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Seasons Video Review

Off The Shelf Board Game ReviewsSeasons By Asmodee Games – A Game For 2-4 Players Ages 14+.

“Assuming the role of one of the greatest sorcerers of the time, you will be participating in the legendary tournament of the 12 Seasons.

Your goal is to raise the most victory points by gathering energy, summoning familiars and magic items. If you amass enough crystals and symbols of prestige, you will become the kingdom’s most illustrious mage. Optimize the cards through skilful combinations, using the seasons wisely to access the energies of crystals and become the the new Archmage of the kingdom of Xidit.

In a first phase, select 9 power cards at the same time as your opponents. Do the right choices, because they will determine the rest of the game. Acclimatize to the season to make the most of the actions proposed by each roll of the dice! Collect energies, invoke magical and familiar objects, and collect enough crystals, symbols of prestige.”

Component Quality – 1:31
How To Play – 7:00
Sample Game – 27:15
Family Friendliness – 48:57
Final Review – 55:12

For more information visit Asmodee.com

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Thank you for watching.


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Seasons (Video Review)

Seasons box front

Assuming the role of one of the greatest sorcerers of the time, you will be participating in the legendary tournament of the 12 Seasons.

Your goal is to raise the most victory points by gathering energy, summoning familiars and magic items. If you amass enough crystals and symbols of prestige, you will become the kingdom’s most illustrious mage. Optimize the cards through skilful combinations, using the seasons wisely to access the energies of crystals and become the the new Archmage of the kingdom of Xidit.

~ Asmodee Editions

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Seasons (Mixed Review/Reflection)

Assuming the role of one of the greatest sorcerers of the time, you will be participating in the legendary tournament of the 12 Seasons.

Your goal is to raise the most victory points by gathering energy, summoning familiars and magic items. If you amass enough crystals and symbols of prestige, you will become the kingdom’s most illustrious mage. Optimize the cards through skilful combinations, using the seasons wisely to access the energies of crystals and become the the new Archmage of the kingdom of Xidit.

~ Asmodee



Starting with this review, I am going to make a slight departure from my usual format. Previous to this review, I had been sticking to a strict order of games to write reviews for. But, thanks to the magic of online play and the desires of my gaming partners, I have played this game almost forty times. Through this extended amount of plays my thoughts and feelings about the game have evolved significantly enough, that I felt compelled to write this review.

One aspect that has risen out of these later plays is the theme. I am mostly a mechanics-first gamer, and the mechanics are still very much the focus of this game when I play. But, I have noticed that if a game sticks around for awhile, it will likely live or die on my proverbial gameshelf if the theme is strong enough to carry it across the finish line. Throughout the review, I hope to highlight where the game succeeds and fails in both areas.

Component Quality:

The components in Seasons are exquisite!

First, the dice. The dice are fat, chunky, and look delicious. You heard me right. Delicious! They look like plump little candies that come in four vibrant flavors (or colors): red, blue, green, and yellow. The custom etchings are very clear and easy to read from across the table. You will be rolling these dice several times and the extra heft makes them very pleasing to roll.

Photo by James Brooks

The other component that you will be interacting with constantly are the cards. The cards provide the main focal point of the game. The illustrations are extremely surreal and evoke a whimsical, even slightly sinister feel. A lot of the artwork reminds me of a psychedelic dream about to go very wrong. Several of the characters and artifacts depicted seem childlike on the surface, but when you juxtapose them with some of the nasty gameplay effects, they take on an almost apprehensive and chilling vibe.

Photo by James Brooks

In addition to an assortment of tokens and cubes for players to manage their various resources, the game comes with a few different boards. These boards are used to track various things like the current season and individual player scores. For the most part, there is nothing particularly noteworthy about these pieces. But, I’ve heard of people bumping the table to catastrophic effect, knocking the cubes off of the scoring track, leaving the game in an unfixable state. I can definitely see that happening, but it’s never happened to me in the several face-to-face games I’ve played of Seasons.

However, I will say that I have seen players, including myself, fumble with the scoring cubes. But, we have always been able to fix the score with the help of the other players at the table. The same can be said for the cubes used to manage your summoning gauge. Each player tracks their summoning gauge which indicates how many cards you can place in front of you. It could be important to the game if you accidentally bump the cube use to track this gauge, and now have no idea how many cards are you allowed to have in front of you. It’s a bit frustrating, but not a deal breaker if you are considerate with your arm movements at the game table.

Photo by KC Skedzielewski

Gameplay Impressions:

Seasons is played over a variable number turns over three rounds (or years). Each year is broken into four seasons: Winter (blue), Spring (green), Summer (yellow), and Fall (red). Players will be rolling dice and playing cards to try and accumulate the most crystals. Crystals are effectively the victory points of Seasons. Each card played will also be worth an amount of crystals to be added to a player’s score at the end of the game.

Seasons is at it’s mechanical heart a card game mashed up with a dice choosing game. Dice will be rolled every turn and players will each choose one. The die chosen will usually generate energy tokens which are used when paying the cost for playing cards. These energy tokens can also be converted directly into crystals. The dice may also allow players to draw more cards or even just gain a fixed amount of crystals. Crystals are mostly just “points”, but can also be used to pay various costs during the course of a game.

After choosing a die, players will possibly play cards. There are fifty unique cards in the game, two of each, each with some kind of effect that will generate crystals, act in synergy with another card, or inflict harm on one’s opponents. There are rules for a basic game where players are dealt a set of nine cards. But, the best way to play the game is to begin the game with a card draft. As players become more familiar with the various card abilities and how best to create synergies, the beginning draft phase will increasingly become the most important part of the game.

Card Drafting

Whether playing with a fixed deal of cards or engaging in a pre-game card draft, players will always end up with nine cards to begin the game. Before starting the game proper, each player will need to choose three of these cards to make up their initial starting hand. Then players will put aside the rest of their cards. These cards will be added to their hand in groups of three at the start of rounds two and three. There is a lot of frontloaded decision making at the start of the game. Not only do players need to be awake during the draft portion, they need to be smart about which cards to start the game with, and which cards to put away for the last round of the game.

Let me pause a moment from discussing the mechanics, to bring up the theme of the game. The rule book describes the theme as three year competition between sorcerers in a magic forest located in the kingdom of Xidit.

This is not the real theme. The real theme is that of a bucking bronco of magical forces that need to be corralled and brought to bear. This begins with the card drafting. Initially, players will not understand all of the possible interplay of cards and just how devastating different combinations can be. I have noticed my valuation of cards fluctuate dramatically based not only on the game situation, but also in a much more general sense as I have become more experienced with the game. Surprisingly, at least to me, I have seen a fantastic attachment to the theme arise out of this simple mechanic.

Take two or more sorcerers, plop them into an insane and unpredictable forest, and have them do battle!

The swirling chaos that is the “Magic” in the kingdom of Xidit is not your typical tropes of magic. There are no magic arrows, fire, lightning, or healing spells. It does not necessarily fall easily into the categories of low magic or high magic. This magic has a mind of it’s own. It is a kin to some kind of mash-up described in the lands of Krynn, Alagaesia, and The Dreaming. It’s not something any novice should trifle with and expect complete mastery of. It will you bite you back if you speak these spells in the incorrect or least efficient order!

At the start of the game, the forest is swirling with a variety of creatures and disembodied artifacts that seem more alive than not. Even at these early moments of card drafting, players will need to be on their toes trying to pull these magical forces to their aid, but also keep an eye toward the synergies they expect their opponents are constructing.

Photo by Henk Rolleman

Dice Choosing

At the start of each round the start player will roll a set of dice based on the current season. Players will then take turns choosing a single die from the set, and executing the effects of the chosen die. The various dice effects range from collecting energy tokens to gaining crystals, drawing cards, and increasing a player’s summoning gauge.

The dice choosing is surprisingly the most thematic aspect of the game. The enchanted forest where your magical competition is taking place is behaving like a living entity. It’s almost like “weather”. The dice are there to be tamed. But one can never fully control the weather! A master sorcerer should be able to adapt to their surroundings, and learn to flow with the surrounding magic of the forest.

More chaos to be broken and brought to one’s will!

In the early stages of the game, it is going to be extremely important for players to increase their summoning gauge. Everyone starts with their gauge set to zero, which means they cannot have any cards played in front of them. For each step you increase your summoning gauge, you may have one card played in front of you. This can be one of the more frustrating aspects of the game if it comes to the point where are just not getting any dice with a summoning star to increase your gauge. Thankfully, the start player rotates every turn so you have an equal shot at getting a summoning star as much as anyone else.

The other choices available are only slightly less important. It will quickly become obvious to new players that they need to store up a nice reserve of energy tokens to give them more flexibility in the cards they can play. However, you will also want to build up a reserve of crystals. It will not necessarily be obvious on your first play how important this is. As you start playing with the more advanced cards, you will find several ways in which players can force others to spend extra crystals when they want to take actions or play cards. It’s going to be important to have some extra crystals in reserve. Otherwise, you may fall into a black hole of magic that will strangle your every attempt to escape. Quite simply, it’s possible to suffer a crushing defeat if you do not choose your dice carefully. In fact, it’s possible no matter how carefully you choose!

This crushing devastation will be exacerbated in games with more than two players. With more than two, it is possible for the game to move more quickly than I would like it. With the constantly rotating start player of a two player game, I don’t feel like I’m constantly being screwed out of vital resources. More detail on this in the next section, but suffice it to say, one must be very thoughtful in choosing the optimal die each turn. It’s advisable to plan ahead here. Build up a reserve of energy and crystals, as well as spend some turns increasing your summoning gauge, to set yourself up to play your cards with maximum efficiency. But, don’t wait too long and let the game get away from you.

Photo by Antony Hemme

Crystals: Scoring Points and Playing Cards

Seasons does a good job of balancing the points scored during the game, with the points tabulated at the end of the game. During the game, there are a variety of ways to score points, either through playing cards or Transmutation.

Transmutation is available to a player when they have chosen a die depicting a kind of halo-looking border around it. Depending on the what season the game is currently in, players may exchange energy tokens directly for crystals. For example, in Fall (the red season), you can only exchange its own tokens for one crystal a piece. However, you can exchange the Winter (blue) energy tokens for three crystals a piece. In addition, you have a better chance of rolling and collecting the Fall tokens during Fall, and the least chance of collecting them during Summer (the yellow season). It won’t be until the following Summer that you can get a good exchange rate on your Fall tokens. So, you would have to hold onto the tokens for almost an entire year if you really wanted to bank on Transmuting as optimally as possible. This would not be an efficient game plan, but there are various combos available through the use of cards to quickly build up a vast store of energy to Transmute right when you need it.

In addition to Transmutation, there is also some direct scoring available with card effects. One of the more enjoyable aspects of the game is piecing these together during the draft portion of the game, and seeing your plans come to fruition.

There are also several cards geared towards directly hindering your opponents’ ability to do much of anything on their turn. Again, this is exacerbated in a game with multiple players. With two players, you can easily memorize what your opponent is capable of during the draft portion at the start of the game. They will also have a good idea of what you have. So, the game becomes an extremely interesting exercise in cat and mouse, and even the dice choosing becomes vitally important. You should have a good read on exactly what energy tokens your opponent needs. You should also be able to anticipate when they are ready to get their engine rolling.

With more than two players, all of these tactical and strategic elements start to fly out the window quickly. It’s more difficult to get a good read on the other players during the draft phase. But, more significantly, it’s much easier to become locked out of doing anything on your turn. Not anything meaningful… anything at all! It is every easy for nasty synergies to appear in concert between multiple players. Here’s a quick example. There is card that requires all opponents to pay you one crystal per card they summon. It’s quite likely that two different players can get this card out. Two experienced players will get this card out as quickly as possible. So, now you have a situation where two players have a proverbial lock on the other two players and can now play the rest of their nasty stuff with ease.

It’s not impossible to come back from this kind of situation, but it can be a total exercise in frustration to do nothing but collect energy three turns in a row while other players take their sweet time setting up more combos. Oddly enough, I find this frustration (flaw?) with the game to be thematically sound. A persistent, effervescent, and wild force such as the magic depicted in Seasons should be something that can backfire, betraying the wielder and strangling their every attempt at recovery.

Finally, any cards that are still held in hand are worth minus five points apiece. I love this aspect of the game. You can’t just hold onto garbage cards. Even though you may not be excited to put some of your cards into play, you really want to get them out of your hand. This also prevents massive amounts of card draw toward the end of the game. You don’t want to get stuck with a bunch of cards you can’t pay the casting cost for! It keeps the game moving along, and acts as an exhilarating counterpoint against attempts at maintaining a reserve of your resources.

Photo by Bob Rob

Was It Fun?

The majority of my initial plays were via BoardGameArena.com. Most of those games were two player games. I did dabble a bit into multiplayer games early on, but it was not until I purchased the game and got it face to face that I was able to really pursue the multiplayer aspects. The game presents a nice plethora of combinations and synergies, which is one of the gameplay mechanics I enjoy the most. Once you get your feet wet, there is a lot of meat here. I have seen games where players will build up a large reserve of their summoning gauge, energy, and crystals and play out fantastic and devastating turns. Unlike many recent card drafting games, Seasons is not just about the drafting. The timing of card play is equally important to the cards chosen at the start of the game. It’s been amazing to see just how situational certain cards can be. It’s been a pleasure to see my skill at the game evolve to the point where certain cards that I thought were either really good or really bad, have presented themselves in unique situations where their perceived worth has changed dramatically. It’s almost like every card is situational and no card is “strictly better”. I really enjoy that.

That being said, I was quickly able to see that I would not enjoy this game with more than two players. I experienced too many games with too many turns, where I said to myself, “Wow. I get to do nothing… again.” That’s unacceptable.

Seasons was an initially fantastic game. If you like to explore synergies and really push the limits of setting yourself up for giant turns, it has plenty of variety and card interplay to investigate.

Is It Still Fun?

Yes! But, with two players only. Playing with more players is interesting for about half a game, until the leader (or leaders) are already determined. In a four player game, I would almost prefer player elimination after each round. It is possible to have an interesting game with more than two, but not likely. It’s more likely that one player will be locked out of doing anything… at all…for several turns in a row.

This flaw with the game was about to make me trade it for something more enjoyable, but I have recently been playing two player games again and found myself really getting into the theme of the game. It’s possible that some will argue that the theme in Seasons is not really “theme”, but more “atmosphere”. Well, I yawn like a hipster at that whole argument. That differentiation is such a trite and tired discussion. None of these board games really execute theme that well for me anyway. The rolling of dice alone completely dissolves any immersion I may pretend to have in the theme.

Getting back on track. What Seasons excels at in terms of theme, is the ability to present magic as an elusive monster, seductive and not completely controllable. Magic is something to first be gently tamed and then later wielded with almost unexpected, but spectacular effect. Players may find themselves muttering quietly for the first year or so of the game. I have found it be very tense to start laying out cards and hope that one has done enough preparation in anticipation of a desired out come.

It is dazzling when it goes off.

Photo by Asmodee

Conclusion & Rating:

I know this is being touted in some corners as one of the best games of 2012. I am not sure that it sits even in the Top 10 for me, but it is definitely a game I thoroughly enjoy and will not refuse if there is only one other player available. The game can be enjoyable enough with three or four, but only if it’s with experienced players who play quickly. As I stated in a few spots previously, I have become enamored with the theme and the unbridled magical fury that the game presents. However, the mechanical pitfalls when playing with multiple players do not excite me in the least. I had initially rated this game an 8/10, and that would be what I rate it as a two player game. But, the experience with more than two players drags the game down to a 6/10.

“Anticipated Killer”
I originally subtitled the Video Review as “Anticipated Killer”. Why? Seasons is very much about anticipating what your opponent will do. You will need to juggle what cards you think they have with how much those cards cost to play and which energy tokens will potentially become available in upcoming turns. Now, put all that in the back of your head, and try to correctly choose the best die each turn. What season is coming up next? When is a good time to get this combination out safely? Should you try and fetch more cards from the draw deck? If I wait a bit, and get the right energy, I can play all four of these cards at once and get back some nice energy to transmute in two or three turns. Gee, my opponent has a lot of energy tokens! I wonder if they drew any more items. I know they have that card that gives a bonus if they have only items. That will give them a nice advantage. Stop doubting yourself! You got this!

The subtitle is a bit of a play on words as well. Seasons was probably the most anticipated release of Gen Con 2012. And, I felt like some of the initial feedback on the game was a bit of a short shrift and basically inaccurate. That didn’t change once I had a chance to play the game more extensively with a variety of playgroups. There seems to be the impression that this is a light and fluffy game that played perfectly fine with more than two players. Obviously, if you’ve read this far (or watched my original video review), you will know I find that be contradictory to my experience.

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Wooden Cubes & Iron Soldiers: “Viking and Mouse Attack Essen!” Episode 12

“Viking and Mouse Attack Essen!”


Welcome back for a special episode of Wooden Cubes & Iron Soldiers!

It’s been a while!

Essen! Woot! Lance and Joel spend the first bit of the episode catching up with each other and talking about their experience at Gencon. We cover the following recent games played and other games from Gencon:


A House Divided, Mage Wars, Libertalia, Android: Netrunner, X-wing, Seasons, D-Day Dice, Legendary, 3012, Level 7 Escape, Hanabi, Merchant of Venus, Magic Realm, Legacy: Gears of Time, Flowerfall, Nothing Personal, Manhattan Project.


At the 53:30 mark we start our previews for some of the hotter upcoming Essen release: Keyflower, Spellbound, The Great Zimbabwe, Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar, Clash of Cultures, Terra Mystica, Mage Knight Board Game: The Lost Legion, CO2, Archipelago, Suburbia.


~ Joel Eddy

Opinions and statements stated by “Wooden Cubes and Iron Soldiers”  podcast are not to be considered as endorsed by 2D6.org. Visitors are urged to use their own discernment to draw their own conclusions.

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User Review:
Rating: 3.8/5 (12 votes cast)

The Best and Worst of 2012 … So far!


Kevin Wenzel (from 2d6.org) –

We are swiftly getting close to the Essen game fair and the 2D6 gang wanted to take a look at what has been offered so far. What games have stopped the world or grabbed our attention, and which ones have been a little disappointing. This year, more than any year before, there have been so many choices from new companies and old alike. We are also excited to see what will be offered the rest of the year and hopefully be surprised by what may come.


Joel Eddy (from Drive Thru Review) –

This is really turning out to be a great year for games! It might even be better than 2011, which I’ve heard some folks tout as the best year for games in recent memory. This year there are many great games that have a collectible strain to them: Dungeon Command, Star Wars: X-Wing, Android: Netrunner, and I am looking forward to trying Mage Wars. But my choice for the best game of 2012 (so far) is not one of these.

Best So Far: Andean Abyss. I can’t stop thinking about this game. It could be one of the most innovative games of the last several years. It’s like designer Volko Ruhnke took the CDG mechanisms of Twilight Struggle and mashed it into a multiplayer, streamlined, back-stab-fest, with a splash of a States of Siege game from VPG.The game takes place in the tumultuous Columbia of the late 1990s, with four different factions vying for control of the country. Each faction has a small set of actions that they can perform to execute a strategy unique to their goals. But, the order in which cards are drawn from a singular deck can make for tough tactical choices, hesitation, and fast and furious negotiations. Alliances will come and go, but the game streamlines all of it so as not to bog down in needless “Negotiation AP”. Table talk is a must! It’s great.
  Most Disappointing So Far: D-Day Dice. This is a game that has received an inordanant amount of hype, and I actually did enjoy it for about four plays. That’s about all this game has to offer in terms of meaningful and interesting choices. Once you figure out that solitaire is close to impossible and four-player is impossible to lose, the game gets samey very quickly.The maps and variety of items do not really do much to spice up the game, other than to confuse me as to which permutation of the variants in the back of the rulebook will actually balance the solitiare and four-player games. There is a kernel of a good game in here, and I should say that where the game lacks in replayability, it does make up for in terms of component quality and thematic flare. There’s definite room for improvement. Not the worst game I played this year, but definitely the most dissapointing.
  Biggest Suprise So Far: Fleet. My group and I are very taken by this game. The only new game I’ve played more this year is Seasons. And, Seasons is plagued by the more than occassional unplayable three and four player game.Anyway, back to Fleet. Thankfully, Fleet actually works with all player counts. I think this is a game that will have legs and stay in my collection for years to come. I should probably note that I am susceptible to games in this vein. Race for the Galaxy and San Juan are two games that are probably as close as you can come when searching for a good comparison to Fleet. Well, take San Juan and throw in auctions! It mind not sound like it, but it works great. If you are not a fan of auction games, I would still give this one a whirl. The different ways that the special powers of the license cards can interact with each other should greatly please fans of other card games like San Juan, Race, or Glory to Rome. It’s a very unique take, and there are subtleties to the game that will not be apparent after only a few plays.


Enrico Viglino (calandale from Youtube and BGG) –

There were a couple of games I felt worth investigating/investing in this year. So far though, only four that were high on my radar ended up in my collection (and played).

Best So Far: Kingdom of Heaven. From early play, this promises to be the big winner of the year. Nice fluid CDG, with some really innovative handling of sieges, and a concept long missing from ALL wargames, the harrasing effects which an army can manage by maintaining long term contact with an enemy. Unlike most CDGs, this one comes with nine different scenarios – each of them representing a different historical segment. You get your money’s worth on this one.
Most Dissapointing So Far: God Kings. I knew I was stepping into a lighter and more abstracted treatment than I usually like, and was prepared for that, but this felt almost flavorless. The time scale didn’t sit well as a CDG, in my opinion. Design choices based upon that scale – especially the end of 20 years’ clean up – created artificial cycles. An effort was made to add flavor through graphics, but it only made the components more difficult to read/identify. I know some people like it – but for me, this just didn’t manage to please.


Geof Gambill (from The Long View) –

For my picks for the most surprising and most disappointing game of the year, I have had to do a lot of soul searching. The key words for me here are surprising and disappointing, not best or worst, so I’ll focus on those ideas.

Since I am long winded by nature, I’m also going to expand the question to include what I believe the theme of the year in gaming is as well, but more on that later.

Worst So Far: For me, the biggest disappointment has to be a tie between Kingdom Builder and Ora et Labora. Now I know that may raise a few eyebrows since they are both highly rated games, and Kingdom Builder was the Spiel des Jahres winner, but I’ll explain. Let’s start with Kingdom Builder. I was quite taken aback by this game. I am not a person who reads rules to games pre-release, and, in particular, if the game is coming from a designer I know and like, I often just buy based on the name alone. There is NO Feld game I hate. I have my favorites to be sure, but I like all of them. He’s a designer that clicks with me. Same with Donald X Vaccarino.This lack of pregame research is entirely my fault to be sure, and expectations have so much to do with your perception of a game, but mine were clearly not matched to what I experienced in this game. I expected something so much less random, so much more thematic, and much less abstract. The game is quick and easy to play, to be sure, and there is a little hidden depth there in the selection of the areas that you choose to begin to populate, and which bonus tokens to go for, but so much of the game is tied to the random flip of the card each turn, that there seems to be little chance for long term strategy or planning. So for me, lack of theme, and totally random card flips that determine where you can place your pieces that turn, and the abstract nature of this game made it fall totally flat for me. A big disappointment.
Worst So Far (Part 2!): Now, on to the hype machine. Ora et Labora. Uwe Rosenberg, check. Resource conversion game. Check. Worker placement, check. Rondel mechanic, check (I loves me some rondels!). And, the most important of all, “This game will replace Le Havre” and, “This game is Le Havre on Steroids” and finally, “This game is the perfect combination of Agricola and Le Havre”. WOW! One of my favorite games of all time (NO! Not Agricloa, Le Havre of course!) made even better? This I HAVE to have! This game will be awesome! Then I played it. I really like it. It’s solid. It’s good. It has production issues as far as I’m concerned (I’m looking at you crappy, thin, insulting player boards and expansion boards. See the seething hatred and fear my nerd rage consumer wrath!), but the game is very good.It’s got all the things I listed, but it ain’t no replacement for Le Havre. Le Havre for the win. Ora builds like Le Havre does, but the addition of the unique special buildings, and the random setup for how the standard buildings will come out each game makes Le Havre the superior game, hands down for me.I rate Ora a solid 7 or 8, but I was truly disappointed. I thought if a game could be better than Le Havre, it would be an instant 10 in my book. Instead, I got a perfect information game that offered many paths to victory but, in the end, it felt like Puerto Rico in that there would ultimately not be enough randomness to keep the game fresh for the long haul. Go ahead and try to convince me otherwise, but I doubt you’ll be able to do it. Le Havre is just better.
  Biggest Surprise/Best So Far: Now that I’ve surprised people with my biggest disappointments of the year, it’s on to the biggest surprise of the year. The key word here is surprise. I expected Eclipse to be good. I expected Trajan to be great, and it really is. What a fantastic euro! I expected Star Trek Fleet Captains to make me feel like I was in the Star Trek world, and boy did it deliver. The most surprising game for me comes down to a few that stick out in my memory.King of Tokyo, 1812 Invasion of Canada, Strike of the Eagle, and Mage Knight.Even though all of these could have been my winner, I have to give the nod to Mage Knight. This is a game that took me by surprise. I had NO knowledge of the Mage Knight story or universe, or previous game systems. All I knew is that it was a Vlaada Chvatil game, and that it was supposed to be playable solo, with a deck building engine and characters that leveled up. Sold. I received the game and quickly dug in. After an hour, I knew I had found something truly deep, unique and special. I was NOT expecting this. I was expecting Prophesy with some deck building thrown in. This game is much, much more. It is a puzzle game at heart, but strangely thematic for such a mechanical creation. It is engrossing and highly re-playable. It is enjoyable and very, very strategic. It is a game that rewards repeated play, and one that you will become better at with time and experience. It has a lot of bang for the buck in terms of game play, and one that caught me truly by surprise in the same wonderful way that Dominant Species caught me totally off guard with its brilliance last year.Mage Knight was my surprise of the year. It also narrowly, narrowly beat out Trajan as my game of the year. Trajan is brilliant, and both challenging and novel as you try to manipulate and force your control over the internal inertia/momentum of your own mancala rondel. It offers a stunning variety of ways to collect victory points, and many, many paths to victory that keeps it fresh. The variable game length that is controlled by the players themselves as they manipulate their rondels is also both unique and a masterful part of the design. In the end, however, Mage Knight beats it out as the game of the year for me so far for all of the reasons I’ve already discussed, though it was quite a close affair.


Now on to the bonus thought. I think this has to be the year of the accessible war game for me. So many fantastic war games were released, that I think it has brought a breath of fresh air to the genre that may lead to more and more excellent middle to light designs. Games like Strike of the Eagle and Sekigahara are relatively easy to play and teach, with few of the exceptions and myriad of complex rules that hold people back from playing games in this genre. 1812 the Invasion of Canada (a close, close second for surprise of the year), and even games like D-Day Dice made this a great year for wargames that the average gamer could try and enjoy. Now we see games like Andean Abyss, Cuba Libre, 1775 and more on the horizon, all of which offer deep game play with elegant, streamlined rules, and the trend only looks to continue.


Jesse Dean (from On Gamer’s Games) –

Best of the Year: Dungeon Command. This is also #2 just behind Andean Abyss for “Biggest Surprise So Far”, as I was expecting to be indifferent to the game at best. As it stands Dungeon Command is a fast and effective tactical miniatures game, with just enough streamlining to ensure that you are able to focus on the strategy rather than the rules, and a varied and entertaining decision space with tons of special powers and potentially evil things you can do to your opponent. So a very solid game.Honorable mention goes to Android: Netrunner, which I have also quite enjoyed. I probably like it better than Dungeon Command, but since it is essentially a rerelease of a late 90’s game (Netrunner), I am not giving it my Best of the Year (so far) award.
  Biggest Disappointment: Seasons. This was sold to me as an entertaining take on the variable player powers combo-building idea. But it failed almost completely for me, being so chaoticly laden with take-that special powers that it pretty much sucked all the enjoyment out of the game for me.
  Biggest Surprise So Far: Andean Abyss. This is probably the real Best of the Year, but with only one play I am not yet willing to give it that honor. I was really not expecting much from it though, and I am pretty happy with how effortlessly it combines multiple player powers, deep player interaction, and some very innovative mechanics into a rather entertaining whole. Very fun, and I look forward to playing it more in the very near future.


Lance Myxter – (from Undeadviking Videos)

The Best: Descent 2nd Edition. The first edition of Descent was a huge, monolithic, enjoyable mess of a game. The rule set was incredibly unwieldy at times, but the theme, and the story, and the fact that you were exploring a dungeon and slaying monsters (while one of your friends tried to do you in) carried itself past the rules misgivings, making the game a super huge hit.Second edition came out and I didn’t know what to think, but I had read the rules and I was optimistic. While it has been simplified some, it cleared up a lot of the mess. It makes it stupendously easier to make your own adventures (as an overlord) and the logical progression the players take with their characters take a lot of the “bookkeeping” out of the equation.What you are left with maintains the deep, rich storytelling, yet keeps the players on their toes, and having a blast the entire time.Honorable Mention – Manhattan project
  The Worst: Nefarious. I normally dislike trashing on  games, but I will make an exception with this one because I am STILL waiting for a decent Mad Scientist themed board game. I felt like this one had some promise, but like its predecessors, it falls completely flat. After you get past the amusement of the names of some of the devices  you make, you are left with an incredibly boring, lifeless game of mediocre hand management and “kind of” worker placement. I give it mild “interest points” with the blind role selection, offering up a couple of interesting choices here and there, but for the most part, you are better off not even bothering to think of your opponents and what they are up to, and just focusing on what YOU need to do with each one of your turns. A game that had “filler” intentions, but simply lasts too long for the small amount of enjoyment it gives.(Dis)honorable Mention – Kingdom Builder (yeah I know its 2011 but this one was particularly awful)
  The Surprise: Omen: Reign of War. I need to review this sucker but I haven’t found the time. Normally I am uninterested in two player games because I never have the time to play them or have only one person over or available to play, but this one MAKES me want to have only one person at my house – in all honesty, my wife probably hates that this game exists, since I pester her to play it all the time. It combines the simplicity that makes Ascension as good as it is, with an engaging theme, and tons of fun and intriguing choices each time you play.Everyone should own this game.Honorable Mention – 1989: Dawn of Freedom


Andrew Lloyd (from Left Hand Reviews)

Best So Far: 1989: Dawn of Freedom. There have been a lot of games that have been released this year that I have had a great time playing. But when picking what I think is the Best So Far, I need to weigh in not only the “fun-factor”, but also the depth of strategy and replayability. In my view, GMT’s 1989: Dawn of Freedom is the best game of 2012 so far. Despite being labeled a wargame, it has enough Euro feel to it that it is well received by players of both genres. It has deep tactical and strategic elements, combined with excruciating decision making, and a dash of dice chucking to keep things interesting. This is an excellent game.
Most Disappointing So Far: Di Renjie. A deduction card game where players are trying to determine (as a group) the location, weapon, and target of an assassination before it occurs. At the end of the game, if each of the 3 pieces has been guessed, then the group wins. Then there is individual scoring to determine the ultimate winner. Unfortunately, the beautiful card art was not enough to save this game. It is essentially Clue without the board. Also, the game requires that you keep track of a lot of stuff, like in Clue, but doesn’t provide any checklists or anything to do so, relying on you to hand out paper and a pen. I also found that the game balance depends highly on the number of players, and with 2 players, the game is essentially broken. This game may appeal to certain gamers, but for me, it was a miss.
Biggest Surprise So Far: Lords of Waterdeep. I know this game is more or less a runaway hit, but when I was first hearing about it, I just wasn’t that excited. When I finally had the chance to play the game, I was blown away. I am not a D&D player, so much of the complaints from that community don’t resonate with me. I love how the game is quick to learn, fast paced, has great artwork, and is just plain fun.
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