Components: Detailed miniatures and quality cardboard, and while the card stock is nice it could be thicker.

Game Setup: Game setup is variable based on player count. There are several map scenarios included in the game and there is a section on making your own maps. Setup is not quick, but its not overly long for a game like this either. Plan on at least 10 or 15 minutes.

Mechanics: Deck building, tableau building, variable powers.

Game Play: Activate a row and column of your city to gather resources and use powers. Move your army to conquer lands, build new buildings, research new tech.

Last Word: We *really* enjoyed out time with Monumental. Its a nice combination of a civ game and a deck builder. VPs are awarded at the end based on 4 different criteria and ignoring any of them is not advised. The mechanics mesh together nicely and its nice to play a civ game that doesn’t take all day but still feels finished when its all over. If you are like us you will want to sleeve your cards though as we plan to play it quite a few times.

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Tang Garden

Components: Excellent component quality with thick cardboard and nicely sculpted plastic bits. Beautiful art that captures the theme nicely.

Game Setup: Rules were clear and setup took about 10 minutes our first time. Subsequent setups probably in the 5 minute range.

Mechanics: Tile laying, special powers, set collection.

Game Play: Choose a tile to place to construct point scoring opportunities for yourself, choose characters to define how you will score points, and activate special powers,

Last Word: Scoring by line-of-sight is a unique mechanic that plays out really neat. There isn’t a lot like Tang Garden out there for this reason alone. Its easy and fun to play as well as a different twist on tile laying games and the bling really makes it look pretty while its on the table. We’re looking forward to subsequent plays of the base game and also adding the expansions.  

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Crown of Emara

Components: Stand issue components that you’d expect from a major publisher. Nice art that fits the theme.

Game Setup: Setup wasn’t hard and took about 10 minutes. Rules were clear.

Mechanics: Resource management, hand management, area control, Rondell.

Game Play: Manipulate the dual Rondells to maximize your worker placement and resource collection.

Last Word: Pretty standard medium-weight Euro fare. Everything worked fine and its a solid design. That said it fell kinda flat over here and really did not move us. Again, its a perfectly fine design and I can see how people like it. In fact, we did like it fine enough. It just did not set itself apart from the 1000’s of other games we already own in this category. Not sure it will see the table again. YMMV on this one.

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Lockup: A Role Player Tale

Components: Good components with some nice touches like the “glass” cubes for power and suspicion, and the jail cells on the tile holder. Good, fitting art.

Game Setup: Setup was easy – 5 minutes.

Mechanics: Resource management, hand management, area control, hidden auction, bidding, variable player powers, set collections, bluffing.

Game Play: Bid for control for areas that give rewards. Some bids are hidden and some are not. Use resources to craft items for points. Variable end-game scoring. Be careful not to attract too much attention when bidding or lose points.

Last Word: A clever bidding game with a fantasy RPG theme. Everything works well with this design and we found it to be very fun – so much that we wonder why there isn’t a bigger buzz around this game. Its probably too much for a gateway game but for any hobby gamer this is a easy play that returns a lot of fun if you like player interaction. For us this peaks out the gaming ROI meter and we’re keeping our copy in easy reach for when we have a quick hour to play something that hums along nicely but is still big fun. Also good any any player count – its hard to get a 2 player auction/bidding/bluffing game to work this well. Thunderworks has a solid title on their hands with this one!

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Frontier Wars

Components: Average quality components for a game of this caliber. Nothing unexpected. That’s a good thing more or less. There are a few ambiguous areas in the rules but its nothing terrible.

Game Setup: Our first setup took about 10 minutes for one of the starting scenarios.

Mechanics: Resource management, hand management, action points, rock-paper-scissors, area control.

Game Play: Advance through multiple game phases taking alternating turns between players. Construct structures, make units, move units, evoke battles, score objectives, check for a winner.

Last Word: There isn’t a lot in the above categories to tell you how great this little game is. This is likely to fire Memoir 44 for us. The rock-paper-scissors mechanic for battles is not the standard issues RPS – its a unique twist of initiative and strength that is super simple but puts a lot of emphasis on battle planning. Is it “revolutionary”? Actually, maybe. We find gaming ROI very high with this title. If you like Memoir 44 but would like quicker game play and little more strategic battle outcomes this may be for you.

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On Mars

Components: Amazing components and fitting art. Great storage and game box as well. First rate all-around.

Game Setup: Our first setup took about 35 minutes. Subsequent setups will be quicker and easier but still I can’t see the setup being less than 15 minutes.

Mechanics: Resource management, engine building, variable player powers, supply and demand, action selection, tile laying.

Game Play: Place your workers and choose when to ride the shuttle to and from orbit and the colony to choose from a different set of actions. Build basic and advanced structures, increase your worker pool, advance your tech tree, recruit scientists.

Last Word: A heavy game with tons of theme and interwoven options, there isn’t anything like On Mars out there to compare it to. While its very heavy its design makes it seem less heavy than it is and the bigger picture starts to form as you make your way through your first play. With many paths to victory and so much interwoven choices and layers its quite the adventure to even figure out much less excel at. That said, we found it to be a fantastically fun adventure regardless of what the scores were at the end of the game. Since the time commitment on this is huge the gaming ROI might not be as great as the overall experience is though I can see cutting our playing time in half as we get more experience. If you like heavy games with lots of layers this is highly recommended.

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Atlantis Rising

Components: Atlantis Rising is a mixed bag concerning components. The deluxe components are fantastic, especially the crystal ones. However they did not include enough meeples of each color to play when using different player counts, which seems rather cheap. Also the rules leave a lot to be desired and are ambiguous in a lot of situations.

Game Setup: Our setup took 15 minutes. Building the main board, selecting components available to build, setting the library deck and the misfortune deck and adjustments for player count took some time.

Mechanics: Worker placement, variable player powers, resource management, dice-rolling, cooperative.

Game Play: Place workers, suffer misfortune, take worker actions, repeat until win or lose.

Last Word: Atlantis Rising is one of those coop games where the alpha gamer will prevail. Its nothing more than collecting and spending the required resources to build structures that are determined at game setup. For us, nothing is more boring than table-talk about who is going to collect resource A and who is going to collect resource B, etc. Think cooperative Stone Age where you roll dice to collect resources, which is fun risk mitigation in a competitive setting but for a coop game its tedious. This game might have value as a solitaire game and its probably much more enjoyable as an game app for a single player, but as a full presentation board game I’d skip this one unless you have grade-school age kids where this kind of simple cooperative planning is a constructive way to burn an hour plus.

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