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|Dungeon Lords is a very challenging and fun game.
At first glance, the typical dungeon delving theme (admittedly, reversed so you are in charge of the dungeon), paired with the artwork may lead some to assume this will be a lighter game, but this is actually quite the brain burner.
Having to track when (and how much) will be due for taxes (or 'payment' to your minions) forces players to keep a fairly long range view in the game. There's a lot of jockeying for positions and having to predict what actions your opponents will be taking (and how they prioritize the actions they do take). And then there's an entirely separate sub-game for dealing with adventurers when they do invade your dungeon.
The game is at its best with four players, though the two and three player variants are playable (the 'predict your opponents' aspect of the game is the biggest loss when playing without the full four players).
It's a great, though challenging game. The game can be vicious to players that don't look ahead and take everything into account, so people who prefer lighter fare should probably look elsewhere. There is a 'hidden role selection' mechanic, where the roles other players select can greatly change how your roles work out, and there are some gamers who dislike this seeming 'lack of control,' so that is another caveat.
Aside from that however, this is a truly great game with an interesting theme, cute graphics, a bit of a sense of humor(in both rules and small details in the artwork), and a very deep actual game to back it up, that I strongly recommend.
Pandemic - 2013 Edition
|Pandemic is a cooperative game with a unique theme. The mechanics are fairly simple and easy to explain, and manage to produce some interesting choices and decisions for the players.
The game can be taught and played with non-boardgamers readily.
As a cooperative game, the 'opponent' is the game mechanics themselves, and Pandemic has built in a very easy to use means of adjusting the difficulty of the game by adjusting the number of Epidemic cards in the deck.
The ease of learning and teaching the rules, interesting decisions, unique theme and easy adjusting of difficulty all make this game a real winner.
The only weak aspect of the game, in my opinion, is that it can suffer a typical malady of cooperative games. One player, either due to being 'the loudest', or simply being the most familiar with the game and its strategies can wind up effectively 'playing the game for the other players.'
Arkham Horror: Black Goat Of The Woods Expansion
|Another small box expansion for Arkham Horror, the Black Goat of the Woods expansion increases the variety and novelty present in the base game, as well as increasing the difficulty for those who have gotten to the point the base game is getting a bit too easy.
Most of the expansion revolves around two new mechanics and concepts. Certain encounters, or combating certain monsters can Corrupt a character. A few Corruptions have minor benefits, but inevitably they all take their toll on the character. The other major mechanic added is the option to join the "One of the Thousand" Cult, which provides a special set of location encounters for the character that joins the cult.
Of the new mechanics, the Corruptions I found quite interesting. The Cult had the problem that the special encounters were high risk but not so high reward, and generally the player has a choice of joining the Cult... But it will not make sense to do so a vast majority of the time, some higher rewards in the cult encounters to balance the higher risks and penalties would have worked a bit better, in my opinion.
There are many of the, now 'standard', expansion additions in this expansion. There is a new Herald, and the new mythos deck bring quite a few Gate Bursts into the mix. The Herald is effectively a 'mini-Great Old One' that helps bring the Great Old One into the world. In other words, a bunch of constant effects that alter the game to make it more difficult for the player, and make the Great Old One more potent if it wakes up. Gate Bursts are mythos cards that can cause Seals to disappear.
Of the expansions I've played (Curse of the Dark Pharaoh, Dunwich Horror, Kingsport and this), Black Goat of the Woods has personally had the most significant increase in difficulty (barring the one Great Old One which makes all mythos cards gate bursts...), so if you like Arkham Horror and want an expansion and difficulty is your primary motivation, this would probably be my first recommendation.
Arkham Horror: Curse Of The Dark Pharaoh Expansion (Revised Edition)
|This was the first of the expansions released for Arkham Horror.
For those who have either played the original Arkham Horror to the point they know every card by heart, or those that have crossed the point where base Arkham Horror is a little too easy, this expansion adds new variety and increases the difficulty.
Of all of the expansions, Curse of the Dark Pharaoh is the most basic. It introduces the least new rules and systems to the game, which makes it easier to learn and adjust to quickly. On the other hand, it provides less of an increase in variety and difficulty than the other expansions.
This expansion was designed for playing in two modes. 'Permanent exhibit' basically involves shuffling the new cards in with the base game cards of the same type, and thus having only occasional influence on the game. The 'Travelling Exhbit' method of play entirely replaces some base game decks with expansion cards, or in some cases keeps the expansion and base game cards of the certain types separate and draws alternately from one pile then the other. This provides a much more drastically changed experience to the base game. I believe Pharaoh was the only expansion to utilize this sort of mechanic directly (though theoretically such a system could be house-ruled for any expansion).
All in all, a worthy addition to Arkham Horror. Not necessarily the first expansion to pick up, but certainly worth acquiring if you enjoy the game.
Arkham Horror Board Game
|Easily my favorite cooperative game. Can play from 1 to 8 players (admittedly, with five or more it gets a little too slowed down; and with just the base game five or more also becomes a little too easy to win for my preferences). The game is heavy on the theme and story elements. It is notable in that it is one of the few 'pure' cooperative games I've played that avoids the 'everyone works together so in the end the loudest or most experienced player winds up making all the calls' problem. There is enough variety in what occurs in the base game of Arkham Horror that it won't grow stale quickly.
The game does have lots of 'moving parts' and there are a number of rules to learn, so if you like very simple and quick to learn rules, this may not be the game for you. The play time can vary fairly significantly. In my experience, players with a firm grasp of the rules will typically take between one and a half to two and a half hours(and unusually 'lucky' games can go down to either an hour or more than three on very rare circumstances).
If you like cooperative games, you like the idea of a bit of an 'adventure' type game in a world based upon the works of Lovecraft, and you don't have a problem with more involved rules, then you should definitely look into Arkham Horror.
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