13 Board Game Capsule Reviews: Caffeine Rush, Dead of Winter, Dungeon of Mandom, The Game

July and December are my favorite months because I take a break from work during these months. I mean, a real break from email, side projects, and the long hours I put in at the office. Don’t get me wrong – I actually love my job. But sometimes you need to unwind and board games are always part of that for me.

The beginning of July has marked our Friendcation for the last six years. This is an opportunity to go spend a few days with friends at a resort so we can dine, hang out, and play some games. This year was no exception and I played a ton of games both while away and during a couple of other sessions I was able to get together. I’m posting a few different updates with my capsule comments on games both new-to-me and old favorites that I wanted to briefly ruminate on in this extended session report.

81H3dpSEROL._SL1472_Podcast? Oh, there might just be a couple on the way…

Bang: The Walking Dead – Just Bang with the Walking Dead theme (comic version). Eh. We love the Walking Dead but Bang is a game whose time has passed (at least for me). I now see that they have a Walking Dead version of Bang: The Dice Game, which I find a bit more appealing. But how many times do I need to buy this game. It’s available on Amazon or see my trade list and get mine!

Blue Moon City – I still love this 2007 Reiner Knizia title, one of the last of his that was universally respected, with semi-51oXWtcQPSL._SY450_cooperative elements. Played at Duck Club in Irvine on a copy that I’m happy to have acquired for the Strategicon library. Play it at Gamex 2015! A wonderful game but too expensive on Amazon.

Caffeine Rush51uenX5wwNL – Real-time game of drawing and placing cards on ‘orders between you and another player. This one will work well with a party crowd or casual gamers (it plays up to 6). My wife, the only one at the table with actual barista experience, won the game – and that annoyed the heck out of her. Cute but likely a trade pile item purely on her sensitivity. You find it reasonably priced on Amazon or, again, trade with me (locals, please).

Castles of Mad King Ludwig Castles-Cover-1000x1000– Another play of this fine game that I still fear will be awful with an AP player. Thankfully, we didn’t have that when we played while on Friendcation but we had more completed Sleeping Rooms (which extends the game) than I’ve ever seen.

There is much said about the similarity to Suburbia (hey, game designer and YouTube star Dave Arnott calls it “SirBurbia”) but I find them sufficiently different that it’s worth owning both. I think Suburbia can overwhelm some casual players (although, in fairness there, my own wife was a playtester on it and she enjoyed it a great deal) so I break out Castles of Mad King Ludwig more often. I’m looking forward to the Secrets expansion later this year (bummed to have missed it at the Gathering of Friends due to new players at our table the one time I played it there). Buy it on Amazon because I wouldn’t dare trade my copy – it’s too much fun.

Dead Man’s Draw – A simple press-your-luck game with a pirate theme, DMD was pleasant enough to play a couple of times but I don’t need to own it. Fun for Talk Like A Pirate Day. Amazon has it and you can also buy the International Tabletop Day Edition, apparently.

Dead of Winter (played x2 during game-cation) 61t3z0Oak1L._SX425_– Once on Friendcation, once at the July Birthday event. We managed a betrayal-free win in the former but Bernie revealed late in the game on the latter, foiling our victory because we took an extra requirement from a Crossroads card. A darn good game, even if it’s outside my usual game type. Amazon has it, although it’s cheaper elsewhere.

Deep Sea Adventure x4 51VN++3Y2WL._SL1000_– Twice on Friendcation, Duck Club, and once at the July Birthday party. I never win this game of treasure diving but I still will always play it. I adore the visual design of the Oink Games titles and even though I didn’t like Maskmen, I kind of want all of their titles just to enjoy the art. The games are good, too. DSA is now on Amazon!

Diabolo 511KnPWULML._AA160_– A Michael Schacht item I believe I’ve only played once so I forgot how it played. One of classic games with minimal rules but interesting tactical choices. The US edition from Playroom is called In Limbo and it’s on Amazon.

Dungeon of Mandomdom_image03The Oink edition matches their aesthetic so I needed to have it. A press-your-luck, trash-talking delight, Mandom is getting better with each play. Now available as Welcome to the Dungeon from iELLO, who make some lovely games so I’m sure their version is great.

The Gamepic2405167_md – Still trying to figure out how this hard-to-find on BGG game got an SDJ nomination (other than wanting to give the publisher exposure). It’s an okay version of collaborative 23 that goes up to (and down from) 100 with ugly, unfriendly death & skulls artwork in red and black. This is an ideal family game? I think it’s maybe more fun as a solo game but we played it by the pool with a 6 Nimmt deck since I sold off my official copy. Pandasaurus Games is, however, bringing it to the US in all its ugly glory. 

Glass Road91XFnVT6aIL._SL1500_A terrific game that I’m glad to play anytime. We opened Friendcation with it. This is light Uwe Rosenberg by modern standards (remember, this talented designer also did Bohnanza, Mamma Mia, and Klunker!) but I love it for the quick play time coupled with interesting decisions. Pick up this winner on Amazon.

Greed x261WuR-JsA2L._SX425_ – Twice we played this “Gamer Sushi Go” from Donald X Vaccarino of Dominion and Kingdom Builder fame while celebrating birthdays. The mechanisms are nothing new – a pass-draft and simultaneous reveal. 7 Wonders comparisons abound but the real touchstone is Fairy Tale (which pre-dates the others for this mechanism), which had this kind of card interaction. That said, Greed is more direct than FT and it was enjoyed by all – at least two of our players said it was an instant buy and you can do that, too, on Amazon.

Letters from Whitechapel 51v+aH3WzjL._SY450_– After being disappointed by Specter Ops, I was glad this hidden movement game was much more interesting and satisfying. While our game ran a bit long due to learning and some slow play, I’m very happy to own this one and will play it again soon. I think the different tracks for Jack and the victims versus the investigators is a key part of what makes it intriguing. Amazon has it and it’s a great game for this genre.

That’s it for now. More to come (second half of the alphabet) later this week. Until then, remember – it’s only a game.