Tuesday, May 28, 2024

#13: Unmatched: Battle of Legends (Mark's Top 100 2024)


Unmatched: Battle of Legends
BoardGameGeek
  • rank: 257
  • rating: 7.7
  • published: 2019
  • Rob Daviau & Justin D. Jacobsen
Print Status
  • in print
Why It's On The List
  • Take the basic card combat idea behind Star Wars: Epic Duels... add in the brilliant LOS board configuration system from Tannhäuser...and infuse the game thematically with a "mix of characters across time & reality" vibe from Heroscape... and then do a top-notch production job... and you've got Unmatched.
Tips & Tricks:
  • One of the biggest issues in Epic Duels (the need of some characters to turtle for multiple turns in order to make decent attacks) is fixed here... both by better balancing the decks AND by instituting a "getting to the end of your deck" penalty.
  • Each character/team has different strengths and weaknesses... you cannot play each character the same way and be successful.
  • The character receiving the least love out of the gate was King Arthur... but I've managed to pull off some wins with him by playing the cards in his deck, not the cards I wish he had.
  • Some of the newer boxes (and there are a LOT of them) have more complicated decks - but I'm happy to have the variety in play styles and characters.
    Extras
    • Restoration Games announced last year that they are putting two Unmatched sets “into the vault” – Cobble & Fog and Robin Hood vs. Bigfoot. Both of these sets will not be reprinted when the current stock runs out. The good news? On Twitter, Justin Jacobsen clarified that “vaulting” these sets was more like the old Disney film/VHS system, where something could come back out of the vault. That said, there’s no promise that the boxes will return to print – just that they are not permanently shelved.
    • Due to the expiration of publication rights, the Restoration Games Unmatched vault already contains the Jurassic Park, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Deadpool, and Bruce Lee sets. While Deadpool & Bruce Lee are impossible to find in retail (and have been for quite a while), the other sets are still available - so if you're interested, it's time to pick them up.
    • Some quick thoughts on the various boxes - all of which are stand-alone expansions:
      • Robin Hood vs Big Foot - the best introduction if you're not sure about the series... two great characters and two great maps
        • This is one of the sets that will not be reprinted when it runs out of stock... so if you're interested, go pick it up now!
      • Cobble & Fog - two more great maps with four excellent characters - though three of the four characters are not quite as straightforward to play
        • This is another one of the sets that will not be reprinted when it runs out of stock... so if you're interested, go pick it up now!
      • InGen vs Raptors - my least favorite map, though both characters are fun to play
      • Buffy the Vampire Slayer - two more excellent maps... don't love the Buffy character in 1v1 play but otherwise a fan of this box
      • Volume II - a great map and four excellent medium-difficulty characters
      • Bruce Lee - a solo character (no map) that's a lot of fun to play
      • Little Red Riding Hood vs Beowulf - Red is tricky to play but really rewarding when you get it right
      • Marvel: Redemption RowMarvel: Hell's Kitchen, Marvel: Teen Spirit, and Marvel: For King & Country -  I like the creativity in the Marvel maps and the figures are incredible. Due to some balance issues across the set (my sons both swear that Bullseye is "way OP, dad" and I'm not sure we've ever seen Elektra win), I like these better for 2v2 play. (Note: I love the teen heroes in Teen Spirit... and I haven't seen a production copy of Brains & Brawn yet, which was a great deal of fun to playtest.)
      • Houdini vs The Genie - both are fantastic characters 
      • Unmatched Adventures: Tales to Amaze! - we hated the playtest... .but Restoration knocked this one out of the park and it's one of my favorite cooperative games of the last few years (and the heroes are playable in head-to-head fights as well!)
      • Sun's Origin - only a single play with this set so far... the map is brilliant
      • Slings & Arrows - these are not beginner characters... but there's not a bad hero in the set (and the theme comes through beautifully [speaking as a former English/theater major])
    • My boys & I have been playtesters on a number of Unmatched sets: Vol. II, the Marvel boxes, Tales to Amaze!, and Slings & Arrows. We've also playtested some of the upcoming material (including - I think - the announced Witcher boxes).
    • I've written a number of reviews about Unmatched for the Opinionated Gamers site:
    • I'm currently working on a review of Slings & Arrows (the Shakespeare-based box that was just released)... and depending on life & how things go, I'll also be reviewing Sun's Origin and Marvel: Brains & Brawn.
    • This is the fourth of six (6!) Rob Daviau games that will appear on my top 100 list this time around... and first of three Justin Jacobsen games.

    Monday, May 27, 2024

    #14: Dune: Imperium (Mark's Top 100 2024)


    Dune: Imperium
      BoardGameGeek 
      • rank: 6
      • rating: 8.4
      • published: 2020 
      • designer: Paul Dennen
      Print Status
      • in print
      Why It's On The List
      • Despite not being a particularly big fan of Dune (the books or the movies), the game manages to combine deck-building & worker placement to evoke the feel of the Dune universe in an incredibly playable format.
      Tips & Tricks:
      • One of the things I like best about the game is the ability to adapt your tactics/strategy to the character you are playing and the ever-changing board situation.
      • You don't have to win every conflict - in fact, sometimes the smartest thing you can do is let two other opponents duke it out and save your troops for a later battle. 
      • The House Hagal mechanic (an AI deck) makes sure that 2 player games have enough filled board space without complicating the game unnecessarily.
      • I've played the game at all player counts (1-4 players) and enjoyed them all.
      Extras
      • The Rise of Ix expansion has some great twists/additions to the game... highly recommended.
      • The Immortality expansion adds yet another layer of complication - but does add new ways to spend/use resources. Only for advanced players.
      • The solo design uses the House Hagal deck to create two feisty AI opponents... highly recommended as a solo game.
      • The app (available as part of the Dire Wolf games app) automates the House Hagal deck and helps walk you through set-up... as well as offering some alternate play modes.
      • I've played Dune: Imperium - Uprising a couple of times solo... it's working in the same basic space but adding some interesting changes to how the system works. (It also offers a 6 player team mode.)
      • This is the second of two Paul Dennen designs on my list. 

      Sunday, May 26, 2024

      #15: Terraforming Mars (Mark's Top 100 2024)

      Terraforming Mars

        • rank: 7
        • rating: 8.4
        • published: 2016
        • Jacob Fryxelius
        Print Status
        • in print
        Why It's On The List
        • Despite my attempts to avoid Terraforming Mars for a number of years, this game sucked me in. It combines hand management, resource management, engine-building, leeching off other players work, racing to complete goals, and even a bit of take that. And it works.
        Tips & Tricks:
          • While I get why some people like it with a full complement of five players, I think I enjoy it more with 2-3 players or as a solo game.
          • Resist the urge to throw everything into the game for first-timers... there's a lot to process. It's also helpful to explain why you are doing what you are doing during their first game - just not in an obnoxious manner.
          • It's important to build the engine you have/draw rather than the one you wish you had. It's a long enough game that wishing you were doing something different can make seem unending.
          Extras
          • There are a LOT of expansions for this game system - I own all of them. The only two I think are really necessary, though, are Prelude and the Hellas/Elysium alternate map.
          • Thanks to the generosity of a good friend, I also own the 3D pieces... and they are a delight.
          • I would recommend a better individual play mat for each player than the one provided... something that makes it less likely that a table bump would end the game.
          • I like Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition - which feels like they cross-breeded Terraforming Mars with Race for the Galaxy - but it really needs the expansions to shine.

          Saturday, May 25, 2024

          #16: Dungeon Alliance (Mark's Top 100 2024)



          Dungeon Alliance

          • rank: 2,224
          • rating: 7.5
          • published: 2018
          • designer: Andrew Parks
          Print Status
          • in print
          Why It's On The List
          • A think-y, puzzle-y dungeon crawl that's dripping with theme and story. The designer (Andrew Parks) mixes deck-building with tactical movement on the board to create a rich world for competitive, cooperative, and solo play.
          Tips & Tricks:
            • Dungeon Alliance is not for the faint of heart - there's a lot going on here - but it's incredibly involving. In complexity, it is in the same range as the Mage Knight Board Game.
            • Speaking of Mage Knight (which I used to own)... I think they're both brilliantly designed games, but Mage Knight didn't hit the table after I got Dungeon Alliance.
            • While the game works with up to 4 players, there is a substantial increase in playing time with that many players. We have liked it better with 2 - smaller dungeon, less down time.
            • It really shines as a solo game as well.
            Extras
            • Both expansions are highly recommended: the Champions expansion and the Adventure Packs... and there is at least one more planned expansion on the way!
            • If you'd like to see more about the intricate stories behind the game, there are two webcomics that keep growing from the Quixotic Games team - I'm just going to link to the very interesting design diary about the comics on BGG.
            • Andrew also wrote a great article on getting started with Dungeon Alliance.
            • Finally, this is the second of two games designed by Andrew Parks on this countdown.

            Friday, May 24, 2024

            #17: Lost Ruins of Arnak (Mark's Top 100 2024)


            Lost Ruins of Arnak
            BoardGameGeek
            • rank: 27
            • rating: 8.1
            • published: 2020
            • designers: Elwen & Min
            Print Status
            • in print
            Why It's On The List
            • Yes, it's another combination of worker placement and deck-building... but don't let that fool you. The gameplay is well-thought-out, the artwork/graphic design is gorgeous, and there are meaningful timing and resource management choices throughout.
            Tips & Tricks:
            • Don't lock into a single strategy based on how the last game ended... the game situation can change drastically depending on player choices and the various random decks, so you need to be prepared to react to the game in front of you.
            • Sometimes, a card is more valuable for the move icon than the special power - one of the tricks of the game is making sure you realize when that is..
            • The double-sided board (bird temple and snake temple) is a really nice touch to vary up play and tactics.
            Extras
            • The Expedition Leaders expansion is an excellent addition to the game - adding to the variety without overwhelming the game system. The specific special powers of each adventurer are well-balanced.
            • I played The Search For Professor Kutil solo campaign twice... and while I think it's excellent, you don't need the campaign to play a really enjoyable solo game with Arnak.
            • The Missing Expedition expansion takes the Search for Professor Kutil and turns it up to 11. The campaign can now be played solo or as a two-player cooperative game.
            • There is also an extra solo print-n-play file to increase the solo game difficulty.

            Thursday, May 23, 2024

            #18: Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure (Mark's Top 100 2024)


            Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure
            BoardGameGeek
            • rank: 81
            • rating: 7.8
            • published: 2016
            • designer: Paul Dennen
            Print Status
            • in print
            Why It's On The List
            • Smoosh Dungeonquest and Ascension together and you'd get something close to this fantastic deck-building dungeon crawl... with the very clever “clank” mechanic binding the two together and acting a game timer and source of tension.
            Tips & Tricks:
            • While there is a lot of witty color text, it’s small and doesn’t make the cards more difficult to read.
            • The graphic design of the cards is really smart – they have used consistent iconography and clear text instructions to make it easy to understand what the card does for you, even when you add in the expansion cards.
            • The expansions have been packaged well in appropriately sized boxes... and have all been worth their cost as far as enjoyment and variety goes. (Better than you can say for some franchises - I'm looking at you, Adrenaline: Team Play DLC and Carcassonne: The Catapult.)
            Extras
            • You can read my Welcome to the Clank-iverse overview of most of the expansions available for Clank!... and includes Kulkmann's homebrewed rules for a Clank! campaign. (I say "most" because Adventuring Party appeared after I wrote the article.)
            • Clank! In! Space! is excellent as well... with a slightly higher rules overhead.
            • My boys and I loved Clank! Legacy. It is longer per game by about 50%, but we had a blast.
            • Most recently, we've enjoyed Clank! Catacombs... a stand-alone game with a variable dungeon made of tiles.
            • The picture includes heroes from various expansions as well as the different versions of the "boss" marker... and the monkey idols. There's a really serious monkey obsession on the part of the designers.
            • There's actually a really nice free app from Renegade that has a solo mode for Clank! which works well.
            • This is the first of two games on the countdown from designer Paul Dennen.

            Wednesday, May 22, 2024

            #19: Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit (Mark's Top 100 2024)


            Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit

            • rank: 1,081
            • rating: 7.6
            • published: 2000
            • designers: Rob Daviau, Alan Roach, & Craig Van Ness
            Print Status
            • VERY out of print
            Why It's On The List
            • This is possibly the best licensed game out there - certainly the one with the best combination of "toy factor" and "solid gameplay"... and it's based on the weakest film in the Star Wars franchise. It manages to capture the best parts of a bad film and make a splendid game. 
            Tips & Tricks:
            • The Trade Federation is slightly easier to play... but with two experienced players, the game is pretty well balanced.
            • If you're playing the Naboo side, you MUST use every Anakin card possible to push the timer. (This is really the only "can't miss" bit of strategic advice I can give you.)
            Extras
            • This is not the only good Star Wars game (I also like Outer Rim & X-Wing Miniatures & Imperial Assault) but it's certainly the best. (Note: I have not yet played Armada, Legion, or Shatterpoint...)
            • The Risk: Star Wars Edition published in 2015 is a similar but NOT identical design... Nat Green has an excellent article on BGG comparing them.
            • Here's what I wrote about The Queen's Gambit for The One Hundred
            • This is the fourth of six games co-designed by Rob Daviau on this countdown... and the first of two co-designed by Craig Van Ness. (Please note: Rob heaps praise on Craig for doing the lion's share of the work on Queen's Gambit.)

            Tuesday, May 21, 2024

            #20: Undaunted: Normandy/North Africa (Mark's Top 100 2024)


            Undaunted: Normandy/North Africa
              BoardGameGeek and BoardGameGeek
              • rank: 167 & 527
              • rating: 7.8 & 7.8
              • published: 2019 & 2020 
              • designers: Trevor Benjamin & David Thompson (solo system design by David Digby & Dávid Turczi)
              Print Status
              • in print
              Why It's On The List
              • Take the basic deck-building combat design of War Chest and ground it in the theme and combat tactics of WW2... for this old AH/SPI wargamer, it's the best of both worlds. It feels like the best games of Squad Leader without the long playing time or the rules headaches.
              Tips & Tricks:
              • It has all the feels of a classic wargame - with the deck-building system that adds fog of war and command & control issues with extremely low fiddliness.
              • So far, scenarios in both boxes seem to be well-balanced... even those with asymmetric objectives. 
              • Like any squad-level combat game, cover is important.
              • Lessons learned in the Command & Colors games work here as well - try not to strand units in indefensible positions.
              • Both boxes reflect a solid understanding of the different kinds of WW2 tactical warfare they work to portray - impressive.
              Extras
              • The Reinforcements box not only adds new units and scenarios for both of the original boxes - it also adds a complete storage system for both games... and, more importantly for my purposes, a sophisticated solo system that is challenging and makes pretty solid tactical decisions.
              • I'm really looking forward later this year to Undaunted 2200: Callisto... bringing the system into a sci-fi setting.
              • This is the second of two David Thompson designs on my list... and the third of four Dávid Turczi designs.

              Monday, May 20, 2024

              #21: Zooloretto (Mark's Top 100 2024)


              Zooloretto 

              BoardGameGeek 
              • rank: 1,002
              • rating: 6.8
              • published: 2007
              • designer: Michael Schacht
              Print Status
              • out of print?
              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 was ranked #199 for me on this year's 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.
              Extras
              • 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...
              • The picture above shows a game with all the expansions in (the white meeples are workers from Zooloretto: Boss).

              Sunday, May 19, 2024

              #22: Nemo's War (Mark's Top 100 2024)

              Nemo's War


              • rank: 327
              • rating: 7.8
              • published: 2017 (2nd edition)
              • designer: Chris Taylor
              Print Status
              • in print
              Why It's On The List
              • A solo "wargame" that is brimming with thematic touches (from the event deck to some of the unusual ship choices)... and an impressive level of variability created simply by changing Nemo's objective.
              Tips & Tricks:
                • Nemo’s War was designed as a solitaire game – everything from the unidirectional layout of the board to the theme of the game scream “low player count”. That said, there are variants in the rule book to play with more players… my one play with more players worked fine, but at its heart, it's a solo game.
                • Nemo’s War reminds me a bit of old school wargames – ships have attack and defense values, there are a lot of dice rolls, and there is even a printed CRT on the board for the various actions. At the same time, it incorporates action expenditures, bag draws, ways to mitigate bad die rolls, etc. from the more modern game designs.
                • Each objective demands different play styles and trade-offs, which I find endlessly fascinating. So far, I’ve proven to be the most successful at exploration – while all-out war with the nations does not seem to be my forte. I must also note that I play on the lowest difficulty setting – I cannot imagine cranking this up to the highest level… I’d be fish food in a few turns.
                • The game runs about 90 minutes now that I’ve internalized the rules and the order of play – it isn’t unusual for me to play a couple of times in a night if I’m stuck in a hotel on a business trip. And I’m always eager to play it again.
                Extras
                • There are multiple expansion packs available - I sprung for all of them. The Bold & Caring pack adds 2 new objectives, which makes the game even more varied.
                • The Journey's End expansion is well worth your time & money! (Of course, if you're just jumping into the game, the Ultimate Edition has all the content along with really great rulebooks integrating all the expansion content.)

                Saturday, May 18, 2024

                #23: Africa (Mark's Top 100 2024)


                Africa

                • rank: 5,822
                • rating: 6.0
                • published: 2001
                • designer: Reiner Knizia
                Print Status
                • out of print
                Why It's On The List
                • A great Knizia exploration game that was sadly under-rated when it first appeared in 2002 because it wasn't the next Euphrat & Tigris.
                Tips & Tricks:
                • As much as possible, don't waste moves. You can work to set up plays so that you can make sure that each turn has two productive activities.
                • Use the "skip a turn, move anywhere" power sparingly.
                • Relocating nomads can be very lucrative point-wise, especially if you plan for it.
                Extras
                • Africa packs a lot of game into 30 minutes... it's worth tracking down a copy.
                • I don't understand it - but for some reason, this is a really polarizing game for some people.
                • Here's what I wrote about Africa for The One Hundred.
                • This is the seventh of seven (7!) games on my list by designer Reiner Knizia.

                Friday, May 17, 2024

                #24: Flowerpower (Mark's Top 100 2024)


                Flowerpower

                • rank: 4,595
                • rating: 6.6
                • published: 2001
                • designers: Angelika Fassauer & Peter Haluszka
                Print Status
                • way out of print
                Why It's On The List
                • Despite an off-putting box cover, this is a tremendous two-player game of building gardens that can be played "friendly" or "cutthroat"... and enjoyed both ways.
                Tips & Tricks:
                • You must use the "community garden" area wisely - ignoring it will simply allow your opponent more space to plant with.
                • Wait to use your "weeds" (you only have three of them) until your opponent has filled up enough of his side of the board to make them painful.
                • Pay attention to how much space you'll need to get a flower bed to the next point level - there's no use making a bed of five flowers when they're worth the same as a bed of three flowers.
                Extras
                • This is a game that begs for a reprint... preferably using the GeekBits concept.
                • Here's what I wrote about Flowerpower for Game Central Station (my old website)

                Thursday, May 16, 2024

                #25: Everdell (Mark's Top 100 2024)


                Everdell 
                BoardGameGeek
                • rank: 36
                • rating: 8.0
                • published: 2018
                • designer: James A. Wilson
                Print Status
                • in print
                Why It's On The List
                • Based on the recommendations of others gamers (especially fellow Opinionated Gamer Chris Wray), I splurged on the Everdell Complete Collection without ever having played the game. As you can tell by where I placed this on my top 100 list, I don't regret that decision.
                Tips & Tricks:
                • Everdell is a combination of worker placement and tableau building... all in service to the creation of a world filled with anthropomorphic forest critters. The whimsical and beautiful card and board art makes the game even more enjoyable to play.
                • The seasons mechanic has a number of interesting strategic considerations - since by not moving into the next season, you block other players from certain worker placement spaces.
                • While the game will play five players, we've found it most enjoyable at 2-3 players.
                • My sons' favorite expansion is Spirecrest (which add the large animals and the trek across the mountains)... I'm partial to New Leaf (which adds the train station and all the visitors).
                • Timing is everything in Everdell... 
                Extras
                • The production of the Everdell Complete Collection is stunning - the only problem is how dang big the box is.
                • Picture above includes both Mistwood and New Leaf.
                • 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 Mistwood expansion.
                • BTW, Chris Wray 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.)

                Wednesday, May 15, 2024

                #26: Ticket to Ride (Mark's Top 100 2024)


                Ticket to Ride 
                BoardGameGeek
                • rank: 237
                • rating: 7.4
                • published: 2004
                • designer: Alan R. Moon
                Print Status
                • in print
                Why It's On The List
                • Gorgeous production coupled with easy gameplay... a classic theme (trains!) coupled with a classic Rummy set-collection mechanic... just as playable with 2 as it is with 5.
                Tips & Tricks:
                • Playing with 3 or 5 players is MUCH more cutthroat than playing with 2 or 4, due to how crowded the board can become.
                • Figuring out the "choke points" on any map is an important step in choosing tickets both at the beginning of the game and as you take ticket turns later.
                • We have a house rule that players can keep taking turns while someone decides on tickets as long as their action is to draw cards or take tickets. If a player is going to play to the board, they must wait until the ticket-taker has made their decision.
                • Most importantly, this is an excellent "gateway" game for non-gamers.
                Extras

                Tuesday, May 14, 2024

                #27: Baseball Highlights 2045 (Mark's Top 100 2024)


                Baseball Highlights 2045

                • rank: 611
                • rating: 7.5
                • published: 2015
                Print Status
                • in print (reprint on the way!)
                Why It's On The List
                • The name implies the genius of the design - with a six card hand, you aren't simulating a whole baseball game... you're just showing us the highlights. Set in a future timestream where robots are batters and pitchers have cybernetic arms, this wonderful game melds deck-building with hand management in clever and interesting ways.
                Tips & Tricks:
                  • Drafting well is key... and part of that key is paying attention to the types of players your opponent is drafting.
                  • Losing a game on your way to the World Series can be beneficial, if you stack your team with popular players that enable to get higher quality draftees.
                  • While I'm not a fan of the three player variant in the rulebook, the 2 player game is great and the 4 player tournament is amazing with four experienced players.
                  Extras
                  • The expansions that add players have some nice twists - but the coaches and ballpark expansions are just for variety (aka non-essential).
                  • This is the second of two Mike Fitzgerald designs on my top 100 list.

                  Monday, May 13, 2024

                  #28: Minigolf Designer (Mark's Top 100 2024)


                  Minigolf Designer

                  • rank: 3,531
                  • rating: 7.8
                  • published: 2020
                  • designer: Alban Nanty
                  Print Status
                  • out of print?!
                  Why It's On The List
                  • Take the part I like best about Kingdomino (the drafting system), use it to drive a tile placement game with thematic scoring (like Carcassonne but without the arguments about which set of farm rules we’ll be using), and provided the proper components (big cloth bag, easy to read tiles, clever use of cards to add variety) to make a really enjoyable game experience.
                  Tips & Tricks:
                  • The scoring has a number of elements... however, they all make sense AND the scoring track includes a reminder of all the rules in play.
                  • Start with the Family game... the Advanced Game has some risk/reward elements that won't be clear until you've got a couple of games under your belt.
                  Extras
                  • The first mini-expansion (Putt of No Return) does things: it adds interesting new course tiles and investors, it provides two-layer par boards (a welcome addition), and it fixes my main complaint about the original game with new and better art for all the cards.
                  • The second mini-expansion (Minigolf Empire) has a cute dice game for playing through the course you created and an extensive campaign system... but I like it best for the "news" cards which offer a variety of goals to use even in single games.
                  • Here's my review of Minigolf Designer for the Opinionated Gamers site.
                  • I find the solo mode an engaging puzzle with a nice push-your-luck element. Highly recommended for solo play.

                  Sunday, May 12, 2024

                  #29: Mystery Rummy: Al Capone & the Chicago Underworld (Mark's Top 100 2024)


                  Mystery Rummy: Al Capone & the Chicago Underworld

                  • rank: 3,651
                  • rating: 6.9
                  • published: 2003
                  • designers: Mike Fitzgerald & Nick Sauer
                  Print Status
                  • out of print?
                  Why It's On The List
                  • This is my favorite of the Mystery Rummy series... mostly because it feels a bit like Canasta (possibly my favorite standard deck card game) in how difficult it is to hide key cards from your opponent(s).
                  Tips & Tricks:
                    • In my opinion, this is the easiest of the Mystery Rummy games to teach to non-gamers.
                    • While MR: Al Capone is a great 2-handed game and a wonderful partnership game, it drags on way too long with three players.
                    • Don't give up... it is possible to fight your back into the game, even after a bad hand. (Just one of the reasons I love this game.)
                    Extras

                    Saturday, May 11, 2024

                    #30: Can't Stop (Mark's Top 100 2024)


                    Can't Stop

                    • rank: 771
                    • rating: 6.9
                    • published: 1980
                    • designer: Sid Sackson
                    Print Status
                    • in print?
                    Why It's On The List
                    • In my ever-so-humble opinion, this (and not Acquire) is Sid Sackson's masterpiece. It's so simple & yet so engaging.
                    Tips & Tricks:
                      • One of the niftier variants to try is "one piece per space" - in other words, you can't stop rolling if you would have to place a marker on an already occupied space.
                      • Dan Blum once suggested that there are two basic ways to play Can't Stop based on Star Trek: you can play like Kirk (take crazy risks) or Spock (analyze the odds). I find that both funny and accurate.
                      Extras
                      • There are some enterprising folks who have scavenged copies of Advance to Boardwalk to add extra playing pieces to their copies of Can't Stop - I am not one of them. First, that's rude to a very nice game (Advance to Boardwalk). Second, Can't Stop isn't as much fun with 5+ players.
                      • My last four games of the 2013 Gathering of Friends were the Can’t Stop tournament. I won my first two rounds, then squeaked forward in the semifinal with a second place finish over my arch-nemesis (and good friend) Larry Levy. (There were two semifinal games with 3 players each – the first two players to complete 3 columns advanced to the final.) So, I found myself in the final against Daryl Andrews, Rebecca, and the designer of two of my favorite games: Tom Lehmann. I quickly shot up the board & claimed the 6 and the 8… but it took what seemed like forever (thanks to a couple of near-misses) for me to finally nail down a 3rd column and the win! That win SHOULD have meant that I got the first pick off the amazing prize table in 2014... but as I was not able to attend, I got nothing but the thrill of victory. Sigh.
                      • Here's what I wrote about Can't Stop for The One Hundred.

                      Friday, May 10, 2024

                      #31: New Frontiers (Mark's Top 100 2024)


                      New Frontiers
                      BoardGameGeek
                      • rank: 807
                      • rating: 7.4
                      • published: 2018
                      • designer: Tom Lehmann
                      Print Status
                      • in print
                      Why It's On The List
                      • I wouldn't go as far to say that New Frontiers has fired the classic Puerto Rico for me... but it covers a lot of the same ground with better graphics and a more compelling theme. 
                      Tips & Tricks:
                      • New Frontiers does not seem to have the same "newbie automatically assists player to their left" problem as Puerto Rico... but players still need to pay careful attention to the downstream effects of their action choices.
                      • Don't put all your point-scoring eggs in one basket - especially when it comes to the 9 cost technologies. I have been known to buy a 9 cost tech that was only marginal for me in order to keep it out of the hands of someone who could really benefit from it.
                      • I personally like the goals (which is also true for with both the original card game and Roll for the Galaxy)... but not everyone is fond of them.
                        Extras
                        • The Starry Rift expansion is finally out... but I don't own it (yet)! 
                        • This is the fifth of seven (7!) Tom Lehmann games that will appear on my top 100 list this time around... and the second of three Race for the Galaxy universe games. Sue me.