All Posts By

Jed Litwiller

Board Games

I’d Rather Be Building (Or “What is a Euro Game?” and Why I Love Them)

I can appreciate most kinds of games. I like family-weight games, push-your-luck, social deduction, set collection, route-building, tactical combat, and drafting, just to name a few. I am starting to really enjoy party games and even area control- a game mechanism that has been my Achilles heel for some time now.

Euro games, however, are some of my absolute favorite. Not a specific mechanism, many titles in the Euro game genre feel similar and historically have similar themes: the production, trading and exportation of goods. Agricola, and Power Grid were the first two of some Euro style board games I played and now stand alongside others like Murano, Concordia and now Clans of Caledonia as my favorites.

Murano by Inka & Markus Brand; published by Lookout Games & Mayfair Games



Euro games are called as such because of where they originated; back in the mid to late 1900’s when many American game designers were making games about conflict and war, European designers were mainly focusing on themes about production

“Euro game” is a general term for games which are typically economic or in which players typically are all building toward something rather than attaching each other or destroying something. Typically different resources must be managed and there are often times limited actions (opportunities) to get them. Although it may occasionally be very obvious that you have no way of winning, you’re almost always technically still in the game.

Power Grid by Friedemann Friese and Rio Grande Games

Generally speaking, Euro games tend to focus more on balance between mechanisms and strategy as opposed to theme. Many “thematic” or “American” style games tend to have a high level of output randomness, which at random elements that occur when a player does something. Euro games have some input randomness (players must learn to adapt to a random element such as a card draw or dice roll, but know that their choices will result a set outcome. This is not true for every title but it is generally the case in the vast majority.

To sum up, Euro games almost always have the following characteristics:

  • Resource management
  • No player elimination
  • Minimal “output” randomness
  • Focus on balance of strategy & mechanisms as opposed to focus on theme

Clans of Caledonia, designed by Klemens Franz; published by Karma Games

However, the game is changing. There are more and more games that don’t fit either of the classes molds of Euro or thematic. Many titles are taking a middle ground between the two. One such example is Blood Rage, a game which at first glance looks like a more thematic American Style game, however mechanically it is very balance between different strategies, some of which have nothing to do with winning battles. This is something that sets it apart from many games that are more focused on theme. Although blood rage is still more focused on its thematic elements, it is a blend of euro-style games and what we would think of a classic Conquest Style game. Another fantastic example are two titles by Red Raven Games: Above and Below and it’s sequel, Near and Far. Both are Euro-style games through and through, however they both also integrate series of choices which give them a “choose-your-own-adventure” feel. These are fantastic Euro games that I would highly recommend for those looking to introduce their friends or family love narrative to the genre of Euro games.

Above and Below by Ryan Laukat, a one-man designer/artist/publisher of his company (Red Raven Games)

Whether you are attracted to more complex, crunchy Euro games like Vinhos, hybrids such as Blood Rage, or more narrative-focused games like Near and Far, there are many things that most people will love from this genre given the right experience. I’m not a master fisherman but with a quick Google search I found that one of the most versatile lures is spinner bait. A good Euro game is like that- if you know how to use it catch just about anything. Likewise, if you know how to teach it well, just about anyone can learn to play and enjoy Euro games. If you’re on the other end and have never tried a Euro game I highly recommend it- you’ll probably love it way more than you think.

Board Games

Roll Player One Play Review

Here’s an interesting concept for a game: you build a character for a fantasy role-playing game. You are given a race and class. You acquire traits, equipment and tweak and customize your stats to optimize your character. Even your character’s alignment between good and evil, lawful and chaotic matters.

Then, your take your character on daring adventures…or not. You build and customize your character, and that’s the game (seriously). I’m being completely serious. Roll Player is a medium-weight strategy game with all the fun of creating your character but without any of the burden of adventuring.

When we got about a third of the way into our first and only game so far of Roll Player, I was deeply concerned that I was going to lose interest. I had heard many good things about Roll Player, but didn’t realize that the games contains a strong puzzle nature, which is typically not my jam. However, the implications of what you’re doing in the game are thematic enough that it easily held my attention until the end.

Players are given a race and class. The former affects your end-game scoring and the latter grants you an ability. There seems to be a good number or options for both so that will keep the game fresh for a decent number of plays, and more importantly for me, there is already at least one expansion that adds more variety of content. Players all roll some of their dice one at a time and begin placing them on their stats- this is going to have give them limitations, options, and strategy choices for the last 70% of the game.

Then, each round, the first player will draw dice from a bag, roll them and sort the dice on the initiative track lowest to highest. Each player will draft a die, determining turn order when purchasing an item from the market. However, before you purchase an item, each player will take the die they drafted and place them in their stat rows, using the abilities for that particular stat (these stat abilities are ignored during the initial die placement phase). The stat ability actions allow players to modify and move their dice as you might expect.

Players choose equipment in turn order. While some equipment grants extra scoring opportunities and some give you abilities, all are beneficial in their own way. Many items have an alignment modifier that happens when you purchase it, while skills affect your alignment when used. Your character’s alignment of good versus evil and lawful versus chaotic also affects end-game scoring. Each alignment card is different and forces the player to consider this when purchasing items and skills.

While Roll Player feels much more like a puzzle than I expected when I first heard about it, I thoroughly enjoyed playing it and would be happy to do so again. I typically do not enjoy very mentally taxing puzzle style games, and while Roll Player is fairly middle weight, it does give the players some strategic options. Do you focus on putting your character, collecting traits, or getting your alignment in the right place? My gut tells me it is fairly difficult to work all of these aspects perfectly, but it sure is fun to try. In the end, you can say something like, “I created a lawful evil Halfling with a full suit of light armor.” Thinking about the thematic implications of Roll Player is very fun and at the same time it’s a game where efficiency is key, and that’s not a bad thing in my book. I look forward to playing a Roll Player again in the near future, and would recommend it for almost any type of gamer. I’m conservatively giving it a 7 out of 10. If you like puzzle style games I’m giving it a +1, and another +1 if you enjoy RPG’s or character building. Give Roll Player a try for a refreshing break between tabletop RPG sessions!

Board Games

Cha-Cha Chihuahua Review

Gaming for parents with young children is HARD. We want to love our kids and spend quality time with them and at the same time help our children learn important skills. Board games also just have a way of teaching important skills that sometimes nothing else can.

At our recent Customer Appreciation sale the other night I was looking for a sixth game to buy (I’m a little obsessed, I know) and I thought it might be smart to pick up something that I can play with my three and a half year old daughter. She has somewhat enjoyed Candy Land, Uno, Rhino Hero, and a couple others but most importantly she just likes to play with the fun and cool pieces that come in a lot of modern board games, while adults can play other games like casino games as the spin samurai that is a good option for this.

I’m walking by our children game selection, made up of mostly HABA and Gamewright games, and I see Cha-Cha Chihuahua. This was one of those games I pre-ordered for the store that I knew next to nothing about except only that it has cute, dancing Chihuahuas on the box cover and the price point is good. What I didn’t realize until I went to buy it, however, is that the game includes about 25 small Chihuahua figurines that have a great toy aspect to them.

Gameplay is incredibly simple: your goal is to have as many Chihuahuas on your colored dance floor when the supply run out. On your turn you draw a card, which will either give you one of the following actions:

  • Take a Chihuahua and put it on your dance floor (front paws on one color, back paws on another), then stand up and imitate the dance moves that the dog is doing on the card…that part is VERY important
  • Two Chihuahuas (one to you and one to the player with the fewest) also, don’t forget to dance!
  • Cha-Cha Chow – take a Chihuahua from another player
  • Sleepy time card- if you have a Chihuahua on a square that matches the color of the bed, place one in the Nap Shack
  • Nap Shack card- use it immediately to take all Chihuahuas from the Nap Shack and put them on your dance floor OR keep it to use on a later turn instead of drawing a card for the same effect

…And that’s it: simple color recognition, and although not necessarily memory, but a slight amount of looking to see what colors of beds have been drawn and avoid placing a dog on those colors, if possible. I’ve only played this with my daughter as a two-player game but I bet my tail it would be better with three or four players.

Three and a half is a tough age for gaming. Although yes, my daughter can play a lot more than what she could a year ago, she is smart enough to easily understand the rules and become quickly bored with no-skill games like Candy Land, and yet not be able to grasp the slightest bit of strategy & tactics in games anything beyond that. However, for us, Cha-Cha Chihuahua is a huge win. The game is colorful and both the figurines and the Nap Shack are very attractive for kids. The rules are as simple if not more so than Uno, yet are more accessible for kids. In our second game my daughter actually drew her card several times and didn’t need to be reminded what to do, and that is an awesome feeling as a parent! My daughter loves this game and actually got really upset when I had to put it away after only playing it once for the second time. As the parent, I actually had a ton of fun playing this with my daughter. I was never bored and the game moved quickly enough. The only negative part of the game is that the Chihuahuas have a very large head, and while I wonder if it was intentional to make them slightly difficult to place, they tend to fall over a little too easy. Otherwise I think this is a great kids game for that 3-5 year old age range at a great price of about $16 MSRP.

Cha-Cha Chihuahua reminded me that there are some great kids games out there and that I don’t have to leave my kids behind as I enjoy participating in my favorite hobby. I give Cha-Cha Chihuahua an 8 out of 10.

Board Games

The Networks Review

One of my favorite 80’s movies is UHF, staring “Weird” Al Yanchovic. Here’s the premise, Al’s wealthy uncle gives him his failing UHF TV station, only for Al to find out later that his uncle has a gambling problem. To prevent losing the station, Al must make the TV station profitable by developing new shows, developing stars and securing ad contracts.

This is sort of the basis for The Networks, originally released in 2016 by Formal Ferret, recently getting a wider release here in the US. The Networks  looks much, much more complicated at first glance than it actually plays. I’ve only played it twice, yet I completely understand the game and could easily teach others how to play. It is, objectively speaking, a truly middle weight game. This would be a great game to teach your friends or family after introducing them to Catan, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, or possibly even something like King of Tokyo. 

This game does something that I absolutely love in Euro-style (economic, resource-management style) games: your Victory Points represent something very thematic and somewhat tangible. The player who has attained the most viewers for the their TV network will win the game. Viewers are gained by developing shows, typically starring the right stars and supported by ads. Landing ads will give you an immediate cash bonus, but will usually continue to give you more money at the end of each season. Turning your network into a profitable economic engine is important, but not a stressful part of the game in my opinion. As the game progresses, shows will either gain more viewers or decline and eventually go to your reruns pile and gain viewers for one final season.


All this sounds really complicated, right? Here’s the beautiful part of The Networks- the basic mechanics and options on your turn are incredibly simple. On 90% of your turns, you’re just going to take a card. That’s it…seriously. Take a show card and develop it, take an ad or star card and put it into your green room (to save for later) or immediately attach it to a show. There are also pink network cards, which either grant you an immediate bonus or allow you to play it at the end of a season (round) or hold until the end of the game to gain extra viewers. There’s a few other subtleties such as gaining bonus viewers and card draws for acquiring your third and then fifth show of a genre, or making sure you have your TV shows in the correct time slot for maximum viewership. Also, knowing when to pass for the remainder of the season and drop in budget to gain money and/or viewers is a important, but very enjoyable part of the game. However, those aspects of the game become much more apparent after starting to play the game.

There are a couple minor negatives, however. First, the card quality is not the best. I do think for a $50 game MSRP, you’re getting a good value here. There are a lot of cards and although you’re probably not going to need to sleeve them, it might be to your benefit if this is one you’re going to play at least five or six times a year. Also, in my second game, we tried some of the “interactive” network cards. After the game we decided that we would only play with about half of those interactive cards; several of them were incredibly powerful and, in our opinion, too punishing for whoever you play them on for a game that is all about action efficiency. For example, someone could potentially lose a star that is going to gain them 10+ viewers over the course of 3 seasons. We decided to pull out those few cards, however, and just not play with them in the future.

The Networks is a game that I could play many times year and would be happy to introduce to new people to the boardgaming hobby. For an economic/resource management style game, it’s incredibly thematic and fun. There’s a healthy amount of stress as you’re hoping that other players don’t take the cards you want, but it’s not as stressful as something like Agricola, as you can usually make just about anything work and you won’t be penalized too harshly if you don’t get what you need. Finally, and possibly most importantly, the show, star and ad cards in this game are hilarious. The entire game is chalk full of satire. It’s as funny as something like Munchkin but has way more substance. I really enjoyed pairing my shows with specific actors and reading them in “movie guy” sort of voice. For, example, “coming this September, “that guy who always dies” starring in American Samurai Warrior… sponsored by Reflux Orange Juice!” Overall, I think if you’re looking for a fun, hilarious, and yet intriguing middle weight game that you can teach just about anyone, I highly recommend The Networks. I objectively give it a 7.5 out of 10. If you’re a big fan of the movie UHF and/or satire I’m going to give it a +1, and if you’re a fan of Euro-style/economic games, I’m giving it another +1 (for me, it’s a 9.5).

Star Wars Imperial Assault

“Let the Wookie Win” – Playing Chewbacca in Imperial Assault

I’ve always been fond of our most well known Wookie friend. He’s like a big teddy bear, until he gets angry and decides to rip off your limbs.

It’s a bit of an understatement that Chewbacca was sub-par prior to his Wookie Avenger attachment in Heart of the Empire, which released late last year in 2017. Basically, he cost a little too much for a figure that always felt short on actions. Fantasy Flight improved Chewy by giving him the ability to do an extra damage when attacking, Slam for free (without spending an action) and start with his Command Card at the beginning of the game. Although Chewy lost the ability to Dodge, these are some very welcome changes.

All that said, Chewbacca is still very challenging to play. His Command Card is seemingly at odds with his play style. He wants to be in the fight, but he can still go down pretty quickly. Since your opponent knows you have Debts Repaid, they can just focus on Chewy and basically guarantee that you’ll have a dead card in your hand. This is a big glaring weakness for Chewbacca. Thankfully, however there are a few solutions.

One of the best ways to build a team with Chewbacca is to include one or two other powerful figures, especially one that can dive in behind enemy lines. Ahsoka seems like a natural fit and I haven’t played her with Chewy yet, but I like the idea of being able to run the most powerful Spy cards, including Comm Disruption and Intelligence Leak (currently my favorite card in the game). I’m still working on a Chewy/Ahsoka list but so far I haven’t gotten it to where I’m satisfied.

Jyn Odan is more efficient. Not only does she cost a measly five points, but she can hit like a truck: arguably as strong as Ahsoka, using Command Cards that Chewy can benefit from as well: Tools for the Job, Smuggled Supplies. Heck, even Wild Attack, which you would normally use on Jyn in combination with her Command Card: One in a Million, could theoretically be used on Chewy in a pinch. Don’t forget On the Lam, arguably one of the most powerful cards in the game.

Not that there are a ton of them, but I like the Wookie synergies that you can get by playing Drokatta and Chewbacca together. Battle Scars, Adrenaline, and Wild Fury have some real potential, and Drokatta can put out tons of damage. She pairs well with Chewbacca too, because of her natural block.

Defensive buffs are also a pretty good way to keep Chewbacca alive and make sure you get your value from him. C-3PO’s Distracting ability helps and MHD-19’s Medical Loadout and Miracle Worker card can potentially keep him alive longer than he should be. Brace for Impact and Stealth Tactics are obvious choices, but I’ve even looked at cards like Take Cover and Take Position on that first round when I’m getting Chewy set up.

Finally, I think there’s something incredibly important when trying to win with Chewbacca: timing. Knowing when and where to set up Chewy. You’ll want to get him in position so that when a friendly dies he can reactivate with Debts Repaid and do some damage. I’ve considered running Black Market Prices for that first round when he probably only needs to spend one action to move.

Ultimately, I think Chewbacca is currently one of the most interesting figures in Imperial Assault. You have to build your list around him and practice him many times to play him well. Moving forward, I think he will continue to stay relevant, especially if Rebels continue to get inexpensive, but powerful single figures that can dive across enemy lines.

Board Games

Ex Libris Review

Renegade Games is on a roll and they really hit their stride last year alongside their other 2017 releases such as Sentient, Clank! In Space, Castles of Caladale, and The Fox in the Forest. Who knew that a publisher as new as Renegade could release so many good games and climb their way near the top so quickly? Ex Libris is no exception.

In Ex Libris, each player builds their own fantastical library. You’ll collect historical and reference texts, fantastical fiction, monster manuals, books of magic such as potion recipes, etc., and even books about the dark arts. There are several scoring categories at the end of the game, but sufficed to say you’ll basically want to build your library somewhat in alphabetical order, but receive points based on how large and diverse your library is. One genre of books is in high demand each game and one is banned, each category earning you extra positive and negative points, respectively.


Players acquire pieces of their library (bookshelf sections represented in card form) by sending out their assistants to various locations. This is what’s called “worker placement” in the modern board game world.  It’s a fun way of openly drafting action spaces, as once an area has been filled with assistants, no other player can place there. Most locations allow you to gain cards with books they can add to your library and/or shelve sections of their bookshelf from your hand. However, each location accomplishes this in a very different way than any other. So what’s different about Ex Libris compared to other recent worker placement board games? For one, each player has a special assistant, which when placed allows that player to take a special action or gain some sort of passive ability. Most of the location tiles actually change each round as one will move up and stay out while the others are discarded and new ones are brought in. Ultimately this means that in any given game of Ex Libris you’ll end up playing with most of the locations, but not all. You also won’t know when each one will be available; this is a refreshing change for people who’ve played a ton of worker placement games.


On to the magical elephant in the room: does Ex Libris set itself apart from the hundreds of other games with similar mechanisms? Short answer: yes it absolutely does, but maybe not in the ways you would think. First and foremost one of the best parts of the game is the titles on the books. The designer could have reused these titles. However, every book has a funny title depending on the category (color) of book it is. Some of the titles are absolutely hilarious and I can really appreciate the amount of time it probably took thinking of all these. Secondly, I can’t think of another game that combines worker placement with placing cards in this manner, and it works really well.

On to final thoughts! Overall, I think Ex Libris is a fantastic game. While using a lot of familiar mechanisms, the combination of said mechanisms are incredibly unique. Honestly, I have no complaints there- the core of the game is pretty solid. However, after at least three plays, there are a few things I wish were slightly different. First, I wish the game had less of an emphasis on shelving as many books as possible. Full disclosure, I’ve lost pretty horribly every time I’ve played. It’s not the fact that I’ve lost so badly that bothers me, however, it’s that it seems that the ability to shelve as many books as possible is going to usually trump meticulous placement of your books. To me, it feels like the lcoations where you can shelve multiple books get taken up pretty quickly, and if you can’t shelve three books most rounds you’re going to fall behind. If you just happen to be in a position where you can’t get to these spots it can be kind of frustrating, and often times turn order is a big part of this. This combined with some minor rules issues keep Ex Libris from being a truly exceptional game. However, I’ve only played it three or four times, so this could change with future plays. I’m hoping to revisit this one in a future Back from the Shelf article. Despite those complaints, I have really enjoyed Ex Libris. It’s an enjoyable middle weight game and I would happily play it many more times. I’m actually hoping to play it again so I can implement what I’ve learned from my previous losses and hopefully improve my score! Currently, I’m giving it a 7.5 out of 10. If you are a fan of the theme, and love literature or even the concept of building a fantastical library, or you love worker placement games, I’d give it a solid +1. Ex Libris has the potential to be a great “gateway” style game for many people who have played few modern board games. Give it a try!

Board Games

First Martians Review

One of the most anticipated 2017 board game releases was First Martians by Ignacy Trzewiczek. Consequently, one of the biggest disappointments by many people’s standards was also First Martians. That doesn’t go to say that First Martians doesn’t have its problems; First Martians is overly complex, with a rule set that is not streamlined. It is also, however, an ambitious feat of integrating technology (in this case, a companion app) into the core of a very complex game. There’s also a bit of history here. Robinson Crusoe is one of Ignacy’s earlier releases and is one that is very highly rated and loved by many fans. When First Martians was first announced, many people that thought Robinson Crusoe could be cleaned up looked to First Martians to be their savior. Sadly, this is not the case. If anything First Martians is even more unnecessarily complex than Robinson Crusoe and is a fitting tie-in to the current dialogue happening among people such as Elon Musk. Colonizing Mars, if even possible, will be a complicated process made possible only by the brightest of humanity. All this said, First Martians still manages to achieve something intriguing for those interested and dedicated enough to brave the Martian wilderness and the complex environmental and technological systems it takes to keep humanity there.

Establishing a colony on Mars requires a lot of resources. Depending on the mission, you’ll need to build greenhouses and fill them with plants to build a food supply, increase oxygen and energy production, and upgrade your base. First Martians comes with various standalone missions, each with varying objectives. It also has two different campaigns, however, and one of them is even a legacy-style campaign (may only be played once, ever). The basic mechanics are fairly simple in comparison with the overall complexity of the game: to take an action, a player must place at least on of their action disks on an action space. You can press your luck by only placing one token, or guarantee success by placing both of your tokens there. Players may also combine their tokens to work together to attempt a task. When only one token is placed, you’ll roll a set of corresponding dice to see whether you are successful at the task, whether you became wounded while attempting the task, and whether your character had an an adventure while doing so. When a player has an adventure they will tell the game app as such and the app will give the player an option. Decisions like these will affect your character later in the game. The app tracks all of this and while it’s quite convenient and pretty slick if you think about it. There’s way too much to talk about here in terms of mechanics, but sufficed to say that while First Martians doesn’t feel incredibly thematic in terms of what your character is doing, it’s pretty cool to watch all the systems of your base degrade and the trouble this can cause a team. Different parts of the base’s various systems will become damaged, causing your team to take stress, burn through oxygen and food more quickly. Your team can swap parts between the various systems or fully repair a system, but that requires parts, which are usually in extremely low supply. If too many systems become inoperable your base will break down even faster.

Your team will also need to explore outward from your new Mars base for various reasons; some missions task you with collecting samples, which you must examine while in one you must lay cables from the base and eventually build an antennae tower in order to reestablish communications with Earth. Exploring the terrain of Mars is challenging and dangerous. In one mission we barely explored as far out as we needed to when on our way back the “Froggy” exploration rover broke. If we hadn’t completed our objective before Froggy broke, there’s no way we would have been able to repair it in time. If you like tough cooperative games with agonizing decisions, First Martians is a decent game to try out. This game is not for people who are easily discouraged, because it’s not if but when very bad things will happen. I also think that people who really enjoy working with computers have a better chance of appreciating First Martians.

First Martians uses a companion app to manage your mission on Mars. Although in this case, the game completely depends on the app, similar to Fantasy Flight Games’ second edition of Mansions of Madness. The app is a little clunky, although quite functional. There’s nothing super pretty or impressive, but it definitely gets the job done. It tells you what events have occurred and walks you through almost every step of the game if you want it to. In general, it makes a very complex game much more manageable for the average gamer. The app also tracks the completion of your objectives for each mission, and even allows you to save a virtual board at the end of a campaign mission so you can pick up where you left off at the start of the next one.

I decided not to get into the minutiae of every single mechanism that First Martians uses to try to kill you and your team members. Sufficed to say, this game is indeed complicated. To most of you this won’t mean anything, but if you’ve played some of the more complex modern board games out there, such as Phil Eklund’s titles like Greenland or even his more streamlined Pax Porfirianayou’ll know what I’m talking about, although First Martians is a decent step down from those in terms of complexity. On a 1-10 scale in terms of complexity, I’d say First Martians is somewhere between a 8 and 9. That being said, if you’re able to get through the complexity barrier, there is something pretty substantial here. There’s actually tons of content to work through, and most people will probably never experience all of it. While maybe erring too far on the simulation side versus accessibility, the Mars colonization theme is pretty strong, and I think that’s what will draw some people into the game; in that respect it does a phenomenal job. If you’re not into that theme, if you don’t like cooperative games, and especially if you don’t like complex games, First Martians is definitely not for you. Overall, objectively I’m giving it a 6 out of 10. However, for each of those following categories that appeal to you or that you enjoy, I’m giving it a +1. So, for example, if you are someone who wants a complex cooperative game with a realistic, scientific theme, I’m giving it a 9 out of 10. I’d highly recommend First Martians if you’re someone who falls into all those categories, but it’s definitely not for everyone. Additionally, It would work super well as a solo game so if you’re into that sort of thing I’d give it another +1. First Martians is far from a perfect game but it has the potential to be very satisfying for people willing to make the journey.





Magic the Gathering

My Pet Card: Evolutionary Leap

I’m a very casual Magic player. I hardly play in any constructed tournaments and rarely spend more than $5 on a card. However, I do really enjoy some casual Modern and particularly, Commander. Commander is a fantastic format to play multiplayer as the nature of the rules keeps it fairly casual, and encourages players to gang up on whoever has the best board state. Additionally, because of the casual nature of Commander, you can also get away with playing some mediocre cards in the format. I don’t become super attached to Magic cards, so thinking of what to use for my first “Pet Card” article has been tough. However, when I thought about which cards I’ve had the most fun with, I thought of Evolutionary Leap, which I currently have in my Yasova Dragonclaw Commander deck.

Evolutionary Leap is going to cost you a whopping $1 and most regular players have a full playset of them in their trade binder they’re probably willing to trade away pretty easily. However, there are several things I love about this card. First, it’s fairly cheap to play at two converted mana cost- not broken but definitely a reasonable price to pay for what it can do. Second, I really appreciate the fact that you don’t have to tap it to activate its ability. That means late game you could have a pretty sweet board state and the next turn it’s going to be even better.

Now the downside is that you don’t want to activate Evolutionary Leap and get a weaker creature out, but if you’re sacrificing a 1/1 dork or something that has a cool effect when it dies then it’s probably worth it. Even better, if you can do this multiple times in a game of Commander, then play something like Rise of the Dark Realms then you could have a really good board state.

Like I said earlier, I currently have Evolutionary Leap in my Yasova Dragonclaw deck. It’s really fun to take control of peoples’ creatures, then sacrifice them and put a creature of my own onto the battlefield. In casual games of Commander I’ve had a lot of fun with this card. The process of revealing cards from your deck until you get something really huge like a Pelakka Wurm can be a lot of fun. If you’ve never included Evolutionary Leap in your Commander deck, I highly recommend checking it out!


X-Wing Miniatures

3 Ways to Have Fun with X-Wing (And Be Different While Doing It)

In this crazy current meta of bombs and Harpoon missiles, it can be difficult to find super competitive lists that don’t include one of those two things. Thankfully for most of us X-Wing pilots, the game of X-Wing isn’t just about being competitive but also about finding more fringe squads.


Dead Man’s Switch Z-95 Swarms

My current list-building obsession. You can take four of these pilot skill 1 guys, all with Dead Man’s Switch for only 56 points. With your remaining 44 points, the sky’s the limit. This is what I’ve flown twice now, and while I’ll admit it’s not super competitive, I think with some changes to the list it has potential.

Binayre Pirate — Z-95 Headhunter 12
Dead Man’s Switch 2
Ship Total: 14
Binayre Pirate — Z-95 Headhunter 12
Dead Man’s Switch 2
Ship Total: 14
Binayre Pirate — Z-95 Headhunter 12
Dead Man’s Switch 2
Ship Total: 14
Binayre Pirate — Z-95 Headhunter 12
Dead Man’s Switch 2
Ship Total: 14
Inaldra — M3-A Interceptor 15
Draw Their Fire 1
“Light Scyk” Interceptor -2
Ship Total: 14
Captain Jostero — Kihraxz Fighter 24
Crack Shot 1
Harpoon Missiles 4
Cloaking Device 2
Pulsed Ray Shield 2
Guidance Chips 0
Stygium Particle Accelerator 2
Vaksai 0
Ship Total: 30

After playing it a couple times now with decent results, I’m going to need to modify this list. Currently I’m working on swapping out Captain Jostero & Inaldra for something else as Jostero has a tough time firing off her Harpoon Missile at only pilot skill 4. I chose Jostero because her ability seems to be tailor made for Dead Man’s Switch, and when it works it’s absolutely hilarious, but it can be difficult to pull off. There’s definitely some to be had with Dead Man’s Switch Z-95’s, though, when you watch your opponent either avoid shooting a Z-95 that’s at range 1, or take damage if they destroy it. Also, even if you screw up your flying and do damage to your own ships as they die you can still have fun laughing at your own demise!


Fly “Bad” Ships

There’s a decent amount of balance in X-Wing right now. The meta is better than it’s been for a while even with all the bombs and missiles wrecking faces, but part of the fun of X-Wing is the crazy amount of experimentation you can have with ships and pilots that most competitive players will tell you are straight up bad. Truth is, they’re right. There are some pretty bad ships & pilots out there out there, like the U-WingArvel Crynyd, Imperial Boba Fett, or pretty much any Quadjumper pilot like Unkar Plutt. However, whether you’re playing against a newer player and want to try something crazy, or you’re just tired of playing competitive meta squadrons, trying some of the “bad” pilots and finding the good in them can make you a better player. It’s easy for people like myself who have been playing X-Wing for 4+ years now to only want to play what’s good.

This Imperial Kath Scarlet/Kylo Ren build is pretty off the wall and has multiple ways of dealing stress to your opponent (click on the pic to see the list)


Control/Token Removal

This is probably the most competitive option in this article. Stress is the most obvious candidate here, as there are plenty of hyper effective ways of dealing it out and it can reduce the ability of your opponent taking actions to drop bombs or take target locks for munitions like Harpoon Missiles.

TIE/D Defenders with the recently released Jamming Beam or Tractor Beam is pretty fun as well and may actually be competitive. However, what I’ve really had my sights set on for a while are ways to dish out Ion Tokens. It seems to me like this is an area where the developers have been super careful not to put a lot of power into. If you’ve ever been unlucky enough to have one of your ships repeatedly ionized, you know how un-fun it can really be. If the developers ever make giving Ion tokens  super powerful strategy, I think that is when X-Wing may have some serious problems. With the recent release of Ion Dischargers and upgrades like Pulsed Ray Shield and EMP Device, upgrades and pilots like 4-LOM  and (oh God I can’t believe I’m going to say this) Dace Bonearm might even be slightly playable, in a really fun, silly, or trollish sort of way. The next time a play a newer player I really want to try a list like this . Just don’t bring Dace Bonearm to a tournament based on my advice, expecting to do well at all. You’ll probably go home in tears.


There you have it! X-Wing is an extremely fun game, but it’s important to remember to not get too competitive for too long; that’s an easy way to burn out and lose sight of the exciting experimentation you can have. So get out there and fly new ships!





Board Games

One Play Review: Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama

Usually when I do one of these One Play Reviews, I talk about a game after just one play because I know it may be a few weeks or even months till I get to play the game. In the case of Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama, it’s a much different story. This quick review is going out now, just the day after I played it because I want people to know about this little gem as soon as possible.


Continuing their trend of small box games, Kokoro is one of the latest releases from Indie Boards and Cards, publisher of The Resistance (also The Resistance: Avalon), Aeon’s End, Flash Point: Fire Rescue, and Kodama: The Tree Spirits (which takes place in the same setting as Kokoro. Kokoro is a reimplementation of Avenue, a 2016 release that eluded me because like many good new games from a small publisher, it was out of stock everywhere before you could even blink and eye.

In Kokoro, players simultaneously draw lines on a small white board, connecting sanctuaries to caterpillars and flowers, but also connecting those caterpillars and flowers to guardians in opposite corners of the board. Each round, a sanctuary card is flipped, telling everyone which sanctuary will be scored. Then, a path card is flipped, telling all players what path must be drawn (these paths must be drawn in the exact orientation as shown on the card and cannot be rotated). The players can draw these paths anywhere on the board and do not need to be connected to another line and/or the sanctuary being scored. Alternatively, players can peek at what the next sanctuary card will be in instead of drawing. When a fourth golden path card is drawn, the round ends and the current sanctuary is scored. Here’s the catch: each player must score more points on that sanctuary then they did on the previous sanctuary or they otherwise score negative points for the current one at the end of the game. This is a scoring system that highly encourages long-term strategy and careful play.
This is a fantastic game. First off, it is incredibly quick to play and very casual. Although there are excruciatingly tough decisions and basically no player interaction, the game encourages fun social interactions in a way that is explainable. It’s about like sitting around playing Bingo with friends, except that Kokoro actually has meaningful decisions and is fun. Also, Kokoro has a really low MSRP of $20 and plays up to eight people. Kokoro is a winner for me, and I think for just about everyone from casual gamers to more hardcore gamers alike. It also has new special scoring cards that the original version of Avenue didn’t have, an advanced player board, and obviously white boards and dry erase markers compared to pencil/paper like the original version. For the low price, small box, great art, and quick play time with a high player count, this is a huge success of game design. I’m giving it a 9.5 out of 10 and can’t wait to play it again!