Bear Valley, Carl Chudyk


After a bit of faffing with missing cards (having been told it was virtually impossible for any cards to be missing, well trust me to be the unlucky one!) I finally got to play Bear Valley, the Carl Chudyk exploration card laying game. I’m pleased to say that it was worth the wait. It isn’t a game that I’d say is a ‘must have’ as in if you don’t get this you’re missing something huge. But I didn’t expect it to be when I bought it. It’s fairly light, a filler, fun, frustrating in a good way and isn’t as complex as the (not so well written in my opinion) rule book makes it sound. That’s why I think I’ll do a mini run through video because it’s really quite simple but is explained in a way that left me slightly baffled a couple of times. With rule books I honestly think they should be written assuming the reader knows nothing, that’s not to say they don’t have to have complex rules, just write them like they make perfect sense. Anyway, back to the game!

What’s the aim? Well you’re trying to make your way to the destination camp, avoiding bears and getting lost on the way. The winner is the person who makes it back to camp first.


How do you play? You have a start camp card and end of camp card and lay down valley cards in between. In order to move you draw the wilderness cards which represent different landscape and include 2-6 pathways on each. On your turn you lay one card at a time counting out loud as you go until you decide to stop or cannot carry on, then you move your back-packing meeple to the last card you placed if you’re able. Cards can only be laid in a ‘brick wall style’ layout (Chudyk refers to it as a hexagonal layout, however bricks make more sense in my mind, but whatever floats your boat) Sounds fairly simple right? Only there are a ton of conditions (these take some time to remember, a little reference card per play would of been a handy addition to this game) and I won’t tell you all of you them but here’s some straightforward examples: if you lay down a card that cannot be attached to a pathway you are considered lost and cannot move from your current position until next turn. You cannot move across a card with another player on. If you decide to lay down four cards and the fourth card has four path ways you cannot go any further until next turn, and so on. If you lay down a mountain you have to stop after the next card you lay. If a bear card is the first you draw on your turn you can sneak past him, but if one is drawn on a second turn and so on you have to stop and go around him next time (unless you’re playing with the equipment and character cards). And that is the base game of Bear Valley!


The add ons: For more experienced gamers, playing with the add ons is essential. You can choose to use the equipment tokens so you can do more fun stuff as you explore like pick up gold so you can bribe another player to hop on their spot, pick up a picnic basket to evade the bear cards (a bear won’t eat you if sandwiches are provided!) and things like that. And when you add the character bonuses and drawbacks things get even more interesting e.g- Forrest is allergic to trees, so he can’t cross forests and refuses to pick up a machete  *eye roll* but as a bonus he can take an extra turn if he lands on a fox card. So playing these add ons just makes the game play and decision making process more fun.

I enjoyed the press your luck element, I do love pushing my luck (both in games and real life!) so if you keep on laying cards to get closer to the destination camp you run the risk of drawing a card you can’t lay and getting lost (i.e stuck in the same place until the next  turn) or running into a bear. I also lost more than I won because I kept taking the long way around (again very similar to real life!) it was a good laugh.

All in all Bear Valley was a most enjoyable game, plays in 20-30 minutes, and is just fun, and not to be taken too seriously. Like I said it’s not a ‘must have’ per se but it’s a most welcome addition to my collection and I shall really look forward to future plays.

The box art and the landscapes are really nicely illustrated. The images on the cards and the characters I wasn’t too keen on, they have this sort of video game animation circa 2001 feel, I’m not sure if that was intentional but it didn’t make too much sense to me. But as I said in my unboxing video it’s not the defining factor if a game is good.

It’s a 7/10 for me, I would recommend Bear Valley! More info here.




Kickstarter Games I’m Sad I Missed; Part 1, Tavarua.

I was fairly late to Kickstarter. A few years ago I was aware of this word floating around but didn’t quite know what it was all about, and it was only in the last year I started actually looking into it and getting myself up to speed. I was initially put off by a few bad stories, some negative experiences people posted about, but overall I mainly see great looking games, happy gamers, a good sense of community around it and other gamers saying ‘wow this looks neat’- ‘yes I backed it on Kickstarter, you might be able to get it in 18 months!’ Jamey Stegmaier of Viticulture/Scythe termed  it ‘the shopping mall of the future’. Which I actually really like.

I’m probably the poorest I’ve ever been in my life right now, so I don’t back often and can never back anything too pricey (goodbye Anachrony & Days of Ire Budapest 1956, I’m in a world of hurt.) So every now and then I thought I’d write a post about successful Kickstarter games that I’ve missed and look great, and hopefully one day I’ll still be able to play (forever the optimist!) This weeks choice is….Tavarua!


Image totally nicked from the Kickstarter page, link below.

This is an awesome looking game by Cody Miller who also designed the Xia: Legends of a Drift System (which I haven’t played either yet much to my distress. I clearly have a lot of board gaming cherries to pop) and it’s themed around surfing. Surfing! I’ve never been surfing which is ludicrous really, as I love activities and being in the water, but for whatever reason the closest I’ve come to surfing is watching Point Break fifty times (unbelievable, another classic is being remade but that’s another topic!) and there is something here that appeals to me. Maybe it’s that I’ve never played a sports related board game before (again with the cherries).

When Tavarua appeared on my Instagram feed the other day I immediately thought was ‘how has this been done?’ What mechanics can you use that work with a surfing theme?’ So I went and checked it out. Initially I thought wow this looks very cool, lots going on, dice, surf board meeples, words like ‘barrel’ and ‘stoke’ and ‘catching the break’ (images of Lori Petty and Keanu Reeves dancing in my head right now). I’ve read the rule book and watched some play throughs and it looks really interesting and like something I’ve never played before! Which is great! So your competing in a surfing competition, the players ‘paddle out’ on the board to catch waves (represented by dice and wave tiles, the dice change and you have to get them in the right spot to ride them) and players use action cards to perform tricks that will score points, and when you catch the waves you use the wave cards that interact with your surfboard (which is like your player card). If you  haven’t heard of this one please pay it a visit here, I don’t think I can do it justice by rehashing the rule book/BGG blurb when I haven’t played it myself.

I’m gutted to have missed this. Hopefully they’ll be a retail release next year. As for Kickstarter I will definitely be looking to be a backer for a few more games I have my eye on (more on that coming soon!) even if I can only put in a small amount. Now I need to go surfing. Or maybe I’ll watch Point Break again.




Board Gaming The Insta Way

In January I decided to move my blog that had been sitting on Tumblr gathering dust for a couple of years, and began the painstaking task of copying text over and reuploading photos. It was pretty much unviewed on Tumblr, the now home of teenagers and the porn GIF (though to be fair I was obsessed with my Tumblr for a while) and anyway my early posts are pretty rubbish and my photos weren’t great quality, but I didn’t want them to go waste. So I ended up here on WordPress and thought I’d start fresh. Then I thought well how will anyone ever find me? 

I had an Instagram for my online clothing store (now kaput) and was fairly savvy with how to use it, so I created a new account and was convinced it would be pointless and I wouldn’t be finding any tabletoppers on there. Boy was I wrong! After finding a few hashtags and following some people I was happily surprised with what a solid community there was. People seemed to know each other. How cool! And there began my journey Insta Game life. 

I’m still pretty sure no one would read this blog if there were no links on Instagram (apart from the people who have kindly added me to their WordPress feed). I had a chat with a Google Ads guy when I set my shop up and it takes a lot of graft (and money!) to get anywhere near the first ten pages of a Google search. But I’m not too bothered, I didn’t start this blog to create a mass following, I just wanted to talk about my passion for board games and share cool stuff with people into the hobby. I also like taking photographs of games I play (I worked as a photographer for years and never got out of the habit of setting up photos). I love seeing others photos of course, especially creative things people do with board games (there’s one girl who paints her nails to match her games, but I’m talking arty nail wraps not just the colour. That’s goals right there.) It has also been super inspiring to see games I haven’t previously heard of, or find about about new Kickstarters or designers who are prototyping.

It was also surprising how friendly people are. Not everyone. But most people. So when others started commenting on my posts I thought wow this is cool! Actual interaction. On my previous Instagram people would unfollow in droves if I put a certain picture up. Never figured out why (or cared too much). With the Intsta game community that doesn’t really happen. On occasion I’ll admit to being unfollowed and thinking ‘No, no come back! You’ll like me! No more cat pictures I promise!!’ But generally all very lovely people, I’ve actually met some people I would consider friends through Insta who I’ve never met, one is a lovely girl from near Newcastle, I knew her from my previous account, who probably didn’t know I was board games mad, but I’m convinced we were actually separated at birth. There was a nice person who started talking to me about battling anxiety (who was a mental health practitioner so I’m thinking it was good info). It’s also cool how I’ve met so many people from different places. I like to think that in the future if I could take more holidays or travel (unlikely but one can dream!) I would have a board gaming buddy in many countries. How cool is that? Either way I now know more people from the UK who play board games. 

Most recently I started making videos, hated everything (if I made a compilation of outakes it would be alot of swearing, hair ruffling and annoyed faces) but I was determined to keep trying, and I got some encouraging ‘don’t give up’ comments which I thought was nice. Then another super cool chap asked if I would like to do videos as part of a collaboration. Ermmmm hell yeah! Why let my natural dorkiness get in the way? I’m that person who can be horribly insecure but refuses and just cannot be a wallflower.That was a really nice boost out of the rut I was in. Well I’m still in a rut but it’s helped shift my focus a bit. So to conclude this ramble; Thank you to anyone who reads or those who I know read my blog, it’s really lovely and makes me very happy! Cheers guys!  

The Bloody Inn, Nicolas Robert


The Bloody Inn. This game made such a big splash last year, and for the few months it was out of print I was desperate to get it. However as I knew it was a card game (no big board, too many components or miniatures etc) I refused to pay a completely unreasonable price for it since I knew it would be back for another print run. So I waited patiently until a couple months ago I finally bought it for its RRP. And this is what I thought.

I’ll start with….it’s an unusual one. It’s a grower. I think perhaps after that anticipation it fell slightly flat first time round (no huge surprise after months of coveting) but as I’ve played it more I’ve grown to like it more. It’s medium strategy, easy to get wrong if you’re not careful and does require a bit of brain burning.

Ok let’s go back to the start. So in a nutshell you’re running an Inn and you kill your guests. Dark right? But fun.

  •  You begin by randomly drawing 6 cards from the central deck, and these are guests frequenting your hotel of horrors. You pop them in their errr lovely little room (on the board) and each player owns rooms, represented by coloured key tokens, some of which are neutral and belong to no one.
  • Each card/guest has a pick up cost. You can spend your two starting cards (‘peasant’ cards) and can either kill guests outright or you can pick them up and use them to kill somebody else, or use them to build annexes (places to bury your corpses).
  • Some cards have instant monetary rewards, some give you money when you build an annexe or when you bury a body.
  • You move along the score track as you earn and can use an action to launder money, so you go back on the track and pick up cash tokens instead.
  • At the end of each round you can gain points for any of your rooms with guests still present and are deducted points for cards left in your hand.
  • All cards used go into a spent pile.
  •  Your only allowed two actions per turn
  •  Building up your annexes means you can use the card abilities/bonuses to help you gain more money and spend less cards.
  • The game ends when your guest cards have depleted and the player with the most money (in both money tokens and on the score track) wins the game.
And that’s the general game play!
So why is this game such a tricky little thing? Well the trouble starts when your Inn is populated by ‘the law’ (constables, sergeants and the like) because if you end your turn with any unburied bodies you pay a pretty hefty fine (lose money/points) and lose the body. Only having two actions per turn is tough, especially when you have to use an action to get your peasant cards back. You have to play carefully to get some necessary end of round points by having your rooms still populated, (and making sure your opponent doesn’t) and somehow end the round by having no cards, all bodies buried but minimising how many times you spend a precious action next round getting your peasants back. All whilst figuring out the best times to launder money and stay ahead of your opponent. How do you achieve this? I wish I knew, I still haven’t cracked it! And therein lies the fun, it seems the more I play the more I realise this game is a challenge. I tend not to play games to hammer other people but to better my score and improve my strategy. This is how I have concluded that it was worth the wait and worth the purchase. I still don’t think a price point about £20 would be reasonable, but I’m glad I held out for it.
My only criticism would be that I think it could have developed on the bribing/trading between players. You have to work together somewhat when the Inn is overrun with the law, and you can bury a body under another players annexe. It would of been cool if you could of bribed an opponent to use your annexe or kill a police officer for you, or traded a card someone else might need for money. But I guess the designers had their reasons for not taking it there. That’s it! More info here. Ps- the art is weird and gorgeous, all these abstract angular faces and beautiful colour. Always a plus!

An interview with Robert Coelho

I was lucky enough to speak to Robert Coelho, a theatre director and board game designer from Brazil. Robert’s game Shakespeare: Sonhos de um Bardo (A Bard’s Dream) is on it’s way to being released by Fun Box Jogos. It is a set collection, card drafting game featuring gorgeous artwork by Luis Fransisco and Jacqui Davis and you can read more details below. I loved reading Robert’s answers, fascinating stuff and plenty of names and games to investigate further. I hope that you enjoy reading as much as I did.

Robert Coelho

Robert Coelho

All images taken with permission from Board Game Geek.

Tell me about your most recent game Shakespeare: A Bard’s Dream when is it to be released?

Shakespeare: A Bard´s Dream is a card game inspired by all those amazing plays and iconic characters. The game is a play staged by the players and their characters. Each round takes place in a different scenario and players use characters to perform actions or collect coins. Characters have class icons and each character you put on stage later becomes part of your cast. At the end of the game you’ll get points according to class icons in your cast. It would be a simple and placid set-collection game, if not for all that treason, murders, vengeance, romance and many other shakespearian actions characters can perform during the play. The game will be released here in Brazil this year during the second semester on a date to be announced.


How did you go about publishing your game? Did you approach Fun Box initially?

It all started around the beginning of 2014. I am a theatre director and my playtest group was my game group, basically formed by my actors. After a few weeks where we played Citadels almost every day during rehearsal snack breaks, I began to think about a game that would a play where we could put characters on stage. Took a look at BGG when I started sketching this idea and noticed that there were not many games with this theme. There were some games that had Shakespeare as a theme, but none of them were relevant or similar to what I was thinking. Spent a few months working on the mechanics of the game and in the characters actions, what took me to re-read and study all of Shakespeare’s plays to get the game where I wanted. In October I thought that the game was well balanced and I began thinking about crowdfunding to publish it. At that time I already knew Vanessa, one of the owners of Funbox Jogos, because I was a loyal customer of Funbox Ludolocadora, a board game cafe where you can rent games too.  Funbox Jogos had recently published through crowdfunding the Brazilian version of Coup, which was beautiful, by the way. So I thought it would be a good idea to show them the game and find out  if it was really worth it and maybe get some tips that could help me on the way to a successful crowdfunding campaign. On the day that I scheduled with Vanessa to show her the game, all Funbox Jogos big guys were there and they ended up playing too. Many tips, analysis, suggestions and compliments and a week later they contacted me saying they wanted to publish the game.


Will it have an English translation or European distribution? 

Well I have a prototype of the game in English and Funbox Jogos will be at Essen. So, let´s cross fingers.

How long have you been designing and have you had any other games released? 

I always loved games, whether electronic, cards or tabletop. But I really started thinking about creating one just after a new world of possibilities was uncovered when I discover the modern board games in 2011. Shakespeare was the first game I considered good enough to show other people than my game group and it´s going to be the first one to be published. Hope many others will come.

Is there anything you’re currently working on?

Last year I spent some time developing more card games ideas, like Urbes (A city building draft game), Anime Studio (An anime production with multi-use cards) and Mermaids (A bluffing and deduction game under the sea). Unfortunately I can´t work full time on my game projects, so I dedicated my free time to them. Since I think I get better results when I focus on just one game for a while, I’ll have to choose which board game prototype I’ll return to, since some got frozen during last year, or which new idea I’ll start developing. I have a little notebook where I write down all my games ideas so I can work on them later, and right now I have more than 20 there. I think I need more free time!

What’s the table top game scene like in Brazil? Has it always been quite strong of has it grown in popularity?

Catan was just published here in 2011, and before that the vast majority of the market was dominated by Risk and Monopoly look alikes. Just a very small number of people would import because taxes are very high here. From what I have read on BGG and heard on YouTube, there was a worldwide increase of tabletop games enthusiasts in recent years. Fortunately we seem to follow this trend, as the number of stores, publishers and games has grown exponentially every year since 2011. We don´t have a big convention bringing together players nationally, but several cities already have local events. I organize one in my city called Joga Cuesta. Hope to have a BGBR CON soon, with many foreign companies, designers and reviewers visiting us.


Who are your favourite designers, and do you have any recommendations for us?

I´m a big fan of Bruno Cathala, Bruno Faidutti, Vlaada Chvátil and Uwe Rosenberg. Have not played so many Feld games, but I really liked those I played. I´m a big fan of Marcos Macri´s games, a Brazilian designer who was not yet published out of here. But if you want to know him better, Rahdo did a run through Dogs, one of my favourites. I playtested his next one, Chaparral, and it´ll probably be the best of all. The dynamic duo Sérgio Halaban and André Zatz, responsible for the big hit Sheriff of Nothingham, are also Brazilian and from them I would recommend Quartz, a very funny press your luck game which will be released at GEN CON this year. If you are more of a euro gamer, besides Macri´s games I´d recommend Blacksmith Brothers from Nicholas Paschalis, just released here by Ludofy Creative, and Space Cantina from Fel Barros and Warny Marçano, which crowfunding campaign is ending this week. Shakespeare artwork is amazing, thanks to Luis Francisco graphic design and Jacqui Davis illustrations. So I´d like to recommend Fidelitas and Euphoria, two great games where you can find Jacqui´s art. If you have Instagram I would recommend following me, @robertcoel, so you can find more about Brazilian tabletop games and talk about what we´re playing.


A sneak peek at a previously unseen card, one of my favourite characters!

You can follow Robert on Instagram on the link above and follow the game on BGG


Bear Valley, Carl Chudyk, Unboxing


I made a video last night. It’s a bit rubbish, but maybe not a complete embarrassment so I thought i’d be brave and upload it onto my You Tube Channel (which is brand new). It’s just me waffling on and unboxing a game that arrived yesterday called Bear Valley. I’ve not played it, hardly know anything about it, I keep referring to it as a tile laying game, but I mean you lay the cards like tiles. I’m practically whispering and I am getting over a cold/hay fever so I’m a sniffly mess. Maybe if I get more confident I’ll try to do more clever stuff and editing.Now i’ve given you such low expectations, here’s the video! Subscribe to my You Tube Channel here so I don’t feel like a total loser sob sob. More info on Bear Valley.



My Game Colour

This was a super fun idea by @artofboardgaming on Instagram. Take a photo of the game colour you always play as. Since this took me a while to do, a lot of opening up games and the pain of  putting them away again, all whilst my daughter played near me, occasionally looking at me with a mischievous glint, eyeing up my workspace (i.e- the table cloth) as if to say ‘I’m going to destroy you mother….’ So after all that I thought I’d share the photos on my blog in more detail!

My colour is purple. Despite my love of sci fi, horror and the supernatural I’m a bit of a girls girl at heart. But red just isn’t me, and not too many games contain pink! (At least not in my collection) so I always try to play purple. 

I decided to have a real ‘Art Attack’ moment (an art show for kids broadcast in the 90’s FYI) and decorate a t shirt with game bits. This collage was made from a ‘Day of the Tentacle’ t shirt and contains cards, dice and components from; Cosmic Encounter, Terra Mystica, Last Will, Ticket to Ride Nordic, Rococo, Gum Gum Machine, Village, Bruges, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Broom Service, A Stud In Emerald, Eldritch Horror, Dale of Merchants, Shakespeare, The Gallerist, Dugeon Petz and MTG Dark Ascension. 

There’s lots of great photos that have been made and I can’t wait to see more. Follow the hashtag #myboardgamecolor (US spelling of colour) to view. Thanks for looking!