Monthly Archives: September 2017

Into The Black Preview


Boarding Party


I Will Never Grow Up

A Preview by


  • 1-4 Players
  • 60-120 minutes
  • 13+ Age

Please Note: I was sent a prototype copy of Into the Black: Boarding Party for preview purpose and therefore component quality and quantities are subject to changes. Also rules and balancing will continue to change during projects finalisation.

What is Into the Black?

AVAST Me Hearties! Fire up those laser Cannons. Into the Black: Boarding Party is a Space Pirate, Tile Laying, Exploration and Survival co-operative game (with potential traitor element). You take on the role of a crew of space pirates sneaking onto a federal ship aiming to take over the bridge (Or other key objective) plundering for all your worth along the way. Being pirates you of course are merciful and gentle with the crew you encounter….OK you got me. You blast the heck out of them gaining reputation for fearsome exploits along the way. Watch out though one or more of you might not be who they claim to be.

What do I get in the box?**

  • 12 Player Boards.
  • 75 Tiles.
  • 96 Loot Cards.
  • 38 Event Cards.
  • 7 Primary Missions.
  • 14 Personal Goals.
  • 52 Tokens.
  • 4 Player Meeples.
  • 35 Enemy Meeples (in 3 colours signifying strength).
  • 20 Reputation Cubes.
  • 12 Custom Dice.
  • 2 Standard Dice.
  • Draw Bag.
  • Apprehension Track.
  • Moral Track.
  • Reference Cards.
  • Rulebook.

**NOTE Component quantities not finalised due to potential Stretch Goals**

Bilge Rats.

There are quite a lot of components with Into the Black. At first glance it can seem a little daunting. Fortunately the Rulebook has a nice set up guide and after a couple of plays you will find it becomes very simple. You start with just an Airlock in the middle of the table. This is where you board the ship. Upon opening the Airlock you can see a short way along the corridor including potentially some doors to other rooms. And so your adventure begins. What treasure will await you?

Bring the guns to bear.

As previously alluded to you start a game of Into the Black with the Airlock Tile. From this you will place Corridor Tiles. You only get to lay a few to start with. After all it is not your ship (YET!) so you do not know the layout. On some of these Corridor Tiles you might see some Doorways. You will need to place Room Tiles adjacent to these (face down of course). Following your own characters movement restrictions, you will start to explore the ship. Hoping to complete your Primary Objective. Each player will also have been allocated a secondary Secret Objective. These are important because even if you achieve the main Objective you will lose individually for not completing tour secret Objective. As you explore you will reveal more of the ships layout. Placing more Corridor and Room Tiles. You will also be exploring the Rooms for precious Loot and Weaponry. If you encounter any Room Tiles with a yellow eye icon on the back. These rooms are guarded so you will be placing Enemy Crew on guard. These crew will need defeating. Be careful as some of the rooms will have other dangers apart from crew. Blast doors might close, Radiation leaks to name just two. This is handled nicely with the mechanics used helping to add to the tension of the unknown. This exploration can lead to some fairly large layouts so be aware.

WOW sounds good!

The theme of Pirates in Space is a nice mix. We have all dreamt of being either a Pirate (thanks to a certain Captain Jack Sparrow) or having adventures in Space (Thanks Picard, Buck Rogers, Kirk et al). Here is your chance to blend both together and when you immerse yourself into the characters. Who are wonderfully illustrated on the character cards. You will have a blast. The Loot you discover again mixes the two themes nicely with cutlass’ sitting comfortable next to electric batons and High powered rifles. As you collect this arsenal you will be equipping the best you can to take out the crew of the ship as you try to complete the objectives.


Combat within Into the Black: Boarding Party is handled well. You will utilise different coloured dice each colour with different chances of success. This mechanism will feel very familiar to a lot of gamers. If you are unlucky and your character dies. All is not lost (well actually all of their equipment is lost). You select another character from the stack and enter the airlock to continue. If however there are no more Characters left then I am afraid it is Game Over. But not just for you. Your whole Pirate Crew is defeated. In matter of fact there are several ways to lose Into the Black.

Running out of Pirates is one.

Another is Not completing your Secret Objective (personal loss).

If crew Moral reaches zero. You will lose the will to carry on.

Apprehension reaching maximum is another (your brave not foolish).

Or possibly the worst way to lose is to discover one of your crewmates is not who they claim to be. Will the first mate turn out to be a government agent and turn you all in?


Normally at this point I like to look at the component quality. As this is a prototype version I cannot do that in the normal sense. That being sai I can say that in the current Kickstarter They have already unlocked Linen Finish and Blue Core Card upgrades along with Room and Corridor Tiles upgraded to 1.5mm Chip Board. I am sure that they have other upgrades to the components planned as well.

Final Thoughts

Into the Black: Boarding Party is a game with some good potential. I do feel that there are however some issues. In terms of Characters, Some of them are currently overpowered especially with certain equipment combinations. While some of the other Characters did feel underpowered. While there is a need for some variety of movement over power I hope this is addressed prior to release. Also some of the rules left some ambiguity over events resolution. So much so that in one playthrough we encountered a situation where it became impossible to complete our Main Objective with our Apprehension on 6 and there is no possibility of changing the Objective until our Apprehension reaches 15. Even allowing for these points this is still a game which shows a lot of promise and has the potential for being a good space romp co-op.


It is my understanding the designer is aware of these potential issues and is working on tweaking them prior to release.

Dawn of Mankind


:Early Civilization


Big Imagination Games

A Preview by


  • 2-4 Players
  • 30-50 minutes
  • 8+ Age

What is Tribes: Early Civilization?

Tribes: Early Civilization is a game of invention, discovery and survival. You will need to steer your tribe through the early dawn of mankind. Starting in the Paleolithic Era you will progress through the Neolithic Era and finish in the Bronze Age. Along the way you will.

  • Explore your surroundings for resources.
  • Move into new areas, allowing your Tribe to gain those resources.
  • Grow your Tribe to increase your access to more resources.
  • Use your Strength to dominate the other Tribes and secure the success of your people.

What’s on the box?

Before I even looked inside the box. This is one of those rare occasions where the game box itself needs commenting on. When you walk into a shop with the thought of maybe buying a game. Often you do not have a definite game in mind. You will be swayed, all be it subconsciously. By the box and its art. Tribes: Early Civilization is one of those games that will grab you. The box art is truly beautiful. All black with bronzed wording in a minimalist style, It draws you in. When you turn the box over this minimalist style continues. Unfortunately it does it so well you find out very little about the game itself and this runs the risk of breaking that spell of attraction the box has created so well.

So what is in this box then?

When you open the box your treated to quite an impressive amount of contents. No cavernous empty box here.

  • 1 Double Sided Game Board
  • 1 Rulebook
  • 1 Starting Player Token
  • 1 Cloth Bag
  • 20 Shells (in game currency)
  • 4 Reference Tiles
  • 12 Prehistoric Event Tiles
  • 10 Bronze Age Technology Tiles
  • 10 Neolithic Age Technology Tiles
  • 10 Paleolithic Age Technology Tiles
  • 3 Starting Action Tiles
  • 3 Extra Action Tiles
  • 50 Resource Hex Tiles
  • 60 Huts (15 in each colour)
  • 60 Technology Cubes (15 in each colour)
  • 16 Civilization Level Discs (4 in each colour)
  • 4 Victory Point Cubes (1 in each colour)

All the components are of a very nice quality. The Tiles, Hexes, Game Board, Reference Tiles are all very nice thick quality and look really nice. The Cubes and Discs are standard quality wooden. The Huts are wooden and very nicely shaped so they look like they could be huts from that era.

How do you play?

You aim to guide your Tribe through the three eras. You will compete against up to 3 other opponents over approximately 40 minutes. You start with a small Tribe and the very basics. Explore, Grow, Invent and survive catastrophes. The most successful Tribe will emerge victorious.

WOW Civilization builder!

Well sort of but not really. Tribes: Early Civilization is more about advancing your Tribe up the tech tree gaining the precious victory points you will need to claim your place as the Alpha Tribe.

How do I do this?” I hear you ask. Well take a seat on the log next to the fire and I will explain.

Many moons ago our ancestors Ug, Ugg and Ugh came to this land with next to nothing. They all lived in one Hut and eked out their survival using just the three precious resources they had found. That was until that fateful day when Ugg invented………………………”

…….Some time later!

You start a game of Tribes: E.C. with three Resource Hex Tiles and one Hut. You also have five Shells, the very valuable currency used in this era. #Fun Fact. Sea Shells were amongst the earliest trade items used by early man.

Where you place your hut at the start is very important as only the Hexes occupied by your Tribe’s Huts can yield Resources (and only 1 of each resource each turn. More on this in a bit). You also start the game with a level of 1 in,

You cannot just do what you want on your turn though. OH no! There is a clever system called the Time Path. At the start it only has three options available. Grow, Move, Explore and each of these Tiles has Invent as an alternative action (either/or not both). This is the point where your Shells come into play. If you want to take the first action on the Time Path, great that is free #hooray. If however you decide you would rather take a different action it will cost you 1 Shell per Tile you wish to skip. Whichever action you take you place its corresponding Tile to the back of the Time Path. Thus ensuring the next person has to pay more for its use. If the Tile has any Shells on it you claim them as yours. This is all well and good at the start. As the game progresses however the Time Path gets longer with extra action Tiles and Event Tiles. You will find yourself having to take alternative actions to gain some of those precious shells back. Or because you do not have enough Shells to reach your choice of action.

When you take the Invent action you need to have Huts on the correct number of Resources required. You then gain Victory Points and Increase one of your core stats. You might also have to had Tiles to the Time Path. Once a player reaches the correct number of points needed (it is scaled according to player numbers). You complete the round and highest points wins.


This area of Tribes: Early Civilization is a little “unusual” Most civ-building games have a tech tree you follow to gain the higher level inventions. Tribes: E.C. is no different, except normal tech tress follow a set pattern. Invent “Hunting>Leather>Horseback>Cavalry” fairly normal set-up. Tribes: E.C. due to its modular Tile system which aides re-playability keeping it fresh and interesting can throw up some rather random trees. Invent “Cooking>Fences>Mercenaries>Monotheism” does break the immersion somewhat. Or maybe the elders of the age decided while cooking tea they wanted to keep the animals close by……..(nope got me there). This is by no means game breaking in matter of fact you can make fun out of it. “Oh look I have invented Jewellery…I know lets make Cheese out of Gold”

Sounds easy enough.

Where Tribes: Early Civilization starts to become really interesting however is in use of the Event Tiles. When they first start to appear on the Time Path they are at the top end. They will very quickly move up until they are sat in the “free” slot so everyone needs to pay to avoid them. Until, someone is out of shells and forced to take it. Some of the Event Tiles are not that bad. “Gain 2VP if you are the strongest” is an example. Others however are downright nasty. One of my “favourites” would have to be “All other players lose Tribes (Huts) equal to your Strength”. Which if you have a strength of 4 or 5 can be exceedingly good fun (for you not them of course). On the down side this can lead to a player being crippled from competing for the win. But given that games are quite short you will be back in the saddle in no time.

My Thoughts.

Tribes: Early Civilization, is by no means a heavy game. I would class it as a gateway game. It has some very nice concepts which are well executed. The graphics and component quality are very nice. It is also a game that is very quick and intuitive to learn and also to teach. The use of Shells to bypass Tiles is a nice method of immersion. The ability for a bit of a take that element should not be off-putting as it is not generally a targeted effect more of a global one. I feel like there is a lot of re-playability. Although this is at the expense of some immersion in the tech tree logic. The designers have also tried very hard to mitigate the “bad luck draw” element of the Explore action. If you find your drawing lots of excess resources you can “Exhaust” (flip them over) for one time use as a wild resource. In general this works well. Although it can lead to a bit of a “Slash and Burn” approach from some players. This approach will not guarantee a win though so the balancing does work well. Less of a civ-builder and more of a light strategy accessible to all and will encourage many to delve into both genres even more. My one main issue with the game overall is the resources required to unlock tech. I would really have liked to see some combinations of tech needed instead of multiples of one. I would hope to see an expansion pack later on of tech tiles that included this option.

In Short.

If you like Strategy or civ-builder style games this will interest you. It is also very suitable for all ages. Easy to learn and easy to teach. A good gateway game towards more in-depth gaming and well worth 40 minutes of anyone’s time.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a full copy of Tribes: Early Civilization in order to review the game. This in no way affected the review above

Wild Champion

Champion of the Wild


Big Imagination Games

A Preview by


  • 3-6 Players
  • 20-30 minutes
  • 8+ Age

What is Champion of the Wild?

Champion of the Wild, Is a social card game based around the concept of animal Olympics style events. You along with your rivals take on the role of animal trainers from around the world. You will choose the animal you feel is best suited to the events revealed. Choose wisely or you might end up feeling like a fish out of water!

What do I get in the box?

  • 50 Event Cards.
  • 42 Animal Cards.
  • 6 Undecided / Ready to Vote Cards.
  • 90 Voting Tokens (15 in each player colour).
  • 1 Rules Sheet.

Events and Animals.

The Event and Animal Cards in Champion of the Wild are split into several categories.

In the Event Cards selection you have the categories of Speed, Power, Endurance, Technical and Team events. So in the speed section you might have the “100M Sprint”. Power might give you “Eating Cream Crackers” (yes honestly). Endurance might have them performing “The Bulldog Clip Challenge”(ouch). Or will the Technical and Team Events have you playing “Hide and Seek” or “Animal Stacking”? So picking the most

suitable contestant is definitely going to be a challenge.

The Animal Cards are split into Sea Creatures, Reptiles, Birds, Mini-Beasts or Land Mammals. It is entirely possible to find a Giant Pacific Octopus up against a Common Chameleon, an Emperor Penguin, a Back Garden Ant and a Fruit Bat. Or some even more unlikely selection.

How do you play?

The gameplay in Champion of the Wild is at heart a social thought experiment. You begin a game by shuffling and setting out the five event decks. The randomly chosen “event selectors” take three cards from their selected event deck and select one of those events for the round. Once all three events are chosen they are revealed the the relevant event conditions are set out (water/flying/contact etc.). At this point the competing trainers are each dealt seven animals cards out of which they must pick the animal they believe will be the most successful in all three events. Once all the trainers have chosen. They reveal their choice, then starting with the first trainer they explain their thinking and reasoning behind their choice with the aim of convincing the other trainers. After everyone has made the arguments for their chosen animal. All trainers cast their votes by allocating an event token to each animal (or the first 5 in a 6 player game). Once all three events have been conducted in this way. The animal with the highest number of points wins. The Rules Sheet is laid out in a straightforward manner with all the iconography well explained.

WOW sounds weird!

This potential mixture is what gives Champion of the Wild its appeal. It would be all to easy to say “Out of a Lion, Cheetah and Zebra who would win?” The need to “compete” over three potentially very different Events makes you think outside the box to a degree. With the right group of players this game could be the focus of much light hearted banter and discussion. What is nice is that during the discussion stage the rules actively encourage the use of reference material and or internet to allow fact and thought checking. But at the end of the day it is all about how well you argue your animals case for being the best at a particular Event and the opinions of those arguments by the other competitors.

My Thoughts.

I first came across Champion of the Wild some time ago when it had a different name and was still a way back from its current development stage. At that time I was very intrigued at the concept and have been following it for a while. After seeing the prototype at the UK Games Expo in Birmingham. I have been very fortunate that the developers have provided a prototype copy of the game to allow me to write this preview. The artwork box and graphics are not quite finalised and there is likely to be several interesting things added along the way during the Kickstarter as stretch goals are reached. Therefore I cannot fully comment on these sections other than to say that the art and graphics currently on show so far are looking nice and the further development only looks to enhance this more. The areas where I can see Champion of the Wild excelling is in larger group settings when playing with the 5-6 player counts. It has the potential to be a very good educational tool for the 8-14 age group as it would encourage the “thought experiment” side of the game. It also will appeal to those that like party or social genre games. Having played Champion of the Wild several times now (4+) I have found that unless you are with the right group of players this game will miss the mark from what is a promising idea.

In Short.

If you like Social aspect games or play in groups that do then I strongly suggest you take a look at Champion of the Wild. There is potential for plenty of fun and re-playability. However if you are someone who has less interest in that genre you might find it “not for you”. Either way make sure to take a look at the Kickstarter as there is plenty on offer to the right group from a promising new developer.

Road to nowhere?

Between 2 Cities


Stonemaier Games

A Review



  • 3-7 Players (1 and 2 player variants included)
  • Approx 20 minutes
  • 8+ Age

What is Between Two Cities?

Between Two Cities puts you in the position of a city planner. If your not sure what one of those does. Imagine it as what an Architect wants to be when they grow up. Instead of just designing a building, you are designing a whole city. You are no ordinary city planner though, oh no. You are one of the top city planners of the 1800’s. In fact you are in so much demand you are tasked with designing not one but TWO cities simultaneously. No mean feat at all. You along with the rest of the crème de la crème of city planners will work together collaborating with your immediate neighbours to produce the most stunning cities of the 1800’s. Artists are judged on their last masterpiece. You however are going to be judged on the least outstanding or your two cities.

Two ways to win? Cool.

Yes and no is the answer to that. Yes you are building two cities. No your score is not based on the highest scoring city, instead it is based on the lowest scoring of the two cities. Remember though you are building each city in collaboration with your neighbour. The better you do then potentially the better they do. You want your two cities to outperform all the other cities thereby making your neighbours score off the lowest of their designs. They will in turn be trying to do the same to you.

What do I get in the box?

  • 108 Building tiles.
  • 24 Duplex tiles (2×1 tiles organised vertically or horizontally).
  • 14 City tokens.
  • 1 Scoreboard.
  • 1 Rulebook.
  • 7 Reference Cards.
  • 15 Seating Randomiser cards.
  • 23 Automata Cards.

Does not sound too bad.

Between Two Cities is a very clever version of the tile drafting genre. Using forced collaboration (you have to work together if you want to have a decent scoring city) and the “lowest > highest” scoring system. All of the building tiles use specific scoring mechanisms with some combinations giving bonuses while other combinations will penalise you. All of this in an approximate playing time of 20 minutes creating 4×4 cities.

OK so far!

A game of Between Two Cities begins before you have even sat at the table. With the blind draw of a seating Randomiser card. Will your seating be because of alphabetical names, ages or even the first letter of the place of your birth (sorry Zanzibar you sit last).

Once you are all seated comfortably you place a City Token either side between you and your neighbours. These range from The Eiffel Tower to pyramids to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, n.b. While not exactly essential these tokens do greatly help with the scoring at the end and they look great as well.

Now on to the first of three rounds which sees you drafting seven building tiles and secretly selecting two (keeping the others hidden). You are not allowed to discuss tile choices during this stage. You then place the remaining 5 in a face down pile on your left. Once all players have done this. You will all reveal your tiles simultaneously. You are then all free to discuss, plead, negotiate, coerce or otherwise convince your neighbours. Which of the tiles they have chosen will suit your connected city best. This is one of the shining lights from Between Two Cities as it really encourages player interaction in a light fun and above all friendly way. Once all players have placed their two tiles they pick up the stack from their right and repeat this process again. You will do this once more until all stacks are only one tile. These are then removed from the game. “use em or lose em”

In round two you all draft three Duplex Tiles and again secretly select two with the remaining being removed from the game. This adds a nice little twist because some of the Duplex Tiles are orientated vertically while others are horizontal. All Building Tiles and Duplex Tiles placed into cities must be orientated the same way. They must also fit into a 4×4 grid as well.

Round three consists of drafting seven more Building Tiles and repeating the same process as in round one but this time you pass the stacks to the right.

After all tiles are placed the cities are scored with each player receiving the score from their lowest scoring city and the highest scoring player wins.


The scoring in Between Two Cities is cleverly set out. You cannot just construct one super-city and allow the other to become low rent slum-ville as you only score as highly as your worst city. This single thing helps to ensure that scores amongst players are generally very tight. With the majority of games usually being within 10 or so points. You might think this factor removes a lot of decision making from players but you would be very wrong. The way the Building Tiles score will definitely keep you on your toes.

Shops: These score in a straight line (row or column) from 2 points for one Shop through to 16 points for four. Oh and you can only count a shop once so no “L” or “T” shapes.

Factories: City with the most scores 4 points per Factory Tile next gets 3 points per Tile and 3rd gets 2 point per Tile.

Parks: A connected group score well here 2 points for one through to 12 points for three. After three you only score 1 extra point per park tile so 6 Park Tiles would only be worth 15 points (diminishing returns).

Offices: You score 1 point for one Office Tile up to 21 Points for six Tiles. In addition each Office Tile can get 1 bonus point if it is connected to a Tavern Tile. (boozy office workers he-he).

Taverns: With 4 different types of Tavern Tile you score for sets. One individual Tavern is worth just 1 point. While four different Tavern Tiles will net you 17 points. Any duplicate Taverns are scored as part of a separate set.

Houses: Each House Tile is scored based on the different Building types within your city. Scoring 1 point for each other Building type up-to 5 points per House Tiles. However if placed next to a factory it can only ever be worth 1 point. After all no-one likes living next to factories.

Rulebooks Rule.

It is very rare that I will comment on a Rulebook, unless it is absolutely terrible. With Between Two Cities I will make an exception. The entire Rulebook is written out in a very simple clear and easy to understand way. There are some excellent Tile placement and scoring examples throughout. The flow of the game is very nicely conveyed. Also there is an excellent rule summary on the back. Meaning it is easy for new players to check a rule quickly without thumbing through the whole book and disrupting the game. Another testament is that it is an easy game to teach with you being able to explain the game to both gaming pros and non-gamers alike in under 10 minutes. The trickiest thing to grasp is the scoring and the player aides make this easy to follow in-game.

On the point of non-gamers. Although you cannot discuss Tile choice during the Drafting stage you are actively encouraged to help them with tile placement as it benefits you as well as them. This does have one unfortunate minor side-effect. It is quite easy for a new or lesser experienced player to place their tiles in such a way as to destroy the scoring chances of their two neighbours (and themselves). This is not something that will happen often especially with good collaboration. Also being such a quick game you can have another game in just a few minutes.

My Thoughts.

Overall I really like Between Two Cities and I do feel it is a very good “gateway” game for non-gamers as well as offering a “quick-fix” to the more experienced player. It is not a perfect game, but it is a game I will happily play both with family and the game groups. It plays up to 7 players (great for family gatherings) Its short playtime means you can quickly get 3-4 games in the same time it would take to play a “bigger” game. Yet it still maintains some interesting choices and provides some very good player interaction. The main thing is to try to understand the thinking of your neighbouring players to anticipate the “best” Tiles to choose. Having played this with several groups of players of different ages and abilities, it has gone down well on all occasions. It will happily sit on my shelf and get played often. A point to raise though is, depth I do think that after repeated plays the game could start to feel a little “samey” BUT This would take a lot of plays and there is an expansion that adds so much more.

Pros and Cons.


  • Component quality. This is the usual high quality we have come to expect from Stonemaier Games games.
  • Seating Randomiser Cards. What a great idea and a way to get you talking with each other.
  • Scoring in Between Two Cities is usually close.
  • Short play time. Does not outstay its welcome.
  • Rules summary on back of Rulebook..Accessibility.
  • Easy to teach, Easy to learn. Just what you want in a game.
  • 3-7 players.
  • 1 and 2 player variants included.
  • Rewarding.
  • There is very little downtime.
  • Highly collaborative but competitive at the same time.
  • Quick to play, and play again, and play again.


  • Poor play from others can ruin your chances of winning.
  • Possibly a little shallow in the long term.
  • Building Scoring can feel a little samey.

Final Scoring.

  • Engagement 5/5
  • Re-playability 4/5
  • Component Quality 4/5
  • Player Interaction 5/5

Total Score 90%

Quirky Quirk Quirk!


A Review by


  • 2-6 Players
  • 15-30 minutes
  • 7+

What is Quirk?

When you were young do you remember playing a game with your grandparents or parents called “Go Fish”? If so then you will feel right at home with Quirk. It is a reimagined and updated take on this “give me your X’s” mechanic. You can steal completed sets from other players, defend yourself and even affect the turn order.

What is in my Box?

Quirk packs a lot of fun into a small box. Inside you will find,

  • 1 Rule-sheet
  • 7 Tactics Cards
  • 3 Defence Cards
  • 7 Skip Cards
  • 39 Character Cards in 13 sets of 3

So a card game then?

Let me state this straight away. If you are not the sort of person to enjoy trumpeting like an Elephant or pretending to be a mime in front of everyone else? Then stop reading, Quirk is not for you. Go on, go. OK that’s better now the boring ones have left. Quirk is much more than “just” a card game. It is a game that will have you laughing out loud. Especially when a player scream out in their best Parrot impressionPolly want a cracker!”

How does it work?

A game of Quirk is all about set collection “Quirks”. It begins with all players being dealt 3 cards. The first player decides which Quirk they want to try to complete from their hand and chooses an opponent. Depending on the Quirk character they are trying to collect they are not allowed to say “Tom. Give me your dogs” Oh no that would be no fun at all. The cards have a symbol at the bottom showing that the Quirk is identified by Sound, Action or Both. Looking at their target they must then Identify the Quirk they want purely using the Sound (e.g. a dog bark for dog’s), Action (e.g. Miming being a Mime) or Both (e.g. pretending to be a drummer for musician). Their target opponent will then respond either by handing over all of that type or saying “Quirk” if they have none. You then are forced to draw a card. Once a player gets a complete set of 3 Character Cards they put them face up in front of them on their turn. At the end of the game the player with the most Quirks wins.

Sounds simple?

At first Quirk comes across as a very simple game. But once your Quirks are on the table. They are fair game to be stolen. By using a red Tactic Card instead of asking for a Quirk a player may steal a face up Quirk set. Fortunately there are a few Defence Cards to give you a chance to defend if you are lucky enough to have picked one up. If you have a blue Skip Card in your hand after playing a Tactic Card or asking for a Quirk. You can now use it to cause a player to miss their turn.


Quirk is not a heavy strategy game. To be honest it is not a light strategy game for that matter. Deciding when to use a Tactic or Skip Card is as tactical as it gets. Instead Quirk is all about having some fun and being a bit silly. This is something it achieves with great ease and aplomb. 7 Year old Billy, 30 Year old Mum or 80 Year old Grandma all have the same chance of winning. There is a lot of luck involved in what cards you draw when you have been Quirked or when picking who to ask for a Quirk. Be prepared to Cluck madly at someone without success looking for Chickens. Only for the next player to cluck back at you and steal yours. But that is OK Quirk is a fast fun game to play and you can quickly get one game after another played.

Who is it for.

Quirk is squarely aimed at the family market with one hand held affectionately out towards the younger players. Everyone under the age of 12 I have shown it to has loved it instantly. That is not its only appeal though. If you are have some friends over for a drinks party? Then break out Quirk once everyone is relaxed (drinking) it will get you all screaming with laughter. As for gaming groups? I can see the appeal for some but I do not really see this being a regular in our gaming group (they are far too busy killing Zombies or Hunting Hitler).

My thoughts.

I really like Quirk for family play. It is a lot of fun. It is a very quick game that does not outstay its welcome. There is almost zero downtime. My family have taken to responding to the Quirk requests in character which really adds to the fun. Just imagine sitting their as Aunty Mildred does her best “vogue” look trying to collect supermodels only for 7 year old Billy to respond in a husky voice “Quirk it Baby!” Or you do your best Marcel Marceau only for your target to mime the drawing of a card back at you. This adds to the enjoyment throughout the game. We recently took Quirk on holiday with us and played approximately 30 games over 4 days. While we did enjoy it. We quickly decided that we would love there to be more Character cards as the 13 sets available started to feel a little “tired” I would personally like to see 5-6 more sets that could be rotated in and out to add variety. Possibly an expansion idea (author note: must practice Cthulhu actions). The other thing that was noticeable in 2-4 player games was that there was definitely an “optimum strategy” over the use of the Tactic Cards. This was something that the adults picked up on. But was less obvious for the younger players. I don’t see it being an issue when playing with groups of younger players.

The Good


  • Cards are nice quality.
  • Portable, small size.
  • Fun by the bucket load.
  • You can pretend to be a Pirate.
  • 100% Family Friendly.
  • Tactics and Skip cards stop runaway leader.
  • Nice artwork.
  • Clear icons.
  • Did I mention you can “Aargh” like a Pirate.

The Bad

  • Can become a little repetitive.
  • Optimum strategy for Tactic Cards.
  • You have to be silly.

Beyond the Apocalypse

Wreck & Ruin

A Preview by


2-4 Players

This preview is based on a pre-production prototype, provided to me by the designer.

What is Wreck & Ruin?

Imagine for a moment the apocalypse has happened (looking at you North Korea). The whole world is in ruins, torn apart by war and a desperate need to survive. Inevitably your mind will turn to films like Mad Max. Now in our scenario there is no lone road warrior. Instead the wastes are ruled by rival factions. Desperate to survive by collecting salvage. Riding around with their armoured vehicles. This is no Hollywood blockbuster though. The good guys don’t always win. Survival is all that matters. So it is time to get down and dirty destroying some trucks. Shooting the enemy in the back if you can. After all you do not want them shooting back now do you?

Search, Kill, Destroy?

Pretty much yes……….wait you want to know more, oh OK. You start the game in your own territory with 5 AP (action points) and a small task force.

  • Scouts: light armour small guns and good range.
  • Buggy: fairly light armour slightly bigger gun but shorter range.
  • Rammer: Tough and good for a little bit of shoving.
  • Big Rig: Heavily armoured and slow but good weaponry.

Each turn you will spend these valuable AP on movement, attacking, searching for salvage, repairs or trying to return scrapped vehicles back to base.

There are 4 salvage points in the middle of the modular board and it is up to your team to try to secure as much as possible. If you can hold onto it undamaged for a turn you get to keep it and then some more are placed onto the map. At the end of the game (4-6 rounds) The faction with the most tech tokens wins the game.

Sounds easy enough?

The movement and attacking is fairly straightforward within Wreck and Ruin. Use your attack stats to roll that many Dice. If you roll over their armour level you do damage. A roll of 6 is the equivalent of a critical hit and allows an extra roll to possibly deal more damage. It is possible (although highly unlikely) for a small scout to take out a heavily armoured Big Rig with a series of awesome rolls. Do not expect it often though, usually the scout will end up flattened like a bug on a wind-shield.

Just Run and Gun then?

Oh NO! Definitely not. Each faction has a unique set of abilities to allow them an edge. This being a post apocalyptic era, their resources are very limited and it is a one use deal. So correct timing is crucial. A much more common way to try to gain an edge is to search the wastelands for tech to assist you. Doing this will use up some of your valuable AP resources. The rewards however can be worth it with extra firepower, better defence or even a flying attack drone. You may even find yourself able to hijack an opponents vehicle. Again these are for the most part one shot deals but the variety within the deck is good.

Anything else?

As well as contending with the rabid onslaught of the rival factions. Each turn an Event card is revealed which has a global effect. I won’t spoil the surprise but some of them are just plain nasty.

My Thoughts.

I first discovered Wreck and Ruin back in late 2016 early 2017 when the designer was finalising his plans. After following in the background for a while I liked the progress and direction he was taking. Concentrating on a fast and fun combat experience. They demoed the prototype production copy quite successfully at the UKGE games expo 2017 in Birmingham to build interest ready for launch.

Wreck and Ruin is full on combat right from the first turn. Expect nothing short of a full on bloodbath. If you like your games full on attack then you will have an actual blast here. You can really stretch those Mad Max muscles going full on Wasteland justice.

The rulebook while still an early version was clear and fairly concise in its explanation. Lots of colourful images to really help you along. The theme in Wreck and Ruin works really well. While the copy I previewed only had early miniatures as prototypes I do know that the designer is planning some exciting changes amongst the different factions, So no generic minis here. The event cards add some great global effects. Add to this the modular style of board and replay value will likely be high.

In one of the playthroughs my group experienced player one moved out to try to get two tech tokens quickly this left them exposed and players 2 and 3 came at them from either side. Due to some lucky dice rolling, player 1 lost scouts and ramming vehicle on first round then big rig on the next round. They never really recovered from that BRUTAL. No game is perfect so here is my run down of the good and the bad.

The Good

  • Miniatures are shaping up very nicely.

  • Theme, I always wanted to pretend I was a road warrior.

  • Modular board gives increased re-playability.

  • Scales well using the different layouts.

  • Gaming Group Suitable.

  • Full on combat*

The Bad

  • 4 players board can be a bit cluttered with vehicles.

  • Dice roll luck good or bad can have a massive impact..

  • Full on combat*.

* Full on combat is listed in both good and bad due to the fact that if you like combat you will most likely enjoy this game. If you do not enjoy combat heavy games this is definitely not a game for you.


Due to launch onto Kickstarter on 3rd October 2017 I do think this is one to follow. The designer has some excellent ideas and is constantly working on improving the core game.

Definate one to watch!




Stonemaier Games

A Review



  • 1-6 Players
  • 45-90 minutes
  • 13+ Age (Can be played well by younger but might be a little slow paced)

What is Viticulture?

Viticulture puts you in the position of having inherited a rustic vineyard. You have only a few plots of land, an old crushpad, a tiny cellar, and three workers. Will you achieve your dream of calling your winery a true success first? Viticulture is a worker placement game. Which, for those of you either new to the board game hobby or unsure of the term generally means, players taking turns to place Meeples (pawns) onto a game board space so as to obtain an action, result or resource. These spaces are normally limited in quantity and availability. Often leading to competition or blocking for the desired spaces. Some well known examples of this type of game are, Agricola (2007), Caylus (2005) and Stone Age (2008).

Viticulture follows this trend extremely well, especially at 3 or above players. This is when competition for spaces starts to become quite challenging but not in a combative way. After all what could be more civilized than wine making?

Wine + Thinking?

Right from the start Viticulture will get you thinking. There is so much to do and there never seems like there are enough workers or spaces. Get ready for some relaxed yet polite and cerebral blocking. Picture the scene, there you are on a picture postcard Italian hillside. Glorious sunshine, you are the lord of all you survey.

But you have no wine? Easy grow some.

But you have no grapes? Easy plant some

Oh you have no trellis! OK so I need to build trellis.

Oh and there is no demand for your wine. Or space to store it for that matter either!…….

And all the while you are trying to make wine, from grapes you do not have, growing on trellis that is not there, trying to fulfil orders you don’t have. All the other players are trying to do exactly the same thing, PHEW!

This is the very essence and the very thing that makes Viticulture the exciting brain testing challenge that it is, every decision matters. Using your workers to plant vines, harvest and then crush grapes, age wine and collect and fill orders while trying to improve the vineyard to allow you to do everything in a more efficient way. The whole experience is rich with theme and challenge and so well balanced. You will find yourself jealous of the opponent who has suddenly acquired a lot more workers. They on the other hand will be sat there trying to work out how to get the money to upgrade the cellar before the wine ages and needs to be thrown away due to lack of storage. So much so that when on your turn you are torn between just two options you will breathe a sigh of relief.

What do I get in the box?

Viticulture is in a surprisingly compact box. But do not be fooled there is a heck of a lot of game in there

  • Dual sided game board English/German
  • 6 Dual sided Vineyard mats English/German
  • 42 Vine Cards.
  • 36 Wine Order Cards.
  • 38 Summer Visitor Cards.
  • 38 Winter Visitor Cards.
  • 30 Worker Meeples (6 colours).
  • 36 Mama and Papa Cards.
  • 24 Automata Cards (for Solo Play)
  • 6 Grande Workers (6 colours).
  • 1 Grey Temporary Worker Meeple.
  • 50 Glass Tokens (wine and grapes).
  • 6 Rooster Wake-up Tokens.
  • 6 Cork Victory Point Tokens.
  • 6 Wine Bottle Residual Payment Trackers.
  • 48 Wooden Structures (8 of each colour).
  • 72 Punch Board Lira Coins (1, 2 & 5 values).
  • 1 Bunch of Grapes First Player Token.
  • 1 Rule Book
  • 1 Quick Reference Guide.

Damn I am confused already?

Yes Viticulture not only a heck of a lot of components in the box. It also has a proper Rulebook none of these 3 or 4 page efforts. If that scares you? Do not be concerned. The gameplay is just so intuitive that by the end of year two (in game not in real life) you will not even look at the Rulebook and just have the player reference guide handy for the odd occasional look.

Each “year” (round) in Viticulture Is played across four “Seasons”

  • SPRING. Starting with the first player, everyone selects their turn order for the current year. This in of itself presents you with your first challenge. Do you want to have your workers up at the crack of dawn and out in the fields working? Or are you feeling a little more relaxed? Let them get up later and you will be rewarded for your kindness with Cards, Money, Victory Points or even a temporary worker to use that year. Given the tightness for available spaces you may well find yourself swapping back and forth over your decisions.

  • SUMMER. You will get to place your workers onto the yellow spaces. Improve the Vineyard by building structures that will grant you bonus abilities or even an extra personal action space. Planting Fields with the oh so valuable vines. Giving Tours, tourists love visiting wineries while on holiday and they will gladly pay much needed lire for the privilege. But be warned you do not want to use all of your workers straight away. You need some of your workforce for the winter.

  • AUTUMN. OK it is referred to as Fall in the rules. The shortest of the “Seasons” with you only collecting either a Summer or Winter Visitor Card.

  • WINTER. A chance to use your remaining workers on the blue spaces, to fill wine orders earning you valuable victory points and money. Harvest grapes based on what you have already planted Red or White varieties abound. Crush harvested grapes into wine or convert them into Blush or Sparkling varieties depending on the cellar space available. You can even choose to train an extra worker ready to start working for you in the following year.

  • Clean up ready for the next year and repeat until one player reaches 20 points. At which point everyone finishes the current year and most points at the end wins.

OK so far!

Despite the number of options available to you during the summer and winter seasons. The gameplay is very easy to pick up. Each space is clearly marked with the reward gained or action taken. For example, When you place a worker on the “Tour” space it clearly says “Give a tour collect £2” or the “Summer Visitor” space Says “Play” followed by an icon for the yellow backed cards. At no point did any of the options feel confusing or ambiguous. Planting Vines is again a simple process of placing your worker on the “Plant (green card icon)” There are however restrictions on the fields themselves. Each field has a value of 5, 6 or 7 Lira. And you can only plant vines up to this value on those fields. In the case of the 5 Lira Field this could potentially be, 5 Vines of a 1 value, 2+2+1 or a 3+2 value. Leading to some careful planning of the use of your spaces. The number of spaces available to use is well balanced at approximately ½ the initial available workers due to the scaling mechanism. This can mean that you can quite easily find your perfect move blocked. This is where in my opinion, Viticulture really excels. Whereas in most worker placement games, if the preceding play has used the space you want tough luck. In viticulture however all is not lost. You have Visitor cards that can potentially help you. Or you have your “Grande Worker” This is a guy (or gal) you will grow to love. When a space is blocked by a normal worker the Grande Worker can step up and take the action as well. This can be super helpful but as you only get one use each turn. Use them wisely! In games involving 3 or more players the first player to use a space can claim a bonus. So you could well decide to hold off your master plan to jump onto a space and claim a valuable bonus, thus stopping others from benefiting.

Mamas and Papas!

No I am not talking about a sixties pop group. At the start of Viticulture each player is given a Mama & Papa Card which determines your starting possessions (think of it like your inheritance). This ranges from Cards to Money to Structures. All of which you will need if you are to out-perform your opposition. I did find that in my opinion some of the Mama & Papa cards seemed a little off-balance. Not in a game breaking way but just seemed to give a player a slight starting edge. They still needed to play well to win not once did it feel over the top unfair.


The summer and winter Visitor cards are basically action cards that allow you to gain extra bonuses, some of which can not only grant you additional paths to victory but also impedes your opponents success. This is an area where a little more luck creeps into the game. A player could get a good run of visitor cards which in turn gave them a really big leg up. Fortunately this does not happen too often so is not a game breaking issue but some might find that luck element a little too “lucky” for their taste.

My thoughts.

I really really like Viticulture a lot. It has masterfully created the feeling of “I need to do everything at once” but not being able to. This is a difficult balance to achieve. Varying strategies to play for. Will you build your vineyard up first to get higher value grapes thus higher value wine for the big orders? Or do you train workers early to give you more options? Or do you focus on tasting rooms and windmills to get bonus points from planting wines and having tours?

Viticulture does an excellent job of keeping players neck and neck right throughout the game. There are the beautiful wooden structures of windmills, tasting rooms and yokes.

Despite the minor quibbles I have of the “luck of the draw” from the orders and visitors cards this is a game that I will play again and again. It is firmly in my top 10 favourite games list.

Pros and Cons.


  • Component quality. This is top notch with the structures looking like they are supposed to look, Non generic Meeples.
  • Theme. Oh my dies this game just drips theme. Every aspect of it just feels right.
  • Re-playability. Does not outstay its welcome and leaves you thinking I want more.
  • Non-Definitive round limit. Not having a set number of rounds means you will have the chance to make up for a poor decision in an earlier round.
  • Challenging. Your decisions matter every time.
  • Accessibility. Easy to teach, Easy to learn. Just what you want in a worker placement game.
  • Every game is different thanks to the Mama and Papa Cards and the Visitor Cards.
  • Solo Play. A very comprehensive solo play using an Automata deck makes the game a worthwhile outing for a solo play to try to discover new strategies.
  • Scaling. The clever use of multiple action spaces means that Viticulture scales well from 1 all the way to 6 (3-4 is probably the sweetest spot though).
  • Rewarding. There is very little downtime, lots of options and some good thinking needed.


  • Balance. Some of the Mamas and Papas cards felt a little off balance. Not a huge negative but worth mentioning.
  • Luck. The luck of the draw on the Visitors and Wine orders can mean that occasionally one player will just get a “very good run”.
  • Money. This might sound odd but for me the Punch board coins felt a little off given the quality of everything else. Fortunately upgraded components are available. But straight out of the box again a very minor gripe.

Engagement 5/5

Re-playability 5/5

Component Quality 4/5

Player Interaction 3/5

     Total Score 85%

Scrooge – The Game

SCROOGE-The Board Game


Big Kid Games

A Preview



  • 2-6 Players
  • 15-90 minutes
  • 8+ Age

What is Scrooge?

Scrooge- The Board Game is set in the 19th Century Victorian London made famous by Dickens. It is Christmas (yes I know it is still august and technically summer). Snow has been falling, Fog abounds the streets, Fires blaze. But wait what is this ominous shadow? It is Scrooge, being mean spirited and lurking. Looking to spoil Christmas for us all. Do you have the nerve to face Scrooge? Can you save him from the “Bah Humbug” life that awaits?

What sort of game is Scrooge?

Scrooge-the Board Game is due to launch onto Kickstarter on 5th September 2017. It is at heart a Roll-&-Move game…STOP! Come back here. Yes I did say Roll-&-Move but wait a moment to read on and find out more. Here we have a very serious attempt, by some very passionate developers and publishers. To prove that with clever mechanics a game can use the age old method of luck based movement and turn it into a fun and fair game for all

What do I get in the box?

The preview copy I had was not a fully finalised version component quality wise. Even allowing for that I was genuinely impressed with the contents.

  • 1 Large Game Board.
  • 6 Player character standees.
  • 6 Character Cards.
  • Ghost Cards.
  • Money Box cards.
  • Nightmare Cards.
  • Bag of Tricks Cards
  • Heroes and Villains cards.
  • Scrooge Bank Card.
  • Scrooge Counting House Card.
  • Paper Money in 25,50,100,250 and 500 denominations
  • 1 Marley Die ( a non standard D6 with some negative number)
  • 1 Standard D6 Die

Roll and Move?!?

Yes Scrooge is Roll n Move. But it is also NOT a Roll & Move game. Confused? Let me explain, on your turn you follow this straightforward (honest) course of actions.

  • Turn over any “Bag of Tricks” cards you have been given and action them
  • Decide if you want to go forward or backward (yes you can do either) and announce it
  • Decide how you want to move. Pay, Roll 1 or 2 dice or use a “Replace Turn” Ghost Card (more on this in a minute)
  • Move to the indicated street space (collect 50G for every street you move backwards)
  • Immediately apply the action
  • optional Use “At End of Turn” Cards if desired.

How I want to move? Once you have announced which direction you are going to move. You cannot change direction mid move. You then decide your method of movement. Will you?

  • Pay 500G per Street you wish to move?
  • Play “Replace Turn” Ghost card following the action described?
  • Roll 1 or 2 Dice (if you roll both you must move the combined you cannot choose only one)
  • If you roll both dice and get a combined 0 (zero) you won’t take the street action. While a minus number means you move opposite the direction you chose.

OK that is Interesting!

The movement mechanic in Scrooge-The Board Game is a clever re-interpretation in that it is not a race to the end. You need to pick the moment when you think you can beat Scrooge in his “Moment of Truth” and turn him into a kinder and gentler man. There are 10 different actions on the streets which allow for some “Take That” shenanigans along the way. You will also encounter some spaces familiar from “other” games like Debtors’ Prison or Hospital. Add to this some “Mini Games”. There is a lot meatiness to this game than you might first expect with a family friendly game. You will uncover many different strategies the more you play. Let me just say the more I played the more options became apparent.


Yes you read that right this is a board game with “mini games” inside it these are in fact quite simple games but they again add an element of extra fun. There is

  • Scroogle- All pay 50G and choose a number from 1-6, guess correct and win the money. If no one gets the guess correct then…..Yep Scrooge gets the money.

  • Scrooge’s Haggle- All pay 50G and receive 3 “Money Box” Cards. Players then put in extra to “bet” on who has the highest total amount with them able to “Match”, “Raise” or “Drop out” Scrooge matches the highest bet. Highest total wins.

Child Friendly.

What is nice to see is the designers have thought about younger players and have designed a simpler version that is more friendly in terms of complexity towards the younger players while still making it entertaining for the grown-ups.

My thoughts.

I really enjoyed my time playing Scrooge-The Board Game and I would advise any Board Game loving Family to “give it a go”. It is the type of game that I would never say “no” to playing if the kids asked. Yes it is Roll-n-Move but this has been well mitigated by the designers. The Components are looking like they will be of a very nice standard. The Game Board itself is very bright and colourful as are all of the cards and characters. The icons are bright and easy to understand. This Game is not a game I can see being played with the older gaming groups. However It is definitely tone for the family. Especially at Christmas time (hey it is set then after all) In fact I could easily see this being played at the dining table following Christmas lunch. With Nan’s hat half over her eyes and the whole family getting into the spirit. I would like to have this in my collection if only for that time of year. I hope that it funds successfully on Kickstarter when it launches. This is a game I could easily see on the shelves of the larger non-game centric retailers next to the old favourites of Monopoly, frustration and Snakes and Ladders.

  • Engagement 4/5

  • Re-playability 4/5 at Xmas. Realistically 2/5 rest of year due to the Xmas heavy theme

  • Component Quality */* Not retail quality for review but looking good

  • Player Interaction 4/5

  • Total Score at Xmas 75%

  • Rest of year 50% (purely due to theme)