Oaks, Elms, and Spruce, oh my!

Abstract is the best way to describe this game. Your currency comes from the sun, the board basically changes every round, and you don’t use meeples, pawns, or miniature warriors – you use trees. Photosynthesis is the name of today’s game, and as a friend of mine said when playing it for the first time, “This is a lot more interesting than what it sounded like.”

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The premise is simple, you start with a couple trees, gain light points, grow those trees or distribute seeds, turn your seeds into more trees, harvest trees when they reach full maturity, and ultimately have the most points at the end of the game – which is the end of the 3rd sun revolution. To break it down further, it’s quite simple. You’ll start the game with two small trees on the board on the outer edge of the forest. This will ensure that everyone is able to receive light points from the first sun revolution stage (there are 6 each spots the sun ends up in each revolution. Using the acquired light points, you can spend them to either grow your existing small trees into medium trees, and then later medium trees into large trees. You can also use light points to place a new seed a pre-determined number of spaces away in order to grow new trees.

Every player will have a player board that acts as a sort of bank. You will need to purchase trees and seeds from your board in order for them to go into your supply and be available to be placed on the forest board. If at any time you remove a tree or seed from the forest board and there isn’t an empty space for it on the player board, you’ll lose that item for the remainder of the game.

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Keep in mind when growing your trees and planting new seeds, that each time a round is over, the sun will shift its position to the next corner. Any trees in the shadows of equal sized or larger trees will not produce light points for that round. Therefor, placement and growth order is a very important strategy that must be used in order to be successful.

Once you get a tree to it’s largest size, you can then harvest it for points! ON each circle on the forest board, there is a specific number of leaves. When you harvest a tree, you gain a point token from the top of the pile of the corresponding leaf number. The point token piles are always placed with the highest point value on top to the lowest point value on the bottom. That means it is more lucrative to grow a tree through it’s stages and harvest it sooner, rather than later, in order to obtain the maximum amount of points.


My Thoughts: This is a nice change from the typical board game theme or mechanics. I’ve never really played another game like it, it’s definitely unique. It’s also another easy to learn game, so new players won’t feel overwhelmed. The first time I played it was fresh out of the box with 3 other people whom had never played it either. We understood all the rules and any questions we had were easily answered by a quick look back at the rules. I have only played this game once so far, but I will give it a 9/10 because I don’t see why I would never consider this game in the future.


Boardgamegeek.com stats:

  • Rating: 7.4
  • Playtime: 30 – 60 min
  • Complexity: 2.33/5
  • Mechanisms: Action Point Allowance System
  • Category: Abstract, Economic, Environmental
  • MSRP: $45

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Let’s Go on an Adventure!

Today I bring you this lovely choose-your-own adventure type game called Above and Below.

Your last village was ransacked by barbarians. You barely had time to pick up the baby and your favorite fishing pole before they started the burning and pillaging. You wandered over a cruel desert, braved frozen peaks, and even paddled a log across a rough sea, kicking at the sharks whenever they got too close, the baby strapped tightly to your back.

Then you found it! The perfect place to make your new home. But as soon as you had the first hut built, you discovered a vast network of caverns underground, brimming with shiny treasures, rare resources, and untold adventure. How could you limit your new village to the surface? You immediately start organizing expeditions and building houses underground as well as on the surface.

With any luck, you’ll build a village even stronger than your last– strong enough, even, to turn away the barbarians the next time they come knocking.

That blurb is straight from the game. It’s a nice set up to a very story driven game. In Above and Below, players compete to gain the most points by developing their village both above… and below… ground.

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Each player gets a board representing the area their village occupies. There is a central market which players can purchase buildings from to construct either above ground or down in the caverns/caves. In order to access caves to build in, players must send villagers to go exploring.

When a player goes exploring, they take the top card of the exploration deck and roll a die to determine which adventure they are going on. Another player will then take the adventure guide and read aloud the adventure, and then give the adventuring player a few different options to choose from. The different options will generally have an ‘explore’ value like ‘explore 3, explore 6’ or perhaps just one value. If the player chooses an option with an explore value, they must roll a die for each character they sent exploring and compare the result with the amount of lanterns received. Each lantern is an explore value, and if the player meets or exceeds an explore vlue for that adventure choice, they gain the result. The result can be a gain or loss in reputation, item loots, money, or even new characters.

All the characters can be used to send on explorations, but only certain characters (denoted by a quill or hammer) can be used to recruit more people into the village or build new buildings. Make sure you don’t overpopulate though, because at the end of each round, all the villagers will need to rest, and you can only rest a number of villagers equal to the amount of beds there are in the village. You can use cider barrels to get around this, but those are usually in short supply.

While you can’t sabotage or attack other player’s villages, you can deny them certain buildings by paying to refresh building rows or buying buildings before others get a chance to.


My Thoughts: I really enjoy this game, and it’s a nice change of pace when you just want a chill board gaming session where you can go on unique adventures and share some laughs. I have found that whoever gains and exploits one or more key or star buildings will usually run away with a victory, so be sure to not ignore those buildings in your strategy. It’s quite straightforward to understand and learn, and the different actions you can take are always the same and easy to understand (similar to the Blood Rage action system). If you enjoy choose-your-own adventure type stories, a laid back game experience, and the village/city building category of games – you should seriously consider picking this one up. I give this one an 8.5/10.


Boardgamegeek.com stats:

  • Rating: 7.6
  • Playtime: 90 min
  • Complexity: 2.55/5
  • Mechanisms: Storytelling, Card Drafting, Action Point Allowance, Dice Rolling, Set Collection
  • Category: Adventure, Book, City Building, Exploration
  • MSRP: $50

Valhalla’s Glory!

The card drafting mechanic comes back today in this game by Cool Mini or Not, but isn’t the main theme like in 7 Wonders. As you may pick up from the title of the post, this game is all about Vikings! Blood Rage is a game where you control a clan of vikings in an attempt to gain the most glory among the different clans.

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The board itself is visually stunning – the artwork is fantastic. The game also comes with 49 highly detailed plastic miniatures as well. I have over half of them painted in the copy I own – one of these days I’ll get to painting the rest (some are pictured below).

Apart from the aesthetics, the game-play is fantastic as well. This game is played in 3 rounds called ages (similar to 7 Wonders). The rounds begin with a draft of cards among the players, and then moves onto actions. Players perform actions by spending Rage points. Each round, a player gains Rage points equal to their Rage stat, which can be upgraded throughout the game by gaining control over provinces. Actions that can be taken are Invade, March, Upgrade, Quest, and Pillage. Some actions cost a specific amount of rage, while others cost 0 rage. The round continues until all players have used all their rage. At that time, everyone will discard down to 1 card, quests will be checked for completion, and then Ragnarok will occur, and destroy a province.

Each province has a limited number of spots (with the exception of Yggdrasil in the center) for viking or monster figures (recruited through upgrade cards). If a player decides to pillage a province, all vikings in that province will participate in a battle. Battling is resolved simply by counting the strength among the figures there, and the addition of any strength played by cards. Whichever clan has the highest amount of strength wins! If the clan who initiated the pillage wins, they flip over the token in that province and reap the award. If an opposing clan wins, the token remains face down. All losers of the battle are sent to Valhalla. In the event of a tie, all participating figures are sent to Valhalla.

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In order to have more figures on the board at a time (rather than the standard 4), you will need to upgrade your Horns stat. The Axe stat determines how much glory you are awarded for winning battles. At the end of each round, Valhalla is released, and players get back any figures that were lost during that age. Any figures still on the board remain there until they are removed.

Here are some pictures of painted figures from my personal copy.


My Thoughts: This game is a favorite of mine, as well as some of the others that I play with. I have to give this one a 9.5/10. It’s outstanding and I always enjoy playing this game. It’s smooth, the rules are easy, there’s ton of player interaction, and it’s just overall a great game. The models and the great art on the board really add to the immersion. It’s simple enough for people to pick up and after 1 play through, they’ll really get the hang of it. With the games taking usually 60 minutes or so, we normally squeeze in two games at a time.


Boardgamegeek.com stats:

  • Rating: 8.1
  • Playtime: 60 – 90 min
  • Complexity: 2.89/5
  • Mechanisms: Area Control, Card Drafting, Hand Management,
  • Category: Fantasy, Fighting, Miniatures, Mythology
  • MSRP: $56

 

Meeples of the Stone Age

Hello friends! Today we’re going to take a step away from the civilization building games, and enter the Stone Age. Yes, today’s game review is for Stone Age. Worker Placement is the main mechanic of this game, and it does it very well.

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Stone age is a game for 2 – 4 players, although it’s best experienced with 4 players, as there are alternate rules for 2 and 3 player games. Each round, players will take turns placing workers in various locations on the board. In order to gain resources, players can send workers to the clay pit, mountains, river, or forest in hopes of bringing back a plentiful bounty of goods. However, the spaces here are limited, so it’s a first come – first serve basis in these areas. The hunting grounds can be occupied by any number of workers though. You also have spaces in the village that can be occupied in order to increase farming output, make tools for dice manipulation, or increase the amount of workers you have. Be careful though! At the end of each round, you’ll need to provide food for each worker you own.

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So why gather materials? Well, you’ll need materials to purchase building tiles and pay for development cards – both which provide points, and points are what you’ll need to win this game. Games are often decided by who has the most development cards. A player could be quite far behind, but at the end of the game when development cards are counted, they can jump ahead and win by a landslide if no one else was focusing on them.


My Thoughts: I would give this game an 8.5/10. I very much enjoy this game, but as I said before – even though it’s 2 -4 players, it’s really best played with four. 3 players does provide a good balance, but there are still restrictions. This is a great game to introduce people to the worker placement mechanic though as it isn’t overly complicated at its core. The art is really nice on the boards and the quality of the components are nice as well. New players to the game are also usually impressed with the leather dice cup, and comment on it.


Boardgamegeek.com stats:

  • Rating: 7.6
  • Playtime: 60 – 90 min
  • Complexity: 2.50/5
  • Mechanisms: Dice Rolling, Set Collection, Worker Placement
  • Category: Dice, Strategy, Prehistoric
  • MSRP: $50

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Develop a Wonder of the World

Today, I bring to you the wonderful card drafting game called 7 Wonders. This game has won a mess of awards, and most of them are plastered around the sides of the box. The premise of the game is quite simple – everyone picks or is randomly assigned a wonder, and then cards are drafted in 3 different rounds in an attempt to finish with the most points.

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The game is broken into three different ages. The first age you will be drafting the building blocks of your wonder. Age I consists mainly of resource cards and some military, science, economy and civic cards. You’ll mostly want to focus on setting up your resource pool with brown and gray cards that fill the gaps of the players to your left and right (since you can trade money with them for temporary use of their resources). Any card you draft, you will keep for the entirety of the game, so building up your resource reserves is key here. Some economy cards (yellow) allow you to purchase resources from your neighbors at a discounted cost.

Age II has more resource cards, but this time they are more efficient, providing two of one type of resource. You’ll also find more of the gray resources here as well such as glass, silk, and paper. Science and civic cards will appear more frequently in this age too providing straight up victory points (through civics), or getting your sets started for science points. You better make sure you have access to at least one of each resource by the end of Age II, because…

Age III doesn’t contain any resource cards. This is where you are fine tuning your wonder/civilization and developing guilds which will score you points based on yours and your opponent’s actions throughout the course of the game. During each age, you will also have the ability to construct stages of your wonder for additional bonuses. These stages are entirely optional though, and you can very well win the game without developing any stage of your wonder.

This game plays 2 – 7 players. There is an alternate rule set for a 2 player game, and I have never tried it myself. I would recommend just playing 7 Wonders Duel if it’s only going to be two players. The interesting part of this game is that even though there may be say – 5 or 6 players – you only interact with the players to your immediate right and left. You will never interact with any of the other 2 or 3 players, but everyone’s scores are compared at game end. For example, you will never wage combat against, or be able to buy resources from, the players whom aren’t sitting right next to you.

There have been several expansions that have come out for this game introducing different card types such as leaders and cities. Some of the cards from these expansions do result in interaction across the table though. I’ll cover these expansions in a future blog post, as this is just focused on the base game.


My Thoughts: This is one of my all time favorites. It deserves every award it was presented with. It’s super easy to learn and it comes with a handy reference guide that new players can look at to better understand what specific cards do. It takes the card drafting mechanic and makes your picks have an instant effect, rather than waiting until you have a complete deck or set. Because of that, the state of the game is constantly changing based on which resources you have access to, and which cards you can likely see based on what the other players are drafting.

My personal rating for this game is 9/10. This game comes with me to game night more often than others because it’s always different. No two games are ever the same, even if you play the same wonder board. Also, each board is double sided, which just increases the uniqueness of each game. While it has a decent amount of strategy to it, it’s also simple enough to pick up and understand by the end of the first play-through, and games typically can be played within 30 – 40 minutes.


Boardgamegeek.com stats:

  • Rating: 7.8
  • Playtime: 30 min
  • Complexity Rating: 2.34/5
  • Mechanisms: Card drafting, Hand Management, Set Collection
  • Category: Card Game, City Building, Civilization
  • MSRP: $50

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So You Want to Rule an Empire?

Welcome to the first game review on Carey’s Cardboard Castle! I’m going to kick this off with the most complex game I own. If you want to play this game with 3 other people, you best clear out your schedule for the afternoon and evening. You could say the same if you are planning on playing the virtual version of this game as well, where the common phrase uttered is, “One more turn.” I’m talking about Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game by Fantasy Flight Games. This is an all time favorite of mine, but you need people who are as interested in it as you are, because it can take 2 – 4 hours for a play through.

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Keep in mind, I’m reviewing the version that was released in 2010 (pictured above), not the newer version “A New Dawn”.

As you can see by the above picture, this is by no means a small game. This game about empire building through the means of economy, military, culture, and technology is as massive as it sounds. You will need a pretty substantial table area to comfortably play this game with any more than two people. Also, depending on how organized you keep the game, the set-up of this can take almost a half hour by yourself – and that isn’t an exaggeration.

There are a lot of components to this game, but they all make sense, and all work together seamlessly. The design of this game is very well done. However, with the complexity and depth, it is definitely not a game for just anyone. Your entry level board gamer who has only been exposed to basic party games and the park brother classics (and prefers only those levels of complexity), might not be able to get into or enjoy this.

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You have flag figures to represent your armies, and then individual cards to represent the units in your army. You have figures to represent settlers, you have cards to represent which type of government your civilization has, and you have a civilization card showing your leader, their ability, and a tracker wheel to track your science points and gold. You’ll also have a technology deck with all the separate techs you can research, you’ll have wonder cards, culture cards, and different building tiles strewn across your empire. Add in a few expansions, and you’ll have even more parts and pieces.

My Thoughts: This game is fantastic. If you have the passion for 4X type strategy games, you will thoroughly enjoy this game. I cannot stress enough though – this is a ‘heavy’ game. There is a lot going on, but it’s structured. However, the amount of what’s going on, what you have to consider during your current turn and future turns, and the overall scale of this can be very overwhelming for some people. I have played it 4 or 5 times now, with anywhere from 2 to 5 players (5 with an expansion – the base game only plays max 4), and I haven’t had a poor experience regarding game play. Apparently the newer version of this, “A New Dawn” plays in half the time at $10 less MSRP. From what I’ve heard it’s still an excellent empire building experience, and it is on my short list of games to play.

My personal rating for this game is 8/10. I would rate it a 9/10 if the complexity was lower and it didn’t seem as intimidating to new players. Perhaps “A New Dawn” fixes those issues.


Boardgamegeek.com stats:

  • Rating: 7.5
  • Play Time: 120 – 240 minutes
  • Complexity Rating: 3.87 / 5
  • Category: City Building, Civilization, Exploration
  • Mechanisms: Card Drafting, Grid Movement, Hand Management, Modular Board
  • MSRP: $59.99

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Welcome to Carey’s Cardboard Castle!

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Welcome! This blog castle is going to be chock full of tabletop game reviews for all sorts of different games. I say tabletop, because not all games that will be featured here are necessarily played on boards, but they will all involve cardboard of some type I’m sure. There are a few things I’d like to cover with this introductory post before I start laying out the reviews.

Personal Introduction: Born in 1987 in the Hudson Valley region of New York, I’ve grown to enjoy the geekier things in life. I’ve been playing board games for as long as I can remember, starting with the classics like Clue, Sorry, and Monopoly. However, after college I discovered a thing called a ‘game store’. My good friend told me about this place near by that does Magic: The Gathering tournaments, and said I should get into the game and come with him to one of the events.

The first time I walked in there, it was like I discovered a piece of my life that had been missing all along. This little store was called Money G’s Cards and Collectables. When I found this place, it had only been open less than a year. However, as it grew in popularity, it also grew in size. At first they carried strictly card games like Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon, and YuGiOh. Then miniature war games were introduced in the form of Warmachine. Then Hordes evolved from that, and eventually the store – which I refer to as “The Shop” – relocated down the road to a larger venue. And with the larger venue, came more product. Board games I had never heard of made an appearance, then X-Wing, then Dice masters, it just grew and grew, and kept growing. Moving to larger space after larger space, and acquiring more and more product.

During it’s growth, I became good friends with the owner and recommended different products and became sort of an ambassador of all things non-card game related. Which eventually led me into my board game obsession. As of June 9th, 2018, currently have a little over 40 games which occupy a 6′-6″ tall book case in my living room. A couple more games, and I’ll have to get another one. A lot of my game reviews at first will be of games I currently own, so they may have been out for a few years already, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Which brings me to my next topic…

My Goal: The goal for this blog is to share my love of board games with the rest of the world. While I do that, I hope to inspire other people to get involved in this fantastic… hobby I guess I’d call it, and realize there is an entire world of high quality, entertaining, engaging, and frankly better games out there beyond the ‘Parker Brother classics’. Also, I hope that my reviews will help people make that decision as to whether or not they should buy a game they may be on the fence about.

How it Will Work: Once a week, I will post a blog entry of a review of a unique game. Sometimes this may happen twice a week, but I’d rather promise one week and give the bonus of twice, than promise twice and give the disappointment of one.

The review will talk about my thoughts of the game, how it plays, the style of game it is, how many people it plays, and how long it takes. I will do my best to remember to take pictures, but sometimes I might forget, or not be able to get a good picture, so I’ll use photos of it from somewhere else online.


I’m also open to suggestions of games from readers as well. I’m more than happy to try out something new and report back to you! I’m excited to embark on this adventure, and I hope anyone reading this sticks around and regularly checks back for new reviews!

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