Mysterium Review

Grab your Mum’s best white bedsheets and cut little holes in them, it’s time to ghost about in the haunting Mysterium! BooOOOooooOOoooooOooooOoooo

So, you’ve just bought this really spooky looking abandoned mansion, and you’re all excited about all the things you could do with the place, you could turn it into a lovely hotel/spa, make the world’s best Hallowe’en haunted house or just gad about in a top hat and tails all day pretending to be Fred Astaire, if you’re into that kind of thing. There’s one snag, the house is haunted by the ghost of a man-servant, who was violently murdered in the grounds thirty years prior, and this guy is really messing up your plans of recreating the stairs scene from Beauty and the Beast with your best bae. Naturally you want rid of this spectral pest.

bill-pullman
Sadly, there is no Bill Pullman

So far, so plotline of Casper, but, instead of getting the ghost therapist and hot dad Bill Pullman in, you gather six of the world’s most famous mediums to communicate with the ghost to help him pass on to the other realm and stop pestering you.

 

set-upIt is the night all hallow’s eve where Mysterium takes place, the 6 (or however many players you have) mediums have gathered round to communicate with the grisly ghost. As the ghost is very old and forgetful (and apparently very murderable), there are several different possible suspects, locations and murder weapons, one set for each medium. To make things a little harder the decrepit ghost can only communicate via the medium of vague visions, and will send out these visions to each of the mediums, who have to interpret them to guess their suspect, location and weapon. There are cards placed on the table with all the possibilities, once you think you’ve interpreted the vision given to you you plonk your crystal ball on the suspect you think it is, and once everyone has guessed the ghost will reveal who is correct and who was not. If you are correct you keep that card and you move onto guessing your location, and if you are incorrect you go back to guessing the suspect again.

I know what you’re thinking, it’s kind of like a Casper themed Cluedo, meets Dixit (another board game that uses similar vague picture cards you have to interpret), but there’s a little more to it than that. It’s better than cluedo, because you don’t have that ridiculous and frustrating board you have to move around in to find clues and what not. Though I do love Dixit, it’s very cute and endearing there’s not much more to it than looking at nice cards and guessing what the other person means, Mysterium gives that mechanic of interpreting visions and gives it a little more meat, or ectoplasm as the case may be. You are working towards something, you’re making a story about what happened to this poor murdered man. 

One major thing I haven’t yet mentioned is that this is a fully cooperative game, and though it’s an uneven game as the ghost has a very different role, everyone is working together to find the culprit. This means that the mediums can share their visions and ask for help from the group and everyone can work together to figure it out, all whilst the ghost looks on in stoney silence.

claivoyancy-tokensThough information can be shared and debated between the mediums, where you place your coloured crystal ball is your choice. However your fellow ghost whisperers might not agree and think that your vision did not represent the policeman, they might think it represented the maid. If this is the case, they can used these little clairvoyancy tokens, and place a little X token next to your crystal ball. If you were wrong in your guess of the policeman, your friend will get one clairvoyancy point for guessing correctly that you were wrong, likewise if they had put a little tick next to your crystal ball and you were right they would also get a clairvoyancy point. However, if they had put an X next to your crystal ball, but you were correct, they would not get anything. The amount of clairvoyancy points you get can have an effect on what you get to see in the next phase. This is probably the fiddliest part of the game, and can be a little hard to explain in the first instance, but once you demonstrate it and you all get into the swing of things it becomes pretty easy. Though I did find that towards the end of the game we were sometime just chucking them on willy nilly just for the sake of it, in case which I think defeats the point a little.

suspect line up.jpg

So, you’ve all worked super hard, the ghost has been banging out visions left and right and the mediums have been interpreting them like Sherlock Holmes on an all night coke bender. All mediums have guessed their suspects, locations and weapons before the end of the 7th hour. Congratulations! You get to move onto the suspect line up. You all place your sets of cards into the centre, the ghost will give you all a shared vision made up of three cards, one to represent the suspect, one for the place and one for the weapon, they will be placed face down in a random order, then depending on how many clairvoyancy points you got earlier depends on how many shared vision cards you get to see. If you got less than 7 you only see one card, if you got up to 10 you get to see two, and if you get 11 or more you get to see all three.

There is a secret vote, whichever suspect gets the highest vote is the medium’s guess, if they guess correctly, the ghost will pass onto the other realm with peace and tranquillity, if they are wrong the ghost is doomed to wander the mansion for another year until next Hallowe’en.

vision-cardsMysterium is a great party game, it plays up to seven people (six mediums and a ghost) so it’s brilliant when you’ve got a crowd and you’re breaking out the emergency chairs. I love that it’s a co-op game, so you’re all working together, it means that even if you’re still waiting for your vision to appear for that round you can still be thinking about your friends vision and helping them so you’re never just sat there waiting around. As there is a two minute time limit on getting your crystal balls and clairvoayncy tokens once all the visions have been handed out there is a feeling of urgency and rushing as everyone rushes to get their guess out and look at what other people have guessed and if they think their companion was correct.

crowsOn top of it all, this is simply a fun game, the cards are beautiful and so well designed and made, and it can be funny when you get a fruit house or a hot air balloon or a mouse and you need to match it up with the cards on the table, it could be anything on the card, the colour, the main object or a tiny speck in the background that could relate to your card on the table. I love the fact that it brings people together, and unlike other co-op games like Ghost Stories or Pandemic this feels a lot more relaxed, and less pressure to do everything or else you’re going to let everyone down, it’s about gathering round and trying to figure out what on earth the little man and the umbrella are supposed to represent, and this can produce some good times and some good laughs. 

It’s not just the cards that are well designed, the big hidy board the ghost uses to keep all of the visions and what location/suspect/weapon goes with which medium is perfect for keeping track of the game, and it even has a lovely piece of artwork on the front facing the mediums, there’s even a little clock stand for you to assemble to keep track of the rounds.

ghost-view

Playing as the ghost isn’t something I’ve even talked about yet! When you’re the ghost, you are basically in charge of the whole game, you’re responsible for keeping track of which medium needs what cards, and trying to find vision cards you think they can interpret. This can be incredibly fun when you see someone getting something you thought was really tough, or incredibly frustrating if they are not seeing the really obvious clue you gave to them. Sometime you just want to yell out, but you must stay quiet, otherwise the game is kinda ruined. It can be a little less fun than playing as a medium as there is a little pressure on you to keep track of the game and to come up with clues for the mediums to interpret, but it can also be great fun looking through all those cards and sending them out into the ether for analysis. 

Overall this is a great party game, it’s fun, it’s relaxed, it brings people together, it can be just the right amount of frustrating. This is the perfect game to dim the lights, light some candles and play some spooky music to on Hallowe’en.

 

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My Top 5 Chill Out Games

One of the things I love about games is the mental challenge, they get the gears going as you set about trying to solve the beautiful puzzle before you. They make you stretch your noggin in ways you didn’t know you could by giving you all kinds of different scenarios and configurations to figure out before your opponents to be crowned the winner.

Sometimes, though, you want a change of pace. You just want to chill out. The other thing I love about games is how they can bring people together, you can have a few drinks and a few laughs whilst moving coloured pieces about and not having to worry too much of work too hard at building a long standing strategy in order to claim your victory.

With a chill out game it doesn’t matter who wins, it doesn’t matter too much about strategy, the most important thing is to gather people round and have a bit of a laugh, or just a nice relaxing evening together.

So get into a comfy seat, grab some snacks and your favourite beverage, and don’t forget to invite your friends for the top 5 games for chilling out with.

 

5) Last Will 

last-will-2Welcome to Brewster’s Millions: The Board Game. Your Uncle has died, Hooray! He has left you his fortune, but first you must spend a nominal amount (it changes from game to game) within  eight weeks, to get the rest of the beautiful bullion, because that’s how life works. Right? Right?!

So, you have to set about living the most lavish lifestyle you can, by buying big houses that you leave to depreciate in value, buying dogs and horses to train and feed, having many lady companions who you take to dinner and on boating trips as well as throwing stupendous parties.

It’s a great, card based game that allows you to go down many different routes, and try loads of different ways to get rid of your cash. The Edwardian England setting makes for some oddly amusing scenarios, and it’s always fun to try and spend as much as you can before time runs out.

 

4) Sea of clouds

sea-of-clouds-2Arrggghhh me mateys! Hop aboard my sky pirate ship and we’ll go hunting for sky booty!

In Sea of clouds you all play as captains of flying pirate ships, like you do. You have to work together to plunder the swag, but it also means that you have to share. Another card based game, the booty is three face down cards in the middle, you have a look at booty pile number one, and decide if you want it or not, if you do you keep it and replace it with another face down, if you don’t want it simply put it back and put another card on top, and move onto the next Booty pile. If you go through all three and don’t like anything, then you can opt for a mystery card taken from the top of the deck.

Every few rounds you all board each others boats and have a big fight, with the winner claiming loads of doubloons to add to their pile.

This is a great, quick game, perfect for chilling out to. It’s fairly streamlined without too much extra stuff going on, you’re looking at cards and deciding which ones you want. The artwork is also perfect for a chill out, as there’s lots of dreamy, floaty clouds about with a dusky colour pallette.

 

3) Roll For the Galaxy

roll-for-the-galaxyThere are some who might not think of this as a chill out game, the box boasts of a frantic game of dice rolling and worker assignment. In some respects it is. Though I have found it to be fairly smooth riding, and some of the frantic scrambling is often replaced with careful thought and consideration.

You start off with a few dice with funny symbols on them which correspond to different phases, behind your player board you roll your dice using your special coloured dice rolling cup (which are very cute and a lovely little touch) depending on what symbols they land on depends on where you can assign them and what you can do during the round. You can explore new worlds, you can produce a good on a world you’ve already explored, or you can ship a good you’ve produced (the shipping of the goods is where you win victory points).

It’s lovely space theme, cute coloured dice and little rolling cups make this an unintentionally cute game, at least for me. Recommended for anyone with a love of dice or worker assignment games.

 

2) Sherriff of Nottingham

sheriff-of-nottinghamA little more of a party game, Sheriff of Nottingham plays up to five people. It’s a bluffing game at heart as each player is trying to smuggle contraband with their apples, chickens and cheese into the marketplace to sell on the black market for a pretty penny.

Each player takes turns in playing to deplorable Sheriff, who is represented by neat little standee. You put the cards you want to take into the market in a coloured felt pouch and pass them to the sheriff, declaring what you have in your bag as you pass it (obviously not telling him about any contraband you may have hidden inside). The sheriff has to then decide if you are telling the truth, if he suspects you of lying he can open your pouch and confiscate your contraband. However, if you were telling the truth and the Sheriff opens your pouch, he then has to pay you money for the inconvenience! The winner is the person with the most points at the end of the game.

This is a perfect chill out game, as it’s all about the exchange between the traders and the Sheriff it makes for some excellent funny moments, as everyone gets a shot at being the bully Sheriff it can bring out a part of people’s personalities they might not usually show, it’s about people getting together and having a laugh. For me, this is one game I really do not care about winning, in part thanks to the convoluted scoring system at the end, it’s all about having a good time with my friends.

 

1) Ticket To Ride

ticket-to-rideI choo choo choose you Ticket to Ride!

This is one of the biggest selling games ever, it’s considered a modern classic that is soon to join to the ranks of Monopoly and Cluedo as a game that everyone has in their house for posterity. After winning the Spiel De Jahres back in 2004 it’s gone on to sell millions of copies and managing to draw in a whole carriage load of people who might have otherwise shied away from board games. Even my mother bought a copy of her own accord.

It’s simplicity is one of it’s biggest draws for new players as well as making it a great chill out game for more experienced hands . You lay trains down to claim a route and connect cities on a map of North America, most points wins the game. That’s it, the turns can go quite quickly, so it doesn’t take all night to play a game, it’s perfect for gathering people around, having a few drinks and just… Chilling out!

 

There we have it folks. All the ingredients you need for a chilled evening with some friends! Don’t forget the tasty snacks and drinks (alcoholic or not, it’s your choice!)

 

Board Game: Scoville

Ages 13+ 2-6 Players 60-90 mins.

I have lost days to farming games. I love building my little town and growing my crops. It makes me feel at one with my pastoral upbringing without having to actually get muddy or smell the general aura of animal muck that comes with the country.

When I heard about Scoville I clapped my little hands with glee and did a little on the spot dance. Farming AND a board game. It was looking like my life was going to get that bit hotter.

So I toddled down to my local board game shop paid my money, bought bandages for my singed fingers from handling the hottest game in town and took it home to drink in all the beautiful elements and wonderful rules.

It even has a little back story. The residents of a small town loved Wilbur Scoville (who invented the Scoville scale, the hotness scale for peppers) they named their town after him and have an annual pepper festival where the hottest peppers are the most prized possessions.

scoville contents
So many pretty components

What you get in the box

  • 1 Game Board
  • 65 Auction Cards
  • 48 Market cards
  • 12 Award Cards
  • A load of coins
  • 18 Bonus Action Tiles
  • 4 Breeding Charts
  • 6 Player Screens
  • 6 Farmers/Player Discs
  • Many, Many, Many Peppers

 

I just want to take this moment to talk about the pieces you get. They are so well made. From the little coins (which are super tiny) to the board, which is super clear and has an area for all the cards you’ll be using. You even get little pepper meeples. Pepereeples! You don’t feel like the manufacturers skimped on anything during production.

farmer meepleIn fact, this was a kickstarter originally and some of the stretch goals were to upgrade from coloured cubes to actual peppers, and to have the hottest of the hot peppers become plastic see through sparkly phantom peppers. They also upgraded the farmer tokens to little farmer meeples for the harvesting phase.

 

It’s so bright and colourful you’ll feel like John Travolta in Pulp Fiction opening the briefcase of fun. Only this time you’ll get to see the hot stuff inside. 

How to play

scoville set up

Each player chooses their colour, and gets a player board for hiding your hoard of peppers and points cards. You also get a counter for the turn order track and a farmer meeple for harvesting the crops.

The aim of the game is to get the most points, points are represented by a number within a flame and can be found on some of the market cards, the recipe cards and your bonus action tiles.

Scoville is played in rounds, and there are three phases to each round.

The round starts with a silent auction, you place how many coins you want to bid, you all reveal at the same time, whoever bids the highest gets to choose where they go in the turn order, the second highest goes next and so on.

track order.jpg
Turn order track

It is here that we come to one of the first great things about Scoville. You see, in this game choosing your turn order can be very difficult. In the second phase (planting) whoever is in the number one slot goes first, two goes second etc. In the second phase (harvesting) whoever was last during planting goes first to harvest. Then for the third phase, (fulfilment) back to number one going first. It’s the hardest decision you have to make sometimes for reasons that will become clear.

Once the turn order has been established it’s onto the first phase of the round. Planting. Ooooo, I hear you collectively say.

farmers scoville
Peppers in the field

The player going first chooses which pepper they would like from the auction areas of the board and puts it in their inventory. They then choose any pepper from their inventory to place onto the board. You can place it wherever you like so long as it’s horizontally or vertically adjacent to a pepper already in the field.

After the last person has planted it’s time to harvest your glorious produce. This is the really juicy part of the game for me. It’s where all your plans from the first phase come to fruition, and can be worth going last to plant to go first to harvest.

scoville chart
Breeding chart

You grab the farmer meeple of the appropriate colour and start off in the little star in the middle. you get to move up to three steps, always going forwards. Every time you land between two peppers, you consult your breeding chart, see what colour they make and you get that colour pepper in your inventory. So for example if you land between a purple and a green, it would make a white that you get to place in your inventory. Wherever you land on your last step you stay until the next harvesting phase.

Once you have quite a few peppers on the board you can really start to plan out your route, and you plan what peppers you want to plant to get the combo you want for the colour you need. The other really great thing about this is the player interaction. This mechanic allows you to block your opponents from getting to certain peppers, you can’t go through another player’s farmer and you cannot occupy the same space, so if you choose to land between two colours that make a hot, hot, hot pepper, nobody else will be able to swoop in and take it. Likewise it means that you can spend a few turns building up a great route full of brilliant combos to get the peppers you want, can be usurped by another player, if you’re not first to harvest that is.

recipe cards
Some of the recipe cards you’ll be vying for

When we’re all grinning with glee or frowning in frustration at not getting the peppers we wanted we can move onto the fulfilment phase. This is when you can exchange your peppers for chili recipe cards, market cards, or you can just sell up to five peppers for coins. Remember, the turn order goes back to number one going first, so someone else might be able to get in before you and swipe that recipe card worth 24 points from under your nose. 

See why it’s so hard choose your turn order? You need to go first to make sure you get that red hot recipe card, but at the same time, if you go last you’re more likely to get the peppers needed to get the card.

 

I love this game. I’ve played it many times since I bought it last year, and it has been a big hit with everyone I’ve played with.

The theme is just… Lovely, it makes you smile with it’s colours and the farming aspect. Everything looks and feels like a lot of love went into it. It feels like a local village fete. All it’s missing is a WI tea and jam tent.

The game play is simple, yet complex enough to create a beautiful puzzle for you to solve. This ticks a lot of my boxes for the game play. There’s not much, but just enough player interaction, you can plan out your moves way in advance, but can still have it all scuppered by another player’s plans so you have to re-calibrate.

bonus action tilles

The bonus action tiles can be really useful for planning a massive pepper harvest, they get you the ability to go back on yourself once, move one extra step or to plant one extra pepper. You can use more than one during a turn so you can really have a pepper blast! If you decide not to use the tiles, they are worth 4 points each at the end of the game.

You have to make simple, but tough decisions.

The little player screen makes for an exciting finish. The main aim of the screens is to keep the winner a secret until the end. You keep all your pepper stock and any cards you pick up along the way behind there and then tote up the scores at the end. Which is great because you realise you’ve been doing better than you thought. Someone who you thought was definitely going to win might have been bluffing and will come last. It’s the games last hurrah.

A great advantage of Scoville is that it plays up to 6, a lot of other games of a similar calibre tend to be 4 or 5. So the extra player space can be pretty neat if there are a lot of you.

My main criticism for Scoville would be that once you find a strategy you tend to stick with it, there’s not too much scope for trying out new techniques. Which can limit the re-playability a little. The recipe cards start to get a little dull after a while and you start to learn which ones are the best and what is needed to obtain them.

scoville labsThankfully, an expansion has just been kick-started, called Scoville Labs. I received mine a couple of weeks ago. The expansion doesn’t change the main rules, but it does bring up the heat a little more. As it allows you to plant a pepper (after planting on the main board) in your very own little lab. You reap the benefits of any combos made immediately, but after that they just take up more space in your lab. This helps to combat some of those ‘he stole my planned pepper route’ situations and allows you to be a little more selfish with the pepper hoarding. Included are also more recipe cards and market cards that also helps to refresh the game a little.

I liked Scoville labs, I think I’ll need to play it a few more times to really get the scope for what it can do, but it does work well, and I really liked being able to quickly get some of the peppers that I needed without worrying that one of my fellow farmers was going to steal my prize.

scoville by night

I wholeheartedly recommend this game. As part of the Scoville Labs Kickstarter you could get the base game too as one of the rewards. This was to measure the amount of interest in it for a new print run. So, it might be hard to get at the moment, but hopefully it will be winging it’s way to your local board game shop soon!

 

All you need yo do now is ask yourself. Are you ready to feel the burn?

 

Board Game: Ghost Stories

Players: 1-4 Time: 45-90 mins Ages: 14+

Do you like Kung Fu Movies? Got an interest in Eastern history and philosophy? Or just enjoy the aesthetic? Do you like games that give you loads to think about? A game with a massive challenge? Or even just enjoy a good co-op game?  If the answer is yes to any of these questions then this game could very well be for you.

Back in 2008 the good people at Repos Produduction’s publish this beautiful game from Antoine Bauza, who would later go on to design 7 Wonders, the winner of the inaugural Kennerspiel des Jahres (Connoisseur Game of the Year at the Spiel de Jahres) in 2011.

In this game you’ll be trying to protect the village by killing as many ghosts as possible. If you manage to survive to the end, you’ll meet an incarnation of the big bad guy Wu-Feng. Defeat him and you all win (this is a co-op after all, you all win or lose together), run out of ghost cards before defeating Wu-Feng, allow three village tiles to become haunted or if all players are dead at the same time, you all lose.

What’s in the Box?

set up 2

  • 4 player boards
  • 9 village tiles
  • 4 Tao Dice
  • 1 Curse Die
  • 65 Ghost Cards
  • A whole load of various tokens
  • 8 Haunting figures
  • 2 Buddah figures
  • 1 Rulebook
  • 1 Help sheet
  • 1 Score sheet

 

How to play      

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ghost stories starts out with the nine village tiles randomly arranged in a square in the middle with the four coloured player boards placed along the sides. Each player board is one colour with a corresponding Taoist monk figure, which starts off in the middle village tile. Each colour has it’s own special ability to help you defeat the barrage of ghosts that will be coming your way, and each player board has two different sides with different abilities so you can choose which one you would rather play with, or if you like to live dangerously, just randomly assign.

At the start of each turn there will be a ghost drawn and placed on the appropriate player board. You then get the choice to get help from one of the villagers or to go and fight a any ghost on the board.

20160407_194851.jpgIt’s these horrible guys that you’re going to be fighting. They all have dots down the side, which indicate how many dots of that colour you need to roll to kill it, and down the bottom they have any effects they may have (depending on positioning this can be when the ghost is drawn at the start of the players turn who’s board it’s on, or when it gets killed)

Fighting is pretty simple, position your Taoist monk in front of a ghost, roll the three Tao dice and if you manage to get the correct number of colours the ghost dies and is removed from the game. For example if you were in front of the yellow ghost above and roll two yellows on the dice that sucker gets killed. You can bolster your roll with Tao tokens that you can gain through help from certain villagers or from your special ability. So if you were to have only rolled one yellow, you can chuck in a yellow Tao token to make it up to two.

What’s so great about it?

Well, so, so much. I’ve tried to keep my rules explanation brief, otherwise we could be here a while. The basic rules are quite simple, (draw ghost, place ghost, perform any curses ghosts require, move about the village, either get help or fight). The strategy involved is ghostlydeep and can be quite intense at times.

There’s a new ghost drawn every turn, so you need to keep on top of them or else you’re going to get over run and start losing Qi tokens (they work kinda like lives in an old school Mario game, run out and you die). It’s this constant barrage of ghosts that can really make it nail biting, as you can be quite on top of things, and due to a run of bad luck you’ll suddenly find yourself staring at a board full of ghosts, all proving a threat to killing you or ending the game at any moment.

While you want to be fighting ghosts as much as possible, you might also need help from the villagers to be able to improve your chances of killing them. Sometimes you can spend ages weighing up if you can leave that haunter ghost (they have the little ghost figurines, and if left un-killed can haunt a village tile so you can no longer use it, and possibly end the game) and instead get help so that you’re more likely to kill it. Do you have time? Will another haunter come out on the next go? Can one of the other players maybe tackle it? Would going for another ghost be better? They’re all some of the questions that can go through your head within about three seconds.

This is a very hard game, even on the easiest setting (There are various ways to set up the game to make it easy or harder) I have only managed to win the game once, and have  only made it to the incarnation of Wu-Feng a handful of times.ghosty

As it is a co-op game you can plan out your moves to a certain degree and you can ask for help from your fellow players. This can have drawbacks as some people can be a little forceful and plan your next 10 moves for you. We find it best to play with the rule of ‘you can discuss as much as you like, but the player whose turn it is gets the final say as to what they do’, which helps to eliminate some of that.

The Artwork is simply stunning. The amount of work that has gone into the design of the game is bewildering when you think about it. Every Ghost card has been individually designed with some very gruesome images. Each village tile and player board has all had the same treatment. This all helps to give the game a real sense of atmosphere and brooding.

What’s not so great?

Well, as I’ve stated before, this is a really tough going game. Which is great if you’re looking for a challenge. However it can be a little disheartening when you still haven’t won after 20 games.  I haven’t even attempted this on the harder settings. The rules do state that it will be hard and it will take you a few games to really get into it, and possibly win the game (again, this can be great. I like a slow burner that you can take your time to really get to know, but some might get a little impatient). on the board

The rule book is awful. It was very difficult to understand. I had to look a few bits up on-line just to clarify what it meant. The flow chart on the back is handy for the basics, but for some of the more fiddly rules you might be better going straight to on-line sources. The rule book is the only thing that I feel could do with a redesign and a re-write. Even Antoine Bauza himself has admitted that the rule book was a little confusing and has learnt from his mistakes on that one.

Reccomended?

Yes. I fully recommend this game, it’s a great stepping stone from gateway games to something a bit more meaty to sink your teeth into. It can be difficult, but the challenge is great and rewarding when you do well.

As it’s co-op it’s great for if you want to bring everyone together for a change from competition.

The artwork is atmospheric and really goes with the theme.

On top of all this, if you get bored of the base game there are at least two expansions, one of which allows up to 5 players, one of whom will be playing as Wu-Feng himself. As well as an iOS app to play on the go and practice for when you’re playing with friends.

One last thing worth mentioning. It can be played solo. So if you’re having trouble getting everyone together or want to practice at it a little more or even if you enjoy a little time lost in your own thoughts on a game you can bust it out any time.

★★★★★

 

 

 

 

Ticket To Ride Review

Ticket to Ride, the classic board game of planes, trains and automobiles, well. Trains at least.

When creator, Alan Moon and publisher Days of Wonder first released Ticket to Ride back in 2004, they had little idea that it would go on to be one of the most successful games of recent years, reportedly selling in excess of 3 million copies. Upon it’s release it was nominated for one of the most prestigious accolades in the board game world, the Spiel De Jahres and won  Not to mention the slew of spinoffs, expansions, extra map collections and even a smartphone/tablet app emulating the game that it has spawned due to it’s popularity.

ticket to ride app 1

This was the first board game I bought after realising there was more to board gaming than Monopoly and Cluedo. It often pops in lists of the best games to introduce a new gamer to. A ‘Gateway Game’ if there ever was one, it has sparked the gaming imagination of many a player. It’s even managed to reach my mother (a lady who has always had little interest in my hobbies) when one day on a visit to see her she excitedly asked if I’d ever played ‘The Train Game’. I even let her win a game or two.

So, the big question: What do you get in the box?

ticket to ride contents

  • 1 Board map of North America,
  • 240 coloured train cars,
  • 144 coloured train cards,
  • 30 destination ticket cards,
  • 1 continuous path bonus card,
  • 5 wooden scoring tokens,
  • and a rules booklet.

 

 

Like many of the greatest games the rules are simple (the rule booklet is pleasingly thin at four a4 pages), but the strategies are many.  

So, let’s don our ten gallon hats and shout out our best Texan accents as we transform into railway tycoons to claim railway routes across the US of A (and the South of Canada) and become the tycooniest of all the tycoons!

To start with you have a big ol’ pile of trains all one colour in front of you, which you will use to place on the board to claim your routes.

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You get dealt three destination cards to link up cities say, New York to L.A or Florida to Chicago, each one is worth a different amount of points at the end of the game if completed. However if you fail to complete the destination those points are deducted from your final score. choose at least two and discard the third if you don’t think you’ll finish it before the end of the game.

 

 

 

ticket to ride colour cardsDuring your turn you get three options, either you can pick up up to two of the five colour cards on display at the side of the board, or from the draw deck. You can exchange the colour cards to claim routes, or if you’ve had a lot of luck (or very little) you can pick up more destination cards. 

 

 

The end of the game is declared once one of the players reaches 0, 1 or 2 trains left. You tote up the end scores, points are awarded for routes placed, destination cards fulfilled (or deducted if not fulfilled) and there’s 10 bonus points on offer for whoever has the longest continuous train chain. The player with the highest point score wins the game!

ticket to ride board

Whilst the rules are simple, the game play is not.

 

The strategy planning begins the second you get your destination tickets, you already have so many things to think about. Will it be better to go for the long route and risk not being able to do it, but getting a large reward if you do? Or is it better to go for the shorter routes and getting more of them. Can you link them all up to get that much prized and quite often game deciding longest route card at the end.

This is all before you even come to actually start the game, and the sometimes heartbreaking decisions that go with it. It is better to go for the cards and build them up and risk someone taking the route you needed. Or is it better to place down your trains as soon as possible and risk losing out on the cards that you might need next or later on?

ticket to ride mid play

 

You need to think about all of this within seconds as it is possible that one of your opponents can swoop in and steal that card or route you needed and you’ll be forced to recalibrate your plan with a moments notice, as once a route has been claimed there’s no turning back.

 

Whilst I think the simple yet hard choices and is what has brought about TTR’s initial popularity, I think this coupled with the game’s cut throat attitude is what has broadened it’s appeal  to those not usually interested in board games.

If you’re the kind of person who loves a game of Monopoly and taking over your friends’ properties when they go bankrupt, or take glee in asking for rent on a hotel on Mayfair, when the other player only has a tenner left then you will love Ticket to Ride. There are so many ways to totally screw up your competitors plans (though often you may not know it). It’s a great game for making enemies as well as friends.

So, the games got a pretty good ticklist going on, it has simple rules [tick], great strategy [tick] lost of player interaction [tick] can be a great game for non gamers [tick]. Yet there is one bug bear that I have with TTR, and that is it’s re-playability, after a while you get used to the destination cards and you start relying on lot of the same tactics and the same routes where possible. This can be solved to a certain extent if you purchase the 1910 expansion. This gives you a lot more destination cards and a couple of new rules options for playing.

The 1910 expansion also gives you re-printed, and re-sized coloured cards as the  ones you get with the game are tiny for some reason, and these ones are normal playing card size, which makes them a bit easier to hold as well.

tt-mc5_inside

The re-playability issue can also be addressed with the map collections that you can buy to freshen things up with a new map of a new country or continent, there are about 5 of these now, the latest including the UK. Despite the basic game play staying the same, each new map has it’s own unique rules to give you something new to sink your teeth in.

I have played TTR Europe, and I have to say I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the original.

 

 

This game is recommended, especially if you’re new to the hobby or if you’re looking for something to introduce to a friend who’s new to board gaming.The rules are simple enough to pick up quickly yet the play is complex enough to be interesting without being too daunting, but if you’re already a big fan of board games and looking for the next big juicy game to really get into, with plenty of re-playability then you will probably be best getting your rocks off elsewhere. 

★★★★

 

 

Card Game: Gloom

2-4 players. Ages 13+. Approx 60 mins.

Gloom, the fun filled family game of disaster, distress and er, death. I know, this doesn’t seem too family friendly, but this game is great and can be enjoyed by kids of all ages (OK maybe not the really, really young). When I first opened the box and read the rules I could only think it’s a little like Happy Families: The Addams Family version. In this game you’ll be subjecting your chosen family to a barrage of vicious, strange, unfortunate and really rather amusing events.

gloom in the box

So, the eternal question! What’s in the box? Thankfully, Brad Pitt can sleep soundly as there are no severed heads, at least I haven’t come across one yet. What you do get is massive stack of wonderfully macabre, plastic playing cards (16 family cards, the rest are modifiers, events and untimely death cards… Yep, I wasn’t joking about the death part) and a set of instructions. Rather like Adventure Time Love Letter that I reviewed last week, this is a small, simple yet complex game. 

Game play begins with everyone picking a family that they’re going to subject to various misfortunes and also grabbing 5 cards from the draw pile to form a hand of cards. In a nice themed touch whoever has had the worst day gets to start (I love a themed ‘who goes first’ rule), they then choose two cards to play or discard, and then draw back up to five. You place your modifier, untimely death or event cards on top of any family member (even your opponents families if you want to), as these are opaque in the middle you can see who it is and what their current score is. The score is your family member’s self worth and can be found in the circles down the side, which differ from card to card, and can be cancelled out by new cards laid on top. There is no limit to how many cards can be laid on top, however if you play an Untimely Death card, you must turn over the bottom, family card (the one with the picture on it) so you know they have died and they can no longer have cards placed on top. Once all the members of one family have sadly passed onto the next world the game ends, you tot up your self worth and whoever has the lowest wins the game! Hooray! Or should that just be an unenthusiastic yay?

GloomHand

One thing to note at this point, the game play is simple, and can be picked up easily, however it did take us a few rounds to really get to grips with it and to clarify a few things in the rules. So the rule leaflet could do with a little make over just to make it a little more clear and concise.

OK, so I really enjoyed this game. If you’re the sort of person who has a dark sense of humour, finds the macabre fascinating, or if you just like interesting mechanics in card games you’re going to enjoy this. There are two main things that makes this game stand out from others out there as something a bit different. First is it’s basic game play of having those plastic cards that you can see through, they stack and layer up you only ever score what you can see, so you can cover up one score with another, which can be brilliant if you have a card that will give someone a +10 self worth and you put it on your friends card with a -25 on it. As you’re layering more cards on your characters the second great thing comes more into play: the theme. It is like playing something that could be Addams Family themed, every card is unique, the family members all have names and a brief description and background. The rest of the cards are unique and have titles like was Pierced by Porcupines (-15), was Pestered by Poltergeists (-20) and Was Delighted By Ducklings (+10), The rules encourage you to come up with a story for how that character befell into that state or event, which can result in some weird, wonderful and down right bizarre story lines, in that respect it can feel a little like Frenzy (an RPG where you get to create and star in your own Coen Brothers movie). Even if you don’t go too far down the story telling avenue the cards are funny all on their own, and there are positive ones, which you can place on your opponents families and mess up all their plans. There’s something so satisfying about being able to annoy your friends in a good game. It is these reasons why I really liked Gloom. It’s just a relaxing, funny game. Great for having a few drinks with friends and just having a laugh at all the horrible things you’re subjecting your poor family members to throughout the game. 

gloom in play

The box states that it can take up to an hour. It took us a little less than that, but we weren’t concentrating on the story telling aspect too much, but if you did want to, an hour sounds about right. Maybe even more if you really went to town on the story telling aspect. This relatively long play time (for a small box card game) can make it a bit prohibitive, you’re not going to want to take this out with you, like to the pub say, or out on a picnic like can with other cards in the small box category.

This would make a great game in any games cupboard. Especially if you’re a lover of story telling, and interesting card mechanics. The long play time can have some drawbacks for a small box game, but for others it could be a massive positive. Another slight drawback is the box, it could do with a slight re-design as it can can get a little tattered around the edges quickly when you’re taking the cards in and out, but so long as you take care of it, it shouldn’t rip. The rule leaflet definitely needs looking into a bit further, as I felt that it could be a bit clearer, I had to check and re-check through it a few times to clarify certain bits and pieces, but once you get there the rules are simple enough to remember and to teach to new players.

gloom expansions

There’s enough cards to give it a great amount of re-play-ability and even if you get bored of those cards there are at least 3 expansions with more macabre cards and events to bestow upon your family. There are even different versions like the Cthulhu and Fairy Tales addition. So, if you want to get your macabre story telling jive on, I suggest you bring a little Gloom into your life. 

★★★★☆

 

Card Game: Adventure Time Love Letter

2-4 players. Ages 10+. Play Time 20 Mins. (Approx £10)

First off this is a beautiful game in more way than one.

So, let’s have a look at what we get in the box. You get 16 beautifully decorated cards, 13 Tokens of Affection, 4 reference cards and 1 small yet perfectly formed instruction booklet. That’s it, all you get. and yet for what seems like so little you get a lot of fun.

adventure time cards

The theme has been well thought out with all your favourite characters present, we’ve got (among others) Finn and Jake, LSP, Marceline, The Ice King, and of course, the main show Princess Bubblegum, who we will all be trying to get our love missive to with all the vigour of vying for the last piece of chicken in a KFC family bucket. The cards have all had some wonderful work put into them and are all given a level between 1 and 8. The characters have all been placed in period costume, in keeping with the feeling of the original version of Love Letter and gives a feeling an old fashioned romance story (think Cyrano De Bergerac meets Cartoon Network). The tokens of affection have been adapted as well, the wooden red cubes of the original version have been replaced with odd shaped multi-colour plastic tokens, another well thought out addition in keeping with the theme.

.love letter original

Original Love Letter.

The instructions are really clear, concise and small. A sign of a good game is short yet clear instructions in my opinion. They even include little quick reference cards for each player, though all the cards state on them what they do when discarded the reference cards do come in handy for learning what all the cards are and what they do. Once you know all the different cards (there are only 8 different things that they do) you can probably leave them in the box. 

The play goes in rounds, at the start of the round you receive one card each with a draw pile in the middle. When it comes to your turn you pick up one card put in your hand and choose which of the two in your hand you would like to discard, each card having a different effect when discarded (the cards all state on them what they do, and any further clarification can be found in the rules booklet). The end of the round occurs when there are no more cards left, with whoever has the highest number on their card winning the round. They get their letter delivered to the princess and receive a token of affection in return. The end of the round can also occur before this if all players bar one gets knocked out due to the cards played. The winner of the game is declared once one player gets to 4, 5 or 7 tokens of affection collected, depending on how may players there are.

 

advenure time game play cropped

The pick a card and play a card nature of the game makes it beautifully simple. There is only ever one choice to make each turn, and yet it can be an agonisingly hard one at times. With The Gossip (level 3) card you can choose another player to show your hand to, whoever has the lower number gets knocked out the round, sometimes this can be a dead cert if you have The Princess (level 8, the highest level) or risky business if your other card is only, say The Hero (level 4), there’s a good chance your opponent has a higher value card. There are cards that can protect you from other player’s conniving plans, there are cards that can help to ruin other people’s plan. It’s so simple, you can pick it up and be playing within a few minutes, and yet as is often the case with it’s simplicity out comes the complexity of the decisions you have to make.

Depending on what cards pop up the round can last a few seconds or several minutes. The quick rounds make it a quick game, less than 30 mins so, along with it’s small but mighty size it’s great to take with you and have a little game on a long journey, or if you’re having a picnic in the park, a quick pint down the pub, or as a starter game for a games night!

Over all this is a great small game. it’s so simple to pick up and yet it can be taxing as you’re trying to guess what cards your opponents have and which card would be best to discard. It’s a great game for kids, (the box says 10+ but I would say that kids a bit younger than this would be able to play and enjoy it too) especially this Adventure Time version or even just a time filler or as a starter game for a big games night.  I highly recommend Adventure Time Love Letter. The game play is the same as the original so if Adventure Time is not your bag there are various other versions like Batman, The Hobbit and the good ol’ original version to choose from too.

★★★★★