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Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery
Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery
2012 | Abstract Strategy, Action, Adult, Economic, Fighting
Easy to learn but a ton of fun (1 more)
Great strategy and combat
I had my eye on this game for a while before finally pulling the trigger and ordering it a few years ago. I had little faith in a game based on a tv show, but I love gladiator games and there aren't many to choose from.
The base game is 3-4 players, there are expansions that increase that, but I'm sticking with the base game for this review. Each player controls a different House, which have their own stats, abilities, and alternate objectives, with the main objective being to reach 10 influence.
The game plays basically as follows:
Upkeep phase: collect money, try to heal wounded gladiators, and reactivate slaves that were used.
Market: A number of cards are drawn and placed face down, then one card is flipped. It could be a gladiator, a slave (can earn you money and may have abilities that are useful outside the arena) or gear for your gladiators. All players choose how many coins to bid and keep them in a closed fist until everyone is ready, then everyone reveals their bid. Whoever was highest wins. You then repeat till each card is flipped. You can also put your own cards up for auction or offer trades.
the arena: after this, 2 players chosen by another player have to either fight each other, pitting a slave or gladiator against the oppents, or forfeit at the cost of Influence. Players may place bets on who will win and if the loser will be killed, or badly injured.
The game is basically 2 games in 1: outside the arena and in it.
Outside: It is primarily about making deals, lying, setting each other up, making temporary allies and backstabbing. Literally the only rule in the actual rulebook about how to go about this is: "Don't be a dick. " It actually says that, and says they mean keep it fun, don't actually try to be a spiteful douche. There is nothing directing you when to lie or be honest, if you have to keep promises, etc.
In the arena: Combat is fun and simple. Not all fighters are equal but I have seen weak ones overcome the odds. If you're a fan of the show you will recognize many names. As a quick sidenote, an expansion can turn these fights from 1 vs 1 to 2 vs 2. I've won hard fought games, and I've lost on purpose to win a bet or fulfill a deal. Your fighter may or may not die or be injured. The player who chose the participants also decides the fate of the losing fighter (if they didn't die fighting) with a thumbs up or down. The player with the losing fighter can plead for the fighters survival or bribe, or maybe the player chosing wants the losing player to owe them a favor. There is never a clear cut choice.
In conclusion: This is a favorite of mine. It is unbelievably fun making deals (whether you keep them or not) bribing, setting players against each other etc. The combat is fun and easy to learn and the other players are typically screaming at whoever they want to win if they aren't doing well (in good fun, not actual anger). I can't think of anything to not like about it. If you like the show you'll love references such as the "Jupiter's Cock" card and seeing all the characters (slaves, gladiators, and dominas). If you don't like the show, it's still a hell of a game and you don't need to watch the show to know what's going on.
Sunny St. James is twelve and getting a new heart. She was diagnosed at the age of ten with cardiomyopathy: a failing heart. That was two years ago. Sunny’s been through a lot in her short life. Her dad passed away in an accident right after she was born. When she was four, her mom, Lena, couldn’t take care of her anymore, so she gave her to her best friend, Kate. Kate and Sunny moved to Juniper Island, where Kate runs Cherry Picked Books. And recently, Sunny’s best friendship with Margot ended. But she’s getting a heart transplant, and everything is going to change now. Sunny even has a new life plan, which includes finding a new best friend and kissing some boys. So when she meets Quinn, a new girl, on the beach, it seems like all the pieces of her plan are coming together. But Quinn makes Sunny question some things—including whether she wants to kiss boys at all.

“I’m going to die today. Definitely for a few minutes and maybe forever. Kate keeps telling me no way, nohow is it going to be forever, but she isn’t the one who’s about to have her most important internal organ switched out like a new swimsuit at the start of the summer.”

Oh this book, this book. Ashley Herring Blake did it again. She is just such a wonderful, wonderful writer. I simply fell head over heels for Sunny, who stole my heart from the first pages of this beautiful book. She is strong, vulnerable, and a darling character who came to life through Blake’s lovely writing. She goes through so much in her life—and in the chapters of this book—and yet there’s so much hope and laughter. I cannot even describe it. The book opens with Sunny’s transplant and then we move on from there, as she works to implement her three-step plan:

“Step One: Do awesome amazing things I could never do before. Step Two: Find a new best friend. Step Three: Find a boy and kiss him.”

To Sunny’s twelve-year-old reasoning, it all makes perfect sense. She has a new heart, so it’s a perfect time to be a new person. In fact, with the new heart, there’s no reason to feel the things she felt before, which might have included some desires to kiss girls. When she meets Quinn on the beach—Quinn and her mom are in town for the summer, as Quinn’s mom is a nature photographer—they become fast friends. It seems like they will be on a quest to kiss boys together. But things quickly go awry (seriously – there are some hilarious comedic scenes as the two attempt to kiss some boys). This book does such an amazing job at capturing the loneliness of young gay kids. I so wish there books like this around when I was a teen. Sunny is so sweet, so real, and so raw as she works through her confusion about liking girls. This is such a wonderful and needed book for middle schoolers (and everyone)—for queer kids as they try to figure out things like Sunny and for the allies who need to support them. I wish everyone could read it. Not only does Sunny struggle with her feelings about liking girls and boys, but she must deal with the return of her long-lost mother, Lena. In another book, these two storylines might feel crowded, but Blake handles them deftly.

And it’s such a lovely story at its heart—because, truly, it’s a book about hearts and those you love and who love you. I defy you to read this book and not fall in love with Sunny St. James. She is a character who will stick with you long after you read the last page. Blake has created yet another lasting story through her magical words. I highly recommend this book. 4.5+ stars.
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    5/5 “Best graphics and as good as Call of Duty.” 5/5 “Fabulous game with breathtakingly...


Mothergamer (1326 KP) rated the PC version of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in Video Games

Apr 3, 2019  
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
2011 | Role-Playing
I know. How is it that I had never played Skyrim until now? Many of my friends asked this. The only answer I have is that I had a ton of other games I was playing at the time so I just never got around to it. With the remaster, I figured this would be a great time to play it so I got the special edition for PS4 and I was excited to start my adventure.

 Having ten different races to choose from is very cool and I decided on Wood Elf for my first play through, but for my next one I do want to play as a Khajiit (cat race) because they sound quite interesting. I was a little disappointed while creating my Wood Elf that the faces looked rather harsh and every expression looked like she was angry and ready to smash your face. It wasn't a big deal, but I wondered about the idea behind that design. Having played Elder Scrolls Online, the character design for the Elves has improved a lot, so maybe it had something to do with their design engine.
I did manage to create my character the way I liked eventually and once I was satisfied, I decided it was time for Pirotess to start her adventure (yes, I'm a Record of Lodoss War fan so I'm always Pirotess) and start exploring the world of Tamriel.

My Wood Elf Pirotess, ready for adventure!

 There is so much to see and do in Skyrim. The game itself is huge and then you add the DLCs and there's even more to do. I got the initial introduction tutorial out of the way and the set up for the main story and then I ran around picking up quests. Between the radiant quests, side quests, and guild quests you never run out of adventures. I liked the Thieves Guild quests a lot because the story line for it was interesting. The Dark Brotherhood quests were also fun to do because of the great story content. My favorite armor was the Nightingale armor which was a reward for completing the Thieves Guild story line. I also liked my Dark Brotherhood mount which I jokingly called demon horse. His name was Shadowmere however and he was cool. He would go everywhere with me and he would even fight enemies with me which I thought was fantastic.

The Nightingale armor is the best!

If you want to take a break from adventuring, you can do things like crafting or build your own house with the Hearthfire DLC. You can also get married and adopt children with Hearthfire. This was one of the things that I found showed off the beauty of the gameplay in Skyrim. You can do as much or as little of the main story quests as you want. You can just run around crafting things, do side quests, or go hunting dragons. It's entirely up to you and gives you a vast amount of freedom for exploration and discovery. For me, it made the game a lot of fun and I just enjoyed running around discovering new places.

I also loved battling all the dragons and finding all the dragon shouts for my Dragonborn character. The battles are epic and the controls handle very smoothly. I love it when a game has great game controls and good camera angles. It definitely makes fighting a huge dragon easier. I enjoyed playing with all the different dragon shouts seeing what each one did. My favorites were frost breath and dragon aspect. Because of that exploration freedom level grinding was not a chore at all. I was just having fun and enjoying the game.

Taking down a dragon.

The environments are beautiful. I would find myself stopping often just to look around the different areas I was in because they are so well done. Whether it was a forest, snowy peak, or Dwarven ruin it always looked amazing and no two places looked alike. The musical soundtrack is amazing too setting the right atmosphere for each moment in the game.
 You get followers too, but you can only have one at a time with you. Unfortunately if they die, they're dead for good unless you have the mods. I learned that the hard way with a couple of mine as they suffered from death by dragon. Most of the time, I just wandered alone because sometimes the followers would do stupid things like step on a switch and set off a trap. Once in a while I would take a follower with me just to change things up, usually a mage because they were useful for fighting dragons.

A beautiful view in Skyrim.

I enjoyed the main story in Skyrim as well. The lore was intriguing and some of the reveals about certain characters made for a great story. I also liked that a couple of the dragons were allies of a sort. I thought the dragon Paarthurnax was very cool and learning a few dragon shouts from him was fun. I was also thrilled that Pirotess got to fly on a dragon also. It was quite a sight! I finished the main story and it was a great finish to a fantastic story.

Pirotess chatting with Paarthurnax.

While the main story is finished, there's still a ton of things for me to do. I'm currently playing the Dawnguard and Dragonborn DLC as well as more side quests. I'm also enjoying crafting and building my houses with the Hearthfire DLC. For me, Skyrim is a blast to play and I love that there's always something going on and I continue to explore and have fun. There's always interesting things to see and I can't wait to play as a Khajiit for my next play through. Skyrim is a great game and I'm glad I finally got a chance to play it.
Tropico 6
Tropico 6
2018 | Simulation
I used to spend my time dreaming of what it would be like to live in a tropical paradise. No concerns in the world except for when my next umbrella drink was to arrive and how long I could nap before flipping over and beginning the whole process again. The leisurely island lifestyle seemed to be the perfect escape from the non-stop chaotic life that has become my own. Getting my hands-on Tropico 6, developer Limbic Entertainment’s latest installment of the popular city-builder series, quickly turned my peaceful dreams into a hectic, fast-paced adventure. Now instead of wondering what the difference between SPF 15 and SPF 30 in my sunblock are, I was forced to quell revolutions, ensure that my people had enough entertainment and housing, and promising improvement in healthcare…all in the hopes of getting re-elected and I loved every minute of it.

Tropico 6 takes the familiar city builder game and turns it on its head a bit. You begin your life as El Presidente with the ability to customize the look and feel of your miniature ruler. Not only dealing with his/her physical attributes, but also defining their personality type. This provides special in-game bonuses which can affect your influence with the super-powers or even the internal factions themselves. Your next option is to design what your palace will look like, everything from roof-top holographic images of yourself, to the type of wall that surrounds your palace. While these are really nothing more than decorative facades on which you will build your spanning empire, it’s these little touches where Tropico really shines.

For those who haven’t played Tropico before, there is a two-hour tutorial that takes you through not only the basics, but some of the advanced concepts as well. It introduces the player to not only specific buildings, but also some of the more in-depth features that are provided. Concepts such as firing an individual from a building and closing the opening job requisition or identifying rebels and putting down uprisings are all covered in detail here. The tutorial however barely scratches the surface as to all the things that can be done. Thankfully Tropico 6 includes fifteen story missions that take you through numerous game concepts and challenges to build upon what the tutorial has taught you.

There are essentially two ways one can play Tropico 6, there are the story missions as well as the sandbox mode. While players will likely be quick to want to jump into Sandbox mode and begin cultivating their own island, there are compelling reasons to play through the story missions first. The story missions are not truly connected to one another, and while you must complete several to unlock them all, there isn’t an order in which you need to play them. If you go in order, the game will take you through the various “Era’s” that are new to the series. Starting with Colonial times where you regularly need to appease the crown until you can raise enough revolutionaries (or money) to claim your independence. Working your way through the World Wars (which roughly cover the events between World War I and World War II), into the Cold war and finally Modern Times. Each of the Eras unlock access to specific technology and buildings, ensuring that each Era provides a unique challenge to overcoming certain obstacles. Each story mission tasks you with a specific goal and places several obstacles in your way. Everything from claiming independence in the first mission, to going after the seedy underbelly of crime and bringing down a notorious kingpin. The story missions themselves last anywhere from one to several hours, ensuring plenty of game play in each one.

Tropico 6 brings a lot of new concepts and gameplay to the series. The game now takes place on a series of islands interconnected with docks and bridges. It’s easy to focus on your main island only to forget your others, and some missions will task you with specific goals that can only be created outside the main island. It’s a good introduction to thinking on a wider scale. Additionally, you can build a pirate cove that allow you to send pirates on raids. These raids involve everything from “rescuing” educated people or stealing wonders from around the world, like the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty. A new character known simply as “The Broker” provides opportunities to raise cash for your swiss bank account. The swiss bank account is a private account for El Presidente’ and allows him to purchase items from the Broker. These can be anything from blue prints that unlock buildings at a cheaper price, or the opportunity to automatically complete a demand without having to do the grunt work behind it. Election speeches also make their return to Tropico 6, elections are held every ten years to ensure you are keeping the people in your island nation happy. Lose an election and you lose the game, fairly straight forward. One opportunity to sway your people is to craft election speeches from the four categories. These include acknowledging an issue (like entertainment or health care), praising one of the four factions that exist on Tropico, blaming a super power (Axis or Allies) for the current state of affairs and finally making a promise to address a specific issue. Be warned however, that each of these choices can hold severe consequences and note that a promise to address a concern means you’ll be focusing on that before the next election.

Each of the folks who inhabit the island are individuals. You can literally select any person walking down the street and identify who they are, how they are leaning in the upcoming election, what political party they belong to and even where they work. If someone is a political rival you can bribe them to choose your side, if a particular set of rebels are causing issues you can have them arrested or locked up in an asylum. You can even execute any individual you want; however, this will have lasting consequences. The amount of detail is staggering; however, Tropico 6 does an excellent job of allowing you to be as micro managing as you want to be. While you can certainly go in and fire individuals from the various businesses that pop up, you certainly don’t have to.

Graphically Tropico 6 is a spectacle in itself. Everything from the waves as they slowly crash upon the shoreline, to the awe-inspiring sunsets. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful city builders around. Each building is unique enough to identify it easily and each has its own unique flavor all to itself. Even with all of this, I never encountered any hiccups in performance, and load screens are pretty much left to new games. Its soundtrack has a distinctive island flair to it, and while the longer you play the more repetitive it becomes, I never felt the urge to simply mute it. In fact, I found myself humming some of the tunes while doing chores around the house…yes it can get in your head like that.

Tropico 6 does have some flaws, but nothing truly game breaking. The road construction tool, while doing it’s very best to identify the best path you wish to take, will sometimes go a bit crazy. Spaces between buildings which should allow for careful road placement will be blocked for unknown reasons, which can force you to destroy existing buildings if you haven’t planned for expansion appropriately enough. With so much to do, some of the specific tools or buildings can be a bit difficult to find, in particular once you “acquire” a world wonder it took me several attempts to locate where you can go to actually place it. Again, nothing that stops the game in it’s tracks, and certainly some things that can easily be patched in later releases of the game.

Tropico 6 is all about freedom, the freedom to rule your tiny island kingdom the way you want. Well… at least the way you want as long as you can appease the numerous factions and ensure you get re-elected in the next general elections. You are free to do as much or as little as you want, and you are free to dig in as deep as any city builder type game allows you to go. The included stories ensure that you have at least 40-50 hours of defined content, but it’s the limitless playability of the sandbox setting where the game truly shines. The game isn’t perfect, but it’s about as close as city-builder games can get these days. It’s mix of humor, city management, and that one-more turn itch will keep you playing long after you told yourself you should go to bed. Long live El Presidente’! Viva Tropico!

What I liked: Variety of Story Missions, Excellent Tutorial, Amazing visuals

What I liked less: Road tool seems a bit finicky, some items are difficult to locate
Starlight Stage
Starlight Stage
2014 | Card Game
Your talent agency is failing. All you have available are rookies looking for their big breaks. However, they will take almost any work you can give them, and they can use their experience to reinvent themselves to bring greater visibility to your agency and greater star power for themselves. Do you have what it takes to show them their true potential and set them up for success? Or will your skills in talent management sink your ship before leaving the harbor? Let’s find out.

DISCLAIMER: I do not intend to cover every single rule included in the rule book, but will describe the overall game flow and major rule set so that our readers may get a sense of how the game plays. For more in depth rules, you may purchase a copy from the publisher directly or from your FLGS. -T

Starlight Stage is a deck building, card drafting, and set collection game with a very unique theme and art style. As with all deck builders, players start with a hand of beginner cards. In this case, all players are dealt the same hand of starter idol, model, and actress cards. These are collectively called “Idols,” which is confusing, but I will address that in my summary. Essentially, each different type of idol provides you with a different type of currency/energy/power/resource to use when buying or drafting newer, more powerful cards.

On your turn you MAY flip over a card from one of the three decks available – Idol, Fame, or Event cards. Then you play cards from your hand in order to acquire more cards from the offer rows. Typically, you may only use one idol card per purchase, unless you are purchasing an Event card – you may send more than one idol to an Event. If there are no cards that you want, or that you can afford to purchase, you may “take a lesson,” by grabbing a resource token.

Tired of using just the starter idol cards all the time? Idols may reinvent themselves to become stronger. You do this by exchanging your starter (or upgraded) idol card and adding supporting cards and tokens to purchase a stronger idol card. These will typically provide more currency used to purchase more and better cards from the offer rows as well as providing more end game VPs. Example (shown below): exchange your starting Model idol card (blue diamond) plus several other supporting cards and tokens to transform your current Model into Super Idol Saori Tenkawa, who now provides you with one of each resource each time she is played.

Play continues until the Fame deck runs out, and points from cards are tallied to determine the winner.

Components: This game is a ton of cards and some resource tokens. The cards are great quality and will hold up well to repeated use, but super fans of the game may want to sleeve them, as the cards will be handled quite a bit. The tokens are typical cardboard chits and feature the diamond, heart, or music note symbols that are used throughout the game. Overall, production quality is pretty good.

So here’s the rub. When I pulled this out to play with Josh and Laura, we were immediately impacted by the art on the cards. When I started to explain the game mechanics and flow, Laura just COULD NOT contain her giggles as I tried to tactfully cover how to make your girls do jobs and attend events so that they can later upgrade themselves. I have to admit, the theme is not one I am accustomed to nor one that I can really get behind. I understand I come from a different culture background than that which is depicted in this game, but the theme is a definite detraction for us. Similarly, the art on the cards ranges from cute and uniquely anime to outright demeaning and near softcore hentai (there is no real NSFW artwork on the cards, but I certainly will not be playing this with my son until he’s at least 18). The idea of employing only young females and assigning them to different jobs to gain more fame or sending them to photo shoot events in skimpy clothing is just not very PC and not very 21st Century American. Again, I cannot stress enough that I do understand where this game comes from and the intended audience, but that intended audience is certainly not a group of highly inclusive, mostly minority, LGBTQIA member and allies, gender equal, 30-something board game enthusiasts and reviewers.

That said, the game itself can provide an interesting play session, but I highly recommend only playing with a specific group of people that you know will tolerate its suggestive art and overtones. For us at Purple Phoenix Games, we suggest Starlight Stage consider reinventing itself with a different theme. Also, I think some alternate terminology could be used for the Idol deck of cards that contain Idol, Model, and Actress cards. A minor quip, but it should be stated. Perhaps with some “Americanizing,” or at least having it be more PC, it would then overcome its 6/18 score and be invited to Hollywood with Simon Cowell.
2014 | Bluff, Card Game, City Building, Civilization, Fantasy
One of the best parts of the board gaming experience is finding a fun group of people with whom to play! Sometimes, though, coordinating a game night is easier said than done. We all must occasionally forego the group experience and face the world as the Lonely Only. But fear not! The world of solo-play is a vast and exciting realm! What follows is a chronicle of my journey into the solo-playing world – notes on gameplay, mechanics, rules, difficulty, and overall experience with solo variations of commonly multiplayer games! I hope this will provide some insight as you continue to grow your collection, or explore your already owned games!

Power. That’s what everyone wants, isn’t it? Well, at least it is in Viceroy! As an inhabitant of the world of Laar, you are fighting to become the ultimate ruler. Recruit allies who provide strategic advantages and enact laws that solidify your claim for power. Do you have what it takes to build and maintain a powerful kingdom, or will your attempts fall short?

DISCLAIMER: There is an expansion to this game, but we are not reviewing it at this time. Should we review it in the future we will either update this review or post a link to the new material here. -T

Viceroy, a game of card drafting and tile placement, is played over 12 turns in which players build a pyramid with their cards – paying to place each card and collecting rewards based upon which level of the pyramid a card is placed. Each turn is divided into two phases: Auction and Development. During the Auction Phase, players bid gemstones to buy a card from the auction line. Once every player has either collected 1 card from auction or passed, play moves to the Development Phase. During the Development Phase, players can either play a card into their pyramid, pass, or discard a card and take 2 gemstones from the reserve. To play a Law card into your pyramid, you place it for free. To play a Character card into your pyramid, you have to pay for it with gems. The cost is dependent upon which level of the pyramid the card is to be placed. You must pay for the level the card will sit on, as well as pay the cost for every level beneath it. For example, to add a card to the third level of the pyramid, you must pay the cost for the 3rd level, AND 2nd level, AND 1st level. The rewards gained from adding a card to the pyramid, however, are taken only for the level on which the card sits. In the earlier example, you would only get the reward for the third level alone, since that is the level on which the card sits. The Development Phase is played over 3 rounds, so a player could play up to 3 cards into their pyramid during 1 Development Phase. After the 3 rounds are up, the next turn begins again in the Auction Phase. When all cards are gone from the Auction Deck, the game ends. Players count up all of their Power Points, and the player with the highest Power value wins!

The only change in Viceroy between a group and solo game is during the Auction Phase. Obviously, if you are playing solo, there is nobody to bid against for cards. How that is alleviated is that you still bid your gemstone as normal, and you randomly draw an unused gemstone from the box as an AI bid. If the colors match, you lose your gem and go on to the next auction. If the colors do not match, you collect your choice card, and the card the AI would have collected gets discarded. If the AI color does not match an available card, you just discard one of the remaining cards. This mimics group play in the sense that you might not always get the card you want from auction! The Development Phase is played as normal. At the end of the game, count points as normal and try to beat your own high score.

Viceroy is a neat game. Every card has so many options that there is no one single strategy that is a sure-win every time. Maybe one game I’ll go for Magic tokens. And maybe the next I’ll try to go for raw Power Point tokens. The possibilities really are endless, and that keeps this game fresh for me. I don’t feel like I’m just going through the motions because every card will act differently depending on where it is played. Strategy really is everything here. On the flip-side of that, however, is that sometimes the options can be a little overwhelming. With so many possibilities for each card, it can get hard for me to decide on what strategy I really want to use. It should also be noted that a card can only be played onto a level if it can sit on exactly 2 cards on the level beneath it. So sometimes I buy a card to play on a certain level only to get to the Development Phase and realize I don’t have a legal place to which I can play it. So do I sacrifice other cards/gemstones to build a slot for this one card, or do I play it to a different level and change my strategy a bit? There’s a little bit of a learning curve, but the more I play, the better I get (or at least, the better I think I get).

Another grievance with Viceroy is that I find myself running out of cards in my hand a lot. The only opportunity to draw cards is if you play a card into your pyramid that allows you to do so. And since I’m usually focused on other strategic routes, I don’t use those cards for those purposes. So then I play all of the cards in my hand (leaving me empty-handed), get 1 card at the next auction, play it, and am again left with no cards in my hand. To fix this issue, I wish one of the actions you could take during the Development Phase was to draw 1 card. I’m not sure if other people have this issue, or if it’s just me, but it’s a problem I run into almost every game.

Overall, I think Viceroy is a good game. It’s unique in the sense that there are so many possibilities that you’ll probably never play the same game twice, even if you decide to play by the same strategy. The mechanics and gameplay are cool too – it’s fun to watch your pyramid literally grow in front of you as the game progresses. This game takes a little more focus and thought than you might think, so it’s not one I’d necessarily just pull out for some light fun. I think Viceroy is as exciting as a solo game as it is as a group game since there really aren’t any differences between the two settings. If you like Viceroy, give it a try solo! If you’ve never played Viceroy, try it either solo or in a group – it’s the same game after all!
    Galaxy Wars:Empire

    Galaxy Wars:Empire

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    In the year 2503, humanity exhausted Earth's resources. In desperation, humanity sent their colonial...

Robin Hood: Hero of the People
Robin Hood: Hero of the People
2019 | Adventure, Card Game, Fighting, Medieval
“Yer a hero, Travis!” … said no Hagrid to me ever in my life. However, I do enjoy playing heroes in my board games. As Robin Hood you live by few rules: rob from the rich, give to the poor, and save your fellow Merry Men. That dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham is out to foil and jail you and your crew. Can you use your skills to rob enough from the rich, recruit your fellows, and keep your bounty on your head low enough to win the game? Such is your plight in this one-player game from first-time designer, Rodney Owen.

Disclaimer: This review is for a Kickstarter preview. We are not being paid for this preview, but we were sent the game from the designer. Components and rules may be changed before the product and project is finished. -T

As this game is not yet in full production, I will paraphrase the rulebook here for you so you can get an idea of how the game plays. Then I will give my opinions on this little card game.

Robin Hood: Hero of the People is a one-player card game that is played over three phases. To win the game you must have all Merry Men and Maid Marian recruited and active, while the bounty on your head is less than 500. You lose by seeing the bounty at or above 1,000 or by playing through the entire deck of Story Cards without winning. You may set the difficulty level by choosing how much you would like the bounty to start at before you begin play (100, 200, or 300). The rulebook instructs you how to setup the game using several piles of cards to create the play area. Deal yourself three Loot (skill) cards and the game is on!

The first phase of the game is Robbing from the Rich. During this phase you draw three (or more depending on other cards currently in play) Loot cards from the big deck. These cards consist of different skills to use later – like Archery, Strength, Swords, etc. You will also find Gold and Influence cards. These Loot cards are needed to recruit Maid Marian and all the Merry Men, as well as used for negating powerful negative Story Card effects in the third phase of the game. Once you have drawn your Loot cards, you may play up to three of them into your Inventory in front of you (unless a card instructs you otherwise). Only your cards in the Inventory will be used to recruit and rescue Merry Men, or be affected by Story Cards.

You have placed your skills and bargaining cards in the Inventory. It is now time to use them to recruit your Merry Men! The second phase is the Actions phase. You have several options of actions to take on your turn, but you may only take one action. One option is to recruit Merry Men characters. Each character card begins the game face-down in a grid. The card backs show the recruitment costs (paid in skills) for each. They all have different skill cost combinations on each back so you must choose your Inventory cards carefully in the first phase. During the game some characters may become jailed through the Story Cards. Also on the backs of the character cards are the costs to rescue your friends from jail, and the costs are different than the recruitment costs. This throws a wrench into your plans as you are trying to recruit and protect all your Merry Men, just to have them thrown in jail and made unavailable to you. Curse you, Sheriff of Nottingham!

Also during this phase, in addition to recruiting and rescuing your allies, you may purchase King Richard cards, Sherwood Forest cards, or decrease your bounty. King Richard cards are very very costly (requiring up to nine skills to purchase!) but also very powerful and very helpful to your cause. There are three of these in the game and when you have used one you must discard it out of the game. Do you have an abundance of skills and Loot cards to use? Would you like to protect your Merry Men from becoming jailed? Well during this phase you may also purchase Sherwood Forest cards to begin building a hideout. It costs two Strength skills, but once you have acquired all six Sherwood Forest cards, most of the Merry Men are protected from being jailed. Huzzah! The final option you have in this phase is spending any three Loot cards from your Inventory to reduce your bounty by 100.

The third and final phase is the Story Card phase. During setup you are instructed to separate this deck into two piles, shuffle them independently, and place the Story Cards in set one on top of the story cards in set two. Set one cards are annoyances that can bleed you of skill cards or raise the bounty on your head. Annoying! The cards in set two are far worse, as they will jail your unprotected Merry Men and set you back further from victory… also whilst raising your bounty. Super annoying!! Curse you again, Sheriff!!

If no win or lose conditions have been met at this time, you will return to the first phase with this additional rule: switch your active character (you start the game with Robin Hood) with another character you have recruited in the grid. Each character has a different special ability to be used on your next turn as well as a different set of skills printed on the face that you may use as discounts for recruitment, rescues, and purchasing of King Richard and Sherwood Forest cards. Example: Much the Miller shows 1x Sword and 1x Strength. You can use his skills as a discount to purchase a Sherwood Forest card by spending just one Strength card from your Inventory. Time to stick it to the Sheriff!

So how does it all shake down? Overall I say the game is really good. It is unfinished, and has not yet made it to Kickstarter, and I suspect that has something to do with any drawbacks I have experienced. Upon reading the provided rulebook and attempting Game 1, I had several rules questions. Rodney was quick to provide answers and it made the game so much more playable and enjoyable. Since it is a solo game only, every decision you make directly impacts how the game is played (duh, right?). There’s nobody else to mess with your plans, nor help them succeed. There’s no AI or ghost player. Just you versus the game. I have played this many times now on different difficulty levels and have won and lost on each. It would seem balanced, however…

There are a few strategies I attempted to use on my different plays to see how they might add to the complexity and change the results. I noticed that I won more when I completely ignored Sherwood Forest and King Richard’s cards. Yes, one of the King Richard cards reduces the bounty by quite a bit, and that’s just in one turn, but the cost is so mighty that I rarely found them enticing enough to pull the trigger. Same goes for Sherwood Forest. Though the cards cost a paltry two Strength, I found that I needed those Strength cards to recruit or rescue my Men and could not justify spending two per card (and six total cards to build the hideout) for that protection. Your play style may vary, and I am itching to play again to try new things out. Maybe I’m wrong about Sherwood Forest. I think that’s a really great trait for a game – to have its players thinking about different strategies while not playing, and just waiting for when they can play again.

I have to say, I am very excited to see this go to Kickstarter, and to learn what Rodney has in mind for improvements to the components, or rule tweaks, and the almighty stretch goals. I might be backing this one, even though I have a great working version of it now…
Circus Galacticus
Deva Fagan | 2011
8.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
Have you ever wanted to run away and join the circus? How about a galaxy-traveling circus complete with your very own Doctor Who-like Ringmaster and spaceship? Sounds pretty awesome, right? While you sadly may not be able to do that in real life, Deva Fagan's Circus Galacticus takes the reader on a voyage through the stars. Okay, so maybe reading instead of experiencing those adventures isn't quite as fun, but it's still a grand ride to hop on while I impatiently wait for my very own Doctor to show up and whisk me away to galaxies unknown and unimagined.

Meet the Earther Beatrix "Trix" Ling: miserable, friendless orphan, you know, the usual. On the surface that is. Seriously unhappy at her boarding school, she often gets into trouble due to the fact she's quick to rile and doesn't think things through before acting or speaking. After a few weird events happen to Trix, such as some strange dude breaking into her room and her hair deciding it'd like to be a cotton candy pink, the Circus Galacticus comes to town promising her some answers. Here is where the journey for Trix and the reader begins. Aliens and gadgets abound, as do allies with their own special Tinker power and enemies trying to suppress that power, a spaceship that's alive with many mysterious corridors, and too much to even begin to cover, and really, they'd be better serviced by reading the book instead of this review. This book is like Doctor Who, The X-Men, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory all tossed into a blender to make one scrump-diddly-umptous concoction. Smoothly written, the book moves at a swift pace as Trix struggles to find somewhere she belongs, make and keep friends, and to believe she deserves it. I don't believe there's a person out there that hasn't felt like an outsider at one time or another, though some more-so than others perhaps, and while Trix may make mistakes and may not always follow rules, that only makes her all the more full-bodied as a character. Except a little with the Ringmaster and the circus tent spaceship, Big Top (as much a character as anyone, if not more), the others aren't delved into as much but they each add their own quirks to make the book well-rounded.

And while I'd heartily recommend Circus Galacticus with no reservations, it isn't a perfect book by any means. Trix's age is never mentioned and at one time she describes the others as her age or a few years older. Umm, okay, I don't even know how old you are, chica, so how am I supposed to know how old everyone else is? At first, I surmised she was somewhere between 12-16 until unneeded curse words popped up, so she's probably a teenager. I finally found out how old Trix was by going to the author's site. She's 15. Call me odd, but I like to know the main character's age. The book could also have stood to have a little more meat on its bones, even as little as fifty pages tacked on. This was like a sampler platter and I wanted a full-course meal. With dessert. So many questions were left unanswered and it is just begging for a sequel to explore these more fully. And as I said before, the curse words really added absolutely nothing to the context of the scenes they were in. Other words could have been substituted easily and been more fitting. Sure there weren't many, but this is intended for middle-grade students and except for the cursing, it's good, clean fun. I'm not naive enough to think that children don't come across foul language from many sources, and even use it themselves, but that doesn't mean that books tailored for their age range should include them either.

However, I had a blast travelling through space with the crew of the Big Top. If there is a sequel, and I truly hope there is, you can be sure I'll be there for the next adventure of Circus Galacticus.

If interested, the author has up illustrations of the main characters: