Essen Spiel 2016 aftermath: Reviews incoming

Essen 2016 logoSo the wonderfully overwhelming and exhausting Essen Spiel is over for another year. It will take me a week to recover, but I’m already missing the mayhem – even if my body isn’t.

Below I revisit my pre-Essen top 10 wishlist, along with a giving a full list of what you can expect to be my next 20 or so reviews. I also list a few games I’m wanting to play that I didn’t manage to get to – but where I’ll find the time is beyond me…

I did of course come home with a copy of Armageddon, designed by David Thompson and myself, which seemed to go pretty well. I won’t be reviewing it (I may be a little biased…) but when I get some more post-show info I’ll give an update on it.

My Essen Top 10 – what didn’t come home with me

papa-paoloAfter taking a closer look at Papa Paolo (my pre-Essen list number 5), I decided against asking for a copy. The game looked OK, but those who I spoke to that had demoed it were unconvinced. I’ll keep an eye out for more reviews.

As I ran out of luggage space (see below…), I’d already tried to get a few minutes with Stephen Buonocore several times and failed. He was the man I needed to speak to about both Fabled Fruit (number 8) and Terraforming Mars (number 1 target), but he was so busy I just gave up. Friends grabbed both, so I’ll get to play them – plus they’ll be easy to get if I want them later.

Ave Roma (my number 7) sold out, while Area 51 (number 10) looked terribly disappointing – it had barely been upgraded from the pre-production version they’d sent me. Despite being promised a copy, I decided I could happily live without it – especially as none of my gaming groups had really warmed to it (despite me liking it).

On the expansions front, I asked for a copy of Deus: Egypt but it will be posted to me in the next few weeks. This seemed very strange – why do that when I’m standing right there? I guess that’s what happens when businesses get to a certain size – pointlessly haemorrhaging what is to them small change is less important than chain of command.

I had a good look at the Ancient Terrible Things expansion but it didn’t seem to offer much that I was desperate for (despite looking awesome). I’m happy with the base game, so didn’t feel this warranted a purchase right now – but I expect I’ll grab it later.

Post-Essen reviews incoming

great-western-trailThe few disappoints above were far outweighed by the good news.

Publishers Amigo, Blam!, Czech Games Edition, EmperorS4 Games, HUCH! & Friends, La Mame Games, LudiCreations, Pegasus Spiel, Pleasant Company and Queen Games were all very generous and provided the following for review:

  • Adrenaline
  • Crisis
  • The Dwarves: Duel
  • Eternity
  • Freaky
  • Gooseberry
  • Great Western Trail
  • The Oracle of Delphi
  • Planet Defenders
  • Risky Adventures
  • Snowblind
  • Touria
  • Tramways
  • Ulm
  • Unter Spannung (AKA: 7 ate 9)
  • X Nimmt

Oh my… Anyone fancy a games night? I’ll update this with links as I get the reviews up, but as I like to play things at least four to five times before reviewing it’s going to be a while before the first ones go live.


  • Celestia: A little Help
  • The Dwarves: Saga, Combined Might & New Heroes

In case you think I didn’t put my hand into my moth-eaten wallet at all over Essen week (except when stuffing my face or drinking), I did buy the small expansions for ConcordiaNavegador and New York 1901. I doubt they’ll be big enough to merit reviews though, but if they are I will do so.

What I’m also wanting to play: The Top 3

in-the-name-of-odinRhodes, Lorenzo the Magnificent and In the Name of Odin were all on my ‘best of the rest’ list, just outside my Essen Top 10 – and again, they would’ve been the next three games I would’ve picked up if I’d had some more luggage space.

I got a short demo of Rhodes and enjoyed it – a tight, interactive worker placement game that plays in an hour.

Lorenzo the Magnificent looked great but once I knew a friend had a copy, I knew I’d rather wait until later to play: if it’s as good as it looks, I’ll be happy to buy a copy later down the line.

As for In the Name of Odin, I just couldn’t get past the alarm bells that went off every time I went near it. Overwrought and garish it just screamed ‘Kickstarter’ at me and, once again, as soon as I knew others had bought it I was happy to cross it off my wishlist.

Kickstarter preview: Steal This Game

steal-this-gameOne of the greatest things about the board games community is, well, the community. And I’m not talking just about the players – I’m talking about the designers, the publishers and the developers in particular.

When I first decided to start dabbling in game design I immediately found myself taken under the wing of first the Playtest UK Meetup group and, shortly afterwards, the fledgling Cambridge division of the same group. Despite my early attempts being rubbish at best, I was positively encouraged via great constructive feedback that only served to inspire me to keep at it (something a few of them probably regret now…).

Once I had a game I thought might be publishable, I started to talking to (you guessed it) publishers and developers. While not every meeting is a positive experience (everyone has shitty days), the vast majority of them have been really supportive and open.

The designers and publishers I’ve met since have been a mixed bunch of characters, but I’ve never met one who thought they were too good for me, or who wouldn’t happily answer some questions or have a quick chat. Sure, there are a few I wouldn’t approach now – but that’s the same personalities issue you get in every walk of life.

In fact, I’ve been amazed at how far many publishers and designers will go to help, even when meeting for the first time or just for a few minutes. Rather than being a secretive, cutthroat closed shop the industry is quite the opposite: if someone doesn’t like an aspect of your game, they’ll suggest a way to improve it – or if it’s not the game for a particular publisher (or they have no room in their schedule), they’ll be happy to suggest alternatives you may not have considered. Clichéd I know, but it feels like a family.

steal-this-game-componentsBut what has all this got to do with Steal This Game?

At Essen Spiel last week – the most influential event in the board gaming calendar – indie board game publisher LudiCreations had its Saturday takings for the fair stolen by a gang of professional thieves.

Luckily no one was injured, but the gang got away with thousands of euros: an event that has hit the LudiCreations team hard, both financially and emotionally.

But rather than sit around and mope, the Ludi team, along with a gang of designers and reviewers, set about making it right. They spent Saturday night designing, testing, reviewing and filming (a review by Richard ‘Rahdo’ Ham) a nanogame – it fits on a postcard – in an attempt to recoup some of the takings. Kickstarter had a stand at the show, so within 24 hours they’d turned tragedy into a live Kickstarter campaign.

Designed by David Turczi, this two-player game pits a game publisher against a thief trying to rob them. But of course the point here isn’t the game – it’s the fact something positive came out of a desperate situation almost immediately as everyone rallied around to chip in however they could.

At the time of writing Steal This Game had almost 2,000 backers who’d pledged almost $25,000. Pledge levels include simply getting the postcard ($5 or more), or getting one of Ludi’s other games (Kune vs Lakia, Microfilms or They Who Were 8) into the bargain for just $14. It’s very small numbers, but together we can help make this right and show once again what a great community board gamers have created. I’m in – now it’s your turn.

One play: Codenames – Pictures

codenames-picturesWhen I received Codenames: Pictures* I was faced with something of a (teeny tiny) dilemma – how do I go about reviewing this?

In reality it’s a standalone game in its own right – but mechanically it is almost identical to the original Codenames (reviewed here last October), just with pictures instead of words. Not really full review material unless you love repetition.

The next option was to review it as an expansion, but again it’s problematic. You don’t need the original game, it doesn’t really change anything up (except for the aforementioned) and it wouldn’t fit my format. So here it is: the ‘One Play’ review.

In truth, the One Play format ended up fitting the bill perfectly because – you guessed it – I’ve only played it the once. But as a big fan of the original I think I’m on pretty safe ground giving you the full picture (ho ho) on this almost inevitable variation on a theme. And I promise you right now, I won’t be doing a review of the ‘adult’ word version (although, if you do want to seek it out, it’s called ‘Deep Undercover’ – just don’t tell mum I sent you).

Codenames basics: A quick recap

codenames-pictures-tilesCodenames is a party game that can be (realistically) played with anything from four players to eight or more, with you all being split into two teams (no matter how many players participate).

Each team chooses a spymaster, with each team’s representative sitting together in front of a single card only they can see. In front of this is a grid of other cards that everyone can see – in this case picture cards. The trick is that the card only the spymasters can see tells them whose pictures are whose, which others are innocent bystanders, and which single card is the assassin (if a team guesses this word by accident, its instant defeat).

Taking it in turns, the spymasters then try to think up a one-word clue that their teammates can use to guess multiple of their team’s words correctly – but at the same time not any of the other words on display.

This is where the genius in the game lies. Sure, you can say “music, 2” because you’ve seen images of a record player and some headphones – but don’t rule out some crazy person guessing at a ‘tortoise’ picture because it’s the name of a band they like… Find more on the rules in my original Codenames review (linked above).

So what’s new here?

codenames-pictures-cardsThe most obvious change is, of course, the pictures. They’re black and white, relatively simply drawn, but they do have that slightly bizarre/surreal feel of Dixit cards: you’ll find a dinosaur riding a bike, a bed riding a wave, a dragon attacking a satellite dish…

But these multiple references mean the game has the same depth as the original word version: where before you relied on the multiple meanings of many English words, here you have that extra dimension visually too. The cards are still double sided, clearly marked so you know which way up they go, and printed on high quality linen finish stock.

There has also been a change in the size of the grid of cards you choose from, which is now 5×4 rather than 5×5 – so 20 rather than 25 cards. This means there are less ‘innocent bystanders’ (4, from 7) and one less clue to guess for each team. In one way this feels like a sensible change, as it makes it more tense but also a shorter game length (in theory). In reality, it has had a mixed reaction – but works fine either way.

So why bother with this one?

Codenames: Pictures feels different, while familiar, which can only be a good thing. Some will find it harder, some easier, depending on how you parse words and pictures. But whatever your decision, it’s great to have the choice.

It’s still a great for non-gamers, and this opens up to even more players as not everyone likes a word game – as well as being language independent, making it great for including those not so familiar with English. For game evangelists such as me it’s another weapon for our tabletop gaming arsenal. And even better, both games fit into the same box.

Why stop with what’s in the box?

Because the game’s rules are so simple, there’s no reason you can’t go hog wild and add in your own images. Have Dixit or Mysterium? Throw them in for a few rounds. Got lots of family photos? Make a special version for Christmas play. Or why not print out pics from friends from Facebook? The world’s your codenamey oyster.

Overall then, Codenames: Pictures will not be for everyone but it’s a delightful take on the original idea. It will appeal to both fans of the original concept and those who prefer to interpret images over puzzling over word games, and is sure to bring even more new people to the hobby.

* I would like to thank Czech Games Edition for providing a copy of the game for review

Armageddon – From the Ground Up (some info)

armageddon-coverSo my new board game, co-designed with the super-talented David Thompson, will be released at Essen Spiel in Germany this week.

Called Armageddon, it has a post-apocalyptic theme but is much more a euro game than a traditional ‘thematic’ one (despite what the amazing artwork from Markus Erdt may lead you to believe).

The game takes about 90 minutes to play and is for 3-4 players. Because bidding is a key part of the game, it really didn’t work with two – and to take it to an extra player would been pricey on components: a risk it probably wasn’t worth taking, considering the probably price hike. But if it does well, who knows…?

So what’s it all about?

The game was very much designed from the theme from the start. The idea was to try and simulate the growing of those small towns you see in films such as Mad Max and Water World where they’re trying to do things right after some kind of global tragedy – only to be whupped by some chain wielding biker types. Well not this time!

The key mechanisms are bidding, tableau building and worker placement. Each round you’ll have a set of workers (there are different types that can different things) who you’ll choose to assign to three areas – two bidding areas (buildings and survivors) and your tableau (worker placement).


It has arrived at Essen, thank god…

You’ll take it in turns to place workers (from behind your screen) into an area until everyone has bid into each (once you’ve placed, you can’t change it).

The advantage in going early into an area is order breaks ties – but of course others know what they need to do to beat you. People on your tableau (town) will be working (upgrading types of worker, getting VPs etc) or defending against marauders. So everyone gets some workers/marauders, plus a new building, and then operates their towns.

Some rounds you may really want a juicy building, others you may really want a certain set of survivors (they’re random pulls from a bag), others you’ll want to all hands to the pumps – but usually all the above.

You’ll get benefits from both pacifistic and more violent approaches to the game and both are viable strategies – as is treading a more balanced path. To win you’ll want to work out a strategy, then make the best tactical decisions to try and support it – knowing you may have to change everything on the fly if (when) it hits the fan…

For those not going to Germany, I’m sorry but I can’t put a store date on the game yet – but I’d hope it will be available from UK game stores/websites before Christmas. If you want any more info, just let me know in the comments below.

Animals on Board: A four-sided game review

animals-on-boardAnimals on Board* is a non-religious yet Noah-themed set collection family game for two-to-four players. It’s listed as lasting 15-30 minutes and being for ages eight and up, which feels about right.

The rather lovely premise is that each player is building their own ark, but Noah has cornered the market on the whole ‘two-by-two’ thing – so you’re picking up the slack. This means you’ll earn points for anything but pairs of animals – so lonely animals or larger herds will serve you well instead.

While this is definitely a family game at the lower age range, there is still something there for the ‘grown ups’. The components are high quality and the artwork is really nicely done, with each set of animals (there are five of each type) having individual art – with baby animals (one point) ranging up to older wrinkly ones (five points).

In the box you’ll find 60 animal tiles (in 12 species), about 25 cardboard tokens and four cardboard arks – which are essentially tile holders for the 10 animals you need to collect. At first glance the box is way too big for the components inside, but you soon forgive them when you realise the arks – which you need to construct – can go back in without you needing to build them each time you play.


animals-on-board-setupAs with all great children’s games, you can pretty much learn Animals on Board as you play. Each round is the same, and the mechanisms simple, so once you get going everyone should pick it up quickly.

Once everyone has their ark, each player also takes a starting animal tile (which you place on your ark) and one food crate. Nine to 13 animal tiles (depending on player numbers) are placed face up (with one face down) in the middle of the table – and you’re ready to go.

Players now take it in turns to take one of two actions: split an animal group and take a food crate; or feed some animals and take them into your ark. At the start of a round the animals are in one group – so to split them you simply choose as many as you like and make them into a separate group (of which you choose the makeup). No matter how you split them (so with 13 it could be anything from 7-6 to 12-1), you also take one food crate.

animals-on-board-apesTo take a group of animals, you simply spend a food crate for each one you take – and you must take all animals in the group (so a group of six costs you six food). You add them to your ark – and it also triggers the round’s end.

After one player has taken this action, each other player gets one more turn (on which they can take or split animals) – after which you restock the animals in the middle of the table, with whoever triggered the round end becoming start player for the next one.

This continues until, at the end of a round, one or more players have 10 or more animals on their ark – at which point you score. Scoring is simple: pairs are ignored (as they don’t score); single animals score the number of points printed on them (1-5); while every animal in a ‘herd’ (three of more of the same type) scores five points each. Highest score wins, with ties broken by the player with the most different animal types.

The four sides

These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.

  • The writer: I don’t usually like a memory element in games, but Animals on Board adds just enough to keep things interesting – especially if you’re an adult playing with children: if this was a game of perfect information, and you had good memory, it could get old fast. What they’ve done is start each player with a tile no one else sees until the end (you get to pick one of three), while one of the tiles in the middle that you’re choosing from is always face down too. This adds just enough secrecy to keep everyone guessing, while not making it a randomfest.
  • The thinker: While every round is the same, there are actually different strategies on offer here. It’s tempting to spend food crates as quickly as possible, as the game does feel like a race in which you don’t want to fall behind – but if you hold back, you can start to wield pretty strong power over the other players – especially psychologically – if you’re sitting on six or seven food crates! Suddenly the splitting of animals becomes a much more pressing decision, even at the start of a round.
  • The trasher: While Animals on Board is definitely going to be a light family game for most players, a group of embittered gamers (hello London on Board regulars!) can certainly bring its own dimension to proceedings! Denial is of course a big part of the game, if you want it to be, so sharing info on what you can remember about what other players have picked up – and getting a bit of banter going – is definitely a mood that you can make emerge from all the cutesy stuff if you’re so inclined.
  • The dabbler: I like this one! The animal tiles are really cute, the arks go together beautifully to add a bit more table presence, and there’s plenty of daft (or serious, if you want) roleplaying to be had, especially if playing with a younger audience. While the game is also very fast to play it’s easy to set up and breakdown, or to set up and play again, so there isn’t problems with downtime. And it couldn’t be easier to learn.

Key observations

animals-on-board-tilesPersonally I have no issues with the game at all, as a family game. However, if you’re looking for a two-player game for a couple of adults I’d probably give this a wide berth.

As an adult game it needs more than two players to really shine, both due to the fact it’s very fast playing with two (it’ll take longer to set up and break down than to play) and also because the more grown up elements tend to come into play more with more players (a bit of banter, trying to remember who has taken what etc).

One criticism I can relate to, if not completely agree with, is the cost/component to gameplay debate. The truth is that Animals on Board is a filler game in fancy clothing that could very easily have been a sub-100 card small box game – and then it would of cost less than £10, rather than double that with all the cardboard components.

But if you think of the audience as being families, and especially the children part of that, kids love games that look great – and there’s no doubt this would have less than half of the curb appeal if it was a small box card game. But whether you think there’s enough here to warrant a closer to £20 price tag is going to be an individual decision.

Accusations of ‘no depth’ are, I guess, fair – but then I don’t think designers Wolfgang Sentker and Ralf zur Linde were going for it: why would they? The important thing is that the ‘I split, you choose’ style decisions do get more interesting the longer the game goes on, so it does have a bit of an arc of its own (ho ho).


I’ve very much enjoyed my plays of Animals on Board and would definitely recommend it to families, or groups that enjoy playing a lot of filler games. It’s fast and fun with just enough extra depth to keep everyone happy.

The theme is fun, the light take on ‘I split you choose’ works well and the components, while probably flashier than they need to be, have been well put together. It works well across player counts and never outstays its welcome.

That said I won’t be keeping my copy, but only because I don’t meet the criteria above – it’s the kind of game that would sit on my shelves largely unplayed and I’d much rather it was out there getting some love. But a big thumb’s up from me nonetheless.

* I would like to thank Pegasus Spiel for providing a copy of the game for review.

Books wot I red: Paperboy, The Bleeding Heart & The Dwarves

Well I’ve managed to get this latest three-book post out in less than a year, which is pretty good going by my standards – especially as one of them was a 700-page behemoth. And two of them are even by the same author – although I’ve again managed to get a non-novel in (an autobiography counts, right?).

Once again it looks as if I’ll have a four-book year in terms of reading. Maybe I should just accept that’s the way it will always be – at least while my job involves so much reading. But I’m increasingly enjoying time away from the computer screen, while finding less people to play board games with, so maybe things will change.

PaperboyI don’t ordinarily read autobiographies or memoirs, but when it’s your favourite author the idea seems a little more compelling; even if his life was boring at least I know he can write! So with some apprehension I jumped into Paperboy by Christopher Fowler.

Any fears I had melted away immediately. His story feels both honest and compelling, describing post post-war era London (from the 1960s onwards) from within a typically dysfunctional suburban family.

Hi love of books, and perhaps more importantly words, springs from every page; as well as film and television. But the honest portrayal of his family’s problems adds another, more sensitive dimension and stops it becoming something of a pop culture love-in. But whichever tale he’s telling at the time, he conveys with his usual skill; being able to make the reader laugh or cry at will.

You certainly don’t need to be a fan of Fowler’s writing to enjoy this, although it does help explain his fascination with both London and the supernatural. And if you’re an only child, a bookworm, someone who grew up in an ever-expanding London or just a lover of books that are beautifully written, I’d highly recommend Paperboy.

The Bleeding HeartHaving just read his autobiography, it seemed sensible to move onto the latest Bryant & May paperback, The Bleeding Heart by Christopher Fowler. As ever it was worth the wait – although I was nervous early on.

Bryant begins the book in uncharacteristically dour fashion, while the new managerial foil to the Peculiar Crimes Unit seemed to be following the same plot line as their previous nemesis. But as the various plots unfolded by fears faded away and by the end I was, as ever, left eagerly awaiting more.

for the uninitiated, the Bryant & May novels are like The X-Files meeting Last of the Summer Wine in London for a few pints of ale: two elderly detectives solving the most peculiar crimes, with inevitable links to the fascinating and macabre history of England’s capital city.

This is the 11th outing for the duo, with numbers 12 and 13 already on the shelves and more to come. It’s the best series of books I’ve ever read and unfortunately the first one, Full Dark House, can be a little difficult to get into as it skips between two time zones (present day London and the Blitz, in the detectives’ early career). But the rewards are a wonderfully fluid writing style and a memorable cast of characters, alongside some great plots and fascinating facts about London’s underbelly.

The DwarvesNext I immersed myself in the fantasy world of The Dwarves by Markus Heitz. I’d heard slightly dodgy things about it, but having thoroughly enjoyed the co-operative board game based on the series I was determined to flesh out the characters.

First things first: haters of bog-standard fantasy books should walk away now. This isn’t big and it isn’t clever – in fact it follows the typical fantasy tropes quite frighteningly close to the letter.

Good vs Evil? Check. Bunch of good guys up against unspeakable odds? Check. Dwarves, elves, spells etc? Check. Off on an ‘incredible journey’? Check.

But if you do like that sort of thing, it’s hard not to recommend The Dwarves to you. The writing level is OK (standard for fantasy novels), it’s the obligatory trumpetybillion pages long (about 700) and there are several more books in the series. But more importantly it does a good job of scene setting, character interaction/progression and storytelling.

This really isn’t my kind of thing anymore, but I didn’t find myself skipping pages and was never bored: it moves things on at a fair click and while the over-explanation did at times wear my patience thin (why do these people feel the need to telegraph the characters’ emotions to the point a two-year-old would understand?) I was never close to quitting.

Will I read on past this book? It’s unlikely. But then I’d pick the second one of these up before any other fantasy novel, which has to say something. My one gripe would be that, while several string female characters do emerge at certain points, their coverage (in pages) is way lower than it should be – but then if you didn’t mind that in The Lord of the Rings et al, I’m sure you’ll be OK with it here too.

What’s next on the list?

This time I managed to knock numbers three, four and five off the list, but two of those were new entries – surely I can hit numbers one and two this time. And this has, of course, left room for three new entries:

  1. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. Its fourth time at number 1, having been on six of these lists (a record). I still really want to read it; what the hell is going on?
  2. Teach Yourself: The Cold War by CB Jones. I got a copy of Cold War board game Twilight Struggle and wanted to put it in proper context. I really should know more about this history I lived through, so this is on the list – three times so far.
  3. Dark Cargo by Andrew Rice. New entry! This is a book written by a friend hat I started proof reading for him, but stopped after three chapters (I think it’s fair to say I’m no proof reader). I got a physical copy from Amazon so I could finish it.
  4. The Burning Man by Christopher Fowler. New entry! The next Bryant and May novel. Nuf said.
  5. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks. New entry! Lent to me by a friend (hello Candice!) who was very enthusiastic about it. Not my usual fayre though: a book about cases of people with extreme, bizarre neurological disorders.

Board game Top 10: Essen Spiel 2016 new releases

Essen 2016 logoWith the convention just a few weeks away, I’ve finished trawling through most of the upcoming board game releases planned for Essen Spiel 2016. So below you’ll find what I think will be the pick of the bunch.

I’ve kept expansions off of the list, but there are some interesting ones on the way: new bits for Deus (Egypt), Celestia (A Little Help), New York 1901 (Goons) and Ancient Terrible Things (The Lost Charter) will all be going in my bag for sure. As for the games below, I’ll be packing as many into my suitcase as possible!

I also want to give high praise to the website Spiel Together, created by Peter H Møller, which has made going through this year’s crop of new releases an absolute breeze. If you’re at all interested in seeing the list of games coming out at Essen (it has more than 600 of them listed, and counting) I’d highly recommend it, while if you’re going to the show I’d say it is an invaluable asset.

My Top 10 Essen anticipation list

armageddon-cover10. Armageddon
3-4 players, 60-90 mins

I hope you can forgive me for being a little self-serving, but my second published game (this time co-designed with David Thompson) should be available from Queen Games this year. It’s set in a post-apocalypse world, but the focus is on rebuilding civilisation. Each turn players use workers to ‘bid’ in three areas – finding survivors to grow your town, fixing up buildings and using the buildings you’ve already restored (to get VPs or fight off marauders). It’s competitive, not co-op, and I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved – and from what I’ve seen of the artwork so far it’s going to look amazing too. And the last I checked, there were no zombies – but don’t hold me to that…

Crisis9. Kickstarter corner: Crisis, The Dwarves (English Edition) & Area 51: Top Secret

It’s rare that I talk about Kickstarter games before release (if at all) but these are all from publishers I trust and were games that really piqued my interest. I’ve talked about all of these new titles elsewhere on the site (links above) so didn’t want to give them an entry each, but did want to flag them up as games I’m really looking forward to getting finished copies of at the show. Crisis (1-5 players, 120 mins) is a sci-fi-themed worker placement game with a clever financial crash mechanism; The Dwarves (1-5 players, 60-90 mins) is a fun fantasy co-op game based on the Markus Heitz novels; while Area 51 (2-6 players, 60 mins) is a set collection and area control (ish) family board game. For more information on any of these, please read the full reviews linked above.

fabled-fruit8. Fabled Fruit
2-5 players, 20-30 mins

I try not to let lighter, smaller games get onto this list as they’re the games I fit in when I have gaps in my schedule and they’re also the least likely to hit the table with my current game groups – but this one looked too interesting to pass over. Anything designed by Friedemann Friese always catches my eye, as he’s both an innovator and a prankster, and it seems like he’s at it again here. This starts out as a simple set collection card game, but as you play more games the system and rules themselves change – but you can reset it whenever you feel like it. He’s calling it a ‘fable’ game, and it seems to be positioned somewhere between the flawed ‘Flux’ system and the equally flawed ‘legacy’ system. Friese is one of the few who would go looking for somewhere between the two – and one of even fewer who could nail it – so fingers crossed.

ave-roma7. Ave Roma
2-5 players, 45-120 mins

Strangely there weren’t many worker placement games really grabbing me from this year’s offerings (which is hopefully good news for Armageddon!). In fact after scouring lots of rule books I think Ave Roma looks like the pick of the bunch, despite the designer and publisher having little pedigree. I love the ideas of a big round central board, variable commodity values for each of the players, and numbered workers having different strengths depending on where you play them. I have pretty high hopes for this one, so it will be high on my demo list.

risky-adventure6. Risky Adventure
2-4 players, 45 mins

I’m a sucker for a good press-your-luck dice game, and the most promising one for me on this year’s Essen release list is Risky Adventure from Queen (no, I’m not biased!). In a nice twist, you gamble first on the actions you want to do (each needing different dice combos), then roll your dice – so the riskier the actions are that you pick the less chance there is of getting to do them. There are lots of types of reward (including extra dice faces to complete tricky actions, set collection for victory points etc) and overall it looks like it will have that little bit extra to make it stand out as a fun family game.

papa-paolo5. Papà Paolo
2-4 players, 30-75 mins

I love the theme here (pizza delivery) and the game promises to be a mix of worker placement, bidding, engine building and city building. Sold! The designer promises a game with low downtime, interaction as well as individual play, multiple ways to win but a simple scoring system. While none of the mechanisms on show look particularly ground-breaking, but it’s interesting that the placement of your worker on the 4×4 grid governs the actions you can take, what you can build and how much money you may gain – as well as possibly impeding your opponents. I’m yet to find a city building game I’ve really fallen in love with despite the fact it’s a theme I really like, so I’m hoping Papà Paolo will break this duck. I mean come on, it has purple scooter meeples – what can possibly go wrong?

oracle-of-delphi4. The Oracle of Delphi
2-4 players, 70-100 mins

The last few Stefan Feld releases didn’t really float my boat, largely due to being some of the ugliest games I’ve seen in a while – but The Oracle of Delphi has definitely refuelled my man crush for the king of the point salad game. And as an added bonus, it has a refreshing clean graphical look! It is (of course) an action selection game with a fun Greek gods theme that looks a little less pasted on than usual. But rather than his typical (of late) point-scoring frenzy it looks as if the goal here is to be the first to complete a number of challenges. It has a nice modular board for added replay value and the typical Feld tropes of choosing your own path to victory seem to be in place via the way you upgrade your ship and use the special actions of the gods. Hopefully this one sees him right back on form.

adrenaline3. Adrenaline
3-5 players, 30-60 mins

As one of the world’s worst first person shooter (FPS) computer game players, the idea of exacting revenge on my friends in board game form is extremely appealing – and if anyone can pull it off, publisher CGE can. The game looks great (sci-fi themed), the mechanisms sound like they’ll do the job and the victory point system fits the bill (you get points from the players you wipe out – and then they get to come back again for their revenge), so I’m super excited about this one – and I already know this one will be coming home with me, so expect a review before end of the year.

great-western-trail2. Great Western Trail
2-4 players, 75-150 mins

Eggertspiele has a good track record for medium weight euro games, while designer Alexander Pfister is on a hot streak right now, so I have high hopes for this one. It’s a western themed tile placement and hand management game with an interesting looking movement mechanism. The tile placement seems to have a bit of Caylus about it (which I love), while the movement feels almost like a take on the rondel (which I also love). Loads of actions to take and ways to improve your character, loads of ways to get victory points, loads of interesting strategic decisions to make. This one looks totally up my alley and will almost certainly be making the trip back with me.

terraforming-mars1. Terraforming Mars
1-5 players, 90-120 mins

If you want to get to number one on this list, the easiest way to do it is to get one of the biggest board game reviewers out there to describe your game as “Race for the Galaxy on a board”. The theme (the clue is in the title…) is appealing and pretty original, it looks gorgeous, it is backed by solid publishers and managers to tick the card drafting, hand management, variable player powers and tile placement boxes too. The ‘Race’ analogy comes from seeing/playing loads of cards to build your own points engine, while keeping a careful eye on the growing environment (oxygen, ocean and temperature levels), as combined they will trigger the game end. It can’t be as good as it sounds.

The ‘best of the rest’ that missed the list

in-the-name-of-odinThere are so many cool looking games coming – which is hardly surprising, with 1,200 being released in one weekend!

In the Name of Odin will be the family set collection/hand management game I’ll head to first, as it looks very cool indeed – but I do have my doubts about some of the mechanisms so need a quick play.

A surprising number of sci-fi games caught my eye this year. Both Solarius Mission and Kepler 3042 are also looking good for scratching the space exploration itch, while Planet Defenders and Chromosome keep the sci-fi theme but look to have more of a ‘race for victory’ feel; either stopping invading robots or escaping a research facility.

My ‘number 11’ was probably Barcelona: The Rose of Fire. I’m a sucker for the city and this tile-laying game looks to explore its history, which immediately peeked my interest. I’m rarely keen on area control, but this looks to have an interesting push and pull to it (as construction can lead to strikes and riots) so I’ll definitely be finding out more.

Arctic adventure game Snowblind (from Pleasant Games Company) was just behind Risky Adventure in the press-your-luck category and I’ll certainly be looking for a demo – especially after enjoying Ancient Terrible Things a lot from the same company. Great art and, if ATT is anything to go by, great components too.

Economic farming game Rhodes has me far more interested than I would usually be in this kind of thing, so I’ll be following my instincts and checking that out too. While Lorenzo the Magnificent (from Cranio Creations) ticks lots of my favourite mechanism boxes (card drafting, variable player powers, worker placement) and will also be a definite demo.

Expect reviews of lots of these new titles in the coming months. And if I’ve missed some you’re really looking forward to, let me know in the comments below.

Board game Top 10: The best young children’s games (5-8 years)

kids-gamesAnyone that knows me will be well aware that gaming (or anything else, for that matter) with children isn’t really my thing – but as several people requested it for a Top 10, who am I to argue?

Luckily for me I have bunch of lovely friends who have either worked or parented their way through the joys of childhood and survived with gaming tales to tell: thanks (in no particular order) to Anita, Ronan, Chris, Csilla, Tony, Alan, Nik, Paul and Peter for their invaluable insight into the topic.

There are actually closer to 30 games in the list, as I’ve given alternatives as often as possible. The list is most likely to be useful to non-gamers, so this way if you find something that works well hopefully there will be something very similar you can go to next. Think of them as categories – and as such they’re in no particular order.

When it comes to ability, age range is a tough one to call. Put simply, you know your own kids: hopefully these brief descriptions will be enough for you to decide on a case-by-case basis whether you want to explore each in more depth. And it’s worth remembering you can ‘house rule’ most games down a level or two if you find them a little overwhelming for the littler ones – or yourself! Then you can introduce the more complex rules later.

And finally – try to play them without the kids the first time, if possible. It will be a much better experience if you know the rules before you begin, even if you don’t let that on to them. Nothing pops the bubble of a board/card experience quite like spending an hour with your head in a rulebook while the kids lose interest!

My Top 10 (ish) children’s games (five to eight year-olds)

forbidden islandForbidden Island

The idea of co-operative board games is a relatively new one and has proved incredibly popular. The idea is all players work together to beat the game, with you succeeding or failing as a team. Forbidden Island is a very simple game in essence, and while it’s probably at the high end of this age scale the fact it has no hidden information means you can easily help each other. If this goes well, the same designer did a follow-up called Forbidden Desert – a nice take on the same idea that’s different enough to move on to if this works for you. While if you want more complex in the same system, the incredibly popular Pandemic takes the system to the next level.


This is a fast, light, bunny-themed roll-and-move dice game – but instead of one numbered dice you roll seven coloured dice, choose a colour, and move as many spaces as you rolled of that colour. There are elements of push-your-luck too (you don’t want to get scared off by the train), making it a nice introductory level game that will give the kids genuine decisions to make. The Enchanted Tower is another interesting take on traditional role-and-move games, this time adding an element of bluff and hidden information (and it’s gorgeous).

rhino-heroSuper Rhino/Rhino Hero

Something that can be a great leveller between children and parents is a good dexterity game. Whether you’re balancing cards and trying to make skyscrapers (and not knock them all down with your rather heavy rhino) in Super Rhino (AKA Rhino Hero); balancing cute wooden animals on top of each other in Animal Upon Animal, or using your magic wand to manoeuvre your potion ingredients into the cauldron in Magician’s Kitchen, these games are almost guaranteed to make you laugh. And they’re beautifully put together too, even if some of the themes are a little, shall we say, leftfield…

looping-louisLooping Louie

Sticking with dexterity games, let’s move from steady hands to getting your co-ordination right – another area where the kids may surprise their unsuspecting parents. Looping Louis has been around since the early nineties but is still great value: can you protect your chickens from the crazy flying antics of Louis? It’s all in the timing as you try to bounce his little battery-powered plane over your chickens and onto those of the other players. And if they’re Star Wars fans, check out the recent Looping Chewie (I kid you not). I also have to recommend Crazy Coconuts, where you fling coconuts into cups with your little plastic monkey…


If you want to fire your children’s imaginations, there are some great tools out there to help. One is Dixit – a game where you look at some cards with beautiful artwork and think of a word/phrase/sentence that describes one of them – then hope other player’s (but not all of them!) will think the same as you. Alternatively there are Rory’s Story Cubes (roll the dice and use the symbols on them to make up a story – with various sets, covering themes from to Batman) and Apples to Apples (a silly game where one person reads out a ‘description’ card – and then the other players choose a ‘thing’ card from their hand that best matches it – the sillier and funnier the better).

dobbleDobble/Spot It

Back in the land of dexterity (last time, promise) we have Dobble – a popular little card game where the skill is in matching symbols on cards as quickly as possible – a loud and raucous game of snatching/slapping cards onto the table. Another slightly more dangerous option is Dancing Eggs, which comes in a one-dozen egg box and has you trying to grab as many of the wickedly bouncing little buggers as possible. And I also need to mention In a Bind – a hilarious game which is kind of like the classic twister, but with a deck of cards instead of a play mat…

king-of-tokyoKing of Tokyo

Push your luck, with dice in particular, is a classic game mechanism and there are some great games available. While Yahtzee is OK, King of Tokyo takes it to the next level with battling monsters – or you could go for roasting worms on the barbecue with the classic Pickomino. But Sid Sackson’s Can’t Stop is probably the daddy of them all – a lesson in probability that’s so much fun.


Building routes and patterns is brilliant, taking the classic jigsaw idea and making proper games out of it. Carcassonne is probably the most famous game of its type and My First Carcassonne is recommended for 4-10 year-olds. There are some other great examples too, including the likes of Tsuro and Indigo that are more simply (but fiendishly) about building routes on an evolving abstract board; as well as Totemo (building coloured totem poles through clever colour matching) and Blokus (gain as much territory as you can on a grid with your Tetris-style pieces).

walk-the-plankWalk the Plank

Another important life lesson can be learned from a good take-that game (allegedly). Here you choose three cards to play then reveal them one by one – but you can guarantee no one will be where you wanted them to be after the first one! It’s all about pushing the other players overboard, but things never seem to work out how you wanted them too. Get Bit is another fun take-that simultaneous card selection game (this time seeing robots trying to swim from sharks…); while another favourite of mine is (Cockroach) Kakerlaken Poker Royal – a great take-that bluffing game that will prove to you (if any were needed) just how easy it is for your children to lie to you!

animals-on-boardAnimals on Board

Last up are a couple of games that can introduce (as well as new gamers) to other popular game mechanisms. Animals on Board is a great introduction to ‘I split, you choose’, where players either take a group of animals for their ark (trying to get anything but pairs – because Noah has clearly cornered that market); or split a current group and grab some food, making it smaller/easier to grab for their opponents (you need one food for each animal taken – hence having to take food sometimes). Another great option is Sushi Go! – a fun introduction to the ‘drafting’ card game mechanism, where you take one card from a hand and then pass the rest, hoping to end up with a great combination of cards to play.

NOTE: At time of posting (September 2016) all of these games were available and in print from either Board Game Guru and/or Amazon. And quite a few of them are available from Coiledspring Games too – a long-time supporter of this blog.

Elfenland: A four-sided game review

ElfenlandElfenland* is a classic family board game that won the Spiel des Jahres (German Game of the Year Award) back in 1998. It has recently been reprinted and made available direct from a UK distributor; hence the new review of an old title.

The game is primarily a hand management (cards) and route building (on the board) game, with each player trying to visit all the towns on a large map using the cards and tokens they’re dealt each turn.

The box says ages 10+ but should be fine for your average eight-year-old; while it will take 2-6 players about an hour (I think it plays best with at least three and can run a bit longer with five or six).

In the box you’ll find a large board, 50 cardboard counters and almost 100 cards – all smothered with generic, whimsical fantasy art (plus more than 100 standard wooden pieces). Luckily it’s an abstract game so the slightly naff elves and dwarves don’t get in the way of gameplay! But actually it’s nice to find a German release that doesn’t shy away from fantasy in favour of a European town theme. At around £20 it is a real bargain.


Elfenland in playA game of Elfenland is played over four identical turns and you should find players will be on-script once you’ve gone through one of them.

It’s important to get across before you start that it’s possible for someone to win in just three turns by collecting all of their pieces from the board – unlikely, but possible. It’s also important to stress that, if possible, players shouldn’t make routes that leave them with a bunch of disparate towns left to visit late in the game, where possible (although that’s often easier said than done).

The new rulebook looks scary big at first; but only until you realise they’ve managed to cram five languages into it. The English rules only run to eight pages, much of which is setup and pictures. Once setup, each round simply consists of being dealt travel cards; choosing transportation tokens; placing said tokens, then moving along the routes.

Each travel card (you’ll start each round with eight) depicts one of the seven travel forms; each of which can be used to traverse some of the different types of terrain – either efficiently (using one card), inefficiently (using two identical cards) or not at all. But you can also cross any terrain (except water) by using any combination of three cards.

Elfenland cards tilesPlayers now draw a travel token at random (that stays secret only to you), before choosing two more (either from five face-up tokens, or random picks). But which tokens should you choose?

The basics of the game are about working out the best ways to move that best marry up with your travel cards. But the key to success is having the flexibility to take advantage of how others place their tokens too.

This plays out in the main segment of each turn: placing transportation tokens. Each player takes it in turn to place one of their tokens on a travel route of their choice. Once placed, that route is then locked into that transport type for all players in that turn – so if you really need a part of your route to be a specific card type, you better get in fast – or hope someone else does you the favour of playing the right token for you!

Finally, each player moves to as many locations as they can (or want to) by spending their cards to move along ‘tokened’ routes (only water can be traversed without tokens). It doesn’t matter who placed the token, as long as you have legitimate cards to pay the cost – so in a game with lots of players you could move as many as eight spaces (one per card in hand) having played no tokens at all.

The game ends when either a player has visited all 20 locations (at the end of round three) or you’ve played four rounds. If there’s a tie, the player with the most cards in hand wins.

The four sides

Elfenland cardThese are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.

  • The writer: While Elfenland is a simple game in theory, it actually presents an interesting mashup of strategy and tactics; with the best laid plans oft scuppered by a single token. In your mind you want to plan the perfect route for the few tokens you have – while knowing that to really get across the board and scoring big you’ll need to rely on others to do some of the work for you. You can’t even card count, as all the travel cards are reshuffled at the end of every round.
  • The thinker: This really isn’t a game for those who love grand strategy, as the amount of randomness is unbearable. Take your random cards, grab your random token, probably pick some more random tokens – then wait for other players to ruin any plans you may have managed to cobble together, probably by accident. It’s enough to leave the more ardent planners amongst us reaching for the Valium! But if you’re the kind of player that likes to think on their feet, this is a top choice.
  • The trasher: While there’s no direct catch up mechanism, there’s a nice way to bash the leader: obstacle tokens. Each player only gets one at the start so you can’t go mad – but they add just enough tension to make it a highly worthy addition. You play it on a route with a token, which then means moving along that route will cost anyone doing it one extra card of that type – which can totally change the turn for anyone needing to use it. This wouldn’t normally be my game, but this simple little mechanism adds just enough to make me happy to play Elfenland once in a while.
  • The dabbler: While I enjoy the game, from the simple rules to the old school fantasy artwork, it can be a tough game to love on first play – especially for younger players. It’s quite easy to get things wrong in the first turn and end up feeling totally out of contention with only a quarter of the game gone. You just need to explain to these people that it’s a learning game and that they’ll benefit from using the remaining turns to improve and who knows – if you screwed up that bad in turn one, there’s nothing stopping the same happening to the others!

Key observations

Elfenland boardWhile I personally have no major beefs with Elfenland mechanically, the card graphic design raises some red flags – especially when you consider this is a reprint, so improvements could’ve been made.

It would’ve been very easy to give the travel cards a coloured border to match that of their matching travel token, rather than including the terrain values – which are pointless anyway, as they’re already available on a handy player aid.

Another issues is player count. Elfenland plays identically from two to six in terms of components, but in practice plays out very differently. With two or three you can really be scuppered by being in different areas of the board, making the best part of the game – using each other’s travel tokens – redundant on multiple (or even all) turns as you mope around on your own little journeys.

But with more players you get the opposite problem – where it is very easy for all players to be on 19 or 20 by the end of the game. This can often be alleviated by using the official variant included, which means each player has a secret designated city they’re meant to finish the game in; but this doesn’t help with lower numbers. I’d say that if you intend to play mostly with two or three players, you’d be advised to look elsewhere.

I’ve mentioned luck already, but it’s worth reiterating here: those who hate luck should also look elsewhere, as there is a lot of random chance going on here. Most of it is given to you to then work with strategically, making it more puzzle than anything, but even then you have other players screwing with your plans while they work on their own puzzles – which can feel a little odd for a route-building game.

There can also be king-making issues due to the obstacle tokens (and even accidentally through route tokens – its back to that luck factor again). And finally, don’t buy this one for the theme. Despite being very pretty, it is totally pasted on.

ElfenroadsNOTE: The game is also now available in a more expensive form, Elfenroads, which includes two expansions. These add extra ideas you can bolt on including bidding for tokens, new obstacles, and towns having variable values; as well as an alternative map. I hope to review this at a later date to see if it addresses any of these issues.


Elfenland is an intelligently designed family game that nicely walks that line between simply yet competitive gameplay. It’s a game you can teach to anyone, but importantly there’s also room for a player to improve – while the luck element means games can be closer than you’d think.

There’s a definite educational value here, as younger players can see the spatial elements of route building alongside problem solving as they have to think on their feet. But as with most entry level games, you may find some more seasoned gamers getting sniffy about it (and that’s fair enough).

In this form I’d recommend it – but won’t be keeping it. There are too many similar games in my collection that I like a little more for the amount I play family games of this type (such as Ticket to Ride, Africana and New York 1901). But if I get my hands on the new Elfenroads mentioned above, all bets are off…

* I would like to thank Coiledspring Games for providing a copy of the game for review.

Tash-Kalar – Everfrost & Nethervoid: expansions review

Tash-Kalar EverfrostTash-Kalar NethervoidTash-Kalar: Arena of Legends* is an abstract strategy game set in a fantasy themed arena (and reviewed in 2015).

It has risen into the Top 500 games on Board Game Geek and is listed just outside the Top 20 abstract games.

The game is played on a grid of squares with players trying to place their pieces in a variety of patterns; that in turn allow the playing of powerful cards that will change the shape of the game. There are variety of game modes, depending on player numbers (two to four), with aims ranging from simply taking your opponents pieces to completing tasks.

Its a fantastic abstract game that stands apart by having both elements of luck (in your individual card draw, the tasks etc) but also each player having their own deck of themed cards to use. There were two sets of identical cards in the box for the purists wanting to be more evenly matched, plus just two more decks: a bit tight, I thought – so it was always crying out for expansions.

What do Everfrost & Nethervoid bring to the party?

Tash frost allThese expansions are available to buy independently, so I’ll briefly talk about each one separately here. Both add nice thematic twists too, despite the abstract nature of the game.

Everfrost can be seen as the simpler of the two, despite it adding an interesting new twist not in the base game. The player using this card deck will find about a third of their cards carry the ‘frozen’ symbol. When you play these cards, instead of discarding it you instead leave it in front of you – as you’ll be able to thaw this ‘frozen’ effect when you need it.

But you can only have one frozen effect in front of you at a time, which can lead to some interesting extra decisions: if it looks as if your current frozen effect may come in handy soon, do you hold off playing another frozen card? But it’s hard not to play your cards immediately as keeping your patterns in place can be fiendishly difficult.

In addition a few of the individual cards throw in some interesting new effects, including Crystal Mirror (allowing you to mimic an opponents pieces – which could be a ‘heroic’); and Deathbringer (which lets you remove an opponent’s piece from the game completely).

Nethervoid can very much be seen as an advanced deck; as while it only adds a single new element to the game it’s a real doozy. Included in the expansion is a single yellow glass stone, which is referred to as ‘the Gateway’.

When you play a Nethervoid card and the Gateway isn’t on the board, the piece you place becomes the Gateway (you simply place the stone on it). It can be destroyed just like any of your other pieces (and will come back next time you play a card), but while in play can have a huge effect on the game – if you play your cards right (sorry…).

All but two of the cards in the Nethervoid deck mention the Gateway; with effects ranging from moving/becoming it, killing enemies adjacent to it, upgrading/using the current Gateway piece and moving your pieces towards to it. Regular players are probably already realising the significance of this: its hard to make any patterns at all, let alone making them line up with one individual piece that can also move around the board…

How much do they change the game?

Tash frost cardsWhile both decks are interesting, as you’ll see above, neither introduce anything to the game beyond this that wasn’t there already. Neither of the new decks affects team play, for example, and no new ways of playing are introduced.

Everfrost does adds a nice tension to the game, especially when playing against it. It’s painful having an effect hanging there, waiting go off in your face, probably when you most expect it too. Its an interesting addition to a game that is usually all about swift, decisive moves you rarely see coming (until you know the decks really well, that is).

But Nethervoid definitely adds a new element of strategy to the game. It’s a neat new twist that isn’t for the feint of heart and can be very hard to play well. But if you don’t like the frustration element of the original game, this ramps it up to 11! And despite being more complex it doesn’t feel imbalanced, even when you get it right.

Are Everfrost & Nethervoid essential?

Tash exp nether allOne of my key observations in my review of Tash-Kalar was a complaint about the lack of different card decks in the box. Four seemed exceedingly tight, especially as two of them were essentially identical.

It didn’t stop me having fun with the base game, and it is a fun challenge to play with the identical decks, but if this is a game you’re hoping to play often I’d say yes, grabbing at least one these will be essential.

However I wouldn’t say you need them straight away – quite the opposite, in fact. Especially with Nethervoid and to a lesser extent Everfrost, these expansion packs add more complex decisions and are more suited to players that have become familiar with the base game. The game can be quite hard to get your head around at first, as its mixes up some original ideas with traditional ones, and these add more advanced rules on top.

Are Everfrost & Nethervoid value for money?

At around £10 each, they may seem a little expensive – but each comes with its own scoreboard, tokens and card deck with all individual pieces of art on each card.

You could of course argue that you don’t really need the tokens, or boards – so why not just do cheap card expansions? My guess to that would be the standard one for expansions: that it’s the card art that costs all the money, so taking the other bits out wouldn’t reduce the cost much anyway.

But if you take them purely on what they add in terms of gameplay, they’re absolutely worth it. Although I wouldn’t want to get into an argument about whether they should have been included in the original game box anyway, with that having a slightly higher price… But hey, business is business and it’s easy to forget that this is the board game’industry’ – not the charity many Kickstarter campaigns would have us believe.

… and does it fit in the original Tash-Kalar box?

Tash exp nether cardsYes, very easily – as long as you’re happy to jettison the packaging, of course. But if you discarded the (rather useless) insert from the original box too, there’s still plenty of space for some more expansions too – and long may they continue.

* I would like to thank Czech Games Edition for providing first the base game then the expansions for review.