City of the Great Machine - David Wood Can the Great Machine complete its Master Plan to enslave humanity? Or will heroes bring about a revolution to overthrow it? That’s the gist of this Victorian era, steampunk-themed, hidden movement game. One player takes on the role of the Great Machine, an AI network that uses robot guards and human servants to detain revolutionaries and arrest citizens who support them, all the while scheming to implement its Master Plan. The other players take on the role of revolutionaries trying to recruit citizens to their cause and instigate riots. All of this takes place in a floating city made up of mobile platforms that can be repositioned during the game. The hidden movement mechanism creates lots of tension. Heroes select an Access card from their hand indicating the district they will move to and place them face down to keep the Great Machine from knowing. The Great Machine then moves and takes all its actions. Only then do the heroes reveal their Access cards and take their actions. That doesn’t mean the Great Machine is blind. Player actions and the state of the board will provide hints about what they may be up to next. Combined with quick game play, great components, and gobs of variability, this game is addictive. Ease of entry?: \u2605\u2605\u2605\u2605\u2605 - No sweat Would I play it again?: \u2605\u2605\u2605\u2605\u2605 - Will definitely play it again Read more articles from David Wood. Explorers - Bob Pazehoski, Jr. Phil Walker-Harding is a master of charming simplicity. Explorers is a 2021 release I hadn’t heard of prior to seeing it on the table. A flip-n-write game, Explorers begins with players establishing an always-unique but always uniform map by rotating and setting four of the available map tiles inside the cutout of each player board. The map will consist of a few hundred small squares containing a variety of resources, gems, cities, and temples. For each turn, players flip a tile with two terrain types, in effect choosing one for themselves and one for the other players. From that point, the game is an efficiency race around the map, gathering and visiting over four rounds. We spent a half-hour with this one, but the system was crystal clear at first glance. Were Explorers limited to its base iteration, this would be a beautiful introduction to the various "-n-write" games on the market. But there’s a whole set of modules and variations in the box that suggest there are a few additional layers to the map, which makes me think this might be a winner on several levels. I don’t own the game, but I have to believe the next time I have a chance, I’ll be sitting down to explore a bit more. Ease of entry?: \u2605\u2605\u2605\u2605\u2605 - No sweat Would I play it again?: \u2605\u2605\u2605\u2605\u2606 - Would like to play it again Read more articles from Bob Pazehoski, Jr. Horizons of Spirit Island - David McMillan. Spirit Island is a cooperative game wherein the players take on the roles of the titular spirits in their efforts to fight off the foreign colonists who are encroaching on the island. Functionally, the game play in this mass market version of the game is exactly the same as its much better produced namesake (you can read all about how it‘s played in Andrew’s review of Spirit Island). In fact, aside from the component quality, the only differences I can find are that the island has been redesigned and the maximum player count has been reduced by 1 (from 4 to 3). Having never played Spirit Island, but having heard good things about it, when Horizons was proposed, I jumped on the opportunity. And now, having played it, I am suitably impressed. The game was fun and I felt engaged, but there were quite a few bumps along the way. There were a lot of rules that weren’t always easy for me to wrap my head around and a lot of strategies that weren’t immediately apparent. All in all, it was a good cooperative experience, but not one I am necessarily excited to experience again now that my curiosity has been satisfied. Ease of entry?: \u2605\u2605\u2605\u2606\u2606 - There were a few questions Would I play it again?: \u2605\u2605\u2606\u2606\u2606 - Would play again but would rather play something else Read more articles from David McMillan. Twilight Struggle: Red Sea - Andrew Lynch. At last, Twilight Struggle for Dummies. I have attempted to play the Great Game a handful of times, and never failed to be dissuaded by the seemingly unfathomable breadth of the decision space, the number of cards whose effects I needed to learn to have any hope of competitive play, and the playtime. Red Sea takes place on a scaled-down map, with a scaled-down deck of possible cards, and a scaled-down playtime of two rounds and about 40 minutes. After one play, I already feel more confident about dipping into the full game’s waters. It helps that Red Sea takes advantage of the reduced map to include guides to Twilight Struggle’s various rules, the coups and realignments, on the board. Ease of entry?: \u2605\u2605\u2605\u2606\u2606 - There were a few questions Would I play it again?: \u2605\u2605\u2605\u2605\u2605 - Will definitely play it again Read more articles from Andrew Lynch. Cooper Island - Justin Bell. Sometimes when I get a review copy of the game, I rip off the shrink then read the rulebook. I like to get a sense of how quickly I can get up to speed on a game before teaching it to my gaming groups. I did that with my copy of Cooper Island (2019, Capstone Games)...about a year ago. A few months ago, I read the rules again and shook my head before putting it back on the shelf. Cooper Island is easily the oldest review copy of a game I had not yet reviewed, for a simple reason: this game is tough. There’s a density to the rules overhead that left me scratching my head. Ultimately, after two solo plays, it’s not only the rules that make Cooper Island a challenge. The first couple rounds of the game are opaque and exceptionally tight (on everything: coins, resources, storage space, worker placement options). Players must race around an island with two boats while placing tiles to develop their portion of the island. The edge case rules required quite a bit of reference back to the booklet, and I never really found joy in turn-to-turn actions. While I can acknowledge that this game is likely rewarding with a half-dozen plays or more, and I can also acknowledge that the design here is quite a puzzle, Cooper Island is ultimately not for me. Ease of entry?: \u2605\u2606\u2606\u2606\u2606 - Rough Would I play it again?: \u2605\u2606\u2606\u2606\u2606 - Would play again but will cry about it Read more articles from Justin Bell.