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New Releases : 6th January 2010


I hope you had a great Christmas.

I also hope that the quality of games in 2010 is a good as the new releases in the first week of the year. The following are expected to arrive in the shop next Wednesday 6th January

‘World without End’ by Rieneck and Stadler (Cuba and Pillars of the Earth) is a game for 2 -4 players using Ken Follett’s novel as its theme. Early reports are that this is an outstanding game, and it looks to be setting a benchmark for Euro’s in 2010.

‘Descent : Sea of Blood’ is a campaign add on for Descent. The second Advanced Campaign add on for Descent, Sea of Blood uses the same system as ‘Road to Legend’ but adds islands and the adventurers get their own ship to explore the new world.

‘Assyria’ is Ystari’s 2009 Essen release, It has slipped under the radar since Essen and i am looking forward to trying it – it looks like it continues the Ystari line of intricate Euros that require careful planning.

‘Piece o’Cake’ is the English language (Rio Grande) release of Jeffrey Aller’s excellent ‘Aber bitte Mitte Sahne’. This is a rather unusual game in which players collect pieces of cake by splitting cakes into sections and then take what’s left after their opponents have selected the sections they want. I like this game a lot and defy you to play it without feeling hungry by the end!

‘Krysis’ is a sci-fi themed Euro in which players compete for precious artifacts

‘Kingpin’ is a 2 player game themed in a noir comic world where gangster factions fight for dominance.

‘Summoner Wars’ has received rave reviews since its release in the States. It’s a two player tactical game in which players use cards to summon units, move them or create magic. The beauty of the game i apparently it’s easy to learn rules combined with superb balance between the different cards. The initial release is in two starter sets (Dwarves v Goblins, Elves v Orcs) , and will be followed by many expansions.

‘Path of the Zealot’ is the second battle pack for the excellent Warhammer Invasion Living Card Game

GMT have released a mounted map board for ‘Command & Colors’ owners

Queen games 2009 Essen releases have a UK general release next week – i have them in stock already and they include Chicago Express expansion (excellent!), Granada, Sultan and Nelly

I am adding items to the Guru sale – i have had restocks of Arkadia, Municipium, Sherwood Forest and Giants. I have also added a few wargames. It will be worth checking the sale page throughout January as i will be adding items on a regular basis.

I will be gaming in sunny Stockport next weekend at the excellent Stabcon convention. If any of you are attending and would like me to bring some new releases up or you'd like to meetup for a game a beer please email me.

Have a great new year!

Kutschfahrt zum Teufelsberg - a review by Martin Griffiths

A review by Martin Griffiths

Kutschfahrt zum Teufelsberg (Coach Ride to the Devil's Castle) is a game I just got to like a whole lot more by losing it embarrassingly. It's a game of secret identities and variable player powers like Bang or Shadow Hunters, and shares the ability of those games to play well with six or more players. However, Coach Ride has the big advantage of not eliminating players half-way through the game.

Up to ten players represent characters aboard the aforementioned coach. At the start of the game, they are secretly divided into two teams: The Brotherhood of True Lies and the Order of Open Secrets. Each player also takes a character card, which has no real significance but gorgeous artwork, a secret profession card that will give them a special power upon revealing it, and an object from a deck, the rest of which remain in a draw pile. The aim of the game is to figure out who is on your team, and collectively acquire the objects your team seeks: three keys for the Order, three goblets for the Brotherhood.

Turns are simple. There are three options: attack a player; trade with a player; or declare victory. A declaration will end the game one way or the other. The player must name his team-mates, who between them must own the three necessary objects. If he gets it wrong, the other team wins. So what about the options that make up the bulk of the game? To initiate a trade, a player offers an object to another player, who looks at it and decides whether or not to accept the trade. If he accepts, he passes one of his objects back; if he refuses, the active player's turn is over. Some objects take effect only when traded away, such as the Secret Bags, which allow the player who gives one away to draw another object from the pile. Some have effects in attacks, and some are downright nasty: the Black Pearl cannot be refused but prevents the player holding it from declaring victory. One object even allows a player to ditch his team-mates and attempt a solo victory.

If you decide to attack, you declare the victim and put your character card 'sword-side' up, while the person being attacked puts his 'shield-side' up. Following round clockwise from the attacker, each other player flips his card to show whether he will join the attack or the defence. After everyone has revealed, players may add effects from objects and by revealing their hidden professions. Finally, a winner is determined or the conflict ends in a stand-off. A stand-off allows the attacker to draw an object from the pile, and is an important way of getting more objects into the game, but a decisive result is more interesting. The winner gets to either look at the team and profession of his victim, or to look at all his objects and choose one to take.

So far, so simple, but that doesn't begin to describe the feeling of paranoia you get when you start playing. Why's he attacking me again? Are those two on the same team? What is the meaning of being offered this object? The game usually starts quite cagily, as in the absence of any information, it's best to force conflicts to a stand-off and not risk giving vital clues to your opposition. But that's not always possible thanks to the special powers of the objects and professions, and soon some players will begin to know things. Then the game moves into a bluffing stage - if he knows who he is, but he also knows that I know... which brings us back to my embarrassing defeat. The (6-player) game had been moving along quite fast and through attacks I knew who two of my opponents and one of my allies in the Brotherhood were for sure. Then one of the remaining players passed me a goblet, the very object my team was seeking. Surely he must be a Brother too! Soon enough, I cockily declared the 'victory', only to be denounced by the deceitful member of the Order. It really brought home the subtletly of the game: the channels along which you can communicate with the other players are narrow, and there are plenty of ways of being exploited.

There are a couple of downsides to the game. With the wrong group it could drag on a bit and become repetitive, and the fix for odd numbers of players doesn't seem very elegant. But overall this is another excellent game from the Adlung-Spiele range. A tiny box, a low price, evocative artwork, and a great game to have around for larger groups.

Axis and Allies 1940 Pacific

I have returned this product to the distributors as it is sub standard. It is billed by Avalon Hill as a premium product with De luxe components, however upon opening the box it became apparant thst the components are sub standard for even a medium priced game. Moreover it does not have all the pieces neccessary to play the game out of the box. This is not a moral judgement on my part, but a commercial one as i would anticipate a huge number of returns.

New Releases : 15th December

This week’s UK new releases are:

‘Axis & Allies Pacific 1940 Anniversary Edition’ – it’s big and it’s clever and it’s in limited supply.

‘Ren Faire’ is a card game about dressing up, like ‘Gloom’ it is printed on super quality see through plastic.

‘Alhambra Big Box’ has the base game and all five expansions contained in one monster sized box.

‘Hammer of the Scots’ is released in a 3rd Edition – this has a nice ‘proper’ board.


Arkham Horror Dice

Some more Essen releases have arrived:

‘Filipino Fruit Market’, from Bambus Spiel – the masters of trick taking game design have created two games about life in a fruit market

‘Santa Timea’ - Argentum’s other Essen release (the first Hansa Teutonica is back in stock) is a trick taking filler

‘Strada Romana’ – from Games from Italy is a game about collecting and delivering goods between Rome and its principal port.

‘Climate Poker’ – It’s a trick taking game with a ‘Top Trumps’ like mechanism. Quite topical

‘Kazaam Dice’ – a follow up to last year’s acclaimed ‘Kazaam’ from Polish publisher Wolf Fang

‘Macao (German version)’ . It’s brilliant and with a translation of the cards (i will provide) easy to play

And ‘Bamboleo Pizza’ – which could be described as Jenga for adults.

I have had some juicy restocks just in time for Christmas: -

Long ships, Ubongo, Ubongo Extreme, Ubongo - The duel, Hansa Teutonica, Galaxy Trucker, Galaxy Trucker – Big Expansion, Bausack, Uruk and Trans Europa

I am hoping to get the Imperial to Imperial 2030 upgrade kit next week along with restocks of Imperial, Hamburgum and Le Havre. I will put them on the site when they arrive so keep checking back.


Dungeon Lords is looking like it might be released before Christmas but too late to be posted to arrive before Christmas, and in an limited initial run (with a wider releases in February)

Please email me if you would like to reserve a copy, and if you have already reserved a copy please could you confirm that you still want a copy.

Infinite City and Thunderstone are now looking like February 2010 (at earliest) releases

Christmas last posts

For DHL UK please order no later than the 19th December

For First Class please order no later than the 20th December

For Standard UK delivery please order no later than the 17th December

For Europe please email me, airmail (items under 2 Kilos) the last order date is the 10th December, for larger items or multiple game orders the last order date is the 14th December

I have been so busy over the last week that the only game i have played is Sorry Sliders! (and i found that mentally challenging)

Move over trains i want some Elves!

As a hardened Eurogamer i am surprised to find myself recently drawn towards fantasy themed games. I can trace the origin to playing Middle Earth Quest in the summer and enjoying the evolving story of the game as much as the strategic gameplay.

And at Eastbourne last month (a bi-annual get together of Counter Magazine subscribers and writers - a veritable 'haj' for the Eurogamer) my highlights were a game of Dungeon Lords and then a five hour Descent Dungeon crawl. Now Dungeon Lords is a Eurogame camouflaged with fantasy colours. The fantasy theme adds humour and a story line to what would be an average game if it was about, say, defending a castle in medieval Italy. Thinking about it my geek rating of eight would go down to a seven or six without the Dungeon bit.

Descent though was a joy. Yes it is really a minatures game but it had just the right amount of fantasy and character development to keep me immersed for five hours without needing to take up role playing.

The conversion is now complete, i have just opened a copy of Tomb Ctyptmaster and can't wait to get it to table - and it looks like my first play of Last Train to Wensleydale is going to wait another week.

New Releases : 28th November 2009

There are loads of new releases this week, some arrived yesterday and the rest will arrive on Tuesday 1st December

I’ll start with what has arrived now (and not on general releases in the UK)

‘Pony Express’ – A race game of dice rolling and bluffing from Funforge. Very attractive to look at and has received favourable reports.

‘Horsefever’ – is an Essen 2009 release, takes betting on horses in 30’s America as it’s subject and can be played as a family game or as a more serious affair.

‘Valdora Extra’ – An expansion for Valdora, it includes a two player ‘Duel’ Variant

‘1853’ – Lookout Games revamp of Francis Tresham’s classic

‘Seidenstrasse ‘– This is the first big box game from the creators of ‘Uruk’ and it looks like an elegant set collection game. This is a German game, I will provide English rules

– also from DDD Verlag, this is a reprint of a classic filler, This is a German game, i will provide English rules

‘Maria’ – Histogames follow up to the award winning ‘Friedrich’ is a cracking game, which (i am told) fixes some of the loose ends in ‘Friedrich’. I played this last weekend and despite being trounced by two grizzled grognards I loved the game. This is in very limited supply!

More ‘Hansa Teutonica’ have arrived – having just read Ted Alspach’s review here I am going to keep a copy for myself.

I have one copy of the Ystari Box – first person to reply gets it for £18 including postage. I will try and get some more next week.

New releases due on Tuesday 1st December

‘Letter of Marque’ is a pirate ‘n bluffing game from Brune Faidutti and Fantasy Flight

‘Skavinblight Threat’ is the first Battle pack for Warhammer Invasion LCG

‘Abandon Ship’ from Alderac Entertainment and Reiner Knizia is a family game in which players herd their rats off a sinking ship.

‘Tomb : Cryptmaster’ is both a standalone game and an expansion for ‘Tomb’

‘Steel Driver’ is a 2nd edition version of Martin Wallace’s 2008 hit train game. If you missed the Treefrog edition this is worth picking up.

‘Skyline 3000’ is a remake of ‘Capitol’ – this time set in the future and with the usual Zman gorgeous production

‘Start Player’ sorts out that age old problem – how to determine the start player. It’s quite amusing as well.

‘Steam Locomotive set’ is deluxe set of wooden trains you can use in ‘Steam :Rails to riches’

Notable restocks includes Richard III, Pandemic, Uruk, Loyang.

I played quite a few games last week and highlights were Greed Inc (i hope to restock next week), Dungeon Lords and Descent

However the best of the bunch was 'A brief history of the World' - it's a brilliant stream lining of the original game and is the best empire game i have played this year (hat includes Rise of Empires). It might not be quite so brief (at three hours) but in thr game i played we had a mixture of grizzled gaming vets and one player for whom this was only their third boardgame they have ever played.all loved it - and two orderd a copy on the spot. I can't reccomend it highly enough.

New Releases : 3rd November 2009

The first of Rio Grande’s Essen releases hit the UK on Tuesday 3rd November

Tobago gets an official UK release from Rio Grande this week. Its top of my family game picks.

Carcassonne Wheel of Fortune is a standalone Carcassonne game, with a .. Wheel of Fortune

Jambo expansion 2 adds three new games elements to the base game

I was impressed by the description and look of ‘Longships’ (a Viking plunder and trading game) at Essen so i am importing some. They should arrive by the end of the week. If you would like to know more about this game there is an excellent review here.

There are three new releases from GMT

Command and Colors Ancients: Expansion four takes the action into the later Roman Empire

Command and Colors Ancients : Expansion five adds more players and new game play to the base set

Hellenes : The Peloponnesian War is a block game, recreating the struggle between the Greek city states.

Erosion from Sierra Madre games is back in stock. This is a quirky card game in which players attempt to build up mountain ranges, erode them and claim victory points by collecting the resulting debris. Highly recommended and in a way reminiscent of ‘Glory to Rome’

I have managed to play a few more Essen releases. ‘At the gates of Loyang’ (which i’m expecting next week) is a great game, a lot more tactical and quicker to play than the other games in Ewe Rosenberg’s ‘Harvesting’ cycle. ‘Dungeon Lords’ is fantastic, a hard core Euro with a fun theme. This is rather difficult to get hold of and i don’t expect to get any copies until its official UK release later this year. ‘Colonia 1322AD’ from Queen is a resource management game, with the twist that you have to vote on edicts during the different phases of the game. Quite intricate, this is for gamers who like long term planning. I’m expecting this to arrive in a few weeks.

Stronghold will be with me at latest by Thursday, i’m afraid my distributor has dragged their heels on getting this to me when promised (i.e before the official UK release on Tuesday). I will make sure that those of you who have pre-ordered a copy get it by the end of the week.

I am hoping that some copies of Carson City will arrive next week, along with quite a few other Essen releases. I will send out another newsletter when they arrive.

New Releases 27 October 2009

‘Battlelore : Heroes’ is the first expansion for Battlelore since Fantasy Flight bought the system from Days of Wonder.

‘Witch of Salem’ is a co-operative game based Wolfgang Hohlbein’s Cthulhu novels. I played the German version of this some months ago and think it is a terrific game. It has an Arkham Horror feel to it, but plays in side an hour. The only comparable game of this length is Pandemic and Witch of Salem has a far more immersive theme. Highly recommended.

‘A Brief History of the World‘is the first Essen release to hit the UK. This is a revamp of the classic ‘History of the World’, the Ragnars have updated and streamlined the game play and added lovely new art work. If you are fan of the 1991 original or like sweeping games of map domination then this is an essential purchase.

‘Richard the III : Wars of the Roses’ from Columbia games is also released this week.

'In Memory of Day' is the latest Asylum pack for Call of Cthuhu LCG>

The Vixentor dice towers are back in stock Including some new designs) , these are the ‘Rolls Royces of dice towers; beautiful, handmade and sturdy designs.

I had a great time meeting gamers, designers and publishers at Essen. Over the coming months the Import section is going to have a lot of interesting games added to it. ‘Stronghold’ should be here later this week with others very close behind. I managed to play a few games and was blown away by ‘Shipyard’ from Czech Boardgames Edition. This is being released by Rio Grande in November. I also played Dungeon Lords and thoroughly enjoyed it, very different from Vlaada’s last two releases it is a complex Euro with a fun theme. Cwali’s ‘Basket Boss’ is a worthy follow up to ‘Powerboats’. I will be trying other releases over the coming days.

Edit : I played At the Gates of Loyang yesterday and it's fantastic, different from Agricola and Le Havre, pared down and faster but a great game.

Best wishes


New Releases : 6th October

It’s a rare pleasure to be able to report that some games are actually being released ahead of schedule. Some of Alderac Entertainment Group’s Essen releases are out on Tuesday the 6th.

The most eagerly awaited is ‘The Adventurers’ – a hit at Gencon 09, this game gives you a ‘Indiana Jones’ adventure as you rush around a temple collecting treasure and avoiding traps.

‘Monkey Lab’ is for younger gamers who play monkeys trying to release fellow monkeys from the lab.

‘Arcana’ is a trick taking, bluffing diplomatic game set in a fantasy world.

Other Tuesday 6th releases include:-

‘Dungeon Twister 2’. It contains lots of miniatures, a new set of rules and backward compatibility with the original game and expansions

‘Samurai the card game’ is the third in the series of Knizia’s abridged versions of his classics.

‘Twilight Horror'
is the first Asylum Pack in the Dreamlands expansion for the Call of Cthulhu Living Card Game

‘Scrappers’ from Privateer press is the last of the new releases.

Exciting imports arriving this week.

‘Rise of Empires’ will definitely be with me on Tuesday. It’s the Phalanx German version but is language independent and I will provide English rules and laminated player aids. The Mayfair English language version has been delayed to November at the earliest. Being a Martin Wallace fan I can’t wait to get this to table.

‘Tobago’ is arriving at the same time. A deduction game with gorgeous components Bruno Faidutti has talked of this being an early candidate for the 2010 SdJ. It is language independent and I will provide English rules.

is an auction /civilisation game from Bernd Eisenstein (half of the design team behind 2009’s best dice game ‘Alea Iacta Est’). The game will come bundled with it’s expansion and should be in the shop on Friday.

Special Offers

4 fab games added to the ‘offers’ section :- ‘Warrior Knights’ , ‘Garibaldi’ , ‘Dust’ and ‘Chicago Express’

Other news

If anyone bought Middle Earth quest from me and they need replacement figures please email me with the figures needed, FF have sent me some replacements.

Bucephalus games have released a host ot f new games this week. I don’t stock anything by this publisher because their games have received terrible reviews. However if there is any thing from their range you would like I would be more than happy to get hold of a copy at a very small mark up.

The postal strike is still causing havoc with royal mail delivery times. If you need a game in a hurry then choose DHL at the delivery method.

Warhammer Invasion Living Card game looks like it might be out in 10 days time.

‘Kursk’ the follow up to ‘Conflict of Heroes’ is shipping pre-orders soi hoping it will hit the UK soon. The same applies to the reprint of Command and Colours Ancients and its new expansions, four and five.

‘The War of the Roses’ from Columbia games should be no longer than a month away

Success equals less writing

The shop has nearly been open a year and it's success has exceeded my expectations. So much so recently that i have not had any spare time to write any reviews I have started quite a few, just not managed to finish any. From recent releases :-

i like 'Erosion' by Sierra Madre a lot. The game has a similar feel to 'Glory to Rome' but without the mad combos (and you will finish the game knowing a lot more about gelogy than when you started)

'Castle Panic' was not the game i was hoping for, it lacks depth though i think it would be fun to play with young gamers.

'Ra : The Dice Game' is a big disappointment after the success of Modern Art the card game. The lack of an auction takes all of the interaction and tension out of the game.

'Day and Night' . The more i play it the more i like it and the more depth it reveals. It scratches a 'Magic the Gathering' itch whilst playing a clever abstract

'Ad Astra' feels like a Settlers/Puerto Rico hybrid. It's quite challenging and requires the ability to plan ahead and have flexibility in your plans to take advantage of others actions. Not for the analysis paralysis prone.

'Dice Town' - great closer, but has divided opinions in my gaming groups. I think people enjoy the game more if they go into their first play having a familiarity with poker hands

'Middle Earth Quest' - Brilliant strategy game, drips with theme and playable in 3 hours. I'm not a huge fan of 'War of the Ring' but i love this game.

New Releases : 21st September

I’m on holiday from Tuesday 22nd September to Sunday 27th. Whilst away there is no one manning the shop so any orders placed will be shipped on Monday the 28th. I will be monitoring and replying to emails and confirming orders whilst away.

and to try and stop you looking at those nasty other games shops whilst i'm away i have put a small 5% discount in place for all purchases made between now and Sunday ,just enter the code KOSMOS

Batt’l Ka’os from Zman games is released next week.. It’s a tile laying game which sees Orcs and Knights fight it out over castle strongholds.

The Island of Doctor Necreaux
is the first of AEG’s huge autumn release schedule. This is a co-operative card game for 1 -5 players.

The war gamers amongst you will be whipped into a sea of frenzy by two GMT releases this week.

The first is 1805 : Sea of Glory – a block game recreating the continental blockade that kept Napoleon from invading dear blighty.

The second is PQ17 – Arctic convoys. This game recreates the massive supply of goods by the Allies across the seas at the top of the world to aid the Soviet War Effort. The Nazis threw subs, surface raiders and planes at the convoys.

From rules read through both of these look like very interesting games

Caesar's Gallic Wars from Worthington Games completes the war games released this week.

Having listened to a few old Dice Tower Pod casts I have been brain washed into stocking the full range of Battleground Fantasy Warfare (they used to advertise in the show). It’s a miniatures game without miniatures, is expandable and a playable set costs a small fraction of a playable miniature army.

Battle for Hill 218 and Reef Encounter have been re-printed and are back in stock

Pandemic on the Brink is scheduled for release on Tuesday 29th September.

A few German copies of ‘Rise of Empires’ will be arriving on the 28th. Email me if you’d like one.

And last it’s the obligatory “go to another website and buy a game” section.

The game in question is “Where there is discord” a solitaire game recreating the retaking of the Falklands. The profits from the game are going to The Royal British Legion and the Argentinean equivalent. For a debut design and publishing effort the game looks amazing and has been receiving rave reviews. I have ordered a copy and am looking forward to getting this to table.

Have a great week


New Releases : 8th September

Fantasy Flight, game issuing behemoth of the last month, has more to offer us:-

The latest off the production line is Ad Astra. A game of exploration and colonisation, Ad Astra despite it’s Ameri-Trash looks is, according to co-designer Bruno Faidutti, a Euro Game. This game looks like another excellent release from FF, from a rule read through it promises to be a tight economic / development game with a innovative action sequence.

Also from Fantasy Flight comes the Descent Quest Compendium, 16 Adventures penned by the both the designers of the game and other luminaries of the gaming world.

There are also three new pewter miniatures for the Road to Legend Descent expansion, released this week.

Endeavor, officially, hits the UK next Tuesday. Two copies saw night long action at my weekly gaming group, with players queuing up to get in a game. It’s hot stuff.

For family gamers comes ‘Order up’ from Z Man, a family pick up pizzas and deliver game.

There is one new war game this week and it is a stand alone game in the Panzer Grenadier series. ‘Fall of France’ has fifty scenarios recreating the six weeks of blitzkrieg it took Germany to conquer France.

Other news

Fantasy Flight is going to publish English language versions of Planet Steam and Bushido Way of the Warrior. If you don’t want to wait I have both of these language independent games available in their in their original language versions, Bushido is a sale item.

Pandemic : On the brink is rumoured to be released on September 15th

I have booked my trip to Essen, a fun/business trip my, aim is to secure games for the import section that are not going to have an immediate English language version by one of the big American publishers, and other gems. The aim is to have the games available for sale within 10 days of Essen finishing. If there is anything you’d like me to try and secure, or and suggestions for things I should be looking at, please email me.

Palastgefluster and Court of the Medici

A comparative review by Martin Griffiths

Court of the Medici and Palastgefluster are both neat little card games that share a theme of intrigue in a medieval court. But how do they stack up against other games and each other?

Both games come in small boxes that contain nothing but a set of cards. Palastgefluster is in one of the tiny Adlung-Spiele boxes while CotM has some space for the cards to rattle around in. Both games have sets of cards in each player's colour depicting different members of the court: Jester, Lady-in-Waiting, King and so on. And in both games players take turns to play a single card from their hand onto the table. The biggest difference is that CotM is for 2 players only while Palastgefluster accommodates 3-5.

In Court of the Medici, each player takes their own deck, shuffles it, places the top four cards face up into the "Inner Circle" and then draws a hand of 5 cards. A turn will generally consist of playing a card and then drawing a card. Each member of the court has a value (between 0 and 15) and the cards can be played in various ways to try to increase your own presence in the court while eliminating your opponent's courtiers. At heart it is a mathematical game: when you play a card on to another card in the court to form a "conspiracy" you can then eliminate any other card or set of cards that has the same total. A few of the cards have special powers in addition to their numerical value. For example the Lady-in-Waiting can break up an "alliance" of courtiers while the Jester is a wild card. The game ends either when one player has been driven out entirely from the Inner Circle or when both players have drawn through their entire decks, with the winner given by the higher total of cards still in play.

After a few plays, the game seems very tactical. Your options are constrained by what you have in your hand, and you usually want to look for a way to get a card into play while eliminating one or more of your opponent's courtiers. The special powers add a few nice wrinkles, and the variable end conditions have made each game play quite differently. Sometimes it's an out-and-out war with courtiers being offed left, right and centre; sometimes there's more of a cat-and-mouse feel. As you may have gathered, the game isn't strongly thematic, but the gorgeous artwork taken from Medieval paintings and flavour text from Macchiavelli does help with that. All in all it's a very enjoyable 20-minute game that scratches the same itch as Battle Line or Lost Cities.

In Palastgefluster the sets of player cards are all shuffled together. Everyone starts with a hand of 6 cards, and the aim is to play cards one-by-one to the table in order to end up with six different characters displayed, thus scoring a point. If a player is forced to play a duplicate character, they automatically lose the hand and everyone else gains a point. The game is played to 4-6 points depending on the number of players, though if you have slow players you might want to set a time limit instead.

The different characters each offer a different ability, for example allowing you to swap displayed cards with another player or take back a previously played card into your hand. The clever twist is that the colour of a card played determines who is next in the turn order, so you might be able to play a string of cards at once or make another player take a turn when they really don't want to. Like CotM, it's a tactical battle, and it does seem easier to try to force someone else into an error than to go all-out for the solo win. This makes the scoring very close and it would be easy to end up with a tie. However there is a variant scoring system in the rules to make this less likely.

As the name implies, Palastgefluster is a German game but this is a bilingual edition. The player summary cards have an English translation and the character cards have icons to explain their special powers. The rules are also translated, for the most part reasonably well, and if in doubt there are some good player aids on boardgamegeek. The artwork is more cartoonish than Court of the Medici but still quite pleasant and the game will appeal to those who are fans of hand-management and a healthy dose of screwage.

I would be hard-pressed to say which of the two games I prefer, but as they both come in at well under a tenner and satisfy complementary numbers of players, there's no real need to decide!

New Releases : 2nd September

First the bad news: Pandemic on the Brink has been delayed. It’s still scheduled as September which probably means the end of September

Endeavour should have a UK release on Tuesday the 8th September. I managed to secure some English copies of this marvelous game from another country – none remain though. I have recorded some first impressions on the blog.

Now the good news.

Railways of England and Wales, Martin Wallace’s expansion for Railroad Tycoon, is released on Wednesday. It contains both a Railroad Tycoon expansion and a new 18xx style ‘advanced’ game to play.

If you have not picked up Rails of Europe the other official expansion for Tycoon I am doing a combined deal on both the games in the Guru Summer sizzler section

The standard Axis and Allies game has received a re-vamp and face lift in a new edition:-

Axis and Allies 1942 it contains new units and rules adopted from the Anniversary edition (which is now out of print)

Night & Day is in stock. The box looks like it should contain expensive chocolates and the art work is splendid. I like the game – it is a hybrid of an abstract board game and Magic the Gathering like card play.

Musketeers is released by Fred imprint Gryphon games. A card game it is, described as an ideal game for younger players.

The Stars are Right ‘, an English version of Die Sterne Stehen Richtig, is a Cthulhu card game from Steve Jackson Games

I have added some more games to the Guru Summer sizzlers – A couple of highlights are Descent + and expansion of your choice for £69.99 and Rune Bound and expansion the Isle of dread packaged together for £49.99.

Not quite a sizzler but I am selling Ra : The dice game at £14.99

Back in stock

‘Birds on a wire’,’ ‘Keltis Kartenspiele’ (similarities to Lost Cities but with added spice and can be played with 4 players), ‘Horus’ and ’Tales of the Arabian Nights’

Endeavor : First Impressions

What can i say? It has usurped the 2009 throne from Automobile

First Impression

I first read the rules about six months and thought it looked like a poor man’s Goa crossed with Struggle of Empires with a splash of Age of Empires 111. Well how wrong could I have been? It has some superficial similarities with these games but is more interactive than Goa and far shorter than Struggle. I already prefer it to both of these classics and I don’t think Age of Empires will get table time again until the new buildings come out.

Second impression

I have now played the game six times and keep wondering:-

‘What’s the catch?’ - The game seems, to my gaming taste (a nicely themed Euro with a splash of bash) so perfect that I am worried that after more plays it will reveal some imbalance or strategic shallowness I have not spotted yet and the spell will be broken.

Third impression

This game has an amazing 'depth' to 'time played ratio'. In a gaming era where the Holy Grail of game design seems to be to pack the maximum punch into the minimum play time Endeavor comes closer to this than the other contenders : - Stone Age, Dominion and Small World, to name but three. The 75 minutes play time leaves me feeling that I have played a much longer game. Usually I think that it’s a good thing if a four hour game skips by, that’s reversed with Endeavor. After 75 minutes I feel I have had a gaming experience as immersive as Struggle of Empires or Age of Empires but in a fraction of the time. And that’s another beauty of the game - it’s short playing time means it will see many plays as it does not need a whole evening to play.

Fourth Impression

It has huge replay ability because the 95 chits are randomly positioned at the beginning of the game and because there are strategic layers to unpeel as players see the synergies between early occupy choices with end game card draw choices.

It also seems to be a slightly different game with four and five players. Five player is more cutthroat, with competition for space that much harder. Four players there is a little more control over your own destiny. I have not played it with three yet; though I have a feeling it will not be as great as four or five (though I hope to be proved wrong)

Fifth Impression

I have read some where that it is hard to make a really bad decision in the game. I would think that a weakness in the game design but I don’t think that is true in Endeavor. I have noticed that sub optimal play hands a lot of good stuff to the player on your left . My first game the player on my left won partly because I played badly. After the early discovery games I think it will be best enjoyed played with gamers of a similar standard.

Things that some Geeks may not like


The game can slow down towards the end when players are making multiple card draws. I have not seen gamers hamstrung by AP but the potential is there.


The theme may not be strong enough for some. For example, after a recent game I realized I could not remember the colonial areas I had focused on I knew where they were on the board but the fact that they were ‘Africa’ and the ‘Far east’ had not etched themselves into my experience of the game.


The board needs 95 chits. The game comes with some blank spares but if you are like me you are going to lose some. Every game set up so far has involved a search for the missing chit or city that does not have one. I find the set up anxiety inducing.

Who is winning?

It’s not completely obvious, in the first couple of plays, to see how well you are doing compared to the other players. Until players become familiar with the cards available in the different areas the end game can be decided by ‘accidentally’ picking the right one. But because the game plays so quickly this is not going to put you off playing again.

Kingmaking - or ‘I have a cannon and I’m going to use it’

I have seen it once in six games. I have lost a game because a new player made a sub optimal attack against one of my cities (he netted one point, I lost four). I don’t think it will happen when players are up to speed because attacking demands resources that can usually be used better elsewhere. The cost of attack means that it is worth it to secure efficient trade connections, protect your slavery cards from abolition and end game marginal point switches. You need to have the ability to 'shoot' - partly because it inhibits players from contesting juicy connections and gives you tactical flexibility.

‘Puerto Rico’ factor

Because the scores are so tight in a game less experienced players can, inadvertently, hand victory to some one else. I have benefited more than I have suffered from this, but it makes me think that it is especially the case with Endeavor that the game will be enjoyed by playing with players of a similar experience.

In conclusion this is my favorite released in 2009 and none of the reservations i expressed above have stopped me wanting to play the game continually

New Releases : 18th August

First a thank you – August is shaping up to be my best month since I opened Boardgameguru and I really appreciate your business and the customers I have made from your recommendations

There are some interesting new releases this week.

Revolution! From Steve Jackson Games is a game of bluff and politics that plays in side 60 minutes. This is a theme I find appealing, having played a lot of Junta back in my youth.

Burger Joint
from Rio Grande has arrived. It’s a neat two player game. I have written a review here. This is a scoop as, for some reason, this does not appear to be officially released yet.

Arimaa , an attractive abstract, from Zman games. According to the Z Man website it is simple to learn but with more potential moves than chess.

Ra has been reprinted by Rio Grande and is in stock


I have added Adios Amigos from Pegasus Spiele, a shoot e’m up party game that requires speed and a little mental arithmetic.


Middle Earth Quest
has been taking up my table time since its release. It’s a great strategy game, not overly complex and after a couple of plays can be completed inside three hours. Nigel Buckle has written about one of these games here and has reviewed the game for the guru blog.

Linwood is on the way

Counter magazine have given me some back issues to give to customers. If you are not a subscriber to this excellent magazine and would like a sample copy please let me know.

Counter is to the ‘Geek what the Financial Times is to The Sun – accurate, informed and an essential read if you want to know about the best new games. The reviewers have, between them, hundred of years and thousands of games played in experience. It is published quarterly, contains (about) 80 pages of reviews, news and views and a subscription costs a mere £14 per annum.

Sale items

Despite having expanded my stock room I need to create some space for new releases, new imports and Essen (I am going to be offering customers an Essen purchasing service – more on this in the coming weeks) so I have added a few items to the sale area.

US publishers Game release schedule

Whilst European games companies gird their loins for Essen American companies keep pumping out great games through the summer and early autumn months. The dates are my estimates based on public information and communications with publishers adjusted by a hunch factor. Here are some of the offerings guaranteed to keep your gaming shelves groaning over the coming months:

Endeavor August

Pandemic : On the Brink August 24th

Axis and Allies : Spring 1942 August

Descent: Campaign Compendium August

Chaos in the Old World August 24th

Battlestar Galactica : Pegasus August 24th

Rise of Empires September ?

Conflict of Heroes : Kursk September

Command & Colors: Expansions Four and Five September

Command & Colors re-print September

D-Day at Omaha Beach September

PQ17 September

Witch of Salem (“Der Hexer Von Salem”) September

Railways of England and Wales September

A Touch of Evil : Heroes pack September

A Touch of Evil : Something wicked September

Battleground : Punic Wars September

Ad Astra September/October

1805 : Sea of glory October

Warhammer Invasion LCG November

Twilight Struggle Deluxe and upgrade kits November

Chorononauts is being re-printed in a new version November

Through the Ages reprint November

Washington’s war Autumn

Battlelore Heroes Autumn

JKLM (a British publisher, who march to a drum all of their own, syncopated Belgian Jazz comes to mind) are publishing games in sequence rather than parallel and have the following due:-

Tinner’s Trail – September /October

Ascendancy – Some time after that

Huang Di – Ditto


New Releases :11th August 2009

New releases are two less than I told you on Monday. Fantasy Flight discovered that Chaos in the old World and Pegasus were due to be released in the UK last Friday and on Tuesday asked Esdevium the distributor to delay the release until the 21st of August (the American release). It's horrible to think of those shiny new games sitting un played in a dark warehouse.

However, Middle Earth Quest is here. As we have come to expect from FF it look’s stunning, but more importantly (based on a solo run through) it is a very good game. I can’t think of any designer who has had such a good recent run of outstanding games as Co-designer of MEQ Corey Konieczka. I am looking forward to my first game proper game later today.

The other new release of note is Ra: The Dice Game.

The original RA should be re-released this week or next week. It has been out of print for some time and if you are new to the hobby then I highly recommend this quick auction game.

I have played, the recently arrived, Masters of Venice four times this week and it is one of the best economic games of 2008/9. It has a hotchpotch of mechanics, none of which are original, and the victory conditions are a mixture of pick and deliver and wealth But it comes together to make a very immersive and interactive game. It has joined Le Havre and Automobile as one of my three top economic games released since Essen ’08.

I have added a few other games from the publisher of Masters of Venice, RnR games, three are party games Times up! Deluxe Edition, Times Up! Title recall and Pants on Fire. The others are Flea Circus and Overthrone.

‘Runebound’ has just been re-printed and I have added it to the range as well as the expansion ‘Isle of Dread’. Both are at knock out prices

‘Roll through the Ages’
is back in stock. The game now has an official print and play expansion -‘the late bronze age’. I have not played with the expansion yet but I am told that it is a must and adds length and depth to the excellent mechanics of the game.

I have also added some ‘Tea Cloth’ games from the Ragnar Brothers:

‘Viking Fury’ (republished by Asmodee as Viking Fury’) is an excellent game and as the Asmodee edition is now out of print this is the only edition available.

‘Backpacks and blisters’ and ‘More Backpacks and Blisters’ are games about hiking in the Lake District. One of the things I love about both games is that you can score victory points by drinking tea.

Coming soon

I am importing some copies of ‘Linwood’ from New Zealand’s Garphill games. I hope they will arrive in a week or so.

Railways of England and Wales is about a month away from a UK release according to Fred Distribution.

‘Pandemic: on the Brink’ and ‘Endeavor’ from Zman are both scheduled for August – with no definite dates I’m hoping it’s the back end of the month now.

Last but not least

I don’t often encourage you to buy a game from some one else but I have to make an exception for ‘The City of London Board Game’ – the profits from the game will go for very good causes, is designed by Jack Berkovi (whose pedigree includes ‘Nubble’) and was liked by my gaming group when Jack demod it at London on Board. I have copied below some information about the game and where you can get it.

“‘City of London’ game launched in aid of Lord Mayor’s Appeal Charities

‘City of London’ is a new board game launched and endorsed by The Lord Mayor’s Show company, in support of the Lord Mayor’s chosen charities for The Lord Mayor’s Appeal – St John Ambulance London (Prince of Wales’s) District and The Lord’s Taverners.

The aim of the game is to reach The Mansion House and become Lord Mayor of the City of London. However, to get there, players have to secure Ward seats, win elections, take on the role of Freeman and be the first Sheriff to progress to Lord Mayor. This is achieved by correctly answering multiple-choice questions about the City, its culture and well-known landmarks. The game is played on a map of the City, featuring its 25 Wards, Old Bailey, Guildhall, The Mansion House and other places on the route taken by Lord Mayor's Show.

Designed for 2-4 players aged 10 and above, ‘City of London’ is available at the special price of £25.00 if ordered in advance via www.lordmayorshow.org and collected from The Mansion House, or at the retail price of £29.99, post free. It's also available from Guildhall's Library and Art Gallery shops, St Paul's Cathedral shop and, from August, at Harrods, John Lewis and Peter Jones in London.”

Meuterer : A Pocket Full of Fun

A review by Martin Griffiths

Meuterer is a fantastic little game that doesn't get nearly enough GeekLove, and I think that must be down to two things: it's 'only' a card game; and there's no English edition. So I thought I'd dispense with those objections first.

1. It's not really a card game. It doesn't have suits, number values, tricks or trumps. And it could very easily have been turned into a medium-box board game. You'd just need a board with 12 islands marked, island tiles to randomly place on them, a ship piece (like the ones in Age of Empires) and some gold doubloons to keep score with. So just think yourself lucky that you're getting all the gameplay of a board game for the price and size of a deck of cards.

2. It's not really in German. Yes, there's some German text on the cards, but it's mostly unnecessary. It's easy enough to tell the five types of goods apart by the pictures, so you only have to remember what the six different roles are. Kapitan for Captain and Maat for Mate aren't particularly difficult, and Meuterer for Mutineer is even the name of the game. English rules can be downloaded and printed right here on the 'geek.

So with those caveats out of the way, what's the game all about? Your intrepid crew of four (it can be played with three, but four is much better) are aboard a merchant ship, sailing round a chain of islands attempting to score points through profiteering and power struggles. The clever interplay between the trading system and the fight for the captaincy is what makes this game great.

Power struggles: One player will start as captain. The captain is a powerful role because he gets to choose which island to visit next and score points for successfully sailing there. On the other hand, the Captain is the only player who doesn't get to secretly choose from one of five other roles. Three of these roles are concerned with power struggles on the ship. If a player chooses the Mutineer, then there will be a fight for the Captaincy. The Mate role offers support to the captain and the Cabin Boy to the mutineer. If a mutiny is successful, the Mutineer becomes Captain and the Cabin Boy is rewarded for helping; if it fails the Captain stays in charge and the Mate gets one point plus however many the Captain offered as an incentive at the start of the round.

Trading: Each of the twelve islands that the ship can visit likes one of the five different goods (two islands are wild). Each player has 5 goods cards in their hand at the start of a round, and they can choose how many of these they will play before refilling at the end of the round. This gives players the option of selling goods this round, saving them to sell on a different island, or just discarding them in the hope of drawing better ones. Only the player who can sell most goods on an island will score any points. Two of the roles allow the players to ignore the fight for control of the ship and concentrate on profiteering. The Merchant gives a player maximum points for trading even if he only tied for most goods sold; while the Loading Master gives a player a choice of cards to pick from when refilling his hand.

The clever part: So far, so good, but what really makes the game tick is the way these two systems interact. The twelve islands are set out in a circle, and how far the ship moves round is determined by the number of cards that the Captain didn't play this round. If there's a successful mutiny, then the same applies to the Mutineer. So the Captain has to maintain a balance of playing the cards he wants to play while setting a course for a desirable destination. And because the cards are played out one at a time round the table there are some interesting tactical decisions for the other players. You don't get to choose your role until you stop playing cards, so do you play one ruby then grab the Merchant role, hoping no one has two rubies to beat you? Or do you discard a corn that you won't be able to sell this time to give yourself time to see what the other players offer up? Also, some of the cards are not goods at all but conflict cards that are used in the resolution of mutinies.

The game ends after eight rounds -- usually about 45 minutes to an hour -- and points are totalled up. Unfortunately there's no way of keeping score included in the box, so you'll have to use pen and paper. Whoever has been most successful at selling goods and exploiting the political intrigues will win the day. There's also an option for advanced players to add in a pirate ship that can plunder all the goods played in a round. All in all, I can't think of another game that packs as much into such a tiny box and low price. I find it a far better role-selection game than the much better-known Citadels as long as you have exactly four players.

Middle Earth Quest : A Review by Nigel Buckle

A snap review after one play – prior to playing I’d downloaded the rules from Fantasy Flight’s website, so knew pretty much how to play...

There were 4 of us, one who arrived a bit late, so we had a quick run through of a couple of turn (including a combat) before he arrived, so I think we had some idea of how the mechanics worked but no real idea about strategy, nor detailed knowledge of the decks.

There is a definite learning curve on this game, and each side plays differently and you need to know the goals and abilities of both to do well – what you need to do to succeed and what you need to do to stop the other side.

I won’t dwell too much on mechanics, as you can get the details of those from reading the rules from the publisher’s website, rather I’ll cover the feel of the game and give my opinion on who would like it.

The game is set 17 years before Frodo leaves the Shire with the ring – so Gandalf knows the One Ring has been found (or at least has very strong suspicions) but everyone else is largely ignorant. Hero players represent characters recruited by Gandalf to protect the shire and try to hold back the advancing influence of Sauron (his influence over leaders, the emergence of monsters, etc), the Sauron player represents Sauron – advancing his plots to overthrow the Free People and recover his ring.

It is worth mentioning Fantasy Flight’s other big box Lord of the Rings game – War of the Ring. These two games approach the theme from different directions. War of the Ring is set later (Frodo and the ring are at Rivendell, and about to leave on the quest to destroy it) and the emphasis is on armies and hunting for the ring. Characters are important, but only for recruiting troops, leading armies or protecting/hunting for the ring. In Middle Earth Quest it is the other way around – armies are abstracted and the focus is on individuals exploring Middle Earth and Sauron expanding his influence out of his strongholds in Mordor, the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood.

I played Sauron, so I can’t really comment on the feel of playing as a hero – but as Sauron I found the game is strongly tied to the theme, my role is to dominate the Free Peoples in 3 ways. In military terms I have minions (such as the Ringwraiths) to move around and carry out my will – either hunt down the heroes, defend critical areas (usually ones that are linked to my active ‘plots’) or allow me to play particular plots. I also have monsters, which are similar to minions, but usually weaker – and a significant number are just rumours, but even rumours can slow and distract the heroes. And then there is influence, this represents my power spreading actoss the map, corrupting people and generally making the world more dangerous for the heroes. Free People havens are the annoyance – they prevent the spread of my influence and offer respite and healing to the heroes, and I there is little I can do to remove them (if you want a game where you burn down Lorien or over throw Minas Tirith, you need to play War of the Ring instead).

The game is long, and early games will be longer – I expect with repeated playing you could get the game down to the suggested playing time of 2-3 hours, and quicker with 2 or 3 rather than 4 players.

Setup is fairly quick – and all players can help, there are decks to sort and shuffle and then tokens to put on the map. The setup is variable depending which characters are chosen and which starting plot Sauron has. Each side has an overall objective – which is important for the strategy you follow. As Sauron you might be hunting for the ring, in which case you want to play plots that progress that side over others (so if you have a choice you’d rather capture and torture Gollum for news about your ring than corrupt Saruman or muster orcs in the mountains). Of course doing anything ‘bad’ is better than not – and keeping the enemies guessing what your actual goal is helps too.

There are some clever mechanics to restrict when you can do certain things – so the most powerful cards and minions only appear later in the game, and the events are set to help the side falling behind, if Sauron is winning then the events are more likely to help the Free People. Events are numbered and in three piles, and Sauron’s shadow cards and plot cards often have a shadow pool cost requirement. This means Sauron has to ‘waste’ influence placing it in a pool and the size of the pool is limited by the phase of the game – early on the maximum size is 4, preventing play of any shadow card or plot requiring 5 or more.

There is quite a bit of variety in the game – through the card mechanics, but what you actually do in a turn is a bit repetitive, if you don’t much like the theme or mechanics you will get bored playing this game fairly quickly.

The combat system is interesting – there are no dice, instead it is card driven, with the number of cards you have and can play limited by your abilities. The strongest combat cards sap you of strength quicker, so playing those you want to overwhelm your opponent quickly – low strength cards do less damage but with those you are wearing your opponent down and hope to exhaust them. Familiarity with the cards helps, but I found the combat tactically interesting – damage for the heroes is represented by putting their cards in an out of play pile, if all the cards end up there the player is defeated. Cards used in a turn go into another pile representing fatigue, cards in hand are what the hero can do (combat or movement) cards in the draw pile are life points and potential for future turns. This works well, and means at some points the hero players have to rest (get back the fatigued cards) or heal (get back the cards representing wounds) – but doing that advances Sauron’s plots.

Time is represented by the story track – the Free People’s marker just moves along 2 spots a turn, putting the game on a clock that will end it – Sauron has 3 markers, representing the hunt for the ring, corrupting the Free People and mustering armies/power – and they move along depending what plots have been put in play. The game ends when either the hero marker gets to the end of the track or all the Sauron markers reach a point or one gets to the end. And which side is ‘dominant’ (ie. winning the struggle) depends on how far advanced these markers are.

This means the Free People need to disrupt Sauron’s plots – and Sauron needs to protect them. The disruption is done by the hero’s spending influence, which they gain from questing or exploring parts of the map which are seeded with influence and characters from the events. Characters also suffer corruption (either voluntarily following a dark path to get a short term benefit, or as the character is targeted by Sauron through shadow cards or dangers while exploring). These corruption cards limit various character abilities and make the character vulnerable to some of Sauron’s cards – they can be removed, but to do that the character has to rest and expend valuable influence.

If you approach the game disregarding the theme then I think you’ll find it too long and repetitious for much enjoyment, but if you enjoy the theme then you’ll have fun and the time will fly by. There is a bit of downtime while players think about their actions, check cards etc - but some of that will reduce with familarity. As Sauron I didn't notice downtime much, as I was involved in each player's turn (being the enemy), but I could see players on the same side not having much involvement in the other players' turns unless they are playing very cooperatively and giving each other advice (downside to that is Sauron can listen in to what is being said)

So in summary – if you’re looking for a more character driven ‘adventure’ type game with a Middle Earth setting then get this, if you want to mobilise armies in Middle Earth or destroy the ring, go for War of the Ring instead.

This is not a traditional adventure game – characters do not amass piles of treasure and an armoury of weapons, nor do they power up to demi-gods. Most of the time you will be travelling around Middle Earth exploring areas, fighting monsters (for no reward other than annoying Sauron and freeing the world of foul beasts) and meeting with important figures (such as Dain, Theoden, Aragorn etc). You can train, which adds cards to your pile (which helps in combat and movement), you can get a few items (boats, horses, cloaks) which help you move around and you can improve your abilities a little bit, but this is not the main focus of the game. Disrupting Sauron by using influence to remove his plots and visiting areas to remove his influence is what you will be mainly doing – and occasionally be ambushed by minions and monsters.

Unless the Free People have the objective to kill the minions, you are usually better off avoiding combat, as it just at best makes you stop to rest more quickly at worst defeats you advancing one of Sauron’s story markers. But this is only after one game – a different mix of objectives and characters might change the approach, I’m not sure.

Are there any downsides – yes, unfortunately. The game isn’t great for the colour-blind; areas are marked with coloured dots (gems) to designate which card decks to use and which monsters chits to place. Fortunately they’re also named, so if you are familiar with Middle Earth geography the colour issue is much less significant. Some of the mechanics are a bit fiddly, you need to remember a few rules, and both sides have different rules to remember. The game is screaming out ‘expansion’ (or expansions), the area decks are rather thin, and we got through all the corruption and plot cards in our game, and some of the cards use general enough terms that reference very few cards. All this implies that an expansion is either planned or the game designed to easily allow for one to be made. Is this bad? Not if you only occasionally intend to play, the game out of the box will be fine for that, but if you intend to play regularly you’ll want to extend the cards and characters to give variety, meaning you’ll be investing in the expansion(s), adding to the cost of an already expensive game.

Finally, the plastic used for the figures is very brittle, we had 3 figures broken out of the box, and I’m sure most others will have the same, not good for a game costing this amount of money – why they didn’t use a softer plastic I don’t know.

Overall, based on my one play I bought a copy – and if you’re a fan of big box fantasy flight games or looking for a character based Middle Earth game I suspect you’ll do the same.

New Releases : 4th August 2009

New releases this week include:-

Kingsburg : to Forge a realm an expansion for the strategic dice fest Kingsburg, to Forge a realm adds extra buildings, events, characters and new ways to handle the winter battles.

The Path of Y'ha-nthlei Asylum Pack for the Call of Cthulhu licing card game. This is the 6 th and last of the Summons from the Deep expansion series.

A re-print of Matt Leacock's Roll through the Ages will arrive this week as well. It went like hot cakes when released earlier this year and is a super quick dice rolling civ. game.

There are two new war game releases

The Kaisers Pirates from GMT has First World War German commerce raiding as it's subject. For 1 to 4 players, each player acts as both the German and British side

The second is Dead of Winter, the latest in the GMT series of "Great Civil War Battles"

I have added Worthington Games excellent wargames to the range


I have a few copies of the Pro-Ludo edition of Die Fürsten von Florenz ('The Princes of Florence'). It's almost language independent.

I have some English language edition Space Alerts from Czech Board Games. It's in English and a lot cheaper than the Rio Grande edition (and almost identical)

New additions include some nifty card games: - Byzanz, Palastgeflüster and Zauberschwert & Drachenei.

and the Jubilee edition of ' Elfenland' - it's in a metal box and would make an ideal birthday present.

I have added two games form Japon Brand 'Defenders of Clayart' and ' Goita'

'Ubongo' has been out of print in an English edition for some time so I have added the complete range. These are all German Kosmos editions and they are language independent.

On the horizon:-

Railways of England and Wales is out in the states, I hope that means we should see it this side of the Pond very soon.

Thanks to one of my customers I discovered that 'Masters of Venice' from R&R games does not have an English distributor. I am in the process of importing some, this complex Economic game should be here sometime next week and I am very much looking forward to playing it. Email me if you would like to reserve a copy.

'Burger Joint' by Jo Huber is due for release some time in August, I am hoping to have some next week. I have played this game a few times this week and it is a fast playing development game with lots of rather difficult choices. I like it - though it has not got much to do with hamburgers. I have written a review here.

'Ra the Dice game' should be with us the week after next.

My gaming this week has been a mixed bag. I tried TulipMania, was under whelmed but am assured it needs a few plays to appreciate the subtleties of the game. Other than that I have been dipping in to the back catalogue, Alhambra, Winner's Circle (again), Stone Age (many times) and Through the Ages. Through the Ages is one of my top three games, it's long and you can be hosed by the card draw but I find it totally immersive - Five hours of playing this feels like thirty minutes to me. I have played it over twenty times and can't see myself getting bored of it. I hope Fred Distribution get this re-printed as soon as possible so that more gamers can enjoy this fantastic game.

I'll have a Cube Burger to go and a side of Special Actions

My purchasing ruminations start with theme and move on to asking: - is it a good game? And what better theme is there than the production of Burgers? (I am not forgetting that one player is on the Pizza side of the table I just won’t ever be that player). Oscar Wilde said 'I can resist everything except temptation', for me you can cross out ‘temptation’ and strike in the round patty of meat. I’m the only person I know who drooled through ‘Supersize Me’ and then had to the leave the cinema to grab a burger it all just looked so good.

So to say I was looking forward to this game is an understatement and this eager anticipation caused my initial disappointment. What do you produce in Burger Joint? Cubes ;White, Black, Yellow, Green, Brown and Red Cubes. Not Cheese burgers, not even a flaming Hawaiian Pizza - just cubes. What special actions can you take with your upmarket bistros? You can draw a cube, you can swap cubes, .Why not, at least, call the special actions something thematic like 'Chef’s Special' or 'Twofers'?. No we just get a diagram for each action with a picture of cubes being turned into other cubes.

That’s’ the bad news. Now I am going to have to reverse my earlier stated mantra and acknowledge that a game can be ok despite the theme and games about food have been the prime cause. My purchasing criteria and love of food led me to purchase ‘Wasabi’ which has theme imbedded in every square inch of card board. I have stopped playing ‘Wasabi’ though because I don’t think it’s a very good game (and every time I play by the time I have seen my initial menu I am on the phone to order some delivery Sushi..).

Now Burger Joint is actually a good game. It would have been much better themed as something to do with building mediaeval castles or the like, because the mechanics would fit that theme like a glove, the cubes could be stone or wood and the up market bistros could have been different types of workshops or markets. It’s a shame because the world (well me at least..) needs a thematically rich game about burgers.

The game

Burger joint is a two player game in which each player races to develop their chain of restaurants until they reach a total of twelve victory points earned from owning restaurants and position on development tracks. The game comes in an attractive small box . The rule book is well written, clear and unambiguous. The art work is fifties diners style.


Each player has there own small board which has four columns. The first column is the ‘Publicity’ track. Progress on this track gives victory points; it also allows you to steal a cube from your opponent. The next three columns contain restaurants, your basic burger hut in the first then diners in the second and upmarket Bistros in the third. Each player starts with a basic burger joint and two diners. The diners produce cubes , each of the six diners produce the six different colours of cubes. Except they don’t they just give you first choice on cubes of that colour drawn out of a bag - More on this latter. Each built diner is worth one victory point. The third column contains the upmarket bistros, these temples of haut cuisine give victory points and special actions the lower the victory point value the better the special action. Above each column is the cost (in cubes) for building a new restaurant of that column’s type or advancing your publicity track.

There is another small board that is placed between the players. This board records victory points and is used by each player to warehouse their cubes and also to allocate the cubes that get produced in the game.

There are also 60 cubes in the six coulours, and development markers to show what you have built

How does it play?

The first thing that happens in a players turn is production. The player blind draws cubes from a bag. The number drawn is equal to the total number of diners and bistros built by both players up to a maximum of four per player. These cubes are then placed on the warehouse board. This board has a central area where cubes that be produced by both players diners and neither player are placed. The remaining cubes are placed on the side of the player who can exclusively produce the cube.

Players then take it in turn to select a cube. On the first turn players can only select a cube from their side of the board or those in the central supply. After each player has chosen one cube they can select from any of the remaining cubes. So if I am the only person who has a white producing diner and there is only one white cube I am guaranteed to get it if I want it. Players take cubes up to their diner production capacity. This part of the game is quite tense; you are always torn between taking a cube need and taking a cube to deny it to your opponent.

The second part of a players turn is taken up with trading and special actions. Trading can be carried out multiple times and involves swapping any three cubes for a cube of your choice and the special actions are the reward for building a particular Bistro. The special actions can be taken once only per turn and they are:-

1) Put a cube in the bag and draw a random cube
2) Put two cubes in the bag and takeout one of your choice
3) Draw a random cube
4) Place a cube in the bag draw a cube of your choice
5) Draw a cube of your choice

The more powerful the special action, the less VPs awarded for the owned bistro.

The third part of the turn involves building or buying publicity. The cost in number of cubes is the same for both players; however the colours required are different, except for Bistros. The diners are progressively more expensive to build. A simple burger joint cots two cubes, a diner four cubes and a bistro six. To build a diner you have to upgrade a burger joint, this has to be the lowest one on the burger joint column. To build a Bistro you have to upgrade a diner, though this can be any one you choose.

Publicity works slightly differently. The column has 10 spaces ranging from 0 victory points to four 4 VPs at the bottom. When you pay the cubes to advance down the publicity track you may also steal a cube from your opponent’s warehouse. If you choose publicity multiple times in a turn, after the first move and steal you have to choose between move and steal.

In the final phases of a players turn you adjust your victory points and discard cubes down to seven. If you have got the target 12 VPs you win.

There a lot of different ways of getting to the magic target. Each of the diners is worth one VP and as these are the engine of your game you are likely to have between four and six of these restaurants. The basic burger joints also give VPs but there are only 3 that do and these are spaced down on the column as you have to add Burger joints to the next available space and use them to upgrade to diners they are easy to lose. The publicity track is a source of VPs but requires some serious investment to get to the highest possible number of 4. The big VPs come from the Bistros. But the most useful ones have the least VPs. A bistro that allows you to select a free cube of your choice each turn gives you zero VPs. The Bistro with the most VPs gives no special actions at all.


For a small game there are a lot of different ways of winning and in the games I have played so far none of them have evolved in the same way. The ability to produce cubes and thus select them seems key to this game, I lost my first game by jumping to the bistros too early and the special actions not compensating for the lack of cubes. Neglecting the basic restaurants can also cause your production engine to slow down. The publicity track and the choice of which diner to build provides some interaction, though useful they only slow down your opponent they are not going to stop him. I enjoyed the game, and would describe it as a light weight Euro with some interesting choices. It’s a six out of ten for me it might have been a higher if the game actually had any relation to its theme.

New releases : 28th July

Three new releases this week.

First of is Z man’s deluxe upgrade of the classic Tales of the Arabian Nights. If you have reserved a copy or pre-ordered it’s here on Tuesday, unfortunately I have sold out of my pre-order allocation. I will be getting some more on the 3rd of August, and am now accepting pre-orders for those.

The second is the long awaited Tulip Mania 1637.This debut design from noted game reviewer Scott Nicholson looks like a clever market manipulation game.

The third is RAF lion versus Eagle, an update of the classic solitaire game. This version allows for 2 player games as well as solitaire.

Added to the import section are 2 games from Japon Brand.

Cheaty Mages, a game where you control mages controlling fighting monsters – and employing some leger-demain to get your monster to the top. Gorgeous art work and English rules.

Robo-Tory, a two player abstract from R-eco, Fairy Tale and Traders of Carthage designer Susumu Kawasaki. Between me ordering and receiving the games Asmodee have announced they are releasing a ‘smart’ version of Robo-Tory. Such are the risks I take when importing games….

Other additions include Tiki Topple from the Schmidt Spiel Easy play line, Keltis Kartenspiele and Hoellenhaus.

Re-stocks include the sublimely silly Fluch der Mumie, Incan Gold (the Sunriver version) , Stone Age ,Acquire and the 5th expansion for the World Cup Game.

On the playing side, apart from an excellent prototype from Nigel Buckle (Incidentally now Tulip Mania has been published Ascendancy is one away from the top of the production queue at JKLM, behind Tinner’s Trail) I have mainly been delving into older Euro games, Stefan Feld’s Notre Dame and In the Year of the Dragon , Goa , Ra and my favourite horse racing game - Winner’s Circle.

Ra has been reprinted in Germany so I guess it’s likely to be getting an English reprint soon. If you are desperate to get hold of a copy I will happily import one. Another classic that has been out of print in English for some times is Princes of Florence. I am planning on importing a few German versions as it’s a game I’m often asked for and no English reprint seems to be on the horizon.

New Releases : 21 July 2009

New releases are thin on the ground and include:-

Midevil Deluxe – it includes the base set and two expansions for the game that starts where Zombies left off.

The second new release is The Hell of Stalingrad – a card game that recreates the …you got it.

Tales of the Arabian Nights is now due next week – I will put it on the shop as a preorder when i am 100% certain of the date. It will be £35.99.

Re-stocks include

All of the Pitch car expansions.

And a re-stock of the fantastic Warriors of God – I don’t expect this to last beyond the end of the week and there are no more at the distributors.

From Germany I have had a re-stock of Fauna (according to the ‘Geek an English language version is about 9 months away), Perry Rhodan and Burgen-land.

Later in the week I am hoping to see a re-stock of Fluch der Mumie, 6 Nimmt! and Im Reich der Wüstensöhne and some new additions to the range including games from Japon Brand. They should be on the website later this week.

I have not had too much time for playing games this week as I have been fitting shelves to expand the stock room. I now have the space for a much wider range and welcome any suggestions for games you would like to see boardgameguru stock.

I have been playing a lot of Uruk: Wiege der Zivilsation at lunch time. Fun and frustrating – my colleague Alec beat me every time we played. Alec has reviewed Mecanisburgo for Tom Vassel’s Dice Tower Podcast, I’m hoping his next one will be of the excellent Hexer Von Salem (hint hint Alec)

Best wishes and happy gaming all


New Releases : 14 July 2009

Most of the new the new releases this week are party games – it’s all about cracking open a party seven and putting aside the heavy stuff aside.( Note to self – must let Automobile sit on shelf for more than three days ….)

The first is ‘Gambit 7’, the rather uninspiring named ‘Commonwealth’ version of ‘Wits & Wagers’. I hope this is as good as the original, with a Lamont brother credited as a designer it promises to be good. ‘Wits and Wagers’ is the only game I have managed to get all my family (ages spanning nine decades) to play together. If you can guess which decade the person who thought ‘The Muppets’ was first aired on TV in 1856 it pays odds of 2 to 1……

The second is Tumblin’Dice (in a full and a medium sized portable version). This game sees 2 -4 players flicking or rolling dice on to scoring points on an attractive board.

Third is the fourth expansion for PitchCar – the ‘stunt car’ expansion adds a third dimension to the basic set.

Last of the party releases is ‘Are you the Traitor?’ from Looney Labs, a magical game of bluffing and deception.

There are also a couple of more serious games released this week.

The English language edition of ‘Sherwood Forest’ from Rio Grande will be with us next week.

And ‘Livingstone’ is released in an English edition by Playroom entertainment. I also have a few of the German (totally language independent) version from Schmidt Spiele left at a bargain price of. £19.99.

I have played Livingstone a few times – it shines as a game played with youngsters – they love the ‘Thebes’ like treasure bag.

‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ is scheduled for release on Tuesday 21st July. It will be available for pre-order from the middle of next week.

Musings on Steam and it's cousins

Boardgamers and trains seem to go together like ...train spotters and platforms. We do love a train game - all the way from Ticket to Ride to 18xx. I thought i had the train part of my collection sorted - Age of Steam, Railroad Tycoon, Ticket to Ride ,Steel Driver, Chicago Express, Canal Mania and Jet Set (the last two are train games masquerading as other forms of transport and 18xx a bit beyond me).

So when Steam was released i wished it well but assumed it was too similar to my other train games to be an essential purchase. Now i've read the rules i have changed my mind. It seems to fill a (small)gap that sits between Age of Steam and Railroad Tycoon (and it's expansion Rails of Europe). Actually the gap is small but quite important. Railroad Tycoon is lovely to behold, and in it's capital structure is forgiving enough for most boardgamers. However, the operation cards make it a bit of a lottery - especially in the base set. In a close game it can be very frustrating if the luck of the draw favours one player - whether a completed route bonus in the base set or a charter, hotel or build bonus in Rails of Europe that is more valuable to one player than another. In Age of Steam the game can be just too brutal to beginners. Goods growth, decided by dice, seems to to throw an element of luck into a game that demands crystal clear planning.

So Steam looks like the synthesis of design ideas and practical observations. For a start the prohibition on taking Locomotive as an action when maxed and the requirement to ship goods over at least half of your own track takes out two of the 'gamey' elements of Age of Steam. The change from Goods growth to City Growth also seems like an improvement of Age of Steam.

In basic Steam the brutality of the auction process and lottery of the operation cards has been replaced with an separate auction for roles - and this looks like a great middle ground for those of us who struggle with AoS but find RRT too simplistic and lacking some tension.

The other area i'm not unhappy to see changed is income reduction, again it seems too gamey. Having worked for eight years capitalisng the 'real' railways i have seen enough game playing at the expense of economic reality to want to see it in a board game. Instead we have a division in steam between victory points and income. This causes me a thematic problem - surely an economic game needs to reward money earned and invested? However, if i see the Victory points as the Net Present Value (in the same way that the final movement of goods cubes in Steel Driver is the Net Present Value of the companies networks) of my railway a the end of the game then it works.

I wonder how well my musings will stand up to actual play of Steam, but now having made them i am compelled to find out. There has been a lot of debate about the number of track tiles - that i most certainly can't comment on till i have played.

The Real Railway

The whims of government are the key to the real railways today. We can't do without a rail network but they can't survive in a free market. Hence vast public subsidy, a regulatory environment and decisions made on political expediency rather than the best movement of real cubes over a net work you have built. In fact there has been virtually no new track routes laid since the 19th century (CTRL excepted) - capital investment has been in signaling, renewals and systems to improve performance. Ownership of infrastructure and train operations have been separated into separate ownership and control. I wonder if there is a game to be made there?