15 Quick Board Game Reviews in One Article
Last year, at the UK Games Expo, we bought 15 games. Some of these board games have been mentioned a lot over the past year – Blood Rage, for instance, is a game I have written article after article about. Other games, I haven’t mentioned even once. Well, today, as we count down to the UKGE 2018, I thought we would take a look at all fifteen, and try to review all of them in one article.
We’re nothing if not ambitious here at Start Your Meeples.
To keep everything concise, I’m only going to write a two-paragraph review of each one and give a verdict. Some of these I have written full reviews for in the past, others I will write full reviews for in the future – for now though, let’s limit it to around 200 words(ish) for each one. I will look to be as fair as possible within those two hundred words or so, but will try to do each game justice with a full review at some point in the future.
I’ve put these in alphabetical order, for no other reason than I can. The games are:
- Arkham Horror
- Blood Rage
- Dead of Winter: The Long Night
- Descent: Journeys in the Dark
- Flash Point: Fire Rescue
- Frankenstein’s Bodies
- Gang Up!
- Jump Ship!
- Sub Terra
- Timeline: General Interest
- Tiny Epic Westerns
Let’s do this.
It is easy to see why Arkham Horror is so popular. It is a cooperative card game, however, it is a competitive one. This may sound like a contradiction and yet it is a deck-building game with a difference. All the players play together to try to defeat the game.
Arkham Horror is Cthulhu themed, which may put some players off; however, it is a Cthulhu theme by Fantasy Flight. What this means is the game is incredibly well thought through, with players creating, optimising, and leveling up a deck as they go through the game. Each player takes the role of one of five investigators, and battles for good as they must work together to explore, tackle evil, and rescue the world from impending doom. It is great fun, and although we haven’t played a huge amount we look forward to playing it again in the future.
Biblios has what sounds to be one of the driest themes of any game, and yet, it is a really enjoyable 20-minute excursion. Immaculately presented, the players in Biblios play the part of monks looking to collect the right kind of ingredients to make the right kinds of books. It is a fantastic little game that has firmly made its way into our four player sorbet game collection.
One of the reasons I fell in love with Biblios is because it has a really innovative way of using dice, that is one I have not seen in any other game. Rather than roll them, they are used as markers showing end game points. It may sound dry, and the theme probably isn’t for everyone, but the dice mechanic plus a really interesting auction mechanic means there is a lot of player interaction within this small game.
Verdict: Never judge a book by its cover.
Blood Rage is Eric M. Lang at his finest. It is a game of violence, vengeance, and viciously trying to tear one another apart as the players play the parts of Viking Clans looking to gain as much glory as possible before Ragnarok destroys the world.
One of the things that made Blood Rage stand out, bar the amazing miniatures, is the kinds of strategies available to the player as they battle it out for glory. Each god has a different ability and focus, with each clan being able to be upgraded and boosted as they play the game. It isn’t an overly long game, only lasting around 45mins to an hour, but in that time there is a lot of content crammed into the experience. Originally, we purchased it based on the beauty of the minis; however, moving forward, we are glad we own it due to how refined the gameplay is. Unfortunately, it is also a bit of a faff to get out and put away. Overlooking that though, it is a thoroughly enjoyable game.
Dead of Winter: The Long Night
Speaking of games that take a long time to get out and put away, Dead of Winter: The Long Night is a zombie-filled epic with a strong emphasis on story. The players each take control of a set of survivors of a zombie apocalypse, needing to loot, raid, and kill zombies to survive. There is a whole town to explore, aiming to fulfill missions with a really strong narrative focus. Everything can happen from a zombie outbreak, to frostbite, to random events and strangers turning up, to even a mechanic where one player is a traitor.
There is a heck of a lot of gameplay crammed within Dead of Winter: The Long Night meaning that it is both a vast game and a surprisingly deep one. It can have dark moments, as well as good ol’ fashioned zombie-slayin’ fun. There are also a huge number of expansions provided for the game as well, expansions that, even after owning the game for a year, we have not fully explored yet. The artwork is beautiful. The gameplay is stunning. The philosophy is deep. I love this game, I just wish the box insert was better to make it easier to pack away.
Verdict: To die for.
Descent: Journeys In The Dark
After playing Star Wars: Imperial Assault, we could not wait to get our hands on Fantasy Flight’s Descent: Journeys in the Dark. It is, after all, the game the mechanics from Star Wars: Imperial Assault are based on, but rather than being set in the Star Wars universe, it is a dungeon crawler, based in a Dungeons and Dragons style setting.
Where Imperial Assault was gripping from beginning to end, our foray into the world of Descent left us somewhat lacklustre about the game. Yes, it is a very aesthetically pleasing game; however, it is also a game that needed some refinement. This refinement was later tackled within Imperial Assault, which is, in my opinion, a superior game. That being said, I don’t hate Descent. I believe that with the right group it could be a fantastic experience; however, it requires the players to put a bit more effort into getting into the theme of the game than Imperial Assault does. Granted, that is probably more a fault of us than the game itself. It is a fun game, but, for the aforementioned reasons, it neither gripped or held us as long as I thought it could. That and it possibly has the worst designed box insert in history, which made it more effort than it was worth for us at the time setting it up and putting away. It is worth noting that I am looking to play more of Descent in the future as tastes do change over time. Who knows what will happen then?
Verdict: A bit of a crawl.
Flash Point: Fire Rescue
We purchased Flash Point: Fire Rescue as a bit of a whim. Our friends wanted to play it, and we saw it for a reasonable price so decided to pounce. When we got back from the Expo last year we decided to crack it open and take a look right away. Immediately, it divided us.
Personally, I am a fan of Flash Point. Firstly, I believe it has a strong set of gameplay, using an interesting house exploration mechanic where you need to save survivors from a burning home, not necessarily knowing where they are. The fire mechanic and the way it spread is also interesting and well done. Secondly, I really enjoyed the theme. It is a novel idea, and one that I feel runs deeply throughout the game. My girlfriend was less impressed, however. She generally enjoyed it but she found the theme dry. Her comment is – for a game that is all about rescuing people, it didn’t convey the urgency she expected. This is a fair comment, so I guess whether you would enjoy Flash Point comes down to whether you can get along with a Fire Rescue theme or not. I can, but others may struggle.
Who doesn’t love the idea of a game about creating your own Frankenstein’s monster? This is the idea behind Frankenstein’s Bodies, a game in which you play as the mad scientists looking to create a monster out of the highest quality body parts you can.
It’s a strong theme, with gameplay designed around the notion that you want to harvest the best body parts you can, as well as make your opponent’s body parts fester as much as possible. The idea is a novel one, and one with a lot of legs (if you’ll pardon the pun). That being said, the scoring mechanic struggles to keep up with the game and can swing the game purely out of luck. The scoring takes place over two rounds, one of which is the end game; however, the players can add an additional level of scoring midway through the game as well. This just didn’t work when we played, and the whole thing felt a bit disjointed. The artwork also feels isometric, which doesn’t hugely fit in with the theme, and this helps emphasise the small parts of the game that don’t quite work. It is a valiant effort; however, it isn’t for us.
Verdict: More Gene Wilder than Mary Shelley.
Gang Up! is a game we purchased at the last Expo to fit in with the £10 challenge we do every year. We playtested it and enjoyed it as a Munchkin style take-that game with a little more to it in the missions department. Players have to build up their gang of gangsters, and partake in missions to score points on their own personal points tracker. The first player to reach a target number of points wins.
Gang Up! is a great idea for a game. The gameplay is very Munchkin-esque and potentially quite enjoyable; however, I have to be honest and say we were disappointed with the overall experience. Namely, some of the components (wooden tokens needed for the scoring tracks) were not included in the game. This meant the game felt like it was missing a vital piece, and the lack of storage space within the box means it suffers from us needing to open up another game to use the components whenever we want to play. In the end, we usually end up playing that other game instead. It’s a good concept for a game, but when you need to open up another great game to use the components, then it never really stands a chance.
Verdict: Sleeps with the fishes.
Jump Ship! is a decksploration game that we also purchased thanks to the £10 challenge we do every year. It is a small exploration game in which the players are looking for glory on the high sea. They can fight. They can search for treasure. They can fend off sharks etc. You turn one card and it gives you two options. You then follow one of those options to reveal another set of options and so on and so forth.
That being said, Jump Ship is also kind of restrictive and only needs to be played once to get the most out of the game. Since it only takes 20 minutes to play, this means that it has one of the worst returns on investment of any game. Three of us played, and we worked it out to be something like £8 per hour per person who played. It was fun whilst we played it, but we did find ourselves wishing for a little more replayability. Since we last played it just under a year ago, we are probably just about ready to pick it up and have a go again, but it didn’t really engage with us the first time around. It was a bit too simplistic. A nice idea, but not a huge amount there in the content department.
To be honest, Multiuniversum was also in the £10 challenge; however, it is a game with a theme unlike any other. You are scientists at Cern. Things went wrong with the Large Hadron Collider. You have opened up doorways to loads of parallel dimensions in which everything is different and most things are bad. It is now up to you to sort it out. You made this mess – now you must fix it.
I love Multiuniversum. It is a fun little game we have played with quite a few groups of people, one with absolutely stunning artwork and well-refined gameplay, that everyone seems to have enjoyed. Multiuniversum takes the point-to-point movement mechanic to a whole new level. It is a small box game, one that can feel a bit cold at times, yet it also has a huge amount of creativity and heart behind the scenes. Neither of us regrets having bought Multiuniversum, and we still play it relatively regularly even now and even as we gain exposure to different kinds of tabletop games. It is a sorbet game (a term I have used a few times in this article now, and which means a small game between larger games) with a difference because of how in-depth the theme is. We all love it this end and can’t wait to see what Board&Dice, Grey Fox Games, and Last Level have to show us at the Expo this year.
Verdict: Out of this world.
So far as ambition goes, Redacted (also known as [Redacted]) has it all. It is a spy-based espionage game in which you, as players, need to infiltrate a building to try and get information from one another. It is a hidden role game, with each room being able to do a different thing. There is a lot to explore, a lot of tools at your disposal, and a lot of potential wrapped up in one board game.
That being said, where Redacted reaches for lofty heights, for us it never really got there. Due to how much the game tries to do, it never quite reaches where it wants you to be. The fact that every room can do something different, and you are searching for items that you don’t always understand, trying to find out things that you don’t necessarily know about, maybe an accurate representation of being a bewildered spy; however, in reality, it slows the game down. We found we were always looking through the rulebook to try and clarify what something meant or whether something is was what we thought it was. It takes a long time to learn, yet somehow I can’t help but shake the feeling there is a great game buried beneath all the rules.
Verdict: Better than Die Another Day, not as good as GoldenEye.
Out of all the games we bought at the UKGE last year, there is one that stands out as our most played. Scrawl is an adult party game that mixes Telestrations with Cards Against Humanity to create a game of Chinese Whispers and really bad drawings.
Scrawl is one of those games that appeals to everyone. It is a game we have played with the in-laws, grandparents, and cousins, as well as friends and colleagues, and everyone has had a good time with it. It is one of those games that is all inclusive as players badly draw an item, phrase, or thing, cover it up and the next person has to guess what it is. They write down what they think it is, cover it up, and the next player has to draw what was written. It goes around and around until you end up with a series of drawings that are as warped as the players playing. It is because of Scrawl that we got introduced to the company Big Potato and we have purchased a few of their games since. We are really excited to see what party games they have on the market this year as I have to admit, they are probably one of THE companies to watch on the party game scene at the moment.
Verdict: Even better than “shaving a llama”.
One of the big surprises of last year was Sub Terra by ITB Games. Not only did they have one of the largest play areas out of any company, but they were showcasing one of the most innovative games on the market – Sub Terra, a game about cavers who get trapped and have to make it out alive. It is a tile placement game with RPG elements, mixing together all the best parts of Carcassonne, Pandemic, and even dungeon-crawling games like Descent.
What Sub Terra does really well is instilling horror in the player. There is a real sense of urgency in the game, and it helps embody the terror the game is all about. There are risks of floods, cave-ins, tremors, and even monsters that will make your life hell underneath the ground. The whole game is a race against time, a race against nature, and a race against the things that go bump in the night. It is a game we break out regularly with all kinds of gaming groups, and one we thoroughly enjoy every single time we play. Yes, there is a large amount of luck, but that is all part of the terror of being trapped underground.
Timeline: General Interest
Timeline is one of those franchises where we knew what to expect going in and just wanted our own copy of the game. There are all kinds of Timeline out on the market now. It is a game about needing to arrange events in time in the right order, where if you place correctly you lose your card, and if you place incorrectly you discard it and draw again. The first player to lose their entire hand wins. It’s a simple game, and yet one which is, for want of a better word, timeless.
That being said, Timeline: General Interest is not our favourite rendition of Timelines. It isn’t as varied as other versions of Timeline because it seems to mostly be about when certain things were invented. Where this is not necessarily a bad thing, it does mean the game can sometimes feel a bit repetitive. Keeping that in mind, however, it is one of the best sorbet games on the market. It is quick to play, interesting, and educational – and sometimes that is all you need out of a game.
Verdict: A good time.
Tiny Epic Western
So, at last, we come to the final game on the list. Tiny Epic Western is a small box game designed to pack as much of a punch as possible. It is part worker placement, part gambling, part city builder, and has a lot of content and atmosphere within the box. We haven’t played it a huge amount; however, it has seemed interesting every time we played.
Personally, I really like the theme and I believe it has certain aspects, like the worker placement and points allocation mechanic, that work really well. That being said, it is not a perfect game. There are other mechanics, like a weird poker mechanic, that you will either love or hate. It has split people we have played with where some think it works well and some think it detracts from the overall experience. As someone who has played most of the entries in the Tiny Epic series, I like Tiny Epic Western the second most (it goes Kingdoms, Western, Defenders, Galaxies, and then Quest in my opinion) and it is a solid entry in the franchise. It does make me look forward to the Tiny Epic Zombies that I believe will be coming out later on this year.
Verdict: Gunfight at the O.K. Game
There you go. Fifteen different two paragraph reviews in one article. As I said, the games I haven’t yet written full reviews for I will almost certainly review in the future bar maybe one or two exceptions. Some of the games on this list already have reviews on this blog that you can read, a percentage of which I have written strategy articles or other articles about as well.
So what about you? Are there any games that interest you more than others on this list? Which stand out, and are there any games that you would recommend off this list of games? Let me know in the comments below.
Interesting what you say about Descent. I’ve been trying to decide if this is for us or not, for over a year! I’m still not sure, I’m a sucker for dungeon crawlers! Timelines is great, we’ve got three of these. They’re ideal for passing 20 minutes or so, and great for history buffs. The Tiny Epic games are an interesting breed. I’m looking at galaxies as an Expo purchase. I don’t know much about Redacted, but that’s peeked my interest, and Sub Terra is another one I keep considering.
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Sub Terra I would definitely recommend. The Tiny Epic games seem to vary quite a lot. I love the first few, but Quests just fell flat for me. If you love dungeon crawlers then Descent may be a good choice. It’s certainly less expensive than other dungeon crawlers (Gloomhaven etc.) and still has that epic feel that dungeon crawlers need that you are fighting for the greater good. If you prefer the fantasy setting to sci-fi then it is certainly a good option. As I said, with the right group I can imagine it being amazing – so our experience with Descent may be more down to us than the game – if you have a good group in mind then it may be worth exploring (no pun intended).
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I play Gloomhaven solo. D&D Temple of Elemental Evil, I play with my daughter, and she really loves it, but it is co-op. Descent would be the next step, she’s quite competitive so it might be good to compete against her! I agree with Tiny Epic series, some are great others not so.
I’ll keep an eye out for Sub Terra at the Expo, though my ‘wants’ list is already WAY too long!
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Blood Rage is one game I’d like to get my hands on, it looks right up my street. But since Gloomhaven, nothing else has got a look in. I got my KS copy of Zombicide Green Horde a few months back and still haven’t played it.
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I completely get that. There is just so much content to get through with Gloomhaven. We tend to do Gloomhaven in day long sessions – so we use other games as our sorbet/ice cream between big gaming days. Blood Rage is perfect for that as it only takes around an hour to play.
We just don’t get together to play games all that much at the moment and we’re kind of hooked on Gloomhaven. So I will probably hold off for a little while.
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Also chiming in on the Descent front, what were the main reasons you didn’t find it gripping? Was it because of those things that it felt like an effort, or because of something else. Personally I didn’t have a great time with Descent, but maybe because I wasn’t that good at it? We were playing two player as well and I wondered if it benefitted from having a small group vs the ‘dungeon master’. A penny for your thoughts!
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I think it definitely benefits from a small group, rather than one-on-one. As for why we didn’t find it gripping – that’s hard to nail down. I think it is the campaign compared to the taste of the group we played it with. There were only three of us, and with me DM-ing (for want of a better term) there wasn’t as much strategising for the players. As I say in the review – it’s far from a bad game, but the setting and story just wasn’t our taste at the time.
I am looking to revisit it again this year (for me the board game year goes from June to June as that is both when the UKGE is on and also when I started this blog) with a bigger group, when I will review the game more fully. Until then however, it sparked our interest, but it didn’t fan that spark into a full on flame.
Ambitious project, successful execution! So much review in so few words. Kudos!
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Thank you very much 🙂
Nice! Love the flash review style!
I backed the [Redacted] Kickstarter, thinking it would be a great game. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to learn the rules, and even harder to teach other people. With every room having its own set of rules, it is not very new player friendly. Also the scenarios change things up, good if the game is great and you want to keep playing it over and over. Bad if you just want to break it out and get people interested in it. Because of the lack of table time, it’s on its way out the door.
I would rate the Tiny Epic games differently, so that’s where we differ. I find TEG to be the best and most innovative game. Next, TEK, just because it’s enjoyable and a great little 4x in a small box! TEW and TEQ are probably tied, both okay games, but often confusing mechanics/gameplay, which means I don’t want to bother breaking them out. TED is last on my list, because I just find COOP games to be so artificial. I don’t like the ‘us vs a dumb deck of cards’ feel I get from most of those games.
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Ahh so it isn’t just us with Redacted. That’s really interesting what you say there.
That’s fair about the Tiny Epic games. As you say, we differ there. I’ve only played Tiny Epic Galaxies once, but the game lasted so long I have to admit I wasn’t a huge fan. I prefer Western because of the theme.
I disagree with you on Coop games though – they don’t have to be artificial! Look at games like Pandemic and Gloomhaven 🙂
I haven’t played Gloomhaven. Pandemic was “ok”. But I’m still just not a fan of Co-op games. I’ve tried several, but seems like they just aren’t to my liking.
Did you play TEG with the expansion? Because that can be a really, really long game. Without, it didn’t seem that long. I love the theme and art of TEW. I was hoping it would be really fun, but sadly we just find it too clunky overall.
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No I haven’t. I’m guessing you wouldn’t recommend? Yeah, I would agree with that for TEW. Still, it feels very Clint Eastwood/Western and I have to tip my imaginary hat to that!
What about semi-co-operative games like Betrayal at House on the Hill? Or Social Deduction games like Spyfall or Deception: Murder in Hong Kong? Those are kind of co-op games?
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Oh, I would recommend TEG with the expansion. Just be prepared for it run longer. It was also a bit of ‘learn as we go’ game, so there’s that. The added elements, like pilots, are a nice touch though.
I haven’t played Betrayal, Spyfall, or Deception. I liked The Resistance back when we were first learning it. I’d still play it, but the novelty has worn off. In general, I’ve liked Social Deduction games. Secret Hitler was pretty fun. I’ve also played Codenames with large groups, and that was pretty fun.
Codenames is good, and Secret Hitler is fun, although I can’t work out the strategy for the life of me. It confuses me, Faust! I can’t work it out!
I would genuinely recommend Deception if you enjoyed The Resistance. It is a superb game where a series of detectives need to find the murderer in their midst. You may enjoy it 🙂
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I’m sure you’ll develop a secret strategy to that game eventually! You can do it!
Awesome, I’ll keep an eye out for Deception!
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