Sunday, March 28, 2010



Shhhh! If you stand real quiet, and listen real hard right now, you can hear the crack of the bat as it hits a baseball.
It’s spring training in the majors, and locally there is that wishful thinking talk at coffee among some about the return of Western Major Baseball League action.
So, for those needing a baseball fix until the leagues really start to roll, might I suggest Pizza Box Baseball.
Released in 2008, the game is a sister product to Pizza Box Football which came out three years earlier. The football game proved popular, so it was a pretty straight forward development to adapt the game style to another sport.
Both games were designed by Erik and Scott Smith, and are published by On The Line Game Company.
The game gets its name from the box it comes in, which yes looks like a pizza box. Inside is a heavy game board, cards, pegs, rules and scoresheets, all the good stuff to serve up nine innings of fun.
Like any other baseball boardgame I have played, Pizza Box Baseball sets up so the players are pitted against one another, one acting as batter, the other as hitter, with the roles of course reversing throughout the game.
As in the real game on the field, the pitcher has to figure out the best way to approach the hitter to get them out.
The hitter must decide whether to take pitches, go for a hit, or swing for the fences.
In that respect it is something of a cerebral battle, trying to out think the opponent, which of course mimics what the pitcher and batter do on an actual field.
Players utilize one card per at-bat. A result card reveals the action, and play continues.
The game board allows players to track what is happening in the game, or they can use the score pads.
Pizza Box Baseball has a nice scalability factor too. There are four strategy levels allowing players to add game elements such as stealing, bunting, pitchouts, different hitter strengths, pitchers that get tired, and other real game factors.
The different levels accomplish two things. To start with, it allows one to adjust the game to the time available. Only have a half-hour, go basic and you can likely whiz through a game.
It also allows casual fans to keep things basic, while letting true baseball nuts add in all the details to bring the game closer to the feel of a real game.
The head-to-head nature of the pitcher/batter confrontation is captured well here, and baseball fans will enjoy the detail.
An excellent baseball sim’ for boardgamers to enjoy.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 24, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



If you are a regular reader you will probably recall that cribbage is a favoured game of this writer. It would easily be in the top-10-15 games for passing away a rainy or cold afternoon, or evening.
Now when you find a popular game such as cribbage — it is certainly popular when you realize it is one of only about three card games which hold annual tourneys locally, the others being whist and bridge that I know of — you are going to have those trying to improve on it.
It might be argued that it isn’t possible to improve on cribbage, a game that has depth, and great mechanics, yet is very easy to learn. I would have to say I am among those. Classics are rarely made better by modern age game designers.
That all said Ken S. Slaker took a pretty good shot at upgrading cribbage with his 1988 release CribbGolf. It’s not so much that Slaker made the game better, but he overlaid a theme which simply adds a layer of fun to the game that is a nice change of pace from standard cribbage.
The game is rather ingenious in its approach, which is basically to combine cribbage with elements of golf.
As far as the card playing aspect of the game it is cribbage as normal, which is nice since there are no new rules regarding how one plays cards to learn and adapt too.
Where the game is different is in the board players peg on. The board displays an 18-hole golf course.
The golf-course board changes the strategy of the game because you are no longer pegging to reach the final hole, but instead are pegging to record a golf score on each hole.
Therefore taking points that you would normally take without thinking in regular cribbage must now be weighed carefully since taking points at certain times can land you in a sand trap, or water hazard, costing you a stroke to your game.
In that respect it does help a bit if you understand golf scoring, although you can pick up that aspect of the game very easily.
The board in the version I have, a Yuletide gift from my daughter, from JK Games, is well made, but it is large. It measures 10 X 22-inches, so it doesn’t store real conveniently. It would help if it folded, but that is a minor complaint.
The golf course design is well-done with greens, sand and water features, and trees. It looks a lot like the design one might see of a course on a website promoting the facility.
The game comes with a thick pad of scoresheets. A little hint, put one in a plastic wrap and save it so you can run copies when needed. They aren’t available in stores that I know of.
There is a well-detailed rulebook, and a large reference sheet, including larger type, which is an excellent tool for people learning the game.
As an alternative to cribbage, this is about as good as I’ve found so far, and I have tried several. The excellent board and combining of cribbage and golf make it a winner in my books. One to add to any cribbage lover’s game collection.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 17, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- TRI-CROSS


When you look at boardgames, you often see games created which are in many ways hybrids in as much that they bring elements of various games together in a new one.
Tri-Cross, which was first released in 1986, does that.
There are elements which will remind people a little bit of chess, although that can be said about a lot of games, as well as a taste of bluffing as in poker, and a board movement design that has a Chinese Checkers feel.
Tri-Cross is an abstract strategy game played on three rows and columns that cross in the centre, with both sides moving toward the centre which is the hotly contested area of the game.
The winner is the player who controls the center for four consecutive turns. Think King-of-the-Mountain.
Players begin with hidden pieces -- that is their actual strength is hidden from the opponent. It’s actually hidden from the player too, so keep a sharp memory of how you lay out your pieces at the start of the game. The hidden element has been described as a poker-like element, which is one vision of it, although it’s not quite that mechanism either. The actual strength of pieces are revealed when they come in proximity to initialize a challenge between players. The greater strength makes a capture.
Equal strength confrontations freeze peoples.
The board is solid, the pieces are quality-bakelite-like ones that is a definite bonus. The little velveteen bag is a nice accessory.
A laminated rules tutorial is a terrific idea that most games should mimic. It’s a real plus for learning a game.
The rule set has some nice illustrations to help the learning curve.
Tri-Cross is designed primarily as a two-player game, and that is where it is best. Most abstract strategy games excel head-to-head, and Tri-Cross is an abstract, albeit with the early hidden strength element.
That said Tri-Cross does have rules for three and four players, with the pieces included to make that possible.
A game which can be learned rather easily, and plays quickly, with good components, Tri-Cross is a solid addition to a games library.
You can check out the game at
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 10, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



When it comes to a war game, the one most people are at least somewhat familiar with is Risk. The game is sort of a war game light, with the actual strategies of war having limited impact on how you play the game.
The popularity of Risk has of course meant there have been a few variations made over the years, in particular Lord of the Rings, and a Star Wars: Clone Wars versions have drawn some definite attention because of their tie-in to popular books and movies.
The entire Risk franchise also had a facelift with a revision in 2008. The revision targeted the length of a game, which with the original could drag out with eliminated players left bored by the wayside.
Following the revision, and the idea of tying Risk to popular franchises for marketing USAopoly released Risk: Halo Wars in 2009. The game highlights gaming pieces and a map connected to the mega-popular video game Halo.
This variant is played with three to five players.
Risk: Halo Wars allow players to command one of three factions (the UNSC, the Covenant, or the Flood) and battle for supremacy of Arcadia. You actually get two UNSC armies and two Covenant armies which means with five players there is a team aspect.
The board, which looks a lot like an earth map turned upside down, features 42 territories and six sectors. There are 250 plastic playing pieces which represent the three factions in small molded representations of infantry, tanks, etc.
Halo Risk uses the new Hasbro rules which allows for three levels of game play (basic, advanced, and classic) depending on the skill level and desired playing time of the players, another major aspect of the major game revision.
There are a couple of major pluses with Halo Risk. On one hand big Halo fans are likely to like the laid on theme, and even without a connection to the video game the unique factions and game board are a nice change from standard Risk.
And, the ability to play a team version requiring co-operation, while not for everyone, is a definite plus because it creates gaming options.
This version of Risk has some other nice mechanic additions that are a bonus too. It incorporates a way to double weight certain random spots on the board which alters the typical drawback of Risk where a game can bog down at some points on the board.
Leaders which come in and out of play quite easily for added firepower are a nice touch too, and some special abilities add power and options without unbalancing the base game.
If you like Risk, the Halo variant offers enough differences to enjoy. If you have never played Risk, this actually offers enough bells and whistles to be a better first choice than the traditional version. One to check out for sure.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 3, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- WHERE THERE IS DISCORD: War In The South Atlantic

WHERE THERE IS DISCORD: War In The South Atlantic

If one were to connect the word epic to a game it might well fit Where There Is Discord: War in the South Atlantic (WTID).
Designer Daniel Hodges has certainly created a detailed wargame with WTID, focusing in on a rather recent conflict which at the time drew lots of press coverage, and then has tended to be forgotten.
It was in May 1982, when a missile fired from the Sea Harrier of Royal Naval Air Squadron struck a Mirage III, an Argentinian aircraft, starting the The Falkland/Malvinas War.
The war would last for only 45 days pitting the armed forces of the United Kingdom and Argentina against one another in a battle to determine who had the right to govern the Falkland Islands.
The game is published by Fifth Column Games, and is a brand new offering to wargamers, having been released only last year. Their website explains the game. “In this solitaire military simulation boardgame, you have the opportunity to recreate those fateful summer days, commanding the British Task Force as it attempts to defend itself from concerted attacks by Argentine air and naval forces, and mount a successful amphibious landing on the disputed islands.”
That the game is a solitaire one will appeal to many since it can be difficult to find players into detailed war simulation boardgames, especially one as detailed as WTID.
The game comes in a huge box filled with detailed goodies for the serious wargamer.
This is a game where you need to clear off the kitchen table, a rather large kitchen table actually, to lay out the game board, which by the way is thick and should last for decades.
There are a handful of dice, and lots of cardboard markers to mimic troops, plus charts to cross reference to see what the dice rolls mean as the game is played.
The game also comes with two true gaming gems; a detailed rulebook that while daunting if not into detail wargames, is extremely well laid out.
An Intelligence Briefing Booklet with great illustrations provides even more detail for a full game experience.
The game is suggested to play out in four hours, I did mention it was detailed, but there is no way you’ll do it that quick the first time out of the box unless you are a fanatic wargamer, and even then it will be a challenge.
This is a game with a blizzard weekend fill-in feel to it. You start on Saturday and wind-up sometime Sunday after a long, detailed wargame experience. That detail is both the game’s strength, it really gives you a feeling of controlling the nuances of war, yet those details will mean casual gamers shy away from the experience.
Check out this great game at
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 24, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



If a game was simply enjoyed based on the box, Dragons of Kir would be among my favourite games.
The box shows a quartette of Oriental-style dragons, one in each corner; a red one, green, yellow and blue. It’s a mythical-theme and being dragons, I was immediately attracted.
The game was released in 2005 from One Eye Productions and give these guys credit they’ve learned a bit about quality along the way.
The game, as you might expect, has dragons, and initially they we paper that had formed into sort of cubes. The game also has tents which are the attack goal of the dragons, and again they were little folding paper creations. They were flimsy, and really detracted from the aesthetics of the game.
The company has recently released a components upgrade, issuing wooden tents and wooden blocks with an imprint of a dragon on them. I might prefer a sculpted dragon, but the upgrade certainly enhances the game.
The wood expansion set also adds rules for three and four players.
The game was designed by Dove Byrne and Jason Conkey. Dragons of Kir is a themed version of Darter, which won the 2006 Origins Vanguard Innovative Game Award at Gama. Dragons adds some new tiles and different rules.
You can check out the game at The site explains the game as “(a) new and exciting, fast-paced, strategy board game from Future Magic Games. The object of the game is to strategically place tiles that deflect one of the four marauding dragons into your opponent's war tent, while defending your own.”
The game is basically an abstract strategy revolving around tile placement. Players strategically place tiles which deflect one of the four constantly moving dragons into your opponent’s war tent. At the same time you have to balance the attacking with the use of tiles to defend your own tent.
The tiles, made of heavy cardboard, represent the forces of nature and the forces of man, which when placed interact with the dragons and influence their movement.
I must also mention the board, again very nice, with a big dragon on it.
The game plays quickly, and is a balancing act between attacking an opponent by altering the course of a dragon toward an opponent’s tent, and keeping them away from your tent.
There is of course some luck, depending on the tiles still in-hand, but overall there is a solid strategic feel.
A very solid offering that is a quick, fun board game.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 17, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



Chess variants have always been an area of interest. The basic western version of the game is a favourite, and I am always excited when someone comes up with an intriguing variant.
Renniassance Chess was invented in 1980 by Eric V. Greenwood, and it certainly fits the bill as far as being an intriguing take on chess by expanding the familiar game.
Correctly spelled, the game would be called Renaissance Chess; Greenwood, however, thought it would be fun to deliberately misspell it as Renniassance. The game is also commonly referred to as Rennchess.
Rennchess is a big board variant, played initially on a 12X10 board, although reference to play on a 12X12 board certainly exists. My suggestion is to look for a 12X12 board to use, since it allows for play either way.
Being played on a large board, Rennchess boosts the power quotient on the board in terms of the pieces in play.
Instead of the familiar 16-piece array, Greenwood more than doubled the number. Each player has 34 pieces in play.
With 34 pieces per side, this is not a chess variant where you can go down to the local board game store and buy a set.
The alternative is to turn this game into something of a craft project and put your own together.
The best way to get started on such a project is to buy multiple sets to begin the process of creating the various hybrid pieces present in Rennchess. There are lots of cheap sets out there to work with, which is good since you reasonably need four sets to get all the pieces made. You can find suitable sets for as little as two - three bucks. Don’t over spend because you aren’t likely to play Rennchess everyday unless you have a regular chess bud who likes variants.
Recognize such sets will be made of hollow plastic. That is good since you can cut them up with a sharp modeling knife, or small saw.
The bad news is such sets are weightless, and chess sets need weighted pieces for the tactile enjoyment of the game. The solution, head down to the hardware store with the various pieces in your pocket. You’ll likely be able to find nuts that fit in the base. Five bucks should just about cover it. A bit of hot glue holds them in place.
The cheaper sets also tend to be easily knocked over. A wargaming store is the place to buy some plastic bases that you can glue the pieces to add stability. It will add about $20 bucks to the set cost, but it adds to the set.
I was also able to insert small washers inside the bases, which added just a bit more weight. In retrospect the amount of work may have been greater than the affect of the added weight though.
Back to the piece creation.
Some, such as the Archbishop which moves as either Bishop or Knight, or the Nobleman which moves as either Rook or Knight, the process is easy. You cut the top off the rook, or bishop, and glue to the top of a Knight piece. Superglue, or model glue gets the job done.
Other pieces, such as the Squire, which moves one or two squares in any direction, and may jump over other pieces, require some additional creativity. One handy and quick way to change the look of a piece can be to cut off the top of a bishop, and replace it by gluing a simple push pin on top.
That was the process I used for the Fox, clipping the top off a pawn and replacing it with a push pin top. The Fox moves one square horizontally or vertically.
Using the push pin option does mean a repaint at the end, but that helps create a unified finish, and if you use the bases, it will be a must.
A finishing touch is to glue some felt on the bottom of the bases, and trim.
You end up with a very functional, solid looking, and reasonably well-weighted Rennchess set.
You might want to snap a few digital pictures and create a cheat sheet so the variant pieces are quickly recognized, and the associated moves understood.
The creation of the set is as much fun as the game, and in the case of Rennchess there is a lot to explore game wise too. The wide piece array, and large board offer a very different ‘feel’ from the traditional game.
Do note this is a variant for true chess lovers, since games can be quite involved and take considerable time to complete.
In the end a great project in terms of creation, and a deep game to play.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 10, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



While very few admit to it, the world is populated by thousands who tune into the weekly soap opera world of professional wrestling.
I know I grew up watching Stampede Wrestling on Saturday afternoons with my dad, and yes, I still watch Monday Night Raw and TNA Wrestling on occasion. There, I admitted it.
So, if you are one of the myriad of wrestling fans out there, and you also happen to like boardgames, then you may have wondered if you could combine the two interests?
Well there are some wrestling games out there, and one of the neatest little offerings is Legends of Wrestling Card Game from Filsinger Games Company.
Creator Tom Filsinger has found a niche area of wrestling to use as a base for his game, one which draws from the old days of the game before Vincent Kennedy McMahon owned almost the entire wrestling universe.
So if you are under the age of about 30, and only a casual wrestling fan, the wrestlers depicted in this game will be a mystery to you.
But, as an old Stampede Wrestling fan, the game is populated with familiar names. There are 24-wrestlers in the game including the likes of Bobo Brazil, Killer Kowalski, Gorgeous George, Harley Race, and Ox Baker.
For the younger fan, there are some faces that still play a role in the game such as Ted DiBiase, Sandman, Jimmy Snuka, and the Road Warriors; Hawk and Animal.
The nice thing is that each wrestler has a card, with a solid black and white illustration of the legend. That is a cool feature of the game.
From there the game is a rather simple one based on charts and dice roles, a system used best in the classic Strat-O-Matic Baseball.
In LofW players each select a combatant and you start rolling dice, and following the charts to see what transpires.
Initially it may seem a tad tedious searching charts, but once you get a few games under your belt you get to know many of the results by heart, and away you go.
Because the game is randomized by the dice rolls, the game plays as a solo game too. For the true fanatic you can wrestle-off your favourites anytime you want. Not a bad way to kill some time.
The game has basic rules, then once comfortable, adds a layer of complexity with an advanced ruleset, which is a nice touch since it allows you to grow into the game.
In the back of the rulebook are rules for special matches, including the Texas Death Match, Cage Match, Brass Knuckles Match, Tag-Team and Battle Royal. Now really, how neat is that. Ox Baker and Killer Kowalski in a brass knucs match — sweet indeed.
The game debuted in 2002, and has been supported by a range of expansion cards available at
I still want a Canadian expansion. Imagine a Stampede Wrestling set; Archie ‘The Stomper’ Gouldie, Dan Kroffat, Gene Kiniski, Big John Quinn, Don Leo Jonathan, Abdullah the Butcher and Haystacks Calhoun, as a new offering.
As is though, this is a simple, yet fun wrestling simulation, that fans are going to enjoy.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 3, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada