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2020 | Science Fiction
You know those fantasy dreams you have where an alien race comes to Earth and tries to take over the world and terraform it to match their homeland? Just me? Well, this is awkward. Okay, how about the ones where you are a freedom fighter trying to save the world from those aliens and you only have three friends to help you in your impossible mission? That one is better? Okay! Then you are in for a treat with Faza, no matter which dream is yours.

Faza is a sci-fi, grid movement, modular board, purely cooperative board game for one to four players. In this review I will be addressing it from a solo player’s viewpoint. In my plays I have used the full complement of four characters and controlled them all simultaneously.

In Faza, players take on the roles of four Faction Zeta members tasked with saving Earth from the Faza alien race. They will accomplish this by using each character’s skills effectively and efficiently, killing alien drones invading the town tiles, and attacking motherships using the help of turncoat rebel Faza. Only one path to victory lies ahead with several ways to lose. Do you got the GUTS? DO YA??

DISCLAIMER: We were provided a copy of this game for the purposes of this review. This is a retail copy of the game, so what you see in these photos is exactly what would be received in your box. I do not intend to cover every single rule included in the rulebook, 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 online or from your FLGS. -T

To setup a game of Faza, each player will choose a character to control throughout the game. These characters are medical, political, tactical, or technological in nature, and there are two of each from which players may choose. The map of the town is comprised of 16 tiles, and once randomly setup in a 4×4 grid players will place their color-matched meeples on the appropriate Outpost tiles along with two rebels (purple fazeeples). Each of the three mothership standees will be placed on tiles corresponding to rulebook placement along with three drones and two drones per orthogonally adjacent tiles. The Faza deck is to be shuffled and placed aside, along with the remaining drones and rebels. Each player places out their character action cards in numerical order and the game may now begin in earnest!
On a player’s turn… well, there aren’t any turns in this game. In fact, the game is played over several phases: the Team Phase and the Faza Phase. During the Team Phase players may use several free actions and one action pertaining to each of their four player action cards. Each of these cards offer the player a choice of two actions. Perhaps one side is movement and the other a bazooka. Or one is an airplane while the other is a raygun, for example. As actions are spent cards are twisted 90 degrees to keep track.

During the Team Phase players may play their actions in any order that would benefit the team best. This also includes fighting drones and sending rebels to damage the motherships. However, with every damage to the mothership taken a Faza card is drawn and put into play. These could be real bad news for the heroes, or even reward cards. They can be devastating or not so bad at all. Once players have finished the Team Phase, the action now turns to the Faza.

During the Faza Phase the Mothership Activation Tracker will move to the next mothership in sequence and activate their abilities. The motherships will typically move, do something bad to the terrain or drop more drones or destroy something, and then pass play onto the players again.

Each mothership starts the game with 4 HP and once players send enough rebels and encounter the same number of Faza cards the mothership is downed and less powerful when their ability card is activated. However, players will win once all three motherships have been defeated! On the other hand, players will lose when any one player dies of injuries from unsuccessful battles, the players run out of drones to be placed on the board when needed, all of the Outpost tiles have been terraformed by the Faza motherships, or all rebels have been removed from the board in Hard Mode.
Components. When contacted about reviewing the game I first turned to the website and watched a how to play video by Jon Gets Games. He did a great job explaining the rules clearly and succinctly. Then I happened to get a notification on BGG that Marco Arnaudo posted a video on Faza, so I watched it as well. In his video he complains that though the components are all very nice (which they are for sure) the color palette is not great. I can certainly see why he would say such a thing, but orange is my favorite color, so to see so much of it on a game is a big plus for me. Yes, having the orange drones sitting atop an orange town tile can maybe make for unpleasant color contrast, I happen to find it tolerable and enjoyable. The quality of the components is wonderful and the box has a nice heft to it. No complaints from ME about the components. Did I mention the rebels are an amazing purple color as well? No secret here that we love the color purple! Maybe even more than Oprah!

The gameplay is where it’s at for me. Marco too. We both love this little gem! The ability to sandbox your entire turn and just have one character do one action, then switch over to another character to do one or more actions, then back to the original is just so much fun. Each character has a special ability and four action cards. Even when an injury must be sustained, actions are still available, but at a much lesser potency. That’s a great way to negatively affect the players without having to completely debilitate them. To sustain an injury the player will flip their lowest-numbered action card to the back side, and once all four of their action cards are injured they are dead. D-E-D dead.

As a solo game Faza really delivers the goods. Being able to control two to four characters by oneself and determine the best order to activate abilities and move meeples around is delicious. Having certain tiles offer combat bonuses to matching characters is excellent and a great way to thin the herd of pesky drones. I really cannot say enough great things about the game. If you have never heard of this one, please don’t worry. I really hadn’t either until the designer contacted me about reviewing it. And I am certainly glad he did because this is a marvel of a game. I am looking forward to my next play against the Faza and increasing the difficulty to really bash my confidence on this one.

If you are looking for a game that is relatively quick to play and offers so many great choices, while using a wonderful art style and color palette, I urge you to check out Faza by visiting the website and ordering your copy right away. The Earth needs you to ward off the invaders and you need to play this game of mostly orange with a dash of purple.
The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins | 2014 | Young Adult (YA)
8.4 (279 Ratings)
Book Rating
The Hunger Games is a trilogy of YA dystopian novels written by American author Suzanne Collins. The story is set in an unspecified future, in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic nation of Panem located in North America. The country consists of the Wealthy Capital surrounded by the twelve (Originally thirteen) poorer districts, each one in various states of poverty. The story follows Katniss Everdeen as she takes her sisters place in the annual Hunger Games. The games are a televised event created as punishment for a past rebellion. Over the course of the books Katniss and the rest of Panem are plunged into Civil War thanks to Katniss inadvertently fuelling a hidden rebel fraction led by President Alma Coin of (the previously thought to be destroyed) District 13. After going through hell, loosing friends and the sister she tried to protect Katniss is eventually tried for killing Coin at the execution of Ex-President Snow and sent back to District 12. Katniss eventually marries fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (whom she was tied to during the games as the pair of star-crossed lovers) and eventually have two children a boy and a girl. Author Suzanne Collins stated that the inspiration for the story came to her after channel surfing through TV channels, having seen a reality show on one channel then saw footage of the Iraq invasion. The two began to blur in an unsettling way and the idea started to form. The Greek myth of Theseus also served as a basis for the story, with Collins saying that Katniss could be called a future Theseus and The Hunger Games being an interpretation of the old gladiatorial games.

The Hunger Games the titular book was released on September 14th 2008 under the publishing house Scholastic Press. The book had an initial print run of 50,00 copies eventually being bumped up twice to 200,000 copies. By February 2010 the book had sold 800,000 copies and rights to the novel have been sold in 38 territories. In November 2008 The Hunger Games was placed on the New York Times best seller list where it would remain for 100 weeks (just over three months). By the time the books film adaption released in march 2012 the book had been on USA Today's best seller list for 135 weeks (Four months) and sold over 17.5 million copies. The book received several awards and honours such as Publishers Weekley's “Best book of the year 2008”, the New York Times “Notable children's book 2008” and was the 2009 young adult fiction category winner of the Golden Duck award. The book also received the California Young Reader medal in 2011.

Catching Fire, the second book was published on September 1st 2009 under Scholastic. As the sequel to the Hunger Games book it continues the story of Katniss Everdeen and the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem as rebellion begins. The book received mixed reviews but was placed on Time Magazines Top 100 fiction list of 2009. Catching fire had an initial print of 350,00 copies but was (Like its predecessor) had grown to 750,00 by February 2010. The book has sold over 10 million copies.

Mocking-jay the third and final book in the Hunger Games Trilogy and was published August 24th 2010 by Scholastic. The book had a 1.2 million copy print that was bumped up from 750,000 copies and in its first week sold over 450,00 copies. Reviews were favourable with the book and notes that it thoroughly explores the themes of the other books.

I really love the books and regularly read them. Whenever I do read them I tend to read all three of them in the space of a week. To be fair whilst I had heard of them before the first movie release I didn't start reading them until I'd seen the first movie. I did read Catching Fire and Mockingjay before their movie equivalents hit the screens. Whilst The Hunger Games was a brilliant opener and Mockingjay was a brilliant ender, I agree with a few reviewers that Catching fire had a delayed start and it took a bit of time to get into the action of the story at large.

Suzanne Collins was born in Hartford Connecticut on the 10th of August 1962 as the youngest fourth child to Jane Bradley Collins and Lt. Col. Michael Jon Collins a decorated U. S. Air Force officer. As a daughter of a military man she was constantly moving with her family and spent her childhood in the eastern united states. Collins went to the Alabama school of fine arts in Birmingham 1980 as a theatre arts Major. Collins went on to complete a Bachelor of arts from Indiana University in 1985 and telecommunications and in 1989 Collins earned her M. F. A. in dramatic writing from NYU Tisch school of arts. Collins began her career in 1991 as a writer for children's television shows and won a nomination in animation for co-writing the critically acclaimed Christmas special Santa, Baby!. Collins after meeting James Proimos whilst working on a children's show felt the urge to write children's books and spent the early 2000's writing five books of the Underland Chronicles; Gregor the Overlander, Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane, Gregor and the curse of the Warmbloods, Gregor and the Marks of Secret and Gregor and the Code of Claw. The influence for those books came from Alice in Wonderland. During the late 2000's she ends up writing the Hunger Games trilogy which went onto a famous movie trilogy. As the result of the hunger games trilogy popularity Collins was named one of Times Magazine's most Influential people of 2010. On June 17th 2019 Collins announced she was writing a prequel to the Hunger Games and is scheduled to be released on 19th May 2020, the book is to focus on the failed rebellion 64 years before the Hunger Games trilogy.

I highly respect the Author Suzanne Collins for both her work as a writer of Children's media and for her creativity in creating both the Hunger Games and the Underland Chronicles. Her creativity has been awarded with her books popularity and being announced amongst Time Magazine's 2010's most influential people and Amazons best selling Kindle author in 2012.

In March 2009 Lions Gate Entertainment entered into a co-production agreement with Nina Jacobson's Production company Color Force for the Hunger Games. Novel writer Suzanne Collins adapted the book in collaboration with screenwriter Billy Ray and Director Gary Ross. Actors Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutchinson and Liam Hemsworth were hired for the roles of Katniss, Peeta and Gale respectively. Lawrence was four years older than Katniss was in the books but Collins said she would rather the actress be older than the character since it demanded a certain maturity and power. Collins also liked Lawrence stating she was the “only one who truly captured the character I wrote in the book”. The Hunger Games Movie was released on march 23rd 2012. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was released on November 22nd 2013 with Francis Lawrence being hired as Director and actors Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jena Malone and Sam Claflin being hired as Plutarch Heavensbee, Johanna Mason and Finneck Odair respectively. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay was split into 2 and Part 1 was released on November 21st 2014 and part 2 on November 20th 2015 Francis Lawrence remained Director for the final movies with Actor Julianne Moore joining the cast as President Alma Coin.

I loved the movies point blank and whilst it has its flaws like most movies often do I think its redeeming quality has been it faithfulness in sticking to the books as closely as possible and the actors representation of Suzanne Collins characters such as Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Donald Sunderland and President Snow, Stanley Tucci as Ceaser Flickerman, Woody Harrelson as Haymich Abernathy and Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinkett. Whilst all the actors were very good and were chosen well for their characters. These actors in particular I feel did exceptionally well in bringing their characters to life especially Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci and Woody Harrelson but then I am a very big fan of theirs so I may be a little biased.
Tumble Town
Tumble Town
2020 | American West, City Building, Dice Game, Puzzle
Fun fact about me: I used to live in Le Claire, Iowa (birthplace of “Buffalo Bill” Cody) on a street named Wild West Drive. While the town named many of their streets after American West figures and items, it was not your typical Iowa ghost town – if there are such things. That said, I do have an affinity for the Wild West in my gaming preferences, so when I heard about a dice/building game with an American West theme designed by Kevin Russ (who also recently designed Calico) I was immediately interested. But how does this one… stack up?

Tumble Town is dice rolling, structure building, drafting game with variable player powers. You are charged with choosing building plans to be added to Main Street of Tumble Town. You do this throughout the game by selecting the plans that will make best use of the resources (dice) you gain. The buildings that you construct may allow you special powers to be used on future turns, or one-time bonuses to be used once built. The player who can turn the greatest profit (in terms of VP) at the end of the game will be the winner!

DISCLAIMER: We were provided a prototype copy of this game for the purposes of this review. These are preview copy components, and the final components will definitely be different from these shown. Also, it is not my intention to detail every rule in the game, as there are just too many. You are invited to back the game through the Kickstarter campaign, from your FLGS, or through any other retailers stocking it after fulfillment. -T

To setup, deal each player a packet of starting components: a unique Horse card, two reference cards, Storehouse card, Main Street card, and two brown (they are red in the prototype) dice to be rolled and placed within the Storehouse. Shuffle and display the 1-, 2-, and 3-cactus building cards per the rulebook instructions to form the market. Set aside a number of each die type per the rulebook (both the building cards and dice are determined by number of players). Determine the first player and give them the first player token (a colorful rubber potted cactus). Players will connect their two Main Street cards at the central icon to create a two-card street (we chose the wagon wheel – Easy) and the game can begin!

Turns in Tumble Town consist of four mini-phases that flow into each other rather naturally. The first phase will have the players choosing a revealed building plan card from the offer market. The face-down draw stack will inform the active player as to how many and which type of dice they must draw and roll. Once they have these dice in their Storehouse, the player may now build plans using the dice they control. Buildings can be constructed and placed right onto Main Street, or be placed on the plan card to be placed on Main Street on a later turn. If the player has collected more dice than their Storehouse can hold, they must discard any of the dice they wish. This concludes a turn and the next player can begin their turn.

Certain iconography on the building plan cards allow players to use special powers throughout the game once built, and there are three types. Cards with the silvery bottom panel of symbols and the 1x notation are powers that must be used only once and only when the building is constructed. These powers could be collecting a die of the player’s choice, or receiving various dice counters. The building plan cards that feature a circular arrow notation are powers that can be used once per turn, every turn, if wished. These powers are found on each player’s Horse as well and can be adjusting a die’s face value, or re-rolling two dice, as examples. The third type of power is from the golden paneled cards that have an arrow pointing to a vertical line. These powers are only activated at the end of the game and mostly include scoring variances, like 1VP for each building a player has constructed that has a vulture icon (or a windmill, for example) featured on the card art.

Once a building is erected, the player may choose to place it onto their Main Street cards. When they place them, the player will need to choose where on Main Street these buildings should live. Like Bob Ross always says, “There are no mistakes, just happy accidents.” A player can place their buildings anywhere they wish on Main Street, but the Main Street cards will give extra bonuses to those players who plan ahead and place their buildings strategically. Some plots will ask for a building of a specific height (one die high or three dice high). Some will ask for the base level of the structure to be made of a specific material/die color (brown wood, black coal, silver metal, and gold… gold). Extra points are awarded if one-die-width alleyways are allotted, and these Main Street placements can score a bunch of endgame points.

Turns can be very quick or very deliberate, depending on the types of players involved. AP-prone players will take longer on their turns as they internalize all possibilities of their rolled results, while people like me just fly by the seats of our breeches. The game continues in this fashion: four mini-phases of drafting cards from the market, grabbing the associated dice, rolling them, and attempting to erect the best buildings on Main Street until two dice pools contain two or fewer dice. The current turn order finishes and the game is over.

Components. Again, this is a prototype copy of the game, and the publisher was decent enough to include a listing of items to be improved in the final version (like the red dice being poured brown in final – that really messed up someone’s strategy during a play-through for us because they kept forgetting that red is actually brown). The overall art style is very simplistic and I do NOT mean that negatively. The graphics and artwork are great, and give exactly what is needed without being so distracting that you cannot concentrate on your strategy. The dice are normal dice quality (that always seem to roll poorly when I’m rolling… hmm…). Once you see the photos of how the game will look during production, you will appreciate how great this is going to look on the table. No problems with components at all, save for the red vs. brown debacle that happened on our table. I really hope they keep the awwwwesome rubber cactus first player marker because it’s amazing.

I absolutely loved this one. I have always enjoyed using items for purposes other than originally intended – in this case, using dice as building materials. Of course, playing any game with dice introduces a bit of luck and instability in strategy, but Tumble Town offers quite a bit of manipulation of dice rolls that keeps almost all dice results feasible and useful. I really enjoyed the stacking, the quick turns, and the desperation when someone takes the last wood die when I was gunning for a wood-based building on my next turn. This game is light, but is chocked full of difficult decisions and luck of the roll. Tumble Town is for people who enjoy the rolling and stacking from FUSE (minus the frenzy), and the spatial building placement chaining of Villages of Valeria.

If this is the game for you, then we highly encourage you to check out the Kickstarter campaign which is running until Thursday, March 26. Tumble Town has already exceeding the funding goal at time of this review, but all future pledges will contribute to stretch goals that will improve components and add other components (spoiler?). So get out there and build up Tumble Town, ya yella-bellied greenhorns!
Vixen (Flappers, #1)
8.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
<i>3.75 stars</i>
<b><i>Once upon a time there were three beautiful girls who went to the best schools (and speakeasies), and they were each assigned booze and clothes that are the cat's meow. But the flapper lifestyle took them into different directions and now they work to find out who they are and what makes them truly happy. My name is Vixen.</i></b>

And so you've been introduced to the first installment of The Flappers series Charlie's Angels' style (the best I was able to come up with anyway).

<b>Meet our <s>Angels</s> Vixens:</b>
<u><i>Gloria</i></u> - She's the one who has it all: <i>the</i> name, riches, looks, clothes, a handsome fiancee, everything comes easily to her, and everybody seemingly loves her. But this poor little rich girl isn't so happy after all and so she begins to rebel.
<u><i>Clara</i></u> - Burned by her former flapper lifestyle, she's now trying to start over as "Country Clara" without her sordid past coming to light. So has she turned into a goody-two shoes or is it just part of a grander scheme? Only time will tell.
<u><i>Lorraine</i></u> - Jealous of best friend, Gloria, she's desperate to step out of Glo's shadow to become the center of attention as an individual.

<b>Before getting to my review, there are a few questions that should be addressed:</b>
Is this great literature? <i>No.</i>
Will this book change your life? <i>No.</i>
Will you learn anything from reading this book? <i>No. Well, maybe some twenties' slang.</i>
Is this book accurate to the period? <i>No, there are some liberties, but it's good enough as wallpaper to the players and scenes.</i>
Is this book entertaining beyond belief? <i>A resounding YES!</i>

VIXEN is very easy to read and captured my attention from the first page, and while it may not be the best book ever, I had a lot of fun reading it. While there's nothing glaringly obvious anachronism-wise, I did question some word choices, phrases, and actions, but overall they were easy to overlook and I likened it to watching A Knight's Tale starring Heath Ledger. Written in third-person, each chapter focuses on one the three girls' point-of-view, starting with Gloria and continuing with Clara and then Lorraine, throughout the book until the end.

As for the characters, Clara (named after Ms. Clara Bow?) was definitely my favorite to read about, she's recovering from the aftereffects of her life in New York City (which includes a boy, of course), and is trying her best to leave the past behind and move on with her life. Her story had a lot to offer and she felt like a real person who had made mistakes and was now left dealing with the repercussions. Lorraine was a trainwreck you can't take your eyes off of, and while I can't say I liked her, I felt sorry for her. She tries way too hard to stand out and ends up making herself look pathetic; if she keeps it up she'll turn into a very ugly person whom everyone hates. Forget Gloria, Lorraine is the "real" poor little rich girl of the book. She's in the middle of making all the wrong decisions and we're along for the journey, which made her multidimensional and interesting to read about as well. Gloria was my least favorite, mainly because I don't think the author knew quite how to write her. At one moment Gloria seemed like a good girl rebelling, but then there would be moments where she was a real bitch and those two aspects just didn't gel into a cohesive whole. Now if she was seemingly sweet on the outside and really was a conniving bitch underneath, then I'd be on board or at least would get it. But she wasn't that type of bitch and she wasn't Alexis Carrington-bitchy (or insert less-dated reference here) either. How she was written made her look more like Sybil and didn't render me to sympathize with her at all. It didn't help that I felt she was too close to a Mary-Sue for my liking. I don't like perfect or near-perfect characters, they're boring and so was she. What was her motivation for anything, such as singing? Was that always a dream or did it just now come about? Is her recent behavior only happening because she's unhappy? Sorry, but there's just not enough there to make me care about this character. Gloria needed to be more fleshed out to make her feel like a real human, with real thoughts in her head and real feelings, and not a cliched cardboard cut-out.

The love aspects of the novel were fairly glossed over, mainly Gloria and Jerome's story, and felt more like teenage hormones than actual real love.
<i>"I don't know you but you're hot and I love you."
"Nothing will keep us apart!"
"We'll be together forever!"</i>
Which is too bad because I like the idea of an interracial romance taking place in the 1920's, it could have been fantastic, but instead was tepid and generally unromantic. It didn't help that half the duo was boring old Gloria and the other half never developed beyond the fact that he's a black musician who's forbidden to her due to the color of his skin. I wished for more impact and still hope for that in the next installment of the series. Clara's budding relationship with Marcus was far more realistic because they actually had conversations *gasp* and was well-paced. The relationships between the girls were touch and go, sometimes they felt authentic, then at other times interactions appeared too advanced to where the relationship had last left off; it was like there were scenes edited out in chunks. The same could be said of the developing romance between Gloria and Jerome.

So a few things bothered me in the book, such as the issue I had with every girl who wasn't one of the main trio being cattily described, i.e. eyes are close together, that color makes her look sallow, etc. Can we get over doing that already? That's not encouraging good behavior. A little more positivity would be a refreshing change. Another thing that annoyed me was at one point, the crap hit the fan and *minor spoiler* <spoiler>Gloria's career as a torch singer, which she's naturally perfect at (of course), came out into the open. So who does she immediately blame? Her best friend, Lorraine of course, whom she slaps! And who to this point Gloria had no provocation to even think it'd be her who had spilled the beans. Lorraine had not done anything to deserve Gloria's wrath, or at least nothing she knew about yet, so I don't know if the author had forgotten that fact or what. It did not make any kind of sense because there were other people who knew what Gloria was up to and others who could have easily found out. To me it was sloppy writing. What kind of friend does that make Gloria anyway? Not one I'd like, who always thinks the worst of her best friend without any miniscule proof of guilt. Told ya she was a bitch</spoiler>. There were some minor editing inaccuracies, such as when Gloria's dress goes from gold sequined to red in less than a page (pages 74-5) but nothing too overt to jar me out of the book altogether. Lastly, perhaps there was a bit too much twenties' slang that wasn't always incorporated into the text as smoothly as possible.

Overall, the plots were well-done and moved along at a brisk enough pace that I never got bored. The ending unfolded so that it tied up the multiple plotlines while still keeping plenty of loose ends for the sequel. So, a lot of the book is superficial, in some cases there are caricatures instead of characters, and it is a shallow interpretation of the Roaring Twenties, I don't care, the book is just plain fun and sometimes that's all I need. And while I can't say I loved this book and it totally lived up to its beautiful cover (seriously that dress is gorgeous, though I could do without the pit shot), I was suitably entertained and will read the sequels to find out what happens next, while I keep up the hope that Gloria will turn into a real, live girl.
Kingdoms of the Deep
Kingdoms of the Deep
2021 | Abstract Strategy, Animals, Nautical
Underwater-themed games are fast becoming some of my favorite to play. I have always enjoyed visiting aquariums (the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is by far the best I’ve seen) and I have owned many of my own tanks. So I have a soft spot. Couple a great theme with a great publisher and what do we get? A great game? Yep!

Kingdoms of the Deep is an abstracted area-control game set in the ocean for one to six players. In it players lead a faction of creatures intent on ruling the underwater kingdom. The player who scores the most VP at the end of the game is the winner, and as their king the player must rule with a strong pectoral fin. Okay, that last part isn’t in the rules, but it should be.

DISCLAIMER: We were provided a prototype copy of this game for the purposes of this preview. These are preview copy components, and the final components may be different from these shown. Also, it is not my intention to detail every rule in the game, but to give our readers an idea of how the game plays. You are invited to back the game on Kickstarter launching January 12, 2021, order from your FLGS, or purchase through any retailers stocking it after it is fulfilled. -T

To setup players will choose a color and take all components of that color. Obviously, the best choice is purple. Next the central board will be built of large hex tiles surrounding an Atlantis tile. Upon Atlantis one Shark token will be placed. The Score Board is placed near the central hex board and upon it is placed the Round Marker, the End Game Scoring tile, and the three Goal cards. Players then populate the board with their Influence Cubes on their specific preferred terrain types. Upgrade Cubes (discs in the final version) are then placed on each player’s individual play mats on the furthest value to the left, save for the Reset upgrades: players will choose one to place a cube. Give the starting player the Start Player token (a manta ray in this prototype) and the game may begin!
On a turn each player will choose a card from their hand of Action cards to be flipped simultaneously. The starting player will resolve their card first and play will continue around the table thenceforth. Each player will take their action and prepare for the next round. Should a player choose a card that no other player had chosen for the round they will also be able to activate the Solo Ability printed on the card. Typically these Solo Abilities are a furtherance of the action chosen. For example, should a player choose the Deploy Action card and be the only one to do so, they will be able to deploy one additional Influence Cube on the board than normal. The actions are Bolster, Deploy, Move, Upgrade, Shark, and Reset. Each action is limited to a number of cubes added, spaces moved, or upgrades allowed according to where the player board discs (large cubes in the prototype) lie on the player’s mat.

The Bolster action allows the player to add a number of Influence Cubes to the board on the player’s current preferred terrain type. To Deploy units is to add Influence Cubes to the board on hexes already containing their Influence or hexes directly adjacent to those already containing their Influence cubes. When a player chooses the Move action they are able to move creatures (Influence Cubes of any player and Shark tokens) a number of spaces that can be used for once creature or split between several. Players will certainly wish to Upgrade their actions throughout the game by increasing their player board discs’ spaces on their mat. For example, upgrading the Move action could allow the player to move creatures three spaces instead of two. The Shark action allows the player to move the Shark token(s) and chomp creatures on the same hex. Once a Shark feeds, the controlling player will increase their standing on their own Bait Pile track on their play mat. Certain increments on this track will provide the player with one instance of an action (Move, Deploy, etc), and the creature’s Influence Cube is returned to the matching player. Reset actions allow the player to recall their played Action cards to their hands, but also provide whichever action the player originally chose at setup. Should a player wish to Upgrade their Reset action more actions will become available to them each time they utilize the Reset action. Additionally, at the end of the player’s turn having used the Reset action card the Round Marker token is moved one space closer to the end of the game on its track. More on this later.

During play, some creatures may be moved onto the Atlantis tile in the middle of the board via the Deploy or Move actions. When this happens the player who moved the cube onto the Atlantis tile will score a point immediately, and the creature cube is placed in the Atlantis castle (cloth bag in the prototype, but a castle component in the final version). At the end of the game points are awarded to the player with the most creatures in Atlantis.

Every three movements of the Round Marker token signifies a scoring round takes place. Players will consult the current Goal card for any scoring round bonuses and points are earned. The Goal card is then discarded to reveal the next Goal card in sequence on which players can concentrate during the next rounds of play. Also during the first two of these scoring rounds another Shark token is added to the board on the Atlantis tile to be moved around seeking lunch. Once the Round Marker reaches the final scoring round the game ends and points are tallied to arrive at the winner.
Components. Again, this is a prototype version of the game, and while I know certain things will be different in the final version, I do not know what else may be upgraded as a result of any stretch goals reached. Therefore I do not want to comment on the quality of the components, but rather the art style and direction this game is heading toward actual production.

The art on this one is simply gorgeous. The style is the same as that of Animal Kingdoms, which is also a release from Galactic Raptor. All the art I have seen in this game is sublime and permeates the theme into every portion of the game. It is so beautifully colorful and the creatures are all unique and interesting that it may be difficult to concentrate on the actual game for some people, I imagine.

All that aside, I really do think this is a good game. It certainly gives me the Witch’s Brew/Broom Service vibe with benefits for the player who chooses something the others have not. Combine that feeling with that of the chaos of Survive!: Escape from Atlantis area control of constantly-shifting cube placement and I think Galactic Raptor has a hit here. Again, I am excited to see the final product with the more premium components and tweaked rules, but what I have here is still a good implementation of the mechanics with a hard-to-beat theme.

I do quite like the Shark ability to chomp not only everyone else’s creatures, but also your own to take those cubes back into your supply to be Bolstered or Deployed elsewhere. I also really like being able to Upgrade any action I wish to truly personalize my style and tactics during play. I like being able to Move other players’ creatures into Atlantis for that immediate point, but also to remove that cube from play altogether. It creates quite an interesting dynamic and strategy to facilitate other players’ majority status in Atlantis in order to gain quick points and board control right away. There are so many thing to like about this game, and I am so glad I was able to give it a chance on the table.

If you enjoy games similar to those I mentioned previously, then check out Kingdoms of the Deep. It is beautiful, offers quite a bit of strategy and tactics, and stands to become an excellent mid-weight simultaneous action, area control game WITH SHARKS. While I probably won’t be playing this one every game night, I can certainly see myself introducing it to many of my fellow gamers. I urge you to check out the Kickstarter campaign for Kingdoms of the Deep once it launches in January. Tell ’em Old Travis sent ya.