Monday, May 17, 2010



If a good night of gaming has you sitting around a table debating a topic which can at times be a bit heavy, well The Ten Commandments might be for you.
The game seems to be targeted at a party group, accommodating three-to-eight players.
The game theme though is one which is both a bit heavy, and not necessarily everyone’s idea of a fun topic to discuss over a game.
The box explains the game.
“The Ten Commandments, the word of God ... they have served as a guide for humanity for thousands of years. Still, even the greatest works can stand to be updated from time to time! In the game of Ten Commandments, you provide those edits. Play as the militant Crusader, the loving Midwife, the pious Healer, or dozens of other factions, each struggling to create a new set of Ten Commandments in line with their own desires.
“Negotiate, cajole, and convince your fellow players to support the Commandments you favour. Each faction has a hidden agenda ... Can you predict what your opponents are striving for? Or will they best you in the quest to re-write the Ten Commandements?”
If religion is not your idea of something to tackle at a party, or boardgame night, this is one to pass on right now.
The game is designed by Dan Tibbles, Mike Selinker, and Teeuwynn Woodruff, and is a recent release coming out in 2009 from Bucephalus Games.
Like all games from Bucephalus Games, The Ten Commandments comes in a sturdy box, which is economical in size.
The game relies exclusively on cards, and player debate and negotiation, which is a departure from relying on dice luck. That said, debates can become rather tedious in a game environment rather quickly.
The theme and game design also limits the replay ability of the game, especially with the same group. Re-debating the same thing is simply boring.
This is a game which with the right group might have one time appeal, but that is not enough to suggest buying it.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 12, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- COLDSNAP


The Canadian Football League season is still a couple of months from starting, but in Saskatchewan we always seem to be thinking football since the Roughriders are the only professional sports franchise in the province.
And, locally this week we are all thinking Roughriders since Yorkton is making its push to be the community officially named ‘Riderville’. As a side note make sure you take in the range of events around the local effort being held this week and help bring the designation to Yorkton.
So, with football in mind, why not look at a game which looks to mimic football, and specifically Canadian football, which we all know is better than that version south of the 49th parallel.
Cold Snap: The Canadian Pro Football Simulation Board Game is a newcomer to the rather diverse field of football-themed board games. It was released only last year from Plaay Games, a company with a growing list of sports-themed simulation games.
To start with, a nice aspect of Cold Snap is its solitaire feature. That is always a plus since it’s not always easy to find a football boardgame partner. Of course it also plays head-to-head as a two-player game as well.
The game does have player stats for CFL teams and players, although I don’t see a CFL logo on the box, so it may not be ‘officially authorized’.
Like most ‘sims’ this one relies on dice and a plethora of charts. Strat-o-Matic games are like that too, and while immediately a bit daunting, with an expectation they might be boring, you tend to learn the outcome of common dice rolls rather quickly, and knowing the natural ebb and flow of the real game helps too.
That said Cold Snap has a rather extensive game coil-bound ‘Game Book’. The coil binding is nice since you will be referring to the book extensively.
The Cold Snap results book is also very detailed. As the company website explains the book details whether an incompletion “was the result of great coverage by a defensive back, a hurried throw thanks to a missed block by an offensive lineman, a wrong pass route run by the receiver, or any of a multitude of other possible reasons.”
The PLAAY.COM website sums up the game this way: “You call the plays, you set the defensive alignments, you decide who to bring in when a star player goes down with an injury. Think you can do a better job with your favourite Canadian pro team than the real-life coach did? Well, now you can find out.”
The manufacturer notes that Cold Snap takes a slightly different view of a football sim, by giving every player on the field individuality.
“First this is a pro football game where every player on the field matters. In many other games, defenders and linemen are treated almost as an afterthought--some games don't even rate them at all! But in Cold Snap, the success or failure of a play most often hinges on the performance of these players! Yes, the star Canadian passers and runners will stand out on your table-top, but so will the star interior linemen, linebackers and defensive backs!” states the website.
In spite of the detail, the mechanics here are pretty easy. The offense chooses a ball carrier or intended receiver for one of six basic offense plays, while the defence coach secretly decides on one of four basic color-coded defence settings. From there you roll the dice, look up the result in the game book, record the gain or loss, and repeat.
The game is one football fans are going to enjoy. Check it out.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 5, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



Tuonela Productions Ltd. is a game production company which seems to specialize in card-based games and Inquisitio, a game designed by Jani Rönkkönen and released in 2009, is one of their stable of games.
A passage from the rulebook explains the game theme rather well.
“It is the year 1609 in Logroño, northern Spain. The Spanish inquisition has undertaken a campaign to root out witchcraft and massive examinations are about to start. You are a suspect. Will you be able to assure the interrogators of your innocence through cunning, resilience and skillful use of bribes? Or will you break under torture and end up being burned at the stake as a witch?
“In Inquisitio players try to balance between enduring the horrors of brutal interrogations and not confessing to too many crimes of witchcraft. The player who manages to avoid being sentenced to the stake and is freed from the dungeon with the best combination of health, sanity and innocence will be the winner.”
In terms of a theme, the witch inquisitions are not a bad one on which to base a game.
But, does it work?
Well let’s start with the cards. For me the card art in a game like this is rather important. You want good aesthetics.
In Inquisitio the art is sort of hit, and miss.
Some, such as ‘relationship with a succubus’ are rather striking, although the use of a lot of background graphics limits the impact because it makes the actual art smaller than it could be.
On other cards the art is good, but they have over done the dark aspect, to the point the cards are simply too black.
Past the assorted cards the game has some small wooden tokens, and the rule set in three languages, and that’s it.
The game plays with three-to-five players, so it’s not a game for a couple. That means it will only come out when you have company for boardgames, which will limit game play options.
The game does require thought in terms of what you do.
Players are basically accused of sins and have to try to keep as much of your sanity and health while being tortured, yet not end up being the one with the most guilt points. Players may limit the damage they take by confessing, but that action gives you more guilt points.
However, as you confess it does also allow you to implicate others as guilty, which may be a wise strategy too.
The game isn’t overly complicated, and plays rather quickly, probably half an hour once you grasp the rules, and depending on the number of players.
Add in the dark theme, and Inquisitio becomes a solid little game to have around.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 21, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



Michelangelo sounds like a game that would be tied to the famous painter in some fashion, and it is with players taking on the roles of the famous painters assistants.
Now if that idea just caused you to yawn, well one can’t blame you, the premise of this game is not one which inspires much excitement.
The objective from the rulebook is not much better either. “In this game you will be one of these assistants, splitting your time between Michelangelo’s workshop and the political beehive of Renaissance Italy. You will earn money and points by helping Michelangelo, as well as making connections in some of the most powerful and influential families of the world.”
Heart be still, I am not sure I can stand the anticipation of playing a game with such awe inspiring goals.
The box is nice, but once you get inside, you kind of get a feel for where this game is going. There is a bag full of multi-coloured disks, some which you have to apply stickers to. This is never a particularly pleasing realization in terms of game components because if the game becomes a regular one to play, stickers have a way of lifting at the edges, collecting dust, and ripping off.
There are also small piles of cards to be used in the game, and handy turn reference cards which should frankly be standard in any game.
The game does allow for two-to-five players, so that is a nice feature. A couple can play, or you can invite some friends to participate.
The board is another problem area with the spaces not seeming quite large enough for the aforementioned disks.
The problem here is how to get anyone excited to give the game a spin. “Hi this game allows you play an assistant to a great painter and ...” And you never get to finish the explanation because they are already suggesting you play whist instead.
The game play seems solid enough and has some decisions along the way, although the chaos factor is pretty high.
Not a game that I’d rush out to buy, there are just better ways to invest a boardgaming dollar.
The game is a recent one, debuting only last year (2009) from creators James Ernest and Mike Selinker, and published by Bucephalus Games.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 14, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- FIASCO


It has always interested me how card games evolved down to what we see as a standard deck of cards with the four familiar suits of diamonds, hearts, clubs and spades.
You would tend to think somewhere along the way an alternate approach to a deck of cards would have emerged, and would have become somewhat popular, or well-known.
Well there are alternate decks out there, although to suggest any are widely-known, or popular would be pushing things a fair bit.
One of the biggest issues preventing popularity may well be that most alternate decks are created around a single game idea.
The traditional deck of course holds so much of its popularity because there are literally hundreds of games which have been created to utilize the cards. You get tired of cribbage, the same deck allows you to play whist, or bridge, or so many other popular games.
Which brings us to this week’s game; Fiasco.
“Fiasco is a recently discovered card game thought to date from the Italian Renaissance of the late-1450s. Fiasco distinctively incorporates six suits representing symbols of power and wealth and features the legendary character Fiasco,” stated the publishing company’s website at
The game was published by Canadian David Pubrat, which is always a plus. It’s great to support Canadian game designers.
The game is a relatively new one, being released in 2003.
Pubrat went with a unique deck design, and that in my mind is a plus because it does offer players a different look in a hand of cards.
Players, the game plays from two to six, get to choose from one of six suits including; horses, swords, mandolins, roses, books or treasure chests.
Once you have selected the suit you will pursue, you focus on collecting them all. There are eight cards in each suit. You play high cards to win the pot and accumulate points, although there is an added element here.
While high card generally wins a pot, an opponent can play a Fiasco penalty card. Think of it in the same terms as a trump card in most trick collecting games. The Fiasco card is the 5, and poisons the pot so that the person winning that trick must discard a card from their scoring pile.
The strategy is of course when to play the Fiasco cards, and when to risk your high cards of the suit you are out to collect.
With the Fiasco cards, the deck rolls out at 60-cards.
The game is solid, but what would make the deck more appealing is a few additional game options using the same cards. An alternate game of two using the six-suit deck would quickly broaden its appeal.
Still, an interesting game worth a look for card-players.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 7, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SHERPA


There is a somewhat famous line about a mountain climber being asked why they climbed. The answer was something like “because it’s there.”
Now I can’t see I’ve ever understood the sentiment, although one can appreciate the idea of the adventurous nature of humankind to go up a mountain where they can literally touch the clouds, or reach for the gods of old. There is much mysticism and adventure and legend and lore to climbing.
Now most of us are not going to step onto the face of a mountain, let alone the greatest of them all, Mount Everest, first climbed in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, making it one of the more recent triumphs of man over the wonders of nature.
Locally the great mountain has had a lot of interest since David Rodney, formally from Yorkton has twice climbed the mountain.
Now for the rest of us, there is an option to actually climbing the great peak. We can have some fun with an Everest-climbing feel by playing Sherpa.
The premise of the game is pretty simple. A player is responsible for a team of mountaineers whose objective is to reach the top of Everest, and of course ahead of the others in the game.
Players must manage a climb much as is done in real life, establishing supply camps essential to a climb, as well as controlling your human and material resources while facing the dangers of the mountain.
It is in the area of dangers the game does wander into the realm of fantasy as strange creature wanders the mountain, including the Yeti.
I might have stayed with a more realistic approach. The threat of storms, snow blindness, exhaustion, injury, avalanche, running short of supplies and more are all real threats climbing the great mountain. When you look at the list do you really need an abominable snowman?
The game relies heavily on the luck of card draws, although when you do consider how a misstep on Everest can mean death as opposed to success, the climb would seem heavily reliant on luck in real life too.
Game play is by tile placement.
Players have six characters of their color – two sherpas, two guides, and two yaks, along with a corresponding board that shows the characters.
Resource tokens of three types; ice axes, oxygen, and food, are placed on the empty spaces on the character board corresponding with the characters in the party. In game terms yaks can carry three things, sherpas two, and guides one.
Players hold four cards, and the game begins.
From there card play largely determines progress up the mountain, with most decisions rather obvious.
The game has a solid enough premise, but comes up a little light in terms of game play. You expect a bit more if you are really hoping to mimic the tough decisions of climbing Everest.
Sherpa was designed by Marc Beaudoin and first released in 2007 by Magma Éditions ( )

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar. 31, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada