Qwixx Longo dice game: A four-sided review

The Qwixx Longo dice game is, unsurprisingly, a sequel to popular 2012 roll-and-write board game Qwixx. This version is for 2-5 players, takes 20-30 minutes to play and is suitable for ages 8+.

In this completely abstract dice-chucker, players use a shared pool of coloured dice to mark off numbers on their personal sheet. The key is to get as many marks in each colour’s row as possible. But you have to keep marking off spaces in numerical order – so you lose out on spaces you have to skip over.

In the small (roughly two packs of cards size) box you’ll find six eight-sided dice, four pencils and a pad of game sheets. Why they write 2-5 players on the box and then give you four pencils is anyone’s guess. At time of writing the game wasn’t yet on comparison site Board Game Prices – but I’m sure it will soon get wider UK distribution. Expect it to be £10-15, or get it now in mainland Europe for about 15 euros.

Teaching the Qwixx Longo dice game

Anyone who has played the original Qwixx will be on very familiar terrain with the Qwixx Longo dice game. Your player sheet has four rows of numbers in the primary colours; two going from 2-16, the others 16-2. They also have two lucky numbers (more on those later), a scoring table and four boxes to mark if you can’t do anything on your turn. If someone crosses off their fourth box, the game ends immediately. But it is more likely to end with a second of the four rows being locked.

Each round, the active player rolls the six dice. All players can add the value of the two white dice and mark that number on any of their rows – as long as it is to the left of the last number they marked in that row. Alternatively, if the roll matches one of your lucky numbers, you can instead mark off the leftmost legal (as above) number on any of your rows.

Lock it up

The active player (only) may also pair one of the white dice with one of the coloured ones, marking off the space in the corresponding colour’s row. If the active player doesn’t mark at least one number on their turn, they cross off one of their four penalty boxes.

The last two numbers in each row are padlocked. To gain access to them, you need to have marked off at least six numbers in that row. Once you have, if you get a number in the padlocked area you can mark it off and announce you’re locking that row. That coloured dice is removed from the game. And no one can mark off any more numbers in that colour. As mentioned above, if two rows get locked the game is over.

The four sides

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

  • The writer: This is a simple and well-trodden push your luck mechanism. You’re constantly asking yourself, do I trade speed for efficiency? Here, it’s in its simplest form. Which makes it a great introductory game for new gamers. It feels as if one version of Qwixx should be in every game evangelist’s arsenal.
  • The thinker: Nothing much to think about here! It’s OK for a filler, but there’s no strategy.
  • The trasher: There’s no direct interaction in the Qwixx Longo dice game. But to play well you have to watch the other players closely. The game end can sneak up on you fast, so you need to be able to follow who can lock up colours. But even if they can, will they? You can be better off keeping it going a few rounds to pump up a high scoring row.
  • The dabbler: I enjoy Qwixx, but I enjoyed Qwixx Longo a little more. After a few games, Qwixx was a little light even for me! Here, the slightly higher dice numbers (up to 16 rather than 12) make it a little longer, while the lucky numbers add a little more substance and an extra decision. Sure, there’s loads of luck. I had a game where one of my lucky numbers only came up once! But it’s short and social enough for that to be OK.

Key observations

The most obvious question is, does this add enough to the original Qwixx to make owners add this to their collection. In the vast majority of cases, I’d say no. However, if you think the original is a little too short and needed an extra little something, this may be for you. However, you might also want to look at Qwixx Mixx, which adds new sheets for the original game that mix things up a bit.

The difference basically boils down to the slightly longer playing time and the lucky numbers. The game length didn’t bother me either way. I did like the lucky numbers. But this is very much going to come down to personal taste. You’re pretty much always going to use one if it comes up. So there’s no added decisions. But in a light fast game such as this I like a bit of extra drama when you see the result of the dice roll.

Conclusion: Qwixx Longo dice game

Qwixx was one of the first super popular roll-and-write games for good reason. And while the genre has matured significantly since, there’s still a place for these simpler games. They’re great fillers, and perfect for introducing to new gamers. Personally I like, but don’t love, the Qwixx line of games. And this one is no different. But they have a definite role (ho ho). So as I don’t already own one, I’ll be adding Qwixx Longo to my collection.

  • Thanks to NSV for providing a copy of the game for review.
  • Follow this link for 200+ more of my board game reviews.

Essen 2021 board game mini reviews: Caesar’s Empire, Furnace, Goetia, Grasshopper Poker & Riverside

With more than 1,000 games released at this year’s Essen Spiel, I guess it was inevitable my lazy team of one would miss a few of them. And that’s not to mention the limited the logistical nightmare of getting 1,000 new board games into two suitcases. So I’m embarrassed to admit that around 98% managed to get away…

You can find a full list of the Essen 2021 board games I’ve reviewed here – alongside a list of others I’ll be reviewing in the coming months. But as a little bonus, below you’ll find five mini reviews of games I’ve also played that were at the show. I only played each of them once, for a variety of reasons – so please bear that in mind when reading. But they’ve all had a fair amount of buzz, so I thought they were worth giving a little detail on here.

All were available via board game comparison website Board Game Prices at the time of posting. And using this link before you purchase games will help my blog. Cheers! The ‘age’ mentioned below is my interpretation – not the one printed on the box.

Caesar’s Empire (2021, 2-5 players, 30-60 mins, ages 8+)

This was a bit of an exclusive as it wasn’t on sale at the show – thanks to the awesome Peter from Tabletop Together for teaching. (The game is starting to become available at time of writing.) Caesar’s Empire is a light family game. It combines simple route building on a main board with a basic set collection end game scoring system.

Starting from Rome (in the centre of the board), players take turns adding their armies to a route heading to a new city. You collect a resource from the city you arrive at. Then each player with armies on the route to this new location (back to Rome) score points. That’s pretty much that.

While basic, there are genuine decisions to make, making it a great family game. And there is a definite game arc. You know what resource is in each city. So you can plan to try and get lots of the same type, or a full set of different ones (both score on a sliding scale). But as everyone can see how this is panning out, you can try to scupper each other’s plans. Or get in on a route early you think will be popular, to score residual points as it grows. The board is clear, the Asterix-style minis cute, and overall I was extremely impressed. For a game I’d say is simpler than Ticket to Ride, but with no luck beyond setup, it could be a real winner. Although I would question replay value over a large number of plays.

Furnace (2021, 2-4 players, 60 mins, ages 10+)

This became one of my top wish list games of Essen 2021 after reading about its clever draft/auction system. Limited cards are available each round and players take turns placing bidding chips on them. Each player has four chips numbered 1-4. And no two chips of the same number can be placed on the same card. So if you place a four, you know you’re winning that card. But cards you place a chip on but don’t win give you a one-off benefit – and you may want that more than the card.

Cards you win are used to build a euro game style engine. You use a resource (often gained from those one-off benefits) with a card to turn it into another resource, which is then used to gain points etc. Rinse, repeat. The game is rating highly on Board Game Geek and has proven popular. So other opinions are available – but I really didn’t like it. The auction part was exactly what I’d hoped for. But I found the engine building part incredibly tedious. It was as dry as its lack of theme suggests. And worse still, everything turned into everything else. I could see no way to genuinely differentiate yourself. And variation between plays will be minimal at best. A real disappointment, as it’s a great mechanism looking for a game.

Goetia: Nine Kings of Solomon (2021, 2-4 players, 2+ hours, ages 12+)

I usually target one or two heavier euro games each Essen and this one didn’t make the wish list cut. Unknown (to me) publisher and designers, plus a dark demonic theme, didn’t get my heart racing. But I was happy to get a chance to sit down and play it recently. What you get, theme aside, is a relatively straight forward worker placement game. But it has just enough little quirks to keep things interesting. Rather than having a board, action spaces are on cards. These move, get flipped and generally misbehave during the game, but not chaotically. So it keeps you on your toes, but in a good strategic way. Generally, you’re collecting resources to unlock extra workers, unique abilities or victory points.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Goetia. I like the idea of moving card-based worker placement spaces, such as in 1906 San Francisco, or The Sanctuary. And this similarly uses the concept to encourage and enhance passive interaction. For example, some actions around the edge of the card grid get cheaper as spaces in the middle are filled with workers. So you can set yourself up – or an opponent accidentally – for cheap actions. What stops me pulling the trigger on getting a copy was the length. While there was a pleasant arc, it went too long and dragged a little. But if you like a long and involved worker placement game, you should definitely check this one out.

Grasshopper Poker (2021, 2-4 players, 20 mins, ages 8+)

Only currently available as Heuschrecken Poker, this is the latest game from the makers of the fabulous Cockroach Poker. However, this is nothing like that. In so many ways.

Firstly, this is a simple trick-taking game with none of the bluff and silliness of Cockroach Poker. At least that game had bluffing, which partially explained the ‘poker’ reference in the title. Here, the only connection I can think of is to milk the popularity of that older game. In Grasshopper Poker, you have a small hand of cards and you play tricks to gain resources flipped over each round. Some you want, some you don’t. That’s about that.

I think having a famous elder sibling can work both for and against you. Sure, it will open some unexpected doors. But once those doors are open, you have to live up to the hype. Here, the grasshopper bares only artistic similarities to the cockroach. It works fine as a light trick-taking game. But it doesn’t feel fresh or original. So for me was disappointing. I didn’t hate it, but equally felt no desire to play it again. That said, I’ve played a lot of trick-takers over the years. And those that taught me it had really enjoyed it – so your millage may vary.

Riverside (2021, 1-6 players, 20-60 mins, ages 10+)

It has been nice to watch the evolution of roll-and-write games over the past few years. And Riverside is another nice step along this path. It has the usual personal sheet where you’re marking off boxes in the hope of triggering bonuses and combos to score points. The twist here is a central board with a river/boat you’re all travelling along. Where it randomly stops each turn limits your scoring options, while also acting as a game timer. The variability of the boat’s movement also means you’re not sure when the game will end, which can add a nice push-your-luck element to the end game.

I very much enjoyed my play of Riverside (shout out to the lovely Semi Co-op guys who we played it with). It almost came home with me – but I thought it would be the game that literally broke the reviewer’s back on the journey home. It’s pretty, well designed and felt just the right length and complexity for what it was. Having the central board also created a bit of table talk, which is always nice in a game which otherwise could easily become multiplayer solitaire. Sure, it’s a conceit – but we were genuinely chatting as we played, which is often a fault with roll-and-writes. For me, Riverside is one of the more interesting games in the genre right now.

Thanks to the lovely Tine and Mark, who between them taught four of these games to me in Essen and Eastbourne respectively. Cheers! I’ll beat you next time…

Bad Company board game: A four-sided review

The Bad Company board game is a light and fast-paced dice/order fulfilment family game for 1-6 players. It takes less than an hour to play once you’ve got the hang of it and the suggested age range of 8+ seems about right.

Players use dice to collect and later trigger gang members, who in turn give symbols (thematically ‘skills’) which are used to complete heists (for victory points and abilities). All while trying to stay one step ahead of the chasing police car.

While lightly pasted, the theme does a good job of telling the game’s story. And the art – which is often bizarre – also helps set the slightly whacky and frenetic scene. In the box you’ll find 14 boards (two per player, plus two shared), around 150 cards, five dice, 19 wooden pieces and 100+ cardboard tokens. Comparison site Board Game Prices lists the game for around £45, which feels a little steep. But this may be because it hasn’t properly arrived in the UK at the time of writing. Expect it to be a little cheaper once in wider UK distribution.

Teaching the Bad Company board game

During setup, each player receives a (very slightly asymmetric) two-part player board. Each has a gang member that corresponds to each number from 2-12. The asymmetric bit being the symbols they show for each number being a little different on each board. Each player puts their car on the city board and their recruiter on the scoreboard; and chooses two of three heist cards to start the game with. These have a variety of symbols required to complete them and will give rewards ranging from ongoing benefits to victory points. Each time you complete one, you replace it with a new one.

The active players rolls five dice; one for the police car (see below) plus four standard six-sided dice. They then make two pairs from these four dice, in exactly the same way as you do in classic push-your-luck game Can’t Stop. Once decided, they trigger the gang members matching both the numbers – while all other players get to trigger one of their gang members that matches one of the two numbers. This largely involves taking check marker tokens and placing them to matching symbols on either heist cards or bonus spaces. But you may also accrue money or move your car.

Money is used to hire additional gang members. These are cards you place on top of your gang board which add extra symbols to particular number spaces. So as the game goes on, players continue to diversify. While choosing whether to hedge their bets (spreading out their new gang members) or pump up a few gang members to be super useful. As long as you manage to roll the correct number, of course…

Quick! It’s the cops!

The final thing your gang members can do is move your getaway car. Each round the police die is rolled and at the end of the round the police car will move 0-2 spaces. The players start a few spaces ahead of the police car, and as they move along the road (city board) they’ll pass and collect bonuses – as long as they’re ahead of the cops. And there is also an end game points penalty for finishing behind it.

Several smaller bonuses also add into the mix. There are four types of heist reward (paintings, jewellery etc) and whoever has the most at any time gets to show off with a necklace. This is added to one of their gang members and is worth a point each time they’re activated, as well as points if you still have them at the end of the game. While loot cards, awarded for passing certain spaces in the city board, give everything from one off powers to points or money.

The game ends one round after any car (including the police car) crosses a particular position on the city board. Or when one or more players have completed six or more heists. As well as points for heists etc, you also score the top card on each of your gang member spaces. So it can pay to diversify, as your base gang members are worth zero.

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 was worried when we started playing the Bad Company board game. Did it have enough going on? Is this it? But I needn’t have worried. While elegant (rules checks inevitably lead to what you expected the rule would be), the game is simply fun. The tried-and-true dice mechanism works well here and while mechanical the theme really comes through. At a busy con I taught this to four new players and we got the teach and play done in under an hour. And everyone enjoyed the experience.
  • The thinker: This certainly isn’t going into my collection. But the game did surprise me. What looked like a silly luck fest has just the right amount of mitigation and decisions to make. You can spend a coin to reroll as often as you like. Shortcuts on the city board let you make up ground in the police chase. And you can use ‘spare’ tokens on bonuses such as wilds, money or car movement. So, you always get a positive benefit from them.
  • The trasher: While there’s no direct interaction, you can mess with people on your turn. As players start to specialise, you’ll know what they want you to pair up – so don’t do that! While manipulation of the police car’s pace can also pay dividends. You also need to think carefully about the heists you choose, as you’ll always have two on the go. Taking and holding those necklaces can be key, so choose wisely. Overall it’s fun, but too passive to be a favourite.
  • The dabbler: Loved it! Setup sets the mood, as each half of your gang board helps create a silly name – like the Sneaky Pimples, or the Emotional Tacos. Yes, it’s a basic mechanical game really. But the super bizarre card art (everything from crazy David Bowie to a guy with a traffic cone on his head) and car chase really help to drive the theme home. It reminds of baddies from Mad Max or Gotham, rather than real life. Fast, frenetic and fun – with some proper decisions and table talk. What more do you want?

Key observations

I really, really didn’t like Machi Koro and Space Base. I found them too swingy for the complexity on show, especially as the decisions you made often came to nought due to a lack of guaranteed mitigation. Bad Company gives you a lot more control, because even if you don’t roll what you want you can change the roll or use the symbols you do get for a variety of options. And the interaction of worrying about what your opponents can do with your roll also adds to this. It’s probably closer to My Farm Shop, but more fun and engaging.

Some bemoan the luck or complain about a runaway leader problem. I’d say luck is a bigger problem in the games mentioned above. And I haven’t noticed a runaway leader problem, which I expect is more of a first game/poor play issue, as so much can be changed by the active player. And the powers you pick up early are never big game changers.

But I do have sympathy with those questioning its longevity. I’m five plays in and still enjoying Bad Company. And see it being fun for a long time yet. But I don’t play games to death and, in a small collection, I can see this getting old after 10 or so plays. There isn’t a huge amount of genuine variety in the box or a wealth of different strategies to discover and explore. But this is a light family game and should be judged as such.

The game does come with short solo rules. I found them a good way to learn the base game and they involve very little fiddling around. Your goal is to beat your previous high score and there’s no dummy player or complexity. It’s fine, but nothing to write home about.

Conclusion: Bad Company board game

Some game simply deliver on their promise, and for me Bad Company is one of them. It’s a light and fun family game with some genuine decisions. It takes tried and true mechanisms and combines them in interesting yet straightforward ways. And it has just enough theme, and some fun artwork, to give it that little extra charm a game needs to succeed. It has gone straight onto my ‘new gamer/family gamer’ pile and I’m sure it will hit the table regularly.

Splitter dice game: A four-sided review

The Splitter dice game is a small box 15-minute roll-and-write. According to the box it plays 1-12 players aged 8+. I think the age is about right. And while it is definitely possible to play with 12 – and probably more – I have only played it with 1-4 players.

At the time of writing the game wasn’t yet available via comparison site Board Game Prices. But you can get it direct from publisher NSV (linked below) for around 10 euros. Very cheap. But then there’s only two dice, four pencils and two pads of sheets in the box. The game makes no attempt to hide its abstract nature.

Teaching the Splitter dice game

You won’t play many games more accessible than the Splitter dice game. Each player takes a sheet from either pad A or B (see below) and a pencil. Players take it in turns to roll the two dice. Not that it matters, because all players use the result in exactly the same way. You do this 22 times, until you’ve put a number (1-6) into each of the 44 spaces.

So, to the clever bit. Down the centre of each sheet is a dotted line – with exactly the same pattern of boxes either side of it. You have to put the two numbers rolled into boxes that are in the same place on either side of the central line. So if you put one number top left, the other has to go top right. What you’re aiming to do is collect sets of numbers (orthogonally) that exactly equal themselves (so two twos, three threes etc). Each will score you as many points as the number (so three points for a set of three threes) – but only if there are exactly three. Meaning things can get pretty tense near the end as you fill in the final boxes.

Sheet A has two boxes marked with stars. If you manage to make a scoring set including a number in these boxes, that set score double. Sheet B has two stars, but also three heart spaces. If you manage to get the same number into each heart space, you get bonus points.

The four sides

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

  • The writer: The Splitter dice game works. It’s simple to teach and the rules are clear. But that’s because there is so little to it. Elegance is all well and good. But for me there needed to be a little bit more. A sprinkle of pizzazz to make the game stand out in a busy market.
  • The thinker: What at first felt like a clever game soon degraded into a ‘who will get a few lucky turns at the end’ random-a-thon. It might actually be better for me if it ended a few turns earlier, before the sheet filled up. But as it stands? Really not for me.
  • The trasher: I don’t remember playing many more heads-down, interaction free games than this. It doesn’t even matter who rolls the dice! It’s actually quite funny at the end as people cuss and swear as their sets get destroyed, or fail to be completed, as the final few numbers pop up. But there’s literally nothing you can do to affect them.
  • The dabbler: I quite enjoyed this one. It’s very simple and doesn’t look like much on the table. But once you get going and are chatting about what you’re doing, it’s pretty fun. Yes, there’s a lot of luck. And no direct interaction. But you soon diverge from what others are doing and the right group will have fun comparing sheets and seeing how everyone does. And it is super fast, perfect for filling little gaps between games.

Key observations

Fans of the game call in clever and simple – a return to the old days of less complex roll-and-writes. While detractors talk of the frustrating lack of any dice mitigation as the luck becomes overwhelming. Add in the simple scoring and lack of much else, then those looking for depth seem to find Splitter lacking. But those looking for simplicity are often charmed.

At least one person in each group I’ve played with has mentioned how terrible the name is. While the lack of theme is understandable, the name really doesn’t work or sell the game. Sure, the page is ‘split’ – but its dull at best. At least it got people shouting “Splitter!” in a Monty Python fashion, which I guess should count for something.

As the game has no interaction, and simple scoring, it works perfectly well as a solo experience. In the other direction, there’s no reason you couldn’t play this with a room full of people. It’s unlikely that, after a few rounds, people won’t have diversified at least a little bit. So I see no reason why it wouldn’t work perfectly well with the ’12’ players alluded to on the box – or even more.

Conclusion: The Splitter dice game

The central mechanism behind Splitter is a clever and well implemented one. And I certainly think roll-and-write fans who like a very quick, easy to learn game should check it out. But for me there just isn’t enough going on to get it off the shelf. I would personally rather reach for a game such as Dizzle every time. Slightly more rules overhead, but with genuine interaction and – for me at least – a lot more fun and replayability.

  • Thanks to NSV for providing a copy for review.
  • Follow this link for 200+ more of my board game reviews.

Journey to the Center of the Earth board game: A four-sided review

Box cover for Journey to the Center of the Earth

The Journey to the Center of the Earth board game is a ‘flip-and-write’ listed for 1-50 players. As each player takes a sheet from a pad and uses a shared set of information to play, high numbers are indeed possible. But I’ve only played it with 1-4 players (it works well with those).

The game takes 20-30 minutes to play, regardless of player count. And while the box says ages 10+, gamer children of eight should be fine.

At time of writing, Board Game Prices only lists a completely different game on its site. It’s easy to tell, as the covers are very different. The game reviewed here is available directly from the publisher, Looping Games. It is listed at €21, which is a good price for what you get: 100 double-sided sheets; 37 cards and a second rules sheet for solo play (but no pens/pencils).

The theme is stretched pretty thin, but does a good job of setting the scene – and the artwork on the cards and sheets also helps. This is very much an abstract game. But in fairness, your goal is to get to the centre of the earth (read: sheet) and back out again in one piece. So it certainly brings the theme along on the journey.

Teaching the Journey to the Center of the Earth board game

Each player has two sheets: one showing a map and the other a variety of scoring boxes to mark off in rows and/or columns. Two small decks of cards (exploration and tunnel) are shuffled separately; the three volcano cards are shuffled and placed face down, and the three character cards are placed face up. With that (and a pen/pencil) you’re ready to go.

There are four start spaces on the N,S,E and W sides of the map. As long as you’re playing with 1-4 people, each player marks a different one of these as their start point. Three symbols are marked in the other start spaces, representing possible escape points. The map’s central point is the centre of the earth, which you need to plot an (orthogonal) route to – and then out from an available exit. Spaces directly adjacent to entrances/exits are in grey, meaning only lines can go into them (more of which later). Otherwise, it’s a blank canvas.

A card is flipped over from both the exploration and tunnel decks each turn. One will show the row or column in which you can mark off a space; and the other what you can put in it. In most cases, this will be either an item or a tunnel. Tunnels are either a straight line or an ‘L’ shape (you choose the orientation). Items act as a handy crossroads. While connecting to them with tunnels will give water (see blow) or scoring bonuses. In this way, each round, you slowly create a map – but one where the points slowly piece themselves together (as in a game such as Railroad Ink).

Getting in – and getting back…

The two decks of cards in the Journey to the Center of the Earth board game also act as timers. When the tunnel deck runs out, each player must drink water – or perish. You start with two, and can connect to more as the game goes on. If all but one player runs out of water, they’re the winner. And as such it is possible for all players to lose on the same turn (although I haven’t seen this happen).

When the exploration deck is empty, you flip over a volcano card. All players then check the symbol on that card and block off that exit on their sheet. If you go through this deck a third time, closing the last exit, yup – you all lose. But again, I haven’t seen this happen. With both decks, if players are still alive, you simply shuffle them and go again. And if it is the tunnel deck, you also make the character cards available once more (see below).

The earlier you connect from your start space to the centre of the earth, the more bonus points you’ll get. And the game ends at the end of the round where a player also manages to escape. Players then add up their points for reaching the centre and escaping, as well as for items and water collected – losing points for any characters they’ve used. And most points wins; meaning, if you collected lots of bonuses, you could win despite not escaping – as long as you managed to stay alive.

The four sides

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

  • The writer: The bonus characters allow you to manipulate the card draw each round, allowing you to slightly break the rules in exchange for a points penalty. But each character is tied to a tunnel card and will not be available (until the deck is reshuffled) once its partner card is drawn. This can create a fantastic tension, as if you leave yourself in the hands of these cards you’re taking an extra risk. But they can be absolutely crucial. These little things really make the game shine and hint at the amount of thought and testing that went into it.
  • The thinker: I find myself torn with the Journey to the Center of the Earth board game. There is a lot of luck and one player can be totally screwed over – especially if the other players get to scribble out lots of spaces near to their entrance space. But at the same time, it is a compelling puzzle that always feels a bit different and that doesn’t overstay its welcome. So while it is not really a ‘me’ game, I’ve enjoyed it every time. And there’s definitely more to it, skill wise, than your first play may lead you to believe.
  • The trasher: Two of the 12 tunnel cards see you passing your sheet to a neighbour, allowing them to scribble out a space on your sheet. This is absolutely hilarious and a needed element, as it adds an extra level uncertainly. And the fact everyone has to do it means players who aren’t so keen on ‘take that’ elements don’t feel as bad. It’s the rules, not a choice. It really elevates the game for me, but I’m still not mad keen. As while this interaction creates some great moments, otherwise it is a little too ‘heads-down’ for my liking. That said, the giggles mean I’m always happy to play it if suggested.
  • The dabbler: I like this one a lot! I struggled on my first couple of plays, as it really is very tricky to see how the hell you’re going to make everything join up. But I stuck with it because of the great atmosphere and tension that built up around the table as we started to panic and run out of exits, water etc. And once you get the hang of it this is a surprisingly easy game to play – but a bugger to master (or get lucky at lol). While the artwork doesn’t blow me away the map looks lovely and the card art does fit the Victorian novel theme.

Key observations

A few people have very negatively compared the Journey to the Center of the Earth board game to Cartographers. As someone who has enjoyed both games, I find this a daft comparison as the games are so different. If I’d gone into this thinking it was going to be like Cartographers I might have been disappointed. But why I would I think that? They’re such different games that a comparison seems nonsensical. That is a light, measured set collection experience. This is a daft, tense adventure. Chalk and cheese. In reviewing, few things annoy me more than this type of lazy comparison.

While I understand claiming this game is for 1-50 players, it really isn’t (for me). I like it with 2-4, as each player then has their own start spot. But up to eight is OK, as you still only have two players per entrance. Also, with too many players the shared experience will probably get a little lost. But that is personal taste. Mechanically, it does support a higher number of players – as long as you laminate a bunch of the sheets as soon as you buy the game.

There are solo rules in the box. These basically add a way to mark off spaces that would’ve been marked off by your opponent when you swap sheets. While this technically works, it takes away one of the things that really makes the game sing for me. However, if you’re keen on solo games it works just fine – you just try for a high score, with little extra faff added to the mechanics.

Conclusion: Journey to the Center of the Earth board game

I think Journey to the Center of the Earth is an excellent game. Every game I’ve played has caused oohs and aahs, laughter, swearing and more. I’m not sure what more you want from a 30-minute filler game. Can it be swingy? Sure. Can you sometimes lose and feel you could do little about it? Perhaps. But it is always a good laugh. And as with all the better light games, better players somehow seem to get better ‘luck’ than those who don’t do so well. It’s a definite keeper and one of my favourite Essen 2021 releases so far.