In this video, Dave and Chris discuss this lower player count version of Ticket to Ride. They share insights and discuss strategies for the game
In this video, Dave and Chris discuss this lower player count version of Ticket to Ride. They share insights and discuss strategies for the game
Game: Visitor in Blackwood Grove
Designer: Mary Flanagan, Max Seidman
Players: 3-6 Players
Playtime: 5-15 Minutes
Play Type: Deduction/ Hidden Information
On a dark night in the small town of Blackwood Grove, the peace is disturbed by a sudden crash. Luckily only the Kid is around to see the chaos unfold. Government agents rush to the scene to try to get to the UFO, but there is a force field around it. The Kid and the Alien must build trust to help make a speedy escape before the Agents figure out how to work around the force field.
In Visitor in Blackwood Grove players will take on one of three roles, either the Kid, the Visitor or one of the Government Agents. The Visitor and the Kid are working together to be solve the mystery. All Government Agents work alone, not on a team with the other agents. When setting up, each player will draw a starting hand of seven cards. Then the Visitor will draw two face up cards and place them near the force field. Looking at those two cards, and the seven cards in their hand the Visitor will create a rule for the game. It could be something like, “Things that are red”, “Things that are natural” or “Things that have strings”. The Visitor can make up any rule, but it shouldn’t benefit one party over any one else. If the Visitor is struggling to come up with a rule, there are a deck of examples that can be tweaked to fit the situation.
Then the Visitor will place the two cards according to whether they would fit the rule or not. Cards that fit the rule will be placed face up on the eight card spots in the force field. Cards that do not fit, will be placed face up on the outside of the board. Imagine there are eight spots outside the board as well. There can only ever be eight visible cards surrounding the board. The rest will be stacked on other cards.
Now players will begin playing. The goal of the game is to be the first player (or team for the Kid and the Visitor) to correctly guess the passrule. When it comes time for any player to prove the passrule, they will do so NOT by guessing the rule verbally, but instead by drawing 4 cards and correctly guessing whether they would pass through the force field or they would be repelled by it. Each type of player will have their own actions. Let’s take a closer look at those.
Government Agents will start the game. If you have more than one Government Agent, the one sitting to the Visitor’s left will start. Agents always only have two options on their turn. First they can test an object. They do this by handing the Visitor a face down card. The Visitor will then look at the card, and place it face down on the edge of the force field if it fits the rule, or face down on the player mat if it does not fit the rule. After the card is placed, the Visitor will put that player’s marker on it to differentiate the different piles. Then the Agent will draw up to seven cards.
Once the Government Agent feels they understand the passrule they can instead use their turn to prove the passrule. They will draw four cards and line them up with the four rows on the forcefield board. The Visitor will then take their UFO chips behind the screen and place them to determine whether the items are correct or not. UFO chips on the board are admitted, UFO chips off the board are not. The Government Agent then pushes the cards they feel would be admitted towards the board. The Visitor reveals their answers. If the Agent was correct they win the game. If they were incorrect, the face up cards go into their correct space on the board (face up in the 8 card slots on the board if they were admitted, face up on the outside if they were repelled). When an Agent is incorrect, also move the Trust up between the Kid and the Visitor two spaces.
That is all for the Government Agent. Next let’s take a look at the Kid. The Kid’s available actions are dependent on their position on the Trust Track. They start up being able to predict objects. When the trust track is low, the Kid will do this by placing a card from their hand face up and guessing whether it will be admitted or repelled. The Visitor will then place the card in the correct spot. If the Kid was correct they will get to place another card and repeat the process a maximum of three times, or pass and instead gain one trust for the number of cards they have guessed correctly. If they guess incorrectly, their turn immediately ends and they gain no trust. The Kid only draws cards when they gain trust, so it crucial to gain trust. Once the Kid and the Visitor have two or higher trust, the Kid may also prove the pass rule. This works the same as the agents, but if the Kid is wrong they do not get trust.
As the Kid gains trust, they get additional benefits as well, such as being able to play cards facedown, being able to prove the passrule directly after passing or having agents reveal their face down cards.
The Visitor’s turn is simple. If the Kid’s trust is 0-2 the Visitor takes one card from their hand and places it according to the passrule on the board. If trust is 3+ they do the same thing, except their card is secretly shown to the kid, then placed face down according to the passrule. If the Visitor has no cards at the beginning of their turn, they lose and the agents win.
Turns continue with the Agents going, then the Kid, then the Visitor until someone correctly guesses the passrule or until the Visitor is out of cards.
Visitor in Blackwood Grove comes with 142 object cards, a force field board, a Visitor shield, trust board and wooden meeple, 6 player mats, 10 card markers, 13 example pass rule cards, 4 UFO guess tokens and a component bag.
Overall the components are quality. Everything feels like it will hold up to wear and tear. I really like that the trust board and player mats have clear reminders of what players can do on their turns, and what happens at each stage of trust. It makes explaining the game a easy and painless process. Also, the art is wonderful. It is thematic, yet easy to decipher.
Players who do not like mini cards may be disappointed that the object cards are relatively small. Luckily there is no text included on the cards, so players won’t be struggling to read off the small cards. I do wish that the force field was just a little bit bigger, as it does have a tendency to feel a little crowded towards the end of game play.
Bonus points? The box glows in the dark, which is a pretty cool touch.
Many people know, I really enjoy both asymmetric and social deduction games. It should not come as a surprise that I enjoyed Visitor in Blackwood Grove. I think it is a game that can easily be taught to anyone (even non gamers) because turns are simple and options will be right in front of the players because of the player mats. I would even say that you could probably teach a child as young as 6 or 7 to play the game. However, I would suggest having the most experienced player be the Visitor, at least until players grasp the concept of the game. Despite the fact that it is mechanically simple, it can be very difficult to actually win.
You need to be able to predict how another person is going to view the card that you hand over. Some objects can be open to interpretation throughout the game and that can be difficult. For instance, yesterday I played a game where the passrule I created was objects you can find in a school. One of the Agents passed me a card with Saturn on it. I repelled it from the force field, because you won’t find an actual planet in a school. He insisted after the game that you could find them on posters or models. This adds an extra layer of difficulty that players won’t necessarily think about until they are actually playing the game.
I already mentioned that the artwork is beautiful, but it is also colorblind accessible. Any cards that have a color reference will also list the name of the player it is associated with. Thus meaning that color plays almost no role in the mechanics. Unfortunately for some, the game has a minimum player count of at least three players. This makes it not a good fit for players who look for solo games, or for people who just live with one other person. It was something I struggled with while trying to play it for the review. During the week, I am normally only with my husband, so we had to wait until game night to play it.
Visitor in Blackwood Grove felt very similar to Mysterium to me in gameplay. While not exactly the same concept, the Visitor took on a similar role to the Ghost. Both games have similar tension, and in both games the person in this role could choose not to talk at all. In addition to mechanical differences, Visitor in Blackwood Grove is also a lot shorter than Mysterium, allowing players who want a strong deduction experience to do so in a short period of time with limited set up. The set number of rounds ensures that this game will play in under twenty minutes, and set up is easy and does not take up much space. I could easily see taking this to a brewery or public space to play.
In addition to Mysterium, I could see players who enjoy games like Dixit, Muse or Whitechapel enjoying Visitor in Blackwood Grove. It has a similar feel to many of these deduction games but it provides it in a much quicker experience. It also focuses heavily on the visual element of game play similarly to Dixit or Muse. Also, if you enjoy movies like E.T. or Paul, you might enjoy this game themeatically. The idea of taking the role of the alien escaping can be very appealing. Overall, I have found that Visitor in Blackwood Grove will be a keeper for me. I enjoy that it is quick to play and provides an asymmetrical game play experience, but I do wish that it had a two player variant. It will be available to purchase as a Target Exclusive on August 1st, 2018.
Game: Shaky Manor
Designer: Asger Harding Granerud, Daniel Skjold Pedersen
Published: Blue Orange Games
Players: 2-4 players
Playtime: 10-20 Minutes
Play Type: Dexterity
The manor at the top of the hill has a reputation of being haunted. Things seem to move in the night, and not just ghosts either. The house itself seems to move and tilt. However there are treasures to be had in the mansion. Will you be the first person to break the curse, get the treasure and escape the mansion alive?
There are two modes of game play in Shaky Manor, but they both have the same basic concept. The first mode of play is where players are drawing a colored room card and trying to get the meeple and three treasure chests into that colored room before their competitors do. In order to do this, players must shake their mansion until all other elements are out of the room listed. This is considered the “easy” mode, great for young kids because they are always working towards the same goal.
The hard mode is mechanically the same, with players trying to shake their manor to get certain elements in a colored room. However, in this case the elements change based on the card listed. When players draw a room card, the deck will show a new card faced up with various items that can be found in the house. The players must race to get all of those objects in the room, while ensuring that no stray objects end up in there. The first player to do so takes the room card.
Once a player has six room cards they win the game.
Components in Shaky Manor are fairly simple, but are very eye catching. There are the four room boards (two of which will need to be assembled when opened), a variety of different chits that go into the mansions, and a deck of cards. Players should check to see that all players have the same amount and types of chits before starting the game.
One fun thing about Shaky Manor is that players can actually see and “try” the game through the box, as there is a see through area on the box. While it does not actually effect game play, it was still an interesting component decision.
As far as the quality of the components themselves, I would say that they will hold up to the violent shaking that they will be forced to endure. The cardboard is sturdy and the chits are all either wood or strong plastic. My only component complaint is that two of the room tiles are very similar in color and can only be distinguished by a slight change in color and tiny symbols within the room. I would have liked to see the floors be more distinguished (maybe having different types of flooring, or more easily discernible colors)
Shaky Manor is a game that is great for families. It can be taught in under a minute, and has both an easy and hard mode so that the game can grow harder as children seek more of a challenge. Kids will be engaged as soon as they see the box and are able to shake it around and see the objects moving. The fact that it is so short also may be great for busy families looking to spend some time together on the weeknights. Set up and take down is especially fast, because all of the components should be set up after the first play through, meaning all players will need to do is open the box and shuffle the cards.
While Shaky Manor is definitely engaging for children, and provides short term competitive enjoyment for adults, I am not sure that it will provide long term engagement for adults without children. While fun to play with a group of friends for a short period of time, adults may find the simplicity of rules and the amount of luck involved in where items start to be repetitive. It will be enjoyable to play occasionally, but may not see the table as often as other dexterity games that provide more variability and control.
That being said, if you are a fan of dexterity games, this would be an enjoyable addition to your collection. It looks and feels great. It is much quicker to set up than some other dexterity games making it great starting game for a game night. I would suggest it if you enjoy games like Meeple Circus, Ice Cool or Dr. Eureka. It is still very much a dexterity game, however set up and take down is much quicker than these other games so it is great for a busy family.
Game: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency: Everything is Connected
Designer: Matt Fantastic
Published: IDW Games
Players: 3-8 players
Playtime: 20-60 Minutes
Play Type: Social Story Telling/ Deduction
Based off the TV show and novel, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, in this game players will take on the roles of Holistic Detectives, Police Detective and Assistant Detectives to get to the bottom of a mystery. Given a handful of clues and a few persons of interest, you must decide what happened and give a more convincing tale than your competing Police Detective.
In Dirk Gently’s: Everything is Connected, players will take on different roles as the rounds pass. There will always be one Holistic Detective, and to the left of that person will be the Police Detective. The remainder of players will be assistants.
During set up, each player will take four clues. Then the current Holistic Detective will draw one mystery card, and 3 persons of interest cards. These are placed in front of everyone and are common knowledge.
Assistants then take two of their four clue cards and hands them to the Holistic Detective. These will become elements that must be incorporated into the story that is being told.
Once the Holistic Detective has all of the clue cards, they take half of them and try to create a convincing story using all clues to explain the mystery. In addition to using all the clues, the player must tie the story to a person of interest.
After the Holistic Detective gives their interpretation of what happened, the Police Detective takes the other half of the clues and does the same thing.
Once the two players have given their arguments, the assistants simultaneously vote by pointing at the person whose story they felt was more convincing. That detective takes the mystery card as a point.
Rolls then shift to the left, making the Police Detective the new Holistic Detective. Players draw back up to four, then start another round.
The game ends when each player has been the Holistic Detective twice. The player with the most mystery cards wins. If there is a tie players must compete in a final mystery. If there is still a tie, players split the win.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency: Everything is Connected is made up of three different decks of cards, with a total of 300 different cards. The cards are quality cardstock and feel like they will live through some wear and tear.
Artistically, the game is very simple with very little illustration or artwork. It is mostly comprised of text, but some of the cards do have some imagery on them. While I would have loved to see more imagery, the game is still aesthetically pleasing without it. The cards are well laid out, easy to read, and easy to distinguish one kind of card from another.
The game is color blind friendly, as while the cards are easily distinguishable by color, they are also labeled by type of card on both sides.
It would be difficult to say whether Dirk Gently is a good or bad game, in that it is the kind game that is really going to depend on who is playing. Players who are looking for a party game, that includes some adult humor, but more talent and strategy than games like Cards Against Humanity, Apples to Apples or the variety of other games that are similar to these titles will find that they may really enjoy this game.
Players must be comfortable with improvising stories given some elements to play this game. When players are very good at this trait, it makes the game funny and engaging. However, if played with a group of people who do not enjoy this, the game is quick and downright boring. Additionally, players must be somewhat aware of popular culture. Many of the clue cards reference bands, places, and political movements that players must be aware of to weave into their stories. Players can look these items up if they are unfamiliar, but it does slow down game play.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency: Everything is Connected is not a family game. There are many adult references in the game, and because of that stories tend to be inappropriate for young kids. Some example clue cards include: “Masturbation”, “A Super 8 Stag Film”, “A Underground Sex Shop”, and “Discontinued Condoms”. There are others but you get my point.
I would suggest this game for adult players looking for a party game that has more involvement and strategy than other adult themed party games available on the market. Due to the nature of voting and the variety of stories that players can tell, the game keeps all players engaged throughout. It also has a great deal of replayability in that no two stories will ever be the exact same, even if players were to get the same set of clues. It plays similar to other story telling games like Once Upon a Time, so if you enjoy that, but want something differently themed I would suggest taking a closer look at this one.
In this video, Dave and Chris discuss the English release Ticket to Ride: Germany, previously released as Zug um Zug: Deutschland with the 1902 expansion. Ticket to Ride: Germany is a reimplementation of Ticket to Ride: Märklin but uses passengers is a different way. Hear their impressions and thoughts on this version of the game in the Ticket to Ride series.
Game: The Grimm Forest
Designer: Tim Eisner
Published: Druid City Games
Playtime: 40-60 Minutes
Play Type: Resource Management/ Take That/ Set Collection
Generations may have gone by, but the descendants of The Three Little Pigs still face the same adversity that they have for generations. That does not stop them though, they have entered a house building competition. All eyes are on you as you compete against the other pigs to build the best houses, as quickly as possible. There will be friends and foes around every corner, either to lend a hand or hinder your progress. May the best pig win.
Game play is easy, but engaging. The goal of the game is to be the first person to complete 3 houses of any material. However, if two players complete three houses in the same turn, the player with the houses made of stronger material will win. You reach this goal by gathering materials from one of four different collection tiles, and then using those resources to build the three different section of the houses. Each part of the house becomes increasingly more expensive, and some materials are slightly more difficult to get than others.
The game takes place over a repetition of three phases. During the first phase, players will secretly select up to two cards. The first card is the gathering card. Each player must place one gathering card, which depicts the tile that they plan to gather resources from. The second card is an optional fable card. The fable card is a one time use card that can do a variety of things to assist the player or hinder the other players. Some of the fable cards activate immediately, while others activate the next turn. Once all cards have been selected, any players who have opted to use a fable card will reveal them and take the action indicated. It is important to remember, if you draw a monster card, you must place it immediately on one of the four gathering tiles. There may only be one monster per tile. Once all the fable cards have taken their action, players then reveal their gathering card and place their pig on the tile of their choosing. Players will then take the resources at that tile. If multiple players are at the same tile, they will draft the resources evenly. The players will each take a resource until the resources could no longer be evenly divided. Any leftover loot will remain on the board for future rounds. Once this has been done, players check to ensure that none of their fables activate after the gathering phase. After all fable cards have been activated, players will discard any used fable cards, and return their gathering card to their hand.
Phase two begins after the cleaning up in the first phase. During phase two, players are able to do any two actions of the following four: draw a fable card, take any one resource, use a special action on a friend card or build one house section. Players are welcome to take the same action twice. In order to build a house section, the player must have the resources needed. They will then pay those resources, and take the corresponding house section. Players must build floors first, then walls, then a roof. Players may never have two of the same kind of house being built at once. Once a player has completed a house of a certain type, then they may begin working on a house of that same type again. Players can have a maximum of five houses being built. Whoever builds the first house of each type will receive a first builder bonus. That bonus allows the player to receive either 1 friend card, 2 fable cards, or one resource of each type. Additionally, players receive a bonus each time they build a wall, by taking a friend card.
Friend cards take the form of various storybook creatures. Each one has a special ability that can either be actively used as an action, or that is passively in play throughout the game. Players may only have one friend card at a time. When they draw a new friend card, they have the option of taking it, and replacing their current friend, or distributing it to another player of choosing. That player must then discard their friend card and use the new one. You may not discard a friend card.
After all players have taken their two actions, the clean up phase begins. The first player podium gets passed to the next player, players take their pig figures back, and the resources at each location are replenished according to the instructions on the tile.
Once the three phases are completed, players will rinse and repeat. The game end will be triggered once the first person has finished their third house. Players will continue to play until the end of the build phase. If two players have built three houses during this phase, the one with the sturdier houses wins.
The components in this game are striking. Druid City Games really outdid themselves in providing a high quality game for a fair price. The game includes 11 detailed plastic miniatures. Four of those miniatures are pigs, the rest are monsters that will come into play due to fable cards. The houses are also 3-D , and each style of house has it’s own design. The four player mats, and the four gathering tiles are made of thick,beautifully illustrated cardboard. There are a total of 106 cards in the box, making for a lot of variety in game play. The resource tokens are also cardboard, and come in two denominations, single and mega. Probably the thing that stands out the most though, is the insert. This game has one of the best inserts I have seen in a game, if not the very best. Not only is it well designed to hold all pieces safely, it does so in a thematic way.
During my first play through of The Grimm Forest, I was pleasantly surprised. The simple game play was deceptive to the amount of thinking and planning I was doing each turn. The best part about that though, was the thinking wasn’t just about what I wanted to do, but also about what the other players would be doing. The Grimm Forest really exceeded at creating a game that has plenty of direct and indirect player interaction. I loved the various aspects of game play that made it so players were always aware of what the players around them were doing. However that aspect of strategy does not over complicate the game. It is simple enough to teach to children, new gamers, and seasoned gamers a like.
I will say though, that this game really shines at the highest player counts. While the game is completely functional and still fun at two players, there is slightly less player interaction during those games. I love it so much at the four player count, and would love to see an expansion that adds 5-6 players even. As players interact, they will find that many of the cards have a direct “take that” aspect to them. While I enjoy this aspect of game play, some players may not enjoy this. However, this aspect can be adjusted by removing cards from the game. It can be anywhere from a mild aspect of game play to a major element based on the cards in the deck.
One thing I was pleasantly surprised about, is that the components I received in my retail version of the game were the same as those from the Kickstarter version, with the exception of the box sleeve. With so many games including exclusives or upgrades for Kickstarter, seeing a game without that was a relief. Players who are purchasing at retail can rest assured that they are getting the full game, with the same miniatures and cards as the Kickstarter. I do wish that those miniatures that are so beautiful were in gameplay more often. The monster cards especially may only be used for one phase in an entire game. I love that Druid City Games took the extra step to creating these miniatures, but I would love to see them in game play more frequently.
Overall though, I could not be more pleased with The Grimm Forest. I think that it does a really nice job of increasing player interaction in a game style that frequently does not have it. The resource management and strategy of balancing cards should appeal to Eurogamers, while the cut-throat nature of the game will appeal to those who enjoy Amerithrash games. It is simple enough to teach to anyone, and will have everyone at the table actively interacting with one another.
I just wanted to take a minute to introduce myself. My name is Mackenzie Hoffman. Dave has graciously invited me to become a contributor here, and I’m excited to share some reviews with you. I’ve been in the hobby since 2015, and since then I’ve grown my collection to over 300 titles. I play a wide variety of games, but mostly consider myself a Eurogamer, with a special love for games published by Stonemaier Games and Red Raven Games. Besides being an avid board gamer, I am also a middle school English and History teacher. I live in Plainfield, IL with my husband and two cats.
You can expect to see a variety of reviews from me, including both new and old games. Aside from here, you can also find me on Instagram as MackotheMeeple on Twitter as TheMeepleStreet or on my personal blog, The Meeple Street I’m looking forward to sharing with you, and seeing what I can bring To the Table!