Tag: board game review

TableTopTakes: Draftosaurus

TableTopTakes: Draftosaurus

This was a game that I was originally introduced to at GenCon, I got to play a quick little bit of a self led two player demo. A few months later it showed up at a local game shop and I was looking at it…

TableTopTakes: Pandemic Legacy Season 2

TableTopTakes: Pandemic Legacy Season 2

If you’ve been keeping track of this site for a while, you’ve seen me talk a lot about Pandemic Legacy Season 1, and play through Season 1 on Malts and Meeples. I haven’t talked as much about Pandemic Legacy Season 2 and my experience with…

TableTopTakes: Stipulations

TableTopTakes: Stipulations

I’m going to tell you about this game but….

That’s basically how the games works, but Stipulations is one of those party games, up there with Just One, that I’ve had a lot of fun playing. For me, Stipulations falls nicely in between games like Balderdash and then games like Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity, and is better than both of the groups, though, Balderdash is still enjoyable.

Image Source: Board Game Geek

In Stipulations you are trying to get “points” by writing down funny, interesting, weird, silly, thought-provoking stipulations to the thing that the person who is it picked. It’s very much like Cards Against Humanity and Apples to Apples that way, that someone is picking something, but like Balderdash, it requires your own creativity. Let’s give an example of how this works. I’m it, and I can pick one of the four options on my card, they are super power, lifetime supply, fulfilled dream, and dream job. I read over them and I decide that having the super power of flying seems like the most fun. Everyone else then writes down a condition for what I’ve picked. The answers come in and I can fly but….
Only when I’m farting
No more than 4″ off the ground
Only backwards
You don’t know how to land without crashing
Then I get to pick my favorite, or more specifically, according to the rules, I must pick the least desirable. Then you’d draw a bonus card that has you pick another one in a different way to award more points. At the end of the game the person with the most points win.

Let’s start out by talking about the points in this game. No one keeps track of points, or I should say, no one cares about points. This, like Apples to Apples, Cards Against Humanity, and Balderdarsh, are much more fun when people are just trying to be goofy about it and you don’t care about points. In fact, I don’t think that their “scoring” system works all that well. Picking the least desirable might make more thematic sense for the game, but I think that the game works better when the person picking picks their favorite, whether that’s the one that made you laugh the most, the least desirable, or the most desirable, but the chooser decides which one is the best based off of their own criteria. But, the least desirable is a good option, where it works less is drawing the extra scoring card. It can be something like, the one that made you laugh the most, that’s fine, but it might also be, the person who bought the game, that’s a stupid one, because, since I bought my copy, I’m always going to get that card if it happens to come up. I could just remove them, but I find that just picking one from the group of options just works better and keeps the game moving faster. Now, this might seem like a pretty long time talking about a negative, but it is a negative in basically all party games, and it doesn’t matter, because they are party games and you are meant to be having a silly fun time, if you care about the scoring, you care too much.

Image Source: Board Game Geek

The rest of the game actually works really well. I’ll talk a little bit about when I think it is placed between those two groups of games. With Balderdash or another one similar to that Liebrary, you’re coming up with something unique. You’re required to use your own imagination and I like that in those games. I think, though, that both Balderdash and Liebrary because they are based on something real, a real definition or acronym or a real first line of a book. With Stipulations, you are write down whatever you want, and if you are extremely silly, it’s in line with the game. Then, the selection criteria is very Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity like. But, Stipulations has one major advantage over both of them, you never make it through all the cards. In Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples, eventually you’ll see all the cards, and in peak Cards Against Humanity days, that would take about a week, because you’d play it twice for a long (too long) period of time and you’d make it through the cards. Once you’ve gone through the cards once or twice, you know all the jokes in both games, and some cards will automatically win because of the meta of your group. Compare this to Stipulations, the game can still be dirty, if you want, so it can be like Cards Against Humanity, but as a group you get to control that, and because there are no answer cards and you need to use your own creativity, that means you won’t get certain answers that are as likely to win. Sure, you can still create a meta in your group where an answer like “Bees!” will always win one card per game, but that is less of a guarantee.

For me, this is one of the best party games and I think because it was a kickstarter game before kickstarter games were cool, it’s flown under the radar. I also think because of the weird extra scoring card, it can seem like a little bit more work for groups. But, I really like this game, and with my minor tweak to scoring, I think it flows even better, but it isn’t bad the other way. If you’re looking for a party game where you can tailor it to the group you’re playing with, this is a great option, for a bachelorette party, you can make it as dirty as you want, and then you can take it and play with your Grandma at Thanksgiving. Now, I think that, and I’ve seen it happen, some people don’t like that they have to be creative themselves, but, I’ve also seen those people then join into the game at a later time, because they realize how simple and silly you can be with it, and you don’t need to be that clever. And even with one person never joining the game who was watching it played, they ended up having a lot of fun just laughing at the silly things that were written. Overall, it’s always been a fun time.

Overall Grade: A-
Gamer Grade: C
Casual Grade: A

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TableTopTakes: Hanabi

TableTopTakes: Hanabi

When playing cards is too easy, there are games that make it a whole lot harder. The Mind and Hanabi are two of them that make it a bit trickier to play cards in order, and while I find the mind entertaining, I don’t think…

TableTopTakes: Not Alone

TableTopTakes: Not Alone

One of the harder genres of games to get to the table tend to be one versus all games. Fairly often these games are bigger dungeon crawls and they take time to set-up and teach. Not Alone is a small game where one person can…

Behind The Box Cover – Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon

Behind The Box Cover – Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon

There are some of these larger campaign games, Sword & Sorcery, Gloomhaven, and Tainted Grail, that can be hard to get a review done quickly. That’s simply because you need to play several chapters or scenarios to really get an idea of the game. So I’m going to start a new series of almost reviews called Behind The Box Cover. I will come back and do a TableTopTake later, but the idea is to get something out there on the game faster.

I’m going to start with Tainted Grail which I’ve just started playing. I did an unboxing and some game play on the Malts and Meeples Youtube Channel, so I’ll have the videos in here at the bottom so you can watch them. But I’ve only done about 30-45 minutes of game play in the videos and I’ve done the learn to play scenario that comes in the box to teach you the mechanics so you don’t need to read the rule book fully in order get the game onto the table.

Tainted Grail is a massive story driven game where you are playing in the land of Avalon. This isn’t some grand Arthurian adventure, though, Avalon is a land between realms which King Arthur and his knights fought for and claimed inch by inch, and that was 500 years ago. They erected Menhir, statues that can drive back the Wyrdness that corrupts the land, but now the Menhir are starting to fail and the land of Avalon is being claimed again by the Wyrdness. So, you’re some adventurer who was tasked with going out and finding a way to save Avalon? Not quite. There were more heroic people than you out there and they went off first to make it to Kamelot, but they haven’t come back. You’re part of the b team, those who weren’t quite good enough to go the first time, and you’re just hoping to find some answer.

Image Source: Board Game Geek – prinoac

What drew me into this game originally was the setting. The grim fantasy nature of trying to survive this darker version of Arthurian Legend just seemed fascinating. It wasn’t the standard sword and sorcery (not just the game, but that genre of fantasy) fantasy setting where you were epic heroes, in this game, you’re just barely more than being some guy. So while you are going to be the main character of the story, you might not be considered heroic to those in the lands. Plus, the fact that this is so driven by the setting and the story in the setting is awesome. There is so much text, I’m not sure how many total different location cards there are, but there are a ton of them, and the exploration journal is massive in which you read story. Compared to some other campaign games that I’ve played, this one is much more focused on the story.

But let’s talk a little bit about how the game works. During the day, you have a certain number of action points that you can take that then reset every day. You can either move around, explore a location or do some sort of special action. The game has a fun mechanic where you can push yourself for more actions on a given day, but that tires you out so you can’t do as much the following day. It’s one of those mechanics that makes sense in the game thematically because it makes sense in the real world. If you push yourself too hard one day, you’re not going to be up for doing as much the next day. What I also like about the things you can do during the day is that they aren’t that difficult, you’re mainly going to be moving and exploring locations. The rules for those things are straight forward.

Let’s talk a little bit more about exploring. Exploring really drives the game as it helps you figure out where you need to find things and brings the story together. When you explore a location you get to delve into the massive book that contains all of the story, and the book is massive. And with exploring, you might be able to do several different things, or if you have certain statuses or are a certain character, it’ll unlock different things for you. For example, in my first play, had I been playing Maggot instead of Arev, I could have done something different at the second location I explored. Or when I took an exploration action in the first day, I ended up getting a status for it. The fact that the story will branch and change depending on the statuses that you have, and because of choices you make, you might get a different ending to the campaign, that is awesome, and a testament to the writing that Awaken Realms put into the game.

I think that the other thing I should talk about is the encounters. This, being such a story driven game, seems like it should have some more focus on dice rolling, kind of the normal ameritrash style mechanics. But, we don’t have those at all. Combat and Diplomatic encounters is really focused on an interesting card play mechanic. When you go into an encounter, you draw a hand of cards and you play them down chaining symbols together. These, depending on the move can give you more damage or could allow you some card draw or another affect like ignoring damage in an attack. It makes combat and diplomacy much more of a puzzle to solve, and there are a lot of times when you don’t need to solve the puzzle, you need to escape and taking an opportunity attack is going to be better than taking damage, especially if you’re low on food, because when you’re dead, you could restart to the last save point, or you could just need to restart the game. This is a mechanic that some people might not love, but I think it has a bit of a Gloomhaven feel, mainly for the fact that you’re using cards, but it’s really about creating this combat or diplomacy set-up where it can chain into what you need.

So I’m already able to talk about a lot of stuff, because the mechanics are well thought out and I have already experienced a number of them, but since it’s such a story driven game, I want to get through Chapter 1 before I really determine how well I like the game. Right now, through the limited play and tutorial, I have it rated as a 9.5-10 out of 10, and I think it’ll stay around there, but will the grim nature of the story eventually wear out it’s welcome, we’ll have to see. I believe that Awaken Realms is going to do some sort of retail release, because this game was a kickstarter and if you didn’t get in on that or the late pledge, you can’t get back in on it between waves, but if you like heavy story driven games where the story really matters, I’d say that Tainted Grail is going to be solid for you, like it is for me. The combat/diplomacy might be a bit trickier to get into, because it’s different than your normal ameritrash mechanics.

If you were part of the game and have played your kickstarter copy or gotten your kickstarter copy, what do you think of the game so far? If you weren’t part of the kickstarter, with reviews and the game getting talked about, what do you think about it? Do you wish you’d gotten it?

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TableTopTakes: Gloomhaven: Forgotten Circles

TableTopTakes: Gloomhaven: Forgotten Circles

Back to back board game reviews, though, this one is for the Gloomhaven expansion, not the whole game. If you have read my top 100 games (found here), you know what my #1 game is, but what you won’t know is that we actually wrapped…

TableTopTakes: Fallout

TableTopTakes: Fallout

Let me start out by saying, this game was and wasn’t for me all at the same time. What made it for me was that it was very story driven, however, I’m not someone who has played a single Fallout game. So, when you read…

TableTopTakes: Point Salad

TableTopTakes: Point Salad

We’re almost to the holidays, and if you are looking for a light little game that you can play with most people, Point Salad might be the game for you. It’s a little game and easy to take with you for the holidays, but let’s see how it plays and if it might be good for you.

In Point Salad you are going to take turns either drafting vegetables to make your salad or taking cards that are going to tell you how to score. The trick is that you need to take the best scoring cards for you, but when you take a card for scoring, you only take a single card, but if you take vegetables, you take two on the turn. So can you figure what is the best scoring option for you and draft cards so that you can out score your opponents. The game is really that simple, once all the cards have been drafted, then each person scores their salad based off of the scoring cards that they have. The person with the most points wins.

Image Source: Board Game Geek

There are a few things that I really enjoy about this game. The first being that the play is really simple. You’re either taking two vegetables or you’re taking a card that is going to allow you to score. People who have played games like Ticket to Ride will have some idea as to how this works because you can either take two normal train cars or a wild train car. So it’s a common concept which is good, because how the scoring works is a bit more unique.

The thing about scoring cards is that it’s the base side of the vegetable cards. So if you don’t take a scoring card from the top of the stack, there’s a chance that it’ll flip down and become a vegetable before you can take it on your next turn. It’s a really nice way to give interesting decisions. In fact, sometimes you have to make the tough decision to take a vegetable instead of a scoring card causing that scoring card to turn into a vegetable. But, even with that decision point, it’s not that hard to make it and turns still move by pretty quickly. For me, this is a really clever way to do the scoring, because everyone is going to have different scoring so you might not overlap on what vegetables that you want, but everyone might want different vegetables.

Another thing is that when you are drafting cards, you put them on the table in front of you creating a tableau. That means that I can see what the person to my left is wanting, and the person to my right can see what I want. Maybe on a turn there’s only one vegetable that I want and no scoring that I want. I can then draft that one vegetable and possibly draft something that the person to my left might want. Now, that’s not always the best strategy, but you can get an idea of what people might want. In fact, the better reason to draft a card might be that taking a certain vegetable will cause a scoring card the person to your left might want to turn into a vegetable, and once it’s a vegetable, it can’t be used for scoring again. So if there are three tomatoes and I want to take two of them, I might take the ones that will get rid of scoring that the person to the left of me wants. So it’s a simple, subtle little thing that can add more into the game. But it’s not a massive part of the game being mean to people, because if you do that, you won’t score as well.

Image Source: Board Game Geek

I do have one negative about the game. The cards a little bit flimsy, thankfully the game is cheap so you can play it a couple dozen times and replace it if you want. The other solution would be to get card sleeves, which I might, but because you need to see both sides of the cards, that means that the sleeves have to be clear, which you can find, but those sleeves are often a bit flimsier as well. The box is also about twice as big as it needs to be, but I don’t mind that, because I have space for it. But if space is at a premium for your gaming collection, I could see it being annoying.

Finally, let’s talk about the name. Probably something that I could have lead off with, I’ve been talking about how you are drafting vegetables, and it’s all vegetables that you’d live in a salad, so you get points for your vegetables and they are a salad vegetables, hence point salad. While that is true, point salad is something that is used in board gaming. In board gaming it describes a game that you can get points in a ton of different ways. So point, and how does salad fit in, think about a buffet. At a buffet, you can make a salad and you have 20 different toppings, 8 different dressings, and a few different types of lettuce. So like you can get points in a ton of ways, you can make your salad at a buffet in a ton of different ways. So the name, Point Salad, plays off of this idea of basically everything you do gives you points. And while it doesn’t score you as many points as some point salad games do, if you draft well, basically every card should give you some points.

So, is this a good game? I definitely have more positive things about it then negative. For me, Point Salad is a great filler game, even with a higher player count, the game plays quite fast, and you can play a two player game in 15 minutes. I like the tongue in cheek nature of the game as well with the naming and the vegetables. I also like this game for newer gamers because it’s introduces tableau building and drafting, two things that show up in a lot of games. I think for a gaming group of very seasoned gamers who like heavy games, this won’t be a hit, but for most groups it’ll be good fun.

Overall Score: B+
Gamer Grade: C
Casual Grade: A

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TableTopTakes: Ascension

TableTopTakes: Ascension

I’ve talked about deck building games a number of times before, and about how I’m not much of a fan of Dominion. Ascension is the game that I would use to introduce people into deck building, and I think it’s a more interesting deck builder,…