IOS Board Games: One on Sale, and One Free!

kingdomApple announced some new iPads yesterday. What better way to celebrate buying one than by getting some cheap games for it?!

Kingdom Builder—the clever game by Dominion designer Donald Vaccarino, is on sale for $4.99 (normally $6.99). And the abstract game Hive is FREE (normally $.99). They're not huge savings, but if you just dropped some bones on a new iPad, every little bit helps! Who knows when these will go back to regular price, so grab them now!

Thanks for reading! And don't forget to subscribe to the Theology Of Games Podcast on iTunes. We're giving away a copy of Pixel Lincoln, and the details are in podcast #3! Bye!

What's Better Than New Board Games?

Resistance UPDATE: It's over now. That'll teach you not to read our emails right away!

Cheap board games!

Today's Gold Box Deal from the folks over at Amazon features a number great board game titles, and a number of well...not-so-great board game titles.

The great games include:

The Resistance

Castles Of Burgundy

Seven Wonders

Forbidden Island

Dominion (Big Box)

And More!!

The not so great titles... Well we'll let you decide what those are...

All of the titles are about 40% off! That's right you can get The Resistance for $11.99!! Check out the great deals here! It's over now. Stop clicking things!

So stock up on all those classics that might be missing from your collection!

Thanks for reading. Are you picking anything up from this sale? Let us know!

And as always we appreciate your subscription to the blog!

Arctic Scavengers is Almost Here...

ArcticWay back in 2009 I (Firestone) played an indie-published game called Arctic Scavengers. As far as I know, it was the very first post-Dominion deck-building game. But most people never got a chance to play it, because it was a small print run from a small publisher. Enter Rio Grande Games, who agreed to publish the game to a wider audience. Well, THREE YEARS LATER, it's finally happening. Rio Grande announced on their Facebook page that copies of the game should be on their way to distributors in the next couple of weeks. I love Rio Grande Games, but this is one of the worst board game delays I've ever seen. The game is pretty fun—and the theme is 1,000,000 times better than Dominion. But instead of striking while the iron was hot (3 years ago), now Arctic Scavengers will seem like "just another Dominion clone" even was the original "Dominion clone."

Okay, it's not exactly like Dominion. You're a tribe, trying to survive against the other tribes (players) in a cold, post-apocalyptic world where you're scavenging for weapons and supplies and medicine. It was a little rough around the edges, but I liked it—and it was more interactive than Dominion. I have no idea what is different with the new edition, but if you like deck-building games, you should definitely check out Arctic Scavengers.

2012 Holiday Board Game Gift Guide—Gamers' Games

Here it is folks, the list you've been waiting for. You have a total gamer geek at work, and you pulled that person's name in the office secret Santa gift exchange! Now what? Never fear...below you'll find a list of games we ourselves are clamoring over and would love to see under the tree! We give you: the Gamers' Games gift guide! Star Wars the Card GameStar Wars The Card Game—Fantasy Flight has been working on getting this game out for years now, and they say it will be in stores for Christmas! We're very excited about this, their newest addition to the Living Card Game line up. And so will most any gamer out there! We interviewed Eric Lang the designer of the game last month; check it out here!

Cost: TBA (Estimated around $39.99)

Available from: Amazon and your local game store (Coming soon!)

Ages: 10 & up

Lord of the Rings the Card GameLord of the Rings: The Card Game—Yes, yes, we know... Two "living card games" in the same guide?! But really, if you're a fan of co-op games, this is probably one of the most elegant, and strategic of them all. It scales incredibly well—from 1-4 players—and is one of our favorite games here at TOG. If the gamer in your life is already into LOTR:TCG check out the new saga expansions The Hobbit: Under Hill and Over Hill, The Hobbit: On the Doorstep, and The Heirs of Numenor.

Cost: $39.99 (Base Set) $29.99 (Saga Expansions)

Available from: Amazon and your friendly local game store

Ages: 10 & up

DominionDominion—The card game that turned card games on their collective ears. Dominion is the premier deck-building franchise; it's incredibly rare for a game to create a genre, and then remain (arguably) the best game in that genre. Chances are if you've played a card game that was released in the last four years it was influenced in some way by Dominion. There are multiple expansions for Dominion that continue to strengthen this modern classic. If your gamer has Dominion already, check out the Prosperity expansion, and the newest Dark Ages!

Cost: $39.99 (Base set) $29.99 (Expansions)

Available from: Amazon and your local game store

Ages: 13 & up

Mage KnightMage Knight—This game is for serious gamers only! Deep, complex, and rich game mechanics, and multiple campaigns to play. It's like role-playing in a growing board game. (Some campaigns are estimated to take up to 8 hours or more to complete!) If your gamer is a fan of games set in the fantasy realm, and highly involved game play, this is the game for them! Check out our review of the game right here!

Cost: $69.99

Available from: Amazon and local game stores

Ages: 14 & up

Star Wars X-WingStar Wars: X-Wing Miniatures—Easy rules. Amazing miniatures. Fun gameplay. This game is going to end up costing me sooooo much money, but playing this with my kids will lessen that sting considerably. There are official scenarios, fan-made scenarios, or you can just have a wipe-out-the-other-guys dogfight. If you have a Star Wars fan on your list, this one should be on your short list. If you want more info, you can read our in-depth review.

Cost: $39.99

Available from: Amazon, department stores and your local game store

Ages: 14 & up

Mice & MysticsMice & Mystics—This game is basically a dungeon crawler, but instead of a typical fantasy theme, here you're playing as a group of mice trying to get to the bottom of a deadly conspiracy. Each scenario is a "chapter" in the story, with objectives, special powers, and dangerous enemies, such as rats, giant centipedes, huge spiders, and a cat!

Cost: $74.99

Available from: Amazon and your local game store

Ages: 7 & up

Gauntlet of FoolsGauntlet Of Fools—Even hardcore gamers sometimes need to play a quick game to start or end the evening—or to play while waiting for other people to finish another game. Gauntlet of Fools is the perfect game for that. You're heading into a dungeon with your chosen hero. Everyone is going to die, but if you can die with the most money, you'll win. Lots of fun. You can read our full review of the game here.

Cost: $19.99

Available from: Amazon and your local game store

Ages: 8 & up

We Interview Jesse Catron—Designer of Salmon Run

Thanks for agreeing to answer some questions. Can you tell us a little about yourself?  Sure, I’m 35 years old and I live in Maryland with my wonderful wife and our 6 dogs.  I‘m an Optometrist by profession; my hobby is board gaming, and my passion is board game design. Your new game Salmon Run is a combination race game and deck-building game. What gave you the idea to combine those two types of games? Salmon Run was very much a theme-first design. The theme led me to develop it as a racing game.  The salmon would race each other upriver to spawn. The long and grueling nature of the salmon's journey upriver led me to develop the fatigue mechanic. Being more of a marathon than a sprint, I wanted to emulate the struggle the salmon endure and reward pacing. Having fatigue cards accumulate in each player's deck to slow them down by the end of the race seemed natural.  Having “rest” areas where players could remove fatigue also seemed logical. Since the movement (swim) deck was dynamic and changed over the course of the race, I layered in the other special cards that could be added along the way. This greatly enhanced the experience, allowing for more deck specialization and more player interaction.

What’s your favorite race game, and why? Not including my own, I have always been fond of Wolfgang Kramer’s racing system which includes Daytona 500, Top Race, Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix. I really enjoy its simplicity and accessibility, its pre-race auction, and its card-driven movement. The dichotomy of controlling both your car(s) and your opponents is fascinating and makes for some interesting decisions and some light diplomacy.

What’s your favorite deck-building game, and why? I must preface my response by saying there are many DBGs I have yet to play, so my experience is limited. That being said, I will have to stay with the original: Dominion. Often imitated and enhanced, the simplicity and genius of the design still shines through. It's fast and accessible, with multiple strategies and great replayability.

How did you first discover Euro board games? I grew up playing a lot of board games like Risk, Monopoly, Axis and Allies, and the original Survive! Later on I got into collectible card games like Star Wars and the Star Trek CCG. Games were always an interest of mine and I never really stopped playing them. One year my brother bought me the Settlers of Catan for Christmas. Perhaps it was its dry theme but it sat on my self for about a year while I continued stupidly pouring money into CCGs. Eventually I played it and became hooked, and began to expand into other euro games.  Though it's not perfect, Settlers remains the game I've played the most and I still very much enjoy playing it when I can.

Who is your favorite game designer, and which of that designer’s games is your favorite? This is a very tough question to answer!  There are many designers that I respect and admire, and the reality is I have yet to play enough of their games to form a valid opinion. A few that come to mind are Wolfgang Kramer, Michael Schacht, Antoine Bauza, and Stefan Feld. However, at this time, my favorite is Martin Wallace. I enjoy his unforgiving economic mechanics and historical themes. I admire his innovative use of deck-building in a war game in A Few Acres of Snow (despite its flaws). My favorite game of his is Steam. Steam melds many mechanics together in a very smooth and refined package while keeping in track with its theme. 

One-word Response Questions:

Creamy or crunchy? Crunchy

Burger topping? BBQ-sauce

Favorite musician/band? (This can be more than one word, as necessary.) The Beatles

Trek or Wars? Wars

Batman or Superman? Batman

Thanks to Jesse for taking the time to answer our questions. Now go check out his Kickstarter campaign, Salmon Run! And as always, thanks for reading.

Running the Gauntlet Of Fools

by Firestone

Donald X. is the incredibly successful designer of hit games such as Dominion and Kingdom Builder. His latest is nothing like Dominion at all, but don’t let that stop you from playing this fast, fun game.

Gauntlet Of Fools comes with:

  • 90 cards—divided into 20 Class cards, 20 Weapon Cards, and 50 Encounter cards.
  • 30 dice
  • 4,000 tokens—okay, that’s an exaggeration, but there are a BUNCH of tokens.
  • 1 Playmat on which to place Boasts before they’re taken.

You’re going to control a hero, who will enter the dungeon, and who will die. (Well, you'll almost certainly die, unless you get really, really lucky. But plan on taking dirt nap...) Your goal is to end up with more gold than your opponents at the end of the dungeon.

First you deal out one Class card per player; they’re the Heroes, and include ninjas, barbarians, zombies, and jesters. Each one of them has an inherent defense, and a special power that you can use in the dungeon. Then you attach one Weapon to each Hero; they include spears, axes, whips, holy swords, and deadly fists. Each one has a number of dice you will roll for your attacks in the dungeon, along with a special power. Every game the Heroes and Weapons combinations will be different, so there’s plenty of replay value here.

Heroes and Weapons have special powers, and while you can use a few of them automatically, almost all of them cost an Ability token. The number of tokens varies based on the power (with a low of zero and high of 20), but on average you’ll get two Class Ability tokens and Two Weapon Ability tokens.

You should be aware that there are some “darker” cards in these, such as necromancers, zombies, and demonic blades. Their power is abstracted, but they’re there; if you felt strongly about it, you could easily remove those cards from the game without really affecting anything.

There are two phases to the game: the Boasting Phase and the Gauntlet Phase.

First comes the Boasting. Starting with the start player, each person takes one of the Heroes—and the Weapon attached to that Hero—and places it in front of them. If they think the Hero might get taken from them, they can attach a Boast to it, but it’s not required. Now the next player takes a Hero. If they take one that’s already in front of another player, they have to attach at least one Boast to it. That continues until each player has a Hero in front of him or her.

The Boasts include things such as “One Arm Tied Behind My Back,” which means that when the Hero is in the dungeon, he’ll ignore all 1s and 2s rolled on the dice. Or while “Hopping On One Leg,” which means you reduce the Hero’s defense by two. Or “With A Hangover,” which means you reduce your Hero’s attack dice by one and defense by four, but as soon as you kill a monster you get rid of the Hangover—fighting sobers you up! There are a few others, too.

So you can take the Hero someone else has, but you’re going to “pay” more for it—in the form of Boasts. And you might really want a Hero, but you have to ask yourself if it’s worth all the Boasts. It generally feels that a Great Hero with a Great Weapon—and a Boast or two—is more valuable than a Good Hero with a Good Weapon. Of course, that’s not always true, and some Boasts feel more harmful than others. It’s a sort of auction, where you’re valuing what’s out there, and trying to do a better job of valuing than your opponents—it reminds me of the province auction in Amun-Re.

Now comes the Gauntlet Phase, where you fight the monsters. And die. Early on, people were comparing this to Munchkin, and that scared me off. I can’t stand Munchkin—for lots of little reasons, but the big one is that the games often take FOREVER. FOR. E. VER!!!  Gauntlet of Fools is only superficially like Munchkin (fight monsters in a dungeon), but it’s also got a natural timer to it. You’re going to die. Everyone’s going to die. You might live one or two rounds longer than someone else—or vice versa—but that’s it. This keeps games at around 20 minutes, and that’s just perfect for this weight and type of game.

Anyway, you play a series of turns, and in each one you determine the encounter (draw the top card of the Encounter deck), attack the monster, defend against the monster, and then check to see if you’re dead yet. Most of the time the Encounter will be a monster of some kind. Each one has an attack strength, a defense strength, a gold amount for if you kill it, a wound amount if it hits you, and finally a special power. They’ve done a good job of conveying a lot of info in a clear way on a single card.

There are a few special Encounter cards. There’s a Spear Trap where you automatically take a wound, and some modifiers that make the next monster worth more gold, or have extra defense, or extra attack power—or do double damage. There are also some good Encounters that give you gold, or tokens you can use on your special powers, or allow you to heal a wound.

So for each regular Encounter your Hero will roll however many dice he or she has for attack, and if the total is as much or more than the monster’s defense, you’ve killed it, and you get the gold. Even if the monster dies, it still gets to attack your Hero. Again, if its attack equals or bests your defense, you’ll take one or more wounds. This attack and defend portion is where you can also use those Ability Tokens you got with your Hero. You might be able to turn one in and automatically kill any monster, or turn one in a roll an extra attack die, or turn one in a reroll all attack dice.

So there are definite decisions to be made in the Gauntlet. When should you just attack, and when should you spend a precious Token? Will I die this turn, and can I somehow prevent that?

Eventually everyone dies (four wounds and you’re dead at the end of the turn), and you count up the gold; whoever has the most gold wins. That’s not necessarily the person who lived the longest. If I was able to kill a couple of big-money monsters—but died early, that could be better than you living a longer time, but only killing monsters that give you one gold.

That’s an exhaustive look at the game. It probably took you longer to read this than it will to play a game. (Okay, that's an exaggeration...)

So what do I think? I like it! It’s a fast and fun dungeon delve. Some people don’t like that you only Boast once and use that one Hero through the whole Gauntlet, but it’s meant to play quickly and easily, and that’s just what it does. Want more? Play another game! Want Mage Knight? Play Mage Knight!

The dice add a lot of uncertainty. There were plenty of times that a Hero should be able to best a Monster, but then he'd roll a bunch of 1s and 2s. We played once, and then we immediately wanted to play again. And then we played another after that.

If there's one thing I'm uncertain about, it's that I'm not sure how well this would go over with nongamers. Auction games might be the hardest genre to bring out with Grandma and your Aunt Fanny. It's hard to figure out just how much something is worth, and if they undervalue or overvalue something, it can kinda throw the whole game off. But Gauntlet's light enough and fast enough that I'm far less concerned with this than I would be with, say...The Princes of Florence.

There’s plenty of room for expansion with this game, and I’ll eagerly add them if and when they come out. In the meantime, I’m going into the Gauntlet with my mace-wielding knight—unfortunately, he’s blindfolded and he skipped breakfast…

Our thanks to Indie Boards & Cards for graciously providing a review copy to Theology of Games.

Quarriors—A Quawesome Queview...Errr Review

By Firestone Maybe the most influential game of the last few years is Dominion. It’s made a TON of money and spawned a ton of similar games. WizKids' Quarriors is one of the more unique “copycats” to emerge from the pack.

It’s called a dicebuilding game, rather than a deckbuilding game. Rather than buying various cards, as you do in Dominion, you’re buying dice. And let me tell you, these dice are cool. They’re all sorts of colors, and each type is unique and engraved with a different design.

Quiddity is the currency in the game. Just like in Dominion, you start the game with a few “coins”—in this case, a few dice that either give you 1 point of Quiddity (on 5 of the 6 sides of the die) or 2. You also start with a few weak monsters.

I won’t go into all of the details for a turn—they’re kind of involved, and MUCH easier to explain when someone’s sitting in front of you where you can explain by showing. Basically, if you have any creatures left alive at the beginning of your turn, you score VPs—then they go away. Then you draw six dice and combine them with any that were already in your Ready area, roll them, and decide what to do with them. Any Creatures you rolled will now attack each of your opponents. (That’s one of my favorite things about this game. There’s no trying to decide whom you should attack. You just attack each opponent, regardless of how many there are.) Your opponents’ creatures may be killed because of the attack, but any that survive and are still alive at the beginning of that player’s turn will score VPs. Now you buy dice. There are two “classes” in the game—Spells and Creatures—and you can use any Quiddity you rolled to buy one of those die.

The game ends when someone scores a certain number of VPs—which varies depending on the number of players.

There are a few things for Christians to consider before playing the game. Spells are the first thing. It doesn’t feel as though you’re “casting a spell.” You’re just rolling a die that gives you a certain boon if it lands on a certain side of the die.

Another thing to consider is that the second expansion is called Rise of the Demons.  One of the Creatures you can purchase is a Demonic Overlord. I know it’s “just a game” but I’m not comfortable with my kids using a Demonic Overlord to help them out in the game, so I won’t be purchasing that particular expansion. They’ve since come out with another expansion called Quarmageddon, and there’s nothing questionable in that expansion.

Let’s be honest: When you’re dealing with dice, the luck factor goes way up. But the bottom line is that it’s just a ton of fun to roll these terrific dice. I’ll play Dominion with my gamer friends, but I play Quarriors with my family. It’s lighter and luckier, but it’s also more fun.

Dominion Goes Digital

The game that pretty much turned card games on their ear a few years ago is not only getting a new expansion, but it has also been announced that there will be an iOS, Android, and online version of the game releasing soon. Now you won't have to wait to gather your friends together to buy that Duchy; you can do it on the interwebs! The digital version of the game will feature single player vs. bots, multiplayer online (w/friends or random strangers), or a new "Challenge Mode" designed in conjunction with game designer Donald X. Vaccarino and app devs goko. You'll be able to play on your iPad and Android tablets, as well as from your browser via as well as on Facebook, and in Google+ hangouts (if anyone still does that). While they have given us an iPhone screen shot, there is no word on if there will be a version that scales to fit the landscape of the iPhone, or other non-tablet devices.

Goko is in the beta phase of testing right now! I've applied for the beta, and so can you.

For full details, updates, screen shots, and info on the beta test click here!

Are you already beta testing this? We'd love to hear about it, leave it in the comments!

Dominion gets a 7th expansion...

Rio Grande has released info about a 7th addition to the Dominion franchise: Dark Ages. The expansion will include 500 cards, including 35 new Kingdom cards and a few replacements for estates and such. They're touting a couple new baddies to give to your opponents and a few cards that are only acquired by specific other cards. You can see the official Rio Grande description here. And for some nifty card previews from the game designer himself, click here. It looks like Rio Grande and designer Donald X. Vaccarino are doing their best to keep the Dominion franchise alive and relevant—and quite honestly, that's okay with us.

Are you looking forward to another installment of Dominion? What are your favorite expansions? Leave it here! And thanks for reading!

Infiltration: Take the Money and Run

Donald X. Vaccarino is the creator a little game called Dominion. It’s ridiculously popular—it’s like he invented a way to just legally print money.

His latest design is Infiltration—a fast filler for 2-6 players that has you in the position of breaking into a corporation to steal as much as you can before the guards catch you.

You lay out the cards for the “first level” in a stairstep up to the right, and then a “second level” to the building back up the left. On each turn, players choose a card from their hands, and then simultaneously reveal them. It might allow a player to move to the next room. Or take some of the loot in a room. And some rooms have locks or scientists in them, and you can play cards to interact with them. There are also some special cards that give you something extra and cool and unique to do.

Here we run into the first problem: turn order can be hard to overcome. Turn order changes every turn, but if you’re at the end of the pack, you’ll find yourself scrambling to get to good rooms and get some of the loot.

In the game I played, one player played a card that let her move into a room and interact with it—normally you can only do one or the other. Unfortunately, interacting with the room forced her to end her run, so she was out of the game.

There’s a built-in timer to the game. A threat number increases as the game goes on, and when it reaches a certain level, the guards catch anyone still in the building. So you have to figure out how much loot to grab before you high-tail it out. The weird thing is, there’s no trap door on the second-level set of cards. So while there’s cool stuff the further in you go, it’s almost impossible to get that stuff and still get out.

This also led to another problem with the game. One player was in the kingmaker role: he ends it early and hands Player X a victory, or lets it go one more round and it's between Player X and me. He can't do ANYTHING to better his position. He ended it—still not sure why

So only two people in our game escaped—one who used a special card to escape, and the other was the woman from way earlier in the game. If the player who used the special card hadn’t been able to get out, the woman would have won…with zero points. That’s ridiculous to me.

The theme of the game is stealing. I think the game justifies it because you’re stealing from a corporation, and CORPORATIONS ARE ALWAYS EVIL, AND ENJOY BOILING PUPPIES ALIVE IN THE TEARS OF KITTENS. I’m no apologist for corporations, but come on… So be aware you’re stealing. I’m not against playing the game because you’re stealing; I’m against playing it because it’s a bad game.

I think ultimately this game suffers from Stephen King Syndrome: Donald X has had enough wild success that people aren’t willing to push back against some of the bad ideas here. If you don’t mind some swinginess, you might enjoy this. And the theme is pretty cool. And it’s certainly a fast game.

Me, I think I’ll wait for the upcoming Netrunner game to release my inner hacker.