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Gaming Bits: Board and Card Game Reviews

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Gaming Bits: The Terrifying Girl Disorder Review

Jonathan Nelson
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The Terrifying Girl Disorder is a game by Kuro, published by Japanime Games. It is for 3-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of a young school girl that has gained some amazing powers, only to have their memories wiped due to one of their own's power. Suffering with amnesia, the players must try to remember who they are and what their objective is. In the end, each player's true identity will be determined. The player that can claim the most victory points at this time, will be declared the winner.

To begin, each player is given a Shard card, making note of which color they have. They will also receive the corresponding reference sheet in their player color. If playing with only 3 players, a number of Memory cards are removed from the deck as noted in the rulebook. When playing with 4 players, all the cards are used. The Memory cards are shuffled together to create a draw deck. Each player is now dealt 4 cards if playing with 4 and 5 cards if playing with 3. The first player is chosen and is given the Direction token. Play now begins.

The game is played over 5 rounds. Each round is made up of 3 steps; Circle Setup, Counseling and Regaining Memories. The first step is the Circle Setup step. In this step, 3 cards are drawn from the draw deck for each player. The cards are laid face up in a circle in the middle of the play area, as shown in the rulebook.

The second step is the Counseling step. In this step, each player will take a turn beginning with the first player and continuing in turn order. Each player's turn consists of two actions; Shard Placement and Recollection. The first action is Shard Placement. For this action, the player will place their Shard card on one of the cards in the Circle that doesn't have another player's Shard on it. They're also not allowed to place it adjacent to another player's Shard. The player will then switch the location of 2 cards in the Circle that don't have a Shard on them. The next action is Recollection. For this action, the player will take any number of cards from their hand, as long as they are the same rank, and place them face up in front of themself. The player will then perform the special power of that particular card rank, as noted on the card itself. It should be noted that the player is not allowed to play a rank of card that is already face up in their play area, however they must still play a card from their hand. If they don't have any legal cards to play, the player simply shows their hand to their opponents and then chooses one card to play like normal, using it's special power. Once the player finishes both steps, play moves to the next player in turn order. This continues until every player has taken their turn.

The final step is the Regaining Memories step. In this step, the first player will choose a direction, either clockwise or counterclockwise. They will use the direction token to show the direction that they choose. Players will then gain the card that they put their Shard on, along with all the cards in the indicated direction between their Shard and another player's Shard. These cards are then added to the player's hand. If their hand goes over 8 cards, they must discard anything extra.

At this point, the round ends. Players check their play areas and see who played the most cards during the Counseling step. That player is the first player for the next round and is given the Direction token. One thing should be noted, only cards that were played from a player's hand will count towards them having played the most. For this reason, cards that are added due to a special power should be turned sideways when placed in the player's play area. Once the first player is chosen for the new round, a new round begins.

The game continues until the end of the fifth round. When this happens, the game ends and final scoring begins. Before scoring, a player's True Identity must be confirmed. At this time, any face down cards are turned over and all the cards in a player's play area are sorted, placing all cards of the same rank together. The player with the most cards of that specific rank is that particular character. That's their True Identity. If there is a tie, the player with the most cards of that rank in their hand wins the tie. If a player is several characters, the character that that player has the most cards of in their play area is their True Identity. If a player has no identity, that player is Higan. More than one player can be Higan. Once each player's True Identity is discovered, they will calculate Victory Points. Victory Points are determined from the number of cards in their play area of their True Identity, as explained on the reference sheet. They also gain an additional point for each card in their hand of the same rank, as well as gaining points for the character's VP Bonus, also listed on the reference sheet. Higan players gain 3 VP for each card in their hand that is not another player's True Identity. Players add up their points and the one with the most Victory Points is the winner.



COMPONENTS
Inside the small box that contains this game, you'll find a stack of cards, some reference sheets and a direction token. The cards are quite nice. In the main deck there are 7 different girl cards or ranks. Each one has a distinct look, number and power. Each card of the same rank is identical. This is pretty much what you'll be dealing with the whole game. The artwork on each card has an anime/manga style feel to it. Each girl looks like something you'd find in one of those movies or comics. I like the look of these, although I would have like a little bit of change. I get that you may want all the same ranked cards to have the same image for ease of playing the game, but looking at the same pictures all the time gets old quickly. The shard cards are a picture of a shard on a colored background with a bit of text surrounding it. Each of these is a different color so that players can easily determine which card is theirs. The same colors are present on the 4 reference sheets. This helps the players remember their color. It also has some scoring information for each rank's cards. This helps you figure out which card(s) you might want to try and collect. The final piece is the double sided direction token. This is a simple thick cardboard piece with a circular arrow going in alternate directions on either side. This is a great reminder for which way to pick up cards during the Regaining Memories step. Overall I like the look of the cards, but I feel like something's missing. I'm not really sure what that might be though, as everything works well together. In any event, I think if you like this style of art, you'll probably like the look of this game too.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is really quick and simple to read through. There are plenty of pictures and examples throughout the book. Each component is described in great detail and each step of gameplay is explained quite well. There are several pages at the end of the book that describes each of the girls, their ranks and their powers. It also includes a detailed scoring chart that shows how each girl's cards will score. I think the book is well written and easy to follow along with. I like how it looks and find the character references very helpful for scoring. Overall the book does a great job explaining everything and making it easy to get right into playing.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is one of the most unusual card games that I've ever played. It's fast and easy to learn. The only hard part about the game is figuring out the scoring part. It's a little bit wonky. Basically the game is just placing your shard, picking up cards and then placing a card or a set of cards in front of you in an attempt to get the majority in the right set of cards so that you can earn the most points at the end of the game. There's not much mor to it that that. Of course the more cards that you're able to pick up, the more chances are that you'll get enough of the right cards to be able to play in front of yourself. Then there are the card abilities, these can make it where you have no cards in front of you. That may look bad at first but if the other players are focusing on just a couple of girl's cards and you stock your hand with a bunch of the others, you can rack up a ton of points from being Higan. There is some strategy to this one, although I found more often than not, the game could end up very random. The cards you planned out and worked to place end up not scoring as many points for you as that player that I just mentioned, the Higan player. It's for this reason that I wasn't as thrilled with it as I thought I'd be. That's not to say that the game is bad. As a filler card game, this is quite fun and unlike any other card game. It's just a little more random and sometimes luck based. I did find it fun to be that guy that ends up having everything taken from them and then pulling off a victory anyway. This is a game that I feel fans of filler card games or that are looking for something a little out of the norm, may enjoy. Overall I liked it, I just don't know how often it'll make it's way to the table. This is one that I'd recommend giving a try. It might be just what the doctor ordered.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
The Terrifying Girl Disorder is a light weight filler style card game about collecting memories to find your true identity. This one doesn't take very long. Most game sessions last around 30 minutes or so. The cards are rather nice but feel a bit too similar. I'd have liked a few more images to break up the monotony. The rulebook is well written and is a great reference for the game. The game itself is a little unusual, especially in the scoring aspect. It has some strategy to it, but that can be negated through some luck based elements. This is one that is fun to play but feels a bit too random. Fans of filler card games or those looking for something a little bit different than normal may find a lot of enjoyment from this one. This is one that I'd recommend trying. Now, if it would just help me remember where I put my keys.
8 out of 10


For more information about this and other great games, please check out Japanime Games at their site.

http://www.japanimegames.com/
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Thu Mar 14, 2019 10:39 pm
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Gaming Bits: At The Gates Of Loyang Review

Jonathan Nelson
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At The Gates Of Loyang is a game by Uwe Rosenberg, published by Tasty Minstrel Games. It is for 1-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of farmer during the Han Dynasty. They will be selling and trading their vegetables at the gates of the capital, Loyang. They will also be planting fields in order to gain more crops with which to sell even more vegetables. Players will also use helpers to assist them in lots of varied ways. In the end, the player that moves the furthest along the Path of Prosperity will be declared the winner.

To begin, the Supply is created by separating the money, vegetables, Satisfaction markers and Loan cards into piles. The Action cards are shuffled together and placed face down in a pile in the middle of the play area. Each player takes 1 of the T-shaped boards and places it in front of them as shown in the rulebook. They also receive 10 cash, a Home field, a Scoring token, a Storehouse/Cart card, and a Turn Summary card. The Home field is placed at the top right of their board. The Scoring token is placed on the 1 space of the Path of Prosperity on their board. The Storehouse/Cart card is placed to the right of their board with the 1 side facing up. The money and Turn Summary card are placed to the left of their board. Players are also given 3 wheat, 2 pumpkins, 2 turnips, 2 cabbages, 1 bean and 1 leak. These are placed on the corresponding spaces of the player's board. The 2 light colored spaces are left empty. Players also take 8 Private Field cards that consist of 2 sets of cards, each with 4 cards of 3, 4, 5 and 6 spaces. Each set is shuffled separately and then placed on top of each other to form the player's Field pile. This is placed to the left of the player's Home Field card. The Starting player is chosen and is given the larger Starting player token. The smaller Starting player token is placed in the middle of the play area for the time being. Players will now buy their 1st vegetable from their own player board, known as their shop, beginning with the first player and continuing in turn order. The cost for each vegetable is noted in the dark boxes of the player board beside each vegetable. Once the vegetable has been paid for, it is planted in their Home field. What this means is that it is placed on a Field card and all the other spaces of that field are then filled in within the same vegetable from the Supply. It should be noted that only the vegetables shown on the Home field card may be bought and planted and no more than 2 players may plant the same type of vegetable at this time. Once all this has been completed, play now begins.

The game is played over 9 rounds. Each round consists of 3 phases; the Harvest phase, the Card phase and the Action phase. The first phase is the Harvest phase. In this phase, each player will turn over the top field from their Field pile and place it next to their other fields. They will then harvest 1 vegetable from each of their fields. The harvested vegetables are placed on the the Cart of the Storehouse/Cart card. If there are any vegetables that had been left in the Storehouse, these are moved to the Cart as well. If a Private Field has the last vegetable on it removed, then the card is removed from the game. Common fields from the Action card deck are placed on the Action card discard pile when their last vegetable has been harvested.

The next phase of the game is the Card phase. In the beginning of this phase, a new draw pile is created by shuffling the discard pile into the remaining Action cards draw pile. Once this new pile has been created, each player is dealt 4 cards. Next, the Distribution round takes place. In the Distribution round, each player will have to play 1 card from their hand and 1 card from the "Courtyard". The first player will begin this round by placing a card from their hand face up into the center of the table. This area becomes the "Courtyard". Players will then, in turn order, take a turn that consists of one of the following options. They may place 1 card from their hand into the Courtyard, or they may take 1 card from the Courtyard and 1 card from their hand, playing both of them face up in the corresponding spaces of their own play area. Any cards remaining in the player's hand are then placed into the Courtyard. This player is then unable to participate during the rest of this Distribution round. This continues until there is only 1 player that has not chosen 2 cards. When this happens, that player is no longer allowed to place any cards into the Courtyard, instead they must immediately choose from the available cards. It should be noted that if a player has only 1 card remaining in their hand, they must play it and choose 1 card from the Courtyard. They may never place their last card into the Courtyard. A couple of things should also be noted about the Action cards. When a Regular Customer is placed, a Satisfaction marker is immediately placed on the card with the blue side up. When a Market stall is placed, it is immediately filled with the vegetables shown on the card. When a Field Action card is placed, the player must immediately pay 2 cash for it. If the player does not have enough money, they are able to sell vegetables, use helpers or take out a loan to be able to pay for it. Once the last player has chosen and placed their cards, the Distribution round ends. The remaining cards in the Courtyard will then become the new face up discard pile. The last player to place their 2 Action cards now receives the large Starting player token, becoming the Starting player. The next to last player to place their cards takes the smaller Starting player token and becomes the 2nd player.



This brings us to the third phase, the Action phase. On a player's turn, they may take any number of actions and in any order during their turn. Each action may be taken as many times as the player wishes. However, Buying a Two-Pack may only be taken once during their turn. The player has 8 different actions that they may choose from. Each action is also listed on the player's Turn Summary card. The first action they may take is to Sow Vegetables as Seed. To do this, the player will take 1 Vegetable from their Cart and place it on an empty field. The remaining spaces on the card are then filled with the same vegetables from the supply. At the top of each field card there's a reference of what vegetables may be planted on that field. Another action the player can take is to Buy Vegetables in the Shop. To do this, the player simply takes one of the vegetables from their shop, paying the cost on the dark price tag, and places it on their Cart. The player can also choose to Sell Vegetables to the Shop. To do this, the player takes a vegetable from their Cart and places it in the corresponding empty space in their shop. They will then collect the price in the lighter price tag. It should be noted that if there is no empty spaces for the corresponding vegetable, it may not be sold at this time. Yet another action that may be taken is to Trade Vegetables at a Market stall. To do this, the player places either 1 or 2 vegetables of their choice from their Cart onto the bowl in front of the vegetable that they would like to trade for, collecting it and placing it on their Cart. It should be noted that the number of bowls in front of the vegetable are the number of vegetables that must be traded for that particular one. Once a Market card is empty, it is placed in the discard pile. The player can also Play or discard a Helper. To do this, the player simply plays the card and takes then resolves the card's text. Most Helpers are played during the Action phase, but some may be played in other phases. This is noted in the text of these particular cards. Once the Helper has been used, it is placed in the discard pile. Likewise if a player simply wishes to get rid of the Helper card without using it, they can simply discard it to the discard pile. One thing of note, some Helpers have 2 actions that a player must choose from. The player is only allowed to use 1 of these options for that particular Helper. The player can Deliver to a Regular Customer. To do this, the player will place the corresponding vegetables on the card starting at the bottom and working up each round. Once a Regular Customer has been started, each round the player must deliver the same vegetables for another 3 rounds. If the player can not or does not wish to, the Satisfaction marker on the card is flipped over to the red side. If the player can not or does not wish to deliver to this Regular Customer while the red side of the Satisfaction marker is up, they must pay a penalty of 2 cash to the Supply. Once the player makes a delivery, they will receive the payment for that delivery as noted on the card. Once the fourth line on the card has been filled, it is emptied and discarded. Another action that may be taken is to Deliver to a Casual Customer. To do this, the player need only take the corresponding 3 vegetables listed on the card and return them to the Supply. The player will then receive the price listed on the card. If the player has the same number of Regular and Casual customers, then the payment is the price shown. If they have more Casual customers than Regular ones, then the payment is reduced by 2 cash. If they have less Casual customers than Regular ones, then the payment is increased by 2 cash. Once the delivery has been made, the card is discarded. The final action that may be taken is to Buy a Two-Pack. This is the only action that may only be taken once during the Action phase. To take this action, the player will pay the cost and draw 2 Action cards from the draw pile. The cost is equal to the number of either Helpers or Market stalls in their play area, whichever is greater. Any cards covered by another Action card, do not count towards the cost. Once the player draws their 2 cards, they must place them face up in front of themself. They will then choose to keep one or both of these 2 cards, or simply discard both of them. Any cards not kept are discarded. If the player choose to keep both cards, then they must place one of the cards on top of the other one. The choice of which card goes on top is up to the player. The top card is placed so that the card below is visible. It should be noted that if a field card is chosen either as the top or bottom card, then the 2 cash must immediately be paid. As the game goes on, whenever the top card is discarded, the bottom card is immediately moved to it's appropriate place. Any additional actions such as stocking vegetables onto the card or placing Satisfaction markers are done at this time as well. At the end of a player's turn, they will then move any leftover vegetables from their Cart to their Storehouse. Any vegetables not able to be stored in the Storehouse, must either be sold to their Shop or discarded. At the beginning of the game, each player's Storehouse will only hold 1 vegetable. However they may upgrade their Storehouse by paying 2 cash. The card is then flipped over allowing the player to store up to 4 vegetables. Finally the player moves their Scoring Marker. Each step on the Path of Prosperity costs cash. The first step each round costs 1 cash. Each additional space that the player wishes to move costs the same amount as the number of the space which they wish to move to. For instance, moving to space 4 from space 3 would cost 4 cash. Once a player takes all the actions that they wish to take, play passes to the next player. Once all players have finished with their turn, the round ends and a new round starts following the previously explained phases.

The game continues until the end of the 9th round. Once players have finished this final round, the game ends. Players that have taken a loan must then move their Scoring marker back 1 space on the Path of Prosperity for each loan they have. Loans may be taken at any time during the game and they provide 5 cash. However as just mentioned, they cost 1 space on the Path of Prosperity. Loans are never able to be repaid. Once all players have moved their Scoring markers based on loans, they will then check to see who is farthest along on the Path of Prosperity. The player that has moved the farthest is the winner.



COMPONENTS
This is an amazing looking game that contains a whole bunch of great looking pieces. There are cardboard boards and tokens, wooden pieces and various types of cards. First there are the cardboard pieces which consist of the T-shaped game boards, Satisfaction markers and cash coins of 1 and 5 value. The boards are brightly colored and have special spaces for each of the different types of vegetables, as well as the ascending Path of Prosperity. I like how that each vegetable's space matches the shape and color of the wooden vegetable meeple. The Satisfaction markers are blue on one side and red on the other, both with a Chinese symbol. The coins come in a smaller silver for 1 cash and a larger copper for 5 cash. Each of these has some Chinese symbols on them as well. They also have a hole in the middle, which were used to hold them on a string in the days that the game was set in. The only thing that would make these better is if they'd been made of metal instead of cardboard. The game also contains a whole bunch of wooden pieces. There are vegetable meeples, Scoring markers and Starting player tokens. The vegetable meeples are all brightly colored. Each one is shaped like the vegetable it represents. There are leeks, beans, cabbages, turnips, pumpkins and wheat. These are great! I love wooden tokens like these. They're fun to handle and play with. The Scoring markers are hard to describe. I guess the best way is to say they're like a pawn with a Chinese hat on. They're stained a dark brown, just as the Starting player tokens are. Speaking of which, there are 2 Starting player tokens, a larger one and a smaller one. Both are round wooden discs. Just like the vegetables, I really like these wooden pieces too. Finally there are the many types of cards. There are Storehouse/Cart cards for each player. These are double sided and where players store their vegetables meeples. There are loan cards which look rather like a scroll and explain how these work. There are private fields and lots of different Action cards. The Action cards consist of common fields, market stalls, regular customers, casual customers and helpers. Each of these cards are brightly colored. The artwork on each of these is a bit cartoon-like. The characters have a similar style and feel as the artwork on the front of the box. Honestly, I rather like the designs used here. They could have chose to use more realistic designs but the cartoon like art on these cards is very fun. It gives you a nice sense of amusement and light heartedness instead of being so serious. I like that this was the path chosen for these. The game also comes with some turn summary cards which are a great reference for the players to look back at and remind them of their options in the Action phase. Thematically the game gives a great feel of just exactly what it was going for, being a farmer in China over 2000 years ago. I really love the look and feel of this game. The artwork is amazingly light and fun. It's a beauty.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is also a beauty. It's got lots of great pictures and examples throughout the book. The design and layout reminds me of the rulebook for Agricola. That's probably because both are from the same designer. Everything is laid out really well and is easy to read and understand. There are special boxes inserted throughout the book that give a few changes for playing your first game, for different player counts and special details about the rules. These are nice additions that you don't have to pay much attention to unless you have specific need for those rules. The rulebook also includes rules for playing the game solo, which is always a welcome addition to any game in my opinion. There's also an appendix of the cards, as well as 2 pages of details about the different Helper cards included in the game. These help players to understand these certain cards a bit better, giving a more detail explanation of each. The book also has a few little notes about the back history of the game which is a nice addition that adds a bit of flavor. I can say that this is an excellent rulebook. It's well designed, just as I expected it to be. I couldn't find anything that needed changing or improving. It's very thorough and the rules are easy to follow in a step by step manner. Overall I think the book is well done.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
I have to say that this game has been on my want to play list for quite some time. It looked like a lot of fun with lots of bright colored pieces and plenty of challenges for players of all kind. Needless to say, I wasn't let down at all. This is a very fun game. As the third game in designer Uwe Rosenberg's Harvest trilogy, this game is an absolute classic. The reason being is that it's just so much fun to play. I've enjoyed several of Mr. Rosenberg's games, especially Reykholt, Patchwork and Agricola. This is another one to add to that list. The game provides lots of different choices and actions to take but you never have the ability to do everything that you really want to do. There's always something that you wish you had just one more vegetable or one more coin for. Playing with other players, the game is full of tension and a mild bit of interaction, mostly that comes from the Card phase of the game. The Action phase is more like playing solitaire. Of course you'll be watching to see what other players do on their turn so that you can try to pull ahead on the Path. One thing that I wanted to point out is that many times players are afraid to take a loan so as not to lose that space on the Path. Just because you take a loan, does not mean that you can't win. In some cases, you pretty much have to if you want to get done what you're trying to do on your turn. The main thing is not to be afraid of loans. As for the solo game that I mentioned earlier, it's a definite challenge. You're trying to reach level 17 on the path. But to be a true Master, you need to reach level 19. This can be rather difficult. For this version, the Card phase is a bit different, having the player buy cards from a grid of 4 rows and 3 columns. Cards can range from free to 2 coins each. Even more so than in the multiplayer game, cash is king. Trust me, it takes a lot to get that far. As tough as it can be at times, I'm always up for the challenge that this game provides. Needless to say, I enjoy the solo game just as much, if not possibly more, than the multiplayer game. Both have their own feel and charm that I like. Solo gamers will find plenty to love with this one. This is a game that I think a lot of players will enjoy regardless of their player count. Fans of any of Mr. Rosenberg's games like Agricola or Reykholt should absolutely love this one. I definitely do. It's one of my top 10 most favorite games. Once you've played it I'm sure you'll agree. This is a game that I highly recommend.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
At The Gates Of Loyang is a game of farming and selling crops in Ancient China. It's not super long. Most game sessions last from an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the number of players. The components are amazing. The wooden vegetables are fun to play with and the artwork throughout the game is light and fun as well. I still want an upgrade to metal coins for this one though. The rulebook is well written and designed. It's easy to read through and very thorough. I especially love the added solo variant in the rules. The game itself is a lot of fun for groups of players and for playing solo. The multiplayer game has a great competitive feel to it as players race to get the farthest on the Path of Prosperity. The solo game has more of a puzzle feel as you work to align everything just so. Both are challenging but enjoyable. Fans of games like Agricola or Reykholt will enjoy the similar theme and challenge of this game. This is one that I think a lot of players will like. This is a classic board game that I highly recommend. If you don't already own a copy, you definitely want to pick one up while it's available again in reprint. It's well worth it.
9 out of 10


For more information about this and other great games, please check out Tasty Minstrel Games at their site. 

http://playtmg.com
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Fri Mar 8, 2019 3:51 pm
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Gaming Bits: Demon Worker Review

Jonathan Nelson
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Birmingham
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Demon Worker is a game by Shogo Kuroda, published by Japanime Games. It is for 3-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of one of the most powerful denizens of the Underworld as they attempt to claim the empty Demon King's throne. To do this they'll need to interview and hire the most competent demons, pay them a fair salary and put them to work enacting your most evil and nefarious plans. Of course their opponents will also be trying to make a bid for the throne as well. The player that can best unleash their inner demon and prove they have what it takes to rule the underworld will be declared the winner.

To begin, the Work Area cards are placed in the middle of the table in a specific pattern as shown in the rulebook. The EP board is placed beside the cards. If there are only 3 players, the Cemetery and Trash Dump cards are returned to the box. The Planning cards are shuffled together and placed face down below the board, leaving room for a discard pile. The Sacrifice, Weapon, Magical Stone and Food tokens are placed beside the board in separate piles. Players choose a color and take the corresponding player pieces. They are also given a Summary card and 2 Human Worker cards. The Human Worker cards are placed face up in front of them. The player will place one of their player pieces on each card. They will also place one of their player pieces on the 0 space of the scoring track of the EP board. The Round Marker is placed on the 1 space of the Round Track. The Demon Worker cards are shuffled together and each player is dealt 6 cards each face down. Players are also dealt 2 Planning Cards, which they must not look at just yet. The first player is chosen and is given the "1" Turn Order token. The remaining players take consecutive turn order tokens in clockwise order from the first player. Each player is given 3 Sacrifice tokens, 2 Weapon tokens and a Magical Stone token. Play now begins.

Before the game can actually start, players must interview Demons by having a Demon Worker draft and making their plans. To perform the Demon Worker draft the players will look at their Demon Worker cards and choose one of them to keep. They will then exclaim, "You're Hired!" and place the chosen card face down in front of themself. They will then pass the remaining cards in their hand to the player on their left. This process is repeated and continues until each player has selected 6 workers. Once this happens, players will pick up their 6 Demon Worker cards and place them in their hand. Next the players will need to make their plans. This is done by look at their 2 Planning cards and choosing one of them to keep. The other card is placed face up in the Planning cards discard pile. It should be noted for players playing their first game, the Interview process should be skipped and each player should simply use the 6 Demon Workers that they were originally dealt. Once all this is completed, the game can actually begin.



The game is played over 5 rounds. Each round is divided into 3 phases. Each phase is played in order. Those phases are the Supply phase, the Assignment phase and the Cleanup phase. The first phase is the Supply phase. In this phase, each player will receive the resources and EP shown on their Turn Order token. Players keep track of their EP by moving their playing piece upward on the scoring track of the EP board.

The next phase is the Assignment phase. In this phase players will take turns assigning their workers to the work areas, beginning with the player that has the lowest numbered Turn Order token. To be able to use a worker, the player must pay their salary. This comes in the form of their Dispatch cost and any additional costs. The amount and type of resources that must be paid for the Dispatch cost are shown on the left side of the Worker card. The player must then pay any additional costs that may be required. These additional costs come in the form of Food tokens. The rule is that if there are multiple workers on the same work area, then the player must pay 2 Food tokens for each worker already assigned to that work area. It should be noted however that there are a few exceptions to the rule. The Trash Dump and the Audience Chamber never require any additional Food token costs be paid. Both allow any number of workers to be present at any time. Once the player has chosen a worker, they will then place their worker and proclaim, "Go," along with the worker's name. This makes it possible for the other players to see which worker is being used more easily. The worker's salary is then paid and the player piece from that worker is placed on the chosen work area card. At this point, the worker's special ability takes effect. Once it's resolved, the effects of the work area are resolved, starting from the top. Both the worker's special ability and the work area's effects must be used, only the War Room's effect is optional. Once a player has assigned their worker, the next player in turn order will take their turn. One last thing, players have the option of passing if they aren't not able to pay their worker's salary or if they just don't want to place a worker. If a player passes, they are done with the Assignment phase and may not place another worker later. Once all players have passed, the Assignment phase ends.

This brings us to the final phase, the Cleanup phase. In this phase, players prepare for the next round. This is done by following a few steps. First, each player will collect their playing pieces from the Work Area cards. Next they will place one of their playing pieces on each of their workers in play. Players will then pass their Turn Order Tokens to the player on their left. Finally, the Round token is move 1 space on the Round Track. A new round will then begin starting with the Supply phase again.

The game continues until the end of the 5th round. At the end of the Cleanup phase of the fifth round, players will not move the Round token, instead they will count their points. Players gain points for summoning 5 or 6 of their Demon Workers, for completing Planning cards and for paying the dispatch cost for each worker they have in play one last time. Players move their playing piece on the EP board fore each point they gain in these ways. The player with the most EP is the winner.



COMPONENTS
This is game with some nice looking pieces. First off there are a whole bunch of thick cardboard tokens. There are Sacrifice tokens, Weapon tokens, Magical Stone tokens and Food tokens. These are the resources that players will need to pay the salaries of their workers. Each of these are brightly colored and bear a small image of the resource they represent. There are also x5 tokens, 50EP tokens, Turn Order tokens and a Round token. The x5 tokens are gray and have a space to place a resource token on it. This counts as having 5 of that particular resource. The 50EP tokens are used for players that go over 50 points on the EP board. These have a purple fire with green numbers on them. The Turn Order tokens are large rectangular tokens with large colored arrows on them and a list of resources on them. These tell players who goes first and who goes next. The Round token is a bright green token with a little red demon holding a round sign. All of these tokens are good and sturdy. They look nice and work well with the game's other designs. The board is a single fold black and white board with very little in the way of artwork or designs. This is one of the aspects of this game that I feel fell a bit short. It could have been more colorful or artistic. Instead it's just bland and colorless. I really don't like it. Something else I don't like are the Summary sheets. These are really thin sheets of glossy paper with an image of that color's demon lord. It also has a reference for the iconography in the game, along with explanations of the different work areas and worker's abilities. I do like the references and explanations. That's one really good part about the sheets. What I don't like is the thin quality of them or the satanic references. Not to be a prude, but why was there a need to have anything other than a color for these? Why was there any reason to have Satan and Beelzebub, along with the other demons, on these? What purpose does it really serve? As for the quality, why not have made a simple card with references or something thicker and sturdier. I simply feel that these will be torn fairly easily, which might be a good thing as the "thematic element" of them aren't worth keeping. Thankfully the cards are actually kind of cute and fun. I know, cute demons right? In any event, the cards are great quality and look well thought out. These take a bit of getting used to, due to the iconography, but it's nothing to worry about. The final pieces are the bright wooden cylinders that are the player pieces. These look nice and are easily distinguishable between colors. For the most part, I think the game looks good. It's just those few pieces, the board and summary sheets, that leave a bad taste in my mouth. Overall, it's pretty decent.
6 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is a bit unusual. It is a long rectangle with 3 folds that expand it out to 4 pages across. There's a little bit of artwork across the book but it's rather small making it difficult to see. There are 2 or 3 examples that help players understand the rules a bit better. The book has sections that explain the different work areas, workers and planning cards. This is a great reference and easy to use. It really helps you to understand the iconography of the game. I prefer using this to the actual summary sheets. It's easy to pass around and doesn't have the references on it. While the design of the book is a bit weird, it actually does a pretty decent job of explaining the rules. I would like to point out however that there are a few areas where the rules were a little redundant and seemed to make no sense. I had to reread a few paragraphs just to understand what was being said. Still, even with these minor issue, I think the book is good overall. Of course it wouldn't hurt to have a few changes either.
7 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
So far, this game has been like a mixed bag of nuts. You've already seen my mild displeasure with the components and my so-so feelings on the rulebook. As for the gameplay, that might be the one redeeming quality that saves this one. While it is a different take on the worker placement genre, it's still a fairly good game. The worker placement feel is still there, it's done through the use of the cards you play as your workers, along with the location that you place your workers on. Most workers have a certain location that they work best on, so utilizing them in these places will allow you to gain the most bang for your buck. Like any good worker placement game, the idea is how to best manage your workers and gaining the resources you need to complete Planning cards. Of course one thing that can really make or break you is the initial draft of Demon Workers. If you start off with the right group of workers that are able to play off of each other, then you can really get moving quickly. However if you pick a group that doesn't work so well, it may take several rounds before you get your machine up and running like it needs to be, possibly costing you the game. Thematically the game makes sense. The cards really give off the vibe of that theme. However, as noted earlier, some pieces just don't feel so thematic and really give you a feeling of disconnect from the theme. I'm also not a fan of games using Satan and Beelzebub in them. While I understand that it's a game and that the artwork is very cartoonish, I think those characters could have been left out and something used in their place. I just don't see the need for them in the game. I know that there will be some people that will disagree with me and may find nothing wrong with having the characters present. That's simply something I feel every player has to decide for themselves. As it is, the game is not bad, I simply dislike the theme. Fans of worker placement games may enjoy this one, especially if they have no problems with the theme. For me, I can appreciate the mechanics and the thrill of the gameplay. I just disagree with the theme. I also think the idea of the game being for only 3 and 4 players is a bit odd. Sometimes I enjoy playing games with only 1 other person, yet this one doesn't give me that option. You have to have 3 or more players and it really works best with 4. I prefer a game that scales well from 1 to many. Unfortunately this one doesn't do that. Overall this is a game that I would recommend trying first. I don't think everyone that enjoys worker placement games will like this one, but I think many probably will.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Demon Worker is a worker placement style game set in the darkest reaches of the Underworld. The game is fairly average when it comes to play times. Most game sessions last around 45 minutes or so. The components are a toss up. The artwork on the cards is great, but the EP board is very bland. I also dislike the thinness of the summary sheets and the use of Satan and Beelzebub as characters. The rulebook is fairly decent but it too has a few problems as well. The game itself plays good but the theme is not fully integrated. I dislike the theme but could have been ok with it minus the aforementioned characters. The game does have a unique take on the worker placement mechanic but a bad initial card draft can ruin your chances of winning pretty easily. This is one that I think fans of worker placement games may enjoy, but should probably try it out first. For this reason, this is a game that I would recommend trying before buying. For me, it was more of a miss than a hit. Not to say that the game is bad, it just didn't work for me. I'm sure that some players will find enjoyment out of this one though. To them I say, "Work On."
7 out of 10


For more information about this and other great games, please check out Japanime Games at their site.

http://www.japanimegames.com/
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Fri Mar 1, 2019 9:41 pm
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Gaming Bits: Shinobi Review

Jonathan Nelson
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Shinobi is a game by Josep M. Allue, published by Japanime Games. It is for 4-6 players. In this game, players take on the role of the leader of a clan of ninjas following the mysterious death of the previous leader or Great Daimyo. Players will try to assassinate all of those that oppose their ascension to the role of Great Daimyo by sending out their ninjas to attack their opponents. They will need to be cunning though as their opponents will be trying to do the same thing. In the end, the player that survives the ninja war will be declared the winner.

To begin, each player chooses one of the six clans, taking the 4 matching colored attack cards for that clan. Players will also take 3 attack markers and 5 life counters. The first player is chosen and is given the start player pawn. Play now begins.

The game is played over several rounds. Each round is divided into 2 phases; assign attacks and resolve attacks/denounce attackers. The first phase is to assign attacks. On the player's turn, they must attack the 3 players to their right by giving each one a face down attack card, in a 4 player game this consists of all the other players. When the player gives the attack card, they must declare which weapon they are attacking with. However, they don't have to be truthful about it and may lie about which weapon they actually used. The player receiving the card must mark it with an attack marker, placing the marker on the weapon icon that they were told. It should be noted that if a player has already received 2 identical weapon attacks from other players, they can not be attacked with the same weapon for a third time. Once a player has assigned all 3 of their attacks that round, the next player in turn order follows the same process of assigning attacks. Once all players have assigned their attacks, each player should now have 3 attack cards face down in front of themself. Play moves to the next phase.

In the second phase, players will resolve attacks and denounce attackers. Starting with the first player, each player will resolve attacks by choosing and revealing 2 of the 3 attack cards in front of them. However, before choosing the player is allowed to question the players that attacked them about their attacks. The player may examine any attacks already revealed to check which weapons have already been used. If the two revealed attacks were made with the same kind of weapon, then the attack is successful and the player loses a life counter, placing it in the middle of the table. If the 2 attacks revealed used different weapons, then the attack missed and the player receives no damage. It should be noted, that before resolving the attack the player has the option of denouncing their attackers for either Incompetence or Plotting. If the player reveals 2 different weapons they can proclaim, "I denounce Incompetence!" revealing the third card. If all 3 cards are different, then the 3 attackers will now lose 1 life counter. However if the third card revealed matches one of the other attacks, then the player that denounced the attacks loses a life counter. In a very similar fashion, if a player reveals 2 identical weapons, before losing a life counter, they can proclaim, "I denounce Plotting!" revealing the third card. If all 3 cards are the same, then the victim does not lose a life counter, instead all 3 attackers lose a life counter. However if the third card revealed is different, then the player that denounced will lose 2 life counters instead of just the one they would have lost. Once a player finishes resolving attacks and denouncing attackers, then the next player in turn order will follow the same process. This continues until all players have completed the phase and all attacks have been resolved. At this time, players will take back their 3 attack cards. The start player pawn is passed to the next player in turn order and a new round begins. It should be noted that just because a player loses all of their life counters, that doesn't mean they are out of the game. They will continue to attack and denounce other players attacks as before, they just will not be able to win the game.

The game continues until all but one player have lost all of their life counters. The player that remains with at least 1 life counter is the winner.



COMPONENTS
This small box game consists of only a couple of components; a deck of cards, some plastic cubes and a plastic start player pawn. The cards have a really nice glossy finish to them. Each player gets a set of 4 of these. The only differences in the sets are the colors and the clan symbols. Each card has the 4 weapons on a colored background on the back side with a clan symbol in the middle. Each symbol and clan color is different. The front of these cards has one of 4 ninjas using one of the 4 weapons. Like the back of the cards, the only differences are the colors for the ninja's clothing and the clan symbol in the upper right corner. I have to say, I really like the artwork for these cards. I'm especially fond of the green frog clan. The colors of each card are rather bright and the ninja artwork is really fun. As for the cubes, there are two colors of cubes. There are the bright red see through cubes for Life and the black opaque cubes for Attacking. These are really thick and chunky and much bigger than normal board game cubes. I like these a lot. They're just a lot of fun to handle. The final piece is the plastic start player pawn. This is just a simply red plastic meeple. Out of the whole game, I feel like this is the one piece that missed the mark. It really could have used a sticker or some screen printing or something to make it stand out more than just a plain plastic meeple. I will more than likely be updating this with a character meeple from Meeple Source just to make it more thematic and better looking. Still with only 1 bad looking piece for the entire game, I'd still call this a great looking game.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game consists of 2 pages folded and rules on the front and back of each page. There are rules on each page for one of 4 different languages. There's English, French, German and Spanish. The background for each page highlights one of the 4 weapons used in the game. For the English version, it's the blowgun. Other than the symbols for the 6 different clans, there's no other artwork on the page. Simply put, it's mainly just a whole bunch of text on a sheet. Thankfully, there's not really any need for anything else here. All the rules are combined into 1 quick and easy to read sheet. Everything is explained really well. The rules are streamlined quite well which I like a lot. I honestly didn't see any glaring mistakes or issues with the rules as written. Shouldn't take more than a few minutes to read over and you're ready to play. While more art or examples of gameplay would have been nice, there's not a lot of need for something that's going to be read through so quickly anyway. As it is, I'm think the rules are well written and are fine the way they are.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a really quick and simple game that's a lot of fun. The main objective is to kill off all your opponents and be the last one standing. Of course it's not quite that simple. You're choosing a weapon to attack with but just because you choose one weapon doesn't mean you have to declare that same weapon. You can always try and bluff your opponents. For the most part, that's the game, knowing when to bluff and when not to. Of course you can also choose to claim incompetence or plotting if you think that your opponents have either placed different weapon types or have placed the same weapon. Thing is that you really have to be able to read your opponents pretty well to do this. It's a big risk but can pay off big time if you're able to get lucky with it. Normally these types of games aren't all that interesting to me, but this one actually ended up being pretty enjoyable. I like the fast play and options that the game gives you for calling others out. These aspects make this a good game. Another good thing about this game is that it's small enough to fit in your pocket or bag and be carried anywhere. I like having games that can easily be carried on a trip without taking up too much room in a bag or suitcase. I will mention that in some ways this game make me think of other bluffing games like Werewolf, Nessos and Wallet. The difference for me is that I like this one a lot better than the others. Personally I think if you like any of those games or you enjoy bluffing games of any type, then you will most definitely enjoy this one. This particular mechanic being one that I don't normally enjoy that much, I was pleasantly pleased with this game. I actually did enjoy it and I feel that most players probably will too. I would recommend giving this one a try. I'm glad that I did.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Shinobi is a small filler style card game of bluffing and player elimination. The game is quite fast and doesn't take very long to play. Most game sessions last around 15 minutes or so. The components are quite nice for such a small game. The artwork is very good and the cubes are fun to handle. The rulebook is well written and easy to read through, just without any pictures or examples for flavor. The game itself is quite small and easy to play. This is one that is family friendly and simple enough that even the younger players can enjoy. This one plays well with 4 players up to 6, but of course the more the merrier. In some ways, this game reminds me of other bluffing games like Nessos, Wallet and Werewolf. The difference being that I actually enjoyed this one a lot more. I think fans of those games should really enjoy this one. The game is small enough that it can be carried anywhere, making it great for taking on trips. This is a game that I would recommend giving a try. Cowabunga says it all.
8 out of 10


For more information about this and other great games, please check out Japanime Games at their site.

http://www.japanimegames.com/
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Tue Feb 26, 2019 1:33 pm
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Gaming Bits: Love Battle! High School Review

Jonathan Nelson
United States
Birmingham
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Love Battle! High School is a game by Brett Finnell, published by Japanime Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players will be able to control the action for a Harem style love story during the course of a school day. They will move the various girls and hero around the school as they try to make their One True Match happen. Along the way, they'll be trying to acquire Ki to prove they're the best at matchmaking. Of course unplanned for events can conspire against you as your opponents are also trying to make their One True Match. In the end, the school day ends and the date happens. The player that can gain the most Ki by that time will be declared the winner.

To begin, the board is placed in the middle of the play area. The Hiroshi standee is placed in the Entry Hall space of the board. Each of the girl standees are placed in a specific room, as noted on their Love Tracks on the board. A Love token is placed on the 3 space of each girl's Love Track. The cards are all sorted by their type. The Meddling cards are shuffled together and placed face down on the Meddling deck space on the board. Each girl's card deck is shuffled separately and placed face down near their Love Tracks, leaving room for a discard pile for each one. The Plot Point cards are shuffled together and placed face down on it's deck space on the board. A number of these cards are then drawn and placed face up on the marked spots on the board beside the deck. The Condition cards are placed beside the board next to the Active Condition space. Each player is dealt 1 card from each girl's deck. They are also given 5 Ki tokens. The remaining Ki tokens should be placed close to the board in a pile. Players also receive a set of numbered One True Match Voting tokens. Players will then look over the cards in their hand and decide which girl or two girls they think will be the One True Match or Love Triangle. They will do this by putting their chosen Vote token or tokens into the Voting bag. It should be noted that player should not reveal their Voting tokens while doing this. The first player is chosen and play now begins.

The game is played over a series of 7 rounds or Class Periods. Each Class Period, every player will take a turn. A player's turn is divided into 2 steps; the Girl phase and the Hero phase. These can be played in either order and is determined by the player. On a player's turn, they will declare which of the two phases they are taking first. The other phase starts at the end of their first chosen phase. In the Girl phase, the player will first draw a card from 1 of the girl's decks. They are then able to play or discard cards in any order and as many times as they want to do one of 2 actions. They may move a girl or play a Girl card. To move a girl, the player must discard a Girl card that matches the girl that they wish to move. Once the card is discarded, the player may then move the matching girl to an adjacent room. It should be noted that the Hallway does not count as a room when moving this way. The other action that may be taken is to play a Girl card. As long as the girl is in the same room as the hero, then the player may play a Girl card that matches that girl. The effect is then applied to the girl that played the card. It should be noted that Yuki is allowed to play a Jealousy card from any room, not just when she is in the same room as the hero. Speaking of Jealousy cards, there are 5 different types of cards that a player may play. There are Seduction, Flirting, Jealousy, Punishment and Enchantment cards. Each card type has their own special rules. These are also noted on each particular card. For now, I will briefly go over these. Seduction cards may only be played when the girl and hero are alone together in the same location. Katsumi is the exception to this rule. Flirting cards will inflict -1 Love to every other girl in that location when played. Jealousy cards are only able to be played when another girl plays a non-Jealousy card. These may be played out of turn, but only 1 Jealousy card may be played by each player for each non-Jealousy card that was played. The Jealousy card must be played by a girl in the same room as the girl that played the non-Jealousy card. Yuki is the exception to this rule. It should be noted that a player may play both a non-Jealousy card and respond with a Jealousy card as well. Punishment cards may be played while the girl is alone with the hero for a positive Love value or it may be played with other girls in the room for a negative one. Rin is the exception to this rule. Enchantment cards may only be played by paying 1 Ki first. Aika is the exception to this rule.



As I noted above, most card types have an exception to the rule. That's due to each girl's special ability. Rin has the special ability of, "You'll Learn to Love it!" This allows her to give either a positive or negative Love value to her Punishment cards. Katsumi has the special ability of, "I Don't Care if They Can See Us!" This allows her to play Seduction cards even if another girl is in the same room. Yuki has the special ability of, "I Can't Leave You Alone For A Second!" This allows her to play Jealousy cards even if she's not in the same room as the other girl. Sakiko has the special ability of, "She Can Play, Too!" This allows her to pick another girl in the room to receive +1 Love instead of -1 Love when she plays a Flirting card. Aika has the special ability of, "The Power of My Ancestors Flows Through Me!" This allows her to play an Enchantment card without paying the 1 Ki that it would normally cost.

The other phase of a player's turn is the Hero phase. In this phase, the Hero may move and take 1 action in either order. First the hero may take a movement action. This allows the hero to be moved 2 spaces. The hallway and each room count as 1 space each. The other action that can be taken are Hero actions. This consists of 3 different actions that the player may choose one from. The player can take the Room action for whichever room that the hero is currently in. Each room is different and the player simply follows the instructions of the room space. In many cases this involves rolling a die to determine the outcome. The hero may alternatively draw 1 card from any girl's deck. Finally the hero may kick one girl out of the room and move her to an adjacent room. This can place a girl in the hallway if the hero decides to.

In either the Girl phase or the Hero phase, players may also claim Plot Points. This may be done once per turn and may be done in either phase by claiming a Plot Point card that the player meets the requirements for. What this means is that the player must have completed the requirements shown on the card for their turn. If all requirements are met, the player may then take the Plot Point card and place it in front of themself. A new Plot Point card is then drawn from the deck to replace the card that was just taken. Once a player has completed both phases and have claimed their 1 Plot Point card for their turn, if possible, play then passes to the next player in turn order.

Once each player has taken a turn for that round, the clock is then advanced to the next class period. Before players take their next turn and on before every other class period, they must draw and resolve a Meddling card during what is called the Meddling phase. In the Meddling phase, a Meddling card is flipped over and the instructions of that card are followed to the letter. This applies to all players for the rest of the class period. One final thing of note that should be addressed is the hero's conditions. Some times during the game, certain actions or effects will cause the hero to gain a condition. This effect applies to all players until the condition is removed. Only things like the Nurse's Office room action will removed a condition. If the hero is affected by more than one condition, then the player whose turn it is decides which condition to keep and which to discard.

The game continues until the clock advances to the Date! space. At this time, the game ends. Players will then determine the One True Match or Love Triangle by revealing the vote tokens. The girl that has the most Love at the end of the game is the One True Match. If a player guessed correctly with their voting token, they gain 5 Ki. A Love Triangle is when a player correctly guessed the girls with the first and second highest amount of Love on their Love tracks. If the player guessed correctly with their voting tokens, they gain 7 Ki. Players add this Ki with any other Ki they may have gained through the game from Ki tokens and Plot Point cards. Players add up all of their Ki and the one with the most is the winner.



COMPONENTS
This game comes in a rather large box and contains some really cute and fun components. First off there's the game board. This has the look of a normal high school, with a few text boxes thrown in here and there. I think thematically the look and feel of the board works. Next there are the cardboard pieces. These include the character standees, class period clock token, Ki tokens, Love tokens and the One True Match Vote tokens. Each of these are double sided and are pretty thick and sturdy. Tha character standees look like one of the 5 girls or the hero. The hero and each girl's identity really comes through in the poses and look of each standee. You can really get a sense of who these characters are just from looking at the standees. The class period clock token looks like your average wall clock that you'd find mounted in any regular high school. The Ki tokens are bright green and have a Japanese symbol that I'm assuming means Ki on it. The Love tokens are pink with a red heart in the middle. These are a little smaller than the Ki tokens. The One True Match Vote tokens have a white number on a blue background on one side and a picture of one of the five girls on the other. There are 4 sets, one for each player. The artwork on these tokens is the same as the backs of each girl's deck. Speaking of which, there are 4 types of cards; Girl cards, Meddling cards, Plot Point cards and Condition cards. The Girl cards and Meddling cards are normal sized cards. The backs of each girl's deck has some artwork that really emphasizes that girl's look and character. The fronts of these have a smaller picture that shows different images and goes along with the type of card that it is; such as Jealousy or Flirting. The Meddling cards have a image of some of the various teachers or others that may interfere during the game. The fronts of these have these individual characters in a larger format. The artwork on both the Girl and Meddling cards are very thematic and look amazing. I love how nice these all look. As with the other artistic pieces of the game, these really add to the theme. The Plot Point and Condition cards are a smaller euro sized card. The Plot Point cards have a picture of the school on the back and a bunch of text with a Ki reward on the other side. These aren't as artistic as the other cards but don't need a lot of added art to them anyway. The Condition cards are kind of funny. Each of these have a white cross on a red background for the backs, while the front have a small picture of the hero in some awkward positions. For instance the Spontaneous Nose Bleed has a little hero with blood shooting out of his nose. Those familiar with anime will find the humor in that image. Also included with the game are some player reference cards that are quite helpful. The game also has a thick cloth Voting bag and a six sided die. On top of all that, there's a well thought out insert that keeps everything separated and easy to find what you need. Needless to say, the game looks great and is full of theme. I love the artwork and designs of everything that's included. I can't think of anything that I would change. Overall this is a great looking game.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
Like the game box, the rulebook is also quite large. As a matter of fact, it's almost the size of the box. Despite the size, there's not a whole lot to have to read on the inside. For starters let me mention that the cover looks like one of those single subject black and white composition notebooks. I have to say that I really like that extra touch of theme thrown in for good measure. On the inside of the book, there's a table of contents and then a full page welcome from the principal that goes over each of the characters and their motivations. It also gives you an idea of what the objective of the game is. Once again, another thematic little element that adds to the game. From there it goes into the setup and rules of the game. The rules aren't as streamlined as I would have liked as they do tend to jump back and forth a bit. Thankfully it's only a couple of pages to flip through so, nothing to serious. At the end of the book there is a section that gives you some tips and hints on how to play the game, as well as a section that details how each of the various rooms on the board work. As far as the rules go, I think they're pretty good. Thematically, the book really conveys that high school theme quite well. I've already mentioned the cover, but that's not all there is. Each page's background looks like a page of notebook paper with lines and margins. Certain sections have titles like Syllabus, Guidance Counseling and Honor Roll which add to the thematic elements of the book. On top of all that, there are some great pictures highlighting everything from the characters to various elements of the games like cards and components. The book also includes a very nice example of gameplay with pictures included. Overall I found the rulebook to be well designed and thematic. I only wish, as stated earlier, that the rules were a bit more streamlined. Still, I think it classifies as a win in my book.
8 out of 10



GAMEPLAY
This is a rather cute and fun game that really places you deep inside the world of a harem anime or manga love story. Each round players are trying to move the characters around on the board so that they can get more love for their chosen girl and less for the others. Of course if you're too obvious about it, then the other players will figure out who you voted for and may try to counteract your plans by throwing lots of negatives at your girl of choice. It's actually a delicate balance between planning and downright sneakiness, kind of like most love stories. For me, the game make me think of games like Clue and the Kill Doctor Lucky series of games. The way that the characters move and the interaction with the different spaces really emphasize that. I like that there are plenty of options for the player to take and that each room has it's own specific feel to it. Granted, most of the rooms only require the roll of a die but the idea behind them feels a bit more than that. Another aspect of the game that I like are the Girl decks. Each one of these has a specific card type that they focus around, much the same way as their special ability does. As I mentioned earlier, it's the differences of each girl and how they feel that make each one unique. It really adds to the flavor of the game. Another thing that this game reminds me of are the dating simulator apps and games, those like Katawa Shoujo and even Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3. Controlling the hero and girls while trying to make them fall in love can feel quite rewarding, especially if you're able to get your chosen couple together. This isn't a very difficult game, although there are a few things about it that make it a little more mature than some younger players might be able to handle. Older teens and adults should have no problem with this one at all. I feel that fans of games like Kill Doctor Lucky or Clue will enjoy the way this game plays, especially if they like anime or manga. Overall this is a game that I like and that I would recommend trying. I realize that not everyone will like the style of gameplay or even the theme of the game, but it's still one worth giving a try.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Love Battle! High School is a game of high school romance between an anime harem of beauties and their awkward hero. The game doesn't take a very long time to play. Most game sessions last around 30-45 minutes or so. The components are great quality and look awesome. Each aspect of the game is thematic from the character standees down to the rulebook. I especially love the artwork. It looks like something from an anime or manga. The rulebook, as I just said, is also thematic. It's not as streamlined as I'd have liked but it's easy to find what you're looking for and it looks amazing at the same time. The game itself is really cute and fun. It makes me think of games like Clue and Kill Doctor Lucky but it also has elements that remind me of dating simulator games like Katawa Shoujo or Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3. The game does have a few elements that are a bit mature and should probably only be played with older teens or adults. As it is, the game is fun and simple to play. It can also be quite rewarding seeing your chosen girl win the love of the hero. I realize that not everyone will like this sort of game or theme. For me though, this is a game that I would recommend giving try. It will make your heart go "Doki Doki".
8 out of 10

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Japanime Games at their site.

http://www.japanimegames.com/
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Fri Feb 22, 2019 1:35 pm
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Gaming Bits: Starlight Stage: Shining Star Expansion Review

Jonathan Nelson
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Starlight Stage: Shining Star is an expansion for Starlight Stage by Hironatsu Yamada, published by Japanime Games. This expansion makes it possible to play with 5th player. It also adds lots of new cards to be added with the base game.

For more information on Starlight Stage and how to play the game, please check out the link below.

https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/86488/gaming-bits-starlig...

To set up the game using the Shining Star expansion, a few changes must be made. To start with 9 cards from the Idol deck of the core game are removed and 4 cards from the Shining Star expansion are added. Four cards from the expansion are added to the Fame deck. Another 12 cards from the Event deck are removed and replaced with 4 cards from the Shining Star expansion. The specific cards removed and replaced are listed in the rulebook for the Shining Star expansion. Other than these few changes, everything else about setting up the game remains the same.

So what exactly does this expansion add to the base game of Starlight Stage. Well, as was mentioned earlier, this expansion now makes it possible for a 5th player to join in playing the game. It also adds in 13 new Idol cards, 27 new Event cards and 14 new Fame cards for your talent agency to work with. That's pretty much it.



COMPONENTS
This expansion comes with a stack of 60 cards. Just like the cards from the core game, these are also quite nice. Each one has artwork that looks like something from an anime movie or a manga comic. These fit in well with the style and look of those from the original game. The glossy like finish and thickness of the cards are all great quality. If you like the artwork and designs from the first game, then you'll most definitely like these as well. The game simply adds more cards to choose from and work with while playing the game. There's really not much more to say apart from that. I like the look and feel of these cards and think that they just add more goodness to an already good looking game.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is a double sided sheet of black and white glossy paper. The front side contains the rules for adding the cards from this expansion to the base game, along with which cards to remove. It also has some clarifications on three of the special cards, along with black and white pictures of each. The back side of the sheet is most filled with some frequently asked questions which can be of assistance while playing the expansion. It also contains how to set up the game and expansion for playing with just 3 players, explaining which cards to reduce the numbers of. There's not really a whole lot here, but then again it's not like you actually need to know much. The game is still played exactly the same, just with more cards now. While I wouldn't have minded the rules sheet to be in color, it's not like it's a big necessity either. Pretty much the rules sheet does exactly what it needs to in terms of getting you ready to play with both the expansion and core game. Not much needed other than that.
7 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
The cards from this expansion don't really add a whole lot, as far as new mechanics or extended play time. Pretty much they simply add enough cards for a fifth player and they add more of the Idol, Events and Fame cards. It just gives you more selection and options to choose from. In my opinion, the introduction of new cards gives a bit more replayability to the game, as the same cards aren't always showing up. I guess that would be my main reasoning for getting this, the replayability. Yes, it's nice to be able to have another player added to the game, but if the game is getting played a whole bunch, you don't want it to get stale or old. I would also like to mention that while the base game has a few eye raising cards, this one was a little more conservative and less out there. I think that fans of the core game, will no doubt want to add this to their game. Overall, it's a no brainer and is worth picking up a copy. I would definitely recommend it.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Starlight Stage: Shining Star is an expansion for the Starlight Stage game that adds a lot of new cards and replayability to the game. It adds 60 cards to the main game including 13 new Idol cards, 27 new Event cards and 14 new Fame cards. The expansion doesn't really add any more time to the actual game play. Most game sessions are still around 30-45 minutes. Just like the main game, the cards are very cute and fun with the look and feel of an anime movie or manga comic. The rulebook is a simple sheet of black and white paper but covers what you need to know in order to add the new cards to the base game. The expansion doesn't really add anything as far as new mechanics. Mainly it just adds more cards to choose from and the ability to play with 5 players. I think that fans of the base game will be happy to add this to their collection. Overall this is one that I would recommend adding to the base game. It's well worth it.
8 out of 10

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Japanime Games at their site.

http://www.japanimegames.com/
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Tue Feb 19, 2019 3:18 pm
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Gaming Bits: Soul of the Empire Review

Jonathan Nelson
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Soul of the Empire is a game by Heath Stockburn, published by Chara Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of a faction leader in Rome during the time of Nero Claudius Caesar. Each faction will be trying to accomplish a certain set of goals. For the Romans, it's about capturing their enemies. For the Jewish, it's about reclaiming their Judean territories. For the Christians, it's about converting the unbelievers. For the Coalition, it's about seizing control of Rome and Italia. Players will need lots of cunning and strategy if they hope to outwit their opponents. In the end, the player that is able to accomplish their goal first or gain 7 Objective points will be declared the winner.

To begin, the board is placed in the middle of the play area. The Objective cards are shuffled together before being placed face down on the board. The top 4 cards are then drawn and placed face up on the designated areas at the top of the board. The 4 yellow dice are placed next to the board. Players select a faction and receive the corresponding faction board, units, dice, Combat cards and Power cards. It should be noted, the Coalition faction does not receive Power cards. In games with only 3 players, one of the players must select the Roman faction. Players will now shuffle their Power cards and place them face down to the left of their faction board. They will then place their Combat cards face down to the right of their faction board. Each player will now place one of their units on the Objective Point Tracker. They will then place their units as instructed by their faction board. The Roman player will delay placing their final 8 units until right before rolling and readying their dice. Any remaining units should be placed in the faction's supply. The Roman Objective Point Markers are placed in Dacia and in Armenia on the board. Christian and Jewish faction players will receive 2 Objective Point Markers in their faction color. In a 3 player game, if one of these factions is not used, Rome is given 1 of the remaining markers and the other is given to the other non-Coalition faction. Jewish and Christian players will now place their Objective Point Markers in territories within the Roman Empire. It should be noted that players may not place a marker in the same territory or adjacent to another marker. At this time the Roman player will place their remaining units. Once that is done, each player will roll and ready their dice. What this means is that the player takes all 5 dice and rolls them. They may then reroll as many or as few dice as they wish, up to 2 more times, including dice previously rolled. What they are trying to accomplish is to get a dice sequence. A dice sequence can be a set of dice with the same number or a run of dice with increasing numbers. Most times this last option is known as a straight. It should be noted that the more dice in a player's dice sequence will allow them to take more actions on their turn. Once the player is happy with their dice rolls or they have rolled the dice 3 times, play now begins.



The game is played over a series of rounds. Each round consists of each faction taking a single turn, starting with the Roman faction and continuing in turn order. Each turn that a faction takes consists of 3 phases; a start phase, a main phase and an end phase. The first phase is the start phase. This phase has 3 steps that must be taken in order but may be repeated as desired. First the player may play one of their Power Cards that are labeled for use during the start phase. Once the card's text has been resolved, the player may use a permanent Power Card labeled for use during the start phase. Once again, after the card's text has been resolved and if they are playing the Roman faction, the player may score any claimed Objective cards that are labeled to score in the start phase. Once these 3 steps have been completed, the player may repeat this process as many times as desired.

The next phase is the main phase. This phase has 10 different actions that may be performed in any order and may be repeated by the player as often as they'd like. It should be noted however, that 3 of the actions are only available for the Coalition player to take. The first action is to move units. The number of the die chosen is how many movement points the player has. It costs 1 point to move a unit to an adjacent territory. The player determines which unit(s) to move and may move as many or as few as they wish, up to the limit of the movement points available. Players are even able to move across water as long as the territories are connected with dotted lines. It should be noted however that a player may only have 6 units in a single territory. It should also be noted that if another faction moves into a location with a Coalition unit, they unit is frozen and may not move until the Coalition unit is killed, captured or converted. Other factions may move through territories with other units in them without any problems. Once the player is finished, the die is moved to the Spent Die area.

Another action is to recruit units. This allows the player to add more units from their supply to the board, as long as their supply isn't empty. The number of the die chosen determines how many units may be recruited. Each unit costs 1. Once spent, the die is moved to the Spent Die area. Roman, Jewish and Christian factions may place a unit in any territory containing at least 1 of their units, as long as there are no Coalition units there. Coalition units may be placed in any area that contains only their units.

Some times player's units will come into contact with their opponents units. This brings us to the next action, initiating combat. To initiate combat, the player must have at least 1 unit in a territory that contains an opponent's unit(s). The die chosen is moved to the Spent Die area and does not affect combat. The player declares which territory and which faction they are attacking. The initial combat value for each faction is equal to the number of units in the territory. Next the attacker and defender will both choose a combat card, placing it face down on the table. Power cards may also be used but must be played before placing combat cards. The combat cards are revealed simultaneously. If either of the combat cards have text on them, this applies before totaling the combat value. If both have text, the attacker's effect is resolved first, unless the defender's card cancels the attackers text. Once the effects are resolved, the initial combat value is added to the number on the combat card, along with any effects provided by the combat card. Coalition units will also add their rage as shown on their player board to the value. It should be noted that if the Coalition is fighting either Rome or the Jews and there are Christian units in the same territory, the number of Christian units is subtracted from the Coalition combat value. Once each factions combat value is calculated, combat is resolved. The highest value wins in combat between Romans, Jews and Coalition. The lowest value wins in combat between Romans or Jews against Christians. The highest value also wins between Christians and Coalition. If combat ends in a tie, the defender wins. If Rome wins, all of the losing faction's units in the territory are captured and placed on the Roman player's faction board. If the Jews win, all of the losing faction's units are returned to the faction's supply. If the Christians win, a number of the losing faction's units are returned to the faction's supply equal to the difference in the combat values. Chrisian units are then used to replace them from their supply, from a Roman captured unit space on the Roman player's board or from other locations on the board. Units removed from the Roman player's board are not replaced but the highest filled capture space must be marked with an already captured unit to note where the Roman player was already. The Christian player must also advance their converted units track on their faction's board by the number of converted units. At this time, if there are more than 6 Christian units in a territory, the player may move excess units into adjacent territories as a free move. If the Coalition loses, they will increase their Rage by 1 on their player board. It the Coalition wins, all of the losing faction's units are returned to the faction's supply. the Coalition then decreases the Rage on their faction board by 1. They can then choose to Plunder if they wish. If the Coalition player is unable to decrease their rage, then they may not plunder. This is because Plunder will further reduce the Coalition's rage by 1. When choosing to Plunder, the player has 3 options. They may rampage, salvage or exploit. To rampage, they will be able to move as many of their units in this territory into an adjacent territory. To salvage, the player will draw a random Power card from the defeated player's hand of Power cards. If they don't have any in their hand, the player may pick any card from their discard pile. If there are no cards in the discard pile, the player may draw 2 from the top of the defeated player's deck, keeping 1 and returning the other to the bottom of their deck. The Coalition player is then able to player the Power card as applies with the card's instructions. When the card is discarded, it's discarded to the original faction's discard pile. To exploit, the defeated opponent must discard an active Power card of the Coalition player's choice to their discard pile. It should be noted that after combat of any type, the combat cards are discarded face up in front of the player. Discarded combat cards will only be returned to the player's hand once they have used all 6 of them.



Another action that may be taken is to claim an objective card. Any value of die may be used to claim an objective card. To claim an objective card, the player will place their chosen die on the card they would like to claim. The die will then remain there till either the player scores the objective card in their end phase, another player scores the objective card - in this case, the die is placed in the Spent Die area, another die is paid to retrieve this die placing it in the Spent Die area or the player passes their turn allowing them to retrieve the die.

Yet another action the player may take is to designate a die or dice to purchase Power cards. To purchase a Power card requires 2 pips for each card. One die must come from the player's dice sequence. However the player may use a second die that is not part of the dice sequence to add to the original die to be able to have the required number of pips. Any dice used for this purpose are placed into the Power card area of the player's personal board. It should be noted that a player may purchase up to 6 cards, as long as they have enough dice and pips. The dice in the Power card area remain there until the end phase. Once the end phase starts, the player may draw the corresponding number of Power cards from their faction deck. Also of note, players may only have 3 Power cards in their hand. Any excess must be discarded after drawing any new cards. Once this has all been done, the player moves their dice used to the Spent Dice area. They will then roll and ready their dice. One last thing of note, a player may only use 1 Power card per turn, unless they are using them as a defender in combat.

The next 3 actions are only usable by the Coalition faction. The first Coalition action is to claim an Objective Point marker. This may be done using any die and placing it on the Objective Point marker of their choosing. The die will remain on that marker until it is scored during the end phase by having sole occupancy of that particular territory or by the player paying with another die of any value to retrieve it, placing it in their Spent Die area. Another action is to block or unblock an Objective. To do this requires the player to have exactly 6 pips and use a die taken from their Dice Sequence. They may use a second die not in that sequence to add enough pips to get the 6 required. Any dice used are then placed on the Objective that they wish to block. However they are not able to block an Objective that has already been claimed. As long as a die or dice remain on the Objective, other players may not achieve it. It should be noted that the Coalition player is only allowed to block 1 Objective on each card and only 1 of each faction's Objectives. They may, however, move their die or dice to another Objective to block it instead. However when this happens, they must add another 6 pips. They may also unblock an Objective, returning their die or dice to the supply by using a single die of any value. Any affected dice are placed in the Spent Dice area. The final Coalition action is to increase Rage. To do this requires 2 pips per point. The player must use a die from their Dice Sequence, but may add an additional die to meet the requirements. It should be noted that the player may not increase their Rage above 3. Once finished, any dice used are placed in the Spent Dice area and the Rage is increased by the appropriate amount.

The final 2 actions have already been covered somewhat. However I will briefly mention them here. First, the player may retrieve a die or dice from an Objective card or an Objective Point Marker. This is done in the same way as has been described earlier using a die of any value. Finally the player may play a Power card labeled "Main Phase". Just as was noted earlier, players may only use 1 Power card per turn unless they use them as a defender in combat. Once a player finishes taking any or all of the actions that were just listed, play moves to the end phase.

The end phase has 5 actions that must be taken in order but may be repeated. The first action is to play a Power card that is labeled, "End Phase". Next they can purchase Power cards, if they designated any dice to purchase them with during the main phase. After they've completed that, they will roll and ready their dice as explained earlier. It should be noted though that in this phase, the player is only allowed to roll and ready the dice in their Unspent and Spent Dice areas. Any dice used to score Objective points are not allowed to be rerolled on the same turn. Finally they will score any claimed Objectives that they have completed the requirements for, placing the claimed Objective card(s) in their play area. They will then advance their Objective Point Tracker by the corresponding number of points. Any dice on the Objective card are placed in the Spent Dice area and are not rolled this turn. A new Objective card is then drawn and placed face up. If any other players had dice on the Objective card they are returned to the player's Spent Dice area. If the Coalition player was blocking an Objective on that card, they may immediately roll those dice up to 3 times and place them in their Unspent Dice area. At this time, the Coalition player may also claim Objective Point markers that they have the sole occupancy of that territory for. The Objective Point Marker is placed in the player's play area and their Objective Point Tracker is advanced by 1. Any dice used are then placed in the Spent Dice area. If the Coalition player captures a second Objective Point marker from the same faction, that faction loses 1 Objective Point and the Coalition player gains an additional one. The final action in the end phase is only for the Coalition player. That action is to score sole occupancy of a region and regroup. If they are the only player to occupy every territory in a region inside the Roman empire, then they will automatically gain 1 Objective point. Each region can only be scored once per game. It is not necessary for them to maintain sole occupancy for the entire game. They do not lose the point, just because they lose the territory. Once they've scored, the Coalition player must then take a unit from that region and place it in the appropriate spot of their faction board. They are then able to regroup or move 6 units from that region into a single territory as a free move.

Instead of following the 3 phases listed above, a player has the option of passing. This allows them to gather all of their dice and immediately roll and ready them for their next turn. This means that they can return dice from Objective cards, Objective Point markers, the Spent Dice area and the Unspent Dice area. They are then unable to take any further actions. Of course, this course of action is not recommended, though it is available to be performed. Once all 3 phases have been completed or the player passes their turn, play will then pass to the next player in turn order who will then follow the same 3 phases or pass.

The game continues until one of two things happens. If a player achieves their special victory condition or they gain 7 Objective points, the game ends and that player is the winner.



COMPONENTS
This is a great looking game with a lot of high quality pieces. The board is really bright and colorful. It has a great textured shine to it that keeps it from being too slick. Then there are the faction boards. These are double sided with some great artwork on both sides. When playing the game, it doesn't matter which side you choose, only the artwork is different. Each one of these has an even better finish than the board. They also have the special setup rules for each particular faction, as well as their special victory condition and the order of play as a reference. These are the absolute best parts of the game, in my opinion. Of course the second best parts would be the wooden pieces. There are large colored discs that are the Objective Point markers. These come in 3 different colors with 2 of each one. No Coalition green markers as they're the faction trying to gain these. Next there are all the different faction units. There are 5 different types of meeples and each one is completely unique looking. The blue Jewish units look kind of like a robed figure. The burgundy Roman units look like warriors with shields. The white Christian units are down on their knees praying. The green Coalition units look kind of like the warrior on the faction board. Then there are the gray revolting units. These simply look like plain people. The rulebook shows them as cubes, but that's not what they are. I didn't really explain these in the overview, but will touch on them in the gameplay section. I really like the differences and the thematic look of each one. That makes for a very nice touch indeed. The game also comes with a whole bunch of colored dice, 24 to be exact. They're brightly colored and match the different faction colors. Finally there are the cards. These have a really nice linen finish to them. The different Power and Combat cards have a unique back to them that is specific to each faction. For the Roman, Jewish and Christian factions, the different card types have inverted colors to them. For instance, the Christian faction has a gray background with white borders and white fish symbol on the back of the Power cards. The combat cards for this faction have a white background with gray borders and symbol on it. The Objective cards have a row for each of the 3 main factions to take an Objective. The game even comes with reference cards to help out while playing the game. Overall I like the cards, but think a bit of artwork or something would have broken up the rather bland and straight forwardness of the designs. Not that they're bad, I really like the coloration and designs. I just would have like a bit of art thrown in for good measure. Overall this is a really great looking game. The meeples and faction boards are quite thematic and everything is pretty much color coordinated. I think for the most part, it accomplishes the look that the designer was going for. I'm pretty well pleased with it.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is well written and has plenty of great pictures and examples. The has a great beginning section that is dedicated to explaining the story of each faction and describing their resources, mindset and mechanics for the player that chooses to play them. There's a great looking picture that not only explains how to set the game up, but shows it too. Step by step, each phase of the game is explained and each important term is covered. The book also has a 3 page section that explains each of the different Power cards. It covers when they can be played as well as what each one does. The book also includes rules for playing with only 2 players. This way of playing has players playing either the Roman or Coalition faction, along with one of the other remaining factions. Everything in the book is well written and explained. I couldn't find any errors or anything that I needed clarification of. I think everything is very easy to find when you're playing the game, especially since the book includes a table of contents on the inside cover. However, it wasn't really necessary as each step and phase is highlighted in large enough text that you can't help but find what you're looking for. I think the book is well designed and looks really good too. I was very appreciative of all the great examples throughout the book, as they helped me understand things a little better. Overall I think the designer did a really great job with the rulebook.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This game is a bit complex, to say the least. It's a fairly heavy game, though most players would probably rank it somewhere between a medium weight and a heavy weight strategy game. I'll be honest, the first time I saw the game, it made me think of Risk. The idea of moving the units around the board trying to take control of the different territories or capturing them, really enhanced my feeling. That's not to say that this game should be compared to Risk though. Just pointing out what my initial gut feelings were. Needless to say, there's a whole lot going on with this game. Depending on which faction you play as, you're going to have a completely different objective to work towards. Romans want to capture the other player's units, while the Christians just want to convert them. I do like how that each faction will feel different when playing it. Speaking of feeling different, one thing I didn't cover in the overview was the grey faction. This grey faction is a revolt led by the Jews through 3 Power cards. When these come into play, they can help out the Jewish faction to complete their special victory and can help out during combat by lending their combined might. Needless to say, it can be quite helpful to the Jewish player to get these units out on the board to lend a hand. There's actually quite a lot going on in this game and it can be a bit overwhelming for new players or younger players. This is definitely one to be played with older teens to adults, simply due to the heaviness of the game. In my opinion, this is more of a gamer's game than a family game. It's actually quite a long game to play too. In my first couple of plays, it took in excess of 2 hours to play. I'm not one to normally like games that take that long. I will say that if you're ok with the play time and the heft of the game, then I think you'll probably enjoy it. I liked it, even with the longer playtime. There's actually a lot to think about when playing this one, regardless of which faction you use. My first game I played as the Romans and was trying my best to gather up my forces in certain territories so that I could go after the other players when they were at their weakest. For the first couple of turns, it worked pretty well. That is until my opponents figured out what I was doing. There's actually a lot to like about this game. Thematically you get a good feeling for each specific faction. I think the specific win conditions for each one, really help push that feeling. I think that fans of high strategy games with area control in them, like Risk or Covil: the Dark Overlords, should enjoy this one. This is a game that I would recommend for veteran gamers. I think other players could learn to play it and like it, but the veterans would be more likely to really appreciate it for what it is. For me, I think it's a little more game than I'm comfortable playing with my group or family. Not that it's bad, it's just not exactly right for us.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Soul of the Empire is a medium to heavy weight game of area control and variable player powers with an ancient Roman theme. The game is quite long. I've yet to play a game that lasted less than 2 hours. Most play sessions lasted a good bit longer. The components are excellent quality and look quite nice. I especially like the various unit meeples and artwork on the player boards. I do wish more art had made it's way to the cards as well though. The rulebook is well designed and is very thorough and easy to find what you're looking for. I really appreciated the many examples and the detailed guide for the Power cards. Both were very helpful. The game itself is quite good, even though it is quite long. The various objectives and win conditions for each faction make for a rather unique game. I especially enjoyed how thematic each faction's special win condition was. The game did kind of remind me of Risk in some ways, but this one has a lot more going on with it. Fans of high strategy games with area control like Risk or Covil: the Dark Overlords should really enjoy this one. I would mainly recommend this game for veteran gamers, even though I'm sure others may enjoy it as well. As for me, it's not the best fit for my group or family. The long play time and heaviness of the game tend to wear out my family and friends before the game is finished. I do like this one. I just think it wasn't exactly right for us.
8 out of 10


For more information about this and other great games, please check out Chara Games at their site.

http://www.charagames.com/
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Mon Feb 18, 2019 1:24 pm
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Gaming Bits: Starlight Stage Review

Jonathan Nelson
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Starlight Stage is a game by Hironatsu Yamada, published by Japanime Games. It is for 3-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of producers at a local talent agency. They will need to recruit performers with a variety of talents if they hope to outperform their rival agencies. In the end, the player that can attract the best talent and earn the most Popularity points will be declared the winner.

To begin, each player takes 1 Starting Idol, 1 Newcomer Actress and 1 Newcomer Model card. The remaining Starting Idol cards are placed in the Starting Idol Area in the middle of the play area. These 3 cards will be placed in the player's hand and are considered as their starting hand. The remaining cards are separated into 3 decks; 1 for each type, the Idol Deck, the Fame Deck and the Event Deck. Each deck is shuffled separately and placed face down in the middle of the play area. For each deck, a number of cards are drawn and placed face up in a row next to the respective deck. The number of cards drawn is equal to the number of players. If there are any cards of the same type drawn, they are stacked together. The Talent Tokens are placed near the decks and room is left near the decks for a discard pile. The first player is chosen and is given the Starting Player Marker, which is placed in front of them. Play now begins.

The game is played over several rounds. Each round, players will take a turn consisting of 2 steps. The first step of a player's turn is to flip a card. To do this, the player will simply choose one of the 3 decks of cards, either the Idol, Fame or Event deck. They will then flip over the top card of their chosen deck and place the card into the corresponding row of cards. If a duplicate is flipped over, it is placed on top of the similar card(s) creating a stack.

For the next step, the player will play an Idol card from their hand to have her perform an available assignment. The played card is placed face up in front of the player. This area is known as their Agency Office. If the player has at least 1 card in their hand, they must play it. If they have no cards in their hand, they must pass. There are 4 different types of assignments that a player can choose to take with their idol. They can acquire an Event Card. To acquire a card, the player must pay it's cost by playing enough Talent points to be able to match the Achievement points of the card that they wish to purchase. They may also use Talent tokens and/or Achievement points to reduce the cost. Used Talent tokens are returned to the Talent Token area and used Achievement point cards are discarded to the discard pile, known as the Anteroom. Once the card has been paid for, it is taken from the Event row. It should be noted, that the player may place multiple Idol cards to acquire an Event card. When acquiring other types of cards, only 1 Idol card may be used. Another assignment that the player may take is to reinvent an Idol card. To do this, the player plays an Idol card, pays the cost of an Idol card in the Idol row, and replaces the card that the Idol that they played with the one that they just paid for. The old card is sent to the Anteroom, while the new card is placed in the player's Agency Office as if it had already been played. Yet another assignment that the player can take is to acquire a Fame card. To do this, the player plays an Idol card and pays the card's cost, taking it from the row of Fame cards. Finally the player can take the assignment to take a lesson. To do this, the player plays an Idol card and may then take 1 Talent token of any kind that they would like from the Talent token area. This option is available for when the player is unable to pay the cost for one of the other assignments. Once the player finishes with whatever assignment that they chose, play passes to the next player in turn order. If a player has played all of the Idol card from their hand, they must skip their turn. Once all players have played all of the Idol cards from their hand, the round ends.

After a round has ended, each player will take all of the Idol cards that they acquired or played to their Agency Office and return them to their hand. The Starting Player marker is passed to the next player in turn order and a new round begins.

The game continues until the Fame deck runs out. Once this happens, players finish the current round before completely ending the game. After the game ends, each player will add up all of the Popularity points that they have on their Idol and Fame cards. It should be noted that some cards have a purple star on them that may give additional points. Players compare their total Popularity points and the one with the most is the winner.



COMPONENTS
The game mainly consists of a bunch of cards. However there are a few cardboard pieces included as well. The cardboard pieces included with the game are the Talent tokens and the Starting Player marker. The Talent tokens are about the size of a quarter and are completely square. They're black with the particular talent that they represent in color in the middle of the tile. There are tokens for Music, Acting and Charm. The Starting Player marker is a little bigger than a 50 cent piece. All of these are quite thick and sturdy. I like that the size of each of these. They could have went for some small little thin token that would have been hard for me to pick up with my fumble fingers. Thankfully they chose to go bigger. The cards are really quite nice. Each one has some very nice artwork reminiscent of the art you might find in an anime movie or in a manga comic. I will say that there are a few images that are a bit over the top, but it's nothing really major. It's definitely milder than some of the images from other games of this type. The game comes with some quick reference cards that are really helpful when playing the game. Each card has a really nice glossy finish that is very easy to shuffle. The backs of the cards look pretty much the same, except that the top right hand corner is a different color for each of the 4 types of cards; black for events, teal or green for fame, purple for idols and pink for starting idols. The box is the same style and size as games like Dynamite Nurse and Tanto Cuore. Needless to say, there's plenty of extra room for expansions in the box. I quite like the artwork and the quality of the components for this game. It looks and feels great.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is a double sided, multi-folded sheet of colored paper. It's has a glossy finish to it that looks nice. One side of the rules sheet explains the different icons and types of cards. It also shows how to set up the game with plenty of pictures. The back side of the sheet contains the actual rules in a step by step process. For such a simple sheet of paper, there are plenty of pictures and examples of gameplay. There are also some frequently asked questions to help players better understand the game, as well as a few clarifications on some of the special cards. The rules also includes some tips for beginners along with some basic strategies for helping players play the game even better. Needless to say, for a simple sheet of paper, there's a wealth of information. On top of that, it looks really good too. I'm quite pleased with the rules for this one.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a cute and fun game. It's fairly simple too. Basically the player will be trying to draft cards into their hand to be able upgrade the cards that they already have in order to gain more points to be able to win the game. That's pretty much the game in a nutshell. As you're playing the game you'll find that you'll want to collect those event cards and talent tokens to be able to upgrade your idols to get even better idols. Of course popularity is what it's all about so some of the cards have special abilities that allow them to award even more popularity points at the end of the game for certain other card types that you have in your deck. This is a game that plays quite fast and doesn't over stay it's welcome. It's not one that takes a ton of strategy, in fact it's easy enough that even younger players can play without too much trouble. The look and feel of the game isn't overly inappropriate. There are a few cards that might raise an eyebrow, but nothing dramatic. Thematically the game works. You do get a certain sense of being a talent agent as you're basically hiring new talent and firing the old. Of course I think a thematic playmat or board and some wooden music notes, hearts and blue diamonds would really have made this even more thematic. In any event, I have to say that this is one that I rather enjoy. It's not a brain burner and works well as a fairly quick filler card game. I think fans of games like Tanto Cuore or Dynamite Nurse should enjoy this one as well. This is one that I would recommend. It just works.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Starlight Stage is a card game of drafting and upgrading Idols to gain the most popularity. The game is fairly quick and does't take long at all. Most game sessions last around 30 - 45 minutes. The components for the game are mostly just a deck of nice looking cards. The artwork on each one is very cute and fun, much like the art on an anime movie or manga comic. The rulebook is a simple sheet of paper, but does a very good job of conveying the rules with plenty of pictures and examples. The game itself is fairly quick and simple, without too much strategy involved. This is one that's easy enough that even younger players can join in. Thematically it gives you a fairly good feel of what it might be to be a talent agent. I really like how the game looks and how it plays. It works on several levels, especially as a quick filler. This is one that fans of games like Tanto Cuore and Dynamite Nurse should definitely enjoy. It is one that I would recommend, especially if you like the art style. No need to ask Simon Cowell what he thinks, as this is a great little card game that I think many players will enjoy.
8 out of 10


For more information about this and other great games, please check out Japanime Games at their site.

http://www.japanimegames.com/
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Wed Feb 13, 2019 1:52 pm
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Gaming Bits: Reykholt Review

Jonathan Nelson
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Reykholt is a game by Uwe Rosenberg, published by Renegade Game Studios. It is for 1-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of vegetable farmers in Iceland as they try to grown the most delicious vegetables in their greenhouses, all while fulfilling the orders of the hungriest of tourists. In the end, the player that can serve the most tourists and prove they have what it takes to thrive in this harsh environment will be declared the winner.

To begin, the board is placed in the middle of the play area. There are two sides to the board. One for 1-2 players and the other side for 3-4. The side that matches the player count is the one that should be placed face up. In a 2 player game, the covering tile is placed above the board with the book side face up. In a 3 player game, the covering tile is placed on the top row of actions on the board with the book side face down. In a 4 player game, the covering tile is not used. The greenhouse cards are gone through and all the cards that are marked with player icons that are greater than the number of players are removed and returned to the box. The remaining cards are then separated into stacks based on the number of parcels on the back of the card. The stacks are placed in a row beside the board face up. For the random greenhouse card stack with the question mark on the backs of the cards, the card with the red arrow symbol is set aside. The rest of the random cards are shuffled together and placed face up in the row with the others. The red arrow symbol card is placed on top of this stack face down. Next a set of service cards must be chosen. For the first game, it is recommended to use the cards from the A deck. The chosen deck is shuffled together and 5 random cards are selected and placed face up next to the board in a row. The remaining service cards are returned to the box. The game round tiles are placed in ascending order with the 7 tile on the bottom and the 1 tile on the top. These are then placed on the appropriate space on either the board or the covering tile. All of the wooden goods are placed in their corresponding goods box, which is placed near the board and is known as the supply. A mushroom, lettuce and tomato are taken from the boxes and placed in a stack at the end of the row of service cards with the tomato on top and the mushroom on the bottom. Players will now choose a color and take the corresponding worker discs, manager bottle and player card in their chosen color. The first player is chosen and is given the start player card. Each player will now place their manager bottle on the starting table of the tourism track of the board. The bottles should be placed with the first player closest to the next table and continuing in turn order to form a row. Once all this has been taken care of, play now begins.



The game is played over 7 rounds. Each round is divided into 4 phases or times; Work Time, Harvest Time, Tourism Time and Homecoming Time. The first phase or time is called Work Time. In this phase, players will take turns placing one of their workers onto an action space on the board that doesn't have any other player's workers on it. This is also known as a free action space. This is done in turn order starting with the first player and continues until each of the players have placed all 3 of their workers. When the player places their worker on a space, they will immediately perform the action of that space. It should be noted that a player may only place their worker on a space if they are able to perform at least 1 of the actions on that space. However, the player must perform all the actions on that action space if possible. Each action space is part of a column that pertains to a particular type. There are Property actions, Field actions, Market actions and Townhall actions. In each column of the Property and Townhall actions there are a few actions that have been marked with a flag. Each round, players are only able to take 1 of these flag action spaces in a column. Before moving to the next phase, let me mention one of the key terms that players will see fairly regular. That term is seed. Basically this means that when the player takes an action with this key term, they will then take 1 good from their stock and place it on one of the parcels of an empty greenhouse that they have in front of them. It should be noted that the greenhouse must be empty to seed. Each greenhouse will also note which goods are able to be planted in that particular set of parcels. Once the player has seeded the greenhouse, they will then fill in the rest of the empty parcels in that greenhouse with the same goods, taking them from the supply.

The next phase or time is called Harvest time. In this phase, each player will harvest 1 time from each one of their greenhouses. Harvest is another key term. What this means is that the player will take 1 good from one of their greenhouses and move it into their stock. If a player has a greenhouse with different good in it, they must choose which type to take.

The third phase or time is called Tourism time. In this phase, each player will take a turn starting with the player furthest ahead on the tourism track and continuing in the order of their position on this track. On their turn, they may advance their manager as many tables as they want and can afford to by paying goods from their stock back to the supply. The type of good and amount is noted on the signpost for that particular table, as shown on the board. Each player also has a special bonus function that they must take once per round. This bonus allows the player to take the goods shown on the signpost into their stock, instead of paying it to the supply. It should be noted that when advancing on the tourism track, if the player's manager advances to a table where there are other managers already, then the player will place their manager ahead of all the others, placing it at the front of the table. Also of note, if a player happens to finish the entire tourism track, then they will move their manager back at the start and continue moving forward in that direction. However they must now add 6 goods of that particular type to continue advancing on the track.

The final phase or time is called Homecoming time. In this phase, each player will take back all of their worker discs from the board, placing them in front of themself again. The topmost round tile is then flipped over into the discard pile beside the stack. The start player will then pass the start player card to the next player in turn order.

The game continues until the final game round tile has been discarded during Homecoming time. Players will then check the tourism track and the player that is furthest on that track is the winner.



COMPONENTS
This game has some truly beautiful artwork and a whole host of great looking pieces as well. The board is quite large and double sided. One side is for 1-2 players, while the other side is for 3 and 4 players. All the text and inconography on the board is very easy to understand. The artwork is very detailed and amazing. I really like how the board just draws you into it. The covering tile fits in with the board and has some more great looking artwork on one side and a copy of the book design that makes a place for the round tiles for certain numbers of players. Speaking of the round tiles, I like how each one of these cardboard pieces looks like the pages of a book with art and writing on it. These are a great touch that adds lots of color to the game world. Another set of components that are made of cardboard are the goods tiles. These can be used to take the place of 3 of the normal wooden goods. These just help with managing the resources so that there are enough left in the supply for everyone. The final cardboard pieces are the goods boxes that must be assembled prior to playing the game. These fit together quite nicely and securely and add a lot of thematic goodness to the overall look of the game. They hold the wooden goods quite nicely. Speaking of goods, there are 5 different types of wooden goods that are brightly colored and shaped just like the vegetable they are meant to represent. There are brown mushrooms, green lettuce, orange carrots, white cauliflowers and red tomatoes. I have to say, these are a lot bigger than what I thought they'd be when I first saw the game online. I really love the look and feel of these. They really impressed me. Also made of wood are the brightly colored worker discs and managers. The managers are shaped like a bottle. I'm not sure if the bottles were supposed to represent ketchup or wine. For me, I went with ketchup. The discs and bottles match the player's colors which also shows up in the 4 player cards. There are also stickers for the worker discs. The clothing for the workers matches the colors of the worker discs. I would like to mention that there was a small issue with one of the colors though. While the blue, yellow and black stickers matched perfectly, the pink disc didn't match the stickers. In fact, the clothing looked more purple than anything. It wasn't a really big deal but just something that needs pointing out. The game also comes with some really large cards that are almost tarot sized. The artwork on these are all really great. There's the start player card that has a big garden trowel with the number 1 on it. This is a really cool looking piece of art that really fits the theme. The same can be said with the rest of the cards from the player cards, greenhouse cards, service cards and story mode cards. Each card has a nice linen finish that I love. When everything is set up and ready to go, this game is an absolute beauty to behold. This is definitely one of the best looking games that I've seen this year. There's a lot to love with the components. Trust me, this one does not disappoint at all.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is absolutely great. It's big and easy to read. The larger text is especially great for my aging eyes. The book is full of beautiful looking pictures and easy to follow examples of gameplay. The book includes a great double page spread explaining how to set up the game with plenty of pictures to make sure that you have everything in the right place. The rules are laid out quite simply in an easy to follow way. Every phase and step is explained really well. The book even goes over the key terms of the game so that you know what each one means when playing the game. The book also includes some clarifications on certain action spaces and service cards. This is a nice addition, even though everything is pretty easy to understand without it. Also included in the rulebook are two gameplay variants. There are rules for solo play as well as for story mode. I will go into a bit more detail of these variants in the gameplay section. For now, it's just really nice to have these additions to the rules. Needless to say, I am actually quite thrilled with the overall look and feel of the rulebook. It's really well put together and looks good in the process too. Definitely one of the better rulebooks that I've looked through this year.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
Deck building games have always been my first love, however nipping at their heels are the worker placement games. In fact, my all time favorite game is in fact a worker placement game. Maybe you've heard of it, it's called Lords of Waterdeep. Needless to say when I got a chance to review Reykholt, I jumped at the chance. Let me just start by saying, this is a great game. Each round, you're taking actions using your workers and harvesting your crops in order to move your manager around the board. That's pretty much the game in a nutshell. Thing is, there's so much more to love about this game then just that. As I mentioned in the component section, this is an amazingly beautiful looking game. Every piece is dripping with theme and details that could have been left out, making it look more like Agricola. Which, by the way, this game makes me think of. The thing about this game though, is that it's a lot easier and doesn't punish you for making the wrong decision, like Agricola does, plus it doesn't have the animals and food requirements that you have to keep up with either. This is simply about growing crops in the best way possible. With the variety of service cards, there's tons of replayability. The game scales really well and offers a variety of actions moving from each different player count. I really like how smoothly and easily it is to play. You're not going to find yourself agonizing over where to place your worker, like in other games of this type. Some times you only have a couple of options. Now if the normal game wasn't enough to get your tractor cranked, then the addition of the solo game and story mode should. The solo mode has you using 2 sets of workers to take actions with. However each round, you will only be using one of the colored sets of 3 workers. On the next round, you leave those workers on the board thus blocking those options for the round. You then use the other 3 workers to take actions with. The goal of the game is to reach the table with 5 tomatoes on it in only 5 rounds. If you go further than that, you gain points for each table you can fulfill past it and for each good you have of those required by the next table. In this way, you can try to beat your own high score. I quite like the solo game. It gives you enough of a taste of the game to really make you want to play with more players, even though the solo game is great by itself. Next there is the story mode. This can be played with any number of players, including solo. Awesome! This gives you new event and service cards as well as presenting 5 different scenarios. Each scenario increases in difficulty, so it's recommended to play them in order. The event cards will change up different aspects of the game each round, making things quite interesting. Each scenario differs in length, so some games will be shorter than others. Just like with the solo game, I really like this variant too. The fact that it can be played with the solo game makes the solo game even better. This is definitely an amazing game that's a ton of fun to play. Fans of worker placement games like Agricola or Orléans should really enjoy this game. The game is very simple to play, but is challenging enough for even veteran players, especially when playing the story mode. This is a game that's family friendly and one that even the kids can play without too much trouble. This is one that I can't get enough of. I highly recommend this game.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Reykholt is a worker placement style game of growing crops and feeding tourists in Iceland. The game isn't too long. Most game sessions last anwhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the player count. The components are absolutely gorgeous and are a lot of fun to play with. Each piece is dripping with theme and really brings the world of Reykholt to your table. The rulebook is really well designed and is easy to read and understand. The addition of solo rules, as well as rules for story mode are a welcome addition. The game itself is great fun at any player count. From playing solo to playing with 3 other players, this is definitely a lot of fun. The game has a ton of replayability due to the different decks of service cards, as well as the story mode. No matter how you play this one, there's guaranteed fun to be had. The game is simple enough for younger players but challenging enough for veteran players alike. This is a game that is family friendly and tons of fun for everyone. Fans of worker placement games like Agricola and Orléans should really enjoy this one. No doubt about it, this is one of my most favorite games for the year. I highly recommend this one. Two green thumbs way up.
9 out of 10


For more information about this and other great games, please check out Renegade Game Studios at their site.

https://www.renegadegamestudios.com/
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Sat Feb 9, 2019 8:03 pm
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Gaming Bits: Preview Review of Monumentum

Jonathan Nelson
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Birmingham
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Recently I was given the opportunity to check out an upcoming new game that will be available on Kickstarter very soon. I received a prototype of the game with everything needed to play. These are my thoughts and opinions on the presented materials. Enjoy!

Monumentum is a game by Mark Hanny, published by Joe Magic Games. It is for 2-5 players. In this game, players take on the role of fantasy characters such as Rangers, Mages and Soldiers as they try to prove their mettle by performing 3 Honor tasks. They will be roaming the country side for the resources needed to build grand monuments, while battling fierce monsters of all shapes and sizes. They'll have to plan wisely and utilize the training of the monks if they hope to be successful in their endeavors. In the end, the player that can perform 3 Honor tasks first or gain the most victory points by the end of the game, will be declared the winner.

To begin, the boards are placed together in the middle of the play area. Each player chooses a color and a character card. The player then takes the corresponding standee, as well as all the matching player tokens and monument tokens in their chosen color. They are also given 10 health tokens and 12 different action tiles. The mission cards are shuffled together and placed face down in a stack. Each player is then dealt 3 random mission cards which are placed face down in front of them. The power cards are shuffled together and placed face down near the board in a stack. The top 5 cards are then placed face up in a row near the board. Three random attribute tokens are placed on the 3 monk spaces on the board. The monster standees are placed on the corresponding spaces with their pictures on the board. The first player is chosen and is given the first player marker. All of the action tokens are placed face down on the corresponding colored hexes on the board in a random fashion. Each player will now place their character standee on one of the village spaces on the board, beginning with the player to the right of the first player and continuing in counterclockwise order. Once all players have placed their standee, each player will turn 3 action tokens face up on the board, starting with the first player. The tokens that a player flips must all be on the same color hexes but in 3 separate regions. If a monster token is revealed in this way, the token is removed and a monster standee is placed on the hex. More on this in a bit. Once all of these steps have been completed, play now begins.

The game is played in a series of turns. Each turn consists of 3 steps. In the first step, each player will choose 3 of their action tiles and place them face down in front of themself. These tiles will then determine what actions the player will take in the next step. In the second step, players will take turns revealing one of their chosen tiles and then performing the action depicted on the tile. This is done in turn order starting with the first player. The player has the option of performing one or both of the actions on their action tile. It should be noted that if a player's standee is next to a monster, they may perform combat with the monster before taking any other actions.



There are a number of different actions that the tiles can provide. At this point, I'll give a brief overview of those options. One thing that can be done is for the player to move their standee a number of spaces equal to their movement ability. This can be increased with foot attribute tokens and/or energy tokens. The player can turn over 3 face down action tokens that are on the same color hexes in 3 separate regions. In some cases, this may reveal a monster which is replaced with a monster standee, more on monster combat in a bit. The player can pick up a token on the same hex as their character's standee. They can complete a mission, gaining a number of victory points, as long as they have the correct requirements and all requirements to complete the mission are met. Once a mission is completed, the card is discarded and the player draws a new one to replace it. If the player's standee is in a village, they can buy a spell card by paying the matching shield or resource cost. It should be noted that players are only ever able to have 3 active spells at a time. Once a spell is bought, a new spell is drawn to replace it with. Speaking of spells, using a spell does not require an action to cast. However it does cost one energy. Earlier I mentioned monster combat when a player's standee is adjacent to a monster. To attack a monster, the player rolls the combat die. They must roll equal or less than their attack number to hit the monster. That number can be increased by spending energy tokens. A hit forces the monster to roll their shield ability. A roll of equal or less than their shield number prevents damage. An unblocked hit scored on a monster will kill it. The player then gains victory points as shown on the monster board. It should be noted that if a player begins their action phase adjacent to a monster, then the monster attacks them instead. Combat in this case is pretty much the same way, just with the monster being the attacker and the player the defender. A hit from a monster does damage equal to the number on the monster board that matches that monster. The player then loses health tokens. If all a player's health tokens are gone, then they can only move, pick up tokens and heal. They must also discard one spell card and lose control of any monsters under their control. A combat victory over a monster also gains the player a valor token which lowers monster shield points in future fights by 1. Players can also attack each other, much in the same way as other types of combat. Damage inflicted by another player is equal to their attack ability and the defending player loses health tokens equal to this number. If a player defeats another player, they can then take their choice of a spell card, two resources, two shield tokens or a flag from the loser. Other actions that can be taken are paying a shield to gain 3 energy. The player can build a monument by paying two identical resources and placing it on an adjacent hex that is empty of any other game pieces. One of the resource tokens is placed beneath the monument to show what it's made of. Players gain bonus points at the end of the game for stone or gold built monuments. A player completes an honor task by either building a monument of gold or building their fourth monument. Players can also control monsters by paying a shield and placing a player token on the monster board of a matching monster that is already on the board. Players can move their controlled monster adjacent to another player's standee forcing the player to resolve combat before taking any other actions. A player can learn an increased skill by being on a hex with a monk token on it. The player can then choose to take an attribute token from the monk at the bottom of the board. A new random attribute token is then placed on the monk space. The monk token is then placed face down on a blank hex of the same color in a different region. The player can also plant a flag on a castle. However before placing the flag, the player is attacked by the knight that defends the castle. The knight attacks just like a monster with a 3 for all of it's attributes. After damage is calculated or prevented, the flag is planted and the player gains 2 points. The player also has the ability to repeat one or both actions on one of their previously used tiles. If the player is running low on health, they can use the action that allows them to spend a shield to gain 3 health tokens. Finally the player can take a mission card and trade it for the top card of the mission card draw pile, discarding their old card. One more thing of note, each player's character has a special ability that will help them in various ways. For instance, the Northern Hero begins with an attack level of 3, while the Elvish Archer can attack from one hex away from the target. When and how to use these abilities is up to the player. Once all players have revealed and resolved all 3 of their action tiles, play moves to the final step.

The final step is simply to move the first player marker to the next player in turn order and begin a new round. The player with the first player marker now becomes the first player for the new round.

The game continues until either a player completes 3 honor tasks or all of the action tokens on the board have been turned face up. The 3 honor tasks are to build a monument of gold, build 4 monuments and defeat the dragon in combat. If a player does these 3 things, they are the winner. If all the action tokens have been turned face up, then end of game scoring occurs. Players are awarded extra points for each gold monument or stone monument they built. They can also gain points for having either 2, 3 or 4 monuments in adjacent regions. Players add up their points and the one with the most points is the winner.



COMPONENTS
Like with most Joe Magic Games products, there are lots of really unique and interesting looking components inside the box. In this case, a lot of pieces are cardboard. The board is one of these cardboard pieces. It came in 4 separate pieces that had to be laid side by side to assemble the map. I kind of wish that this had been 1 folded piece instead of 4 boards. As it is, it's easy to bump a board and mess up pieces laying on 2 boards. As for the look of it on the table, I'll admit when I first looked at it, I thought it was a bit too colorful and didn't really have a fantasy vibe to it. Once you start playing the game however, it's not such a big deal. Plus it makes sense as the colors are actually part of the gameplay. Next you have a whole bunch of cardboard tokens, 4 bags worth to be exact. Two bags of larger action tokens and 2 bags of smaller attribute tokens. The action tokens have a dark blue back and a gray stone like background on the front with the action icon on top. These I actually like a good bit. It's pretty easy to figure out what each one is or stands for. The attribute tokens, while not too small are double sided with the same image on both sides. With many of these, the token was miscut leaving the image off center and looking rather bad with large slices of gray on the edge. It's a bit sloppy and definitely needs some work. The action tiles are also cardboard. Like the action tokens, they too have a dark blue back. The front side of these is bright green with the action icons on the front. These are bigger than the action tokens and are completely square. In the box there are 5 bags worth of tiles, enough for up to 5 players to be able to play with. The final cardboard pieces are the monster and character standees. These are long pieces that are double sided with the monster or character on both sides. I really like the artwork that was used on these. It kind of reminds me of the artwork from Madstone Chronicles. The game also comes with some plastic pieces. There's a bag full of bright orange standees to place the monster and character standees in. I really wish these had been clear instead of orange. The orange really pulls you out of the theme and looks quite garish on the board. The other bag of plastic consists of the first player marker, monument markers and player markers. The monuments and player markers come in 5 colors; orange, green, red, blue and yellow. At first I thought these were wooden, but on closer inspection I realized they were plastic. The first player marker is a light green dragon meeple that's pretty cool looking, while the monuments are small cylinders and the player markers round discs. The game also came with a clear yellow combat die and a fairly good sized stack of cards. There are 3 types of cards; mission cards, power cards and character cards. Much like the cards in other Joe Magic games, they have a plastic look and feel to them. The artwork on the character cards and power cards is quite nice, much like the art on the standees, while the the mission cards have different icons on them that must be accomplished. I will say that though I like the look and feel of the cards, like the attribute tokens, the cutter must have been askew. Each one leans to the left just a bit. You can tell that the border is larger on the right side making everything a bit annoying. One other small issue I noticed was on the back of the box. It lists the playing time as 15-30'. Not sure how that one happened, but I'm sure it will be fixed before production as well. Imperfections aside, if you're willing to look past these then you'll find a overall nice looking game. While the overall theme doesn't really translate all that well into the actual look and feel of the game, I still think it's pretty easy to play with. The iconography isn't that difficult to understand and most of the pieces I like. Hopefully these small issues will be addressed before the game goes into production and everything will end up much better looking and more thematic. For now, I'm ok with the game as is.
7 out of 10

RULEBOOK
As is normal with games from Joe Magic Games, the rulebook looks quite nice. There are plenty of pictures throughout the book. There are pictures of everything from how to set up the game to iconography on the action tiles, characters and mission cards. The rules aren't that difficult to understand. As a matter of fact, the rulebook itself isn't that long. The majority of the book comes from explaining the action tiles and how each symbol works. I think for the most part, the book looks good. However, there are a few places that were a bit of a head scratcher. One in particular came in explaining how the monk teaches skills. I had to reach out to the designer for some clarification on this one. I was assured that this will be addressed and fixed prior to the game's production, so that hopefully there won't be any further confusion. Apart from a few minor hiccups, I found that this rulebook was a lot better designed and the concepts flowed a little better. No need to jump around looking from page to page on how to do a particular task or action. That makes me happy. Overall the rules get a passing grade from me.
7 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
I love a good fantasy game. I love how much fun it is to explore dungeons, fight horrible monsters and level up my character. I love finding lost treasure to equip my character with, as well as interacting with various npcs. I've definitely found that enjoyment through games like Descent and Masmorra. When I first saw this game, I wasn't sure if it would create that same enjoyment that those other fantasy game had given me. I have to say though that this one surprised me. Granted this isn't the next Gloomhaven or Mage Knight, but what it is, is a really entertaining fantasy style game. I mentioned earlier how that the bright colored hexes of the board really pull you out of the theme of the game. This is true, however when you really get into the game as you try moving around to fulfill the requirements from a mission card, you find that it doesn't matter that much. Yes, I'd love to have resin miniatures and cardboard scenery with lots of wooden tokens and pieces to adorn the board with, but ultimately all that stuff doesn't necessarily make a good game. As a matter of fact, there are plenty of games with all that stuff that are broken in more ways than one. This game scratches my fantasy itch without a ton of meaningless stuff getting in the way. This is one that you can sit down and play and actually enjoy what you're doing. Granted the missions aren't full of thematic story elements and there aren't any real reason for why you're characters are doing what they're doing, still there are games that are just about completing a couple of main objectives that are tons of fun, like Scythe for instance. This game will have you trying to complete 3 honor tasks or score the most points if no one is able to complete 3 honor tasks before the last action on the board is flipped over. There are lots of ways to gain points, as you've no doubt discovered after reading the overview. At times, the game can seem like a race as players start completing honor tasks. At other times it can be more about gaining as many points as possible. In the end, it doesn't really matter which option you choose to pursue. Either one can lead to victory. This game isn't all that difficult. However younger players may find it a bit challenging. For this reason, I'd definitely recommend teens and older for this game. The game isn't overly dripping with theme, but it gives you just enough of a fantasy feel to it to scratch that itch. Each player starts with the same action tiles as everyone else, so apart from character abilities, everyone starts off on an equal footing. I like how that a few decisions can quickly affect your character, either making things easier or taking you down for the count. Ultimately it's all up to the players. I have to say that I've enjoyed this game. I think fans of fantasy games like Masmorra and Descent may find this one enjoyable. This is one that I would recommend giving a try. Like me, this one may just surprise you.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Monumentum is a fantasy style game of performing tasks, completing missions and moving across the board fighting monsters. It can be a rather long game, depending on the number of players. Most game sessions last any where from an hour and 45 minutes to 2 and a half hours. I'm not normally one for games lasting longer than 2 hours max. The components for this game are kind of hit and miss. Most of the pieces look nice, but there are some that are quite poor in quality due to miscuts at the manufacturer. The theme doesn't exactly come out in the look of the game, but the gameplay makes up for it. The rulebook also has some minor issues with rule changes that have since been addressed. The publisher assures me that these issues will fixed prior to production. The game itself is quite fun. While not originally a fan of all the bright colors on the board, once I played the game it made sense. I did enjoy this one more that I expected to. I like that players start out on basically equal footing with each one starting with the same set of action tiles. I also like that every time you play, the layout of the board changes with the randomness of the action tokens. This is one that I think fans of fantasy games like Masmorra and Descent might enjoy. I did find plenty of good things to like in the design of the game, despite the minor flaws in execution. As it is, this is one that I'd recommend giving a try. You may find that you enjoy it like I did.
7 out of 10

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Joe Magic Games at their site.

http://www.joemagicgames.com/

Keep an eye out for the Kickstarter link coming soon.
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Tue Feb 5, 2019 3:14 pm
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