Tiny Epic Tactics has one more week on Kickstarter

Tiny Epic Tactics Cover

Another Tiny Epic Game is on Kickstarter

The Tiny Epic series of games from Scott Almes and Gamelyn Games seems to be a divisive one in gaming circles.

I know people that swear by every iteration and rank them as some of the best games ever.  I know others that will walk away when they hear “Tiny Epic” anything and not give any game a chance.

I am in the middle.  I enjoy the idea behind the series, but not every entry has won me over.  For example, Tiny Epic Galaxies is a lot of fun, Tiny Epic Western not so much.  Well, to me anyway.

But that is actually one of the things that attract me to the series.  On their own, each entry is a lower cost gateway to a genre of games that many people may not have tried.  Sure, the Tiny Epic may be a gimmick, but it helps keep the costs down and storage space to a minimum!

So not liking some of the games in the series to me is no big deal.  No one like every type of game, so there will always be misses for players.  It just surprises me how many people judge the entire series from one or two isolated games.

Tiny Epic Game Haul
When you have so many games you can release your own carry bag! Image from gamelyngames.com

It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote about Tiny Epic Mechs, and made no secret it was the interchangeable weapon loadouts and custom meeples that attracted me.  The game looks OK (I haven’t tried the Print and Play version yet) but it has a solid base, and I can pull it out to take somewhere instead of Adrenaline for example.

Well, the new instalment is using in the box storage solutions and terrain, similar to Firefly Adventures: Brigands and Browncoats. It’s also a tactics combat game, so think along the lines of Arcadia Quest in a lot of ways as well.

Now Arcadia Quest I acknowledge as a fun game with incredible components and a lot of replayability.  But like any big success and hobby, you can sink a lot of money even into a starter scenario.

Firefly Adventures: Browncoats and Brigands is cheaper and I am a fan of the series, but to date I haven’t really had the chance to get it to the table properly.

Both games have some issues introducing them to new players – one is cost, the other is the theme.  Yes, themed games – especially licensed IPs – can stop people from trying new games.

Tiny Epic Tactics Contents
Not a new idea, but a compact idea and probably a good way to introduce people to a new style of gameplay

But a game in a little box with clever components?  It’s amazing how many people are willing to give a small box game a go compared to the bigger ‘proper’ games.

Tiny Epic Tactics has a few different game modes, which adds to the appeal factor for a wider audience.  Want to play solo?  There are solo rules.  Games are only fun when you dominate? Go the competitive ruleset.  Like to enjoy the social experience of cooperative gaming?  You are covered as well.

And this huge variety of choice is why I am pretty much going to stop talking about the game here.  The things I am interested in may turn you off, and the things I may gloss over or ignore as not for me may be what excites you about the game.

The best advice I can give is that if this has sounded interesting to you at all, check out the Tiny Epic Tactics Kickstarter page and check it out.  There are many preview videos as well as the information from the order, and a how to play solo preview from Gamelyn Games that I have also added below!

The Tiny Epic games should always be viewed on their own merits, and I certainly don’t have most of the series.  But the ones I enjoy I really enjoy, and I think that Tiny Epic Tactics will be one I can get to the table fairly often in various forms.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Terror Below is on Kickstarter!

Terror Below Cover Art

Anyone that remembers Tremors will feel right at home with Terror Below

In today’s gaming world, there are a lot of games that seem to fight for your attention.  A lot of publishers use tricks like lots of mini’s or ‘Deluxe’ components to grab your attention. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it is pushing a lot of other solid games and mechanics out of the spotlight.

If I said Pick Up and Deliver games, the newest example I can think of is Wasteland Express Delivery Service, a game that players seem to either absolutely love or really, really don’t. Merchant of Venus, Power Grid, Steam and Keyflower are other fine examples of the genre, but again they tend to have that large divide in player opinion.

So what do you do when you want to make a new game based on a mechanic that seems to be in the process of being ignored?  Don’t take yourself seriously and have a ton of fun with it seems to be the best answer.

Terror Below Concept Game Board
Concept game board and components from promo video

Renegade Game Studios and Mike Elliot have unleashed Terror Below on Kickstarter, and it tickles all the right parts of my brain. Terror Below is a Pick-Up and Deliver game where you pick up the eggs of underground creatures and deliver them back to the authorities (or at least someone) – hence the name of the mechanic.

Anyone familiar with the Tremors franchise is going to feel right at home in this world, and I think that’s just fine.  If you are a tremors fan, you are already putting your serious mind on hold to enjoy the ride.  And if you don’t know Tremors, the best advice I can give is just to sit back and enjoy the ride.

I would explain the gameplay in a bit more detail, but honestly, the Renegade Kickstarter video sums it all up nicely in 90 seconds, so I will just add their video here:

So who do I think would enjoy Terror Below?  Lots of people really.

It’s a Pick-Up and Deliver – a simple goal that is easy to pick up and get your head around.  There is combat after a fashion with the creatures, so there is some variety in ways of getting points and objectives.

The big plus to me is that Terror Below doesn’t take itself seriously.  Now you might think that’s just for the humour and setting, but it’s also shown in the streamlined ruleset.

A player has been eliminated?  No one has to wait – count your points and play again.  Need to build an engine for an hour before playing the game ‘properly’ for two hours?  Nope.  You can get three games of Terror Below in the same amount of time as one of many other games.

I don’t think that Terror Below is a game that will redefine board gaming, but I think we forget in the hype not every game has to.  Terror Below looks to be a fun light to medium weight addition to the Pick Up and Deliver genre that my collection is lacking, and I thank Renegade and all of the backers for making this possible.

Terror Below Card Example
Multi use vehicle cards seem very clear

Another nice touch is that there is one level – all in for USD$45.  No discount on recommended retail, but backers do get stretch goals and the Hidden Cache deluxe upgrades.  Everything included is on the Terror Below Kickstarter Page – check it out – the campaign goes for one more week.

But don’t just take my word for it – there are a bunch of other thoughts and previews on Renegade’s YouTube channel.  This even includes my personal favourite in a gaming Kickstarter – an actual game being played!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Dagon’s Bones Review

Dagons Bones Cover Art
Dagons Bones Cover Art
Released 2018
Designer Brian S. Roe
Publisher Utility Games LLS (Website)
Players 2-5 (3-4 best)
Playing Time About 5 minutes per player
Category Dice Roller
Push Your Luck
Player Elimination
Travel Filler
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Because nothing ever happens in Innsmouth…

In early 2018, looking around Kickstarter there was a little title that had me clicking on it immediately – Dagon’s Bones.

I could imagine quite a few people skipping looking at the project as ‘Not another Cthulhu game’.  In a strange twist of fate, those that looked would have seen exactly that – not another Cthulhu game.

This is one of the few times that the theme of the game made incredible sense to me.  According to Lovecraft, Innsmouth was founded in the mid17th century and noted for shipbuilding and sailing.  The town fell on hard times, but after beginning to worship the deity Dagon the town began to prosper – in a fashion.

Even not knowing all this, the game quickly sets the scene as taking place in seaside pubs in the town.  And what sailor doesn’t like to gamble?

Hence the dice and coins seem completely natural, and while teaching all you need to do is explain the iconography.

Dagons Bones Components
It's three dice and some coins. There is nothing more you need.

Playing Dagon’s Bones

The game itself and its goals is incredibly simple.  To begin, deal out all of the coins in equal piles between the players and one pile in the centre for Cthulhu (the Pot).

The goal of the game is to have double your starting coins.  If you can do this, you win!  If you run out of coins, you lose.

If Cthulu runs out of coins, the player with the most coins wins.  However, if Cthulu doubles its starting coins, the Elder God is awakened and destroys Innsmouth.  All players lose in this scenario.

Starting with the oldest player, all three dice are collected and rolled.  You then do the action each die displays.

Fish bones are dud rolls – luck is not with you.  However, if you roll three fish bones, you may pay a coin to Cthulhu to re-roll all three dice once per turn.

The Key, Fishhook and Anchor work similarly – they let you take a coin.  The Key lets you take a coin from Cthulhu, the Fishhook choose a player and take one of their coins.  The Anchor let’s you decide to take a coin from either a player or Cthulhu – your choice.

Dagons Bones Dice Faces
Three dice, 7 faces. Nothing Lovecraftian in that at all.

The Coin means you must pay one of your coins to Cthulhu.  The Bottle of Booze means your turn ends immediately and all other dice are ignored – except for the last symbol, Dagon.

If you summon Dagon, you get to take a coin from each player and the pot.  With the goal of the game to double your starting pile of coins, this is a very powerful roll if you can pull it off!

And that is the game.  You now know how to play Dagon’s Bones.  As you can see, it’s not hard to get people playing straight away.

What I like about Dagon’s Bones

If you are a fan of Lovecraftian horror, the little touches in selecting the theme and setting is amazing – but it’s not required.  Even playing with people that roll their eyes at the idea of Cthulhu games, just playing the symbols and changing names of the symbols is enough to get them back on board.  Just call Cthulhu the Pot, and Dagon an idol, and everything still works.

While the game is very dependent on luck, it’s such a quick game that losing doesn’t sting.  You haven’t spent two hours trying to create a points engine and needing to pull that one card to make it work.  No, in Dagon’s Bones you just roll the dice and try to make the best decision on who’s coins to steal.

Dagons Bones Three Player Game
A three player round, and one that I find easy to picture happening at pubs along the dock

As a filler game, Dagon’s Bones is one that I will regularly just leave in the side pocket of my games bag for a quick round or two while waiting for others, and it’s perfect for this kind of thing.

And the downsides?

There aren’t too many, to be honest.  People that don’t like games based on luck will not like Dagon’s Bones. Same as people that are vocally over Cthulhu games – sometimes a game just isn’t for everyone.

The plastic coins feel a little light, but that helps make the game portable and I am guessing keep costs down.  Unless you are playing in very windy conditions, they do the job well, and I am still tempted to paint mine up.

The player count is a little deceptive though, but for games like this, that is a common problem.  Playing two players can lead to a few dull rounds of a stalemate until someone gets the right roll.  Four players is a quick and tense juggling match of push and pull play.

Five players though I tried once, and it ended in two rolls. Now, this was totally an unlucky situation (or very lucky, depending on how you look at it).  I was showing someone at work the basics of the game two-player, when a couple of other people came over to see what was happening.

Talking the new players through my roll and explaining the game, a fifth came over and listened to my explanation.  I offered to reset the game and have all of us play, and everyone agreed.

After handing out four coins to everyone including Cthulhu, I went first.  I usually do when teaching to talk everyone through that first roll.  I took one coin from another player as it was all I could do, and that was that.

The fifth person to come over was the second player, and they rolled three Dagon.  Taking a coin from everyone and the pot, they instantly won the game.

Dagons Bones Instant Win Conditions
Six piles of four coins, one is yours. If you can roll 3 Dagons, you can take a coin from every other pile. Instant win.

This then ended the group rather quickly.  The person that won declared the game broken and another player decided that a game that meant they might not have a turn wasn’t worth playing.

Now, this was just a lucky roll, and it can happen in many games.  It can also technically happen in four-player games, as you only get 25 coins in the packet.  But it’s so rare really to me it’s just a case of sharing the story and highlighting that it can happen.  All we lost 2 minutes – a quick reset and letting the third player go first was all that was needed.

There is another catch.  Dagon’s Bones is self-published, and I can’t really see where to buy it online.  I only saw it because of Kickstarter.  This just makes it hard to suggest as an impulse buy or filler gift, which is a pity because it fits perfectly in that category.

If you would like to see a game in action though, below is a video from the creator himself showing a quick three-player game:

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Dagon's Bones

Final Thoughts

Dagon’s Bones is a hard one for me to quantify.  It’s a game I would be willing to play most times, scoring it as 7-8 on my scale.

But it’s also a game that I can’t really find an online presence for.  Hunting around Utility Games LLCs Facebook page, you can email them to buy a copy but that seems to be the only way to get Dagon’s Bones, unless you happen to go to a con or similar they attend?

Making a fun game and one I would recommend hard to find online

But Dagon’s Bones is fun to play.  Pulling this out while in public, it won’t be too long before extra players come and have a look.

If you get the chance, definitely play the game.  It won’t be 10 minutes that changes your life, but it will be a bit of fun 🙂

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

  •  Easy to teach, quick gameplay
  •  Very travel friendly
  •  Allows an ‘Everyone Lose’ ending that doesn’t feel forced

Cons

  •  Not a game you can just pick up at a most stores
  •  Rules could have been better presented

Human Punishment expansion Project: Hell Gate Live on Kickstarter

Human Punishment Project Hell Gate Cover Art

Why do I hear ‘Ugh, another Social Deduction game?’ 10 times more than ‘Really? Another Euro?’

Social deduction games are a bit of a mixed bag.  It is also a term that is in my opinion overused to describe a lot of games.

To me, a social deduction game is when you are trying to divine a players team or role.  Games like Werewolf (Ultimate or One Night) or The Resistance are good examples of this.

Games like Mysterium are not Social Deduction to me.  Everyone knows each others role.  Yes, there is deduction involved, but it’s not the same as playing a role and having others try and work out what you are doing.

It’s like when people say The Simpson’s is for kids because it’s animated – look deeper and you will see something different to what you originally assumed.

This puts Social Deduction games in a bit of a weird position.  While many share similarities in play just as Werewolf and The Resistance, there are many that have their own unique twists to the genre such as Good Cop, Bad Cop and Bang!.

It surprises just how many people hear the words Social Deduction and just tune out to the actual game in front of them.  And I don’t mean just players in this criticism.

I have seen many reviewers wave off a game as ‘another social deduction game’ without even mentioning any of the unique features of those games.

But bite a player once – especially a new player – and that can destroy a genre for them.  It’s just human nature.

The Resistance Third Edition Cover Art
The Resistance earned its place in Social Deduction history - but there are other games as well!

A few years ago The Resistance was all the rage with my games group, and Avalon took hold because of the extra roles over the original.

After a while, I tried to introduce new rules with the Hidden Agenda and Hostile Intent expansions and was met with resistance (no pun intended).  Learning new rules to a game people already knew was ‘too hard’, but because Avalon looked like a different game learning the new rules was easier to accept.

People can just be like that – they have one learned opinion, and getting them to look at something differently without judging based on assumptions can be a blind spot.

Enter Human Punishment – Social Deduction 2.0

So in 2017 Godot Games launched a Kickstarter for a game called Human Punishment.  At the time, I didn’t look too closely for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, I was on the edge of ‘coming back’ to Kickstarter after a bit of a hiatus.

Secondly, the basic gameplay resembled Good Cop, Bad Cop – a game I was having a lot of trouble getting to the table.  But it also included role elements of games like Bang! meaning you had multiple layers.

Human Punishment looked really interesting, and the art was amazing, but it wasn’t enough to push me over the edge for backing it.

A very quick (and oversimplified) synopsis is you are dealt an ID and 2 loyalty cards at the beginning of each game.  If you have more Human (blue) cards, you are a human player trying to wipe out the Machines and Outlaws.  If you have more Machine (red) cards, wipe out the humans.  If you are an Outlaw (grey), be the last player standing.

Each turn, you play a single action that will either give you information on another players loyalties or get you closer to picking up a weapon to help you eliminate another player.

You have to be careful about eliminating other players though.  You don’t know for certain what team anyone else is on, you only know that someone is going to eliminate you eventually!

Human Punishment Core Game
Human Punishment - at the time, I passed but it looked interesting. Image from Project Hell Gate Kickstarter Page.

I also love that unlike Werewolf, there is no moderator.  If you are eliminated, you will get a snapshot of the game state as everyone secretly tells you where their loyalties are.

So this went into the ‘keep an eye out for, but not this time’ Kickstarter pile, and that was that.  Or so I thought.

Project: Hell Gate, the expansion for Human Punishment is currently on Kickstarter, and I have been having a look.  On its own, the expansion adds new scenarios, roles and abilities – grounds for buying if you enjoy the base game.

But it also adds Boss fights – and from the looks of it, not just for the sake of it.  Thematically the situation has gotten dire for the human side, and in desperation, they activate an old weapon known only as Hell Gate.

They were losing, what did they have to lose?

As you can see from the video, quite the impression has been made on many players.  I already enjoy Good Cop, Bad Cop and I absolutely love Bang! the Dice Game, so a game that combines the best of both worlds – why wouldn’t I be in?

Multiple roles, changing game states, betrayal both intentional and incidental – these elements can make an amazing social night with the right group of players.

And that is another advantage of Human Punishment.  The minimum number of players you need is 4, with 5-6 being the opening sweet spot from all reports.

I know from experience that 5 players are a strange number for games nights.  It’s not quite enough to split into two groups, but not enough for bigger games.  I have games for this player count, but they tend to be filler or longer involved affairs – not always great for games night.

Yes, you can play The Resistance with 5 players, as well as a number of Social Deduction games.  But bottom line, most of these games do not start to shine without 8 to 10 people, so while they are options they aren’t high on my list.

Human Punishment Standard Base and Expansion
The Standard Edition Base game and Project Hell Gate Expansion. Image from Project Hell Gate Kickstarter Page.

So I have backed the core game and the Project: Hell Gate expansion, and I am looking forward to playing it myself later this year.

As usual, there is a catch.  There is a lot to weigh up if you should back Human Punishment.  If you are light on social deduction games, this looks like it will be a good fit for many groups.  The theme isn’t super original, but for this type of game that works in its favour – let your players build a story as they play.  You don’t have to ‘sell’ a world, almost everyone knows the Man vs Machine mythos.

There are a lot of roles and programs that will add complexity to the game, and if this is your first time running such a game you will want to ignore a lot of the extra items (like the fourth and fifth ‘factions’).

This extra functionality is partially why I haven’t gone into fine detail talking about this project.  The parts that truly attract me aren’t for first time players, but the base game is a very strong foundation to build on.  This means you will be able to play and keep adding elements to Human Punishment for many games to come.

If you are interested, The Rules Girl from The Dice Tower did a quick and concise 3-minute rules explanation for the original Kickstarter campaign:

While I think only certain types of people will back Human Punishment for whatever reason, I think the majority of people would enjoy playing it.

On that basis, if any of what I have described has piqued your interest then check out the Kickstarter Project and let me know what you think!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar Review

Fireball Island Box Art
Fireball Island Box Art
Released 2018
Designer Rob Daviau, JR Honeycutt, Justin D. Jacobson, Chuck Kennedy, Bruce Lund
Publisher Restoration Games (Website)
Players 2 – 4 (5th player expansion available)
Playing Time 60 minutes
Category Hand Management
Set Collection
Light Dexterity (Interactive Board)
Take That
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

No one is going to call this The Curse of Vul-Kar – it’s Fireball Island all the way!

There is a category of game known as Roll and Move.  Examples of this are Snakes and Ladders or Monopoly.  When you talk about ‘old’ games, these are usually the type of game that people remember and compare new games too.

1986’s Fireball Island was a game like this – roll the die, move your piece.  But there was a twist – your playing pieces could be knocked over by a fireball!

Fireball Island was a game aimed at families with younger players (7 and up), so the game mechanics were going to be simple even for the day.

But this didn’t stop the popularity of Fireball Island.  As you can see in the US commercial, selling the adventure of exploring an unknown island and collecting the treasure was key.

A big part of the draw though was the vacumould playing board.  This was a huge draw, where you didn’t just have a folded board but a three-dimensional island to move around!

YouTube source https://www.youtube.com/user/wheezebucket

And atop the island sits the imposing figure of Vul-Kar, who would throw marble fireballs down the moulded paths to mess with your opponents.

It was different, and it was loved.  In today’s language, we would call a game like Fireball Island a Gateway Game – a great game to introduce new players to the hobby.  Except it’s been 30 years, and board games have gotten a lot better.

Restoration Games to the Rescue

As you may have seen on this site on a few occasions, I am a fan of Restoration Games.  They have a simple motto – ‘Every game deserves another chance’.  And they deliver on this time and time again.

Thanks to Fireball Island being a nostalgic favourite, kind of like the Nintendo Classic consoles, this was one Kickstarter basically guaranteed to be a hit.

And now it has all been delivered, and I have been able to play the new and improved Fireball Island.  And it’s great 😀

Fireball Island - All Arrived
I have some sleeves and other bits and bobs, but all of the game is here!

Some things change, some things stay the same

Bottom line – Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar is a bigger and better version of the 80’s classic.

The vacumould board remains, but is now larger and built up in three distinct parts.  The detail on the island itself has also been much improved as well, with a lot of great and humorous areas of the island.

This has allowed for more paths on the island as well from the looks of it.  I don’t have the original island myself to compare, but there seems to be more room and paths to follow.

The marbles naturally follow these paths, but there is a new twist of trees added to the island, meaning you can steer likely paths of fireballs as well.

Fireball Island - Don't you want to play it?
Fireball Island's biggest draw even today - the board itself

There is also the change to Vul-Kar itself.  Where in the original game there was one opening in the mouth, now you drop your marble in the top of the statue and there are three possible exits.  This helps add a bit of randomness and unpredictability to the game, making it more exciting.

Not only the components got a makeover – the dice for movement mechanic has been completely replaced with card drafting!  You will always have two movement cards in your hand, making strategy and planning more important than the original.  Of course, you still need luck to draw the right cards, but unlucky draws can be somewhat mitigated now.

Fireball Island Cards
Two decks - Souvenirs (Powers) and Movement. Still simple, but so many possibilities

So what do you actually do?

At the end of the day, Fireball Island is a set collection point scoring game.  As you explore the island, you can pick up treasure and try to make a set of five of most of the items lying around.

You also take holiday snaps of the island.  Once you have collected three holiday snaps, you are able to try and make it back to the ‘Hello-copter’ to escape the island.  First player back to the chopper gets a nice little bonus score as well!

I know it sounds like I am glossing over most of the gameplay, and I am to an extent.  There are some little rules I am not even touching on, because honestly it’s not really important.

Fireball Island is a fun entry-level game, but for players my age and experience that’s not what makes it a good game.  What makes Fireball Island a great game is the experience of playing, both the game itself and the friends you play it with.

Players that have played Ticket to Ride will have a good idea what I mean.  The idea of Ticket to Ride is simple – collect coloured cards to switch for trains to make routes and score points.  Anyone that plays the game will tell you that maybe the mechanic, but it’s not the game.  Same for Fireball Island.

Fireball Island - Summary
You just need to get off the island with the most points to win - and most things give you points

Should everyone rush out and buy Fireball Island?  No.  It’s a great bit of fun and a trip down memory lane for some, but for others I would rather start them off with Downforce or Stop Thief!.

If you play with younger players a lot, then I would say Fireball Island is more likely a better buy for you. The simple rules and fun of dropping marbles into Vul-Kar make for a great time for everyone.

On the flip side, if you remember the original fondly and really want it in your collection again, you would have already bought it. Nothing I can say now would influence you.

If you’re on the fence, play it first would be my advice.  You will know after the first game if you are likely to pull it out again or not, and that should be the clincher.

Even if buying isn’t really your concern, play it if you get the chance.  Sure there are ‘better’ games out there, there always are.  But get a few friends together and enjoy a silly hour – you are unlikely to regret it 🙂

Fireball Island - What could go wrong?
The player on the bridge is safe, but Vul-Kar has turned towards the player stuck on a ladder

Longterm – the expansions

I backed the pledge level that gave me basically the lot.  I think there is only a Secret Cabal promo card that I am missing.  And by the lot, I mainly mean expansions.

Everything I have discussed so far has been the retail base game with no additions, and to date I haven’t played with any expansions.

I will be, and they will be getting their own reviews soon, but if you need a game for 5 players I would suggest buying ‘The Last Adventurer‘.  On the surface, you can then just have an Indiana Jones-inspired 5th player, but there are some rules additions and extra cards to increase the gameplay options as well.

The other two main expansions are ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Bees‘ and ‘Wreck of the Crimson Cutlass‘.  Both add new rules and twists, and like most expansions should probably be added once you have gotten the most out of the base game.

Fireball Island - Expansions
The ideas sound great, but I need to play them all to find out what they add

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Bees adds more marbles to pour through Vul-Kar as well as a true dexterity challenge in the tiger.

Bee stings can be collected by players, and essentially they halve movement.  The tiger can net you three treasures from your opponent – if you can hit them!

Wreck of the Crimson Cutlass adds a new play area in the form of a pirate ship.  There is a push your luck aspect of marbles in a collapsable crows nest, and the ability to fire a cannonball – always a bit of fun!

Fireball Island - Packing is tight
The other small issue with the expansions - there isn't much room left in the main box!

While in theory these all sound like worthy additions, I think only the potential 5th player has an immediate benefit.  Extra powers and mechanics can be a lot of fun, but they can also be situational which I think these may be.

And they weren’t exactly cheap add-ons either.  For the cost of the Crimson Cutlass, I can buy another game – always something to make you stop and think.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar

Final Thoughts

I really like Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar – but there is a major caveat to this.  Personally, I have fond memories of the original Fireball Island.  Coupled with ‘Nostalgia Hype’™, this makes me biased towards the new game.

That said, while I don’t think every gamer must have a copy of Fireball Island in their collection, a great fun time will be had by almost everyone that plays it – even if it’s only once.

Great to play with younger players or to catch up with friends while playing, Fireball Island is a great experience for a wide audience.

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  •  Quick to teach, game moves at a good pace
  •  A game that attracts an audience
  •  Beautiful component quality
  •  Nostalgia in full swing!

Cons

  •  Basic gameplay can put off some players
  •  Large play area even for ‘just’ the base game

That’s Not Lemonade Review

That's Not Lemonade Cover
That's Not Lemonade Cover
Released 2018
Designer Matt Fantastic
Publisher Tuesday Knight Games (Website)
Players 2 – 6 (Best with 4+)
Playing Time 10-15 minutes
Category Push Your Luck
Social Game
Filler Game
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Who hasn’t thought about ‘switching drinks’ with someone?

In the US, the idea of the corner lemonade stand and the red plastic Solo cups are icons.  The rest of the world has seen this perfect image of innocence thanks to many, many forms of media, and is the basic premise of this That’s Not Lemonade.

There is a competition between the local kids as to who can drink the most lemonade (Make the best lemonade?  Something like that.  It’s not really important).  But the nefarious ‘Little Johnny’ has decided to spice things up by switching some drinks for something That’s Not Lemonade!

Rounds are simple – drink the most lemonade by having the most lemons in your hand at the end of the round, but if get something That’s Not Lemonade you are out immediately.

Win 3 rounds, win the game.  Simple, quick and easy!

That's Not Lemonade Components
The box is as big as a soft drink can, and the play while simple is dceptively fun.

Setup

Setup is incredibly simple.  Up to 6 players pick up a cup and pick a character.

The characters don’t really add anything to the game.  There aren’t special powers or rules for different characters, just grab the one that puts a smile on your face 🙂

The information at the top of the card shows how many of each card type is in the deck, so that’s handy to know.

If you are playing with 2 people, pull out one of the That’s Not Lemonade cards from the deck.  Playing with 3 people, take out 2 That’s Not Lemonade Cards.  Pick a dealer, and let them shuffle the deck.

That's Not Lemonade Characters
The Characters are cute, but no player powers make them laregly summary cards only.

You will probably be ready to play in less time than it took you to read this explanation!

Playing the game

The easiest way to think of the mechanics of That’s Not Lemonade is to think of Blackjack.

On your turn, you can Hit or Pass.  Hit means you are dealt a card, pass means that you turn over your cup and can no longer drink any more Lemonade.

If you Hit, the dealer deals you a card and you look at it secretly.  If it’s a That’s Not Lemonade card, immediately turn over your cup and put the That’s Not Lemonade Card face up on top of the cup.  This means you are out of the round as you recover!

Don’t show the rest of your hand if any though – the only card that is revealed is the That’s Not Lemonade card.

Now the rules do say to put your cup on its side, but we had a bit of rolling so went with the ‘card on top’ rule.  Go with what works for you would be my advice here.

That's Not Lemonade Card Types
As long as you don't pull That's Not Lemonade, you can continue. It's this simple decision tree that makes for such a fast game.

If you get Lemonade or Ice, you are safe and the dealer proceeds to the next person.

If you decide that you are comfortable with the number of lemons in your hand, you can decide to pass on your turn which you indicate by flipping your cup.  You are still in with a chance to win, but you can relax a little bit and watch everyone try and work out what you have.

If there is only one person that hasn’t got any That’s Not Lemonade cards, they automatically win the round.

Otherwise once everyone still in has Passed, everyone shows their hands and counts the number of lemons.  There are 2 cards with Double lemons, so don’t forget to count 2 with these cards!

The winner puts a single lemon card under their character card to show they have won, and everyone resets their cups and play begins again.

That's Not Lemonade End of Round-Scoring
So two players have 3 lemons, but the top right will win as Ice is a tie breaker!

The quick amongst you will have noticed though that you have set back up for round two with one less lemon card.

That’s right – the more you play, the more likely you are to take a hit of Ice or That’s Not Lemonade as the lemonade runs out!

Winning The Game

Winning is simple – the first person to win 3 rounds, wins the game.  As I said, That’s Not Lemonade is quick, simple and fun – there is not a lot to get your head around!

The Good

That’s Not Lemonade is a game that is incredibly simple, but this is a good thing.  On each player turn, there is only one decision to make – Hit or Pass.

Analysis Paralysis is all but eliminated, but the social pressure of encouraging someone to drink and their squirming in indecisiveness is always fun to watch.

Each round only lasts a minute or two even with 6 players.  Only having a deck of 18 cards with 4 ‘dangerous’ cards means rounds cannot last a long time.  Almost everyone has been exposed to Blackjack, but even if they haven’t the Hit or Pass mechanic is easy to pick up on, and only counting lemons makes objectives simple to grasp as well.

That's Not Lemonade All Cards
There are only 18 cards, and as you play this amount gets whittled down. Play is amazingly fast.

Like many games, the first round will be the longest, but That’s Not Lemonade has the advantage of thinning the deck everytime someone wins, guaranteeing that games wind up quickly.

The cups are more than a nostalgia item or gimmick.  If your cup is ready to drink from, your in.  If it’s upside down, you don’t want to drink.  If it’s on its side (by the rules) or covered with a card (my rules) you are busy recovering from a bad experience.  This makes the game state easy to take in with a glance, even with 6 players.

Also, each game takes 10-15 minutes even at high player counts.  That makes for a great social filler experience while waiting for people, and as the game is about the size of a can of soft drink, easy to have on standby for such occasions.

That's Not Lemonade State of Play
While all together, I bet you can tell which player is doing what just from this snapshot.

The Bad

That’s Not Lemonade is a game with a lot left to chance.  It has to be, or it couldn’t be the type of game it is.

Even knowing this, going out on your first card is never a fun experience, and this is something that can happen multiple rounds in a row if you are really unlucky.

It’s chance, and not likely to always happen to one person, but be prepared to potentially counsel players that could be hit by this.

That's Not Lemonade Unlucky Run
You have to be really unlucky, but this is a potential win scneario.

But really that’s the only real downside for me – there is the potential you can get hit with a run of bad luck run in a 10-minute game.

There are people that may look down on a such a simple filler game, but as a general rule I would guess such players would object to most games described as ‘Filler’, ‘Social’ or ‘Party’ games.

There are always exceptions to such rules though, so let them try it.  Even players I have met completely opposed to filler games will give one a try if it’s only a few minutes long.  But like any game, there is an audience for it and That’s Not Lemonade may have wider appeal to U Mad Bro, there are some that just won’t like it.

Wait, U Mad Bro?  What’s that got to do with That’s Not Lemonade?

Ahh, well a lot actually.  You see on a simple level That’s Not Lemonade is a retheme of Matt Fantastic’s U Mad Bro.

Gameplay is pretty much identical from what I understand, but instead of lemonade stands players were Jersey Boardwalk Bro’s trying to impress the Babes with washed up bits of Cthulhu.  Get the most pieces and win, but if you go Mad – you’re out.

Personally, I prefer the lemonade theme, it feels less forced with the mechanics and eliminates the eye roll that some players show with Cthulhu themed games, not to mention the Jersey Bros.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
That's Not Lemonade

Final Thoughts

Want a game that’s quick, fun and takes very little brain power to play?  That’s Not Lemonade is probably right up your alley.

I cannot imagine game nights filled with just That’s Not Lemonade, but something to occupy the table while the new game is being set up, an opener, closer or straight-up time passer is the perfect time to pull it out.

Setup time is almost non-existent, and the combined social experience is silly but enjoyable at the same time.

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  •  Easy to Teach and Learn
  •  Great for conversation during play
  •  Fun filler format

Cons

  •  Not for people wanting deep gameplay
  •  Going out first card is a real possibility

The PAX Aus 2018 Schedule is live, and the Enigma Box is coming!

Pax Australia 2018

When PAX Aus makes your day better a month early!

So yesterday at work I was having one of those Thursdays.  From the moment I rolled out of bed, everything had been full speed ahead into every brick wall in sight, and was like that all day.

But late yesterday I took a break to read my emails, and lo and behold there was one from PAX Australia!  I was hoping it was saying my tickets were in the mail, but really next best thing:

The PAX Aus 2018 Schedule is now live.

I will be sitting down over the weekend and trying to make some choices, but it is always hard at PAX.  There are a lot of great panels all through the three days, and as usual, there are so many things that I want to see and do that all overlap.

This year, the opening Storytime is with Rhianna Pratchett.  The daughter of Sir Terry Pratchett, many gamers have experience Rhianna’s work for years and probably never realised.  And then the choices just get harder.

Gameifying Government, or Mental Health Representation in video games?  They may sound niche, but I am interested in both topics and would love to hear what’s happening.

As usual, so many things to see, so many overlapping!

LoadingReadyRun Live is the chance to see some great creators live as I have wanted for years.  But at the same time, there is the annual Dungeon Crawl – always a worthy event.  But overlapping both events is Outside Xbox and Outside Xtra hosting the first ever PAX Movie night!  Another team of creators I love to leave watch to cheer me up, I’m already torn for which to go and see 🙁  Seriously if you enjoy gaming and want a smile, watch Show of the Weekend with Ellen and Luke.  Luke’s puns are usually awful, but Ellen just has an infectious exuberance about her that is fun to watch 🙂

Unfortunately, this year Gabe (Mike Krahulik) cannot attend PAX Aus.  While for selfish reasons this is disappointing, I am really glad that he can feel comfortable discussing such personal issues with the community as a whole.  Even better, it is wonderful seeing such acceptance and support from the community as well.  It’s this kind of atmosphere that makes PAX very special to me.

I was really hoping to see how the adventures of the Star Wars themed Acquisitions Inc. game continued, but the “C” Team will be just as much a blast to see in person 🙂

It’s important to note that the schedule is not yet complete.  There are still some to be confirmed panels, and there is no tournament information yet.  However looking at the filters, there is a VR tourney option – this could be fun 🙂 I need to put the Vive back on now…

The other little surprise I got today is my Enigma Box is finally on its way.  I have been waiting eagerly for this for a couple of months now.  Partly this was the anticipation of getting a great project and partly fueled by some updates saying things were ready to ship.

Late July and early August, there was information that the boxes were being sent in waves, with the furthest people getting it first as it takes longer to travel.  Living in Australia, I was ecstatic as we are normally near the end of the process!  So much escape room logic puzzle deductions were being planned it was great 😀

Then I found out basically the US was getting it first.  Last time I checked, Australia is further that Spain and the UK than the US is.  So much for the geography clues guys :p

Really though the last is just a playful jab – the box is coming, and around when we were told it would be when the shipping was clarified.  Very happy John waiting for games night Tuesday to see it in person for the first time!

I got my notification and all going well I will get my box Tuesday next week.  This may be the subject of one of those live Facebook videos I talked about yesterday – watch and see!

I hope everyone has a great Friday, and I will catch you later 🙂

Until then,

JohnHQLD

Nanty Narking has a couple of days left on Kickstarter

Nanty Narking Box Art

Nanty Narking still means ‘Great Fun’

A while ago, I wrote about an upcoming Kickstarter.  That bit of news was about Nanty Narking, a retheme and rework of Martin Wallace’s Discworld: Ankh-Morpork.

I saw the post go up that Nanty Narking was live, and then instantly stopped.  It is being produced by Phalanx, the people behind the upcoming UBOOT game.  I backed that project, and am really looking forward to playing it.  It’s not a ‘Who are these guys?’ issue, it’s a ‘the project is in pounds’ issue.

I already own Discworld: Ankh-Morpork, and can barely get it to the table as it is.  That said, I enjoy it a lot.  Each character has a secret goal they are trying to achieve, and exert their influence on the city of Ankh-Morpork to try and reach their own goals.

The game has some issues – anyone that tells you it doesn’t is in fan denial.  But it is a middleweight game that is a lot of fun at the highest player count, and has a special spot in my collection.

Nanty Narking Game Setup
Really, Nanty Narking is Ank-Morpork Second Edition, with nicer components and streamlined rules

Mechanically, the retheming of Discworld to the fictional Charles Dickens/Sir Arthur Conan Doyle London makes a lot of sense.  Sir Terry did base a lot of Ankh-Morpork on Old London after all, with many characters a parody of the same source material.

A lot of the issues of the original have been addressed in Nanty Narking, but I think the same problem still exists.

I am not talking mechanically, I believe that Martin Wallace would do what he believed best to address those issues.  No, the problem I am talking about is that this is a big heavy game feel with fairly simple mechanics.

This made Ankh-Morpork a miss as a gateway game and an enthusiast game, meaning really Discworld fans were the main audience to give it a go.  Too heavy for a gateway game, to light for a ‘serious’ game, an IP with a loyal fanbase and yet somehow still not mainstream – Discworld: Ankh-Morpork was a niche game in almost every way.

Nanty Narking Personality Cards
Replacing the Discworld identities are various well known Victorian Literature characters, each with their own goals

I have seen lots of reports of people demoing the game at conventions and the like and wondering what they just did.  This is not the sort of feedback you want for your game.

That said though, I am fairly confident that a 2-hour learning game (which was always my experience) was kind of crunched into a rushed demo experience.  If I ever tried to teach Ankh-Morpork at ‘normal’ speed, the same feelings were often described as problems – Playing an action because they had to, not understanding the impact the actions on the game, etc.

If you can pick up a copy of Discworld: Ankh-Morpork, I really do recommend it but with the ending of Discworld licensing after Sir Terry’s passing, they are really hard to get.

The more I look at Nanty Narking, the more I see a very pretty version of a game I wish I could convince more people to play.  But this is an AUD$170 game including shipping for a game I essentially already have!

Check out the Nanty Narking Kickstarter and see what you think.  Keep this in mind though – the player count is really 3-4 players, with the best experience at 4.  If you have three other players that are keen, everyone going in may be the better way to go?

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Tiny Epic Mechs is live and crushing it on Kickstarter!

Tiny Epic Mechs Feature

Tiny Epic Mechs was a must have impulse buy

I have a bit of an on and off history with the Tiny Epic series of games.  I absolutely love the concept – a small box with a big box feel.  Sometimes these games have hit, sometimes not.

The first to really click with me was Tiny Epic Galaxies, a Yahtzee style dice roller with variable powers.  What looks simple becomes a frantic race to earn enough victory points in time.  Tiny Epic Galaxies starts slow but finishes in the blink of an eye.

Tiny Epic Western is a game I need to revisit.  I backed it early and went all in, but the almost poker mechanics led to some disagreements at the table.  But the idea is solid – a worker placement game with poker hands instead of die rolls or similar.

Tiny Epic Zombies looks like a lot of fun, but I am still waiting for it to arrive.  I have seen the updates on Facebook of happy backers receiving their copy, so I have been avoiding the ‘Tiny Epic’ updates for a couple of weeks.

Early this morning I woke up to a Kickstarter notification – ‘Be the first to back Tiny Epic Mechs’.  Pre-coffee John opened the page, and saw this:

So I am now a backer of Tiny Epic Mechs, the latest Tiny Epic game from Scott Almes.

Really, just putting Meeples in Mech suits had me sold – it was an early morning impulse buy of the first order.  For someone with sausage hands like myself, there is a good chance these item meeples will be too small to put the items in and out constantly, but the idea is great.

Like every other Tiny Epic game, this one is mechanically different.  Now players are competing against each other in a gladiator-style match, but with action programming – similar to Colt Express.

Tiny Epic Mechs Parts
Build up your pilot meeple as you play

Over on Kickstarter, not even 24 hours in and the Stretch Goals are dropping quickly.  Extra pilots and component upgrades have already been unlocked, with more to be announced.  And unlike some other publishers *cough CMON cough* if the project does well, backers just unlock everything.  Tiny Epic games are designed to fit in the small box, period.

And Gamelyn Games is far from a Kickstarter novice.  On the page you will also see a game run through with JonGetsGames, as well as many previews from a lot of different board game reviewers.

And one of my favourite things to see on the page – the rules!  While Tiny Epic Mechs was indeed an impulse buy, having had a chance to look through the rules this morning this really does look like a game I can get behind.

This looks like a straightforward (if potentially component fiddly) programmable game that should be simple to teach during the first playthrough.

Tiny Epic Mechs Solo Meeple in Mech
So many Ripley references will be made early in this game 🙂

So head over to the Tiny Epic Mechs Kickstarter page and have a look for yourself.  It looks like a lot of fun for under AUD$50, including shipping!

And if you are on the fence, grab the print and play version and give it a try for yourself 🙂

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Horizon Zero Dawn the Board Game is now on Kickstarter!

Horizion Zero Dawn Board Game

Horizon Zero Dawn is coming to your tabletop

A few weeks ago, I posted a bit of news that Horizon: Zero Dawn was coming to Kickstarter.

And today, much quicker than I expected, the project is live!

Steamforged games have taken on a huge task, turning a hugely popular open world video game into a tabletop experience.

To me, they are also taking on a huge gamble of putting up a project with minimal gameplay information.  Dark Souls the Board Game, while beautiful, has mixed reviews as a gaming experience, and there was a vocal backlash about the game.

While I haven’t played Dark Souls, I don’t think the negatives were entirely warranted.  While some mechanics can be simplified, this is always true.  I think the real problem was the game was heavier than many people expected, especially for ‘non-board gamers’.

Horizion Zero Dawn Board Game Components
So much plastic, but so pretty

So why am I talking about Dark Souls and not Horizon?  Because I don’t really know anything about the gameplay for Horizon.

There is a gameplay video coming soon on the Kickstarter page, but right now I can’t really tell you anything on the gaming experience.  I am getting a Fallout vibe, though there is nothing to found this on.

I can tell you the mini-renders look amazing, and I have backed this for a mini painting extravaganza!

Steamforged has a history of making quality miniatures, and Horizon Zero Dawn looks like it will keep this tradition alive.

The bigger additions/add-on’s/expansions are pricey though.  For a £100 board game, all of the add-on mechs cost an extra £170!  That makes Horizon almostAUD$500 without shipping – quite a pricey undertaking.

Horizion Zero Dawn Board Game Models
Some scale for minis involved and some of the add on figures. They are huge!

I have backed the early bird pledge available today for £95, but that is with an eye on painting the game up.  I most likely won’t be getting the add-ons, even though they look gorgeous, simply from a storage perspective.

That’s right, it’s not the cost that is making me hesitate – it’s where do I put them?

Check out Horizon Zero Dawn the Board Game yourself on Kickstarter, and let me know what you think!

Until tomorrow,

JohnHQLD