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Category: 12 Days of Gaming (page 1 of 2)

12 Days of Holiday Gaming – Azul

One of my goals with the 12 Days of Holiday Game Recommendations is to talk about the games that don’t get enough press. While Board Game Geek’s Hotness list is a great tool, it’s not nearly as perfect or omniscient as many people treat it. But on occasion a popular game merits all of the praise it gets. And for that reason, on Day 8, we’re talking about Azul by Plan B Games

Azul is an abstract strategy, tile-laying game. It is also a very visual game, to the point that it’s challenging to describe the gameplay with just text! Therefore I’ll give a brief summary, and link the rulebook below in case you’re curious. I’ll also attempt to explain why the game is great.

Azul starts by giving each player their own board (more later on that), and setting up the center of the table. The table’s center will have a number of coasters (called “factories”) based on the number of players, and each factory will have four randomly chosen tiles on it. There are 20 tiles of each of the five colors.

At the start of a player’s turn they will pick a color of tile they want to take from a single factory, or from the center of the table. They must take all of the tiles of that color from the chosen location. If they take their chosen tiles from the factory, all of the other tiles are moved from the factory to the center of the table, increasing the options at that location.

After a player has take all of the tiles of their chosen color, they have to assigned them to their player board. A player board has five Pattern Lines on it, running horizontally with one atop the other, starting with one spot on the top, and five spots on the bottom. Players assign their chosen tiles to Pattern Lines, filling them from right to left. Pattern Lines can only hold one color, based on which color tile a player first places there.

After all of the tiles have been chosen from the table, players check to see if they have filled any Pattern Lines. If they have, a single tile of that color is assigned to the Wall space on the player board. Points are updated live based on how many tiles are touching, and the game ends if at least one player has completed a horizontal line of five tiles on their Wall.

If that sounds intriguing, give the rulebook a look. It’s only 6 pages, and has visuals describing every step of the game. (Including the ones I left out for simplicity sake.)

Azul is a game that earns its praise in ways that aren’t completely obvious at first. The mechanics are rather unique, but the gameplay is elegantly simple. It’s a game that’s easy to teach to kids, but it isn’t a “kid’s game”. The theme is fitting with the gameplay (players are Portuguese tile layers), but isn’t overwhelming to casual or new gamers.

But more subtle is the design of the tiles themselves. Because Azul’s central mechanic is all about color, it would have been easy to make them all plain, single-color. But other than the red and blue tiles, they have a pattern on them unique to each color. (The player board also has the same pattern for each color.) It’s extra details that doubtlessly took up extra resources, but it means the game can be played by people with various forms of color blindness.

It should also be noted that the tiles are very durable. Not only will they survive a lot of play, but they’re just fun to handle and place. Azul is both visually and tactilely engaging!

It’s these last points that really elevate Azul to being a fantastic product. Because the gameplay is so simple, the game itself could have been made out of cardboard tokens with minimal artwork and still have been great. Instead, the designers took the extra steps to make a beautiful game with components that make it accessible to a wider audience. So yes, Azul absolutely deserves its hype. Ask your local game store if they have it!

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday in 2016. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.


12 Days of Holiday Gaming – Massive Darkness

Back to my 12 Days of Holiday Game Recommendations! One of my favorite types of board games are ones that fully and competently embrace the visual aesthetics of the medium. (Mind you, there are phenomenal games that take a minimalist approach in their presentation. Don’t take this as a sly condemnation of that approach.) I also really like games that give you components that can be easily repurposed. So for Day 7 I’m enthusiastically propping up Massive Darkness, by CMON.

Massive Darkness is a fantasy board game by several of the creators of Zombicide. At the start of each play session players will pick a scenario that will tell them how to build the map, what their objectives are, and any additional rules they should keep in mind. Then players will choose their character, and their class. The characters get a few abilities unique to them, while their class determines how they can progress over the course of play. Mixing and matching the character and classes is one of the fun parts of multiple playthroughs!

Enemies and treasure in Massive Darkness are determined by card draw. As players progress through a scenario, they’ll reach more difficult parts of the dungeon that will spawn stronger enemies and better loot. Enemies are represented by miniatures (more on those below), and will either come as a horde, a mini-boss, or a boss monster. No matter the type, they will also spawn with a random magic item that the player who strikes the final blow gets to keep.

Combat in Massive Darkness is very basic at its core. The game comes with unique six-sided dice that are either for attacks or defense. Fights are simple matter of gathering the dice pools for the attacker and defender, and having a roll-off. Outcomes can be modified by a creature’s special abilities, a character’s traits, or an item’s powers. But combat is still meant to be a faced-paced affair.

The gameplay experience of Massive Darkness reminds me of the old Gauntlet video games, but with more customization. Players are going face swarms of baddies, trade loot with amongst the team, and have to choose on the fly which ability to unlock. It’s a casual “beer-and-pretzels” experience for as many as six, or for solo play. It’s easy to teach, and has great replay value out of the box that can be tweaked with expansions and crossover packs that integrate Zombicide.

Now enough about the gameplay, let’s talk about the visuals! The artwork embraces that sweet spot between “simple” and “unique”. The wizard has a staff and pointy hat. The thief has a cowl and two daggers. The barbarian’s muscles are as comically oversized as his ax. Meanwhile it’s easy to tell which monsters are the orcs, goblins, or dwarves with a simple glace. But everything is depicted in such a unique style that they couldn’t come from anywhere but the world of Massive Darkness (or Zombicide). Just as it’s easy to tell a Warhammer Ork from any other orc, the various pieces from Massive Darkness couldn’t be from anywhere else.

This absolutely translates to the miniatures, of which there are over seventy! Massive Darkness is a fantastic purchase just for the miniatures alone. It’s a great supply of monsters for any game of D&D/Pathfinder/13 Age/etc. And at less than $2 a mini, they’re cheaper the various Bones or WizKids options. (And of much higher quality, in my opinion.) It’s a great gift for the GM or painter on your list, and they get a cool game in addition to all of the plastic toys.

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday in 2016. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.


12 Days of Holiday Gaming – Deadpool vs the World

We’re halfway through my 12 Days of Holiday Gaming Suggestions for 2018, and I realized I haven’t done anything for the Naughty List. Put the kids to bed, because for Day 6 I’ll be working blue. And by “blue,” I mean “red”. And by “red,” I mean “dead.” As in “Deadpool”. We’re talking about Deadpool vs the World by USAopoly, okay?

Deadpool vs the World is a “mature” party game for three or more “adults”. Players will take turns being the Judge. The Judge draws a card from the WTF card pile, and places it face-up in view of all the players. Each WTF card depicts Deadpool in some situation typical only for the Merch with a Mouth. (Such as walking on crutches while carrying his own leg, trying to drink while being riddled with bullet-holes, getting chopped in half in mid-stride, or having his own mini-me burst through his chest Alien-style.)

After seeing the WTF card, each non-Judge player picks a Caption card from their hand of five. Each Caption card features an incomplete phrase that’s a potential bit of Deadpool dialogue. (“So this is what being [blank] is like”, “Say hello to my little [blank]”, and “Is [blank] a pre-existing condition” are all possible Captions.) Each player will use a wet erase marker to complete one Caption card, then place it face down by the WTF card. The Judge will read all of the Caption cards, and decide which one best compliments the WTF card. The player who submitted the Judge’s favorite Caption cards claims the WTF card as a point.

If the above sounds familiar, then congratulationson playing some of the most popular party games since Apples to Apples! But unlike other games derivative of Apples to Apples, Deadpool vs the World tweeks the formula beyond the novelty of playing the “largest, darkest phallus” card. The pairing of a randomly-chosen visual with the Mad Libs fill-in-blank mechanics means players must try to merge their creativity with their lack of shame. Adding in Deadpool to that formula instantly sets the tone, and provides the game with a perfect mascot.

Deadpool vs the World comes with six wet erase markers, 100 WTF cards, and 300 Caption cards. Dirty mind, twisted humor, and Brad Pitt cameo not included. If you like those other party games with “shock value”, but wish they didn’t wear out their welcome a few hours after the latest expansion gets cracked open, then get Deadpool vs the World.

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday in 2016. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.


12 Days of Holiday Gaming – Werewords

Welcome to day 5 of my 12 Days of Holiday Gaming Suggestions. Let’s briefly talk about a game I don’t like. I’m not a fan of Are You a Werewolf aka Mafia aka Ultimate Werewolf (among many, many other names),which some people might find unusual of me. After all, I really enjoy hidden traitor games, and games with asymmetrical player roles. The above games are best known for those features. A feature nearly unique to those games that I really like is how the traitors aren’t able to directly communicate with each other even though they know each other’s identities. But there’s one deal breaker for me: I don’t like games where players are eliminated without getting to do anything, and quick elimination of clueless players is critical for the Werewolf/Mafia/etc experience.

So imagine my surprise when I played a game that manages to capture a good chunk of the Werewolf experience without the player elimination. And I should mention that it’s a party game that’s easy to breakout at those family gatherings that include non-gamers. And it integrates an app for an experience that can’t be replicated without the physical components.Today’s game is Werewords, by Bezier Games, Inc.

Werewords is a party game for 4 to 10 players (or more with the Deluxe edition). I’m going to talk about the basic game, which breaks the players down into four roles:

1: The Mayor. The person playing the Mayor gets to choose a Magic Word from the game’s app, and has to get the Villagers to guess it before the time runs out. But there’s one complication; the Mayor can’t speak!

2: The Seer. The person playing the Seer gets to see the Magic Word, and can help the Villagers guess it before the time runs out. But the Seer must be careful to not be too obvious who they are, because if the Werewolves find them out the Villagers lose.

3: The Werewolf. The person (or people in larger games)playing the Werewolf gets to see the Magic Word. They can then try to sabotage the Villager’s attempts to guess it. But if the Werewolf is too direct in their deductive vandalization, the Villagers can suss them out at the end of the game for victory.

4: The Villagers. Everyone not assigned to the above three roles is a Villager. Villagers can either win by guessing the Magic Word, or the identity of one Werewolf.

The game begins by randomly assigning roles to all of the players. Once everyone knows what they are playing the Mayor (and only the Mayor) reveals their role, and starts the app. Everyone else puts their heads down while the Mayor selects a Magic World. Then the Mayor puts their head down,and the Seer gets to see the word. Then the Seer puts their head down, and the Werewolf gets to see the world. (In games with multiple werewolves, this is where they get to see who their teammates are.)

Now the guessing game begins. Players ask the Mayor yes-or-no questions in an attempt to figure out what the Magic Word is. Because the Mayor can’t speak, they give Yes or No tokens as answers. (They can also give a Maybe or So Close token when needed.) Villagers (and the Seer) are trying to guess the Magic Word before the game’s timer runs out, and the Werewolf is trying to stop them.

If the Villagers guess the Magic Word, the Werewolf must show themselves. They now have 15 seconds and one guess to figure out who the  Seer is. If the Werewolf identifies the Seer, the Villagers lose. Otherwise,there Werewolf has lost.

If either the game’s timer, or the Yes and No tokens run out, the players get one minute to try to figure out who the Werewolf is. (The Mayor is now allowed to speak.) After one minute, everyone points to who they think the Werewolf is. The person with the majority of the vote reveals their role. If they are a Werewolf, the Villagers win. If that person is anyone else,the Villagers have lost.

There’s one more complication that I didn’t mention above:The Mayor themselves could be the Werewolf! To find out how that works, as well as reading about all of the other optional roles, check the link to the game’s full rules below. (I’ll link to the deluxe version, because that’s what I’ve played.)

Werewords is an excellent game that does a great job bringing together people with different tastes in gaming. It’s a great compromise between the full Werewolf/et al experience without the player elimination. It’s easy to teach to fans of casual party games, and could be used to bring them into more complicated games. And the app integration makes it a truly unique experience, and makes it a potential combo gift for anyone getting a smart device over the holidays. If you’ve been at all intrigued by my suggestion, give the full rules a look over.

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday in 2016. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.

12 Days of Holiday Gaming – Squirrel or Die

There’s always a demand for games that are good for stocking-stuffers, White Elephant exchanges, or office parties. I’ve been making an effort to put at least one on my list each year, so for Day 4 of my 12 Days of Holiday Gift Exchange I present Squirrel or Die.

Squirrel or Die is a memory/press-your-luck game for two to four players. Players take the roll of Squirrels preparing for Winter. There are two distinct phases in each game, which I’ll discuss below. Hope you like your games with a touch of black humor, because the goal of the game is to seed the Yard with Food for you, and Death to your fellow fuzzy animals!

Cards in Squirrel or Die are either Food, Death, or Special. In the Autumn phase, players start each game with three secret cards in hand. The grid (aka the Yard) starts with one card face down, and three cards face up. On a player’s turn they take a card from the draw pile, and add it face up to the Yard. Then the same player swaps any face up card from the Yard with a card from their hand, which will go face down. Eventually all cards will be face down in the Yard, which signals the start of Winter.

When Winter comes (shush, I don’t watch the show) players will take turns drawing a card from the yard, publicly showing off their choice. Each Food card drawn contribute to that player’s victory while making the Yard more dangerous for everyone else. If a player collects three Death cards, they’ve been eliminated from the game. The winner is either the last player standing (most likely outcome), or the player who finds the most food once the last card is drawn from the Yard. Special cards have a variety of effects; such as forcing you to take another turn, or sending Death to another player.

Squirrel or Die is a great small-box game. It’s easy to teach, plays in about 10 minutes, and has a good replay value. Just be aware that the semi-bleak humor won’t be for everyone, though the theme could definitely be used in a classroom to teach students about winter survival in the animal world.

Squirrel or Die is by Fight in a Box, and distributed by Atlas Games.

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday in 2016. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.

12 Days of Holiday Gaming – Last Days: Zombie Apocalypse

Welcome to Day 3 of my 12 Days of Holiday Gaming Suggestions, and hopefully the start of me writing at a faster pace now! Night of the Living Dead turned 50 this year, so we’re gonna talk about zombies.Today’s game is Last Days: Zombie Apocalypse by Osprey Games.

Last Days: Zombie Apocalypse is a miniature game that manages to stand out in a gaming market over saturated by the undead by doing a few key things. Firstly, all of its rules are in a single book. It’s a slim book (by the standard of other minis games); barely passing a hundred pages.Nearly all of that space is devoted to the rules of the game. There’s no need write a bunch of fluff about a world overrun by the undead when so many movies,books, shows, and comics have already done that!

This isn’t to imply that there aren’t story elements to the game despite its relatively small book. On the contrary, Last Days knows that the most interesting zombie stories are about the human conflicts that the undead just make worse. Therefore, it’s completely designed continuous,campaign-style play. Zombies are governed like nearly-mindless obstacles rather than controlled by a single player. The human narrative, meanwhile, starts right when a player designs their group of survivors. Will their leader be selfless, or selfish? The choice affects what kind of followers can be recruited. Where does the group take refuge? The abandoned prison presents a strong start with fences and an infirmary, but it can’t be customized much in long-term play like the more initially-vulnerable farmhouse or mall can.

(And yes, leaders, followers, and bases all improve over the course of play. And zombies are always the same.)

Last Days actually uses the overwhelming number of other zombie games to its advantage by being completely miniature agnostic. In other words; “USE WHAT YOU WANT” is part of the rules. (This is a great feature of nearly all of Osprey’s miniature games.) If you know someone who already owns games like Zombicide, Last Night on Earth, or Zombies!!!!!, then Last Days will work with what they already own! (And if that person is you, mention the book to someone who needs a gift idea for you.)

Check back soon (hopefully tomorrow) for a non-miniatures gaming suggestion.

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday in 2016. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.

12 Days of Holiday Gaming – Fallout Wasteland Warfare

Day 2 of the 12 Days of Holiday Game Recommendations, and only [*checks notes*] four days after the first. Oof. (Don’t worry, I’ll be done well before Christmas.) Today I’m going to get an obvious game out of the way with Fallout Wasteland Warfare by MODIPHIUS.

(But first, let’s be obvious about my biases. Yes, I’m a big Fallout mark. Yes, I’ve been hyping this game most of the year. Yes, I clearly want the community around the game to keep growing. Proceed with all of that in mind, because I still think this is a great game!)

Fallout: Wasteland Warfare is a miniature game based around the Fallout video game series. But you will not need to be a Fallout fan to enjoy the game, nor do you need to be an experienced miniature gamer. I’ll be talking almost exclusively about the game’s starter box, which was designed to be as accessible as possible for the beginning miniature player (while still providing enough content for people ready for a more complicated experience).

Given that I’m talking about a miniature game, let’s start with the minis themselves. Everything in the starter box is fully assembled, and manufactured out of colored PVC plastic. (Humans and their dog in grey plastic; mutants and monsters in green.) Each of the 12 miniatures are also on their own decorative base, giving the each model a nice visual pop.

Having fully-assembled miniatures is a nice step for the beginning player, but the Fallout Starter Box doesn’t stop there. It also has an 8 page “Getting Acclimated” guide written specifically for someone who’s never played a miniature game before. The guide walks new players through the basic ideas of playing, and includes simple scenarios after each concept to help reinforce them.

The Rules of Play guide continues the teaching trend. Here rules and concept are introduced in greater detail with plenty of examples and more involved tutorial scenarios. Fallout is a game with a lot variables, and they are introduced a bit at a time to avoid overwhelming players.

“Enough of why it’s a great product for the beginning gamer, how does it play?” you may be wondering. At its core, Fallout Wasteland Warfare is “skirmish” miniature game rather than an “army” miniature game. Players typically will use 6 to 10 models per team, rather than dozens upon dozens of miniatures. Additionally, most games will be based on a scenario with a goal other than “beat up the other team”. A victory condition could be to hack terminals (or lock people out of them), search for the best loot, or keep invaders out of your settlement. The game also features a detailed “A.I.” system which can put any number of models under the control of dice. This allows for cooperative player, or scenarios where two opposing players have to avoid monsters while battling each other.

There’s lots more that I could get into (like the myriad of free content online, the resin minis, or the campaign play), but I won’t yet. Suffice to say that Fallout Wasteland Warfare Starter Box is a great miniature game for the absolute beginner, especially if they’re a fan of the Fallout video games. And if you’re not yet convinced, head over to Modiphius’ webstore and download the rules for free!

And for those miniature gamers who aren’t beginners, come back after my 12th entry for a detailed breakdown as to why Fallout Wasteland Warfare is a great choice for more experienced players, too!

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday in 2016. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.

12 Days of Holiday Gaming – Nut So Fast

Welcome to Day 1 of the 12 Days of Holiday Game Recommendations, now think fast! My first suggestion this year is Nut So Fast, by Smirk&Dagger. (Published under their Smirk & Laughter product line.)

Nut So Fast is a reflex card game for 3-6 players. Each player begins the game with roughly the same amount of cards in a facedown pile. At the center of the table is a collection of cartoony nut tokens. On a player’s turn they draw the top two cards from their pile. If a total of four of the same nut is shown between that player’s two cards, everyone races to grab the corresponding token. The walnut and cashew tokens are distributed like musical chairs; a token for every player but one. Whoever fails to grab one of those tokens has to collect the cards from the player who revealed the set of four. (Points are bad in this game!) Meanwhile, there’s a single pistachio token, and the quick player who grabs that gets to choose the poor soul who gets stuck with the points.

(There’s also a single almond, but I won’t tell you how that works. You’ll need to play to find out for yourself.)

Complicating matters are the three “Nutty Pose” cards. At the start of each game, three poses are randomly assigned to 1, 2, or 3. (Poses vary from finger guns, self bunny ears, peace signs, and other silliness.) If a number card is relieved, forget the nuts and strike the correct pose! Whomever was slowest gets the points.

The goal of Nuts So Fast is to have the least points after three rounds of play. In between rounds, a new trio of Nutty Poses gets dealt out. Careful about those reflexes you just developed over the last round, because suddenly they’re wrong!

Nuts So Fast is a great combination of mental and physical reflexes, making it a game for groups who enjoy the likes of Pit, Slap Jack, Jungle Speed, or Set. You can download the rules at the Smirk & Laughter website, and get it from most Friendly Local Game Stores.

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday in 2016. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.

12 Days of Holiday Gaming – Cursed Court

I’m once again doing something a bit different for Day 10 of my 12 Days of Holiday Gaming Suggestions and discussing a game that won’t be released until Tuesday, December 19th. Look a few days into the future with Cursed Court!

Disclosure time: John Nephew (the head of the game’s publisher, Atlas Games) is friends with Lory Aitken (my boss at Pegasus Games). John was in Madison for Thanksgiving weekend and brought a copy of Cursed Court to the store to run a few demos. Neither of them had any idea that I’d be writing this.

Cursed Court is a deduction game for two to six players, who take on the roles of minor nobles in a fantasy setting. The game’s board shows nine major nobles in a three-by-three grid. There is also a deck of 36 cards; four copies of each of the major nobles. The players will be trying to use public and semi-private information to deduce which cards will be appearing, and in what combination.

The game is played over the course of three cycles (or years), each with four phases (or seasons). At the beginning of each year, every player gets four wagering crown tokens and 20 influence coins. The deck of major nobles is shuffled, and one card is dealt in between each of the players. That card is shared information for the two players it is between. At the beginning of each season, a single card from the major noble deck is publicly revealed and placed next to the board. (Meaning for cards will be made public by the end of each year.)

After a noble card is relieved the betting begins, and this is where Cursed Court shines. Each season, players can place one of their wagering crowns on the board; either on a single noble, or a combination of nobles who they think will appear the most that year. (For example: a player could bet on the Queen, or bet on “The Wedding” which assumes a combination of the Queen, Duke, and Priestess.) At the end of each year, all of the cards that were dealt between the players are added to the revealed cards, and successful wagers are scored. Bets on a single noble score based on how many copies of that noble’s card are showing. Bets on a combination score if at least one copy of each of the required cards is showing at least a single copy. (“The Wedding” will only be worth three points, even if two copies of every card is present.)

While that may seem straightforward, there is a major limiting factor in Cursed Court: each space can only have a single wagering crown on it. When a player places their crown on an unclaimed space they can add any number of their 20 influence coins to that space as well. If a player wants to take a claimed space they must be able to play twice as many influence coins as the controlling player has already played. (This means spaces with 11 coins on them are completely secure.) Players must time their influence use wisely because they cannot get coins back until they lose a space, or at the end of the year.

Cursed Court is another game where the mechanics and the components compliment each other perfectly. The fact that only one player can control a possible wager, plus the limited number of influence, plus shared “hidden” information, plus the slow reveal of public information leads to a lot of bluffing, second-guessing, and ruthless undercutting. It feels like cutthroat political intrigue. This is magnified by fantastic artwork and well-designed tokens. Everything blends together very well.

When I first did this list in 2015 my game of the year was Revolution!, and I said it was an underrated game that deserved much more love than it gets. It made me happy to see so many people agree with me in the comments. To those people in particular, I say keep your eyes open for Cursed Court. Beyond that little niche, I think this game is going to be a hit with anyone who likes deduction, bluffing, and playing the odds in a highly combative way. If this sounds like a game for you, get ready for its release in a few days!

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday in 2016. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.

12 Days of Holiday Gaming – Baffle

Hello, Day 9 of Holiday Game Suggestions! Today’s entry is will be short, but it’s for a game that I feel deserves a much wider audience than it has. Let me tell you all about the Baffle!. (No, that’s not a typo. “Baffle!” is the full name of the game.) This one is independently published, so most stores don’t carry it.

Baffle! is a variant of Sudoku that uses colors and shapes rather than numbers. There are 25 pieces in five different shapes and colors, and a 5×5 playing board. To win Baffle! you must have a full board that doesn’t repeat a single color or shape in any column, row, or corner-to-corner diagonal. There are 60 puzzle cards full of different starting-states for the board, each with a different difficulty.

What sets Baffle! apart from other puzzle games is that it has different rules variations, including competitive multiplayer. A possible way to play with multiple people is that the person who places the last piece wins. On a player’s turn, they can add or remove a piece; or swap two pieces around the board, or from the board to the unplayed pile. Since many of the puzzles have multiple solutions, the challenge now includes figuring out which one everyone else is going for and cutting them off.

Baffle! is most certainly a game for fans of logic puzzles, and it also has great potential as a learning tool for all ages. This is especially true with the competitive or cooperative multiplayer aspect. I could easily see this working well in a classroom, after-school club, or senior center. This one gets a big thumbs up, folks. If you’re a fan of logic games, this one’s for you.

(And I can say personally that the game is highly addictive. For you see, when Pegasus Games first started carrying Baffle! there was an open copy at the counter for customers to look through. But after a week or so it was obvious that Baffle! was causing some major loss of productivity on the employee end, and the open copy was put on the demo shelf.)

Baffle! can be purchased from the manufacturer Flying Rabbit (http://www.bafflegame.com/) or from Pegasus Games.

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday in 2016. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.

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