Showing posts with label Game Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Game Reviews. Show all posts

Thursday, September 12, 2019

SAHMReviews takes on Dr. Esker's Notebook

Here's a new review (mostly spoiler free) for Doctor Esker's Notebook by Scott at

They're running a giveaway also, linked from the review page, so sign up for a chance to win a free copy of the game!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Four Tribes Review

I've been enjoying a game I bought recently. It's from fellow indie designer Jason Glover at Grey Gnome Games over the last couple of days. It's called Four Tribes, and it's available from The Game Crafter here.

The game is a light two-player card game with some additional components. It's got a fun mechanic, plays quickly, and involves some nice strategy, along with some luck. The art is really great, as it is for all of Glover's games - he's a great artist in addition to doing the designing. I'm still figuring out the best strategy, and I'm not always seeing why some options are possible (e.g. why I would put any cards on the opponent's side of the river other than the special cards I have to place there). I like the winter village set because I think the higher number of buildings makes the strategy more interesting. Some games have been decided pretty much by luck, but most of them have involved some cool strategic decisions and management of cards. The design is elegant and uses its pieces well, and there's more than enough randomness and variety that the game feels different each time. It fits nicely in the new medium boxes from TGC, although I wish there were a slightly larger bag for fishing around in - it seems not quite big enough to randomize or to fit my giant meaty fist into. I've ended up using an alternative hidden building choosing technique that's working better. My daughter (pictured above) would prefer that the chiefs you're recruiting didn't use the same colors as the buildings, since they're not related to each other, but that's a minor quibble. I also find the special cards, which have interesting abilities, are often just used as wild cards for their numbers, but sometimes the special powers matter and are fun to use.

Cool, unique game, and well worth the purchase for me.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Amazon early reviewer program

I signed up for Amazon's Early Reviewer program for Doctor Esker's Notebook, and I just got my first review through it. For $60, Amazon will offer buyers of the game a $3 Amazon gift card to purchasers who review my product until they give out five cards for five reviews. I don't have any input or control over the content of the reviews or who Amazon decides to ask. So, a pretty good deal for Amazon - they get $60 in exchange for giving out $15 in gift cards, which are only good on Amazon anyway.

Despite the benefit to Amazon and the cost, it has value for me too. I signed up for this before I had any reviews, because I thought it would help if there were early reviews on Amazon for a product few people had likely heard of, especially if the reviews came from verified customers. In the interim, four reviews have appeared there from other folks. So, at the end of this program, if five people take the gift card bait from Amazon, I'll at least have nine reviews.

This seems like a good idea, especially given all the controversy Amazon has faced with regard to review-stuffing scams. In this case, the reviews have bought the game from Amazon and should be providing authentic reviews, so they're just being compensated for sharing their opinion, whatever it is.

For more info on the program, see here.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Doctor Esker's Notebook mentioned on The Cubist

Eric from The Cubist Podcast (Episode #103) reviewed Doctor Esker's Notebook - very cool. His comments on the game run from about the two minute mark to about four minutes.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Saturday, February 16, 2019


This is cool...

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Spider-Man for PS4

Here's my nickel review of Spider-Man for PS4. My Spider-Man is seen here overlooking Washington Square Park, near where my son Nick goes to school. Here's my nickel review of Spider-Man for PS4. My Spider-Man is seen here overlooking Washington Square Park, near where my son Nick goes to school. I generally don't like superhero stories much, unless they're played for laughs and acknowledge how ridiculous the situations are (c.f. Deadpool, Guardians, Avengers I, Thor: Ragnarok). I haven't found their stories compelling, their settings or cultures realistic, or their heroes human and interesting, and I have come to hate that they nearly all end with one side with arbitrary superpowers battling another side with arbitrary superpowers, leading to an arbitrary-squared resolution that I really don't care much about. I love video games, but I don't see them usually as a great way to tell stories. There are some exceptions (e.g. Mass Effect I, Gone Home), but most of the stories, even the engaging ones, are pretty bland. So, my expectations for a superhero videogame were pretty low, so much so that I wasn't even going to buy it. But the reviews were good, and I'm on sabbatical, so it seemed like I had time to try it. In a word, wow. The gameplay is enjoyable. It's really fun swinging around, and the fighting and the powers and gadgets are fun, if a little repetitive. I'm not terribly familiar with the Spiderverse, although I know the main players well enough to recognize most of them in broad strokes (e.g. I'd never heard of most of the supervillains). New York City is presented at a condensed but real-seeming scale, and with many places I've been to represented with great geometric precision. What elevates the game way above this is the story and the voice acting. It's far beyond the cardboardy quest-chain stuff of most games. Peter is human, funny, sincere, and a good soul. His human counterparts are deeply constructed and well-portrayed. You get to play as some of them, as a brave but normal person, for many parts of the game, which is great as a change of perspective and character. The plot is tainted by the usual super-silliness, but the non-silly parts are really, really well done, and even the silly parts are good. Definitely worth a look. Even if you think superheroes are dumb and played out, which I totally still do. I really liked this one.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring

Picture by Tony Mastrangeli,
DarkJedi on
The kids and I just played a game I'd had lying around the house for a long time - Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.  We've only played once, so I guess I shouldn't call this a full review, but the game follows a mostly predetermined plotline, so it would be essentially the same every time.  It's an odd game, with some interesting parts, but it really failed as any kind of rewarding strategic experience.

The good:

  • The modular board - fun to put together; fun to reveal different tracks and people as it goes.
  • The structural parts - the ramp spaces up the mountain are very neat
  • The group storytelling - it really recreates the movie pretty well, with major plot points thrown and enacted by the players
  • The pieces - the rings and the scoring racks are cool; the cards are very attractive, and the pawns with full-color pictures and art are really neat
The bad:

  • Choice - There's very little meaningful choice for the players.  You can pick a different character to activate each turn, and this tells different parts of the story, but all the parts will happen eventually, and there are way more characters than there need to be.  They have different statistics, and they can pick up items along the way, but these hardly ever matter much.  If you face a challenge that you have trouble with, you just keep rolling until you win, or you bring around another character with higher statistics.
  • No replay value - the game will turn out the same virtually every time you play it.  There's an elaborate set of 70+ events, but they happen in mostly the same order, and they don't interact much at all except to move people around the board.  None change the overall course of the game, which is destined to follow the movie's story.  There can be trivial differences in path or scoring based on die rolls, but the game will vary hardly at all from one play to the next.
  • Rules - the rules are very short, and they don't really explain all of how the game works.  We figured it out, but there were some events right off the bat that used terms (e.g. ring bearer) that were not defined, and there were other times when we weren't sure how to use various pieces and had to figure it out from cards.  We still don't know how to resolve Nazgul attacks.
  • Scoring - the scoring is a good vs. evil rating that you gain from events on your turn.  Most of the good or evil that you earn comes automatically from drawing an event or is randomly generated via die roll.  It is very difficult to gain very much evil score.  By the end of the game, you will have exceeded the scoring scale in the good direction, and this triggers a crude balancing mechanism - you lose 1-6 points when you come to the end of the track.  So, the player whose score gets reset last, or who rolls highest when losing points, will lose the game pretty much every time.  This is all essentially random, and takes an hour or more of play to get to.
So, relatively good production values and neat pieces for a game that's really not very good. I enjoyed playing with my kids this once, but it was such a trivial experience that I can't imagine doing it again.  The Lord of the Rings Adventure Game is so much better, and I hear Reiner Knizia's similarly-themed game is good too.  I'd recommend either of those over this one.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Picture worth 1000 words

FatherGeek's kids playing Diggity
I have to say, one of the neatest parts of the modern world is the ubiquity of pictures.  Nearly everybody has a camera; nearly everybody has the ability to share photos.  This hit home when reading the FatherGeek review of Diggity which featured a picture of his two young kids playing my game.  Regardless of what the review said (and it was positive), the part that was totally awesome was seeing some folks I've never met enjoying the game.

Yay, 21st century... :-)

Friday, August 3, 2012

FatherGeek reviews Diggity

A terrific review of Diggity by FatherGeek!

FatherGeek looks at games from a family perspective, so that's why there's the multi-generational aspect to the review.  I was really thrilled by the detailed discussion of strategy that he got into.  I've always thought the game was pretty deep for having such simple rules, and FatherGeek's testers really seemed to pick up on that part of it.  I'm also really glad they had fun with it!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Diggity Review

The web is ephemeral, and that isn't always great if you're trying to build a following for a game.  I've been trying to find a nice review of Diggity that came out a couple years ago.  It was by JT at  It's no longer at the address it used to be, so I'm posting it here to preserve it.  The original is still at the Wayback Machine (now Internet Archive) here:

Diggity Review by JT of
Rating: 5/5

Diggity is a ridiculously simple game about mining. It's good for 2 to 5 players, and each game takes about 30-45 minutes if you have 2 players, though you could easily add house rules to make it shorter or longer.

The premise of the game is that each player is a miner, and you're all working the same mine to see who finds the gold first. Along the way you're trying to make patterns out of the symbols on the cards, and those patterns let you build "tools" that allow you steal other people's gold. The tools start a bidding war, which allows each player to try to outbid another player for the gold that was just discovered. I might have a shovel, which allows me to steal the gold from the player who discovered it, but then someone else might have a pulley, and still someone else has a cart. You keep playing tools until someone comes up with the ultimate trump card, a shed, or until you get to the highest tool you have.

That's really all there is to playing the game. You build out a mine, you collect tools and gold. Then you build a new mine, collect more tools and gold. However, the interactions with getting the mine pieces to fit together, while still trying to make patterns to build tools puts this game right at the top of the list of games I want to play. Because it's so easy to steal gold, you really need to be strategic about putting out pieces that give you tools so that no one wants to bid against you. This dynamic really adds a lot of strategy and viscous fun.

The rules are well written, and just as importantly, well structured. The artwork is clean, simple, and pretty. And the game is fun. It's hard to ask for more than that.

Though we don't allow games for children under 12 on The Game Crafter for legal reasons, this could easily be played by children, and would probably be a good lesson for them in building patterns out of shapes. Don't let that pull you away from the game though, as this game is easily just as fun with only adults playing it.

UPDATE: JT pointed out that the review is still present at the bottom of the Diggity listing on their site, but he said it's OK to keep the review here too. Thanks JT!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Diggity video review

The folks over at The Gamer's Table have been doing video reviews of games for some time, and this year they invited submissions of independent game designs for review in their "Indy" series.  The Game Crafter offered to pay for the shipping if any of their authors/designers wanted to pay for a game to send, so I took them up on it. The result is here:

The review of Diggity starts at 4:50, and the final wrap-up (where they rate it) is at 13:35.  An interesting experience; they seemed to like the game and "get" it, particularly the two guys on the sides (Chris and Craig).  The middle guy (Ken) gave it a significantly lower rating than the others, which was interesting - he didn't really say why, and I couldn't pick it up from the rest of the show, but it must not have clicked as well for him.

A lesson for other designers - they really pilloried the other game in the review because of one omission in the rules (play one card per turn).  It's important to have other people read your stuff, and to specify everything, even the stuff that seems obvious.

My thanks to the TGT guys for their review, and to The Game Crafter for facilitating it.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Reviewers willing to take on independent games

The Gamer's Table, a boardgame review site, has started what is to become a series on independent games.  For their first episode, they took a look at Xavier Lardy's Haunted.  From the review, I found it a little tricky to figure out how the game worked, but they seemed to like it after some initial confusion about the rules.

More importantly to me, though, this might be a way to get some exposure for independent games - they seem to have pretty good production values on the videos, and the hosts seem to have played the game and taken the time to think about it.  I've seen more detail in other video reviews (e.g. Tom Vasel's videos through the Dice Tower), but these might be a good way to get some exposure for a new release, even if it's a self-published or print-on-demand one like mine at

The first episode of The Gamer's Table seems to have about 7,400 views at the time I'm writing this; some from the more recent season have more like 400-500, so it's not a huge audience, but presumably it's a dedicated one seeking out this kind of content.  Tom Vasel's seem to have more like 2,000-3,000, but these are games that probably start with a wider audience already by being published.  Might be worth submitting my stuff.

UPDATE: They're actually up to five episodes on independent games. I watched the fifth episode just now, and the explanation of the game was more detailed and easier to follow.  Neat stuff.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Jump Gate - first thoughts

I've played a couple games of Matt Worden's Jump Gate now (and won zero of them).  It's a different game than I expected, but I've enjoyed it a lot.  Some observations:

  • The game is way more fun to play than I thought it would be from reading the rules the first time.  That's mostly a good thing (far better than the opposite) but it would be better if the fun showed through from the rules.  I worry about that with Diggity some.  For Jump Gate, it seemed like there would be some pretty simple set collection, some different kinds of moves to make, and then not much complexity, but there ends up being a surprisingly non-obvious set of strategic decisions you've got to make to use your relatively scarce turns, and figuring out how to maximize your score is tricky.
  • The theme is neat, and fits the game well, but it's only loosely integrated into the game - what I mean by this is that you could pretty easily switch the whole thing to, say, a carnival theme, where you're picking up sets of stuffed animals and candy, rather than the space ship one.
  • The art is great - very neat design and layout.
  • The manufacturing part seems also to be great.  The rules are in color, the components bagged and good quality, the box really neat.  This was a self-publishing effort by Matt, and he's clearly done well with it.  I'm not sure how many he got made in his print run, but I'd guess these cost him in the neighborhood of $10-15 each minimum, maybe more, for 2000-3000 copies, which makes it hard to sell them at retail through a distributor, which I don't think he's doing given the relatively small set of companies it's offered at.  This is nothing wrong that Matt did - it's just a really hard part of being a small publisher.
I'll save a full review for when I've played it a few more times, but I like it.  My son chose it in particular to bring to show his cousins.