Six digital versions of board games to play while inside

Tokaido Following the Road

Staying inside and looking for something to play? Here are four classic games to keep you entertained!

The world is in a strange place right now. It’s been getting stranger and harder the last few years. I have been working from home during the week bar a couple of sick days, and I don’t see that changing soon.

The internet is abuzz with more stories of humanity being terrible and memes trying to make light of the situation. Apart from wishes that I hope you are doing as well as you can, I won’t be going into any detail of what I think of the world at the moment.

What I can do is talk about something I love – board games. Playing games is always something fun to do, and offers some escapism to boot 🙂

Generally, on a Friday, I would be doing a full game review. Today I decided to something a little different, and suggest four board games that you can enjoy in both physical and digital form!

That’s right – you can play with others, or even if you are inside by yourself the computer AI offers a great time.

Enough of what today is about – on to the games!

Ticket to Ride – Steam, Android, iOS, PS4, Xbox

A classic game I have referred to on the site now and then, usually in Last Week’s Gaming. It had been a while since I got this modern classic to the table, but it is as fun now as the first time I played it.

The premise is simple – collect sets of coloured cards, and trade them in to build tracks to complete specific tickets. It can sound overly simple, but the elegant simplicity of Ticket to Ride has made it a favourite amongst new players and veterans alike.

The variety of gameplay offered with a large number of ticket goals randomly given each game, coupled with strategic choke points and eventually recognition of all the routes makes Ticket to Ride incredibly addictive. It also helps that games on digital go very quickly, as shuffling dealing and scoring are all handled by the system!

If you have played Ticket to Ride before or play it enough to master the original board, you can get almost every expansion as well. Explore multiple maps from the USA, Europe and Asia. Each expansion brings new rule tweaks and challenges, letting you see why Ticket to Ride has survived so well in the ‘cult of the new’ in board gaming.

If you have Xbox Game Pass, you can play the original USA board for free! It’s hard to beat that price 🙂 Fair warning though – the train whistles when playing on TV is rather shrill and will let the rest of the house know what you are playing!

Ticket to Ride Title
Like many games on this list, you can play solo or online
Ticket to Ride Gameplay
The actual game plays exactly like the board game
Ticket to Ride Expansions
Mastered the first lot of routes? Go for one of the expansions!

Elder Sign: Omens – Steam, Android, iOS

A lot of people are over the Cthulhu Mythos in gaming, and theme fatigue is a real thing. I adore Elder Sign, though. Cooperative battle Yahtzee is a pretty good description of Elder Sign, and Omens is the digital implementation of the board game.

I will never pull out the physical copy to play solo. There are so many decks of cards to deal with. Playing solo, I spend 1/2 – 2/3rds of my time managing the board. Playing with friends, this isn’t a problem, as you divide up the management and time flies. The general chat and sense of group success when you all work together is well worth the setup cost.

If I want to have a quick round though, I will always fire up Elder Sign: Omens. Technically I have it on my phone and Steam, but I only bought expansions on PC. Gameplay-wise, it’s terrible to watch someone play. Playing yourself though, is an incredibly immersive and rewarding experience. I can’t count how many times I have looked up after what I would have sworn was 10 minutes and discovered it was closer to 90.

The mechanics are repetitive. Pick a location, roll your dice to match symbols to pass challenges, and try to collect a certain amount of Elder Sign before the ‘big bad’ earns doom points. It’s a race to a certain number of points for both sides. But I have spent way too many hours telling myself ‘just one more game’ to not tell anyone to give Elder Sign a play.

Elder Sign Omens Mission Objective
There are various Elder Gods that you have to beat with differing conditions
Elder Sign Omens Mission Select
Different areas have different challenges. They all boil down to match the symbols.
Elder Sign Completing Challenge
Each of these areas are different cards in the board game, making the digital version plain looking

Potion Explosion – Steam, Android, iOS

I have talked about Potion Explosion in my Ramblings and mentioned it in Last Week’s Gaming. Another collection game, in Potion Explosion you pick a coloured marble from a large dispenser. If two matching colours hit as they drop, they create an ‘explosion’ letting you collect them as well.

The random nature of the game already gives it a great replayable puzzle experience. Then I got it on my phone. I think I have close to 100 games on my phone alone!

There are three levels of AI opponents, but if you want, you can also play against others online. This makes it great if you are home alone, and want to test your skills against others 🙂

But the random components dropping and mixing isn’t the only thing you can change up. There are different potions you can create, and with expansions different Professors you can ask for help – at a cost, of course. This gives you a heap of different ways to change up your game experience 🙂

Potion Explosion Opponents
You can pick different levels of AI opponent
Potion Explosion Picking Components
Watching strings of components all connect and fill your flasks is very satisfying

Tokaido – Steam, Android, iOS

My favourite alternate name for Tokaido was given by a friend of mine. They describe it as ‘The Hangover Game’. Every other game engages you in competition or sometimes tricky logic puzzles. Tokaido is a challenge and has many different scoring paths. Where it stands alone is the goal of the game is to have the most fulfilling journey across Japan.

What do I mean by fulfilling? Treat the game as a holiday game. You need to experience different foods, go shopping, paint, chat to strangers, take in the sites, even donate to temples if you feel inclined.

The turn order can take a while to get used to. The person in the last place on the path takes the next turn. If you fly ahead down the road, others will have more time to go slowly and enjoy their trip. Just like when you are on holiday, if you rush through the experience, you don’t come out with as many memories.

While the theme is laid back, and the digital implementation has gorgeous animation, there is still a substantial strategic element to Tokaido. It is nice to sit back and enjoy, but if you relax too much, your competitors will smash your score.

If you think the game sounds overly simple, think again. Each player has different available abilities you need to capitalise on to maximise your score. Owned everyone just meeting travellers one game? That was a lucky draw. You may meet no one that will help your score for the next 10 games.

While it might not look like everyone’s cup of tea, I can’t think of anyone I have taught it to that hasn’t enjoyed it.

Tokaido Following the Road
Travelling down the road in Tokaido
Tokaido Eating at the Inn
Even eating at the end of each day can get you points. But you can't eat the same meal twice!
Tokaido Complete Paintings
No cameras here. Enjoy the sights? Paint a panorama and get points!

Pandemic – Steam, Android, iOS, Xbox, PS4, Switch

I can’t recommend Pandemic enough. Sure, I have seen a lot of memes lately with COVID-19 and Pandemic, but that doesn’t change the fact Pandemic is a great game.

Digitally you can only get the original Pandemic. If you were to look at the physical versions, remember there are many versions with similar mechanics but very different gameplay available.

And like Ticket to Ride, if you have Game Pass on Xbox, you can try it out for free!

Pandemic is the game I am not going to talk about much here, as I have a full review that you can check out here. One thing I don’t touch on with the digital version in my review is the game soundtrack. The increase in tempo as you come closer to losing has a definite effect on you!

Pandemic Disease Cured
One cure down. Now to try and eradicate!

One Deck Dungeon – Steam, Android, iOS

And one last game that I recently reviewed, One Deck Dungeon has grabbed my attention hard lately. Many of my recent gaming challenges have been me playing it, to the point I am contemplating starting to exclude plays!

A card based dungeon crawler with light RPG elements (if you choose to use them), One Deck Dungeon is a great game. The only thing I would warn against is playing on mobile. The gameplay is just as fun as the physical or larger screen version, but you have to switch panels during a round and that hides information.

For my full thoughts on One Deck Dungeon, check out my review here.

One Deck Dungeon Gauntlet Run
My current play mode is trying to beat Gauntlet Mode with fresh characters. I haven't quite gotten a clean run yet.

What do you think?

I can hand on heart say that I have spent hours playing each game, many times multiple games in one sitting. I have spent many an afternoon with all of these games. Hopefully, you can do the same 🙂

Do you think I should have included another digital game implementation? Let me know in the comments, on Facebook or shout out on Twitter!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

One Deck Dungeon Review

One Deck Dungeon Box Art
One Deck Dungeon Box Art
Released 2016
Designer Chris Cieslik
Publisher Asmadi Games (Website)
Players 1 – 2 (4 with special rules and 2 copies)
Playing Time Physical: 30-60 minutes
Digital: 20-30 minutes
Category Fantasy
Dungeon Crawl
Light RPG
Worker (Dice) Placement
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Who could have guessed playing an RPG with one deck of cards was so fun!

I love playing RPGs. Playing in a new world, enjoying the camaraderie both in-game and around the table, it’s a great time. The downside is RPGs need a group of friends. Not the people themselves, but trying to get everyone together at the same time is a massive undertaking.

There are plenty of board games that recreate a lot of the fun of RPGs. Dungeon Crawlers are especially good at this. Exploring an area, fighting monsters, and collecting loot. Some even have a basic levelling system. Almost all of them have one fundamental flaw – setup and teardown.

Mansions of Madness 1st Edition was a great example of this. It would take me 40-50 minutes to set up a game. And I had to try and do it before anyone showed up. There are plenty of other games that I can set up and play in that amount of time.

True, those games don’t have the same feel as an RPG, but it’s quicker to get into. But what if it didn’t have to be?

I have had One Deck Dungeon, and it’s stand-alone expansion Forest of Shadows, for a while now. I have even taken it interstate and overseas on work trips. Somehow, things just never seemed to align themselves for me to sit and learn how to play it.

Well, that changed a couple of weeks ago, and boy have I been playing it!

One Deck Dungeon Boxes
Both game boxes. Standard gel pen for scale. These are small!

One Deck Dungeon – What is it?

The best way I can describe One Deck Dungeon is a solo or co-op light RPG dungeon crawler. I know this is a very jargon-heavy description, but it’s really the best way to describe it.

You play as an adventurer making their way through a dungeon. During your dungeon run, you fight various monsters until you take on the boss. The monsters can give you new weapons, skills or experience to level up. Hence, light RPG dungeon crawler!

You get five different bosses in the box and five adventurers. Each boss has different conditions for their dungeon, and combined with the five adventurers means there is plenty of variety. More on that later.

One Deck Dungeon Components
A Deck of cards, some tokens and character boards, and a lot of dice. What more do you need?

So how does it work?

This is where the solo and co-operative part of One Deck Dungeon comes into it. You can play solo with one or two adventurers (the way I have come to prefer to play), or play with someone else using one adventurer each.

Each adventurer has three different stats – strength, agility and magic. Fairly standard fantasy RPG stuff. These stats are represented by different coloured dice. Unlike most RPGs, instead of rolling a dice and adding stat modifiers, you use a certain amount of dice depending on your stat.

So for example, if you have 3 agility, this means you roll three agility dice. Nice and simple! There is also the fourth colour of dice in the box – black hero dice. Hero dice can be earned with experience levels or skills, and are used as any coloured die (wilds).

One Deck Dungeon Adventurers
Each adventurer has pros and cons. Playing one adventurer or two is shown with 1p and 2p on each side.

Shuffle the 56 cards, and put it on the table. This deck of cards is where One Deck Dungeon gets its name. Each card is a different room with a monster or trap, but it’s also almost every other thing used in the game. They are also equipment, skills, experience markers and the game timer. It doesn’t sound obvious, but it works really well!

Each player turn, you burn (discard) 2 cards. This represents time in the game. The very first turn, you spend the first turn exploring. All this means is you draw cards and place them in front of you until you have 4 rooms to explore.

From now on, each turn you can choose to explore or enter a room. Entering a room means picking a card and turning it over to see what’s in it. This is where the card layout hopefully becomes a little clearer.

The card will either be a trap or combat, shown by the icon next to the card title. Below the title is a picture of the room’s contents. To the right of that shows what is needed to clear the room.

One Deck Dungeon Game Start
This is setup. Pick a coupel of characters, shuffle deck, set things out. Done.

You will also notice other parts to the card. On the left shows the extra skill dice you will roll if you choose to take an item from the room. On the bottom shows a skill you can possibly learn, and top right is the amount of experience (XP) you can earn.

If you decide to try and clear the room, you roll all of your dice. To beat the challenge, you need to place your dice onto the various squares on the right of the image. If it’s a square, you need to put a die of the same colour with the value equal to or higher than the number on the card. If it’s a rectangle, you can put any number of dice on that area, as long as the total at least equals the value shown.

One Deck Dungeon Sample Encounters and Rewards
It just looks like four cards, but each card serves 5 functions.

If you cover all the squares, you win! If you can’t cover all of the squares, you still win! You lose some time (discard more cards) and/or health, but you succeed. This helps you build your character even at the start of the game.

And that is basically it! There are some additional rules like mandatory extra requirements depending on which level of the dungeon you are on, hero dice and some other things. But what I have outlined is all you need to know about playing the game. 

That sounds rather simple. Why wouldn’t I play Yahtzee instead?

Simple isn’t always dull. Not that I am saying Yahtzee is dull, but for me, Yahtzee is at it’s best when playing in a group. 

The amount of depth and immersion in One Deck Dungeon cannot be understated, especially if you are a fan of RPGs or Dungeon Crawlers.

Yes, the mechanics are streamlined, but for a game designed to play solo and quickly do you want a lot of bookkeeping?

There is also the sheer variety of the dungeons. Initially, I believed I would get bored of One Deck Dungeon once I saw all of the enemies. Straight up – I was wrong. I have almost 20 games under my belt now, and I don’t think I have seen all of the cards yet.

One Deck Dungeon Dungeon Bosses
The bosses aren't just different battles, the rules for their dungeons change as well

Forcing you to burn cards during the game pretty much guarantees you will always get new choices each game. Do you take the powerful skill, or use that XP to go up a level and be able to carry more items and get a hero die each round?

That is the challenge and immersion of One Deck Dungeon. Each game is different. Dominate last game mashing a particular skill? You might not see it again for 10 games. Your character can be a relatively weak hitter, but take damage like a champ. Or you could be a glass cannon, dealing damage left and right but only take one hit to go down.

One Deck Dungeon Upgrade Decisions
When setting up a shot, I realised I had not seen the skill on the mage OR the room card before.

But each game, don’t you start again at level 1?

This isn’t as cut and dry. Yes, you start each game at level 1, but this isn’t always the case. For starters, you can choose difficulty level in One Deck Dungeon. Playing on Novice starts you on Level 2 each run.

On top of this, there is also a progression system. While you don’t keep your levels from game to game, you can start with skills, carry more items, heal between levels, all sorts of things.

Like any RPG game, you will need a few games to build up your adventurer. But you will get more powerful, and that old game grind becomes a different experience. You can also level up different groups of benefits and change at the start of each dungeon to tailor your run.

One Deck Dungeon Progression SHeet
You earn different symbols by playing harder dungeons

OK, so what’s the catch?

So the game is ultra-portable and a blast to play. But using cards for everything as well as tiny dice makes for a fiddly experience. For someone like me with large hands, I find myself spending as much time cleaning up my play area as I do playing the game.

I found a perfect fix for this, though. 

I’m Listening

Some of you may be wondering why this review appears in both Board Game and Video Game Reviews. That’s right – there is a digital version! And it’s a perfect translation from the physical copy. In fact, because it’s digital, it takes advantage of being able to move the level challenges to the room you are facing. This means you only have to look at one area to see all of the dice and values you need to clear a room.

There is also the added bonus of getting a sixth adventurer for free! Mist from Aeon’s End is a promotional card that you need to hunt down or buy for the physical version. Mist comes for free on the digital version, or at least on Steam.

You aren’t restricted to Steam either – you can also get One Deck Dungeon on your mobile. I am not buying it, as I am honestly worried about how much time I would spend playing it when I should be working 🙂

One Deck Dungeon Digital Character Selection
No knocking dice, no covering cards accidentally - let the game manage the fiddly bits
One Deck Dungeon Digital Progression
Everything works the same as the physical version
One Deck Dungeon Digital Boss Fight
Rolling a bunch of physical dice is so satisfying, but the app manages everything so well

Overall Thougths

One Deck Dungeon got a lot of love when it came out a few years ago, and today I can say it deserved it. While not the perfect game, it scratches that Dungeon Crawl/RPG itch for me in a solo experience.

The portability of the game is excellent for throwing my bag on trips. The digital version means a small install on almost any PC as it has meagre graphics requirements. Basically, if you can run Windows 10, you can play One Deck Dungeon. Don’t take a PC with you? Grab it on mobile!

While the dry explanation of gameplay can make it sound like another dice game, actually playing One Deck Dungeon throws that idea out the window. I can highly recommend One Deck Dungeon to everyone that enjoys an adventure.

Overall
8.5/10
8.5/10

Pros

  • Simple to set up and learn
  • Incredibly customisable experience
  • Replicates the feel of Dungeon Crawling/RPG very well
  • Can play solo very quickly
  • Portable both physically and digitally

Cons

  • Using cards can be awkward mid-game
  • High random nature of exploration may put off some players
  • Hard to describe how fun it is unless people can play it

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Crossfire Review

Crossfire Cover Art
Crossfire Cover Art
Released 2017
Designer Emerson Matsuuchi
Publisher Plaid Hat Games (Website)
Players 5-10 (best around 8)
Playing Time 5 minutes
Category Social Deduction
Bluffing
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

How well do you know your friends? Social Deduction games can put this to the test!

Got a large group of people (10+) and want to play a game? Social deduction party games like Werewolf, Two Rooms and a Boom and Deception: Murder in Hong Kong are great.

If you don’t have quite that many people, games like The Resistance, Bang: The Dice Game and the One Night series are a lot of fun.

Only have 3-4 players? Coup, Saboteur and Love Letter are excellent choices as well.

But what is a social deduction game? Almost all of them involve hidden roles and bluffing mechanics. The goal is usually to determine who is a particular role or group. At the same time, some players work against you for their own purposes. This is where the bluffing comes in.

Almost all social deduction games start the same way – What do we do?

All of these games I mentioned share one underlying problem for new and experienced players alike. On the very first turn, what do you do? Who do you trust? In most of the games, only the ‘bad guys’ have information to work with, and everyone else is going in blind.

This makes social deduction games very stressful for some players. Being asked to instantly lie about what they are doing, also while learning a new game, destroys the experience for them. Most people that I see say they don’t like these sorts of games had that experience cemented right here.

There is also a problem, especially in the large group games of playtime. This can be remedied with experienced host players, but if you go out on the first round of a 20 player game of Werewolf, prepare to do something else for 2 hours!

One Night Ultimate Werewolf Box
One Night Ultimate Werewolf

Well, why does anyone play these games?

Because when done right, they are a lot of fun. I personally love new groups playing Werewolf and Bang The Dice Game because of social engagement.

But these games and situations aren’t for everyone. Being forced to talk to a group of strangers for two hours usually is my definition of torture.

However, I can host Werewolf for two hours for a group of complete strangers at the drop of a hat. I will play if I know the host is experienced almost anytime. I prefer Bang The Dice Game usually because I can also actively play and I don’t need as many people.

In today’s review, we have a look at Crossfire from Plaid Hat Games, that fixes a lot of these problems while creating a unique new problem.

Finally, the game! So what is Crossfire?

Crossfire is actually two games, which makes describing it hard. There is the crossfire mode, which is a reasonably standard team-based deduction game. Then there is Sniper mode, where one player is the Sniper, and everyone else argues who gets shot by the Sniper.

Talking to different people about Crossfire, I was surprised that people weren’t taught or told about both modes. This means people were arguing about the game they played and telling others they ‘played it wrong’.

The core of both games is very similar. There is a team that doesn’t want to be shot and a team that wants to shoot them. It’s not exactly high brow plot 🙂

The two games play very differently, and that is where the confusion in describing the game can come from. So first, I am going to talk about the game in a general sense, then get into the different game modes.

Crossfire is set in the Specter Ops universe

What does this mean for the game? Apart from influencing the art style, nothing. Both games were designed by Emerson Matsuuchi, but you don’t need to know one to play the other.

This is similar to how The Resistance and Coup are both set in the Dystopian Universe. The art style and some terms are the same, but playing the other game doesn’t give you an advantage.

Specter Ops Broken Covenant Box Art

What do you get in the box?

You get the rule book, a deck of cards and a timer. That’s it. One of the great things about Crossfire is that you don’t need a lot of components.

One thing I will always do in hidden information games whenever possible is sleeving my cards. Most of the time, if you choose to sleeve for a bit of extra protection, it’s a personal choice. But if you need to hide information, sleeving to me is compulsory.

Not sleeving cards means that during play, cards will become ‘marked’. It’s one of the reasons I rarely play Skull with my own copy. Each card is unique, but I played Skull so often at previous game nights that I knew most of the marks on the skulls, giving me an unfair advantage.

Crossfire Components
There isn't much to show. It's a deck of cards and a timer. But it's so much fun!

While card stock has improved, I wish in small games like these sleeves were included.

Crossfire Mode

There are two central teams, the Blue team and Red team. The blue team has a VIP that needs to be protected by agents, and the red team has Assassins that want to shoot the VIP.

There are also other roles for extra players and advanced play. These all have their Crossfire mode victory conditions on the card. You can have Bystanders that mustn’t be harmed or Decoys that present themselves as VIPs.

Advanced cards are roles like that the Enforcer that acts as an agent, but get to shoot two times per round. Another example is the Bodyguard that protects the person they aim at rather than killing them.

Crossfire Advanced Roles
Some of the extra roles you get in the box

Setup – the solution and new problem

Depending on the number of players, a dealer shuffles a predetermined number of cards and deals one to each player. Everyone looks at their cards, but the setup isn’t finished yet.

Generally in a social deduction game, the play devolves into no one talking about their role and wondering how to get information. Crossfire handles this with the second setup step.

Crossfire Setup Rules
It sounds confusing, but works well. These pages should have a couple of reads though.

Starting with the dealer, they take the cards to their left and right, shuffle them and redeal them face down. Those three players look at their new cards, and going clockwise the player three positions from the dealer repeats the process. This happens until everyone has had their cards shuffled and seen a selection of those results.

This turns setup into multiple games of find the lady/three-card monte. This gives the players something to work with, as most players have seen their first card, and it’s possible to track where roles have gone.

It does make explaining the game to new gamers a little confusing, as there are a lot of mechanics to take in at once. I usually handle this with a dummy round, and if people still have trouble do another dummy setup face up.

This isn’t a perfect solution, though. I have still had players get stumped because as they focus on the perfect information rather than following the theory.

Playing Crossfire Mode

Here is where the timer comes in. The table now has three minutes to work out who is the VIP and who are Assassins. The Agents need to find out who the Assassins are to shoot them, and the Assassins want to kill the VIP.

During this stage, players can turn their card in the direction of who they claim to be. Don’t worry, one of these positions is undeclared – you don’t have to start bluffing immediately.

Agents then reveal their cards and shoot their targets. People that have been shot put their hands down and show their cards.

The VIP then shows their card, and if someone is still pointing to them, they are shot.

Not counting special win conditions on individual cards, that’s it. Five minutes, and the game is done. No player elimination, no real downtime, just quick rounds and everyone is ready for a quick reset if you want to play again.

Crossfire Declarations
The Agent did well, getting the Assassin with their one shot

This adds an amount of tension to the game. Why would someone undeclared by targeting an agent? Why is that Agent I trusted knowing I was the VIP pointing at me?

Then the dealer reads a set script. It boils down to this. Only Agents and Assassins can shoot (denoted by a pistol on their card), and everyone else puts their hands down.

Bystanders don’t want to be shot, nor does the VIP. Assassins tend to hide as Bystanders, Agents or Undeclared. This is where the number of roles comes into play. If you are playing a 7 person game, everyone knows for example, that there is only one bystander. If there are 2 being declared, someone is lying. Here are the bluffing and deduction parts of the game.

Once the three minutes are up, everyone points to their target simultaneously. One go – don’t go changing targets when the hands are up!

Wrong Role Counts
2 VIPs, 3 Agents and a Bystander. I don't think so.

Playing Sniper Mode

Sniper mode is almost the same, except there is one sniper that is the only one that shoots.

Setup is very similar to Crossfire mode. According to the rules, the Sniper is pre-selected and given their role face up. If no one wants to be the Sniper (or everyone does), I usually do the pick a dealer and include the Sniper in the shuffle. When everyone has that first look, the Sniper reveals themselves.

Then you do the find the lady information setup, except the Sniper is excluded from this. The Sniper is then given some shot cards equal to the number of assassins, and everyone tries to work out the Assassins in three minutes.

Once the time is up, the Sniper puts a shot card in front of their targets. When all shots are ‘fired’, people targeted reveal their cards. If a Bystander or the VIP is shot, red team wins. If all of the Assassins are shot, blue team wins.

Crossfire Sniper So Close
The Sniper took out one Assassin! But also a Bystander. Instant loss.

If neither team has won at this point, the surviving Assasins then try and shoot the VIP. They point at the player they believe to be the VIP, and those players reveal their cards. If the Assassins kill the VIP without shooting a bystander, they win. If they hit a Bystander or missed the VIP, the Blue team wins.

Wait, so multiple people can win?

Yes. Because this is a ‘team’ based game, conditions tend to lean towards team victory conditions. When you start using some of the advanced roles, this can get a little messy. When starting to play games like this, stick with the primary characters to keep it simple.

Overall Thoughts

Crossfire is a great Social Deduction game, as long as you know what you are getting into. The setup can be confusing, and while the rules try to make the process clear, I have seen lots of groups make mistakes. Getting this setup wrong will ruin the play.

I also really like the inclusion of the Sniper mode. If you have someone with a lot of experience as the Sniper with people learning, this can be an excellent tutorial mode. Letting new players watch the higher level play with little of the Win/Lose pressure is a great idea.

My number one complaint with Crossfire is shared by almost all of these games – you need at least five players. This makes for a fun game, but means it can’t get to the table very often under normal circumstances.

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  • Quick game play
  • No player elimination
  • Two great game modes

Cons

  • Game setup is a lot of shuffling
  • Player count too high for an anytime game
  • As a genre, Social Deduction isn’t for everyone

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Pyramid of Pengqueen Review

Pyramid of Pengqueen
Pyramid of Pengqueen
Released 2018
Designer Marcel-André Casasola Merkle
Publisher Brain Games (Website)
Players 2-5 (Best with 4-5)
Playing Time 30-45 minutes
Category Hidden Movement
One vs Many
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Can you escape the Pengqueen?

One of my favourite scenes in adventure movies is the escape sequences. It can be from a boulder, a storm, or an unseen force – whichever it is, it’s almost always fun to watch.

And of these adventures, a classic staple is, of course, the Mummy. Not just an unstoppable force, but a power that is capable of outwitting the heroes.

And you know what you call a board game that uses this type of setup? One vs Many. There is one mastermind that must beat all of the other players to win!

A problem with a lot of One vs Many games is you have to learn two sets of rules. One set as the mastermind, and then the player rules. This can be a big ask for new players, but there are gateway or introductory games to help with this.

One such game is Pyramid of Pengqueen.

Oh wow! Why didn’t they think of this before?

They did. Pyramid of Pengqueen is a reprint and retheme of the 2008 game Fluch der Mumie, printed in English only as Pyramid. In 2018, Brain Games got the license and rethemed Pyramid with the Icecool theme, hence all the penguins.

The games are almost identical in everything but the artwork. The Mummy has been replaced with the Pengqueen, and there is an arctic feel to the art. Gameplay-wise everything has been kept, so this is basically a review of both versions.

The re-theme can get a little confusing as well. In the rules, the Mummy of the Pengqueen is referred to in different ways, mainly the Mummy or the Pengqueen. While this doesn’t make it harder to learn, it does show how little the Icecool theme does for the game overall.

Pyramid International Cover
Originally release in 2008, not much has been changed

So what do you do in the game?

Players sit with the game board between them, similar to Battleship. On one side, the Pengqueen controls their movements as they travel through the tomb. On the other side, players have their tokens and can see the Pengqueens location.

How do the pieces stay on the vertical board? With SCIENCE! Well, magnets. Still counts :p

The players roll for movement each turn and have to explore the tomb and collect treasures. The treasures they collect are determined with a random card draw at the start of each game, so there is no one way to win each game.

Pyramid of Pengqueen - Components
Opening the box, you can see there isn't much to setup

As the players explore the tomb, they must also evade the Pengqueen. If they are on the same square as the Pengqueen, they are captured and lose a life.

Once they are caught, they start from the Pengqueens sarcophagus and continue collecting treasures until they run out of lives. Once a player collects their set of riches, they win! If the Pengqueen collects a certain number of lives though, the game ends with the Pengqueen winning.

Pyramid of Pengqueen - Pengqueens board
You always know exactly where you are as the Pengqueen

That sounds great!

Doesn’t it? The game is simple to teach and play, and players can jump straight in. The satisfaction of hearing the clink when the player piece is caught by the Pengqueen is fun for both sides.

For such a simple game, the tension that builds as players watch the Pengqueen coming closer is excellent. It doesn’t matter how many times you have played, seeing the Pengqueen a square or two away and coming towards you never gets stale.

It’s also great for all ages. You only pick one die for your movement as a player. You can play and teach your first game within about 5 minutes, then a quick reset to start playing properly.

A game plays in about 30 minutes, and setup/teardown only takes a few minutes. This makes Pyramid of Pengqueen an easy game to play on short notice, unlike many One vs Many games.

Pyramid of Pengqueen - Players board
Watching the Pengqueen marker on the right move can be tense

I am waiting for the But…

Yeah. The But. As fun as Pyramid of Pengqueen is, there are a couple of factors that do kill it for me.

Balancing is a big one. Playing two players, the Pengqueen has way too much information. This can be adjusted a little bit by the player character spending more time running to different areas before collecting treasure. Still, it adds 5-10 minutes of somewhat dull gameplay, so it’s not a great solution.

The other issue is the board and player pieces. The player magnets are tiny, and you move the board a lot when you move your piece. The Pengqueen player gets a pretty good idea of what area you are in just by watching the board flex. It’s so apparent, even younger players will pick up on this quickly, giving away more information.

Finally, the magnets are not always your friend in terms of hiding. Ideally, you want to put your piece in the middle of a square on your turn. This rarely happens, though. You usually end up closer to a side, and if the Pengqueen stops closer to your side on their square, you can capture a player without meaning to. This again gives away exactly where you are. No one has cheated, it’s just the way magnets and people work.

Pyramid of Pengqueen - Component Sizes
The black die is what I would call normal sized. The player tokens are tiny!

So should I buy Pyramid of Pengqueen?

To me, this is a game you should play before you buy if you can. I am glad Alpal showed it to me, and I am so happy I got to play it. I am just not keen to play it again anytime soon. I will show people how to play anytime, but it’s not a game I want in my collection.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Overall Thoughts

On paper, the Pyramid of Pengqueen looks to be a fun game. Smooth one-vs-many gameplay with quality components that can be played by all ages. The theory works well, the final execution, in my opinion, not so much.

Many people say how fun the Pyramid of Pengqueen is to play. I am not saying they are wrong. I know everything I have said can be taken as if I am, but that’s not my problem with the game.

The Pyramid of Pengqueen has balancing issues. Big balancing issues. With two players, it is too easy for the Pengqueen to win. At higher player counts, it is too easy for the players to win. Individual players can be eliminated by the Mummy pursuing them, which can make players feel bullied. This is more of an issue for younger players, but I can see it happening. The potential for frustration and arguments, for younger players, is just too high. And those situations aren’t fun for anyone.

Overall
5/10
5/10

Pros

  • A light game that is easy to teach and play for all ages
  • Novel moving mechanics, especially anticipating the Pengqueen’s movements.

Cons

  • Doesn’t scale well
  • Player pieces too small
  • Not very good at hiding player movement
  • Icecool theme does nothing for it

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