Friday, 29 May 2015

Quick Quiz

Mike: Sorry all but no review today we have had a very busy week. Back to normal next week but for this week we have pulled together a quick quiz.
Below are photos of card art from 5 different games. But I have made it even harder by adding a lovely Nintendo Game Boy filter over them.

Can you guess what they are?






Easy yeah?

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Star Realms

Time to play: 20 minutes
Players: 2 (more with extra decks)
Suggested age: 12+
Price: £12 approx.

Mike: After taking a look at some of my favourite and most played games over the last few years I noticed a running theme – deck building.

I’m not sure why this is as I can’t pin it on one aspect. Maybe it’s because they are usually easy to pick up and play. They can be great gateway games for new gamers. It could also be the unpredictability of the game as you don’t know what cards will turn up or what strategy your opponent will adopt. One thing I do know though is I love a good deck builder.

Ask any gamer what their favourite deck builder will be and you will most probably hear Dominion, Legendary or Ascension. These are all great games in their own right and Star Realms deserves to be up there with them. Star Realms is similar in style to Ascension and in my opinion I think it’s a better game than Ascension.

It’s not that Ascension is a bad game far from it, but I know I can get more people to play this in my group. I prefer the sci-fi theme and I don’t know of any other space ship deck builders. The artwork in Star Realms is gorgeous. Every ship has some sense of action so these aren’t just flat pictures of ships on a black background. 

David: Yeah I agree with you Dad about the sci-fi theme and I think that’s what enticed me into the game. Every card that came out I did not want to look at the abilities I just stared at the artwork and wished that I could draw like that.

Mike: So how does it play? Common to deck builders you will start with a weak hand made up of 8 scouts and 2 vipers.

Your starting cards - you'll want to scrap these later on.

The scouts are your starting currency of 1 trade point and Vipers give you 1 combat point. On your turn you will draw 5 cards from you deck. You will then play these cards and use your trade to buy ships, bases and outposts from the trade row.

Any combat cards you played will be used to attack your opponent. So for example if you played 2 vipers your opponent will lose 2 authority.

Authority are your life points you will start with 50. First to get the other player down to 0 wins. There are some cards that allow you to gain authority points back.

You can also protect yourself with outposts. These are a good way to shield yourself. For example if you have an outpost with a defence of 6 and your opponent has 10 combat points they must spend 6 to destroy your outpost. They can then attack you with the remaining 4 points.

David: The way the outposts work are brilliant for me because if I put more than one down if gives me some time to think about my next few turns. One thing I don’t like about the outposts is that when you destroy one it goes into the discard pile when I think they should go into the scrap deck.

Mike: Darn outposts, you do like to play a lot of them and they can be quite frustrating. The key to this game is to try and make a deck with cards of the same faction. This will allow you to use the ally abilities. I’ll explain.

See the symbols on this card at the bottom. Well the trash one will activate if you trash the card and you may want to do that. It’s a neat way to clean your deck and gain a one off bonus. 

That green symbol will activate if you have another card from the green Blob faction. So by playing 2 cards both will activate each other’s ally ability.
In the above example you will get an extra 2 combat points and draw a card by having these 2 cards in play together. If you can get a few rounds where you can stack up these ally abilities you can do some serious damage.

David: My favourite faction is the blob faction because they are more attacking based and there ally abilities are powerful. I can’t get enough of this game at the moment. With it being so quick to play I can get a game in before tea and before bed. I really like Dominion but this is quicker to set up and play and we can take it out with us easily.

Mike: If I have one gripe with Star Realms it the authority cards used to track your score. They are a bit cumbersome and get in the way. We just use a pen and paper to track the score. But this is such a small point. I can see why it was implemented to keep the box small and not have to add counters or a tracker.

This is getting a lot of plays from us at the moment as it ticks the boxes of a filler game but has enough depth to keep us wanting more. 

We recommend this to any group as long as you don’t mind a sci-fi theme. With its small size as well it’s such a portable game and for its price you are getting a solid game with lots of replay value.

Due to the number of times we are playing it and the enjoyment we have had I will have to check out the expansion packs ASAP.

Saturday, 16 May 2015


Time to play: 120 minutes
Players: 2-4
Suggested age: 13+
Price: £35 approx.

Mike: Hi all, we felt that we haven’t done a big game review for a while now so no filler game this week. Our game for review is Alchemists by Czech Games Edition.
Before we delve into the game let’s get something out of the way. This game requires the use of an app. Now I have read discussions about games that integrate with apps and how it has divided opinion in the board gaming community. I’m all for it as long as it’s done well and love to see where it might lead to over the next few years. 

Is the app for Alchemists just tacked on or a gimmick? No absolutely not the app does a great job of randomising the game. There is an option for playing this game without app support. To do this however would involve someone being games master and sitting at your game for 2 hours not being able to play. How boring would that be? I think I’d rather play monopoly.

The App game screen.

Alchemists is at its heart a game of two parts. One side of the game you will be collecting ingredients to test and sell potions. You will also be trying to make a small engine to make money to buy useful artefacts. This side of the game involves some worker placement and a small amount of card management.

The eight ingredients you will be working with.

The other side of the game is a logic based puzzle where you are trying to work out the chemical makeup of the ingredients. This part of the game is key to get right and will be the main focus of your time. By mastering this side of the game you will be able to publish your theories and debunk others.

David: Yes I like the way the app reveals what I have made when mixing ingredients. The app lets us use a phone each as well by putting in the game code at the top of the screen. This is good as we don’t have to pass the phone back and forth.

I found this game a bit confusing at first as there was a lot to remember. But after a few goes I think I have cracked it. I sometimes forget to sell potions or buy artefacts. The artefacts can give you a lot of victory points at the end and can give you useful bonuses in the game. I do get worried sometimes that if I make a mistake it will ruin the game.

Your checklist - don't make a mistake.

Mike: You’re right this takes a few plays to get to grips and this logic puzzle element isn’t going to be for everyone. If you do make a mistake early on it will impact the rest of your game there is no getting away from that. You can still win by gaining points from artefacts and also exhibiting potions at the end round. It will be harder though if you have made some mistakes as in logic based puzzles one error can really spoil your party.

We found playing your first game open and showing each other what we are doing with no secrets a great way of learning the game. The rulebook is a hefty 20 pages and a bit overwhelming. The first few pages do a great job of explaining the alchemy which can take a bit of time to get to grips with. Let me explain a bit further.

You see each ingredient you use in the game will be have a chemical makeup like you can see below.

Potions will be made from one big circle on one side and a little circle on the other. So in the example above the big positive red mixes with the little positive red to make a potion of health (positive red). So after this experiment you can cross off any negative red on your record sheet as it’s not possible for these elements to be present.

David: I understood this after a few goes. It was helpful to play the demo game at the beginning of the hand book. I can now mark off the sheet correctly and know what to do if I make a neutral potion. I like the way you have to plan your turn and choose if you go first or last. You need to think carefully about what you want to do and do you have enough gold to pay for some of the actions.

Mike: Oh yes a neutral potion happens when the ingredients are exact opposites. This can be very useful in the later part of the game as it will allow you to mark off quite a bit of information if you have worked out the logic to the puzzle.
As you might have guessed by now there is quite a learning curve to be had here. I’ll go back to what I said earlier play a few games and help others out. 

A Neutral Potion.

David: I really like this game it makes you think and the best bit is when the answers are revealed at the end you can see how good you were at working it out. This is what makes it a great game to play though as each time I play I learn something more and get better at solving the puzzle.

Mike: In my opinion this is not an entry level game. I believe it will play best with a group of gamers that are used to some worker placement games and want to step up the challenge. The main point here is there is so much going on. By the time you have understood how to effectively manage your turn the end game is approaching. Stick with it though it is highly rewarding. There is something about deduction based games that entice me in. For me it ticks all the boxes.
The app as I have mentioned is a necessary addition there is no getting away from the fact that this wouldn’t work without it.

Do we recommend it? Yes absolutely we have played this multiple times on the apprentice level of difficulty and will like to try out the master version of the game next. 

Judge your gaming group though it’s not as heavy as it may sound but the thought of spending 1-2 hours solving a puzzle will switch some gamers off. I personally love it and I’m excited to see app integration continue as long as it’s implanted as well as this.