FTW Staff Picks - BANG! The Dice Game April 18 2018

For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new. 

BANG! The Dice Game

Genre: Social Deduction

Designer: Michael Palm, Lukas Zach

Player Size: 3 to 8 Players

Game Length: 15 minutes

For fans of: Avalon, Shadow Hunters, Werewolf

The original BANG! was one of the few semi-cooperative, social deduction games that I couldn't get into. It felt like the game aspect took too much priority over the social aspect. BANG! The Dice Game takes the essence of BANG! and simplifies it for quick engagement. Before diving headfirst into something as confrontational as Avalon, BANG! The Dice Game is an alternative for more friendlier competition. 

In BANG! The Dice Game, players are randomly given a secret role to begin the game: Sheriff, Deputy, Outlaw or Renegade. Only the Sheriff reveals their role at the start, while the rest remain hidden. The Sheriff and his Deputies win the game if all Outlaws are eliminated from the game. The Outlaws win the game if the Sheriff is eliminated. And the Renegade simply wants to be the last one standing. Each turn the current player will roll the 5 dice. The different faces on the dice allow the current player to attack, heal and anger the Natives. Attacking is limited to players to the immediate right and left, or two players away. Once a player loses all of their health they are eliminated from the game. Once one of the factions win condition has been satisfied the game is over!

Each player is given a special ability to coincide with their role. The different abilities are balanced through different maximum healths. The stronger the ability, the lower the health cap. Most of the game relies on deceiving the various players in the game. At some point it will be beneficial to earn the trust of the Sheriff. Similar to Shadow Hunters, revealing your intentions early can be beneficial to your team. But at the end of the day, timing is everything. Each of the 3 factions are fun to play as, and the Renegade's win condition makes it feel like a true challenge. 

Not everyone can be a good liar, and BANG! The Dice Game is a good introduction to deception games, because you don't have to be a good liar to enjoy it. None of the factions suffer from having players who are too passive or easy-to-read. Because of that, BANG! The Dice Game is an excellent game to bring out when you want something like Werewolf or Avalon but want to maintain a lighter atmosphere to your gaming session. 




Most Anticipated Games - April 2018 Edition April 11 2018

Each month at For The Win Board Game Cafe, we take a look at a few future releases that we're really excited about. From new games, to expansions, to Kickstarters we'll be covering it all monthly. 

Ultimate Werewolf Legacy

Werewolf has been around so long it has seen so many various interpretations. From the recent popular One Night Ultimate Werewolf to the online PC game, Town of Salem - people everywhere are keeping this classic relevant. So it should be no surprise to anyone that Werewolf is the latest to hop on the Legacy trend with Ultimate Werewolf Legacy

I always felt like adding a narrative element to Werewolf would be a great way to expand the universe and the Legacy format is the perfect way to implement that. The game comes with an 80+ page diary for the moderator to keep track of everything. Unlike most Legacy games which are limited to 4-5 player caps, Werwolf gives you the chance to play a Legacy game with 8 to 16 players. They are also planning to sell replay packs that add new Families and Stories.


Ultimate Werewolf Legacy is scheduled for release August 2018. 


Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar

The award for "game that looks like a complete nightmare to setup and subsequently put-away" goes to Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar. If you've ever played some of the classic iterations of The Game of LIFE you know exactly what I mean. I mean sure it looks really cool when it's setup but good look convincing your friends to stick around to put it away.

But onto the actual game itself, Fireball Island is actually a restoration of a 1986 board game. They've replaced the dated "roll-to-move" mechanic with some cards to give more control. They added some light RPG elements to the game and kept some of the random surprises. It looks like a phenomenal family game!

Click here to visit the Kickstarter project page. Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar will be available for Kickstarter backers in November 2018


Blue Lagoon

Blue Orange Games has a new project in the works with the always popular Reiner Knizia. Still very much a work-in-progress the game was recently demoed at Spielwarenmesse 2018. Given Blue Orange Games library, you can expect a very light-strategy game that will likely cater to the Family genre. The Polynesian setting will no doubt draw a lot of attention from fans of Moana. We could be looking at a potential Spiel des Jahres nominee.


Blue Lagoon will be available Q4 2018.

Thanos Rising: Avengers Infinity War

It's April, and we'd be remiss to remind you that Avengers season is upon us. There is no shortage of hype for Infinity War, so naturally we have a tabletop game coming to capitalize on it. Thanos Rising: Avengers Infinity War is a fully cooperative dice & card game for 2 to 4 players where players recruit heroes to go up against Thanos and his forces. 

Let's be completely honest here, given that this is a USAopoly title. This game is probably not going to be that good. But I'm sure it'll hit clearance racks at Wal-Mart and Chapters and eventually be a good bargain. It's a cash-in title, but we're entitled to it considering the season. 


Thanos Rising: Avengers Infinity War should be in stores by the time the movie releases in late April.


Street Fighter: The Miniatures Game

From one licensed product to another, we bring you Street Fighter: The Miniatures Game. When I heard about this one, I figured they would borrow a few things from BattleCON: Devastation of Indines. After all, that game was pretty much a 2D fighter in tabletop form. But instead, it appears we're getting some sort of tactics game. A bizarre choice considering the source material, but let's see how it goes. 

The miniatures look phenomenal if nothing else. They even come pre-painted. Fans of the franchise will no doubt be among the targeted audience for this one. The game will support Versus Mode, Free For All and Boss Mode. Similar to the Mega Man game that was on Kickstarter recently, this one seems like a love letter to all Street Fighter fans. 

Click here to visit the Kickstarter page. Herbalism ships to backers in March 2018.



FTW Staff Picks - Machi Koro April 11 2018

For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new. 

Machi Koro

Genre: City Building

Designer: Masao Suganuma

Player Size: 2 to 4 Players

Game Length: 40 minutes

For fans of: CATAN, Dominion, Lords of Vegas

Playing Machi Koro always feels like playing inside on a roulette table. You know how odds and probabilities work. and yet you still make greedy decisions that tend to blow up in your face. Machi Koro is kind of like the marriage between 2 popular modern classics, CATAN and Dominion. While I prefer the game with its Harbor expansion, I thought it was more important to highlight the original as it was the catalyst to many things. Before there was Oink Games and its various imported Japanese titles, there was Machi Koro

In Machi Koro, players are competing newly-appointed mayors, racing to complete 4 Landmark buildings to appease their citizens. Each player begins with a Wheat Field and a Bakery. Each turn plays out in 3 phases. First, the current player rolls a die (or dice). Second, the players whose buildings match the rolled number collect income. Finally, the current player has the opportunity to buy one new building OR complete one of their Landmark buildings. Blue buildings activate regardless of who rolls, Green buildings only activate for the current player, Red buildings only activate when someone other than the owner rolls and the Purple buildings are the same as Green, but each player may only own 1 Purple. Players continue until one player completes their last Landmark. That player is declared the winner of the game!

It may seem obvious to target 6, 7 and 8 as they are the most frequently rolled numbers on a pair of dice. But the progression of the game makes it so that players who wish to capitalize on these numbers must first build smaller, associated buildings. For example, the Cheese Factory (7) and Furniture (8) Factory score points depending on how many Ranches (2) or Mines (5) and Forests (9) that player owns, respectively. This along with the Landmark bonuses, provide just enough varieties in strategy to keep the game unpredictable. Plus, as always you are at the mercy of the dice. 

The Harbor expansion of Machi Koro adds the ability to randomize the available buildings and limit it to 10 at a time. This to me, makes the game more interesting than just players building popular strategies, when all the cards are available. To anyone considering Machi Koro I would say its nearly necessary to keep the game re-playable for a long time. I've never been a fan of CATAN, so Machi Koro has completely replaced that game for me. It's more enjoyable and can be played in far less time. So next time your group thinks to play CATAN, maybe consider its long-lost, Japanese sibling.



Most Anticipated Games - March 2018 Edition March 01 2018

Each month at For The Win Board Game Cafe, we take a look at a few future releases that we're really excited about. From new games, to expansions, to Kickstarters we'll be covering it all monthly. 

Ice Cool 2

I always felt that a game like Ice Cool would benefit greatly from adding more players. Enter Ice Cool 2. With its own rooms and different school setup, the sequel to the popular dexterity game is adding more penguins and more fish to collect. And if players own both copies they can expand the player count to 8 players and create a mega-school. There's even an added mode for Racing. Watch out Pitchcar, there's a new challenger!

Ice Cool 2 is scheduled for release Q3 2018. 

Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr

While many may not consider tabletop and card games as mediums to tell stories, that isn't stoping a few brave souls from trying. Like photography, prose and music - board games too are art. And Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr hopes to add a level of maturity to the storytelling of board games. 

Holding On is actually a cooperative worker placement game, probably not the genre most people were expecting when discovering its premise. There's a lot of potential here, and there's an equal chance that the game falls entirely flat. But I admire those who are up to the task.

Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr will be available in Q4 2018.


Decrypto is a game where two teams attempt to race in order to crack their coded message before the opposing team. From the looks and sounds of it, Decrypto is borrowing from games such as Codenames and Mastermind - which is good company to be in. The artwork and style of the game are really well done. I think this one will be a big hit with gamers who enjoy puzzle-focused, competitive party games.

Decrypto will be available by April 2018

Robin Hood and the Merry Men

It's honestly a bit of a surprise there are such few Robin Hood-themed games out on the market. It feels like it would lend well to many genres thematically. Robin Hood and the Merry Men is a semi-cooperative, worker placement game. Each player will have their best interests at heart, but will have to add a bit of diplomacy to their play in order to gain timely advantages. 

Click here to visit the Kickstarter page. Robin Hood and the Merry Men ships to backers in November 2018.

Chronicles of Crime

That's right, this week we've got two Kickstarter titles for you guys. Chronicles of Crime looks to bring a new depth of innovation to the cooperative mystery genre. The game offers 6 scenarios out of the box which is a sizeable amount compared to other similar games on the market. But the real twist comes in the VR element. Players will have to investigate VR crime scenes for clues. The scenes will be available through the companion app. 

The designers have added what they call "Scan & Play" - a feature which allows elements of the game to be linking to individual QR codes. This allows for new scenarios to be built by new authors and adds a level of re-playability that games like T.I.M.E. Stories simply can't offer.

Click here to visit the Kickstarter page. Chronicles of Crime ships to backers in December 2018.



Our Favourite Games of 2017 - The Ten December 15 2017

Let's be honest, 2016 was not a stellar year for tabletop games. There were a few standouts, but overall it felt like a down year for the hobby. I'm happy to say that 2017 has been a very exciting year for gamers. Each month was full of fun releases, and in most cases the hype was met by stellar games. 

People like tend to discuss whether board games are just a fad, or if they're here to stay. I'm happy to say that as long as the industry's output resembles 2017 as a whole, the hobby is here to stay and continue to make waves. Not just for the casual or hardcore, but also everything in between. So without further ado - our 10 favourite games of 2017.

10) Magic Maze 

If you've ever played Escape!: The Curse of The Temple you know just how chaotic a real-time cooperative game can be. Now imagine playing Escape! without being able to verbally communicate - that's Magic Maze. It's got a bit of a Hanabi-vibe with how heavily you rely on the entire group thinking and moving as one mind. It can be very frustrating at times, but when you get into a groove everything feels right. 


9) Dice Forge

If a game brings a sound mechanical engine with ambitious visual design, you can almost bet on it making our end-of-the-year list. Dice Forge is the result of an artist and designer having a specific vision combined with a publisher who trusts them. Together they've created the best overall package of the year. And while the game could use an injection of additional modules to add more variety, Dice Forge lays down a solid foundation.


8) Unlock!

This year saw several "escape room" type games hit the market. And considering how big and bloated the actual escape room market is (especially in Toronto), it should come as no surprise. When it comes to designing puzzles for an escape, there's a certain level of elegance that you need to approach it with. They can't be too hard, but they also need to feel rewarding. And while Unlock! isn't perfect in its solutions, it usually feels fair. And it does genuinely feel good when you reach the end, which all you can really ask for.

7) Star Wars: Destiny

Over the course of its first full year on shelves, Star Wars: Destiny has produced 4 sets of products alongside a ready-to-play, two-player box. With every collectible game, the goal is always longevity. Keep the players engaged and communities strong, so that they will always be looking forward for what's to come. And while still in its infancy, the signs point towards Star Wars: Destiny having a big impact on the hobby. 

Perhaps the biggest factor to their success has been how easy it is to pickup and play. Without anything resembling a stack for resolving effects in Magic: the Gathering, the gameplay is streamlined to make everything easy to understand. With a low barrier to entry, they can capture the casual Star Wars fans and hopefully transform them into more competitive gamers. 

6) Captain Sonar

Captain Sonar reminds me of the team-building exercises I would do as a freshman in high school and university. It requires a particular mindset going in and a very specific (and demanding) table setup. But when everything comes together, Captain Sonar quickly becomes one of the best table top experiences you can have. 

The frenetic, real-time pace, combined with the focus on the task at hand produces both a difficult and hilarious challenge. The guys behind the popular Spaceteam phone app also tried their hand at a tabletop game, but make no mistake, Captain Sonar is the truest adaptation to that game. 

5) Century: Spice Road

Announcing a table top trilogy before selling a single copy of a game that was already delayed numerous times and eventually re-structured, after getting dropped by the original publisher is perhaps one of the boldest moves a young designer could make. Combine that with the fact that Century: Spice Road was already being hailed by Tom Vasel (the largest online persona in the industry) as the Splendor-killer. The narrative was quickly setting up into what could have been the one of the biggest board game busts ever. But as soon as gamer's finally got their hands on Century: Spice Road all that tension dissipated. 

4) Braintopia

It came very early in the year, so it's easy to forget but Braintopia quickly became of the most played games at For The Win Cafe. Ghost Blitz and Anomia have always been favourites here and Braintopia is the beautiful marriage of those two games. Games that test reaction speed are fun because they immediately pit players in tense situations without having to build up to it. Braintopia is now our favourite game to suggest as a warmup. It even makes for a great stocking stuffer, for anyone looking for last minute gifts!

3) Santorini

If you told me a year ago that I'd be singing high praise for a new abstract game in 2017, I would have called you crazy. But Santorini has rightfully earned its place among the elite two-player games. And while you could argue its aesthetic is what even procured any interest to begin with, it was a very intelligent decision to get the game onto tables. The design is what caught my eye, but I stick around for the interesting depths of variety and strategies. 

2) Clank! In! Space!

Clank! In! Space! is more than just a fresh coat of paint. As we played Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure, I couldn't help but feel it was an almost perfect game in terms of my personal preferences. With the minor changes introduced in Clank! In! Space! I feel like this is a game that could sustain my interest for a while.

The game is strong at making players feel in control, while still offering up enough twists that will keep you on your toes at all times. Plotting out a strategy in Clank! In! Spaceis only worthwhile if you are willing to make audibles. And most impressively, the game manages greed better than any I've ever played. 

1) Pandemic Legacy: Season 2

Two years ago, Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 was dubbed our #2 favourite game of 2015. Not to be denied again, Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 is firmly our #1 favourite game of 2017 and it was never even in question. As soon as we completed the game (in less than a week), I was ready to crown it the year's champion. It's not a slight to the other incredible games on this list, but more-so a testament to just how good Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 is. 

Anytime you are building a sequel to anything with high acclaim and great fanfare, you put your reputation at risk. Think about all the great movies you love that had less than stellar followups (The Matrix, The Mask, Robocop). It may seem like a guaranteed cash-in, but it's never that easy. And following the mess that was Seafall, Rob Daviau had a lot to makeup for. And instead of taking the easy way out and making a game that begins as Pandemic and only slightly deviates from that formula, Season 2 takes risks from the very first game. And it continues to deliver more and more twists and turns that make the whole experience feel very rewarding. 

There is no guarantee there will be a Season 3, but given how stellar the first two have been I would lean towards it being an almost sure-thing. We can't wait!