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My wife and I love to play games together. Join us for the journey!

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Dimension (One Couple's Review)

sean johnson
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Edinburgh
Indiana
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We played this last year at IndyCon, and we enjoyed it at that time. We tried to get it in a couple of different math trades, but we finally managed to get a copy in a recent math trade. Now that we played it a year later what dimensions of the game really appeal to us?

Game Overview
In this game all players have fifteen balls in five different colors. The players have a board that can hold these spheres. It has seven on the bottom, three on the second level, and one on top so it holds eleven total balls.

Each round six cards are set out that determine the rules the players have to follow in stacking the spheres. For instance one card might require only two blue spheres are used. Another might require that blue and orange spheres are touching, and yet another might require there are more black than orange.

Players will simultaneously stack the spheres attempting to follow the rules laid out by the cards. They will have one minute to do this. After the time is up, players will check to see if they followed all of the rules. Players will get one point for each sphere they used, and they will lose two points for each rule they failed to follow.

If players used all of the colors and followed all of the rules they will get a token. At the end of the game these tokens are worth points, or if players have less than three they will get negative points.

The game is played over six rounds, and after the sixth round the player with the most points wins.

Our Ratings
We are using a custom rating scale. Each game will be evaluated by both of us on 1 to 10 scale in five areas. When combined, this creates a possible score out of 100.

Mechanisms/Rules
My Rating:
My Comments: This game is remarkable in how clever it is. The game works really well and it uses truly unique components.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: The rules and mechanism of this game make my brain hurt in a good way.

Theme/Experience
My Rating:
My Comments: This is a pure abstract, but the experience of this game is engaging. It is extremely engrossing and it has a wonderful table presence.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This game is a wonderful experience. When it works this game me feel smart.

Replayability
My Rating:
My Comments: Every single round is a brand new puzzle, and every round is as engaging as the last. This gives it a lot of replayability.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This game is fairly replayable, but I wonder how long it will hold over the long haul.

Pacing and Flow
My Rating:
My Comments: Each round is only one minute so it goes quick. I also think six is a perfect number of rounds.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: The pacing of this game is well done and near perfection. I always want one a little bit longer to optimize my structure, so I always want to try to do better or do it perfectly again.

Fun Factor
My Rating:
My Comments: The designers of the video game Halo had this idea that to design a successful video game you had to keep finding ways to repeat the 30 seconds of fun. In this case it is a minute of fun. Every round is an engaging puzzle. It repeats with slight variation, but it never stops being fun.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I really enjoy this game. There seems to be one round where I feel like I get it perfectly. Even if I do not get the most points, I feel like I won because of that round.

Final Score

81/100

I am glad we were able to trade for this game. It is not like anything else we have and it is a game that we both enjoy. This is a game we both recommend and one we plan on keeping for a long time.
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Zoo Ball (One Couple's Review)

sean johnson
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We recently attended IndyCon. This is a local gaming con that is intentionally kept on the smaller side. We have attended this event for a number of years, and it is always a highlight for us. One of the amazing things about this small little con is how many games they get to give away. It is remarkable how many games they are able to get donated by generous sponsors to give to con attendees. This year we were fortunate enough to win a couple of games in the big game drawing including this one. I first played Zoo Ball at Gen Con in 2017, and after a quick demo I thought it was pleasant. My wife, not liking dexterity game, was not impressed. The retail price tag also seemed a little high so we passed on it then. We put in to win it in the drawing, because of the potential it has to be a good family game. So does the game score a goal in that regard?

Game Overview
Zoo Ball is either a two player game or a four player game. In either event all players have discs representing their team. Each team consist of three blockers and one runner.

In a two player game the goal is to score three goals, and goals are scored by getting the runner into the opponent's circle. In a four player game, the goal is to score one goal by getting the runner in the opposite corner of a team's starting position.

Two and four player games are played with the same rules. Players take turns and a turn they choose which pieces to activate. The players can choose to move all three blockers or just their runner. Movement is done by flicking the piece across the cloth pitch.

If a piece goes off the play area they the re-enter where they went off. However, if the the piece goes off on the opponent's side they come back on at roughly the same location on their starting side.

In a two player game, once a goal is scored the board is reset. The play continues until someone scores the required amount of points and emerges the winner.

Our Ratings
We are using a custom rating scale. Each game will be evaluated by both of us on 1 to 10 scale in five areas. When combined, this creates a possible score out of 100.

Mechanisms/Rules
My Rating:
My Comments: These rules are simple enough that really just about anyone can play. There is not a lot of depth or flash to this game, but the rules and mechanisms get the job done admirably.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: The rules are simple and straight forward.

Theme/Experience
My Rating:
My Comments: The theme of this game is a soccer/football style game and that theme comes through. All teams are the same, but I appreciate they included more sticker options than discs so that players could really customize what animals teams their game has.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This feels like it is some kind of sports ball game, so the theme really does come through.

Replayability
My Rating:
My Comments: The quick play time makes this an easy game to get out. I also like that the two player and four player experience are different. I think the game shines the most at four.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: It's fine, but there honestly is not too much depth to the gameplay. Over the long haul I fear it might eventually get left on the shelf for long periods of time.

Pacing and Flow
My Rating:
My Comments: This can honestly go a little too quick at times.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: For the most part it is quick, but it can be uneven. The game can end after just a couple of turns or if someone is being extremely defensive it can drag out some.

Fun Factor
My Rating:
My Comments: This game will not win any rewards, but it is a fun and light dexterity game. I do think it works especially well with a family of four.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: Dexterity games are not really my thing and I tend to find them more frustrating than fun. This game is not so bad though. I will willingly play it.

Final Score

73/100

Sadly for the game it did not do that well at retail, and I know that at online stores it can be found for fairly cheap. We think it is worth getting, especially as a quick family game. We think our children are getting really close to the sweet spot for family game nights, so we are glad we have this as a possible option.
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Thu Mar 21, 2019 3:33 am
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Drop It (One Couple's Review)

sean johnson
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Edinburgh
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We recently attended IndyCon. This is a local gaming con that is intentionally kept on the smaller side. We have attended this event for a number of years, and it is always a highlight for us. For the past few years they have had play to win games, and this year this was one of those games. I feel like we got fairly lucky to win this game. It seemed it was out being played quite a bit, so our odds were long. So were we truly lucky to win this game or should we just drop it?

Game Overview
In this game players each have various shapes all of one color (or two colors in a two player game). The "board" consist of a clear plastic contraption that players drop pieces in, so that the pieces will begin to stack vertically.

On a player's turn they are trying to score points, and they do so by selecting one of their available pieces and dropping it. The piece will score as long as it does not violate any rules. To score a piece can not be touching another piece of the same color, it can be touching another piece of the same shape, and it can not be touching the side or base where it matches the color (or shape, since the sides can be switched out).

As the pieces stack higher they will be worth more points. The bottom is worth one, and the top is worth eight. There are also little circles that are worth bonus points if a piece touches those when it scores.

The game ends after everyone has dropped all of their pieces and the player with the most points wins.

Our Ratings
We are using a custom rating scale. Each game will be evaluated by both of us on 1 to 10 scale in five areas. When combined, this creates a possible score out of 100.

Mechanisms/Rules
My Rating:
My Comments: This is a clever game. It feels like a lot of design thought went into this game to do things like get the shapes just the right size and figure out even what shapes would be best to use. It comes together in a game that works so smoothly.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This game is super simple and intuitive. The rules and concept behind this game is so smart while being so simple it creates a "Why didn't I think of this" feeling.

Theme/Experience
My Rating:
My Comments: This is essentially an abstract game, so there is no theme. The experience though is engaging. The game has the same hook that a lot of dexterity games have. The game has some skill to it, and it feels like that skill should be just within grasp. This draw the players into want to keep trying it again and again.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: Even though it is not, this game has a real Tetris vibe to it. That is wonderful, because I LOVE Tetris. The physical act of dropping also adds a lot of excitement in watching to see if the piece is going to land perfectly or take a bad bounce.

Replayability
My Rating:
My Comments: This game has the rare ability to generate a lot of "let's play it again" feelings.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This game is extremely replayable. Because the way the shapes fall the configuration will never be the same, and every turn offers just as much opportunity and excitement as the previous one.

Pacing and Flow
My Rating:
My Comments: This is a quick playing game, which is one of the reasons why it will probably get played a couple of times in a row when it comes out.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: The pacing is perfect. The game is fast, but I am engaged on the turns of others player because it is entertaining to watch what happens when they drop a piece. I also like how the points naturally increase as the game goes on, this creates a feeling of growing stakes.

Fun Factor
My Rating:
My Comments: This is a really solid game with a great table presence and a chance for broad appeal. I am glad we have it.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I think this game is so much fun! I really enjoy playing it.

Final Score

88/100

Just for the two of us this game is a big hit. We are also happy that this is a game our kids can play as well, and we think it will be a game that can draw even non-gamers in. This was not the biggest or most expensive game that was up to be won this year, but for us winning a copy felt like getting the big prize.
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Wed Mar 20, 2019 3:59 am
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Kitten Klash (One Couple's Review)

sean johnson
United States
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We recently attended IndyCon. This is a local gaming con that is intentionally kept on the smaller side. We have attended this event for a number of years, and it is always a highlight for us. For the past few years they have had play to win games, and this year this was one of those games. This was actually our very first game to play at IndyCon this year. We grabbed it because it is a two player game with a really quick play time. We were lucky enough from that one play to get drawn to win the game. Now that we played it a few more times did this game connect with us or does it clash?

Game Overview
In this game one player has a deck of pirate kittens and the other player has a deck of ninja kittens. Both players will put out three cards in front of them, and across from an opponents. These cards start the basis for what will become six stacks.

Players will be adding to their own stacks one card at a time. They will add these cards in real time keeping a constant rhythm and flow to adding cards. Players will interrupt this rhythm when they see two cards adjacent to each other with matching backgrounds. These cards can be from their own piles, one from each pile, or even from the opponent's. When a player sees a match, they grab both cards and put them in a score pile.

The game ends when a player plays their last card. Players count their points. They get one point for each of their own cards and two points for each of their opponent's. The player with the most points wins.

Our Ratings
We are using a custom rating scale. Each game will be evaluated by both of us on 1 to 10 scale in five areas. When combined, this creates a possible score out of 100.

Mechanisms/Rules
My Rating:
My Comments: The rules of this game are sloppy and loose. Keeping a consistent rhythm equal to the other player is hard. With all of the grabbing cards in real time it is easy for disorganization and confusion to slip into the game.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: The mechanisms are kind of unique, but their implementation is also fairly annoying.

Theme/Experience
My Rating:
My Comments: I guess this could have been themed anything, but I am not a cat person.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This game does not have much of a theme, but I am not wild about the one they out on it.

Replayability
My Rating:
My Comments: The game does play really fast, so it can be played back to back with no problem if players wanted to.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This game has basic rules, not set up, and fast play time so there is not much of a barrier to getting it played.

Pacing and Flow
My Rating:
My Comments: This is the best part of this game. It is really fast. That is a good because a game like this needs to be.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This game is really, really fast.

Fun Factor
My Rating:
My Comments: This game is mostly forgettable.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I am not a big fan of real time games in general, and I was not much of a fan of this one.

Final Score

54/100

We played this game more or less at random, and it was not for us. Since we got it for free, we already passed the game on to someone else who will probably enjoy it more.
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Tue Mar 19, 2019 4:02 am
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Tiny Epic Western (One Couple's Review)

sean johnson
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So far the Tiny Epic series has been a hit for us. We have both enjoyed how the series manages to pack a big experience in a a tiny package. Initially, Tiny Epic Western was one we passed on but we later picked it up in a math trade. Now that we finally got around to playing it was it worth rounding up this game?

Game Overview
In this game each player has a unique western character and they are going to be attempting to get the most points through collecting resources and building.

The board consist of a circle of several locations that provide places to place workers. In between each location is a playing card from the game's custom deck. At the beginning of reach round each player will pick one of the two cards to be their card for the round.

The locations provide a couple of different spots to place workers. They can be used to gather resources, or as players build buildings, these buildings provide access to unique abilities. A lot of the placement spots that provide resources have the option for a single resource or the option to win more resources. There are also worker spots that allow for card manipulation. Players can go to a location already occupied by another player. This initiates a duel, and players will roll a bullet shaped die. Resources can be spent for re-rolls, and if not revealed players can add the total of their card for the round to their total. If the attacker wins, then they get the worker space.

In the next phase of the game, players use the card they kept to make a poker style hand that consist of the two cards on each side of the location and the one they kept. Players compete at each location they have worker, either against other players or the "rival". The deck this game uses is custom but the three card hands follow poker conventions with straight flushes being the best and high card the worst. The suits also have a hierarchy to break ties. If a player wins a hand for a location, then they will get resources associated with that location.

The player that wins town hall will get to move one of the industry stakes forward. There is a 3rd, 2nd, and 1st spot. All three stakes can be on the third location, but only two can be on the 2nd. Only one can occupy the 1st. The winner of town hall also gets to buy a building first. Each location has a building that can be bought. This is done by paying the resource cost. This building is worth points, but it also has icons related to the three stakes. The purchased building is added to the location that matches the player's color so that it's ability can be accessed by workers. If other people place their worker then the owner gets a gold resource. If a player does not buy a building, then they get access to an extra worker in the next round.

For the next round new cards are dealt out to players and the card locations, new buildings are used to replenish bought buildings, and play continues. Once one of the stake tokens moves to the 1st spot, the game ends at the end of the round. Players then add up points on buildings. Whoever has the most icons related to stake in first get those points, same for second and third. The player with the most points wins.

Our Ratings
We are using a custom rating scale. Each game will be evaluated by both of us on 1 to 10 scale in five areas. When combined, this creates a possible score out of 100.

Mechanisms/Rules
My Rating:
My Comments: I appreciate the use of a poker style mechanism in a Western game, but that mechanism is also somewhat problematic. By nature it is very luck dependent, and a lot depends on this mechanism. A couple of rounds of bad card draw can really put a player in a hole.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This is a really solid mix of mechanisms, and they all come together really well.

Theme/Experience
My Rating:
My Comments: At it's core this a resource collection eurogame. However, they do a good job at capturing a western feel throughout the whole thing.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I am not sure what a Western game is supposed to feel like, but it really feels like the theme takes a backseat to mechanisms in this one.

Replayability
My Rating:
My Comments: This has a decent amount of replayability. There are a lot of characters and buildings. Plus the poker-esque card system is highly tactical.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This has a decent amount of replayability. I think it will hold up to repeated plays, but it may eventually reach a shelf life.

Pacing and Flow
My Rating:
My Comments: The round structure is well organized and moves at a good pace. I like how the players have some agency in really controlling the end of the game.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This game moves fairly quick. Despite that quick play time, each turn gives the opportunity for hard choices.

Fun Factor
My Rating:
My Comments: This is not my favorite Tiny Epic game but it is another solid entry in the series.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I like some of the other tiny epic games more, but this is worth playing.

Final Score

72/100


At this point we have played all of the released Tiny Epic games except for Defenders. At 72, this is actually our lowest rating one. However, we still consider it worth playing and having. I think that speaks to how we feel how strong the series is overall.
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Tue Mar 12, 2019 4:28 am
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My Favorite Games (2019 Edition) Part 2

sean johnson
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Every year I make a list of my favorite games, and for the past couple of years I have made a top 50. The first half of the list can be found here.

The following games are currently my to 25 most favorite games of all time, for this year. The list is descending order for dramatic effect.

25. Blood Rage (+22)
This game made the biggest jump. When it entered my favorite game list I did not own the game. In 2017 we got the game in a math trade, and I am glad we have it. This game is really best with four and it is worst with two. Despite not being a great two player game, it jumped so high because it is so good! I really enjoy how players create a viking faction that is unique from the other players.

24. Bruges (-3)
One of the mechanisms I really like is when cards can be used in multiple ways. This game provides a lot of ways to use those cards. I like how the relative value of a card is tied to the dice that roll on any given round. This game has a lot of built in variety and every game plays out differently.

23. Deception: Murder in Hong Kong (NEW)

I played this game a lot last year, and it was a blast every time. I think the most I have ever laughed in a game is when two people got very passionate in their arguments as to why a potted plant could or could not be a murder weapon. I like how this game has a deduction element based around getting in the same way of thinking as other players, but it also has the misdirection of a hidden traitor social deduction game. This is a combination that really works for me.

22. Alchemists (-4)
It has been way too long since I have played this game. That is really unfortunate because my wife and I both really like this game. The big appeal of this game is the deduction element. I really get into trying to figure out the properties of the various ingredients. Even if I do not score the most points, I still feel like I won if I am unable to unravel that puzzle.

21. Battlestations: Second Edition (+9)
Last year I added this game to my favorites list even though I did not own it, but this year that has changed. I love games that create a story throughout the course of play, and that is exactly what this one does. I like the strong sandbox nature of this game and I also like the quirky and fully unique sci-fi world this game takes place in. I do have some concerns about how much I will get to play it, but if I can get this game to the table with just some regularity I could see it climb higher up the list.

20. Coup/ Coup: Rebellion G54 (+2)
While not leaving the top half of my favorite games list, Coup was sliding back for the past couple of years. However, last year I came to appreciate this game in a new light. I played Coup several times in 2018 and nearly all of those players were 8-10 players with the team rules. This is a completely different dynamic with shifting alliances and deals that can all be undone by a lie unraveling. This all reminded me how much I really do enjoy playing this game. I do need to get sleeves for it though, because after almost 1000 plays my cards are almost worn out.

19. Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective (SAME)

As I mentioned two entries ago, I love it when games create and draw me into a story. This game is a little heavy handed in how it does it, but it is also extremely immersive. This also happens to be my favorite co-op game. In fact, while the game can be played solo I prefer it with a couple of people because often working out the mystery together creates collaboration. This collaboration more often than not gets the solution that none of us would get to on our own.

18. Core Worlds (-1)
Core World hits on a lot of the right notes for me. This game is all about building something, in this case a space empire. As such the game has a great arc, players get more powerful at roughly the same rate the cards get more powerful but require more power to acquire. This game is essentially also a tableau builder. Cards cycle though the deck, but what is on the table to use is a key part of the game. Finally, the space conquest theme really connects with me and the card art has a large appeal to me.

17. Dice Masters (-6)
The thing is I really do like Dice Masters. This is the easiest game for my wife and I to do a draft with at home, and at this point that is probably my favorite way to play. I do think that this game is going to continue to slide though. The issue is that when my wife and I pick up a customizable game with dice, we always reach for a different game than this one.

16. Warhammer: Invasion (SAME)
This game is easily the game that I have taken the most seriously. This game never had a huge competitive scene, but for four years I took it fairly seriously as a competitive game. I really enjoyed the process of thinking critically about this game and putting together the best possible deck. On top of that though, I also really enjoy the game. For the past several years now I have said that I am going to make “balanced decks” to play against one another. I started that project, but I have not yet finished it.

15. A Study in Emerald (second edition) (SAME)
This is one of the most unique games I have played, and I have a hard time explaining it to people. It is a deck building game, but that does not capture what it really is. It is a team game, except there is only one winner. Even the theme of “Sherlock Holmes attempts to overthrow Cthulhu” is one that is hard to really convey to people. In my experience this game is unlike anything else and that is why i like it so much.

14. Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game (SAME)
I first got this game at Gen Con in 2011. I actually dropped out of the demo so I could grab one of the last few copies they had on hand. For six years this game was then in my top ten favorite games before moving down a bit. I like the theme of this game, I like the highly tactical play, I like the asymmetry of the teams, and I like the back and forth. This is a game where in the midst of playing it I often think to myself “I am having fun right now.”

13. Small World (-1)

This is one of the games that we got in the first few months of 2009 which was the year we first got into gaming. I still really enjoy this game. For years my wife did not like this game, but it is one that she has turned around on a good deal. Initially the big appeal of this game was exploring the different combinations of races this games offers. Ten years later that same appeal is still there and this game has stood the test of time.

12.Insider (+1)
One of the things that might be emerging on this list is that I like social deduction games. Insider works really well as a gateway social deduction game because instead of being a hidden traitor the insider is a hidden helper. It seems that is a lot less stressful for most people. I have played werewords a good deal as well, but I prefer the simplicity in design of Insider.

11. KeyForge: Call of the Archons (NEW)
I dare say this is a game my wife likes even more than I do. This game is fun in a couple of different ways. I do like the exploration of this. I like how every deck is unique. We have a couple of decks with the same house compositions, and it is amazing how different those decks play. While we have not dug too deep into this yet, I also like the concept of learning to pilot a deck and learning how to play it best. In just a few short months we have played this game a lot, and I believe we will continue to do that.

10. Race for the Galaxy (-2)
We have had Race for the Galaxy for over ten years now, and it has long been in my top ten favorite games. Ten years later this game is still getting consistently played, and it has become my most played game. I am amazed that after 600+ plays this game does not feel played out and I still enjoy playing it regularly.

9. The Resistance (+1)

I recently played two back to back nine player games of this. Both games were really engaging and they were full of tension. In both games one of the people on the bad guy teams did a brilliant job at deception. At the end of the second game one of the players said “This game is why I have trust issues.” That kind of experience that this game creates is why I enjoy playing it so much.

8. Millennium Blades (+1)
The only downside I have to this game is that it is hard to get it to the table. The two hour play time can make it a struggle, but the bigger obstacle is the theme. This is really only a game that a certain brand of gamers will want to get into. I think I qualify as that brand, because I love this game. The way this game creates and delivers the theme so strongly is the primary reason why I enjoy this game. I also like how many cards this game has because I am not sure I will ever get to the point where this game feels played out.

7. A Touch of Evil: The Supernatural Game (SAME)
This game has been in my top ten for years and while other games have fluctuated around this has held constant at #7. I have mentioned a few times that I like games that create a story through the course of game play, and for me this has always been one of the best games at doing it. I tend to get to play this only about once a year, but in 2018 I played it three times in one week. Each play was against a different villain, with different heroes, and each game told a different story. I also had a great time each time.

6. Star Wars: Destiny (-2)
Two player duel card games is a type of game that we tend to like a lot. For me this is the one I like the most. I like the interaction between the dice and the cards, but I especially like the back and forth turn structure. The biggest issue with this game is the cost. I never played this game competitively, just a lot of games between the two of us. In order to get enough of a card and die base to build different teams requires a hefty investment.

5. Terraforming Mars (+1)

This is my wife’s absolute favorite game, and I can see why. This game provides so many options, and it is a lot of fun to figure out which ones to pursue. This game has a perfect blend of strategy and tactics. Every turn offers a lot of variety and choices to pursue, but players have to be careful not to chase the wrong shiny things. Despite this game having a 90 to 120 minute playtime, this is still a game that we play fairly regularly.

4. Star Wars: Imperial Assault (+1)
Yes, I love this game because it is Star Wars. More specifically, it evokes the “pew-pew” battles of those movies the best. I do not play it anywhere near as much as I would like, but I especially love the skirmish game mode. For me that game mode comes the closest of any game I have played of evoking the feel of a FPS video game on the tabletop. The reason why this game moved up a spot this year is because of the app based campaigns. Last year I played through two campaigns with my son, and we are looking forward to starting the recently released Hoth one.

3. Memoir '44 (SAME)
This is, for all intents and purposes, my wife’s and I first foray together into hobby games. We actually got the game in December of 2004. We played a lot less games together then, but by Christmas of 2005 we had played all of the scenarios in the base box. A year after that we had played all of the Eastern Front scenarios, and in the next year it was the Pacific front. After we really got into gaming seriously, I began looking for the “perfect war game” for me. It took me several years of searching to realize I had owned it all along. This is is a game I will never tire of, and I love to play it.

2. Federation Commander (SAME)
If I had the means to make it happen, this would be my most played game. I deeply love this game, and it is about the only game that I have intentionally played solo jus so I can play it. Like a lot of my favorite games, this game has stories naturally emerge out of it through the course of playing the game. There is so much depth to this game. There are hundreds of published scenarios, and there are a limitless amount of possibilities. I think I may have said this last year but I am confident I could play this game weekly for the rest of my life and I would never be tired of it.

1. Star Wars: Rebellion (SAME)

I love Star Wars, and that has more or less always been true. However, over the past couple of years all of the incredible new Star Wars content has really reinvigorated how much I like the franchise. Of all the Star Wars games, I think this one is the absolute best. Every time I play it, it is like an experiential Star Wars “What if?” story. This game just naturally creates compelling Star Wars stories. For instance, last time I played this game Chewbacca and Darth Vader kept going against each other on missions, and every time Chewbacca came out victorious. It was neat to imagine all of the ways the wookie kept beating the the Dark Lord of the Sith. The game play, especially with the combat rules form the expansion, is excellent. Top notch game play a stellar use of my favorite theme in the galaxy makes this my favorite game . ..for this year anyway.
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Mon Mar 11, 2019 3:58 am
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My Favorite Games (2019 Edition) Part 1

sean johnson
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This is always my favorite post to make. I find it a lot of fun to think about what games I like the most and why I like them. This is my eleventh year to make a favorite games list, and it is interesting to me to see what games pass the test of time and stick around. There are several games that have proven themselves, and I think what shows this is the fact that there are more games in the same ranking as last year than ever before. Despite that, there are still eight new games on the list.

Like the past several years I used the Game Ranking Engine by pubmeeple.com to make this list. At this point I have played over 1,300 different games and these are my top fifty absolute favorite games, for this year anyway.

50. Yomi (-1)
Over the past year my wife and I have played both Exceed and BattleCON, two games that have a similar theme and attempt to deliver the same type of experience. While those were both fine games, we both agreed that we still liked this one more. This game uses a simple mechanism to really deliver the feel of a fighting video game, which is why I like it so much.

49. Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game (-10)

I am not entirely sure why but this game has not gotten played all that much in the past couple of years. That is unfortunate because this is still the best Zombie game I have played. I have strong completionist tendencies so I would like to finish getting everything for this game. I am missing Blood in the Forest and Hero Pack 2.

48. Dominion (-11)
The first year I made a favorites game list, it was only a top ten (I had played a lot less games at that time. Of that list, five of those games are still on the list- including this one. I know deck building games have evolved quite a bit, but there is still something special about the original. I still like the challenge of looking at a set of ten cards and trying to map out the best path to take to victory. It has been years since we bought an expansion for this game, and I am not sure if we will get any of the new ones. I still like it quite a bit, but my wife is kind of done with it.

47 Suburbia (-13)
This game appeared on my favorite games list back in 2014. The appeal of the game has never changed. It is fun to build things, so even if I lose I like making my city. Like a lot of games I have had for awhile the frequency it gets played has tapered off. I do think if this is a game I brought with me to game nights it has enough good feelings all around that it would not be hard to get it played.

46. Havana (-14)

This is a more obscure game, but I am guessing the reason why it fell so much is because it has been over a year since I have played it. I like this game especially as a two player game. It has a role selection mechanism similiar to Citadels, except for all players have two roles a round. There is a real guessing game as to what the opponent is going to play and that guessing game is what makes this one so compelling.

45. Lords of Vegas (-4)
This is one of the least played games on this list, and that is because the game really needs more than two players to be fun. Even though this game has not been played as much as other games every time i have played it has been a blast. It is neat how this is a euro game, but it has still managed to capture the feel of high stakes chance. Whenever there is a die roll to restructure a casino it is really exciting.

44. Islebound (-15)
I am not sure why this one dropped so much, especially because we did play it a good deal last year. I do wish there was a little bit more variability in this game, but every turn presents an interesting decision about what the best thing to do is in order to make progress towards winning. This game has a really good balance of strategy and tactics which I find really appealing.

43. Sun Tzu (NEW)
We had this game when it was called Dynasties back when we first got into games. At my wife’s request we traded it in 2012. However, over the years since then this is one I regretted getting rid of. We got a copy of the game re-branded as Sun Tzu last year, and this time it clicked with both of us. This is such a clever area control game that is specifically designed for two players.

42. Discworld: Ankh-Morpork (-11)
We have played several Martin Wallace games, and we have liked several of them. In fact there are three on this list, and this is lowest ranked one I am glad this game is getting reprinted with a slightly different theme so that more people will get the opportunity to play this fun game.

41. Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King (NEW)

This game just missed the list last year, but perhaps it should not have. This game is incredibly clever. The combination of scoring conditions will always be different, as will the little patches of Scotland the players build out of the tiles. This gives this game the feeling of having nearly unlimited replayability.

40. Ex Libris (-16)
This game premiered on my favorites game list last year at #24, and it suffered the biggest drop this year . I still do like this game, and I still think it is fun to build a unique library. The reason for the drop is this game has a few warts. Namely, some of the librarian abilities are so much better than the all of the others. The bookworm for instance essentially gives the player an extra action over all the other players every turn. This is insanely powerful when compared to some more situational powers like the snowman’s ability to freeze out a location.

39. Deus (-4)
We have too many games, and because of that we somehow managed not to play this game at all in 2018. That is really sad because we both like this game. We both like tableau building games, and this one has a unique feature whenever a card is added of a certain type it activates all of the cards of that type. On top of that there is a minor area control aspect that adds to the optimization and efficiency puzzle.

38. Century: Golem Edition(SAME)
This has turned out to be one of my go to gateway games. The bright artwork and gems give this game an inviting table presence. The gameplay of this one is unlike anything that non-gamers have experienced, but it is easy enough that they can often get into it easily. I have had a lot of success teaching this game to new players and I have always had fun doing so.

37. P.I. (NEW)

This is another Martin Wallace game, and it is also a game that just missed the list last year. However, in 2018 my wife and I kept bringing this game back out. We really enjoy it because even if we do not win, it is really satisfying to figure it out and solve the mystery each round.

36. New Frontiers (NEW)
This is the newest game to make this list. I really like how this game has a similar feel to Race for the Galaxy but it is distinctly different. I like how this game challenges the players to put themselves in positions where they get the max usage out of the phases opponents pick to implement.

35. Thunder Alley (-15)
This is another one that has dropped because of lack of being played. It has been almost two years since the last time this got to the table, and there are still tracks from the track pack I have not gotten to try. One of the reasons why this is hard to play is because my wife only likes it with 4+ players. This game seems to also be strangely divisive. A lot of people in my local group just do not like this one at all. For me this remains my favorite racing game.

34. Glory to Rome (-1)
This game has consistently been on the list, always in the high 20’s low/mid 30’s. So even though it fluxuates a couple spots this is the right zone for this game. Glory to Rome is a bit of anomaly for me, because I really do not like any of the other games by the designer. Seriously I have tried a lot of them and they have all ranged from falls flat to actively dislike. Glory to Rome though, for some reason, connects really well with me.

33. Homesteaders (+7)

I got to play this games a couple of times in the past year which is probably why it climbed. This game is a real potpuri of mechanisms. It has auctions, tableau building, resource management, and worker placement. It all comes together really well, and it has the element I like in euro games where even when I lose I feel good about what I built.

32. King of Tokyo (+4)
Like Century, this is another game that has become a go-to gateway game. It is fairly simple to learn, and the special ability cards add a level of depth. The theme is also really fund and ithe game delivers on it. There are several games that have attempted this theme (Kaiju Crush, Terror in Meeple City, Roar-a-saurs, etc) and this one delivers monster fighting action the best.

31. Wizard Kings (NEW)
For five years Hammer of the Scots was on my favorite games list, but it slid out of the top 50 last year. I really do like the Columbia block game system that drives that game, and it drives this one as well. The reason why Wizard Kings makes my list is because it is a pure and basic implementation of that system. There is also a lot of versatility to Wizard Kings. The game can be used to play scenarios or it can be played as a fantasy conquest game. Either way it is good times.

30. Codenames (-4)
This premiered on the list in 2017 at the #50 spot, jumped way up in 2018 and now settles here. Codenames is not really a party game, rather it is a good team vs team game night pick. I have enjoyed playing the Disney version and I am really (really!) hoping a Star Wars version will come eventually.

29. City of Spies: Estoril 1942 (-4)
This is another game that joined the list in 2017, but it came on in the #28 spot. It still in the neighborhood so this seems to be about the right spot. This is an extremely tactical game but it requires keeping one eye on the end game the whole time. I really like that balancing act. I also like the theme and the overall aesthetic the art creates.

28. 51st State: Master Set (NEW)

I have noticed a trend is that when I add a game to this list for the first time it tends to ride a wave of new game smell to a higher rating, and then over the next couple of years it moves down and settles. That might happen to this game. We did not have it last year when I made this list, and we do need to play it more. However, we have both thoroughly loved this game. This is a tableau building game with a lot of synergy and a lot of ways that cards can be used. This might drop next year, but I would not be surprised if it rises instead.

27. Mysterium (-4)
As a rule I do not like co-op games. Mysterium is one of the few exceptions to that rule. I like Mysterium because the game system does not actively work against the players. Bad luck can be a factor, but a lot of the game hinges on if the players can think like one another. I find a lot of fun in that experience.

26. Zeppelin Attack! (+1)
I feel like this is a game we tend to champion. It is an extremely unique deck building game and it is unlike anything else. We even ordered the print on demand expansion for this game, so we have absolutely everything available for this game.

The second half will be coming soon . . .
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Sun Mar 10, 2019 3:41 am
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Battlestations (Second Edition) - One Couple's Review

sean johnson
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I first played this game in 2016 at Gen Con and I absolutely loved the game. Since then I made it a point to play it every year at Gen Con. This was the only game on my favorites game list last year that I did not actually have a copy of. Because my birthday in February my wife changed that this year. So did she like Battlestations or is it a game she would rather scuttle?

Game Overview
This is a scenario based game. While it is possible to play it in a cooperative fashion, it is primarily meant to be an all vs. one game. The one controls the enemy and the all control members of a ship's crew. The all side will all play a unique character. The game comes with dozens of pre-generated characters of their are extensive rules to create a character from scratch. All characters will have a profession (Pilot, Marine, Technician, or Scientist). Characters will also have a special ability granted by their species as well as a unique special ability.

Different scenarios will require different types of actions, but in general the game is played over a series of rounds. Each round is divided into six phases, and each phase goes through the same flow.

First all ships move. Most of the game takes place on the ship, but the ships move on a hex grid. After ships and missiles move It is the player's turn. Players can resolve their turns in any order. On a player's turn they can move up to their movement and they may do an action.

There a wide variety of actions that a player can do but they will all relate to the character's athletics, combat, technical, science, or piloting skill. A lot of the actions will require using stations on the ships. These stations are marked by stars and color-coded by which skill is used. Every action will have a base difficulty number or a simple formula to determine that number. There are various factors such as how out of control the ship is and how many times a station has been used. Finally, the difficulty number is reduced by the appropriate skill of the character.

The player then rolls two six sided dice. If they did not meet the target number, and the skills was the dominant skill of their class then they get a free re-roll of a die. Otherwise, players can spend luck to re-roll dice. Players only have so much luck to use per scenario. If player meets the number they succeed and the action happens as desired. If they do not meet the number, it does not happen. If combat is involved, and the player hits then they will roll their weapon damage. Combat in this game is often fairly deadly.

After the players all act then the one controlling the enemy takes enemy actions. By and large the same rules that govern the players control enemy movement and actions as well.

A new phase then starts, after six phases the round ends. There are some reset things that happen like all stations get cleared of used markers and the out of control rating goes down. The next round of six phases then begins. The game goes on until the player succeed at the mission and win or they fail and the one in control of the enemies win. After a scenario, players will have prestige and experience that they can use to level up and gain new special abilities.

Our Ratings
We are using a custom rating scale. Each game will be evaluated by both of us on 1 to 10 scale in five areas. When combined, this creates a possible score out of 100.

Mechanisms/Rules
My Rating:
My Comments: This game is a real sandbox game that gives players the options to do just about whatever they want. The system is fairly simple, and drives a lot. This game does an amazing job at mixing board game and role playing game mechanisms to create a hybrid that works well.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I like the basic dice system that runs this game, and the way that it gives options for re-rolls. The problem is there are so many little rules and an overwhelming array of options. It feels like a straight forward game is buried under too much complexity.

Theme/Experience
My Rating:
My Comments: This game is in the top tier when it comes to delivering the theme. I love that players can create their own chracter and then they play their role in making it happen. The game's universe hits the right tropes but is extremely unique in other ways. Every scenario creates an engaging narrative that pulls the player's in.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I think I prefer games with a larger scope than a single character, so this game does not engage me much. However, it is clear this game is very thematic.

Replayability
My Rating:
My Comments: This is very much a sandbox game. There are several published scenarios as well. If players want to dive into this game, they will find it hard to find the bottom as far as replayability goes.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: There is an impressive amount of content for people to engage with this game.

Pacing and Flow
My Rating:
My Comments: This has a really good turn structure. I like how on the first phase there are a lot of options, but as the phases advance and stations get used things get harder and more limited. By the end of the sixth phase the players are really looking forward to used tokens clearing and the out of control dropping.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: The flow of this game is good and it is fairly engaging. However, it does feel like this is a game where some scenarios will have potentially long play times.

Fun Factor
My Rating:
My Comments: I love this game. One of my favorite games is Federation Commander because it puts me in the captain's chair of a starship. This game though lets me be the engineer trying to get more power out of the engines, the officer taking the phaser shot, the marine making the raid, or the pilot who is making it so. Putting the emphasis on being the crew is fascinating and a game that instantly pulls me into the story it is telling.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I do not think I like dungeon crawl-y games where I control a single person working through some sort of narrative. This game is not necessarily bad but it is not terribly fun for me.

Final Score

80/100

There tends to be a lot of overlap in the games we like. This is not one though which is sad. The silver lining for me is she does not hate this game, so she will be willing to play it from time to time. I am looking forward to playing this game at Gen Con this year, because I will be more knowledgeable of the game than I have been in the past couple years.
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Thu Feb 28, 2019 3:54 am
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London Dread (One Couple's Review)

sean johnson
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If you have been reading our blog for some time, then you know that we tend not like to co-op games. That would make this one, a co-op game, an odd choice for us. However, if you are particularly observant reader of our blog then you would know that the co-op games I do actually like are ones with a really strong narrative. You might also be able to recall that my wife loves all things London. We got this game as part of a math trade last year with the hopes that the London theme and the narrative story telling would be make this be the rare breed of co-op game that we both like. Did that happen or is this game just dreadful?

Game Overview
In this game each player is an investigator. Each investigator has skills that they are proficient in (represented by icons) as well as an unique deck that fleshes out their traits. The board is a map of London, divided into four quadrants, and each quadrant will have six cards present there.

At set-up the board is seeded with face down cards. This will include plot cards, random encounters, and potentially allies. The game then has two phases. The first phase is played in real time for twelve minutes. During this time, the players will flip over cards on the board in hopes to find the plot cards. The players will also program their actions. Each player gets to do twelve things such as encounter cards in the quadrant they are in or move to a different quadrant. In the next phase these actions will be resolved in order, so it is important for players to coordinate being at the same place so they can combine their strengths to take on a plot card or an encounter.

The second phase is when the actions are resolved. To successfully win an encounter card, players need to meet its threat level. Each encounter card has a set threat and it has one or two attribute icons that can be used to meet that threat. Through their natural abilities and items players need to have icons equal to the threat level.

Encountering plot cards works differently. The plot cards do require specific symbols, but each matching icon gives the player the chance to roll a die. In addition, each player will draw from their deck of cards. These cards can give extra icons, but one of the six cards is a past trauma and drawing it is bad. Players shuffle and draw from all the cards each time. The die that is rolled has four blanks and two successes. All players encountering the plot roll their dice and the successes are added up. The plot card is turned over and the story is read, the number of successes determine the outcome of the card. If players are unable to encounter and resolve the plot cards they lose.

After all twelve actions, the encounter cards that were not cleared are discarded and this increases dread. The first chapter only has one act, but for the other chapters the board is reset for the second act.

Eventually players get to the end game where they encounter the antagonist. Before doing that, they must go through a series of three encounters. Players may choose to sit these out if the odds are not in their favor. These endgame encounters work just like a plot card, but if a player fails there are penalties, and these penalties could lead to the elimination of the player from the game. For each encounter a player passes, they earn a die for the final antagonist. To beat the antagonist, the players must roll successes with the dice earned in the endgame encounters equal to the dread level divided by five. If they do they win, if not they lose.

Our Ratings
We are using a custom rating scale. Each game will be evaluated by both of us on 1 to 10 scale in five areas. When combined, this creates a possible score out of 100.

Mechanisms/Rules
My Rating:
My Comments: I did not like the mechanisms and rules of this at all. I hated that no matter what happens, the game comes down to a random die roll where on each die the player only has a 33% chance of success. The story aspects of this game are extremely weak. Players just hope to find the cards while flipping at random, and the plot cards are resolved no matter once attempted, it is just a matter if the players are hurt or get extra stuff.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I did like the teamwork of planning out the actions and then the satisfaction of executing those plans. However, the amount of randomness and how punishing that randomness can be was really annoying.

Theme/Experience
My Rating:
My Comments: I appreciate the effort of giving this game a narrative, but I did not like how it was implemented.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This game tried to tell a story, so I guess that was thematic. I listened to all of those cards being read, but I could not tell you what the story actually was. It was not engaging and forgettable.

Replayability
My Rating:
My Comments: There are four chapters, and once each one is played win or lose I see little reason to want to do it again.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I suppose the different stories could be played again because there is some variability, but it would all feel repetitive.

Pacing and Flow
My Rating:
My Comments: This is the best aspect of the game. The two phase structure works well. I like the real time, timed planning aspect. That did create a tense pace to the game.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I liked the timed part, and then resolving everything worked well without bogging down.

Fun Factor
My Rating:
My Comments: I like narrative co-op games because they pull me into their story. This game through constant obstacles up to make it objectively hard to engage in the story. This game is as engaging and as fun as reading a book by strobe light.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I really did like the planning mechanisms, but that is not enough to carry an overall not great game.

Final Score

48/100

So this is a review of a co-op game by a couple who tend not to like co-op games. However, if we had to play a co-op game, even one we did not care for, I think there are a lot of games we would choose to endure over this one.
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Fri Feb 15, 2019 3:17 pm
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BattleCON: Fate of Indines (One Couple's Review)

sean johnson
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I played a BattleCON game over four years ago now. At the time I had middling thoughts about it, but I think a lot of that had to do with a bad match up. I had a slower heavy hitter guy, and the person I was playing had a fast ranged person. I could never make it work to get in range. So I was not exactly seeking these games out, but we ended up getting this one in a math trade. It was paired with another game, I was really trading for the other game and this one just came along for the ride. Since we had the game anyway it was worth giving this game another chance. So did the game win the second round or is it out for the count?

Game Overview
This is a two player duel game that is meant to deliver the feel of fighting video games. Each player will have a fighter. These fighters each have access to the same base technique cards, but each fighter will bring their unique style cards. In addition to that each fighter has a special ability unique to them.

Each turn follows the same structure. First players will select their attack. This is done by choosing one blue backed technique card and combining it with one red back style card. The style cards will often modify the blue cards, as well as providing various abilities.

After both players play cards, there is an ante phase where players can potentially activate their unique abilities. Then the chosen cards are revealed. Each combination will yield a priority number. The player with the highest priority will be the attacker and the other player is reactive. The attacker can then start resolving cards.

The cards can have a wide variety of special text that activates at various times and can have a wide variety of effects. In general for an attack, players will first check to see if the attack can hit because of range. If it can, the attacker then deals damage equal to the attack's power.

Often an attack will stun the reactive player meaning their attack will not happen. However, it is possible to have stun guard abilities which prevent this. If not stunned, the reactive player gets to go and follows the same procedure. Range is checked, if in range damage is dealt, and again a variety of effects and abilities can be triggered.

Finally there is the recycle phase where the cards used are put in a a discard pile, and the cards there are retrieved. The process then starts again. Both players start at twenty life and this process continues until one player's life total is reduced to zero.

Our Ratings
We are using a custom rating scale. Each game will be evaluated by both of us on 1 to 10 scale in five areas. When combined, this creates a possible score out of 100.

Mechanisms/Rules
My Rating:
My Comments: I do think the card combining system is neat. Putting the different cards together can create wildly different attacks and possibilities. This mimics some fighting games really well that have the same basic controls for every fighter but the style and feel of each fighter is very different.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I liked putting the cards together and I liked how cards kept cycling around, but overall I found this clunky. There are a lot of card effects. and the process of making sure they are all applied in the right order made it all flow in a stilted way.

Theme/Experience
My Rating:
My Comments: I am garbage at playing them, but I tend to like fighting video games. I often like the over the top, memorable, and unique character designs and concepts those games have. This board game taps into that ethos really well.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I am not a huge fan of fighting games, so this theme did not connect with me. The outlandish attacks names like Tempered lash or whatever are silly.

Replayability
My Rating:
My Comments: This particular box is meant to be an introductory set for beginners into the world of Indines, but even in this box there is a decent amount of replayability. There are several fighters and each fighter can be explored and matched up against the others.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: If someone wanted to play this more there is a decent amount of content in the box.

Pacing and Flow
My Rating:
My Comments: I like the general turn structure of this game quite a bit. Twenty life, while being the golden standard set by Magic, does seem to get the game length about right.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: The pacing and flow is far too uneven. One game can go by too fast as one player can get stomped, and the next can feel to crawl as both player struggle to land good attacks.

Fun Factor
My Rating:
My Comments: I think my first attempt at this game four years ago was just a bad play, because I liked it considerably more this go around. This is a good game with a lot of theme that strikes a wonderful balance between depth and accessibility.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: Even when the game went fast, I was bored. I am not big on this theme to begin with, but I would choose to play Yomi over this game every single time.

Final Score

65/100

In the end I probably have to agree with my wife. Even though I did enjoy this game a decent amount, I probably still prefer Yomi as my fighting card game of choice. We got this game as a tag along out of a trade pile, and I suspect it will go to someone else in the same way.
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Thu Feb 14, 2019 3:02 am
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