Meet Incan Gold.

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So, what’s the deal with Incan Gold?

Players explore a temple rife with riches! The deeper you explore, the more gems and artifacts you can find – but with that reward comes the ever-greater likelihood that you could lose everything when it all goes horribly wrong…

What makes Incan Gold special?

Incan Gold is an excellent distillation of a game of press-your-luck. It usually remains tense throughout, and is easy to teach. Players repeatedly must make the decision whether it is better to stay or to leave, risking their accumulated treasure should they fall victim to a disaster in the temple. It is very easy to learn, plays quickly and is always exciting, and is an especially great choice for larger groups, since 2-8 can play and have fun, though I think the sweet spot is 4 or more.

Alright, so what’s the gameplay like?

The game is played in five rounds. On the first turn of each round, the top card of the deck is turned over, revealing either treasure or a hazard. If the card shows gems, then these gems are divided evenly among all players, with the remainder left behind on the card. If the card shows a hazard, don’t worry – this is just a warning of dangers to come.

Before each turn, players secretly choose to keep exploring the temple or to return to camp with their riches by selecting the corresponding card. Once all players have decided, their decisions are revealed simultaneously.

All players who choose to leave scoop up any treasure that was left behind on cards, again dividing it evenly among those leaving. Then they get to stash their treasure under their tent, where it is safe for the rest of the game.

Players who continue to explore flip the next card of the deck and, if the card shows gems, divide the gems evenly among themselves as before. If the card is a hazard, then the players may be in danger! There are five different types of hazards, with three cards of each in the deck. The first time any hazard appears, it is just a warning – but the second time a hazard appears, the players must drop all of their carried riches to immediately escape the temple with nothing but their lives!

A round ends when either all players have chosen to leave the temple, or when the players are chased out by a hazard. If the players are chased out by a hazard, remove one of that hazard card from the game before shuffling the deck for the next round.

After five rounds, whoever has the biggest stash is the winner!

One part I didn’t mention here are the artifact cards – each round, one artifact is added to the deck. Artifacts are worth a lot – 5 or 10 gems each – but unlike piles of gems, cannot be shared equally. To claim an artifact, a player must choose to leave the temple and be the only one to leave the temple on that turn – only then can they pick up the artifact on the way out.

I think I get it. Who do you recommend this game to?

I’ve seen all types of groups enjoy Incan Gold, so I think the best way to enjoy Incan Gold is to come in with the proper mindset. This is not a deep thinking game at all, so anyone in the mood to develop strategies will surely be disappointed. However, what the game offers, it delivers on very well. Outside of casino gambling, I haven’t seen so much excitement over one turn of a card in any other game. Incan Gold is great for any group that is in the mood for some light fun without too much thinking, and where big risks can pay off.

To Summarize:
Players: 2-8
Time: 15-20 minutes
Strategy: 1
Luck: 5
Complexity: 1
Game Elements: Press-your-luck

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Meet Friday.

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So, what’s the deal with Friday?

Inspired by Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, you are Friday, living on a deserted island. One day, Robinson is shipwrecked and arrives on your shore, disrupting your peaceful life. Robinson is also a bit of a fool when it comes to survival – it’s your job to teach Robinson the skills he needs to survive the island and get away, letting you return to your peaceful life!

What makes Friday special?

What makes Friday stand out from many other games is that it is specifically designed for one player. Many games, especially cooperative games, have single player variations, but there are few other games that are only for one player. I wanted to highlight Friday in the cafe’s blog because it is a fun challenge for anyone to play while waiting for other players to arrive or as something to enjoy over some coffee on a quiet afternoon.

Alright, so what’s the gameplay like?

At the beginning of the game, cards are separated into three piles – the starting deck, the aging deck, and the hazard deck. Take 20 health tokens, and choose two random pirates from the pirate deck (the rest of which are returned to the box). Finally, stack the three colored phase cards with green on top, then yellow, then red. You’re now ready to go.

Your goal is to help Robinson survive the hazards of the island and grow strong and clever enough to defeat the pirates and leave the island.

Friday uses a deck building mechanism similar to Dominion or Mage Knight the Board Game in which you start with a deck of cards and throughout the game add and remove cards to make your deck better and better. Indeed, the starting deck is particularly bleak – Robinson arrives on the island a bumbling fool and the cards reflect this. Of the 18 cards in the starting deck, only 5 are actually helpful in some way – the rest simply do nothing at all for you or even actively hurt you.

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Fortunately, while Robinson doesn’t have much in terms of skills, he is healthy, and learns from his failures. Each turn, draw the top two cards of the hazard deck and choose one for Robinson to face. The challenge of the hazard is determined by the phase – you start the game in the green phase and use the green numbers on the right side of the card to determine the challenge level. This is the value you need to meet or beat to defeat the challenge.

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The left side of the card shows how many cards you may play for free. Play cards, one at a time, from the deck. You do not have to use all of your free cards. Once you’ve played your free cards, you may play additional cards at the cost of one life each. Some cards have special abilities on them, which may also be used now. When you decide to stop playing cards, count up the value of all the cards you played. If this is greater than or equal to the challenge level of the hazard, you flip the hazard card over and add it to your deck – Robinson has learned a new trick!

If you fail to defeat the hazard, you must pay life points equal to the difference between your total and the challenge value of the hazard. Fortunately, Robinson can also learn from his mistakes – when you fail a hazard, you may remove cards played this turn from the game. Often, especially early in the game, it is beneficial to intentionally fail hazards in order to get worthless and harmful cards out of the deck.

Whenever your Robinson deck is out of cards, add one card from the aging deck to your discarded cards and shuffle up. Aging cards are particularly harmful!

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Whenever the hazard deck is out of cards, reshuffle the discarded hazard cards and increase the phase by one (green to yellow or yellow to red). If you complete the red phase, it’s time to fight the pirates! Fight the pirates just as you would any other hazard – but beware, they are not easy! If you can defeat the pirates, you win the game!

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I think I get it. Who do you recommend this game to?

Anyone who enjoys the deckbuilding mechanism in other games will likely enjoy the way it is used in Friday. I’ve played a few rounds so far and I am enjoying trying to challenge myself (there are four levels of difficulty) and beat my previous high scores. If you’re interested in solo games, Friday is definitely a good one, though occasionally I felt like I didn’t have much room for interesting decisions. The rule book does a nice job of explaining how the different abilities can interact to provide many chances for clever play, but practically these opportunities didn’t present themselves as often as I had liked. That said, I’m getting ready for another go right after I post this. So the next time you come by Knight Moves ahead of your friends, grab Friday if you’ve enjoyed other solitaire or deckbuilding games in the past – it is a fun puzzle to engage with despite its inconsistencies.

To Summarize:
Players: 1
Time: 15 minutes
Strategy: 2
Luck: 3
Complexity: 2
Game Elements: deck building, risk/reward analysis, problem solving, resource management

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Meet Galaxy Trucker.

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So, what’s the deal with Galaxy Trucker?

In the far future, shipping companies have developed the ingenious business model of building their spacecraft out of the materials to be shipped! Unfortunately for the pilots responsible for delivering the material intact, this business model throws ancient concepts like “safety” out the window…

What makes Galaxy Trucker special?

Galaxy Trucker is my recommendation whenever someone asks for a game that is “not like anything I’ve ever played before.” You know, unless they’ve already played Galaxy Trucker.

It is part speed game, part puzzle, and part cruel joke on the the players who work so very hard to build spaceworthy ships only to watch them spectacularly blow apart. Of course, that’s part of the fun!

Alright, so what’s the gameplay like?

The game takes place over three rounds, with each turn separated into two phases – the build and the flight.

During the build, each player constructs their spacecraft for the round. This is done in real time – there are no turns – and it is a mad scramble to get your ship pieced together. There are a bunch of ship parts on tiles, which all start upside-down. Once building starts, players are allowed to grab one tile at a time, bring it over their board, and then flip it over. Once the tile is revealed (the box containing the part is now open), the player may choose to add it to their ship, return it to the pile face-up, or place it on the side of their board to save for later.

When adding a piece to the ship, it is important to match the connectors on the pieces. There are three types of connectors: single, double, and universal connectors. Single connectors may only connect to other single connectors or universal connectors, and double may only connect to other double connectors or universal connectors. Universal connectors may connect to any other connector.

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Ship pieces are all sorts of useful – cannons provide firepower to defeat nefarious space pirates, while engines keep your ship moving through long stretches of open space. Cargo holds are necessary for transporting any extra goods you find along the way, and crew cabins provide a home for crew or even helpful aliens. The all-important shield generators can protect your ship from otherwise certain doom, but make sure you have batteries to power them!

Once your ship is ready to go – or at least as ready as you’re going to get it – grab a turn order token. If you’re the first to do so, you also get to flip the timer – everyone else has to finish their ships before the timer is out!

After a brief interlude during which players check each others’ ships to make sure they haven’t broken any laws (of physics), the flight begins. The flight consists of a deck of cards with different events on them. The top card is flipped and the players play through the event on the card before moving to the next one. Events can range from purely beneficial, such as planets or abandoned stations where players can get cargo, to purely harmful, such as meteor swarms in which the best outcome is that you are no worse off than you started. As your ship takes damage from meteors, pirates, and even other players, it may start to gradually fall apart. If your ship starts to fall apart, well, at least it didn’t get shorn in half right off the bat!

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Once the flight is complete, anyone who has finished the flight gets some money depending on the order in which they finished. Everyone can also sell any cargo they’ve found for some extra money.

In round 2 and again in round 3, the ships get bigger and the flights get longer and more dangerous. At the end of round 3, you count up how many credits you’ve earned. If this number is higher than zero, you win! After all, you set out to make some money, and if you have money, you’ve achieved your goal.

Of course, some pilots win more than others…

I think I get it. Who do you recommend this game to?

Before I start, let me be clear – I absolutely love this game and the majority of people I know who have played it also love it. That said, there are a lot of barriers to entry. As you may be able to tell, there is a lot to keep track of and the first game is often overwhelming. Players that do not care for spatial reasoning will likely not enjoy building their ships, and I know plenty of folks that don’t like speed elements in games.

However, I think the biggest thing that makes or breaks Galaxy Trucker is frustration tolerance. Galaxy Trucker is very much a “go with the flow” kind of game – first building a ship out of whatever you are lucky enough to snag from the other players, and next watching that ship face overwhelming odds during the fight. Players need to be okay with – and indeed, enjoy – this process. If you think you can enjoy a silly but intense game and can laugh at your own misfortune, I highly recommend Galaxy Trucker.

To Summarize:
Players: 2-4
Time: 90 minutes, though varies based on number and experience of players
Strategy: 2
Luck: 2
Complexity: 4
Game Elements: Spatial reasoning, speed, tile laying, indirect conflict, direct conflict, trying very hard to build something only to watch it fall apart in your face and laughing the entire time

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Meet Mystery Express.

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So, what’s the deal with Mystery Express?

You thought you signed up for a peaceful train ride across Europe. Little did you know, there would be a murder on the train! And as those intimately familiar with international train law are aware, when there is a murder on the train, it is up to the civilian passengers to solve the crime! International train rides are much like parties in the mansions of the wealthy in that way.

What makes Mystery Express special?

Mystery Express is by far one of the most challenging games I have ever played. A deductive challenge, it takes a sharp wit, close attention to detail, and a little bit of player manipulation to elicit the information you need to solve the crime – or come close.

Anyone who has played Clue before will find the setup pretty familiar – you must discern five different elements of a crime (as opposed to Clue’s three) by identifying the card missing from each of five decks – Suspect, Location, Modus Operandi, Motive, and Time. However, unlike Clue, there are two copies of each card in each deck – so you must find both cards of a type in order to rule anything out. It is a harsh step up in difficulty from Clue, but for anyone who has enjoyed Clue but wants more challenge, Mystery Express is here to offer that challenge.

Alright, so what’s the gameplay like?

At the beginning of the game, one card is removed from each of the five decks, and then all the decks but Time are shuffled together. Each player receives a hand of cards, and some cards are dealt to the passenger and conductor spaces on the board. The game takes place over several rounds, and during each round, players get a chance to get information.

Each round represents a leg of the trip lasting a certain number of hours. Each player spends these hours on actions – the actions that tend to gain more knowledge outright often cost more time to use. For example, it costs 2 hours to go to the Lounge Car, where the player can choose one category in which all other players must reveal a single card. A lot of information is revealed at once, but everyone gets to see it. In comparison, in the Smoking Car, you may spend 3 hours to choose a category of card and force two players to give you a card of that type. You then give them any card you choose from your hand.

A clever twist on the familiar mechanism in Clue is that once a card is revealed, it goes to a discard pile. This is immensely helpful for tracking cards, since it is not enough to see the same crime element twice – you must be sure that you have seen two different cards.

Throughout the game, various events take place between rounds that bring more information into play. For example, two passengers get on board at different points in the trip, bringing with them 2-3 new cards each time. Between rounds is also when players get to see Time cards – there are three chances to see all time cards, during which players have to try and catch the one that is missing! To make it tougher, there are three copies of each possible time card instead of the usual two. Don’t fret – there is a method to solving this, though it does take some of the fun out of the game (I’ll teach you if you ask nicely though!).

Beyond this overview, players each have individual powers that give them an edge over the other players. The powers are often rather minor, but are very helpful in being able to deduce crime elements quickly.

I think I get it. Who do you recommend this game to?

Mystery Express is a tough one to give a general recommendation for because it is a game that is very fun and very rewarding to play, but it is important that the play group be a good fit for the game. Being a fan of deduction games does not in itself recommend Mystery Express. Players must be prepared for an intense deductive experience, asking them to sustain focus and take notes on minute details, typically for a couple of hours. I often feel mentally fatigued at the end of a game because I’ve been thinking so hard!

However, if you do enjoy deduction and enjoy challenges that ask for intense sustained focus, I find Mystery Express to be a magnificent game. Feel free to call ahead and we can do our best to have a staff member ready to teach the game to your group. Just make sure that everyone you’re playing with is also…on board. (Double pun completely intentional. Apologies to all those who just got done groaning.)

To Summarize:
Players: 3-5
Time: 2-3 hours
Strategy: 3
Luck: 2
Complexity: 5
Game Elements: Deduction, Player Manipulation, Action Management, Card Management, Detailed Note-taking

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Meet Ticket to Ride.

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So, what’s the deal with Ticket to Ride?

In Ticket to Ride, players compete to build train routes connecting cities across the United States of America and southern Canada. Build your routes thoughtfully, lest an opponent block you off from your destinations!

What makes Ticket to Ride special?

Ticket to Ride holds a very special place in my heart and is one of my absolute favorite games to play. The rules are simple – I can teach the game in less than five minutes. The competition scales with the players’ preference – the game is often very cutthroat, though it doesn’t have to be if players prefer a less aggressive game. It’s fast-paced, with turns typically lasting less than 15 seconds and the entire game lasting under an hour.

Beyond that, it’s fun to play with the little trains and line them up on tracks! The bold colors on the cards are a pleasure to look at and it is cool to watch the board evolve as it fills with trains.

Alright, so what’s the gameplay like?

Players earn points in Ticket to Ride by building train routes, completing destination tickets, and by having the longest continuous track at the end of the game. Each player starts with 45 trains, 4 train cards, and 3 destination tickets.

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Destination tickets name two cities and have a point value in the corner. At the end of the game, if you have connected the two named cities with your trains, you gain the points shown. If not, you lose the points shown. Each player must keep two of the three destination tickets they are dealt, though they may keep all three if they choose. Discarded tickets go to the bottom of the ticket pile.

To finish setting up, deal five train cards from the deck face up along the side of the board.

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Players proceed by taking turns in order. On a turn, a player performs one of the following three actions:

  1. Take Train Cards – Take two cards, choosing from the face up cards and the unseen card on top of the deck. If you choose a face up card, deal a new one in its place before making your second choice. There is one exception to this action – if the card you take is a face up wild locomotive card, you may not take any other cards this action.
  2. Build a Route – A route is a line of train-sized rectangles connecting two cities. To claim a route, you must play a number of train cards equal to the length of the route of the same color as the route. In the example below, I am claiming a route from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The route is pink and is 3 long, so I play 3 pink train cards to claim the route. I place my trains in the rectangles and score points based on the length – in this case, 4 points. No one else can claim that route – it’s mine.

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    Sometimes two tracks run parallel between the same two cities. If you are playing with 2 or 3 players, then only one of the two tracks may be used – once one is claimed, the other is closed. However, with 4 or 5 players, both tracks may be claimed by different players.

  3. Take Destination Tickets – Draw 3 destination tickets from the top of the deck. You must keep at least 1 of the 3, but may keep 2 or all 3 if you choose. As with the tickets you start with, you cannot get rid of them once you have them, so be careful not to take tickets you can’t complete!

Play continues until one player has 2 or fewer trains left in his or her supply. Each player, including the player who triggered the end of the game, gets one last turn. After the last turn of the game, whoever has the longest continuous track gets 10 bonus points, and each player reveals their destination tickets, scoring points for completed ones and losing points for any not completed. Highest score wins!

I think I get it. Who do you recommend this game to?

Ticket to Ride is a great choice for a fast, fun competition with a little bit of luck in the train card and destination ticket draws. There is also something about it that feels familiar, making it a great choice for people who have played and enjoyed games with wider cultural attention like Uno or Rummy but otherwise don’t tend to play games too often.

I find there to be a lot here for experienced gamers too, though I understand the reasons players interested in intense strategy gravitate towards more complex systems than what is offered in Ticket to Ride. However, for me, I find the tension in the game to be just as rewarding in terms of excitement, so it is always a great choice if I want a fast, tense battle. Common complaints about the game are that there is little sense of progress during the game, that the game occasionally turns into several turns of people drawing from the deck to try and find what they need, and that too often the game ends up being too friendly as players hesitate to block each other for fear of being labeled “jerks” (I am not, it’s just a game!).

So, despite how much I love Ticket to Ride, I suppose it doesn’t go deep enough in terms of strategy for everyone. However, for anyone exploring the world of board games, Ticket to Ride is a great place to visit if you haven’t yet been there – I go back all the time!

To Summarize:
Players: 2-5
Time: 45 minutes
Strategy: 2
Luck: 3
Complexity: 2
Game Elements: Set collection, route building, indirect conflict

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Table Talk: How did you come to value games in your life?

Hey folks, welcome to our first Table Talk article! Joining our “meet a board game” series and event announcements, Table Talk is a new regular feature on our blog in which we invite our growing community to chat with us about a wide variety of topics. Posts will largely be focused on board and card games (Knight Moves is, after all, a board game cafe) but not exclusively. In fact, if you’ve got any ideas for topics here, please share them in the comments!

I’m very excited to be posting “Meet Ticket to Ride” later this week, giving me a chance to talk about a game that is very special to me. Ticket to Ride is one of three games, the other two being Dominion and The Settlers of Catan, that really drew me into the world of games and made board games one of my primary hobbies.

I was always primed to treat gaming as a hobby. My fascination with games started very young, when I began collecting Monopoly boards and sought to understand how the game worked – which properties were the best value, which spaces you are least likely to land on, and when to send a property to auction and when to buy it outright. Oh yes – I was the kid that wanted to play with auctions (ironically, most folks didn’t have the patience for auctions, despite the fact that they actually shorten the game significantly). I also collected a variety of other games, some of which are still prominent among hobby gamers, like Dungeon! which was recently redesigned or Robo Rally. And of course, Magic: the Gathering.

Through college, I played board games less and less often, with friends that preferred video games and otherwise no idea about what was out there in terms of board games. In grad school, I went on a trip with someone who introduced me to The Settlers of Catan. I loved it! I immediately bought the four boxes available along with the 5-6 player expansions for each. This was total overkill, but I was so excited to have found this game that I just wanted all of it!

It wasn’t until I played Dominion and Ticket to Ride at a Eureka! game night in Brookline that I really bought in though. I bought those games at Eureka! and my wife and I spent many hot days that summer relaxing in the air conditioning playing Ticket to Ride and Dominion over and over and over. We don’t have as much time to do this anymore, but when we do have time, we still enjoy a good game marathon together.

Games have strengthened friendships, helped me forge new ones, and brought my wife and I closer together. Which leads me to my question for the blog readers in our community – What role do games play in your life, and how did you come to value games as a worthwhile activity?

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Meet Sushi Go!

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Sushi Go! is a great new game from local publisher Gamewright!

So, what’s the deal with Sushi Go!?

Players compete to assemble colorful and delicious plates of sushi. Grab your favorite pieces of sushi as they pass by on a conveyor belt. Different pieces of sushi score points in different ways, so choose your pieces carefully! And don’t forget to leave room for dessert!

What makes Sushi Go! special?

Sushi Go! is a great design that clearly set out to do one thing – card drafting – and do it very well. And I say it accomplishes its goal! Sushi Go! can be learned in just minutes, even by folks not familiar with card drafting mechanisms, and the fast pace of the game keeps everyone involved – very little waiting for others in this one. I had plenty of tough decisions to make as I played, and the drafting integrates well with the scoring mechanisms to add a slight push-your-luck element to the game, too – do you grab the sure points, or risk it by betting on higher scoring sushi that might not pay off?

The elegant gameplay is only the beginning though, as the playful and fun art adds a delightful frivolity to the game that makes the package complete. Looking at those happy little pieces of sushi makes me happy! I wonder if they know they’re about to be eaten.

I’d also be remiss to not mention the awesome reception Sushi Go! got at PAX East this year. Gamewright only had 20 copies available for purchase at the convention, and to try to be fair, they drew names from everyone interested in purchasing a copy that day to determine who would get to own it before it widely hits the market. If only I had thought to take a picture of the huge crowd of people that showed up for the name drawing! Seeing so many people hopeful and excited to grab a copy of this new card game was one of the coolest things of the convention for me.

Alright, so what’s the gameplay like?

The game is played over three rounds. In each round, you get a hand of cards. Choose one card from your hand and play it face down on the table. Once all players have chosen, the cards are revealed simultaneously, and then you pass your hand of cards to the player on your left (and receive a new hand from the player on your right). Repeat until there are no more cards left in the hands, and then score points. After three rounds, whoever has the most points is the winner.

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Nigiri is the simplest of all types of sushi when it comes to scoring, worth 1, 2, or 3 points depending on the type. However, if you can get some Wasabi, then the next Nigiri you play is worth 3 times the points! Put the Wasabi card behind the Nigiri to show this – but be careful, because if you don’t get any Nigiri after you get the Wasabi, the Wasabi goes to waste. All Nigiri and Wasabi are discarded at the end of each round.

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Tempura and Sashimi require you to collect a sets in order to score points. Tempura scores you 5 points for each pair you have, while Sashimi is worth 10 for each set of three. Be careful though, because incomplete sets are worth nothing!

Dumplings are also worth collecting in a set, since the more you have, the more they are worth! While a lone Dumpling still scores you a point, getting five of them nets you a sweet 15 points.

Tempura, Sashimi, and Dumplings are all discarded at the end of each round.

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Maki Roll cards are worth 1, 2, or 3 Maki Rolls, as pictured at the top of the card. At the end of each round, whoever has the most Maki gets 6 points, while second place gets 3. Ties divide all points evenly, rounded down, but you have to have at least one Maki to score any points for them. Be careful of getting too invested in Maki, but clever play can net you an easy 6 points! Maki are discarded at the end of each round.

Pudding are the only cards not discarded at the end of each round! Puddings do not score points from round-to-round, but rather score at the end. Whoever has the most Pudding at the end of all three rounds of play snags a cool 6 points. If that doesn’t seem worth the effort, you’d do well to not ignore Pudding entirely – whoever has the least loses 6 points, which is easily enough to change the outcome of the game.

Finally, Chopsticks are a cool card that can give you more options. When you have Chopsticks in play, on any turn, you may choose to play two cards from your hand instead of the usual one, and put the Chopsticks into your hand before you pass it to the next player. However, Chopsticks aren’t worth points (you can’t eat them!), so whoever gets stuck with them at the end of the round is out of luck, since they too are discarded at the end of each round.

I think I get it. Who do you recommend this game to?

As someone who has played a lot of games with a wide range of complexity, I really appreciate the simplicity and fast play of Sushi Go!. It’s very easy to learn, even for players not familiar with card drafting mechanisms. I highly recommend the game to players looking to engage with drafting in a quick-playing game, especially if the mechanism is unfamiliar.

Players familiar with more complex drafting games like 7 Wonders might find Sushi Go! a little light for their tastes, but I really encourage fans of that game or other drafting games to give Sushi Go! a try. In fact, I am a big fan of 7 Wonders, and Sushi Go! doesn’t feel like “Diet 7 Wonders” to me. It’s a really great distillation of the fun of drafting in a 15-20 minute package that is hard to pass up!

To Summarize:
Players: 2-5
Time: 15 minutes
Strategy: 2
Luck: 3
Complexity: 1
Game Elements: Card drafting, set collection, cute happy pieces of sushi

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Meet Mage Knight.

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So, what’s the deal with Mage Knight?

You are a powerful mage knight, sent through a portal with a specific mission – to conquer the cities in this distant land at any cost. Travel across the land, collecting resources and gathering power as you go by defeating enemies, conquering keeps and mage towers, and coercing minions to follow you. With the right determination and smart use of your skills, you’ll be powerful enough to take down even the grandest of cities.

What makes Mage Knight special?

Mage Knight has been my favorite game since it was released back in 2011. It evokes the feeling of an epic journey very well. The way in which characters grow in power in small and subtle ways throughout the game is very satisfying, as you go from being challenged by a lowly orc at the beginning of the game to being able to tear down grand cities full of elite defenders.

The game also has a lot of mechanisms that fit together really neatly. Unfortunately, the downside of this is that there are a lot of rules – this is a game that can easily take over 30 minutes just to go over the basics. It’s very helpful if you are familiar with some of the game mechanisms – for example, while the deck building mechanism in this game is very different than that in Dominion, familiarity with Dominion will alleviate some of that learning curve.

Another reason this game is very special to me is that it is one of few games of its length that I enjoy and find engaging throughout. I tend to prefer games that last about an hour with a few favorites that can go about 2 hours. In comparison, Mage Knight tends to be at least a 3 hour commitment, and games can easily go longer. However, the game is rewarding throughout and like any fun activity, I don’t even notice the hours go by.

Mage Knight also has lots of options for how it is played – it is excellent for cooperative and competitive play and is even a superb solo game. I’ve been satisfied with the core game modes, but for those who crave variety can take advantage of the many scenarios offered in the book.

Alright, so what’s the gameplay like?

A very brief overview…

The game is played over 4-6 rounds that alternate between day and night. The mage knights must accomplish their goal by the end of the game in the cooperative version, while in the competitive version all that matters is who comes out most powerful at the end.

You have a deck of deed cards that represent your character’s powers. You start with a hand of 5 cards, which allow you to perform actions by generating movement, attack, block, and influence. Each card has two levels of power – the basic power, which you get by playing the card, and the more powerful version, which costs a mana to use. Players get one free mana per turn from a collective pool but can also build a personal supply by finding mana crystals.

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Movement points are used to move your mage knight across the map and explore new areas. different types of land cost different amounts of movement to cross – for example, it’s always easy to cross plains and always difficult to cross swamps. Forests are fairly quick to get through during the day, but challenging to cross at night, while deserts are the opposite.

Monsters are all over, and as you tread deeper into the core of the land, the simple orcs you fought near the portal are replaced by vicious draconum. Defeat these creatures to clear a path for yourself while gaining valuable fame and increasing your reputation across the land as people begin to recognize you as a hero.

There are a range of sites to visit. Villages and monasteries dot the land, where mage knights can stop for healing and to recruit followers, and various ruins, monster dens, dungeons, and tombs offer challenges and rewards for those brave enough to conquer them. Keeps and mage towers can be captured, though assaulting them does hurt your reputation. Oh, and those peaceful villages and monasteries? You can ransack and burn them, too – only you can decide if the villainy is worth the reward.

As you increase your fame, you gain levels, which reward you with skills that can be used at any time, advanced actions that are added to your deck, bigger hand size, and better armor to protect from wounds – awful cards that are added to your deck and have no benefit. Gaining levels isn’t enough though – be sure to learn spells, claim artifacts (both powerful adventuring rewards that are added to your deck), and recruit followers (who have powers that you can use any time) to accomplish your task!

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I think I get it. Who do you recommend this game to?

This game is awesome for anyone who enjoys an epic adventure and doesn’t mind putting in the time to learn a long, complicated game. Combat, which I haven’t even gotten into, is like a complex puzzle and players that have carefully cultivated their power will find many clever tricks at their disposal to eliminate their opposition.

One downside of Mage Knight is that its rules are organized in a somewhat confusing manner, spread between two booklets and across a small stack of cards. Fortunately, Knight Moves Board Game Cafe has staff that can teach Mage Knight or many of the other games in our board game library – if you’d like to learn a specific game, give us a call at 617-487-5259 so we can do our best to have someone able to teach you the game.

To Summarize:
Players: 1-4 (recommended for no more than 3)
Time: Usually 180+ minutes, impacted by player count, experience, and scenario
Strategy: 5
Luck: 2
Complexity: 5
Game Elements: Exploration, Leveling Up/Power Growth, Deck Building, Hand Management, Resource Management, Puzzle-Solving, Indirect Player Conflict, Direct Player Conflict, Cooperation


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Meet Gravwell.

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So, what’s the deal with Gravwell?

You are piloting a spacecraft, racing your opponents to escape the overwhelming chaos of a singularity via warp gate. Use elemental fuel cards cleverly to use the gravitational pull of the other ships to rocket yourself to the lead!

What makes Gravwell special?

Gravwell is a chaotic fast-paced race where it is not always the best strategy to take the lead! Since your movement is determined by the gravity of the other ships, you need to use your fuel resources carefully to try to maintain forward movement – or at least make sure any backwards movement isn’t too far!

Alright, so what’s the gameplay like?

The game is played over six rounds. At the beginning of each round, enough fuel cards are dealt face-down so there are three for each player. Then, a face-up fuel card is dealt on top of each. Players then take turns choosing stacks – one card known, one card unknown – and end up with a hand of six cards.

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Next, each player chooses a card from their hand and plays it face down. All players simultaneously reveal their cards. Whoever plays the card that comes earliest alphabetically moves first, and so on until everyone has moved. How you determine the direction in which to move each player is where the twist – and the chaos – comes in.

To determine which direction a player moves, you must first determine the direction in which the gravity is strongest. To do this, find the ship that is closest to that player’s ship. If two ships are equally distant (one in one direction and one in another), keep going until you find the next ship, and so on.

Once you know the direction of the gravitational pull, move – green cards move you towards the gravitational pull, while purple cards move you away from it. Blue cards don’t move your own ship, but rather, move all other ships on the board towards your own, which can really mess with the plans of other players. In all cases, if a ship lands on an occupied space, it keeps moving in the same direction until it lands on an empty space.

Keep going until you’ve played six rounds or someone escapes!

I think I get it. Who do you recommend this game to?

This is a great game for people who enjoy tight competition but don’t mind leaving some of the outcome to luck. While there is a definite strategy in how to ration your fuel cards, since you don’t have full control over what those cards are, many times the best play is not that which most improves your position, but rather that which hurts your position least. It’s a nice balance of making meaningful decisions but also sitting back and enjoying the ride – in this case, the chaotic yo-yo race towards the finish!

To Summarize:
Players: 1-4 (haven’t tried the solo rules myself)
Time: 20-35 minutes
Strategy: 2
Luck: 4
Complexity: 2
Game Elements: Drafting, Hand Management, Risk Management

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Meet Concept.

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This new game from Repos has captured my imagination in a big bad way!

So, what’s the deal with Concept?

Concept is a game in which you try to get the other players to guess a word or phrase by marking different items on the board as concepts related to that word or phrase.

What makes Concept special?

I am a big fan of “guess the word” games, so I’m already on board with Concept from the start. I love the challenge of trying to use the (not so) limited set of pictures to try and communicate complex ideas! It is definitely a lot harder than it initially seems, but it’s just so rewarding when you are able to get your fellow players to guess the word or phrase. The game opens up a lot of ways to be clever and creative in your communication.

Alright, so what’s the gameplay like?

Let’s just play together, yeah? Sorry if my clues are a little wonky – it’s not an easy game!

I check one of the cards to get a word or phrase. Each card has 9 items, grouped by difficulty – green is challenging, red is even more challenging, and grey is for experts only!

Alright, now that I’ve got my word/phrase, I use the green question mark to mark the main concept.

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So the main concept is some kind of animal or wildlife. I also use green cubes to add detail. In the picture above, I’ve marked the “fast” concept. A fast animal? That’s not going to be enough – I need to add more green cubes.

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Black and white…

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…and three cubes on a line?

Alright, so we have here a fast black and white animal with lines. Any guesses?

I was going for zebra. Did you get it?

As the words and phrases get more complex, you’ll need more than just one concept. Fortunately, there are four other colors that can be used to mark sub-concepts. Let’s try another, a little trickier.

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A toy or game…

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…that is electronic.

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Associated with the electronic game is an animal or animals or some kind of wildlife…

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…that flies…

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…fights…and is sad?

This one is definitely trickier. An electronic game with a fighting flying animal…that is sad?

Something might not be as specific as we’d like here. Any guesses?

The phrase is Angry Birds. Did you get it?

That’s really the idea! There is some simple scoring, and the official game rules suggest that 2 people work together to mark the concepts, but for me the real joy is in just playing rounds without caring about scoring.

I’ll leave you with one more – post guesses in the comments!

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I think I get it. Who do you recommend this game to?

As much as I’d like to say it is, this is definitely not a game for everyone. It takes a reasonably high level of abstract thought to communicate the “easy” words and phrases and just gets more challenging from there. The “challenging” words and phrases are just downright daunting! So for anyone who doesn’t enjoy these kind of abstract challenges would probably be dissatisfied or even frustrated.

On the other hand, The game is really unique and if you do enjoy abstract thought challenges, I highly recommend Concept. I always find games that allow for reaching goals in creative ways to be the most rewarding, and Concept has that in spades.

It’s also great for a big group. Players can feed off of each other’s guesses and the teamwork that comes out of solving the puzzle is delightful!

Whether you want to play a full game with scoring or just want to try your hand at cluing with the Concept board to challenge friends or Knight Moves staff, Concept is a lot of fun and its flexible nature makes it easy to incorporate into any game time!

To Summarize:
Players: I say 2 or more. Box says 4-12+
Time: As long or as short as you like! Box says 40 minutes.
Strategy: 1
Luck: 1
Complexity: 2
Challenge: 4
Game Elements: Creativity, Abstract Communication, Imagination


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