Capo Dei Capi Review

In 1920s New York City, selling alcohol is illegal - but that doesn't mean people want to stop drinking. In Capo Dei Capi, players take control of two mob families struggling for control of the Big Apple. Can you lead your family to domination of the city?

Capo Dei Capi is a two player dice game from Dr. Finn, the designer of the excellent Biblios. It features area majority and push your luck in its gameplay. It is easy to teach and learn and features interesting decisions and gameplay. Let's take a closer look!

The main action mechanism in Capo Dei Capi is quite simple - roll the dice, and from the results, choose from among a narrowed set of actions. After taking the action, decide to either roll again (and risk busting and losing all progress made that turn) or stop while you're ahead, and commit to the changes your mob family has made this turn.

A player wins the game by having won more area cards than her opponent. To win an area card a player must have the most influence on it by the end of the game.

With a 6, players will be able to place value cubes on area cards, which will increase that card's value for whoever wins it at game end. 
When a player's turn begins, she rolls two six sided dice. The choices she has for the turn depend on the higher of the two dice she rolled.

If both dice are 3 or lower, the player will place a influence token that matches one of the dice on an area card that matches the other die. So in the above example, the active player could place a 2 influence token next to the white 1 area card, or a 1 influence next to the 2 black area card. One thing to keep in mind is that tokens go next to area cards. They aren't placed onto the area cards until the active player decides to end her turn - this way if she busts, it is easy to removed anything she had done on her turn until that point.

If the extortion track ever goes past 6, a player busts and ends her turn without earning anything.

If the highest die is a 4, the extortion level on the mayor track goes up by the number on the other die, and  a mayor chip gets placed next to the mayor card - which is currency that can be spent to perform special actions. With a 5, a player will be able to either place a new bribe token (an influence token with a hidden value), or turn over a bribe token that was already placed by her opponent.

Rolling pairs is interesting because the actions they provide are more powerful, but rolling doubles is also one of 3 ways to bust. Once a player rolls doubles, she takes the hit-man pawn. Rolling doubles while she already has the hit-man will cause her to bust. Players can also bust if they are unable to perform an action (usually because they have already performed that action previously on this turn), or if the extortion marker on the mayor card goes past 6.

The game will end once one of the following occurs: the stock of value cubes runs out, the stock of bribe tokens runs out, or the influence tokens of any 1 value runs out. At the point, players will check to see which of them has won each area card, adds those points to any value cubes they've collected, and the player with the most points wins!

Capo Dei Capi is a lighter game, so one of my biggest issues with it is how confusing the dice actions can be. Because although the game is simple, the mechanism of first determining which die is higher, and what action goes with that, and then what the other die means for that is a little wonky and unfamiliar. Thankfully, Dr. Finn has included two very excellent player aids that summarize very clearly what each roll means, what players can do with mayor tokens, and it even has a nice FAQ on the reverse side.

The other issue I have with the game is more of a warning than anything else. The game has a good number of very nice components, and looks good on the table, but remember - this is a light, push your luck game. There are interesting decisions to be made, and the number of components give it a nice "weighty" feel (even for a light game), but this is more of an appetizer than a main course.

That being said, as far as appetizers go, this is a tasty one. Capo Dei Capi fills an interesting slot in my collection, in that it is a nice and easygoing dice romp, similar to something like Zombie Dice, but adds just enough "game" to Zombie Dice's "do I roll again or not" decision to make it more interesting. I would probably never pull out Zombie Dice to play with my wife on a weeknight when Agricola just isn't in the cards for either of our brains - but Capo Dei Capi is another story. This bridges the gap between games that are light, and feel light and games that are light, and feel heavier.

The game also gets a thumbs up from me for being an area control game that is fun for two players. Anyone familiar with modern board games will likely know that the 2 player area control game is a rare beast - so anytime I hear about one coming along, my ears perk up a little.

Overall, I like Capo Dei Capi, and would rate it a 7.0/10. As I said, I can definitely see this getting played on weeknights with my wife, or with a friend when I'm either too early or too late for a game day. I think that this game very nicely fills a hole in my collection I didn't even necessarily know I had. Earlier I compared Capo Dei Capi to an appetizer - I think it is the perfect game for when you don't want a big 12 oz steak, but you are in the perfect mood for some nice wings and mozz sticks.

Jim would like to thank Dr. Finn Games for providing a review copy of Capo Dei Capi.

Viticulture Review

Viticulture board game

One of the most surprising games that I've played has to be Viticulture.

In Viticulture, you are competing wine makers, attempting to gain the most fame for your operation by giving tours, growing grapes, and of course, selling fancy wine.  The game is played in a series of "years", and in each year, the players will get to send all of their workers to help grow their vineyard.  The years are split into four different seasons (you know - like in life... unless you live in Houston).  In the first season, the players select how early their workers will "wake up".  The earlier you wake up, the earlier you get to place on the board, but the later you wake up, the happier your workers will be (represented by getting various bonuses).  In the next season (codename: "Summer") you will get to place workers on all of the Summer spaces - these actions will let you improve your vineyard by building buildings, planting vines, etc.  The third season consists of only drawing a "visitor" card, and then the fourth season (Winter) allows you to place your remaining workers (the ones you didn't place in Summer) on the various Winter action spaces.  These actions let you fill wine orders, harvest grapes, crush them into wine, etc.  (As a note - I think how short the Spring and Fall seasons are really show that the designer lives in the Midwest USA.  I've lived there; it really does seem to go straight from Winter to Summer with only one day of "Spring" and "Fall".)  Along the way of performing these actions, various things will get you victory points - with the primary way being by fulfilling orders for wine.  The game continues year by year until one player has scored at least 20 victory points.  At that point, the players finish the year, and the player with the most victory points at the end of the year wins!

Rooster track for game of Viticulture
The rooster track
My first pro for Viticulture is that I enjoy the Spring season - or the "Rooster selection", if you will.  (You mark how early you want your workers to wake up by placing a rooster on the corresponding section.)  I like the balance of wanting the first choice of where to place workers, which is amazing, with getting rewarded for waiting.  One of the rewards for waking up early even is a victory point!  As a side note, this review is based on the 2.0 rule set for Viticulture.  More on that later.  Sometimes in the original ruleset, this choice was a bit obvious - you always wanted to have your workers wake up as early as possible.  However, in the 2.0 version, this choice is important, as you will have to balance getting a reward (which is sort of like a free action) with selecting your turn order.

My next pro for Viticulture is that I like the feeling of needing to do everything at once - and not being able to.  There are a couple of limiting factors on what you can do - the number of workers that you have and the number of spaces on the board (which, as I type, I realize is just like every worker placement game that has ever been made).  However, though this isn't a unique feature to Viticulture, I still think that it has been done well.  Essentially, every spot on the board has enough spaces for half of the players to claim one.  And, you also get a reward for being the first person to use each action.  So, in addition to needing to make selections based on which actions you need to execute this year (should I be planting more grapes, or do I need to use that worker to finally crush some grapes into wine?) you also have to factor in whether you should forgo your plans temporarily to jump on a golden opportunity to get a bonus - and deprive the other players of it!  Worker placement games achieve varying degrees of success in creating this placement tension, but I believe that Viticulture has created it masterfully.

Player board for Viticulture
A player's wine making operation
One of my other favorite aspects of "the VC" (it gets tiring to call something the same thing every time) is that there are a couple of different ways to try to achieve victory.  Essentially, you can try to win by fulfilling a lot of small wine orders, a few large wine orders, or stealing victory points wherever the game allows (on the Rooster selection, as a bonus for certain actions, and a few other places).  I've seen each of these strategies implemented, and each one seems to have a very strong chance for victory - with it coming down to which player can most readily adjust to how the other players are doing and get in their way while also helping themselves.  And, ultimately, that's what I want a game to come down to - how well can I implement my strategy while preventing others from doing the same!

Now that I've said my favorite pieces about the 'culture, there are a couple of things to mention.  First is the theme.  I specifically call this out, because I don't drink.  I actually jokingly thought about calling this review "the tee-totaler's thoughts on wine making."  However, though the theme doesn't really call out to me, and I have to reference the rulebook when trying to make sure that I remember rules that may come naturally to wine connoisseurs (like how many red and white grapes are required to make a champaign), I still enjoyed the game.  So, whether you only drink beer, don't drink at all, or love wine, I think that this is one that you can still enjoy.

The second thing to call out is something I alluded to in my first pro.  This review is based on the 2.0 rules of Viticulture.  But, what's the difference?  The main difference is that the "Grande Worker" is now part of the core game instead of part of the Arboriculture expansion (which came with the original KS version of the game).  The Grande Worker is a special worker that can be placed on parts of the board that are already full.  So, for example, if you really need to plant vines and all of the places to plant vines are taken, you can still place your Grande Worker there and plant them.  In the 1.0 version of the game, the decisions about where to place your workers were much more tense, and I miss that in 2.0.  However, they were so tense that you essentially were forced to always select the top of the Rooster track whenever you had the chance.  Additionally, you could get into a situation where you were the last person to play, and you could not fulfill a wine order on the last turn, simply because you were the last to place your rooster on the wake up track - thus waking up last, and having all of the wine order spots taken before you could select them.  So, as a whole, I think that including the Grande Worker was an improvement.  The other "big" change in the 2.0 rules relates to crushing grapes into wine.  In the original rules, you could make all that you wanted of a single type of wine.  Now, you can only make two total glasses (barrels?) of wine, but they can be of differing types.  I also prefer this rule, as it makes the game a bit more straightforward, and gives you some flexibility.

Viticulture game board mid-play
Viticulture Game board
So, now that I've droned on and on about Viticulture, what didn't I like?  The main complaint that I can find is that the "visitor" cards don't always seem balanced.  Some of the visitors were amazing - and you would always want them.  They basically allow you to do several actions all at once.  Who wouldn't want that?  That is helpful at any point during the game!  However, most of the visitors are very situational.  In the right situation, they can be amazing, but through much of the rest of the game they are worthless.  Or, some of them are good for much of the game, but if you draw them at the wrong time then they literally can not help you (for example, one of them lets you train a worker at a discounted rate - if you have all of your workers, then you just drew a dead card).  This "right time" aspect of the visitors can make them swingy - when everyone draws a visitor, and two people draw immediately useful ones and two other players draw useless cards, then (as you'd imagine) two players just got a nice boost.

Overall, I give Viticulture a 9.0/10.  I have really enjoyed it and, though it hasn't quite taken my top worker placement spot (that title goes to Age of Empires 3) it definitely stands out as one of my favorites, and one that I intend to keep bringing to the table.

As a final note - Viticulture's Tuscany expansion is currently on Kickstarter.  Check it out here.

If Viticulture sounds interesting, you should also check out Euphoria, Kingdom of Solomon, and Stone Age.

I would like to thank Stonemaier Games for providing me with a review copy of Viticulture (a long time ago).

Epic Resort Kickstarter Preview

[This post is not a review, but a preview of a game that is currently on Kickstarter. The final version of the game may be different in terms of art, graphics, or rules.] 

Epic Resort is a game currently on Kickstarter from Ben Harkins and Floodgate Games. Ben had a successful campaign in the past with Legacy: Gears of Time. He is back with another game with another very unique theme and a combination of mechanisms that definitely grabbed my interest almost immediately. The game has players taking the roles of resort owners who want to create a vacation spot for the world's heroes to relax and recharge. The problem with this is that where heroes go, so monsters and villains follow. The players need to attract tourists and heroes to their resort through a very interesting mix of hand management, deck building, and worker placement. Want to hear more about how the game works? Read on!

Players start the game with a deck of basic cards - 7 Apprentices, 3 Street Performers, and 3 Lazy Peons. These cards will serve several purposes, depending upon when they are played. There are 4 phases in a round of Epic Resort.

The first phase, Get to Work, happens simultaneously for all players. During this phase, players can assign cards they have in hand which can be used as workers to staff their attractions. This is important because some attractions have special abilities which can only be activated if the attraction is fully staffed. The decision of whether or not to staff one's attractions also affects one's income.

Players will be getting tourists to come to their attractions. Each tourist they attract will be placed on a track on the upper left of each attraction card. After the Get to Work phase, a tourist will leave the attraction for every worker spot that remains unoccupied by one of the players workers. After this, a player will get income in the two currencies based on the right-most unoccupied space. Sometimes a player will want tourists to leave so she can get more of the Flair resource, and other times she will want to do everything she can to keep any tourists from leaving so she can get as much Gold income as possible. 

For 5 Flair a player could gain 4 tourists to an attraction of hers by purchasing the Legion card, or she could attract the Warlord to her resort by spending 7 Flair. 

The next phase is the Attract, Hire, & Upgrade phase. In turn order, players will perform one of the following actions until both players pass - either attract tourists or heroes to their attractions using Flair, hire new workers or train workers using Gold, or upgrade attractions, which also requires Gold. I've already mentioned the benefits and balance of adding new tourists to an attraction, but recruiting new heroes will help defend attractions from the monsters that will eventually come to spoil the fun (more on that later).

The squire can be used as two workers (as opposed to the Apprentice's one), or he could be saved to use his ability.

This phase is also where the deck building part of the game factors in. During this phase, players can train their starting workers to be more specialized workers. This will often have the interesting effect of having more powerful, but ultimately less flexible worker in a player's deck. Hired workers go immediately into a player's hand. In traditional deck builder style, worker cards which are used will go to a discard pile, which will eventually be shuffled when a player needs to draw from her deck but doesn't have enough cards to do so.

The last option a player has during this phase of the game is to upgrade one of her attractions. These attractions are worth more points (the ones players start with are worth 0), and have special abilities that can be activated if they are completely full of tourists. Upgraded attractions go on top of previous attractions (players have 3 spots in their tableaus for attractions).

Not exactly what you want to see on vacation...

After both players pass, the A Ship Arrives phase begins. During this phase, the harbor section of the board needs to be refilled. Hopefully the only thing that comes up are more heroes and tourists. But, from time to time, monsters will show up on the boat, and attack players' resorts. The monster's text will dictate which player it will attack, as well as any special abilities it has aside from its attack power (the number in the shield). Resolving attacks is pretty simple - when an attraction with a hero is attacked, the hero there loses 1 health. The attraction will lose tourists equal to the difference of the monster's attack and the hero's defense. An attraction with no hero will lose tourists equal to the monster's strength, and an attraction with no tourists gets a damage token (usually 2 damage tokens will completely destroy an attraction). 

Once the harbor is full of heroes and tourists, the Cleanup phase starts. All played worker cards go to player discard pile, heroes with full health (fully rested and relaxed - thanks to your resort) go to scoring piles, the top monster card is discarded for each hero scored this way, and then each hero still at an attraction gains 1 health. Players also lose all remaining Flair, but keep all remaining Gold. After that is all done, players start again with phase 1, Get to Work!

The game ends after the round in which the Monster deck is empty. Final scoring is the sum of a player's attractions (even those that were built over) and all of a player's rested heroes.

Epic Resort is a very solid second effort from Ben Harkins and Floodgate Games. It successfully combines two very popular mechanisms into a fun, challenging, and quite beautiful game. I recommend you take a few minutes and check out the Kickstarter page. This one has already funded, so if you pledge you will definitely be getting a copy! Go pledge now and help us get some of those sweet stretchgolas!!

Concordia Review

Don't worry, the game is not as boring as the awful cover might suggest.
Also: sweet Phillies bits bowls are not included. =P

Mac Gerdts has made a name for himself based on the rondel mechanism. All of his previous games have used the mechanism, for better or worse. I personally have only played Navegador, but I find the rondel in that game to be a lot of fun. It keeps turns simple and forces players into a rhythm that all players are subject to - but whoever works the most efficiently within those constraints will be victorious.

Look Ma! No rondel!

With Concordia, Mr. Gerdts ditches the rondel...sort of. Despite not having an actual rondel, Concordia still has players forced into adapting to a rhythm that Mr. Gerdts - at least at first - has designed for them. But does this alternate take on the rondel make for a fun game? Let's find out!

Introducing New Rondel! New and Improved - With more Cards!!!

As I said, Concordia has no rondel. In its place, each player is given the same deck of 7 cards. A player's turn consists simply of playing any card in her hand, and executing the card's action.

After playing this card, a player would choose either the top or bottom action.

The game consists of two basic areas the players will be competing in - the map and the card draft pool. On the map, players will be competing for colonies which grant resources. Above the map is a card draft area where players can draft new cards into their decks, which will grants players with either new actions or duplicate of one of the starting actions.

All roads lead from Rome.

Players being with two colonists in Rome, and their starting action cards. These allow players to move colonists and build, produce in a region, trade resources and money with the bank, copy the last card played by another player, or pick up all of the cards they have previously played back into their hands. 

For every VESTA card a player has in her deck at the end of the game, she will score 1 point for every 10 Sestertii she has.

As I mentioned above, a player's turn consists simply of playing a card from her hand, and taking the card's action. The game will end when the final card is purchased from the draft row. Then comes one of the most interesting parts of the game - final scoring. In Concordia, each card in a player's deck will score points based on how much or how well a player has done at a portion of the game, an interestingly, what each card gives points for is usually what the card's ability helps the player to do. So, for the example below, this player would want to have as many provinces and colonists as possible by game end.

Interestingly, these cards help a player during the game to acquire the provinces and colonists required to score at the end of the game.

Before I get to what I like about the game, let's talk about its shortcomings. The first, and I think biggest, has to do with a possible lack of variety when playing this game multiple times. Players start the game with the same cards, the game ends when all cards have been purchased (so almost every card will be played in every game), and the cards available to purchase have abilities that are either duplicates of starting cards or not-so-exciting-new-actions. So aside from a few things that are randomized during setup, not much will change from game to game. This is one of those game, especially if playing against the same opponents, where players could fall into a strategic "rut" - wherein they end up following the same VP path every game.

So many choices....delicious, delicious choices...

That being said, there is a lot to love about this game. The mechanism of playing cards until a player  wants/needs to take a turn to pickup all of her played cards is great. It feels fairly similar to another big Euro release from last year, Lewis and Clark, in that way. Doing as much as you can in between picking everything back up is beneficial, but were you able to play things in such a way that every turn between now and then is a productive turn? Or are the cards left in hand useless at this point, and picking everything up early - for less of a bonus (or more of a penalty in Lewis and Clark's case) - makes more sense this time?

In Concordia, whenever you pick up your discard pile, you have access to every card in your deck, but the longer you wait to do so, the bigger the bonus you get.

I mentioned above that the cards available for purchase are less than exciting. Well, part of the reason for that is because all of the actions players start the game with are all already pretty interesting and satisfying. Turns in Concordia are short and simple, but choosing which action to play next is always a tough decision - mostly because most of a player's choices on a turn are generally good. 

The card draft area drives much of the game's interaction.

Player interaction here is fairly minimal. Players can colonize cities near each other and gain the benefits of another player's Prefect action, but the card draft is where the most interesting player interaction takes place. A lot of the "game" in Concordia is in how well players are able to balance between drafting new cards before their opponents and how well players are able to expand their empire on the map. Because the cards players are drafting grant them new actions as well as victory points at the end of the game, the competition for cards can get intense.

Concordia is a very well designed, interesting, and (most importantly) fun board game. Part deck builder, part card draft, part hand management, and part (small part) dudes on a map, Concordia combines all of these mechanisms successfully - all in a way that keeps gameplay simple but also satisfyingly deep. With this game, Mac Gerdts has shown that he is more than just the "rondel guy." I enthusiastically rate Concordia an 8.5 - and eagerly look forward to Mr. Gerdts' next effort.

Manifest Kickstarter Preview

[This post is not a review, but a preview of a game that is currently on Kickstarter. The final version of the game may be different in terms of art, graphics, or rules.]

Set in the Roaring 20s, Manifest is a game of shipping goods, transporting passengers, and avoiding pirates. It is a family style hand management and pick-up and deliver game that is easy to learn and takes between 45 and 90 minutes to play (2-5 players).

The game ships with two sets of game rules: Basic and Expert. Both rule sets are basically the same, with the Expert game adding deck building mechanisms to play. I will explain how the Basic game works first, and will later illustrate what the Expert game changes.

Before beginning a game of Manifest, players choose how long of a game they wish to play. The instructions suggest that with 4 players playing until a player has 11 points, for a 45-60 minute game, or to 15 points for a 60-90 minute game. 

In Manifest, players control shipping companies, and have two cargo ships each. Each ship is able to hold four items, either goods or passengers. Players will be moving these ships from port to port, picking up goods and passengers and then transporting those items to the ports that want them, as indicated by Contract Cards.

There are 3 Contract Cards that are available for completion by any player. These are face up on the board. The Contract Cards are laid out very nicely, with a large picture of what good/passenger is wanted at the destination port, and dots on the map showing which port(s) the good/passenger can be picked up at, and where the destination port is located. When a player completes a contract, she takes the contract card and places it under her player mat, leaving the number of points it is worth showing. 

A player who is able to complete these two contracts 
would score 5 points - 5 for Petrograd and 1 for New York.

Play of the game is driven by an action card deck. At the beginning of each turn, a player will have 4 Action Cards in her hand. She can play as many of these as she wants on her turn. Each action card can be used for one of three things: movement, money, or the special card ability. Using a card's movement value allows a player to move one of her ships through spaces that are equal to or less than the value on the card. Money on a card can be used to pay to pick up goods or passengers in port, dump cargo or passengers that a player no longer wishes to haul, or purchase a face down contract from the contract deck. Contracts purchased this way are then personal contracts that can only be completed by the player holding them. 

The "World Crisis" card  ability affects everyone playing, and simulates the events of October 29, 1929 - Black Tuesday.

The final thing an Action Card can be used for is the card's special ability. This is the part of the game that really brings in the theme and makes the game stand out. The events range from being able to double the movement of a ship to being able to attack an opponent's ship. The art on the prototype cards that I received is very well done, with the ability text written in a 1920s style newspaper headline style. The titles of the cards are thematic as well, invoking language and events from the time, with titles like Double Whammy" and "Spanish Flu."

The final part of the Basic game are the piracy spaces and attacks. Some regions on the board (indicated by red pathways) are patrolled by thieving pirates. Any ships entering these paths need to roll two dice are pirate attacks! Resolving these attacks is simple: if the player has any cargo in the matching holds of the ship being attacked, they are lost. Some Action Cards have special ability text that allow a player to attack another - these attacks are resolved in the same way, except some of these cards allow the attacking player to steal any cargo lost! 

The Expert game plays similarly to the Basic game, except instead of drawing Action Cards from a shared deck, players will be drawing Action Cards from their own decks. Money also has an additional function in the game, in that it can be used to draft new cards into player's decks. There will be a row of 3 cards available for purchase, all of which cost $3 each to put into a player's discard pile. These cards will then eventually be shuffled into and drawn from a player's deck. 

Manifest is a solid pick-up and deliver game with some fun "take that" chaos added in. As I said above, the special abilities on the cards really add a lot of flair to what is otherwise a pretty basic (though still entertaining) family game. I think that Manifest is one of those games that could be played on the same game night as Carcasonne and Ticket to Ride with a group of gateway gamers. It is simple to learn and play, but has a good amount of planning and strategy - as well as a couple laugh out loud moments each game.

SchilMil Games is currently seeking contributions on Kickstarter to fund a print run of Manifest!! They are well on their way to being funded having already raised over a third of what they need!! If you're interested in pledging for a copy, head on over to Kickstarter to show them your support!

[Jim would like to thank SchilMil Games for having a prototype copy of Manifest sent to him.]

One Night Ultimate Werewolf Review

The village has been under silent siege for some time now. Villagers have been found mysteriously dead on mornings that follow a full moon. Many suspect that a werewolf is living among us - but who?

The prolific Ted Alspach is back to his werewolf-y ways with One Night Ultimate Werewolf. Having never played the original games Werewolf or Mafia, but being a huge fan of Coup and Resistance, I was not sure what to expect when I got One Night Ultimate Werewolf in the mail. Of course, most gamers involved enough in the hobby to have an active BGG account have heard of Werewolf - the main reasons I have never played it is because of the player elimination and because it requires a non-player moderator to run the game (and I don't get to go to many conventions). So, after experiencing a couple nights of One Night, what did I end up thinking? Let's find out!

One Night Ultimate Werewolf ships in a small box which contains the few (but very nice) components the game requires. The game takes about 5-10 minutes to both set up, play, and clean up. Each player gets a role card, and 3 role cards are also placed face down in the middle of the table. Discs that match the roles in play are also added to the middle of the table for reference.

The game begins with the night phase. One Night Werewolf does still require a moderator, but the rules allow for the moderator to also be a player. During the night phase, all players will have their eyes closed. The moderator will announce certain roles to "wake up" and perform a special action that is associated with their role. For instance, the first group the moderator asks to "wake up" is the werewolves. Any werewolves playing then open their eyes and see who else is a werewolf (if there is another werewolf). The moderator waits ten seconds, asks the current group to close their eyes again, and announces the next group to "wake up."

After the night phase, the day phase begins - everyone opens their eyes. After a few minutes of discussion, all players vote on one player to be lynched. Whoever gets the most votes dies. If two players tie for the most votes, they both die, but if no player receives more than one vote, then no one dies. After the vote, the game ends.

Villagers win the game if at least one werewolf dies during the lynching. Even if a villager dies in addition to a werewolf dying, the villagers all win. If, however, there are no werewolves in the game (remember the 3 cards in the middle of the table), the villagers only win if no one dies. The werewolves can only win the game if at least one player is a werewolf and no werewolves die.

This, on its own, would be a pretty compelling hidden role game. But the addition of roles to One Night Ultimate Werewolf adds even more wild fun to this already enjoyable base experience. Some of the roles give more information to players, while others add a healthy dose of chaos. The Seer, for instance, wakes up during the night phase and can look at another player's card or at two of the cards in the middle of the table. While the Troublemaker (who wakes up after the Seer) can switch the cards of two other players without looking at them.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf has a few weaknesses. First, I think this type of game has a fairly wide appeal, but people who will not enjoy this type of game will really not like this type of game. The fact that the game still requires a moderator - even a player moderator - is a pretty big con for me. I usually "run" most of the board games I play - learning setup and in game upkeep along with the rules of play - but here being a moderator could take a player out of the game experience, somewhat. This game could also (maybe?) be criticized for not having very much (traditional) strategy. There is a lot of chaos in some of the roles here, and some players will simply be unable to see the subtleties of deception which are inherent to succeeding here. This isn't to say there is no strategy, in fact I'd say my final con of the game is that the strategies of when and how players should lie during the day phase can be hard to figure out.

All that said, One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a stupendously fun game that can be used as a "filler" in many situations, but I would say that gamers should schedule around 45 minutes to play this game - not because it takes that long, but most groups will probably want to play this several times in a row (just like mine did). The best thing about the game are the unique situations, bluffs, and outright lies that it presents with players. Actually, one of the best things about the short playing time of One Night Ultimate Werewolf is that because groups will likely play the game multiple times in a row, a lying meta-game will likely develop, adding a fun inside joke feel to sessions of this - especially when played with groups of close friends.

The final pro for the game - which I have deliberately left out of the review until now, is huge. This may not be feasible for everyone, but for play groups who have at least one iOS or Android device among them, Bezier Games has put out a free companion app for One Night Ultimate Werewolf. Narrated by Mr. Eric Summerer himself, the app completely eliminates the need for a moderator. It is both very useful and very well done. The app looks and sounds fantastic, in addition to making One Night Ultimate Werewolf a lot more fun to play. While the game is certainly playable without the smartphone app, I would never consider doing so without it.

Overall, I would give One Night Ultimate Werewolf an 8.5. I really like the game, and - along with the companion app - I think most other groups will enjoy it as well. The game can be dependent upon groups being comfortable with lying to each other, but hopefully if you're bringing this to your game night, you know how your group will react to having to lie. One Night Ultimate Werewolf packs a lot of game into a small box and low price point. I definitely recommend it.

If this sounds fun, you might also want to check out: The Resistance, Bang! The Dice Game, or Battlestar Galactica.

Jim would like to thank Bezier Games for providing him a review copy of One Night Ultimate Werewolf.

Mars Needs Mechanics for iPhone App Giveaway!!

I was a little late to the game, and I let my account go silent for a long while, but I LOVE Twitter. I like the bite sized updates, and the really conversational nature of the platform. But I want to be involved in more conversations, with more people.

That's where today's contest comes in!

As you may or may not know, the venerable Josh, of Board Game Reviews by Josh fame (I know him!) has completed and submitted an iOS port of the very fun Mars Needs Mechanics from Nevermore Games!! I have been one of a few who were testing the app for him the past few weeks, and I think he has done a really great job bringing this game to iOS. Find the game on the App Store here! 

Josh, being the generous guy he is, has offered me SEVEN promo codes for the app to give away on the site. How do you win one? Simple!

Just follow me on Twitter!  

That's it! Every day, for the next week, I will give away a code to download the newly released game for FREE!!

Of course, a blog contest wouldn't be complete without the chance for extra entries, so here's how you get yours - after following me on Twitter, tweet something to me about board games with the hashtag #bgrbj. It could be your favorite games, designers you love, mechanisms you enjoy - anything! Like I said, I want to have a more conversations with more people on Twitter - whats more fun to talk about than board games??

What you are waiting for? Get Tweeting - the contest starts NOW and ends next Friday!!

Pimp My Game - Escape: The Curse of the Temple

Escape Curse of the Temple with custom meeples

I'm back!  At least for now.  While I was on break, I was sent some pretty cool meeples, and so I figured that I would share them with you on my first "pimp my game" post.  Basically, what this (potential) series will be are ways to take your favorite games and make them look just a touch cooler.

Escape game meeple comparison
Custom meeples versus original adventurers
Now, in the last couple of years, one of my absolute favorite games has been Escape: The Curse of the Temple.  And, honestly, the game looks pretty good on it's own, and doesn't really need to be improved.  BUT - who cares?  I wanted to pimp my copy out anyway.  And, really the only way that I could think of for pimping it out would be to replace the matching adventurer meeples for varied, custom painted meeples.  This can actually improve the game in a couple of ways, as well - it can help if someone that you play with is color blind and cannot tell some of the adventurers apart, and it can also help if some of your players regularly use the same color, and so they are inadvertently moving another person's piece.  Whereas these aren't really major issues in most games, since Escape is a real time game, you need to be able to play as quickly as possible.  So the custom painted meeples are also useful!

Escape Curse of the Temple
Meeples laying down - useful if you stand while playing
So, here is how I pimped out my copy, for in case you wanted to pimp out your own - I got a set of 25 character meeples from Meeple Source, and I threw them in the Escape box.  That's it!!  Now it's a lot more fun to pick your character at the beginning of the game, and also your character is more recognizable as you play!

Are there any down-sides or points of confusion from changing out these pieces?  There's no additional confusion, since each player should be able to remember who they chose (though there will no longer be a marker in front of them).  However, the character meeples are a bit smaller than the original adventurer meeples, and they also may look similar if you are standing them up (since the tops of them aren't different).  Simple enough solution - I lay them flat, and the problem is solved!  And, if you're worried about the size difference, you can order mega meeples - though I believe that their selection of those is more limited.

Escape game with custom meeples
Here are many of the options I can pick from
And, just so you know, right now Meeple Source is running a Kickstarter campaign for their character meeples.  If you're interested in pimping out your copy of Escape (or just like cool looking meeples), I'd recommend you check them out.  In addition to the 25 meeples that I received, their campaign is allowing them to start creating a lot of new ones (I believe it's over 50 new options thus far).  Plus, I'm not certain, but I think that the campaign might be a touch cheaper than their normal prices.

I would like to thank Meeple Source for providing me with a review copy of their 25-pack of Character Meeples.