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.