Saturday, January 30, 2016

This Time, It's Just Personal (2015)

Hey, campers... I may have stopped collecting the Five & Dime stats for everyone else - but I haven't stopped collecting my own!

Here's my own personal Five & Dime list (the games I played 5+ and 10+ times in 2015).
Games with an asterisk [*] were on my Five & Dime list last year, games with two asterisks [**] have been on my list for the past two years, games with three asterisks [***] have been there for three years, games with four asterisks [****] have been there for 4 years... and games with five  asterisks [*****] have been there (wait for it) for the past 5 years!

  • Star Realms 37 *
  • DC Comics Deck-Building Game (includes Teen Titans) 37 *
  • Race for the Galaxy 17 *****
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse 17 ***
  • The City 9 ***
  • Pandemic Legacy (Season One) 14
  • Summoner Wars 14 ****
  • Memoir '44 13 *
  • Roll for the Galaxy 13
  • Colt Express 12
  • Fast Food Franchise 12 ***
  • 7 Wonders 11
  • Machi Koro 10 * 
  • Ascension: Deckbuilding Game 9
  • Baseball Highlights: 2045 9
  • Catan 8
  • Favor of the Pharaoh 8
  • Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Skull & Shackles 8 *
  • Pickomino 8
  • Rattlebones 8
  • Survive: Space Attack 8
  • Can't Stop 7 *
  • Castles of Mad King Ludwig 7 *
  • Crash Cup Karambolage 7
  • Fill or Bust 7
  • GUBS 7
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Deck-Building Game 7
  • Suburbia 7 ***
  • Arctic Scavengers 6
  • Eminent Domain 6 ***
  • Eminent Domain: Microcosm 6 * 
  • Mage Knight Board Game 6
  • Samurai Spirit 6
  • Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game 6 **
  • Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends 6
  • Tiny Epic Defenders 6
  • Blöder Sack 5
  • Castle Panic 5
  • Clash of Cultures 5 *
  • DC Deckbuilding Rivals: Batman vs Joker 5
  • Galaxy Trucker 5
  • Gold am Orinoko 5
  • Marvel Dice Masters: Uncanny X-Men/Amazing Spider-Man 5 *
  • Mystery Rummy: Escape from Alcatraz 5
  • Nations: The Dice Game 5
  • Quantum 5 *
  • Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age 5
  • Rampage/Terror in Meeple City 5 *
  • Tiny Epic Galaxies 5

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Metro 2033: Breakthrough (Game Review)

  • box_3d_Metro2033CG_ENG_rightDesigner: Evegny Nikitin
  • Publisher: Hobby World
  • Players: 2-5
  • Time: 45 minutes (though I’d say it’s about 15 minutes per player)
  • Ages: 12
  • Times Played: 4 (with review copy of provided by Hobby World)
In my review of Rogue Agent in the fall of 2014, I began by noting the dystopian tidal wave in pop culture:

Dystopian visions of the future are all the rage in film (The Hunger Games, Divergent, Children of Men), in literature (The Giver, The Passage), in video games (Half-Life/Portal, EVE Online) and in board games (Arctic Scavengers, Bioshock: Siege of Columbia). At some level, the whole zombie mania (please, no more games about zombies – I beg you!) has elements of dystopia – and, in many cases, a severe lack of imagination.

The previous paragraph needs footnotes:
  • Yes, I’m aware that The Passage is a zombie book of sorts… I loved the first couple hundred pages & then completely bogged down when time shifted.
  • Yes, I’m also aware that there’s a lot of crossover between various media formats in my examples above.
  • No, I’m not likely to get over my dislike of zombies any time soon.
So it’s not really a surprise that even our friends in Russia have their own dystopian hit book… and video game… and now card game. (There’s also a board game set in the Metro 2033 universe, but I haven’t seen it – let alone played it – so I’m just going to link to it and otherwise ignore that it exists.) The novel which launched all of this was written in 2005 by Dmitry Glukhovsky – in which he imagines a post-apocalyptic world where people have retreated to live in the Metro stations of Moscow deep below the blighted surface. In addition to the usual problems of supplies and squalid conditions, there are the Dark Ones, mutated beings who attack the Metro dwellers.

In Metro 2033: Breakthrough, players take control of and attempt to grow one of the factions who lives in the subway system. By hoarding resources, occupying stations and successfully defending against attacks from the Dark Ones, the factions grow from mere survival to dominance… and the win!

Game Play

Each player begins with five faction tokens placed above his faction card. These represent your forces that you can send into the underground to scavenge for resources and locate new stations. They are also the measure of victory – if you manage to grow your faction to 10 tokens, you have successfully mustered the support of the residents of this post-apocalyptic world. Players are also dealt a hand of five cards.   
 On a turn, a player can do one of three things:
  1. play a card into his tableau, paying the cost of the card by taking tokens from above his faction card and sliding them below the card.
  2. discard a card and return tokens from below his faction card to above the faction card equal to the cost of the discarded card.
  3. discard three cards from his hand and draw three new cards
At the end of a turn, all players draw back up to five cards, using a Ticket to Ride-like open draw of three cards.

metro_weaponPlayers can play four different types of cards into their tableau:
  • Resources: from air scrubbers to automatic weapons, Resource cards have a value of 1, 2 or 3, which is applied to faction quests and settling stations. They come in two colors in 3 “suits” each:
    • Peaceful (blue) resources: Welfare, Food & Items
    • Military (red) resources: Weapon, Bullets & Equipment
  • Heroes: what would your dystopian world be without heroes to brave the wasteland? In Metro 2033: Breakthrough, Hero cards offer two benefits when played:
    • they help defend your faction (more on that in a minute)
    • they can be discarded with cards of a particular Resource “suit” in order to double the Resource value
  • Stations: Station cards give a discount on one “suit” of Resource cards immediately – and when finally settled, make that particular type of Resource free to play. As well, when they’re settled, they add more faction tokens to a player’s tableau.
  • Threat Protection: certain Resource and Threat (monster) cards can be played as Threat Protection cards by paying their faction token cost and playing them with their yellow shield(s) facing up. When a Threat attacks, a player can discard a Threat Protection card with the matching symbol to both prevent damage from the attack as well as giving him an out-of-turn card play with no faction token cost.
Two types of cards are not played to the table; instead, they are discarded in order to get back faction tokens as well as triggering some kind of effect:
  • Caravans: this clears the 3 card draw display as well as potentially allowing players with completed faction quests and/or settled stations to return back faction tokens.
  • Threats: monsters lumber out of the darkness to destroy supplies and take back stations.
metro_threatsThreats affect every faction – even the one that played them – if you are unable to defend, you lose whatever is indicated on the card. (The monsters that take away both blue & red resources can be particularly nasty.) If you can defend, you receive the aforementioned “free” out-of-turn play. If a station is taken away, the faction token moves to the faction card.
Play continues until one faction reaches ten faction tokens – indicating a critical mass of followers and supplies that allows them to gain control of the Metro and win the game.

So, How Is It?

I used to love “take that” games… in fact, another dystopian classic and personal favorite of 20 years ago, Illuminanti (and the CCG version, Illuminati: New World Order), are both basically old school “take that” card games dressed up in some gamer-y chrome. As I’ve grown older, that particular game mechanism is less appealing to me.

So I started playing Metro 2033: Breakthrough with a bit of trepidation – would the monsters overwhelm any chance to build up resources & stations? So far, that hasn’t been an issue, thanks to a clever design choice: monsters affect every faction, even the one that set them loose. This makes putting monsters into play something not to be taken lightly.

That said, I can anticipate that certain groups would be, shall we say, “monster-happy” and make the game run unnecessarily long with a succession of rampages. My solution: play King of Tokyo with those people rather than Metro 2033.

I am also concerned that a five player game (which we have not played) would have a tendency to increase the number of monster cards in circulation by the virtue of the deck size. We circled through the deck one and a half times when playing with 4 players – with five, that would easily reach two trips through.

Speaking of number of players, I was pleasantly surprised that the game worked well with 2, 3, and 4 players. It lacks a little “oomph” with 2 – but the design doesn’t bog down and it’s an enjoyable filler for a couple of folks who don’t mind the theme. It’s more of a super-filler (45 minutes or so) with 3 or 4 players.

The artwork is evocative without being obnoxious or overdone. As well, the iconography is clear and easy to use once you have a game under your belt.
Metro Breakthrough promoMetro 2033: Breakthrough has one other trait I really enjoy in a game: it speeds up towards the end. As players acquire more faction tokens and stations, they increase their ability to find resources and settle stations. (Note: this is not only good game design, it’s thematically solid.) In addition, this speedy ending hasn’t (so far) caused any blowouts – we’ve had a couple of very close finishes and a couple of wins that were a little more obvious, but no one has been left completely in the dust.

Metro 2033: Breakthrough wears its theme well… and it’s a very playable and enjoyable super-filler with a core mechanism (the ebb & flow of spending tokens) that’s both thematically evocative and an interesting design choice.

This review originally appeared on the Opinionated Gamers website...

Monday, January 25, 2016

Snowmageddon Gaming

So, what with all the snow - 7.5" at in our backyard - we weren't going anywhere. (Yes, I hear you, my dear non-Southern friends who deal with a 1/2 foot of snow on a regular basis - we're a bunch of wimps.)

We played a lot of games:
  • DC Deckbuilding Rivals: Batman vs Joker
  • Pandemic: Legacy
  • Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Skull & Shackles
  • The City
  • Smash Up
  • Carcassonne: Wheel of Fortune
  • Marrakesh (HABA)
  • Kaseklau (HABA)
  • Too Many Cooks
...but two of them were specifically winter-y.

Braeden and I played the "Out of Kemi" Breakthough scenario from the Memoir '44 Equipment Pack... here you see an unretouched photo of Finnish ski troops attempting to stop the Germans... in our backyard. (For the record, the Germans managed to repel the Finnish offensive.)

We also played Arctic Scavengers: Recon... I really like the way the expansion lets you customize the game to suit the number of players and your particular style of play. (For the record, the Yardmaster - me - managed to attract all four gangs to join up.)

What did you play this weekend, snowbound friends?!

Friday, January 22, 2016

#11: Core Worlds (Mark's 100)

Core Worlds

Mark's Ranking
  • 2014: 11th
  • 2012: did not appear
  • 2010: prior to publication
  • 2005: prior to publication
  • rank: 457
  • rating: 6.89
Print Status
  • in print
Why It's On The List
  • Andrew Parks created a space empire-building deck-builder - and combined it with a tableau system for deploying units that makes this game both deeply strategic and a challenging puzzle. And then he created two incredible expansions that make the game even better!
Tips & Tricks:
  • I think the original Core Worlds game is a solid 7 - but when you add the first expansion (Galactic Orders), it's jumps to an 8 (or maybe even a 9). And the second expansion (Revolution) just locks that high rating into place!
  • The game has enough components for 5 players... but I prefer it with 2-3, as the pace of the game is quicker.
  • Building combos is important - as is managing expectations. You will not be able to do everything you want, so you will need to prioritize your energy and actions near the end of the game to bring in victory points.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Yet Another Reason to Go To Germany... Besides the Games

A complete time-waster... but an awesome use of Google Maps. You can explore Minatur Wunderland to your heart's content with 360-view pictures.

Click HERE to see the Google Map amazing-ness.

Dang, I want to go see this in person. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

How The Internet Brings Us Together

I'm almost positive I've posted this before - many, many years ago - but in the midst of this presidential primary season, it seems particularly apropos. 

Thank you to Dave Walker for creating it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Spam Filter (Classic)

I have three different e-mail addresses...
  • my "official" work address - which I use for, well, work. 
  • is my "old" address - but I've used it for so long that I hate to get rid of it. Really - it's been around since the late 90s. 
  • is my "main" address - it's the one I check the most often & use for pretty much all ongoing conversations. 
There's some particular reasons I like the gmail account: it will load on any computer (it's web-based), it threads messages so that e-mail conversations are easy to follow (a must when you're using e-mail for a discussion group), it has an amazing spam filter, and it's free.

It's the spam filter that I want to talk about today - some magic bit of coding in the programs & servers helps them get rid of the e-mails from the Nigerian princes who want my help in transferring funds to the U.S., the Canadians who want to sell me prescription drugs by mail, and the complete strangers who think they can improve my sex life. Until we started paying for a spam filter/blocker for (my former church), we used to get 50-100 spam e-mails each day. (OTOH, I have almost no problems with spam on my gmail account.)

Now, I'm not qualified to tell you how this works - with my computer skills, you could tell me that tiny spam-fighting robots intercept each individual e-mail inside my hard drive & throw it to the ground... a bit like the calf-roping event at a rodeo. Heck, I'd probably believe you. But what I do know is that when it is set correctly, it's a lot easier to get to the business of life & relationships & Jesus, a life where I'm not distracted by all the junk that's virtually aimed at my wallet and/or my heart.

Life is a little bit like that - stuff is coming at us constantly: information, entertainment, spiritual teaching, advertising, images, audio, verbal & non-verbal communication... and the list goes on (and on & on & on.) Each of us desperately needs something to filter out the spam messages:

  • I am only as good as what I do. 
  • It's somebody else's fault. 
  • He who dies with the most toys wins. 
  • God's love is there for those who earn it. 
  • If you buy X, you'll be healthier, happier & more likely to have girls drape themselves around you in skimpy clothing. 
  • If it takes hard work, we must not be right for each other. (Note: this bit of wisdom is actually from the mouth of Donald Trump.) 
  • You are not cool enough. 
  • Aging is bad. 
  • It's easier to avoid problems than to face them. 
...and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

I did a lot of reading on media literacy a few years back. (Media literacy, by the way, is the discipline of teaching people to interact thoughtfully with popular culture, especially. television & the internet.) One of the common techniques is to teach kids (and adults!) to talk back to the TV set - while you're watching a commercial, for example, you can ask out loud, "What are you trying to sell me?" I'd add another good phrase for those of seeking to filter out the spam - when watching a program or perusing a website, ask, "What do you want me to believe?"

When we blurt out "What do you want me to believe?" to a TV show like Two & A Half Men, it's easy to see that one of the underlying spam messages is "my sexual relationships are the axis around which my life rotates." When we question the news anchors on a show like Dateline, we discover that a prime belief is "Fear will protect you from bad things happening to you." And when we do the same with Oprah, we hear loud & clear that "the world revolves you & your happiness."

The best spam filter we have is truth - capital "T" Truth, which first & foremost resides in the Bible. It's harder to buy into the spam (for example, "God's love is there for those who earn it") when you can see the truth (Ephesians 2:8-9: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.")

And the best way to take in capital "T" truth is to soak yourself in it, just like Madge in the old Palmolive ads. So, put down the mouse & go find your Bible & kick your spam filter into gear.

A version of this post was originally written for The Grapevine - the e-newsletter of NewLife Community Church - back in May of 2008.

Monday, January 18, 2016

"To Do List" For MLK Day


Click the following link and read the parable. Right now.


Click the following link and read the letter. Also right now.


Live like this...

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28, ESV)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

#12: Zooloretto (Mark's 100)


Mark's Ranking
  • 2014: 12th
  • 2012: 10th
  • 2010: 10th
  • 2005: new
  • rank: 457
  • rating: 6.89
Print Status
  • in print (again... thanks to Z-Man Games)
Why It's On The List
  • Michael Schacht takes the central game mechanic from his card game Coloretto & develops it into a full-fledged board game with delightful artwork & theme. And then, if that wasn't enough, he keeps expanding that world (thanks to the SdJ win) in some very intriguing ways.
Tips & Tricks:
  • I didn't like Zooloretto particularly the first time I played it... that, as you can see, has changed. (The theme drew me back in, btw.)
  • Lots of people like Coloretto better than Zooloretto - they're wrong, of course, but I think that's more a function of "liking a clever mechanic" versus "liking a clever mechanic in the midst of a thematic & enjoyable game".
  • Zooloretto spawned Aquaretto - which I've included in the family for purposes of this list. Aquaretto is the more gamer-friendly of the two - there's more potential for a new player to mess themselves over with bad tile placement.
  • The plethora of large & small expansions can be confusing - but I like how you can tailor the game to your personal tastes.
  • The game is best with 3 or 4 players... 5 has a little too much downtime (if you're using any expansions) and 2 is bland. If you're going to play Zooloretto & Aquaretto together, you should only play with 3 players... or with Michael's 6-player partnership variant.
  • I wrote an extensive post about Zooloretto & the various expansions entitled Renovating Your Zoo(loretto) for this blog.
  • I translated the Big Boss variant from Michael Schacht's site - it's used w/the Zooloretto: Boss expansion.
  • One of the proudest moments of my life - my son, Braeden (who was 7 at the time), created a really great variant idea for Aquaretto - and Michael Schacht published it on his website! Check out the Touch Pool...

Saturday, January 16, 2016

#13: Puerto Rico (Mark's 100)

Puerto Rico 

Mark's Ranking
  • 2014: 13th
  • 2012: 11th
  • 2010: 6th
  • 2005: 5th
  • appeared on all four lists
  • rank: 6
  • rating: 8.13
Print Status
  • in print
Why It's On The List
  • It's an intricate game design that plays cleanly & quickly. With only one random element (the distribution of the plantations), you have huge control over your own fate (unless another player does something crazy.) And the development work to get everything balanced right is epic - there's only one building I think is costed wrong... and that's only by 1 gold piece.
Tips & Tricks:
  • Warning: as deeply as I love this game, it's a little, well, fragile. In other words, in a group of experienced players, a new player (or a player without much sense) will almost certainly throw the game in the direction of the player to their left. This isn't a problem when players are roughly equal in ability, but does make teaching the game a bit more of a challenge..
  • There is a beautiful limited 10th anniversary version of the game - but as pretty as it is, I think it makes the game tougher to "read" across the table.
  • Once again, ignore the strategy guide "one right move" mentality - there are various viable strategic directions in this game, depending on the number of players, the order in which plantations become available, and the individual actions that are taken.
  • It is perfectly OK to tell someone to "pipe down" if they insist on telling new and/or other players what their "right" play should be. You do not have to put up with that nonsense. (Puerto Rico seems to bring this out in players more than most Euros.)
  • Don't put all your point-scoring eggs in one basket - especially when it comes to the special buildings. I have been known to buy a special building that was only marginal for me in order to keep it out of the hands of someone who could really benefit from it.
  • There is an expansion with all new buildings... it's nice for a change of pace but I still like the original game the best.
  • There's also a very nice iOS app... but that would be a tough way to learn the game.
  • I had the rare privilege of going to my first Gathering of Friends in 2002 just after this game had been released... there were multiple copies & they were in almost constant play the entire week. There's nothing quite like discovering the intricacies of a game this good with other devoted gamers... all of you finding out for the first time that you're playing a work of genius. (Trivia: I played Puerto Rico four times in my first 36 hours at the hotel.)
  • Here's what I wrote about Puerto Rico for The One Hundred: personal & "official".

    Friday, January 15, 2016

    Survive: Space Attack (Game Review)

    • Designer: Julian Courtland-Smith… reimagined & redesigned by Geoff, Bryan & Sydney Englestein
    • Publisher: Stronghold Games
    • Players: 2-4
    • Time: 45 minutes
    • Ages: 8+
    • Times Played: 7 (with review copy of provided by Stronghold Games)
    A long time ago in a collecting frenzy far, far away, I plunked down a large sum of cash to get a copy of Waddington’s Escape From Atlantis from merry olde England- a plastic-heavy reboot of the Parker Brothers game Survive! It’s a beautiful game when it’s set up with nifty molded pieces in day-glo colors. (And the gentleman who sold the game to me was kind enough to include both the dice AND the swirly spinner from the two different versions of the Waddington’s game.)

    It’s stayed in my collection for a long time - the whole “watch your friends/opponents be eaten by sea monsters” vibe makes it a great closer game at the end of the evening. And while I have played the newest version of the game (Survive: Escape From Atlantis), it wasn’t different enough for me to justify buying the new edition and ditching my colorful box full of plastic.
    Allow me to chase a rabbit for a moment: the Stronghold Games edition of Survive: Escape From Atlantis is the best version of the game in terms of rules & playability. The Waddington’s version has two different rule sets that contradict each other - and they both lose the variable points element from PB Survive!. Stephen Buoncore managed to combine the various versions into a cohesive and very playable whole.
    Yet with all that love, I’m afraid my plastic figures are about to gather dust - because Survive: Space Attack takes everything I enjoy about the game system… and makes it better. In the words of Nigel Tufnel, “It goes to 11.”
    How to Turn Survive! Up To 11 in Seven Easy Steps

    Step 1: Change the map
    The island of Atlantis was, according to all previous versions of Survive!, a big honkin’ hexagon-shaped mountain. Survive: Space Attack starts by changing the basic shape of the doomed edifice to an elongated sort-of rectangle with tendrils.
    Another aspect of changing the map is changing the way boats (OK, escape pods) are placed. No longer are they docked at specific geometric locations on the board - instead, players are each given two pods to place once all of the crew have taken up positions on the space station.
    Step 1.1: Make the map double-sided
    More importantly, the mapboard is double-sided:
    • the “basic” side with the pre-set space station outline and 4 jump points (exits)
    • the “freeform” side with no pre-set outline and 2 jump points
    The “freeform” side allows for just that - freeform space station designs that give greater variety to the game. (There are three variant layouts in the rulebook - we’ve tried and enjoyed all three of them!)
    Step 2: Add laser turrets
    In classic Survive!, there was at least one guy on each team that never left the island - that guy (or girl) who couldn’t turn the donkey wheel or hitch a ride on Penny’s boat. Typically, you just waved a fond farewell as he shouted, “Don’t worry about me… save yourselves!”
    No longer - now you can use one of the 4 laser turrets that are part & parcel of any self-respecting space station. You use a movement point to fire the laser in a straight line - the first alien you hit is “captured” and placed in front of you. (See Step 4 for details on the sweet, sweet joy of Alien Relocation once you’ve captured them.)
    These laser turrets are placed on the four tallest pieces - the last pieces that are removed from the board. So, in classic B-movie fashion, you can leave one guy to man the guns and cover the escape of the rest of your crew… only to die in the spectacular explosion at the end of the game.
    Step 3: Add fighters
    Some of the space station tiles have fighters pictured on them - single seat vessels armed with powerful alien-trapping gear. These are not, despite their similar white paint job, X-Wings™.. (Insert your own “Fantasy Flight has the Star Wars™ license” joke here.)
    Fighters are fast - but not very maneuverable. (Again, not an X-Wing™.) They move in a straight line - zipping past other ships with nary a care. However, you cannot park in the same space with another ship. (A lesson that some of the folks I work with could use remedial help on - but I digress.)
    When you move your fighter onto the same space as an alien, movement stops. Then, you can “capture” them and place them in front of you. (See Step 4 for details on the sweet, sweet joy of Alien Relocation once you’ve captured them.)
    Step 4: Add the “Benevolent Alien Relocation Program”
    Well, it’s not exactly called that in the rules - but the new first step for each turn allows players to take aliens they have “captured” (via laser turret or fighters) to be returned to the wild reaches of space. And when I say “wild reaches of space,” what I actually mean is “any empty space I want but preferably in close proximity to my opponent’s crew.”
    One of the secrets of doing well at Survive: Space Attack is timing “relocation” to cause the maximum havoc… and sometimes, that simply means having the alien in front of you, threatening to use it.
    Occasionally, it’s nice to keep the alien safely caged on the table rather than allow it back into the game where your opponent can turn it against you. (“I’d rather have an alien in front of me than a frontal alienotomy.” OK, so that joke doesn’t translate well. It’s much better in the original Klingon, I assure you.)
    Step 5: Give players more stuff tIMG_5660o do on their turn
    In addition to all of the usual classic Survive! actions:
    • pawns run screaming towards their near certain deaths
    • flip a tile to (a) push opponent pawns into the briny deep, and (b) reveal more stuff (boats, creatures, etc.)
    • roll the die and move the sea creatures to hasten the aforementioned deaths
    ...Survive: Space Attack adds two new things for players to do:
    • relocate aliens (because it’s just not fair to keep them captured when all they want to do is hurt your opponents)
    • mutate aliens AFTER you roll the movement die (because a little foreknowledge is a dangerous thing)
    More choices injects a bit more control into what is admittedly a wonderfully chaotic game system.
    Step 6: Add a new mix of space station tiles
    The Stronghold Games version of Survive! Escape from Atlantis has 3 different kinds of tiles:
    • play immediately (green)
    • play at the beginning of your turn (red)
    • play defensively (red with an X)
    Survive: Space Attack expands the variety of the tile set with four different kinds of tiles:
    • play immediately (green) - aliens, fighters, & escape pods
    • play during movement (red) - special powers affecting movement and other players
    • play after rolling alien movement… but before moving the alien (blue) - mutating powers
    • play defensively (yellow) - ways to escape (ominous chord) “certain death!”
    Correctly playing the tiles you find is an important part of the path to victory. Getting the maximum benefit has to be balanced against the game timer - because what’s left of the space station will vaporize during one of the last four tile flips.
    The iconography on the tiles is pretty good - once you’ve got a game under your belt… but that first game was fun, what with us being clueless about the abilities those tiles would give us.
    Step 6: Add bonus scoring
    So, now it’s important to send your surviving crew members to different jump points (exits). Evidently, there’s some chance that one of the these wormholes leads straight to the Phantom Zone or the planet where the Monolith sent Agent Simmons or a dimension where you’re forced to watch the odd-numbered Star Trek films over & over on an infinite loop - and you wouldn’t want any of your crew to suffer a fate like that. Each jump point with one of your crew members scores a bonus point.
    It’s made a difference in our scores in a couple of games - but the real impact of the bonus rule is to keep players from loading up one side of the space station in an attempt to build an “escape road”, which could happen in typical games of Survive!.
    Step 7: Call It Survive: Space Attack
    Well, duh.
    The Verdict
    IMG_5665Short Version
    It rocks.
    “The Kids Are Alright” Version
    My boys asked for this every night for a week when we first got it - we played our first 5 games in 6 days. They continue to ask for it, even with other new games in the house.
    Seriously, who could ask for a better recommendation than that?
    Long Version
    I’m on record as being a big ol’ Geoff Englestein fanboy. I think his first game, The Ares Project, is woefully underappreciated and both Space Cadets and Space Cadets: Dice Duel are whimsical gaming fun. But this could well be my favorite game from the Family Englestein. (For those who don’t know, Geoff co-designs with his son & daughter.)
    As I stated previously, it takes pretty everything that works from the classic Survive game system, strips out the parts that don’t, adds more decisions, and keeps it ripping right along at a family-friendly pace. It works with gamers and non-gamers and has yet to overstay its welcome at the table.
    The previous incarnations in this series were less successful with 2 players… but the 2 player variant in the rulebook worked like a charm. In fact, all of the variants we tried worked well - giving a great game more variety and replayability.
    There are two expansions coming out for Survive: Space Attack - a 5-6 player set of extra pawns and a deck of crew cards with special powers. I’m willing to bet my boys make sure they’re in my Christmas stocking. (Note: they didn't. Guess I'll have to buy them myself.)
    This post originally appeared on the Opinionated Gamers website...