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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.