November Daily Game Challenge: SteamRollers

This is Day 30 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.



It’s no secret that I love roll-and-write games. Rolling dice and marking a sheet of paper reminds me of childhood games of Yahtzee and it’s great having so many designers embrace the mechanism lately. SteamRollers was actually released in 2015, but was picked up by Stronghold Games and reprinted in May of this year. It’s been on my wish list since I played my buddy Tony’s copy at our local GenCant event, and I was fortunate to pick it up via trade at Strategicon in September.

You and your opponents build a railway network on your scoresheet and attempt to deliver goods to the various cities on the main board. On your turn, roll dice and select an action: build a track, upgrade your engine, deliver a good, or take a special action card. You score points based on the goods you’ve delivered, your railways, and bonuses.

I was an insta-fan of SteamRollers; I loved the mashup of pick-up-and-deliver and roll-and-write. It’s light and quick, and there are ways to mitigate bad rolls via the special action cards. Games last anywhere between 20 and 45 minutes, depending on player count, and the solo game is a good challenge. Fans of more in-depth train games will appreciate how quickly the game plays; if you don’t have a whole day to spend building up railroads and upgrading engines, SteamRollers may be the next best thing.

November Daily Game Challenge: Hanamikoji

This is Day 29 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.



One of the reasons why I immediately liked Hanamikoji is its tug-o-war scoring. It reminded me of one of my other favorite two-player games, Sun-Tzu. Hanamikoji, though, is a much quicker game and the focuses is entirely on outwitting your opponent.

You each have a hand of cards and you choose one of four actions, which will have you and/or your opponent either discarding or taking each other’s cards. I love the I-split-you-choose action, which is always a tough decision. You then place your cards on the geisha cards; whoever has the most cards on each will gain their favor. If you gain the favor of four geishas or their total is 11 or more, then you win.

For a 15-minute game Hanamikoji is packed with tense decisions and it’s one of the best two-player battle of wits you can have at the tabletop.

November Daily Game Challenge: Istanbul Dice

This is Day 28 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

Istanbul Dice


I’m a fan of the original Istanbul so when my buddy Mike brought Istanbul Dice to game night, I couldn’t resist. It’s a slimmed-down version of Istanbul, with the original’s pick-up-and-deliver mechanism replaced by dice and set collection.

In the two-player game I played tonight, the game is a race to six rubies. On your turn, you roll six-sided dice with symbols for resources, cards, and money. You get exactly two actions per turn and the player aid explains the actions you can do on your turn; basically, whatever you roll can be traded in for more resources, money, special action cards, ongoing ability cards, or those precious rubies. You can also turn in resources for gems that allow you to re-roll any dice.

There’s a bit of engine-building in Istanbul Dice, which I don’t remember in the original game. I liked the quick play of Istanbul Dice and it had me itching to play the original sometime soon. Fans of Istanbul should like the dice version; it retains some of the feel of Istanbul and delivers it in a smaller and quicker game.

November Daily Game Challenge: Alien Frontiers

This is Day 27 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

Alien Frontiers


Dice chucking and worker placement are two of my favorite board game mechanisms. Put them together like in Alien Frontiers and I’m an insta-fan.

In Alien Frontiers you’re trying to colonize the alien planet by sending your ships to perform actions and produce resources, while also planning how you’re going to spend your resources. It’s basically a race to place your eight colony tokens on the planet, with points awarded for the player controlling each territory, along with bonus points for having certain cards.

I love the retro-style sci-fi art of Alien Frontiers as well. It’s a good match for the game, which is now in its fifth edition since its release in 2010.

November Daily Game Challenge: Paperback

This is Day 26 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.



I love word games, from Scrabble to Word on the Street. Paperback is one of my favorites, since it’s basically a mash-up of Scrabble and Dominion.

The game is played entirely with cards and in true deck-building fashion you draw five cards on your turn and try to spell a word. You tally the money on the cards you use to spell the word and use that to buy better cards worth more money. Some cards have special abilities that trigger when you spell with them, from drawing extra cards to gaining extra money. You’ll eventually have enough to buy the “books,” which are victory point cards like the Provinces, etc., in Dominion.

Paperback is a solid word game, one that I thoroughly enjoy every time I play it. The standalone sequel, Hardback, is more of a “gamer’s game” in that it introduces “factions” and other ways to combo your cards. While I like Hardback, it’s actually less of a word game than Paperback. I’ll play either one, but if I want a pure word-building game, then Paperback is my choice.

November Daily Game Challenge: Catch the Moon

This is Day 25 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

Catch the Moon


It’s funny: I usually say I’m not the biggest dexterity game fan, but I find myself eager to try them whenever I see them. Catch the Moon looks terrific on the table and I couldn’t wait to play it.

After placing two ladders on the cloud base, roll the die and grab a random ladder (all of the ones except the initial two are skewed in some way). If you roll a ladder, then you must place your ladder so it touches exactly one ladder. Roll two ladders and your ladder must touch exactly two ladders. Roll a moon and your ladder may touch either one or two ladders, but one part of it must be the highest point of your growing ladder sculpture.

That’s it! Simple, right? I thought so, too, until I actually had to place my ladder. It’s definitely harder than it looks, but it sure is fun. Catch the Moon is a good choice during a light gaming night or as a 20-minute filler between heavier games.

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.