Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cosmic Cubes - "Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men"

So, in my last post I talked a little bit about the genesis of dice-building games...

"Essentially, Quarriors! is two generations removed from Magic: The Gathering and other collectible card games. With CCG's, players can spend hours on the sidelines combining cards together in order to create the perfect killer decks, which they can then pit against an opponent in-game.

"Then Donald X. Vaccarino had the brilliant idea of 'Hey, what if designing your deck was the actually goal of the game itself?' And with that,
Dominion was born. Now, Dominion is great and all but as a completely original game it's essentially just a mechanic. Needless to say it didn't take very long before titles such as Thunderstone and A Few Acres of Snow came along and successfully married this new genre to an appropriate theme.    

"So, based on the theory of (game) evolution, Eric M. Lang eventually pondered to himself 'Hmmmm, people love rolling dice and we've already had collectible dice games in the past....I wonder what would happen if I came up with a dice building game.' And, yea, with that, THE LANG brought forth
Quarriors! into existence and He saw that it was good."

And here's my final word on the subject:

"I'd probably be buying a copy of Quarriors! (right now) if not for the fact that a Marvel-themed spin on the game is due to land sometime around the end of April. I'll be play-testing and reviewing that puppy as soon as I can lay my hot little mitts on it!"   

Soooo, by some minor miracle, I actually managed to score a Starter Set and a few Booster Packs. And by "a few Booster Pack" I mean thirty but, hey, who's counting?

Now before I serve up my session reports, here's the one-sheet splash page on Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men directly from Board Game Geek:

"Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men is a collectible dice-building tabletop game designed by Quarriors! creators Michael Elliott and Eric M. Lang.

"In this game, each player fields one of the superhero teams, with each hero — Captain America, Wolverine, Spider-Man, and more — being represented by custom-tooled dice; each team must be composed of 15 dice, and a player can 'purchase' dice only from his team. Each hero also has one or more character reference cards, which show the special abilities for the characters based on the die rolls. Different versions of these cards will be available in booster packs, allowing for more customization of your team. Players use these dice to collect energy, recruit new heroes, and battle head-to-head. In addition, each player brings two basic action cards to the game, which are placed in the center of the table; both players can purchase these cards. A player wins once the opposing player has been reduced to zero life.

Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men starter set comes with 44 custom dice, 38 cards, two dice bags, and a core rulebook. Booster packs include two dice with two matching character cards."  

Looking to digest the full arc of the storyline? Then clobber the following link right in the kisser to read the full rules omnibus right here.  


Now, due to circumstances beyond my control, I haven't been able to attend our weekly game night for the past three weeks. For ease of record-keeping and to meet my self-imposed end-of-the-month deadline I decided to run the game solo to see how it worked. Here's then is the result:

The Avengers Dice Roster

Black Widow "Natural" x 1
Captain America "American Hero" x 2
Nick Fury "WWII Veteran" x 2 
Hulk "Jade Giant" x 2
Iron Man "Playboy" x 2
Thor "God of Thunder" x 2

Basic Action Cards: "Inner Rage" and "Focus Power"

The X-Men Dice Roster

Colossus "Russian Bear" x 2
Cyclops "If Looks Could Kill" x 4
Gambit "Ace In The Hole" x 1
Professor X "Principal" x 2
Storm "Goddess of the Plains" x 2
Wolverine "Wildboy" x 1

Basic Action Cards: "Gearing Up" and "Power Bolt"

Note: I specifically used the "Tournament" team-building rules which allows for:
  • 20 Life points apiece
  • 2 Basic Action Cards per player
  • Up to 8 different Character Cards
  • Up to 20 Dice, respecting the Dice Maximums as printed on each Character Card


The Avengers rolled up two Bolts, a Question Mark (which can represent any kind of Energy) and a Fist. They bought an Iron Man die by declaring the Question Mark to be a Shield.

The X-Men diced up two Sidekicks and two Bolts. They re-rolled the two Sidekicks and got another Bolt and another Sidekick. The poor, scared Sidekick was then ushered into the Field for free while the other three Energy was used to buy a Gold "Power Bolt" die.

The Avengers conjured up two Question Marks, a Mask and a Shield and buy a Captain America die.

The X-Men rolled the exact same thing this time around: two Sidekicks and two Bolts. Again they re-rolled their Sidekicks and got a Shield and a Bolt, neither of which could fulfill the Mask requirement to pick up Gambit or Storm. Instead they spent all four Energy on securing a Green “Gearing Up” die.

The Avengers dumped all of their Used dice back into the bag and drew four new cubez. They then rolled up a Level 2 Captain America, a Sidekick and two Masks. After paying the 2 Energy needed to Field Cap and the free Sidekick, ol' Winghead and his ersatz Bucky attacked! The X-Men’s Sidekick blocked the Avenger’s Sidekick, resulting in a double Knock Out. Cap got through, however, dealing five points of damage to the X-Men Mastermind before skipping merrily skipped off to the Used Pile.

The X-Men player hucked all of his Used crap back into the bag, drew four new dice and then added the poor K.O.’ed Sidekick convalescing in the Prep area back into the mix. After turning up a single Question Mark, two Bolts, a Shield and a Sidekick they decided to re-roll the Sidekick, getting a Shield. They then used 5 Energy, I.E. a flat of beer and a pack o' cheap cigars to lure a Wolverine die into the Used Pile.

The Avengers randomly pulled four dice from their bag, remembering to add their own K.O.’ed Sidekick. They then proceeded to roll up three Shields, a Bolt and a Question Mark. With a Question Mark and a Bolt they managed to entice Black Widow into their roster and then used the three remaining Shields to pick up a Blue "Focus Power" die.

The X-Men rolled a Fist, a Bolt and both 2 Green and 2 Gold Energy. They then decided to re-roll the Fist and the Bolt, but ended up getting the exact same thing! Just for the sake of set collection, they decided to buy one Red “Inner Rage” die and one Blue "Focus Power" die.

When the Avengers drew the last two remaining dice out of their bag, they tossed all their Used cubes back into their Sack and then pulled out two more. After producing a Level 1 Captain America, a Level 2 Iron Man, a Mask and a Shield they used their two Energy to Field Iron Man and attack! Since the X-Men had no defenders, they were forced to suck up five more points of damage, taking them down to 10 Life Points! Since Iron Man was Unblocked and Cap was Unfielded (Wow, is 'unfielded' even a word?), both were sent packin' off to the Used Pile.

The X-Men drew their one remaining die, bagged their Used flotsam and then dug out three more. They then proceeded to toss one Sidekick, two Masks and a Question Mark. They got a Fist after re-rolling the Sidekick and ended up enlisting a Storm die.

The Avengers got a Question Mark, a Fist, a Mask and a Sidekick. They re-rolled the latter and got another Question Mark. They then used all four Energy to snag a second Iron Man die.

The X-Men rolled two Fists on the Wolverine die, a basic "Focus Power" result, a 2-Burst "Power Bolt" and a Shield. They boldly decided to re-roll all of them. This time they got 2 Blue and 2 Gold Energy, a Level 3 Wolverine (Woot!) and a Sidekick. They decided to spend the three Energy to field Wolverine (D'uh) and the Sidekick, overpaying by one. He then attacked with Wolverine, causing a whopping 8 points of damage while keeping the Sidekick in reserve as a defender.

The Avengers drew their last three dice, enbagified the Used Pile and then pulled out one more. They then rolled a Shield on Cap’s die, a Mask, a Question Mark and 2 Blue Energy. After re-rolling Cap’s die and the Blue Energy, they ended up with a Level 2 Cap and the same Blue result. They then used the Question Mark and the Mask to Field Cap and attack! The X-Men used their, their Sidekick to block, which promptly got K.O.’ed into oblivion. Humming the "Star Spangled Banner" and picking teeth out of his knuckles, Cap cheerily returned to the Field Zone.

The X-Men moved their Sidekick-in-traction over to the Reserve Pool after adding four more dice from their bag. They turned up 2 Red Energy, 2 Bolts, and 2 Question Marks which they then used to buy a Professor X die.

At the start of the Avengers turn, the 2 Blue Energy slid stage left to the Used Pile. They then rolled up a Sidekick, a Fist, a Mask and a Shield on the Iron Man die, which was promptly re-rolled. After the Sidekick was prodded into attack position for free, one Energy was spent to Field the newly-summoned Level 1 Iron Man, leaving one Fist remaining.  All three dice then attacked en masse, causing a total of 10 damage, ending the game!

The Avengers win!


The X-Men began first this time, rolling 2 Question Marks, one Bolt and one Shield, which they used to buy a Storm die.

The Avengers summoned 3 Masks and one Question Mark, which let them pick up an Iron Man die.

In response, the X-Peeps rolled 3 Bolts and 1 Shield. They then re-rolled all of them to settle on a Mask, 2 Fists and a Sidekick, the latter of which was dragged kicking and screaming out into the Field for free. The rest of their Energy was spent on to Gambit's obscene signing bonus.

The Avengers rolled up 2 Shields, a Fist and a Question Mark, allowing them to recruit a Captain America die.

The X-Men re-bagged everything precious and then pulled out four new dice, getting a Level 2 Gambit, a Question Mark, a Fist and a Bolt on the subsequent roll. Using the Bolt and Fist, they got Gambit into the field for 2 Energy. They then took advantage of the Cajun's ability to draw and roll a die, but they ended up getting one lousy Bolt. Gambit then attacked, presumably by hurling all thirty-eight cards contained in a Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men Starter Set at his foe, causing four damage in the process. The Sidekick held back, observing the surreal scene from the comfort of their concrete bunker. 

The Avengers returned all of their dice to the bag and then drew four new ones. On the following toss, they got 2 Shields on the Captain America die, another Shield, a Bolt and a Mask. A re-rolled Cap die downgraded to a single Shield so they just spent all 4 Energy to pick up another Iron Man die. 'Cuz, hey, let's face it, you can't go wrong with another Shell-Head, even when he's all gooned up on martinis. 

The X-player moved the one Question Mark and one Bolt Energy to the Used Pile and then drew the remaining four dice from their sack o' mystery. They then dialed up 2 Question Marks, 1 Sidekick and 2 Masks on the Storm die, which was hastily re-rolled. They were lucky enough to get a Level 0 Storm and pretty soon both the Weather Witch and the Sidekick were chillin' out in the Field fo' free. Both of them attacked, leaving the second Sidekick behind as a guard. The Avenger mastermind (Jarvis?) took three more points of damage and was now feeling decidedly punch-drunk.

The Avengers scored 2 Shields on the Iron Man die plus a Question Mark, a Shield, and a Bolt. They re-chucked the Iron Man die again and once again got an inferior result: a single Shield this time. Next up they snared a Nick Fury die with the one Shield and Bolt and then used the Question Mark (as a Fist) and the remaining Shield to pick up Black Widow. So, how does one go about picking up Black Widow? The answer: very, very carefully.

The X-Men moved their 2 unused Question Mark Energy into the Used Pile and then re-bagged all things Used. They then diced up 2 Bolts, 1 Question Mark and 2 Masks on the Gambit die, which was reduced to a single Mask after a re-roll. With this four Energy they procured another Storm die.

The Avengers drew their two remaining dice and then bagged the rest, pulling out two more to make up a total of four. They then summoned 3 Bolts and a Sidekick which got Fielded for free. With the 3 Bolts they decided to invest in a Gold Power Bolt die.

Meanwhile, the X-Men rolled up a Level 1 Storm, two Sidekicks and a single Question Mark Energy. Immediately all three were Fielded and then attacked. Storm's assault forced the Avenger player to re-roll his Sidekick die, getting a Bolt! Effectively “zapped” by Storm, he was dragged off to the Prep to me marinated in a warm tub filled with Bactine. Between Ororo and her 2 Sidekicks, the X-Bullies dealt out a total of 5 points of damage!

In response, the Avengers rolled a Sidekick, two Bolts, a Question Mark and two Shields on the Captain America die, which was immediately re-cast. The resulting Level 2 Cap die was quickly dispatched to the front line with one Question Mark and one Bolt plus the free Sidekick. In a fateful move, the X-Men decided not to block with the Sidekick, letting Cap through for 5 points of damage.

The X-Men pulled out their last remaining die, bagged up all the Used stuff and then drew three more. They scored a Level 1 Gambit (with a Burst!) a Storm, a Question Mark and some Bolt Energy. They re-rolled the Bolt and got a Mask, giving them just the resources needed to Field both characters! Gambit's power came into play, allowing the X-Men to draw 2 dice, pick one and roll it and return the other to the ol' sacroiliac. This turned out to be pretty inconsequential since they ended up throwing a single Shield. Both Gambit and Storm attacked, forcing the Avengers to re-roll their stalwart Sidekick. It became Mask Energy, so the minion was promptly fricasséed and then set aside in the Prep area! Now, without any Blockers, the Avengers were forced to eat four more points of damage!

The Avengers’s unused Bolt Energy slid away to the Used Pile and the “shocked” die in the Prep Area was placed in Reserve. Next they tossed a Shield, a Level 1 Iron Man, a Level 0 Nick Fury, a single Fist on Black Widow’s die and a Mask. They choose to re-roll the Widow die and Mask Energy, getting a Level 0 Widow and a Question Mark. They then proceeded to Field Iron Man for one Shield and Widow and Fury for the low, low price of free. Widow and Iron Man attacked, prompting the X-Men’s Sidekick to block a repulsor ray with its face. Needless to say it was immediately K.O.'ed and then carted away to the Prep Area. Meanwhile, Black Widow got through for 3 points of damage, getting a +1 damage boost thanks to Nick Fury’s sage advice of "HIT' EM HARDER!!!"

The X-Men moved their unspent Shield Energy in Reserve to the Used Pile and the K.O.’ed Sidekick grudgingly went back into Reserve. This, along with four new die were then rolled: netting two Masks, one Bolt, a Sidekick and a Level 0 Storm. As a consolation prize, a Gold “Power Bolt” was purchased with the three remaining Energy. Sensing impending doom, Storm gambled on an attack, hoping to temporarily stun Iron Man and/or Nick Fury with her special ability. This didn't quite go according to plan since both Iron Man and Fury came up again. Iron Man socked Storm right in her pretty mush, sending her packing off to the K.O. box.

For the Avengers, the unused Question Mark Energy was sent off to the Used Pile. After the last remaining die was "yoinked", everything Used got re-bagged and three more are drawn. They got two Fists on the Black Widow die, two Shields on the Iron Man die plus one Shield and one Question Mark for Energy. Both the Widow and Iron Man dice were re-rolled, scoring the exact same result for Widow but a Level 2 Iron Man! The Iron Man was Fielded right away using the Shield and the Question Mark, setting up a nasty double Iron Man pincer attack. The X-Men Sidekick die blocked the Level 2 Iron Man and got creamed but the Level 1 made it through to deal 4 points of damage, boosted by +1 again thanks to Nick Fury’s wise tutelage: "THAT UNI-BEAM AIN'T A PEACE SYMBOL, MOTHERFUCKER...USE THAT SHIT!!!"

The X-Men drew their last remaining die, Storm and the Sidekick came back to the land of the living and the Used Pile got re-bagged for two more dice. They then rolled two Masks on both Storm dice, plus a Mask, a Fist and a Bolt but re-chucked everything except for the Fist and the Mask. The gambit didn't work (pun not intended) since they ended up with two Masks on both Storm dice again plus another a Mask! Without any blockers, all the X-Peeps could do is purchase a Colossus die and hope that the Avengers crapped out.

Such was not the case. The Avengers moved their two-Fist Black Widow Energy to the Used Pile then drew four new dice, getting two Sidekicks, one Bolt and one Fist. They used this to Field both Sidekicks then attack with them plus good ol' Monsieur Stark, racking up a total of 8 damage.

The X-Men have no defenders and are defeated!



  • The game is a pretty cool fusion of both Quarriors! and Magic: The Gathering. However, thanks to new additions like team customization, Basic Action Cards and dice, player / Mastermind Life Points, re-rolls and CCG-style combat, I think this one is vastly superior to its older, Q-obsessed cousin. One corollary though: as you might be able to tell by the previous examples it's still possible to get hosed somewhat by bad luck.
  • The Marvel license is well-represented. The Characters actually play out like their four-color counterparts. Sorry, but I'll take Sauron any day over a generic, boring ol' Quake Dragon. Assuming, of course, that the Savage Land denizen will one day be made available in an expansion. Oh, who am I trying to kid, of course every single obscure character in the Marvel Universe will eventually be made available. Land and Elliot are gonna run this gravy train into Subterranea.
  • The card art is fantastic and the sheer variety of custom-tooled Character dice is phenomenal. It's amazing how easily-recognizable the Characters are just based on the chosen Icons. Admittedly, some of the dice aren't stamped very well but they're few and far between when you consider how mass-produced they are.
  • Even though the game is "collectible" the rarer versions of a Character don't always trump the common ones. This is great since it gives casual players a fighting chance while completists / collectors / basement dwellers can go toadly apeshit and BUY ALL THE THINGS!!!
  • The Dice Movement Diagram / Play Mat make the game a breeze to teach and play. Thanks to Mike and Eric for delivering a decent rulebook that really strives for clarity.
  • The game plays super-quick. Almost too quick; matches seem to end just as things start heating up. My recommendation: play with 25 or 30 Life Points each.   
  • The Starter Set is about a third of the price of the Quarriors! base game so it's pretty cheap to get into. Well, in theory. In practice, however...   
  • The collective aspect of the game could make this a money pit for some people. The distribution is also a bit wonky; I've gotten about thirty Boosters so far out of the same gravity box and still don't have a common Doctor Doom, Ghost Rider, Hawkeye, Nightcrawler, Nova, or Phoenix. I do have three Professor X "Principal" cards, however, which are about as useful as a tuxedo on Bruce Banner. *Yippie fuckin' skippy*.

  • Didja happen to notice those pretty Dice Movement Diagrams and bad-ass black silk bags in the session report photos above? Yeah, well...I had to print the Play Mats off myself and buy the bags at "Micheal's". Yeah, the game is cheap, but that's because you're essentially paying for a metric shit-ton of dice and a no-frills rulebook. The paper...sorry, tyvek "dice bags" are laughably inept. Personally, I plan to take mine along on my next turbulence-heavy flight. Oh, and I also had to buy a freakin' Plano box to store the dice in since you immediately outgrow the original plastic packaging the game came in just as soon as you buy a few Boosters. Frankly, I think it's lame to be forced to enact your very own Economic Action Plan just to bring a game up to my very low standards. Yes, it's cheap to buy, but there's a reason for it.   

*Ugh*...I shouldn't have eaten all of those dice....HURRK!!!
  • The Boosters are shipped 60 per gravity box. On paper it probably seemed like a good idea to seal two plastic dice up in a CCG collectible card pack with the accompanying cards but it's resulted in a lot of warpage. If your one of those prissy types who agonizes over the condition of everything you buy then do yourself a favor and just walk away right now 'cuz this'll drive you completely and totally nutsen.  



Despite its flaws, Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men is an absolute blast. I can't wait to field an all-Alpha Flight team or a Daredevil-dominated Marvel Knights vigilante gang or a Rogues Gallery collection of all my favorite Spidey-villains. It's fun, quick, easy to teach and a breeze to get into. The gameplay is fast, frantic and offers quite a few interesting decisions.

Just keep an Eye of Agamotto on your wallet.

Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men scores four pips outta six with a tilt w-a-a-a-a-a-y up towards that S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier that's got a bead on ya.

Which reminds me: make sure you check out Captain America The Winter Soldier, kiddies! It's awesome!  


Wanna see what happens when you team Deadpool, Venom, Ghost Rider, the Punisher, the Thing, Loki, Wolverine and Professor X up together? Don't use your imagination like a chump! Click on the following images to pick up a copy of Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men and help this blog get all the way up to Issue #500!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How I Spent International Tabletop Day!

I can't remember what I did for the very first International Tabletop Day last year so this year I was bound and determined to remedy this.

Wait, what's that you say? You don't know what International Tabletop Day is? Seriously? Um, okay, well, here's event co-creators Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day to explain:

"International TableTop Day is a celebration for all the fans of tabletop gaming. A single day where the whole world is brought together in a common purpose of spending time together and having fun. We hope you find the resources you need — to connect new fans to experienced group organizers, retailers with their community, and publishers with the international community — all in one place."

So this year instead of playing games I spent the entire day at Halifax's new ground zero for tabletop gaming, The Board Room Game Cafe, teaching other people how to play games they'd never played before!

Upon arrival, visitors to the cafe quickly noted all the options in the retail section up front.

In honor of International Tabletop Day, the cafe was offering a 10% discount on any retail purchase. In addition, customers were invited to roll a ten-sided die to try and score up to another 10% off! Not too shabby!

The cafe also had a slew of awesome promotional freebies on hand for games such as Munchkin, Gloom, Castle Panic, 7 Wonders, Coup and Killer Bunnies, which were given away to anyone who bought a matching game. As one might expect, many of the images depicted on these l'il tchotchkes bore a hauntingly-Wheatonian vibe.  

It didn't take long before the cafe was a-hoppin' with happy and enthusiastic gamers! Keen to facilitate some revelatory experiences, I quickly hurled myself into the fray.

The first game I taught was Toc Toc Woodman, recently re-branded with the considerably- less-Engrish sounding name Click Clack Lumberjack. Before the game came to our shores here in North America it sold a whopping ten-thousand copies in its native Korea.

So how does it work? Well, players construct a plastic tree made up of a base and several stacked "rings" composed of four interlocking brown "bark" pieces surrounding the white "core". As environmentally-conscious lumberjacks, players take turns taking two whacks apiece at said tree with a bitchin' plastic axe, trying to knock the "bark" off without dislodging the "core".

And, yes, I know that stripping the bark off of a tree is tantamount to criminal deforestation, just suspend your disbelief for a second and work with me here, a'ight?

As soon as the tree has been stripped bare, players tally up their score, netting +1 point for every bark piece and a -5 penalty for every core piece. The player with the most points wins, d'uh!

Although this one tends to evoke shades of Jenga, Toc Toc Woodman / Click Clack Lumberjack has one distinct advantage over its venerable rival. In Jenga, when the tower falls over, everyone goes "AWWWWW!!!!" in a communal expression of abject surprise and / or sadness and then they proceed to berate the loser who's fuck up ended all the GOOD TIMES.

But since you keep playing Click Clack Lumberjack until all the bark has been sheared off the tree, all the players are in it to win it up until the bitter end. Now you can pontificate all you want about how titles like this are more activity then board game, but, hey, who cares? Technically it is a game, since there's clearly a winner and you can play it on top of a table, so let's not bandy semantics here!

Besides, I've seen a group of eight people play this and act as if they were watching an Olympic Gold Medal hockey game! If that's not a sure sign of an entertaining game, I don't know what is! 
Next up I taught King of Tokyo to three players who had a victory-point grabbin', opponent-bashin' ball with it. This one always goes over like gang-busters. Hmmmm, maybe I should finally break down and pick up one of the expansions for this one. Whattya think, people? Yea or nay?

Then I helped a table of five get into a game of Alhambra.

In this one, players attempt to construct the most spectacular palace / fortress complex and, in the process, show up their opponents. Three times during the game a scoring card randomly appears, giving players a victory point reward for having the majority of buildings in six different colors. The first scoring round only rewards the player in first place while subsequent cards dole out points for  second and third place finishers respectively. Players also score one point for every continuous wall segment surrounding their Alhambra.

The economic heart of the game is the Building Market which randomizes what structures are up for sale, how much they cost and what currency is used to buy them. If a player pays exact change for one of these new acquisitions, they'll earn themselves a free turn. Wise architects will soon realize that chaining several actions togehter is the key to victory.

I love Alhambra! I think my enthusiasm for the game was contagious since the five experienced gamers I taught this to really seemed to groove on it. What's really interesting is how different the game plays with three players versus five. With a smaller group, it's pretty easy to make plans and still have what you need to follow through when your turn comes around. Naturally, when you add more bodies to the mix, there's a pretty good chance that someone else will snap up something you need, forcing you to think on your feet.

If you're a fan of introductory, gateway-style Euros like Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne, then you owe it to yourself to try this one out. Hopefully I'll be able to do a full review of this one some time in the near future.    
Next up was Jaipur, which I've already talked about in my last Hal-Con post. 

Although there are a lot of multi-player games that can be scaled down for a smaller group of people, I always try to recommend a game specifically designed for two players if it's just a couple. Not only that, but a lot of games meant for larger groups often require rule tweaks in order to work for two players and sometimes this can cause unnecessary confusion.

Jaipur is definitely one of the better two-player games out there.  Since you can only take one action per turn (either take cards or sell cards), it ensures that the game moves along at a fast clip. Despite being limited to only one of two actions, there are so many variables and strategies involved in those two choices, the game becomes deceptively strategic.

I know I've made a good recommendation for a couple when they don't need to ask me for another. That happens so often with Jaipur; when people first encounter it, they get lost and play it over and over again for hours on end! 

Next up I helped another couple get into a game of Castle Panic. In this co-operative, fantasy-themed tower defense game, players work together to try and hold off an endless wave of marauding monsters before they break through your castle walls and ransack your shit.

This is another game that I wanted to rush out and buy just as soon as I saw it featured on Tabletop. In retrospect, I'm kind of glad that cooler heads prevailed. By all accounts, Castle Panic is a fun little game but I've been told that it can wear out its welcome pretty quick. Even after you crank up the difficulty with the "More Panic" rule, some folks maintain that it's still pretty "solvable". Personally, I'm gonna reserve final judgement on this one until until I actually play it.

The couple who tried it at the cafe that day seemed to dig it, even though they were a bit perplexed by the subtleties of monster movement once they breached the outer castle walls. Fortunately they flagged me down while I was running around like a decapitated chicken and once I clarified that the monsters treat the inner towers exactly like they treat the outer walls, they went on to finish the game in abject defeat.  MUH, HA-HA-HA-HA-*HURK*! *cough, cough*   

Sorry, but if you beat a co-operative game on your first try, then it probably wasn't taught to you properly!

When another couple asked me for a good two-player game I got my chance to recommend one of my all-time favorites: Kulami:  

This one is a no-brainer for two peoples. It's beautiful, there's plenty of strategy and the game has three, count 'em, three rules. And here they are:

"In turns, players place their marbles in the empty holes in the board. The first marble can be placed anywhere on the board.  From there on, players must respect the following three rules when placing their marbles:
  1. "The marble must be placed either horizontally or vertically in relation to the marble that the opponent has just played.
  2. "The marble cannot be played on the same tile on which the opponent has just played their marble.
  3. "The marble cannot be played on the same tile where the player placed their previous marble."
Th-th-that's all, folks!  Seriously, this is another perfect match for two players. The constantly changing board, the game's intrinsic aesthetic appeal and the ability to curtail your opponent's moves via clever marble placement all adds up to a winner. This one is definitely on my own personal must-buy list.

I also had a chance to introduce the concept of co-operatives games via the classic Pandemic.   

Every time I EXPOSE more PATIENT ZEROS to this game they always have a FEVERISHLY good time. Hah! SeewhutIdidthur?  *Ahem*...i hate myself.

Next up, I noticed that another couple had selected Citadels to play while my back was turned.

Here's the skinny on this one straight from Board Game Geek:

"In Citadels, players take on new roles each round to represent characters they hire in order to help them acquire gold and erect buildings. The game ends at the close of a round in which a player erects her eighth building. Players then tally their points, and the player with the highest score wins.

"Players start with a number of building cards in their hand; buildings come in five colors, with the purple buildings typically having a special ability and the other colored buildings providing a benefit when you play particular characters. At the start of each round, the player who was king the previous round discards one of the eight character cards at random, chooses one, then passes the cards to the next player, etc. until each player has secretly chosen a character. Each character has a special ability, and the usefulness of any character depends upon your situation, and that of your opponents. The characters then carry out their actions in numerical order: the assassin eliminating another character for the round, the thief stealing all gold from another character, the wizard swapping building cards with another player, the warlord optionally destroys a building in play, and so on.

"On a turn, a player earns two or more gold (or draws two building cards then discards one), then optionally constructs one building (or up to three if playing the architect this round). Buildings cost gold equal to the number of symbols on them, and each building is worth a certain number of points. In addition to points from buildings, at the end of the game a player scores bonus points for having eight buildings or buildings of all five colors."

Remember before how I said that I'd prefer to teach a game specifically designed for two people?  And remember how I said that it's a colossal pain in the ass to have to alter the rules of a game in order to get it to work for a duo? Well, while generally that is true, there are a few notable exceptions.

Yes, I'd would have preferred to teach Citadels to a group of four to six players (with the mandatory "Seven District" rule firmly established), but I certainly wasn't about to tell these two fresh-faced kids to pack it all up and put it away. Mainly because I've always wanted to test the assertion that this one actually plays really well with only two people. 

And sure enough, as soon as I explained how the characters are distributed amongst two players (which essentially involves randomly eliminating one and putting three more off to the side) they really seemed to get into it.

Next up, two guys wanted to play a game which involved hucking a mittful of dice, so I quickly busted out Quarriors.

Essentially, Quarriors is two generations removed from Magic: The Gathering and other collectible card games. With CCG's, players can spend hours on the sidelines combining cards together in order to create the perfect killer decks, which they then pit against an opponent in-game.

Then Donald X. Vaccarino had the brilliant idea of 'Hey, what if designing your deck was the actually goal of the game itself?' And with that, Dominion was born. Now, Dominion is great and all but as a completely original game it's essentially just a mechanic. Needless to say it didn't take very long before titles such as Thunderstone and A Few Acres of Snow came along and successfully married this new genre to an appropriate theme.     

So, based on the theory of (game) evolution, Eric M. Lang eventually came along and said "Hmmmm, people love rolling dice and we've already had collectible dice games in the past....I wonder what would happen if I came up with a dice building game." And, yea, with that, THE LANG brought forth Quarriors into existence and He saw that it was good.

Here are a few less-esoteric details about the game:

"Players take on the roles of Quarriors - mighty mystical warriors who have the power to capture dangerous quarry from the untamed Wilds! They must conjure the mysterious powers of Quiddity, cast powerful spells, and summon their creatures to battle if they hope to overcome rivals and earn their rightful place as the Champion!

Quarriors has the frenetic excitement of a dice battle game, with an added ‘deckbuilding’ twist: players customize their dice pools during the game using resources generated by their rolls.

Quarriors takes the best of deckbuilding games without the tedium of shuffling. Take a typical deckbuilding game, add the speed and fun of dice and in 60 minutes you’re on your second or third game trying unique strategies against your opponents."

The two players who I taught the game to that day also were quickly to pick up on it's intrinsic appeal. In fact, instead of typing this right now, I'd probably be buying a copy of Quarriors if not for the fact that a Marvel-themed spin on the game is due to land sometime around the end of April. I'll be play-testing and reviewing that puppy as soon as I can lay my hot little mitts on it! 

Next up, friends of the cafe Darren and Heather stopped by after spending the better part of their day at the official Halifax Tabletop Day event over at my old alma mater Saint Mary's. Knowing that these guys are totally hard-core (after all, they'd already been gaming for approximately eight hours by that point!), I really wanted to wow them with something new.

The hotness that I decided to spring on them was Splendor

Here's the game's elevator pitch, nicely summarized on da Geek:

"Splendor is a fast-paced and addictive game of chip-collecting and card development. Players are merchants of the Renaissance trying to buy gem mines, means of transportation, shops — all in order to acquire the most prestige points. If you're wealthy enough, you might even receive a visit from a noble at some point, which of course will further increase your prestige.

"On your turn, you may (1) collect chips (gems), or (2) buy and build a card, or (3) reserve one card. If you collect chips, you take either three different kinds of chips or two chips of the same kind. If you buy a card, you pay its price in chips and add it to your playing area. To reserve a card — in order to make sure you get it, or, why not, your opponents don't get it — you place it in front of you face down for later building; this costs you a round, but you also get gold in the form of a joker chip, which you can use as any gem.

"All of the cards you buy increase your wealth as they give you a permanent gem bonus for later buys; some of the cards also give you prestige points. In order to win the game, you must reach 15 prestige points before your opponents do."

This one passed the most important test: Darren and Heather really seemed taken by it! I'll even go one further and say that Splendor is another must-buy for me. As soon as I can figure out a legal means of procurement, of course.  

In a completely unrelated side note, feel free to test out that hand-dandy l'il "Donate" button in the upper right hand corner of the page! Believe me when I tell you that the money will definitely go to a good place!   

Above and beyond Splendor's incredible components (I guarantee that the Gem Tokens will make you feel like a Vegas-style high-roller), what I like most about this one is the game's accelerating momentum. As you acquire those lower Level cards, the Gems begin to stack, allowing you to build more advanced structures, attract Nobles and score those invaluable Prestige Points which are required to win. Once things get going, the pace of the game begins to snowball, leading to a frantic climax.

And yes, I'm still talking about a board game, ya big pervs.

In addition to all of the promotional swag photographed above, the Board Room also received a metric shit-ton of free games from publishers, which were given out as door prizes to patrons every hour on the hour. Here, cafe manager Jon-Paul Decosse and the lovely Hunter are shown giving away a sweet free copy of 7 Wonders to one lucky (and apparently quite bashful) customer!

By then the cafe was packed to capacity. It did my heart good to see so many people come out for what's already become an annual global tradition. Everywhere I looked there were smiling faces and people who were interacting with one another, trash talking and generally having a blast.

Whoever said that young people aren't happy unless they have their face buried in a phone / tablet / computer screen need only visit a place like this to see that this simply isn't true. In fact, quite the opposite: since so many twenty / thirty / forty-somethings spend their school or work-weeks staring at computer screens, they really appreciate diversions like this in order to give their lives some equilibrium.

By then it was getting late and my appointed time of departure was drawing nigh. I had just enough time to teach a few more games to the uninitiated, the first of which was Hey, That's My Fish!

Here's another environmentally-conscious title: players randomly construct an ice floe which is rapidly sinking into the sea. On the flip-side of every hex tile is a symbol depicting one, two or three fish. Players then alternate placing their penguins on any space containing a single fish symbol.

On their turn, players can move one of their penguin figures in any direction in a straight line, stopping anywhere along their path. In doing so they can't leave the ice floe, jump over other penguins or leap over holes in the ice. Whenever a penguin is picked up to move, the owner claims the tile that their figure was sitting on.  

So, naturally, the goal of the game is to set yourself up for big catches and eke out more endgame moves then your opponents. The winner is the player who catches the most fish! 

I actually took this one home with me over Christmas and everyone I played it with really loved it. It's a nice, fluffy, quick, light little game that serves as a perfect filler / icebreaker. Despite its cutesy curb appeal, it's a deceptively deep little brain burner at times. Also: bonus points to Fantasy Flight for making four different penguin figure sculpts!

Last but certainly not least, I had a chance to teach Survive: Escape from Atlantis to these three enthusiastic participants. According to the all-smiles testimony in this photo, not only did their friendships remain intact, they also really enjoyed the game!

Sure, it would have been great to actually play games that day, but in many ways, it was infinitely more rewarding to preside over dozens of gaming epiphanies! I like to think that I was responsible for more then a few revelatory experiences that day and hopefully I introduced a lot of folks to their new favorite board game!


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