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Embark

Components: Cubes and custom chits the quality you’ve come to expect from TMGs

Game Setup: Variable set up based on player count. Was nicely detailed in the rules set. Took 5 – 10 minutes the first time. Subsequent set ups will take half the time.

Mechanics: Hidden bidding, variable player powers, action selection, minor resource management

Game Play: Fast and easy simultaneous bidding with a clean up phase with some choices makes for a lighter and fun experience that plays as quickly with 5 players as it does with 2 players.

Last Word: We love games like this. Fast game play with some interesting choices but enough substance to make the game not really a filler.

Outlive

Components: While the component in Outlive are all punch-bits, they do a good job of keeping the quality high and the feel fun. The meat bits are little steaks shaped like steaks, the bullets are little bullets, etc.

Game Setup: Outlive is one of those game that looks way more complicated than it is due to the rules set being very detailed. Setup takes a bit but the manual outlines everything in simple manner and setup gave us no problems.

Mechanics: Resource management, action points, movement management.

Game Play: Fun and engaging. The movement management aspect where stronger ranked meeples shake-down lesser strength meeples on the space they move to is unique and like nothing we’ve seen before. Its fun to build and manage your shelter while competing for resources with rival camps. There is enough interaction to consider during each move but it never gets too mean.

Last Word: Its a unique title with some novel ideas with a not-too-long run-time. Its nothing that is going to change the industry and it won’t become a favorite title but we’re looking forward to subsequent plays of Outlive.

Nocturion

Components: Nocturion knocks it out of the ball park regarding components. Metal coins, player markers and resources along with resin and plastic miniatures make for pretty resources to gather. The board art fits the theme and it fantastic. The card art is lesser though.

Game Setup: Game setup isn’t the worst but the rules set is one of those pretty ambiguous situations so it took some re-reading to make sure we got it right. And still were not sure when we started.

Mechanics: Dice placement, resource management, variable player powers.

Game Play: The rules set is ambiguous in lots of ways so it was one of those things where every turn was filled with doubt as to if we were playing correctly. On top of that, there are clearly some translations issues, some errors, some commissions, and inconsistency when using terms (i.e. using the words “gather” and “harvest” when talking about getting resources, etc,). There was a lot of procedure each turn compared to the amount of meaningful choices as well.

Last Word: We don’t just like games here, we love them. Most reviews here will be relatively positive, or at least in that light. We did not even finish our game of Nocturion. They do have a few really neat ideas in the game but I can’t tell if they are half-baked, the execution is just off a bit which ruins the whole experience, or the rules set was so poor it did not properly convey important things we missed but it just was too lack luster to care anymore halfway through.

Rise to Nobility

Components: Excellent quality.

Game Setup: The setup instructions are detailed, easy to follow and setup took about 10 minutes.

Game Play: Interwoven levels of play. Dice placement is throttled and controls worker placement.

Mechanics: Dice placement, worker placement, resource management.

Summary: Think Alien Frontiers meets Lords of Waterdeep.

Last Word: Excellent production and game play. Our first play has us excited to buy the other game in the series that we previously decided not to acquire so that is saying something.

Carcassonne Hunters and Gatherers

Components: The usual standard meeple game quality. The art isn’t the greatest and in some tile configurations it can be difficult to tell what region is being outlined.

Game Setup: The setup instructions are detailed and easy to follow.  

Game Play: Similar to regular Carcassonne, of course.

Mechanics: Tile placement and worker placement.

Summary: If you’ve played regular Carcassonne you know the drill. There are some small differences in H&G’s though and they make the experience much more strategic without adding complexity.

Last Word: Hunters and Gatherers is the best alternate version of Carcassonne if you ask us. It works specifically well as a two player game.

Neom

Components: Nice quality. Good art but the color palate wasn’t the most vibrant and there is a lot to look at as you play so things seem to get washed together after a while.

Game Setup: The setup instructions are adequate. There is a bit of setup as tile counts chance depending on player count.

Game Play: Medium-light game play with some interesting risk-taking choices. Not a lot of player interaction but some is available. 

Mechanics: Tile selection and placement with some resource management.

Summary: Think Suburbia meets 7 Wonders but somehow not as good as either of those. The disaster/catastrophe tiles are really mean and unbalanced, especially in a two-player game. There is no one regular play in the game that can swing the victory point balance as much as a disaster tile does. I suppose its supposed to be a catch-up mechanic and there are steps players can take to mitigate the risk of disaster tiles but at the end of the day luck determines who may get reamed by a disaster, and those plays can decide who wins and who loses. No one likes to be on the business end of plays like that.

Last Word: Its an interesting tile laying game that’s easy and fun to play. We quit using the disaster tiles at least in 2-player games and that improved our experience quite a bit. There are better games out there that do what this does and they do it better as well. If you are big on Sim City type games you should check this out though.

Skulk Hollow

Components: Top-quality throughout the production. Art is fantastic and extra details are nice.

Game Setup: Setup instructions were easy to follow and setup was quick.

Game Play: Skulk Hollow is an interesting asymmetrical two-player game. How things play out is highly dependent on which monster of the four available 4 monsters is being played as each monster has different rules and abilities. The non-monster player also has a choice of which leader they are going to use for the game making for some dynamic changes in game play based on monster/leader combinations.

Mechanics: Action selection and hand management.

Summary: Top-notch gaming presentation with easy mechanics, plenty of choices, and solid game play with a shorter run time.

Last Word: If a head-to-head fight wrapped up in a cute presentation is what you are looking for, look no further. We rather enjoyed our time in Skulk Hollow and will visit plenty more times.