Tag Archives: Asmodee

Mafia de Cuba: Revolucion Expansion – A Written Review



Most social deduction games benefit completely from expansions. With larger strategy games extension content can sometimes bloat the experience and ruin the purity, but with games like Mafia de Cuba it’s all about additional variety and spicing up the metagame.  The Revolucion expansion succeeds mightily because it seamlessly integrates into the original without skewing its identity.

Physically this is of course on par with the gorgeous components in the base game. We have lavish poker chips in a nifty little box that slides apart like an old-school smokes container.  The attention to detail in all parts of the package is exceptional and the product connects with your emotions immediately.

Mafia de Cuba is all about sussing out the truth while facing a hornet’s nest of uncertainty spread by your fellow gangsters. Revolucion ups the ante by adding a touch of complication and more advanced play, a feature regulars will appreciate immensely.

The Revolutionaries are my favorite new inclusion as an alternate to the Agents in the base game. Similar to their peers, they act as Werewolf Tanner-esque traitors that want to be called out as hoodlums.  If accused of thievery, these two brothers in arms win together along with the thief who stole the least amount of diamonds.  While the rules sphere is not very different from the Agents themselves, this results in absolutely crazy play with a whole new dimension to the game – more on that later.

The Diamond Lover is a sly individual that wants to be chosen by the Godfather. If she is called out as a Thief she immediately wins along with the player who currently has the most diamonds.  This will either be the Thief who stole the lion’s share or the Godfather if he’s nailed a majority of Thieves.  This shift in dynamics is equally bananas.



The unusual suspects.


Shifting gears, let’s talk about the bright-green fake diamond. A Street Urchin or Thief may take this new form of loot in addition to whatever other diamonds they may have filched into their pocket.  If called out by the big boss they reveal the fake diamond first.  The Godfather will need to call them out again if he’s feeling confident, but if he nails the Urchin it of course can cost him the game.  A not-so-subtle additional layer of intrigue is provided by one new little component.

This expansion is all about the mind games. The crooked Lawyer will join whoever suits his interests and the Traitor/Minion combination act as a trap for the Godfather.  If the Godfather makes a mistake which would bring about the victory for the Thieves, the Traitor immediately replaces him with his Minion becoming the equivalent of a Traitor’s Henchman.  That is as dramatic and swingy as it comes.

Subterfuge and vindictive social jousting win the day. Revolucion gets there by dynamically assigning mired teams to the various participants at the table.  In the base game the lines were relatively clear with the Godfather/Henchman versus the Thieves and a little bit of tomfoolery mixed in via the Agents.

Here you have Diamond Lovers posing as Thieves and then switching it up mid game and posing as Diamond Lovers if the Godfather recovers a substantial amount of the Diamonds, because of this you have Thieves and Revolutionaries pretending to be Diamond Lovers. Additionally there’s Thieves making temporary alliances with players who they think provide them alternate victory conditions – taking a single diamond and trying to help the Revolutionaries get accused is totally legit, and the whole thing is absolutely crazy.

What is really confounding is that the table talk takes a more aggressive and sideways slant than the base game as the rabbit hole gets deeper. Once the implications of these new roles starts to become clear, you quickly realize how difficult it may have been for some groups to assimilate these additions if they were included in the base game of Mafia de Cuba.  Pulling these out into a separate expansion was undoubtedly the correct move.

Because of this increase in complexity there is a larger risk in the game going pear-shaped as players stumble about remembering what their roles do and who they win with. That is a tradeoff I make 10 times out of 10 for the jacked up depth this expansion provides.  The nuanced social situations and head nods across the table as you try to make subtle secret handshakes is unbelievably intriguing.

This is a fantastic expansion every Mafia de Cuba gangster will want. It increases tension and dramatic flair while extending the metagame a hundred fold.  It’s the type of expansion that melds perfectly with your ongoing experience, evolving as you play and blossoming as time wanes.

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Rating: 4.8/5 (4 votes cast)

Mafia de Cuba – A Written Review




What I know about the mafia amounts to On The Waterfront, The Godfather, and Once Upon A Time In America. What I know about the Cuban mafia is extraordinarily less. I’d like to imagine the tense cigar passing crooked atmosphere of Mafia de Cuba is spot-on, as it certainly feels that way. Spitting insults through horrific accents and grabbing handfuls of crisp diamonds contributes to a cavalier ambience undercut by tension and hostility.

These types of social deduction games are certainly becoming prevalent to the point that they need to do something different and establish an identity that sets them apart from their peers. Mafia de Cuba’s huge twist and secret handshake is the incorporation of role selection into the structure. These post-Resistance quick social games typically assign you a role randomly from the start, pushing you off a cliff and telling you to make do with what fate’s dealt. This can be troublesome if you’re given Merlin in your first game of Avalon or a hairy fiend in that first taste of One Night Ultimate Werewolf. Mafia de Cuba’s take is pouring a dump truck of weapons on the table and having you pick your poison.

The structure of the game is initially defined by the selection of a player to be the godfather, giving them an immense sense of responsibility. They take the game box which is loaded with a collection of poker chips denoting roles and slick little diamonds signifying, well, diamonds. The godfather is able to remove up to five gems from the starting pool of 15 to keep some information close to the vest and vary the social interaction that will occur.

So this box that all of this is occurring in needs to be mentioned. The game box is 100% committed to the setting, even boasting a small flap on the inside to seal the deal in its appearance of holstering a slew of cigars. It’s immediately mood-setting and visually stimulating – players want to fiddle with the lid and massage the printed inside image to no end. Don’t let the enticing theatrics distract you, we’re here to skim moolah and bury rats.


mafia-de-cuba inside


After the godfather removes some diamonds, he passes the box clockwise to the next player. Each player in turn has the opportunity to steal some of the diamonds that are left or take one of the role chips from the box. Physically you need to sort of hold the box close to your chest to peer inside and take inventory of what’s left. If you’re far down the line your choices will be fewer but you will have exceptionally useful information that may need to be relayed to the godfather. Whatever you filch goes in your pocket and then the box is passed. If you took diamonds you’re a thief and want to lay low, otherwise your social approach is defined by one of several interesting options.

The role chips feature loyal henchman who win with the godfather, undercover fuzz who win if they trick the godfather into believing they’re thieves, and a driver who wins if the player on his right wins (take a second, you’ll get it). Once everyone’s selected roles or stolen diamonds, the box eventually makes its way back to the godfather. Trash talking and bickering now begins as the boss tries to get information from his people. Henchman will want to recount what roles were left when they received the box, fuzz will want to be shady, and thieves will want to play it cool. The driver needs to do some deduction about what roles are missing and act accordingly.

It’s an extremely fascinating experience that results in some of the most engaging play I’ve seen for this type of game. The simple fact that player agency is stressed in a way that’s never been done before in this genre really provides for a satisfying experience. If you’re feeling risky take a bunch of diamonds, if you want to play it cool go loyal. It’s such a simple concept but it works remarkably well.

Eventually the godfather will choose a player around the table who they think is a thief. The victim reveals what’s in their pocket and the table either boos the crook or winces in pain if the godfather chose poorly. Typically the boss-man is given a mulligan or two allowing him to mess up, but he must be careful and toe the line. The only way for the boss and henchmen to win is if they successfully finger every single thief.



Eat it fuzz.


A surface impression may seem like all this finger pointing and discussion is random like a game of Werewolf with few special roles. The deduction is actually funneled through the disappearing information located in that small cigar box that’s passed to you. If you’re the third player to receive the box and it’s missing a loyal henchman and an FBI agent, then you know the two players before you are on distinctly different sides. The fact that this may fuel your choice in role selection enhances the excitement and tension as you hope to identify your possible teammates and persuade the godfather to find success.

This is a fantastic game whose only fault in lack of role variety will be supplemented in short order with an oncoming expansion at release. The notion of trimming down a base game and releasing an expansion straight from the get-go may leave a foul taste in some mouths but what must be emphasized is just how inexpensive Mafia de Cuba is. You can pick this up from a discounter for less than an Andrew Jackson. The base does come with the interesting optional role of the Cleaner, a hitman who may yell “pow!” after the godfather chooses a person to empty their pockets. If the person chosen is part of the fuzz they win and the officer loses. This gives a glimpse into what variety may come and how interactive some of the future inclusions may be.

Mafia de Cuba was a game that hadn’t even shown up on the edge of my radar before getting it to the table. Upon my first play it had a gun to my temple as Jeremy was shouting in my left ear that I was a thief while Ben was propped up on my right shoulder proclaiming my innocence. Slamming my fist on the table in an attempt to swat the angel and devil harassers off my shoulders, the godfather was ultimately perplexed and zeroed in on the large bullseye on my chest. Reaching into my pocket I dropped the mound of diamonds from their perch like a fountain of blood pouring from the large wound in my gut. Sometimes sleeping with the fishes is as fun as breaking necks in a bounce house.

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Rating: 5.0/5 (3 votes cast)

Witness – A Written Review




Stupid fun is a term I often use to describe a game that’s not particularly strategically deep or mechanically stimulating on a thoughtful level, but is unabashedly fun in an extroverted slapstick and energetic sort of way. They’re games that make you get up out of your seat, cheer with enthusiasm, and roll around on your cheap matted carpet grinding Dorito crumbs into a powder as you laugh hysterically. Games like Rampage, Escape, and yes – Witness, are stupid fun with an emphasis on fun.

Witness is a pretty simple game that’s easy to jump into. You flip to one the 64 entries in the case book and then read a paragraph aloud to the group and perhaps share a picture. Then each player takes up their character book and reads their corresponding clue for the case to themselves. The case itself will often be a logic puzzle of sorts and will require information from each player to be combined in order to solve. After digesting their personal information, the table engages in several rounds of information sharing where two players share all of the information they know (including that which they have previously been passed) each to another player. Information flows in a circular motion around the table as you engage in a 10 minute game of sleuthing via the classic Telephone. After 4 rounds of information passing, players then collectively write down answers to three questions concerning the case, scoring points as a team for each correct answer.




The game does a great job of easing players in with an introductory case that is easy to grasp yet still requires some memory and recollection skills. Among the 64 cases is a spread of difficulty and the game does a fantastic job informing you on the challenge level before you begin with clear labels. The design does bear a natural and unavoidable catch with these types of games in that you can’t easily replay a case and get the full experience. I have found it somewhat hard to remember all of the details concerning a case, but I would have a natural advantage if I were to re-engage with an entry I’ve already tackled. You could still replay cases by switching up what character you play and by trying to forget what you know while the other players won’t be too terribly worse for wear, but it’s not quite as enjoyable the second go around. Thankfully the book is jammed with a large number of cases that will keep you occupied for an extended period of time.

Another requirement of the design that is strict and unbreakable is the necessity for four players at the table. Each player receives their own case book which must be read and whose information must be passed along to solve the mystery. Faking it and having someone read from two case books will work but it will not be as satisfying or interesting and will result in a lackluster experience.




When you sit down to play this game people immediately start smirking and chuckling at the structure. They open their book and see their clue is a picture of Hitler or a small drawing of footprints with different designs on the soles and their brow furrows as amusement and confusion take over. The feel is damn well brilliant as you begin whispering information and mumbling to yourself a quickly imposed mnemonic device to remember the information your team is depending on all while the player next to you is rolling his eyes and blinking in frustration as you struggle to recall a specific name or factoid. The game is constantly shoving these moments of confusion and hilarity based around one’s ability to recollect odd data and you quickly fall into the clutches of the design and fun emerges effortlessly.

The linchpin in this title is certainly the scenarios themselves as the rules are just a light framework to interact with the mysteries. The game thunders along so well due to excellent scenario writing and a very satisfying difficulty setting that allows you to experience the game on a proper curve. Some of the most joyous moments I’ve encountered have been diving into difficult cases and the table really mucking up their clues to the point that when everyone reads aloud their answers you start busting out, Jeremy throws his pen at the wall, and Ben facepalms. I love it when a game punches me in the gut while kissing me on the cheek and Witness delivers if you approach the tougher material.




One of the most quirky elements of this game is the esoteric Blake and Mortimer theme. This collection of characters and setting is drawn from a 1940s Belgian comic series and gives the game a sense of quirky identity that makes it stand out. It has this kind of inspired Johnny Quest feel and it’s just enough flavor and color to help spark the left side of your brain and keep you enamored.

Unique designs that accompany stellar gameplay deserve recognition. This is a 10 minute filler that nothing in your collection touches. This isn’t Kaiju or Zombies, rather, it’s shameless schoolyard fun in the best of ways like a collection of kids playing the best damn game of Duck Duck Goose as if it was their last. I don’t know about you, but I want to be part of that circle.

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Claustrophobia – Furor Sanguinis



Designer:            Croc

Publisher:           Asmodee/Marabunta


In many ways Claustrophobia is the perfect two player game.  It’s asymmetrical.  It offers somewhat deep tactical choices yet is easy to digest.  It boasts astounding variety through a multitude of scenarios and effects.  If you would have asked me in 2010 how the game could possibly be improved I would have shot back – “Improved?”.  Then De Profundis came out and my world was rocked.  In 2014 it’s happened again with Furor Sanguinis, which has taken things in an altogether different direction.

Furor Sanguinis includes a new unit, Kartikeya, 3 new tiles and a group of new tokens used across its 6 scenarios.  Kartikeya is an enormous Demon-Sized bipedal lizard whose race is known as Squamata.  He was born human and has been warped into the bestial monstrosity he is now while taking up residence in the tunnels below New Jerusalem.  He is searching for freedom and evolution by consuming the essence of Demons as he works his way up the hierarchy of hell.  It’s a compelling and bizarre narrative that unfolds across a half dozen scenarios that follow this horrific endeavor.




Kartikeya is first and foremost a beast.  If you ever wanted to Hulk smash your way through the dungeon, tossing aside Troglodytes and Humans like discarded toys, then this is the expansion for you.  Mechanically he functions like a cross between the Demon and Humans, rolling a dice pool to assign to areas that build up wounds as the game progresses.  You are able to beef up his combat ability or boost his speed and cunning.  He’s more flexibile than either previous faction and feels well bulked out as a single threat with a dynamic and nuanced play style that affords the ability to tackle many problems in creative fashion.

The Squamata’s Instinct board is similar to the Demon’s board but is divided up into sections corresponding to specific body parts.  The head has several abilities including one that offers Frantic, one that allows you to roll additional dice in the Instinct phase, and one that makes you Impressive.  The body allows for Regeneration and Elusive.  Arms control Combat ability and the Legs buff movement.  It all works rather seamlessly, offering those juicy signature tactical dilemmas of whether you go all out offense, worry about speed and pushing towards the goal, or sit back and take things slow while you maintain a safer crawl.

When you receive damage you must assign the damage to a specific body part.  Each section can take 3 or 4 wounds and once a body part has taken its maximum number you can no longer assign dice to abilities in that area or heal wounds there.  Because you can heal 1 wound a turn, the Demon or Human player can’t quite push for the death by a thousand cut strategy that works on the Humans.  The enemy will want to pick and choose his offensive moments, looking to overwhelm and provide a torrent of damage to mitigate the slow drip of the Squamata’s healing powers.  It’s an interesting pace that kind of mixes up the feel of the base game and really provides for a distinct combat experience.




One of my favorite elements of the previous expansion was the bevy of new scenarios that stretched the boundaries of the mechanics.  Likewise, Furor Sanguinis features scenarios that are a touch more creative and interesting than the base game.  You have opportunities to push through like a beast just slaughtering every foe in your path as you look to confront a tough new Demon, you also have missions where you will be navigating a delicate maze looking to locate Troglodyte eggs, one scenario even has you fielding chained Human slaves that can’t venture more than a tile away from the Squamata (think Michonne but the Walkers actually have jaws).  They’re varied, interesting, and leave you wanting to replay them to attempt different strategies and approaches.

Some of the early buzz abounding this expansion in the rumor mill was that it would allow for the possibility of 3 players.  This has always been a desire bandied about by a vocal group and it’s certainly not one I would begrudge.  However, the initial talk is not altogether accurate as there is only a single scenario that features all three factions and supports a possible three participants.  The mission itself never references three players though and it assumes the Squamata player will control the new lizard-beast as well as the Redeemer’s forces.  It works fine with the full complement of three players but this is not at all an expansion geared towards adding a third player to the table, rather, that is an added benefit of a single scenario, albeit one that is very engaging and perhaps the most memorable of the six.

What is quite fascinating about the three faction scenario and those that follow it is the winding narrative of Kartikeya and how he interacts with the previous two groups.  While his ultimate goal and hated foe are the Demons, the Squamata engages in a tumultuous relationship of uncertainty with the Redeemer-led Humans.  The narrative boasts some interesting twists that are coupled magnificently from a mechanical and design standpoint with the included scenarios.  The story that you interactively engage with is certainly interesting and it had me thumbing ahead to find out exactly where this was going.  I felt this sense of narrative and purpose to events that occurred was stronger than both the base game and De Profundis, and it’s definitely one of my favorite qualities of this release.



New tokens for Deadly Threat, Scenarios, and Kartikeya’s abilities.


Each scenario also includes a new mechanic for the Demon player that kind of flies under the radar when discussing this expansion.  Instead of drawing Demonic Cards to trigger nasty effects, the Demon player now collects Deadly Threat from that same space on his board.  This new threat can be spent to trigger unique events that appear in each scenario.  While the outcome is somewhat similar to the event deck, in practice the feel is quite a bit different.  Many of these Deadly Threat events are quite harsh and brutal, despite the fact that they may each only be triggered one time during the game.  Typically the Demon player will slowly amass this Deadly Threat and then unleash a torrent of pain over a few rounds by triggering a cascade of events that increase his punishment by an enormous factor.  To combat this approaching hell-storm, Kartikeya must move through the tunnels quickly to get to his objective before the Demon player can acquire too big of a hoard.  This acts as an interesting timer and pacing element of the game that dovetails perfectly with the healing and wound rules of the new beast.  It works admirably and never feels clunky or forced.

If you asked me for a list of gaming desires of 2014 a new Claustrophobia expansion would not have been high on the list, mostly because I thought it highly unlikely.  Luckily for us, “Furor Sanguinis” did arrive and it will tear you up and spit you out like Kartikeya shredding a helpless Trog.

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Sun Tzu Through The Eyes Of Sun Tzu



Designer:            Al Newman

Publisher:           Asmodee, Matagot (2014)


“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”  – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Matagot’s Sun Tzu rewards cunning and strategy above all else. This 2-player area control game requires you to outsmart your opponent by carefully playing a single card to each of the 5 provinces, where they will be revealed simultaneously with the enemy’s choice region by region.  Brute force and overwhelming aggression are the tools of folly as a more refined sense of wisdom is required.  You will be playing cards with a numerical value, the difference being the swing in troops for the province in contention.  Controlling a region awards victory points on the third, sixth, and the final ninth turn.  Be stalwart, methodical, and decisive and you will be justly rewarded.




The 2014 deluxe version of Sun Tzu features gorgeous components and excellent new miniatures in varied poses.



“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

Allowing the enemy to beat himself and wear his forces out as if caught beneath a grindstone is one of the strongest tools in a commander’s arsenal. The game allows for such clever play by consciously playing low numbered cards into a battle, allowing your opponent to overwhelm with numbers.  For each point the enemy beats you, he must place an additional figure into the space (or remove one of yours if you are the current owner).  By duping your adversary, you can convince him you are about to swoop in for the kill on one of his bastions.  If he misjudges and plays a high card while you play a low, he will see his reserves depleted and his forces begin to bunch, allowing you to maintain a superior position of flexibility and range.  Lead your opponent into undoing his own hastily laid plans and cheer as he wallows out of position.


“If you know your enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”

Success is primarily derived from staying one step ahead mentally. If you can outthink the fool across from you, victory will come easier than breath.  The central and most interesting mechanic of Sun Tzu is the card pool.  You have access to a hand of cards numbered 1 through 6 which will re-enter your hand after being played.  You also draw from a deck with cards that possess effects such as being equal to one higher than whatever card your opponent plays, or one less.  There’s also plague cards which will cancel the battle and cause half of all miniatures in the province to be lost.  What produces such tension and strategic satisfaction is the fact that these special cards are one use only and available in each side’s deck in the same quantity.  Thus, the cat and mouse game of trying to draw out your opponent into wasting his best cards or committing an inappropriate value to the skirmish is the meat of the design and what you are mentally wrangling with each turn.  It works magnificently in a streamlined fashion and that moment of turning over each other’s card produces a palpable heat that will have you loosening your collar and fidgeting in your seat.




The beautiful board features five areas of contention to wage war.



“Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”

At the start of the game you’re afforded a single choice between starting Warlord cards, which offers you a card up of your sleeve waiting to be triggered at any point. Each side possesses 5 unique and asymmetrical Warlord cards which provides for an air of mystery as you try to anticipate your opponent’s play.  When you choose to utilize the special effect can be paramount to your success and often the act of disguising your card and its resulting strategy focus is just as important.  Maintain that demeanor of formlessness and mystery.  Keep your opponent guessing and his struggles will cause him to unwind.


“The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.”

That visual of a falcon swooping is gratification and reward. You will feel that same sense of satisfaction repeatedly when playing Sun Tzu, as the game repeatedly rewards clever play in a visual and exhilarating way.  When you both flip your card simultaneously and you pull off a well-timed perfect play, you stand up and cheer.  The game is there to return the high five as you immediately toss your opponent’s pieces to the side or slam your own miniatures down in triumphant victory.  While the play of cards and maneuvering is subtle and highly mental, the reward and compensation is immediate and stunning.




Sleek graphic design and exceptional artwork frames the cards at the heart of the game.



“Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.”

The beauty of this game ultimately arises through the clever joust you will undertake with your opponent. It’s a game that tests your knowledge of his tendencies and rewards planning over gut instinct.  Repeated plays against the same foe draw out the best qualities in the design and utilize the inherent depth to the greatest degree.  This is not a game to be pulled out once in a blue moon or to parade around and play against a string of different people.  This is the perfect 30 minute filler to play with that continual enemy, the opponent you always grapple with and are compelled to best.  Grind his face into the ground and tread upon his limp armies.

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