November Daily Game Challenge: Arboretum

This is Day 24 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.



My friend Meeple Lady was in town for the holiday weekend so my wife Michelle and I met her at Game Haus Cafe for an afternoon/evening of good games, good food, and good company. We have a lot in common, from our backgrounds to our love of board games and it was blast playing games, eating, and hanging out.

She’d just picked up a copy of Arboretum at Game Empire and I couldn’t wait to play it. I love Zany Penguins and Arboretum reminds me of it, but with a spatial element that’s really fun and puzzle-y. Everybody starts with seven cards and draws two, then plays one to their arboretum (tableau) and discards the other face up. Play continues until the draw deck runs out.

The trees are scored according to their paths, but to score them you must have the most of a particular tree to score it. So, in the photo above I had five blue spruce cards in my arboretum, but I could only score them if I highest point total of blue spruces in my hand. It’s an awesome game that’s surprisingly think-y and the card art is gorgeous. There’s tension on every turn as you decide which cards to play and discard. It seems like you’re always having to discard cards you want to keep.

Meeple Lady told us there were two copies left at Game Empire so on the way home Michelle and I stopped by and bought our very own copy. It reminded me of the last time we all hung out last December, when we played Azul. Michelle and I also loved that game and bought it a few weeks after we’d played it.

I’m already looking forward to our next meetup with Meeple Lady: not just for the good times, but for the next game she convinces us we need in our game library.

November Daily Game Challenge: Ethnos

This is Day 23 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.



Has it really been a year since I played Ethnos? I remember liking this set collection/area control game when it was first released.

Players attempt to rule the land by using various fantasy tribes to gain control of each region. The easiest way to explain the game is that it’s Ticket to Ride meets Blood Rage. There are 12 races available, but no more than half of them are used each game, which gives it some replayability.

On your turn you do one of two actions: take a card or play cards. If you take a card, you either draw one card from the face-up supply or from the face-down deck. If you play cards, then you play cards of the same color or cards of the same tribe/race. One of them will be the leader, which signifies what area you’re entering and what power is triggered.

While there’s a Blood Rage-like area control element to Ethnos, it’s the Ticket to Ride mechanism that dominates game play. You simply take a card or play your cards to place tokens on an area. What makes this game brilliant, though, is that once you play cards, you must discard the rest of your hand to the face-up supply!

It’s the best part of the game and ramps up the tension during your turn. Hand limit is 10 cards so at some point you’re gonna have to play cards, even if you don’t want to. It also prevents players from hoarding cards.

There’s so much more to this great game, from each race’s special power/ability to the fact that even at the max player count of six it still plays quickly. I’d forgotten how great Ethnos was and while I might not want to play it all the time, I’m certainly looking forward to my next play.

November Daily Game Challenge: Shop ‘N Time

This is Day 22 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

Shop ‘N Time


I hope everybody had a wonderful day today celebrating with family and/or friends. I spent the day at my brother’s house with our families, eating and drinking all day while watching football and karaoking until our voices wore out (and I never would’ve guessed Kendrick Lamar’s “Be Humble” would’ve been the big hit of the night).

Over the last few years I’ve brought a bag full of games to play during family get-togethers. We usually don’t play more than a game or two, but that’s okay. As long as we get to spend time together, whether it’s playing games or singing or making each other laugh, then my holiday is made. As we shared before dinner tonight, I thought about how grateful and fortunate I am to have such a loving and supportive family.

My wife and I played Shop ‘N Time with our nephew and nieces today. It’s like playing The Price Is Right, where you’re trying to find items that add up to a set price. Everybody starts with seven cards that each depict an item. You draft cards in real time after the app gives everybody a random price to shoot for.

The cards are what makes the game so interesting. Each one has an item such as a baseball glove or a block of cheese. However, there’s also a specific year for the items, so you’re trying to figure out the price of a baseball glove in 1955 or a block of cheese from 1978. You select cards to keep depending on how much you think they are and how close you are to the total the app set at the beginning of the round.

Everybody must take at least three cards, then after everyone’s finished you take turns scanning your cards with the app. This is by far the most fun part of the game, since it’s just like being at the grocery store scanning your stuff. The app totals up everyone’s items and the closest without going over gets the most points. After three rounds the player with the most points wins.

Shop ‘N Time is a quick game that is easily taught and learned. I love scanning my cards into the app; each time it scans something there’s a satisfying beep and when it starts totaling everything up, we all cheered and groaned as our totals were shown. Best of all, only the totals are shown so you don’t really know how much each of your items costs, giving you a bit more replayability.

November Daily Game Challenge: Tuscany Essential Edition

This is Day 21 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

Tuscany Essential Edition


I got to play one of my all-time favorite games today, Viticulture, thanks to my friends John and Lorena, who brought their copy of the base game and the Tuscany expansion. It’d been awhile since I’ve played so it took me a little while to get into the swing of things, but once I did, I remembered why I love this worker placement game so much. Everything just flows so well together and it’s so fun to see your wines age right before you sell them off for money and those precious victory points.

Even better, though, was being at Game Haus Cafe for their fifth anniversary and gaming with my friends from social media. I get out to the L.A. area once or twice a month so it’s always a treat to connect with fellow gamers. Along with John and Lorena, I got to game with Albert, Jac, Geraldine and Michael. I also got to say hi to Daniel and Jessica, along with Jackie and Allison, but didn’t get to game with them; hopefully, next time.

Hanging out with everybody while Game Haus Cafe celebrated its fifth anniversary was special. My wife and I visited Game Haus during their first year of business with our niece and nephew. We were instant fans: the staff was great, the atmosphere was welcoming, and the game selection was amazing. The following year was when I dove fully into the hobby and that led me into taking the plunge as a content creator.

So, thank you, friends, for a wonderful night of gaming. And thank you, Game Haus, for providing a place for gamers to meet up for the last five years. Here’s to many more years of gaming.

November Daily Game Challenge: Everdell

This is Day 20 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.



Worker placement, tableau building, hand management, set collection … it’s all there in Everdell from Starling Games. The art and table presence drew me into the wonderful world of Everdell, but it’s the deeper-than-expected game play that keeps me coming back for more.

There are a lot of parts to Everdell, but it’s all neatly tied together. You have your hand management and tableau building in the form of the critter and construction (building) cards. You use your workers to gather resources and perform actions that will allow you to add critters or constructions to your tableau. And you score extra victory points by collecting sets of icons.

Everdell hits the right spots for me. It’s about trying to be more efficient than your opponents and nabbing those cards from the meadow at just the right time (of course, luck plays a part in how the cards come out). The more I play, the more I appreciate the world-building that’s gone into this game. And it’s a joy to go back and read the rulebook and learn the lore of Everdell, diving deeper into this fascinating place.

November Daily Game Challenge: Splendor

This is Day 19 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.



It’d been a while since my wife and I played Splendor, one of my favorite gateway games. We love the poker-style chips used for gems; they’re heavy and chunky and they make trading with the bank easy and fun.

I love how Splendor teaches new players the basics of engine building. As players trade in their gems for the cards, they start to figure out that they can use those cards to buy other cards (some with victory points on them). Once they start putting together the gems to get those cards, it’s a fun race to 15 points.

The expansion, Cities of Splendor, is a fine addition to the base game, but not necessary unless you’ve played Splendor numerous times and want to freshen the game. We played the expansion earlier this year, yet I haven’t felt the need to add it to our games library. Until then, the base game is a fine two-player game; one that we get through in about 15 minutes.

November Daily Game Challenge: Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar

This is Day 18 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar


Fun! I never played the original Fireball Island so I can’t compare it to The Curse of Vul-Kar, but this new version was a blast. You’re trying to take three snapshots on the island and high-tail it back to the helipad to make your escape. Along the way you’ll collect treasures, steal the heart of Vul-Kar gem, and try to avoid the fireballs that come spewing out of  Vul-Kar.

This had a terrific nostalgic feel to it, with the dexterity challenge of flicking marbles down toward your opponents leading to all kinds of hilarity. It’s bascially a race since you’re trying to collect the three snapshots so you can be the first back to the helipad, which will give you an additional treasure, but there are also ways to score extra points via the action cards. You can also score via set collection by scooping up treasures as you travel around the island.

My buddy Jose and I actually tied at the end, but since he was the first off the island, he won on the tiebreaker. I’m sure we’ll be returning to Fireball Island often in the months to come.

November Daily Game Challenge: Downforce

This is Day 17 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.


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I recently got to play Downforce again, this time with the expansion track (the photo above is from an earlier play of the base game). While I liked the dice-chucking of Formula D, I’ve become more a fan of Downforce’s hand management mechanism. Formula D always seemed to go too long, although it was a blast for one lap with a bunch of players.

Best of all, I got to play Downforce with my buddy Oscar, who blinged out his copy with the Mario Kart characters. I’ve played that video game only a handful of times with my nephew, but it’s still fun seeing Mario and the gang out on the Downforce track.

And, yes, we listen to the Mario Kart music whenever we play Oscar’s copy of Downforce.

November Daily Game Challenge: Century: Eastern Wonders

This is Day 16 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

Century: Eastern Wonders


The first in the Century trilogy of games, Century: Spice Road, was a favorite of mine and my local gaming buddies. We all loved the smooth play and were all looking forward to the next game in the series.

Century: Eastern Wonders has some similarities to Spice Road, but it adds a pick-up-and-delivery mechanism to go with the engine building style of play. Like the first game, you’re trying to trade and collect spices, then deliver them to the markets for victory points.

While Eastern Wonders isn’t as elegant as Spice Road, there’s more of a game here. Along with the standard victory points, you can also uncover spots on your player board by building trading posts whenever you stop on the map. For every row that you uncover you’ll gain points and for every column you uncover you’ll gain a special ability.

I’d stick with Spice Road for new players and then introduce them to Eastern Wonders after a few plays. Interestingly enough, you can combine both games, which is what I did for my first play. I enjoyed the mash-up, but playing one without the other is probably the way to go for a more straightforward experience. I might prefer Eastern Wonders by itself, which definitely played faster without the cards of Spice Road.

I’m curious to see what the third game brings to this trilogy. So far the first two games have been solid so hopefully the final game will end the Century series on a high note.

November Daily Game Challenge: Keyforge

This is Day 15 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.



The new hotness reached retail shelves today and I was fortunate to play a game tonight. KeyForge from Fantasy Flight Games comes from renowned designer Richard Garfield, who created a little game called Magic: The Gathering, which you may have heard of.

I’m not a collectible card game fan. Never have been, never will be. I’ve played Magic and enjoyed the game play and appreciated the mechanisms, but not enough to take the plunge.

KeyForge does away with the CCG business model and retains some of the, um, magic of Magic with its card play and one-on-one battles. Every deck is unique, but the basic game play is the same: open your deck, shuffle up and deal yourself six cards (first player gets seven, but can only play one to begin the game).

There are seven houses/factions that are on the various cards. On your turn, draw six cards and announce one of the houses. You may then play or discard one or all of that house during your turn. After you’re done, draw back up to six.

Simple, right? Ah, but there’s so much more. As you start laying out your creatures, you can start attacking your opponent (creatures enter the game exhausted so you won’t be able to use them until your next turn). Items, upgrades, and artifacts are available to help your attacks and other additional actions.

But you don’t win by simply beating up your foe in KeyForge. True to its name, you’re trying to be the first to forge three keys. You do this by reaping embers from certain cards. If you have six embers at the start of your turn you may forge a key and get closer to victory.

I liked the game play of KeyForge. I’m not a Magic expert by any means, but for me it felt like I was playing Magic. I’m sure it’ll be fun buying decks and seeing how they play against each other; it’s an amazing idea, having different cards in every deck, without having to chase rare cards.

While I won’t be getting into KeyForge, I can certainly see its appeal and would definitely recommend it for fans of CCG game play. Maybe I’ll buy a deck to keep on hand when another player shows up with theirs. Or maybe I’ll buy two decks so I can play the game with new players. Of course, three or four decks would be nice to keep things fresh … looks like Fantasy Flight Games has created another money-printing machine.