• Kurt's top games

    Kurt's top games

    #5 Dinosaur Island

    You know that old guy from Jurassic Park with the white beard and that walking stick with the mosquito in the handle? This is basically a worker placement game where every player is just like him, running their own dinosaur based amusement park where people are almost certain to get eaten. You have to manage everything from which dinosaurs you research and create, to what side attractions get built in your park, and even the how much security you employ to prevent unwanted, carnivore-related casualties. This essentially gets played out like a big point-salad strategy game for those looking to be the best park manager in movie history, but I think there’s also plenty of fun to be had for those who just wanna play around with some dinos. Either way, there’s a lot going on in this one, and it definitely stands out as a game that you’ll want to play more than once.

    #4 The Game

    First thing that needs to be said here is how awful of a name this game has. It’s like they couldn’t come up with anything good and just went with the placeholder. But if you can manage to look past that, The Game is a really fun, light, cooperative game that will have you coming back over and over again. It’s also incredibly simple. The whole game is just a deck of 98 cards, numbered 2-99, that you play into 4 piles, 2 that count up from 1 and 2 that count down from 100. Each player manages a hand of 6 of these cards, and takes turns playing them to one of the 4 piles. Every turn each player has to play at least 2, and if they can’t the whole group loses. What makes this game really fun though is that no one is allowed to say anything about the numbers on the cards in their hands, but communication is still the only way to win. The Game will force you to say things like “is it okay if I tickle this pile a little?”, and then someone else to respond, “How much of a tickle? Like a little tickle or a noticeable tickle?” This one makes my list for being super accessible, while also being reliably fun even for board game enthusiasts. Truly a game night staple!

    #3 Sidereal Confluence: Trading and Negotiation in the Elysian Quadrant

    Again, right off the bat, not a fan of the name. Even as someone who plays board games for living I’m forced to scoff a little at how nerdy this game sounds. But despite all that, I can’t help myself but to love this one. Each player takes control of an alien race, each with their own very distinct mechanics and play style, but at the center of all of it is a mechanic where you have machines that need to be powered by cubes and then put out other cubes in greater amounts. I’m sure that doesn’t make it sound any less nerdy, but what really sets this game apart is that in order to make your machines run, you have to be willing to make deals and trade with other alien races at the table. There isn’t much of a game here at all if you’re not willing to negotiate with the other players, and the designers did an excellent job setting up a system where the trading you can do feels meaningful, tense and creative without putting people at each other’s throats. There’s no real incentive to dick people over, so what you have here a really tight and rewarding game of commerce that won’t screw up any friendships when it’s over (I’m looking at you Settlers of Catan)

    #2 Scythe

    Scythe is a very unique engine-building game set in an alternate-history 1920’s world… with robots! Each player plays a different European faction, each with their own unique abilities and progression system, and takes turns performing actions dictated by their unique action boards to produce resources, gain military might, gain the love of the common folk, and upgrade their engines. This is another point-salad game with a lot going on, but what really sets this one apart is how your engine gets upgraded. Every time you make an upgrade to one of your actions or build one of your powerful mechs, you do so by removing a piece from your board that literally uncovers a new advantage/ability and then use that piece to cover up something else on your board that has been working as a disadvantage. This adds a really fun layer of complexity to the strategy of the game that feels super rewarding and makes each faction and playthrough feel very diverse. Plus, though on the surface there is a lot of area control and combat in the game, military might is not always the key to victory. I won the very first game of this I played without winning a single military altercation, but instead by relying on my sneaky mobility and by winning the hearts of the masses. The plethora of meaningful decision making and interesting player interaction makes Scythe one of the better strategy games I’ve ever played!

    #1 Not Alone

    And finally, the game that stood out to me the most in 2017, is the tense game of space survival, Not Alone. Not Alone puts players in the role of astronauts, who crash land on an alien planet only to discover that they are now being hunted by a mysterious creature. This games just seems to check all of my boxes, it’s like the designer was specifically pandering to me. First of all it’s asymmetrical (I’m such a sucker for asymmetry), one player takes control of the creature (the hunter) who is trying to the assimilate everyone else who takes on the role of our unfortunate astronauts (the hunted). The creature does so by watching as the hunted manage a limited hand of cards that correspond to different locations on the planet, so that it can figure out where they might go next and hunt them down, draining their will to resist. What really brings this one to the top of my list is just how deep and immersive it manages to feel, while still being a remarkably light and accessible experience. It is balanced (and well I might add) to be played with 2-7 players and each game only takes about 30 minutes! Not Alone brilliantly captures the feeling of its theme by putting players into a grippingly tense scenario where you have to manage your resources well and get into each other’s heads. I love games that pull that off well, and this one absolutely nailed it.

  • List: Courtney's fave games of 2016

    List: Courtney's fave games of 2016

    This year had a significant lack of new game play for me. I honestly wasn't even able to come up with 10 games that stood out enough to make a list, so 9 it is! On that note as well, I've *thought* about games a lot less this year than previous years as well, so my list is going to be a bit less wordy that Kurt's or Drew's.

    9. Galactic Debate/Cosmocracy

    I'm horrible at improv,  and I hate debating, so local game developers Road to Infamy's latest offering should not be a game I liked, at all because it is both of those things. Boy was I wrong! This fun little party game tackles the debate aspect well by borrowing the "yes, and" rule from improv so everything your opponant says is true and you have to work with that. The time limit debates, and follow up questions also help keep it civil and lively. They lauched on Kickstarter last year and a larger publisher has since picked it up so look for it in stores under the name Cosmocracy after March!

    8. MoonQuake Escape

    The unique board and characters bring you in, the fun "stab 'em in the back" mechanics keep ya playing! We demoed this at GenCon and insta-bought it. There's just a lot of really cool stuff going on in this game, with the rotating board and trying to be the first to make it to the launch pad while trying to throw your opponants to the robo security guard.

    7. Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game

    I'm not a video gamer. I rage quit over really simple things, I rage quit Portal 2 when Drew tried to get me to play it. That said, Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game is a great adaptation of Portal The Video Game. It has a hex based board that is in constant flux, expendable test subjects and irreplacable cake pieces, what more could you want? It captures the spirit and humor of the video game, while being a totally fun and unique board game.

    6. Cat Tower

    You're stacking cute cats hoping you're not the one to knock the tower down. There isn't much to say about it except that really. Great for families, great as a drinking game or while waiting for people to show up, just any time you have time to stack some cats!

    5. Dingo's Dreams

    Another great little filler game, that is kind of like one of those 2d slide puzzles. You're trying to be the first to get your animal tiles to match the design in the middle of the table by sliding and shifting rows and columns. I did a full profile of it a few months back that you can find here.

    4. Scoville

    Scoville is a fun set collection game themed around hot pepper farming! Each round consists of a bid/auction phase, a planting phase and harvest phase. Ultimately you're trying to plant/harvest peppers to complete receipes for victory points.

    3. Fuji Flush

    Fuji Flush is a quick paced game of eliminating all the cards from your hand by playing the largest card and forcing other people to discard and draw. What makes it really interesting is you can either play the largest single card to do this, or temporarily team up with other players by playing the same number card they have out, which adds your cards together! We played a bunch of rounds of this on NYE and it was a great way to bring in 2017!

    2. Mystic Vale

    I love deckbuiling games, and anything that takes that core mechanic and adds a twist automatically has my attention. Mystic Vale does that with what they call "card crafting" where your start deck is essentially just a few cards with some power, but mostly empty cards, and you buy cards to create your own unique cards. Your deck will always be 20 cards, but what those cards do is totally unique each time. The amazing art is just an added bonus.

    1. Evolution: Climate

    Evolution is one of my top games, and Climate brings it to a whole new level. It's the second expansion to the Evolution system, but it *cannot* be played with the previous one, Flight, which I like. It can be too easy to get bogged down trying to play with ALL THE EXPANSIONS so this makes it easy to just focus on one way to play. With Climate there is a new tracker added and trait cards now have either suns or snowflakes, and based on the number that are played the tracker moves to change the climate, which can cause species to die out. You're no longer just fighting other species for survival, but the environment as well!

    I also wanted to give shoutouts to two prototypes that are hitting Kickstarter in early 2017 that were faves of mine.

    Pinball Showdown: I played this at GenCon and loved it! It's a great little card game that captures the spirit of pinball really well. They just launched their KS today [1/10] and are crushing their goal too! Can't wait for this one! 

    Shut Up Cat! The newest offering from local buds Argyle Games, a fun little memory based filler about trying to get a full nights sleep while being a cat owner. Keep an eye out for the KS coming this summer!

  • List: Drew's fave games of 2016

    List: Drew's fave games of 2016

    Each year we put out our lists of our personal favorite games which we played for the first time this year. The game didn’t necessarily have to be new, we just had to have played it for the first time in the last 365 days. 2016 was interesting for me compared to 2015. In the previous year I played an absolute TON of games which I’d never been introduced to previously, but this time around that number was much smaller [approx under 40 this year]. However, the quality of the games I played this year was dramatically higher, this really could have been a top 20 list and they would have all still been outstanding games.

    #10: Splendor

    It might be surprising that I’d never played this before and I don’t really have an excuse on why I hadn’t. I did some work demoing games for Fantasy Flight and in doing so finally got hooked on the gem collecting gloriousness that is Splendor. It is a quick and simple strategy game of collecting gems (poker chips) and cashing them out to expand your gem trading empire (cards). Despite its simplicity it is highly competitive and has enough going on that I’m almost always down for another round of it. This has become one of our mainstays for introducing people to modern board games.

    #9: Flip City

    Tasty Minstrel has quickly become one of my favorite publishers. They have a whole line of games that come in boxes that are a little bit larger than your wallet and each of them has a deceivingly “big” packed inside. Flip City combines push your luck elements with those of a deckbuilder. The catch is that all of the cards are double sided and you can only turn them over if you meet the right criteria. This has become my go to travel game, it plays up to four players but can also be played by yourself which along with the size of the box make it perfectly suited for this.

    #8: Mystic Vale

    This was my most anticipated game of Gencon. While it does make my list it wasn’t quite as spectacular as I had hoped. Mystic Vale is essentially a deck builder but rather than adding cards to your deck over the course of the game instead you sleeve plastic transparencies over your cards to alter what they do. It is an ingenious system and I’m looking forward to seeing how AEG iterates on it. Mystic Vale in many ways is the bigger box version of Flip City. The game does feel a bit like you are playing solitare at times, an issue many deckbuilders have, although its unique mechanic allows for it to be played more quickly and smoothly than counterparts.

    #7: Great Dinosaur Rush

    Courtney had played this during 2015’s GenCon and couldn’t stop talking about it, so when it arrived at our doorstep I couldn’t wait to see what all the ruckus was about. You play as paleontologists collecting dinosaur bones so that you can later put them on display by laying them out on the table to build your very own dinosaur. It turns out that historically many early paleontologists were complete jerks to one another and this game brings that out in a rather light-hearted way by encouraging players to collect notoriety. Great Dino Rush hits all the right notes perfectly and delivers a tactile gameplay experience unlike anything else I’ve played.

    #6: Bomb Squad

    Robot Rally is a classic game which has a special place in my heart, in it players clumsily give orders to their droids that are competing to navigate an obstacle course. Bomb Squad takes that and turns it into a cooperative game where you and your cohorts must help a bomb defusal robot disarm bombs and rescue hostages… the catch is that the bombs are about to explode and you must frantically get the robot to them before time runs out. This all takes place in real time and there are typically eight minutes before the first bomb goes off. This game is intense but it is so satisfying when your team works well together and everything goes as planned.

    #5: Mafia De Cuba

    Something is afoot and your cappos are not all being honest with you. Someone has taken your diamonds and it is up to you to ferret out the thief and ensure that they sleep with the fishes. Mafia De Cuba is a social deduction game where one player, the mob boss, starts with a cigar box filled with diamonds and tokens. The box is passed around the group with each player secretly taking either a token or some diamonds. Taking diamonds makes you a thief and each type of token has a specific role assigned to it (FBI, Driver, Loyal Henchman). After the box makes a full circle it is up to the mob boss to conduct interrogations and make accusations.

    Bonus Points: This game is best played over pizza at Giordano’s.

    #4: Galactic Debate

    This game was designed by some Chicago locals and when I heard that it was a game which revolved around arguing I was a bit skeptical. I had a hard time seeing how it wouldn’t result in friends just getting frustrated with one another. That is so far from the case as this game very quickly takes a dive off the deep end into the realm of the absurd. Players alternate arguing the merits and dangers of making seashells the galactic currency or outlawing the use of brain melting devices on squid people. What really makes this game tick is that any argument a player makes is automatically considered to be undeniable fact, it becomes a game of “Yes, but...” Furthermore, all results flow over into future rounds. Yes… we might have all agreed that forcing Humans to fight to the death for entertainment was for the greater good but how does that impact the decision to build a force field around the Horsehead Nebula?

    Galactic Debate has resulted in some of my most memorable gaming moments of 2016. You need to play this game!

    Intermission: My top 3 were tough for me to rank, they were all very close and each blew me away for totally different reasons. If you’re looking to try something new I can’t recommend these enough.

    #3: Between Two Cities

    People kept telling me that I needed to play this game, that they had played it and instantly thought of me. The people had spoken, and they were right. This game is my jam! It is super easy to teach, it plays in under 30 minutes, it uses drafting as a mechanic, it involves placing tiles, it involves competing AND cooperating with others and to top it all off it takes the same amount of time to play regardless of how many people there are (plays up to 7). Everyone is working to build a bunch of cities, but rather than working on your own individual city, players work with those adjacent to them to collectively build the greatest city the world has ever seen. Between Two Cities was likely my most played game this year and I hadn’t even discovered it until June or July.

    #2: Pandemic Legacy

    I don’t really like Pandemic… there’s just something about it that feels dry to me or as if it is a “solved” game. When Pandemic Legacy became the latest craze I didn’t even consider giving it a chance, I knew I didn’t like Pandemic so why would I ever want to commit to essentially playing over and over again? Wow was I wrong. Towards the end of Summer we got a group going and I was hooked! This takes the base game of Pandemic and quickly escalates it to something entirely different and unrecognizable but strangely familiar. Your actions and the outcome of each time you play continue to permanently impact future sessions. It tells a story, it has a narrative, and every time we play I can’t wait to play it again. I’ll spoil the fun if I mention anything else, but if you’re at all like me and you wrote this one off because it couldn’t possibly be as good as everyone was saying, well then you should give it a chance because you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

    Special Note: for those unaware this game does of the hurdle of essentially requiring you to play with the same set of people from start to finish across multiple play sessions.

    #1: Captain Sonar

    You are at sea aboard a combat-equipped submarine and just been alarmed that there is an enemy vessel lurking somewhere nearby, can you hunt it down without being detected? Are you the predator or are you the prey? Captain Sonar takes the outdated game Battleship and actually makes it fun. Best with two teams of four, each player takes on a specific role aboard their submarine. The Captain dictates the heading of their vessel for everyone to hear; meanwhile, the Sonar Operator listens carefully to try and track opposing team’s course. The Chief Engineer does their best to keep the ship from breaking down while keeping core systems online. Finally, the First Mate readies torpedoes, arms mines and sends out drones to locate the enemy sub before it is too late. The game has a turn-based mode but is best played in real-time. Anyone can play this game, it doesn’t have a ton of pieces, the rules are fairly simple and you don’t have to be a “gamer” to figure it out. Captain Sonar hits on the theme perfectly… Now I just need to convince Sean Connery to come over and play with me.

    Honorable Mentions: Grand Austria Hotel, Race For The Galaxy / Roll For The Galaxy, Halo: Ground Command, Star Wars Rebellion, Dead of Winter & Long Night. – These are all incredible games but they just barely didn’t make the cut they were all kind of tied for 10th. In most cases I just haven’t had the chance to play them enough.

  • Kurt's fave games of 2016

    Kurt's fave games of 2016

    When you hang out with Bonus Rounds you play a lot of really cool games. Now that 2016 is finally coming to a close I find myself looking back and reminiscing about all the wonderful stuff I played for the first time over the course of this last year, and am naturally forced to create a numbered list of my favorites. I wish I could put them all on this list (okay fine, there are a few I’m actually happy to snub), but alas, the list can only go to 10. As a side note, this is not a list of the best games of 2016 but rather a list of my favorite games that were new to me in 2016, so don’t get on my case about how some of these titles are not totally new.

    #10 T.I.M.E. Stories

    A cooperative game about time traveling detectives who need to correct faults in the timeline. Yes please. The basic mechanics of this game are very simple, there’s a board with a time track, some special dice, non-specific tokens and some player tokens. The base game comes with one scenario (1920’s French asylum), but each scenario is really its own unique game. These scenarios come in the form of a large deck of cards that creates the entire experience as it guides you through cycling through it. The game winds up playing like the old computer version of Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego, with the sequence of the deck forming different rooms that the players have to explore, finding items along the way and battling grotesque monsters. If you run out of time, and fail the mission, you can always go back and try again (you are time travelers after all), but even with unlimited time, solving the mystery is no picnic. Unfortunately, each scenario can really only be enjoyed once, but the experience is incredibly engaging and actually pretty challenging (at least the first scenario was, as that’s the one I’ve tried). Because of that I think this game struggles to find itself being worth the price for most casual gamers, but there really isn’t anything quite like it out there, and I’m really excited to see what they wind up doing with all this design space.  

    #9 Quadropolis

    Quadropolis is a minimalist strategy game from Days of Wonder that really managed to win me over. The game revolves around each player building their own cities in a grid in front of them made out of tiles that are purchased from a larger grid in the center. Each tile is a different district of a city, like apartment buildings, factories or parks, and each kind of building will score the player points in different ways at the end of the game. If that all sounds familiar it’s probably because that also describes like a thousand other games. What makes Quadropolis different is how the tiles are acquired. Each player has four workers numbered 1-4 that are each an arrow shaped piece of cardboard. Players take turns spending their workers to buy tiles out of the center, by placing their worker on the outside of the common grid with the arrow pointing towards the tile the want. When you place your worker, you take the tile that is the worker number of spaces in from you worker, and then have to place that tile in a space that is in that number row or column in your city. So for example if you place your #3 worker on the outside, you take the tile that is 3 spaces in from where you place it, and then have to build it in either the 3rd row or column in your own city. Because of this the game becomes very strategy heavy and very thinky (for the record I’m a big fan of thinky) while keeping the basic mechanics of the game incredibly simple. It also seemed to play really fast for having such deep strategy, which makes it an awesome pick for any game night.

    #8 Grand Austria Hotel

    Grand Austria Hotel makes it onto my list for just being an incredibly solid european strategy game. In it, each player runs a cafe and hotel. You spend your turns attracting customers, serving them what they desire, and then putting them up in your hotel for the evening. You have to manage and hire staff (that give you special bonuses), keep track of your cash flow and prepare for visits from the emperor. What stands out about this one is how dice are used as a mechanic. At the beginning of each round a handful of dice are rolled and then sorted out by number in a common pool. On your turn you take two dice from this pool and take the actions that corresponds to their numbers. Not only that but the action changes depending on how many dice are in the pool when you take it. This adds a lot of depth to how you plan out your actions, both because of how competitive it can get among players to take dice and because you never know at the beginning of each round whether or not the action you need will even be available. There’s a lot going on with this game, but it all manages to feel very put together and satisfying.

    #7 Bloodborne: The Card Game

    “A card game based off of a popular video game,” you say, “well that sounds like a pile of hot garbage!” In general I’d tend to agree with you, but for me Bloodborne pulls off not only capturing the feeling of the video game incredibly well but also manages to be a very fun, tight card game that even those unfamiliar with the franchise can get into. It’s a game of collecting blood, the player with the most will be the winner. Of course there’s no better way to gather this blood than by hacking and slashing disgusting monsters and taking theirs. You gotta stay in the fight to collect that blood, but if you hang around too long there’s a good chance these monsters will kill you, taking away all the precious blood you’ve been collecting. You can always head back to the base to bank the blood you have on you, heal yourself and even get some new weapons in the process, but timing this well can be a challenge. The system for taking damage has a chance to snowball too, so even the weakest of creatures can one-shot a player, making it feel just as lethal as its video game counterpart. The designers did a great job making Bloodborne way more than just a gimmick.

    #6 Bomb Squad

    I, like most people I assume, have been a fan of the hidden information cooperative card game Hanabi for some time now. Bomb Squad is a game that takes that experience to a whole new level. Everyone has a hand of cards that they hold facing outwards, so that everyone but them can see what they have. Each of the cards has a different action that you need to use to program your bomb defusing robot such as moving, turning, saving hostages and actually diffusing the bomb. Players go around the circle giving clues to other players about what is in their hands, playing cards down to program the robot’s sequence, discarding cards to charge the robot’s battery and finally executing the sequence. Oh, and like most good games centered around diffusing bombs, it’s very rigidly timed of course. As you can imagine the robot’s programming can very easily go awry, and with the clock baring down on you it takes a group with nerves of steel to pull off this daring rescue. I’ve always been a fan of timed cooperative games, and this one really brought it together for me.

    #5 Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King

    This is a game that feels exactly like if someone came along and said, “Carcassonne is an alright game, but I bet we can do a lot better.” Mission accomplished. Isle of Skye takes the basic tile-laying, landscape-building mechanic made famous by Carcassonne and adds a whole lot of depth to it. Each player has their own kingdom that their building instead of a collective one, but acquiring the tiles you need to build it isn’t as simple as just randomly drawing them. There’s a whole purchasing system where players set prices on the tiles draw so that other players can buy them, but if nobody is interested in the price you set then you’ll be the one fronting the bill. Also, some of the main criteria for how points are earned get randomized every single game, so there is never just one winning strategy. This one feels incredibly well put together, and will frankly replace any desire I have to play Carcassonne ever again.

    #4 Welcome to the Dungeon

    If for no other reason, this one makes it onto my list for just the raw number of times I’ve played this one over the last year. It’s a fast, small-box game that makes it into my bag every single time I go out to a game night. In essence, Welcome to the Dungeon is a dungeon crawling game of chicken. There are 4 different brave heroes in the game, each with their own starting HP and unique set of gear. Players take turns either by passing and sitting out the rest of the round, or raising the stakes by either adding another monster to the dungeon or taking away a piece of the hero’s gear. Eventually, all players but one will have passed, and that player will now be forced to go in as the hero and fight all the monsters with with what’s left of their gear. If they survive they get a victory seal, get 2 and they win. If they perish, then they will lose a life, lose 2 and they’re out of the game. Each of the different hero’s has a very different itemset they take with them, so changing them up between rounds makes the game very interesting all the way through. Plus, the whole game revolves very heavily around figuring out just how ballsy everyone else is at the table and whether or not they’re looking to sabotage the dungeon for other players, so you never know how a round if this game will unfold. It’s truly a game that I am always excited to play.

    #3 Raiders of the North Sea

    Raiders of the North Sea is a unique worker placement game that puts you in the shoes of a Viking captain. You spend your turns gathering provisions and silver, hiring crew and then setting off to sea to raid unsuspecting strongholds. Players earn points by fighting valiantly (even dying) in glorious combat, collecting plunder and making sacrifices to the gods. First off, they pull off the theme incredibly well. Everything you do in this game feels meaningful and and really Vikingy (if that’s a word). Secondly, the worker placement mechanic in this is very unique. You always start and end your turn with a worker, meaning that you take two actions on most turns, the one where you place your worker and one where you acquire a worker. On top of that, once players start going on raids you start acquiring different colored workers that have different bonuses and are required to do certain tasks. This all adds a super interesting strategy onto the game that really makes it stand out from the crowd. Overall, Raiders of the North Sea feels so put together that I would highly recommend it both for veterans of the worker-placement genre, and those looking for a good intro.

    #2 Mafia De Cuba

    Again, going just by sheer volume of play time, this one definitely makes it high on my list. I’ve played this game easily 100 times since picking it up. Mafia de Cuba is a social deduction game where one player plays a mob boss hosting a dinner for his faithful gang. Unfortunately there are some not-so-faithful thieves at the table who will inevitably steal some of the boss’ precious diamonds, and it will then be the godfather’s sole mission to get them back. The way the game plays is that whoever plays the mob boss will start with a cigar box full of role chips and 15 diamonds. The box then gets passed around the table, everyone has to take something, and then the mob boss holds an investigation to figure out who stole diamonds. The role chips people can take instead of diamonds might make them loyal to the boss, loyal only to the person to their right, or even an FBI agent looking to get accused. What makes this game work so well is that everyone’s motivation can wind up being so complex, in part because everyone is actually choosing what they will be. Most social deduction games randomly assign roles, but allowing choice reduces the level of anxiety that can go along with these types of games and makes it feel like you’re really playing the other people at the table, not just circumstance. I’ve played a lot of good social deduction games in my time, but I think this one is my all time favorite.

    #1 Star Wars: Rebellion

    And finally, the game that I cannot manage to shut up about this year, is Star Wars: Rebellion. When this game first came out I thought to myself, “great, another star wars game from Fantasy Flight. How forgettable!” Now I love me some Fantasy Flight, don’t get me wrong, but the whole Star Wars things has been beaten into the ground since the original trilogy came out and the other stuff by them in this canon has never quite left me hungry for more. But let me tell you, Rebellion knocks it right out of the park. It’s basically the original trilogy from a macro perspective that takes place on a big star maps of all the planets from the universe. 1-2 players take control of the empire, a militarily dominant force looking to conquer as much territory as possible to ultimately find and destroy the secret rebel base. The other 1-2 players play as the rebellion, looking to evade the empire, accomplish strategic missions and run out the clock so the rebellion can spread beyond the empire's ability to control. Although the whole thing really plays out on a large scale, with tons of cool minis and even a few death stars (that’s right, death stars plural), all the actions taken over the course of the game are done with heroes from the movies, that can change up a little from game to game, and that really puts you right into some of the best moments of the original trilogy. Outside of absolutely nailing the theme, this is an incredibly well done strategy game of epic proportions that would likely make it high on my list even if it was skinned differently. It's certainly a big box game, but well worth the price, and I know I’m gonna be playing this one for years to come.

    I would like to conclude with some honorable mention for some games that couldn’t find their way onto this list, mostly because I only played the prototypes. One has to go out to the game Galactic Debate, which was made by a few cool guys I know from Road to Infamy Games. It’s a really fun, improv-based game of alien political debate that I’m certain is gonna be accompanying some late night drunkenness for a while. They had a kickstarter for it that ended earlier this year and it should be available to buy on their website in March. The other one goes out to the game Shut Up, Cat! that’s getting published by another really cool guy I know at Argyle Games. It’s a dice based memory game where each player is competing to be the first to get a full-night's sleep despite the intrusion of their house cat. It’s a super fun little game with a great theme and I eagerly anticipate the launch of the kickstarter that should be coming some time in 2017.

  • List : Courtney's GenCon 2016 hype post!

    List : Courtney's GenCon 2016 hype post!

    GenCon is almost here!

    There's so much to take in at a big convention like this, that it's really easy to miss out on some really cool stuff. We wanted to round up and highlight some of the games debuting or making appearances in prototype form for you guys to help narrow it down for you.

    I split my list up into 3 categories: Buy, Demo/Play and Check out, based on what I know about the games and my level of interest in them. Links all go to the Boardgame Geek page for the games so you can get some more info!


    These are the games I'm most excited for this year.

      • The Great Dinosaur Rush : APE Games I demoed this at GenCon last year, we Kickstarted it and will be picking it up this year. Very excited for this to come full circle like this!
      • Mystic Vale : AEG As a fan of deck builing games I'm VERY interested in this card crafting mechanism and what it can do. The art is also stellar.
    • Star Trek: Ascendancy Star Trek is one of my big loves and this game looks awesome. Most Trek games aren't great, so I'm really hopeful for this one, which looks like a mashup of Fleet Captains and Eclipse, two of my fave crunchy games. 
    • Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Mummy's Mask base set : Paizo So we're still working through both Skull & Shackles and Wrath of the Righteous right now, but that does nothing to dampen my excitement for the next core set of one of our favorite games.


    These are games I'm pretty darn excited about, and after playing will probably become buys, if they're available for purchase at the show.

    Check out

    These are games that look interesting and I definitely want to see more of first hand, but aren't quite catching my full attention just yet.

  • List : Games for a day at the museum

    List : Games for a day at the museum

    Did you hear?

    Field Museum has free days (for IL residents) starting today, September 10th, through Sunday September 13!

    A weekend at Field followed by geeky, sciencey games sounds like our perfect weekend! So go check out the museum and then pick up one of these games to round out your weekend.

    Evolution by NorthStar Games:

    In Evolution, players create and adapt their own species in a dynamic ecosystem with hungry predators and limited resources. Traits like Hard Shell and Horns will protect you from carnivores, while a Long Neck will help you get food that others can’t reach. With over 4,000 different species to create, every game becomes a different adventure. So gather your friends and family around the table and see who will best adapt their species to eat, multiply, and thrive.

    Dominant Species The Card Game by GMT Games:

    40,000 B.C. - A great ice age is ending. Another titanic struggle for global supremacy has unwittingly commenced between the animal species. Dominant Species: The Card Game is a fast-playing game that abstractly recreates a tiny portion of ancient history: the ponderous rescinding of an ice age and what that entails for the living creatures trying to adapt to the slowly-changing earth.

    7 Wonders by Asmodee:

    In 7 Wonders, you lead an ancient civilization as it rises from its barbaric roots to become a world power. Lead your troops to a military victory or create a nation of artisans and philosophers. Establish a powerful merchant state or master the mysteries of science and technology. Build an architectural wonder that will fascinate for eons to come, and rule the most powerful civilization on Earth!

    Hive by Gen42 Games: (also available as on digital platforms)

    Hive is a highly addictive strategic game for two players that is not restricted by a board and can be played anywhere on any flat surface. Hive is made up of twenty two pieces, eleven black and eleven white, resembling a variety of creatures each with a unique way of moving.

    The object of the game is to totally surround your opponent’s queen, while at the same time trying to block your opponent from doing likewise to your queen. The player to totally surround his opponent’s queen wins the game.

    The Great Dinosaur Rush by APE Games: While this game isn’t out yet, it does hit Kickstarter this month, and we got a chance to play it at GenCon and loved it! We think it’s a game SUE the T.Rex herself would love.

    Players compete to grab bones from the best dig sites, and build new dinosaurs for prestigious museums. Gain notoriety by stealing bones, sabotaging dig sites and otherwise impeding the other paleontologists. Play dirty if you want to win. Just not TOO dirty!

    What are your favorite history/nature based games?

  • List : Halloween Games 2015

    In case you missed it, we’re going to be having an awesome Halloween board game celebration later this month at Beermiscuous because Halloween is the best! What better way to spend some time with friends than by enjoying some spooky board games?

    5. Arkham Horror (Fantasy Flight Games)

    Arkham Horror takes place in 1926 and something is about to go horribly wrong. Strange events which nobody can explain have been happening throughout the city and it is up to your small band of investigators to prevent the Elder Gods from unleashing armageddon.

    Arkham Horror is a co-op game which can take up the larger portion of an afternoon and it also occupies quite a bit of table space especially once the expansions are added. That said if you do play it and win, it is an incredibly rewarding play experience. If you’ve got a group of friends that are looking to gather and watch your heroes slip into madness then this game really takes the cake.

    4. Smash Up: Monster Smash (Alderac Entertainment Group)

    The Monster Smash expansion adds four new decks to the Smash Up game: Vampires, Giant Ants, Werewolves and the Dr. Frankenstein-esque Mad Scientists. It also brings with it a bevy of new locations which all loosely tie in with the new factions. Particularly fun are the ant cards which are mostly named after Queen songs.

    One big thing that we should note is that although the base game contains a larger number of factions in the box, you can still play Monster Smash on its own. It is effectively a stand-alone expansion containing everything you need for just two players to have fun.

    3. Ultimate Werewolf: Ultimate Edition (Bezier Games)

    Whether you know it as Mafia or Werewolf, the core idea of this game has been around for quite some time, and is great for large groups of players. Most of the players are villagers, but within the group there are a number of werewolves lurking. The game takes place in a series of day and night cycles; during the night the villagers all have their eyes closed and the werewolves collectively decide who they will kill off. When the daytime arrives the entire group (including the sneaky lycanthrope) all bicker on who they think the werewolves might be, they must agree to kill off one player within the group by the end of the day.

    Ultimate Werewolf comes in and adds a whole lot of chaos into the mix! In brings a huge number of new roles into the game including: The Seer (who gets to learn the identity of a player during each night phase), The Minion (a villager that is secretly working on the side of the werewolves) and Bloody Mary (upon being slain she gets to take out her revenge on those that killed her).

    2. Shadows of Brimstone: City of Ancients (Flying Frog Productions)

    The game takes place in a wild west mining town where perhaps the miners have dug a little too deep. A deadly unknown evil lurks in the mine but your hero is more concerned with the rumored treasure than they are with the accompanying danger.

    The game is an incredibly well put together dungeon crawl that just oozes with theme. Not only do you spend time exploring the mine but you also need to return to the town to restock on supplies and sell off your treasure, and neither location is ever particularly safe. The game really captures the sense that your heroes are up against overwhelming odds and it is often better to turn tail and flee like a coward than it is to press on.

    1. Betrayal at House on the Hill (Wizards of the Coast)

    Betrayal is an AMAZING game!… wait we can’t just leave it at that?

    I grew up on horror movies and remain a huge fan of them. John Carpenter’s The Thing and Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre are, among many others, classic films as far as I am concerned. Betrayal at House in the Hill puts you in the shoes of a person that has been invited to dinner at a mysterious house. It captures those early moments of a horror movie as the characters have know idea what is about to unfold. The game starts off with the players slowly exploring the nooks and crannies of the house flipping over tiles to build it as they each take their turns.

    Eventually after flipping specific tiles over the “Haunt” phase of the game begins. At this point the players all consult the rulebook to determine what scenario they are playing. One scenario involves a player becoming a mad scientist that shrinks the explorers down so that he can feed them to his cat; meanwhile, the players need to find a radio controlled plane so that they can escape out the window. Another scenario mimics the great serpent Ouroboros slowing crushing and consuming the house.

    Depending on which edition of the game you have there are upwards of 50 different scenarios all of which are incredibly fun. There are very few games out there that capture a theme so well and truly you can never play the same game twice with this, even the same scenario will play out wildly different.

    By popular demand we will be bringing Betrayal to our Halloween event later this month at Beermiscous. Tell us what some of your favorite horror themed board games are and maybe we’ll bring them to the tables on the 30th as well!

  • List : Drew's games of 2015

    List : Drew's games of 2015

    We ended last year with a series of posts where we picked our favorite games which we had played for the first time that year. Now we are back at it again highlighting our top picks for 2015 out of the games which we played for the very first time…

    By our count I (Drew) played 64 games for the first time this year and surprisingly Courtney had me beat having played just one more game than I, though we each had about a dozen or so which were not yet played by the other. That’s well over a new game every single week of the year which is pretty wild! I’d definitely be interested to hear what some of your favorite firsts were this year and also if you are excited to have a chance to play any of mine, so be sure to let us know.

    Vault Wars

    If you’ve made it to any of our recent events then you probably already know that this is my favorite game played this year. Vault Wars very closely mimics the television show Storage Wars. You all play as aspiring adventurers who need some loot and it just so happens that some folks out there abandoned their treasure vaults, which contain literal Junk alongside various items of value. Just like the show the players are all auctioning / bidding for the vaults and what they might contain. I am starting off with Vault Wars because it is my favorite game of the year but the others will be in no particular order.

    Fury of Dracula

    Twilight fans need not apply! Fury of Dracula is a thematic hunt featuring Van Helsing and crew which takes many cues from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. One player is Dracula himself who operates with a hidden movement mechanic meanwhile the other four characters work together to find his trail and bring the villain to an end. The game was just recently reprinted this past October and I can’t wait for another opportunity to play it again in the new year. If you’re in the mood for an truly epic gaming experience I highly recommend checking this one out!


    I remember receiving a demo disk in a PC Gamer magazine and discovering one of the earlier X-COM games when I was probably twelve. While Fantasy Flight’s recent release shares the name it bears similarities to the much more recent reinventions of the series. X-COM the board game is a co-operative game which integrates the use of a digital app from your tablet (or phone). You are part of a super secret international agency tasked with defending earth from an imminent alien invasion. The game has a real-time element to it which requires strong communication and decisive action from the players in what becomes the most stressful board game I think I have ever played… IT IS GREAT!

    Cosmic Encounter

    Cosmic Encounter has become quite a phenomenon and I really have no excuse why I hadn’t played it sooner. A regular to our events brought it out one night and I was practically begging her to bring it out again. Its stab your neighbor in the back style game play is great for larger groups and is very approachable for newer gamers.

    Ashes : Rise of the Phoenixborn

    A card game which came out during the middle of this year. It uses a model similar to Fantasy Flight’s “living card games” and has absolutely AMAZING art. Really though the art is amazing, it sold us on the game instantly and lucky for us it turns out that the game play is also exceptional. Plaid Hat Games has recently announced a whole slew of expansion content and we can’t wait.

    Trains: Rising Sun

    My favorite deck-building game played this year. Having a board that is effected by the cards you acquire makes things really interesting and perhaps a little bit more tangible for people who are new to the genre. I also particularly like the “Waste” cards which work as a sort of price of progress style mechanic.


    Alchemists feels like a game that people will either love dearly or hate deeply. You are all squabbling alchemists trying to discern the mystical properties of various ingredients and it involves what feel like a series of mini-games which all form this very tight logic puzzle that fits the theme perfectly. It involves all sorts of ups and downs throughout the game. My favorite aspect of Alchemists is that it often rewards players for participating in “bad science.” The complexity of the game means that it caters to a very specific type of gamer and I’m still learning new things about the game each time it comes to the table.

    Star Wars : X-Wing 

    I used to play a lot of tactical miniature war games when I was younger and X-Wing really scratches that itch. It doesn’t help matters that after seeing the most recent movie all I want to do is play this game more and more. In essence it is a dog-fighting game that feels like something that could almost as easily be themed around World War 2 era aerial combat. X-Wing stands out in that is incredibly simple to learn but also has game play which is deceptively intricate if you want it to be.

    Star Wars : Imperial Assault

    Okay, so I put the two of these back to back and I have no shame in admitting that Star Wars fever caught on very hard for me late this past summer. Imperial Assault is a narrative driven dungeon crawler pitting a team of Rebel players against a solo player controlling the Imperial menace. The game takes the Star Wars franchise and puts it into this great choose-your-own-adventure style experience.

    Shadows of Brimstone: City of Ancients

    The locals have dug perhaps a little too deep in this Wild West meets H.P. Lovecraft themed dungeon crawler. It is incredibly brutal and the theme of this game really comes out in an incredibly satisfying way. If unloading your six shooter on a spider monster or creating a chaotic maelstrom of death by chucking dynamite down the mine shaft sound at all like fun you should definitely wrangle a posse of friends together and give this one a go.

    Honorable mentions for two games which I need to dedicate some more time for in 2016 so that I can fully appreciate them:


    Memoir 44

  • List : Courtney's games of 2015

    List : Courtney's games of 2015

    Since we’re still discovering a ton of older games, we’re continuing with our tradition of highlighting our top 10 games we played for the first time this year [some new, some not].

    As Drew mentioned yesterday, we played a lot of games for the first time this year, I beat him with 65 new titles!

    Trekking the National Parks

    I’ve gone on enough about this game this year. Check out our profile from a few weeks ago. It just hit all the right notes for me when I played it at GenCon and it became a game I wanted to share with everyone.

    Great Dinosaur Rush

    I’m really glad I got a chance to play this at GenCon this year, and we backed it on the first day of the campaign. It brings two of my passions, board games and natural history/science, together in a way that is creative, engaging and a little educational. 

    Eminent Domain

    Fact: I love deckbuilding games. I hadn’t actually heard of Eminent Domain, but Drew had been curious about it, and Tasty Minstrel were kind enough to send us a copy. I was hooked! The limited card pool, ability to take actions on other people’s turns, and the mechanism of planetary exploration really set it apart from other deck builders and make it stand out.


    Worker placement games are my other bread and butter, and this game brings a lot of substance to the table for such a small box. After a short demo at GenCon, we were sold and picking up a copy on the spot. The theme of a goblin-run port is fun [the custom meeples are an added bonus] and the ever changing economics of selling goods makes things challenging.


    A tile laying, zone control game by local publisher Argyle, hitting Kickstarter soon! It’s easy to introduce to new gamers, but has enough complexity and strategy built in to be interesting for more experienced players as well. We’ll be bringing this out to more pop-up events the next couple months, so be sure to drop by and check it out!

    Teen Titans

    The DC Deckbuilding game is what made the genre click for me. This newest installment, based around the Teen Titans brings some new strategy and game play style to the franchise by focusing on having cards in play that either help over multiple turns, can help boost other cards, or can be sacrificed on a later turn.

    One Hit Kill

    Someone brought this out to one of our pop-ups recently and I was instantly taken with it. It’s a quick play game where each player is trying to collect cards to complete the requirements of “building” their super weapon. Which may or may not be a cuddly bunny. Best super weapon ever?

    Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn

    Ashes is a BEAUTIFUL combat-y card game with some interesting features. Dice serve as your energy source to play cards from your hand, and you choose your starting hand?! Crazy right?


    This is another game that someone brought out to an event that I was instantly taken with. It’s a beautiful tile laying, set collection game where each person is competing to make the best lantern display on the palace lake.

    Raiders of the North Sea

    Have I mentioned I like worker placement games? Raiders has an interesting “place one, take one” aspect to it, which allows for 2 actions per turn. The art is dynamic and really sets the scene.

    Honorary mention, I got to play about half a game at GenCon at their table, and I enjoyed it enough that I’m still thinking about it.

    The New Science