Game Review: Bananagrams

By Drew

 

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Background
Bananagrams is a tile laying game where the goal is to be the first player to complete a word grid after the pool of letter tiles has been exhausted.

Initial Thoughts
The game is inexpensive and very quick to learn.  It uses elements from Scrabble and Boggle; so, players familiar with those games will have almost no learning curve.  Bananagrams is a multiplayer game, but you have little interaction with the other players.  The only player interaction is racing to complete your grid first after the last tile has been drawn.  There are no turns.  Everyone places at the same time.

Review
Pros: Bananagrams has very high replayability.  Its easy rule set makes getting new players up to speed a quick process.  If you get bored with the base rules, there are variants to the game that people have posted online.  The game has a heavy dose of luck which does help level the playing field when playing with poorer spellers.  Bananagrams is great for causal gamers and those looking to take a break from more complex games.  The only set up is placing all of the tiles into the middle of the table face down.

Con: I have few, if any, complaints.  The game does bounce between being skill based and luck based, but many games are.  The basic game can get repetitive if you play too many rounds, but that’s while variants exist.  The pieces are high quality.  The packaging is very thematic (it’s a zip up banana), but it can make putting Bananagrams away more difficult.  You can’t just put it at the bottom of your game pile.

Final Thoughts
This game is loads of fun, quick to teach, quick to set up, and a great breather from more complex games.  It’s fun for heavy table gamers and casual players.  Each round is short, and you can keep playing rounds until you are bored with playing making the game last essentially as long as your group wishes.  I highly recommend playing this game.

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Game Review: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Wrath of the Righteous

By Drew

 

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Background
The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is from the same company that designs the Pathfinder role playing game.  The card game is a cooperative game for 1 to 4 players (up to 6 if you get the expansions).  Each player’s character is made for a deck of cards, stats, and class (familiar to all roleplayers).  You’ll improve your character (specifically the deck you use) by earning or finding new spells, items, upgrades, and other loot to change your deck.

According to Paizo, “the adventure begins with a Base Set containing nearly 500 cards, including the first chapter of an Adventure Path that offers your characters interesting locations to explore, monsters to fight, and villains to hunt down, as well as piles of weapons, spells, armor, loot, and everything you need to build you own unique character deck.”

Initial Thoughts
Getting into the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is for only dedicated players.  The full Adventure Path will take you months to play (assuming a season a week like my friends).  The base game is only around $60.  However, the base game is only the first of many parts to the Adventure Path.  With 6 expansion decks at $20 a piece, the full adventure will be over $200.  If you want extra characters, items, and the ability to have up to 6 players, it’s another extra expansion.  However, there is enough content to last 7-12 months depending on how frequently you play.

Review
Pros: I enjoyed the mix of a card game and the idea of leveling up and gaining new equipment.  The story was a little thin, but most card games, if they even have a story, ignore it during the actual game play.  The full Adventure Path can take awhile to play.  The group I play with has been playing almost weekly for three months, and we are not finished with part 1 yet.  At the rate we are going, when we finish, we will feel as though we accomplished something.  New players can join at any point and other party members can sit out if they can play that session (although if you sit out you miss out on possible loot).

Con: I have two main complaints.  First is the price.  Yes, the game is expensive if you want to do the full Adventure Path (about $200).  If you are a fan of collectible card games or miniature war games, you may not have sticker shock.  For others, here is my reasoning.  If my friends and I are actually going to play it through, then the price is fair for the total hours play (100+).  If you think you will only play a few times, only get the base game.  It’s much cheaper, and you can try it out.

My second complaint is the potentially repetitive nature of the game.  Once you learn the game play, each session consists of using your cards to defeat other cards until the boss creature is found and destroyed.  Unlike Magic: the Gathering, there doesn’t seem to be too many synergistic decks you can make out of found loot.  Rangers take range weapon cards; paladins take swords, and so on.  However, we are still early in the game, and that may change.

Final Thoughts
In the end, the question is, “is this a fun game and worth the price?”  My answer is yes.  After you get over the potential sticker shock, the game will provide, by my estimation, over 100 hours of game play.  This is a card game with loot that carries from session to session and the ability to add and drop players from session to session.  My friends I and are looking forward to the day we finish the game and have a feeling of accomplishment we’ve never had with a cooperative card game before.

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Game Review: Machi Koro

By Drew

Machi Koro

Background
In Machi Koro, 2-4 players roll dice and spend money to buy properties for their city.  The first player to construct four special building completes their city first and wins the game.

Initial Thoughts
Each type of property (wheat field, bakery) have their own effects normally related to income.  Some effects can happen on anyone’s turn and others only happen on the active player’s turn.  Some of the cards are more useful during the early stages of the game and others are more useful during the end of the game.  The variety of card mechanics means there is no one specific way to win.

Review
Pros: The base game is simple and easy to learn with the expansions adding different layers.  Even when teaching new players, games last about 30 minutes.  There is a good mix of strategy (which property do I buy) and luck (you need to roll dice well to win).

Con: Although you can play with 2 players, I suggest at least 3 players.  The problem we ran into when playing with only 2 players is it removes much of the strategy.  While there is no guaranteed “buy properties in this order” method of winning, having only 2 players made it much easier to do the same thing each game and consistently win.  There is only a limited numbers of each properties.  With 4 players, you may not be able to buy the properties you want.  With only 2, you pretty much can buy exactly what you want.  At that point, the game becomes only about dice rolls.

Final Thoughts
This is a fun game that is easy to teach new players, is quick to play, has light strategy, and is expandable with the expansions.  If you like building style games, give Machi Koro a try.

Machi Koro