Allies: Realm of Wonder

Allies: Realm of WonderAllies: Realm of Wonder is a Finnish card game from Mindwarrior Games. I got a review copy of the game to try.

The game: Allies: Realm of Wonder by Mikko Punakallio and Max Wikström, published by Mindwarrior Games in 2015.

Elevator pitch: A quick two-player card game, with tug-of-war mechanics based on rotating cards.

What’s in the box? Smallish box (could be smaller) contains 165 cards and two wide cardboard summary boards. The cards are of decent quality cardstock. The art is CGI familiar from Realm of Wonder, and has the same problems as before: it looks nice, but the graphic design could be better.

Take a look inside in this video (in Finnish, but with English subtitles):

What do you do in the game? There are five region cards to conquer. Players play tribe cards one by one, one for each region card. Once every region card has two tribe cards next to it, the cards are compared to see which one wins.

The tribe cards are the main catch of the game. Each has four values, for example 1-2-3-5 or 2-2-3-3. They also have the ability to rotate other cards, to make them weaker or stronger. That’s what makes the game: you must rotate the cards so that your cards come on top after the five cards are played.

After four rounds players count their points. Collected region cards are worth two points each, castle regions are minus one point and region cards on the table that point to you (so you’re in the lead, but haven’t won them yet) are worth one point. Most points wins.

Lucky or skillful? Probably more skill than luck. The cards are different, so there’s some luck of draw, but the differences between cards aren’t huge, so in the end skill will probably prevail. On the other hand, I don’t think you can be really good in this game, so even a really good player won’t probably have a huge win rate.

Abstract or thematic? Almost purely abstract. The theme doesn’t really come into it. The art is nice, sure, but it’s also very generic and lifeless. The gameplay is all about numbers, which means it’s a bit dry.

Solitaire or interactive? It’s tug-of-war, so it’s very interactive. This is certainly in the more confrontative end of two-player card games.

Players: 2; no more, no less.

Who can play? Age recommendation is 8+. The game is easy to play and works well with children or adults.

Length: 15 minutes. Just four rounds, so the game certainly doesn’t last too long.

What’s to like: Simple gameplay; rotating cards; tense rounds; quick to play.

What’s not to like: A bit repetitive; boring cards.

My verdict: Not a bad game. Rotating the cards is a nice game mechanism, and works quite well. The tug-of-war could be frustrating, but the game is short enough – just 20 cards spread over four rounds – to make it work.

A nice two-player filler card game, then, but there’s just one problem: there are lots of really good two-player filler card games, and this doesn’t rank near the top. I could name at least a dozen two-player card games I’d play rather than Allies, so that’s obviously a bit of a problem (let’s see: Epic, Star Realms, Cthulhu Realms, Battle Line, Jaipur, Lost Cities, Yardmaster, Love Letter, Dale of Merchants, Kyoto Protocol, The City, Parade – many of these have the added benefit of being decent multi-player games as well).

On the scale of EnthusiasticSuggestIndifferent or AvoidAllies: Realm of Wonder gets Indifferent from me.Allies cards

October 2015 new and noteworthy

October was a busy month, lots of games. That’s good! I didn’t attend Spiel at Essen, and only followed the Essen game flow superficially. I did join the Finnish Board Game Society Secret Santa, which forced me to create a wishlist and got me thinking about new games.

I now have a small notebook at the BGG, my interest list, which is a view to what’s interesting me at the moment.

Age of Craft is a Japanese combination of Dominion and Catan, pretty much. There’s a selection of cards you can buy, but this is not a deck-builder. Instead you buy those cards to your tableau, where you can use them every turn. There’s plenty of dice, but they are used as six different randomly produced types of goods, and you can trade them as in Catan and there’s also a danger in stockpiling them, as in Catan.

All in all this is a fascinating game. The graphic design is pretty hideous, I think I could do better, and it’s all in Japanese, but hey, it’s quite interesting and seems to be worth it after the couple of games I’ve managed. I have some concerns over balance, but playing the game is fun, so I’m not complaining. Suggest.

I used to own a pretty complete set of Memoir ’44 and thought about keeping it until my son is old enough to play it. Well, it took a lot of space, and I sold it away, but when I saw a copy sold at the FBGS forum, with Finnish cards included, I immediately bought it.

No surprises here: my son really liked it. So, now I only have the base set, but it’s going to last us for a while now, and the Finnish cards (pasteups, as the game has never been published in Finnish) are a huge bonus. Suggest.

Codenames is a party game from Vlaada Chvátil. It’s one of the season’s hit games, and no wonder, as it’s criminally fun. I don’t have the game yet, I’m waiting for the inevitable Finnish edition to arrive (as far as I can tell somebody’s doing it in Finnish), but I have a bunch of homemade Finnish word cards and the Codenames Gadget for iOS, which makes testing the game real easy.

And it is great. The challenge for codemasters to describe the words in a suitable way, and the challenge for the agents to figure out the clues the codemasters are giving are both interesting. This is a keeper, a proper large-group party game that’s very much a game: the scoring will keep the game tense until the end. Suggest.

Favor of the Pharaoh is a remake of To Court the King. A Yahtzee-like dice game, this game has you using the dice rolled to buy cards that give you more dice and various powers. The new version adds the number of cards a lot – To Court the King had a static set of cards, while the new version has more cards of which a subset is in play.

I have to say I was a bit disappointed at this – I was expecting a bit more, but so far my game experience has been bland. I’m giving this a go or two, with gamers, but if it doesn’t click (it certainly doesn’t click as a family game), off it goes. Suggest for a while, but looks like it’s heading to Indifferent.

Taste of Poland is a pretty game. The card art features really gorgeous images of delicious meals from Poland. Unfortunately the game play is a bit bland, and not particularly inspiring. Indifferent.

CS-Files (aka Deception) is a murder mystery game. Each player has four evidence cards and four means of murder cards. One of the players is a murderer, who chooses a pair of evidence and means of murder. Another player is a forensic investigator who knows the solution and must communicate it to the other players by using hint cards.

The basic idea is solid, but playing the game is not very interesting. Being a murderer is boring, as there’s only so much you can do to hinder the investigation. The other players can discuss, but mostly just wait for the forensic investigator to come up with the hints. Not very interesting really. At least the game is short. Indifferent.

CV is another Yahtzee variant. The game mechanics are boring, but the cards have funny artwork and the game has some good narrative. You’re essentially coming up with a story of a life. For example, in my first game, I started my career as an intern, then advanced to managerial position and ended up as the CEO. I was married, but divorced and started a boardgaming club. After some psychotherapy, I also became a Wikipedia author.

Silly and fun. I bought this cheap as a family game. It’s probably not a keeper, but something fun for a while. Suggest for now.

Epic, a new game from the makers of Star Realms, was news to me when it was reviewed in Lautapeliopas. I got immediately interested, and soon bumped into a copy (I now have three copies, as it happens; in case there’s a chance for some cube drafting). We couldn’t finish our first game in time, but what I’ve seen so far has impressed me.

Epic is a TCG-like game, but instead of the usual mana curve, players have one mana per turn and each card costs either 0 or 1. So, even the biggest monsters can be played on turn one. Everything is awesome! Of course the spells to block those monsters are equally available. Sounds crazy and entertaining.

This isn’t quite as easy to pick up as Star Realms, and it would be preferable to play this with some drafting (you can just shuffle and draw 30 card decks, but drafting is better). Suggest.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Secrets adds couple of things to the game. The most visible are the moats. Instead of Foyer, you start with a Barbican that has a moat, and you can expand the moat to go around the castle. That’ll restrict your building space a lot, especially as you can only build Outdoors rooms outside the moat, but in reward you’ll be given lots of points (each moat is worth 3 points + 1 point per each non-Outdoor and non-Corridor room in your castle).

There are also new tiles, with swan tokens, and swans can be converted into money during the game and into points after the game. Nice, but minor; some of the new rooms are funny, though. The third addition is secret passages, which can be placed between rooms, to connect rooms from a small distance, while at the same doubling their connection bonuses. This can score some pretty amazing points when combined with Living Rooms.

All in all this is a solid expansion, pretty similar to Suburbia Inc. really, as it adds interesting things to the game without making it too heavy. We had some total Castles newbies in a game, and they didn’t have trouble absorbing the expansion at the same time. Suggest.

Suburbia 5★ is the new Suburbia expansion, and not quite as successful as the before-mentioned Inc. This I’d only play with experienced players. There’s a new thing to track: stars. Stars determine turn order between each turn and there are bonuses for climbing up the star track. Also, the player with the most stars gets extra population, while the player with least stars loses. So, you must get stars! They tend to be expensive, though.

The expansion also adds fifth player, which sounds like pure madness, but my son didn’t mind getting green bits. I know a friend of mine who’ll also appreciate the new colour. That’s a bonus.

So, while I think Secrets is a must-have expansion like Suburbia Inc. is, I’m not so sure about 5★. Experienced Suburbia players will find it interesting, though, and I’m glad I have it – I’m just not going to use it all the time. (I also got the Suburbia: Con Tiles expansion, and that’s not going to see play; I didn’t like that at all). Suggest.

Taste of Poland – looks delicious. #boardgame #boardgames

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Favor of the Pharaoh. Cool new version of To Court the King from @beziergames #boardgame

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My castle is shaping up nicely in Castles of Mad King Ludwig – now with Secrets! #boardgame #boardgames

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Age of Craft = Catan + Dominion + Japanese charm. #boardgames #boardgame

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DIY version of Codenames. #boardgames #boardgame

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September 2015 new and noteworthy

September wasn’t a bad month. I played quite a few games, and updated my Top 100 list.

Race to the North Pole is a Finnish game that debuts in Essen this year. It’s a nice little race game, where you have to get to the North Pole before the other players. The trick here is that the weather is unpredictable and storms will shift the board layout every now and then. What’s more, your hand of cards is on the board and will shift with the winds.

It’s chaotic, kind of fun, and generally pretty well made. Also very much not my cup of tea, particularly with four players. However, I’m waiting for the companion app to be released to see how that affects the game. The game is independent of the smart phone app, but the app apparently adds to the game and creates more replayability, and I’m curious to see how that works. Indifferent.

Round’o’Loot is another Finnish game from newcomer publishers Doorway Games. This pirate-themed games felt a bit pointless the first time I played it, but after a second attempt it made some more sense. It’s a really light game and at times has very few decisions to make, so most of the time the player with the best luck will win, but the rounds end in a very surprising way, which actually adds a quite a bit of tension and interest in the game. Not a particularly attractive game for those looking for serious, thinky card games, but would I rather play this or UNO? This, no doubt about it. Indifferent.

Cubingos is a reaction test puzzle for kids. There are cubes with creature halves on the sides of the cubes, and then you draw a card which shows a complete creature. Your task is to place a cube on the board so that the creature in the card is completed. Quite simple, and quite easy, so this doesn’t really work meaningfully as a game with adults and kids combined. Indifferent.

New York 1901 won the “Strategy Game of the Year” award in Finland. Considering the award is very much a mass market award, this was not a terrible choice. The game looks really good and is well-produced, the gameplay is somewhat clever, there’s a bit of mean interaction – but the whole of it doesn’t really wow me, so it’s unlikely this one’s a keeper for me. Indifferent.

Skyscrapers and lots. Lots of lots! New York 1901. #boardgames #boardgame

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Mucca Pazza won the “Children’s Game of the Year”. Not a bad game, but clearly something that works best with kids alone, with no adults involved, as the problem to solve is quite basic and doesn’t provide much for the adults. So, another kindergarten game for groups of children to play. The art is funny, though, and the basic idea of the game is solid. Indifferent.

Mucca Pazza, children's game of the year in Finland this year. #boardgame #boardgames

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La Granja was the first game I played in September, and what a fine choice it was. I bought it on a hazard, hoping I’d like it. It did come with good recommendations and lots of elements to like: farming theme, Glory to Rome -style multi-use cards… all in all an intriguing game. Based on one two-player game, it sure seems good, now I need some multi-player games to verify that. Suggest.

My farm in La Granja. Charming game! #boardgames #boardgame

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Glass Road got the first multi-player games in September, and I wasn’t disappointed. I slightly botched the card play rules for the first round (we played it more like in two-player game), but fortunately noticed it and could correct it from round two. It’s a good game, I really like the action selection through the cards and the short game length gives the game some oomph – you really need to make things happen, if you want to score points. Suggest.

Glass Road – cards for this round. #boardgames #boardgame

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I got the new edition of Carcassonne so I could make a rules explanation video for it. The new version was released in Germany last year, and finally made it to Finland. It’s… different. However, no matter how much I like the original Doris Matthäus art, I have to admit that when you put the old and the new versions next to each other, the new version looks better. It’s a lot more vivid and interesting. Perhaps it was indeed time to refresh the look of the game.

This looks slightly wrong. The new Carcassonne is nice, but wrong. #boardgames #boardgame

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Race to the North Pole

Race to the North Pole is a Finnish game from the new-comers Playmore Games. They gave me a review copy, which is a late prototype of the game: everything looks like it does in the final version, but the materials are slightly different. The game: Race to the North Pole by Jouni Jussila and Tomi Vainikka, … Continue reading Race to the North Pole

August 2015 new and noteworthy

The biggest new thing in August was that I started videoblogging. I decided that’s something I should know how to do, so I tried it. It turned out to be fun, so I’ll be doing it for now – I thought maybe I’ll do 100 videos and then take a look at the situation. I’ll … Continue reading August 2015 new and noteworthy

Mondo: Der rasante Legespaß

There’s a new edition of Mondo out there. The new edition is much smaller and cheaper than the original Mondo, but there’s also less game inside the box. The game: Mondo: Der rasante Legespaß by Michael Schacht, published by Pegasus Spiele in 2015. Elevator pitch: The clock is ticking – pick up tiles to build a 3×3 … Continue reading Mondo: Der rasante Legespaß

July 2015 new and noteworthy

Another fine month of gaming. Next month will see some downward trend, as the summer holidays are over and the school year starts. No more morning games, on most mornings… Dale of Merchants: This is very current, as the game was involved in a Kickstarter campaign that ran for the July. I’m happy to note … Continue reading July 2015 new and noteworthy

Dale of Merchants

Dale of Merchants is currently running a Kickstarter campaign. I backed it, because the game looks interesting, has nice art, was cheap and is Finnish – plenty of reason to back a game, that is. Since I’m something of a big name in the Finnish board game scene, the designer asked me if I’d like … Continue reading Dale of Merchants

June 2015 new and noteworthy

Age of War: Horrible game. Simple filler game, roll dice and conquer tiles by rolling the right symbols. In theory pretty good, but gets really annoying really quick, because conquering the tiles is seriously difficult. Avoid. Age of War, an exercise in frustration. #boardgame #boardgames Kuva, jonka Mikko Saari (@mikkosaari) julkaisi 2. 06ta 2015 klo … Continue reading June 2015 new and noteworthy


I have done the Finnish translation of this game, and got a free copy from the Finnish publisher. The game: Co-Mix by Lorenzo Silva, published by Horrible Games in 2014. Elevator pitch: Story-telling game, where you create your story by laying picture cards on a six- or nine-panel comic page. Stories are then told and scored, but there’s … Continue reading Co-Mix