Board Games

Board Game Review: Terraforming Mars

Board Game Review:

Terraforming Mars

Rating: 8.6 out of 10 stars


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Terraforming Mars is my favorite board game. I am willing to admit it has its shortcomings, but it is my go-to game when choosing what to play. I very rarely win. In fact, I have only won it once, and I took a picture as a memento. (Picture on left.)

The fact that I love the game despite constantly losing it says a lot about the game. It’s a game that makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something no matter what your score.


What I hope to accomplish with my board game reviews is to introduce you to a new game and help you determine whether the game is a good fit for you. I will consider and rank five criteria: gameplay, design, strategy, originality, and replayability.


Terraforming Mars is a strategy board game for 1-5 players. It utilizes mechanics such as hand management, engine building, and set collection. The theme is set in the year 2400, when various corporations are attempting to increase their profits by making Mars habitable.

Gameplay (10 out of 10 stars)

It’s a pretty complex game, but I’ll try to simplify it here. Obviously for the complete rules, consult the instruction booklet that comes with the game.

Basically, during the game you are trying to boost your terraforming rating as much as possible. You can do this by using cards to build your corporate empire, using tiles to transform the surface of Mars, boosting the temperature, increasing the oxygen level on the planet, or creating oceans.

The cards are varied and include those that boost your production levels, those that introduce animals or plants to the planet, those that allow you to hurl meteorites and asteroids at your foes, those that can be played again as actions each generation, those that reduce the cost of future cards, etc.

You can fund awards or reach achievements to gain endgame points as well as gain bonuses for placement of tiles.

The corporations give beginning of the game bonuses as well as powers that can affect gameplay.

Design (5 out of 10 stars)

Design includes two categories: art and components.

The art leaves much to be desired. Much of it is from free stock photos. All the photos fit the theme, but they could’ve done better.

The components are mostly pretty good, except the player mats. The player mat shown in the picture above is from a kickstarter, mostly because the originals were basically unusable, so flat that pieces would constantly be moving around. It was hard to remember what level all my stats were at, so until we got the kickstarter player boards, we would use a separate piece of paper to keep track of stats.

Strategy (10 out of 10 stars)

The strategy level is high in this game because you have so many options. Will you focus on increasing your Mega Credit production, or on titanium or steel? Will you mostly plant greeneries or build cities, carve out oceans or raise the temperature? Which corporation will you choose? When will you invest in cards and when will you save your mega credits for the next opportunity? Do you sabotage opponents and risk retaliation or play it safe?

Originality/Creativity (9 out of 10 stars)

The game mechanics are pretty original when paired with the theme. I don’t know of any other Mars-themed games that can stand up to this one.

Replayability (9 out of 10 stars)

I would replay this anytime, but I know not everyone would. Its length usually lasts longer than the 2 hours suggested, even with our house rules that shorten the game. (In our house, we start with 1 production on each track on the player boards and do not have to buy our initial cards.) The length does make it hard to replay unless we are planning ahead.


I fully recommend this game, but caution that it is not for everyone. If you like medium-weight engine-building games, this is probably a good one for you.

Board Games

Board Game Review: RWBY Combat Ready

Board Game Review:

RWBY Combat Ready

Rating: 8.8 stars


When I heard there was a board game based on one of my favorite shows, I just had to play it! I ended up getting it as a birthday present. By now I’ve played it several times and found it challenging and fun every time.


What I hope to accomplish with my board game reviews is to introduce you to a new game and help you determine whether the game is a good fit for you. I will consider and rank five criteria: gameplay, design, strategy, originality, and replayability.


RWBY Combat Ready is cooperative board game for 2-5 players. It is based on the anime series RWBY, and its name comes from a quote by the character Penny – “I’m combat ready!” The game takes about an hour unless you are doing a campaign, which will take around 3 hours. It was made for ages 14 and up.

The publishers are Arcane Wonders and Rooster Teeth Games.

Gameplay (7 out of 10 stars)

In RWBY Combat Ready, players can each choose a character from the anime: Ruby, Weiss, Blake, Yang, or Penny. Each of these characters have unique fighting styles and decks.

In the base game, you can play against one of three villains: Roman, Cinder, or Adam. In addition, you will be fighting against groups such as Roman’s Henchman, the White Fang, or the Grimm.

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At the beginning of each duel with the villain, one player starts at the beginning of the Hero Fury Track. The villains starts at the beginning of the villain track. Supporting players can choose to assist or combo with the main player, using different abilities on their cards accordingly. Or they can take out one of the lesser villains such as a henchman or Grimm.

The Hero deck is made up of attack cards of various types. Some are ranged, making them effective against flying enemies. Some are melee. Others are dash attacks. Each have different advantages and disadvantages.

The attack speed on the card is probably the most vital part. If the attack speed of the hero is higher than the villain, the hero hits the villain. If the villain’s attack speed is higher, the villain hits the hero. If they match, nothing happens. Higher speed attacks tend to do less damage, but lower speed attacks may not hit.

The villain’s deck is made up of Subtle, Aggressive, Balanced, and Event cards. Subtle cards are tricky – they could be high or low speed or damage. Aggressive cards will be very high speed or damage. Balanced cards will be in the middle. Event cards are bad and generally amp up the game by making everything harder. You can kind of predict the villain’s attack speed and power based on the card types, but it is hard to know just how fast you will have to be, so it’s a bit of a gamble. After the heroes choose their cards, the top card of the villain deck is flipped and the attack speed is compared, after which the conflict is resolved.

The hero and villain move up one step on the fury track per damage each dealt. When characters move up the fury track, they get bonuses. Once a hero reaches the end of the fury track, they can use their ultimate move. When a villain reaches the end of the track, they can bash a hero out of the duel.

At the end of each duel, whether a character uses their ultimate move or is bashed out of the duel, the next player starts a new duel and the villain is returned to the start of the Fury Track.

It is worthwhile to note that each hero has a different Semblance power they can use to help out once during each duel.

Between duels characters can use experience points received during battle to upgrade their cards.

For each game, you can either play against one villain or complete a campaign scenario. Campaigns are against three villains and are much harder.

Design (8 out of 10 stars)

Design includes two categories: art and components.

The miniatures in this game are great and detailed. They are colored to match the signature colors of each character. Still hoping to paint them someday when I get the time.

The boards are well-designed and the components are in general made expertly.

The cards are cool in some ways. The differing styles of design on cards reminded me of Pokémon cards, especially the old ones. However, some of the artwork was made with such artistic license that it no longer even looks like the character, like the one with the 7 speed shown above.

Strategy (10 out of 10 stars)

The strategy in this game is extremely high. Deciding what attack cards to use based on the style of villain card rewards careful decisionmaking. Choosing when to combo or assist is an equally hard decision. Also, you have to remember the lesser villains such as the White Fang or they’ll deal damage to the main player at the end of a duel. You also have to consider when to use semblances and ultimate moves, and when to fight vs. when to retreat. You can even customize your deck by leveling up!

Originality/Creativity (10 out of 10 stars)

The dueling in this game is unique and offers tension and a feeling similar to the anime. It is a well-balanced game that even experienced gamers will find complex enough to enjoy. The speed-focus I have only seen in this game and makes sense for RWBY. The way that players can either combo or assist is also creative. Leveling up at the end of each duel is also something I have only seen in this game.

Replayability (9 out of 10 stars)

The replayability of this game is high due to the complexity of the dueling system, the existence of campaign scenarios, and the challenge of winning this game. Even with four players at full effort my family barely won each time we played.


I would recommend this game for anyone who enjoys the RWBY anime series, but also for those just looking for a challenging, engaging game.


Board Games

A Board Game Battle of the Baristas

Board Game Review:

Latte Throwdown

Rating: 6.8 out of 10 stars


What I hope to accomplish with my board game reviews is to introduce you to a new game and help you determine whether the game is a good fit for you. I will consider and rank five criteria: gameplay, design, strategy, originality, and replayability.


Latte Throwdown was published in 2020 and is a dice rolling board game for 1-4 players. In this game, players are baristas using die rolls to perform latte art. The game is best for ages 8 and up, and the game is low in complexity.

Gameplay (6 out of 10 stars)

On each player’s turn, they take several actions. They roll their dice, including whatever surplus dice they have earned. Then they use the dice to try to match the numbers at the bottom of a latte card. If they can’t finish the set of numbers, they just place what they can and hope to roll the other numbers later. If they complete a latte card, they can take it and score the number indicated on the card. Or, instead of finishing a latte card, they can do any of several special actions using Barista cards. Then they return the dice used to complete a Barista or Latte card to their pool and the next player takes their turn.

Special actions include converting a die to a different number, turning in two matching die for a point, etc.

The first player to 20 points wins.

Design (9 out of 10 stars)

Design includes two categories: art and components.

The artwork in this game is attractive and makes me want to drink coffee. There’s not much more one could ask for!

The components are attractive and fit the game style. It was interesting to have the latte cards be circular, and since there are not too many, the weird shape does not make it too hard to shuffle easily. Most of the dice, excluding the surplus dice, are the colors of coffee.

Strategy (5 out of 10 stars)

There is a lot of luck involved in this game due to the amount of dice-rolling and the randomness of the shuffled Barista cards and circular Latte cards. Strategy is low, but still present if you analyze the probability of being able to finish the Latte cards before your opponents and use the Barista cards wisely.

Originality (8 out of 10 stars)

The concept of a game where the theme is baristas competing with latte art was extremely creative. This is not your average coffee-themed game. It stems from real consideration of the art of creating and serving lattes. The name of the board game comes from public gatherings where baristas show off their latte art skills.

Replayability (6 out of 10 stars)

Replayability is reasonable. This is the sort of game you can pull out from time to time, but not one that anyone would be likely to play more than once every couple of days. I personally do not play it often.


This game would be best for a group of amateur board games, those new to the hobby. Or it would be a good option to play as a warmup to a heavier game. It’s relatively simple and easy to learn, which is a plus.


Card Games

Saboteur: The Game of Mining, Sabotage, and Gold

Card Game Review:


Rating: 8.8 out of 10 stars


What I hope to accomplish with my card game reviews is to introduce you to a new game and help you determine whether the game is a good fit for you. I will consider and rank five criteria: gameplay, design, strategy, originality, and replayability.


Saboteur is a fantasy bluffing game that uses hand management and hidden roles. It also has a notable take-that mechanic. Players play as dwarves mining for gold–except at least one of them is a hidden traitor!

It’s a game for 3-10 players that is supposed to take 30 minutes. (In my experience it takes at least 45 minutes.) It is meant for ages 8+, but I could see it being difficult for an eight-year-old the first couple of times. I think it would work best for ages 10+.

Gameplay (8 out of 10 stars)

A Saboteur and Gold Miner

Basically, in this game you play either as a gold miner or a saboteur. The objective for the gold miners is to place find the gold, while the role of the saboteur is to prevent the gold miners from reaching the gold.

The way you do that is by using path cards, shown above. Most path cards can be used to get closer to the goal, but there are some dead end path cards that saboteurs use. The three brown cards at the top of the picture have either coal or gold under them.

Throughout the game, players can check what’s under one of the brown cards by using a map card. A map card is an example of an action card. Action cards can be identified by their white border.

Anyone is free to tell the truth or lie when using a map card, so it is generally good to have a second person verify the location of the gold or coal if possible.

There are also attack cards among the action cards. Saboteurs can use them to sabotage miners, and miners can use them to sabotage saboteurs. When a player is attacked with one of these cards–breaking their lantern, pickaxe, or cart–they cannot play any path cards.

Broken supplies can be repaired using the cards shown below, matching the type of equipment. After the equipment is repaired, the player can use path cards again.

There are is also a type of card that removes a path tile from the board–a tunnel collapse card. This can be helpful for the saboteur or the miners.

There are three rounds in the game and there are two ways to end each round. One way is for one of the players to find the gold. In that case, the miners win, and the player who put down the last path card gets first pickings of the spoils.

The other way is for the saboteur(s) to win the round by making it impossible for the miners to reach the gold. Once cards run out in the decks, they are not reshuffled, meaning the miners have a limited amount of time to reach the gold before they run out of useful path cards.

If the saboteur(s) win the round, they receive 3 gold each. This is because it is harder to win as the saboteur.

After 3 rounds, the player with the most gold wins.

(As always, for a full rules explanation, read the actual rulebook because I just provided an overview.)

Design (9 out of 10 stars)

Close-up of details on cards

Design includes two categories: art and components.

The art was created by Andrea Boeckhoff and is generally pretty simplistic. However, as shown above, the artist included details in some of the path cards that are playful and creative.

This is a card game that fits in a tiny box, so don’t expect anything fancy. The components include path cards, action cards, gold nugget cards, gold miner cards, and saboteur cards.

The rules are included on a single page and yet sufficient.

The advantage of the components in this game is that they fit in a really small box that is shorter and more compact even then most books.

Strategy (10 out of 10 stars)

Strategy is cooperative for most players and consists mostly of teamwork and knowing what cards are best to use when. The game requires a lot of attention on the part of the gold miners to be able to realize who the saboteurs are and stop them.

Also, since the last person to place a card before the gold is revealed gets first pickings of the loot, there is a tiny bit of competition and cooperation is still very self-focused.

There is more strategy for the saboteur(s). For one thing, they want to find out who the other saboteur (or saboteurs) are without blowing their cover. Saboteurs also have to decide whether to act decisively at any point in a way that reveals their wicked intentions, but it is more effective.

Originality (9 out of 10 stars)

The originality is high in this game. Using cards like tiles to reach a goal is interesting, as well as the bluffing aspect allowing you to get away with being the saboteur for as long as possible.

Unlike in some games, you don’t lose if someone finds out the saboteur–you just get to keep on playing.

Replayability (8 out of 10 stars)

Replayability is decent. You go through the same pack of cards every time, but who is the saboteur and the number of saboteurs is pretty random and makes playing it multiple times still enjoyable.


I would certainly recommend this game. It is low complexity and functions perfectly as a gateway game for those just starting out in the board game hobby. Yet it is challenging enough to engage more serious board gamers as well.