Saturday, September 1, 2012


Raiding Parties is a neat little card game I've had on the list to review for far too long.
I had actually thought I had covered it, then recently came to realize I haven't shared this solid game with readers, so here goes.
Let's start by stating the game's theme centres around pirates. Really do I need to say much more? I mean pirates are just fun. From the days of Long John Silver as a kid through to Pirates of the Caribbean, most boys (men) at least have thought of being a pirate at some point.
So Raiding Parties immediately has a draw.
It doesn't hurt that the art on the cards by Don Maitz is fantastic. There is a ton of detail in the art that crosses somewhere between realistic and whimsical.
Raiding Parties is a game design from Nick Pace, and is just new to the marketplace. Well it's been out long enough to spawn plans for a Series II of cards to expand the game, but that is getting ahead of things here.
The original series comes with a 'Hit the Deck' set of playing cards, again with Maitz's great pirate art highlighting the standard 52-card deck of cards.
The 54-card Raiding Parties deck is where the art gets really fantastic, but the cards do have a black back and the edges are prone to 'chipping' where the black flakes off. If you want to maintain a pristine deck, get some cards sleeves before you play them too much.
There are some hit tokens you can cut out of the box top too, but opt for some pennies or something. This is one area the game could use an upgrade, but remembering it is a self-published effort you can pretty quickly overlook this shortcoming.
There are three levels of play, one where ships and forts are not allowed in one's raiding party, one where you can have one ship or one fort, and one where you can have two in any combination.
The regular playing cards are used as a flip deck, as Raiding Party members hit depending on the suit turned up. It's a simple mechanic without using dice.
You can attack opposing cards through projectile fire, or melee, relying on the 'hit the deck' flip to determine successes.
As you might expect cards may have special abilities, such as evade, which can modify the way combat resolves.
With a limited card stock party creation is also limited in set one, but the game is still fun.
With the aforementioned Series II on the horizon deck building will get to be more fun, especially with the addition of one-time effect cards, and land cards.
The game is going to grow in depth and that will keep it fresh.
That said as a base game Series I is very solid, thanks to theme and great art work helping create the atmosphere to have fun.
A definite winner as a two-player card game.
For more information check out
If anyone is interested in this game, or other boardgames feel free to contact
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug 29, 2012 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SJOELEN

Games which I would term culturally significant have always been of interest.
There is something about a game which becomes so ingrained into a particular culture almost everyone has played it at some point, or at least is aware of it.
You think of Mancala in terms of Africa, Go in terms of China and Japan, and if you happen to be from The Netherlands Sjoelen or Sjoelbak.
An indication of how significant Sjoelen is in The Netherlands came recently as I attended a small reception for Johannes Vervloed, Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands here in Yorkton.
After the short presentation by the Consul General it was time to mingle, which brought me into a relaxed conversation with Vervloed's wife, as well as a couple who have recently immigrated to Canada from The Netherlands and now farm in the Wroxton area. I mentioned I was going to be reviewing Sjoelen, and in spite of my tongue having no idea how to properly pronounce the name, the three immediately knew about the game.
So what is Sjoelen?
Simply put it is a form of shuffleboard. Be aware as a game related to shuffleboard the board itself is huge. The board I have is from Dutch Games ( and even though it folds, it's big, being six-feet when in play position, and of course half of that in its folded storage position.
The game is said to date back to the late 19th century, with its roots like in the English game of 'Shove-a-Penny' another one I'd truly like to try one day.
In Sjoelen a player takes control of a pile of 30-discs, think crokinole pieces, only larger. The pieces are slid one at a time down the table in an attempt to get them through the arches numbered one to four at the other end.
The neat twist for Sjoelen is that a player is attempting to get an even number of disks through each arch because each set of disks in all four compartments scores double. It is this aspect of the game which lifts Sjoelen above other 'shuffleboard-style' games.
Dutch Games has a video to help new players, a real bonus for any game. Check it out at;
Boards are not available in every store of course. Jackie Heyden with Dutch Games said they are one of only a few suppliers in North America.
In terms of sales, Heyden said the good news for the game is that the buyer is changing.
"We see steady growth in our business and a shift from mainly Dutch customers to more and more American buyers," she said.
So why the interest in Sjoelen?
"The key element to its popularity is the competitiveness of a well thought out game," offered Heyden. "The level playing field (players of all ages can compete against each other) makes it a great family game."
Certainly anyone can slide disks down the table, although there is skill to big scores. And that to me is a big aspect of the game. Practice will make you better as this is a game of skill, with no imposed luck.
Now back to the board from Dutch Games. It is all wood construction and should be in the family for generations if looked after.
There is a nice compartment built into the board to hold the disks between games, a great touch.
If two things are missing it would be that a handle of some sort to aid in moving the board once folded to store would help, as would a fastener to hold the board in its folded position.
Still this is a well-made board, as is really required with a game as large as Sjoelen. 
In terms of game play, Sjoelen is easy to learn, but mastering, well like most games of skills, that is another story.
For more information check out
If anyone is interested in this game, or other boardgames feel free to contact
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug 22, 2012 - Yorkton, SK. Canada


Whenever an abstract strategy game comes along I am interested.
If the game is made out of wood so that it has that classic 'feel' you have definitely caught my attention.
Such was the case with Entrapment, a game actually released back in 1999, but getting more attention lately.
It's a good thing that the game is drawing some renewed interest because designer Rich Gowell has created something that is really quite outstanding in terms of a two-player abstract strategy game.
The game is based on the idea of area control and piece immobilization.
"The object of Entrapment is to capture your opponent’s roamers (pawns) by rendering them incapable of movement. A roamer that cannot move is considered captured, ands is eliminated from the board. When all three of a player’s roamers have been captured the game is over and his or her opponent declared the winner," explains the game rules.
Entrapment will remind many of Quoridor, a game released a couple of years earlier, although Gowell said he came to the general idea independently.
"Regarding Quoridor, believe it or not, I had never heard of it at this point. Shortly after I started play testing it at work a coworker came up and said something like 'hey, I saw your game in a store up in Grand Haven'," he said. "So I quickly researched and found out about it, and realized, to my relief, that there seemed enough difference to proceed. To this very day I have not played Quoridor, though it's clear from people's comments that it's an elegant minimalist abstract."
That said the two games obviously share some elements, in particular the use of barriers to restrict pawn movement.
In the case of Entrapment a pawn may jump a friendly barrier, although this causes the barrier to be set on its end and from that point on no piece may jump it. That is one of the innovative rules which take this game to a higher level.
The game may not quite reach the level of Go, or chess, in terms of complexity, but there is plenty here to challenge gamers too.
"The game has some 'Go-esque"' qualities, and so for sure those players. Chess players seem to like it as well," said Gowell.
It is interesting how Entrapment came to be as a game. Gowell said it wasn't his initial idea to create an abstract strategy game that should become a classic is enough people give it a try.
"Back in '98, when I started to have game design on the brain (started with word game obsession, morphed to abstracts) I came up with an idea involving pawns and barriers, as well as another kind of piece," he said. "It was 10-by-10, and I made it by cutting out squares of quarter inch plywood and gluing them on a base board. 
"(I) tested it one afternoon, and it had promise, but not enough. So as I sat looking at this beast, I started dinking about with the pieces. Quite suddenly the core element of entrapment came to me, the notion of jumping friendly barriers one time. It really had a kind of 'eureka' feel to it. 
"From there on it was clear that the key ingredient of something cool was in place."
After that Gowell said Entrapment came together rather quickly.
"Most of the game was in place within a few months, such as move range of roamers and forced move rule, but it took as much as a full year I think to add the double force rule, and it wasn't until about two years ago we tried 6x7, because I felt it might cut down on what I call 'wander' -- that 'wide open fields' thing that persists awhile in the early part of a 7x7 game)."
So does Gowell think he has a classic game on his hands?
"Too early in the curve to see the phenomena you mention (tournament play and leagues) emerge yet, but would be a dream come true, to put it mildly, if and when that happens," he said, adding he is "trying my best to keep the game chugging forward."
Well in terms of quality production Gowell is certainly doing that. The board and pieces for Entrapment are all wood, and that really adds to both the look and 'feel' of the game. No game pieces have a better tactile feel than those of wood.
The game plays different enough from popular abstracts such as chess, go and the great Gipf series to offer up a unique game experience. 
There is sufficient depth to be highly re-playable.
And finally the wooden game is one with heirloom potential.
Certainly one to seek out.
For more information check out
If anyone is interested in this game, or other boardgames feel free to contact
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug 15, 2012 - Yorkton, SK. Canada


If I were to list my favourite games of all times Warmachine, a miniature war game from Privateer Press would certainly make the top-five.
Warmachine was actually one of the first games I reviewed, years ago for a toy collecting magazine here in Saskatchewan. The review included material from an interview with designer Matt Wilson. I have since played the ever expanding game for years, and have come to respect the job Wilson did in designing my favoured game.
So when Infernal Contraption (second edition) from Privateer Press and designed by Wilson, was released I was immediately intrigued.
Infernal Contraption has virtually nothing to do with Wilson's other game, being a light, fun-filled card game, a far cry from the heavier theme of vast battles between steam-spewing 'warjacks'.
The game first hit shelves back in 2007, and an expansion followed.
The new edition combines both into a single box, so that is a nice aspect of the release.
"This edition also includes cards from the Infernal Contraption: Sabotage! Expansion, so throw a wrench in your opponent’s plans and watch the resulting madness," explains the box.
The cards here are good quality, with whimsical, but game-appropriate art. That said if you play regularly card sleeves are recommended since these are not as heavy a material as say a good poker or bridge deck.
In terms of play, "where goblin bodgers race to assemble their nigh-uncontrollable machines of mass consumption," details the box.
What that means is simple enough, you play with a sort of dual goal. On one hand you want to build your contraption, but you also need to stay alert to opportunities to thwart the plans of your opponents. Yes this game is really about sabotaging other players, so make sure you play with those who can take being picked on, since that will happen.
If you like putting a monkey wrench into the works of your gaming friends, you will love Infernal Contraption.
As is the case with most card games, the box is small enough to store and transport well.
In terms of games card games are also on the lower end of the price scale, so you can add it to your collection without a second mortgage.
The 'fun' theme, and lighter play, makes this a nice filler, although it can play out at close to an hour with four.
The rule set is pretty straight forward so introducing new players won't be a barrier to play, so haul this one out when you want something to play amid relaxed conversation.
For more information check out
If anyone is interested in this game, or other boardgames feel free to contact
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug 8, 2012 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- BOCCE

So we are already to the last issue of July and our little excursion away from the game table to play some games outdoors in the backyard.
This week its Bocce, a game that is readily available in most department stores, with sets coming in a number of price ranges, which is good news for families on a budget.
For those unfamiliar bocce is closely related to bowls and pétanque with a common ancestry from ancient games played in the Roman Empire
Bocce is played with eight large balls and one smaller ball (called the pallino).  The game can be played with 2, 4, or 8 players and divide the bocce balls evenly between the number of players. 
Open bocce (played without a defined court) is that it can be played almost anywhere there is open space.  This includes grassy surfaces such as a front lawn or back yard, dirt surfaces, sandy surfaces such as the beach, and even paved surfaces like parking lots. 
The game can be played on a court, something this city could use when you think how many sets are likely owned locally, but you can also just toss out the pallino and then work to get the bigger balls as close to the smaller target as possible.
Close cut grass works ideally for this. Unfortunately city parks have the grass cut a bit too long, and when you toss the pallino you can't actually see it from very far away. A baseball diamond outfield would be a prime spot given its manicured grass.
The game plays simple enough, lob or roll the larger ball to get it close to the pallino, scoring points for every ball you, or your team get closer than opponents.
The sets are highly durable, and can easily be taken on vacation for play at the lake, so a bocce set is pretty handy as a family game.
Like other backyard games reviewed here this month, bocce can also be taken much more seriously, with the game being highly competitive in many countries. To me that is always an added bonus.
For more information check out or
If anyone is interested in this game, or other boardgames feel free to contact
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 25, 2012 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- WASHERS

So let's head outside again for a bit of gaming fun this week.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about horseshoes.
This week it's a somewhat simpler variation on the theme of horseshoes, although in its own way just as challenging.
Washers is a game so simple in its design you will wonder why it was not developed and popular years ago, although it seems to just recently have made inroads in terms of mass appeal, quite like because sets are now being carried by major department stores.
These sets come with everything required to play, two square boxes with a chunk of PVC pipe in the centre. These boxes are places several paces apart. Players then take the accompanying washes, yet basically big washers you can buy in a hardware store, and toss them from one box toward the other.
If the washer lands and stays in the outer part of the box it's a point. In the PVC pipe it's three points.
Of course if your opponent matches your throw they cancel.
The game is played one-on-one, or in two-player teams.
Now that is the basic game, and seemingly the most widely played, and one where someone handy in the wood shop could easily fashion their own set.
There are however a number of variant designs on the game, and that is somewhat confusing, and may be a little bit limiting in terms of 'tournament' play and the growth of Washers as a sport.
Some of the variants include the outer wooden box being a hexagon. They look nicer, but are of course not as simple to make.
Ideally the box should be round, and with molded plastics these days it should be quite possible. Such a design would make an outer landing equal.
Another design has a second, smaller PVC pipe inside the first. The problem in such a design is a washer landing inside the large pipe, but not the smaller is as much fluke as skill.
One other design has three holes on a longer board, with varying values. Again it seems flukes have greater value than they should.
The general rules have the boxes empty, and washers do bounce out a lot, ruining an accurate shot. So I am a proponent of filling the boxes part way with some sand.
As a game Washers is not as physically demanding as horseshoes, and a small magnate on a stick will pick up the washers easily and reduce exertion farther.
Overall, Washers is simpler to set up than horseshoes, not requiring a permanently placed pitch, and is quicker in preparation than a yard game such as Kubb reviewed last week.
It is a game all ages can play, and requires its own skill set, and is certainly competitive.
Among yard games a definite winner.
For more information check out or
If anyone is interested in this game, or other boardgames feel free to contact
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 18, 2012 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- KUBB

So this week we're staying in the back yard to enjoy a game much of the history suggests is a game with its roots in Viking civilization.
Now it may not be the case for all, but I would include myself in a group with more than just a passing interest in Vikings. I am not one to study the ancient Scandinavians in detail, but movies with a Viking theme tweak my interest easily, as do historical documentaries, or anything I happen to come across.
The thought of dragon-headed longboats crossing the ocean in this long ago years and actually setting foot on the now Canadian East Coast is frankly amazing.
But back to the game of Kubb, which apparently means 'block of wood' in Swedish, a very appropriate name in this case.
Kubb is in-fact a game where the goal for players is to knock over a series of wooden pieces, using wooden sticks. Yes this game is all wood so aesthetically is very nice, as well as hearkening back to its origins when any game would have been designed with what was handy.
The playing area is set up as a square about five-metres wide, and eight-metres long, although a shorter field might benefit beginners in my opinion.
Five kubbs, sometimes referred to as soldiers in the various rule sets and histories out there, are set up at each end of the play area, roughly evenly spaces across the five-metres. The kubbs are approx. 15-centimetres tall.
In the centre of the field the 'king' piece is placed. It is taller, and often has a crown cut into the top in many of the commercial sets out there.
There are six round sticks in the game which players throw. You can play in teams up to six, each throwing one stick, although frankly that would seem to get incredibly boring as it would be a long time between throws. Ideally two, or three-player teams seem best-suited to kubb.
Standing behind your end you throw the sticks underhand trying to knock down the kubbs at the other end. You have to knock all the kubbs in the opponent's half down before you can throw at the king, which is how you win.
The game gains complexity when you must take knocked down kubbs and toss them into the opponent zone, where they are stood up, and so you suddenly face more pieces to knock over before getting to the king.
You have to be strategically wise in tossing the kubb pieces so that they are bunched so you can knock down multiple pieces with a single stick. Since you can't throw sticks in an "airplane propeller'" fashion, it's not as easy as you might expect to hit the kubbs in the first place, to facing more than five is a challenge.
My first taste of this game was one-on-one against my son. As two novice throwers it dragged on, thus the suggestion to shorten the field a bit to start.
It was a lot of bending over too, picking up scattered sticks and kubbs, so teams are a definite plus to keep the fun outweighing the work.
The game sets up quickly, you can step the distance roughly and in most sets pegs are provided to push into the ground to note the corners of the field.
The wooden components should last forever. Most back yard games are very much heritage ones, where moderate care will keep the game for generations (horseshoes really are forever), and kubb pieces should last too.
Kubb, again like most backyard games can also be taken as simply family fun, or at a much higher level with organized tournaments and national championships in some countries, although I don’t think the sport/game is quite that organized in Canada yet.
The simplicity, Viking heritage, and wood components are all nice aspects which draw people to the game.
For a nice set available in Canada check out
If anyone is interested in this game, or other boardgames feel free to contact
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 11, 2012 - Yorkton, SK. Canada


So it's July that rare month when we are almost guaranteed that it won't snow.
With that in mind we all might want to put away our boardgames for a few weeks and get outside.
So for the month of July I will look at some yard games which are a lot of fun.
To start I have to go with horseshoes.
Horseshoes is a game which can easily be set up in your backyard. The actual boxes, the area where the pegs go, can be elaborate or can simply be an area of grass.
The more elaborate boxes are wooden, and are basically a sand box with the metal target peg going in the centre. There is usually a raised area on both sides, also of wood where players stand top throw from.
Clubs, like the one here in Yorkton, go a step farther and make the box area out of concrete, but you would need to be pretty avid as a player to go that far at home.
For most of us we are going to simply buy a set of shoes and pegs at the local store, and on occasion pound the pegs into the backyard, or at the cabin for an afternoon, or two of fun.
That is the way I play horseshoes. I grew up around the sport, with both my grandfather and father playing fairly regular. As a youngster, and into my teens I would try, but was never very good at it. It looks simple enough to throw the horseshoe at the peg to have it land around the peg for a three-point ringer, but like most sports, it takes more skill than it looks too.
My father actually became a very dedicated player in his later years, traveling all over the province, and further, to play in tournaments.
My son now has his horseshoes, and we've been out a couple of times this year. I am still terrible at the game, but enjoy it anyway. It is more of an aerobic workout than you might think, both the throwing of the shoes, and constantly bending to pick them up -- especially if playing singles. If you are playing with a partner (allowing four to play) the effort gets split.
While for most of us horseshoes is just a fun way to kill some time and get out in the fresh air, it can be taken very seriously, with provincial, national and international events for a range of age groups.
And like handicapping in golf, there is a system for seeding players which means you end up competing against those of similar skill, which certainly enhances the appeal of tournament play.
The game is certainly one to consider it you want something to do in the backyard, or you can head to the club pitches in the city on Tuesday evenings where they are always looking for new potential members.
If anyone is interested in this game, or other boardgames feel free to contact
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 4, 2012 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- ARMADA

This week we look at a game which it took me some time to lay my hands on, finally finding a copy in Germany.
Armada is an abstract strategy game with a naval theme which was released in 1973 by designer Sicco von Hülst.
Pelikan was the publisher.
So why did I seek this one out. Well the theme to start with. A naval battle works as an abstract strategy game. The idea of pieces representing ships in opposing fleets is along the lines of chess pieces representing different armies.
It is unfortunate the Pelikan edition did not opt for some actual ship pieces.
Instead they use red and yellow pieces that look a lot like sewing thimbles. They are serviceable but they detract from the fleet theme concept.
The pieces move on a hexagon board, a board which has the play area designed as a blue ocean surrounded by what appears like a vintage land map. It's a good look which does enhance the theme.
Now for the real strength of the game. Each player has a fleet of 15 pieces, three galleons, five galleys and seven galleasses. Each have different movement mechanics.
The galleons start on a point of a hexagon which may move along the edges of hexagons one, two, or three corners.
The galleys are played in the centre of the hexagons, moving to an adjacent hexagon on a move.
The galleasses also start on the points of a hexagon, moving one, or two points on a turn.
The captures allowed in Armada are also interesting, relying on what is often referred to a 'rock-paper-scissors' (RPS) mechanic.
The galleon sinks a galleass, if it is moved onto a corner adjacent to the galleass, the galley sinks a galleon, if it is moved into a hexagon with the galleon on a corner, and the galleass sinks a galley, if it is moved onto the corner of a hexagon where the galley sits.
If a moved piece can attack multiple opponents, only one is removed.
The use of RPS certainly adds to the strategic options available within the game, even on the smallish board (59-hexagons).
The game also offers three win conditions, which sounds better than it is in action. Most games will be won by attrition, leaving an opponent with no ships remaining, although leaving them unable to attack any ships, because they do not have the type of ship required is a viable victory condition too. You can leave your opponent unable to make a move as well, but that is a rarer road to victory.
The game would be a top drawer keeper with ship pieces, but even without them the RPS mechanic keeps the interest high.
Definitely one with some depth to explore, and room for some interesting experimentation. It would be easy to add an island or two to the board limiting some movement patterns.
A larger board and an additional ship or two, think rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock, could be interesting as well.
Still as it is Armada is a solid game worth exploring.
If anyone is interested in this game, or other boardgames feel free to contact
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 27, 2012 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- AVVERSO

This week we look at Avverso from Gerhards Spiel und Design.
To begin, any game from Gerhards is heirloom quality. There probably is not a game publisher out there that makes games at as high a level of quality as this one.
So when you get one of Gerhards offerings you will be blown away by what you find in the box.
In the case of Avverso you get a think, nicely detailed board with 25 hexagons, each deeply etched into the wood.
The board is non-symmetric, and the shape balances the disadvantage of starting, meaning one player has a slightly shorter distance to achieve their goal.
In this case each player is trying to connect opposite sides of the game board with a chain of stones in their color.
Yes this 2008-designed game by Henrik Morast most certainly has its roots stemming from Hex, a side connection game released in 1942 and the inspiration of many games since.
In the Gerhards edition the pieces too are wood, one red and the other white. One player is assigned 13 white and the other gets 12 red ones.
It is in the playing of these pieces where Avverso has its most interesting aspect.
When you add a piece to the board, you add one's of your opponent's colour, not your own.
On a turn, you slide one of the opponent's stones into one of the outer hexagons of the board. Fans of abstract strategy games will recognize the addition to the out perimetre as a rule used in games such as Gipf. The first in Kris Burm's amazing series of games by the same name. Gipf was released in 1997.
When adding you may push an existing piece on the hexagon, setting off a chain reaction pushing additional pieces in the same line. However, you are not allowed to push a piece off the board.
Pushing a line of pieces can of course change the connection line rather dramatically, and players are really forced into thinking in reverse, since you are trying to win with the opposite pieces to which you are placing.
The red player wins on the shorter route, highlighted by red lines for easy reference, while white has to go the slightly longer route.
The reverse thinking, and amazing quality of this version make Avverso a definite winner.
It's a bonus as well that it is rather small and compact, coming in a heavy duty box which lends itself to taking it to a bud's to play.
Check the game out at
If anyone is interested in this game, or other boardgames feel free to contact
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 20, 2012 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SPLITS

There are some games which just look great, and they attract you based on that aspect before playing them.
Splits is one of those games.
It has a modular board made out of wood. Yes, I said wood.
If you are anything like this boardgamer, you are immediately attracted to games with wooden components. They have an immediate traditionalist appeal.
So when a game has a wooden board, well good quality pressed wood particles at least, as well as wooden pieces, it's one to take a closer look at.
Splits is designed by Francesco Rotta, and he did a nice job of keeping the ruleset simple. When you open a box and see a single page of instructions you have to smile.
Some games, even abstract strategy games can get pretty bogged down in rules. Even chess takes some paper to explain the movement of the various pieces etc.
So the board is modular, with eight pieces, each made up of four hexagons. Players take turn laying out the tiles to create the board. That alone means some variation from game-to-game and that's a plus for Splits.
Players also have 16 pawns (wooden checkers) in their colour.
You place all the pieces as a single tower, then on a turn must cut a tower to create a smaller one. So you leave some behind on the hexagon you occupied to start the turn. The rest go in a straight line until they meet the board edge, or another occupied hexagon, stopping just before that space.
When you cannot move to create a new stack you lose.
Yes it is a simple game, and that too is a plus.
The board has only 32 hexes, so that is a bit limiting. Good players might end games quickly if experienced. I would love to see the company offer additional board pieces as an option, which could add depth to the game.
But as it is, Splits works as a quick, well-made and easily transported game.
Check the game out at
If anyone is interested in this game, or other boardgames feel free to contact
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 13, 2012 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- THE COLONY

The Colony is one of those games I had wanted to get my hands on for a while, for a few reasons actually, and it has lived up to my expectations in each.
To start with the game designer, Jeph Stahl is a Canadian. It is always a pleasure to support Canadian game designers in this space.
The Colony, first released in 2008, is also a game with much owing to Mancala, the ancient family of African bead sowing games. Stahl has his own take on the theme, using colonies of ants hoarding eggs, but the Mancala roots are crystal clear.
The fact it draws on Mancala is interesting because I truly appreciate ancient games, and the newer variants which emerge to catch attention.
"Players take the role of rival ant colonies that discover a recently cut wood pile. Live eggs still linger in the cut logs. To restore and control the colony, players collect and protect the eggs. Collected eggs are moved to a safe location in front of the player. Players can place ants on the board which will protect the wood pile. The colony that collects and protects the most eggs at the end of the game is the winner," details the ruleset.
That pretty well sums up the game.
The game can get a little 'draggy' but that may be as much a case of learning its complexities, as a design flaw. Knowing where to place eggs and how best to take control of the board takes some getting used to.
The third reason The Colony interested me was the components. The edition from Blue Panther is great, starting with a wooden box.
The colonies and ants, which are stand-up with cut-out design, are both wood, and the eggs are serviceable plastic stones. It is an aesthetically pleasing mix of components.
The Colony is not the world's best mancala-inspired game, but there is enough here to please gamers for occasional plays.
Check the game out at
If anyone is interested in this game, or other boardgames feel free to contact
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 30, 2012 - Yorkton, SK. Canada


If you like boardgames at all you have probably played a few hands of cribbage at some point, and have challenged your vocabulary with a game of Scrabble.
Think of combing the two and you have a bit of understanding of this week's review game CrossCribb.
At its heart CrossCribb relies on the basic principles of cribbage in terms of scoring, so think 15s and 31s, runs and pairs.
The cards are played out onto a 5X5 game board, with one player scoring cards in up and down columns, and the others in cross rows.
Players are each dealt seven cards and on alternating turns play out five to create the scoring lines.
Points are scored after each hand, with the board filling up over a series of five hands.
As the board fills there is more importance to placement, but also a growing likelihood that a card may not offer a huge point score.
Now the board itself was a bit of a disappointment. With limited use the backing of the board is lifting from the cardboard, and will require gluing, although I fear it will bubble because it will be difficult to get glue spread evenly. That said, the board is more a guide than necessity, as you can easily lay out a 5X5 card pattern without it.
There is a deck of cards, but you can play with any deck since there is nothing unique to the deck.
What is handy is a thick pad of CrossCribb score sheets which will make tracking scores much easier.
Designed by Steve Barry and Tony Nelson CrossCribb offers something different enough to hold interest, with enough fun attached to get occasional playtime, although it won't replace the simplicity and re-playability of old fashioned cribbage.
Check the game out at 
If anyone is interested in this game, or other boardgames feel free to contact
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 23, 2012 - Yorkton, SK. Canada


If you are a regular reader you will have come to the realization I am a cribbage fan, and not just the original game of 1630's vintage but many of the variants which have sprung up over the years.
Mastermind Ultimate Cribbage (MUC) is one of those variants, and a more recent one at that. The game was self-published in 2009, coming from the design trio of Phil Martens, Al Oller, and Bob Ramola.
The rules for MUC suggest the game "preserves the integrity of classic cribbage yet adds significantly more fun and challenging possibilities with over 13-times as many cribbage hand combinations."
The game manages the additional combinations by adding 11 cards (six different ones) to the standard 52-card deck which comes with the game, meaning you are playing with a deck of 63. You can pull the special cards to play traditional cribbage.
The 'Zero Card' is one such card with a couple of in-game possibilities, including from the ruleset, "when someone plays a card for a 15 or 31 during pegging, play the Zero-Card next to collect an additional two points for the 15 or 31."
A 'Super-Ace' pairs every ace. "You can use a Super-Ace as a high ace for a run of queen, king and Super-Ace for both counting and pegging. The Super-Ace can be played as 1 or 11 during pegging."
The 'Super-Wild' is a wild card with one extra feature. It can be played during pegging as one face value and counted as another. You can play a Super-Wild as a seven during pegging and use it as a five during counting."
The additional cards are reminiscent of Chicago Cribbage although that cribbage variant uses cards outside the main deck to affect changes.
In the case of MUC the game plays more traditionally, although the new cards add what traditionalists will see as more chaotic play.
Of course by their nature a variant is supposed to offer something different for game players and MUC certainly does that.
It comes with a with three track options, two players can travel a 181 space track, with three traversing 141 and four going the traditional 121.
The board is solidly made, and the cards standard in quality. The downside is once the deck gets weathered, you can't just buy another deck at the dollar store. With that in mind you might want to put the deck into sleeves to help them last.
Overall this is a cribbage variant that offers enough new to be recommended.
I have to say coupling MUC with the aforementioned Chicago Cribbage cards, and playing on a Crib Wars board could turn the game into a virtual cribbage marathon of craziness.
Check the game out at 
If anyone is interested in this game, or other boardgames feel free to contact
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 9, 2012 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- EPIGO

There are certain games which so far exceed expectations you are actually amazed by what you discover.
Epigo is one of the games.
Open the box from Masquerade Games and the components look rather mundane; a square gridded board, and game pieces made from thick, serviceable cardboard. Neither is outstanding but are completely functional.
Where Epigo, from designers Chris Gosselin and Chris Kreuter, really shines is in its game play.
Epigo is at its core an abstract strategy game designed for two-to-four players. Players have a set of epigons (play pieces), and then a set of Order tiles.
Order tiles are held in-hand and are used to move epigons around the board. Players may only three epigons on a turn, and use the orders by selecting three and piling them in front of them. Orders range from a high of seven to a low of one, with players flipping over their top orders at the same time with the higher value moving first.
As you may imagine by the time you have played all three orders the board may well have changed in terms of epigon placements, making your expected move out-of-date with the new realities of the game.
So for abstract strategy purists there is an element of luck to Epigo. That said, there is added strategy to consider in deciding what values to assign a particular move, and guessing at what direction an opponent will take in his order/moves.
Where Epigo really shines is that it comes with rules for 21 variants. Each adds different twists to the core rule set, so if you grow bored with one, or don't happen to like a particular variant there are many more to explore (more are also available at the aforementioned website).
The variants keep Epigo fresh and add a huge level of re-playability to the game. Few games of this sort come to mind in terms of diversity, and that Epigo is breaking fresh ground in that regard is a good thing.
In terms of play options compared to the amount you might invest in a game Epigo is excellent. Few, if any, games have the sort of value Epigo has in terms of the rich variant options players have to explore.
The unique movement rules using orders, and the variant rules really set Epigo apart, and make a somewhat mundane looking game a top drawer find.
Check the game out at 
If anyone is interested in this game, or other boardgames feel free to contact
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 2, 2012 - Yorkton, SK. Canada