The Builders: Middle-Ages


Whenever I need to fill up a gaming slot of 30-45 minutes, I try to play The Builders: Middle Ages, a city building game where players collect workers and build buildings for money and victory points. It won a well-deserved “As d’Or” in the 2014 Festival de Cannes.

Players each receive an Apprentice builder and 10 coins. The Builders deck and Buildings deck are shuffled and placed out onto the table. Five of each type of card are dealt out to the table and the game begins.

On their turn, a player is able to take three actions. These can consist of several different types of actions.

1. Pick up a building. When a building is picked up, it is replaced by the top card on the building deck
2. Pick up a worker. When a worker is picked up, it is replaced by the top card on the worker deck.
3. Assign a worker. Players can pay the cost of a worker and then put him to work on a selected building.
4. Take gold. Using up one action, a player collects one gold. Two actions for three and three actions for six.

Players can take the same action twice, however when doing so, it counts as multiple actions. For instance, a player can assign a worker as their first action and then assign another worker on the same building, this is two additional actions. If they assign a third worker, it would take three additional actions. Players may purchase additional actions (beyond their starting three) at 5 gold a piece to extend their turn.

Players are attempting to build buildings. To do this, they must match workers up to the building using the materials on the worker. When a building is completed (by using all the materials needed), it is flipped onto its completed side and the player takes the total coins shown (if any) as well as victory points. Some buildings act as tools and can be used as materials for the rest of the game.

The game will end once a player has reached at least 17 victory points. Players receive one last turn if each player has not received equal turns. Once the game ends, players count up their total scores (players get 1 point for every 10 coins they have), and the player with the most points wins.

The Builders: Middle Ages is a great card game that lasts just long enough and has enough strategy in it to stay interesting. I like that players are able to purchase multiple actions in order to continue their turn. I also like how the game always seems just out of reach for those who lost it. It makes me want to start right over and keep playing to try and win the next one.

If you want to go further, you can also acquire The Builders: Antiquity — a standalone card game based on The Builders: Middle Ages — offers a whole range of challenges to its builders. To face these challenges, you must put on your foreman clothes. Between hiring workers, managing their organization, purchasing slaves or tools, and taking out loans, you’ll have to make the right decisions to fulfill your dream: Becoming the greatest builder the age has ever known.

Scenery Workshop: Bring boardgames to the next level

cropped-SceneryWorkshop_logo_transparantPainting your miniatures is a fun activity and greatly enhance your board games visuals. I have “invested” (if we can call it an investment) into some modular workshop system found on the website of Scenery Workshop. This Dutch webshop has really all what you can dream about to establish the perfect your work-area.

I bought the Hobbyzone Benchtop Organizer (WM1) for under 50 euros. It’s big enough to hold all my material (cutters, scissors, holders, glue, pencils, …) together in the handy drawers.

IMG_6877In addition to store all my paints (I have a mixed collection of both Citadel paints and The Army Painter, Vallejo, Rackham, etc..); I bought 3 extra elements to have a good visibility on all my paint colors :

You can see them on the picture over here:


To be complete, I also have the now indispensible LightCraft Triple Tube Pro Task Lamp – LC8015 – that allows me finally to paint also when it’s dark outside. The usage of this lamp is just amazing. I could not do without it anymore.


Last but not least, I had a little problem with one of the neon lights in my lamp who broke down after a few hours of usage and Patrick from the Scenery Workshop went to extreme length to get me a replacement (free of charge) that he sent over to me.

The after-sales services is just great with a practical ticketing system you get answer to your questions in no-time.

I highly recommend this webshop because good prices, selection of goods and service is just excellent !

They push the hobby to the next level !

Risk: Star Wars Edition


So you’re a boardgamer and think that buying games from retail stores are not “really gamers’ games” hu ? Well .. maybe you’re wrong ! Think about fun factor & material.

In this game one player plays the rebels and the other the Empire. There are three areas on the board and three things going on. One has Luke and Vader fighting. The other has a track that has the progression of the task force that seeks to blow up the shield generator. The final area is the center which is the space battle for the death star.


Each player has an unique deck of cards and each card has two or three possible actions. At the beginning of a round players will pick three of their six cards to play. Starting with the rebel player, they will reveal their top card and pick one of the symbols to resolve.

Each symbol corresponds with one of the three areas. Both sides can choose to do the lightsaber duel. This involves rolling four dice and getting 4+, each one is a hit. The first side to get the other down to zero life on this track will get several bonus actions.

Other actions can allow the rebels to move up the shield track. The rebel player rolls five dice. At the beginning they need 2+ but at the end it requires 5 and 6s. The Imperial players can add storm-troopers to this track to increase the difficulty.

The middle section is where the win conditions exist. Rebels can move and attack with squadrons of fighters or the Falcon. The Empire can attack with tie fighters, the Super Star Destroyer, spawn new fighters, or use the Death Star to blow up capitol ships (which may have starfighter reinforcements). Fighting is done rolling dice.


The Empire’s goal is to destroy all of the rebel ships. The Rebel’s player goal is to destroy Death Star. They can do this if they reach the top of the shield track, and then roll a six with a ship next to the death star. If this happen, the rebels win.

The mechanics are a lot of fun, and the theme really comes through. The biggest issue with this game are the components. Outside of the starship tokens, all of the other components are cardboard tokens. This means the shield track is really just some spaces that a cardboard chit moves up.

Try to replace these tokens with for example Micro Machine miniatures; This simple change does help a decent amount.

Nice KS campaign ongoing for Zombicide decors

If you’re like me having several boxes of Zombicide, you might want to go to the next level and also have some nice/3D elements on the board.

This was already possible by doing it yourself if you have creative hands, but easier and probably cheaper would be to have a look at this Kickstarter Campaign from Battle Systems:



For about ~120,00 € you get some nice modulable decors that can be used for various missions. The feedback about the quality of their is good and the team is actually using also Zombicide miniatures for their tests.




Monthly Game Talks: September 2015

For the month of September. Let’s have a closer look at a “Top 5” Lord of the Rings Games.

Lord of the Rings is a powerful license. There was always some demand for games that are Lord of the Rings related and pursuit of these games spurred interest in fantasy wargames like Warhammer and tabletop roleplaying games like D&D. Now that there has been a major blockbuster trilogy for Lord of the Rings, with the Hobbit trilogy coming out as we speak, there is an absolute glut of Lord of the Rings merchandise on the market.

Maybe this is what Christopher Tolkien was thinking of when he said he hated what his father’s work had become? I’m certain that if Christopher played some of the games not on the list, he’d agree that they are terribly bad. Don’t lose hope though! There are some great Lord of the Rings games out there too. Here’s a run down of the best of the Lord of the Rings games on the market.


#5- Lords Of The Ring

This is one of the more well known Lord of the Rings games on the market, and one of the only Eurogames with a Lord of the Rings theme that I am aware of. In English this game is known just as Lord of the Rings and it was published in 2000 in Germany under the book license, as the Jackson movies still hadn’t been released. The game is very abstract, and while it is ostensibly about throwing the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom to Save The World, I personally feel like the theme is kind of bizarrely added onto the mechanics. This is the German Art Film of Lord of the Rings games, but it’s interesting so don’t pass up a chance to play it just because it’s weird.


#4- Lord of the Rings Heroclix

HeroClix have been around for a long time now, and while I’m not a huge fan of collectible minis or the games that tend to go with them, the Lord of the Rings series has been pretty solid. Based on the Jackson movies, the Clix do battles in Middle Earth surprisingly well. If you skip the boosters and just buy a starter pack (there are currently Lord of the Rings and Hobbit starters) then you get a decent selection of minis, a bunch of tokens, some maps, a rule book and scenarios. The Lord of the Rings starter came with a scenario for defending Balin’s Tomb from the Fellowship of the Ring (Hobbit spoiler? Nah, you probably hadn’t noticed the name anyways). The scenarios are fun and the way that Clix games use special abilities, the hobbit characters are not liabilities even though they are not heavy hitters. Overall the game and the theme fits very well together, which surprised me.


#3- Middle Earth Quest

This big-box game is likely to stir the blood of anybody who has ever learned to write in elvish or let loose a dwarven battle-cry while wielding a plastic axe. The game plays a lot like a co-operative game, with players working together, moving pieces around a board trying to manage the evil leaking from Mordor and other havens of evil. The twist is that one player is playing the evil forces of Sauron and is actively trying to screw the rest of the players out of victory. this evil player is not a toaster or a secret traitor like other games of this type, but is openly antagonizing the scattered forces of good. It’s huge, it has tons of pieces, takes hours and is amazingly fun. Perfect for the kind of person who likes games that take an entire Saturday to play.


#2- Lord of The Rings Deckbuilding Game

Cryptozoic has hit on a really solid formula. The second in their recent line of licensed deck-building games, the Lord of the Rings version uses mechanics very similar to those of the DC Comics game while staying different in actual play. The mechanics of the game are changed slightly to fit the idea that no one is directly fighting each other and the mood turns more into something akin to the Gimli/Legolas rivalry to hit the most orcs in the head with pointy metal. The base game includes material from the Fellowship of the Ring movie and the first expansion adds material from the Two Towers movie, with Return of the King and Hobbit expansions implied. Not only a good Lord of the rings game, Cryptozoic made a really good game, period.


#1- Lord of the Rings LCG

I have never before seen such a perfect blend of theme and mechanics in a game. I did not have high hopes when I heard of this game. Another Lord of the Rings card game? A Living Card Game from Fantasy Flight? I was sure that this would be some Call of Cthulu knock off or worse, a reprinting of the old Middle Earth CCG in non-collectible form. My initial worries were so wrong. What Fantasy Flight has done is take the core concept of both the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings tales and distill that down into a simple idea with a lot of strategic space to play around in.

Each player makes a deck as you would for any CCG, but players work together to defeat bad guys, travel through harsh lands and work the cause of right. The deck the players are fighting involves missions and mission-specific cards, which means that every game has a story, an objective and the mechanics to support both. It’s set between the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings and many of the quest lines are sometimes subtle references to parts of the books, such as the Hunt for Gollum which is mentioned briefly in the Council of Elrond in the novel. There is also a new set of quest paths out that runs through the entire Hobbit story line with unique mechanics to support a more linear quest chain than was previously implied in the Lord of the Rings base set. FFG really hit the ball out of the park with this one.

How to Eat a Game


Open box, remove contents. Discard plastic bags.

Soak board in water with a touch of lemon juice.

Put pawns and wooden cubes in a lightly greased pan, sprinkle with coriander, and bake in oven at 400 degrees for one hour.

Heat canola oil in large frying pan. Shuffle cards, cut into 1/2-inch strips. Dip the strips into raw egg and bread crumbs, deep-fry for twenty minutes.

When board is thoroughly soaked, carefully remove paper from board. Scrape all glue into mixing bowl. Discard paper.

Tear up rules. Soak bits in sherry and diced chives and roll into balls.

Assemble cube tower. Tenderize with hammer.

Add the fried cards, rule balls and roast pawns to the mixing bowl and stir. Shave cubes with sharp knife, add to mixture to taste.

Cover mixing bowl with aluminum foil.

Get in car, drive to zoo, strangle kangaroo. Extract juice from pineal gland with a sturdy syringe. Hide evidence of foul play in pouch.

Return home, remove aluminum foil, squirt kangaroo extract liberally onto mixture.

Stuff the mixture into the cube tower with spatula, roll tower in softened board.

Broil for two hours.

When done, garnish with dice and serve with tossed tiles.

Bon appetit!


Shadowrun Crossfire Expansion !

Shadowrun Crossfire is one of my favorite deckbuilding game. Published by Catalist Game Labs they posted a picture on Instagram announcing the a full expansion called High Caliber Ops ! A stack of boxes was visible at PAX Prime.


Now why would you want to play this game ? A few thoughts ..

1 – It is cooperative. That is a big difference right there. I have not played another coop deck builder.

2 – The game is kicking you where it hurts from the beginning. Due to it being a coop, there isn’t a need for the “buy cards then buy points” feel I get from Dominion, EmDo, and, to a lesser extent, Ascension.

3 – The deck building is relatively minor. Sure you have deck building, but you start with 7 cards and you might, MIGHT, buy 8-10 cards in a game. Usually that number will be lower in the 4-6 range. This is the reason I included Rococo. The games are completely different, but that very slight hand building in Rococo is similar to SR:CF’s deck building (or deck modifying).

4 – It plays fast. A lot of deck builders play fast. Some, like Dominion, are dependent on the cards available as to how fast the game goes. SR:CF keeps cards moving either by wiping them out of the black market, people buying them, or you are dead and starting a new game.

5 – Is it thematic? As much as the next deck builder. It isn’t dripping with the Shadowrun theme like a tactical miniatures game could be, but I don’t need it to be. If I really want Shadowrun, I have the RPG & recent computer games to turn to. I do feel like the Extraction mission is the most thematic of the two base set missions I have played. Having to keep the client alive is a real challenge.
6 – Is it supported? Not as much as its fans would like, that is for sure. The new expansion is the first for the game and almost doubles the amount of available official scenarios from 6 (3 in box, 2 on website, 1 demo scenario on website) to 11, with new black market cards, new role cards (different starting decks) and new abilities to spend your karma points on.

Note: There have been two character expansion packs released but these are more of “reload packs” than anything else. They give you new character cards and new sticker sheets for a fraction of the price of rebuying the expansion or the base game. CEP #1 gives you more sticker sheets identical to those in the base game. CEP #2 give you more sticker sheets identical to those in the new expansion.

7 – It is legacy-ish. No it is not and by anyhow it is not something you see in most deck builders is the ability to gain new abilities, albeit slowly and probably not every 1-2 plays like Risk Legacy. The game state is, for the most part, static across a series of plays before you earn enough karma to buy that upgrade you have had your eye on.

8 – You can play it solo. Like many coops and unlike many deck builders I have played, SR:CF can be played solo. The Crossfire scenario is a two character minimum, so you will need to run two decks and all that, but the Extraction scenario scales from 1-4 and is, like I said before, the more thematic scenario of the two, IMO.

Not convinced ? Join the Boardgame Monkeys and request to play the game to give it a try :) I’ll be happy to host a table.



Valiant RPG for Beginners

4552989-01Catalyst Games Labs has released an RPG system based on the popular Valiant Comics universe.

Valiant Comics are most well know for their realistic and gritty interpretation of the superhero genre.
Called Valiant RPG, it is designed to be as friendly to new players of RPGs as possible. It utilises the Cue System, making it very rules-light and allowing a great deal of flexibility between the Gamemaster and players.
The main rulebook, which is currently available, provides an overview of the Valiant universe, as well as pre-generated characters for iconic Valiant heroes. And of course, rules to create your own heroes and villains.  Currently the main rulebook is only available as a PDF, via Drive Through RPG !

That said, you can read through the Book Play Guide and the Quick Start Rules to get an idea of the theme, setting and mechanics.

Linnaeus’s Four Principles of Dice Game Design

Originally posted on My Play:

Like most people in my generation of gamers, I love rolling dice; big handfuls of them when possible. Unfortunately, this clashes with a lot of other elements of my taste in games, and there are very few dice games that I love as much as I love rolling dice. While I don’t think I have all the answers for what makes a brilliant dice game, I do have some thoughts; principles, if you will.

I choose the word principles advisedly. Principles should be followed but, unlike laws or rules, they are provided with the expectation that they will be broken *when there is sufficient justification*. I’m not sure how much the designers of the recent spate of dice games (To Court the King, Kingsburg, Pickomino, Roll Through the Ages, &c.) considered these problems, but all of them, as far as I know, break one or more of these principles, and…

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Monthly Game Talks: August 2015 !


I played a game of Reiner Knizia’s Palazzo for the first time a week or two ago. One of the things that struck me about the game was the use of color-coded currency cards that are used to buy the palazzo pieces that create victory points. A player may only use cards of one color currency when bidding at auction. A player may have a substantial amount of money in his cards, but if they are evenly divided between the two colors, only half of his cash will be useful in making a single purchase.

One of the reasons I took note of this mechanism is because Alhambra uses almost the exact same mechanism. The biggest difference is that Alhambra has four colors of currency. Having the perfect tile come up for purchase can be a frustrating experience if you have money in every color except the one you need.

Many game uses assorted currencies as part of their game mechanisms. I am going to use the term currency to mean any resource that can be accumulated, that is portable (land doesn’t count as currency although it can sometimes function as one), and that can be converted into something else of value in a game. Games like Caylus and Silk Road have both cash and little wooden cubes in their games, but the resource cubes are just another form of currency. The trick in these games is to produce or acquire the currencies that are most useful to you, and convert them into something that can get you closer to victory.

One of the pleasures of having multiple currencies in a game is that different players can be in the lead in different areas of the game. In a game of Caylus or Silk Road, one player may have more cash than anyone else, but other players may have more cubes of one color or another than the other players. This can make these games seem more balanced and competitive than a game in which cash is the only currency, and it is clear who has the most of it.

Currencies seem to come in two types:

1) Currencies which are equal in value. In Alhambra each color currency has no more value than any other. One color currency might be more valuable to you in a particular situation, but that difference in value is temporary, and not part of the structure of the game. In Silk Road, each coin and each resource cube is worth one victory point at the end of the game. It doesn’t matter what form you wealth takes—it only matters that you have more of it than the other players.

2) Currencies which not equal in value. In Caylus gold cubes are worth victory points at the end of the game, but all other colors of cubes are worthless. Therefore gold is a more valuable currency than all the other colors of resource cubes. There may be situations in the game when what you really need is a pink cube, or a brown cube, or a gray cube. But at the end of the game what you really want is gold. Caylus players should keep this consideration in mind when using gold to create buildings; is the payoff going to be worth the payout? In addition, cash is needed every turn just to place a player’s workers on the game board. Because a certain amount of cash is needed every turn, it is an essential currency. The in-equivalence of currencies makes calculations in Caylus fascinating and difficult.

It’s always a risk using a game I haven’t played as an example of a point I want to make, but from reviews of Through the Ages, the civ-building game from Czech Board Games, it seems that the game has a number of currencies. Food units feed population, rocks are used for construction, light bulbs are used to purchase civilization advances. I don’t know if these resources can be converted so I may be fudging my definition here. But it’s easy to see how multiple currencies could function in a civ-building game if you’ve played Sid Meier’s computer game Civilization. In that game, scientific research converts into farming or industrial production indirectly through tech advances that allow growth in various aspects of your nation. Farm surpluses can be indirectly converted into other currencies by freeing up farm workers to do something other than produce food.

Games with multiple currencies usually make a point of restricting the ways that players can convert one currency into another. If a player could convert one currency into another at any time at a one-for-one exchange rate, then for practical purposes you don’t have two currencies, you have one.

When games limit currency-conversion mechanisms, then access to these mechanisms usually becomes part of the strategy of the game. In Silk Road, converting one currency into another at a favorable rate of exchange is what the game is all about. Players in Silk Road bid for the right to choose the next city that the caravan visits and thus control the trading opportunities at that city. If you have a large amount of red cubes, and you see that one of the next cities has a trading opportunity to convert red cubes into blue cubes at a rate of one for two, then you will probably try to win the auction. If there are no opportunities to trade red cubes immediately ahead, then winning the auction will be of lesser importance, and you may want to save your cash for a later auction.

In Caylus players compete to produce currencies (resource cubes), to convert currencies from one form to another by placing workers in the appropriate buildings, and to spend these currencies in a way that generates victory points. Every step of the process is competitive, and players must learn to change their plans when their abilities to produce or convert currencies are thwarted.

Although the use of multiple currencies and the mechanisms used to convert them can be used to create a game, I think in the future games will be more interesting if the multiple currency mechanism is used in games which have more going on than just currency conversion. As I mentioned, civ-building games may be one mini-genre that could use this mechanism well. Euro-wargame hybrids could use this mechanism for the non-military part of the game (the currencies might represent cash, technology growth, or political or religious power).

Multiple currencies and resource conversion—like the area majority mechanism—is a simple mechanism that can take so many forms that it can appear again and again in games without wearing out its welcome. I expect gamers will be spending real world dollars for multiple currency games for years to come.