Takenoko Review

Takenoko Box

Foreword

Takenoko is a gorgeous game with a cute panda and interesting interdependence.

Takenoko In Progress

Takenoko Close Up

How to Play

Goal

The goal of the game is to score the most points by expanding the communal garden, growing bamboo, and/or feeding the panda. Each player is free to take objectives of any of these three types throughout the game. All of the objectives are linked; so, as players pursue one objective, they might also advance another, either knowingly or unknowingly.

Setup

Each player starts with a player sheet, 2 action chips, and one of each of the objectives: Plots, Gardener, and Panda.

Place the Pond plot tile in the center of the table. Place the panda and gardener on that tile. Finally, place piles of the other components in easy reach.

Takenoko Setup


The Turn

On a player’s turn, they select and perform 2 of 5 actions. (After the first round, each player also rolls the weather die at the start of their turn.)

Actions

Objectives

Objective cards are how players score points. There are 3 types of objectives: Plots, Gardener, and Panda. Each objective depicts a condition that must be met on your turn to complete it. If you meet that condition on your turn, you can play that objective card face-up in front of you to complete it. A player may not draw a new objective if they already have 5 uncompleted ones in hand.

Takenoko Plot Cards
Plots card: expand the communal garden and irrigate it as depicted.

Takenoko Gardener Cards
Gardener card: grow bamboo on the plots depicted to the height depicted.

Takenoko Panda Cards
Panda card: eat bamboo of the type depicted.

Objective-Action: Draw 1 objective card of any type.

Plots

Takenoko Plots

Plots are the hexagonal tiles that are used to expand the garden and grow bamboo. There are green plots, yellow plots, and pink plots. Each plot grows bamboo of its corresponding type. Some plots have improvements, explained below.

Plot-Action: Draw 3 plots from the plot pile. Choose 1 plot and place it adjacent to the starting pond plot and/or adjacent to two other plots. Place the plots not chosen on the bottom of the plot pile.

Irrigation

In order for bamboo to grow on a plot, the plot must be irrigated.

Takenoko Irrigation

A plot is irrigated if:

  • it is adjacent to the starting pond tile
  • it has an irrigation channel on at least one of its edges (connected to the starting pond plot)
  • it has a watershed improvement on it

Irrigation-Action: Gain an irrigation channel piece.

Irrigation channel pieces can be placed immediately or saved for later. If saved, they may be played any time on your turn for free. Irrigation channels must stem from the starting pond plot or another irrigation channel.

As soon as a plot becomes irrigated for the first time, it gains a bamboo section of its corresponding color.

Gardener

The gardener is used to grow bamboo. The gardener starts on the starting pond tile.

Gardener-Action: Move the gardener at least one space in a straight line and grow bamboo, if possible.

Takenoko Gardener

When the gardener grows bamboo, he grows a bamboo section on the plot he is on and any immediately adjacent plot of the same color. Any of these plots that aren’t irrigated or already have 4 sections of bamboo do not gain a bamboo section.

Panda

Takenoko Panda

The panda eats bamboo, Om Nom Nom! When the panda eats bamboo on your turn, you gain it and put it on your sheet. When you complete a panda objective card, return the depicted bamboo sections to their respective piles.

Panda-Action: Move the panda at least one space in a straight line and eat a bamboo section, if possible.

Weather Die

The weather die is rolled at the start of each player’s turn (after the first round), and it provides the current player 1 of 5 bonuses. If a ‘?’ is rolled, the player chooses any of the 5 bonuses.

Takenoko Die

These bonuses are:

  • gaining a 3rd separate action this turn
  • growing one section of bamboo on any irrigated plot
  • allowing 2 identical actions this turn
  • moving the panda and eating a section of bamboo
  • gaining an improvement tile

Takenoko Die Actions

Improvements

There are 3 types of improvements. Some plots start with an improvement. Each plot may only have 1 improvement on it. If a plot has neither an improvement nor bamboo on it, a player may place an improvement (gained from the weather die) on that plot on their turn.

Takenoko EnclosureEnclosure: The panda may not eat bamboo on a tile with an enclosure.

TakenokoFertilizerFertilizer: When a plot grows bamboo, it gains 2 sections instead of 1 (still subject to max 4 sections per plot).

Takenoko WatershedWatershed: A plot with a watershed improvement is irrigated automatically.

End of Game

The final round of the game begins when a player completes a set number of objectives:

2 players – 9 objectives
3 players – 8 objectives
4 players – 7 objectives

Once a player completes the requisite number of objectives, that player takes the Emperor card (worth 2 points) and finishes their turn. Then, each other player gets one more turn. After the last player takes their final turn, players total their points from completed objectives. The player with the most points wins.

In case of a tie, the tied player with the most points from panda objective cards wins. If still tied, all tied players share victory.

Conclusion

Takenoko is a good family game, and it is gorgeous. The rules aren’t that complicated, but there is enough to think about to keep me interested. Games that can be played at different levels simultaneous appeal to me greatly because I play with non-hardcore gamers frequently.

I can play the game trying to optimize my strategy, read my opponents, and anticipate the flow of the game. Other players might try to optimize their play without worrying about the other players. Then there are players that play the game turn by turn just to enjoy the artwork and the company. Takenoko supports all of these players. Granted I do have a greater win-percentage when I play all out, but it isn’t guaranteed (since there is an appropriate level of luck), and, more importantly, the game feels close throughout.

Specifically, I am a fan of the interconnectedness of everything. I like that I can work on multiple objectives at the same time. Advancing a plot objective card and a gardener objective card simultaneously when they both care about pink plot tiles is incredibly satisfying. Or, when I need a 3-height pink bamboo tile for a gardener objective card and I need pink bamboo for a panda objective card, I can send the panda to a 4-height pink bamboo tile and advance both cards. It sounds boring in text, I give you that, but seeing these things in game and then successfully executing them is satisfying.

In addition, we generally have a lot of fun just interacting with the panda and gardener miniatures. Overall, this is a solid family game.

 

Specter Ops Review

Specter Ops Box

Foreword

Specter Ops is a team game with hidden movement, deduction, and player powers.

Hidden Movement

Goal

One player is the Agent. Their goal is to stealthily complete objectives and escape.

Everyone else is a Hunter. Their goal is to stop the Agent.

(In a 5-player game, one Hunter is a Traitor secretly helping the Agent.)

Specter Ops In Progress

Game Overview

The Agent spends the game secretly moving around the board completing 3 of 4 objectives and then escaping. The Hunters must track the Agent and reduce her health to 0 or delay her for 40 turns.

Both the Agent and the Hunters are represented by miniatures on the game board. The Hunters visibly move their miniatures, but the Agent does not. Instead, the Agent writes down her moves and only uses her miniature to denote where she was last seen.

At the start of the game, the Hunters select characters with special Agent-hunting abilities. Then, the Agent selects her own character and 3 pieces of equipment to help evade the Hunters.

How to Play

Setup

Specter Ops Setup

Objectives

There are 4 objectives, and the exact location of each is randomly determined at the start of the game. The 4 potential objective-location groups are shown on the Agent’s movement sheet. For each group, roll a die. Circle the corresponding location on the Agent’s movement sheet and place a mission token (blue side up) on the board at that space.

Specter Ops Objective

Vehicle/Hunters

The Vehicle starts on space K17, and all of the Hunters start inside it. To represent the Vehicle on the game board, there is a Vehicle token. To represent the Hunters in the Vehicle, there is a Vehicle card.

SpecterOpsVehicle

Additional 4 or 5 Player Setup Rules

Line of Sight

During the Game, the only way the Agent can be seen is if she is in Line of Sight to a Hunter miniature. To be in Line of Sight, the Agent and Hunter must be in the same row or column, and there can’t be a structure in between them.

For example, if the Agent is on spot Q5 and a Hunter is on the spot Q10, the Hunter has Line of Sight and the Agent is visible. If the Hunter was on spot Q12, the Hunter would not have Line of Sight and the Agent would not be visible.

Specter Ops LOS

If the Hunter is in a road, the hunter can see both rows or columns in that road.

Specter Ops Road Vision

Agent

The Agent takes her turn, and then the Hunters take their turn.

Movement

At the start of each turn, the Agent may move up to 4 spaces. Diagonal movement is allowed. Moving through a Hunter is not allowed. Since the Agent doesn’t physically move a piece on the board, she must write where she ends her move on her movement sheet (Q5 for example). After moving, the Agent announces that she has moved.

SpecterOpsQ5

Moving 2 or less can be beneficial because it nullifies the Hunters’ Motion Sensor, explained in the Hunter section.

If, before moving, she starts orthogonally or diagonally adjacent to an objective, she may complete that objective by flipping it over to its red side.

SpecterOpsCompletedObjective

If, while moving, she passes through a space that a Hunter has Line of Sight to, she must place the Last Seen marker and her miniature in that space.

SpecterOpsLastSeen

If, after moving, she is in Line of Sight of a Hunter miniature, she must place her miniature on that spot.

Specter Ops Visible

Finally, if after moving she has completed 3 objectives and is on one of the exit points, she wins.

Specter Ops Exit

Character and Equipment

At the start of the game, after the Hunters choose their characters, the Agent chooses her character. Each character has a special ability.

Specter Ops Character

The Agent also gets to choose 3 Equipment cards. There are four generic Equipment cards (Adrenal Surge, Flash Bang, Smoke Grenade, and Stealth Field) with two copies of each. In addition, each character has a character specific Equipment card that they may choose. Each Equipment card may only be used once in a game, except for some of the character specific ones that may be used twice.

Specter Ops Equipment

Equipment may either be used before or after moving, but only 1 Equipment card may be used in a single turn. Each Equipment card explains how to use it. Most of the Equipment cards must either be revealed or rotated to show when they are used. When any Equipment card is used, the Agent must write its initials on her movement sheet.

SpecterOpsInitials

In a 4 or 5 player game, the Agent chooses 5 equipment cards and has 2 extra health.

Hunters

At the start of each Hunter turn, the Hunters must decide their activation order.

A Hunter may either move, use a character ability, or activate the Motion Sensor (if in the vehicle and if it hasn’t moved this turn). Then, the Hunter may attack the Agent, if the Hunter is not in the vehicle and the Agent is in Line of Sight. Once the first Hunter’s activation is finished, the second Hunter’s activation begins, etc.

Movement/Vehicle

Most Hunters may move up to 4 spaces in a turn, if not in the Vehicle. The Vehicle may move up to 10 spaces in a turn, but it must remain in the double column/row roads. Entering or exiting the Vehicle ends a Hunter’s movement.

Specter Ops Roads

To move the Vehicle, a Hunter must start the turn in the Vehicle. The Vehicle’s movement may be split between multiple Hunters’ activations. If one Hunter moves the vehicle 6 spaces, a second Hunter could move the vehicle up to 4 more spaces. A Hunter may exit the vehicle after using it.

Instead of moving, a Hunter may either use a Character ability or the Motion Sensor. For example, instead of moving, The Prophet may use the post-cognition Character ability to make the Agent announce where she was two turns ago.

If a Hunter starts the turn in the Vehicle, that Hunter may use the Motion Sensor. The Motion Sensor may not be used if the Vehicle already moved that turn, and the Vehicle may not be moved if the Motion Sensor was already activated that turn.

When the Motion Sensor is used, if the Agent moved 2 or less spaces on her turn, she says “no motion detected.” If the Agent moved more than 2 spaces on her turn, she must say where she is in relation to the vehicle.

For example, if the Vehicle is on N9 and the Agent is on G9, the Agent must say West. If the Agent was on G10, Southwest.

Specter Ops Motion Sensor

After Moving

After moving, the Agent will either be in Line of Sight or she won’t.

If the Agent isn’t in Line of Sight, she must say “clear.”

If the Agent is in Line of Sight, she must place her miniature on her current location. Then, if the Hunter isn’t in the Vehicle, that Hunter may attack the Agent.

If the Agent and Hunter are on the same space, the Hunter automatically deals 1 point of damage to the Agent. Otherwise, count how many spaces away the Agent is from the Hunter (including the Agent’s current space). Then roll a die.

If the roll is a 1, the attack automatically misses.

If the roll is a 6, roll an extra die and add the rolls together. Every extra die that rolls a 6 grants another extra die.

If the total die roll is equal to or greater than the number of spaces, deal 1 point of damage to the Agent.

Specter Ops Attack

If the Agent is reduced to 0 health, the Hunters win the game.

Stunned Hunter

If the Agent stuns a Hunter with a Character ability or Equipment card, that Hunter may only move 2 spaces on their next turn, cannot use Character abilities, and cannot attack the Agent. To show a Hunter has been stunned, put a Stun Marker on the Hunter card; remove it at the end of the turn.

Specter Ops Stun

A Hunter may not be stunned while in the Vehicle.

5 Player Traitor

Conclusion

I love this game. I enjoy playing the Agent and the Hunter(s). Hidden movement is cool. As the Agent, trying to outsmart your opponents through feints, bluffs, and counter-bluffs is awesome. As the Hunter(s), locating, cornering, and attacking the Agent is incredibly satisfying. The addition of the Equipment and Character abilities also adds a lot to the game.

For example, with the Smoke Bomb you can make a 3 by 3 area within 4 spaces obstruct vision. So, you could throw it out at a road to block LoS when you run past that road. You could also throw it down and then move into it; you can only be hit if your opponent is on top of you in that scenario. (If you are The Cobra, you stun any Hunter on top of you.) Or, you could bluff; throw it out to block LoS in one direction, and then go in a completely different direction. That last one is my favorite, but I do like the idea of double Smoke Bomb Cobra.

Specter Ops Cobra Smoke Grenade

Unfortunately though, I have only met 1 other person who enjoys it as well. (After 3 games one of my other players no longer likes the game.) This game is certainly not for everyone, and there are 2 main reasons why it might turn a player off.

Some people feel overwhelmed and have a lot of trouble deciding what to do initially, particularly for Hunter players. Since, at the start of the game, you have 0 information about which Agent character is being played, what their equipment is, or where they went. This has really turned off multiple players. A few pieces of advice to avoid this for hunters are:

  • Use the roads for vision. Place your miniatures in such a way that the Agent will be forced to run past at least one of them. This is excellent for initially establishing where the Agent went.
  • Pick Prophet for your first game. Prophet’s post cognition ability makes it impossible for the Agent to completely juke (outmaneuver to stay hidden) the Hunters.
  • Don’t be afraid to not move on your turn if you are in a good position.

The second problem some people have with the game is they find it boring. As the Agent it isn’t really boring because you have to constantly plan your moves. As the Hunters, if the Agent is consistently moving 2 spaces a turn or spends turns waiting, it can get boring if you just wait for them to show themselves. This has never been an issue for me because I am highly competitive, and I have no problem waiting if I think it is a good move. But, I understand that this can be a boring, low action situation for people who just want to be engaged and have a good time.

I have not had a chance to play with the Traitor, but it does intrigue me. I have only played 2 and 3 player games so far, but I like the game so much that I already want to recommend it. For people that don’t like deduction games, I would avoid it, but for competitive players that love trying to outsmart their opponents, I highly recommend it.

Kingsburg Review

Kingsburg Box

Foreword

Kingsburg is a 2-5 player worker placement game that uses dice as its workers. This mechanic allows for plentiful options without overloading the players.

Worker Placement

Goal

The goal of the game is to build buildings, score points, and fend off yearly attacks.

Kingsburg In Progress

Game Overview

The game is divided into five years. Each year has three Productive Seasons where players roll dice, influence advisors, and build a building (the meat of the game). These are separated by minor, kingly interventions, and at the end of the year, there is an attack that can potentially lose players points.

How to Play

Each year is divided into 8 phases:

  1. Aid from the King
  2. Spring Productive Season
  3. The King’s Reward
  4. Summer Productive Season
  5. The King’s Envoy
  6. Autumn Productive Season
  7. Recruit Soldiers
  8. Winter – The Battle

Kingsburg Calender Track

Productive Season

The bulk of the game takes place in the three Productive Seasons (Spring, Summer, and Autumn). In these Productive Seasons, players roll their dice, influence advisors, and optionally build a building.

Roll the Dice

All players roll their three dice. The player with the highest combined total will be last to influence an advisor in this season. To represent this, place that player’s colored disk at the bottom of the Turn Order Chart. The player with the next highest combined total is placed second to last. Repeat until everyone’s disk has been placed.

KingsburgTurnOrderChart

Influence Advisors

The advisors range from 1 to 18. Players use their dice to select (influence) these advisors. Each advisor grants the selecting player resources. The higher the number of the advisor, the more resources it grants.

KingsburgAdvisors

The first player on the Turn Order Chart selects first. They can use one, two, or all three of their dice to select an advisor with a matching number.

For example, if they rolled a 3, 5, and 6. They could use all of their dice to select the 14-advisor. They could use two dice to select the 8, 9, or 11-advisor. Or, they could use one die to select the 3, 5, or 6-advisor.

Once the first player selects an advisor, the second player selects an advisor, etc. until all players, in order, select an advisor. After everyone has selected an advisor, players can potentially select a second advisor, in turn order. Any dice that weren’t used on the first selection, can be used for this second selection. For anyone with a die remaining after the second selection, there is a third/final selection. So, a player could either get one high numbered advisor or multiple low numbered advisors. The only caveat is that no advisor can be selected more than once in a season.

Build Buildings

After influencing advisors to gain resources, each player may use those resources to build a building.

Kingsburg Province Sheet

To build a building, you must turn in resources matching the cost in the circle on your Province Sheet. To show that you built a building, place one of your Building Tokens over the cost. You then immediately gain the victory points to the right of the flag (advance your token on the Scoring Track around the board). In addition, you gain the effect in the text for the rest of the game.

For example, if you spend two gold to build the Statue, you immediately gain three victory points, and for the rest of the game, anytime you roll the same number on all of your Productive Season dice, you may reroll one of those dice.

At the start of the game, you may only build a building in the leftmost I column. In order to build a building in the II, III, or IV column you must build each building in that row in the preceding columns first. For example, if you want to build the Embassy, you would first have to build the Barricade, then the Crane, then the Town Hall. Once those are built, you may build the Embassy.

The Rest of the Year

Everything else that happens in the year revolves around the Productive Seasons.

1) Aid from the King

The player with the least built buildings gains a white die for the next Spring Productive Season. This die is rolled in the Spring Productive Season with the rest of your dice. You can use that white die with at least one of your other dice to select an advisor. (The bonus white die does count for determining turn order in the Productive Season.)

If two or more players are tied for the least amount of buildings, the tied player with the least goods (gold, wood, or stone) gains the white die. If still tied, all tied players gain one good of the their choice.

In the first year of the game, since all players will be tied in buildings and goods, all players gain one good.

2) Spring Productive Season

**See Productive Season above**

3) The King’s Reward

The player with the most built buildings gains a victory point. If there is a tie, all tied players gain a victory point.

4) Summer Productive Season

**See Productive Season above**

5) The King’s Envoy

The player with the least built buildings gains the King’s Envoy. In case of a tie, the tied player with the least goods gains the King’s Envoy. If still tied, no one gains the King’s Envoy.

KingsburgKingsEnvoy

The King’s Envoy can be used in a Productive Season to either:

A) Select an advisor a second time in a Productive Season

or

B) Build a second building in a Productive Season

For selecting an advisor a second time, the advisor can either be already selected by a different player or by yourself. Place the King’s Envoy marker next to your dice to show that you are using it.

For building a second building, you must follow the column rule (build from left to right) and have the resources to build both buildings.

When you use the King’s Envoy, return it to its starting spot. If the King’s Envoy is not used by phase 5 of the next turn, the King’s Envoy is reassigned.

6) Autumn Productive Season

**See Productive Season above**

7) Recruit Soldiers

Phase 7 directly relates to phase 8. I recommend reading phase 8 first.

In turn order defined by the Autumn Productive Season, players may recruit soldiers by turning in two goods (gold, wood, stone) per soldier. Players may recruit as many soldiers as they can afford. The goods could be the same or different.

Soldiers do reset to zero at the end of each year.

8) Winter – The Battle

Before the end of each year, one of five random enemies attacks. Each player is attacked by the same enemy.

KingsburgEnemies

Each player has a combat value and each enemy has a strength. If a player’s combat value exceeds the enemy’s strength, that player gets a reward. If a player’s combat value is less than the enemy’s strength, that player is penalized. If a player’s combat value ties the enemy’s strength, nothing happens.

A player’s combat value is determined by their soldiers, buildings, and the king’s reinforcements. Each soldier you have on the Soldier Chart adds 1 combat value. Buildings like Guard Tower, Fortress, and Farms add or subtract combat value. For the king’s reinforcement, one player rolls a die and every player adds that number to their combat value.

For example, Blue has two soldiers on the Soldier Chart for +2.
Blue has Guard Tower (+1), Blacksmith (+1), Palisade (+1), and Farms (-1) for a net +2.
For king’s reinforcements, a 3 is rolled for +3.
In this situation, Blue has a combat value of 7.

KingsburgCombatValue

In addition, the player that beats the enemy by the most, gets a bonus victory point. In case of tie, all tied players get the victory point. If no player beats the enemy, no one gets the victory point.

End of Year

At the end of the year, advance the Year Track by one and place the season token back at Aid from the King. At the end of year 5, the game is over.

Winning the Game

The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner. In case of a tie, the tied player with the most goods remaining wins. If still tied, the tied player with the most built buildings wins.

Conclusions

I enjoy Kingsburg because it provides me with a lot of strategic choice while still being fun for the family. I like being able to plan out exactly which buildings I am going to get in which order. Then, based on that, I like figuring out the best way to optimize my dice rolls in the Productive Seasons, taking into account what resources I need and what advisors my opponents might go after. Watching my strategy unfold as planned can be incredibly satisfying.

I have also played Kingsburg with minimal planning. In these games, I just start off with a general idea, and I leave myself open to potentially disrupt my opponents in the Productive Seasons. Whether or not I do disrupt my opponents, building buildings on a whim can be quite satisfying as well.

With regard to the dice as workers mechanic, I am a fan. This mechanic randomizes which of the 18 advisors you can potentially choose from each Productive Season; this keeps the game interesting because you have to decide the best potential combination of these random elements. I much prefer dice randomizing my options than determining success or failure. While consistently getting high rolls can be beneficial, a player won’t straight out lose for not rolling the highest consistently.

The thing I dislike the most about this game is that certain enemies can destroy your best building. If you don’t defeat specific enemies, generally the lower strength enemies of the year, you can lose your rightmost building. I really dislike this in theory because it allows for massive feast or famine strategies. You can completely ignore combat value bonuses, and if the King’s reinforcements are consistently high, you are in a better position than the person that defended themselves. If the King’s reinforcements are not high, you fall dramatically behind your opponents that prepared their defenses. In addition, no one likes losing things. Thankfully, this has not actually been much of an issue in the games I have played. The odds of losing a building are very low, but we basically all protect ourselves form them anyway. So even though this idea worries me, I still enjoy and recommend the game.

If you do like the game, I highly recommend checking out the first expansion, To Forge a Realm. The expansion adds more buildings and randomizes which ones you might start with each game. This alone significantly increased my enjoyment of a game I already liked. There is also a reworked combat variant that replaces king’s reinforcements that I look forward to trying. The added player specific powers also seem like they could add a lot.

Overall, I enjoy the game, recommend trying it, and if you like it, I highly recommend the expansion.

Push Fight Review

Push Fight In Progress

Game Overview

Push Fight is a two-player abstract strategy game where the board rapidly changes.

Object of the Game

Players fight to push one of their opponent’s pieces of the board, utilizing only two moves and a push each turn.

The Pieces

In Push Fight there are 3 pieces: Circles, Squares, and the Anchor.

Each player controls 3 Squares, 2 Circles, and the Anchor alternates between the two players.

Squares can push.

Square

Circles cannot push.

Circle

The Anchor prevents the last square that pushed from being pushed.

Anchor

Setup

The light pieces setup first on one side of the center dividing line. Then the dark pieces setup on the other side. The anchor does not start in play. The light pieces take the first turn.

For your first game, I recommend the standard setup below:

StandardSetup

For future games, there are no restrictions on how you setup your pieces on your side of the line. You do not need to put a piece in all 4 spaces adjacent to the line. You are also allowed to place pieces on the edge of your side of the line.

Playing the Game

Each turn consists of two optional moves and one mandatory push. You do not need to use both moves, but your moves can only be made before your push.

Move

When you move one of your pieces, you may move through any number of unoccupied spaces in a single move. You may not move diagonally.

For example, this would be a legal move:

PushFightMove

Push

After you have finished making your moves, you must Push with one of your Squares. How pushing works:

  • You must Push your chosen Square in the direction of at least one adjacent piece (that piece can be an opponent’s piece or your own)
  • If you Push into a row of adjacent pieces, you push that entire row

GenericPush

  • After you push, take the Anchor and place it on the Square that Pushed

AnchorPlacement

  • You may not make a Push that would move the Square with the Anchor
  • You may not make a Push that would move a piece into the top or bottom wall

CannotPush

  • The first player to Push one of their opponent’s pieces off either edge immediately wins the game

Conclusions

This is one of my favorite games. The rules are very simple, but, due to the move and push mechanics, the state of the game changes rapidly every turn. I almost certainly have played over a 100 games of this. When you first start playing, the games are pretty quick because it is easy to fall into a trap. As you play more, the games get longer and the turns get a lot more interesting. Once you know what you are doing (I say it takes a minimum of 5 games before it starts to click), the staggering possibilities start revealing themselves. I do not want to go into too much detail, since I think that the discovery is part of what makes this game great.

Before you buy this game, I would recommend trying it out online here. If you want to buy it, Penny Arcade is the current distributor. As a heads up, the price did jump up by around $15-20 when Penny Arcade became the distributor, so I would recommend waiting for a sale. It is currently marked as limited edition.

Ninjato Review

Ninjato Box

Foreword

Ninjato is a highly interlocking worker placement game. In it, you are a ninja trying to hone your skills, influence/subvert the three major clans, and spread rumors of your prowess.

Worker Placement

How to Play

Overview

Ninjato In Progress

This is a heavily interlocking game that can be a bit tricky to wrap your head around. There are 8 primary aspects of the game Dojo Cards, Sensei Tiles, Clans, Clan Houses, Guards (Elites), Treasure, Rumor Cards, and Envoy Cards. While the game may look visually overwhelming when set up, everything flows into one another and is fairly intuitive once you know what you are doing.

  • Dojo Cards are used to get Sensei Tiles
  • Dojo Cards and Sensei Tiles are used to attack Clan Houses
  • When you attack a Clan House, you must defeat Guards and potentially Elite Guards
    • By defeating Guards, you get Treasure
    • By defeating an entire Clan House, you change which Clan controls it
  • Treasure is used to buy Rumor Cards and Envoy Cards
  • Each Rumor card references either your Sensei Tiles, your Elite Guards, your Envoy Cards, or other Rumors
  • Envoy Cards reference Clan Houses

Ninjato Flow

On each of the 7 turns of the game, each player has 3 Shurikens (Throwing Stars) to use as their workers/actions. At the end of rounds 3, 5, and 7, there are scoring rounds.

Dojo Cards

Ninjato Dojo Cards

Dojo Cards are discarded from your hand to acquire Sensei Tiles and to attack Clan Houses. Since you discard them when you use them, you need to keep spending Shurikens (actions) to gain more.

Treasure

Ninjato Treasure

Treasure is gained by attacking Clan Houses. It is used to buy Rumor Cards and Envoy Cards. When you spend Treasure, you gain victory/Honor points.

Attacking Clan Houses

Ninjato Clan Houses

Attacking Clan Houses is the central part of the game. In order to defeat the Clan House’s Guards, you must use your Dojo Cards and/or Sensei Tiles.

When you defeat a Guard, you temporarily gain a Treasure. At this point, you can either retreat with your Treasure(s), or you can attempt to fight another Guard to gain another Treasure. You may keep attacking until you take all of that Clan House’s Treasure, or you are defeated. If you are defeated, you only keep 1 of the Treasures from the attack.

If you take all of the Clan House’s Treasure, you defeat the Clan House and must change which Clan controls it. So, you can remove a Clan you have no influence over, and supplant it with one already under your thumb.

Sensei Tiles

Ninjato Sensei Tiles

Sensei Tiles represent the Snake, Tiger, and Crane styles. They are used to aid in attacks on Clan Houses. Later in the game, there are also Sensei Tiles that can enhance your influence over the Clans.

Envoy Cards

Ninjato Envoys

Envoy Cards represent your influence over the three Clans. The more Envoys you control of a Clan, the more influence you have over that Clan. Envoy Cards are acquired by spending your Treasure. They score at the end of rounds 3, 5, and 7.

Rumor Cards

Ninjato Rumors

Rumor Cards are how you spread tales of your Prowess. If you defeat an abundance of Elite Guards and spread plentiful Rumors about it, you can gain significant honor. To acquire/spread Rumors, you must spend Treasure on them.

Setup

Ninjato Setup

  • Shuffle the Dojo Cards and deal 4 to each player, place the remaining Dojo Cards at the bottom left and turn 3 face up
  • Shuffle the Rumor cards and place them on the left of the board, turn 4 face up
  • Shuffle the Envoy cards and place them on the right of the board, turn 4 face up
  • Set aside the 3 Hensojutsu (Disguise) Sensei Tiles. Then shuffle the rest of the Sensei Tiles together, place them at the bottom right, and turn a number face up equal to the number of players
  • Each player takes all of the Shurikens of a color
  • Randomly deal a Sentry (regular Guard) onto each Clan House, ignore any alarm makers
  • Randomly add 3 Treasures to each Clan House
  • Place the Taira (red) 2 on a Clan House, do the same with the Taira (red) 4, Minamoto (blue) 2, Minamoto (blue) 4, and Go-Shirakawa (green) 6
  • Place 2 of each players’ disks near the score tracker
  • Randomly determine the original turn order with the remaining disks and place them on the center turn tracker

The Turn

The starting player places their first Shuriken on any of the locations below and immediately performs the associated action:

  • the Dojo (draw Dojo Cards and determine turn order)
  • the Sensei (acquire a Sensei tile)
  • any of the Clan Houses with Treasure remaining, place it to the left for Strength, to the right for Stealth (attack it to gain its treasure, change its Clan allegiance, and/or fight Elite Guards)
  • the Pavilion (acquire a Secret Card)
  • the Palace (acquire an Envoy Card)

When that player finishes, the next player, depicted by the turn order track, places a Shuriken and performs the associated action. Continue this until everyone has placed a Shuriken and performed the associated action. Then, repeat this from the first player until all players have used all 3 of their Shurikens.

Ninjato End Turn

End of Turn

At the end of each of the first 6 turns, the board needs to be replenished. New Sensei Tiles need to be put out, the face up Rumor Cards and Envoy Cards need to be replenished, and the defeated Clan Houses need a new Sentry and Treasures.

End of Rounds 3, 5, and 7 Scoring

At these points, players score points and/or gain Rumors base on their influence over the 3 clans, determined by their acquired Envoys.

End Game Scoring

  1. Score each players’ Rumor Cards as explained in the Rumor Cards section above
  2. Each unused Treasure is worth 1 point for its owner, regardless of type
  3. Each Elite Guard defeated by a player earns that player 1 or 2 points, as depicted at the top of the Elite Guard Card

The winner is the player with the most points. According to the rules, all players must bow to the winner.

Conclusion

I am reluctant to recommend this game to new gamers because it seems a bit complex; however, this is one of my family’s favorite games. We play a lot of games, but I am the only hardcore “gamer” among us.

The components in Ninjato are fairly high quality, the theme is excellent, there is enough randomness to equalize the playing field, and there are a lot of options without being overwhelming (once you know what you are doing). That final point, not an overwhelming amount of options, is important to emphasize because it can seem like too much for people new to the game. The main reason it isn’t too bad is because the whole game revolves around attacking Clan Houses.

If you have no Treasure, you need to attack Clan Houses to get it. If you have no Dojo Cards to attack, you need to go to the Dojo to get some. If you have Treasure, you can spend some to get Envoys or Rumors. Sensei Tiles are always nice to have early in the game. That is the basic strategy.

Even though that basic strategy is simple, the replay value of this game is excellent. The order the Sensei Tiles, Treasures, Rumors, etc. come out is random, and that makes a big difference. In one game you could get a bunch of Tiger Sensei Tiles and do a lot of Clan House Attacking to defeat Elites. In another, you might get a Snake Tile that lets you snatch Jades from Clan Houses with just a single Dojo card; you then turn those Jades into Rumors. In another game, you might focus on Envoys, etc. etc. etc.

The most frustrating part of the game can definitely be the core of the game though, attacking Clan Houses. If you get unlucky, you might turn over multiple alarm Guards and be unable to clear the House. Or, you could attack with Strength and then “Banzai” straight into a 5 Guard. If this happens repeatedly, it can really shut you out of the game. However, if you get Sensei Tiles and make sure you have strong Dojo Cards in hand before attacking, you can largely mitigate this negative. I personally rarely call Banzai unless I’m basically guaranteed to beat the next Guard regardless.

Overall, I really enjoy this game. The game looks great, I love the theme (I studied Japanese history a bit), the game is highly variable, and there is enough strategy to keep me coming back. It also helps a lot that my family enjoys it too.

Sushi Go! Review

Sushi Go Box

Foreword

Sushi Go! is one of the simplest drafting games.

Drafting

There are 2 major forms of drafting: simultaneous hidden drafting and sequential open drafting. Sushi Go! uses simultaneous hidden drafting.

Simultaneous Hidden Drafting

In this form of drafting, every player starts with an equal number of hidden resources, usually cards. Each player simultaneously picks a resource (keeping it hidden) and then passes the remaining resources to the player on their left (sometimes right). This then continues until there are no resources remaining to pass.

For example, in a 4 player Sushi Go! game each player starts with 8 cards. Everyone picks a card and passes the remaining 7 to the player on their left. Then everyone picks a card from the 7 passed to them, followed by the remaining 6 cards being passed, etc.

Simultaneous hidden drafting is also used in Epic’s cube draft and dark draft formats, Magic: The Gathering’s 8 player draft, Medieval Academy, Seasons, and 7 Wonders.

Sequential Open Drafting (Not used in Sushi Go!)

How to Play

Sushi Go In Progress

Goal

The goal of the game is to score the most points over 3 rounds of drafting.

The Round

Sushi Go! uses Simultaneous Hidden Drafting, described above, for each round.

For a 2 player game, 10 cards are dealt to each player.
For a 3 player game, 9 cards are dealt to each player.
For a 4 player game, 8 cards are dealt to each player.
For a 5 player game, 7 cards are dealt to each player.

Since this is Simultaneous Hidden Drafting, each player simultaneously picks a card from their hand, and then all players reveal their chosen card at the same time. Afterwards, the remaining cards from each players’ hand are passed to the player on their left. The round completes after the last card of hand is picked.

After the 3rd round, the player with the most points wins.

The Cards

Nigiri (Egg, Salmon, and Squid)

Sushi Go Nigiri

Nigri is worth a set number of points at the end of the round. Egg Nigiri is worth 1. Salmon Nigiri is worth 2. Squid Nigiri is worth 3.

Wasabi

Sushi Go Wasabi

Wasabi triples the value of the next Nigiri card you draft. So, say you draft a Wasabi card on turn 1. Then, on turn 3 you draft your first Nigiri card, a Squid Nigiri. That Squid Nigiri goes on top of your Wasabi and those cards together are worth 9 points total. You may not use multiple Wasabi cards on a single Nigiri card, and you may not use a single Wasabi card with multiple Nigiri cards.

Tempura and Sashimi

Sushi Go Sets

Both Tempura and Sashimi require a set of cards to be worth any points. A set of 2 Tempura is worth 5 points. A set of 3 Sashimi is worth 10 points. If you do not have a full set, you score no points from those cards. If you have 2 complete sets, you score full points for both. So, say you have 5 Tempura and 2 Sashimi. You have 2 complete sets of Tempura so you score 10 points from Tempura. You do not have a complete set of Sashimi so you score 0 points from Sashimi.

Dumplings

Sushi Go Dumpling

The more Dumplings you have, the more points you score per Dumpling. If you have 1 Dumpling, your Dumplings are worth 1 point (1 point per Dumpling). If you have 5 or more Dumplings, you Dumplings are worth 15 points (3 points per Dumpling).

Maki Rolls

Sushi Go Maki

Maki Roll cards have 1, 2, or 3 Maki Rolls on them. They are depicted at the top of the card. At the end of the round, the player with the most Maki Rolls scores 6 points. The player with the second most scores 3 points.

If players tie for the most Maki Rolls, the points are split between those tied players. In that situation, no second place points are awarded. If players tie for the 2nd most Maki Rolls, the points are split between those tied players. In both cases, ignore any leftover points after evenly splitting the points.

Puddings

Sushi Go Pudding

Puddings are the only cards that carry over after each round (the rest are discarded). At the end of the 3rd round, the player with the most puddings scores 6 points. The player with the least puddings loses 6 points. Points are evenly split for ties.

Chopsticks

Sushi Go Chopsticks

Chopsticks let you take 2 cards instead of 1 when drafting. If you have a drafted Chopsticks card in front of you, after everyone (including you) has picked their card, you say “Sushi Go!,” and you replace your chopsticks card with another card from that hand.

Conclusion

I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again: I love drafting. Sushi Go! is an excellent game for introducing people to drafting. The art is adorable which can attract people, it’s quick, and the drafting strategy isn’t too complex.

In general, the idea of drafting can be bit tricky to get your head around initially. This is because most of the interesting aspects of it are emergent and not directly explained in the rules. When drafting, you want to look at not only what will be the best card for you right now, but based on the other cards in the current and previous hands, what are you likely to get back later in the game. (Since, in a 4 or less player game, you will see each starting hand at least twice).

In addition, once people start taking cards, you can deduce whether you can finish Tempura or Sashimi sets, or if you need to prevent another player from getting all the Dumplings, etc. So, in other words, a large portion of a drafting game’s potential relies on reading your opponents and paying attention to what is happening around you. Although, with this game you can still have fun just working toward your own goals and enjoying the art/theme.

The game I largely want to compare this to is Medieval Academy. (Click here for my review of Medieval Academy.) I think Sushi Go! is a bit simpler, it gives a better feel for drafting with the larger starting hand sizes, and the theme can be a bit more accessible. However, I prefer Medieval Academy. I prefer playing it, and it is the game I use when introducing new players to drafting. Medieval Academy adds on a spatial racing type game-mechanism, and I feel like it can be a bit more engaging. Sushi Go! is strictly drafting. A strictly drafting game is good for teaching the mechanism, but I just don’t feel like there is enough to keep me interested. On the positive side, Sushi Go! is quicker and requires less setup than Medieval Academy.

Overall, if you are looking for a game to teach new players drafting, I would personally recommend Medieval Academy over Sushi Go!. If, however, you want a smaller, quick to play, strictly drafting game, Sushi Go! does work for that purpose. Sushi Go! is a nice game to start or wrap up a gaming session. It’s easy to break out and play since you can carry it in your pocket and you just need a little table space. But, it isn’t a game I would specifically get people together to play.

Carcassonne Review

Carcassonne Box

Foreword

Carcassonne is a popular game that spawned the term “meeple” used to describe wooden, humanoid game-pieces. It is also a prime example of a tile-laying game.

CarcasonneInProgress

How To Play

Setup

Each player takes their 8 meeples. One is placed on the scoring track and the rest will be used throughout the game.

Place the starting tile in the middle of the table. The starting tile has a distinct back, and on its front, it has a castle, road, and field segment.

Carcassonne Start Tile

Mix up the rest of the tiles face down and put them into easily reachable stacks.

A Turn

On your turn you draw a tile, place the tile, and optionally place one of your meeples on that tile.

When placing a tile, you must put it orthogonally (not diagonally) adjacent to 1 or more placed tiles. Every side touching another tile must match like segments to like segments: road segments to road segments, castle segments to castle segments, and field segment to field segments.

Carcassonne Correct Tile Placement

Once you have placed the tile, you may place one of your meeples onto that specific tile. You can either place it on a city, cloister, field, or road, but you can not place it directly onto a segment that already has a meeple. For example, since the red player already has a meeple on the road, the blue player cannot extend that road and put one of their meeples on it.

Carcassonne Invalid Road

However, you can place meeples in such a way that they will eventually be on the same segment. In the case above, if the blue player places the tile one to the right as its own road, they could place a meeple on it. Then, if the blue player later draws a tile that would connect the two roads, it is legal to connect them creating a situation where both players have a meeple on the same road.

Carcassonne Steal Road

If multiple players have an equal number of meeples in a segment, all of those players score full points. If one player has more than anyone else in that segment, only that player scores points.

Trying to sideways take over other people’s segments is the most interesting part of this game.

Scoring

After a tile has been placed and the player has a chance to put a meeple on it, if the placement completes a segment, that segment scores. The player(s) with the most meeples on that segment score points based on the system below, and all players on that segment get those meeples back to reuse. Cities, cloisters, and roads can be completed throughout the course of the game. Farms only score points at the end of the game. (So, once you place a meeple on a farm, you will never get that meeple back.)

Cities: A completed city is worth 2 points per tile in the city. Each pennant in that city is worth a bonus 2 points. If a city is only two tiles, that city is only worth 1 point per tile. At the end of the game, if you have the most meeples in an uncompleted city, you score 1 point per tile and 1 point per pennant for that city.

Carcassone Cities

The first 4-tile city with 1 pennant is worth 4 x 2 + 2 x 1 = 10 points.
The second 2-tile city is worth 2 points.
The third 3-tile uncompleted city with 1 pennant is worth 3 x 1 + 1 x 1 = 4 points.

Cloisters: A cloister is worth 1 point for every tile around the cloister including itself. So, a completed cloister is worth 9 points. Uncompleted cloisters at the end of the game still reward 1 point for every tile around the cloister.

Carcassonne Cloister

Roads: A road is worth 1 point per tile in the road. At the end of the game, uncompleted roads are still worth 1 point per tile in the road.

Carcassonne Road

Farms: Farms score 4 points at the end of the game for each completed castle they touch. The size of the castle is irrelevant. Since the field segments that connect castles can sprawl all over the place, farms can score a lot of points at the end of the game.

Carcassonne Farms

Game End

The game ends when the last tile is placed. All remaining points are scored. The winner is the player with the most points.

Conclusion

The fun in Carcassonne comes from the tile drawing. Whether you are trying to complete your segments or take over another player’s, it all rides on drawing certain tiles. And, since you generally won’t draw the tile(s) you need immediately, the anticipation continues to grow throughout as you hope to draw the tiles you need and hope your opponent(s) don’t draw the ones they need. In addition, most of the time the tiles you draw will have some value, even if it isn’t the one you are desperately waiting for. You need a double sided castle, but you draw an always appreciated cloister instead. On your next turn, instead of that double sided castle, you draw a tile to help solidify your control over the mega farm. Once the game gets going, each tile draw is exciting and suspenseful.

With that in mind, Carcassonne is not one of my personal favorite games. People I play it with really enjoy it, and it is a very popular game, but it doesn’t do much for me. While it feels great when you get that tile you’ve been wanting for for the last 10 turns, it is incredibly frustrating if you never draw it. Getting your segments snatched from beneath you is also frustrating if you can’t prevent them from doing it. This aspect of the game is also the most enjoyable part when you are on the snatching side, so it is attempted a decent amount in games. (I am usually the one attempting it.)

The game also does not offer a lot of strategy, and I like a lot of strategy options in my games, usually. As a power gamer, I feel like most of the time there is a “correct” place to put a tile, and the game-contrarian in me really rebels from that idea.

Unlike Camel Up, that also relies a lot on luck, this game’s luck can be lopsided and this can be unpleasant. If someone gets all of the cloisters, or they constantly get the tiles they need, the luck element can really pile up.

With all of that said, I am still willing to play it occasionally. The rules are fairly simple and aren’t too bad to teach. Most people seem to enjoy it, especially the first time they play it. In addition, this is an excellent gateway into other current board games. For the people that enjoy this game, there are also plenty of expansions and re-themed versions, some significantly better than others from what I’ve heard.

I definitely think this game is worth playing. If you really enjoy it, grab a copy. If not, it’s a good game to know something about.

The Duke Review

The Duke Box

Foreword

The Duke is a 2-player chess-like game. It requires about 5 or so playthroughs  before you really start to understand what is going on.

The Duke In Progress

How to Play

Goal

The goal of the game is to capture your opponent’s Duke tile.

Set Up

Each player receives 19 tiles and 1 bag. Every tile is a unit that can be used to capture your opponent’s Duke, which is also a tile/unit.

Both players start the game with their Duke tile and 2 of their Footman tiles. The rest of their pieces go into their respective bags. One player places their Duke tile onto the 6 x 6 gameboard on either of the 2 center squares at their edge of the board. Then, that player places their 2 Footman tiles orthogonally (not diagonally) adjacent to their Duke. Afterwards, the other player does the same on the opposite side of the board.

TheDukeSetUp

A Turn

On a player’s turn, they may do 1 of 2 things: activate a tile or draw/place a new tile.

  • Activate a tile

Each tile depicts the potential activations it can make on its face. The three types of activations, in the base game, are movement, strike, and command. Movement is then broken into move, jump, slide, and jump slide. If a tile ends its movement on top of an opponent’s tile, the opponent’s tile is captured (like chess).

After a tile activates, flip that tile. It now has a different set of activations. All tiles start on its starting side depicted by the shaded in pawn. The flipped side depicts an empty pawn in a black box.

TheDukePikeman

For move, the shaded circle, the piece goes from its current position to the position of the shaded circle. If any piece would be in the path to the shaded circle, this option may not be used.

TheDukeFootman

Jump, the empty circle, is like move except you place your piece directly on the empty circle and bypass any tiles in the path.

TheDukeSeer

For slide, the shaded triangle, you can move the tile any number of squares in that direction. You cannot move through pieces and if you end on an opponent’s tile, stop and capture it as usual.

TheDukeDuke

Jump slide, the empty triangle, is the same as slide, except you jump to the selected starting spot and then may start sliding.

TheDukeAssassin

Strike, the 6-pointed star, means you capture the tile in the square with the strike symbol. The tile that used strike does not move, but it still flips.

TheDukeBowman

Command, depicted by a square with shaded triangles in the top left and bottom right corners, lets you move one of your other tiles. You may move a tile from one command square to another command square. Flip the tile that used command after the activation. Do not flip the tile that was moved by command.

TheDukeGeneral

  •  Draw/place a new tile

If you do not want to activate a tile you have on the board, you may draw a new hidden tile from your bag. Once drawn, place it starting side up orthogonally adjacent to your Duke.

Game End

If, at the end of your turn you are in a position to take your opponent’s Duke next turn, you must say “guard.” You may not put yourself into guard (leaving your own Duke vulnerable to be taken on your opponent’s next turn).

You immediately win the game by capturing your opponent’s Duke. If you can neither make a move nor draw/place a tile, you lose.

Conclusion

As I mentioned in the forward, the first few games of The Duke weren’t great. While I understood the rules, the strategy was not clicking at all. Most of the games were quick and seemed kind of stupid and unbalanced. But, the more I played, the more I started to see and understand certain aspects of the game. Now, I actually enjoy it quite a bit.

I would say I’m decent at chess, but I never memorized the openings. So, I know generally of concepts such as space control, material value/advantage, revealed check, etc. These same concepts do apply in The Duke as well. If you enjoy chess for the actual playing of chess and not the memorization (statement inspired by Bobby Fischer), there is a good chance you will enjoy this game.

One of the major differences between this and chess is the randomness. When you draw a tile, there is a wide range of tiles you might get. Due to this, there is a lot less ability to predict future turns. In addition, you need to be able to adapt your strategy based on what you get and what your opponent gets. There are also definitely times where I have drawn tiles that have not helped me at all; that is a thing in this game. Overall though, I have enjoyed the randomness (after I figured out different aspects of the game that is).

The most important tip I can give you is this: do not put your Duke in a position where it is trapped by your own pieces. For instance, don’t move it on the bottom row directly behind one of your tiles in the same column. In this situation, your Duke is pinned until your other tile moves or is captured. It isn’t very difficult to force the capture of a pinned Duke.

I would recommend trying The Duke, if you like chess or other similar 2 player games. My main caveat is that you power through at least 5 games to give this a chance to get its hooks in. I definitely do not see this taking the place of chess because chess is so entrenched. The randomness will potentially hold it back as well. Nonetheless, this is a game I would be happy to play with other people who have played it. I’ll teach it to someone, but only if they already show some interest in this type of game.

Dixit Review

Dixit Box

Foreword

Dixit is a simple, attractive, party game for 3 to 6 players.

How to Play

Each player starts with 6 cards with pictures on them. The current player selects 1 card from their hand. They place it face down and say either a word or phrase, or they make a sound to describe it. Every other player then picks a card from their hand, that they think fits that description, and places it face-down. Once this has happened, the current player shuffles the cards, lays them out on the table face-up, and each other player guesses which card the current player played. The guessing is done by playing a tile face-down with the number of the picture you think it is. All of the tiles are revealed at once.

Scoring is based on the premise that you want your definition to be obscure, but not too obscure.

  • If every other player guesses the current player’s card, everyone but the current player gets 2 points.
  • If no player guess the current player’s card, everyone but the current player gets 2 points.
  • If at least one player guesses the current player’s card and at least one player guesses incorrectly, the current player gets 3 points and each player who guessed correctly gets 3 points too.
  • Finally, if you are not the current player, you get 1 additional point for every person who guessed your card that round.

After this is resolved, everyone draws a card and the next player becomes the current player.

Dixit In Progress

Example

Anne places a card face down and says “alone.” Each other player places a card face down as well. After shuffling the cards and placing them face up, Bob, Carol, David, Edna, and Frank make their guesses.

Anne had played the number 3 card.
Bob played the number 1 card and guessed 3.
Carol played the number 2 card and guessed 4.
David played the number 4 card and guessed 5.
Edna played the number 5 card and guessed 3.
Frank played the number 6 card and guessed 4.

Anne gets 3 points because Bob and Edna guessed correctly and Carol, David, and Frank guessed incorrectly.

Bob gets 3 points because he guessed correctly, but no one guessed his card.

Edna gets 4 points because she guessed correctly (3), and David guessed her card (1).

David gets 2 points because Carol and Frank both guessed his card (1 each).

Carol and Frank get 0 points because neither player guessed correctly, and no one voted for their cards.

Conclusion

I enjoy this game, but about 1/4 of the people I have played it with do not, and they really do not. I, personally, love thinking up interesting and obscure ways to describe the cards. Trying to connect the interesting cards to something only 1 or 2 people would get is fun for me. I don’t think I have ever won though because I go too obscure, but still, I like it.

The people that I play with that do not like Dixit dislike coming up with those words/phrases/etc. Generally, they do not mind thinking which card they want to use to match someone else’s word/phrase, but they are, to an extent, self-conscious about coming up with a “good” one on their turn.

One problem I do have with the base game is that it can get repetitive. The cards are pretty cool looking, there are a good number of them, and you can describe them in a myriad of ways, but seeing the same ones over and over again can get stale. Luckily, there are expansions which add a lot of new cards. I do not have any of these expansions though, so I can’t actually recommend them, yet.

Overall, this is another one of my games I like to break out with “non-gamers,” but I haven’t had as much success with it as I would like. I do recommend it, but it very much isn’t for everyone.

Tzaar Review

Tzarr Box

Foreword

This is a rules-light two-player abstract strategy game. I like rules-light 2 player abstract strategy games.

How to Play

Goal

The goal of the game is to eliminate all of a single type of your opponent’s pieces. (There are 3 types.) You do this by capturing their pieces and building stacks with your own. Stacks can only capture stacks of equal or lesser height.

You can also win by making it impossible for your opponent to capture a piece on their turn.

Set Up

You can either randomly set up the discs, use a predefined setup, or alternate placing discs on the board.

TzarrInProgress

Turn

  1. Capture
  2. Capture, Stack, or Pass (Skip this step for the first player’s first turn.)

Capture

Pick a stack of 1 or more disc(s) of your color. Move that stack along a straight line onto an opponent’s stack of equal or lesser height. Remove your opponent’s stack from the board.

Stack

Pick a stack of 1 or more disc(s) of your color. Move that stack along a straight line onto another one of your stacks; this combines the two stacks into one. For determining if you have a disc of a type, only the top disc of a stack counts.

Pass

Do nothing.

Conclusion

This game is simple, elegant, and excellent.

When I previewed this game, I characterized it as a hunting game, and I think that nails it. The ringed piece (Tzaar) is quickly hunted down to just 1 remaining for each side, since each player only starts with 6. To protect their last Tzaar piece, each player will put it on top of a stack. The first player to do that will always have the higher stack, if they stack it every turn. Due to this, that player can chase down their opponent’s stack(s) with impunity.

While this happens, the second player will generally need to shift into hunting their opponent’s second or third rarest pieces (the Tzarra and Tott respectively). So now, the first player is still trying to capture the last Tzaar piece, but they also need to protect their other pieces. The second player, on the other hand, needs to focus on evading the first player’s mega stack while chipping away at the more plentiful discs. This is frequently accomplished by having a few smaller stacks of 2 to 4 discs, as opposed to a big 4+ stack.

Throughout this process, each player can also set traps to ensnare their opponent. For example, player 1 leaves a 3 stack vulnerable. If player 2 captures that 3 stack they might be allowing their opponent to capture one of their stacks. Or, the capturing stack might be put into a position where it can no longer move, neutralizing it. Overall board awareness is critical to winning this game.

Another major decision point in this game is determining when to make a second capture and when to stack. In almost all games, you win the game by capturing your opponent’s pieces. So, capturing moves you directly toward victory. Stacking, on the other hand, is necessary to prevent you from losing; but, it does also give you an offensive edge for capturing. In general, big stacks are better for defense. Multiple small stacks are better for offense.

Everything I have discussed in my conclusion is emergent from the incredibly simple rules. The strategy is surprisingly deep and the better player will usually win. But, there is a lot to pay attention to, and if you neglect something, you can quickly lose. It is easy to focus on attacking and let yourself be eliminated. I really enjoy the back and forth of this game. If you enjoy abstract strategy games like Chess, The Duke, or Push Fight, I highly recommend this game.