Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Circadians: A First Look at First Light & Chaos Order

We were light years from our home, galaxies away, when we first discovered this ancient celestial body, a planet filled with intriguing, intelligent lifeforms, not too unlike our own. Some built kingdoms below the surface of the green seas, while others controlled the desert-filled plains and cliffs. Among them we found scientists, inventors, farmers, traders and fighters. While our presence has been unsettling for some, we have had very few incidents with the locals. Still, we Circadians, Earth’s famed explorers, must do what we can to ensure peace. We must respect this world and its hosts. The heads of Moontide passed down orders from above. We are to open negotiations with the three clans, in hopes of gaining their favor, along with our own security while on the planet. We must also collect organic samples for the depository on Moontide. This is new ground for all of us, but we must be brave and resourceful. The future of the Circadians depends on it.
With these words, the saga of the Circadians begins… and you as a player are right in the thick of it – collecting samples, negotiating with the clans, and competing to do so as efficiently as possible. Circadians: First Light is a benevolent exploration game – where the players function as explorers with a moral code rather than, say, the avaricious evil of the Resource Development Administration (RDA) of the Avatar films.

That’s the story behind Circadians: First Light – which was recently re-published in a second edition that updated the art and rulebook, added in the first expansion (Allies) and new leaders, and improved the presentation of the game.

What’s So Funny (About Peace, Love & Understanding)?

The gameplay is primarily worker placement and resource management – though workers are represented by dice whose values determine the effectiveness of a particular activity.

There are four phases to play:

  1. Plan – After an event is revealed, each player rolls their dice and secretly assigns them to their garages (to transport them to various locations in the game) or their farms (to harvest more resources).
  2. Execute – After HQ dice are placed, players take turns sending dice from their garages and activating those locations).
  3. Harvest – Players harvest resources from their farms and the location of their Harvester on the Planet Board.
  4. Rest – All dice are returned (with exceptions) to the players, the start player passes to the left, and players check to make sure they have no more than 8 contract cards and 5 dice (crew).
A game consists of seven rounds… after which points are totaled and a victor declared.

That is, I’ll be the first to admit, a pretty bare bones description of what happens in the game… but clarity on game flow helps put the rest of the game details in context. (That “big picture” view doesn’t happen until page 6 of the rulebook – and then only as a graphic above more detailed information about leaders.)

The game is played across multiple boards (locations) as well as player boards (research facilities):

  • the Planet board – where players move their Harvesters into position to increase their resources and (in the late game) their victory points
  • the Negotiation board – where players permanently assign dice to collect victory points and avail themselves of the clan’s assistance. Assigning a die here can also potentially bring a reward and/or a setback, depending on dice already placed on the Negotiation board.
  • the Spaceport board – which contains both the Headquarters (a place to park dice for the opportunity to go first in the next round) and the Depository (where players can fulfill contract cards and get rewards by permanently assigning dice to the location)
  • the Laboratory – where farms are purchased for their research facility
  • the Foundry – where updated garages are purchased for their research facility
  • the Market – where resources can be exchanged
  • the Control Room – where a player moves their Harvester on the planet board
  • the Academy – where players pay for more dice (crew)
  • the Mining Camp – where players can harvest gems (the most valuable resource)
At the end of the game, players score based on the location of their Harvester on the planet board, the value of their completed contract cards, the development of their research facility, the various agreements they have with the three native clans, and the gems they have remaining.

Thoughts on First Light

This is one of those games that I find intriguing and frustrating – intriguing, because the puzzle of manipulating resources and actions is challenging & interesting; frustrating, because I think the rulebook, while complete, makes it more difficult to learn the game by the way it is structured. (I will give the good folks at Garphill Games points for including a section on first time player strategies and the Irenic Union variant.)

Speaking of the Irenic Union… the original rules require players to assign dice in order (left to right) from their garages. The variant allows flexibility… and I’m here to say it’s a much more enjoyable game with that rule in play.

I do want to put in a good word for the well-thought-out solo system built into the game… both of my solo plays have been enjoyable and fast-moving. The AI robot – literally, they’re robots – is easy to use and makes intelligent moves to both hinder you and increase its score. My victories have been hard-worn.

First Light is, once you get your head wrapped around the rules and the various strategic/tactical elements, not really a long game – my solo games ran 50-60 minutes and our multiplayer games around 75-90 minutes. There’s enough variety in the contract cards, event cards, and leaders to keep things fresh for multiple plays.

War (What’s It Good For?)
The initial quakes were only minor tremors, but as the land began to unravel, so did our sense of security. We watched the Cliffs of Hytazch fall into the sea. Mighty trees of old, swallowed up by caverns below. As the waters rose, a great roar was heard across the plains. This was no cry of disbelief or heartache, but of jubilance. Songs began to fill the air as our once peaceful hosts, now readied themselves for battle. On the horizon we saw what appeared as huge bolts of energy shoot out into the depths of space, before disappearing again.

Despite the inevitable shock wave heading our way, the local clans continued to cheer as they made haste towards the origin of the blaze. What could cause such elation? Why abandon caution in favour of chaos? Had we missed something – some crucial misunderstanding of this planet and its inhabitants?

Upon reaching the site, we were immediately plunged into combat. Across the landscape lay six massive structures, towering over the forces fighting below. They seemed to pulse and flicker with a golden haze. Could these be the ancient relics the Oxataya spoke of? There is so much we still do not understand, but we cannot concede to indecision. Will we stay and fight, or retreat back to Moontide?

Unlike the peaceful exploration of First Light, Circadians: Chaos Order is a very confrontational area control game with highly asymmetric factions. A faction (player) can win by either controlling all remaining Relics on the map or by completing their individual faction Fame victory condition.

Over six rounds (one for each of the Relics), factions battle to not only to control the monoliths but also to develop their faction with research, constructing buildings, harvesting resources, recruiting new fighters, and moving into position to accomplish their goals.

The really clever part of the game design (aside from the wild creativity involved in making six very diverse factions) is the first step in each round – where the players work to set the prices to participate in each function. Factions can make actions they don’t want other groups to take more expensive… or make an action relatively cheap in order to receive payment. Whatever action the faction chooses to price is free to them – so it can be wise to preference an action you must undertake that game round.

The actions are
  • Discover – research in order to make various actions more powerful
  • Build – erect buildings in territories you control
  • Harvest – gain resources from production points
  • Recruit – bring new fighter units into play
  • Move – move fighter units into new positions and/or create battles
Combat is resolved using both combat wheels and dice – and allows players to choose to prioritize defending themselves, eliminating other fighters, winning control of the territory… or some combination of those goals.

In addition to pursuing the relics, players can push the fame goals of their particular factions:
  • AI – the antagonistic robot horde. Fighting is their jam… and particularly wounding other fighters to gain Fame. (Interestingly, they are the bot “player” in First Light’s solo mode.)
  • Circadians – the human tech squad. With a movable drop ship base, their objective is to upgrade all four of their attributes.
  • Jrayek – planetary natives with definite Klingon tendencies. Battles against other leaders (win or lose) bring them honor… and Fame.
  • Leyrien – fast-moving natives who love the swamps of their planet. Improving their morale gives them Fame.
  • Oxataya – ancient clan on Ryh. Winning battles is more important than causing death – and brings Fame.
  • Zcharo – brilliant aliens who target opposing buildings… and generate Fame by gaining research.
I’m well aware that my overview doesn’t begin to cover all of the details of this expansive game. I heartily recommend Dan Thurot’s excellent (and much more comprehensive) review if you’re interested.

Thoughts on Chaos Order

By the way, “highly asymmetric” does not begin to cover how many differences there are between the factions. I’m a particularly big fan of Portal Games’ Cry Havoc (which has a similar “aliens & humans fighting over a planet” vibe as well as asymmetric factions)… and it is like taking a Music Appreciation course versus the Advanced Neurobiology class that is Chaos Order. I likened it to Root meeting the original Avalon Hill version of Dune.

Actually, the mention of Dune brings something to mind – Chaos Order is one of those games that would benefit from being released when I was in college back in the 80s. First, there were less games, so we tended to play the same games a lot of times… which would be a real benefit with the asymmetric factions. Second, I had time for the set-up/play/tear-down cycle of this game (which is not short) in a way that I as a semi-responsible adult don’t have any more. (Suggestion: this is a game that benefits greatly from the host of game night setting it up ahead of time as much as possible.)

Admittedly, I’ve only been able to play it a single time… we enjoyed the intricacies of the game design but agreed that it would take multiple plays to grok all of the complexities.

Key Points to Remember
  • Circadians: First Light is a worker (dice) placement/resource management game.
    • First Light has a well-designed solo mode.
  • Circadians: Chaos Order is an area control/conflict game with highly (ha!) asymmetric factions.
    • Chaos Order is multiplayer only and has no solo mode.
  • Despite the similarity in box art/style and thematic settings, they are NOT expansions.

Review copies of both games were provided by Renegade Game Studios.

A version of this review originally appeared on the Opinionated Gamers site.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Soundtrack of My Life (Redux)

On occasion, I write about music... granted, I'm not a music critic. My tastes are a little weird, especially when you factor in an abnormal attraction to synth-based rock'n'roll.

I originally did this Soundtrack of My Life list(s) back in 2007... perhaps 16 years is enough time for a new crack at them. In some cases, artists & albums have been downgraded to a 'lower' list... or disappeared altogether. In other cases, it's somebody new & wonderful I've fallen in love over the last few years. And, to include some more artists, I've added a new list at the end.

Here's my top 10 albums of all time in no particular order (plus 10 that just missed the cut). Note: I didn't include greatest hits collections, cuz that would be cheating... and this is one of those "as of today" kind of lists.
  • Squint (Steve Taylor)
  • Live (Common Hymnal)
  • Behold the Lamb of God (Andrew Peterson)
  • Stop Making Sense (The Talking Heads)
  • Romeo Unchained (Tonio K)
  • Out of the Blue (Electric Light Orchestra)
  • The World As Best I Remember It - Volume One (Rich Mullins)
  • Under a Blood Red Sky (U2)
  • Russ Taff (Russ Taff)
  • The Secret of Time (Charlie Peacock)
Just missed the cut:
  • Jesus Freak (DC Talk)
  • One Way Home (The Hooters)
  • Just Like Real Life (Prodigal)
  • Turn of a Friendly Card (Alan Parsons Project)
  • Where the Light Shines Through (Switchfoot)
  • Lament (Resurrection Band with Glenn Kaiser)
  • Sticks & Stones (the 77's)
  • Scenic Routes (The Lost Dogs with Terry Scott Taylor)
  • 10 Songs (Adam Again)
  • Wonderama (Randy Stonehill)
It occurs to me that I chose almost all of these albums as the "best" of a particular band/artist - and I could well give you a 2nd album for almost all of them.

So I will.
  • Chagall Guevera (Steve Taylor in the band Chagall Guevera)
  • Praise & Protest (Common Hymnal)
  • Light for the Lost Boy (Andrew Peterson)
  • Little Creatures (The Talking Heads)
  • Notes from the Lost Civilization (Tonio K)
  • A New World Record (Electric Light Orchestra)
  • A Liturgy, A Legacy & A Ragamuffin Band (Rich Mullins)
  • Rattle & Hum (U2)
  • Medals (Russ Taff)
  • Love Life (Charlie Peacock)
Just missed the cut:
  • Free at Last (DC Talk)
  • Nervous Night (The Hooters)
  • Electric Eye (Prodigal)
  • Stereotomy (Alan Parson Project)
  • The Beautiful Letdown (Switchfoot)
  • Sp
  • More Miserable Than You'll Ever Be (the 77's under the band name 7&7 is)
  • Vox Humana (Daniel Amos with Terry Scott Taylor)
  • Homeboys (Adam Again)
  • Love Beyond Reason (Randy Stonehill)
Finally, ten more albums I deeply love...
  • Graceland (Paul Simon)
  • 90125 (Yes)
  • The Turning (Leslie Phillips)
  • There Will Be A Light (Ben Harper & The Blind Boys of Alabama)
  • Asia (Asia)
  • Matters of the Heart (Bob Bennett)
  • Prime Mover (Kerry Livgren)
  • Rick Elias & The Confessions (Rick Elias)
  • Woven Cord (Iona)
  • Journey to the Centre of the Earth (Rick Wakeman)

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Of Rocks & Memes & Being Biblical

Our social media-drenched society loves reducing complicated and difficult political, ethical, and moral issues down to a meme. Which, in the wake of yet another school shooting here in my adopted home of Nashville, leads once again to stuff like this:

Here's the first problem with this meme - it may use Bible characters but it's not Biblical. 

I've done a deep dive on Genesis 4:8 to make sure I didn't miss something... and regardless of which translation I look at, Cain's method for killing his brother is not specified.
  • "...Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him." KJV
  • "...Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. NAS
  • "...Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him." HCSB
  • "...Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him." ESV
  • "...Cain turned on his brother and killed him." GNT
No rock. Zip. Nada. Zero.

Rajesh Gandhi says it well:
Saying that “a rock in bad hands killed Abel” puts us in the position of possibly bearing false witness because we simply do not know that is what happened.

It could have happened that way, but we should not make statements that it did happen that way when we do not have any way of knowing what actually happened.

There's a second problem... again, from Genesis 4. Let's pick up the story in the next verse (v. 9-10, ESV):

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” 

He said, “I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?” 

And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground."

The answer to Cain's question is an emphatic "yes" - and the praise for the swift action of the officers of the Nashville Police Department underlines that yes. We are, as a society and as individuals, immensely thankful when people act in responsible ways that protect people - when they are their brother's keeper.

That brings me to the thoughtful musings of Jeanne Raney on being your brother's keeper.
The phrase “my brother’s keeper” is understood to mean being responsible for the well-being of others. So let’s look at this from the perspective of the “brother’s keeper.” I am Cain’s friend, or mother, or sibling, and I know Cain has issues — depression, lost his job, broke up, bullied. I see Cain one day and he looks off — angry, detached, violent — and he’s heading for a pile of rocks. I know he could smash someone’s head in or smash his own. Do I let him go get a rock because it’s his right, or do I stop him, so he won’t hurt himself or others? I hope I stop him. That is not to say I intend to pass legislation on confiscating rocks, banning rocks, or outlawing rock purchases.

Subsequently, a while later, when I see him heading for the rock pile again, I notice he’s using the rocks to build something, so I let him grab the rock. The meme is right. It’s not about rocks or guns, it’s about having the ability to intervene so the rocks and guns can’t be used to kill innocent children. It’s about actually being your brother’s keeper.
So, what is it going to look like to be the Good Samaritan, our brother's keeper, to stand in the gap? What is it going to look like to take Isaiah 1:17 (VOICE) seriously?
Learn to do good; commit yourselves to seeking justice. Make right for the world’s most vulnerable— the oppressed, the orphaned, the widow.
Again, Ms. Raney says it well:
Gun ownership is a choice, and a right, but it is also a responsibility. Every responsible gun owner knows they need to lock their weapons up, and handle them safely. As we are a gun owning society, we collectively bear the same responsibility. We must do all we can to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of those prone to abusing them so that innocent lives will not be taken, and responsible gun owners will not be tainted. 

We must stop imbuing guns with the same value as the lives of our children...

I am not asking for our legislators to deny appropriate gun use. I am asking that they stop choosing guns over children. That they stop choosing the right to bear arms over the right for a student to not go home in a body bag. That they choose the right to go to school safely over the right for one person to kill others. 

This wouldn’t require draconian measures like bans, mass confiscations or registries. The majority of Americans support common-sense regulations like red-flag laws for a reason — they work, and don’t punish responsible ownership. In fact, I would argue that such regulations support it.

The definition of integrity is doing the right thing over doing the easy thing. I wish I could say our legislators will act with integrity, but I am not holding my breath.
I believe that moving to universal background checks and well-supported & publicized red-flag laws would be a great step forward... and you may disagree. That is your right - but whatever action you support, please don't resort to foolish memes that use the trappings of faith to support your position.

In writing this blog post, I am indebted to the thoughts of Rajesh Gandhi and Jeanne Raney... weirdly enough, a graduate of Bob Jones University and an expert in speech pathology with students - but both raising clear Biblical issues.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Solo Gaming 2022: The End of the Year Edition

I started doing a lot of solo gaming when my oldest son (and chief gamer buddy) left for college in August 2019. Even with him home during the extended time of quarantine (March-August 2020), I continued playing solo games… and that kept going when he returned to campus.

Solo gaming is now a decent-sized chunk of my gaming experiences – while I am back out playing games with friends and family, 23% of my gaming for 2023 was solo. For comparison, the yearly total for 2022 was 22%, 2021 was 33%, 2020 was 19%, and 2019 was 6%. (A bit of perspective: I had 947 plays of 333 different games in 2022.)

So, this is the third year I’ve been writing these extensive posts every four months to detail my solo gaming. I’ll repeat my same caveat as each previous report:
I know, I know – there are plenty of board game apps on iOS and Steam… and I own many of them. But there’s something really satisfying about physically playing a game: shuffling cards, moving pieces, seeing it all spread out in front of you. 
I’d also add that board game apps must – for perfectly understandable reasons – hide portions of the game from you. One of the delights of a physical game is that the whole thing is spread out across the table where you can soak in whatever details you need. This is true, BTW, for solo or multi-player play.

So, what follows are my thoughts on the sixty (60!) different solo games I played in 2022 – ordered by number of times I’ve played them. (Note: this is not necessarily how much I like a particular game for solo play – for example, I think Soldiers in Postmen’s Uniforms is an excellent solo game design but I only played it three times in 2022.)

Double Digits

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale (13 plays – approx. playing time: 30 minutes)

An incredibly pleasant flip’n’write game that works like a charm as a solo game… and will also work well as a “over Facetime/Zoom” game if you use the solo rules for monster attacks. The Skills mini-expansion adds another level of decision-making that works well. I’m glad the game is in my collection… adding a set of colored pencils makes my maps look even better!

I’ll also throw in kind words for the Heroes stand-alone expansion & the six new map packs… they add some variety to the game without overly complicating the system. (The only hassle is how to store the game and the pile of maps in the two small boxes.)

Trails of Tucana (12 plays – approx. playing time: 20 minutes)

A really lovely little flip-n-write route building game that I found courtesy of a Twitter friend (hi, Daniel!). Less rules overhead than Cartographers, but with the same “make the best of what you get” vibe. It’s become a travel staple for me – easy to play in a small space with lots of press-your-luck angst on many flips of the cards.

I have had the chance to play with the Ferry expansion maps now, and they add a couple of small twists without doing any damage to the very solid base game.

Aquamarine (11 plays – approx. playing time: 15 minutes)

The second print’n’play roll’n’write (could I possibly use more apostrophes in this sentence?!) from Postmark Games… I find it a little less brain-burning than Voyages (which is also in this list) and great fun to play. It is – to some extent – a tile-laying game as you track your dive adventure.

I laminated my copy of this game – and I carry the two Aquamarine boards (plus the five Voyages boards) in my laptop case along with three d6 and a dry erase pen so I can play pretty much wherever I go.

Five or More Plays

Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North (9 plays – approx. playing time: 40 minutes)

While I’m a big fan of 51st State: Master Set, the dark apocalyptic tone makes it a little tough to get to the table sometimes. Add that the solo module for it is not enjoyable and it hasn’t seen much play in the last few years.

This frustration led me to Empires of the North, the cleaner, friendlier, and more coherently put together cousin to 51st State and Imperial Settlers. The two player is quite enjoyable… and so is the well-thought out solo mode. (And the plethora of expansions just means you have lots of options in how to try each solo scenario.)

The addition of the Wrath of the Lighthouse solo expansion late in 2022 ballooned my number of plays as I attempted to keep my Viking civilization alive. If you’re interested, I reviewed Wrath of the Lighthouse for the OG.

Ark Nova (8 plays – approx. playing time: 90 minutes)

There’s a reason so many people are nuts about this zoo-building game – it’s really that good. And, as you can probably guess by my number of solo plays, it’s an excellent solo game.

The solo design forces you to win the game (get your Conservation & Appeal markers to cross) before time runs out – so you can set your difficulty by where you start your Appeal marker. 20 was too easy – 10 is a good medium range challenge, and 5 is kicking my butt (but I’m getting closer).

I’ve had great experiences playing this game solo, with 2 players, and with 3 players… and I’m very excited about the new expansion headed our way in 2023.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (7 plays – approx. playing time: 75 minutes)

This specifically solo game design from Daryl Andrews & Morgan Dontanville was a Kickstarter that arrived early this year… and I played one game to figure out how many rules I’d misplayed (more than I’d like it to admit) and then a four game campaign (which I won, even though things looked really dice-y near the end of the second book/game. A second campaign ended after two games when the Mutant Leader won our “boss battle” and pounded the Dark Knight into the ground.

I’d put The Dark Knight Returns in the same complexity range as the Pandemic Legacy games – while the rules are clear and filled with examples to make learning easier (particularly with the combat system), there are a lot of plates to keep spinning as you play – a Doomsday Clock that ticks toward Armageddon; Batman’s Grit, Health, and Sanity; the number of riots that have broken out in Gotham; and successfully finding and defeating the villain in each game (Two-Face, Mutant Leader, the Joker, and – spoiler alert – Superman) before time runs out.

This means that the best audience for this game are folks who (a) have read and enjoyed The Dark Knight Returns, AND (b) enjoy learning and playing relatively complex board games. (I count myself a part of both groups.)

I’m looking forward to playing through the campaign again sometime in the next couple of months… and I wrote a review of The Dark Knight Returns on the Opinionated Gamers site!

Undaunted: Normandy (7 plays – approx. playing time: 40 minutes)

One of the last Christmas boxes to arrive in 2021 was a copy of Undaunted: Reinforcements… the expansion that offers extra units, new scenarios, 2 vs 2 play, and – most importantly for this recap – solo play. The AI is smart and keeps me on my toes… and while it takes a minute to figure out how to set up and run, it’s worth the time. I’ve been slowly working my way through the Normandy campaign as the Americans and enjoying each time it hits the table. (One of the bonuses of the design: I can flip to the Axis side and play through the campaign again – both come in the Reinforcements box!)

The AI plays “faster” than we have normally played (in other words, it chases objectives and unit elimination pretty hard)… which has forced me to take more chances and ‘fail boldly’ against it. Makes for a very exciting game.

I want desperately to play Undaunted: Stalingrad (just released)… but the lack of a solo option and no consistent opponent may have that one wait a while. There is at least one more Undaunted game on the way this summer: Battle of Britain!

Dinosaur Island: Rawr’n’Write (6 plays – approx. playing time: 45 minutes)

This is, hands down, my favorite game in the Dinosaur Island franchise.

And it’s a solid solo game – the variety inherent in the set-up combines really well with the “drawing your own park” mechanic to give a Dino Island experience without extensive set-up time or fiddly bits.

I still don’t get the “amber” dice – thematically, they work, but they are hard to read without a strong light source (and that problem is amplified in multi-player games). You can read my full review on the OG.

Heat: Pedal to the Metal (6 plays – approx. playing time: 30 minutes)

With a hearty shout-out to my BGG Secret Santa this year, Heat: Pedal to the Metal was an early Christmas present. We played 16 races over the month of December… and the current hype about its playability and fun are not exaggerated.

Six of those games I played solo, using the Legends module to add five AI drivers for me to compete against. (Note: I’d strongly suggest using the Legends module to fill out the field every time you play, regardless of the number of “live” players.) Three of those races were the 1961 campaign – I managed to place second even after a disastrous 6th place finish in the first race.

It’s a bit like playing Flamme Rouge (by the same designers!) solo – but the tricky problems of cornering and managing the heat of your engine make it much more engaging.

Minigolf Designer (6 plays – approx. playing time: 30 minutes)

I liked the look of this game – a tile-layer with a strong theme of building a miniature golf course – but once I finally scared up a copy, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the puzzle of the gameplay. In a multiplayer game, tiles are drafted in a similar manner to Kingdomino… while in the solo game, the player picks two tiles and places one of them. Both the solo game and the multiplayer game are fun – they are slightly heavier than Carcassonne with a greater variety of scoring decisions.

There’s now a mini-expansion (“Putt of No Return”) to the game that adds new tiles, better artwork cards(!), and double layer boards for tracking par.... and a new expansion with a few more days to go on Kickstarter!

If you want to know more, I wrote a glowing review of Minigolf Designer back in 2021 for the OG.

Resist! (6 plays – approx. playing time: 35 minutes)

I’m six plays in on this solo card game about the Spanish Maquis ongoing guerilla battle against the Francoist regime – four using the basic game rules and two with scenario rules. So far, I’ve only managed to have a minor victory in a single game. (Let’s be clear – this is what happens when you put a risk-taking maniac in charge of the resistance who sends out his Maquis one time too many… or is successful at completing missions but manages to get a bunch of civilians killed.)

I’ve played it at home and on a hotel bed while traveling for work… and even played a game of it last night while I should have been working on this blog post. While the gameplay is simple to explain (particularly with the components in front of you), the decisions can be difficult and sometimes are excruciating – do I sacrifice this fighter’s cover for one glorious attack? will using a weak hidden card with the power to reveal military cards help me or just show me the form of my destructor (to paraphrase Ghostbusters)?

It’s due to be released in the U.S. later this year… and I wrote a review of Resist! for the OG.

Voyages (6 plays – approx. playing time: 20 minutes)

This print & play game system was published via Kickstarter right before Christmas 2021… and the portability (I played both paper/pencil and using a paint app on my laptop) is extremely high. They’ve already published four more maps, each with their own set of rules. (This would be an excellent Zoom/Teams game, btw – for those who enjoy gaming online.) Postmark Games just published a campaign log/mode for the game which I’ll be trying in 2023… and all of it (the five maps, the campaign log, etc.) are available if you purchase the original game.

As I noted earlier, I’ve laminated a set of the maps and carry it everywhere with me in my laptop bag.

Boonlake (5 plays – approx. playing time: 70 minutes)

Boonlake is not a difficult game once you wrap your head around it… but it’s not a game that’s particularly easy to learn from the rulebook. I played my first solo game as a two player game, playing both sides to make sure I had the rules worked out in my head.

Since then, I’ve played it using the solo rules – which are even trickier to get right than the base game rules. There are some eccentric bits in the AIs engine which absolutely make sense in order to simulate a two player game – but are difficult to remember and caused to spend the first couple of solo games flipping through the solo rules.

That said, it’s a solid solo game with intriguing gameplay. I’m a fan of the game as a solo or 2 player – but I’m not sure I want to bring it to the table with more than that.

Dune: Imperium (5 plays – approx. playing time: 70 minutes)

I’m not really a Dune fan – oh, yeah, I read the first three novels back in high school (late 70s/early 80s) like every well-behaved sci-fi/fantasy nerd – but it was never a world or story that captured my imagination. And, yes, since I’ve been a gamer for a very long time, I actually owned the AH version of Dune (aka “Cosmic Encounter meets the Spice Worm”).

Fast forward to 2020/21 and all the hype about the upcoming Dune film… and just enough people said nice things about Dune: Imperium to get me to take a chance on it. 

And – wow! – it was worth it. Much like Lost Ruins of Arnak, Dune: Imperium blends deck-building and worker placement to evoke the feel of the novels/film in an incredibly playable format. Particularly for solo players, the solo deck works like a charm – and Dire Wolf also posted a free app to automate the solo process.

The addition early this year of the Rise of Ix expansion just added to the fun – I like the new variety of cards and technologies… and it feels like the AI is even stronger with this mix of choices. I just picked up the new Immortality expansion, which adds more layers and makes me want to get it to the table this weekend!

For What Remains: Streets of Ruin (5 plays – approx. playing time: 40 minutes)

My oldest son played a game of this solo/2 player skirmish game with me and quickly declared that it felt like playing the X-COM video game. Having never played X-COM (the video game), I just have to trust him.

For me, I really like the immersive storyline/background of a world strug gling to contain the breach opened up to The Basement (another dimension) by underground nuclear testing… and the inevitable battles between factions that make up the three stand-alone boxes of the For What Remains game system.

I also that the chit-pull system for activation works brilliantly here – and the solo system makes solid decisions for your opponent and challenges you to think tactically in order to survive. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the mythology and play styles as you can choose between the six different factions, each with their strengths and weaknesses.

Designer David Thompson has really shown up on my radar in the last few years – what with this game, the Undaunted system, War Chest, Resist! (see above), Soliders in Postmen’s Uniforms (see below), and my old favorite, Armageddon from Queen Games.

It’s A Wonderful Kingdom (5 plays – approx. playing time: 30 minutes)

This solo/2 player card drafting game is a stand-alone cousin to It’s a Wonderful World… but uses a “you cut/I choose” mechanic in the 2 player game which is morphed into a press-your-luck mechanic in the solo mode.

It’s a game that rewards multiple plays, as it is swingier than Wonderful World and learning how to ride the development wave is a bit trickier. The different modes all work well – but I think I’m partial to Advisors or Conquest for solo play.

I wrote a pretty extensive review of the game for Opinionated Gamers early last year.

Wreckland Run (5 plays – approx. playing time: 45 minutes)

The newest game in the Renegade Solo Series was on Kickstarter earlier this year (weirdly enough, at the same time as Restoration Games thematically-related reboot of Thunder Road). In my preview on the Opinionated Gamers, I described it as “a tower defense game… if the tower was barreling down a dirt road at 60+ mph while being fired upon by the cast of all four Mad Max movies and a couple of scary refugees from a Michael Bay film.” That just about covers it for this dice-allocation game/campaign.

I liked it enough that I went ahead and backed it so I could have a production copy plus the expansion… which arrived just before Christmas. I started a new campaign – we’ll see how I do this time around.

Xia: Legends of a Drift System (5 plays – approx. playing time: 120 minutes)

Xia is a sprawling nutty over-the-top wonderful mess of a space exploration/trade/piracy game… and the system for solo play is very enjoyable. It’s not for the faint of heart – a full 20 point game can last 2-2.5 hours for solo play & cover most of my gaming table with pieces & cards. (I think it’s much better solo than the similar Star Wars: Outer Rim – and much more open world than Outer Rim.)

Late last year, I started the solo campaign… and I’m having a blast with it. So far, I’ve accomplished 3 of the 10 objectives and still have a positive score… but I’m guessing it will take another 10+ games for me to finish the campaign. I’m totally up for that.

Quartets & Trios

Call to Adventure (4 plays – approx. playing time: 40 minutes)

The original rules for solo and cooperative play feel rushed and tacked on – which is disappointing, as I really enjoy this character-building/story-telling game with multiple players. Earlier in 2022, I tried a more extensive ruleset posted on BGG… which was better, but still didn’t work as well as I wanted it to.

Thankfully, the new Epic Origins box creates a much better solo experience (and a great multiplayer experience as well). The revised Adversary system is much cleaner. My review of Epic Origins is on the OG.

Dungeon Alliance (4 plays – approx. playing time: 150 minutes)

For me, Dungeon Alliance solo with the Adventure Packs (a very creative expansion idea) is substantially more enjoyable than the still very good Mage Knight Board Game. For starters, it’s a four game campaign… and then there’s the mixture of characters and storyline that feel like you’ve been dropped into the middle of the story. There’s deck-building, there’s crunchy puzzle-solving, there are quests to undertake… and an underlying plot/narrative that bubbles to the surface and helps hold it all together.

This year, I finally finished the last adventure pack… an epic and incredibly enjoyable adventure. I also had the privilege of finally meeting the designer, Andrew Parks, face to face… and hearing more about the design ideas and mythology behind the game. And, since it’s public information now, the news that the next expansion (including new heroes and a new Adventure Pack) are coming in 2023!

Dungeons, Dice & Danger (4 plays – approx. playing time: 35 minutes)

Richard Garfield’s highly thematic roll’n’write is a lot of fun… but it’s pretty brutal as a solo game. Leaving yourself as many positive dice rolls as possible is the key to surviving and winning.

The multiplayer rules of the first edition in English have a MAJOR error on how the game ends… the game should end when each monster has been defeated at least one time by any player.

Era: Medieval Age (4 plays – approx. playing time: 45 minutes)

I found an incredible deal on this Matt Leacock 3D design (and the expansion)… and didn’t really think about the solo mode until it arrived. It’s actually a lot of fun – and it’s just stinkin’ cool to build your city, especially when you add the rivers and roads.

Note: I haven’t seen it as cheap again – so this isn’t really an impulse buy, but I’m glad it’s in my collection. The collector sets became available again through Plan B Games right before Christmas 2021 and I hit the “splurge” button… all of my solo games this year have been kitchen sink games with nearly everything thrown in. 

Lost Ruins of Arnak (4 plays – approx. playing time: 45 minutes)

My pick for Kennerspiel last year was this fantastic multiplayer game of adventure… chock full with a myriad of pathways to win. The solo module (included in the game) works like a charm… and CGE even posted an update to that module that adds increased difficulty and challenge. For variety, you can even play on the more difficult Snake Temple side of the board.

Additionally, they released the long-promised solo campaign – a 4-game series with interesting rules twists and an online app (which I had some struggles with, so I resorted to printing out the files and building myself a paper set.) I’m currently working through it a second time and enjoying it again.

I haven’t used the Expedition Leaders expansion with solo play yet – but it’s great for multi-player!

Port Royal (4 plays – approx. playing time: 15 minutes)

Last year, I played the solo version of Port Royal using the first expansion (with contracts). It is basically a push-your-luck puzzle to complete three contracts with as few turns as possible. It’s not exactly like playing this great multi-player game, but it works and is highly portable.

This year, I received the new Big Box version of Port Royal, so my solo plays were using the Adventure expansion, which I found much more interesting and enjoyable.

Roll Player (4 plays – approx. playing time: 45 minutes)

The Monsters & Minions expansion and/or Fiends & Familiars expansion are required for enjoyable solo play. (In fact, I think this is one of the “required” expansions for multiplayer play as well… it offers more variety and more options for players on their turn. Most importantly, it gives the game an ending via fighting the big boss that is much more satisfying than “hey, look – I built a character”.)

The Guild of Merchant Explorers (4 plays – approx. playing time: 30 minutes)

This extremely clever flip’n’write doesn’t actually contain any writing – instead, you place explorers (cubes) on your map and by completing regions, place village buildings. At the end of each round, all of your explorers are removed from the board, but your villages stay to give you new starting places.

There are four different maps in the original box, with 2 more maps available as an expansion from AEG. It’s been a hit with everyone I’ve taught it to… and I find it relaxing and enjoyable to play as a solo game.

Unpublished Expansion Prototype (4 plays – approx. playing time: 60 minutes)

Sorry… having the privilege of playtesting a solo expansion for an established game that hasn’t been publicly announced.

Everdell (3 plays – approx. playing time: 50 minutes)

Based on the recommendations of others (esp. fellow OGer Chris Wray), I splurged on the Everdell Complete Collection without ever having played the game. There are two solo modes: Rugwort (which is mildly entertaining) and Mistwood (Nightweave & her spider crew) that really shines. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the personalities, plans, and plots available in the expansion.

BTW, Chris posted a weeks worth of Everdell reviews that are a great read if you’re interested. (These reviews pre-date the newest expansions, New Leaf & Mistwood.)

Flamme Rouge (3 plays – approx. playing time: 30 minutes)

During the Tour de France, I set up multiple Flamme Rouge tracks and used three “bot” decks to race against – one “Peloton” team and two “Muscle” teams. (BTW, the solo rules and cards are in the Peloton expansion.)

I also used the excellent Grand Tour app (which is evidently about to become a full boxed expansion).

It’s not the same as playing Flamme Rouge with a raucous group of players… but it made a nice backdrop while I watched Tour de France coverage.

Imperium: Classics/Legends (3 plays – approx. playing time: 85 minutes)

My birthday last June was filled with goodness from Osprey Games… including my favorite new game of 2021. Want more detail? I wrote an extensive review for the OG last summer!

One of the things that caused me to put the Imperium boxes on my birthday list was the promise of a robust solo play system – and David Turczi (who is specifically credited on the cover of the solo play rulebook) delivered.

Each civilization has its own AI set of tables. Five slots are set up and numbered (with provided cardboard counters).The die included in the game (only used for solo play) is rolled and that eliminates one of the slots (or doesn’t – sixes are not a friendly roll in solo play)… and then the remaining cards are revealed and dealt with in order. Impressively, each AI civilization retains a good bit of its character… for example, Egypt accumulates materials in the early going, uses them to attract hordes of population, and then, if conditions are right, converts those masses into Progress. 

In the meantime, the player civilization is running by the exact same rules as the multiplayer game – allowing you to learn the ins and outs of the various decks as well as consider different tactical and strategic decisions.

There is also a simple way to vary the difficulty of solo play… and even a campaign mode in the solo rulebook (which I still haven’t tried).

My only complaints about solo play? Putting the charts for resolving the AI behavior in the rulebook rather than providing them as large cards. Thankfully, a BGG user (props to DocZagreus!) has taken it upon themselves to fix this problem and posted files that do just that. The other issue is that the Qin charts needed to be changed – and the files I just linked to have the changes needed!

I was very excited to see Imperium: Classics getting the recognition it deserves… and to find out that there is another box of civilizations coming next year!

Nemo’s War (3 plays – approx. playing time: 70 minutes)

This solo game somehow got left out of my top 100 games list… which is a complete mistake on my part. It manages to blend Euro mechanics and old-school wargame elements along with a compelling theme. On top of that, the various objectives change the game and how you play by just changing the scoring to reflect Nemo’s vision of a “better” world. 

My copy of the new Journey’s End expansion arrived this summer and I’ve only got to play with it three times… but it dramatically expands the number of possible adventures, adds two more objectives, and has a rewritten rulebook that makes the game easier to learn and play.

I did try Nemo’s War as a multi-player cooperative – which was actually much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. (The rules in the newest edition for this work very well.) Still, I prefer it as designed – an amazing solo game.

Oh My Goods! (3 plays – approx. playing time: 25 minutes)

Solo play requires the Longsdale in Revolt expansion… but there are some clever things going on in this tricky little card game. I received the Escape From Canyon Brook expansion last year – which adds more story and more campaign.

Oh My Goods ranks up with Friday and Palm Island for the best games for solo play in small places (like hotel room desks). I like Expedition to Newdale better (it’s in the same game family), but Oh My Goods is MUCH more portable.

Soldiers in Postmen’s Uniforms (3 plays – approx. playing time: 110 minutes)

I used my position on the International Gamer Awards committee as an excuse to buy David Thompson’s solo game on the German assault on the Polish Post Office in the Free City of Danzig as World War II in Europe began. By the very nature of the battle, it’s a bit of a tower defense game, though one where you are working to set up an escape for the non-combatants and keeping as many of the defenders alive as possible.

The difficulty of the game ramps up quickly as you add in the event decks. It is an engrossing and tense game that takes into account the lack of ammunition, the lack of training as fighters, and the incredible courage of the defenders.

Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition (3 plays – approx. playing time: 70 minutes)

The much-discussed card game version of the board game hit Terraforming Mars – which, quite honestly, really does feel and play like you crossed Race for the Galaxy with TM. It’s a competent solo game that doesn’t take up nearly as much table space as its big brother… and I appreciate them upping the quality/consistency of the artwork. That said, I’d rather be playing the original game with my 3D pieces.

I keep waffling back & forth on this one… I considered selling/trading it, then decided to keep it. My most recent games were really enjoyable – which convinced me to wait and see if the upcoming expansion modules push the game from “like it” to “love it”… or if it ends up on the trade pile.

Unfair (3 plays – approx. playing time: 50 minutes)

I found a copy of Unfair for a great price – and as I’m a fan of the “idea” of a game that imitates Rollercoaster Tycoon/Planet Coaster, I was willing to give it a try. Turns out that my son and I like it a lot as a 2 player game… and the newest expansion that was on Kickstarter in the spring of 2022 will include a solo mode.

Part of that KS released the print’n’play files for the solo mode… and I’ve been poking at it a bit, trying to figure out how to get close to beating it. So far, no success – but I like the tableau building puzzle of the game.

It Take Two To Make a Thing Go Right

Excavation Earth (2 plays – approx. playing time: 95 minutes)

I’m still not sure what to think about Excavation Earth – I like the interlocking mechanics in the game, but sometimes I feel like it’s playing me as much as I’m playing it. I’ve been tempted to track down some of the expansions to see if that helps increase the control – an essential element in a longer design – but it just hasn’t hit the table enough to justify that.

Final Girl (2 plays – approx. playing time: 40 minutes)

My younger son decided to get himself a solo game… and, despite not being a particularly big fan of horror films, went with Final Girl – which takes the base system of Hostage Negotiator and adds layers of variety and theme. He’s a big fan.

So, of course, I asked to learn how to play. He’s sat with me in both games I’ve played (against Faux Jason and Faux Freddy Kreuger) and I have to say it’s a really solid game system with enough twists and turns to more than justify its existence. I’ll be playing more of this one…

Honshu (2 plays – approx. playing time: 15 minutes)

A cheap thrift store copy and some solo rules downloaded from BGG… and this makes for a very compact travel solo game/puzzle. I’m still not particularly in love with the game as a multi-player… but it’s clever and workable as a solo exercise.

Mists Over Carcassonne (2 plays – approx. playing time: 20 minutes)

Both a stand-alone cooperative game AND an expansion to the original game – I played 2 solo games (Levels 1 & 2) and would be willing to play again. Have some serious questions about playing as a multiplayer co-op as the alpha player problem could easily show up to haunt you. (yes, the pun was intentional.)

Stop Thief! (2 plays – approx. playing time: 20 minutes)

Yes, the new edition. Yes, played solo. Yes, I’m REALLY bad at this game… which makes me want to play again and figure out why I’m so bad at it.

Tenpenny Parks (2 plays – approx. playing time: 30 minutes)

The production and artwork of this tile-laying “park builder” are quite lovely… and the solo bot (named Becky) plays a solid but predictable game. I think the game is great for 2-4 players… I’m less likely to bring this one out for solo play.

The Siege of Runedar (2 plays – approx. playing time: 45 minutes)

Runedar is a Knizia-designed cooperative tower defense game… that actually works as a solo game as well without major modifications. The box is the board (with some 3D elements) and there’s a nifty resource collection/deck-building mechanic that allows you to improve the actions you can take.

We’ve managed to beat it on the lowest difficulty level, but moving up a single step in difficulty has proved daunting.

Tiny Towns (2 plays – approx. playing time: 15 minutes)

This 2020 Christmas present was on my wishlist in hopes that my wife might enjoy it… well, I still haven’t got her to play it (yet!), but I’ve become intrigued by playing it solo. It’s short, the puzzle is interesting, and I love the chunky wooden pieces. I went ahead and picked up the expansions when I found them on sale… and they add some nice twists to the decision-making.

Zombicide: Gear Up (2 plays – approx. playing time: 30 minutes)

I’ve been surprised how much I’ve enjoyed this gamer-y version of Silver & Gold dressed in zombie costumes… and, to be fair, there’s more to the game than my tongue-firmly-in-cheek comparison. The solo system works very well… and if you want to know more, I reviewed it on the OG.

One Is The Loneliest Number

Block & Key (1 play – approx. playing time: 25 minutes)

Really gorgeous production (the 3D bits are chunky!) that covers the same ground as Pueblo without all the extra Eurogame stuff. The solo mode has a system to throw random blocks up on the surface to make it work – but it feels like solo was a design afterthought.

Circadians: First Light (1 play – approx. playing time: 90 minutes)

I hesitate to make any judgement here – the first solo play was rough from the rules. (However, I have found both Circadians games to be difficult to learn without playing.) I’m going to need more plays here in 2023... and you can read my review here.

Civilization: A New Dawn (1 play – approx. playing time: 150 minutes)

My younger son is a big Civilization computer game fan – so I hoped I could get him to join me in the newest version from FFG. I think the action system is really interesting and keeps players from over-focusing on one particular element of developing their civ – which may be a good tactical play but isn’t interesting to play against.

However, once we added the expansion, my son showed less interest – so I’ve been using the solo AI rules developed by FFG and adapted for the expansion by Stahre on BoardGameGeek. It’s long… but the AI is smart and plays a tough game.

Dead Reckoning (1 play – approx. playing time: 105 minutes)

For a game with as many interactive elements, Dead Reckoning manages to make the solo mode work and work well. I’m looking forward to adding the Saga elements here in 2023 for a more RPG-lite kind of pirate experience.

Dragonquest: Fantasy Dice Game (1 play – approx. playing time: 25 minutes)

I really wanted to like this game – our family are huge fans of the inspiration for it, Dungeonquest. Sadly, it is a processional and not terribly interesting roll’n’write.

Eleven: Football Manager Board Game (1 play – approx. playing time: 90 minutes)

While there are still some rules questions to be resolved, the underlying game system works like a charm and is great fun to play, especially if you are (like myself) a fan of Premier League soccer. Match play is important – but the game is much bigger than winning matches… it’s actually an economic/management game. After two 2-player games and a solo game, I was waiting impatiently for my my blinged-out copy of Eleven to arrive... and it has! And there will be a lot more solo play in 2023.

Habitats (1 play – approx. playing time: 25 minutes)

A one-time experiment using a ruleset for the ‘Geek… it was just OK. Again, I’m sad because I’d love to play this game more.

Hadrian’s Wall (1 play – approx. playing time: 45 minutes)

I wrote a positive solo review for the OG back in May 2021 of this flip’n’write game. I’m intrigued by the choices I have as a player and the myriad pathways you can attempt in your quest for accolades and glory. After the first couple of plays that ran about 60-70 minutes, I’m now knocking out games in about 35-40 minutes.

The same kinds of resource management issues that draw me into games like Terraforming Mars, Oh My Goods (and it’s cousin, Expedition to Newdale), and Empires of the North are an integral part of Hadrian’s Wall as well. (I’m not saying it’s just like those games or “if you love TM, you’ll love HW”.) These kinds of decisions make for solid solo designs – and Hadrian’s Wall has a lot of them.

In addition, the set-up/tear-down time (due to the flip-n-write design) is minimal, meaning a large chunk of your time is spent actually playing the game. And it has a relatively small table footprint, which means it will work well in my travel kit when I’m stuck in a hotel and need something to play on a less-than-roomy hotel desk.

Finally, it’s always a good sign when you’ve played a game eight times before reviewing and still get in more plays in after that.

Hamlet: The Village Building Game (1 play – approx. playing time: 60 minutes)

I had the opportunity to play Hamlet using the solo rules… now, this (unlike Akropolis) is a for-real city-building game. Both the odd-shaped village pieces and the “anyone can use resources or buildings” rules do some very interesting things to your typical game of this genre. I’d like to try it again, both solo and multiplayer. (I will note that I got to play using the KS edition, which was quite nice.)

Mosaic: A Story of Civilization (1 play – approx. playing time: 105 minutes)

My copy of the Colossal Edition just arrived two weeks ago – but two plays (one multiplayer, one solo) are more than enough to convince me.. Glenn Drover has managed to condense a civilization building game into about 90-120 minutes. There isn’t a combat system – as your primary objective is influence across the various countries of the Mediterranean.

The solo bot (by noted solo mode designer, David Turczi) can be adjusted for difficulty and for “personality” – my first run against him went well but I can see where ramping him up even slightly will make things very tricky – and a lot of fun!

Nations: the Dice Game (1 play – approx. playing time: 35 minutes)

I’d rather play this with more players… but the solo game works well. If I didn’t have a number of better options (see above and below), this would hit the solo table more often.

Return to Dark Tower (1 play – approx. playing time: 45 minutes)

Solo Return to Dark Tower works like charm – with one exception.

The app already has a single player setting and the challenges are scaled appropriately for a single hero. I played my solo game in about 45 minutes (not including set-up and tear-down of the game) and it was very enjoyable.

The exception? When the Tower spits out skulls to the kingdom opposite you, you’ve got to go chase them. (Here’s where the neoprene mat version of the board is nice… the original board works great but has some “bounce” so skulls can go skittering across the table and onto the floor.)

A solid two thumbs up – though not the most portable of solo experiences. If you want to know more, you can read my review on the OG.

Sentinels of the Multiverse – Definitive Edition (1 play – approx. playing time: 55 minutes)

I’m a big fan of the original Sentinels game… and both of my sons decided to get their own copies of the new version as they get ready to leave the nest in the next couple of years. In preparation for a review of the new game, I got in one solo play (as well as five plays multi-player).

The game ramps characters and villains up faster than the original game – and in many cases cleans up characters with confusing and/or uninteresting card choices. So far, I don’t feel like the changes are negative in any way.

Solo works just like solo worked in the previous incarnation – you play multiple characters against the system. I’m unlikely to do that with the new box much when I’ve got the excellent iPad app to play original Sentinels with.

Shake That City (1 play – approx. playing time: 20 minutes)

I played the solo rules wrong with a prototype copy… but I think this is probably stronger as a multiplayer game.

Terraforming Mars (1 play – approx. playing time: 70 minutes)

One of my birthday gifts in 2020 was a copy of Terraforming Mars… and I quickly discovered a thriving community of folks on BGG who love this game as a solo exercise. I now own all the expansions… but I think the best solo configuration for me (so far) uses just Prelude. My win rate is about 50%, which seems right for this style of game. (The arrival of the Big Box expansion makes it even more enjoyable… there’s just something magical about 3D terrain rising from the Martian surface!)

Note: I received review copies of Circadians: First Light, Core Worlds: Empires (prototype – but I bought my own copy of the published game), Dead Reckoning, Hadrian’s Wall, Wreckland Run (prototype), and Zombicide: Gear Up.


  • Double Digits (left to right): Trails to Tucana, Aquamarine, Cartographers
  • Five Plus (top to bottom): Empires of the North, Ark Nova, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
  • Quartets & Trios
    • Top Row: Era: Medieval Age, Dinosaur Island: Rawr’n’Write
    • Bottom Row: Call to Adventure: Epic Origins, Nemo’s War
  • It Take Two…
    • Top: Mists Over Carcassonne
    • Bottom Row: Excavation Earth, Zombicide: Gear Up
  • One is the Loneliest…
    • Top Row: Eleven, Dead Reckoning
    • Bottom Row: Block & Key, Circadians: First Light