It’s been a while since I’ve done a board game review. I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of Point of Order articles come up and go in that time because I can buy games, but I can’t play all that many of them. But one …
Tag: board game review
As board games have grown as a hobby, it’s tricky at times to find a good board game that fits you. There are so many of them out there that it can be overwhelming and when you find some more “hobby” games and get introduced to them, you quickly find that places like Target and Wal-Mart don’t always have the best selection. Then, you go into a game store, and the selection is overwhelming as you look through eight different versions of Ticket to Ride, twenty of Munchkin, and so many other games that it’s hard to know which one to get.
One way that you can kind of cut through the clutter that’s in the industry is by using online sources and resources to help determine that games look interesting. I have a number that I use, and I want to talk about some of them there.
Board Game Geek (BGG)
The biggest one that you should know about is BGG. Board Game Geek is basically an IMDb for board games. You can look games up, see the designer, game play time, ratings of the game, player count, how difficult the game is, and more. You can also keep track of your collection and rate games that you’ve played, all of it for free. There are a few nice things with this that help you be able to figure out what board game you might like. First, you can ask for recommendations in the forums. If you do this, ask a specific question and still do research on the games, someone will always recommend Scythe or their favorite game, even if you’re asking for something like Exploding Kittens. But most people will be very helpful with recommendations. Also, each game has recommendations itself, so something like Wingspan, as I mentioned last time, recommends Welcome To… I’d spend some time checking out your favorite (highest rated) and your most played games to see where there’s overlap in recommendations and those would work well for you. BGG does more than that as well, but that’s how you can use it to help narrow down your next purchase.
The Dice Tower
The Dice Tower is one of the biggest reviewing sites/YouTube channels out there. Tom Vasel and Zee Garcia are the main two personalities currently with Mike DeLisio and Roy Cannaday also putting up some content but being more involved in production. The Dice Tower does a few different things that are useful for finding board games that you might like. First and foremost is reviews, they do a lot of them. Now, reviews, I think, can be hard to get a good feel for a game from simply because it’s one persons opinion, and everyone mileage on a game might vary, but both Tom and Zee do a good job with their reviews breaking down what they like and don’t like, and generally you can see what the underlying game is and how it works, even if you don’t agree with their opinion. They also do live shows, board game news shows, top 10 lists, and more, that can be informative. If you like adventure games, they did a top 10 list for that, so you might be able to find more adventure games that you’d like. All of these are useful, but more generally informative versus specifically digging deeply into a game. Finally, there are playthroughs of games, and I highly recommend these. Though they are learning a game most of the time, so they might not seem the most enthusiastic about it, it really gives a good idea of what the game is.
GloryHoundd and Dr. GloryHogg are two YouTubers who are on a much smaller scale than The Dice Tower, but they put out a lot of useful content as well. Especially now during Covid-19, they have put out a lot of videos of playthroughs of games so it gives you a very good idea of how they work. But they also have a weekly show where they look at various Kickstarter games, generally four per week and talk about them live with their audience. If you get a good in depth breakdown of a Kickstarter, they do a really good job of it, and they do a good job selling some games to you via their interest in them, or helping point out issues. Now, with that said, they also don’t slam any Kickstarter just point out the issues that they see, and if a game isn’t for them, there are some that they talk about that they aren’t, it’s generally because of their gaming group or style versus something very bad about the game.
Man vs Meeple
Another YouTube channel, this one is a group of four main hosts who do board game reviews, Kickstarter previews, actual plays, and more content. They are very much in the same line of content as The Dice Tower, just doing it on a smaller basis. They do a great job with their Kickstarter previews and just the depth that they go into them. Definitely worth checking out with finding another voice in the gaming industry that is talking about a lot of games. Tantrum House, The Broken Meeple and Roll for Crit.
This channel is a bit more specific, as the name would imply. One of the bigger trends in board gaming has been solo gaming as of late, and not just because it becomes more of necessity with Covid-19. Adam Smith, the sole person who runs the channel, does a lot of game play, set-up, and Kickstarter preview videos. If you are a solo gamer, there are a number of channels you can check out with it, but I really appreciate what Adam does, because he goes into a lot of detail. You’ll get a very good idea of what the game is like and how it’s going to play and if it’ll be right for you. Definitely someone to see if their tastes mesh with yours if you’re a solo gamer.
Watch It Played
Now, I am keeping Watch It Played a channel by Rodney Smith, now working Pair of Dice Paradise and Chaz Marler, but Rodney does his content a bit differently. Mainly, Rodney does rules videos. So while you won’t get an opinion on the game or often anymore a playthrough of a game you do get precisely how a game is played. Through this you can often tell if a game is going to work well for you or not, or at least see if the mechanics make sense compared to what you normally play. I highly recommend it for learning how to play a game, I think in some ways, for finding a game, you need to be pretty familiar with games to get an idea if it’ll be your type of game or not by just watching a rules overview.
Now, those are just some of the resources that I use. There are others like No Pun Included, Shut Up and Sit Down that are out there and many many more that you can checkout and find out good information. I will say, with reviewers, be careful, find someone who has similar taste to yourself. I personally don’t put much weight in No Pun Included’s reviews because we have vastly different gaming tastes and I don’t get the information that I need on my style of game from them. Sure, it can be interesting to see a dissenting opinion but there are a lot of people who put a lot of stock in it. So know the types of games that the reviewer likes and understand that a review is an opinion piece and find the one that matches up with you, it might be No Pun Included, it might be Tantrum House, it might be The Dice Tower or someone I haven’t even mentioned, but find what works for you.
Do you have a favorite YouTuber or website for board game information?
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You pick up your doughnut and wait for the coffee to brew. Soon you’re pouring over notes, looking up clues in the database, all while waiting on the lab to finish running their reports. Detective is a game where you get a chance to dig …
A long time ago, I wrote an article about beer and homebrewing. And if you’ve watched the Malts and Meeples videos, you’ll see me enjoying a good beer, though, none that I’ve homebrewed recently. Homebrewing is one of those hobbies that got set to the side for a little while, but that I’ve always loved and want to get back into, and then at GenCon I demoed a game called Homebrewers. I thought that the game was fun, but decided not to pick it up right away, and then later it was sold out. Fast forward a few months and I picked it up and just a few days ago, I got it to the table again.
In Homebrewers, you play one of several unique homebrewers who are trying to brew their best beers for Summerfest and Oktoberfest. You’re brewing beers in four different categories; ales, porters, stouts, and IPA. To do this, you are rolling dice on your turn which will give you actions that can be sanitizing the brew system, adding grain, adding ingredients, and brewing beer. Every time you brew a type of beer it goes up on a track which will determine if you come in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in Summerfest or Oktoberfest. The ingredients are one area, besides each homebrewer has a unique power, where you add ingredients to your beer and it can make your beer worth more, or teach you something to improve another beer, or give you extra quality on the beer that you brewed so you advance you further on that beers track. At the end of the game, the person with the most points from the beer that they’ve brewed and prizes they’ve gotten, and goals they’ve completed wins the game.
The dice adds in a random nature to the game as you can roll them once. But to help counteract that, if you roll all of the same symbol you can reroll. Plus, you can always pay a dollar to tip the side a die is on to another side. So you have some control over the dice, it just costs you something. But if you’re out of money, which can happen, it isn’t the end of the world because after the dice are rolled players can trade a die for a die to get something what they might want. So if I have two dice that will allow me to either get or play a card, and I only want one of them, I could trade that other one to another player for something that I might need, such as sanitizing that I didn’t roll. That way you never feel completely stuck with what you’ve rolled and the dice don’t feel too random.
Homebrewers, at it’s core, is an engine building game. When you brew a beer, the ingredients on that beer can do several things for you. It can improve the quality of the beer, it can improve the quality of an adjacent beer, it can give you money, or copy one of those previous ones. These ingredients are the cards that you can get and put into play. I like that you can use the cards for building your brewing engine, but what the cards don’t give you, when you brew, is any extra grain, or sanitizing or anything like that, it’s just the things I mentioned above, like money. But all the cards are multipurpose. If you use them as an ingredient in brewing, they stick around on that type of beer for the rest of the game. But, you can also use the play card action to play the card for another effect. This could be sanitizing and getting a grain, getting two grain, or sanitizing twice. It might be a lot of money one time or it might be a bunch of points. So for every ingredient card you have to consider how you’re going to use it, do you want to play it for brewing a beer, or do you want the other things on it as a one time use. This also helps balance out the die rolls. Because if I have the ability to play a card and get two grain for brewing and I have two other dice that let me brew, I got a combo that I can work with.
In terms of engine builders, this is a pretty fast game, I think that some engine builders can overstay their welcome, for some, late game, because turns might take a long time because one thing triggers another thing which triggers another thing, and the turn cascades. In Homebrewers, the game lasts 8 months, so 8 rounds, at the start you’re not doing much, at the end, you’re doing a little bit more. You have some engine in play, but it isn’t a massive one, and it’s not going to cause itself to trigger multiple times or anything like that. Last time I played, and I needed to refresh myself on rules and teaching it, the game maybe took an hour and that was with teaching and looking up a symbol or two. If I were to play it again with the same person, I think we’d get through a game of it in half an hour. The game is pretty light for an engine builder as well, which keeps the game time down and the combo building simpler.
I do want to touch on the components a little bit. normally I don’t that much because game components are game components. But this one has nice custom dice, good card quality, and a nice board. The part that really stands out, though is the custom beer glass wooden pieces. There are five colors, and each of them has their own, unique, set of wood beer glasses. It’s just really cute and well done. And Tom Vasel in the Dice Tower review, because he doesn’t drink beer, that that they were odd bottles not glasses. Overall, this has really nice pieces and they are vibrant and look good on the table. The only odd thing about it, and I think that this is probably for a future expansion, all of the ingredient cards say if they are organic or not. All the cards, say that they are organic. So I’m guessing at some point in time there will be an expansion with other ingredients that aren’t raised organically and that they might behave slightly differently.
Overall, I like this game a lot. It’s a very fast engine building game with a theme that I really enjoy. If you don’t homebrew, will you enjoy this game? Yes, if you like beer. Because it is tied to the theme fairly well, I think that if you enjoy beer you’ll enjoy this game more. Not to say that if you don’t drink you won’t like this game, it’ll just lose some of it’s charm. Because one of the parts I like is when you add in ingredients, you can end up asking yourself stuff like, would I really want to drink a nutmeg and bacon ale? Probably not, but that blackberry stout, that sounds amazing. And, let’s be honest, I’d try any beer once with the ingredients in the game.
Overall Grade: B+
Gamer Grade: B
Casual Grade: B+
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Fairly often the games that I review are these big epic games, like Gloomhaven, Sword & Sorcery, and more, but I do enjoy, fairly often, playing small games as well. And when it comes to games being small, Age of War fits the bill as it comes in a tiny little box with only a few dice and a few pieces.
In Age of War, you are rolling dice trying to match symbols are Japanese fortresses. To do this, you have to be able to place a dice each roll or you lose a die. But you’re completing sections, not just placing a single die each time. So some sections it might be, get four swords, the highest sword count is 3, so you’d have to use at least two dice to get that. When you complete one, if you can on your turn, it goes in front of you and is going to give you points. However, it’ll give you more points if you complete a set of like colored fortresses because they flip over and it’s a higher point total. Once someone has claimed a fortress, they aren’t safe though because for a slightly higher cost, it can be stolen from you. So players might fight over a fortress trying to complete their color set, or to stop a player who is getting close to locking in a color set. Because once they are locked in with a full set, they can’t be stolen anymore. In the end, once all fortresses have been claimed, the player with the most points wins.
This game does a lot of things that people are familiar with, rolling a die, saving it to match symbols. It has a feel like Yahtzee or King of Tokyo, though those games have more of a set limit on number of times you can roll. But the mechanic remains that familiar dice rolling. One thing that I like about this dice rolling that’s different than the games that I mentioned is that you are locking in or tossing out a die each turn. You can’t pick up discarded or locked dice to reroll, and once you decide which fortress you’re going for, you are locked in. So it can be tempting to push for a big once, but that is going to take more luck with your rolls. Also, with the dice rolling, I talked about the swords, there are more sword sides than other symbols, there are three other symbols, but you need to use your swords smartly. In my example, I was looking to get up to four swords, so using two dice is what you want to do, if I have to use three and then I’m looking for specific symbols later, I’ve lowered the number of dice that I’m going to be rolling.
What also works in this game is the ability to steal fortresses. I think without that the game would feel stale and players would probably just go for the most expensive fortress first, in terms of how many dice you need to complete it and victory points given, and then just work down. Though, that might not be the best plan all of the time. But being able to steal and trying to get sets creates more player interaction and while it is just one sided because they can’t defend against it being stolen, it adds an interesting piece to the game. That combined with colors locking if you have a complete set adds some strategy to what you’re trying to roll for. But it isn’t just as easy if as getting in the first place. There’s always an additional symbol that you need to roll, so the cost is going to be higher to steal, so is it worth it to push for that if there are still castles of similar prices and points out there? It still is just about pushing your luck, but it gives you more interesting choices to work on.
There are a few final things working for this game for me. First, it’s an easy game, the dice rolling feels familiar and the rules are easy to teach. And with minimal pieces in the game, you can set it up fast and get it to the table. It also plays up to 6, and I think it works well at that number, probably better at a slightly lower number, but with six, sure, it takes longer to get back to your turn, but it doesn’t add additional length to the game. Which is the final thing I wanted to mention, this is a fast game, so that helps, it’s fast to teach, turns are pretty fast, and the game is done quickly. For a game that comes in a small package, that is what I really want to see.
Overall, I like this game. It’s a good easy filler that offers more than some filler games. It gives you a few choices while being easy to get to the table, play, and put away while waiting for more people to show up for a game night. For some people, it’s going to be lacking because it really does come down to the luck of a die roll quite often, but it offers some choices, and that’s what I want in the game. I think that it’s pretty fun for what it is, and it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.
Overall Grade: B-
Gamer Grade: C
Casual Grade: B
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