single book – it makes it a bit unwieldy to hand around.

But there are some unique twists, and the core story is obviously made with love.

If you enjoy this kind of game, or if you are a Lovecraft fan, there is a lot here to enjoy – typos and all.  But one more reprint to correct the last of the issues would put Mythos Tales at a 9 for me.

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  •  Unique additions to a known format
  •  Eases you into more difficult cases

Cons

  •  Still not a polished product
  •  Best solo or two player
  •  Needs one more pass to fix the problems, then it’s a 9

Shadows: Amsterdam Review

Shadows Amsterdam Feature
Shadows Amsterdam Feature
Released 2018
Designer Mathieu Aubert
Publisher Libellud (Website)
Players 2 – 8 (Really want 4 – 6)
Playing Time 15 – 20 minutes
Category Deduction
Exploration
Real Time
Puzzle
Party Game
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

What happens when you mix Codenames with Dixit and make it a real time race?

**This isn’t one of mine – I borrowed Alpal’s copy of Shadows: Amsterdam for this review

Shadows: Amsterdam is one of those games that I wasn’t overly excited about for all the wrong reasons. Firstly, I kept trying to call it Shadows over Amsterdam. Not the games fault – Shadows over Camelot left a considerable impression on me.

Next, it was Codenamesesque. Not a bad thing on its own, but I have a few versions of Codenames that wasn’t hitting the table.

Finally, it’s a four player game at a minimum. Yes, I know the box says 2-8, but the two and three player counts are a variant. This isn’t a bad thing by itself, but it only captures the game mechanics. More on this later.

There was considerable hype building on Shadows: Amsterdam, but I wasn’t going to go out of my way to buy it.

So sitting down at Alpal’s one afternoon, when we had four players and the chance to play, I jumped at the chance. And I am glad I did. One play in, and I was an instant convert.

Shadows Amsterdam Components
A little more involved that the simple party games of late

So what is the game?

Two teams take the part of rival detective agencies, trying to solve a crime before the other side or the police. Yes, you have to avoid the police – they don’t like civilians doing their job better!

The city in Shadows: Amsterdam is a large place, made up of hexagonal tiles that change between games. It is large and colourful, and you will need to be on the ball to search for all the evidence required to solve the case.

There is one Intelligence Master per team. Their job is to help their operatives collect evidence and avoid the police. These players can see all the evidence locations and police the teams have to avoid.

From here, the aim is simple – be the first team to collect three pieces of evidence then head to the objective to win! But if you run into the police three times, you are out of the running and lose, so be careful!

Shadows Amsterdam Intelligence Cards
Unlike Codenames, both teams can't see everything - there is only a limited amount of shared information

Oh, I should also point out that there are no turns – Shadows: Amsterdam is a real-time game. This adds to the tension and flow beautifully, but again more on that later 🙂

Playing the Game

All other players work together to try and interpret the clues given to them. But the Intelligence Master must remain hidden, so they have to understand strange clues! Hints are provided in the form of picture cards intended to direct them to the next step in a path.

This was the first thing I had a little trouble getting my head around. You aren’t being handed the end location immediately, but the next step in a path. The Intelligence Master can only communicate with the cards, so you have to trust you are doing OK.

When you start the game, you receive one or two picture cards that hopefully direct you to the correct tile. If you are given one card, it represents a tile one move around you. Two cards and your location is two steps away. If you think of the ring around your piece, it lets you move one or two rings, so it’s not blind guessing amongst the noise.

Shadows Amsterdam Where To Go
One clue, move one tile - and the blanks are no go zones. Which of the three should orange move to?

This mechanic allows you to focus purely on what is before you, and you will need to. The real-time nature of Shadows: Amsterdam lends itself to an almost push your luck feeling. If you can make a decision quickly, you will travel more than your opponents. But if you rush decisions, you may walk straight into the police!

The feeling of urgency and tension also builds quickly as your opponents start collecting more evidence than you. Conversely, as your opponents find the police more often, this can help boost you as they have to start playing more cautiously. Shadows: Amsterdam is a game that manages to get inside your head.

So it sounds fun. What’s wrong with it?

Very little in my opinion – as long as you are playing with at least four people. At this player count, you have two Intelligence Masters and two team players. Everything I have described is how a game works at this count.

At two or three players, everyone plays one side only and has to race the clock. It’s a straight time limit. Yes, you will have a sense of dread as you watch the time run out, but it’s not the same. Watching a timer count down doesn’t affect you as much as watching a team on a hot streak.

At a lower player count, the mechanics are all there, but not the party game type atmosphere. Beating a clock is an accomplishment, but it is more fun to have a competitive rivalry with other people.

Shadows Amsterdam Tension Rising
Orange is one piece of evidence up, but if black makes one more mistake it's game over! One team just doesn't give you this feeling
JohnHQLD
Shadows: Amsterdam

Final Thoughts

Shadows: Amsterdam is very much in a place to become a Codenames: Pictures replacement for me. It plays faster, has more ‘game’ to it, and has just as much replayability.

It is also a game that I can see myself playing with younger players more than Codenames. While there is more to keep track of, the lack of downtime keeps player interest high. The simple goals are also easy to focus on.

If I am playing two players, Codenames: Duets still wins for me. If someone wants to play Codenames: Pictures, I will be reaching for Shadows: Amsterdam as an improvement on a great formula.

Overall
8.5/10
8.5/10

Pros

  •  Fast to Teach and Play
  •  Great for all ages
  •  Beautiful artwork and components
  •  Easy to get people into a game

Cons

  •  Really a four player game
  •  People may overlook it as being another Codenames
  •  Board pieces could be thicker

Lockpicks a Legends of Dsyx Game review

Lockpicks Cover
Lockpicks Cover
Released 2018
Designer Robin Gibson
Publisher Button Shy Games (Website)
Players 1
Playing Time 10-15 minutes
Category Roll and Write
Solo
Push your luck
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Visiting another Legend of Dysx

So I still don’t know what Dysx is or why there are legends, but cruising through PnPArcade.com after reviewing Dragonvault I found what I thought would be a suitable follow-up.

While not explicitly stated, Lockpicks seems to have you as the successful thief from the first game trying to access your rewards.  You have the chests, but the treasure is what you are after!

Only thing is the dragon has these pesky loyal followers that are trying to hunt down the thief, so you can’t hang around all day.

So as you can see thematically, Lockpicks looked like a fun continuation to the Legends of Dysx roll and writes, so I decided to give it a go.

Lockpicks Components
A sheet of paper, some dice and a pen. Not much setup required 🙂

Playing Lockpicks

Gameplay is straightforward.  Firstly you pick a chest that you want to break into.  There are 12 in total, with 3 being of a particular level (1-4).  The higher the level, the better the loot – but the more time you will need to spend picking the lock.

Next, roll your five dice.  Each die represents a type of move you can make on the board, similar to chess moves.  Starting from the lock at the top of the chest, you then do the appropriate move and place a dot in the square you end up in.  I tend to draw my moves, but it’s not strictly necessary.

The goal is to put a dot into each of the circles in the chest, then finally the lock at the bottom of the chest representing the lock being opened.  Movement wise the only limitation is you cannot put a dot on a square you already have a dot in, so you are trying to make an efficient path with the random moves available to you.

Lockpicks First Round
Each die allows you to make a certain move, kind of like chess

Once you have used the five dice, or you can’t move anymore, tick off an hourglass.  If you opened a chest, roll one die and claim your reward on the tables on the right-hand side.  You can only claim each reward once though, so reroll any you already have.  This is how you score points in the game, and the treasures allow you special powers to reroll during the game.

The game ends in one of two ways.  The simplest is when you have had enough and cash in your points.  The second is when you get caught!  You are caught if you use all of the hourglasses and roll a 1 when rolling all five dice in the lockpick stage.  This means that the game can go on until you open all 12 chests – but this is going to be extremely lucky!

If you are caught, you lose all of your collected loot and score 0 points.  If you get away with the loot though, it’s simply a case of adding up your points and trying to beat your old score.

Lockpicks Mid Game
The lower level chests are easier, but don't score as many points

But…

A lot of the same ‘problems’ I had with Dragonvault are still present in Lockpicks.  The rules are reasonably clear, but putting them on a second page with examples would be better.

There is a strategy for a high score, and I am sure with luck I could score higher, but this relies on luck.  I don’t mean that as a negative overall, just if you don’t like luck based games skip Lockpicks.

And finally Button Shy does not seem to be supporting this series, even though the website is on each game board.  It is hard to clarify rules with no easily found interaction – not the games problem, but something I still find strange.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Lockpicks a Legends of Dsyx Game

Final Thoughts

Lockpicks seemed like a good follow on from Dragonvault, and mechanically it is.  It’s a fine game.  But it just seems to miss something – I can’t really explain it more than that.

In theory, this should be just as fun as Dragonvault.  But I will turn to Dragonvault before playing Lockpicks (to date anyway).

It’s not that I regret the purchase, but if you are looking at starting a PnP collection, I wouldn’t start with Lockpicks – there are better examples, even within the series.

Overall
6/10
6/10

Pros

  •  Cheap and quick to get into
  •  Still a good solid efficiency puzzle

Cons

  •  It just doesn’t feel as fun as Dragonvault
  •  A couple of vague rules that could use clarification