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Dwarven Forge: Cavern’s Kickstarter

By Dave Breen

Looks like our friends at Dwarven Forge have been very busy since their highly successful Kickstarter for Game Tiles.     They just launched another Kickstarter project to create a new line of Cavern style tiles for use with your favorite RPG.  The tiles are designed for use with 25mm miniatures.

people of the pitI was recently running a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure called The People of the Pit, and discovered that the original Game Tiles style didn’t have the right design to for the module.  The rough edges of the caverns just didn’t convey the right image when using standard dungeon style Game Tiles.

I’m very excited at the possibilities that the cavern setting will provide.   Given how effectively the team at Dwarven Forge delivered on their last project,  I’m lending my support to this project also.   See our review of Game Tiles for more information on how we rated Dwarven Forge’s original Game Tiles product.

My only challenge is figuring out how many sets to buy, and how many ‘add-on’ packs I’ll end up wanting.




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10th Anniversary edition of Ticket to Ride


Days of Wonder recently announced the 10th anniversary edition of their mega hit Ticket to Ride.

At GameKnight, we are huge fans of collector edition games, and this is one that we are especially excited about.

Here’s the press release from their site.

First introduced in 2004, Ticket to Ride has continued to delight millions of board game fans worldwide. This year the award-winning train adventure game turns 10 years old and it’s time to celebrate with this very special Ticket to Ride 10th Anniversary Edition!

The Ticket to Ride 10th Anniversary Edition comes in an oversize game box featuring new cover design and graphics. It includes a giant US board map that is 50% larger than the original. It still uses the classic US routes, but with new illustrations and design. There are 5 sets of finely sculpted custom plastic trains, each featuring a different type of train car and unique paint scheme reminiscent of toy trains of yesteryear.giant ticket to ride map

This special 10th Anniversary Edition is a “must-have” for Ticket to Ride fans. The game play remains faithful to the original classic US map version – but the new design, illustrations, oversized map and especially the new custom trains and tin storage boxes – take the Ticket to Ride experience to a whole new level.

Get Ready

Get ready for this amazing looking new version by brushing up on your skills with GameKnight’s exclusive free strategy guide.

Hardcore Ticket to Ride fans will appreciate our Ticket to Ride inspired denominations for VictoryChips.  These VictoryChips allow you to easily keep score.   Each time a route is claimed grab the appropriate value VictoryChip (1\2\4\7\10\15).     Check them out on GameKnight store.


by Dave Breen


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Strategy guides & article submissions wanted

By Dave Breen

Ever since we began posting strategy guides to the site over the course of the past year or so, we have received a ton of great feedback from gamers eager for high quality strategy content.   During 2014, our intention is to continue to add new strategy guides and articles to the site.


Of course, well written guides require a deep understanding of a game that usually is only achievable from a significant number of plays.

As such, we are limited in the number of guides we can create during the course of a year.   Of course, with fans contributions, we might be able to increase this dramatically.

If you happen to be an strong player on a particular game, and are interested in authoring a strategy guide or article about  your favorite game, please reach out to us and let us know what you are interested in writing about.   In general our philosophy is to focus on games that have a fairly large fan base, however we also try to be flexible.

While we can’t promise fortune or even fame, we do know that great strategy guide can help new players get up to speed is a great way to increase interest in your favorite game.   We will of course provide credit for your efforts, and perhaps some other perks as well.

article-submissionHere’s a list of some of the games that we would love to make a guide available for:

  • Caverna
  • Through the Ages
  • Eclipse
  • Puerto Rico
  • Terra Mystica
  • Le Havre
  • Mage Knight Board Game

Other games are certainly welcome as well.


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Lords of Waterdeep: Quest card strategy tips

I came across this terrific strategy article by BGG user Whipy who graciously allowed us to repost this info here.2014 01 26 lords_of_waterdeep 5266

This strategy article considers if any strategies can be derived from Quest Cards, depending on which Lord you receive at the start. 

Let’s say that you receive “Kyriani Agrivar” as a Lord: she needs Arcana and Piety quests to score you bonus points at the end of the game. So which strategy should you use? Which resources, cards and buildings are the most valuable to you? By simply taking some time to study the different Quest Card’s that are available, I believe we can already learn a great deal. So let’s do that together, shall we?

By the end of this post, I hope to achieve a good “basic” strategy for each of the Lords. Based on your Lord, you should watch out for certain buildings, Quest Card’s and spots on the board that will benefit you in further rounds. For example, if you have an Arcana Lord, you should concentrate on getting as many wizards (purple cubes) as possible, even if you don’t need them on any of your open Quest Card’s right now. Remember that LoW is a worker placement game, and you need to optimize every move as much as you can.

At the end of this post, I will give a summary of each of the Lords and what I believe is the best basic strategy for each of them, with regards to resource collection. LoW is a very balanced game and I realize there’s more than one way to skin a cat. But I hope this will provide a good strategic starting point for beginners and more advanced players alike.

2014 01 26 lords_of_waterdeep 5263The Quest Cards:

Alright, let’s talk Quest Cards now! First of all, the distribution of total victory points over the different types of cards is pretty well balanced. Here’s a breakdown of the total “basic” VP’s you can earn in each category (not counting extra variable bonus points you can get with Plot Quests or cards that give you extra VP’s for each building you control etc):

  • Piety: 125
  • Commerce: 122
  • Arcana: 123
  • Warfare: 125
  • Skullduggery: 121

As you can see, there is no one type of Quest Card that will consistently give you more VP’s than the others. This makes sense, as your Lord card will determine mostly which type of Quest Card you will be going for. However, there are certainly a number of Quest Card worth aiming for even when they are not a specialty of your Lord, and that’s part of what we’re here to talk about today!

Let’s have a look at each category separately. I will describe them in a specific order, based on my personal preference (Piety > Commerce > Arcana > Warfare > Skullduggery). This is my personal preference: I’m looking forward to reading opinions that differ from my own!

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Prioritize collecting: white > orange > money

Completed Piety quests can give you a whole range of things, but some of the Quest Card are pretty powerful because they give you free Quest Card from the Cliffwatch Inn without having to take an action to get them. I would say that overall, Piety is my favorite of the five categories in the game.

One of my personal favorite Quest Card’s is also one from the Piety category: “Defend the Tower of Luck” has a relatively low cost, but it provides you with a free adventurer of any type (white, orange, black or purple) at the beginning of every round. It scores no VP’s but it doesn’t have to. It goes without saying that the earlier you are able to play this card, the more powerful it will be.

If you have a Piety Lord, getting clerics (a rare commodity) should be your main priority. Concentrate on visiting The Plinth, and on using Intrigue Cards (IC’s) and bringing buildings into play that give you extra opportunities to get white cubes as fast as possible!

Quest Card to keep an eye out for, even if you don’t have a Piety Lord:

  • “Defend the Tower of Luck”: No VP’s, but a free adventurer of any type at the start of each round;
  • “Form an Alliance with the Rashemi”: 10 VP’s + a free Quest Card from the Cliffwatch Inn;
  • “Convert a Noble to Lathander”: 8 VP’s + a free Quest Card from the Cliffwatch Inn;
  • “Discover Hidden Temple of Lolth”: 10 VP’s + a free Quest Card from the Cliffwatch Inn. Slightly more expensive than “Form an Alliance with the Rashemi”.


Prioritize collecting: money > black > orange

My favorite Quest Card’s from the Commerce category are “Lure Artisans of Mirabar” and “Placate the Walking Statue”. For a relatively low cost, you can get a high yield, placing a building from the stack or even from the Builder’s Hall under your control at no additional cost.

Be aware though, that Commerce Quest Card all require money in order to complete them. So if you have a Lord that specializes in Commerce, start raking in money any way you can: by visiting Aurora’s Realms Shop, by using IC’s, and by buying buildings that give you extra money once someone else uses them.

Quest Card to keep an eye out for, even if you don’t have a Commerce Lord:

  •  “Lure Artisans of Mirabar”: 4 VP’s and take one building from the Builder’s Hall for free;
  • “Placate the Walking Statue”: 10 VP’s and take a building from the stack for free.


Prioritize collecting: purple > black > money

As the color of the Arcana Quest Card’s suggests, wizards (purple cubes) are the most important resource for an Arcana Lord. Completing Arcana Quest Card’s mostly gives you free IC’s! Therefore, if you have an Arcana Lord, your strategy should be focused around obtaining and playing a lot of IC’s.

This makes an Arcana Lord a perfect match for the Skullduggery Quest Card “Place a Sleeper Agent in Skullport” (see the section on Skullduggery Quest Card’s). This Quest Card yields no victory points, but you score 2 VP’s for every IC you play. Nice combo!

Also, the Arcana category has one very strong Plot Quest (PQ): “Recover the Magister’s Orb”. For a relatively low cost,you get 6 VP’s and once per round, you can assign one of your meeples to a space containing an opponent’s meeple. This might just be the most awesome “quality for price” Quest Card in the game, as it severely hinders any one of your opponents from being able to block off your strategy.

Quest Card to keep an eye out for, even if you don’t have an Arcana Lord:

  •  “Recover the Magister’s Orb”: 6VP’s + once per round, assign a meeple to a space containing an opponent’s meeple.


Prioritize collecting: orange > white/purple/black/money

Here’s where it gets tougher to plan out a definitive strategy. Warfare Quest Card’s demand a lot of fighters (orange cubes) and yield a lot of fighters. While Warfare Quest Card’s are generally easier to string together than other types of Quest Card’s, having a Warfare Lord somewhat narrows your flexibility in terms of strategic decision making.

“If you are going Warfare, “Bolster Griffon Cavalry” should almost always be your priority Plot Quest to acquire and complete at the start. The extra Warriors garnered from it throughout the game can save you some assignments.” – comment added by Plei Forejoy (Jebbie)

The “Recruit Lieutenant” Quest Card might look like a powerful card at first glance, but its cost is very high, especially in a 4 or 5-player game. Since this card slowly loses its value as the rounds progress, I’ve experienced that in a game with more players, people tend to abandon this Quest Card after a few rounds, especially because it doesn’t yield any VP’s.

You will need at least six (6!) moves to save up for it, using just the buildings that are available to you at the start of the game. One strategy could be to play a lot of IC’s at Waterdeep Harbor, ensuring that you get multiple chances to place your meeples every round. But even then it’s a long stretch to getting it in play during the first half of the game.

You predominantly need orange cubes to complete Warfare Quest Card’s, but there is no real second place here in terms of what you need. Some Quest Card’s demand white, some purple, some black. Money is generally less of a priority for a Warfare Lord.


Quest Card to keep an eye out for, even if you don’t have a Warfare Lord:

  •  “Recruit Lieutenant”: 0 VP’s + add an extra meeple to your pool. Be aware though that this Quest Card is very expensive, and that it quickly starts losing its appeal after the first half of the game has passed.



Prioritize collecting: black > purple > orange

The mischievous Skullduggery Lords tend to need a lot of rogues (black cubes) in order to complete their Quest Card’s. If you have a Skullduggery Lord, a useful Quest Card to get out quickly, is “Fence Goods for Duke of Darkness”, which gives you two extra money whenever you take an action that provides a black cube. 


Skullduggery Quest Card’s yield very different things, so it’s difficult to base a general strategy on, although – as with Warfare Quest Card’s – it’s generally easier to string combo’s together and plan out your strategy using only Skullduggery Quest Card’s.

As mentioned before, if you have an Arcana Lord, your quests will yield a lot of IC’s and therefore the “Place an Agent in Skullport” Quest Card is interesting to complete early, as it allows you to score 2 VP’s every time you play an IC.

If your lord is Larissa Neathal, you score 6 VP’s at the end of the game for every building you control. Try and secure the “Establish Harpers Safe House” Quest Card, possibly completing it at the very end of the game. You will get 8 VP’s plus an additional 2 VP’s for every building you control.

Quest Card to keep an eye out for, even if you don’t have a Skullduggery Lord:

  • “Place an Agent in Skullport”: 0 VP’s but 2 VP’s for every IC you play. Valuable if you have an Arcana Lord.
  • “Establish Harpers Safe House”: 8VP’s + 2VP’s for every building you control. Valuable if you have the Larissa Neathal Lord Card.



At the beginning of this post, I promised I would provide you with a short overview of the Lord Cards and a good basic strategy for them. Here you go! Thanks for reading, and I hope this guide will be of value to you in future games, regardless of your experience level playing Lords of Waterdeep!

List of interesting Quest Card’s, regardless of which Lord you have:

  •  “Defend the Tower of Luck” (Piety)
  • “Form an Alliance with the Rashemi” (Piety)
  • “Convert a Noble to Lathander” (Piety)
  • “Discover Hidden Temple of Lolth” (Piety)
  • “Lure Artisans of Mirabar” (Commerce)
  • “Placate the Walking Statue” (Commerce)
  • “Recover the Magister’s Orb” (Arcana)
  • “Recruit Lieutenant” (Warfare)
  • “Place an Agent in Skullport” (Skullduggery)

PS, I realize that most of these cards are Plot Quests. Having said that, there’s more to these strategies than just collecting PQ’s. In fact, I believe some of the “regular” Quest Card’s are actually more powerful than some of the PQ’s!

Collecting Priorities by Lord:2014 01 26 lords_of_waterdeep 5267

1. Kyriani Agrivar: Arcana + Piety (prioritize collecting purple, white, money)

2. Caladorn Cassalanter: Skullduggery + Warfare (prioritize collecting black, orange, purple)

3. Durnan the Wanderer: Commerce + Warfare (prioritize collecting money, orange, black)

4. Nymara Scheiron: Commerce + Skullduggery (prioritize collecting money, black, orange)

5. Nindil Jalbuck: Piety + Skullduggery (prioritize collecting white, black, orange)

6. Mirt the Moneylender: Commerce + Piety  (prioritize collecting money,white, orange)

7. Piergeiron the Paladinson: Piety + Warfare (prioritize collecting white, orange, money/purple/black)

8. Khelben Arunsun, the Blackstaff: Arcana + Warfare (prioritize collecting purple, orange, black)

9. Brianne Byndraeth: Arcana + Skullduggery (prioritize collecting purple, black, orange/money)

10. Sammereza Sulphontis: Arcana + Commerce  (prioritize collecting purple, money, black)

11. Larissa Neanthal: 6VP’s per building you control at the end of the game – prioritize collecting money and a decent set of Quest Card’s: especially look out for the Commerce Quest Card’s that give you free buildings, the Commerce Quest Card “Infiltrate Builder’s Hall” if you manage to find it early (6VP’s + whenever you buy a building, score 4VP’s), and the Arcana Quest Card “Recover the Magister’s Orb” allowing you to assign a meeple to the Builder’s Hall even if it’s already taken. If none of these options are available to you, choose Quest Card’s that yield money, or ones that score large amounts of VP’s.

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Strategy: Lord of the Rings Card Game – Samwise the Brave

Samwise the Brave:

A Single Hero Solo Deck for the Lord of the Rings Card Game.a-very-good-tale-ohauh

I love Fantasy Flight’s Lord of the Rings Card Game. When I first reviewed it I went on record saying it was the best solo game in my collection. Then I got distracted by some other great solo games… Mage Knight and the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game to name a couple. I even skipped buying a whole series of expansions for the LotR card game (the Heirs of Numenor/Against the Shadow cycle). But then I came back to LotR, and for the past two months I’ve been playing it a ton and loving every minute.

Sometimes I play two-handed, controlling a pair of decks as if two players were playing (stay tuned for an article about my super-awesome “Lords of Middle-earth” and “Death From Above” tandem decks that have romped through every printed scenario to date), while other times I’ll play a single deck.

In almost every deck you might build, you’ll use the maximum of three heroes. These are your starting characters and resource generators, and barring a few special effects, it’s insanity to start with less than three. Still, there are some decks that do quite well with only two heroes, taking advantage of the “Secrecy” mechanic which makes cards cheaper if you have less than 20 threat. And the most recent Saga expansion — Black Riders — has all sorts of Hobbit goodies that reward low starting threat. (Fewer heroes means lower starting threat, means Sauron’s forces don’t go after you quite so fast.)

A typical three-hero LotR deck will have around 25-30 starting threat, while a two-hero deck will drop you into 15-18 range. But what if you try it with just a single hero? Madness you say? It can’t be done?! CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

A couple years ago I tried building a single hero deck and managed to defeat the Spiders of Mirkwood scenario. Session report and decklist here:

trg010At the time I only had two Core sets to work with, and even then couldn’t round out a 50-card deck. Well, 4 big boxes and 12 adventure packs later I was primed to try again… the moment I saw the hero Sam (released in the Black Riders Saga expansion) I knew the potential was there. A 3-willpower self-readying hero? Let’s do this!

I’ve managed to put together a single hero deck that can not only beat Spiders of Mirkwood, but Down the Anduin as well. Hill Troll in the staging area? I, and my starting threat of 8, laugh at you! Escape From Dol Goldur? Well… I’d run into a little problem when a hero is taken prisoner. (For the uninitiated, Escape from Dol Goldur is generally considered the hardest solo encounter, mainly because you begin the scenario with one of your heroes being removed from play. Therefore a single hero deck… let’s just say it’s a short game.)

But seriously, this is a strong deck, and could probably handle many of the later quests as well. I must say I’m tempted to throw spirit Glorfindel into the deck, raise my starting threat to 13 and try Escape with Glorfindel as the prisoner. But more on that later…

The deck list is below. The only cards that require a second core set are a third Sneak Attack and Northern Tracker. You are going to need almost all of the cards listed to make this deck work (and they come from a wide array of expansions), but if you’ve only got one core set I’d proxy the third Sneak Attack (just use Ever Vigilant or something, and pretend it’s a Sneak Attack when you draw it), and replace the third Northern Tracker with the beefy ally of your choice — doesn’t even matter what sphere it comes from, as you’ll soon see.


As for how to actually play the deck, here are some tips:

trg003* Ideally you’re looking for a first-turn Timely Aid (reveal the top 5 cards of your deck and put one revealed ally into play). With secrecy, it only costs you one resource to play. And once you get a second ally into play you can use A Very Good Tale (exhaust two allies to bring more allies into play) to starting rolling out the allies, but there are other ways to get the engine running. Bill the Pony is free, and if need be you can Sneak Attack another ally into play in order to play A Very Good Tale. Once you get 3-4 allies into play, you’re rearing and ready to go. And since you start with such low threat, it’s okay if it takes a couple turns to get going.

* Usually the first card I’ll play (if I have it in my opening hand) is Resourceful (costs just 1 with secrecy, hero generates an extra resource each turn), since there are very few enemies that can engage on the first turn (just the East Bight Patrol) and the sooner you can jumpstart your resource production, the better.

* I’ve long been looking for an opportunity to effectively use Taking Initiative (discard the top card of your deck and if its cost is equal to or greater than the number of characters you control, deal two damage to an enemy and draw two cards). It’s an interesting card with limited practical application, but in this deck it will almost always hit early on. 38 out of 50 cards in the deck cost 1 or more (and the odds are better than that since one of the 0-cost cards is the one you’re playing). That 2 damage to a Forest Spider or Hill Troll and extra 2 cards can give you a nice first-turn jolt. Later in the game you can use Gildor to control the top card of your deck and make it work with as many as 6 characters in play.

thoem079* Speaking of which, if and when you get him into play, Gildor Inglorien is the rock star of this deck. His ability to look at the top three cards of your deck, exchange one with a card from your hand, and put them back in any order, does a lot for you. Among other things, he lets you recycle cards you otherwise can’t play (the Spirit, Tactics and Lore allies) back into your deck, which can then be set up to come into play with Timely Aid or discarded to Taking Initiative.

* This decks makes far more use of Sneak Attack than your typical “wait for Gandalf” combo. There are many, many uses. For example, in one game I had two Gildors, Sneak Attack and a Timely aid in my hand. I used Sneak attack to play one Gildor and then exhausted him for his ability, putting the other Gildor on top of my deck. Then, when the first Gildor bounced back to my hand, I played Timely Aid to get the other one permanently into play.trg010

* Good Meal (reduce the cost of an event by 2) isn’t just there to make Strength of Arms (2-cost event, ready all allies) free. Early on, resources are precious, so if you have a Good Meal, don’t hesitate to use it to play Sneak Attack or Timely Aid for free. Yes, you’re only saving one resource, but it’ll be well worth it.

* The beauty of starting with only 8 threat is that it really doesn’t matter if you fail to quest early on. A few extra points of threat here and there aren’t going to make much of a difference. The enemies that might be able to engage you — Black Forest Bats, Dol Goldur Orcs, Wolf Rider and Misty Mountain Goblins from the first two quests — aren’t too difficult to take out once you’ve got a beefy ally or two into play.

* Obviously this deck has some weaknesses… it has no healing (though I suppose I could always throw in a couple Wardens of Healing), and an early Caught in a Web can be painful. Tthough when it gets going this deck relies so heavily on allies that not being able to ready Sam won’t matter. I had a game where I could no longer quest with Sam because he had three damage on him (plus Bill the Pony in play) and I couldn’t risk the third Necromancer’s Reach (deal one damage to each exhausted character) coming off the encounter deck. But by then I had more than enough questing allies in play to make up for it.

Bottom line, this deck has quite a few tricks, and can handle a variety of challenges. Some games will be over practically before they start (do use the mulligan rule to try to get a good starting hand) but for me this deck has won much more often than it’s lost. Here’s the full deck list, along with which set the cards come from.

The Deck

Sam Gamgee [The Black Riders] [Starting Threat: 8]

x2 Cram [Over Hill and Under Hill]
x3 Good Meal [The Redhorn Gate]
x3 Resourceful [The Watcher in the Water]
x1 Boots of Erebor [Khazad-Dum]

x3 A Very Good Tale [Over Hill and Under-Hill]
x3 Sneak Attack [Core x2]
x3 Strength of Arms [The Druadan Forest]
x3 Taking Initiative [The Redhorn Gate]
x3 Timely Aid [The Redhorn Gate]

x1 Beorn [Core]
x3 Bill the Pony [The Black Riders]
x1 Brok Ironfist [Core]
x1 Denethor [Encounter at Amon Din]
x3 Dunedain Wanderer [Road to Rivendell]
x1 Elfhelm [The Dead Marshes]
x1 Erestor [The Long Dark]
x1 Faramir [Core]
x3 Gandalf [Core]
x3 Gildor Inglorien [The Hills of Emyn Muil]
x1 Haldir of Lorien [A Journey to Rhosgobel]
x3 Northern Tracker [Core x2]
x1 Radagast [A Journey to Rhoshobel]
x3 White Tower Watchman [The Druadan Forest]

fos101FURTHER THOUGHTS: Sam + Glorfindel?
Though I’ve yet to try it, I think this deck could become super effective if I added spirit Glorfindel [Foundations of Stone] and a few choice Spirit cards. Light of Valinor [Foundations of Stone] of course (I’d replace the Crams and Boots of Erebor), perhaps a few copies of A Test of Will (always useful to have around, not sure at the moment what I’d take out), and 3 copies of Imladris Stargazer [Foundations of Stone] (replacing the White Tower Watchmen). I think they’d really make the deck sing, and it’d be nice to be able to actually play the Norther Trackers from your hand instead of having to rely on tricks to get them into play. And Imladris Stargazer would just be so good with Timely Aid and Taking Initiative.

Anyhoo, there you go. An effective single hero deck, with a base engine that has lots of potential if you add a second hero. Stay tuned for my next Lord of the Rings article, where I’ll give you a pair of tournament-worthy decks primed to take on any challenge, and detailed results to prove it.

– Married for 14 years and with two young children to exhaust him during the day, Jeff Hannes has mastered the art of playing with by himself at night.

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Dwarven Forge’s Game Tiles – a review

2013 10 26 2013 10 xx 3544

By Dave Breen

Back in April we decided to back the Game Tiles kickstarter project by Dwarven Forge.    On October 23, our reward was delivered.   Mr. Fed-ex guy appeared a bit weary as he carried those boxes of Game Tiles up my walkway.   When he handed them over, I found out why, the boxes were deceivingly heavy.

Before the Kickstarter, Dwarven Forge was an established company with a great reputation for providing amazing terrain made of resin. The downside was that the cost was prohibitive.  I had looked into picking up some before the Kickstarter and didn’t pull the trigger on a purchase due to the high cost of getting a set that would be large enough to create a sprawling dungeon.

The objective of the Kickstarter project was to create a less expensive version of their dungeon terrain out of a new type of material.   The material appears to be plastic or perhaps a very heavy type of rubber like you would find on the end of a rubber mallet.

The Game Tiles project on Kickstarter was a huge success, reaching almost 2 million dollars in funding.

2013 10 26 2013 10 xx 3542

The tiles are heavy, which is a plus as it keeps them from shifting around during play or while building your dungeon.

I opted to spend extra to get pre-painted tiles as my painting skills are far from good.  I’m awfully glad that I did, as the mountain of tiles would have taken me forever to paint.

I took a trip to the local Target to pick up some  plastic storage containers so I could sort them into bins so I can easily find which all of the various pieces.

It took a few hours to unbox my tiles and sort them into their appropriate bins.   The first thing you will probably notice about Game Tiles is their density.  These things are deceptively heavy for their size.  Looking at these, you might think they are some type of lightweight plastic, but you would be wrong.

The next thing you’ll probably notice is how durable they are.  If you try hard, you can bend the tiles a bit.  To actually damage a tile, I believe you would need to go out of your way to do so.  I can’t imagine a normal play scenario where they would get damaged.

The job of pre-painting is nicely done.  Certainly much better than I could have done myself.  Even on the smaller dungeon dressing items, the paint was carefully applied.  I’m sure that experienced miniature painters would probably find fault, but more than satisfactory from my standpoint.

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If you happen to have one of Geek Chic’s Emissary tables, you’ll be pleased to know that Game Tiles fit perfectly in the game vault.

Building with Game Tiles is a fun experience.  As one of my friends texted to me.  “Quite possibly the coolest thing I own”.   I think I agree.

In terms of flexibility, the variety of different tiles allows a great deal of configuration options.   While I don’t think every RPG map can be simply built, many can. To determine what you can make,  Dwarven Forge has even created a web-based design tool that allows you to layout your dungeon and even print a map. If I had one minor quibble is the lack of an easy way to make narrow corridors.

The Big Conclusion

Overall, I found that Dwarven Forge’s Game Tiles exceeded all of my expectations .  If forced to find a flaw, there might be a few tiles that are not 100% flat (noticed on the larger sized floor tiles).  Even this was minor, as they lay flat enough that it would be barely noticed.

One more thing…

In case you somehow missed, it GameKnight has a contest running for a set of VictoryChips.
Details can be found here.  Even if you aren’t interested in winning some chips, please help us out by liking our page on Facebook.



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Firefly: The Game

2013 10 11 firefly 2687Maybe it’s me.   I love the idea of highly thematic games, but I am frequently disappointed at the actual implementation.   If you’ve read my thoughts on Merchants & Marauders you’ll understand that I have love\hate opinion on games that favor theme over balance.   Did Firefly: The Game manage to succeed where other games failed?

Firefly: The Game is another board game from the folks at Gale Force Nine.  I was highly impressed by Gale Force Nine’s first game “Spartacus a game of blood and treachery” based on the popular TV series.

Here’s my ratings for the game after 3 plays:

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Strategy:  5/10

Given this is a highly thematic game, my expectation of deep strategy is significantly lower than if I was playing a typical euro design.   While certainly luck plays a part in this game, having a well-outfitted ship and diverse crew can help drastically reduce the twists and turns that inevitably happen during the game.   Over the course of the 3 games I’ve played so far, there has been a large spread in finish position between the players.  The game  includes a variety of different scenarios that determine the victory conditions.  Having played only 2 of these scenarios, it might be unfair to fully assess the strategy until I have more plays under my belt.

Theme:   10/10

I love the theme.  It’s not only is the theme great, it’s how well that the mechanics are built to complement the theme.   If you are a fan of the Firefly TV series, you’ll find that Gale Force Nine has done an extraordinary job of incorporating elements of the show into the game.   If you’re not a fan of the show, but enjoy thematic games, you likely really enjoy this game.

2013 10 11 firefly 2691Components: 8/10

I found the components to be nicely designed.  The graphic design is effective and the images from the TV show doing a great job adding to the theme.

Mechanics:  9/10

The mechanics for this game really do a wonderful job supporting the theme.   They are not overly complex given the wide range of options that players can take.   Some other reviews have been critical of the ship movement mechanic, however I found that it does a great job of simulating the excitement of traveling through space as depicted in the series.    I could quibble about the fact that a players fortune can swing pretty wildly based on cards, but that’s the nature of a highly thematic game such as this.

Fun:  9/10

This game is a great blend of many things that are fun.  Players get the chance to build up their ship, and find crew members that will help to complete missions.  Flying around the ‘verse uses a fun mechanic that brings a level of uncertainty into the game.  For each sector of space you move into, you draw a card.  The card tells you what you’ve found.  Usually, its just empty space, and you are allowed to continue flying.  Some times its an obstacle or even an opportunity to salvage a derelict ship.  This movement system is well designed, but can also be frustrating at times.   During my few plays, I encountered a few situations where critical turns have been fully wasted due to a string of unlucky draws.   Of course you can move at a very low speed and avoid the randomness of card drawing, but it would take you too long to travel to complete most missions efficiently.

Over the course of the game, it’s likely that the random aspects of the movement deck will balance out across players.   Also, with strategic play, it maybe possible to mitigate the impact as well.

2013 10 11 firefly 2699Conclusion:  

Gale Force Nine has done a fantastic job capturing the feel of the FireFly series.  Players who are looking for a deep strategic game should probably look elsewhere.  However, those who enjoy the series, or the space game genre, or even just thematic games  should definitely give this a try.   Thank you Gale Force Nine for designing a game that really captures the FireFly IP.  After doing a great job on Spartacus, I was worried that they would fall short on this design, I’m happy to have been proven to be wrong.


One more thing…

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Best gaming podcasts!

Listening to podcasts is my favorite way to stay up-to-date on latest gaming news, reviews, and topics of interest to gamers.   It makes my ~40 minute commute fly by.   I’m always on the lookout for new podcasts to add to my playlist.

My current favorites are:

The Dice Tower – Tom Vasel & Eric Summerer’s podcast – always current with great production qualities.  Great information presented in a fun dicetowerpicand casual style.

The Secret Cabal – Excellent podcast that almost aways covers games that are on my radar.   Sometimes runs a little long, but is never disappointing.

I also have a few others that I listen to when I’ve run out of content for the ‘big two’ above.

Dice Tower: Showdown – a point\counter-point style discussion about gaming topics.  Sometimes its comparing two games, and sometimes its taking sides on a specific topic like “Does Twilight Struggle deserve to be the #1 ranked game” .   I love to see an episode where the showdown is Dice Tower vs. The Secret Cabal.   In the first episode they argue which is the better game: Twilight Imperium vs. Eclipse.thesecretcabal

Board Game University – A podcast that interviews designers, publishers, and others involved in the tabletop gaming community.

In addition to the ones listed above, there are a great number of other podcasts for tabletop games available.   If  you come across ones that that you really enjoy, please share you thoughts by posting a comment.

One more thing…

In case you somehow missed, it GameKnight has a contest running for a set of VictoryChips.
Details can be found here.  Even if you aren’t interested in winning some chips, please help us out by liking our page on Facebook.