- Action / Movement Programming
- Action Point Allowance System
- Action Queue
- Action Selection
- Area Control
- Area Enclosure
- Area Majority/ Influence
- Area Movement
- Bag Building
- Card Drafting
- Card Placement
- Chit-Pull System
- Command Cards
- Commodity Speculation
- Communication Limits
- Cooperative Play
- Crayon Rail System
- Cube tower
- Deck Building
- Deck Constructing
- Dice Building
- Dice Movement
- Dice Rolling
- Dutch Auction
- Engine Building
- Grid Movement
- Hand Management
- Hand-Eye Coordination
- Hex and Counter
- Hexagon Grid
- Hidden Movement
- Hidden Objective
- Hidden Traitor
- I Split, You Take
- Line Drawing
- Modular Board
- Narrative Choice
- Network and Route Building
- Once per game ability
- Order Fulfillment
- Paper and Pencil
- Pattern Building
- Pattern Recognition
- Pick-up and Deliver
- Player Elimination
- Point to Point Movement
- Pool Building
- Press Your Luck
- Real Time
- Resource Gathering
- Role Playing
- Role Selection
- Roles with Asymmetric Information
- Roll / Spin and Move
- Roll and Write
- Secret Unit Deployment
- Set Collection
- Simultaneous Play
- Simultaneous action selection
- Social Deduction
- Stock Holding
- Tableau Building
- Take That
- Tile Placement
- Time Track
- Tower Defense
- Variable Phase Order
- Variable Player Powers
- Worker Placement
- Worker Placement with Dice Workers
Popular Tile Placement Board Games (Mechanic)
Before I begin I was provided a prototype copy of the game in exchange for an honest review. This is NOT a paid preview. If you would prefer to see a video preview, you can check it out below. You can get your own copy of the game here.
You can see a video preview here (note this is a very early video so it has odd camera angle and sound)
Arguably the biggest buzzword in gaming the past few years has been “asymmetrical”. You can’t throw a virtual rock in kickstarter without hitting an asymmetric game. Heck, the reigning game of the year according to practically everyone is Root, which is perhaps the most asymmetric game ever.
For those of you that do not know what I am talking about, basically, in a truly asymmetric game every play plays extremely, if not completely, differently. They often have different game mechanics, often score points differently. Often they are really challenging to teach.
The beauty of these games is that they have an INSANE replay value, because each faction, or character is so different you are playing a uniquely different game.
Now Merchants Cove is the most asymmetric game I have come across since I first discovered Root, and Vast (Sentinels of the Multiverse is a distant second). In this game, each player is a different vendor in Merchants Cove. Over the course of three days each player will attempt to sell their wares to the incoming customers (who show up on sick meeple-boats), and at the end of three days, whomever makes the most money wins.
Each player has their own mechanics on how they gain the goods they are trying to sell. The alchemist has a marble placement mechanic, that in many ways operates like a game of potion explosion. The Blacksmith uses a dice placement, math-y mechanic. The Chronomancer (and his plucky assistant) uses a tile placement mechanic. While the Captain uses a worker placement mechanic, utilizing a spinner for movement. Then there are the two expansion characters; the innkeeper, and Oracle who utilize their own mechanics. (My preview copy did not include the latter two so I cannot speak to them).
Note: Since this preview a third extra character has been added-The Dragon Rancher. I have gotten to play both the Oracle and Dragon Rancher and they are both delights. The Oracle uses a roll and write mechanic, while the Dragon Rancher is a mix of Mancala and Pac-man. The Innkeeper creates his own mini economy in his inn.
Each day players take their unique actions (or they can hire townsfolk to work in their shops…probably at minimum wage…or if they are artists for “exposure”). Each of their actions costs the player a set amount of hours. As players move their tokens around the clock more and more customers (colored meeples) show up in the boats.
As the boats fill, they will dock at one of three docks. Whatever dock they go to will determine if they will be looking to buy large goods or small goods. There is also the option to sell on the “Black Market”, but if you do that you earn corruption (which is worth negative points at the end of the game). At the end of each day is the market phase, which allows players to sell their goods if they wish to, or they can wait for a, potentially better crowd another day. Once goods have been sold players can also earn points for sponsoring one of the various guilds (colors of meeples) whose guild halls have slowly been filling up as the game progresses.
So what do I think?
Most everything. I adore this game. The beauty of this game is that I liked it the first time I played it. Unlike so many other highly asymmetric games, you are able to just learn YOUR character, because how the other characters play does not effect your strategy, for the most part. In Root, for example, you really need to understand how the other factions play to really grasp what is going on, and that can be daunting and challenging. (For the record, after playing a few times I now REALLY like Root and think it is certainly worthy of its accolades).
Each of the characters is its own mini game, and all of them are a delight to manage. Even if only one of these mini games were the core mechanic of all the characters, if would STILL be a delightful game, yet here you are getting four, or six. That is amazeballs.
Next, I think the components are top notch, keep in mind I only received a prototype copy and the components were still in the top echelon of game components (clearly I am not counting Chip Theory Games, cause their stuff is a whole new level of components). The meeple boats are super cool, and the board is gorgeous and the card quality is already high.
Finally, I already alluded to this, but the replay value is off the charts. Not only do you have the character variety, but the game also comes with various “Rogue” cards which change the rules for the grey meeples. Each different rogue card will change what happens when a grey meeple is drawn from the bag. Just by changing one of these cards, you will have a different experience, even if you play with the exact same characters.
Edit: Since I did this review I have gotten to play with the updated solo mode, as well as several of the story based scenarios. I think both of these are FANTASTIC, and make a great game better.
I have already praised the artwork on the board, and I stand by that. It is stunning. I did find that the artwork of the characters seems to not completely mesh, they feel as if the styles of them are just a little bit different. On their own they are great pieces of art, they just don’t quite jive for me. I will also say that I found the Alchemist to be a bit necessarily “boob-tastic”.
Second, I will say that this game has a whackingly ginormous table footprint. It takes up a ton of space, and might be hard to play on a smaller table.
Now to be fair, I only got to see an early draft of the rules, but the rules needed a lot of revision for clarity and ease of reading. I will also add that it has already been confirmed that a professional editor will be reworking the rules, which should fix this issue. I will say that I have never heard any complaints about the rules for any other FFG games, so this one might be “much ado about nothing.”
Bringing it all together
Merchants Cove is a brilliant asymmetric euro game. Each character is its own delightful mini-game, that does not require you to understand what everyone else can do in order to have a chance to win. The early version of the rules need revision, but after it gets an editing pass they should be clear. The components are top notch, and with the exception of some of the art not quite feeling matched, and the alchemist being a bit “booby”. The solo mode is easy to manage and adds an incredible amount of depth to the game, and the solo scenarios add an amazing challenge. I think that Merchants Cove will likely be the best euro game of 2020.
The game takes place in three days, why does it take me four to read that review?
- Incredible game play, each character is its own unique mini game
- Top notch components
- Awesome “time” mechanic, that is something I have never seen
- Overall art is good, though I think there is a a slight miss on the Alchemist character artwork, but the rest I enjoy-especially the board
- Incredible replay value
- Early rule set needs a revision
- Game takes up a ton, not just a ton a metric ton of space
- Did I mention the meeple boats?
- I predict this is going to be one of the best games of the year
As usual, Trent (u/trentellingsen) is rolling out new BGA features left and right and the newest addition is a filter for your game search. When you head over to "All Games" page you will now be greeted by this sweet lineup of filters:
- Discount Rate
- Average User Rating
- Minimum Player Count
- Year Published
A new feature is always in desperate need of repeated usage for some fine-tuning. For example, when Trent added this article feature a while back, I started interviewing artists/designers in the industry to kill two birds with one stone:
- Creating unique content for BGA in my area of expertise and interest (when I play Root, it's 1/2 fawning over the art and 1/2 strategizing)
- Highlighting the people behind the scenes of the board game industry (I've always wished for the artists to get more attention from the community)
- Testing out the article feature
Three things, but you get the point. I've since published 8 interviews while enduring through every little annoyances and bugs that needed to be worked out with Trent, and there's still more to be done.
Trying Out the Filters
Now let's try a series of interesting combinations of filters! I'll present the results below and you can provide feedback in the comments section.
Test #1: Most Expensive & Best Rated Worker Placement Games
- Price: $60+
- Average User Rating: 4+ Stars
- Mechanics: Worker Placement
1. Dogs of War
Test #2: Best Rated & 30%+ Discounted Modern Games
- Discount: 30%+
- Average User Rating: 4+ Stars
- Published: 2015-2019
3. Spy Club
Test #3: Going on a Long Adventure with a Discounted Game
- Discount: 20%+
- Average User Rating: 3+ Stars
- Playtime: Over 120 Min.
- Categories: Adventure
1. Mage Knight
Test #4: Getting Way too Specific
- Discount: 30%+
- Average User Rating: 3+ Stars
- Playtime: 45 Min. Max
- Mechanics: Tile Placement, Set Collection
Test #5: Cooperative + Area Control Games with Best Ratings
- Average User Rating: 3+ Stars
- Mechanics: Cooperative, Area Control
3. Space Alert
It's 12am and I'm running out of juice. Let me know in the comments what you think about the results!
How are the filters working out for you?
A tile laying, area control game for 1-5 players
Designed by: Xavier Georges
Published by: Pearl Games
Growing up in the US Midwest, we both have vivid memories of hiking and camping. To this day, the smell of a pine forest is enough to send us back to memories of hiking, fishing, or camping. While neither of us would today identify as “outdoorsy” (does a hotel next to a city park count as glamping?) our appreciation for the great Midwestern wilderness never left us.
And that brings us to Ginkgopolis, a game (loosely) about living symbiotically with Ginkgo Biloba trees. While there aren’t many (any?) Ginkgo Biloba trees in Minnesota or Michigan, we can relate to wanting to live in greater harmony with nature. Released in 2012, Ginkgopolis is a response to the growing concern of the human threat to the environment. Set in a future where humans have exhausted all other resources, they must build cities relying on the oldest and heartiest of trees – the Ginkgo Biloba. This time around humans do it right and strive for a mutually beneficial relationship with nature.
While the theme isn’t so much an immersive “theme” as it is an excuse for pretty artwork featuring aesthetically pleasing futurism, you’ll hear few complaints from us. The game play is dynamic, unique, and just plain fun. It’s well worth struggling through the high barrier to entry, since we’re certain you don’t have another game exactly like this one on your shelf.
*Note: this is a general overview, not a detailed how-to-play description and will not include every rule
Ginkgopolis was first released in 2012, with a modular expansion released the following year. While we enjoy the expansions, we will focus this review only on the base game. (Drop a comment below or send a message if you want to hear more about the expansion).
The game begins with the 9 starting tiles (3 of each color, more on color significance below) laid out in a 3 x 3 grid surrounded by the 12 urbanization tiles A-L in alphabetical order. Players start by gaining 3 character cards that give them their starting items and permanent action bonuses. They can obtain character cards optionally by dealing them out (boring) or drafting (fun!).
Before we get to a more detailed explanation, it’s important to note that there are 3 types of items in Ginkgopolis, each associated with a color:
Red – resources
Blue – tiles
Yellow – success points (VPs)
Ginkgopolis is a melting pot of several different types of games with a lot of mechanics cobbled together in a way that shouldn’t work but totally does. We’ve stated here that it’s a tile placement/area control game – and it is! – but it also has a card drafting mechanism similar to games like 7 Wonders that is critical to consider for a winning strategy.
The game is essentially a series of rounds broken up only by replenishing the draw deck (which we’ll get to below). Each round has the following structure:
1. Players draw a card (in turn order) so their hand has 4 cards
In the first round of the game, players draw 4 cards to start their hand. In subsequent rounds, they’ll have a hand of 3 and need to draw up to 4. Players will never need to draw more than 1 card, and will never have a hand larger than 4 cards.
2. All players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and lay it face-down on the table
At any time, players may use a hand token (2 total per player) to put their hand of cards in the discard pile and draw a new hand before selecting a card
3. Resolve actions in turn order
There are several different types of actions. Since each player can only choose 1 card on their turn, they will only ever do 1 action at a time.
Here are the action options:
Option 1: Exploit a card: Play a card to get items (resources, tiles, points)
Play ONE of the following card types:
Building cards: play a numbered card to get the item associated with the color of the building. Number of items taken is dependent on the level of the associated numbered tile (that is, a stack of 2 tiles = 2 items)
Urbanization (letter) cards: play a letter (A-L) card and take a single resource or tile
Take bonuses based on permanent bonuses in your tableau, if applicable
Discard the card in the central discard pile
Option 2: Urbanize: Play a letter card (A-L) with a tile and a resource token to build outwards
Place a tile from behind your screen at the location of the letter token matching the letter of the played card
Place your resource token on the new tile
Place gray construction pawn on new tile
Move urbanization letter token to new location adjacent to the new tile
Gain items based on buildings orthogonally (not diagonally) adjacent to the newly placed tile (example, if you placed next to a 2-level blue stack, gain 2 tiles)
Take urbanization bonuses based on your player card tableau, if applicable
Return the played card to discard pile
Pro Tip: It’s super easy to forget to take all of your items, especially later in the game. When urbanizing, always check the adjacent tiles and your card tableau to make sure you don’t miss out on collecting your bonuses!
Option 3: Construct (aka overbuild or stack): Play a numbered building card with a tile and the required number of resource tokens
Build (place a new tile from behind your screen) on top of tile with the same number and color as the played card
If new tile is a lower number than the tile being overbuilt, pay the difference in VPs
If the new tile is a different color than the tile being overbuilt, pay an additional resource token
Place a gray construction pawn on new tile
If another player had resources on the tile that was built over, return their resources behind their screen
Opponents get 1 VP per resource returned
Place resources of associated level on new tile (level 1 building, 2 resources)
Take bonuses from cards already in their tableau, if applicable
Keep played card in front of you for permanent action bonuses or end-game scoring
Pro Tip: The player at the end of the game with the most resources on a large area of a single color scores a ton of points. Use construct to change the colors of tiles in their controlled districts. Even if it doesn’t particularly benefit you, it sure can hurt their final score! This is a super fun way to make an enemy of your family and friends.
4. Prepare for Next Turn - Pass hand and the 1st player card to the left
5. Check for end game conditions
Tile draw pile runs out
The first time the tile pile runs out, players secretly add a number of tiles from behind their player shields back into the draw pile
Gain 1 VP for each returned tile
Continue playing until the tiles run out a second time, then the game ends
A player has all their resources on the map
IMPORTANT RULE: If the draw deck is exhausted, IMMEDIATELY pause whatever you’re doing and do the following actions:
Add in cards corresponding to the newly played tiles that have grey markers on them (see below), removing the markers as you go
Reshuffle deck including all newly added cards
In a 2-player game, discard the top 7 cards before proceeding
End Game Scoring
End game scoring awards points for control of each district of the map, VPs earned during the game, end game card bonuses, and unused hand tokens.
What do we think?
Ginkgopolis is an extremely abstract game, seemingly made up of many mini-mechanisms: tile placement, area control, card drafting, tableau building, and spatial planning. Trying to describe this game is like the story of people wearing blindfolds trying to describe all the different parts of an elephant. They’re all correct, but they’re all part of the bigger picture.
Ginkgopolis has a lot going on! It has the potential to cause a decent amount of analysis paralysis (AP) if given the opportunity. Especially late in the game, there is a lot of weighing decisions and mentally adding up how many points you could get from each turn and how you can best stop your opponents from getting points.
It’s also a very interactive game. You will be building over your opponents’ buildings. They will build on top of yours. You get a couple points when that happens, but it’s usually not enough to stop you from feeling saltier than the Dead Sea.
We don’t often like games with direct conflict as a core mechanism, but in Ginkgopolis we live for destroying each other’s large districts. It’s like playing chicken by building up larger areas and taunting the other players to destroy them, meets a battle of the wits on who’s played well enough to keep their areas intact and take over others.
Fun story about how we came to be in possession of Ginkgopolis:
When we got into board games Ginkgopolis had been out for a year or two and had some buzz, but not tons. Copies were still readily available from German and French retailers. But did we buy it then? Nope!
We had pretty much written Ginkgopolis off after playing some other tile laying and area control games and finding none of them really drew us in. Plus, Sarah is horrific with anything remotely resembling a spatial game, so off the wishlist Ginkgopolis went. And then it sold out everywhere and suddenly we had to have it. Like our 3-year-old when he really doesn’t want those last few strawberries on his plate until after mommy ate them (sorry bud, if you give me your food I’ll probably eat it).
FOMO is real.
Flash forward to August 2019 and we were at BGG@Sea and Ginkgopolis was there. Knowing it was out of print, we figured this would be our only opportunity to try it. So we did the socially awkward thing (to us! Sarah is a big introvert) and asked if we could join in a game. We were both instantly captivated and we knew right then that we would need to track down a copy. After several failed attempts to purchase on the after-market, we finally got ahold of a copy for juuuuust a bit too much money. And then the reprint was announced. Oh well, you win some you lose some.
I love Ginkgopolis and writing this review is strongly making me reconsider if it should actually be my #1 game (currently ranked #2). Nothing about the game should work for me.
I didn’t think I liked tile laying games. I didn’t think I like abstract-esque games. I didn’t think there could really be an area control game that played two players. And I certainly didn’t think I liked anything to do with city building because I am bad at visually planning it.
But Ginkgopolis works. The tableau is so satisfying to get a bunch of bonuses when you do something. The interaction, not something super common in euros that play well at two, is amazing.
It’s a really awkward and difficult game to describe or teach to others though. We are really bad at teaching and we had the most wonderful rules blunder in teaching Ginkgopolis a few months ago. We now ask our friends to watch a video before game nights to avoid that embarrassing mishap.
Ok, so I did NOT expect Sarah to like this game as much as I do. Typically when we play games with heavy spatial mechanics (i.e. the location of your placement is important) I crush Sarah and she never wants to play again.
To my delight, this is the one spatial game where we tend to be evenly matched, which makes it a lot more fun (no offense, Sarah, remember how I can’t win Brass), and where both of us really like it.
The biggest drawback is the barrier to entry. The rules aren’t terrible to learn compared to other games in this weight class, but getting any sort of reasonable handle on strategy definitely takes a few games, especially against experienced players. It’s more nuanced than it seems at first glance, which makes it hard to calculate which moves are going to be effective in the long run.
I also love that it seems to scale pretty well. The game is SUPER fun at 2, and still holds up at 4, though it’s much slower.
We were taught to play our first Ginkgopolis. It was a 4 player game with all of us being new to the game. It can be a real tricky game to wrap your brain around so it definitely felt like it took until end game scoring to really understand how everything came together. Once we finished the first game we knew we wanted to play again and soon!
That said, this clearly has a very high barrier to entry. It’s tough to learn in a way that you’ll be able to “get it” on your first or even second play. We knew we loved it the first time, but we might just be weird since others we’ve introduced it to have taken a few plays to start liking it as well.
We did not learn the game from the rulebook so we can’t speak to learning from the rulebook. When we re-taught ourselves after finally buying the game, it wasn’t difficult to skim the rules for a refresher.
We also leveraged THIS awesome player aide. It worked for us as a reminder, and we still usually set it within reach when we go too long between plays.
Ginkgopolis is a game that gets better with every play. The first play is really just a game of understanding how all the mechanisms mesh together and how scoring works. Experienced players will always have an advantage over newbies in that they will already know what each action does; as a new player this can take many turns to fully wrap your head around.
PSA: It’s worthwhile mentioning the general gaming etiquette: if you’re teaching this to your friends, go easy and don’t crush them the first time. Even if it’s sooooooooo tempting. This game is usually very easy to obliterate the newbies.
Play Time, Best Number of Players
We have played Ginkgopolis at player counts of 2, 3, and 4. As with most games we cover, Ginkgopolis plays great at 2. It’s actually probably best at 2 as it can be played pretty quickly for a heavy-ish game. If you’re looking for a game that is heavy and excellent at 2, this is definitely a go-to.
Ginkgopolis is one of those games that plays fast, but at higher play counts you don’t really feel like you have enough time to do everything you want to do. Playtime listed on the box, 45 minutes, is pretty accurate for fewer players, but it can drag out at higher player counts.
Ginkgopolis at 2-player is quick and is a great weeknight game for after the kids go to bed. If you have a clear plan in mind and can visualize what you want to do, then it is fairly accepting of interruptions, especially once you’re familiar with the game.
Another fun fact: Emily went into labor with Sullivan while we were playing Ginkgopolis during a date night (pre-COVID) at Fantasy Flight Game Center. She wasn’t convinced she was in labor (FYI early labor is kinda hard to distinguish from all the general discomfort near the end) so we finished the game (Emily won) and hung around to play some roll and writes until Sarah got waaaaay too anxious that we weren’t ready if the baby came that night. (Sarah’s note: we legit were not ready. We went home and I did 3 loads of laundry, packed the hospital bags, had to find the carseat buried in the garage, and then install it in the car). By about 3am Emily accepted she was in labor and we went to the hospital. Sullivan made his appearance at 1:34 pm that afternoon.
***** (5 Stars)
Our complaints for this game are minor, and most are around the barrier to entry. We found Ginkgopolis to be a game that probably doesn’t get the kudos it deserves (outside of some gaming niches), or at least until it went out of print. The weak theme isn’t relevant when the artwork is ON POINT, the gameplay is highly unique, and the fun factor is off the charts.
*See our rating scale on our site
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Before I begin, I was sent a copy of the prototype and will receive a production copy should the game fund in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid preview. If you would prefer to watch a video of this review check it out below. You can learn more about the game here.
Engine building, grid tile placement is about the least sexy pitch I can think of for a game. It is. Yet, both of those mechanics are ones that I have grown to really enjoy over the past year or so as I have gotten deeper into doing reviews. It makes me regret that I had avoided them for so long.
There is something quite satisfying about playing games like this, especially as they are close to multi-player solitaire games. I know a lot of gamers do not like that, but I enjoy the challenge of simply having to out play your opponent, rather than out sabotage them.
Enter Feudal Endeavor, a game about managing your fief during the time of Catherine the Great. Your will spend your turns bidding on land tiles to place in your fief. Adding these tiles will unlock ways you can spend your resources in order to gain others. These resources then get flipped in order to purchase more land deeds in the future.
The catch here, is that each round you will have an opportunity to fulfill the empress’s will. There will be cards out which ask for a specific order of colored lands in your fief each round. If you are able to fulfill one of those then you will earn points, should you not be able to do that, at least you will be able to send her a tithe, which might be worth points at the end of the game.
The only other thing that really plays a huge part in the game is the initiative order. The initiative order, or Empress’s favor is the tie breaker, and it resets in whenever a player claims a deed.
So what do I like about this game?
I appreciate the simplicity of the bidding system, yet at the same time I really enjoy the incredible amount of strategy that goes into bidding. You see there are so many different options of what you can bid on, and there are so many ways that they can all help, especially early in the game. Along with this the way that each deed lets you bid different resources to claim really keeps each round feeling fresh.
I enjoy the puzzle nature of laying the deeds out in your fief. It is good fun trying to out-think you opponent and make sure you are able to claim the deeds you need, but at the same time it feels so good when you can make your opponent think you are going for a deed you aren’t and they over pay for it. So good.
I like the idea of the theme, but in practice it does not really extend to the deeds themselves. Some of them make complete sense…yes you pay money here and you get horses, but other times it feels like the deeds are just mechanical and not particularly thematic. On the other hand the part of the game where you work to claim the favor of the empress is a real delight and really feels thematic.
While we enjoyed the game at two players I do think that it will play significantly better at 3 or more players. The bidding just feels a bit anti-climactic at two players because it is definitely possible to go several rounds and not have any fights over deeds, which is a big part of the fun.
There are some issues with the components in the prototype. Some of the colors are very close and can be hard to tell apart. In the same vein the goods that you can bid to purchase land deeds at the top of the deeds is hard to read when it is in the center of the table.
Note: I have been told by the designer that this is a known issue and it is being fixed moving forward.
I had the pleasure of having the more deluxe components for the resources,and while they definitely add something to the game, one of the people I played with took the purple soldier resource upside down and thought it resembled something a bit unsavory. Once I told them it was, in fact, a hat they got it, but perhaps that should be rethought.
Bringing it all together
Feudal endeavor does some good stuff with bidding and creating your own personal fief, the inclusion of ways to please the empress’s ever changing whims is a delight as well. The them is not fully realized in all aspects of the game, and there are some component issues, that are being rectified in the lead up to the next kickstarter launch. The game plays quickly, and if you are looking for a bidding game that shines at higher player counts then this is one to look at.
The Empress demands less words!
- Fun bidding system, interesting tile, grid placement mechanics
- The Empress;s pleasure and whims really add a lot to the game
- Theme is only partially realized
- Has some component issues that need to be addressed
- If you have three or more player this is a bidding game that will be great for game nights. It plays quickly and easily with minimal player interaction, but you are always paying attention to other player.