Card Games

Saboteur: The Game of Mining, Sabotage, and Gold

Card Game Review:

Saboteur

Rating: 8.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

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.

Description

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.

Conclusion

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.

Board Games

Ganz Schön Clever: A Strategic Roll-and-Write Game

Board Game Review:

Ganz Schön Clever

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Intro

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.

Description

Ganz Schön Clever is a competitive roll-and-write game for 1-4 players. The game takes about 30 minutes to complete and is recommended for ages 8 and up.

Gameplay (9 out of 10 stars)

Dice Rules

There are six colors of dice in this game that each allow you to mark off different parts of your game sheet (shown above).

The yellow die allows you to cross off the corresponding number in the yellow-bordered section. Completing a row or column in the yellow section gives the bonuses indicated on the sheet (for example, 20 points or the chance to add a 4 to the orange section.)

The blue die is added to the white die to cross off the corresponding number in the blue-bordered section. Once again, completing a row or column provides a bonus.

The green die must be greater than or equal to the number in each spot in the green-bordered section to mark it off. Green spots must be marked off from left to right. The bonus under a green spot is gained when it is marked off.

The orange die allows you to take the number on the dice and write it in the orange-bordered section. Orange spots must be marked off from left to right. The bonus under an orange spot is gained when it is marked off.

The purple die allows you to write a number in the purple-bordered section. Numbers do not have to be consecutive, but each one has to be greater than the last until reaching 6, after which you can start the cycle over. The bonus under an orange spot is gained when it is marked off.

The white die is a wild, standing for any color.

Player Actions

At any time in the game, each person is either an active or passive player.

Active players first roll all the dice. Then they choose a numbered die and mark off what they chose on their sheet. All numbered die of lower value are then placed in the Silver Platter (shown above). The remaining dice are then rolled, and the active player picks another die. Those dice of lower value go into the Silver Platter. This cycle repeats one more time.

Then the passive players choose one dice from those in the Silver Platter and mark the corresponding spot on their sheets. More than one player can use the same die.

If these actions are available, the players can use rerolls or add +1 to a die.

Scoring

The points from the blue section and the yellow section are calculated based on what columns and rows are completed.

The green section gives the amount of points indicated above the last marked spot.

The orange and purple sections both are calculated by adding the numbers in their respective rows.

Each fox obtained during the game is equal to the number of points in the lowest scoring out of all the categories.

Design (7 out of 10 stars)

Design includes two categories: art and components.

The art is simple and minimal. The components will need replaced if used frequently because of the limited number of sheets and limited ink.

Paper sheets are fine, but it would have been better to have small dry erase boards instead of paper, such as those used in the game Wits & Wagers.

The markers running out is inevitable for this kind of game. Just buy more small markers if you run out, or use pens or even pencils.

The instruction manual was very well done. There are specific examples of what a turn would look like, as well as a chart to see how good at the game you really are. My whole family consistently scores in the lowest bracket–I can’t imagine how someone would make the highest bracket and qualify as clever.

Strategy (9 out of 10 stars)

Sure, the game utilizes luck, but there is so much strategy involved. Luck is minimized anyway due to the actions such as rerolls and adding +1 to rolls.

Focus too much in one area and your foxes will be worth next to nothing. Generalize too much and none of your categories will reach their potential. The whole thing is a balancing act.

Even which dice you discard must be strategic because your opponents can use what you rejected to their advantage.

Originality/Creativity (8 out of 10 stars)

Many consider this game to be one of the best roll-and-writes. The concept of the foxes is pretty unique, and so is the fact that passive players can use dice rejected by the active player.

Replayability (7 out of 10)

This game is fun and has a thick pad of sheets for gameplay, so it is conducive to replays. However, this is a game I would personally not want to play more than once in one day. It’s a good, light game to play anytime.

Links

To learn more, I recommend visiting Board Game Geek.

To learn how to play with a video, I recommend this video by Meeple University.

Board Games

Board Game Review: Wingspan

Wingspan Cover Artwork

Rating: 8.58 out of 10 stars

Intro

What I hope to accomplish with my board game review 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.

Description

Wingspan is a competitive game where your goal is to collect diverse species of birds on your wildlife reserve.

There are two variations of the game.

One of the variations is more “friendly,” allowing all players to receive end of round points for meeting the round objective. Round objectives vary, but an example is receiving one point per bird in your water habitat.

The other variation is more competitive, and only the players who get first, second, and third place for the end of round objective get points. For example, if the objective provides points for birds in water habitats, only the players with the most birds in the water habitats would get points.

Personally, I prefer the “friendly” variation of the game because it rewards you for how much you have achieved rather than based on how you measure up to other players.

Gameplay (9 out of 10 stars)

Gameplay offers a lot of options for each player’s turn even though you can only take one action per turn.

One action you can take is playing a bird card in one of your habitats by paying its food and egg costs (if applicable.)

A second action allows you to obtain food from the dice rolled in the bird feeder. If there is only one food type left in the feeder, you can reroll all the dice and then choose.

A third action allows eggs to be laid by the birds in your habitats. There are restrictions on the number of eggs each bird can lay in its nest, which vary based on the species.

A fourth action is drawing more bird cards to put in your hand. These can be played in future turns after paying the cost of the card (in food and eggs).

The resources you get from completing the second, third, or fourth action increase based on the number of birds in the habitat. You always get the resources indicated on the space to the right of the last bird you placed in that habitat.

Birds that are placed have powers that occur either when first played, when activated, or between round. They are indicated at the bottom of the card.

Furthermore, it is worthwhile to note that sometimes you can convert resources to other resources. Two of any one resource can count as one of a different resource. Also, when taking the second, third, or fourth action you can occasionally convert an egg, a food token, or a card to a different resource indicated on the space to the right of your bird.

It is also interesting that each round of the game is shorter than the last, because it puts more pressure on the players to take the most efficient actions.

Design (9.9 out of 10 stars)

Design includes two categories: art and components.

The art in Wingspan is phenomenal. The bird images remind me of the watercolor paintings by John James Audubon, though the lines are bit crisper in Wingspan.

The components are beautiful as well. I especially appreciate the colorful eggs, the custom wooden dice, and the dice tower bird house.

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My only complaint is that on the end-of-round bonuses are labeled by round from right to left instead of left to right. Since English is read from left to right, I have accidentally prepared for the wrong bonus and failed to gain points as a result.

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The player boards are also designed to look like worn journals on the outside.

Strategy (9 out of 10 stars)

This is a game where you can take on a variety of strategies based on your preferences. For example, you can try to broaden the species of birds on your reserve, accumulate eggs on your cards, or try to achieve your secret goals. Of course, it is best to do all of these things, but often one of these becomes the focus of your game.

Originality/Creativity (8 out of 10 stars)

The concept of a game where you are building a wildlife reserve for birds is unique. Except for Wingspan, I have not come across a game with a theme like that. The closest are maybe a few zoo-building games like Zooloretto.

The mechanisms of the game are not unique, but the combination of them was creative and provides for a unique experience overall.

Replayability (7 out of 10 stars)

Replayability is decent because of the number of cards in the deck. You get a different experience every time. Because there are a bunch of strategies, playing repeatedly can be enjoyable, allowing you to change your strategy each time.

Links

To learn more: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/266192/wingspan

To learn how to play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgDgcLI2B0U&vl=en-US

Board Games

Board Game Review: The Quacks of Quedlinburg

The Quacks of Quedlinburg Cover Artwork

Rank: 8.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

This is my first board game review. What I hope to accomplish with these 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.

The Quacks of Quedlinburg is a board game that I have played many times with my family. This game made my top ten favorite board games for a reason! I will explain why it deserves such a ranking below. But first, a quick description of the game and its features.

Description

The Quacks of Quedlinburg is a Push-Your-Luck game where you play as a quack doctor brewing potions for the market.

You start the game with a pouch of tokens. After the first player draws a card that determines the special scenario for the round, each player simultaneously places tokens in their pot. The tokens have a value on them that determines the number of spaces they progress in the pot.

Most kinds of tokens are helpful, but there is one type of token that is harmful. This token is called a cherrybomb. Each cherrybomb brings the pot closer to exploding.

If the pot explodes, the player has to choose between gaining points for the round or being able to buy new tokens.

The goal is to fill your pot as much as possible without your pot exploding. The player who accumulates the most points at the end of the game is the winner.

Gameplay (10 out of 10 stars)

The gameplay is smooth and does not bring up problems. I have tried many combinations of ingredients that had variations in their abilities. Each time, none of the combinations clashed with each other, and each allowed for different strategies.

The game took about 45 minutes each time I played. It does not seem to drag on longer than necessary or end too soon.

The end of each round triggers a series of events whose order is indicated on the main board. If any question of whether it is time to do something arises, the board can be used as a reference rather than flipping through the rulebook.

Scoring is simple. Each round you get the number of points indicated on your pot at the spot directly after where you stop adding ingredients (tokens). At the end of the game, you divide the amount of money you would have received by 5 to buy new tokens and count these as bonus points. Every two rubies you have at the end is worth another two points.

Design (7 out of 10 stars)

Design includes two categories: art and components.

The art of the game is attractive and fits the theme well. While it is not especially remarkable, it does a good job setting the scene. The bright colors add to the sense that what the quack doctors and fortune tellers do is all show.

The components are decently made and consist of cards, boards, tokens, and gems. Most of the components are made of paper or cardboard with the exception of a couple of wooden pieces and the plastic gems.

Strategy (9 out of 10 stars)

Because this is a Push-Your-Luck game, I do not believe it would be fair to give it a lower ranking on strategy just because it involves a lot of chance.

For one thing, you can still have a strategy based on the probability of picking out certain tokens.

For another, the books of each ingredient that explain its ability dictate your strategy, but allow a lot of freedom. Which tokens you buy makes a huge difference.

For example, you may choose to buy more red tokens if the ability of the red tokens that round is to put them aside and then decide whether to use them at the end of this round or next round. If stopping at certain spaces on the pot is part of your strategy, buying more red tokens is an excellent choice.

You might likewise choose to purchase tokens that go more spaces forward, such as a 4-chip, or ones that have more desired abilities.

Furthermore, you may use a riskier strategy or play it safe. Should you place one more tile even though your pot is on the verge of exploding? It’s your call.

If you blow up, do you go for the points or buy more tokens? In this game, it seems like players are always in favor of buying more tokens because that improves your next turn. Part of the reason is that if you fall behind in points, the game gives you an advantage to make it more competitive in the form of rat tails, which allow you to start with your pot partially full. I think making buying the better choice almost all of the time takes away from the strategy, but just slightly.

Originality/Creativity (9 out of 10 stars)

This game has a creative theme. Although potion-making as a theme is not entirely original, making the potion brewers all quack doctors added to the uniqueness.

Using tokens pulled randomly to fill up the track in the pot, and then using the spot directly after for scoring was a great idea for a Push-Your-Luck game. The fact that you could explode if you pushed it too far was also a wise choice.

Also, the rat tails that give losing players an advantage prevent the game from ever feeling like they are too far behind to catch up. I haven’t played any other game that used a system like the rat tails.

Replayability (9 out of 10 stars)

There are so many combinations of ingredient books to use that gameplay can be different every time.

Additionally, the pot can be flipped over for a variation of the game. In the variant, you can trade in your rubies for prizes that give you even more options. I found myself not interested in using the prize track after trying it because it seemed much better to use the rubies to move the starting point where the pot begins to fill up instead.

Overall, its replayability is high.

Links

To learn more: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/244521/quacks-quedlinburg

How to play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcvK6ExuISM