Castles of Mad King Ludwig Hits iPhone, iPad, and Android

Castles of Mad King Ludwig, one of my favorite games, has just joined the growing digital board game collection that’s available on the iOS and Android App Stores.

Nominated for 6 Golden Geek Awards, and winner of the Meeples’ Choice Award and the Mensa Select Award, Castles of Mad King Ludwig has always been a game that appealed to intelligent and discriminating board gamers, and now it appeals to board gamers that are budgeting money or time.  Not only is the App version a fraction of the cost of the boxed version, it can also be played on not just tablets, but phones, so that busy people can find some time to play vs. AI on their break at work.

Those that like to play digital board games with real people, whether via Bluetooth or online, will be disappointed, as the app version of Castles of Mad King Ludwig currently only supports “pass and play.”  However, players can post their castles on Facebook or Twitter through the app, rather than the long way around of taking a screenshot and inserting it into a post, as most board game apps currently require you to do.

That digital board games are a big deal in App Stores can be read by just how fast the digital version of Castles of Mad King Ludwig is climbing the charts:  as of this writing it is already number 283 on the list of paid apps in the Amazon App Store (as well as number 2 on the list of paid board game apps on Amazon, which is more attributable to the game’s great word of mouth among board gamers).  I can attest that is is really hard to resist buying a game digitally that you already have great fun playing on game night.


Buy Castles of Mad King Ludwig on the Amazon Android App Store

If you’re on iPhone like me, download here:

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Catan Blues: The Production Trap

Yesterday, I mentioned what I call the “build to win” strategy, which i consider the most common strategy among Settlers of Catan players, no matter how long their attachment to the game. Many probably don’t even consider this method of playing Catan as a strategy, but instead just consider it as the way that you play the game: you build roads to build resource-producing settlements, and upgrade settlements to make cities that produce twice as many resources.

“Build to win” players rarely buy development cards, as an investment into development cards, to the intuitive or “build to win” player, is seen as a non-productive buy. Development cards only rarely produce resources (4 out of 25 cards), unlike the more solid investment potential of settlements and cities, that do produce resources when the correct dice are rolled. Often, when four people are playing in Catan in this classic way, development cards are only bought in order to short one’s hand so as to avoid being a target for the robber, or at a late stage in the game after a deadlock caused by extensive road building and the cumulative reduction of available building spots through strategic, defensive, settlement placing and the “rule of one.” I have seen entire games played with only one or two development card purchases, as “build to win” players can’t get past their intuitive risk-assessment of buying development cards. The trap in this thinking goes like this: “I have an ore, a wheat, and a wool which I could use to buy a development card, but would it not be better to attempt trading the ore or the wool towards producing either a new settlement or a city upgrade that will increase the amount of resources coming to me?”

This “build to win” strategy is logical during the turn in question, but not when thinking of subsequent dice rolls by other players that might trigger the robber, which makes working towards an excess of production too early in the game counter-productive.  Production excess attracts the robber’s halving blade, and if this investment into excess production trips the robber two or three times during a game, the twelve to twenty (or more) resources that were lost in these encounters with the robber are empty production. Would it not have been better to invest this empty production in procuring development cards, in order to get the largest army card, victory points, and manipulation of the robber to inhibit others’ production?

In fifteen to eighteen point scenarios, a certain amount of “build to win” strategy is required, but in a ten point basic scenario such as that in original Settlers of Catan or Star Trek Catan, in which you only have to move from two points to ten, victory is so easily graspable by an aggressive player that the “build to win” strategy is a strategy that will often lead you away from victory, or rather, towards it at a more glacial pace than the player that is following what I call the wheat/ore/wool strategy, which I have described in brief in the post “Grokking Games: Understanding the Strategic Ambiguity of 7 Wonders.”

If you can’t part with the “build to win” strategy, there are some Catan expansions that make it easier for you to win due to the high victory points required for a win.  The best Catan variation for “build to win” players is Cities and Knights, a 13 point game without the option of buying development cards, and it also allows players to invest in city walls, which protect you against the robber.  While it’s the best single expansion, even better would be some 18-20 point megalithic Catan composed of one or more of these expansions.


If You Like to “Build to Win” This is the Catan for You

“Build to Win” Players Will Also Like This Catan Expansion

Or This One:

Or, you can play them all together.


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Game Night: Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Secrets, Star Trek Catan, and Superfight


This week we started a little earlier in the afternoon, and while we began with our gaming group being concerned with watching Game of Thrones and kids’ curfews just like the week before, all such concerns were forgotten as the night went on. We hadn’t had a long game night in a few weeks, and the storm of hail and rain with occasional thunderclaps no doubt helped to create a perfect gaming atmosphere that no one was in a rush to end. There was also a deluge of tacos, ciders, coffee, black bean chips, salsa, and blueberry pie to be enjoyed.

First we played the Secrets expansion to Castles of Mad King Ludwig. We have been itching to play this one for a while, but as Castles is already a two to three hour game for us, it has been pushed back several times to make room for other games. Also, it isn’t just a long game; it has a long set-up process that takes at least five to ten minutes, and as it was our first time playing Secrets, it took more like fifteen to integrate the new game components with the old. Now, I love Castles of Mad King Ludwig—it is definitely in my top ten games, and probably in my top five—but I hate setting it up. No doubt there are probably some arts and crafts oriented gamers with box organizers on Etsy (I haven’t looked) but right now, the copy in our group has twenty-plus plastic bags in it, the contents of which each needed to be sorted with care to work in Secrets.  You don’t just combine both sets; you have to remove parts of original Castles to make room for Secrets.  That said, the long set-up is worth it, as Castles is a unique game that I consider one of my “Diceless Heavens,” and Secrets adds a ton of content to the game that encourages players to strategize differently.

The basic rules of Castles of Mad King Ludwig are unchanged. Each turn, one player is the Master Builder. That player chooses what the price tags will be on seven different rooms: 1000, 2000, 4000, 6000, 8000, 10000, and 15000. Play than proceeds to the Master Builder’s left, and that person chooses one of the rooms to buy (or they can take 5000 coins if they are out of money). Each player pays the Master Builder for the rooms, until it is the Master Builder’s turn to purchase, and he pays the bank for the room he wants. Then it is the next player’s turn to be Master Builder.

So unlike most games, in which every player pays the bank for their purchases, Castles changes it up and keeps a lot of the money in the group by having three of the four players every turn pay the Master Builder. This makes Castles a fascinating economic strategy game, with lots of thinking, but no calculus, required. You learn as the game goes on that you only get to make money when you’re the Master Builder, so when it’s your turn to be the Master Builder, you have to put the really desirable rooms with a fairly affordable price tag, because it’s better to get paid on 6000 or 8000 than 1000 or 2000. Sometimes players will go for the cheap rooms just to save money, as each player has to make their money last until they are Master Builder. In order to get other players to spend more, you have to resist putting the rooms that they want on the high prices, because that will backfire. Just as in real life, players will wait for a price to drop before making a buy. Players also have the option to take 5000 for the bank if they feel that you’re pricing them out, and if all the other players choose to do this on your turn, you won’t make ANY money.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig is already a really fun game with an entertaining theme, satisfying strategic elements, and good box art, before the intriguing aspects of Secrets are added to the mix. The first thing that Secrets adds to the game is Barbicans and Moats, each of which comes with a castle wall with which to enclose your structure. The starting tile in Secrets is the Barbican, which is a castle wall with a gatehouse that you build upon just like the Foyers in original Castles. Each turn, in addition to being able to buy one of seven available rooms, a hallway, or a stairway, you can also buy one of the moat pieces to begin to enclose your castle. Your starting Barbican plus three Moats equals a four-sided enclosed castle.  I decided to go for the moats, knowing from experience that the new features in game expansions often are the key to victory in those expansions, and pursuing this path did get me a lot of points, but one less point than the winning player, who only bought one of these moats and chose not to complete her castle wall.  From this game, it would appear that the disadvantage of being hemmed in by a castle wall outweighs the cumulative point advantage to placing the moats.

The second new addition is the Swans, which are little precious objects that can be exchanged for coins or points. There are five different colors, and each complete set of five can be exchanged for 15,000 coin during the game or 15 points at the end of the game. A set of four is worth 10,000 or 10; three are worth 6,000 or 6; two are worth 3000, or 3; and one is worth 1000 or 1. If you end the game with seven swans, a set of five and a set of two, they are cumulative, or 18 victory points. Swans come with certain available room tiles, as the room tiles from the Secrets expansion are marked with one or two swans that you place on the room when it is drawn from its deck. Knowing that Castles often ends within a five or ten point spread between the winner and second place, both the winning player and the second player (me) did not exchange any of the swans for coins during the game. Similarly, my recommendation to people playing Secrets for the first time is to save your swans and pay attention to which rooms have which color of swans, as those points can add up fast.

The third new addition is Secret Corridors, which, when placed, double the connection bonuses between rooms. Our group found these kind of hard to place, as the rules governing their placement are pretty strict: they have to be placed between two entrances, but they can’t connect two rooms that are already connected. Playing Secrets a few more times may be conducive to our group learning how to place our rooms with more of a gap between them to accommodate the secret corridors, but in this first time playing Secrets, they did not affect the outcome very much.

Overall, the Moats turned out to be enriching, but confining; while each room I placed earned an extra three points for having an enclosed castle, the small area with which I had to work severely limited my choices of rooms. Also, it didn’t seem that the other players noticed, but other players on their Master Builder phase could put expensive price tags on all the small rooms, and cheap price tags on all the big rooms that they know you won’t be able to fit in your castle, hence pricing out the players that pursued the Moats.

Again, Castles of Mad King Ludwig and Secrets are great fun, and we all love it, but it isn’t an appreciation without reservations.  My main criticism is that at times Castles and the Secrets expansion are overwhelmingly fun, an oxymoron derived from the fact of the long set-up and break-down of the game, as well as the already long decision making involved in adding rooms in Castles that is compounded by the confining walls of Secrets.

You may recall from my post on theme that I mentioned that we only played Star Trek Catan once before, and perhaps this influenced our decision to play Star Trek Catan for our second game of the evening. Also, as we have been consciously avoiding Catan to play other games, it may have been our unconscious minds seizing on an opportunity to let Catan creep into game night. Just as drunks don’t know how they ended up in their garage, we had no plans to play any form of Catan that night, and suddenly there it was on the table.

Make no mistake: Star Trek Catan is about 92% Settlers of Catan in Trekkie cosplay. There are a few differences, which I’ll mention later, but if you know Klaus Teuber’s 1995 classic game, it will take you about five minutes to learn the 2012 Star Trek rendition, and any strategy that works in the former works in the latter as well.  Everything is simply changed via substitution, so that wood becomes dilithium crystals, brick becomes tritanium, wheat becomes oxygen, ore becomes water, wool becomes food, knight cards become Starfleet Intervenes, settlements become outposts, roads become starships, and cities become starbases.

I previously mentioned the wheat/ore/wool domination strategy in 10 point basic Settlers of Catan, and I decided to use it here in Star Trek Catan (where it is an oxygen/water/food strategy) as the only other time I had played it I went for a more basic “build to win” strategy. By “build to win” I mean playing Settlers of Catan the way that it is represented in the rules, that is the winner should be best represented on the board by a predominance of their color, having eked out an empire of settlements, cities, and roads. I prefer this classic Settlers of Catan playing style, as it is more satisfying to have a sense of development on the board. But, as you can see from these photos of our game board, the winning player’s development was mostly off the board. When you look at these photos, intuition would tell you that red should be the winning player, but it was blue (me), who had that tiny empire on the right, that was the winner.

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But you can see that my off-board development was pretty intense.

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Also, my small Cardassian empire is all Starbases.  (No, you don’t actually get to play Cardassians; but I may have been imagining that while playing.)

There are some differences between Settlers of Catan and Star Trek Catan, the main being that you have six settlements (called outposts) instead of five, but that they do not get returned to your supply when you upgrade them to cities (called starbases). The starbase instead is fitted on top of the outpost on the game board. This means that it is a little harder to get the 10 points to win in Star Trek Catan than in Settlers of Catan. In order to get to 10 points in Star Trek Catan you either have to use all your Starbases (8 points), plus the two remaining Outposts that can’t be converted to Starbases (2 points), or you have to be aggressive going after the Longest Road, Largest Army, and the victory points buried in the development card deck. In original Settlers of Catan, after upgrading your settlements into cities, your settlements return to your hand for new scoring opportunities, and as this does not happen in Star Trek Catan, the latter encourages old-fashioned Catan players not to use the classic “build to win” strategy in order to get their winning total, and to learn some new tricks instead.

Another difference are the Starfleet Officers that each player can claim at difference points of the game. I discovered that Dr McCoy was a great facilitator to my ore/wheat/wool (water/oxygen/food) strategy, as Dr. McCoy can substitute any card he wants when buying a development card. As he can do this twice before he has to be exchanged with another Starfleet Officer, this was a great help in acquiring the Largest Starfleet and all those extra Starfleet Intervenes cards (that I wanted to be victory points for an earlier win). I was switching between McCoy, Spock, and Sarek in this game, as they seemed to have the most useful enhancements for my chosen strategy. Spock lets you claim a resource of your choice when the dice do not allow you to produce, and Sarek lets you upgrade a outpost to a starbase for two water and one oxygen instead of three and two.

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Lastly, we played Superfight for the first time, which was the perfect game to round off the evening, as it is a non-strategic party game. Players play character cards and ability cards in order to make a powerful or amusing combination that are judged by a referee. I can say unequivocally that this is a perfect game for your next party, because we had a ball with it even though we played it completely wrong. We were pretty excited to play this one, and skipped some important rules in our haste, but my impression based on the hilarious card combinations that we played and the rules I found online is that it will be even more fun if played in the correct way. My main criticism of referee based games is that they are plagued by bias, or even worse, The Sanjaya Effect, if players want to be particularly obnoxious.

It was a satisfying game night, with the bedrock of Catan modified by the novelty of its Star Trek theme, a hilarious party game played wrong to the merriment of all, and our first time playing an epic expansion to Castles of Mad King Ludwig.  Of all these games, my greatest recommendation goes to Castles of Mad King Ludwig, which despite the long set up, is one of the best games on the market right now.


Buy Castles of Mad King Ludwig on Amazon

Buy Secrets Expansion on Amazon

Buy Star Trek Catan on Amazon

Buy Two Map Expansion for Star Trek Catan

Buy Superfight on Amazon

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Grokking Games: The Importance of Theme

If you’ve been reading this blog recently, you already know that I’m a sucker for a good theme. As I’m a big Rick and Morty fan, I can’t wait for the Rick and Morty games from Cryptozoic, and as a reader and watcher of Game of Thrones I can imagine myself playing Clue: Game of Thrones in my future.

But I’m not alone.  The success of Star Trek Catan stems from the simple fact that if you smack Star Trek on Settlers of Catan, Catan lovers will buy what is essentially the same game all over again; also, Star Trek lovers will buy it, just like they’ve bought many other things with Star Trek branded upon them. Imagination isn’t everything—to be honest, imagination isn’t even material—but as it is an immense collection of shared universes that unifies and motivates the intelligences that move the material world, it is very important.  And it would be naive to assume that since Settlers of Catan and Star Trek Catan play nearly identically that they are the same game.  Each affects the imagination in a different way.

I have an antipathy toward the zombie and vampire craze, which makes me less than enthused to play Zombie Dice, but I could play several rounds of Doctor Who: Dalek Dice. Yes, Zombies chant “Brains!” and Daleks chant “Exterminate!” but to me that is a world of difference, as to me zombies connote soft stories full of tiny holes and nasty (yes, those words could also be used to describe rotten Twinkies), and Daleks connote the inspiring interconnected and optimistic universe of think-pieces that is Doctor Who.

I’m not really interested in playing Carcassonne, but I had a good time playing Star Wars Carcassonne. Like four sevenths of the Star Wars movies, I found it deeply flawed, but much of this was due to the elements borrowed from Carcassonne, and not those imported from Star Wars. Star Wars Carcassonne wisely borrowed from the best of the Star Wars movies, The Empire Strikes Back, for its character cards: Boba Fett, Yoda, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Stormtrooper. They didn’t pick the more alienating mix of Ewok, “It’s a Trap!” Akbar, Jabba, Ghost Kenobi, and Emperor, because the makers of this iteration of Carcassonne knew the power of a good or bad theme to attract or repel buyers. They chose Star Wars in its best incarnation to represent Star Wars Carcassonne.  A change of theme requires a redesign, not just a reprint, so it’s important to get it right the first time.

Even on a more general level, theme is vitally important, which is why Settlers of Catan isn’t called Manure Spreaders of Catan. When developing a theme from scratch, game developers, whether they go for the archetypal or the abstruse, arrive at some compelling theme. Sometimes game themes aim at primal themes like settling places or conquering them, and other times the theme is very specific, such as Takenoko‘s theme of pandas in bamboo fields. The good theme captures the user’s attention for the game duration, so that the repetitive action in the game does not become monotonous.

More often than not these original themes are just as evocative as the themes that are licensed. Sometimes the original context of a game has a sway over its players, which may explain why we’ve only played Star Trek Catan once in our gaming group compared to dozens of times playing some version of Settlers. Speaking for myself, I admire the design of Star Trek Catan, but I would prefer to revisit the original island or its expansions than to play in the final frontiers of Star Trek Catan.


Buy the Star Trek Catan Board Game on Amazon

Buy Doctor Who: Dalek Dice on Amazon

Or, if you prefer rotten twinkies…

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Do Not Pass Go: Waiting on Cryptozoic’s Rick and Morty Games

(Do Not Pass Go is a new column on Board of Life that will preview upcoming games that we can’t wait to have and to play.  The title is inspired by the many cards that send you to Monopoly jail— the quintessential symbol for game waiting—where you can wait three turns while other players give you money.)

Cryptozoic revealed two games earlier this year at the New York Toy Fair and the GAMA Trade Show that have Rick and Morty fans excited:  the Rick and Morty: Total Rickall Card Game and the Rick and Morty: Mr. Meeseeks’ Box o’ Fun Dice and Dares Game.  While the theme is obvious—these are attempts to translate Rick and Morty adventures into tabletop gaming—the concept is quite unique, in that each of these games adapt the crux of two of the most popular Rick and Morty episodes:  “Meseeks and Destroy,” the fifth episode of season one, and “Total Rickall,” the fourth episode of season two.

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Source: gameapalooza.com.au

In “Meseeks and Destroy,” the B arc of the episode follows Jerry, Beth, and Summer after Rick gives them a Meseeks Box, which is kind of a futuristic genie in a bottle in that it summons a helpful Mr. Meseeks when you push the button.  Mr. Meseeks has no unusual powers, though, except that he vanishes out of existence when his business on Earth is fulfilled; he accomplishes the user’s wishes by trucking along optimistically or giving encouragement to the user.  Summer and Beth’s wishes are easy to accomplish, and their Mr. Meseeks wink out of existence, but Jerry’s wish to take two strokes off of his golf game has his Mr. Meseeks so frustrated that it starts to summon numerous other Mr. Meseeks to assist it.  I won’t spoil this very funny episode for you any more, but Cryptozoic has created a replica Meseeks box that contains a quick party game.  Of additional interest to Rick and Morty fans is that Justin Roiland has voiced lines for the audio of the Meseeks box.

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Source:  www.cryptozoic.com

“Total Rickall,” one of my favorite episodes of the series, has Rick, Morty, Jerry, Beth, and Summer trapped in their house with quick replicating, telepathic, and shape-changing alien parasites that insert happy memories of themselves in your mind so that you believe yourself attached to them by long acquaintance.  Morty has the “eureka” moment in this episode that allows the Rick, Morty, and the Smith family to deduce which of their relations and friends are real and which are not.  Cryptozoic’s adaptation of the episode is to turn it into a quick cooperative card game.  If you’ve never played a cooperative tabletop game before, you basically either all lose together or all win together, with games by Matt Leacock like Forbidden Desert, Forbidden Island, and Pandemic being the most famous of the gaming subgenre.  If you think a tabletop game can’t be fun without a clear cut winner, you’ll be delighted to be proven wrong by any of the aforementioned three games, and I am hoping that Total Rickall also lives up to the expectations of fans of the co-op genre.

Neither of these games can come out fast enough to suit me, although it does look like the Rick and Morty: Total Rickall Card Game is getting ready to drop.  A few game and novelty websites are showing pre-orders, the Cryptozoic website still says Q2 2016, and the Rick and Morty Twitter account posted this tweet a little while ago:

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So it looks like the release of the Total Rickall set is right around the corner.  Wubba lubba dub dub!


You can’t buy these great games yet, but you can click here for Rick and Morty Season One

Or you can preorder Season Two with this elegant link.


Or if you’re curious about co-op tabletop games, this is probably the easiest one to learn:

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A Rogues Gallery of Creepers: A Review of Batman Fluxx (2015)

The genre of fast, five to fifteen minute, card games is burgeoning almost as fast as crime in Gotham City, and appropriately, Batman seems to be the license most common to these games, with Love Letter Batman, Batman Trading Card Game, DC Deck Building Game: Rivals: Batman vs. Joker, and Batman Fluxx all being on the market as of this writing. Fast Batman card games were even popular when the genre of fast card games didn’t have its own section in Barnes and Noble or Target: there was Batman Uno, the Batman Returns Card Game, the Ideal Batman Card Game, and the Whitman Batman Card Game. A full set of Batman card games would probably set you back $300-$400 considering what the Ideal game is going for on collectors’ sites currently. Even Batman UNO is pretty pricy on Amazon right now.

Today we’re going to look at the 2015 release, Batman Fluxx, an inexpensive and satisfying quick card game that you can play two or three times between Settlers of Catan and Dungeons & Dragons  and crush the Gotham City underworld while you do it. Batman Fluxx is a two to six player game that Looney Labs says is five to thirty minutes in length, but experienced gamers will crush a round of Fluxx in half that time. Sometimes it takes one minute.

If you’ve played one game of Fluxx, you’ve played them all; less figuratively, Fluxx fans will find there are, as usual, a lot of Keepers, Creepers, Goals, and other cards, unique to this iteration of the game.

If you’ve never played Fluxx, you’re in for a treat. Fluxx is a game that will satisfy the most casual or critical of gamers, as it is both a freeform game that can be played with very little thinking, and a deck building game that can be played with strategy and planning.

There is little to recommend the former over the latter, because you can be sitting pretty and certain of victory when the player before you draws the three cards they need to win by dumb luck.  Alternatively—and this can make you groan a little louder—someone paying less attention to the game than you can play a card that gives another player the conditions of victory.

In fact, since I see no advantage to plotting out a win in Fluxx, I recommend that you play Fluxx in the easy breezy way, as it’s light-hearted and conducive to fun.  Additionally, when playing this way, there is no greater reward than the amusing glares of death you receive by obliviously setting down a Goal that takes the victory away from your group’s compulsive winners.

To explain why planning matters so little in Fluxx, we’ll play an imaginary round.

At the start of the game, you deal every player three cards. Creeper cards are played face up immediately, and then new cards are distributed until each player holds three non-Creeper cards. Sometimes this results in a horde of Creepers on the table before starting the game. The Creeper cards are Batman villains, such as The Joker, The Riddler, Poison Ivy, etc., and drawing a submarine full of villains (my obligatory 1966 Batman movie reference) no doubt represents the entrenched corruption of Gotham City before Batman begins his campaign against crime.  The Creeper rule continues throughout the game:  any time you draw a Creeper, you play it in front of you immediately and then take another card into your hand to replace it.

The starting rule card, which says Draw One / Play One, is placed in the middle of the board and play begins. The first player follows the initial game rules, drawing a card from the deck and then playing one of the cards in their hand before player two takes their turn.

It sounds really simple, you say, but you’re just a tourist to the chaos of Gotham (and Fluxx). Let’s say I am player one, and for my Play One, I put down a New Rule card that says Play Two. That means now the rules of the game are Draw One / Play Two, which means after playing the Play Two card I get to immediately play another card, and every player after me then draws one card and plays two. For my second card, I put down a Keeper card, Batman, which has the advantage of knocking out another person’s Creeper from the game. I decide to knock out player two’s Catwoman.

Now it’s player two’s turn. Player two draws a card, and then decides to play two rules: Draw Four and Play All. This means she immediately gets to draw three more cards (having already drawn one that turn), and the player now has to play the five remaining cards left in her hand. The player then plays a Goal: Gotham City Sirens, which means that the player wins who has any two of either Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, or Catwoman in play. Player Two had Catwoman and Poison Ivy at the start of the game, so I expect them to give me a venomous look (as I had Batman kick out that creeper), but their next card is an Action: Steal Something, which lets them steal someone else’s Keeper or Creeper. They steal player four’s Harley Quinn, which would let them win the game before player three and four get to go…

Except for the fact that player three plays a Surprise card: Cancelled Plans. Surprise cards can be played out of turn, and were probably created for the sole purpose of making sure that this quick card game doesn’t end before all four players take their first turn. Because events like I’ve just narrated actually happen in a game of Fluxx. The Cancelled Plans Surprise allows the user to discard a Goal that was just played, so they discard the Gotham City Sirens card and prevent player two from winning.

So you can see it’s extremely complex, so much so that the convolutions of it are outside the realm of normal human analysis. And player two still has three cards left to play before play proceeds to player three. For the sake of this review, we’ll assume the rest of the cards player two plays are Keepers: Batgirl, Comissioner Gordon, and the Batarang. Player two now has no cards in his hand, which is about to become a disadvantage, as it makes it more difficult to plan without available options.  (If there is a strategy to Fluxx, it’s that it is best to keep your options open by holding on to as many cards as you possibly can, especially any Goals that would be good either for you or another player. If it’s a Goal that will let another player win, you obviously can’t play it unless you can take those Keepers or Creepers that fit the conditions of victory first.  Remember, though, all this is only true if you’re under the delusion that planning can help you in Batman Fluxx.  If you’re playing the easy and breezy way, it probably makes you feel light-footed and carefree to not have any cards.)

Player three draws four cards (currently the rules are Draw Four and Play All) and doesn’t want to get put in the same condition as player Two. Fortunately, he has a Play Three card in his hand. He sets the Play Three card down, which discards the Play All from the game. This means he only has to play two more cards of the six remaning cards in his hand. He decides to play a new rule, Keeper Limit 3 (this severely hampers player two, as they already have 3 Keepers in play), and a Keeper, The Bank, which adds 2 to his draw. He draws two more cards, ending his turn with six cards still in his hand, and then play commences to player four.

The rules are currently Draw Four, Play Three, and Keeper Limit Three. Player four draws four cards. He draws his cards, and decides to play an Action: Rule Reset. This wipes out all of the rules from the game and resets it to Draw One Play One. This means he gets to retain the other six cards in his hand, and player one begins again.

Look at how much chaos and upheaval there was in just one round of Fluxx, and we’ve just touched on the variations of a game that has 14 Keepers, 28 Goals, 18 Actions, 6 Surprises, 9 Creepers and 24 Rules. In a game that lasts six or seven turns around the table, there will be constant reversals of fortune that build up excitement. In any given round, no doubt every player has the conceit that they are one or two rounds away from victory. That Fluxx players can sense impending doom and unquestionable victory at every moment is one of the greatest design dynamics in Fluxx. Remember the name of the game is Fluxx, though, because your plans can be yanked out from under you, or you can be given by the charity of luck the exact cards you need to obtain a win.


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Solve Two Mysteries in Double-Sided Clue®: Game of Thrones™

As a boy, Clue was probably my favorite board game, right after Monopoly. It had a strong theme and concept, and was based on more than movement of pieces. Players took the role of detectives, and through both process of elimination, observation of other players, and occasionally guesswork, solved the murder. I haven’t played Clue in years, but I do have fond memories of it uncontaminated by the contempt I have for more grueling ancient games like Monopoly and Risk.

USAopoly may have just given me both a good reason to play Clue again, as well as the means to sell the other players in my gaming group on the idea. We’re all nuts about HBO’s Game of Thrones, you see, and USAopoly, a publisher of made to order licensed games, now has a Clue: Game of Thrones edition of Hasbro’s vintage board game.

This isn’t the Clue that I grew up with. At some point, I gather from googling here and there, “Intrigue Cards” were added to original Clue, and Clue: Game of Thrones has this innovation as well.

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What’s original about Clue: Game of Thrones is that it sports a double-sided game board based on concept art from the show: the Red Keep of King’s Landing on the one side, and the streets of Mereen on the other side. Each side of the board has its own mystery to solve, so avid board gamers could have the excuse to play both in one eventing in a mini campaign event. Also, you have six different suspects for each side of the board, twelve in all. In the Red Keep you’ll find Jamie Lannister, Sansa Stark, Margaery Tyrell, Tyrion Lannister, Cersei Lannister, and Petyr Baelish; and, Meereen is inhabited by Daenerys Targaryen, Daario Naharis, Hizdahr Zo Loraq, Jorah Mormont, Grey Worm, and Missandei.

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And look at the cute little replicas of famous murder weapons in Game of Thrones: Crossbow (with which Tyrion kills his dad Tywin on the crapper), Poison Vial (remember that time that we smiled broadly when we watched Game of Thones?), Arakh (Daario and Khal Drogo killed lots of people with theirs), Faceless Man (Arya’s first murder weapon of choice), Catspaw Assassin Dagger (used by the assassin sent by the Lannisters to dispatch Bran) and the Battle Axe (Styr, the Magnar of Thenn’s weapon of choice).

Make no mistake; unless you’re enamored with Game of Thrones or you have nostalgia for vintage family games, you may be drumming your fingers a lot while playing this Clue: Game of Thrones. It could be a lot of fun with the right group though.  If it finds its way to our game group, you’ll see the full review on Board of Life.


Buy CLUE: Game of Thrones on Amazon

Buy Game of Thrones: Season 5 [Blu-ray + Digital HD] on Amazon

This article was cross-posted on NerdSpan.com

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