Tag Archives: boardgame

Game Review : Dixit

Something completely different, Dixit is less of a competitive game than a strange and beautiful exercise in creative thought.

Dixit consists of 84 large, high quality cards, each with an unique and somewhat abstract piece of art. The game is easier to play than to explain, but it works like this:

Players all have 6 cards. Each turn one player becomes the storyteller, the storyteller picks one of their cards and describes it briefly without showing the other players. The other players then pick one of their own cards that best match the storytellers description. All the chosen cards, including the storyteller’s, are shuffled facedown and then arranged face-up on the table.
A selection of Dixit cards
With the cards revealed, players (except the storyteller) secretly choose which card they believe to be the one the storyteller originally described.

Players get points for picking the correct card, and a bonus point if another player selected the card that they added to the table. The storyteller gets points if at least one player selected their card, but if all players managed to get the right answer then the storyteller was obviously too specific in their description and gets nothing. Likewise, the storyteller is penalised if their description was so vague that nobody got the right answer.

The game encourages lots of interaction and conversation, as each player tries to describe their card using indirect and oblique references that they hope will go over the heads of most players but not all. The art is fantastic and the game is imaginative, easy, and fun.

Highly recommended.

Game Review – RoboRally

RoboRally Box ArtRichard Garfield is justly (in)famous for creating Magic:The Gathering, a game so nerdy that groups have to meet in secret less a roving chess team find them and beat them up. But before that, Garfield made RoboRally – a game that makes Magic:The Gathering players look like cage fighters.

RoboRally is exactly want it sounds like; each player has a robot which they guide around a factory floor. The object is to win the race by touching numbered flags placed in strategic locations in turn – the first robot to touch the last flag wins.

Each turn players are dealt 9 program cards each specifying a simple instruction (“turn 90° clockwise”, or “move forward 2 squares”, etc). Before any of the robots move, players place 5 cards face down in front of them in “registers” and discard any cards left over. Then each player reveals the card in register 1 and moves their robot on the board accordingly. Then register 2 is revealed, and so on.

But things aren’t so simple. In addition to avoiding the other robots, the factory floor itself is littered with obstacles. There are conveyor belts that carry any robot on top of them, walls that block movement and worst of all, lasers. Each robot also carries a laser, so damage is inevitable. Damaged robots first receive less cards at the beginning of the turn. The damage quickly accumulates to a point where the registers themselves become faulty, locking a movement card in place for multiple turns.

Because you effectively program in 5 movements ahead of time a certain amount of forethought is required. Forethought that might go to waste, because other robots can interfere with your carefully laid plans. You never quite get the cards dealt to you that you need, and once the damage starts to bite your robot with be careening all over the board.

RoboRally board, showing positions part way through a game
RoboRally scales really well and is actually better with more players, so long as you don’t mind a certain amount of chaos. It sounds complex but the rules are very clear and each turn takes only a few minutes. It is certainly not a game of deep strategy as any plans you make will collapse hilariously, but it is not totally random either.

Fast paced, humorous, and nice to look at. Highly recommended.

Game Review : Fury of Dracula

Some time after the events of the eponymous novel Dracula returns, and he is furious! No longer content to lurk in London, the count spreads his evil throughout Europe, pursued by 4 hunters hot on his trail.

Fury of Dracula figures

Fury of Dracula is an odd board game that reminds me a lot of the old Scotland Yard game familiar to anybody that grew up the the 80s. One player takes the role of Dracula – their goal is to stay alive for long enough to see their nefarious plans come to fruition. All the remaining players take the roles of one or more hunters determined to bring Dracula down for good (there are always 4 hunters so a given player may be playing more than one – we only had 2 players so one person played all 4 hunters.) Each turn the players move around a stylised map of 19th century Europe, the hunters move openly on the board but Dracula’s position is hidden from the other players.

Feed Card from Fury of Dracula

Dracula moves by placing location cards face down on a track, leaving a trail of old locations behind, each one possibly containing a surprise that the count has prepared to harry his pursuers. If one of the hunters stumbles across the trail, the surprise is revealed – usually some sort of combat ensues (Dracula has allies) or something else bad. On the bright side, at least the hunter knows they are on the right track.

If Dracula manages to leave a long enough trail, the oldest card drops off and the encounter “matures”, often helping Dracula come closer to his goal. It is in the hunter’s interests to keep on Dracula’s coat tails once they see any sign of him.

Once the hunters have found Dracula, they can engage him in combat to weaken or hopefully kill him using any of the items they may have picked up on their journey. However Dracula has terrifying powers and combat is dangerous, 3 out of every 6 turns occur at night when Dracula is especially powerful! Timing is everything when trying to kill a vampire.

Fury of Dracula is an enjoyable romp with excellent atmosphere – Dracula is outnumbered and constantly on the run during daylight hours, but may brave a frontal assault during the nighttimes. Combat is done with dice and cards, and works very well once you figure it out. Dracula starts off with a large advantage, but this slowly wears away as the hunters gather items to use against him. The game seems fairly well balanced overall, although in our game Dracula went down early under the weight of a series of terrible dice rolls (or that is my excuse anyway.)

The main flaw of the game is it’s complexity. There are 5 different decks to take care of, and a plethora of counters and tokens. I can’t say I didn’t get my money’s worth, but there is an awful lot of stuff to keep track of. Many of the rules have odd exceptions that apply only at certain times or to certain characters, exceptions that are only found scattered around the rule book not on the cards themselves. The rule book is pretty good, but the rules do not lend themselves to easy explanation – this is not the kind of game you just pull out and play.

Having said that, Fury of Dracula is a fun game assuming that you want to put the effort to learn something new.

Game Review : Light Speed

A lone asteroid tumbles slowly through the inky vastness of darkness of deep space, as it has for millions of years. Suddenly a ship winks into existence just a couple of hundred metres away – emerging from hyperspace in a purple flash. Milliseconds later it is joined by another, and another, completely surrounding the lonely rock. The Empire has sent a fleet to liberate the rare ores that are urgently need for the war effort. But the purple bursts have been interspersed with bright blue flares – the Federation has also sent a fleet. Lasers flare, this will all be over in seconds…

Light Speed describes itself as a real-time space combat table top game – sounds impossible but this simple little game manages to fit a lot into a very small package. Each player (up to 4) starts with a deck of cards, each representing a particular class of ship. Each ship has a number of lasers, a hull rating (life points), a speed rating and possibly some shielding to protect it. The battle begins by all players drawing a ship from their deck and placing it on the table in a hopefully advantageous position where its lasers will do the most damage to either the asteroid or to an opposing ship. Once a ship has been played it cannot be moved. Once a player has placed a ship they can draw and place another one as quickly as they like without waiting – the game ends when the first player has warped in his entire fleet so everyone needs to be paying attention. If a player still has cards in hand the un-played ships do not take part in the battle.

Once the ships have popped out of hyperspace (this takes about 30 seconds), a huge battle commences. This constitutes the scoring and takes a lot longer than actually playing the game. The smaller, speedier ships fire their lasers first but tend to have less powerful weapons and little shielding. The more powerful ships have massive armament and are well protected, but only get to shoot at the end of the battle meaning that they might already be fatally damaged before firing a shot. Space battles are not for the careless, friendly fire is a distinct possibility. Players get points for destroying enemy ships and mining ore from the asteroid (with the multipurpose lasers).

Light Speed is well named, being both light and speedy. The rules are simple and the play fast-paced. Even the scoring, a purely mechanical process, is quite fun as the battle turns on a few well placed (or misplaced) cards. There is certainly an element of luck, but quick thinking and cunning rules the day with plenty of opportunity for table talk.

Highly recommended, especially since it only costs US$5.00!

Game Review : Citadels

Citadels is an easy but fun card game where the players compete to construct the most impressive city by amassing wealth to spend building various districts (docks, university, cathedrals, etc). The game ends when a player plays an eighth district then everyone’s city is scored (and certain bonuses added) to determine the winner. Simple.

Or not so simple. There are 8 role cards, each player will get one of these each turn which will enable certain actions. For instance, the Magician role can swap hands with another player, the Architect can build more in a turn, the King gets first choice of roles for next turn, etc. Because there are more roles than players and the roles are chosen secretly in turn, the way to win lies in choosing the correct role at the correct time. Some of the more expensive districts also confer additional bonuses apart for score such as more money or protection from certain attacks so thinking several turns ahead is required.

Citadels can be quite a sneaky game – many of the roles allow you to ruin your opponents plans by stealing cards or money, or even destroying their hard won districts from under them. But it is hard to get an unassailable lead and the way the roles work means that no player can really feel ganged-up on. It is also one of the few games I have played that actually works better as a 4 or 5 player game (haven’t tried 6 or more) without leaving some players in an unwinnable position.

The game itself is attractive and the cards are well designed. The one flaw is that the role cards get constantly handled and can get bent or scuffed up, which is a problem since they are supposed to remain identical to maintain the secrecy required. The basic game is flexible, the official website has a whole bunch of alternate rules to turn it into a children’s party game or a drinking game (although hopefully not at the same time). With 4 or 5 players the game takes about an hour to play.

Highly recommended.