Geekly Games: June 4, 2016

Hello again. This is two Geekly Games posts in as many weeks. We’ve also had two Geekly Comics posts in a row (here’s a link to Jim’s week in comics this week if you missed it; he tackles DC’s Rebirth, The Punisher, and The Amazing Spider-Man). Getting back to games, I haven’t played as many tabletop games as I would’ve liked this past week—it’s difficult to corral interest in a board game night sometimes—but I have replayed a great one that I’ve mentioned in the past and have been meaning to cover for some time: Dead of Winter.


Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game

This game hits our table a lot because my wife and kids are huge fans. Dead of Winter is The Walking Dead in a box. It’s a semi-cooperative game in that there’s an overall goal for the colony of survivors—players control a group of survivors who are part of the greater colony—and each player has a secret objective they are trying to achieve.

The secret objectives create an interesting dynamic that I’ll discuss in greater detail with the “Behind the Game” segment but for now let’s say that players help the colony thrive, while satisfying their secret objectives, which may be at odds with what must be done for the colony’s success. Ah. That’s a beautiful game mechanism.

There’s a lot going on in Dead of Winter, but the individual parts are simple to understand. Fortunately, each player gets a cheat sheet showing how a round plays out. You draw a crisis card, denoting what minor crisis your group will have to deal with for the round—you’ll be drawing a new crisis for each round. All players roll their action dice (the number of dice a player rolls depends on how many characters are in your clique—or group—they control), and then players take turns performing actions with their dice. And that’s one of the many other interesting design choices in Dead of Winter.


Yes. You want to roll high most of the time. High rolls usually let you search for supplies in an area or kill a zombie (depending on your characters’ stats), but a low roll is not the end of the world. You can still build a barricade to keep zombies out of an area, coax a zombie to your location to give freedom of movement to another character, and clean out the colony’s waste. If you’re like me (or my brother-in-law Tim–Who does number two work for, Tim?), you’ll end up with terrible rolls. But you can overcome a bad roll with the right strategy and that’s fun and rewarding.

Another great addition to Dead of Winter is the Crossroads Cards. The player to the right of the active player draws a Crossroads Card and this card depicts an event that could occur; there’s a trigger for each event. These random events do wonders for building the story. Most Crossroads Cards reveal something about the characters you’re playing or the world they inhabit, and they do a great job of setting the tone. Players could decide whether or not to let an elderly couple into the colony for shelter or leave them to their fate. If it sounds like a choice of that nature’s a no-brainer, think again. There are pros and cons to any choice you make. Depending on the state of your colony, you may decide not to help the less fortunate or infirm. Dead of Winter captures the feel of a group fighting for survival in a zombie apocalypse. The game is about the interaction among the players rather than the zombies.

I like Dead of Winter’s concept and love how it’s executed. If you like zombies or humans fighting for survival, Dead of Winter is a must play.


As promised, we’ll dig deeper into Dead of Winter’s secret objectives. Some of the objectives are betrayal goals, where you’re actively wanting the colony to fail, but the betrayer objectives only work because someone else might have a glutton or hoarder objective, which are non-betrayal objectives that tempt non-traitors to refuse to donate food (or other items) to the colony, sewing suspicion of whether or not they’re a traitor.

Let’s put the betrayal secret objectives aside—they’re fun to play with, even if my family disagrees—and focus on the non-betrayal secret objectives. These secret objectives bring up the question of who really wins a game of Dead of Winter. Do you win the game if you fail to reach your secret objective, but the colony succeeds and other people finished their secret objectives? Is it considered a tie if everyone loses? Will a player sabotage the colony if they can’t accomplish their secret objective? I’ve played Dead of Winter with various groups and I get multiple answers to these questions.

My family views a colony win as a win for everyone and themselves, so we play Dead of Winter in that fashion, but I’ve played several games of Dead of Winter at local gaming conventions and seen people have the attitude of if I can’t win, no one wins. I’ve even seen someone flip the board–I thought that was a joke among tabletop gamers–after they knew they couldn’t finish their secret objective. You almost need to ask people at the table, before playing Dead of Winter, how they view victory and play to that end.

Honestly, I strive to complete my secret objective—I feel a sense of accomplishment if the group wins and I win—but I won’t sabotage the collective’s chances of winning so I can finish my secret objective. My family has trained me to dial down my competitiveness. I won’t begrudge anyone playing to complete their secret objective at all cost or viewing a group loss as a tie either, just don’t flip the board or table.

Thanks for reading.

Geekly Games: May 28, 2016

Geekly Comics made a triumphant return a few days ago, so I figured what the heck, let’s do a Geekly Games. But I’m not doing a full review for a while. Full reviews take a lot of time and I’d like to get a heap of plays with a game before committing to any thoughts—that’s even if my brain yields any thoughts—and my poor camera could use a break, too, so no pictures.


Okay. Some pictures.

Let’s get to a game I’ve played since the last time we talked: Marvel Legendary Villains.


Marvel Legendary Villains is a sequel to Upper Deck’s Marvel Legendary deck building game. I call it a sequel because it does more than add a few new characters; it’s a complete game that uses the same game system. I like Marvel Legendary a lot. It edges out the DC Deck Building Game because it’s more thematic, as in it captures the feel of a superhero beating down a specific villain, the mechanisms are easier to understand, and the game plays in a snap.

Marvel Legendary is also a cooperative game. With a few exceptions—like Deadpool whose cards make you question whether or not they help or hinder the group—most of the hero cards work in concert to defeat the villain. Marvel Legendary Villains may be faithful to the theme to a fault. Villains don’t work well together.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get a set of villain cards similar to Deadpool’s mild annoyances. If you’re not, you’ll end up with Loki or Ultron whose cards wreck their “teammates’” decks. Since you can pick and choose which villains you add to your game, my gaming group instituted a no Loki or Ultron rule. I’m afraid that I’m the reason for such a rule. Just because a card that can screw your “teammates” is available, doesn’t mean you have to buy it and add it to your deck.

But I keep using quotes for “teammates” because Loki and Ultron own some of the most powerful cards. It’s tempting to add their awesome power to your deck at the expense of pissing off everyone else at the table and yet, often times the only way to defeat the target hero (the roles are reversed) is to unleash an attack that hurts your “teammates” as well as the hero. There’s this delicate tightrope walk of teamwork versus your “teammates” holding you back in Marvel Legendary Villains. I love playing as the heroes, but that balancing act is intriguing.

If you want to win at least 50% of the time, don’t get Marvel Legendary Villains. The villains fail—a lot. If you want a more nuanced version of Marvel Legendary, then Marvel Legendary Villains may be the game for you.

That is if you like deck building games, so let’s look at what makes a deck building game special and what makes them tick.


Deck Building Games

Video games have it all over tabletop games when it comes to explaining rules. You have to spend a good ten to twenty minutes—if you’re lucky—going over the rules of a tabletop game to newcomers before you can start to play it, while video games have you play a tutorial or learn the game as you go. Deck builders are one of the few tabletop game types that can give video games a run for their money.

You start with a simple deck and slowly add cards that possess various abilities to your deck as you go. You still have to learn the baseline rules of the game, but deck builders use a scaffolding approach toward teaching the more advanced rules, kind of like a video game’s tutorial. I’d be remiss to not mention Fluxx here. For all the vitriol some gamers sling at Fluxx (for being too chaotic and random), it starts with two basic rules—draw a card and play a card—and builds up from there. I’d love to see more tabletop games use a scaffolding approach for teaching all of its rules, but let’s get back to deck builders.


Even though deck building existed in tabletop games for decades, Dominion is credited with starting the deck builder genre of games because no game prior to Dominion used deck building as the game’s focal point. Dominion—like Fluxx—gets a lot of flak but this time it’s because it has little to no theme. It didn’t need one. By laying the groundwork for others, Dominion ushered in a flood of deck building games, each of which added their own wrinkle to the original idea.

Deck builders capture the strategy of building a deck—like Magic: The Gathering and other collectible card games—without forcing their players to drop hundreds–if not thousands–of dollars. The wave of deck builders has waned a bit, but deck building games is an interesting design space. A Study in Emerald added some board game elements to the genre, while cooperative deck builders, like the aforementioned Marvel Legendary, have been gaining steam. There’s even a solo deck builder Friday where you help Robinson Crusoe survive. With so many great titles already using this game type, it’ll be interesting to see what’s on the deck builder horizon.

I’ll try to keep this a weekly–or geekly–post. Thanks for reading.

Machi Koro: Millionaire’s Row


You’re the mayor of Machi Koro and the city’s moving on up to the ritzy side of town. Machi Koro: Millionaire’s Row adds plenty of new twists and we’ll get to them in a bit, but let’s cover the technical stuff first.

The Fiddly Bits

Designer: Masao Suganuma
Publisher: IDW Games
Date Released: 2014
Number of Players: 2-5
Age Range: 10 and up (8 and up still works)
Setup Time: less than 5 minutes
Play Time: around 40 minutes

Game Mechanics:

Dice Rolling
Set Collection


Game Flow:

We’ve covered the base Machi Koro game earlier, so we won’t go into detail about Machi Koro: Millionaire’s Row gameplay. If you missed our Machi Koro review, here’s a link.

In short, each player rolls the die (or dice) at the beginning of their turn. The die rolls, and when the numbers are rolled, affect which buildings produce money. Buildings are represented by cards and players can purchase new cards with their money but it’s the player who finishes all of their landmark cards (a group of cards each player begins the game with) first who wins the game.

Machi Koro: Millionaire’s Row, like Machi Koro: Harbor Expansion, changes up the game. The biggest difference between the base game and Machi Koro: Millionaire’s Row is that all games which use only the Machi Koro base game begin the same way: all of the purchasable buildings cards are available at the onset. Machi Koro: Millionaire’s Row adds more building cards, and since you have extra cards to choose from, you shuffle all the building cards together and deal out ten unique buildings.


Sample new cards in Millionaire’s Row

Machi Koro: Millionaire’s Row also adds remodeling tokens, allowing players to shut down their opponent’s buildings for a number of turns, as well as some other buildings, which shake things up.

Game Review:

For being named Millionaire’s Row, the Machi Koro: Millionaire’s Row expansion doesn’t introduce big bucks to the game like Machi Koro: Harbor and yet that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good expansion. I still like the random selection of cards you can choose from—I won’t bore you with my thoughts on that, since I covered this in Machi Koro: Harbor’s write up (here’s a link just in case you missed it)—and Millionaire’s Row’s new cards add some variety to game play—I like the inclusion of Loan Offices, the Renovation Company, and Demolition coins—but while you should be able to add both expansions to the base game, I wouldn’t recommend it.


Green cards from Millionaire’s Row

Loan Offices make building the four base landmarks easy—a fifteen minute game easy if you play your cards right—but adding in Machi Koro: Harbor’s two extra landmarks you have to construct, cause the Loan Offices you pick up to become a thorn in your side. Having to pay back a loan doesn’t hurt so much when the game’s over in less than thirty minutes, but adding both Harbor and Millionaire’s Row turns Machi Koro into an hour game or longer. Half of the gamer in me likes the additional challenge, while the other half argues Machi Koro is supposed to be a thirty minute game. Usually, the second half wins.


Purple cards from Millionaire’s Row

Millionaire’s Row is still a great addition to Machi Koro. I like being able to shut down my opponents’ buildings and you can when in an instant, when you don’t also play with the Harbor expansion. I also enjoy how the vineyards stack with wineries. The same could be said of Harbor and that’s where you’ll find the strength of both Machi Koro expansions: they’re more thematic than their predecessor.


Renovation Tokens

I’d avoid playing with both expansions unless you want Machi Koro to last much longer than it normally does, and if you do choose to play with only one expansion, you can’t go wrong with either Harbor or Millionaire’s Row. It comes down to how you want your gaming experience to go. If you want fish and sushi, pick Harbor. If you wine and a possible shorter game, go with Millionaire’s Row. Unfortunately for Millionaire’s Row, Machi Koro is a Japanese game and most gamers will pick Harbor on flavor alone.

Sushi Go!


Sushi Go! puts you in a sushi chef’s apron. Can you craft a better combination of rolls than your opponents? You’ll have to think fast with the quick playing Sushi Go!. We’ll get to the game flow and review in a bit, but we have to cover some background info first.

The Fiddly Bits

Designer: Phil Walker-Harding
Publisher: Gamewright
Date Released: 2013
Number of Players: 2-5
Age Range: 8 and up (but 6 year-olds could play)
Setup Time: next to no time
Play Time: 15 minutes or less

Game Mechanics:

Card Drafting
Hand Management
Set Collection
Simultaneous Action Selection


Game Flow:

Sushi Go! is a card drafting game played in three rounds. Each round, players a dealt the same number of cards. Players will choose which cards they want from their current hand, place their chosen card face down in front of them, and then pass their cards to the next player. Once everyone has made their selection, each player reveals the card they choice from the cards in their hands. Play continues in this fashion until all the cards are played for the round.

Each card has its own scoring mechanism. Some (nigiri) give you flat points if you play them.


Three types of nigiri cards

You can play wasabi cards in order to boost these cards point total.


Wasabi card

Others (sashimi and tempura) require you to collect a certain number of them in order to score any points. Sashimi may give you 10 points if you collect three of them, but if you’re short by even one sashimi, you don’t get any points.

SushiGoTempura  SushiGoSashimi

Tempura and Sashimi cards

Still others (maki) have players tally up how many of that card type they collected at the end of the round and the player with the most cards of that type get 6 points, while second place gets 3.


Three types of maki cards

After everyone records their score, all the cards (except for pudding cards) get shuffled into the deck and players receive another hand of cards. Play for the remaining two rounds works the same way as the first round and the player with the most points at the end of the third round wins.


Game Review:

Sushi Go! is the fastest card drafting game I’ve reviewed so far and its speed means that it hits the table more often than not. The artwork is adorable, players whip through the rounds so quickly, you get the sense that you are a sushi chef, and with a ten dollar price tag, Sushi Go! is one of the most affordable games on the market. Christmas is around the corner, so it’s worth mentioning Sushi Go! is the right size for most stockings.

I enjoy this game. It’s one of the most common games my family and I play. Sure, I like card drafting as a game mechanism anyway—I may not be too objective when it comes to games that use card drafting—but I really like being able to play two or three games of Sushi Go! to one game of Fairy Tale, and six or seven games of Sushi Go! to one game of 7 Wonders.


Sushi Go! is a great filler game, and there usually aren’t any complaints from my family—I have some reluctant gamers at times—whenever I want to break out the box. Actually, Sushi Go! comes in a delightful tin: excellent.

Machi Koro: Harbor Expansion


Once again you’re the mayor of Machi Koro and your city’s taking to the seas with this expansion. Can you build an economic powerhouse?

Who doesn’t like to make money? I know I do but I like talking about a game’s specifics even more. Let’s cover some of Machi Koro: Harbor’s technical stuff before getting back into the game’s flow and review.

The Fiddly Bits

Designer: Masao Suganuma
Publisher: IDW Games
Date Released: 2013
Number of Players: 2-5
Age Range: 10 and up (I’d still say 8 and up works)
Setup Time: less than 5 minutes
Play Time: around 40 minutes

Game Mechanics:

Dice Rolling
Set Collection


Game Flow:

We’ve covered the base Machi Koro game earlier, so we won’t go into detail about Machi Koro: Harbor Expansion’s gameplay. If you missed our Machi Koro review, here’s a link.

In short, each player rolls the die (or dice) at the beginning of their turn. The die rolls, and when the numbers are rolled, affect which buildings produce money. Buildings are represented by cards and players can purchase new cards with their money but it’s the player who finishes all of their landmark cards (a group of cards each player begins the game with) first who wins the game.

Machi Koro: Harbor Cards

Machi Koro: Harbor does change the game a little bit. The largest difference between the base game and Machi Koro: Harbor Expansion is the fact that all games which use only the Machi Koro base game begin the same way: all of the purchasable buildings cards are available at the onset. Machi Koro: Harbor adds more building cards, and since you have extra cards to choose from, you shuffle all the building cards together and deal out ten unique ones. This makes each game unique.

Machi Koro: Harbor adds another three landmarks, making the game run a little longer for the folks who thought the base game was a little short, and the abilities these landmarks grant add new wrinkles to Machi Koro’s strategy.

Game Review:

I love the Machi Koro: Harbor Expansion but the same could be said about the base game when it first came out. I liked the Machi Koro base game a lot but after a while the playing experience felt canned. Don’t get me wrong, I still play the base game, especially with newbies, but after about five plays, people figure out which strategies work and the games begin to overlap. Machi Koro: Harbor’s addition of a variable market adds some much needed variety.

Machi Koro: Harbor Purple Cards (Special Buildings)

Sure, luck plays a larger role in Machi Koro: Harbor than it did in the base game but I don’t mind a slightly larger injection of luck into the game because building a good moneymaking engine is still the game’s core mechanism.

And yet I can’t ignore the increased role luck plays with Machi Koro: Harbor. I’ve played plenty of games with the Harbor Expansion and while most games have a balanced feel to them, there are some games where red buildings (buildings that allow you to steal money from other players) are too plentiful. Those few games took forever. You don’t get very far when players don’t generate money from the bank and merely swap coins between each other for five or ten minutes. Games like these are few and far between but they do happen and when they do, it’s usually after you played three or four games prior to that one and you curse yourself for not quitting while you were ahead.

Machi Koro: Harbor Fish Related Cards

Despite these occasional problem child games, if you enjoyed Machi Koro’s base game, you should pick up the Machi Koro: Harbor Expansion. The focus on fishing—it is a Harbor Expansion after all—reminds you of Machi Koro’s Japanese roots and the new ways in which you collect money is fast and enjoyable.


Machi Koro: Harbor adds some depth and game length—but not too much—to the base game’s light and fast city building mechanics. If you enjoyed Machi Koro, you should pick up Machi Koro: Harbor. In fact, I’d say that you should purchase the Harbor Expansion as you pick up Machi Koro because Harbor makes Machi Koro a full game.



You are a mad scientist inventing crazy machines to conquer the world; you even get your own set of minions. Can you build the best arsenal?

We’ll get back to Gru (Despicable Me) and company in a bit but let’s get the technical babble out of the way first.

The Fiddly Bits
Designer: Donald X. Vaccarino
Publisher: USAopoly
Date Released: 2011
Number of Players: 2-6
Age Range: 8 and up
Setup Time: Less than a minute
Play Time: 15-45 minutes
Game Mechanics:
Hand Management
Simultaneous Action Selection


Game Flow:

Every player starts with four of the same action cards (that denote the types of actions you can take; more on them later), five minions, three invention cards, and ten million dollars. You have to say that last part like Dr. Evil.

The goal of Nefarious is to build inventions. The first one to reach 20 victory points—or more—of inventions wins.

At the beginning of each turn, all the players simultaneously select the action they wish to take for that turn, placing their chosen action card face down. Once everyone has selected an action, all players reveal the action they wish to take.


Sample action cards

The four actions you can take on a turn are Work, Research, Invent, and Espionage.


Working gets you four million dollars. Money—money—money. Money!


Research Action Card

Research earns you two million dollars and allows you to draw another invention card. We could all use options.


Invent Action Card

Invent lets you play an invention card. You want to invent things as often as possible.


Espionage Action Card

Espionage is a little tricky. By taking the Espionage action, you can place a minion on any of the four action spaces. If someone to your left or right takes that action, you get one million dollars for each minion on that action space.


Minions split between all four actions

This allows you to either spread out your minions so you get money more often than not.


Minions loaded up on one action

Or loading up your minions on one action, so you can make a lot of money whenever an adjacent player takes that action.

Now that we have the actions out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the invention cards.

CarnivorousKudzuInventionCard AgingRayInventionCard AcceleratorInventionCard

Sample Invention Cards

Invention cards have a cost, in millions of dollars, in their upper left hand corner. The victory points they grant you are in the bottom left hand corner, along with any effects the invention might have. A green arrow pointed at you means that you’re affected by the invention. Three red arrows pointed away from you are effects that affect your opponents.


Some effects can affect your and your opponents’ money.


Others target your or your opponents’ invention cards in hand.


And some even manipulate the minions on the board.

Sometimes you’ll have more than one player inventing on a turn and that’s okay. The numbers in the bottom right hand corner function as a timer: the lower the number, the sooner you can play the invention.

Timing can be important as some inventions target players’ hands and/or money. If you have a high numbered invention, you may no longer have the invention card in hand or have the money to build the invention after other players with lower timers construct their inventions.

Again, the first player to earn 20 victory points or more in inventions wins. If more than one player reaches or eclipses 20 victory points on the same turn, the player who has the most points wins. If there’s still a tie, play until the tie is broken.


Sample plot twist cards

Oh, there is one last thing. There are larger cards called plot twists. They affect the game in unpredictable ways. We get quite a few of them in Nefarious and this changes up the gameplay.

Game Review:

I love Nefarious’s theme and its plot twist cards, even though the plot twists can be brutal. Some twists can speed up the game—awesome—while others slow the game to a crawl—not-so-awesome.

Overall, Nefarious is a fun and fast game but I can see why a lot of critics rated it low during its first release. Nefarious comes in a large box for what is essentially a filler game, a short game that passes the time and cleanses ones palette between larger games. What’s worse is that the not-so-awesome plot twists can punish players too much and slow down the gameplay until Nefarious takes up as much time as a game with more meat.


Nefarious’s designer Donald X. Vaccarino, who also designed Dominion, isn’t known for very deep and long games, and Nefarious is no different. Many gamers wanted more of a departure for Vaccarino; they wanted more complexity. But Nefarious does have plenty of replayability and a different flavor than Dominion. Nefarious’s negative reviews may have been a case of an overhyped game rather than a poor game.

When it first came out, Nefarious received moderate play and sales. Now that the new has worn off, Nefarious has returned for a second printing and some gamers are finding out that it was a better game than they had originally thought.

It’s not ground-breaking like many had hoped, but Nefarious is a solid filler game that if you were to purchase it, you’d get plenty of plays and enjoyment out of it. Plus, how great is it to command your own minions?

7 Wonders: Leaders


Some of the greatest ancient civilizations find leadership with 7 Wonders’ first expansion. Who will guide your civilization to victory?

We’ll get to the game review in a bit, but we must kneel before the game demigods first.

The Fiddly Bits
Designer: Antoine Bauza
Publisher: Asmodee
Date Released: 2011
Number of Players: 2-7 (best with 4)
Age Range: 12 and up
Setup Time: about 10 minutes
Play Time: around 40 minutes (adds about 5-10 minutes to the base game)
Game Mechanisms:
Card Drafting
Set Collection
Simultaneous Action Selection
Variable Player Powers


Game Flow:

We covered the 7 Wonders game flow in a previous review. Here’s a link if you missed it.

The most important thing 7 Wonders: Leaders adds is leader cards. Each leader has their own unique ability that can guide you toward victory.

Game Review:

I don’t know if there’s a more polarizing board game expansion. Some people never play a game of 7 Wonders without 7 Wonders: Leaders. Other folks will leave the table if you intend to play with it. The crux of this debate rests with the first round’s gameplay.

With no 7 Wonders: Leaders, you collect stuff and form a plan of attack as you draft cards. This style of play leads to a free flowing game with nothing becoming concrete until the second round—sometimes mid to late second round. Some folks love that 7 Wonders is this fluid. Others don’t. This second set of gamers are the ones who’ll want to play with Leaders.


Alexander, Tomyris, and Caesar Leader Cards

7 Wonders: Leaders adds a little structure to the first round of play, which can be a good thing because while you can win 7 Wonders by any means, you can’t win by every means. You’ll have to commit to a victory condition of some kind and some folks like drawing into a leader. If you draw Caesar, Alexander, or Hannibal, you’re probably going for a military victory because what else would Caesar do? The same thing applies to leaders like Archimedes, Pythagoras, and Aristotle and science victories. The pen is mightier than the sword but you wouldn’t bring a pen to a sword fight.


Hypatia, Archimedes, and Pythagoras Leader Cards

The debate goes back and forth. I fall somewhere in the middle of the two trains of thought but I find that teaching someone how to play 7 Wonders is easier with Leaders, even though there’s an extra step. 7 Wonders: Leaders serves as training wheels for an easy game to play but one that’s also difficult to master and win.


If you own 7 Wonders, you should own 7 Wonders: Leaders. It makes for a good teaching tool for new gamers and you can always gauge your gaming group for who is willing to play with Leaders. If you get a lot of nays, you could always play without it, but you’re just as likely to get more yays.

Super Tooth

Gather your herd of plant-eating dinosaurs while avoiding those pesky carnivores.

Super Tooth is an easy to learn set collection game, geared towards a younger audience. This light and fast game can introduce kids to gaming and to new dinosaurs.

We’ll get to the game flow and review in a bit but we have to cover the technical stuff first.

Designer: Neil J. Opitz
Publisher: Farm Fresh Games and Gamewright
Date Released: 2014
Number of Players: 2-4
Age Range: 5 and up
Setup Time: 5-10 minutes
Play Time: 45-60 minutes (less for a family game)
Game Mechanics:
Press Your Luck
Set Collection


Game Flow:

The object of Super Tooth is to collect three teeth – or super teeth – before any other player. You earn teeth by collecting sets of herbivores. We’ll talk more about collecting herbivores in a short while but let’s set up the game first.

You begin the game by shuffling the Super Tooth deck, and at the beginning of each player’s turn, including the first player’s first turn, you place cards from the draw pile face up until there are three face up cards in the landscape (central playing area).


Example of the central playing area

On your turn, you may add all the face-up herbivores of the same type to your hand. Let’s say that three iguanodons wander into the landscape on your first turn. You lucked out and can grab them for a set and one super tooth, but most of the time, you’ll only be able to add one plant-eating dino card at a time to your hand. Thankfully, you have no hand size. Collect to your heart’s content.


A set of three plateosaurus

Carnivores aren’t as nice as herbivores. If they show up in the landscape, they prevent you from collecting a plant-eater on your turn unless you deal with them. Each carnivore has their favorite type of herbivore that they like to eat. You can discard an herbivore of the type that carnivore likes from the landscape if it’s in play or you can discard that carnivore’s favorite herbivore snack from your hand.

SuperToothSarcosuchus  SuperToothAnatotitan

The meat-eater sarcosuchus likes to eat the anatotitan (the meal preference of all dinos is located in the top right-hand corner of the cards)

If you don’t have the carnivore’s dinner handy, you can also use the triceratops to chase them away. While you can collect three or more triceratops for a set, just like any other herbivore, you’ll want to keep them on hand just in case you run across any meat-eaters because if you don’t appease or scare off the carnivore, you’re not collecting an herbivore.

There’s a third type of card: events. These cards can be good, bad, or indifferent. I won’t go into detail about what each event does but keep in mind that each one has a global effect of some kind.


At the end of your turn, you may exchange sets of herbivore cards from your hand for teeth. Three of a kind gets you a tooth, four of a kind earns you a tooth and an extra plant-eater from the landscape, you get two teeth for five of a kind, and if you collect and turn in six plant-eaters of the same type, you win with an automatic three teeth.

Game Review:

Super Tooth is easy to learn and quick to play, which is perfect for a filler game (a short game you play in between, or as a warm up to, longer games), but I don’t know if it has a lot of appeal outside of the younger demographic Gamewright has targeted.


What comes in the Gamewright version of the game

Luck plays too large of a role for me to suggest Super Tooth for older gamers. Did you see how I ended the game flow with a whopping six of a kind winning you the game? Yeah, that’s not happening. Super Tooth devolves into a simple flip the card over and react to it game, and the best way to win is by collecting three plant-eaters and then turning them in as soon as you get them. Repeat this process until you have three teeth.

Most of the events are neutral and some are even interesting. One event adds another card to the landscape, so you have four cards in which to choose. Another event, the meteor, resets all other rules and benefits gained from other events and discards all the cards in the landscape. But there is one event that forces players to turn in their hands to a communal pot, shuffle all the cards, and then redistribute the cards evenly to all the players at the table. What’s the point of me collecting cards when the game takes those cards away from me?

Okay, I see why that one hand stealing event’s in the deck. This mechanism levels the playing field so adults can’t gang up on kids, and this illustrates how Super Tooth is geared toward young children of about five to eight years old.


Super Tooth is fun for the younger crowd (5-8 years old) but older gamers might want to look elsewhere like Dominant Species for their dinosaur card game adventure.


Pandemic: Contagion

You are the disease that will end humanity and there is no cure. Can your disease net the largest kill count?

We’ll get to Pandemic: Contagion’s infectious fun but let’s wash our hands with some game details first.

The Fiddly Bits
Designer: Carey Grayson
Publisher: Asmodee and Z-Man Games
Date Released: 2014
Number of Players: 2-5 (best with 5)
Age Range: 13 and up
Setup Time: minimal
Play Time: about 30 minutes
Game Mechanisms:
Area Control/Area Influence
Hand Management

Game Flow:


Each player has their own Petri dish, player board, score marker, and disease cubes in their color.

The player boards have rankings for three things: Incubation, Infection, and Resistance. These rankings are your mutation levels. Place one of your disease cubes on the Level 1 position of each mutation on your board. The rest of the cubes go in your Petri dish for safe keeping.


Hand of Contagion cards and Player Board

Shuffle and deal 4 Contagion cards to each player and set the remaining cards aside as a draw pile. There are only six types of Contagion cards, representing the regions you can infect.

Then you shuffle and, according to how many players are in the game, deal a number of City cards faceup in the middle of the table. Set the remaining City cards aside—they won’t be needed.


City Cards

Starting with the last player (players determine play order in some fashion) and moving counter-clockwise, each player places 1 of their disease cubes in a city of their choice.

Then you shuffle the Event and WHO (World Health Organization) cards separately and, without looking, remove 3 of each type from the game. With the remaining cards, build the Event deck (from the bottom up):  1 WHO card, 3 Event cards, 1 WHO card, 3 Event cards, 1 WHO card, and 3 Event cards, for a total of 12 cards. This is the graphic Contagion gives in its rulebook.


Event Cards

At the start of each round, reveal the top card from the Event deck (Event cards usually have positive effects, while WHO cards are trying to stop you, the disease) and read the text aloud for everyone. Sometimes you’ll resolve the event at the beginning of the round (the card will tell you how) but most of the time, you’ll resolve the event during each player’s turn. Starting with the first player, resolve the event and take two actions. When that player’s finished, play continues clockwise.


WHO Cards

You have 3 available actions on your turn and you can take them in any order: draw cards, infect a city, and mutate your disease. You can draw as many cards from the Contagion draw pile as your Incubation mutation allows, so long as you don’t exceed the maximum hand size of 9. Infecting a city allows you to place a number of cubes on a city, up to your Infection level, by discarding Contagion cards of the same region as the city you wish to infect. You can also discard Contagion cards to mutate your disease, making your disease stronger.

Each city card has a population number (in millions of people) in the top right-hand corner; every disease cube counts as one million infected souls. Once there are disease cubes equal to a city’s population, stop playing disease cubes (there’s no one left to infect). Discard the city—everyone living there is dead—and tally up the points of that city. The disease with the most cubes scores the top number, the one with the second most gets the second number on the city, and third place gets the bottom number.


Close Up of New York

When the last WHO card is revealed or when there are only two cities left on the table, complete the round and end the game. The player with the highest kill count wins.

Game Review:

Contagion is the only Pandemic spinoff or expansion not designed by Matt Leacock, and it shows. It’s the only game in the series that’s competitive—and that’s okay—but it isn’t as fine-tuned as the other games and the puzzle the game presents can be a little easy to solve.

There are few cards that will hurt your disease and if you play your cards right, they’ll have little to no effect. The WHO cards can slow you down but there are only three of them in the Event deck, and you have three rounds with which to prepare for them.

Each WHO card does one of three things: you discard Contagion cards, you remove Infection blocks from a city, or you weaken your disease. Players who manage their hands won’t have to worry about discarding Contagion cards; they’ll either have few or no Contagion cards when a WHO card comes around. If you manage to kill off the cities with a lot of your infection blocks, you won’t lose too many of those either. All the while, you can lower your Resistance level and ignore the effects of one card, and you start off with one level of Resistance.


Close Up of a WHO Card

Still, the WHO cards’ lack of venom is a nice departure from the usual Pandemic fare. Pandemic games stack the deck against its players. Contagion’s strategy elements lie in the interaction between players. You have a little bit of luck, drawing into the right Contagion cards, but once you build up your engine, Contagion gets easy.

Don’t get me wrong, Contagion is a load of fun. It’s also a great change of pace for the Pandemic brand: it’s competitive and you play as the disease. But once you figure out how to properly manage your hand and resources, Contagion proves to be a light-weight in the Pandemic family. I’m not saying I win all the time but I don’t tend to finish in last place either.


Pandemic: Contagion isn’t as heady as the other members of the Pandemic family but it’s a nice addition. If you love Pandemic or the idea of being a disease trying to wipe out humanity, you should give Contagion a try.

Mr. Jack

One of Mr. Jack’s two players is Jack the Ripper, and he’s on the loose in Whitechapel. The second of Mr. Jack’s players is a detective tasked with tracking down Mr. Jack. Will Mr. Jack escape capture or will the long arm of the law bring him to justice?

We’ll get to the gruesome good stuff in a little bit but first, let’s cover the technical nitty gritty.

The Fiddly Bits

Designer: Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc
Publisher: Hurrican
Date Released: 2006
Number of Players: 2
Age Range: 9 and up
Setup Time: less than 10 minutes
Play Time: around 30 minutes
Game Mechanics:
Grid Movement
Variable Player Powers


Game Flow:

The game is set up the same way and it looks like this.


The two players sit across from each other with the detective player positioned so the board faces them. When the board is set, the player who is Mr. Jack selects a card from the alibi deck. The character depicted on this card is Mr. Jack in disguise. The Mr. Jack player puts this card aside—not showing it to the detective—and the first round begins.

Each round has both players taking turns moving the suspects. If a suspect is beside a lighted lamppost or adjacent to another suspect, they’re considered “seen.” If a suspect is neither beside another suspect nor adjacent to a lighted lamppost space, they’re “unseen.”


After both players have made their moves (they’ll both move two suspects per round), the player who is Mr. Jack tells the detective whether or not Mr. Jack is “seen” or “unseen.” The detective can then check off any innocent suspects—by flipping over the suspect tokens which are two sided, so you can still move the suspect even after they’ve been cleared.


Play continues for up to eight rounds or until Mr. Jack is apprehended or escapes.

The detective must successfully deduce who the real Mr. Jack is and then move another suspect token into the same space to arrest the killer. This is the only way the detective player can win.

Mr. Jack can win in three ways: escaping Whitechapel without detection (there are four exits on the game board), the detective choosing the wrong person (Mr. Jack escapes in the mayhem that ensues), or the detective runs out of time.

Game Review:

I don’t know if Mr. Jack over-sensationalizes the most famous serial killer in history or not, but the gameplay is solid gold.

This game is a tasty blend of Clue and Chess with a little cat and mouse added for good measure. The production value is above reproach, and the gameplay will keep you entertained for hours. Even so, Mr. Jack has a puzzle feel to it and after a while, once you’ve grown accustomed to the suspects and their various powers—each suspect can do something unique to the board—and you’ve played with someone enough, you’ll find the puzzle easier to solve.


Fortunately, Hurrican has released Mr. Jack Extension, which adds more playing time, but you shouldn’t have to run out and buy it right away. Mr. Jack is a fun take on the deduction game genre and should be in most gamers’ libraries, especially if you love mysteries.


Mr. Jack is a must own for deduction game fans or someone who likes and plays a lot of two player games. Sometimes you can’t find more than one other player for game nights.