Saturday, July 11, 2015

Featured Kickstarter: Casual Game Insider Magazine

Casual Game Insider (Quarterly Published Board Game Magazine)

What is a "Casual Game?"
Taught in less than 10 minutes
Played in less than 1 hour
Light strategy
Enjoyed by all ages

Casual Game Insider magazine is fantastic game magazine that puts a focus on "casual games." They provide news, reviews, and great articles ranging from game mechanics, to board gaming conventions, to spotlighting game publishers/designers, and more. Casual Game Insider is the best gaming magazine available in my opinion. I hope that they can continue to expand - it would be great to get this monthly! Such a well done publication and a very enjoyable read. Right now you can actually download a pdf of the summer issue for FREE (see link below). There is also a link provided to view the issue in an online reader. Please enjoy! And don't forget to check out the Kickstarter page and their website (links above). If you like games or want to learn more, this magazine is for you and that is How Lou Sees It!

Issue (online reader):

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

New York 1901 - Building Skyscrapers - Ticket to Blokus

Designed by Chenier La Salle
Published by Blue Orange Games
2 - 4 Players
30 - 60 Minutes
Tile Placement, End-Game Goals
(8/10 Stars)

I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of New York 1901 by Blue Orange Games in exchange for an honest review of the game. The short version; this game is fantastic! If you are looking for a family friendly light-medium strategy game, look no further. New York 1901 provides some similar mechanics as Ticket to Ride mashed up with Blokus to create something that feels fresh and well built. The production quality of the game is really great, from cards, to the board, the rulebook, the building tiles, score markers, to the amazing artwork. The gameplay is simple and yet provides the players with strategic choices. The game can be cutthroat or can range to pretty calm - in either case, I think you will have a great time and that is How Lou Sees It! (Check out some pictures and detailed video review below! And if you like what you see, be sure to like the video and follow my blog or follow me on YouTube or Twitter (@LandonSquire))

Monday, June 29, 2015

Disc Duelers Dexterity

Designed by D. Brad Talton Jr.
Published by Level 99 Games
2 - 21 Players
30 - 45 Minutes
Dexterity Battle, Flicking Discs, Variable Player Abilities/Items
(7/10 Stars)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Very Nice Deluxe Box of Noir

Designed by D. Brad Talton Jr.
Published by Level 99 Games
Primarily 2 Players (with 6 games, Range of 2 - 9 Players)
Play Time Ranges from 10 minutes to 60 minutes
Strategic Deductive Card Game, Many Variants/Roles
(8/10 Stars)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Terrene Odyssey Review

Designed by Chris Solis
Self Published (Terrene Odyssey)
2 Players (with 2 versus 2 variant)
30 Minutes
Strategic Party-Based Card Combat, Deck Creation
(8/10 Stars)

Hi everyone! Back in February of 2014 I interviewed the game designer Chris Solis about an upcoming Kickstarter for his game Terrene Odyssey (see interview here) and it was a Featured Kickstarter on the blog. Now, a little over a year later, here is my review of the final product!

First, the game components are very well done. The box is a good size box that isn't too small and isn't too large - fits the Goldilocks principle well - it is just right. The box has a nice feel to it and is very sturdy. When you open the box you will find lots of good stuff. 324 cards (3 copies of 108 unique cards), The game also includes lots of other cardboard tokens to help keep track of damage and modifiers. The tokens are good quality and double sided. I'm very glad these are included in the game, it is a must for the game play used. Very nice. There are player reference sheets which are glossy paper, also double sided with starting party suggestions (and strategy ideas).  The rule book is pretty well done, but it feels incomplete and I found myself with many questions as I played the game for at least the first game or two. Check out the Terrene Odyssey page on Board Game Geek for some clarifications provided in the forums. And lastly, but certainly not least - Terrene Odyssey has fantastic artwork! Love it. The card layout is also very nice.

One of the other great things about the game, is that the game comes with 6 different pre-constructed decks (along with starting party suggestions for each). This is very important because there is a lot of different cards and card types, and these pre-constructed decks are really well done and helps for quick games (especially with new players). Playing with these decks also allows players to see the different strategies available to use in future custom decks. My favorite is a spellcaster type deck so far, but I would love to make a good Engineer type deck. There is just so many different combinations to explore and that makes the game have great replay ability.

The game play at it's heart really is simple. You have a set number of actions determined by your current location card, and you utilize those actions to recruit new characters, make attacks, or use the various different abilities, items, or commands. Defeat your opponent by taking his hit points down to 0 from 50 or defeat all your opponents characters. It is a tight game with lots of strategy. You really have to plan out what you are doing to be successful because actions and cards in your hand are limited. You usually won't be able to do all that you want on one turn, so that requires you to make interesting choices on what you want to do this turn, and what actions you may want to save to react to your opponent etc. The gameplay is rich and seems to be done very well.

The game has felt a little long for me up until this point, but honestly this is probably due to the fact that I'm still new to the game and figuring it all out. This is a very enjoyable 2 player strategic card game. It is very well done from game play to artwork to quality of components. Currently on sale on Amazon for $39.99, it retails for $60. This seems a little high, but considering the amount of cards, tokens, and quality of components along with the fact that it is self published - I can see the reason behind it. If you can get passed the price point and/or you enjoy card strategic battle card games like this, I would highly recommend you check out Terrene Odyssey and that is How Lou Sees It!

(I was provided a free review copy of this game from Chris Solis.  There is a more detailed video review below.  If you liked this video review, please like and follow me!)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Branding Longhorn a Top Two Player Game

Designed by Bruno Cathala
Published by Blue Orange Games
2 Players
10 - 15 Minutes
Variable Movement, Set Collecting
(8/10 Stars)

I am a huge fan of great two player board games.  With a full-time job and kids at home, there just isn't as much time for getting a group together for games.  Often it is just my wife and I who will pull out a game.  Some other 2 player games we enjoy are Jaipur and Pagoda.  Longhorn published by Blue Orange Games and designed by Bruno Cathala (also designer of Five Tribes) is now another favorite 2 player game of ours.

Longhorn is a quick (10 to 15 minutes) strategy game for 2 players in which each player takes on the role of a cattle thief.  The game mechanics and components are really great.  The theme works well in the game and the action tiles fit that theme well.  That being said, the game still feels pretty abstract to me.

The game's mechanics are what really make this game a winner.  Simple to teach and play, and yet providing some strategic depth.  The game plays off of a somewhat similar idea from Bruno's other game, Five Tribes, although still very different.  Both games have an aspect that to me seems like a bit of a tip-o-the-hat to Mancala, which works out nicely because the game mechanic while fresh has a similar well developed feel to it.

Pick up all the cattle of one color and move the player token a number of spaces equal to how many cows you took.  The game ends if someone is caught by the Sheriff, a player is able to get all the cattle of 1 color (9), or what happens usually - the player token doesn't have any legal moves.

The other interesting thing about this game is that as you take cattle of one color, you are getting more points, but you are also degrading the value of that cattle too!  Cattle are only worth $100 times the number of that cattle color left on the board - so if all the cattle are taken, you may have 6 cattle in that color, but they would all be worth $0.00!  Players also need to be careful with placement of the player token to think ahead of possible future moves for your opponent.

The game is just the right length for this type of game and the box is perfect size for the components and for travel.  The cattle meeple are fun and if you like 2 player strategy games, I highly recommend Longhorn and that is How Lou Sees It!

(I was provided a free review copy of this game from Blue Orange Games.  There is a more detailed video review below.  If you liked this video review, please like and follow me!)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Struggle Will Last Well Past Twilight, But So Will The Fun

Designed by Ananda Gupta and Jason Mathews
Published by GMT Games
2 Players
3 Hours
Card Management, Area Control, Dice Rolling
(10/10 Stars)

Becoming the top rated game on Board Game Geek is an impressive feat, especially for a long (2 to 3 hours, or 4 for your first few times) two player risk-like game.  This would not be the case if "casual gamers" had their way, but the truth is - even people who may not usually enjoy longer two player strategy games recognize the brilliance of this game.

It may not always be the game that gets to the table the most often, but it definitely is one of the most well designed games that I have had the pleasure of playing and reviewing.

I was given a copy of the deluxe version from GMT Games for the purpose of this review.  The components in this version are fantastic.  The board is beautiful and well laid out.  There are a couple of things that I wish was a bit different though: I wish the slight color contrast between regions was a bit greater making it easier to quickly see regions and I really really wish the action round track was somehow along the bottom of the board, the side of the board, or a separate little board.  One of the things I have struggled with most with the game is forgetting to move that marker and it would help if it was closer.  Not a huge deal, and I will probably just make my own track to do this.

The quality of the cards is good, but I do wish it was nice linen type quality instead (I'm a card snob - once you have had deluxe cards its hard to go back!).

One of the biggest things that I think this game has going for it is actually the use of theme.  This game hands down is the best application of a theme.  The game successfully oozes theme in every little thing.  The tension and tug-a-war feel is very reminiscent of the cold war (or so it seems - I guess I don't really remember much and wasn't even alive for much of it).  Although, side note, it seems like with everything going on in the world today (especially with Russia) that another "cold war" doesn't seem to far off.  That is another great thing with Twilight Struggle and the theme - it is something very real.

The game mechanics are also very well designed and utilize the theme well.  It does have a strong Risk-like feel to it, but even with some dice rolling, the game seems much more strategic to me.  The dice rolling isn't necessarily a bad thing either in my opinion to keep some sort of luck element to it on key decisions makes the game have that tension!  It can be frustrating of course when you always seem to roll the wrong numbers, but it doesn't completely make the game unbeatable for you.

I'm amazed at how simple the game really is.  There isn't too much more to it than some other strategy games that people play - but Twilight definitely has a learning curve.  The game uses cards based on real events, people, wars etc. - and knowing how these cards interact with each other and when to play certain cards and when to send cards to the space race is very important and will come with experience.  I have played  a few games now, and I think learning the game with another player is the best way to go (in other words, you will both be learning the game together and one person won't have an edge on the other).

The game is just so good!  The game does favor the USSR in the early game, and from what I have read - USSR wins about 60 percent of the time compared to the USA at 40 percent.  The few times I have played this and have switched superpowers - Russia has won every time.  I like the challenge that brings, but it is something that worries me somewhat about the game.  USA does have some edge gained during the mid-war it seems, but maybe it could be a little more balanced in that regard?

I love this game and I am giving it a 10/10.  Will it be my most played game in my collection?  Probably not, given the length of the game, but I definitely enjoy Twilight Struggle a lot and that is How Lou Sees It!

(I was provided a free review copy of this game from GMT Games.  There is a more detailed video review below.  If you liked this video review, please like and follow!)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Cherry! Foot! Ghost! NADA! Great Fun!

Designed by Thierry Denoual
Published by Blue Orange Games
2 to 4 Players
10 Minutes
Dice Rolling, Quick Matching
(7/10 Stars)

This, believe it or not, is my very first Blue Orange game review (and I have only played one other Blue Orange game prior to this - Pengoloo, which I purchased for my daughter on a whim - great little memory game by the way) and I am very excited to be discovering this new-to-me game publisher.  Doodle Quest is one game from Blue Orange Games that is getting a lot of attention and I haven't had the chance to play yet.  Any way, back to NADA!

NADA is a fantastic little dice game.  The object of the game is to roll dice and then at a quick glance be able to identify a match (a picture on an orange die matching the same picture on the white die).  The first player to shout out a correct match gets to claim all of the dice with that symbol.  If there are no matches, be the first player to shout NADA! and you get ALL of the currently rolled dice.  The game is so simple, but if you like games such as SET, Tenzi, or if you are just looking for a nice little family dice game, I think you will really enjoy NADA!  The game comes with a few different ways to play that are fun, or you can make up your own as well.  The quality of dice is great, and the game is very portable as it comes with a nice mesh travel bag.  The game consists of 36 dice with 12 different symbols.  This is such a great little game and that is How Lou Sees It!

(I was provided a free review copy of this game from Blue Orange Games. I will be reviewing Longhorn from Blue Orange Games very soon as well. There is a more detailed video review below.  If you liked this video review, please like and follow!)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Just Desserts is Just Plain Fun!

Designed by Andrew Looney
Published by Looney Labs
2 to 5 Players
25 Minutes
Set Collecting, Hand Management, Order Fulfillment
(7/10 Stars)

Hi everyone! Here is my video review of Just Desserts by Looney Labs. It is definitely my favorite game of theirs. I gave Fluxx a 6/10 stars, and Just Desserts is a 7/10. I think I would always choose Just Desserts over Fluxx. The theme is a great one and the artwork is fun and very well done. The game is filled with so many desserts - you will probably want to eat some after playing.  The game is definitely not as long as some Fluxx games and I felt like Just Desserts is more balanced and more strategic. It is still a really light card game, but it is definitely a great time.  The game provides some "advanced" rules that I think should be used the majority of the time (only play without them if you are playing with younger kids who may not understand the other rules or if you want to avoid a slightly more confrontational game).  I do feel that the "advanced" rules are actually really simple to understand and that they fix some of the small issues that happen when you play without them.  If you play without the "advanced" rules it seems like you may have a run-away winner issue, but if you add the other rules it definitely balances it out in my opinion.  The quality of the cards is good.  I really enjoyed how many different desserts they incorporated into the game and again, the artwork is really great.  A simple, fun, set collecting card game that is by far my favorite Looney game and that is How Lou Sees It! (Check out the more detailed video review below!)

I was given a copy of Just Desserts by Looney Labs for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

B.I.G. Beard Balm Review

Beard Balm (Made of Beeswax, Shea Butter, Argan Oil, Jojoba Oil, Vitamin E Oil, Vanilla Oil)
Currently comes with free e-book (pamphlet)
(Amazon Rating of 5/5 Stars)

My first beard balm, and I really enjoy it! I received a free tin of B.I.G. Beard Balm for review and it has been fantastic. I use it every morning and I feel like it has made my beard softer and my beard isn't nearly as itchy as before.

The e-book that came with this product was also nice. It was very short, more like a little informational pamphlet, but I still thought it was some good info. It walks through the ingredients and explains why each of them were used and how they help your beard/face. It also had some good tips such as not using hair shampoo on your beard and using scissors to trim your beard instead of electric razors.  Great product - very happy with it. 

I will definitely continue to use B.I.G. Beard Balm on my beard and that is How Lou Sees It!

[Thank you for reading my review and please consider following my blog and/or YouTube channel and/or Twitter Account - I review mostly Board Games.]

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

K2R-803 Mobile Charging Unit Review

Mobile charging unit with 2 USB charging outputs and 2 LED light flashlight
Currently comes with two free USB cords and a free e-book
(Amazon Rating of 5/5 Stars)

I have never owned a portable charging station such as the K2R before, and I was very excited about the opportunity to try out and review this one by K2R Technology.  I was given the product for free under the condition that I would offer an honest review of the product.

The K2R-803 is sold through and it comes with 2 free USB cords and a free e-book. The cords have LED ends that show when the devices are charging and it changes colors when it is complete.

Packaging:  The product arrived in great condition, and the box was good quality.

The Free USB Cords and Built in Flashlight:  I love having these extra cords and they work great! I even was having trouble with my original phone cord, and fell back to using one of these that I received with the charging station.  The cords light up at the end (red if it is charging, and blue if charging complete).  These LED lights are sometimes a little temperamental, but the cords work great.  The flashlight isn't perhaps what you might first envision, but it is 2 bright LED lights above one of the USB outputs.  It actually works very well and I think a really great feature for those times in the car late at night, or if you were to take this camping - perfect. 

Charging Station Performance:  I don't have any other experience with mobile charging stations, but I was very impressed with the K2R-803.  The unit takes about 10 hours to fully charge, basically an overnight charge and you are good to go.  The unit seems to hold a charge, once charged, very well; leaving it be for a week and it seemed to have very little power loss (if any - I didn't really notice any).  The unit charged my phones with speed equal to having it plugged into the wall.  I was very surprised at the nice charging time.  I also ran my Netflix app while charging, and it while it did slow the charge, it still gained at a decent rate.  I really enjoy that this unit has two USB outputs, it is perfect for me and my wife so that we can both charge our phones at the same time.

Summary:  This is a great product!  I really enjoy having this mobile charging unit.  From using it for convenience just around the house when a plug isn't nearby, to charging my phone in the car, and future camping trips - this mobile charging unit does exactly as it describes.  I have only had the unit for less than a month, but I have had no issues and am very pleased.  Users should be aware that the cords that come with this may not be compatible with certain phone cases (example, my iPhone with Life Proof case does not allow the included iPhone cord to be used) - this isn't a huge issue as the normal iPhone cord that you already have with your phone will work just fine with the unit.  Great product at a really great price and that is How Lou Sees It!

[Thank you for reading my review and please consider following my blog and/or YouTube channel and/or Twitter Account - I review mostly Board Games.]

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Sirlin Games Week - Day 5 - Puzzle Strike

Puzzle Strike (Third Edition and Shadows)
Designed by David Sirlin
Published by Sirlin Games
2 to 4 Players
20 - 50 minutes
Deck-building, Character Abilities, Player Interaction
(10/10 Stars)

Wow! Here we are at the end of Sirlin Games Week. Thank you for joining me all this week as I reviewed all of the Sirlin Games currently available. If you missed out on the other blog posts and video reviews, you don't have to look far! Here are links to each of the blog posts from earlier this week for your reading and viewing pleasure! Day 1 - Interview, Day 2 - Yomi, Day 3 - Flash Duel, Day 4 - Pandante, and to close us out - tonight I review my favorite Sirlin Game, Puzzle Strike.

I really enjoy deck-building games (Dominion, Trains, Thunderstone) and Puzzle Strike is one of my favorites! Let's talk about what comes in the box and the quality of the game (lots..and awesome - short version). Both the Third Edition and Shadows are stand-alone games. They both have the base components as well as 24 different puzzle chips and 10 different Fantasy Strike characters (each character is represented by 3 different unique action chips). Each game comes with around 350 chips which includes gem chips, crash gems, combine chips, and wounds. Other than lots of chips, you get 4 player bags, 4 player mats, and 4 player shields. The rule book is really great and includes lots of helpful illustrations. Sirlin Games also provides the rule books online for free HERE.

The quality of all these components are fantastic! The chips really are the star of the game and they are thick and smooth and it seems like they will hold up well over time. The player mats are very useful for game play. The player shields are nice as well and make it easier to see your chips all laid out and even if your opponent is setting next to you, you can easily make it so that they can't see your plans. Very cool. I do wish that they would have added a reminder to the inside of the player shields about the "panic time" mechanic. Everything is top notch, even including the future facility.

Unlike most deck-building games, players do not start with the exact same deck. I really enjoy this a lot as it provides good variety and strategy for players every game. Each player's character has 3 unique character chips and then each player gets 6 "1" chips and 1 "crash gem." So, not only do you get variety from the many different combinations of choosing 10 puzzle chips out of 24, but you also get to change out starting character chips.

Oh...this game does so many things so well. Players win by having the fewest gems in their gem pile at the end of the game (and the end of the game is triggered when someone ends their turn with a value of 10 or more in their gem pile. As you get more and more gems in your pile, the more chips you get to draw at the end of your turn, which should help you out a little in catching up to your opponent who perhaps only has 4 chips while you have 8. I like this and it seems to provide a good balance. The game also speeds up the game as piles run out.

Puzzle Strike provides a lot of opportunity for strategy, but has lots of fun luck elements as well. Both the Third Edition and Shadows are equally amazing. I think may like Third Edition slightly more because it has more of my favorite characters and the chips are perhaps slightly more basic - the Shadow set seems to have a few more complex characters to play with. Puzzle Strike does such a great job of creating this unique deck-building experience and it really simulates a puzzle battle really well I think. If you like deck-building games (and perhaps even if you don't - don't like shuffling your card deck over and over again? - just place the chips in your bag and shake it up :)), I think you will enjoy Puzzle Strike tremendously and that is How Lou Sees It! (Check out the more detailed video review below!)

I was given a copy of Puzzle Strike (Third Edition and Shadows) by Sirlin Games for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sirlin Games Week - Day 4 - Pandante

Designed by David Sirlin
Published by Sirlin Games
2 to 6 Players
30 to 40 minutes
Gambling (Poker), Player Abilities, Bluffing
(8/10 Stars)

Have you ever heard of a gambling panda bear? Chances are that if you have, you are already familiar with David Sirlin's other Fantasy Strike games which feature a gambling panda bear - who, just also happens to be a good fighter. :) Pandante is a game that is very different from the fighting games Yomi and Flash Duel. It still has the wonderful bluffing that is so prevalent in his other games and it is a fun unique twist on Texas Hold'em Poker. Clever name too! "Panda" and "ante" combined together...very cool.

 If you don't enjoy playing poker, don't leave yet - because Pandante provides some really great mechanics that may just change your mind about poker - well... at least the way the pandas play it. I have had friends who don't really enjoy poker play Pandante and they ended up having a blast. Pandante overs a unique deck of cards to start - 6 different colorful suits with numbers 1 to 10 with 1 Joker. 

There are a few more possible poker hands as well including a 4 of one color (a Floosh) and a Rainbow Straight. Players are dealt 2 cards that are kept hidden, and as the game progresses, 3 cards are flipped over to create The Splash (community cards that everyone can utilize - similar to Texas Hold'em). Players ante before each Gambit and players place bets and have the opportunity to draw and discard a card by "snacking." Another card is flipped over and added to The Splash - this is called The Paw. When players make their bets, everyone is betting exactly 2 gold on a certain hand indicated on their player board. Everyone goes around once, so there isn't the back and forth from matching bets and raising bids. "Snacking" is available to everyone, but the person who bid the highest hand gets to "snack" for free by drawing a card and discarding a card face down.

Other players will need to pay 2 gold for every step down in value their hand bid was to the highest one. This game mechanic is brilliant as it encourages players to bet bigger earlier. There is a lot of bluffing in this game, so watch out! Players can fold during the game, but it really is a lot less likely than regular poker. For one thing, all players will have a chance to perform some special abilities each turn. These can greatly swing the tide in your favor at the last minute. One of the other cool things is the Gold Fairy that keeps people in the game even if they lost all their gold in a previous Gambit. This is a nice change as it keeps everyone involved in the game.

I really enjoy the components of Pandante. The cards are colorful and well laid-out. The deluxe version has an amazing faux leather feel to it with magnets to keep it closed. The poker chips provided are very nice quality - pretty much the best poker chips ever! The cards are nice quality for traditional type cards and the rule book is well done.

Currently Pandante: Light and Dark is on Kickstarter (for about the next week) - and it is sitting around 34k of 50k for funding. Light and Dark is a great opportunity to get in on the Pandante action. David has updated the base game rules with many little things that will make the game even simpler and better! One thing is a centralized play mat where all the betting will take place. Rules simplified, central mat, and new Casino type cards - this expansion is a no brainer for fans of Pandante and if it looks like you could enjoy Pandante, it is a great time to get the updated version with the Light and Dark expansion. And if you are feeling lucky, you could always get the deluxe! And as a special treat, David announced a few days ago that he is giving some stretch goals for free (or free upgrades)! Very cool. You can read about those in the updates section or by clicking HERE.

Pandante at its core is a game of bluffing...well, bluffing, and pandas...and poker. Pandante is a fun poker variant that I think everyone should at least try. You may be surprised at how much you enjoy panda poker and that is How Lou Sees It! (Check out the more detailed video review below!)

I was given a copy of Pandante (First Edition, Deluxe Version) by Sirlin Games for the purpose of this review.