Jul 05

Staring Into The Abyss – A Review of The Banishing

Quick Board Game Reviews That Pack a Punch. No Rules, Just Opinions. 

A dark void has opened, and undead creatures are attempting to enter our world. You have come together as
guardians who must work together to force the undead back through the void. However, the longer it takes, the
stronger the undead become, threatening to overwhelm all.

In The Banishing, players collect cards from the Void to form melds to cast unique spells and effects in an effort
to complete the ritual of Banishing, which will hurl the undead back through the Void. Players must work together
to create those melds, as well as to protect and heal each other from attacks by the undead in order to succeed.

 

Cooperative games are usually a mixed bag for me. Often the tension can get tiresome when the alpha gamer shows up. In The Banishing, I think they’ve mitigated it some. The random draws, asymmetric powers and hidden hands makes it more difficult. With a short play time, unique powers, and challenging puzzle, the game keeps my attention.


Each turn, you’ll take a row or column of cards from the Void, a 3x3 tableau of rune cards, which you’ll collect to cast spells, and undead cards, which do damage to you. The spells will do things like heal your fellow adventurers, remove cards from the void, or send the undead to The Banishing. However, each player’s set of spells is unique, so the challenge is to manage and coordinate those abilities successfully.

There is a nice amount of complexity in finding optimal solutions within the different character classes. While there are some built-in controls for scaling difficulty in the different player counts, I think 5p is too many, if only because you can spread the damage around much easier. 4p may be optimal, but 3p is a blast. Every action is an exercise in efficiency and a tad bit of luck. It’s the tough decisions that happen where one minute you are fine and then the next minute you feel like you stepped in a pile of “OK, What the hell just happened?”, that make the game fun for me.
The asymmetric powers ensure each player will have something to contribute to your quest. Good strategy will involve some long-range planning, but the randomness of the cards that appear in the Void every turn will throw plenty of monkey wrenches in the works. Players who take too much damage will become exhausted and have their abilities diminished, which will have you proceeding cautiously and slowing the pace of play in your race against the deck.


Like in any good dungeon crawl, we have to come together and make the best solutions for the group, so we can get out alive. As the void opens up, hope quickly diminishes as monsters pour out. I do like the theme, but the gameplay doesn’t exactly create a narrative for me. It feels more like an abstract puzzle, and that’s perfectly fine.


The Banishing is a spooky dungeon crawl, but it never really feels like one, and that’s OK. Yes, there are hit points and shields and wands and whatnot but what we really have here is simply a game that does a terrific job creating the creeping dread you find in great cooperative games. It’s more of a puzzle game than a rich, thematic experience, but the puzzle is so satisfying and compelling you won’t be displeased.

The minimalist art and basic colors show circles, squares, and triangles, feel a little bit like magical runes. The different monsters have interesting looks, but the items are all pretty blah. Overall it’s clean, easy to read, and doesn't get in the way of playing the game.
If you’re going to do a pure card game, you really need to knock it out of the park. Unfortunately, the art feels a little cheap here. The undead look like clip art silhouettes of cheesy Halloween monsters, which doesn’t really jibe with the dungeon crawl theme.

With a $19.99 MSRP, The Banishing not expensive at all. It’s easy to teach, setup and teardown. You can play a game as a filler or multiple games depending on mood and not get tired of the challenge. With all of the shuffling, I think sleeves would be advisable. After a few plays the cards already started to look slightly worn, so it’s probably worth protecting your investment.
The Banishing is a small box game with good quality components, so it’s priced appropriately. With the nice variety of player roles in the box, you could play this several times in a night and it would still stay fresh. The different abilities of each will have you adjusting your play style and strategy each time. It would be a nice fit at almost any game night.

I think if you want a different take on a cooperative game then check out The Banishing. The price point is reasonable, and gameplay is fun. With so little overhead in time, I think this is a no brainer to break out in between games or for a quickie on a school night. I’d give this game a rating of a 4.
The Banishing is a solid co-op experience that’s easy to teach and quick to play It’s a thinky filler and fans of all types of games will find something to enjoy. It’s challenging and fun enough to belong in the Duchy, but I’m going to knock it down a peg for the uninspired artwork. It’s a 4 for me.
The Dukes of Dice Rating System
1 = Poorly designed but playable. Not necessarily fun.
2 = Game has some merit but has significant detractions.
3 = Game is okay, not exciting. Will play in the right situation.
4 = A good game. Worth playing, just not all the time. Belongs in the Duchy.
5 = A great game, will rarely turn down a play of it.
6 = An all-time favorite that is a contender for the top 10

If you want to connect with us you can find:

Matthew on Twitter as @uncouthtooth or matthew@dukesofdice.com

Matt on Twitter as @matosowalker

Join the discussion in our Board Game Geek Guild on this review HERE

Jul 03

Dukes of Dice – Ep. 150 – Resistance Is Feudal



Click here for a direct download!

This episode the Dukes …

… Discuss recent plays of Word Domination, Down Force, Odin’s Ravens, First Class and The Lost Expedition (6:01);

… Discuss the latest gaming news including the announcement of the Jogo do Ano nominees, Perplext’s new game Roland Wright and the Kickstarter for the storytelling game Damn the Man, Save the Music (32:36);

… Review Yamatai from Day of Wonder (45:45);

… Provide an excerpt from Alex’s interview with Alexander Pfister, where he provides his predictions for the winners of both the Spiel des Jahres and the Kennerspiel des Jahres (1:24:26); and

… Discuss what types of games might qualify as “insta-buys” (1:30:37).

Please be sure to support the Dukes on their Patreon campaign page!

Twitter: @dukesofdice
Facebook: /dukesofdice
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Jun 26

Dukes of Dice – Ep. 149 – Near, Far, Wherever You Ore



Click here for a direct download!

This episode the Dukes…

… Share their recent plays of Escape Room The Game, Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, Yamatai, Barenpark and LYNGK (6:46);

… Discuss the latest in gaming news including the announcement of the 2017 Kinderspiel des Jahres and Alex sits down with Suzanne from the Board Game Stats App to discuss the launch of the Android version (26:46);

… Review Red Raven Games’ Near and Far (39:47);

… Look back at their review of Pay Dirt in their Dukes’ Double-Take (1:22:45);

… Answer some of your questions from the Duchy Mailbag (1:25:52).

Please be sure to support the Dukes on their Patreon campaign page!

Twitter: @dukesofdice
Facebook: /dukesofdice
Dukes of Dice YouTube Channel
Subscribe on iTunes

Thanks to our awesome sponsors – please give them a visit

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Jun 25

Dukes of Dice – Patreon Interviews 15 – Kwanchai Moriya

Thanks to all of our awesome Patreon supporters, the Dukes are able to bring you additional interviews of publishers, designers and board game media personality.

 

This episode, Alex sits down with Kwanchai Moriya, artist for games like Dinosaur Island, Capital Lux, Catacombs and more! The two discuss the board game art and design industry! 

 

Please be sure to support the Dukes on their Patreon campaign page!

 

Twitter: @dukesofdice
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Jun 21

East Bound and Down – A Review of Century: Spice Road

Quick Board Game Reviews That Pack a Punch. No Rules, Just Opinions. 

From the Publisher:

Century: Spice Road is the first in a series of games that explores the history of each century with spice-trading
as the theme for the first installment. In Century: Spice Road, players are caravan leaders who travel
the famed silk road to deliver spices to the far reaches of the continent for fame and glory. Each turn, players perform one
of four actions:

  • Establish a trade route (by taking a market card)
  • Make a trade or harvest spices (by playing a card from hand)
  • Fulfill a demand (by meeting a victory point card’s requirements and claiming it)
  • Rest (by taking back into your hand all of the cards you’ve played)

The last round is triggered once a player has claimed their fifth victory point card, then whoever has the most victory points wins.

 

Century: Spice Road is about as pure of an engine builder that I have ever played. There are only four actions: take a card, play a card, pick up the played cards, or fulfill a contract. The fun is in creating your engine by taking cards in the display at the right price, timing their use, and completing contracts as they cascade towards the spaces that give bonus points. It’s a real juggling act of efficiency, and opportunity. Take too long and someone else may grab what you want.

It’s pretty easy to think of Century: Spice Road as a Splendor killer. It’s a lovely little engine builder that sees players racing to acquire resources and exchange them for points. Here, however, the market cards you acquire will allow have you swapping and converting your goods in an effort to claim victory point cards. Century: Spice Road keeps you on your toes by slowly revealing new market and victory point cards. Opportunities arise constantly but if you’re not quick your opponents may claim them.

It’s hard not to compare this to Splendor. What makes Century: Spice Road different is the sliding display of trade routes and contracts, and the generation of the four resources, in this case, spices instead of gems. As you take trade routes, you pay a spice cube for each card past the first, so by buying further down the line, you leave resources for the other players. The other big difference is that you upgrade from Turmeric (yellow) in steps to Saffron (red), Cardamom (green), and finally Cinnamon (brown). There are some opportunities to generate higher level spices straight out, but you will have to pay heavily to get them first. In Century: Spice Road, the mechanics that can bog down Splendor are turned into a well-oiled machine.
There’s a bit of a hand-building element as market cards go to your hand and you choose how to play them to best meet your goals. A lot of the market cards are tempting, and more cards mean more ways to trade your goods. Each turn you spend acquiring one is one less turn you were trading goods, making each an interesting decision in timing and opportunity. At the end of the victory point card row, there are gold bonus coins on the first slot and slivers on the second which creates another timing decision. Should you grab the point card as soon as you can, or wait a round or two for it to cascade down to the bonus slots and hope no one snatches it out from under you?


In games this light, it’s hard to incorporate a theme effectively. The cards do evoke a feeling of negotiation to turn one set of spices into others. Some negotiations are more profitable than others, but you never feel dumb for making trades until you realize that maybe you’ve made one too many. It’s definitely a minimalist theme that doesn’t get in the way of playing the game.

The mechanics and theme work surprisingly well together. Playing the variety of market cards evoke a feeling of running around a crowded marketplace, visiting other spice traders you’ve personally curried favor with to fulfill contracts. In a more abstract way, the cascading rows of market and victory point cards represent a journey down the spice road, with new opportunities gradually revealing themselves.

The card art has a varied amount of scenes nicely illustrated. The metal coins look and feel like a different time and a different land. The way it all sits on the table though doesn’t make for a pleasant overall look. I was fortunate to get the neoprene playmat in the pre-order, and to me, it makes all the difference. It really pulls the middle east aesthetic together. It doesn’t improve the gameplay at all, but it looks amazing on my table.

It’s such a beautiful production, from the lovely illustrations by Fernanda Suarez which adorn each card to the subtle woody texture on the component bowls. The metal coins are a nice touch, but I wish the gold ones were a touch darker to make them a little easier to tell apart from the silvers. I hope Plan B has plans to produce more of the drop-dead gorgeous playmats that quickly sold out to folks who pre-ordered, as it makes the game looks absolutely stunning on the table.

The MSRP on Century: Spice Road is $39.99, and that feels right to me. The cards are oversized and easy to hold and pick up. The art is fantastic. The bowls that hold the spices are easy to use, and the insert lets you use them as storage by making them sit right under the lid. Plan B did a great job on production, and Emerson Matsuuchi really nailed it on the gameplay.

Forty bucks is definitely the right price. Century: Spice Road is the rare game that handles different player counts and experience levels with ease. In addition to the intriguing gameplay, the excellent artwork and lovely components really stand out. The insert and component bowls are such a nice touch when most other publishers are content to just toss a few baggies at you. I’ll be keeping a close eye on future Plan B productions.

Century: Spice Road is a stripped down, no frills race to completing contracts. It plays up to 5 well, and will be one of the few games I am willing to suggest at that player count. Century: Spice Road also makes for a great 2 player filler which seems to be a rare versatility in board games. While there is still luck of the draw, the game encourages you to plan for different opportunities, and there are plenty of opportunities that crop up. I love the planning and the tension I feel. I give it a 5, and if it can hold my attention over time it may even move up to a 6.
There’s a lot in Century: Spice Road that is right in my wheelhouse. Gorgeous art, simple mechanics, tense gameplay, and a solid theme make this one a welcome addition in almost any collection. With the goods exchange and the cascading rows of cards, I feel a little more in control when playing compared to Splendor. As the first entry in the planned Century trilogy of games, I’m really excited to see what’s next in the series. Century: Spice Road earns a very high 5 from me. And did I mention it’s gorgeous?

The Dukes of Dice Rating System
1 = Poorly designed but playable. Not necessarily fun.
2 = Game has some merit but has significant detractions.
3 = Game is okay, not exciting. Will play in the right situation.
4 = A good game. Worth playing, just not all the time. Belongs in the Duchy.
5 = A great game, will rarely turn down a play of it.
6 = An all-time favorite that is a contender for the top 10

If you want to connect with us you can find:

Matthew on Twitter as @uncouthtooth or matthew@dukesofdice.com

Matt on Twitter as @matosowalker

Join the discussion in our Board Game Geek Guild on this review HERE

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