Shelf of Shame: Guildhall


This is my continuing series on clearing games off my Shelf of Shame (games I own that I’ve never played). 

I’d heard that Guildhall had excellent card play in spite of its bland artwork. After I scored a copy of it and its expansion Job Faire, they went unplayed as other games grabbed my attention. Then my buddy Daryl demo-ed the Guildhall: Fantasy re-theme and it inspired me to get my copy off my Shelf of Shame.

Guildhall is a card game of set collection with a bit of “take that” that’s easy to play once you figure out the iconography, which is the biggest obstacle to learning the game. Some of the icons are not intuitive and I find myself referring to the rulebook more than I like to.

Each card represents a worker (Historian, Dancer, Assassin, Farmer, etc.) and has a special ability. Players are trying to reach 20 victory points first by playing cards for their special abilities before moving them into their guildhall. Each worker from each profession is moved into a guildhall as players try to collect a set of five different colors. These are converted into victory point cards, which sometimes have additional abilities.

Like other card games, it’s interesting to see how to use the cards’ abilities in different combinations. Since each player is limited to two actions per turns and a few other restrictions, you’re constantly trying to maximize your turn to get as many workers into your guildhall while preventing your opponent from doing the same.

There are “take that” cards that allow you to discard single or whole sets of cards from your opponent’s guildhall and this certainly won’t appeal to those who don’t like to see their hard work destroyed thanks to a lucky draw from their opponent.

AEG did the right thing with The Guildhall: Fantasy re-theme; not only does it look better, but the icons are a bit easier to understand (or maybe I’m used to them after a few more plays?).

Overall, I liked, but didn’t love Guildhall. I’ll play the Job Faire expansion and see if it’s enough for me to keep the game, but probably not.

I’ve now played 9 of the 49 games on my Shelf of Shame!

Shelf of Shame 2017

  1. Agricola
  2. Amerigo
  3. Cheaty Mages!
  4. Chrononauts
  5. Cypher
  6. Dice City: By Royal Decree
  7. Dice City: Crossroads
  8. Doomtown: Reloaded
  9. Dungeon Fighter
  10. Eminent Domain: Microcosm
  11. Epic Card Game
  12. Formula D
  13. Get Bit! Sharkspansion
  14. Guildhall
  15. Guildhall: Job Faire
  16. Hanafuda
  17. Harbour
  18. Imperial Settlers
  19. Lost Legacy: Flying Garden
  20. Machi Koro: Harbor
  21. Marvel Dice Masters: Age of Ultron
  22. Mottainai
  23. Munchkin Legends: Guest Artist Edition
  24. Munchkin Zombies Deluxe
  25. NBA Interactive Card Game
  26. Ophidian 2350
  27. Pack of Heroes
  28. Pandemic: On The Brink
  29. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords Base Set + Expansions
  30. Pingo Pingo
  31. Portobello Market
  32. Quiddler Mini Round
  33. Rampage
  34. Sail to India
  35. Sans Allies
  36. Santorini: Golden Fleece
  37. Seventh Hero (Doomtown edition)
  38. Space Base Mutiny
  39. Steam Torpedo: First Contact
  40. Suburbia
  41. Sun Tzu
  42. Tiny Epic Kingdoms
  43. Travel Blog
  44. Valley of the Kings: Last Rites
  45. Viceroy
  46. Vikings on Board
  47. Viticulture Essential Edition
  48. Wok Star
  49. Yahtzee: The Walking Dead Collector’s Edition

Mission Accomplished



Well, Dear Reader, here we are: the final post of my Blog Every Day in August Challenge.

Just like when I finished my Blog Every Day in 2015 Challenge, I may not have written the greatest blog posts known to mankind, but I set out to write every day in August and I did it. It was a lot of fun because it was a topic that is near and dear to my heart: board games.

I find it fitting that the final post of August is on Wednesday, which is one of my regular gaming nights. I’ve been in this group for nearly a year and have played all kinds of amazing games. I’ve added many of these to my own library and have been able to share these with my family and non-gamer friends.

And in that sharing spirit, I’d like to give away some games!

To enter this giveaway, just share this post on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and tag me in your post so I know it’s been shared. I’ll choose one winner at random this Friday.

The winner will be surprised by a game or two of my choosing. This contest is open to residents in the continental United States only (sorry, but shipping is expensive!).

Thanks again to all of you who’ve connected with me during this last month. I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog.

Now go play some games!


Diamonds. Image from

Diamonds. Image from

I can’t believe my Blog Every Day in August Challenge is nearly over. This month has gone by FAST.

I’ve had a lot of fun writing about board games for the last 29 days. Of course, it’s not as fun as actually playing games themselves, but it’s given me a chance to connect with other gamers on Twitter. Thanks to all of you who have tweeted at me and re-tweeted me.

Today I’m writing about a game I’ve never played and don’t own, but that will change this Saturday.

This weekend is the third Strategicon event of the year, Gateway. Strategicon hosts three gaming conventions in Los Angeles each year on a three-day weekend (Orccon on President’s Day, Gamex on Memorial Day, and Gateway on Labor Day). One day I’d love to do an entire weekend, but for now I can only manage a day or two at each, which is fine by me.

As the saying goes, some gaming is better than no gaming at all (Is this an actual saying? If not, it should be).

Yesterday I shared my love of finding a good deal and every Strategicon has a flea market and math trade that are chock full of board game bargains. This Saturday I’m picking up a few games at Gateway via the flea market and one of them is Diamonds.

I’d never heard of Diamonds before, but I’m familiar with classic trick-taking games Hearts and Spades. While trick-taking games might not be my favorites, I’ve always wanted to add one to my collection (I liked Nyet!) and at a bargain price I couldn’t resist.

In Diamonds, each player is dealt 10 cards (or more, depending on player count). The cards are in the familiar four suits (diamonds, spades, hearts, and clubs) and instead of 13, there are 15 of each suit. Each player also receives a screen to represent their vault and three diamonds crystals (actual pieces, not cards) placed in front of their vault, aka their showroom. As the game progresses, they will be able to move diamond crystals behind the screen/into their vault.

To begin play, the first player plays a card face up to the middle. This is the current trick. The next player, if possible, must play a card of the same suit. All of the players do this and the player with the highest number in the current trick’s suit wins the trick. They take the cards played and place them in front of them.

What happens if a player cannot follow suit? This is what sets Diamonds apart from other trick-taking games and it’s what sold me on it. A player that cannot follow suit can play any card in their hand and take a special suit action. The suit actions are:

  1. Diamonds: Take a diamond crystal from the general supply and place it in your vault. Once a diamond crystal is in your vault, it cannot be taken away.
  2. Spades: Take a diamond crystal from your showroom and place it in your vault.
  3. Hearts: Take a diamond crystal from the general supply and place it in your showroom.
  4. Clubs: Take a diamond crystal from any other player’s showroom and place it in your showroom.

Also, after a player has won a trick, they get to take a suit action. For example, if I led with the 15 of hearts (the highest rank of any suit), I would then take a diamond crystal from the general supply and place it in my showroom.

Play continues in these tricks, with the winner getting a suit action, as well as anyone breaking suit receiving a suit action. When players are out of cards, the round is over. The player who has won the most cards in each suit receives the corresponding suit action. If a player has taken no tricks, then they get to do the diamond suit action twice.

The cards are shuffled together, dealt out, and the next round begins. Different player counts play a different number of rounds before the game ends. Players count up their diamond crystals and score points: 2x points for each diamond crystal in their vault (behind their screen), and 1x points for each diamond crystal in their showroom.

I love how the diamond crystals and the vault screen are integrated into play, with the theme being perfect for the game. Normally I wouldn’t be this fired up about a new take on a classic card game, but Diamonds takes well-known mechanisms and injects life into them with a few nifty actions. I can’t wait to play it.

Happy Salmon

Happy Salmon

Happy Salmon

Best. Game. Ever.

I’m a sucker for simple, quick-playing games and Happy Salmon is one of the best. I gave this silly little card game to my wife for her birthday after we watched this video and we gave it a test-run tonight with our daughter. Even though the rules say it can play three, it’s the type of game that will work better at higher player counts (six being the max). We’re excited to add this to our game night rotation.

The goal of the game is to play all of the cards in your hand. Each player starts with 12 cards, which are 3 sets of 4 cards: Happy Salmon, Pound It, Switcheroo, and High 5. Shuffle the cards, then yell “Go!” To play a card, you say what you’re trying to play and if another player has the same card, then you complete the action and discard the card in front of you.

The actions are hilarious:

  1. High 5. Give another player a high five.
  2. Switcheroo. Exchange places with another player (if mobility is an issue, then switch cards with another player).
  3. Pound it. Give another player a fist bump.
  4. Happy Salmon. Tap another player’s forearm three times.

The first player to play all of their cards wins the game. It’s an absolute riot and what’s even better is playing it in Silent Mode, where nobody is allowed to talk so everyone must act out the actions they’re trying to complete.

Happy Salmon is a must-have for any gamer’s library. It’s the perfect way to start or finish a game night. It’s an icebreaker for newbies or a pick-me-up for grizzled veteran gamers. It’s a game to play with kids and it’s a game to play with adults. No matter how when, where, why, or how you play it, the Happy Salmon is sure to become your group’s default handshake.


Timeline: Diversity

Timeline: Diversity

Timeline is a favorite among my gamer and non-gamer friends. It’s a light trivia game that can be played as a filler or as an introduction to the wonderful world of gaming.

The object of Timeline is to be the player with no cards remaining in front of you. Each player will receive four cards and all players must keep their cards in front of them with the date side down.

Each two-sided card contains one event; for example, one side might be “The Discovery of Machu Pichu” and the other side will again be “The Discovery of Machu Pichu” but will contain the year of the event. Before play begins it’s important to make sure all of the cards do not show the date.

The first card from the deck is flipped over so that its date side is shown. This is the beginning of the Timeline. The starting player will choose one of their cards and place it to the left or right of the Timeline card, signifying whether they believe their card occurred before or after the event. They will then flip over their card. If the year on their card has been correctly placed on the Timeline, then the player’s turn is over. However, if they are wrong, then the card is returned to the box and the player draws another card. Now, it’s the next player’s turn.

The Timeline will expand as correct answers are played and this is where things get interesting. It’s easier to place an event before or after one other event, but when there are several cards in the Timeline it can be tough to pinpoint exactly when an event happened.  What year was the toaster invented? Was that before or after the invention of the camera? And did it happen before or after Cinderella was written?

While I’ve never been good at memorizing dates, Timeline allows you to guesstimate when things happen. You can generally figure things out based on historical context, but when you’re off it can be hilarious. Almost every game I’ve played has resulted in at least one “Wow, I had no idea that happened then!” comment.

Obviously, like other trivia games, there can be limited replayability if you play enough and begin memorizing dates. Thankfully, there are several expansions and they’re all reasonably priced (MSRP $14.99; I’ve picked up copies on Amazon for as low as $8). It’s a much more fun and rewarding experience than Trivial Pursuit and other trivia games.






In spite of its gruesome premise — nobles lined up to get their heads chopped off — Guillotine manages to be a fun filler game, with stellar Disney-esque artwork. Set during the French Revolution, players are trying to collect the best-scoring heads at the guillotine.

The game is played over three rounds. Each round there is a row of seven nobles lined up ready to meet The Executioner.

During their turn, a player:

  1. May play an action card. These typically manipulate the line so that you’re able to score the highest-ranking nobles.
  2. Must take the noble at the front of the line.
  3. Must draw two more action cards.

When there there are no more nobles in line, the round is over. Seven more nobles are dealt out in a row and the next round begins.

(One interesting note: game designer Paul Peterson once said of the Callous Guards card, “That’s the biggest mistake I ever made as a game designer in my life.” Basically, it stops other action cards from affecting the line and Peterson recommended taking it out of the game. “That card taught me a lesson: Don’t stop players from playing the game.” While I can’t get myself to throw it away, I never include it during play.)

Way back in the late 90s, I worked with a guy named Angus who was a huge RPG fan. Although I never got to play D&D or any of the dozens of games he played, he did introduce me to this nifty little card game and many of our lunch breaks were spent playing Guillotine. Angus was the best to play it with; he’d make hilarious comments in French accents for the characters and we’d laugh ourselves silly.

While I don’t miss that particular job, I do miss gaming with my buddy. We live too far away now to do so, but I think about him and his boisterous laugh whenever I bust out my well-worn copy of Guillotine.




Codenames was a welcome gift and nice addition to our games library last year (by the way, I prefer library over collection  because when I hear collection, I think of a group of objects displayed for the sake of observing and admiring, whereas a library is something that is actively used. I want our games to be played, borrowed, and played some more. I’m not looking to keep everything in pristine condition and I certainly don’t want our games to be off-limits to the youngest members of our extended family. Okay, rant over). It’s one of the most popular party games ever released, one that gets love from both the hardcore gamers and the casual crowd.

Designer Vlaada Chvatil might not be a household name, but for gamers, he’s a legend. Chvatil has designed some of the most popular and respected titles in the hobby, including Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization, Mage Knight, and more. These are deep and complex titles that gamers love, but Chvatil proved with Codenames that he could appeal to the masses as well.

In Codenames, two teams are trying to uncover their secret agents before their opponents do. A 5×5 grid of cards is set up, with each card containing one word. One member of each team (blue and red) is the spymaster and has access to the key that contains the identities of all the agents, innocent bystanders, and the assassin, on the grid. The spymasters will give clues about who their agents are and the teams will guess which ones are theirs.

Easy, right? Not so fast, Mr. Bond.

The spymaster is only allowed to say exactly one word for a clue and exactly one number that tells the team how many words are related to that clue. For example, the blue team’s spymaster could say, “sport, two.” It’s up to their team to figure out what two words on the 5×5 grid are related to “sport.” The words “ball” and “bat” might be the most likely answers, but what about “plate” or “pitch?”  Team members talk amongst themselves while the spymaster remains poker-faced.

When the team guesses, they touch the word on the grid. If it’s correct, the blue spymaster will cover that word with a blue agent card. If it’s incorrect, then they will cover the word with a red agent, an innocent bystander, or worst of all, the assassin. If it’s an opposing team’s agent, then that team now needs one fewer correct guess. If it’s an innocent bystander, no harm done, but it’s the other team’s turn now. If it’s the assassin, though, you lose instantly. Game over. Good night.

It’s easy to get distracted while trying to figure out the perfect clue for your team. There’s also a timer so if you’re taking too long, your opponents can put you on the clock. I prefer playing with the clock, since spymasters can take awhile trying to find that perfect word for their teammates. The game box says the game takes a minimum of 15 minutes, but it could take much longer if the spymasters are too intense. Hence, the clock.

Although I don’t enjoy Codenames as much as others, I usually won’t turn down a match. It’s a treat to play and it’s fun as either the spymaster or as a guesser (field operative).

(By the way, compare the photo below to the one above. Is it just me, or does one of the red team’s agents look like Team U.S.A. goalkeeper Hope Solo?)


Hope Solo, soccer player and/or Codenames character

Dastardly Dirigibles

Dastardly Dirigibles

Dastardly Dirigibles

My gaming buddy Mike did a demo of Dastardly Dirigibles at 4 Color Fantasies in Rancho Cucamonga on Sunday. After I’d attended a picnic nearby, I stopped at the store to chat with Mike and his wife Cami. He gave me the rundown of the game and we all played one turn.

Dastardly Dirigibles is a steampunk-themed game and it was a breeze to learn: it’s a set collection card game, with a few special cards that can influence the action. The box says it’s a 60-minute game, but it seems like it could be faster after everyone’s learned the rules. Mike, his wife, and I played one turn in about 15 minutes and the game lasts for three turns.

Players are trying to build their own dirigible on their play mat to earn victory points. Each dirigible is made up of seven cards representing everything from the nose to the tail. Players start with five cards and before each of their turns they will draw up to their hand limit of five, either from the face-up stock of three cards (the Emporium) or the deck.

There are seven “suits” of cards, as indicated by familiar steampunk icons like a top hat, gear, etc., and one suit of wild cards. There are also special cards that are actions that can help you and/or hinder your opponents. For example, you can swap parts with another player or force others to discard some of their cards.

A player may perform up to 3 actions per turn and they may do the same action multiple times. The actions are:

  1. Play an airship card (one part of their dirigible) or a special card
  2. Discard a card
  3. Swap a card with one from the Emporium
  4. Replace the Emporium (discard the three cards and reveal three new ones from the deck)
  5. Pass

What makes this game fun is the fact that every time a player plays a piece of their airship, any player that has that same piece (such as the nose cone) must play it onto their own play mat. This can mess with your plans of building the perfect blimp of all matching icons, which matters because you score points based on the most common suit in your ship. So, if 4 of my 7 pieces have the top hat icon, then I will score 2 points for each top hat (thus, 8 points in this case). Any wild cards are worth one point each and any other suits do not score. If you triggered the end of the round by completing your dirigible first, you also gain 2 points (and anyone else who completes their ship gets 1 point). After scoring, wipe the play mat clean, shuffle the cards, and repeat the process until three rounds have been played.

Dastardly Dirigibles has terrific artwork and an easy-to-learn rule set. I could play this with both newbies and seasoned gamers alike and I don’t think I’d hear any complaints.

GenCant 2016 Day 1: Egypt and Rome

Valley of the Kings

Valley of the Kings

Day 1 of Gen Con was today and it looked awesome (although I have no desire to be in this). I loved seeing all of my online gaming buddies posting photos and reporting the latest and greatest from the con.

Valley of the Kings

It was also Day of GenCan’t 2016 and I participated in the #GenCantSoloCon by playing a solitaire game of Valley of the Kings. I’ve  played this deckbuilder several times solo and I enjoy it as a get-your-highest-score game. Set in ancient Egypt, it’s a deck builder with set collection, in which you only score points by putting cards in your tomb (trashing cards) and you earn more points for collecting similar items. This sets up interesting choices throughout the game: do you play your card for its money value, its action, or trash it to start accumulating points?

Valley of the Kings is one of two deck builders I recommend to Dominion fans (the other being Trains).

Rome: Rise to Power

Rome: Rise to Power

Rome: Rise to Power

After my solo game, I went to my Thursday night gaming group and I was able to get Rome: Rise to Power to the table. I’ve had the game for a few months and have been itching to play. Unfortunately, it’d been awhile since I’d gone through the rulebook (which isn’t exactly the easiest to follow), so there were a few pauses during the game to clarify some points. I’m usually pretty good at explaining games (I’m the designated rules guy during family game night), but I wasn’t at my best tonight. Thankfully, my gaming buddies are smart enough to figure out things on their own and we were able to play the game within the suggested time (45 minutes).

Rome: Rise to Power is a game that combines dice allocation, card drafting, set collection, area control game with variable player powers. Players are in ancient Rome trying to use its military to win regions throughout the Roman Empire, win influence with senators, and put on the best arena battles.

The dice allocation system is unique and it’s what appealed to me most when I’d heard about it. Yes, there’s luck involved with dice (duh), but there are several ways to mitigate the luck factor, mainly through the special powers each player earns through their combinations of senators and regions won. The third way to earn points, through the arena battles, is sort of wacky, but somehow it works: you buy cards to build a poker-like hand and play them after rounds three and five (the final round). So, three barbarians and two beasts are the “Battle Royale,” which is a full house in poker, and there other hands that score.

The overall consensus was okay. I liked it and agreed with two of my buddies; we’d like to play it again now that we have a better understanding of the game. The fourth guy didn’t care for it, but I’m thankful that they were all up for playing. I’ve got more than a few games in my collection that I haven’t played so it was good to scratch this one off the list.

Solitaire For Sale

For Sale

For Sale

While getting ready for #GenCantSoloCon (here’s my schedule of games for this weekend) I wanted to see if there was a solo variant for one of my favorite filler games, For Sale. A few clicks and clacks on and I can now play For Sale by myself.

For Sale is an auction-style game played in two rounds. During the first round, players bid on properties (numbered 1-30). A few properties are dealt out and players begin the auction by using their allotted amount of money tokens.The highest bid takes the current highest property, with the second highest bid taking the second highest property, etc. A player can drop out of the bidding at any time and receive half of their bid back along with the current lowest property. They can also pass (i.e., not bid on a property) and take the current lowest property for free. This process is repeated until all properties have been bought.

In the second round, players try to sell their newly acquired properties for checks (valued at $0 to $15,000). This time, the checks are dealt out and players secretly choose one of their properties. After everybody reveals them, the highest valued property earns the current highest valued check, the second highest property earns the second highest check, etc. This process is repeated until all properties have been sold. The player with the most money at the end wins.

For Sale is always a hit whenever I play it. It’s a fantastic quick play that also makes for a great introductory game for new board gamers.

Here’s the link to the original post of the solo play rules. And here’s my rewritten version; the technical writer/editor in me couldn’t resist streamlining the text and making things more consistent and orderly.