Ticket To Ride: Rails & Sails Review - Around The World In 80+ Minutes!

It's no surprise that I like Ticket To Ride, it was on my Top 100 and I own almost all the expansion maps for it. I don't get to play them all very much I admit, but I love using this as a great gateway game to conscript. . . err I mean bring in new players to the hobby.

Slowly but surely new mechanisms have found their way into the game through expansions with the pinnacle of achievement falling to the United Kingdom map (no bias I assure you) which is definitely the most complex of the expansion maps, but also in my opinion, the best one of the lot. So when Rails & Sails was announced as a new base set with added complexities like ships, wrap-around maps, harbours, etc. I wondered how much further they would dare to go to add more mechanisms to a gateway game.

Of course, being Ticket To Ride I was keen to get stuck in and find out what's what, but there were a couple of statistics that first raised concerns. How much? How long?



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AireCon 2016 - Five Games We Hate But Everyone Else Loves - Panel Podcast

Whilst at AireCon, a few of us UK podcasters took part in our first media panel with........not a ton of people in attendance, but who cares, it was a whole lot of fun. We discussed Five Games I Hate But Everyone Else Loves, and by that I mean, we each took 5 games, not just focused on my games, oh whatever you know what I mean! Although one of us decided to pull a Sam Healey on us and do things somewhat differently with his list. . . .

In attendance was Rob from the Cult of the New Podcast, Jay from Breacher18, myself of course, Mark Cooke who hosted AireCon and of course the Polyhedon Collider crew (I can tell I'm knackered, I misspelled that 3 times).

I enjoyed it a ton and would and will gladly do more in the future. The actual podcast is hosted on Polyhedon's website at http://www.polyhedroncollider.com/2016/10/airecon-2016-five-games-i-hate-but.html or you can sign up to their RSS feed to get it that way. Sadly I don't have the file to host it on my own site, but go check them out, they're a fun bunch to game with!

The audio quality is ...............hit and miss, but in our defence, it was our first panel, there were a lot of us, we'd never attempted something like this before and we had to kind of "wing" it. I hope you enjoy and I hope we didn't speak about too many games you love. On that note remember that this is only IN OUR HUMBLE OPINION!! If we mention a game we hate that you love, then don't worry, continue enjoying that game, it's all just an opinion and we banter a lot in jest. . . . . . . well I think it's jest, I get a lot of abuse for being more passionate so apologies if my voice dominates the recording!

Oh and a certain game I adore gets a mention from our AireCon host at 46:00 onwards. . . . . . he is of course on this occasion. . . . . WRONG! But where else do you get to shout out "VETO!!!!" on a podcast panel!? Ha ha!

Hope you enjoy it!

A quick note of warning, the original intention was that this could be hosted on the Dice Tower and would be family friendly. Sadly I think only 2-3 of us, myself included managed to stick to that notion and I wasn't exactly in control so I apologise for that. The occasional swear word and innuendo may be mentioned from time to time. 




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Legendary: Civil War Review - Split Personalities

Oh Marvel Legendary will you never die? Well no, of course not, it's got the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to call on and then when it all resets after the Infinity War, it will simply keep going or start a new edition, you mark my words! Not that I mind, I still love the game, I still love superheroes and I still love Marvel so I'm riding it all the way hoping one day we'll get a nice collectors box with custom dividers to store everything...........yeah in your dreams Luke!

I've been quite excited for this one though. I haven't even read the comic strip it's based on (as we all know this has nothing to do with the movie which in turn was only "based" on the comic. But out of all the comics for Marvel, this one has been the one I've been most interested in reading (bet it will never happen, so little time!). I like the plot behind it and it's cool seeing heroes against heroes.

But surely they'll run out of ideas soon? Or jump the shark with really weird characters? Secret Wars was certainly a weird expansion when I reviewed that one. Is Civil War going to be fresh and not too complicated? Pick a side and let battle commence, I'll see you on Team Iron Man!



Designer: Devin Low
Publisher: Upper Deck Entertainment
Age: 10+
Players: 1-5
Time: 60-90 minutes
RRP: £39.99


So What Do We Do? We Fight!


From BoardGameGeek:

In Legendary, players take on the roles of Marvel heroes, including the Avengers and X-Men, and team up to defeat an evil Mastermind. Legendary: Civil War is the fourth big box expansion since the Dark City release in 2013 and lets you play through the Civil War storyline from Marvel Comics.

With the Civil War expansion, you can now team up with a partner and take sides against the opposition while playing through the Civil War. The game features playable characters from both sides of the Super Hero Registration Act. Will you choose to side with Captain America or Iron Man?


Business As Usual


Without trying to sound like too much of a broken record with my Legendary reviews, expect a big box 1/4 full of cards and un-interesting dividers! It's the standard affair that you'll have a ton of space to fill with other expansions, though as most of them come with their own big box, that's only going to happen if you've purchased the Marvel Legendary: Villains base set (see my review here!) and any of the small box expansions across the whole range. I use Villains as my starting box anyway as the design of the original set's insert was flawed to say the least.


The artwork has been improving with the Marvel range, never reaching a point I'd consider "great", but enough to be able to spot some gems in the box and be satisfied with the rest. That trend continues with Civil War, particularly with some of the Masterminds and the Grevious Wounds, I really like those especially. It's a shame that ironically a Legendary game will never reach Legendary art status, but I'll settle for decent rather than what Firefly and Big Trouble In Little China gave us recently.


Simple But Effective


The new keyword abilties are interesting, but not too complex, which is the best case scenario. They provide you with some cool deck design decisions without requiring pre-planned groupings of heroes like some abilities have done in the past. Phasing is probably my favourite, allowing you to swap cards with your deck - it can lead to some great hand management shenanigans. My least favourite would be Size-Changing. Yes it's useful to get discounts on cards, but what does changing size have to do with recruiting cards for cheap?

Animal sidekicks are weird to fathom if you've not read the comics, but I welcome having some more interesting characters to compose the Sidekick deck from the Secret Wars expansions - previously a solid implementation before, now made better. Grevious Wounds are a nice thematic new addition, though of course, this is just making Legendary harder to beat.

But what sets this expansion apart is the new dual purpose cards. This ups the scale on versatility within your deck although generally they will essentially be flip versions of each other, so one  side provides recruit points, the other provides fight points. But even this alone can lead to some very effective turns as it enables more choices to be made reducing the amount of times you simply go "I've only got X, therefore I'll do X". They're usually highly sought after when they appear in the HQ.



Uncovering A Few Plot Holes

The theme of Civil War is hit and miss. It is cool to have Iron Man as the Mastermind and have heroes fighting heroes (note, he's definitely the tough nut of the set, bring your 'A' game to this fight!). Even though you don't have to have technically "picked" a side when playing Civil War, it seems to have done so for you as there is no Captain America Mastermind version to fight against - that would have been a cool addition.

Now this may be because I've not read the comics, but some of the pairings on the dual cards don't seem to make sense. Putting Spiderman with Peter Parker is perfect, but Vision and Tigra seem a little out of place. Also some of the pairings make me sad that they don't get an entire deck to themselves in the first place. Luke Cage gets his own deck, but his partner Jessica Jones doesn't? After watching the amazing Netflix series, she needs her own deck to complete the Defenders set or maybe that's a future small expansion planned by Upper Deck, who knows? Actually come to think of me, that would be awesome as then Killgrave could be a Mastermind. . . . oh yes Upper Deck, make this happen!

The new schemes are certainly pretty tough, but very thematic as well and tie in to the Civil War setting nicely, I particularly enjoyed playing against the new SHIELD clearance ability and Maria Hill. It gave me a nice Agents of Shield vibe and provided a decent challenge. Some combinations will punch you in the face however in terms of difficulty - your ultimate survival mission tonight is to face Authoritarian Iron Man while attempting Imprision Unregistered Superheroes - owwwwwww! By the end of that game, the word "fortify" will be all that's required to trigger your mental conditioning (respect if you get that movie reference!)

However I felt that some of the schemes suffered a bit in solo mode, which is a common way I like to play Legendary. Playing multi-handed is fine, but using only one player deck does make some of those schemes, in my opinion, completely impossible to beat, though I do not hold myself to be an expert at this game by any stretch of the word, I just like to take superheroes and fight!


Verdict


I really ought to read some more comics. First Secret Wars and now Civil War. But Secret Wars was an OK expansion, whereas Civil War is a really cool expansion, enough to make me consider reading the comics. It falls behind Dark City, but only because the characters are more accessible to a casual Marvel fan and there were some theme nitpicks here. If you've read the comics however, this will likely be your favourite instead.

The variety here is impressive especially with the new dual-purpose cards. Yes they're a little squished in, but who doesn't like multi-use cards? There's a decent mix between alternate versions of old heroes and brand new ones and the Masterminds range from accessible to brutally hard across the range. Even the schemes are fun and thematic as well, though some suffer a bit in solo play.

It's a cool change to the formula to have heroes facing against heroes and the extra little bits like animal sidekicks, grevious wounds and the new keyword abilities are just icing on the cake. If you like Civil War, this is a must-have purchase, but even if like me you've never read it, it still beats out Secret Wars and thus should definitely be considered for later.


If you are interested in this game you can find a copy at your friendly local gaming store - http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/



YOU WILL LIKE LEGENDARY CIVIL WAR IF:


You've read the comic books - there's a lot of characters from that story line.


You enjoy Marvel Legendary and want more cards - simple as!


You like the concept of using dual-purpose hero cards.




YOU WILL NOT LIKE LEGENDARY CIVIL WAR IF:


You find the dual cards too much of a burden to read given they're squeezed.


You're expecting it to follow the recent movie plot - it's not "that" Civil War!


You weren't a fan of that story arc and tailor your expansion purchases.





















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BACK SOON AFTER ESSEN!

Hey everyone!

Just a heads up - of course as you know Essen 2016 is right around the bend and I fly out on Wednesday evening returning on Sunday evening. Up until then I'm completely taken up with house move tasks and Essen planning. If Three Mobile keep their promise about "Feel At Home" roaming and I can get a good signal in Germany, then I'll try to post updates on my Facebook and Twitter feed as the convention goes on.

Of course until I return, reviews are on hold, but there's plenty on the pile to get done so content is coming! Catch you all upon my return and hopefully I'll be seeing some of you there! Check me out at the Dice Tower booth (further details on my last podcast episode) or wandering around the convention. Come and say Hi, even if it's just a quick fist bump when you're in a hurry!

Take care! See you soon!

Luke



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Turn To Page 394! - Potion Explosion Review

I have friends who adore Candy Crush. And I'm glad that I've converted them onto board games, because never will Facebook gaming measure up to board gaming! And Candy Crush isn't a bad game per say, I've played many iterations of the same idea in my childhood. But wouldn't you prefer to have those marbles in front of you for you to hold and roll around?

Well Horrible Games (interesting choice for a publisher name) has answered that question for you by giving us Potion Explosion, which is basically Candy Crush: The Board Game. First thoughts in my head were not exactly full of anticipation, but it sounded like it could make a very cool gateway game if done right.

As I started hearing more positive impressions and learning more about it, I became more intrigued and actually began regretting not trying this out at Essen the previous year. I need to get more involved in demos this time round at Essen I think, at least when I'm not busy at the Dice Tower booth <wink wink nudge nudge>. So do I have a new weapon in my arsenal to draw in more people to the hobby or not?



Designer: Stefano Castelli, Andrea Crespi, Lorenzo Silva
Publisher: Horrible Games
Age: 8+
Players: 2-4
Time: 30-60 minutes
RRP: £47.99


My Own Interests Are Purely Academic Of Course!

From Horrible Games:

It’s time for the final exams of the Potions class at the Horribilorum Sorcery Academy for Witty Witches and Wizards! The rules are always the same: take an Ingredient marble from the Dispenser and watch the others fall. If you connect marbles of the same colour, they explode… and you can take them too! Complete your Potions using the marbles you collect, and drink them to unleash their magical power. Remember, though, that to win the Student of the Year Award, being quick won’t be enough: you’ll also need to brew the most valuable Potions!


Some Self Assembly Required


The price tag for Potion Explosion is not the lowest around, which might be a barrier for some, but you're getting your monies worth in cool chunky marbles, beautifully illustrated potion tiles and the dispenser unit itself. Now a word of warning first about the unboxing process. Don't underestimate how long this will take. First of all you have to punch out a TON of potion tiles and dispenser parts and worse still, each potion tile has between 4-7 tiny holes that have to be punched out separately where the marbles go during brewing. It's going to take a little while so have a bin bag ready and put something on the TV while you work!

The dispenser itself requires assembly obviously, but the rulebook has a very clear two page spread on how to do it with some subtle patronising comments put in for good humour. It's not a 5 minute job so remember to bolt that on to the time taken to punch it out, but on the plus side, once it's done, it's done and setup is actually relatively quick each game.

Once you're done with the assembly part, it won't be long till you hit your first game of Potion Explosion. There's not many rules to learn and they are all pretty clear-cut. . . except one ambiguity with regards to marbles that explode that include ones not currently visible in the dispenser. It's not 100% clear in the rulebook what you do, but from BGG the consensus was "if they're connected when they explode, take the whole lot even if they were hidden under the dispenser at the time" - just class it as a lucky freebie!



Nooo......The Recipe Specifically Says To Cut!


So if you know how to play Candy Crush, you know 50% of Potion Explosion already. It's that classic test of spotting patterns and combos within a multi-coloured ensemble of marbles with the aim to collect as many as possible every turn to prepare your potions. Whether you aim to prepare all the difficult ones for more points or the simpler ones for speed is up to you and on top of that the desire to obtain the skill tokens for producing the same type of potion or multiple types will influence your choices.

If it were just simply "collect the marbles" and that was it, there wouldn't be much here to shout about with Potion Explosion. But adding the alchemy theme works wonders. You've got 6 types (out of a possible 8) of potions in every game and all the abilities are useful, though I would say the "Wisdom" one seems a little lacking compared to some, but it's generally an easier potion to brew so it self balances.

But it's the combos that can be pulled off here that will appeal to most gamers. Each Potion can be drunk once for it's ability and considering that you're brewing around 8-10 potions or more each game, you've got a wide selection to choose from and crafty players will be able to pull off some insane power turns with a carefully constructed sequence of potion triggers. The potions themselves become a resource for the player, which feels very thematically appropriate.



The theme itself is light-hearted and intended to be humorous, which comes out especially when you read the details in the rulebook as to what the ingredients in the dispenser actually are. Of course you won't remember them at all during the game itself, but it's a nice touch regardless.



Many Of You Will Hardly Believe This Is Magic


Potion Explosion crosses that border between filler and light game. You can finish in a short space of time with 2 or 3 players, but with 4 it can be a little longer than expected. It scales fine with the skill token end-game trigger, but having four people thinking about patterns will result in some Analysis Paralysis at times. Don't play this with a slow player who takes things too seriously, that's for sure!

Part of that comes from the increased chaos factor. It's enjoyable at all player counts, but with 4, the state of the dispenser will have changed a great deal since your last turn meaning you can only plan so far ahead and thus have to start thinking about your turn when it's actually your turn, hence the occasional slowness.

But with 2 players you can plan ahead much more, but with less of the tension from the risk of your plans falling to pieces at your opponents hand. It's why yet again as with most games I find 3 to be the sweet spot as that nice balance between tension and chaos. That's not to say it's not enjoyable at all player counts, I like it with all of them, but there's always an optimal setup.




Verdict on Potion Explosion


Potion Explosion really hit home with me. A simple concept and based on a popular Facebook game that in itself is based on lord knows how many previous iterations. But it works very well, if not better as a board game. Visually it's very pretty to have a dispenser full of coloured marbles and multi-coloured potions everywhere appealing to younger players especially.

The rules are dead easy to learn bar one ambiguity and it's perfectly placed as a gateway game. That being said, 4 players can lead to some longer games due to AP so be aware. If pulling off combos is your thing then you'll adore it as it's very satisfying to pull off a power turn using all the potion abilities and so you have enough to test your brain so that it's not an auto-pilot experience.

Not the cheapest gateway game around due to the components, but it's a solid buy and well worth your time. Now go drag your friends off those Facebook apps and into a board game they'll appreciate!



YOU WILL LIKE POTION EXPLOSION IF:


You like Candy Crush - it's that experience in a board game, full stop.


You want a light, charming game with good visual appeal for all ages.


You enjoy creating power combos/turns in games.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE POTION EXPLOSION IF:


It's too light for you - this is at the lower level of gateway gaming.


You continuously play with 4 players - it can occasionally drag with AP.


You feel it may be a little too lucky for your tastes.


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Hoax (2nd Edition) Review – Coup With Added Bits

I love games where you get to lie and bluff to your opponents. Those funny mind games you play where you try to psyche each other out and trash talk to your heart’s content. A lot of my favourite simple games (Kakerlaken PokerSpyfallOne Night Ultimate Werewolf) will involve some degree of mind-game trickery. I find it’s just the perfect recipe for player to player interaction. Not all of them work for me of course. Skull deals more with random bidding then actual lying. Mascarade is OK, but the added element of not knowing who you are makes it a little too chaotic and the less said about Coup (aka Call My Duke) the better.
Hoax (2nd edition) is a card-based social bluffing game, that took 30 years to return to our shelves after its first edition, so essentially a quick pit stop. Hoax was possibly one of the first games that introduced the idea of bald-faced lying as a rules mechanic – as opposed to a reason not to get invited to game night again – and admittedly merged it with a bunch of clunky, somewhat needlessly complicated rules and exceptions. It was the 80′s; people thought roll-and-move and player attrition were unwavering columns of game design.
Coup came along, took the core ideas out of Hoax and broke the game down to its basic elements. Quick and dirty player elimination by way of verbal Russian roulette. You get caught in a lie, you’re half-dead. You throw around a wrong accusation, you’re half-dead. You let somebody collect too much money as the game goes on, you’re half-dead. And despite having multiple options to choose from, everyone relentlessly claimed they were the Duke because his ability was clearly the most overpowered in the set. If you ended up starting with a Contessa and a Duke you were laughing. So every game played out the same way and as such I can’t stand that game any more. So I’m not exactly gasping to be trying out a reboot of a game that spawned the likes of Coup, but we’ll see what’s changed for the better if anything.



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Episode 47 - PRE-ESSEN

Essen is right around the corner! Plenty of games coming out, although we don't know as much information as we would like to about most of them! However that won't stop me from talking about a ton of them. After my first impressions I'll belt on about a ton of new games and expansions that I'm interested in plus my Top Ten Anticipated Essen Releases.



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