Inside the Box: Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game

November 5, 2010

Inside the Box is an in-depth look at the contents of a board game. It covers the quality, quantity, and aesthetic value of what is found inside the game box.

Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game is a mouthful. It’s also a one of the latest games in Fantasy Flight’s Silver Line series. A group of games that are on the “lighter side” and can be “set up and played within an hour.” These games are generally found in small boxes and have relatively small price tags: Death Angel can be picked up for only $20-25. In this game the players use squads of space marines cooperatively to fight off the alien horde. Here’s a look at what you get.

The box cover sums up the game well: two space marines being swarmed by what seems like an unlimited number of genestealers.

Death Angel Contents

Death Angel Contents

The great artwork continues on all of the components – most of which are cards. There are 128 cards that are divided into 7 card types:
• Each Genestealer and Brood Lord card is used to represent an enemy alien unit. These creatures are vile and frightening and you certainly don’t want to mess with them. Each card also has a symbol on it to help with gameplay.
• The Action and Space Marine cards represent your forces. These guys look tough enough to take on anything. The marines are broken into 6 different combat teams represented by 6 different colors. The action cards also have a symbol on them, but this symbol isn’t found on the corresponding marine cards. Because the colors aren’t vivid or don’t contrast enough to be easily differentiated this makes game play a little difficult at times. Not putting the symbols on the marines was a big mistake.
Card Examples

Card Examples

• The space marines fight and move through the levels through the use of Location and Terrain cards. Although the some of the Terrain cards you see the most, like the Vent or Corridor, are a bit boring, the Artefact looks good. There are also 3 different randomly chosen location cards for each level to allow for lots of replayability.
• The last deck of cards is the Event deck. These cards are resolved at the end of each round to spawn new enemies. They also offer up some special events that can help or hurt the team.

The only other components is one counter sheet with support and combat team tokens and a die.

The Tokens and Die

The Tokens and Die

The combat tokens only purpose is to be placed in front of each player to remind the others of what units are his. The main feature is the symbol of their units, which as I already mentioned, should have been included on the marine cards. The support token guns are simple but effective. The custom die included in the game goes from 0-5 (and you thought rolling a 1 was bad!) as well as having three sides with skulls on them. This one die can then be used for the various types of rolls used in the game. This die is also very cool – it is certainly the coolest die I own.

The rules are… well… Fantasy Flight rules. For whatever reason this company makes great looking games, but their rulebooks have always been a problem for me. I think my main problem is that their rules don’t read front to back. They offer the game rules in more of a summary format and then direct you to other pages for more details. In theory this should be great. But for whatever reason I felt like I was constantly searching for sections and pages, then flipping back to remember why I was trying to find them. For example, just to setup the game you need to flip back and forth 8 times. I think if the rules were presented in a more linear fashion they would make for an easier read.

Overall, the presentation of the game is fantastic. There are almost as many unique artworks as there are cards in the decks. The cards and token quality is very good and did I mention the die is cool? The rules can be grasped after one or two plays so they aren’t a deal breaker. The non-colorblind friendly marine cards are a big disappointment especially considering they created symbols and chose not to use them. However, I certainly felt like I got my money’s worth and I look forward to checking out some of their other Silver Line games.

Inside the Box: Memoir ’44

October 4, 2010

Inside the Box is an in-depth look at the contents of a board game. It covers the quality, quantity, and aesthetic value of what is found inside the game box.

Memoir ’44 is the 2nd game by Richard Borg to use his Command and Colors system. The game puts you in command of either the Axis or Allies during the beginning of the US entrance into World War II. Published by Days of Wonder it retails for $50 but can be found online for around $35.

As with any Days of Wonder game, you get a great looking product. The cover depicts the US forces storming the beaches on D-Day. The box quality is similar to most board games.

Memoir '44 Contents

Memoir '44 Contents

Inside the box is a large plastic insert that holds the board, 2 cardboard tile sheets, a deck of command and reference cards, 8 battle dice, two armies and of course the rules.

The large, hex-grid board is actually double sided: a field of green on one side for inland battles and a beach on the other for landing scenarios. Each side is divided into three sections with red dashed lines. The red on green is not very easy to see for a color blind person but is usually not an issue during play.

The deck of cards contains 60 command cards used to order your troops and a set of reference cards. The latter are used to help the players remember the special rules for different unit and terrain types. The command cards contain illustrations of generic leaders, troops and vehicles in various action poses. They certainly add visual interest while you are staring at your cards planning your tactics.

The 8 dice included are – like it or not – wood. Each side has a different color and more importantly symbol so they are easy to read and great to look at.

The two thick cardboard sheets contain the hexagonal terrain tiles, some victory medals and special unit badges. The badges are quite colorful: red-white-and-blue for the French Resistance, purple for the Panzer grenadiers, orange for the Rangers and red and white for the British special forces.

The terrain tiles are very sturdy and should hold up well over time. The different terrain types are each visually distinct – there’s no question as to what type your unit is on. The city tiles are my favorite as they don’t all look the same. Some show a small village center while others depict a single fortified compound or even a church. They all add some interest to the board without being distracting.


Close-up on some of the Components

The real draw to this game is the plastic figurines. Each side gets 6 artillery, 2 dozen tanks and over 40 infantry units in addition to some obstacles. The plastic used is soft so they shouldn’t break, although some of the gun barrels and other smaller features may get bent in the packaging and then never stay straight. I also have to complain about their color choices. The Allies appear to be dark green-blue while the Axis forces are dark blue-green. Even normal sighted people may have a hard time telling who’s who in less than ideal lighting. Fortunately the infantry and tank units use different molds for each side to distinguish them and make them look a historically accurate. Each army also has a plastic insert to hold them in. These inserts were tossed after only 2 tries of trying to get the infantry back in. Plastic bags work just as well and make clean-up go a lot more quickly.

The rule book walks you through the set-up and and how to play with illustrations. There are also several examples of what is and is not possible for most rules. There are some interesting historical facts included as well. All this and yet the rules are clear and don’t seem cluttered. There are 16 scenarios in the 2nd half of the rule book that reflect actual battles. Each is presented with the historical facts and outcome of each battle and then present you the challenge of keeping or changing history.

Sure there are a few color choice problems and other nit-picks, but overall I like the components and artwork. Setting up a scenario of Memoir ’44 takes a while but is actually enjoyable with the great pieces. Placing the figurines on the board remind me of playing with little, green army-men as a kid. The nostalgia factor probably adds to the worth of this game for me – although I think most people would agree they get their money’s worth with Memoir ’44.

Inside the Box: Washington’s War

August 24, 2010

Inside the Box is an in-depth look at the contents of a board game. It covers the quality, quantity, and aesthetic value of what is found inside the game box.

Washington’s War is Mark Herman’s re-imagination of the first true card-driven wargame, We the People. It is a medium complexity war game of area control set during the American Revolution. I glimpsed the prototype at the  WBC 2009 and have been interested ever since. It retails for US $60, but can be found online for around $40 or so.

As with all of GMT Games’ recent releases, the box is sturdy and appealing, boasting a beautiful detail of John Trumbull’s Battle of Princeton. The back of the box states that the game can be played in 90 minutes, but in my experience, this would be after a few longer plays of 2-3 hours.

The box itself contains two counter sheets, a large poster-sized map, 110 cards, full-color rule and play books, two player aid cards, and two dice. In all, the production quality is very high for a war game, rivaling the components of most Euro games (minus the wooden pieces, of course).

The contents of the box.

The rulebook is slightly above average in terms of its style and layout. I always like to see a table of contents and index, and the color illustrations break up the text quite nicely. I also appreciate the section defining terms. However, some of the section placement seems odd. For instance, there is a whole section on movement which talks a lot about moving into battle, then there’s a break for how to place reinforcements on the board, which is then followed by those battles that were talked about earlier. Here I Stand is my gold standard for a rulebook with its easy to reference bullet-pointed procedures, and Washington’s War isn’t quite up to the task. There are a few mechanics that have different rules for the Americans and British, and it would have been nice to see a summary table of the differences between the two sides and ditto for the player aid cards. Also, there are several exceptions buried in the rules which did not make their way onto the final map, and a small reminder box would be very helpful.

The playbook is excellent, and it comes with a lengthy example of play, two pages of strategy tips, and two pages of design notes. What I like about the example of play is that it shows a few blunders on the part of the players, and this represents a real departure from the latest Twilight Struggle playbook, which shows two world champions duking it out. The player aid cards are also in color, and help out with the combat, but still don’t contain the key differences between the two sides. (I’d suggest Major Sholto’s Player Aid instead, which quickly summarizes the differences.)

The 110 cards are usual GMT fare–rather thick and glossy, with some nice period artwork. The layout is reminiscent of  We the People and Wilderness War, and they aren’t as clean as Here I Stand. I’d recommend putting these in card sleeves as soon as possible. The cardboard counters are of very high quality. Generals have nice portraits with detail and depth, and the round army counters are bright without being garish. My bad eyes have no trouble distinguishing any of the counters at a glance. There was one misprint; some of the square colony control markers weren’t printed correctly, which means you’ll have to use extra hexagonal ones. This is a small gripe, but with such low counter density, I’m not sure how that one made it through the final editing process.

One of the two countersheets. Dig that French navy!

The map itself is very thick with a nice black border running around it. I’d say the board is on par with Power Grid or several over Euro games. It’s beautifully done, and it feels like you’re looking at a quality color map out of an encyclopedia or textbook. The artists avoided putting similar colors next to each other, and it doesn’t feel too busy like the Wilderness War map. I think the low counter density helps a lot too; you can just sit and admire the map, and unlike a lot of earlier GMT games, this will definitely get people’s attention if you’re playing in public.

Overall, I am very impressed with the artwork and production value of Washington’s War. Upon opening the box,  most people will think, “Wow, I got my 40-60 bucks worth here.” Hopefully this is just another sign of where GMT is headed with all their future games!

Inside the Box: Leonardo da Vinci

March 3, 2010

Inside the Box is an in-depth look at the contents of a board game. It covers the quality, quantity, and aesthetic value of what is found inside the game box.

The MSRP for Leonardo da Vinci is $45 but it was on sale for $10 !? I went to BoardGameGeek to check this game out. Leonardo da Vinci is a worker placement game where you compete with others to be the first to finish certain invetnions. The reviews were mostly favorable. The game images also looked interesting so I had to pick up a copy and check it out. It certainly wouldn’t be the worst $10 I’ve ever spent…

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

There’s an illustrated drawing of an inventor with some of Leonardo da Vinci’s more famous works on the front cover. The artwork catches the eye, but doesn’t offer any clues as to what the game is about. The back gives a brief description of the game and lists the game components. The box is a bit flimsy, not as thick as some of the other games I own, but adequate.

Leonardo da Vinci

A mistake? Nope, just the designers being clever.

After opening the box and pulling out some components I notice a manufacturing error… oops! Or so I thought. It seems the designers cleverly added a molding of the name “Leonardo” into the insert in mirror writing – just the way Leo would have actually signed it. Besides being clever, the insert does a good job of holding all of the components with a larger area to store all of the bits. Included are plastic bags to hold them, but only 3 bags. I added a few more to make 6: 1 each for the five player colors and 1 for the other bits used during play.

The game board is illustrated in the a similar style to the box cover and is interesting to look at. Unfortunately, all of the artwork is covered by boxes that hold the invention cards, resource cards, money cards (florins, of course), and other components. While playing the game you never get to look at the artwork. I’m sure the artist was a bit disappointed all his hard work would just be covered up.

The player tokens are fun. Each player gets one Master token and 9 Apprentices. The 9 apprentices remind me of meeples from Carcassonne, but with more pleasing, human-like proportions. The Master dwarfs his apprentices in size and wears a hat and robe. They are wood bits painted red, green, yellow, blue and purple. Not my ideal choice of colors, but they aren’t too difficult to distinguish. There are also some other plain cylindrical tokens (in the player colors and brown) for keeping track of things on the board.

The cardboard components are heavy duty – as thick as the game board. There are two laboratories for each player, two invention player aids, some mechanical men tokens, arrows markers, and a Leonardo token and a Lord of the City token with plastic stands. Each of these look nice and are very durable. The Leonardo token is held by the player that acts first each round and the Lord of the City token… well it isn’t mentioned other than in the set-up. An actual error. The token is supposed to be used to highlight which area of the board is being resolved.

The game also comes with 3 decks of cards: two mini-European sized decks that make up the money and resources and one standard-American sized deck for the inventions.

Leonardo da Vinci

Resource and Florin Cards

The resource cards are color coded and have symbols on them so they are easy to read. The Florin cards are adequate, but color coding these would have added a little more appeal to them. They did color code the 5 zero florin cards – one for each player to use for bluffing – so they had the ability and chose not to do the rest of the cards. The backs of both sets of cards have a self portrait of Leonardo, a nice touch.
Leonardo da Vinci

Invention Cards

The invention cards contain all the important information needed for the players: how many weeks it takes to invent, what resources are needed, the invention type and the value of the invention. I really like these cards. The backs have a sketch of Leo’s Vitruvian Man. Sketches of each invention on the card fronts are made to look like they were done by Leonardo. The name of the invention, which really isn’t important to game play, is written on the card in Italian. But I’m happy to say they have a list of the invention names in English in the instructions. I generally look these up so I can proudly announce when I’ve just finished work on the Automatic Hammer (top right) or Burning Mirror (bottom left).

Speaking of the instructions, I’m not sure if they were written poorly to begin with or much was lost in translation or some of both. I will give them credit for the illustrations and examples in the instructions as these which definitely helped my understanding of the game. However, it took me a couple of read throughs and a solo play to figure out the basic game play. After I played, I hit up Board Game Geek to find the answer to a couple of questions and found out I played incorrectly. The game is actually fairly straightforward, but the instructions just don’t quite convey the simple mechanic.

For example, in the Worker Rules in the Assignment Phase section, the rules state:

Your mechanical men can only be placed in the designate spaces of your laboratories

But in the Employment Phase:

Important: you cannot take a mechanical man and save it to place later!

So one section seems to imply the mechanical man is placed like a worker and another states the opposite. Fortunately the designers put out an FAQ which addresses this and other issues.

Overall, I felt like they paid extra attention to detail in some areas: insert, invention cards and card board quality, but missed the target on others: art on the game board, box quality and rules. However, I think the pros out weigh the cons for the components. Leonardo da Vinci is well worth the $10 I spent and not only for the components; the game is enjoyable too.

Inside the Box: Tobago

January 16, 2010

Inside the Box is an in-depth look at the contents of a board game. It covers the quality, quantity, and aesthetic value of what is found inside the game box.

I first saw images of Tobago posted on BoardGameGeek and I instantly had to learn more about this great looking game. Tobago is a treasure hunt game. Each player narrows down the location of any of 4 possible treasures on the island. Once it is found they drive over in their ATV and raise the treasure. It’s been a hit with everyone I’ve played with and, like I’ll explain, looks great.



The box is of standard quality and does the job. The cover art shows an Indiana Jones-like character and his companion hunting for treasure. It gives a feeling of adventure.

Inside the box is a plastic insert that holds all of the components – most of them neatly in place. There is a spot for the amulets, palm tree and statue tokens, cards and board. My only complaint with the insert is the large bin that holds the rest of the small bits and tokens – which there are a lot of and need to be sorted each time you play. I highly recommend picking up 8 little plastic bags to store the 4 player and 4 treasure tokens in separately.

The board is actually 6 pieces: three double sided sections of island and three clamps. This allows for 32 different island layouts. The clamps do a nice job of holding the board together and also serve as a place to set the cards and amulets while playing. The island itself is made of hexes that are broken into different terrain types: lakes, mountains, jungle, etc. Most of the hexes are very simply done with just a few little details, like shells and crabs on the beach, that add some interest.


Rules, Set-up Guide/Player Aid and Cardboard Tokens

The set-up guide is clear and concise. The rules on the other hand are cluttered. There are plenty of examples of game-play and diagrams of how things work, but these immediately follow each basic action and make the game seem more complicated than it actually is. The first page could have simply listed the basic rules and actions while the other pages cover them in more detail with examples.


Clue Cards


Treasure Cards

There are two small decks cards. The clue card deck consist of symbols that show where the treasure can or cannot be. In the image above, the top left card shows the treasure is not in a lake while the top right tells us the treasure is within 2 hexes of a statue. The other deck makes up the treasure. Each card has a certain victory point value, from 2-6, except two curse cards. The meaning of any card can be determined clearly from the effective illustrations.


Player and Landmark Tokens

The tokens are where this game shines. They really did a great job of paying close attention to detail with these. There are 5 different kinds of tokens included in the game:
Site Markers:These are small wooden blocks of 4 different colors: black, gray, white and brown. These are used to note the possible locations of each of the 4 treasures on the map.
ATV: The all-terrain vehicle (or ‘jeeple’ as I’ve seen it called) is the player token. These wooden tokens have been painted in four bright colors which are easy to distinguish. There is a windshield and front grill painted on the ATVs which give them a great look. You can’t help driving these around the island as if they were actually traversing the terrain.
Huts: These along with the palm trees and statues act as additional landmarks in the island. Simple, wooden, brown shapes, but effective.
Palm Trees: These are great tokens. They are wood and carved beautifully. Notches in the trunk give it texture. The details in the palm leaf make the trees come to life.
Statues: And the best token in the game are the statues. As well as being another landmark, the gaze of the statue is where amulets wash ashore to the island. These are ceramic and give the statue weight. The texture and color make them feel like they were carved from stone centuries ago.

Other than a few minor criticisms of the rules and storage, this game looks amazing. The game is fun to play, but I think part of the appeal is the great game components. They make the game fun to look at the get your hands on.

Game Design: Research

December 8, 2009

It’s a common gripe among the contributors to this blog: we don’t have enough time to pursue our hobbies. This has been especially true in the last few months, as Russ and I juggle graduate school and full-time jobs. As Russ previously mentioned, there is a correlation between how complex life is and what corresponding games get to the table. Two weeks, I ran myself ragged planning lessons and grading papers at work so that I could go off to my four-day Thanksgiving vacation without any work obligations. During the vacation, I spent a lot of time riding in a car to see my in-laws and extended family. This allowed me the time to do a bit of leisure reading, which I used doing some research for a game I’d like to design someday.

I am loathe to disclose any details about this game right now, but I am working with a historical period which has remained virtually untapped for board game ideas. There are all sorts of possibilities about what type of game could come out of this. I’d like to  sporadically update where I am at in the whole process of game design, but also to describe some of the successes and failures that others might find helpful in their own design process. I have found relatively few resources which describe the process (but if you have found some, please post links!).

The first step in the process is, of course, research. I am working on a political/war game, so this was the obvious place to start. I contacted an acquaintance who is a native of the region in which my game will be set, and who has also earned a PhD in a related academic field (history). This correspondence yielded a few book titles which I am slowly working my way through. I am also lucky enough to be working with a time period that has a recognized book which is considered the “definitive history” of the era. That alone is a huge help.

As I work my way through these books, I am highlighting and taking notes in the margins, focusing on key decision points (where things could have easily gone very differently) and personalities. Every few days, I try to gather my thoughts in a notebook, describing possible mechanics, maps, titles, etc. When thinking about a historical game, there is a natural tension between “the events as they happened” and “things that might have been.” After all, a game needs to be true to history in some respects but also fun and balanced! I’m looking carefully at games that have done a good job of this–Twilight Struggle being a good example. Every time I play that game, I can look at the map afterward and say, “Well, that’s not exactly how it played out in the Cold War, but I can see how that might have happened.”

I hope to update every few months on the process, and once I’ve narrowed down the exact theme of the game, reveal exactly what it is I’m working on.

Inside the Box: Conquest of Paradise

December 5, 2009

Inside the Box is an in-depth look at the contents of a board game. It covers the quality, quantity, and aesthetic value of what is found inside the game box.

Conquest of Paradise is a light game of civilization building in the Pacific Ocean circa 500 A.D. I first played it at the 2009 WBC, when the designer, Kevin McPartland, introduced it to a small group of us. I really enjoy this game’s exploration mechanics, and managed to pick it up for $16.00.

The contents of the game.

The box is sturdy and appealing, boasting a textured linen finish very different from GMT‘s usual high-gloss finish, and a beautiful painting of a Polynesian canoe. The back of the box shows off a few of the counters and boasts that you can “learn in 15 minutes and play in 60-90.” Now I learned how to play this game in 15 minutes, but that because the designer was teaching me.

The box is crammed with items, including a short rulebook and designer’s notebook, both printed in black-and-white. In my opinion, the rules are rather poorly written and organized. For instance:

A player’s Movement and Battle Step may begin with a Transit pre-move. If you have a Transport Canoe Chain, you may move as many of your Playing Pieces (Colonies, Warrior Bands, Transport Canoes, War Canoes, and Rumors) along it as far as you wish. Transport Canoe Chains have an unlimited capacity during Transit. However, any Transport Canoes serving as part of the Chain may not themselves move during this stage. A Transport Canoe Chain is simply a line of FACE UP Transport Canoes, with one Canoe in EVERY hex..(p. 5).

In the example above, the term “Transport Canoe Chain” is used before it is defined, which leaves the reader wondering, “Um, is this going to get defined?” Only a few sentences later do we learn what the heck it is. The designer’s handbook is pretty neat, however; it gives a concise explanation of every island and event in the game and how they are important to Polynesian history.  One thing sorely lacking in all this is an extended example of play, though.

The four player aids are printed on thick paper in black-and-white. They’re functional, but don’t draw the eye at all. Last, it seems there were a few items left out in the original print run because GMT’s Web site includes updated PDF copies.

27 “Arts and Culture” cards come with the game. These are standard GMT fare: an eye-catching, glossy back and clean text with functional illustrations on the front. I immediately put them in protective sleeves, as the glossy finish tends to get nicked and start to come off after a few shuffles.

Sample cards.

The game comes with two sheets of square cardboard counters (310 counters in all), and two sheets of large hexagonal cardboard map tiles. The map tiles are easy to punch out, hanging loose like Settlers of Catan tiles, but the square ones require more care. In my copy, they did not punch out easily, requiring the use of a thin box cutting blade and a nailclipper to cut off hanging corners. It was a pain, but I’ve had similar problems with some other GMT games. The art on the counters themselves is adequate, but not beautiful. One gripe I have is that the green and yellow players’ chits are so light in tone as to be almost indistinguishable except under bright direct light. This will cause problems for players with poor eyesight (like myself).

One half of the game's counters.

The map itself is thick cardstock along the lines of the original Twilight Struggle or Commands and Colors: Ancients board; it’s functional, but won’t grab someone’s attention from across the room. It requires the use of Plexi-glass or a poster frame, with the hexagonal map tiles laid on top.

Overall, I’d say the components are pretty middle of the road for a war game, and that Euro gamers will be a little disappointed with them. All the colors on the pieces and map are slightly washed out, when you’d think that a game about the Polynesian islands would be full of lush vegetative greens and deep ocean blues.

For $16.00, I can’t complain too much, however! The rules are short (though a bit difficult to read) and the game itself is pretty simple. Whatever small complaints I have with the components, I’m looking forward to sending out my canoes full of colonists and warriors and conquering paradise.

Party Game: Bowls!

October 29, 2009

About two years ago, our friend Rose introduced us to a party game we call Bowls! As far as I know, it’s not commercially available, although someone reading this may know of similar games (if so, please leave a comment). This game works very well with large groups of people (we’ve played it with as few as six and as many as 18).

Game Type: Party–a mixture of Catchphrase, Memory, and Charades
Items Needed: A large bowl, a fistful of pencils or pens, and several slips of paper (about Post-It note size).

Setup: Everyone sits in a circle. You’ll need an even number of players. The person sitting directly across from you is your partner. Each person takes a slip of paper and a pencil and writes down five nouns. They may be common nouns (dog, chair) or proper nouns (Darth Vader, Pope John Paul II). Fold your slip in half and set it in the bowl.

BowlsRound 1: The first player takes a slip out of the bowl. Start a 30-second timer. In the time allotted, the person must get his/her partner to say all five nouns on the slip in order. The player may only use words to coax the partner into saying the correct nouns. If the player accidentally lets a word slip which is part of the noun, drop the slip and grab another one. No rhyming is allowed, nor is spelling the noun out, or gesturing with one’s hands. If the player’s partner gets all five nouns in order, take that slip out of the bowl. If the timer runs out before all five nouns are said, drop the slip back into the bowl. Once the timer rings, hand the bowl to the next player. Go around and around the circle until all slips are out of the bowl. Each pair of players scores one point per slip.

Round 2: Once scoring for Round 1 is complete, put all slips of paper back into the bowl. In this round, you do the same thing, with one exception. When a player is trying to get his or her partner to guess the nouns on the slip of paper, he or she is only allowed use two words to coax the partner into saying the word. If in round one, you said, “Um, he was the last head of the Catholic Church and he was Polish!” you would now only be allowed to say “Catholic! Polish!” If your partner does not understand the two-word clue, too bad! You’re probably out of luck this time around. Take score at the end of the round.

Round 3: Once scoring for Round 2 is complete, put all slips of paper back into the bowl. In this final round, you are not allowed to use words or sounds. Instead, you must get your partner to guess each of the five nouns in order by pantomiming that noun. So for Pope John Paul II, you might make the sign of the cross and pretend to put a mitre on your head. Once the round is complete, score each pair. The team with the most points over the three successive rounds wins. If there is a tie between two teams, share in your victory.

In our circle of friends, we have some really competitive Bowls! players (me included!). This is a fun party game, and depending on the size of your group, it will take 45-90 minutes to play. Be prepared to laugh!

Inside the Box – World at War: Eisenbach Gap

August 12, 2009

Inside the Box is an in-depth look at the contents of a board game. It covers the quality, quantity, and aesthetic value of what is found inside the game box.

I think it was the attack helicopter on the cover that caught my attention. The Hind made the  10-year-old GI Joe-collecting boy in me go crazy. So, if I sound a bit excited when describing the tanks and helicopters in World at War: Eisenbach Gap, I hope you can forgive me.

Eisenbach Gap Contents

Eisenbach Gap Contents

The box itself is very appealing. It constructed of white cardboard and the printed cover is subtly textured. The benefit is a box with the resiliency of a glossy cover without the glossy look. Lock ‘n Load Publishing claims it’s beer resistant, but I haven’t tested that. Something about wasting beer and risking my signed box cover doesn’t sit well with me. The box is also large enough that expansions like Death of the 1st Panzer easily fit inside.

One last comment about the box; I love the artwork. The old photos are subtly manipulated  with color to create a high contrast piece that really works well.

Inside the box, there is a letter from Mark H. Walker–the game designer and publisher–rule book, two player aids, four dice, two sheets of punch out counters, and a mounted map.

The letter is one of those personal touches that I always appreciate. Mark vouches for the the game and asks for any feedback you may have. He also hopes you have great fun with the game.

The rule book is printed on fairly think paper with a heavy-stock semi-gloss cover. Despite only having ten pages of rules and six scenarios, the rule book feels solid. It definitely is something you can open, pass around the table, and know it isn’t going to fall apart. Inside, illustrations are kept to a minimum. They consist of blow ups of the counters for reference.

The writing style if refreshing. This is perhaps the only rule book I’ve read in the last year that has make me chuckle. The rules themselves are fairly clear and can be adjudicated using common sense, but it is passages like this that make me smile:

Any ONE unit within range of a helicopter, […] can opportunity fire on the helicopter after the helicopter conducts its attack, but before the damage is assessed. Both units […] then assess the damage simultaneously, allowing them to destroy each other in a true Hollywood moment.

However, I have two complaints about the rule book. First, there is no example turn. The game doesn’t necessarily need it, but it is always helpful when learning the game for the first time. And, second, it doesn’t give a counter manifest. Considering the number of games out in the World at War series, it would be nice to know which counters belong to which game and know you haven’t lost any.

The two player aids are double-sided and printed on the same heavy-stock, semi-gloss paper as the rule book cover. On one side it lists all the terrain modifiers. The other lists moving fire modifiers and helicopter line of sight. The tables are big, easy to read, and use shaded rows to good effect. The only thing I would add to the aid is a sequence of play chart.

Also inside are four squared-edge white dice. There’s not much to say about the dice. They are of standard quality and get the job done. However, it would have been nice to see two more. There are enough situations where six dice are rolled in one attack or defense that the extra two would have been really handy.

According to Board Game Geek, there are 136 5/8″ counters. I haven’t counted them, but it sounds about right. Here’s where the artist, Olivier Revenu, deserves a pat on the back. The counters are great to look at. The AFV (armored fighting vehicles) are surprisingly detailed without being messy looking. The numbers, despite being small, are easy to read in part because they are outlined in a contrasting color.

The counters are double-sided. There is a full-strength side identified by a tan band and a reduced strength side marked by a white band. The contrast between the two is great enough a player can tell unit strength at a glance. And despite being red-green color blind, the Soviet red and American green is different enough I haven’t had any problems telling the two apart.

Still, the counters aren’t without fault. The game could have used more status and artillery markers. I hear this problem has been rectified in Blood and Bridges so at least it is good to see a publisher learning from past mistakes. Also, punching out the counters can tear at their corners slightly. If I get another World at War game, I’ll use an Exacto blade to score or cut through the corners to get cleaner counters. As it was, I just used a finger nail clipper to clean up the counters and they look pretty good.

The last item in the box is the mounted map and it is great. The board that the map is mounted on reminds me of a very dense foam board. It creates a thick, stable playing surface–no need for a sheet of Plexiglass to cover the surface and hold it flat. The terrain is easy to identify and, except for the shadows that point to the Southeast, instead of Northeast, (this is the Northern hemisphere after all), it is very attractive.

My map did have one flaw. There was a thin streak of what look like dried adhesive, creating a line in the open plains South of Eisenburg. I tried rubbing it off, but just removed some of the green ink instead. Fortunately, the printing flaw and my rubbing don’t affect the ability to use the map in play.

Overall, I’m very impressed with the artwork, design, and production values of World at War: Eisenbach Gap. Opening the box and setting up the game has made me excited to command infantry, tanks, and helicopters in a 1985 Cold War gone hot.