Broom Service: The Card Game

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I actually made a video on Broom Service: The Card game that I decided not to publish. I don’t know, it’s the second time I’ve tried making a video and I don’t think it’s for me. I feel like I need another person to interact with and bounce off. Me in a room talking to a camera just doesn’t work. It’s not even a vanity thing, I know I have a weird wonky face and it doesn’t bother me (anymore!) but staring at myself as I speak is just too strange and watching it back over and over to edit is worse. So until I find a video buddy (and possibly someone who is an editing whizz) I think I’ll concentrate on my written posts. 

So Broom Service: The Card Game. I bought this game for a modest £8.99 last week, I do love those low price points! I very much enjoy the board game and thought this would be a nice addition to it. I haven’t played the card game yet but I have used the mini expansion for the board game that comes with it.

My first thought was concerning the box and card sizes. It’s a small box but has quite a lot of room inside. But the cards are tiiiiiny, like mini cards. Which isn’t a problem really, I just wondered why they didn’t make the box smaller or the cards bigger? Or maybe even sold them in a Love Letter style pouch with an emblem on the front or something, that would of been cute. But larger cards would of been nice because the artwork is so lovely. Anyway I’m sure they had their reasons for producing it how they did so fair enough!

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The witches

This 3-6 player card game takes the ‘cowardly/brave’ element of the board game as it’s core mechanic. We have factions of witches such as Sun, Night, Fire, Meadow and so forth and each has a corresponding colour. Played over 4 rounds each player takes a turn placing one of the cards from their hand in the ‘cowardly’ or ‘brave’ position. When the next player takes their turn and if they have the same card as the one previously played they can use their card brave and cancel the previous one played, taking it out of the round. Or you can play cowardly and no one can stop you. So what’s the difference? Well if you play cowardly you’ll score at the end of the game for your potion points, but as there is only one potion on the cowardly side of the card you’re not going to score very big. The brave side has more potions and special potion symbols but if you play too many brave cards you run the risk of having the next player cancel them. The end scoring is based on how many sets of coloured potions you have, how many ‘brave’ potions you have accumulated and if you have met any of the task cards throughout the game. The task cards can be taken by a player at the end of a round if during that round you met the conditions on the task card e.g- 3 purple potions, 4 yellow.

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Task card

It looks like you will have to play carefully in Broom Service card game, keep an eye on how many cards are in the particular witchy faction you are playing and how many are already on the table. It looks to be a tricky one and I’m really looking forward to playing it in full.

So aside from this there is the mini expansion for the board game and this gives you 16 extra cards. You can pick up one of these when you choose to play cowardly and each card has an objective you can meet to gain extra points, like trading in potions for points. If you don’t meet the objective you can still get a point for the unused cards. So they’re worth having, and add an extra something to an already pretty tough game.

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Expansion

I love Broom Service, I think this card game looks like a lot of fun. Nothing amazing maybe, after all it just a set collection/press your luck mini game, but for a low price point and a little expansion included what’s not to like? I also really admire the cute artwork in this game. I just wish that they’d made the cards bigger. Or put an insert in the box. Damn those production costs hey?
More info can be found here.
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Rococo: Jewelry Box Expansion Review

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I acquired two new games last week, Broom Service the card game and the Rococo Jewelry Box expansion. I decided to write about Rococo and make a little video on Broom Service (coming later this week). As I mentioned in my post a few weeks back I absolutely love Rococo, its a beautiful Euro and up there in my top ten.

So what does Jewelry Box add to the game and is it worth purchasing? Well you get 28 additional employees, an exam card, jewellery box board and jewellery tokens, and yes I believe it’s worth purchasing (for a vey reasonable £12.50 RRP.)
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So what does it do? Well first off there’s the personal ‘exam’ cards. You take the exam using your apprentice and journeyman cards to meet the three set requirements (same for every player and easily achievable e.g- use an action with your apprentice to buy a yellow or red material) Once you’ve completed the exam you spend an action trading in your standard journeyman/apprentice card and pay the hiring cost to choose one of the special guys. These let you add on a cool free action e.g. – make a dress for free and sell only (instead of placing it in a hall, and hey that extra money is always welcome!) you can take the exams as many times as you like. The jewellery itself is displayed on a separate little board and consists of coloured ring and necklace tokens. You can only purchase these when you make a dress and as the game progresses and they are purchased you can move them along the board and lower their cost. When you buy a piece of jewellery this gives you income every round. If the one that you buy matches the colour of the dress you made then you can pick up a free material. I find this comes in handy because personally I dislike spending too many actions purchasing! Some of the expansion cards are shuffled into the regular deck too so you can snap one of those up as a hiring action.
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In my opinion if you like Rococo you’ll welcome this expansion and probably enjoy it as much as I did. I love that it adds more to an already tough game and makes choosing what to do next even more challenging. I only wish it added on an extra round because this game seems to end so quickly as it is, and you feel like there’s so much more you could achieve if you had just a bit more time. There’s the inevitable ‘check the rule book 500 times to remember what the symbols mean’ but that’s to be expected when you first start playing a language independent game. The jewellery box and the exams seem to give you quite a bit more income to play around with too and can earn you some valuable extra prestige points early on, so it definitely feels like you are gaining more which is always nice.
It’s an all round good review from me, a must have if you own the game and an incentive to give Rococo a try if you haven’t already!
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Empty packet of Revels optional! 

Escape From The Aliens In Outer Space

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I was looking forward to this for some time and having heard mixed opinions (along the lines of ‘brilliant, love this game’ to ‘doesn’t work very well in practice’) I was curious to try it myself and wanted the re print with the matte finish book-like box, the map/log manuals and wipe clean markers. It has a great design, the minimal art work is very fitting and the creatures are pretty horrible, it really does have that ‘Alien’/space horror feel. But is it any good? I won’t beat around the bush, yes, yes it is. In my opinion.

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Let’s start with the setting. You’re on a research mission in deep space. The bad news is that your craft has been badly damaged. You’ve been plunged into darkness. The worse news is that an alien plague has got on board and it’s going to creep about and pick you off one by one and transform you into a flesh eating monster too. Run.

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So how do you play? Well despite the slightly intimidating rule book (symbols everywhere…brain melting) it’s actually pretty straightforward. It’s bluffing/hidden movement basically. You randomly determine in secret who is playing the alien and who is the human. Each come with a special ability (optional) and you choose which map to play on (there’s a recommended beginners map and they all state the number of players they’re best used with). From here on you decide where to move on your map to escape the alien or hunt the human. The white sectors are silent sectors, so you can announce you’re located in a silent sector but don’t have to draw a card. Then there’s the grey ‘dangerous sectors’ where you randomly draw a card from the main deck. Green cards mean you have to declare a sector but not necessarily the one where you’re in, red cards means you have to be truthful about where you are. So there’s a fair amount of bluffing here. Which for some reason took me a while to get the hang of but when I did, I realised I’m actually pretty good at it! So you move around your map trying to get to an escape pod. If the alien player or players find you then they can attack and kill you! Then it’s ‘game over man, game over!’ So a pretty abrupt ending. You can also randomly draw ‘action’ cards from the deck instead of a noise card, you can keep these to yourself and play them on any turn once. This is also optional!
A few points:
  • The maps matter. I was playing a two player game with the starter map which is actually recommended for 4-8 players. The first two times I played I died within about three minutes (but was also not bluffing very well) and as soon as we started playing with the 2-8 player maps the game went on (for about 10 minutes) and was a lot tougher.
  • It works as a two player. This was a concern I had but it still works really nicely. Only with two players you both know who you are so there’s really no secret there and also a couple of cards that would be cool you aren’t able to use, like ‘mutate’ so you can change into an alien secretly and trick your opponents. It would also last longer with more players, so I really want to try it with 2+ to see how it differs.
  • I’d recommend playing with the character ability and events. It means there’s more going on, more options and you can (try) to get smart. For example one action card means that the human player can attack an alien. So I deliberately tried to trick my alien opponent by bluffing as to my whereabouts and was secretly following where I thought he was to kill him. Then I played the card at the wrong time and promptly died. Not so smart. But it was a fun way to play. Maybe next time!
  • It can be over pretty quickly. If you play with 2-3 players it’s more of a filler game.
  • I’ve never played a game that involves mapping and writing and I really enjoyed this aspect. But as much as I liked the laminated maps I found the pens to be fiddly. Also hiding your manual from the other player whilst writing and trying not to smudge your ink is tricky. Give me a mini pencil any day!
  • You have to announce ‘silent sector’ ‘dangerous sector’ ‘noise detected in sector X’ every single turn. After saying the phrases in various theatrical tones, like the whisper, the Dalek, the generic ship computer voice, it got a little annoying. It’s a small criticism, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment!
Overall I’d give it a 8/10. It’s a good game, fun with two, probably a ‘bigger’ game if played in a group, and with the lights down and some atmospheric music it’s even better. Maybe not worth paying over the odds for but definitely worth the RRP (£25-£30 depending on where you shop.) More Info

Coming Soon! Rococo: Jewellery Box

I recently discovered that there is an expansion on the way for the Euro gamers favourite Rococo. So stoked for this!  Jewellery Box will add 28 cards with new bonuses to change up the game without changing the rules. As the title  suggests it also attaches a jewellery option accompanied with lovely new tiles and you can receive a master craftsman’s diploma. All for the RRP of £12.95 (in the UK) not bad hey?

Despite its release in 2013 I only bought and played Roccoco this year after a bit of umming and ahhhing. I’m glad I did and could immediately see why it’s a firm favourite. Some games you find just work. The Castles of Burgundy, Suburbia, 7 Wonders, Twilight Struggle, Puerto Rico and Concordia to name a few. They seem to play out smoothly, make sense, are challenging without being horrible excruciating and are just…fun. I find that it’s usually games that aren’t overly complicated, that don’t have 10 million rules that you have to check up every five seconds, then go online to double check and triple check. They cultivate healthy competition without you wanting to reach across the table and strangle another player. They make you think, you strategise, but you don’t have steam coming out of your ears in sheer frustration. You definitely care if you win but won’t be too pissed if you don’t, because you had fun in the process. These games allow the player to gain as they go and feel a sense of achievement. Lastly the theme and mechanics in ‘games that just work’ all meld together nicely.

Roccoco is one of those games. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and on the surface I guess that making dresses for a lavish ball may seem a little feminine, although all the characters (except for the queen) are male. But none of that kind of stuff matters when the game itself is one that works. Everyone can get down with a bit of frivolity and 17th century fashion if the game’s a good one!

Roccoco is a clever take on deck building, there are some tough choices to be made, you are constantly in close competition to your opponents for area control, hiring employees first, nabbing the best monument spots on the board and obtaining the correct requirements in time to make your garments. At the end you are able to reap lots of rewards in the form of prestige points which is always nice (aka not an abrupt ‘is that it then?’ ending) Also, let’s face it the game itself is hella pretty and biiiiiig.

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Having said all this I never win it, ever! My partner clearly has more fashion prowess than me.  I am most definitely looking forward to playing it with the Jewellery Box expansion next month! If you have yet to play Roccoco I suggest you do, it’s a real gem. I’m so corny in my posts sometimes *blush*! More info

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One to Watch; Kill The King

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My attention was recently brought to Kill The King, a new board game in the making, hailing from Norway (so you know it’s going to be good right?!)  Kill The King is a strategic tabletop for two players. In a game of attack and defence you are either trying to kill the king or you’re defending his honour.

The game comes with two alternate game modes. The  first is a regular battle between the two players armies outside the castle walls; one attacks the castle while the other tries to defend it. The second mode is a larger version, where you combine two game boards and one player defends the  castle, while the other attacks the castle on side each. It sounds intriguing! I’m really looking forward to playing more strategic battle games so this sounds right up my street. I’m excited to be playing the print and play game in the near future! 

It’s coming to Kickstarter in September, if you want to keep up to date follow the links below. This is one to watch.

Facebookofficial website , Instagram, Twitter

Thanks to Petter for the great images of the prototype game, which looks pretty damn cool already.

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Le Fantôme de l’Opéra, Bruno Cathala Ludovic Maublanc

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I coveted Fantome d’le Opera for aaaaaaages. I saw it reviewed and thought it looked cool. That was about 18 months ago, and admittedly my tastes were a bit shallow. Recently I looked at the review again, and even though it wasn’t particularly glowing I thought ‘I still want this dammit!’. It looked to be out of print or at least hard to come by in the UK so my ‘covet-o-meter’ was going mad! After coming into some spare money (tax rebate!) I found it on eBay and decided to go for it. It’s in the same family as Mr Jack, which I’ve never played, and it’s a simple, but kind of tricky hidden movement game.
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You can choose to play as The Phantom or the other characters who are trying to escape his clutches. You move around the board using the movement ability and conditions on the character cards, to deduce who the Phantom is.  At the bottom of the board we have Carlotta and she moves up the track each round and can be ‘scared’ by The Phantom, and if she reaches the end before you’ve figured it out, you’ve lost! Personally I found playing as the characters and guessing too easy, it’s running away and disguising as The Phantom that is tricky!
 Now, in hindsight, maybe I should of taken heed with the video review I saw. It’s a bit thin. I don’t regret buying it, it’s a great game to have in the collection, and sometimes when the mood takes I could really fancy it. Also it’s worth remembering that since this was released in 2013 gaming has moved on somewhat, with small box games and print and play especially becoming more popular. It comes in a fairly large box (though not huge by any means) and has a nice board, big cardboard cards and chunky tokens. It definitely has an old school feel, which I really like. But because it’s quite ‘big’, you feel that there should be something more substantial to it, especially for a two player only game. But there really isn’t too much going on apart from what it says on the tin. It just seems quite unnecessary to have the board, the heavy cardboard etc, because it’s a filler game basically. It’s over really quickly, even when we house ruled to put the start marker two steps back so it takes a bit longer. I’m sure we never had a 30 minute game as estimated in the game overview. This could be a little card game or a print and play, it could probably be re-released as such, because it’s definitely a fun party or filler game.
Next time I play i’m lighting the candles and putting the soundtrack on! Not the one with Gerard Butler. That was weird. More Info
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A Study In Emerald, Martin Wallace

*Bear in mind that these thoughts are based on a two player game. And that it was mainly composed at 2am when my daughter wouldn’t sleep. 

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I wanted to love A Study In Emerald. So that was possibly my first mistake. I’m rather into the Lovecraftian genre. Not on a massive scale but I’ve read quite a bit of Lovecraft over the years and enjoyed films and games based on the Cthulhu Mythos. So I thought this game is perfect for me; deck building, secret plotting, Sherlock and Cthulhu, I’m there!  There are some parts to this game I really like, for a start the art work is gorgeous. It looks like something out of an Oz book, and I love the board and cards, it’s just so darn attractive with some hideous Elder God cards to boot, perfect! But I found it hard to shake the initial disappointment after being so excited for it.
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I thought it was going to be one of those games I’d instantly click with, so I was a bit perplexed that I was struggling to grasp the concept during the first couple of plays. I really enjoy deck building and the mechanics seemed like familiar territory. I’m pleased to say that after a short while it all became clear. Well clear-ish. The rule book was slightly problematic, at first it seemed to be well written and but there are a few ambiguous parts that left us (and Jon being a big rules man) like ‘whaaaa?’ and having to look up online for rules explanations etc. I’m aware that the second edition is more streamlined, and a lot of er loyalists to the original think this version is a travesty. Having had no experience of the first edition and being that it’s no longer in print, that doesn’t really matter to people who have only just discovered the game. Anyway my point is that if this was an opportunity to improve on the original then why not make the rule book a bit better?
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Onto the game itself. I’m not going to talk in depth about the rules because you can find that information anywhere. But to give you a the general idea I’ll outline the basics. You spend most of ASIE as you would any other deck builder, by collecting cards that work for you and enhance your turns with weird and wonderful things. You have a secret ID, you’re either with the elders (Royalists) or you’re fighting against them as a Restorationist. You move your agents around the city spaces and grapple for influence to get the card you want (you need more pieces on the city to get first dibs). The symbols on the cards let you do certain things like move, pick up etc. You need influence cubes to pick up the cards and the cubes go into ‘limbo’ when spent, so ideally you want to claim a card that lets you retrieve all of them so you don’t spend all your turns just picking up cubes. You can also spend turns performing assassinations on your opponent or killing the creatures. If you’re a Loyalist you can get a card that means you ‘claim’ the creatures for final points.
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So this brings me to the pointy issue of points. Because the main aim of any game is to get points and win. So it’s a pretty big deal when it doesn’t quite work. The end triggers when you reach 28 on the score track, 10 on the influence track, if all your agents die or you lose sanity. You score by getting neutral points on city cards, performing assassinations, claiming certain character and creature cards. So there’s a lot to think about there. In a two player it’s quite difficult to keep your ID secret, but if you want to bluff you have to be careful not to get too many cards that will lose you points at the end. Because when the end triggers you deduct any points that were not helpful to your faction. E.g- you’re a Restorationist who wants to appear as a Loyalist so you’ve assassinated another agent but this will lose you points at the end for this. Likewise for the Loyalist, when you get Loyalist characters you have to roll the sanity dice. Lose three sanity and you go mad! So my issue is that in an already complex game with narrow time constraints, what is with the influence track? This was a real problem for us and my main bug bear. You can move the marker on this track up and down depending on whether your the Royalist or Restorationist faction and this affects how your points on the scoring track move. You can use it to speed up or delay the game pretty much using the number of difference on the track. Since reading a few posts on BGG I’m relieved it’s not just us that struggled with it! We ended one game on what I thought was a close call and then I lost all my points to the dreaded track and was a bit like ‘well why’s that happened?’ So I lost all the difference because I was one point behind on the Loyalist track?  I went down to zero? Still so confused! Is it meant to be evocative of the theme? Because it drove me mad! I felt a bit deflated and Jon felt a bit shitty and we were left thinking it would be far better without this odd mechanic. I personally think it doesn’t really achieve what it intended and should of been scrapped. Because it’s not that fun to use. But the rest of the game is good so it’s an irritant. I suggested that maybe we should house rule this in some way or leave it out entirely for future plays. But as Jon said, quite rightly, that with so many other games out there that are all round solid winners why would we play a game where we’ve had to change or leave out a main part of it because it sucks? Whilst this is true, I think as I enjoyed the rest of the game I want to make it work for us. But still  don’t really like the idea of changing the mechanics in place. I think we’d definitely have to give it a couple more turns using the influence track and perhaps finally figure out how this works to advantage without destroying yourself at the end. But if not I’d be happy to play without it. Kind of. In a nutshell;
The negative;
– Influence Track
– A WTF rule book
–  With two players it’s over very quickly and you’ve barely made a dent in the game. We house ruled to put the city cards at the bottom of the draw deck spaces because if you score the city points in the initial few rounds it’s all over in ten minutes.
– Generally with a lot to play around with it’s a shame that the end of game can trigger so quickly.
– Hard to keep your secret identity secret for long with a two player.
The positive;
– A gorgeous game.
– Secret Plotting is great fun.
– The deck building element.
– The theme.
– I like the fast pace, with sudden death imminent there’s lots to get done and turns are lightening fast.
– Much to think about and opportunity to secretly strategise (just not enough time to employ it all!).
– The character cards with some nice surprises (Freud! William Morris!).
– Some gruesome new elders like Gloriana.
If you’ve had a completely different experience in a 2 plus game please do share!