Review: Trade Fleet

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Your hands of leather grasp the railing at the bow of your ship as you gaze at the port in the distance. How much gold will you stuff into your coffer this time around? In trade fleet you are a sea merchant making the rounds in the Caribbean trying to acquire and sell Hemp, Silk, Tobacco, Rum, and Cacao.

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IMG_5060At its heart Trade Fleet is a set collection game where you be racing to play Port Cards from your hand in order to later sell Goods Cards from your hand to gain gold. After being dealt your initial 5 cards your turn will involve you taking one of the following actions.

  1. Play a Port Card. If you have a Port Card in your hand you may place it face up in front of you. You may only have one Port Card active at any given time, but you can replace one with another for your turn if you want to utilize a different port. Each port list the trade value of each good at that port.

  2. Sell Goods. You may sell any number of goods from your hand at your active port. You gain gold equal to the value indicate on the port card fro each good. If selling more than one of the same type of good, the first sells for full value and each subsequent sells for one less gold, with 1 gold as the minimum. You then discard the port the all sold goods. You take cards from the discard pile equal to the gold received and place them face down to form a gold pile. Using cards from the discard as gold is a pretty nifty mechanic that I have seen used in other games like Oh My Goods!

  3. Discard. Sometimes you will get a bad hand, so you may spend your turn to discard 2 or 3 cards and then draw back up.

  4. Play a Happenings Card. Happenings are basically event cards that add a bit of theme to the game and serve to mix things up a bit. Some Happenings Cards simply benefit you in some way like allowing you to gain gold or goods. Others allow you to mess with other players to give the game a bit of a take that feel. Some of these work well and I like them in the game, but the lost card allows you force another player to skip their turn. I never like that in a game. You can easily remove any of these cards a suppose.

You and the other players will take only one of these actions each turn until the draw pile empties and at that point you will count up your gold to see who the winner is. Trade Fleet plays very quickly, so there is little down time, and that is one of its shining accomplishments, making it a solid little filler game.

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I am personally drawn to these types of settings and themes in games. Maybe it is boring to some, but the idea of being a sea captain gathering goods and selling them at port is just intriguing. That being said Trade Fleet could easily be a game about anything, but the setting does work well with the mechanics.

The artwork is serviceable and does a fine job of drawing you into the setting. I would love to see a bit more effort here, but I understand the costs associated with custom artwork.

Without the Happenings Cards the score here would drop by a point or two. They add just enough story to the game to help push the theme. Again, some of them lead to take that moments that will upset some people, especially kids, but they feel fitting to the theme in general. I am sure there was a bit of take that back then between trade merchants.

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Trade Fleet is a solid little card game made up of 87 cards with a small booklet and a tuck box. My only concern is the price of $20.99 seems a tad bit high for what you end up with in regards to components and play length. A price drop of a couple bucks would likely have me bump the score up to a 7 here.

It plays super fast and is quite fun for a lighter game. There is a bit of luck of the draw and you can have a bad game based on that, but with a play time of 15-20 minutes you can excuse an occasional unlucky game. Trade Fleet is a solid overall value if you like the theme and concept of the game.

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In the end Trade Fleet stands as an above average filler card game that I rather enjoy. There is a decent amount of strategy when deciding on which Port Cards to activate, when to cut your losses and draw some new cards, or when to play a Happenings Card.

Trade Fleet is a good game to reach for before playing a deeper game with a similar theme. I think paring it with a game like Merchants and Marauders, Dead Men Tell No Tales, or even Port Royal would make for an enjoyable game night. Trade Fleet is not really a game I see you playing more than twice in a row in one evening, but would serve well as an opener or a closer and is deserving of a place in my collection.

Trade Fleet Link

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Review: Galactic Keep Solitaire Warrior

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Somewhere far out in the galaxy aliens from all over have come together, for reasons unknown to us, to engage in combat to see who will be the last alien standing! This is honestly where the excitement ends with this title. The concept of battling aliens, coupled with the fantastic art drew me in, but the gameplay left me feeling a bit empty.

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IMG_5029In Galactic Keep you have a small deck of 35 cards and 1 instruction card. You shuffle up the deck and then form a 3×3 grid of face-down cards. Remaining cards are placed to the side to form a draw pile. You then choose a card from the grid and reveal it. This is your starting alien.

Next you pick, at random, any other adjacent face-down card. Before revealing you must now decide if you think the card you have can beat the unknown card or if you think the unknown card will destroy your alien. Every alien has a life value ranging from 1-8 and an attack that ranges from 1-5. Once you decide, you reveal the unknown card card and see which alien won. Each alien damages the other for their attack value. Repeat this if both aliens survive the first attack with life remaining. If you chose correctly, and the alien you picked wins, then you discard the defeated alien into your score pile. If you fail, the alien goes a separate discard that scores you no points at the games end. The winning alien advances into the losers space on the grid.

Sometimes the aliens will defeat each-other. In this case, it is my understanding, that you score the alien you picked to lose and the other does not score. You then must simply reveal a new card to be your alien and continue on. This is where things bog down. You essentially continue this process over and over again. If you ever find your alien in the space on the grid where there are no adjacent cards, you reseed the grid with cards from the draw deck.

My issue is that you are really making one choice over and over again for about 30 turns. After making this choice, you are doing a few basic subtraction problems to resolve the conflict and then you repeat this again and again. The game comes with 4 dice to track health. It might have been more interesting to use those dice to resolve the conflicts in a single roll so you wouldn’t have to track health at all. This would have moved the game forward much quicker.

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The art in this game is quite stellar in my opinion and it was what drew me in to make the purchase. On the table it looks great and I was honestly more interested in seeing what the next alien looks like then the gameplay itself. The setting of battling aliens is quite fun, but the connection to the mechanics was just a bit of a let down.

I would have really liked to see each alien have a unique power or something that made each one more distinct from the next outside of the illustrations.

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IMG_5030Galactic Keep contains just 36 cards. They did up the component quality with the addition of UV protection and a linen finish. This will certainly add to the lifespan of the game. Sadly the entertainment level is not really there for me, so this game will likely not get the plays required to utilize these welcome additions. At $12.99 this game is priced to sell and a good bargain had I only enjoyed it a little bit more.

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I know this review may come off as harsh. I really went into this one with high hopes. It is far from a terrible design, but it was just too repetitive for me. I truly think some people will enjoy this one, but it was not for me. Had the combat been more fleshed out and more engaging it would have bumped the score up a bit. Had aliens had unique powers like the ability to look at face down cards that would have helped. Maybe if some of the grid was left face up so that the player could plan a head and make some choices based on some known information and not relied solely on playing the odds and guessing if the next card was stronger of weaker then the card you controlled was. This really is the heart of the issue for me. It relied vastly too much on guessing.

Again, I think there is a game here, but it needs to be developed a bit more to remove the randomness. It plays fairly quickly, but time seems to drag when actually playing the game. The addition of the Full Health and Plague cards were nice and did add some excitement to the mix. It just failed to make up for the repetitive combat.

The artwork alone is worth the asking price, so I do feel like I got something out of this. I may have to attach some house rules to this one. In the end this game is just below average. Some will enjoy it as a quick filler that looks great on the table and others will pass on it for the reasons mentioned.

Galactic Keep Link

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Review: Wipers Salient

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Mud covers your boots making them too heavy for running, as a stream of blood drips down forehead. There is no escape, the Germans are closing in. In Wipers Salient you take on the role of the English and French as you try to hold off the Germans during the war to end all wars.

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IMG_5024Wipers Salient is a deck-building game in the purest form. You start with a hand of five predetermined cards that act as your front line in the trenches. Each card you start with, or can purchase later, have four basic attributes that you will use to throughout the game.

Resources: You add up the value of all the resource icons in your hand in order to purchase a single card from an open market per turn. Newly acquired cards are immediately placed in your discard for later use.

Morale: This reflects the morale of your troops. You again add up the icons here and you can adjust your moral back up on the tracker. If you ever run out of morale, you lose the game.

Health: Health works in the same way as Morale and is another way you can lose the game. You can heal your troops once per turn based on the total of the health icons on the card in your hand.

Attack: Every card has a potential attack value. You add all of these up to attack one or more enemy cards.

Special Feature: Some cards give you special powers when in your hand like allowing you to draw another card, to place an enemy card back into the enemy deck, to double the attack of any one card, or more.

The turn sequence in Wipers Salient is simple and straightforward. During each round you will execute the following in order.

  1. Draw up to five new card for form your hand. Reshuffle your discard if you do not have enough cards in your draw pile.

  2. Deploy an enemy card. You will draw a new enemy card each round and you will only face a maximum of 4 at once, but you will likely die quickly if you fail to take them out before that happens.

  3. Buy a Card. Next you will spend resources to purchase a card from the market.

  4. Play your cards. During this phase you will heal your health and morale and you may attack your foes. Each enemy has a value to meet or exceed to defeat. If your total attack value is enough to defeat multiple enemies you may, but you must defeat them completely, as you can not injure them.

  5. Enemy Attack!: Now you must look at the sum of all morale and health damage all the visible enemy card deal and adjust your tracker down accordingly. Again, if you run out of either, you are dead and you lose.

You WILL die in the game. I have played it 6 times and have yet to win. When you lose you may add up the value of all the enemies you defeated for a score. My scores ranged from around 25-35.

Wipers Salient is a good design with few flaws. If you like deck-building games and you enjoy solo games, then this is a game you should put on your radar. The variety of the cards in the market is very good, so each game your deck will likely be quite a bit different as the cards in the market will offer you different approaches to the game.

One factor that might hurt long term replay value is that the enemy deck is numbered and you must face the enemies in a particular order every time, with the weakest foes first. This is fairly minor, but is something to consider.

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IMG_5026This is where I felt Wipers Salient really shined. Sure this could have another setting and be a fine game, but tackling WWI in the fashion this game does is equally unique and sobering. The art on all the cards that bring the setting to life look cartoony and fun at first glance, almost like propaganda cartoons, but at closer examination they are dark and lacking of the humor you first presumed. They depict life on the front lines. Sometimes there is a good laugh to be had, but often you are seeing sadness, hopelessness, and the stark reality of death.

This adds a layer of depth as you soon connect with these heroes of the trenches and want to see them triumph. Sadly, as I mentioned above, victory is hard to pull off and you are often left to feel the defeat in a more real, and less abstract, way then you do in most games of this kind. The advancing enemy cards cause you to panic and the lowering of health and morale sting in a refreshing way. War is real and Wipers Salient does a great job of connecting the mechanics to the setting in a way that makes for a theme that shines.

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Wipers Salient contains just 52 cards, a small booklet, and a tuckbox. Not a lot of components for a deck-building game to say the least. I think it is great buy at just $13.99, especially if you like the theme and the sound of the mechanics. The value is certainly here.

I think replay is modest for this title. The same enemies coming out in the same order every game might help with planning on your part, but it hinders long-term replay value a bit. However, this is a game you can sit down and play 2-3 times in a row and have a great time and then put it away for a few months and take it out then and it should be fresh.

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Wipers Salient takes solid mechanical bones and places the skin of a real and emotional theme to it. It reminds me a bit of playing The Grizzled. You cannot help but be invested in the characters in your hand or in fear of the looming threats across the battlefield. Wipers Salient does just about everything right and with so few cards. Kudos to the designer for pulling that off.

Again if the theme appeals to you and you enjoy solo games, I urge you to check this one out.

Wipers Salient Link

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Review: Treasure Hunter

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The thick of the jungle and the lingering curse of the fallen will not hinder your lust to gaze into the eyes of the hidden idols that surely will lead to all your hearts desires. In Treasure Hunter you are working your way through a deck of cards much like you would in the classic game of Solitaire, but with a couple small twists that make this compact solo card game a fairly enjoyable excursion.

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IMG_5015Treasure hunter is made up of two decks. The Adventure Deck contains 40 cards and makes up the heart of the game. There are 4 suits (Skull, Gem, Dagger, and Coin) that rank from 1-10. The other deck is the Boon Deck which consists of cards you gain during play that allow you to bend the rules and manipulate the cards in play.

The game is made up of turns which start with you dealing 4 cards into 4 columns. In subsequent turns you will be adding 4 more cards to these same columns, covering cards that remain in play, but leaving the suit and value visible (think classic Solitaire).

After cards are dealt you are going to be attempting to remove cards from play with the goal being to end the game with the Idol Cards (value of 10) of each suit as the only remaining cards in each column. There are some rules as to how you may remove cards however. You can only manipulate the exposed cards, or the cards on top of each column. You may remove cards that match the suit of another exposed card as long as the value is lower. So if you had a Dagger 8 and a Dagger 3 exposed, you could remove the Dagger 3 from play. Whenever a column is emptied you may take any exposed card and move it to that open space. Sound a lot like Solitaire? That is because it plays almost the same, but with a smaller deck.

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The Boon Cards add a twist to this otherwise pretty standard design. There are 5 Boon Cards and they allow you to remove exposed cards or move cards from one space to another. Essentially they let you manipulate play so that you are less likely to get jammed up like you would in the classic version of this game. You gain a Boon Card anytime you are able to remove 4 or more cards between the deal phase.

Overall this game relies heavily on the concepts found in classic solitaire. It is not breaking any real new ground, but the addition of Boon Cards are a nice touch. I found that after several plays that winning with a perfect score was pretty hard to do, which is a nice challenge. However, I seemed to always get really close, which led to all my scores being very closely clustered. I sort of started to wish a game would end early sometimes with the columns jammed up like I used to see while playing solitaire on my Windows 95 computer back in the day. There are suggestions in the rules that address adding difficulty to the game, but they basically only restricted, or removed, the use of the Boon Cards. I guess I wish the game was a bit more difficult and a bit more random, if that makes sense.

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Let us be honest here. This is solitaire with a couple of tweaks. One of those happens to be a setting for the game. The setting of an explorer in a jungle with all the treasure hunter trappings is a solid choice. It really could have been any number of things like delving in a dungeon, exploring space, or diving into the deep sea, but I like the choice made here. The artwork is quite good and is what drew me in at first and it helps sort of make you forget you are just playing a hybrid version of solitaire.

The mechanics have very little connection to the setting, making the theme fairly weak. The Boon cards help a little bit here, but no narrative is ever imagined. I did sort of feel like working through the deck had some connection to cutting your way through a dense jungle, but that thought was fleeting.

Overall, the theme and setting are fair. Nothing particularly great here outside of the professional level art and graphics.

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I have not played the classic version of solitaire in quite some time, but it did serve to kill a lot of time back in the day when it was between playing that and Minesweeper at work. It did not take that long before Treasure Hunter had me dealing cards directly from my hand and manipulating the cards in play quickly and with purpose. If you are a fan of solitaire, then you will know the soothing mood that a game like this can instill. Play becomes second nature and there is something to be said about a simple experience like that.

Treasure Hunter is also quite affordable at $10.99 so I feel there is some value here if you are fan of this style of game.

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In the end Treasure Hunters is an average game that does not break any new ground or wear out its welcome. If you are looking for a deep solo experience, Treasure Hunters is not that game. However if you are looking for a really quick game that plays in about 5 minutes and takes up next to no space, then Treasure Hunters could work for you. I am not completely sure it worth buying over a deck of nice playing cards if you simply want to play solitaire though. The bottom line is Treasure Hunters has no glaring flaws, but no real hook either.

If you are interested in learning more about Treasure Hunters, or if you want to pick up a copy, please click the following link.

Treasure Hunter Link

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