Tag Archives: Stronghold Games

504 – Off The Shelf Board Game Reviews

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What if there were parallel Earths, where each Earth is different, and on each unique Earth, the priorities on Earth are unique from one another?

In a distant future, scientists are able to build small alternate Earths. Exactly 504 such Earths have thus far been built. The scientists programmed each of these Worlds with an individual set of laws and rules which the residents strictly follow and consider most important for their lives. These may be exploration, consumption, economics, military, etc., and each is unique. You can visit all of these 504 alternate Earths to experience how the people are living, and decide which of these worlds harbors the best civilization. On which World do you want to live? Explore them all and decide!

504 is a game that creates 504 different games out of one box. The game consists of nine modules:

Module 1: Pick-Up & Deliver

Module 2: Race

Module 3: Privileges

Module 4: Military

Module 5: Exploration

Module 6: Roads

Module 7: Majorities

Module 8: Production

Module 9: Shares”

The Quick Overview

How To Play

World 456

World 564

World 645

Review

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504 – A Written Review

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“We really did it!” The lonely writer who talked to himself as if he actually consisted of two distinct personalities could not believe it…but the proof was hovering in front of him.

The huge tome was full of words! Up and down the pages stood hundreds of bold words, not exactly the ballpark figure he estimated but good enough.

It seemed so simple after many tough years of plugging away at the keyboard and developing a modest vocabulary. A review with four worlds, each jumbled haphazardly in a way to make ingestion possible but unpredictable. Only this way permits one to describe the fundamental brilliance of 504.

Of course, the confused writer recorded all of the instructions to decipher this Book of Review Worlds in a couple of sentences listed below. Now it was time to start your observations.

The Rules
Review Worlds are staggered in priorities. You will need to check for the correct order to decipher the ensuing ramblings by reading Review Worlds in priority order, from lowest Roman numeral to highest (i.e. read the World with priority I before the World with priority II)

The Book Of Review Worlds

(Priority II) The World of Chaos, a Collection of Mechanisms Jammed Into a Compelling Metagame (Review World #394)

The nine modules consist of hobby game staples from all across the spectrum. We have pick up and deliver, race, military conquest, area control, goods production, even a compelling stock market system. Each slice of mechanisms is typically combined to form a medium weight Euro that is relatively easy to assimilate once one navigates the Book of Worlds.

The Book of Worlds is certainly the most compelling element of this game. It’s a spiral-bound booklet with each page cut into three sections or flaps. You can build the world and the associated rules by turning a particular flap to the world desired. This is done across each third of the page to form the three intersecting mechanisms you wish to explore.

So in the top position you can flip to any of modules 1-9, selecting your choice for this specific play. Then you do the same thing in the middle position and finally again in the bottom. You may never choose the same module to occupy more than one position as this will cause a quantum rift the equivalent of crossing the streams. These three positions are referred to as TOP I, TOP II, and TOP III.

The module you select in TOP I is the most important. It determines how victory points are gained and sets the overarching tone of the world. The TOP II module determines how money is accrued. TOP III is the least impactful and adds a wrinkle or nuance to the structure.

A simple enough example is the recommended starting world, #123. This has module one in TOP I, which means victory points are gained from picking up and delivering goods to cities. Module two, Race, determines how players can earn money which they will use to upgrade their trolleys and carry more goods or move faster. Finally, module three is in the TOP III position and adds Privilege cards – special powers which are bought each turn.

When you first hold this book and start to make sense of the madness a huge light bulb will explode over your noggin. Everything fits together and works exceptionally well. There is certainly a substantial learning curve to deciphering the Book of Worlds and a priority system is used to determine which option trumps the others. For instance, each module will list one of several map layouts but you will need to look at only the map listed with the lowest Roman numeral (highest priority). Small rules and setup options will continue to utilize the priority system and you will need to play the decipher metagame to get the world properly setup.

This inherent juggling of priorities and subsystems split across multiple sections of rules is a battle you will need to participate in a couple of times before everything begins to flow smoothly. After a few plays it will all be second nature, however, the game tends to run best if someone determines the world and associated rules before you sit down to play. This allows you to iron out any kinks and work your rules deduction without pressure and distractions.

 

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The Book Of Worlds! Oooh, aaah!

(Priority III) The World Where Everything Matters and Currency is Subtle (Review World #765)

Upon repeated plays you will start to see design patterns and personality emerge in terms of how the disparate elements fit together. The position (TOP I/II/III) that each module is slotted in will have an enormous impact on your game and result in interesting discoveries you may not initially foresee. This will amount to a realization that participants will likely develop clear indicators on how they favor the use of certain modules, refining play to bring about the most enjoyment. In some ways it’s as if you’re developing a whole new skillset akin to learning Worker Placement or Area Control for the first time. This can be exhilarating and thought provoking.

The position of a particular module has a large impact primarily because each mechanism functions differently depending on how it is integrated. Module three, Privileges, is a prime highlight as it adds entirely new elements in TOP I and II as opposed to TOP III. It feels most comfortable in the TOP III position as you integrate the special ability cards smoothly and without much issue. In TOP I and TOP II you throw in Factories and start producing goods, which has absolutely nothing to do with the deck of Privilege cards. This appears to be a natural limitation of the combinatorial metagame at play. It will push you towards utilizing modules in specific slots more often than not, but one can’t argue that they all stick to the wall no matter where you throw them.

It’s also noteworthy that certain modules feel more ethereal or background than others. The fantastic Shares module adds an external area of play off-board. If you play 943 then the only direct interaction on the map will be military conquest. The other vectors of play are all happening above board or on a separate collection of stock components. This doesn’t feel disjointed or fiddly, but it does feel distinct and each combination can have a very definite personality.

 

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Delicious goods to be produced, picked up, and delivered.

 

(Priority I) The World of a Sophist of High Concept with a Knack for Excitement (Review World #281)

504, as a concept, is bananas. With Friedemann Friese behind the wheel this should come as no surprise. This eccentric German designer perpetually maintains a green mane and requires the name of all of his designs begin with the letter “F”. His titles always bring something unique and attempt to work in a space not well defined or previously tread. One should admire him as much for what he’s attempted as for what he’s accomplished.

This release is a huge box of 504 Euro-style games broken down into nine distinct modules. Each forms a portion of the DNA of the individual games – called worlds – that you may experience. When sitting down to play you pick three of the nine modules and arrange them in an order of your choice, the specifics of which matter greatly.

To facilitate all of these different mechanisms and systems the box is crammed full of high quality components. You have hundreds of wooden bits that are used as Residents, Settlements, and Trolleys. There are several different decks of cards. Mounds of chits used in all different manners. Player aids, swathes of hexes, and two distinct booklets. You could lose a pet or a small child in a component drop. All of this acts as a sort of flag or indicator of the wizardry the designer is about to perform as you sit down to the table.

 

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(Priority IV) The World of Confused Critics and Revelatory Procedure (Review World #629)

Sitting down and expecting to combine semi-random Euro mechanisms into a coherent game that reaches lofty heights is a fantastic dream. I believe those expectations should be jettisoned from your trolley and long forgotten. An inherent limitation of this combinatorial exploration of separate mechanisms is producing a finished game that could most commonly be described as generic.

Those desiring 504 exceptional games crammed into this box are missing the point entirely. The “game” here is not what you sit down to play or limited to the three main mechanisms at work. The true heart of this design is the metagame that you encounter every time you embark on the journey and crack open that box.

You could describe the experience of playing this title as one big module five – exploration. It feels like you’re exploring the far reaches of Friedemann’s madness, lost in a maze of abject insanity and fumbling along walls engraved with astonishing brilliance. It’s a journey across multiple layers that will reveal itself in waves of colliding sub-systems.

It’s not a stretch to call 504 a piece of art. It’s a huge exploratory adventure that teases out wonderful reactions and poignant discussion. This is the type of game that anyone interested in even contemplating game design needs to experience. No individual world may earn its way onto your top 10, but 504 as a whole is a touchstone experience that can radically redefine a person’s perspective.

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Survive: Space Attack! – A Written Review

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Julian Courtland-Smith’s classic Survive: Escape from Atlantis! was an enormous mass market success over two decades ago. It’s a vicious family game of fleeing from a sinking island via lifeboats as you take turns controlling the monsters and devouring your next of kin.  The game manages to be confrontational without ever feeling mean or unfair, and it has a strong unique identity that separates itself from other games with wide appeal.  Stronghold Games perhaps flagship title has been the utterly fantastic 30th anniversary edition of the game, featuring beautiful artwork and lovely bits.  Lovely bits is a term I need to use more often, perhaps in a British accent.

Geoff Engelstein and family, best known for the exciting Space Cadets series, have continued their electric connection with Stronghold by getting their hands on Courtland-Smith’s aged baby and massaging out some of the wrinkles. They’ve taken a venerated classic and provided just the right level of development to produce some new tricks without altering the original’s DNA or smooth feel.  The amount of care and reverence displayed is enormous and you can tell everyone involved in this project just clicked and forged ahead in unison.

As an overall experience this is very similar to Survive set in space. Players take a collection of pawns numbered 1-6 and deploy them to open spaces on a space station mid-destruction.  You take three actions on your turn which includes floating your astronauts helplessly into the black or hitching a ride aboard an escape pod, possibly one contained by other players.  You’re trying to make your way to one of four warp gates which will often require fleeting moments of cooperation and, more often than not, meting out huge bouts of destruction.  The idea is to score the most points, which means you need to get your highest valued pieces to safety.

 

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After taking your three moves you choose one of the space station tiles to remove from play and dump any crewmembers occupying the tile into space. Throwing people into the mercy of the black cold void feels nearly as sweet as flipping the tile over and reveling in the new special power you’ve just acquired.  Many of the tiles afford one time use benefits that can allow for dirty tricks and swings of dramatic enjoyment.  Oh, and some will spawn ferocious beasts that immediately devour anyone paddling in zero-g.

At the end of each of your turns you roll a die which will dictate the type of creature you get to activate. You are able to choose one such monster in play and unleash your inner beast, devouring escape pods and floating citizens like a toddler on a bag of gummy bears.  It’s gruesome and fun and most importantly – hilarious.  You can’t help but burst into chuckles while mumbling curses at your Mom for moving the Queen over your escape pod and just wrecking your formerly peaceful journey.  I can just picture those little dudes in pod #213 sipping on a glass of merlot and humming along to some Muzak before being swallowed whole.  Now the air is full of a cacophony of screams as alien Queen stomach acid melts their skin from their bones.

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A selection of special powers provide a fabulous oomph to the proceedings

 

The main new wrinkle from classic Survive is that players are given more authority in manipulating these interstellar monstrosities. You can now take to a fighter and move great distances as long as you stay in a straight line.  When you land on a beast you can remove him from the map and place it in front of you.  Likewise, you can spend an action to fire a turret from the station and claim a space bug as well.

At the beginning of each turn you deposit any aliens you’ve claimed back onto the board in open spaces of your choice. So Jimmy, Sam, and Naomi are gunning for an exit at full speed in their escape pod and you throw down a Warrior and a Queen right in their path.  Next turn they’ll be ejecting their urine out the side of the pod with their first action.

 

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Aw, hell nah.

 

This ability to sacrifice momentum towards escape to shift the board position of (kinda) neutral enemies flows nicely with the baked in personality of murdering each other for fun and profit. This game is all about drama and tension, including its subsequent release accompanied by long bouts of raucous laughter.  It takes those prime emotional moments of gaming and just repeatedly slams the buttons to produce excellence again and again.

This version of Survive also includes an alternate board on the back which features only two escape points. For those masochists and sad clowns that didn’t think the original layout was quite vindictive enough, you can now narrow the exit vector and watch the body count pile up.  It’s a hilarious alternative to the standard setup and one worth trying for grins and you know what.

The question that needs to be answered is whether this is better than its older sibling. If you must choose only one version of Survive! it will likely come down to which theme you prefer.  The original Atlantis sinking/sea monster shenanigans is definitely fun, but I’m a sucker for science fiction.

The second query is whether this is worth owning if you already have that beautiful 30th anniversary edition of Survive.  That’s a difficult question to answer as there is much carry-over between the two. However, the new theme in combination with the unique ways to interact with the monsters does create a distinct identity.  In all honesty I’ll have to partake in a rare cop-out and throw up a stone wall as I cannot determine that decision for you.  What I can tell you is that my group has had a blast ejecting each other into space and tearing each other limb from limb.  You also can’t argue with the fact that this is Stronghold Games’ bestselling space title.

 

 

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Space Cadets: Away Missions – A Written Review

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Space Cadets: Away Missions is the third release in Stronghold’s Space Cadet line and it’s absolutely nothing like the frantic real-time Engelstein games of past. This Dan Raspler and Al Rose light dungeon crawler bears the Space Cadets setting in theme only, hitting us hard with an approachable yet sophisticated game of ‘50s golden era sci-fi blasters and Martians.  The humor in Stronghold’s first board game Kickstarter release featuring a title with the acronym SCAM belies the strength and vitality of this spectacular game.571224cb-f6bb-48ca-826c-f77c2f28d798

While Stronghold Games has always featured great production values and attractive components, Stephen Buonocore has outdone himself here. Away Missions brandishes over 100 solid miniatures, mounds of attractive tiles, large player mats, and two huge booklets.  It feels lavish and special, fitting the attractive feel of gameplay.  How can you not fall in love with a release that boasts little plastic brains-in-a-jar and space leeches?  You immediately want to crack some skulls and pew-pew.

This game sits in a comfortable realm just above the Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System in terms of depth and complexity. It’s light yet packs a bit of oomph that helps it stand out and grasp your interest for the long term.  Like its peers, you embark on different missions hurdling large packs of enemies, finding interesting loot, and exploring defiled ground.

One of the shining elements of this cooperative design are the scenarios. Mounds and mounds of scenarios.  20 of the suckers form a loose narrative of linked story that explores the alien invasion and always keeps you on your toes.  Many games in this genre offer quite repetitive goals that feed a growing sense of similarity which can deflate extended play.  Away Missions throws this notion out the window by offering you constantly evolving tactical situations with really divergent narratives.  You will break out of fish-head prisons, free human Thralls, snatch up blueprints for alien technology, and seek revenge on the malevolent foreigners.

Moving on from a difficult scenario and flipping those huge pages to see your new opportunity for carnage is truly a treat. I was shocked how the feel could be drastically shifted by re-arranging a collection of random tiles in interesting formations and by throwing in a couple of new specific rule changes.  One of the early scenarios allows you to place your deployment hex adjacent to any outside tile as your team of cadets is boarding the enemy craft.  These clever little elements are packed into each corner of the design and constantly have you nodding in appreciation.

This strong variety does come at a cost though as setup can be somewhat labored. You have alien tokens, discovery (item) tokens, and tile tokens to mark possible objectives.  These pools of chits may have specific mixes required by the scenario so you’ll be removing or adding a defined amount and it can get somewhat fiddly.  Thankfully the effort pays off and the game delivers with beauty so this is just the cost of doing business.

 

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Suck it alien scum.

 

The lush presentation will draw you in but the heart of the design, the Overkill mechanic, will make you stay. It’s such a simple little mechanism but therein lies its genius.  Attack rolls are made with pools of 10-siders, requiring a three or below to score a hit.  Your first success inflicts a single point of damage (good enough to kill most alien types) but your subsequent hits are dubbed Overkills and may be spent as action currency to trigger special effects.

Many thematic designs feature special powers and abilities scattered across characters and items, but the process in which they’re tied to the action and turn structure is usually pretty stale and predictable. By linking this smattering of special powers to successful combat resolution rolls you fuse one of the most interesting elements of Ameritrash with the most dramatic portion of the game.  This results in high tension rolls that produce tremendous opportunity for combos and creative play as you cut down an alien, move into an adjacent space, and command a teammate to give him extra actions.  It feels outright empowering because your cast of fate determines the downstream narrative shenanigans.  It’s delicious and full of tension while maintaining a solid degree of tactical choice.

This tremendous Overkill mechanism is backed up by an action point system that allows for maximum player control in the face of stalwart danger. The enemies come in thick waves as you reveal more each turn in great numbers.  The AI controlling them is relatively simple as they tend to march straight towards you and throw lasers in the direction of human flesh.  Yet the enemies manage to feel drastically different due to various types of attacks and the included Overkill effects they can generate against you.  Additionally, it’s extraordinarily fun to light up a Saucerman Leader and trigger his Overkill ability that allows you to stun another foe.  A sense of personality develops amongst the enemies and there’s a strong mix of variety that allows you to constantly be on your toes and dreading the appearance of a brain-in-a-jar or a ferocious Sentinel.

 

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It’s all about personality. Blood sucking space worm personality.

 

I alluded to the clever touches abounding the design when discussing the scenarios earlier, but if you take a micro view you will begin to notice all kinds of positive little quirks. For instance some of the alien equipment you discover is actually blueprints as opposed to finished gear.  This results in a gentle crafting system where you need to steal alien blood or precious mysterium (no, not the Polish variety) to construct awe-inspiring gifts of forbidden fruit.  You’ll also need to take out human Thralls with a non-combat IQ check to remove the implanted brain wire in their skulls.  No, not to free the poor muggles but to hoard the wire for your mini death star that’s still under construction.  You’re being pulled by all of these disparate elements of awesomeness as you try to clear your head while the air fills with the scent of ozone and burnt green flesh.

Space Cadets: Away Missions carves itself out a niche in the dungeon crawl design space the size of a monstrous saucer. This feels fresh and alive, like a new take on an old favorite.  It delivers action and thoughtful presence in a way you wouldn’t expect.  This is not only a fantastic design, it’s quite possibly the strongest release Stronghold Games has ever been a part of.

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SURVIVE: SPACE ATTACK! Preorders opening this Saturday, August 22 Limited to *500* preorders!

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PREORDERS for these new titles open Saturday, Aug. 22, Noon ET:
  
 
-and-
 
-and-
  Get 30% off MSRP and shipping to you before anyone else!
NOTE: only 500 total preorders per game will be accepted!
And preorders continue for:
-and-
AND… don’t forget the popular:
 
 
 
…or read more about these great games below!
Survive: Space Attack!
The classic game of Survive!, reimagined by Brian, Sydney, and Geoff Engelstein, with new exciting mechanics and game play!
 

Can you SURVIVE the alien attack!

 

NOTE: only 500 Preorders total per game will be accepted!  Preorder early to avoid disappointment!

Welcome to the height of technology and comfort, the Space Station Atlantis! All the comfort of a five star hotel, mixed with the adventure of space travel. The station is filled with staff, entertainers and guests trying to enjoy their out-of-this-world vacation. But all of a sudden, the Atlantis comes under attack by aliens!
After getting the guests to safety, the crew rushes to escape. Some will find space on the limited escape pods, others will board fighters and attempt to destroy the aliens. The unlucky ones will have to trust in their space suits and float for it. But with the alien Warriors, Spawns, and Queens patrolling the space around the station, it will not be an easy trip! 
Who will be able to jump to safety?
Survive: Space Attack! utilizes similar base mechanics to the best-selling game Survive: Escape From Atlantis! designed by Julian Courtland-Smith.
However, Survive: Space Attack! has been reimagined and redesigned by Brian, Sydney, and Geoff Englestein, the designers of Space Cadets and Space Cadets: Dice Duel and the expansions for these games.
The additional features of the new Survive: Space Attack! include:
  • Double-sided Game Board: enables a variety of starting setups each with its own challenges.
  • New Fighter Ships: gives players the ability to capture and redeploy alien creatures.
  • Laser Turrets: a new weapon system to defend the space station against the aliens.
  • New Tile Abilities: new powers that are combinable, plus four different tile thicknesses for a 3-D look.
  • New Alien Creature Powers: alien creatures may evolve to become even more powerful.
“Heroic”???
Well, they will be helpful, we can assure you of that!
This is a mini-expansion for Survive: Space Attack!, which introduces the “heroic” crew members of the besieged space station Atlantis!

We’re not sure if the crew is truly “heroic”, but each one has their own special ability. Each player of Survive: Space Attack! will have some members of the crew aboard to help them in their escape of the space station Atlantis!
Survive: Space Attack! The Crew Strikes Back! mini-expansion contains 20 crew cards and instructions for playing with them in a variety of new and exciting ways!


This is a mini-expansion for Survive: Space Attack!, which enables up to 6 players to attempt escape as aliens attack the space station Atlantis!

In Survive: Space Attack!, you don’t want to leave any of your Spacemen behind.  Now with Survive: Space Attack! 5-6 Player mini-expansion, you don’t have to leave your friends and family behind either! 
Play Survive: Space Attack! with up to 6 people for a bigger, crazier and even more fun experience!
Survive: Space Attack! 5-6 Player mini-expansion contains 20 Spaceman (10 in orange and 10 in white).
Among The Stars: Revival
A standalone expansion for Among The Stars! Features new rules for 2-players! Modules can be integrated seamlessly into the base game!
 
Among The Stars: Revival features new mechanics that can be used in the base game with more than just 2 players as well!

A new era has begun. The Alliance’s attempt to revive the worlds that were destroyed during the Purge was met with great success and the future looks bright for the first time. Those sectors that were abandoned before, have now become very active and are blooming with life.

Due to the increased traffic, the construction of new Stations in the area was deemed necessary. Once again, the alien races rush to build the best Space Station, in order to take advantage of the new opportunities that arise. To that end, Advisors are being sent by the Alliance to assist in the construction. 

 

Among the Stars: Revival is a new expansion for Among the Stars, which can also be played as a standalone game for two players!

 

Among the Stars: Revival introduces brand new strategic two-player rules and exciting new mechanisms that add more interaction in the game and more things to consider when drafting a card. And best of all: These new mechanisms, rules, and components can be integrated into the base game of Among The Stars too!

 

Among the Stars: Revival includes exciting new features such as:

  • 30 Brand new Locations – 15 Basic and 15 Special (90 Location cards in total).
  • New 2-player rules – more strategic and skill-testing especially for 2 players! These rules can also be used for Among the Stars base game.
  • Spaceships – a new highly-interactive mechanic used by many of the new cards. It allows the players to put Spaceship tokens on the Stations, preventing anyone from building on those spaces.
  • Advisors – a new module that can be optionally added in a base game of Among the Stars. It increases competition among the players in order to control Advisor cards that grant them special abilities as well as additional victory points.
Among the Stars: Revival can also be enhanced by using the miniatures from the

Among The Stars: Miniatures Pack (available now separately – see below!).

Among The Stars: Miniatures Pack
A set of 8 gorgeous miniatures for use with Among The Stars: Revival as well as more upcoming Among The Stars games, like New Dawn!

companion product and component upgrade for games in the Among The Stars universe.

Among The Stars: Miniatures Pack is playable currently with Among the Stars: Revival and the upcoming New Dawn. It will also be playable with future games in the Among The Stars universe.

Among The Stars: Miniatures Pack contains 8 plastic Miniatures, each 2 inches tall. The miniatures are bust sculptures of each of the 8 primary Races in the Among The Stars universe:

  • Debos
  • Minireen
  • Humareen
  • Qualeen
  • Nyxtos
  • Garn’Athak’Nok
  • Hythian
  • Feronsy
Among The Stars: Miniatures Pack
Playable with Among the Stars: Revival and with the upcoming New Dawn. It will also be playable with future games in the Among The Stars Universe.

La Granja – Promo Pack
A set of 6 new cards for use in the hit new game, “La Granja”

La Granja is our hit new euro-game.  First introduced by European publisher Spielworxx at Essen 2014, our latest 2nd Edition co-publication is almost sold out in under one month from being in print!

 

Now, in cooperation with the game’s designers, plus Spielworxx and our other European partners, we created a set of extra La Granja cards:  La Granja – Promo Pack.

 

These cards can be mixed directly into the La Granja game deck, giving more possibilities for game play!

 

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