Green tentacles no knickers

Cthulhu is the boy band of gaming. Add him (him?) to any game and it will sell like hot cakes.

Lovecraft letter is yet another flavor of love letter, the original small footprint card game. It’s a lavish production very similar to love letter deluxe edition. The game is beautifully produced, features oversized cards with natty card sleeves and a nice furry insert (oh err missus) and decent poke chip pieces. Art work is good and the even the box it comes in is swanky. That’s the good bit

The game allows up to eight which is neat and adds an insanity Cthulhu mechanic where you can use the more powerful insane action on some cards but risk an early shower for messing with powers man shouldn’t mess with because you know, the whole early shower thing. The insanity mechanic however Is weak sauce. It makes winning a hit and miss affair

Cards on the table? (Hi ho) this game is nothing new. It’s like a version 1.2 of the original. If you have the base game or one of it’s many skinned twins you don’t really need this unless you’re a precious fan I wanted to like the game. I figured there was a little bit more depth in here but what there is is more luck in a game that’s already luck rich and way too much sudden death. I’m a big fan of love letter. If you don’t owe it it’s well worth getting. If you want to play it with eight players and don’t have the original then go for it. It’s a looker but it’s all show and pricey. Move along. Nothing to see here




The Expanse

No Fur coat, all knickers. That’s the expanse. First and foremost let’s talk about the flimsy elephant in the room. This is a terribly produced game. The gameplay is fine and dandy but if it had have been printed on the back of a corn flakes box it would have been a superior product. The artwork is dull. The board and cards are too dark. The text too small and the card stock only adequate. I’m not usually one to sleeve a game but it’s essential in this case. One game in and the whole thing will look like it was played in a doctor’s surgery for ten years. I also laminated the player boards. Which are also way too small. The ship tokens are a joke. Tiddly winks would have been superior. If you buy this game you will be disappointed by the build. At €55 or so it should be WAY WAY better. Shame on Wiz Kids you could have ruined a good game. You didn’t but this game demands to be pimped out, something I’ll write about in a further post. Okay rant over.

So it’s not a looker but it does have bags of personality. The game is an area control affair. The functional map is split into three sectors. The inner planets (Earth and Mars). The belt (asteroid belt) and the outer planets Jupiter and Saturn. Each of these locations house one or more space stations. Space stations are where you place your limited influence cubes and try to out influence others come the scoring round.

There are a number of mechanics from other games in here. All of them good. A card conveyor belt like Through the Ages. Dual use event and action point cards like Twilight Struggle. Score round activation cards again like the mighty TS and a few things I haven’t seen like secret bonus scoring and card initiative.

The game itself is really quite simple. You control one of the games factions, Earth, Mars, the OPA or Protegen. If you’re not familiar with the setting I highly recommend the books and the TV Series. This is hard science fiction no teleporters, artificial gravity or warp drives. It’s all believable tech from 200 years hence.

The game is card driven. You can pick from a list of five shared cards on the conveyor. The first card is free to pick the rest cost between one and two control points (CP). CP acts as both the in game currency and your current score. I’ve always liked this way of doing things. When you pick a card you either use it’s event (if it’s applicable to your faction) or use it for it’s action points then a faction that can use that event and is next in line in initiative has the option of kicking it off. This is very similar to Twilight Struggle where as the Americans you played a Russian card for the action points but the Russian player got to use the event. With four players it makes for a very interesting set of choices. Being high up on the initiative track means you get first refusal of an event if it works for your faction but taking the action pushes you to the bottom of the initiate queue. It’s a cracking mechanic

Each player starts with a limited amount of ships which can move between orbitals that have one or more stations near them. They can place influence cubes on stations in these space stations and build new ships at their home station. That’s it. That’s all the basic actions you can do. Surprisingly there’s no fighting action everything else has to be achieved through card events.

The deck is preconfigured into three sets of cards each with two scoring cards mixed in, so a scoring round is in the post in few rounds and again and again until the sixth arrives and it’s game over. Pulling the scoring card from the conveyor of cards let’s you secretly choose one of the sectors (inner, belt, outer) as the bonus sector. These sectors when scored give extra CP. There are six bonus sector tokens two for each sector. When you pull a scoring card you pick and burn it, so pretty much every sector gets scored twice. Everyone else gets to play their turn before scoring happens btw. The bonuses increase each scoring round so towards the end it’s a race to control the most lucrative sector before the end game.

Each faction plays out a little differently, outside of not all the events being applicable to them. Each has got a special ability and each scoring round they acquire a new one. I particularly liked protogen who gets to deploy the protomolecule late in the game in two locations and wipe out nearly all life in those spots. It’s going to take multiple plays to see how each faction plays. They certainly seem true to the books. Earth being all about diplomacy and influence, Mars able military. OPA about terrorism and protogen all evil scientisty.

Holden and his crew also feature in their coming to the aid of the worse off player with some special abilities. This is another fantastic mechanic and adds to the excellent theme.

If you can get past the component build this is a cracking game. One of the best I’ve played in a long time. I highly recommend giving it a go. After one game which played out in two hours or so with the full four players I was gagging to play again.

Bad components. Great game. Stick on the sound track and get gaming




I can’t actually remember the movie Brusters Millions which is funny (I’m sure) because I have a near encyclopedic memory of movies I saw when I was a kid. So I mustn’t have seen it. Doesn’t matter. It’s been done a number of times. Your uncle has died (Hurrah!) and left an enormous inheritance that he will bequeath to his favorite nephew (it’s Victorian Times so he hates women) the one who knows how to have a good time because seemingly uncle never had fun and regretted it on his deathbed.

To be sure of whom that is he’s giving each of them a smaller but not inconsiderable sum to blow in a week or less. Since Kickstarter wasn’t around back then players will need to blow their wads on lavish meals, the opera, boat trips, property, slavery, watching lunatics and bear bating. The last three are lies but I’m checking you’re reading.

To kick off a round players pick a plan for the day from a shared selection. A plan consists of drawing a certain amount of cards, employing a certain amount of errand boys and taking a certain amount of actions.

Errand boys are send off Scrooge style to grab spots which grant you more cards, manipulate the housing market, hire sycophants, get more actions. Basically prime the pump for opening the financial flood gates if you’ll pardon the mangled metaphors .

Cards come in a number of stacks. Events which tend to be one offs like posh Meals, trips to the opera and numerous other gadding activities. Another stack of cards have either dogs, ladies, horses or chefs on them. These are used to make an event even more expensive, so going to the opera with a lady friend is more expensive than going on your own. Likewise bringing your horse for a meal or your dog on a boat trip hits you harder in the wallet.

Property forms another stack. There’s a number of different types, farms, estates, mansions and something else. The trick is to buy it when it’s expensive (you can manipulate the market a little via your errand boys) and sell when it’s worth less. With some properties you can piddle through money by letting it go to rack and ruin, employ grounds keepers or organize expensive visits to it (possibly with your lady friend, dog, horse etc all of which demand the best)

The whole sizzle of getting rid of your wad sounds on the surface gimmicky but it works really well. The game looks great, lovely artwork, decent card stock, solid pieces. The game is fairly quick depending on the number of players. However….

The lack of player interaction is a negative for me. You can pretty much take your turn while someone else is taking there’s which speaks volumes. The whole affair is a bit dry. It doesn’t get the pulse pounding when you play and all in all I found it a bit dull. I’d definitely play it again but I’m in no mad hurry to

What Ho!


Daredevil Penguins

Turns out a number of Americans read this blog so I’m going to translate the next paragraph for them with brackets.

Back in the day (possibly before you were born) I used to hang out with the civil defense (unarmed rescue and support group) mostly for the weekends away. A favorite drinking game involved a cigarette (you could smoke in bars), an empty pint glass, a gogo (elasticated hair band) a carefully opened tayto bag (wrapper from potato chips) and a ha’penny piece (a coin at the time worth 5cent or so)

You placed the wrapper over the mouth of the pint glass secured it at the sides with the gogo to make a little drum then place the ha’penny on top of it in the center. Then everyone agreed a forfeit. Something bad enough that you didn’t want to do it but not bad enough that you’d be ejected from the bar. So pretty wide ranging truth be told. Everyone would sit around the construction and pass the fag (cigarette) around and you’d take it in turns of burn a small hole through the plastic. After a while the plastic would look like a colander and you had to burn the little bridges between the holes. Burn them that was until some poor edjit (unfortunate individual) dropped the penny into the glass. BOOM! all over Lets all point and laugh as you do he forfeit. Yes time did fly by back in the day

Penguin challenge is the same thing with marginally less pints, taytos, gogos and cigarettes. The board is made up of hexagonal cubes that are light and squeeze against each other to stay in place. The ha’penny is replaced by a doomed penguin and the cigarette by a neat little plastic hammer, small enough that if a fight broke out they wouldn’t make suitable weapons.

Ice blocks come in two colours (colors) blue and white. Each turn players spin a little wheel and have to knock out a blue or a white, one of each or skip a turn. This game is pure mental chewing gum. I set it up at the weekend when relatives and their kids visited and it got played and played. It’s simple it’s fun. Kids love it. Adults love it too. There’s hoots and gasps as ice blocks are carefully tapped out. It’s jenga+. It’s great.

I’m sure there’s umpteen (lots) of versions of it out there. I obtained mine from Amazon from China I suspect based on the postage time. At a fiver (5 euro or $20) it’s a must have.



Caylus! is it too late to say I’m sorry

Caylus is a classic. One of the first worker placement games to my knowledge and it’s still a fine game. I played it several years back and acquired a copy of it (probably at a Knavecon) recently and was eager to wet it’s head. Not least because it accommodates five players.

The games sees between two and five players trying to build a castle and win prestige with the king. Building a castle is no small job and can take 2-3 hours to play out. The game has elements of Lords of Waterdeep and one or two other games which isn’t surprising since it’s the granddaddy of worker placement.

Players start with a small amount of resources and money and unusually they have to pay to pick spots on the map. Spots cost one denier plus one for everyone who’s passed this round. Clever. The game starts with a number of neural buildings that provide most of the resources in the game if you can be the first to stick a worker there. As the game progresses you can build new more generous buildings. Like Waterdeep if someone else uses your building you gain a bonus.

Points are scored by jumping on the castle squares and handing in three different resources (one of which has to be a food) and scoring points for that castle section. There are three sections of the castle (Dungeon, walls and towers) each of with limited spaces. So once again it’s a game of knowing when to plough resources into building your economy and when to pour resources into scoring. Like all good worker placements there’s multiple ways to score. Building castle sections. Winning favor with the king and building a variety of prestigious buildings. Having lots of gold and resources at the end nudges your score a little higher.

The Kings favor mechanic is neat too where you, through various actions can improve your standing with the king and garner better and better gifts in the shape of money, resources, score and reduced building costs.

The game is good. I like it. It’s competitive if a little solo like a lot of worker placements. It’s always a close run game which I like a lot. It’s better than good but it doesn’t really reach the nose bleed heights of amazing. Not anymore. A lot of worker placement water has passed under the gaming bridge since it’s appearance and they’ve refined the genre. If you wind up owning or playing this you’ll have fun. Enjoy it. It’s a classic. Not the best worker placement in my opinion but not bad at all.



Lisboa Constrictor

Once again I’m delighted to welcome a guest writer in this case  Ugo “MrKickstarter” Greevy.  Ugo owns ALL the games and runs a regular games night in his man office in Dublin.  He’s going to talk to us about Lisboa, take it away there Ugo….

So, Lisboa…. This really is a magnificent beast of a game! For a few months now it has been sitting on my gaming shelf, unopened,intimidating, daring me to crack it open until finally, at the behest of one of our gaming group, I hesitantly reached up and opened the box..

The first thing that hits you is the production quality of Vital Lacerda’s latest opus. I won’t sit on the fence here, this is a masterpiece. The artwork and palette reflect the historic period the game is set in. The attention to detail is meticulous. The meeples are high quality as is all the cardboard  – good solid thick stock. I spent the guts of an hour soaking it all in, studying the board, the player portfolio and  the cards. Euro games are regularly critisized by some for the lack of theme, not an issue with Lisboa.  It oozes theme, you genuinely feel you are part of the rebuilding process following the destruction of the city in 1755 (earthquake and Tsunami). The rulebook and the cards are full of historical references.

At first look it seems very intimidating, (the heaviest Euro’s I’ve played to date are Troyes and Orleans) – each player even gets their own 8 page reference pamphlet(!), and it did take (between video and reading the rules) probably 5/6 hours to finally feel I had a good enough understanding of the rules to play the game.

At it’s heart, Lisboa has a simple mechanic, play a card take an action. That’s where the fun begins, where will I play the card (to the board to influence the nobles?, to my portfolio?)

You have 5 cards in hand, you choose one, play it,  and take an action.

You can:

1. Play a card to your portfolio (your player board)
2. Play a card to the royal court (a noble card)
3. Play a treasury card to the royal court
4. Discard a card from your hand for a gold resource.

Everything you do creates a chain effect, everything is connected like a intricate spider’s web. Almost overwhelming! Will I sell a good or trade with the nobles?, Should I head to the court and try to influence the builder to let me build in the city so i can gather resources? maybe I should buy a ship? A public buidling? visit the cardinal? Or will i just sell goods for cash but only if there is a slot on the ship free etc etc. Managing your resources is crucial, you never seem to have enough to do exactly what you want.
Added to this there are myriad ways of scoring points during and at the end of the game, everything you do has a consequence and ultimately some reward but the question at the back of your mind is am I doing it efficiently? What if I did this instead? ARGH!

If there is a downside I suppose it would be the time investment needed to get a feel for the game. You won’t get as much from Lisboa, if you rock up to boardgame night not having watched a review or read through the rulebook. The more you put into this the more rewarding the experience will be.

I cannot recommend this highly enough, even after only one play, just scratching the surface, I know this will be a game I will go back to on numerous occasions and it will forever reside in my Top 10. Every gamer should try this once! if you like worker placement games you will love this.


Slicker then Cthulhu’s nether beard

I had Mansions of Madness 1 for a long time. It rarely came out to play. Don’t get me wrong I like nothing more than an overlord versus hero game. It was just the setup.

Mansions of Madness first ed had a horrible long setup. It was like a cross between assembling an IKEA bed and a fighting fantasy novel. If you got any element wrong you ruined the narrative. It was worth the half hour or so but we’ve moved on since then. The app is slick. It tells you which counters to place and assists with combat and searching. More importantly it tells you which floor tiles to place as you explore. It’s quite possible to crack open this game without reading the rules and play with the assistance of the app. In fact that’s what we did. In fairness we had an Eoghan 1.0 installed (our rules master) who filled in the gaps.

The game is classic Cthulhu. A motley collection of 1920s investigators go poking into things best left alone. Each come with a varied set of numbered stats and special abilities. All life is here. The hard boiled detective, the fighty grave digger, the feeble but really good at reading and magic old scholar. Sprinkle a variety of common items and unique ones into their inventory and off to the selected adventure we go.

This is where the app really shines.( Top tip. Run it on a laptop or tablet. I found a phone had me squinting and the whole group needs to see it). The app presents which room tile should be visible and which items should be present on said tiles.

The game turns consist of a number of phases. In the investigator phase, Investigators can take two actions, move one space, search, open a door or attack (there’s a couple of other lesser used ones like swapping items with another player, activating an item and so on). The app handles describing what you’ve found if you search a clue on the map and which new floor tiles appear if you open a door. It handles combat by tracking wounds and creature effects. It’s still good old fashioned dice rolling for most challenges.

The second phase is the mythos phase where creatures get to move and attack inflicting damage and horror on investigators.

The final phase which I can’t rightly remember the name of picks a random investigator and visits the fears on them (or sometimes not). It’s a neat mechanic that hastens you to get the job done. Nothing worse than completing the scenario and something nasty befalling you as a parting shot.

Damage and Terror is nicely handled. It’s similar to x-wing insofar as you gain damage cards worth a point each or criticals which are the same cards face up and contain some nasty gottya to deal with. Terror is handled the same with a lovey sting. If you take max insanity points you wind up going insane but rather than exiting you continue on but this time with a hidden insane card. These cards might be like paranoia where you want the mission to fail for you to win or murderous thoughts where you want the mission to succeed but everyone to suffer wounds. It’s very neat and fits in nicely to the whole paranoid vibe. More importantly it means the game is not fully co-op and has a possible traitor mechanic so two thumbs up from me.

The app also provides in-app challenges like a sliding block puzzle for lock clicking. It’s neat and simple and was unexpectedly good. I haven’t progressed far enough with the other scenarios to see what else is in there but I’ll report back when I do

Scenarios can be replayed and the app ensures they won’t play out exactly the same each time (pretty similar though). The app comes with a small amount of scenarios but on closer inspection some of them are practically campaigns in themselves with several hours of play in each. There’s a number of extra paid dlcs for download but I’m confident that doesn’t matter to you.

Mansions has always been a posh birds dungeon bash. Version two is a lovely experience. The app is magnificent. The best I’ve seen to date. I know I gave out about xcom but that wasn’t the apps fault in hindsight. If this is the future of SOME games I’m right behind it. The ability to pull a complex game out and just setup and play is a massive achievement for gaming. Mansions has really crossed the rubicon ans I for one welcome our new AI masters.



Escape or die

“It might not be complete shite” was how this game was introduced to me. The owner was correct. If you’re in a rush you can leave it there and move on to another review, I’m going to struggle to better this one line review.

Escape the Temple is a dice roller against a clock (app) where players for no thematic reason are trying to collect crystals and escape the aforementioned temple. I have a number of gaming buddies who are archeologists whom assure me this nearly never happens in real life.

The game is made up of a stack of square floor tiles each with a number of exits on their sides and when you move from one tile out a door you draw a tile and place it. Each tile has a dice combo you have to roll to get into that room and when in there a dice combo to achieved and score a crystal or two.

Players can cooperate to achieve a room’s goal and some rooms allow you to go for higher results and get more crystals in one go.

The timer app event has got a couple of regular events. Twice you hear a gong and have to run back via dice rolls to the centre and wait for the second all clear gong before you can go back out Crystal farming again.

Eventually the exit tile appears and you need to make it there and pass a final very difficult dice challenge to escape. Everyone has to escape or it’s not a win (boo!) and that’s it.

It’s simple zombie dice stuff, it’s simple filler fun and it’s hectic. Kids will like it, maybe adults. Production qualify is good. It’s fine and forgettable worth ten minutes for sure but there’s better out there. I’d be ok if I didn’t play it again but not put out if I did. Damned by faint praise



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