Unrailed Review

Posted by | PC, PlayStation 4, Reviews, Switch, Xbox One | No Comments

Available On: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One

Taking a cue from the much-loved co-op series Overcooked, Unrailed is a zany co-op survival adventure in which a team of players hurry to mine resources and lay tracks to keep their unstoppable train from crashing. Unrailed lacks the visual charm of Overcooked but adds more dire stakes as the tracks stretch farther and farther.

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back to the future

Back to the Future: Dice Through Time Review

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Publisher: Ravensburger
Age: 10+
Players: 2-4
Game Length: 45-60 minutes
MSRP: $29.99

As far as classic 80s franchises go, none may be as sacred and universally beloved as the Back to the Future trilogy. The adventurous time-traveling series remains mercifully untouched by modern adaptations, but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a proper modern board game – or two!

Back to the Future: Dice Through Time (not to be confused with Back to the Future: Back in Time, another cooperative BTTF board game that released this year), continues Ravensburger’s trend of turning popular film franchises into satisfying, family-friendly tabletop experiences.

88 Miles Per Hour

In Dice Through Time, that pesky villain Biff has run amok in the time-stream, causing major events, timelines, and items from all three films to become mixed up. It’s up to the players to travel through four different time periods, fixing events and returning items, to restore the space-time continuum.

Up to four players play as different versions of the Doc and Marty time-traveling crew, with their own color-coordinated DeLorean mover, player mat, and action dice. The game board resembles a calendar with four time periods (1885, 1855, 1985, and 2015), each with five familiar locations, such as Marty’s House and Hill Valley High School.

Players take turns drawing event cards that represent scenes from all three films, such as Doc inventing the flux capacitor in 1955, Marty skateboarding to school in 1985, and the showdown with Mad Dog Tannen in 1885. Events are placed in their appropriate location, with each requiring certain dice actions to complete.

Players then roll their dice to move around the board and complete events. An arrow can be used to move anywhere along a time line, whereas you’ll need to roll a flux capacitor to time-travel to any time period, arriving at the same location. Leave too many lingering events uncompleted and they’ll add to the “OUTATIME” meter, eventually leading to a game over.

Completing events awards a lost item, such as Marty’s Guitar. Items will need to be returned to different locations and time periods. Players will need to return all the lost items from each time period to win.

We Don’t Need Roads

Dice Through time includes multiple difficulty levels by scaling the number of lost items that need to be returned. A standard game includes three items from each time period, whereas things get harder, and significantly longer, when all five are used.

Likewise more players equals more event cards, and the increasing possibility that players will run into each other and advance the game over meter – a fun nod to the danger of running into yourself from Back to the Future 2.

As a cooperative game, players are encouraged to work together to travel around the board and complete as many events as possible. Players can also help each other by rippling dice – storing dice actions in one location so they can be used on other players in the same spot, or in future time periods – another neat element that emphasizes the time-traveling theme.

Unfortunately Dice Through Time lacks any kind of asymmetry for the players. There are no unique player powers; everyone rolls their version of the same four dice. While it does use the source material well, the board game doesn’t feature any actual still shots from the film, instead relying on comic-like illustrations for the 70+ event cards.

Dice Through Time is also one of the easier co-op games I’ve played, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We never lost a single game on standard difficulty, for example. Harder difficulties focus more on making the game longer rather than adding any new complications or depth.

The Rating

Dice Through Time has a recommended age rating of 10+. Reading is minimal (or even optional) as players draw cards, match the location, and roll dice. Light strategy is required to plan a turn that can involve moving, completing actions, turning in items, and storing dice for future turns or other players.

The Takeaway

Back to the Future: Dice Through Time is easy to teach, easy to play, and fairly easy to win. The game doesn’t try to re-create any of the original movies. Instead it crafts a competent co-op experience from the time-traveling theme and iconic locations, creating a cooperative tabletop experience worthy of the classic movies.

Find Back to the Future: Dice Through Time exclusively at Target.

dungeon defenders

Dungeon Defenders: Awakened Review

Posted by | PC, Reviews | No Comments

Available On: PC (Steam), coming later to Switch (Q3 2020), PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (Q4 2020)

What is the difference between a new game and a remake? Despite being labeled as an all-new game in the tower-defense series, Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is clearly a remake of the original 2010 game.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the original Dungeon Defenders effectively combined tower defense gameplay with co-op action. The formula remains as fun as it was a decade ago, though it’s disappointing to see so little improvement or changes.

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Fort Triumph Review

Posted by | PC, Reviews | No Comments

Available On: PC (Steam)

Fort Triumph combines two of my favorite flavors of games: the strategic map exploration of Heroes of Might and Magic, and the tactical combat of XCOM. It’s an ambitious cross-pollination of genres for a tiny indie game that succeeds more than it stumbles, but lack of content and variety hold it back from greatness.

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Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons Review

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Publisher: Ravensburger
Age: 10+
Players: 2-5
Game Length: 45-60 minutes
MSRP: $34.99

A little over a decade ago, Pandemic popularized the cooperative board game genre with doctors and researchers matching cards to find cures to multiple diseases before the disease-cubes took over the world.  While I appreciated the then-new concept, I found the theme a bit dry and card-matching too simple.

In 2020, Wonder Woman is here to save the day. Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons is a smart evolution of co-op cube-defense, with the much more exciting theme of defending Themyscira from comic book villains.

No Man’s Land

The Amazon island of Themyscira is gorgeously presented in a large game board with over a dozen different locations, such as the training grounds, the library, and the Temple of Aphrodite. Each player chooses one of five Amazons, including Diana, better known as Wonder Woman from DC Comics. Each Amazon has a unique ability and a bronze miniature figure that contrasts beautifully on the colorful map.

Challenge of the Amazons pits your team of Amazon warriros against one of three different villains: Ares the warlord, Circe the spellcaster, and Cheetah the lycanthrope. Each villain has their own agenda and tactics reflected in their personal card decks, as well as scaling difficulty for the number of players.

Each turn the chosen villain runs around the map deploying cubes and hazards, which could represent blocked roads, wounded amazons, or enemy minions. The players need to balance removing these cubes with chasing down the villain. Both the villain and the island itself have health bars, and if Themyscrica’s defense drops to zero, the Amazons lose.

Goddess of War

The Amazons’ turns are divided into two distinct phases. It’s here where Challenge of the Amazon’s clever game design helps solve one of the biggest problems with co-op games: players ordering each other around.

In the Strategize phase, players can openly discuss their plans for the turn, but only with about half their cards visible, face up in front of them. Enemy obstacles are cleared by playing cards, each of which features multiple numerical emblem symbols. Symbols include Vigor (sword) to defeat minions and Leadership (star) to summon additional warriors. Players can use this public information to plan out where to go and which obstacles to tackle, or combine their might into a big hit on the enemy villain.

Once they’ve finished strategizing, the Battle Plans phase begins. Players pick up the rest of their cards and plan their three actions in secret, without speaking. The flexibility on each card results in a satisfying balance between trying to coordinate with your teammates, while also improvising based on the cards. Sometimes your best laid plans go awry, as in battle, but it still feels thematic and fun.

While the Amazon minis, enemy character sheets, and game board are exceptional components, the same cannot be said of the cards. The hero cards represent abstract adjectives like Experienced, Resourceful, and Bold, and depict images of clouds, trees, and spiderwebs – not exactly a thrilling declaration when battling the forces of Ares. I would’ve much preferred scenes of our Amazon heroines fighting and training, especially as the cover art by comic artist Jenny Frison is so darn good.

The Rating

Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons has a recommended minimum age of 10+. While DC Comics and Wonder Woman have become increasingly kid-friendly, the board game requires advanced tactical planning and coordination, which can be challenging for younger kids.

As a co-op game, Challenge of the Amazons would make an excellent pick for family game night with older kids, teens, and parents.

The Takeaway

With the exception of big-box RPG Gloomhaven, co-op games aren’t usually very popular in my house, but I’m more than happy to make room on the game shelf for the princess of Themyscira. With colorful components and a nice balance of teamwork and solo planning, Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons makes co-op fun again.

Find Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons at Amazon, Target, and other retailers.