Sunday, September 4, 2016

Brides & Bribes by Spaceballoon Games, Reviewed by Jason Elliott from PaladinElliott Productions

Brides & Bribes by Spaceballoon Games, 

Reviewed by Jason Elliott from PaladinElliott Productions

What are the recommendations for this game?

Number of players: 3-5 Players

Time of game: 60-90 minutes (this can vary due to players learning the game)

Age recommendation: 12 and up

The back story:

This game transports you back to 16th Century Genoa, Italy (during the Renaissance), where families seek greater importance by arranging influential marriages, gaining influence, collecting wealth, and hiring workers. You will lead your family (choosing from Malabita, Granara, Foglietta, Carretto, and Oliva) and attempt to gain dowries and influence from ladies in waiting across the Cities' boroughs. You will pay attention to delegations (loyal members of your family) that need to be sent out across the Cities' boroughs, while at the same time competing with other players doing the same thing. If you do get a bride, you will need to safeguard against your betrothed being poisoned or assassinated! You will need to convince a lord of borough that you wield enough influence, and then convince the bride of your wealth, to secure your place in history.  Use everything you have and acquire to its fullest, and don't be afraid to undermine other players attempts at being the most influential family in Genoa!

What comes in the game? (this was based off of my print and play copy)

1 Rule Book

1 Game Round Book

1 Game Board (the city will be divided into five boroughs, denoted by colors red, blue, green, yellow, and black)

5 player residence boards (following the same colors denoted in the five boroughs)

24 workshop cards (these are the businesses you will need) and are broken into Apothecaries, Hospitals, Taverns, Jewelers, Notaries, and Tailor Shops (4 of each)

32 object cards (item cards) and are made up of 8 poisons, 7 antidotes, 5 wines, 4 rings, 4 Doge's Edicts, and 4 Luxury suits

69 Character tiles that are made up of 5 Lords, 7 First Brides, 7 Second Brides, 20 Loyal Characters, and 

30 Common Characters (these Common Characters will be divided into groups of six characters for each of the five boroughs)

55 Workers (meeples) that are 11 of each in the colors of the five boroughs

16 Coaches (these are what the delegations travel in) 3 of each of the five colors, and the 16th is a white coach to designate the first player token

15 Influence Tokens

42 Ducato Coins

10 Player Markers, where 5 of them would be cylinders (one of each color) to mark the Doge's Favor and 

5 of them (one of each color) mark your influence on the influence track

What is the end game objective? What am I striving for?

You will want to be the one with the highest influence if the game goes all six rounds. Otherwise you will want to be the one to reach the game winning influence first (this will vary based on the number of players). You will need obtain workers, who build your buildings and grant you additional items and support commons folk to help you gain influence, money and abilities. These items and common folk can help sway the marriage attempt, or thwart other player's attempts! You will need to capture influence wherever you can to get you to the victory threshold (20 influence points if there are 4 or 5 players, 25 influence points if there are 3 players, or otherwise whoever is highest at the end of the 6th round).

Remember these are the following ways to collect your influence (victory) points to win:

-have a successful arranged marriage to a first wife (make sure you pay attention to bonuses)

-have a successful arranged marriage to a second wife (make sure you pay attention to bonuses)

-collect influence from a borough

-gain influence due to workers building a workshop

-every 5 Ducato you have at the end is worth 1 influence

How do I set the game up? Where is that leading me to?

You will need to make sure you get acquainted with locations on the board, and your families' board. You will first have the boroughs, Village (yellow), Fortress (red), Citadel (blue), Market (green),and the Port (black). You must remember that no matter what, the Port must be used in every game. You also have the Influence scoring track just below the Village, the Doge's Favor track just above the Port, and the Distant Colonies (Ships sailing to and from the Port).

Then you will look at the breakdown of the Borough (I will be speaking in terms of looking at a borough), with the Lord symbol at the top left (going left to right), the First Bride's bonus Influence, the Second Bride's bonus Influence, the symbol of the Borough. Moving down slightly and going from left to right again, The Lord placement area, then the First Bride area, the Second Bride area, the Workers Placement area, the Influence token area, the Ducato token area, and the area to place the stack of 6 Commons, and then below is where you will place your Carriages with your Delegations.

You will want to pay attention to Prestige values (to convince Lords to allow the marriage- Shield values), and Charm values (to convince the Bride to accept the marriage-Gem values). You will need to meet or exceed these values. You will be able to add to your attempted values through Common Characters, Items, and sacrificing Influence and/or Coins at a 1 to 1 ratio (whatever you are short). Then the other players who have sent Delegations to that same Borough will be allowed to attempt to break the marriage by influencing the values, poisoning, and assassination. You will be allowed to try to prevent, and respond to these threats, depending on who and what you have sent with the Delegation, versus who and what the opponents Delegations have brought with them.

If your marriage is successful then you reap the bonuses, and dowry. If you don't then you still get to respond again last in the turn order for that Borough. So, you may have been thwarted, but you are not entirely knocked out. If your marriage is a success you will have married off one of your loyal family, and will no longer be able to use that Character for the rest of the game (or until the marriage is dissolved through an assassination or poisoning), so always think about what will be your best move for the most Influence points.

Now that you have considered these things you can study the setup proper.

Have the game out, make the sure someone is playing black, as the Port. The other players may choose any of the other Boroughs. Place on each Borough in play one of its color workers, one Ducato, and one Influence token. Then you will want to sort the Common Characters by borough, shuffle each borough's deck so that the order is random, and place them face down in the appropriate borough. Then flip the top one up as it will be common knowledge (throughout the game, the top one will always be common knowledge).

Special Note: At the Port Borough (Black) the top Common Character to start the game will be an Assassin. This is only to start the game!

You will assign at random a Lord (1 Lord for each player and then add a Prestige Value 3 Lord into the shuffle) to each in play Borough. Then shuffle the Brides that have Charm values of 8, 9, and 10 and draw at random one for each in play First Bride position. Then shuffle the Brides that have Charm values of 5, 6, and 7 and draw at random one for each in play Second Bride position.

You will place your cylinder marker at zero on the Influence track. You will place your player disc marker at random on the Doge's favor track. Get your piles of Influence tokens, all five colors of workers, and Ducato coins close to the board. Get your Workshop cards separated into their stacks by the board with the lowest Influence value at the bottom of the stack and then the highest at the top (so the first person to build that Workshop gets the most influence and so on), and below them, separate the Items cards into their respective stacks.

Here is the details on those Workshops:

Apothecary, makes Poison, you spend 1 Green Worker, 1 Yellow Worker, and 1 Black Worker to build the Workshop.  You spend 1 coin there to make a poison (gain that card). This is important to poison another player's potential bride.

Hospital, makes Antidote, you spend 1 Green Worker, 1 Yellow Worker, 1 Red Worker, and 1 Blue Worker to build it.  You spend 1 coin there to make an Antidote (gain that card). This is important to heal from being poisoned.

Jewelry, makes Ring, you spend 1 Green Worker, 1 Red Worker, and 1 Blue Worker to build it. You spend 1 coin there to make a Ring (gain that card). This is important to raise your Charm.

Notary, makes Doge's Edict, you spend 1 Green Worker, 1 Yellow Worker, 1 Black Worker, and 1 Red Worker to build it. You spend 1 coin there to gain 1 Edict (gain that card). This is important to act first in a given Borough's order of resolution.

Tailor's Shop, makes Luxury Suit, you spend 1 Blue Worker, 1 Red Worker, and 1 Black Worker to build it. You spend 1 coin there to gain 1 Luxury Suit (gain that card). This is important to raise your Prestige.

Tavern, makes Wine, you spend 1 Yellow Worker, 1 Red Worker, and 1 Black Worker to build it. You spend 1 coin there to gain 1 Wine (gain that card). This is important to take a worker from the Borough it is in, in addition to whatever action you are performing.

Finally, you will make sure you have your residence board, all four of your loyal family Character cards, the 3 Coaches of your color, 2 Ducato coins, and 1 Worker of your choice (any color) to start with. This is for all players.

Now follow these special instructions concerning the order of tokens on the Doge's Favor track:

If 3 players, give 1 additional Ducato to player 2, and the White Coach Starting token to player 3
If 4 players, give 1 additional Ducato to player 3 and the White Coach Starting token to player 4
If 5 players, give 1 additional Ducato to players 3 and 4, and the White Coach Starting token to player 5.

The Sequence of play:

In each round you will go through:

Placing your Carriages and Delegations (you will be able to supplement these Delegations)
Choose from this list twice during your action, and then the next player does the same, and continues on until all players have declared pass:

1.      Send a Delegation to a Borough (to attempt marriage, to claim Ducatos, to claim Influence, to claim Workers, to hire a Common Character, and whatever your special actions are (to poison someone else, to assassinate someone else, to gain more money, to gain more money through a specific action, to gain additional workers to a specific action, etc.)

2.      Send a Delegation to the Distant Ships (to trade a worker that you have for a different color one, or to spend money to hire more workers)

3.      Reinforce a Delegation (bring in additional help through Loyal Family Cards, Common Character Cards, or Item cards)

4.      Go to the Doge and ask for favor (to change the order in which borough Turn Orders will play and resolve)

5.      Declare Pass ( you have ran out of Characters/Carriages to act with, or determined better to stop)
Resolving all players who are using Distant Ships

Resolving each Borough (one at a time) -make sure you follow the correct order. This is also dictated by who marries the First Bride, then the Second Bride, and finally the Highest Guide Prestige Value (the Guide is the one who you have designated the Lead Character for the Carriage, and/or the one to marry.

End of the Round (this is a phase)-Each player will receive 1 Ducato per Worker they have on their family board, each player must pay 1 coin for each Common Character they have, if they can't or choose not to, then the Common Character leaves the game permanently. Each player can pay one Ducato per used item from their plays for the round coming to an end, otherwise this chance is lost. Now each player can build a Workshop (only one, and you are allowed only one of each type to own). Then check for the Victory conditions being met. If the conditions have not been met, then the game continues.

Cleanup (what you will need to do after the End of the Round, and before starting the new Round)- You discard any Common Characters that were not claimed (that were face up in the borough). Turn over the next Common Character card for each stack. Make sure to add one Worker, and one Influence to each Borough in play (so yes there could be a stack of either or both building up in a Borough if it wasn't claimed). Pass the White Coach to the player on the left. Make sure you have taken back your cards, and Carriages that were used. Leave Characters that have been married on the board.

Now you are ready to start again!

Are there any variations for this game?

I did not see any additional plans for expansions or variations of play at this time.

Some game results:

Our games have been riveting to say the least. My wife has personally taken to this game. Possibly due to the very first game being a victory for her (she ended up with 26 Influence points in a 3 player game). You can't solely fixate yourself on Workshops alone, as that will only gain you, at most, 19 Influence points (and only if you are the first to  build each type). You have to risk and go after those important marriages!

That being said, there are a lot of ways to mess with other players both directly and indirectly. You can poison, you can assassinate, you can perform an action within a Borough that they wanted to do, thus that player losing out on it for that turn, and manipulate through Bluffing. With the Carriages having cards played face down, and not revealed until the moment of truth, you will have to make the best decisions that you can, and just let it ride.

Final Thoughts:

You have a game here that brings Strategy and Tactics head on with Chance and Bluffing. You will always be able to do something, but is it the right something, or the something that you really wanted to do? You will find this game to be a race from start to finish, as you want to make decisions that allow you to strike first during opportunities. You don't want to be late to whatever it was you needed in a given Borough!

Options and choices are all around you, ready to take, yet once the other players get into the mix, you have to consider who will get to act first. Will you be able to bring down their attempts at the big marriages, or will they be able to bring down yours? Will you have the right Workshops in place for key items? Will you have enough Ducatos to pay your Common Characters? Will you have the right workers at the end of a phase to build the Workshop that you need? Does that other player have the card that you didn't account for in your marriage attempt?

Take all of this into account when you sit down to play Brides & Bribes, a game where every decision counts, and bluffing is just as good as actually having.

Thank you so much for reading this report on Brides & Bribes: A Game of Cunning, Intrigue and Deception from SpaceBalloon Games!

I hope you will check out my PaladinElliott Blog at:

check out some of my videos at:

and check out my Ready To Game Podcast at Soundcloud and/or Itunes:

and remember I am always....READY TO GAME!!!

RET. SSG Jason L. Elliott (PaladinElliott)

Friday, September 2, 2016

Super Fantasy: Ugly Snouts Assault, Published by Red Glove, Reviewed by Jason Elliott from PaladinElliott Productions

Super Fantasy: Ugly Snouts Assault by Marco Valtriani, Published by Red Glove, Reviewed by Jason Elliott from PaladinElliott Productions

What are the recommendations for this game?

Number of players: 1-6 (I believe you could make a strong argument to have a seventh player. Someone who plays the part of an Evil Overseer, and controls the actions of all the different Snouts, Bosses, and Studs)

Time of game: 90 minutes (this can vary due to players learning the game)

Age recommendation: 8 and up (we are teaching our children who are 7 and 5, but they needed some assistance)

The back story: 

This is a game where you and your friends become the adventurers saving The Empire of the Fat Phoenix from the insufferable snouts and their ilk. Two of them (Grosuk and Poncha) will guide you through learning the game in the rule book. You will learn that this is a game where you set up the board with the pieces provided for the mission you have chosen. You assemble your heroes so that they may deal damage, pick locks, open chests and doors, smash barrels and doors, all in the name of gaining experience, saving the realm, and staying alive to fight another day! You will be instructed on the hero phase, followed by the monster phase, and realize that your missions will all have a limited amount of time to complete. Don't fret if your character is knocked out, they are not gone, but as they come back, you will lose 1 turn from your time.

Keep your wits, as you work together, form strategy, and kick snout butt!

What comes in the game? (Retail Copy)

1 Rule Book
1 Missions Book
3 Corridors
18 Doors
11 Rooms
3 Big Rooms
3 Lever tokens
3 Tome tokens
1 Small Portal token
1 End of the game token
5 big pet tokens
21 snouts (made up of 13 ugly, 4 big, and 4 S.N.O.U.T.)
3 Bosses
1 Stud
1 Turn Board
99 tokens (1 Fortress, 31 shield, 24 life, 18 wound, 6 stunned, 4 counter attack, 1 focused aim, 1 wolf, 1 ridden, 6 poisoned, and 6 frozen)
8 chests
54 standups
24 markers
3 short corridors
1 gate
2 big portals
1 flight of stairs
8 trap tokens
11 sleepy tokens
5 locks
2 brazier tokens
2 button tokens
1 statue token
6 action dice
4 fate tokens
1 heroes turn token
6 columns
1 fate die
10 barrels
15 small item tokens
3 ruined walls tokens
30 magic items tokens
36 skill tiles
6 heroes
6 hero boards

What is the end game objective? What am I striving for?

You want to complete the mission at all costs! You and your fellow heroes will have to decide how to best move through the dungeon that is set by your chosen mission. Will you try to kill everything for experience? Will some of your characters hang back until the right moment? What chests and barrels are you willing to go for? Is there going to be enough time to finish the mission? Should you trade some of your equipment off for the team win? Do you make a sacrifice this turn that will help with a future turn, or for the win?

You will have moments with these and other questions, and you will have to decide as a team, or by yourself what is the right thing to do. Remember, if the mission is completed, all of you win!

How do I set the game up? Where is that leading me to?

You want to first determine who is playing what character. They will choose their character's board, figure, and skill squares (levels 2 and 3), along with the markers for their experience level, and for the gauges for building up their skills. Once this is done, the group will need to decide what mission they are taking on. You will use the mission book for your proper set up of the dungeon, monster placement, traps, barrels, chests, items throughout the terrain (levers, buttons, tomes), and more. You will have a starting zone and an area where the mission will most likely draw to a close.

You will need to decide on group strategy, such as turn order, and what the goals are, as they will be changing as enemies flood in to stop you! You will need to keep in mind that this set up is for one off missions, and not a campaign (I am currently contemplating a way to make this into a campaign-maybe with an approach similar to Descent). I really like the game and find that after one mission, I want to go back and play more.

Your mission book is also going to assist you in playing Normal (easy), Heroic (medium), and Epic (hard) difficulty modes.

-With Normal, you will use just the yellow attributes on the monster stats and ignore their special abilities.

-With Heroic, you will use the yellow attributes on the monster stats and all of their black text special abilities.

-With Epic, you will use the red attributes on the monster stats, all of their black text special abilities, and all of their red text special abilities.

So, make sure everyone who is playing has clearly let people know what their preferences are to maximize your game session!

Who do I get to choose from?

Luckylock, The Gunslinger- Not the top for Ranged attacks, and not the top for Melee attacks, but he is good with both, making him versatile. He has great movement, but not good with Magic or Defense.

Helena, The Huntress- The top with Ranged Attacks, movement is decent, and has good skills to suppress the enemy, bolster her attack, or to assist with movement.

Barka, The Warrior- The top with Defense, good with Strength, and decent speed, he will surely be one of those characters you can tank with due to his high hit points.

Yang-Ping, The ShadowMaster- He is your go to for lock picking abilities. He has high speed, decent defense, but low hit points. Make sure you are using his backstabbing and movement abilities to their greatest potential.

Zanvor, The Duelist- Here is your top Strength, with high hit points, high speed, and decent cunning. He can manipulate several factors, including shield dice. He is good to play if you want some defending with your attacking.

Zoe, The Enchantress- Here is your Magic Powerhouse. She is able to use this magic to move around, and use tomes without checks. If you are rolling well, then make sure to use her Arcane shield to augment your defensive powers. She tops this all off with moderate ranged attacks to boot!

Now to play:  
When you are playing the game, you will work through a two phase system.

-One, The Heroes Phase and

-Two, The Monsters Phase

You will be using dice for the majority of actions (there are some abilities that when fully charged you get to activate them without the use of dice, but these are clearly in the minority). Through these dice you will act on choices from the Heroes Phase (please note that I will describe effects on the dice as well)

Special Note: As we get into this, there is left, right, forward, rear and diagonal. Yes, diagonal counts as one move, you can attack, defend, and interact at the diagonal just like you could with your forward, rear, left and right.

Special Note: You will collect 1 experience for anything that is declared as an attack and deals at least 1 damage, even if that one damage kills the monster. If a monster is instantly killed, then it has taken at least 1 damage. You will gain 1 experience for each time you successfully lock pick a door, or a chest.

Special Note: Every time you roll a Star, you need to bump up one of your Skill gauges by one (don't forget) as this is one of the two ways you can fill those gauges and use them (a skill must be maxed out to be full and ready to use, and once used it goes back to the bottom setting to be ready to start refilling it).

1.      Moving- One sword is one space of movement, Two swords are two spaces of movement, and the Star allows you to move the number equal to that characters speed. Make sure you pay attention to obstacles such as furniture because you will stop your movement there. You might set off a trap on the floor, or you have to take into account being adjacent to something (adjacent includes diagonals), and once you are adjacent to a Monster your movement stops. You will need to engage the Monster because you will not be able to freely breakaway unless you use a Special Skill or ability to do so.

2.      Opening a door- this requires a skill check of six, whether by brute force (Strength) or by lock picking (Cunning). You will decide one of the two avenues, and then one sword counts as one, two swords count as two, and the star counts for the characters skill in either Strength or Cunning (because of whatever approach the player chose). If you lock picked the door successfully, collect your experience. (for each time that happens). You will need to be adjacent to do this.

3.      Bashing a barrel- The skill amount needed is 6 or better. This is solely by Strength, as you attack the barrel to open it. You will use the same system of numbers as described by Opening a door for Strength. You cannot lock pick a barrel. You will need to be adjacent to do this.

4.      Lock picking a chest- The skill amount needed is 6 or better. This is solely by Cunning, as you lock pick the chest to open it. You will use the same system of numbers as described by Opening a door for Cunning. If you lock pick the chest successfully, then collect your experience (for each time that happens). You will need to be adjacent to do this.

5.      Attacking a monster- You will use the system described already, and stars will count as your Character's Strength value to add in. You will have your total, and you will compare it to the Shield value of the monster. If your value is higher than the monster's you have achieved a hit. You will then look at their blood drop value to see how many hits it takes to destroy the monster. If the hit you just achieved was all the monster could take, then you killed it. If you have dealt at least one damage to a monster, collect your experience (for each time that happens). If your bullseye icon by a weapon has a value of 1, that is 1 space or adjacent. If the value is higher than 1 then using that weapon is ranged. If you have bullseye 3 then you can only attack a Monster, Barrel, or Door that is exactly 3 spaces away. It is not up to that number, it is that number in spaces exactly. You don't worry about line of sight, except you can't shoot through Doors and you can't shoot through Walls.

6.      Defending-This is where you prepare your defense for the Monster Phase. Normally all heroes will be damaged by a Monster's attack during the Monster phase. You can, though, give up dice for Shield tokens, and each token can be turned in during a Monster's attack for a die (1 to 1). So as an example, I want to have two dice to defend with, so I declare Defending, and give up two dice during my turn and gain two Shield tokens. During a future Monster Phase I am targeted so I decide to spend both Shield tokens to gain two dice to roll against the Monster's attack. The trait you will use for Stars here is Defense. If you roll at least the number of the attack, or higher, then the attack is negated.

7.      Charging up- Pick this if you want to build up your gauges to full, so you can use Special Skills. If you roll 1 sword, you move up 1, 2 swords you move up 2, and a Star means you move up 1. Remember here though, whatever your total roll is, you must dedicate all of it to one skill gauge. The extra will be lost.

8.      Disarming a trap- The skill required here is a 6 or higher. When you have encountered a trap, you can choose this option with your dice. To encounter a trap, you must be adjacent, and use your Cunning for your  Star ratings. Be careful though, because crossing over a trap, opening a chest with a trap, or opening a door with a trap will set the trap off. You must be adjacent to do this.

Are there any variations for this game?

As previously described, there are 3 difficulty modes to this game. Take into account that the number of players dictate changes to the missions, and that how many you can have playing can be different, along with what characters are being chosen. With all of these possibilities, you have a game that in my opinion has very high replay value. So you pick a mission, or an arena (6 missions and 2 arenas) and say you beat it, you still have two other difficulties to choose from, just for that mission or arena.

This game allows for possibilities to make homebrew scenarios. Due to a great rule system, and how quickly we were able to learn the game, I would say without any doubt that you could experiment with additional creatures, characters, and abilities to further your own personal experience. It is such a great game, that I could see that possibility.

Some game results:

Our games so far have been thrilling to say the least. Our first win was with two turns left. It was on Mission one, and we had Barka The Warrior, Helena The Huntress, and Yang-Ping The ShadowMaster. Yang-Ping was brought down on the 10th turn and that pushed things forward by one round (he came back the next round). We skipped one room, due to being afraid of running out of time. We were playing the Heroic level for difficulty. We saved up all of our Special skills close to the final room in an attempt to blow out the Stud, and the support Ugly Snouts he had, and it WORKED! We had  Barka bust the door, and Helena open fire, with Yang-Ping hanging back. We dealt heavy damage on the Stud as he advanced with his guard. The rolls went our way as Burka and Helena brought down the Stud in the 12th round, and during the 13th (we had 15 to complete the mission) Yang-Ping using a potion to help his Magic Check, shut down a Magic Portal and we won! It was absolutely awesome! 

That gives you a taste of some of our adventures thus far!

Final Thoughts:

Let me start by saying this is a game that I feel was somehow connected in spirit to games like Heroquest, Key to the Kingdom, Dark World, and Tower of the Wizard King. However, this game is smoother, more refined, quicker to learn, and because we are able to teach our kids, an absolute blast to play! You have to give this one a try, because it was a joy to play. Yes, it took some time to set up, and make sure everything was ready. After that though, getting to choose from a great assortment of Characters, and being able to do many things, makes this my "go to" experience for dungeon crawls for the whole family.

This game hit me over the head so much that I order its sequel Super Fantasy: Night of the Badly Dead, just to have more Characters, more Monsters, and to try some homebrew ways of making a larger experience. I want to consider doing more with these games in the future!

I have to give this a 10 for easy learning curve, fun for the family, many, many choices, and lots of replay value. I feel that this is a huge asset to my gaming collection, and I believe you should consider it if you are into light dungeon crawls, games with some cartoon feel, games for the whole family, low learning curves, and games where you get to level up and get better!

Please make sure to have a solid look at this one, because it truly deserves it!

Thank you so much for reading this report on Super Fantasy: Ugly Snouts Assault by Marco Valtriani, and is published by Red Glove!

I hope you will check out my PaladinElliott Blog at:

check out some of my videos at:

and check out my Ready To Game Podcast at Soundcloud and/or Itunes:

and remember I am always....READY TO GAME!!!

RET. SSG Jason L. Elliott (PaladinElliott)