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Everything Board Games Vae Victis Preview

Delton P.
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Quick Look: Vae Victis
Designer: Enrique Dueñas González
Artist: Gaetano Leonardi
Publisher: 2Tomatoes
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 2-6
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 20-40 min

WARNING: This is a preview of Vae Victis. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.



Review:
tl;dr:
Semi-cooperative game set in the downfall of Rome. Quick little title with tough decisions, but very little that's new.

Getting to the Game: Setup is pretty easy--each player gets a Curia and Limites goal card, and 8 coins. Place all three boards in the center of the table, and start each of the markers on their respective tracks. Create the favor deck by using two cards per player, add 1 or 2 traitor cards if you're using that variant (depending on number of players).



Your mission here is to accomplish both your goals by the end of your turn*. If you manage that, and also Rome hasn't succumbed to internal strife or external hordes, then you've managed to gain the emperor's favor--wealth and power will follow the rest of your days.

*The rulebook says that the last thing you do on your turn is "Check if the active player has won," but then proceeds to clarify this by saying, "Once the active player has gone through their phases, if there is no victor, pass the dice to the next player..." This is confusing and only the beginning of my issue with the rulebook as a whole.



Playing the Game: Each turn you'll get to roll the dice to see which of the pressures on Rome are of most import right now. You can remove one of the three dice for free, and pay a coin each to ignore up to both the other two if you desire. These dice will move the barbarians towards the walls of Rome as well as clog Roman sewers and deplete wealth. After that, you can support Rome through waging war against the barbarians, looting the treasury for yourself (which is somehow good for Rome?), and advising the emperor on how to run the city. After that, you go to work for yourself, choosing to influence Rome through gaining Intrigue cards at the baths, Orating at the Senate, or acquiring Forum cards.

All of this feels fine, but not particularly exciting. In practice, you're pulling levers to keep certain markers above certain lines. You're not allowed to let any given marker fall below the red line, unless you're the traitor (more on that in a bit). So, you'll find yourself being forced to give up coins when you don't want to towards the end of the game just to keep the game going long enough to secure a victory for yourself (or worse, someone else) through war and the senate; a fitting end, considering how Rome actually fell.



Overall, Vae Victis (latin for "Woe to the conquered") does what it sets out to do: put the players in charge of managing the rapid decline of a civilization, and even deal with a traitor. If you manage to acquire one of the traitor cards from the Favor deck, you can reveal it, give up your current Curia/Limites goals and now your only job is to sink Rome through any of the available tracks. Do so, and you win and dance as Rome burns. The issue with this is that if you're playing a 2-player game, or not playing with the traitor variant, the Forum cards are essentially worthless. They do allow you to remove a die on someone else's turn, but without a traitor, you're ostensibly working together, so there's very few (not zero, mind you) reasons to do this. The rest of the game limps along like this, waiting for someone to win.

I won't say that this game is entirely without fun moments. Pushing and pulling on the paths, figuring out how to feint your way through your objectives to fool your opponent(s) into doing your work for you, and managing the many needs of Rome is fun when it works. The rulebook won't do you any favors, though, as it's denser than it needs to be, with unclear language and conflicting info--see example to the side. Another good example is the following: The curia cards are explained in the rulebook here, but how they function and what you need to do to secure their results isn't explained until you flip over to the Senate section later on. I expect this minor stuff to get resolved as the prototype nature of this preview is hammered out, but it makes learning the game well enough to give you, gentle reader, a good grasp of how it works rather difficult.



Artwork and Components: As everything is still in very heavy prototype status, I don't have much to say here. I'll say that Leonardi's art evokes a very strong feeling of his previous title(s), The Captain is Dead. If you like that art, you're going to feel very at-home here.





All of the game's components are work-in-progress, so I can't weigh in on these, either. The coins above are from a different game.

The Good: Gameplay feels well balanced. Otherwise hard to say, as so much is still in flux with components.

The Bad: Missing the "Aha" moment required by a board game. Feels like a slog at times.

Score: Vae Victis fails to deliver on the promise of managing the decline of Rome, instead feeling like you're managing various dials that have been separated from their theme. There are fun moments to be had, but they're too few and far between for my personal tastes. I'm giving Vae Victis a score of Nero.

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Thu Mar 21, 2019 3:00 pm
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Everything Board Games Wu Wei: Journey of the Changing Path Review

Delton P.
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Quick Look:
Wu Wei in a new abstract strategy game with mechanics inspired by the philosophy of martial arts. The goal is straightforward, but the strategy runs deeper than any abstract game I've ever seen. It takes several plays to wrap your brain around all the possibilities.

An ambitious Emperor is trying to solidify his power by unifying everyone under a single banner. Martial-arts Students must become Masters before he succeeds. To do so, they must sneak around to meet with Masters, gather Chi, and use their skills to trip up other Students, mostly without directly attacking them. You win by being the first player to master all five schools and make it back to the center space with both your Master and Student-Master.

Designer: Justin Waggle
Artists: Yan Li and Matthew Waggle
Publisher: Gray Wolf Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 1-6
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 45-90 minutes



Review:
Rules and Setup:

Before:


Setup takes 8-12 minutes. Most of it is shuffling the tiles and distributing them on the board. The spaces where specific tiles go have a picture of that tile on them; the rest are randomized. The Student dice go "minus" side up in the center hex. The three tracker boards are put near the board. First player is determined, then the last player in turn order chooses where the markers on the trackers are placed for the first round. These boards determine limitations on where you can move, what kind of Chi you can use, and which Palaces can be used to build walls. The Masters are placed "plus" side up on the Temples of their color. Everybody gets one Chi of each color, plus one extra of the active element and a Lineage marker (4-sided die) of their color. The rest of the Chi is placed near the board. Cards are sorted into separate animal stacks.

After:


The rulebook has 31 pages, but a lot of that is pictures, philosophical quotes, and solo play. The text is huge, so it's pretty fast to read. I like the quotes, but it's easy to skip over them if you're in a hurry. If you're not in a hurry and want to know more about this beautiful approach to life, there's a recommended reading list of 57 books in the back.

This book isn't bad, but it could have used a bit more detail in a few places. For instance, the reference card says it costs three Chi to activate a card for its one-time effect. The book tells you exactly how each card works, but doesn't mention the cost.

Other things not stated include:

Yellow Palaces are wild, so you can build a wall in any quadrant.
Masters only provide three Chi if you move them on your turn.
Emperor mode: if you run out of Tower tiles, you can move one that's on the board.

Those were the only issues I came across. There are some excellent teaching videos out there, if you prefer.

Theme and Mechanics:
The core is straightforward. Your goal is to get the five different cards representing the teachings of the five Masters, then get both your Student and the Master of your color back to the center hex before anyone else.



Easy, right? Well, there's a reason this game has a complexity rating of 4/5.



You start the game with one die on + (Master) and one on - (Student). When you have all five animal cards, the Student has become a Master, so he is turned to his + side. The other die faces are just decorative. The Master starts on + but can be dishonored (turned to -) if he's trapped.

There are three levels of complexity to choose from, although Master (medium) is as good a place to start as any. On your turn you will perform four simple steps:

1. MEDITATE:
Make sure at least one of your dice is able to move (not trapped). If both are trapped, you become undisciplined/dishonored and pay the penalty. If your Master is dishonored, you must place your Lineage marker (d4) on your Temple and the Master on the center hex, negative (-) side up. You can't win while it's dishonored, and it won't provide any Chi on the Develop Discipline step. The Master can get his marker back by ending movement on its Temple. If instead your Student is undisciplined, lose a card then move it to the center space. If it was a Student-Master, it's flipped back to the - side.

2. MOVE:
Movement is 1-3 adjacent spaces. The board is made up of hexes and squares. You can move from hex to hex, or between a hex and a square, but not directly from square to square.



The Yin-Yang tiles tell you which of your dice you can move. If there is one showing Yin and the other Yang, you can move either. If both are white, you can only move the die with white engraving. If both are black, you can only move the die with black engraving.



Other movement restrictions:

You can't move across the four directional squares (N, S, E, W).
You can't move into the center hex until your Student has become a Master.
You can't enter a space you already moved through this turn.
You can't move through the terrain type that the Temple marker is on.
Two Students can't occupy the same space.
Two Masters can't occupy the same space. (Student-Masters can when they are first promoted.)
You can't move through a wall unless you have the Snake card and choose to send three Chi to activate it for its one-time effect.

3. ALIGN WITH NATURE:
If you ended your turn on a square, take one Chi in the corresponding color, then interact with the location.



TOWNS (circles) - Students gain one Chi in the color matching the Town. Move the tracker on the Town board to the Town's color. You can only spend Chi that matches the color on this track. This is the only way to affect the track.

PALACES (triangles) - Students gain one Chi. The marker on the Palace track shows which Palace is inactive. If the color matches the one on the track, it's inactive, and your turn is over. If it's different, you've gone to an active temple, so you move the tracker to the new color and place a wall hex somewhere in the quadrant of the same color (North, South, East, or West). Yellow Palaces are wild.



TEMPLES (squares) - Students gain one Chi in the Temple's color. Unlike the other two tracks, the Temple tracker always moves one space in the direction the arrows are pointing. This changes which color of hex is impassable. When the tracker moves to the final space, play continues until it gets back to the first player, then everyone bids Chi to determine the new first player. Hold your bid in your fist until everyone is ready, then everyone reveals at once. Whoever bid the most is now the first player. All that Chi is distributed among all players however you like.

4. DEVELOP DISCIPLINE:
If you moved your Master, you gain three Chi of your color. If your Student shares a space with a Master and you don't have that color animal, take any card of that color from the supply. You can't have more than one of the same animal.



Animals give you a one-time ability that requires three Chi to activate. Once activated, flip it over so everyone knows it's been used. Snakes allow you to move across walls for one point of movement. Cranes teleport to a yin-yang space for one movement point. The other three allow you to teleport to a specific shape/color combination.

If you have all five cards, the Student becomes a Master. He flips to + and is now able to train other Students (even if you don't want to). You want to be the first to meet the goal, but Masters are too wise to turn away a Student. Conveyance of knowledge is more important than being the best.

I've gotten used to excusing tacked-on themes in abstract strategy games. Wu Wei doesn't just raise the bar; it twirls it around and knocks the competition through a wall. I have never seen an abstract strategy game nail theme like this.

Martial arts isn't about fighting. It teaches you to master your body and mind so you can succeed in whatever you do with the least expenditure of energy. It's not about your strength as much as it is your opponent's weakness. Wu Wei really captures that. If you run for the goal, you will face-plant every time. You have to slow down and act mindfully. Be aware of everything that's going on, what your opponents are working on, what conditions are coming, and how you can balance your attack and defense by affecting those conditions.



Chi:
Chi is gained from undisgraced Masters during the Develop Discipline phase and by Students ending their movement on a square tile. It is used to:

Bid to be the first player.
Spend 1 to add 1 movement point.
Spend 3 to activate a card.
Spend 3 to destroy a wall.
Spend 2 to gain 1 of a different color.

These can all be done as many times as you can afford during your move phase.

Variants:
There are two variants. Initiate is for beginners. You can't move your Master until your Student becomes a Student-Master. Yin-Yang tokens never change. Masters don't provide Chi on phase 4. I don't see the point of this variant. There isn't enough of a difference to justify itself, IMO. Master isn't much harder, but it's a lot more interesting.

The Emperor variant adds a different style of play for one player and adds a mechanic for direct confrontation for everyone. The Emperor player isn't trying to make a Master; they just want to erect towers in the four corner cities. They do this by moving their Generals into those specific spaces. Towers are not usable by Students or Masters. When you build the 2nd/3rd towers, you get a 3rd/4th die.

Emperor/Empress pieces move like Students, except that they can also move across walls and towers. The Temple track still blocks them. Generals can move across walls, towers, squares, and yellow hexes, but none of the other colored hexes.

All hexes have a yellow side on the back. Any player can use a Palace to either build a wall or flip a hex in the appropriate quadrant. So, the Emperor is going to fill the board up with walls and yellow hexes. Everybody else is trying to bust through walls and return the land to its natural state.



If a General ends its move on a Palace, they flip one hex in the corresponding quadrant to the yellow side. Also, Emperor/Empress dice flip every hex they move through to yellow. If they end their move on a hex, they flip it and build a wall there.

Generals can also conscript a die by moving onto the space with it, triggering the same penalty as disgraced/undisciplined.

Any player can spend three Chi to push or pull dice. If you're pushed, but there's nowhere you can move legally, you suffer the same penalty as you would if you couldn't move on your turn. Any player can also spend three Chi to counter, then move the attacker.

Game Play:
Wu Wei feels a lot like Chess, but with tons more options and variability. Every turn you have to deal with changes in the board, the value of Chi, different blockages, and different inactive temples. It takes a few plays to understand it well enough to form a real strategy. I see new nuances every game we play.

Artwork and Components:
The components are mostly very nice. The inlaid board, wooden tiles, printed Chi bags, custom insert, thick cardboard, and beautiful art are all very impressive. The cards are good quality, too. The tiles punched well. All this wood and cardboard physically weighs as much as Rising Sun.

This a Kickstarter game that only funded for about $2k more than their goal, but they included all the starting stretch goals anyway. To do that, they must have cut some costs, because there are a few aspects that are noticeably off. The black and brown backgrounds on the boards look cheap in contrast to all the other stuff. A little texture would have gone a long way. The font on the direction markers wasn't the best choice. The yellows don't match. The back of the board that was touching the punchboards has a faint outline of hexes. I've never seen that before. These are all nit-picky complaints, though.

The insert is very nice. It has labeled spaces for all the bits. It holds everything in very well if you put the empty punchboards under it to make it snug.



The Good:
Spectacularly deep gameplay
It's fun and challenging
Deluxe components
Multiple difficulty settings
Plays 1-6
Passive aggressive and fully aggressive modes
Demonstrates ancient philosophical principals in a fun way
Plays in 45-60 minutes
Fairly simple to teach once you get all the nuances straight

The Other:
This could have been a spectacularly beautiful game, but a few minor flaws in the board design/production brought this down to very nice. I could see this game being a little alienating for new players. These days, most games are designed so they can be mastered in a couple of sittings. This one is more like chess, where you're understanding will increase every time you play it for the rest of your life. The more you play it, the more you'll get out of it.

Final Thoughts:
Wu Wei is very unique and probably the biggest, most complex game in the abstract strategy genre. Consequently, there's a steep learning curve. Once you get it, every game is a beautiful expression of the art of war. Its aggression is elegant, and it moves fast for a big game. I love this one and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys abstract strategy.

Note: This only plays 6 if you play with the Emperor (hard mode), but you can use the Emperor with fewer players.

For Players Who Like:

Abstract strategy
Little luck
Tons of strategic depth
Heavy duty components
Martial arts
Well-implemented theme

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Thu Mar 21, 2019 1:52 am
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Everything Board Games Death Wish Review

Delton P.
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Quick Look: Death Wish
Designer: Jason Hibbert
Artists: N/A
Publisher: Sketchy Games, Zafty Games
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 2-8
Ages: 15+
Playing Time: 20-45 minutes



Review:
A perfect party game for a light-hearted night of fictional diseases and death. The goal is to be the first player to gather afflictions, gain symptoms, and die.



Getting the Game:
When you open the box you will see a plethora of cards that make the game. There are four main types of cards. First, the disease cards (black and white backs) are shuffled and four cards dealt out in the middle of the table to form the disease pool. These are all the diseases you will be wanting to collect. Another disease card will be placed to the side and is called the incubation disease which might come into play later in the game. Next, the symptoms cards (black and blue backs) are shuffled and four are placed above the disease pool and makes the symptom pool. You will need to collect symptom colors that match the disease you want to contract. Next, the afflicter cards (black and red backs) are shuffled and placed out flipping the top card over next to the deck to form the open afflicter pile. Afflicter cards state the manner of how you contracted your symptoms and disease. Lastly, the outbreak deck (yellow backs) are shuffled and laid out to form the outbreak deck. Each player will also be dealt out four symptoms face down, two afflicters face up, and a player reference card that explains your choices of actions.



Playing the Game:
During the game, you will be trying to contract diseases to gain a certain number skulls that are shown on the top right of each disease card. You can decide how many skulls you need to collect to win the game. Typically, in a 2-5 player game, the first player to get 10-12 skulls wins, and in a 6-8 player game, the first to collect 8-10 skulls wins. The disease cards are the only cards that have skulls on them. To contract a disease, you will need to obtain one afflicter card that matches the disease color. Additionally, you will need to collect the number of symptoms that is shown on the top left of the disease you are wanting to contract. Some cards have an additional number shown underneath the first stated number--you can collect more symptoms and use another player's afflicter card. After collecting the afflicter and symptoms you will take the disease from the disease pool and share your diagnosis. For example (see image below), I was bitten by a starfish and contracted the meowsles and now have uneven bum cheeks, a leather fetish, can hear insect screams, and see dead people.



On your turn you will take one of four different actions.

1. Suffer Symptoms
You will pick two symptom cards that are either both in the symptom pool OR two face down from the symptom deck. You cannot take from both the pool and the deck. You can only have a maximum of seven symptom cards in your hand.

2. Become Afflicted
You will either take the top afflicter card that is on top of the open afflicter pile OR take the top two face-down afflicter cards from the deck, take one of your choice, and place the other face up on top of the open afflicters pile. You can have a maximum of three afflicters. Remember, these are placed face-up in front of you, and other players might steal your afflicter by collecting more symptoms than normal.

3. Spread a Disease.
You will take the top incubation card OR the top card on the disease deck and place it offset above a disease card in the disease pool that you want to block. This will block a player from potentially contracting a certain color disease.

4. Contract a Disease
Take the disease from the disease pool (you will need to have the correct number of symptoms use an afflicter card) and share your diagnosis with everyone else. You will collect a certain amount of skulls each time you perform this action. If your disease card has a yellow outbreak symbol on it, you will draw an outbreak card which breaks the rules and gives you an advantage somehow.



Artwork and Components:
The artwork is simple and basic which works for this game. I would almost say that the art is more graphic design than art. The game doesn't need much art as the game works well by reading the hilarious symptoms, diseases, and afflicters and letting the mind make the pictures. The cards are standard quality with no problems.





The Good:
The game is quick and fun to play as you will be excited each time a new symptom or disease card is flipped over. The game is made to be light-hearted and does a good job when someone is telling you that they contracted the uncommon cold and have hurty face, persistent nodding, and meat cravings because they poked a dead pigeon. The game includes some strategy as you can block players and even use their cards. There is a different number of each color of diseases and symptoms and the more rare colors give you more skulls as they are harder to get. This game is fast and can be played with 2-8 players, so this game can be played about anytime you want.



The Bad:
The game wears off after playing it a handful of times. There is a definite need for more cards if you want to keep playing the game over and over again. Some people might be offended with the names as they are all spoofs of real diseases.



Final Thoughts:
Players are dying to play this game. In all seriousness, I guarantee lots of smiles and laughs when playing this game. The game can be played in both a strategic and a laid back fashion. The game is borderline appropriate on its own, but the game has a NSFW expansion that can be played by those who like inappropriate games. The best part of the game is when you share your diagnosis and everyone makes comments about it. The game really brings your imagination to life by contracting made up diseases to try to die.



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Tue Mar 19, 2019 7:00 pm
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Everything Board Games Architects of the West Kingdom Review

Delton P.
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Quick Look: Architects of the West Kingdom
Designer: Shem Phillips, S J Macdonald
Artist: The Mico
Publisher: Garphill Games& Renegade Game Studios
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 1-5
Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 60-80 mins.



Review:
tl;dr:
Worker placement with a TON of workers. Capturing workers adds a new level of strategy.

Getting to the Game: Each player chooses an Architect, and then as a group decides if they're playing with the standard side (vanilla setup) or the flipside, with variable player setups. If the standard side is used, each player gets 20 workers and some starting buildings.



The goal of Architects is to build the most points by game's end. How you accomplish that is almost entirely up to you. You can also play the wheel of morality here, which is a neat mechanic to add in. Building the cathedral is the main point method as it leads to game end, but individual buildings will end up contributing a good chunk, if not the majority of your points.

Playing the Game: Every turn will see you placing a worker somewhere, and gaining a benefit. You can acquire resources, take cards, gather silver, all pretty standard worker placement stuff. Where Architects sets itself apart (and wow, does it ever) is in the very simple addition of multiplying returns. When you place a worker, the location does a check to see how many workers are there. Most of the time, you get X resources, where X is the number of workers that are at that location of your color. However, occasionally, you'll get X + (X/2) of that good, or you can forego the basic resource and get X/2 upgraded resources. All of this seems like a lot to keep in the air, but in practice, its fiendishly elegant. Early and late turns will find players simply hemorrhaging workers to the board in an attempt to get as much as possible before they're all arrested.



And arrested they will be. One of the locations on the board, the Town Centre, allows a player to round up all of one color's workers from a specific location and drop them on to their own player board, keeping them for a time. That player can then deliver them to a for-profit jail for a silver each. They can also be kept on the player board until the owning player can spring them, or just slowing that player down. It's the calculus of each player trying to decide how much to press their luck, when to capture, when to loose their workers from jail, and more, that sets Architects apart from the many worker-placement games in the genre.



At about an hour, Architects sticks the landing perfectly, with a game ending just when people are starting to really get the flow of the process. I prefer games to end just when players start to click with it, rather than overstay their welcome. In Architect's case, it nails the sweet spot, and people clamor for another game.

However, as they say, if you live by the sword, you can also die by the sword, and for newer players unfamiliar with the point salad feel of most worker placements, they can be locked out of a game because they didn't know they were out of time. Building the cathedral is this game's timer, and if you can't get up the ladder on that space fast enough, you're not completely sunk, but it can feel that way. And, without knowledge enough of how else to catch up, losing can feel pretty bad. This is mitigated somewhat by the short timeframe- I'm also confident that because of the incredibly tight gameplay, players will want another go at it, leading to more familiarity.

Artwork and Components: There's a reason The Mico is a board game standard, earning his prominent place on game boxes. This work here is absolutely outstanding, setting a gorgeous, colorful world to play in. Even with the stylized people, there's a sense of both whimsy and foreboding, the latter taking root in the game's "bot" characters of Helena and Constantine.





The components here are especially good as well--wooden workers and resources are perfectly sized to take up space on the board, cards feel weighty and snap nicely in your hand or on the table, and while the punch-out coins of my review version are just OK, there's a KS version out there with metal coins that look phenomenal. Overall, the table components here are great, and serve the game very well.

The Good: Brilliant worker capture mechanic. Game time is brilliantly managed. Overall aesthetic is gorgeous.

The Bad: Might be too short for some looking for a heavier mold. New players may feel slightly overwhelmed.

Score: At the end of the day, Architects is a great entry in the worker placement genre, and brings enough to the table to keep everything feeling as fresh as new linen sheets. The addition of solo play is nice, though not my particular cup of wine. The decisions you'll have to make feel impactful enough to warrant thinking about, but AP players will often see what they want most very clearly. I'm giving Architects of the West Kingdom a score of Drafting Up Plans.

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Tue Mar 19, 2019 3:00 pm
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Everything Board Games Comanauts Review

Delton P.
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Quick Look: Comanauts
Designer: Jerry Hawthorne
Artists: Tregis, Jimmy Xia
Publisher: Edge Entertainment, Plaid Hat Games
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 90-120 minutes

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Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:27 am
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Everything Board Games Nouvelle-France Review

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Quick Look: Nouvelle-France
Designer: Jacques-Dominique Landry
Artists: Jacques-Dominique Landry
Publisher: JackBro Playful Creation
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 45-60 minutes

WARNING: This is a preview of Nouvelle-France. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.



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Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:01 pm
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Everything Board Games Solarflare Games Bundle Giveaway

Delton P.
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We are excited to be teaming up with SolarFlare Games to bring you the SolarFlare Games Bundle Giveaway. This contest is for two SolarFlare Games bundles which includes one copy of Robotech: Force of Arms, Nightmare Forest Alien Invasion, Nightmare Forest Dead Run, Nightmare Forest Udder Terrorand Archmage Origins..

Contest ends March 26, 2019 at 11:59 PM MST and is open to US and EU. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

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Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:26 pm
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Everything Board Games The Spirits Of Carter Mansion Preview

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Quick Look: The Spirits of Carter Mansion
Designer: Keith D. Franks III
Artist: Seth Rutledge
Publisher: Cutlass Boardgames
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 3-5
Ages: 14+*
Playing Time: 10-15 min

WARNING: This is a preview of Spirits of Carter Mansion. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.



*Note: The developer set the recommended age of this game at 14, and while the mechanics are certainly fine for that, the theme of this game is luring a child into a nightmare basement to be lost there for eternity. The theme is, in this reviewer's opinion, too heavy for most 14-year-olds. Of course, use your best judgment.

Review:
tl;dr:
One step removed from social deduction, this is a social persuasion game that can be played 100% truthful the whole time. With the added dark horror theme.

Getting to the Game: Remove from the 18 cards in the box the cards named Foyer, Basement, and Grand Entrance. Shuffle the rest, and deal three to each person. Place the Foyer face up in the center of the table, and then shuffle all the rest of the cards not dealt out into the deck, placed next to the face-up card.



Each player now chooses their team, based on the cards in their hand. It's this step that separates Carter Mansion from most social deduction games. If you only have scratches or only have blue totems, then your choice has been made for you by the spirit world. The rest of us choose a card with either symbol (red is bad, blue is good, like always), and place it face down in front of us with the alignment marker placed on top of it like a card protector. This is the team you've decided to be on. If you're on the blue team, you're trying to get a kid the soccer ball they kicked into the house and get them out before the red team can lure them into the dark basement...for all time. Dark, right? I know.

Playing the Game: Each round, a Spirit guide is the first player, and their job is to choose which card put forth by the spirits (the players) the kid will be lured into. If the baddies can get the Spirit guide to choose the basement before the kid gets the soccer ball, then they win. Somehow, the soccer ball prevents the kid from becoming trapped there? It's like...a ward of good, or something? If the Grand Entrance is chosen, and the kid has the soccer ball, they get to go home to their parents and tell their friends they braved the evil mansion.



Here's the trick, though--this game can be determined completely by everyone telling the truth. Unlike most social deduction games, where there's some mechanic in place to prevent role claims, this one lets the players be their own judges. As the Spirit guide changes every round, the forces of good and evil are going to ebb and flow as they each jockey for the soul of the kid. Let's do this scenario, though: In a five player game, it's possible (though, statistically unlikely) that each player chooses the path of evil. Let's say even three of them do. If the second Spirit guide chosen is evil (can't be the first, since the basement isn't in anyone's opening hand), and another evil player has the basement card in their hand, all that has to be done is for them to say, "I have the basement. This is it." The Spirit guide chooses that card, and they win. Not exactly a rousing evening.



Also, since teams can change based on card effects, there's no reason why everyone shouldn't be completely honest with what team they're on. The ability to change someone else's team back and forth is pretty standard in social deduction games like Werewolf or Growl, where you're looking to turn all the townies into baddies. Here, however, there's an interesting spin--two rooms in the house are able to change another player's alignment, so if you regret the decision you made early, you can change it, or you can recruit whoever you think has the soccer ball back and forth; a wonderful mechanic that keeps games from getting stale, or players on the "other" team from being shut out in a game.



Overall, the game works well when it works, but that isn't often enough to keep me bringing it to the table. It's a great idea, fitting actual horror onto a social deduction game, but there has to be enough at stake for both sides to avoid just coming out and owning who they are. That part is missing still, and I hope it gets added in before the game hits mailboxes.

Artwork and Components: The artwork you're seeing on the cards above isn't washed out by a bad camera. The wooden tabletop is the correct color. The cards overall just feel overly watered down. For a horror game, the usual problem is that everything's too dark, but here, it just feels overly hazy or watercolored. It's not that the art is bad--it's not. It's actually quite good. It's just that some cards aren't quite colored correctly. Maybe this will get resolved in the retail release.



There are no components in my preview copy besides the cards, which are of decent stock. Should hold up well.

The Good: Quick gameplay, lots of room for negotiation and persuasion. Art is decent.

The Bad: Theme is super dark, which might be fine for some. Possible for an early victory to ruin the game.

Score: While there are issues here, the game itself is a cool take on social deduction, and I'm here for games with a dark tone and story. As someone on BGG put it so succinctly, "Just because a game's mechanics are light doesn't mean the theme has to be." Well stated, friend. Also, keep in mind, social deduction games as a whole change based on the group you're playing with, so my experience might not be yours. That's one of the many things to love about the genre. I'm giving Spirits of Carter Mansion a score of Stay Out of the Basement.

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Wed Mar 13, 2019 5:05 pm
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Everything Board Games Dice Wars: Heroes of Polyhedra Review

Delton P.
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Quick Look: Dice Wars: Heroes of Polyhedra
Designer: Zach Roth
Artists: Aris Kolehmainen, Zachary Scott, and Brandon R. Smith
Publisher: Brybelly
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 45-90 minutes



Review:
Dice Wars: Heroes of Polyhedra is a dice-driven, fantasy war game in which players roll their unit dice to determine their troops, and then take to the field of battle. The concept of using dice as player units, as well as to determine which units are to be used for each player, makes it easy to get the game going, rather than trying to figure out the best combo of units.

As this is a dice-driven war game, there is quite a bit of luck involved. However, there are abilities and other ways of mitigating that luck, as well as using it to your advantage. Surprisingly deep, Dice Wars: Heroes of Polyhedra takes war gaming to a different level. Whether or not that level is what you prefer is, of course, entirely up to you.

My Experience
From the get-go, the concept behind Dice Wars: Heroes of Polyhedra was more than intriguing. Using the dice as units gave the game board a spiffy look as games played out, and we all agree that the dice look amazing. They’re large, which is fine because they only get rolled once before the game even begins (this determines which units you will use in battle). Still, I can’t deny the pleasure I took in even just looking at the dice.



When the brown parcel arrived at my doorstep with Dice Wars inevitably inside, excitement flooded my entire being. Eager to get learning the game, I carefully opened the pristine shipping box. I pulled out the game and, with a good portion of excitement leaving my system, noticed a the damaged game box. For a lot of people (including you, perhaps?), a damaged box is no big deal. And let’s be honest—it’s not. But there is something to be said about first impressions and shelf presence. C’est la vie.

But I won’t bore you with the description of a damaged box. What you’re interested in is how the game plays out! I dove into the rule book as soon as I finished punching out all the tokens. I enjoyed the little backstory on the first page / inside cover of the rule book, and it got me excited to learn more. The rules are pretty simple and straightforward, but there were certain bits of information that weren’t described. A quick trip to BoardGameGeek answered a number of those questions (praise be to BGG!).

My first play of the game came, and I was ready to see how things would go down. As the game progressed, we started seeing the other players make more and more meaningful and tactical decisions. There are a number of abilities to keep track of, so turns weren’t as quick as they could have been. This, of course, won’t be an issue when everyone at the table has played Dice Wars a number of times, and get accustomed to the various abilities, actions, rough terrain abilities, and the like.

And yet, despite making more and more meaningful decisions as the game progressed, it still felt like we weren’t making the most of our turns each round. I’ll discuss this further on in the Mechanics section further on, but having each player control seven dice, and only activating two, doesn’t allow for a lot to happen on any given turn. After the game, we all discussed this mutual feeling, but came to the conclusion that activating more probably wouldn’t work either. It felt a little underwhelming throughout.

That’s not to say Dice Wars isn’t a good game—it is. There’s plenty of depth, and serious gamers will no doubt find unique and exciting ways to use that depth to their advantage. At the same time, it’s accessible to new gamers, or gamers unfamiliar with war-game-style games. There are advanced rules that include upgraded (“veteran”) unit cards with different abilities (among other advanced rules), and various game modes—including teams—that provides countless combinations for gameplay. It’s certainly packed with potential, and although my game group and I have mixed feelings about the gameplay, there is a high chance that most of you reading this review will end up loving Dice Wars.

Let’s jump into the more technical side of things, where I’ll explain more of what goes on, and how I feel about each section specifically.

Setup:



Setup is a breeze. First, roll your massive dice. Whatever the results are, find the unit cards (in your colored deck) that match the symbol on each die face, and put them in front of you. These are the units you will play with for the duration of thee game (unless some other effect or ability has you re-roll mid-game, which is a thing).

Then, starting with the first player, each player places their large dice in any legal hex on the corner tile closest to them. Dice cannot be placed on mountains or water. Once everyone is happy with their dice placement, the game commences with the first players.

Considering the war-game style of Dice Wars, setup is quick and painless. The only thing that takes a bit of time is gathering the unit cards that match your dice, and even then, that doesn’t take long at all. The quick and easy setup also makes it far less intimidating for newcomers to the game.

Gameplay:
Before saying anything else, here are the win conditions for Dice Wars:

Defeat any player’s Hero die
Defeat all dice of a single player except for its Hero die
Control three cities for three consecutive rounds.

Once one player has done any of the above conditions, the game ends and that player is the winner.

Now, every round (or “phase”), each player activates two of their seven dice. Activating dice includes using the movement on each die as well as one action per die. Most units/dice have a movement of five, meaning that unit can move up to five hexes away. Some areas on the map hinder movement, such as plateaus and badlands, and require two movements to enter that area. Some areas, like forests, negate attacks (i.e. arc and shot) that target specific units. Plateaus grant a range advantage for arc attacks. Ley lines grant a +3 bonus to magic attacks. These “rough” terrain spaces, while more difficult to get onto, can be very good strategically.

Actions:

Attack
Use Ability
Capture City
Guard



Attack
Attacking is straightforward, with some minor adding/subtracting of buffs or debuffs. For physical attacks (melee, shot, and arc), each player rolls 2D6, and the attacker adds the attack value (and any other buffs or debuffs) from the attacking unit’s card, and the defender adds/subtracts any defense values and other buffs and debuffs. Highest value wins, reroll on ties. Magic attacks (indicated by an M in the red attack symbol on the unit card) have both players each rolling a D20. Defense values are ignored, and all buffs and debuffs are tallied. Highest number wins, reroll on ties. Each successful hit deals one damage. Basic units (D6) have 1 HP, advanced units (D8) have 2 HP, and your hero die (D12) has 3 HP.

Another interesting aspect of the game is the way the dice/units face following their turn. Each unit has an arrow on one corner of its die face, and the three hexes immediately in front of the die (in the direction of the arrow) is considered to be in “front” of that unit. The hex immediately behind the unit is considered to be “behind,” and the other two spaces are its “side.” If attacking a unit from the hex directly behind the target, you gain +1 to your attack. Positioning is a big part of the game, and if you’re not paying attention, it can be your downfall.

Abilities
There are a lot of abilities. Your units will have abilities, as do captured cities which you can use to your advantage. They can grant buffs to other units’ attacks and defenses, increase unit movement, deal area damage, and more. These abilities are key to winning, so don’t forget about them!

Capture City



With this unit on the city center/token, the player can now spend an action to capture the city, thus acquiring the city's perks.
When you have a unit on the central hex of a city, you may take an action to capture that city. If the city had not previously been captured by another player, draw a random city tile from the brown bag and place it on that hex. Then, take the corresponding city’s card and place it in front of you. You now gain this ability for all your units and cities you control.These abilities are likewise super useful, so don’t forget to use them, and don’t forget to defend them, as well!

Guard
When a unit is finished moving, a guard action will make it much more difficult for other players to attack from behind. When defending, that unit’s front three hexes are essentially being watched, so if an enemy unit were to enter one of those hexes, it would need to perform an attack. If it doesn’t attack, it receives a swift counterattack from the guarding unit. It’s a great way to defend positions and control routes.

And that’s essentially the game, with one player activating two units (movement and an action for each), followed by the next player doing the same, and so on and so forth. When play returns to you, any buffs, debuffs, guard actions, or any other special abilities you enacted on your previous turn go away.

Gameplay really is quite deep once you know what’s going on. Count on your first game taking an hour and a half to two hours. After that, things will speed up. There are lots of strategic options players can indulge in on their turn, which makes Dice Wars an appealing game for fans of both dice and strategy. It’s deeper than I expected, as far as mechanics go, and they can certainly pay off if done right.

However, there does seem to be a sense of non-progression throughout the game. During some games, very few units may die before the game ends (our first game saw two units die—a basic unit and my Hero unit). For a couple hours of playing, not a lot happened. This can happen in more than just your first game, too, mostly due to the fact that we’re rolling dice to deal damage, and more often than not, our attacks would miss. (I was unfortunate that my Hero got backed into a corner with no help nearby, and was shortly thereafter defeated.)

We also felt that there may be a few too many units per player out on the field of battle. We’ve been discussing house rules that might help the flow a bit, such as removing a basic unit, or a basic and an advanced, to see how that helps open up the playing field. We’re also experimenting with the number of units activated combined with the number of actions to take each turn. It doesn’t feel like it’s enough, as it stands in the official rules. Activating three units while still taking only two actions feels good, as does three actions with two activated dice, only each activated die can only attack once. Those open the game up a bit more, and while I don’t particularly care for house rules, I think Dice Wars: Heroes of Polyhedra might benefit from some minor adjustments.

Theme and Mechanics:
The theme is a fantasy war-game. I love this type of theme and game, and it’s one of the things about Dice Wars that first caught my attention. As far as theme goes, it’s done well. The mechanics do fit with the theme, with appropriate actions and abilities. As mentioned above, however, there feels to be something…lacking with the way the game plays out, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Artwork and Components:



The artwork on the cards is reminiscent of your early-morning cartoons back when children’s television was awesome. It’s certainly nothing fancy, but it gets the job done just fine.

The components…Well, as I mentioned above, my box was damaged. I’m not holding that against them, because these things happen. However, one of the map tiles is missing a bit of paper on it, as seen in the image below. All the map tiles are thick, and while that is good, they still feel like they’re going to come apart sooner or later. Also, the map tiles fit together like a puzzle, but that doesn’t keep it all from sliding around (minor detail, though). One of the smaller tiles for advanced rules was folded up on two ends. The glue at the bottom of the tuck box (that holds all the cards) came apart, so now instead of opening it from the top, it always opens from the bottom. Nothing a bit of super glue won’t fix, but I did expect it to last longer than the first game.

Strangely enough, the massive hex-shaped reference card is laminated and is of great quality. The dice, too, are superb—no complaints there. And really, the dice are a major factor of the game, so that’s good. The cards are also a step above average, which is a nice touch as well. If it had just been the box that was damaged, I wouldn’t have any problems with the components in Dice Wars. However, because quite a few things were damaged upon opening the box (before even punching and using things), I am wary as to the quality of the other batches. Hopefully this was an isolated case; feel free to comment on this review as to the condition of your game and components.


Damaged components. Not shown: Insert (damaged like the box, most likely from the same damaging event) and modifier token (it somehow lost one of its printed sides)[/center]

The Good:
Deep strategy—especially for a dice game
Modular, double-sided board creates endless map possibilities
The dice are gorgeous
Lots of varying powers for each unit; even the same-named unit on different colored teams have slightly different abilities
Lots of different game modes/variants

The Bad:
Rule book wasn’t very clear on a few things (minor inconvenience only)
Damaged box and components
Despite the depth, gameplay can feel like players aren’t progressing
Unsure if it’s worth investing a lot of time to master the game versus just playing something else/similar
Not so balanced as a three-player game, and controlling two armies with two players can be a bit much (best with four players)
Teeny tiny modifier tokens are begging to get lost (super minor issue)

Final Thoughts:



As a preface, these, again, are my personal thoughts and opinions, so take that into consideration upon reading this review.

There is a lot of strategy that can be built up as players play Dice Wars multiple times, thus learning what units and abilities do. At the same time (and I’ll quote one of the guys in my game group), some people might not think “the juice is worth the squeeze.” Essentially, there’s a good game here, but the effort to learn it enough that you can start playing as deep as you’d like might not be worth it. But again, you be the judge of that. Personally, I’m looking forward to my next play, as each play certainly does get better. That said, there are other games out there that scratch the same sort of itch, and also do things a touch better.

In the end, I like Dice Wars: Heroes of Polyhedra, but I don’t think it’s enough to keep me hooked game after game after game. To sum things up, after our most recent play of Dice Wars, one of the fellows in our group, upon looking at the game’s box, mentioned that looking at Dice Wars makes him want to play War Chest. If looking at a game makes you want to play another game, then there’s a good chance the game you’re looking at won’t make it to the table too frequently. Another said he would love to play again. Me? I’m somewhere in the middle.

Players Who Like:
Do give this game a serious look if you’re into war games, dice-based combat, and really pretty dice. It’s also good if you like modular boards and lots of different ways to play (i.e. game modes/variants).

To see more from Benjamin and the team at Everything Board Games, please visit www.EverythingBoardGames.com
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Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:00 pm
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Everything Board Games Dice Wars: Heroes of Polyhedra Review

Delton P.
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Quick Look: Dice Wars: Heroes of Polyhedra
Designer: Zach Roth
Artists: Aris Kolehmainen, Zachary Scott, and Brandon R. Smith
Publisher: Brybelly
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 45-90 minutes



Review:
Dice Wars: Heroes of Polyhedra is a dice-driven, fantasy war game in which players roll their unit dice to determine their troops, and then take to the field of battle. The concept of using dice as player units, as well as to determine which units are to be used for each player, makes it easy to get the game going, rather than trying to figure out the best combo of units.

As this is a dice-driven war game, there is quite a bit of luck involved. However, there are abilities and other ways of mitigating that luck, as well as using it to your advantage. Surprisingly deep, Dice Wars: Heroes of Polyhedra takes war gaming to a different level. Whether or not that level is what you prefer is, of course, entirely up to you.

My Experience
From the get-go, the concept behind Dice Wars: Heroes of Polyhedra was more than intriguing. Using the dice as units gave the game board a spiffy look as games played out, and we all agree that the dice look amazing. They’re large, which is fine because they only get rolled once before the game even begins (this determines which units you will use in battle). Still, I can’t deny the pleasure I took in even just looking at the dice.



When the brown parcel arrived at my doorstep with Dice Wars inevitably inside, excitement flooded my entire being. Eager to get learning the game, I carefully opened the pristine shipping box. I pulled out the game and, with a good portion of excitement leaving my system, noticed a the damaged game box. For a lot of people (including you, perhaps?), a damaged box is no big deal. And let’s be honest—it’s not. But there is something to be said about first impressions and shelf presence. C’est la vie.

But I won’t bore you with the description of a damaged box. What you’re interested in is how the game plays out! I dove into the rule book as soon as I finished punching out all the tokens. I enjoyed the little backstory on the first page / inside cover of the rule book, and it got me excited to learn more. The rules are pretty simple and straightforward, but there were certain bits of information that weren’t described. A quick trip to BoardGameGeek answered a number of those questions (praise be to BGG!).

My first play of the game came, and I was ready to see how things would go down. As the game progressed, we started seeing the other players make more and more meaningful and tactical decisions. There are a number of abilities to keep track of, so turns weren’t as quick as they could have been. This, of course, won’t be an issue when everyone at the table has played Dice Wars a number of times, and get accustomed to the various abilities, actions, rough terrain abilities, and the like.

And yet, despite making more and more meaningful decisions as the game progressed, it still felt like we weren’t making the most of our turns each round. I’ll discuss this further on in the Mechanics section further on, but having each player control seven dice, and only activating two, doesn’t allow for a lot to happen on any given turn. After the game, we all discussed this mutual feeling, but came to the conclusion that activating more probably wouldn’t work either. It felt a little underwhelming throughout.

That’s not to say Dice Wars isn’t a good game—it is. There’s plenty of depth, and serious gamers will no doubt find unique and exciting ways to use that depth to their advantage. At the same time, it’s accessible to new gamers, or gamers unfamiliar with war-game-style games. There are advanced rules that include upgraded (“veteran”) unit cards with different abilities (among other advanced rules), and various game modes—including teams—that provides countless combinations for gameplay. It’s certainly packed with potential, and although my game group and I have mixed feelings about the gameplay, there is a high chance that most of you reading this review will end up loving Dice Wars.

Let’s jump into the more technical side of things, where I’ll explain more of what goes on, and how I feel about each section specifically.

Setup:



Setup is a breeze. First, roll your massive dice. Whatever the results are, find the unit cards (in your colored deck) that match the symbol on each die face, and put them in front of you. These are the units you will play with for the duration of thee game (unless some other effect or ability has you re-roll mid-game, which is a thing).

Then, starting with the first player, each player places their large dice in any legal hex on the corner tile closest to them. Dice cannot be placed on mountains or water. Once everyone is happy with their dice placement, the game commences with the first players.

Considering the war-game style of Dice Wars, setup is quick and painless. The only thing that takes a bit of time is gathering the unit cards that match your dice, and even then, that doesn’t take long at all. The quick and easy setup also makes it far less intimidating for newcomers to the game.

Gameplay:
Before saying anything else, here are the win conditions for Dice Wars:

Defeat any player’s Hero die
Defeat all dice of a single player except for its Hero die
Control three cities for three consecutive rounds.

Once one player has done any of the above conditions, the game ends and that player is the winner.

Now, every round (or “phase”), each player activates two of their seven dice. Activating dice includes using the movement on each die as well as one action per die. Most units/dice have a movement of five, meaning that unit can move up to five hexes away. Some areas on the map hinder movement, such as plateaus and badlands, and require two movements to enter that area. Some areas, like forests, negate attacks (i.e. arc and shot) that target specific units. Plateaus grant a range advantage for arc attacks. Ley lines grant a +3 bonus to magic attacks. These “rough” terrain spaces, while more difficult to get onto, can be very good strategically.

Actions:

Attack
Use Ability
Capture City
Guard



Attack
Attacking is straightforward, with some minor adding/subtracting of buffs or debuffs. For physical attacks (melee, shot, and arc), each player rolls 2D6, and the attacker adds the attack value (and any other buffs or debuffs) from the attacking unit’s card, and the defender adds/subtracts any defense values and other buffs and debuffs. Highest value wins, reroll on ties. Magic attacks (indicated by an M in the red attack symbol on the unit card) have both players each rolling a D20. Defense values are ignored, and all buffs and debuffs are tallied. Highest number wins, reroll on ties. Each successful hit deals one damage. Basic units (D6) have 1 HP, advanced units (D8) have 2 HP, and your hero die (D12) has 3 HP.

Another interesting aspect of the game is the way the dice/units face following their turn. Each unit has an arrow on one corner of its die face, and the three hexes immediately in front of the die (in the direction of the arrow) is considered to be in “front” of that unit. The hex immediately behind the unit is considered to be “behind,” and the other two spaces are its “side.” If attacking a unit from the hex directly behind the target, you gain +1 to your attack. Positioning is a big part of the game, and if you’re not paying attention, it can be your downfall.

Abilities
There are a lot of abilities. Your units will have abilities, as do captured cities which you can use to your advantage. They can grant buffs to other units’ attacks and defenses, increase unit movement, deal area damage, and more. These abilities are key to winning, so don’t forget about them!

Capture City



With this unit on the city center/token, the player can now spend an action to capture the city, thus acquiring the city's perks.
When you have a unit on the central hex of a city, you may take an action to capture that city. If the city had not previously been captured by another player, draw a random city tile from the brown bag and place it on that hex. Then, take the corresponding city’s card and place it in front of you. You now gain this ability for all your units and cities you control.These abilities are likewise super useful, so don’t forget to use them, and don’t forget to defend them, as well!

Guard
When a unit is finished moving, a guard action will make it much more difficult for other players to attack from behind. When defending, that unit’s front three hexes are essentially being watched, so if an enemy unit were to enter one of those hexes, it would need to perform an attack. If it doesn’t attack, it receives a swift counterattack from the guarding unit. It’s a great way to defend positions and control routes.

And that’s essentially the game, with one player activating two units (movement and an action for each), followed by the next player doing the same, and so on and so forth. When play returns to you, any buffs, debuffs, guard actions, or any other special abilities you enacted on your previous turn go away.

Gameplay really is quite deep once you know what’s going on. Count on your first game taking an hour and a half to two hours. After that, things will speed up. There are lots of strategic options players can indulge in on their turn, which makes Dice Wars an appealing game for fans of both dice and strategy. It’s deeper than I expected, as far as mechanics go, and they can certainly pay off if done right.

However, there does seem to be a sense of non-progression throughout the game. During some games, very few units may die before the game ends (our first game saw two units die—a basic unit and my Hero unit). For a couple hours of playing, not a lot happened. This can happen in more than just your first game, too, mostly due to the fact that we’re rolling dice to deal damage, and more often than not, our attacks would miss. (I was unfortunate that my Hero got backed into a corner with no help nearby, and was shortly thereafter defeated.)

We also felt that there may be a few too many units per player out on the field of battle. We’ve been discussing house rules that might help the flow a bit, such as removing a basic unit, or a basic and an advanced, to see how that helps open up the playing field. We’re also experimenting with the number of units activated combined with the number of actions to take each turn. It doesn’t feel like it’s enough, as it stands in the official rules. Activating three units while still taking only two actions feels good, as does three actions with two activated dice, only each activated die can only attack once. Those open the game up a bit more, and while I don’t particularly care for house rules, I think Dice Wars: Heroes of Polyhedra might benefit from some minor adjustments.

Theme and Mechanics:
The theme is a fantasy war-game. I love this type of theme and game, and it’s one of the things about Dice Wars that first caught my attention. As far as theme goes, it’s done well. The mechanics do fit with the theme, with appropriate actions and abilities. As mentioned above, however, there feels to be something…lacking with the way the game plays out, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Artwork and Components:



The artwork on the cards is reminiscent of your early-morning cartoons back when children’s television was awesome. It’s certainly nothing fancy, but it gets the job done just fine.

The components…Well, as I mentioned above, my box was damaged. I’m not holding that against them, because these things happen. However, one of the map tiles is missing a bit of paper on it, as seen in the image below. All the map tiles are thick, and while that is good, they still feel like they’re going to come apart sooner or later. Also, the map tiles fit together like a puzzle, but that doesn’t keep it all from sliding around (minor detail, though). One of the smaller tiles for advanced rules was folded up on two ends. The glue at the bottom of the tuck box (that holds all the cards) came apart, so now instead of opening it from the top, it always opens from the bottom. Nothing a bit of super glue won’t fix, but I did expect it to last longer than the first game.

Strangely enough, the massive hex-shaped reference card is laminated and is of great quality. The dice, too, are superb—no complaints there. And really, the dice are a major factor of the game, so that’s good. The cards are also a step above average, which is a nice touch as well. If it had just been the box that was damaged, I wouldn’t have any problems with the components in Dice Wars. However, because quite a few things were damaged upon opening the box (before even punching and using things), I am wary as to the quality of the other batches. Hopefully this was an isolated case; feel free to comment on this review as to the condition of your game and components.


Damaged components. Not shown: Insert (damaged like the box, most likely from the same damaging event) and modifier token (it somehow lost one of its printed sides)[/center]

The Good:
Deep strategy—especially for a dice game
Modular, double-sided board creates endless map possibilities
The dice are gorgeous
Lots of varying powers for each unit; even the same-named unit on different colored teams have slightly different abilities
Lots of different game modes/variants

The Bad:
Rule book wasn’t very clear on a few things (minor inconvenience only)
Damaged box and components
Despite the depth, gameplay can feel like players aren’t progressing
Unsure if it’s worth investing a lot of time to master the game versus just playing something else/similar
Not so balanced as a three-player game, and controlling two armies with two players can be a bit much (best with four players)
Teeny tiny modifier tokens are begging to get lost (super minor issue)

Final Thoughts:



As a preface, these, again, are my personal thoughts and opinions, so take that into consideration upon reading this review.

There is a lot of strategy that can be built up as players play Dice Wars multiple times, thus learning what units and abilities do. At the same time (and I’ll quote one of the guys in my game group), some people might not think “the juice is worth the squeeze.” Essentially, there’s a good game here, but the effort to learn it enough that you can start playing as deep as you’d like might not be worth it. But again, you be the judge of that. Personally, I’m looking forward to my next play, as each play certainly does get better. That said, there are other games out there that scratch the same sort of itch, and also do things a touch better.

In the end, I like Dice Wars: Heroes of Polyhedra, but I don’t think it’s enough to keep me hooked game after game after game. To sum things up, after our most recent play of Dice Wars, one of the fellows in our group, upon looking at the game’s box, mentioned that looking at Dice Wars makes him want to play War Chest. If looking at a game makes you want to play another game, then there’s a good chance the game you’re looking at won’t make it to the table too frequently. Another said he would love to play again. Me? I’m somewhere in the middle.

Players Who Like:
Do give this game a serious look if you’re into war games, dice-based combat, and really pretty dice. It’s also good if you like modular boards and lots of different ways to play (i.e. game modes/variants).

To see more from Benjamin and the team at Everything Board Games, please visit www.EverythingBoardGames.com
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Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:00 pm
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