Spice It Up! With Colosseum by Tasty Minstrel Games

One of my eighth great grandfathers traveled from Italy to Quebec over two hundred years ago. He was born in the Ligurian city of Genoa in the late 1600s, left as a youth and traveled to the New World. After marrying the daughter of the post master in Quebec City in 1714, he never went back to his Italian homeland as far as we know. Italy has always called to me since I first heard that story.

Two years ago, I had the pleasure of traveling to Firenze and Roma with my family. While I was not able to make it to Genoa, I did get the chance to dip my toes in the same Mediterranean waters that he probably touched, albeit two hundred years later.

Walking around Rome, and seeing the expanse of marble on every corner, gave me a sense of awe about the monuments accomplished by these ancient peoples. One of the highlights was a tour of the Colosseum. Any fan of SEC football knows that LSU’s Tiger Stadium’s outdoor facade bears a striking resemblance to that ancient edifice, so standing inside and outside of that structure was all the more impressive.

I am not naive; I realize that there were many great and terrible events that took place in Rome’s stadium. But, standing amidst the remains, I could not help but wonder what non-deadly spectacles were presented in the arena.

Could a game give me that feeling of standing in the midst of a large arena, marshaling my actors, props and animals to put on a giant display of athletic ability? For years, there was such a game, but it was hard to find and expensive when you did. Anyone that listened to the Dice Tower after 2007 heard Tom and Sam extolling its virtues.

Does your game group like auction bidding, trading and collecting? Is your group tired of playing the same old bidding game? Do they have a flair for the dramatic? Well then, spice up your game nights with Colosseum by Tasty Minstrel Games

Colosseum is a 2007 release designed by Wolfgang Kramer and Markus Lübke. It was recently released by Tasty Minstrel Games with all new artwork and a deluxe edition that includes heavy metal coins and upgraded components.

Colosseum plays from three to five players in about an hour and half, although your first play will probably be closer to two hours. It has been nominated for numerous awards, including a 2008 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Nominee and an IGA award for best strategy game.


Players act as “Roman impresarios” who collect the various elements to put on ever more spectacular shows. Played with the right group, the theme really shines. The visual 3d elements included in the game plus the numerous different show elements (animals, props, actors) all add to the feeling that each player is putting on an ever more complicated show.


I’ve played the game with the Kickstarter edition from TMG, with metal coins that clink satisfactorily on the table, and upgraded components to really make the pieces pop on your table. I have not seen the retail version, so I cannot comment on how it looks.

The game comes with a large game board (yes, I know it is a little smaller than the original, but since I never played the original…) and an excellent rule book.

The artwork through out the game was done by Jacqui Davis with graphic design by Daniel Solis (who you will remember from his design with Kodama: The Tree Spirits and his handiwork in numerous other games.) I have seen pictures of the original artwork, and it was very classy and well done, but I have no problems at all with the new design. The colors pop, the artwork is interesting without being cartoony, and for the most part, it is easy to read the icons and cards.


For a ten year old game, Colosseum still feels fresh. It takes some very simple mechanics (rolling and moving, set collecting, bidding and trading) and overlays them with interesting decisions. While there is nothing here that has never been done before, back ten years ago it was likely a unique combination of mechanisms that still hold up today.


The game is surprisingly easy to teach, although maybe I shouldn’t be surprised since it was originally a Days of Wonder release. That company is known for games that appeal to both gamers and family first timers alike. The set collection and auction bidding mechanics are a little more advanced than say your basic three rule game of Ticket to Ride, but I would not hesitate to bring this out with a game group that is less than experienced.

Like any good auction game, the game comes down to players spotting trends in the scarcity of show elements and outwitting each other through bids and trades and show purchases. It is definitely a good next step up from your general gateway type games, and should be very easy to teach for families who have a little experience in playing games.

The game plays over five game rounds, each broken up into five phases. Essentially, players take turns INVESTING in their show (upgrading their arena or buying a new show), ACQUIRING new assets (participating in the auction for the available show assets), TRADING the various asset tokens, PRODUCING the event (using the show assets at hand with some special rules to help players who don’t have enough assets with negative points attached to taking advantage of the breaks, and finally CLOSING CEREMONIES (bonuses and clean up time).

There are some delicious decisions throughout the game. Players can score more points if they can somehow roll and move nobles (senators, consuls, and the emperor) into their show, but it takes careful planning to do so. Players need to look at the scarcity of the show elements versus the point totals on the various shows and balance how far they are willing to push their luck that those show elements will come out in the bidding process or be available in the trading phase. There’s even a bit of engine building as players invest in upgrades for their arenas.


The game is not for everyone. If your game group does not like auctions or bidding, then Colosseum will be a hard sell. A really aggressive player who is good at economic games will definitely have an advantage over players enjoying the ride of building out better shows each round. That can rub some people wrong if they go into this game thinking it is yet another solitaire Euro, because it is not. Controlling the auction and the show pieces can be a big part of the game, and conversely, not being able to buy or trade for the pieces you need can be very frustrating.

A minor downside is the card art for the shows. For some reason, the little icons don’t seamlessly match up with the card art, especially for the bonus star performers. It took a couple of rounds, but eventually people were able to distinguish the different types of actors versus the bonus cards, but I think this could have been done better with more appropriate iconography.


I have not played Colosseum enough yet for a full review. This was a grail game for me, as I love the theme and mechanics and the style of play. I love Euro games that include a little more interaction then your typical point salad game, and I love how there is bluffing and bidding in what otherwise would just be a rote collection game.

I love the Dukes of Dice six point rating scale, and really admire the simplicity of giving each game a grade. I cannot say I have played Colosseum enough to give it a score yet, but even after just a few plays, I am leaning toward a four (a good game worth playing, just not all the time, but belongs in your collection) or a five (a great game, will rarely turn down a play of it). I have played it at four player counts and at five players too, but would really like to see how it plays at three before deciding.

The real questions when I purchase a game like this are whether I have enjoyed playing and do I want to play it again. The answer to both is a resounding yes — I enjoyed both of my first two plays, and I definitely cannot wait to play it again.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

— B.J.


A Chat with Chenier La Salle, Designer of New York 1901

Many gamers in South Louisiana can trace their roots to Canada. Of course, the Acadians are the most well known transplants, as they were forced out of the Acadie area of Eastern Canada during Le Grand Derangement in 1755 and found their way south to Louisiana.  But, there were also a lot of soldiers, business people, tradesman, farmers and sailors who left Quebec and other French speaking areas in the 1700s and headed down south.

So we are always excited to hear of the successes of the gaming and design communities of our Francophone friends in Quebec.  Recently, we had the pleasure of catching up again with one of those successful designers.


Photo from Board Game Geek’s Designer Page
Chenier La Salle is the award winning designer of New York 1901, published in 2015 by Blue Orange Games.  Chenier is originally from Quebec, but currently lives and works in Japan on assignment from the Canadian government. Of course, he is also working on his latest game there,


He was gracious enough to exchange messages with me for this interview. Merci, Chenier!




BJ: I read that your family game nights with your own children got started with card games and games like Ticket to Ride, which your family called “The Train Game.” Funny! In our family, we call it the same, as in “Want to try one of my dad’s games? We could play The Train Game.” Was that name organic or something Dad (Chenier) created to make the games more palatable to our video obsessed kids?

CL: It just happened. Thurn and Taxis became the “Germany game” and Finca the “fruit game”. Must be human nature. I’m sure some people also shorten the already short New York 1901. I’ve heard people refer to it as “New York” (a quick game of ‘New York’?) and others as “1901”. 

You spent some time in the south (Texas) after jumping back into this hobby with two feet. Any special memories of gaming in Texas?

My most vivid gaming memory, beyond the game that our family created in Texas, is the pleasure of discovering how less expensive board games are in the US compared to Canada. Dad (me) really went nuts buying many more board games than he can ever hope to play. It’s kinda ridiculous – my wall of shame is filled with games from that 4 year buying spree!

Did you attend any of the cons in Houston or Dallas? What was the hobby gaming scene like in Houston when you were there? Any friends to thank for their help on NY 1901?

As for the Houston gaming scene, it’s very active but I didn’t attend any of the cons. I did attend a weekly game designers meetup early in the development of New York 1901. I got a lot of ‘tough love’ just when I needed it most.

As a Quebecois, you are bilingual. When Amazon delivers a game from Canada or Europe that you’ve been waiting for….do you grab the French rules or the English rules first?

Hehe, good question. If the game has both English and French rules, I’ll probably read the first version I stumble upon.

So, you are on a post in Japan, returning to you and your family’s roots somewhat. How has that experience been? We are seeing more and more cross over games from Japan and other parts of Asia.

Yes, this posting in Japan is perfect on all fronts. I’m in a country that I know well so on a professional level, I can really make a difference supporting Canadian industry. On a personal level my wife is extremely happy to be back home – I met her in Japan when I lived here from 1994-2004. My job had forced her to live outside Japan for 12 years and she really missed home. You can also imagine how happy the in-laws are to see their daughter and grandchildren. I think I’ll have a hard time getting her to leave Japan once this posting is over!

What is the Japanese gaming scene like?

It’s still relatively small in Japan. Nagoya, the city I live in is the third city in Japan in terms of population (it’s big) but has only one small shop where you can find “revival” boardgames – which shows you how small the market is here. But the scene is growing. Carcassonne has a somewhat of a following.

My first Gen Con last year was overwhelming and exhilarating at the same time. In 2015, you traveled to Indy for your first GenCon to showcase NY1901? What was the experience like? What did you learn for your next big con?

It felt overwhelming and exhilarating just like it was for you or for any first time goer! When you add the fact that I had a game that was coming out at Gencon that had built up quite a bit of buzz, it was a surreal thrill! The lessons I learned were mostly about the groundwork that goes into preparing for a show like that. All the prep work has to be perfect but that’s mostly in the publisher’s hands – although I was very active on the internet myself before the show. As a designer during a show, your most important job is to make yourself available.

I love Vincent Dutrait‘s work (the artist on New York 1901). He has a style that is very recognizable right away. How did he get attached to your NY 1901 project?

It’s the publisher’s job to hire the artist and they made a great decision by hiring Vincent. Like you said, his style is very recognizable. It has a European comic strip feel to it that suits board games very well and gives them a tasteful yet playful feel. A great privilege to have Vincent bring the world of New York 1901 to life. I love his work.

I read in an interview that he added a little “gift” to the inside of your box at Gen Con 2015. What did he draw or inscribe?

Vincent and I were at the Blue Orange booth for a few hours each day signing the inside of the boxes for the gamers who bought a copy. I would just sign and add a thank you note or something but Vincent would draw a character for everyone who bought the game and stood in line. Before the end of the show, he opened a box for me, signed the inside of the cover and drew a character from the game. He made my drawing a ‘deluxe version’ by making it a bit more elaborate than the ones he drew all day. The box is now truly a family heirloom.

How have you changed or grown as a player since starting your own designs? Do you have a favorite genre?

Sadly, I don’t spend as much time as I’d like “playing” games now that I’m working on my own designs. I still try to play new games a few times a month to keep building on my personal database of experiences. Since I do all of my gaming with my family, we go for family fare. We’ve had fun trying out a lot of the Queen games we bought over the holidays (there were some great deals!).

Any plans for conventions in the states or Europe?

Not really. The next convention I attend will likely be for the release of my next game, which could be 2 or more years away. Unless there’s a opportunity in Japan or Taiwan over the next few years to help promote New York 1901. But nothing planned for now.

Let’s talk about game design. Of all of the designers I have studied, you *really* dive deep into historical research. Obviously, a game about turn of the century New York skyscrapers lends itself to that deep dive, but what is it about you or your background that attracts to you the historical or the antique?

Apart from abstract games, most board games include some kind of role-playing element: you become a real estate mogul, a general, an explorer etc. I enjoy this part of the board game experience and I love it when a theme has been properly developed to establish and build the “immersion” factor. I remember playing war games in my adolescence and I noticed the details. I loved playing with authentic units with their actual name written on them. I loved the leader tiles that featured the actual names of the generals who led their armies into battle. I noticed and enjoyed these little details tremendously and I thought I’d include them in my own designs. I hope people enjoy. I’m also sensitive to the aesthetics of certain historical periods and choose my themes from among the periods that appeal to me and that I feel will appeal to the public in general.

Another reason for the extensive research is the fun factor. Developing a board game can take many years (over three years for New York 1901) so it can’t just feel like work. It has to be a ‘fun’ labour of love or you’ll just give up halfway through. I chose a theme that gave me shivers and still does. Discovering a new pic (one I’ve never seen) on the internet of an old New York skyscraper still gives me a bit of a high.

So to answer your question about my background, all I can say is that I’m bringing my own sensibilities to the forefront, highlighting what brings me pleasure and selecting and keeping what I think others will respond to.

Recently, some of the more ‘famous’ designers in our hobby have experienced backlash from the internet community. By that I mean, a designer like Jamey Stegmaier or Eric M. Lang lands a few designs on the ‘hotness’ on Board Game Geek, and suddenly, there is an almost inevitable undercurrent of gamers ready to trash their next designs. Where do you stand on criticism of designs and designers? Gentle, acerbic, or don’t give a hoot?

I’m not surprised. It’s human nature. Marketing is an important part of a successful board game project and the two designers you mention are very good at marketing themselves and their games. When you’re visible and successful, you make yourself a target for some gratuitous criticism. I think that at the core of the negative reactions is a feeling of “why are we always talking about this game/designer while there are so many others that are deserving”. It’s actually an understandable reaction. New York 1901 was the target of some criticism for similar reasons, it had a solid awareness building effort behind it so it made an easy target for gratuitous criticism. When I read some of the comments posted online, I can often see that some of these people have actually never played the game – which is very disappointing. You need thick skin when you put your soul into a game and then put it out there.

On a personal basis, now that I have creations of my own out there, I refrain from rating or commenting on anybody else’s work unless I have something positive to say. I think most designers do the same.

Antoine Bauza is well known for having his love of Japanese culture influence many of his designs. You have lived all over the world but have focused on New York City. Do you expect to see some of your world journeys leak into future games?

I love big cities. I love the dynamic image they project. Cities give me goosebumps. I love to channel some of that imagery and use it to build immersive backgrounds for games. So the answer is: yes!

13173491_861889250601313_660072578630068742_oHow have you enjoyed the ride of success of having your first published game, New York 1901, garner press attention, con attention, good sales and even wins / nominations for big awards.

I’m very lucky. I beat the odds in many, many ways. I was fortunate simply to have my first creation published. But then there’s more. New York 1901 was published by a major publisher and went on to receive a few awards (2016 Mensa Select Winner, Games Magazine, Finnish Game of the Year) and get nominated for a few more (Dice Tower, 2015 Golden Geek (BGG) Best Family Board Game Nominee, Origins). People say you have to work hard to create your luck, and I did work very hard, but I’m the first to admit luck met me halfway – you get that perspective on life as you get older. I’m very fortunate. My biggest reward though is talking to fans of the game and to the many friends I’ve made because of it. Merci Barry!

What would you do different?

Hum… some small things but nothing worth mentioning.

You seem to love prototyping! What is it about making prototypes that attracts you?

I have fun collecting imagery and putting it together in prototype material. I try to seduce myself when I’m making games and hope that others will feel the same way. But beyond the aesthetics, making prototypes is kinda like ‘meditation’ for me. As I’m assembling the prototype or tinkering with the graphics on my computer, I’m exploring new ideas in my head. I’m playtesting in my mind. I guess it’s part of my creative process.

I’m seeing sneak peaks of a very interesting new “La Salle creation.” What can you tell us about this new game? (note, Chenier graciously allowed us to bring you a link to his Facebook page. You can follow the fascinating development of his latest game here.)

I’m still working with my muse, New York City. I got to know her so well during the last creative process so I know she has much more to give 😉

The new game still centers around skyscrapers but covers a much longer period of time historically. It’s less ‘tetris-y’ than the first but there’s still a tile laying element. I’m going new places in terms of mechanics: I’m playing with variable powers, with worker placement and with hand/resource management. Again, it’s meant to be a family ‘gateway’ game that plays quickly and intuitively. It’s also meant to have an immersive fully developed theme. People who take out the game have to feel like they’re living an ‘experience’. If I can accomplish that, I’ve done my job.

What was the inspiration? How long has it been germinating?

It stems from some of the original research I did for New York 1901 so I guess it goes all the way back to 2011. In earnest, I’d say I’m a year into the project at this point.

How far along are you? What are you expecting out of this one?

I think I’m still a good 6 months away (damn that day job!) from having a prototype worth sharing outside my immediate playtesting group which is my family.

Who is the target audience? Any potential publishers interested or looking?

I’m hoping for an immersive gateway game that finds a home with families and medium-light gamers. Haven’t showed it to any publisher yet. If I did learn something from my first experience it’s that you should only pitch your game when it’s truly ready.

Where do you see yourself in this hobby in 10 years?

I’m 48, so that takes me to 58. I see myself with a few more games under my belt and preparing for a retirement (from my day job – government pension) so I can start a new life filled with playing and making games. I hope it happens. I’m chasing my dream and having fun doing it. Merci Barry!

Merci, Chenier!

Cry Havoc – a Gumbo review

Cry Havoc

Published by: Portal Games

Designed by: Grant Rodiek, Michał Oracz, Michał Walczak

Player count: 2-4 players

Playing time: 90-120 minutes

Reviewed by: Dustin Boatman (@dustin_boatman)

I LOVE area control games; it is a mechanic that has always interested me. My favorite style of area control game is by far the “dudes on a map” genre, or DoaM, for the acronym crowd. Something about mixing area control with elements of war games has always sucked me in. It is probably the competitive nature and tactical thinking, as well as the eye candy of all the plastic miniatures that these games typically have. So when I joined up with the rest of Board Game Gumbo Krewe to head up to Gen Con, I had one game in mind: Cry Havoc.

Love those miniatures and the color on the board.

Now I knew Cry Havoc was going to be a hard one to get my hands on, so I made sure to pre-order before I left, and I am glad that I did. I heard that all of the retail copies were sold out before the doors even opened. Is this game worth the hype? Well let’s take a closer look and find out.


Cry Havoc is a card driven, asymmetrical game that brings a few interesting twists to the DoaM genre of games. Set up can take some time because you have a good bit of stuff to place out on the board, but there are helpful images printed on the board of everything you have to set up.

First, place blue exploration tokens representing things you find as you explore the planet, green Trog party tokens which represent the planet’s native species, and finally, little plastic crystals that represent the planets resource that everyone wants for various reasons.  Next, the players pick a faction and collect all of that factions’ building tiles, card decks, and skill cards. Finally, each player places their starting HQ tile on the correct spaces(also printed on the board), and adds 4 starting units to their HQ. That’s it, you are ready to play.

Machine’s Eye view of the basic set up.

As a side note, the set up is slightly different if you have less than four players. In a two or three player game the Trog faction isn’t played by a player, but is sort of controlled by everyone as you discover Trog units while exploring.


This is where the asymmetrical side of the game comes in, as all four factions play completely different. The human faction (yellow) is very good at being aggressive and taking control of regions. The Pilgrims faction (blue) is sort of the euro gamers of this battle, as it specializes in taking crystals from areas and either using those resources for points, or to activate certain skills. The Machines (red) are all about buildings. All of the other factions have three buildings at their disposal, but the Machines have five to choose from. Finally, there are the Trogs (green), who just want to protect their precious planet and its resources, and they are very good at swarming the map and laying traps for the invaders.

Come at me, bro!


This game is definitely a competitive game, but scoring works differently than most games of its kind. The main way to get points is by scoring the areas you control, and scoring for all the crystals you have in those areas. Players also get points for doing different things in battle (more on that later), and can collect points here and there from certain skills and cards. Interestingly, there is no score for area control or crystals typically, unless someone uses one of their actions to enable scoring at the end of the round.


I am not going to do a detailed section on all of the rules to the game, just a basic overview, because like most games in this genre, the rules are plenty and detailed.

The game will play out over five rounds, each round beginning with a global event token being resolved. These are usually good, like adding more crystals to the board, but can also have negative effects. After the event phase you will do kind of a cleanup phase where you see if the upcoming initiative track was changed during the last round, unexhaust player skill cards, and draw four cards into your hand.

Then the action phase begins. Each round the players can take three actions each. You will take turns in initiative order taking your actions until everyone has finished. The actions available to everyone are move, recruit, build/activate a structure, draw two cards and keep one, or enable scoring.

One of the most interesting parts about this game are the multi-purpose cards. Four of the five actions are all located on the cards in your hand. You have to decide how many cards you are willing to discard to take a single action taken from the multiple ones listed on each card. Some cards will also have text on them with the keyword “Battle” written on them. These cards can be used in battle as well as playing them for their actions during the round, so you have to choose wisely when to use a card for it’s action, or when to save it for battle. This brings a lot of tension and hard decisions to the game, because the whole time you are thinking, “I really want to take this action, but if I do, I can’t use this card for battle later,” or “I want to enable scoring so I can score points this round, but by doing that I am basically skipping one of my actions this round.”

Battle time. 

Now let’s talk about the most interesting thing about this game, the combat.

After everyone takes their three actions, you will resolve any battle tokens you have out on the board that were placed during the actions phase. The battle tokens are in numerical order so you just go through each one resolving starting at number one, and so on.

Action Jackson.

This game comes with a separate little board that has three objectives printed on the top. The first one is for control of the region, the second for taking prisoners, and the third for attrition (murdering fools, yo). On the left of each objective there is a spot for the attacker to place miniatures and one on the right for the defender. The attacker must place his units first, so the defender has the advantage of seeing where the attacker is concentrating his forces. After the defender places his units each player takes turns playing cards. These battle cards can do anything from moving units around from one objective to a different one, add more units to objectives from your reserve or from other regions, or even mess with the order at which the objectives are resolved. The battle objectives usually resolve top to bottom. You see who wins area control first, then prisoners, then attrition. It is very important to keep track, because once you win area control, it doesn’t matter if your opponent kills all of your figures after that, you already won control.

The battle board is very well made, with all the important information written on it, as well as arrows pointing in the order at which you resolve them. You receive two points for winning the control objective, you capture a prisoner from the battle board for winning the prisoner objective which scores you points between rounds, and you immediately kill units and score one point for each unit placed on the attrition objective.

Well done board.

The game will go on until the fifth round, or the fifth event is resolved, whichever comes first, and then final scoring happens. Highest points is the winner.


Now to answer the burning question, is Cry Havoc worth the hype?

Well, that is a tough question to answer, and the best response I can give is somewhat. I love this game, I gave it a 9.2 on Board Game Geek, right behind my current top two games, Forbidden Stars and Chaos in the Old World. It has a lot of awesome stuff going for it, an original battle system, multipurpose card play, and asymmetrical factions, but there are a few issues I have that keeps it behind, if only slightly, the other two games listed.

First off, I am not totally convinced the factions are balanced. That is a big issue with asymmetrical games, because it is so hard to make everyone so different but yet equally close to victory. In the seven games I have played so far, three were four player games and three were three player games and in the four player games the Trogs are 3-0 and the Humans are 3-0 in the three player games. The only game that I have played that wasn’t won by one of those factions was a two player game, and that was because no one used them. The biggest thing to note here is that in every one of those victories the newest player was either playing the Trogs or the Humans, with one game after the Trog player won he laughed and said, “seriously guys I have no clue what I am doing, how did I win?”

Another thing about the game is the battle system, I love it but it is one of those things where not everyone is going to like it. One guy in the Krewe said it feels like he is playing chess, which he found underwhelming.

Finally, there is the event token mechanic. Over the course of the game you will turn over a total of five event tokens, but these events are placed on the scoring track and if a player scores enough points to pass that unresolved event, it is pushed down to be resolved with the next event. This means the game can be shortened if a player has a big lead, which means a runaway leader will end the game early and pretty much guarantee you won’t have time to catch up. I believe this was done so if a player is stomping everyone they aren’t forced to play a long drawn out game, but this can also be seen as making it that much harder to come back from behind.

Overall, Cry Havoc gets a big recommendation from me, even with the balance issues, because at the end of the day I have a blast playing. The game brings its own flavor to the genre that lets this game stand on its own and earn a spot amongst my favorite DoaM games. With more expansions in the works (I hear), I am excited to see where this game goes.

—Dustin Boatman


Spice it up! with Stockpile

One of my go to games for introducing hobby games to new players is that classic bidding game, No Thanks!

Staged picture.

Designed by Thorsten Gimmler, it is super easy to teach, has a simple main mechanism — how much is a player willing to bid to avoid high numbered cards if the object of the game is to score the lowest points — and plays quickly. If you listen to the Dice Tower at all, you will definitely have heard Tom Vasel extol its virtues many, many times.


The edition I have is published by Z-Man Games and comes in a small box with good quality cards and nice bingo chips. No Thanks! is a true classic, and should be in everyone’s collection.

But it is a filler game, and after dozens and dozens of games, I am always on the lookout for that next step in bidding/auction games. Is your game group looking for a good auction game? Are your game nights getting bland with lots of filler-type bidding games and your group is ready for the next level?

Then Spice it up! with Stockpile, an insider trading game from Nauvoo Games. Stockpile is a 2015 release designed by Brett Sobol and Seth Van Orden. The game is made for 2-5 players, and plays in about 45 minutes to an hour (the shorter time is for players with experience — your first game will probably last a little over an hour).

I was lucky enough to be taught the game by one of the designers, Seth Van Orden.

Coincidentally, my thumb is pointing at the designer. Somehow, he taught two games at one time!

Stockpile is essentially a buy low, sell high stock market type of game, with unique twists on bidding and stock information.  Each player can purchase one of six stocks, whose value fluctuates throughout the game. The key is that each player privately knows the movement of one of the stocks,  as well as all players sharing in the knowledge of one other stock.

Good shot of the more advanced, wilder backside of the game board.

Next, the players randomly are given stocks and movement cards that are put into piles for the players to bid on. That’s the best part of the game — each player is given a colored meeple representing his bidder. They take turns putting down a bid for the pile that they want, but can be outbid by other players. Once all piles have one bid on them, the auction ends, and the stocks are divvied up.

One of many games played at The Secret Cabal meet up Gen Con 2016

The auction takes only a minute or so, but has some very spicy and deliciously tense moments as players try to decide if they should go one more bid for their favorite pile. Of course, stocks can split or go bankrupt or give our dividends. And after the set number of rounds, the player with the most amount of money after selling all of the holdings is the winner!

Let’s talk about the components. Wow, what a presentation! The game comes with a two-sided board, with one side being the beginning or basic board and the back side containing the same set up but with a more wilder way for the stocks to move.

Ah, look at all the lonely meeples…

The meeples are all high-quality painted wood bits, and the stocks and action cards are all on good quality stock. The money is a very nice touch. I fully expected your typical Monopoly-and-or-Payday type of paper money, but instead, I found that we had been given tons of colorful, good-quality, laminated money cards. Nice touch!

Trust me, the pieces won’t move if you hold your finger on top of them.

How easy is the game to teach? The game play is best taught in steps, walking your new players or your experienced game group through the first turn, pointing out how the bidding and selling and stock movement works at each step. I promise you, once one turn is complete, even your greenest gamers will have the game down.

Does the theming carry through? As we say in Louisiana, this game “a la poche plein” (has its pockets full) of theme! Games like this can sometimes seem random or just plain math-y, but at no time have we felt like that in the numerous games we have played. Instead, it really does carry the theme of inside traders eyeing each other to see who is bidding what, and trying to guess why. Does the purple player know something about the computer stock? He must know something, because he is bidding everywhere else — and now he is dumping all of his shares! Time to sell! No doubt about it, this game is dripping with the theme of the game.

The dice from the Continuing Corruption expansion (will cover in a later blog post.)

Why is this game spicier than other auction bidding games, like No Thanks! and For Sale? Those are great games, some of my all time fillers, but they are lighter games that set up and play in about 15-20 minutes. Both have great decision making, and the bidding mechanics are fun, but there is not a lot of depth to them (and they are not designed to be deep games).

At our bi-weekly game night, one of the Krewe de Gumbo members, Bradly, turned to me during the last game. He remarked that this is a game he doesn’t mind losing (which mind you, in our game group does not happen often).  I am paraphrasing, but in essence, his point was that the experience captured by the auction, the joy in buying low and guessing correctly that your pick is moving up, and the delicious tension in deciding when to sell is all part of a very fun ride. That’s pretty high praise indeed.

At some point, your group is going to be ready for a deeper experience that simulates the fluidity of the stock market.  The conceit that everyone is aware of in Stockpile is that the movement is random — but that’s not the point of the game. The real genius in the design is that the game is not focused on the random movement, but instead the game is all about reading your opponents, weighing the movement cards that are public/private knowledge, and knowing when to gamble and when to play it safe.  Plus, the auction/bidding mechanic described above is a brilliant touch and is the real standard bearer for the game.

Obviously, we are big fans of Stockpile and can see why it was on many “Best Of…” lists last year. Patrick from Blue Peg, Pink Peg said in episode 80 that it was his pick for family game of the year in 2015, and we can see why. If your game group loves auction / bidding mechanics, but your game nights are getting bland — if your group would love a game with lots of juicy decisions, quick game play, just enough depth and great presentation, then pass by your local game store and get yourself a copy.  I give it four out of five cayenne peppers.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!




Mais, Put Dat Game In Dat Bag: Gen Con 2016 Wrap up, Part Trois

It has taken me a week just to recover enough sleep to write the end of our Gen Con saga. But even as the best tasting link of grilled boudin has a finite end, the Best Four Days of Lack of Sleeping had to come to its glorious finish.

After the long night of gaming and dehydrating at The Secret Cabal meet up, the Krewe was slow starting on Sunday. But by exhibit hall opening, we were ready to make one last tour.

I learned that at Gen Con the list of things you don’t get to do — that you really, really wanted to do — is a much, much longer list than the things you do get to experience. Ah, well, c’est la vie.

Sunday morning started bright and early with Mass at the nearby cathedral. Beautiful Mass, and the bonus was that the priest was a huge gamer who came in for the week. He and his brother priests gave the local priest the week off, while they gamed and covered all of his Masses.After an early morning Mass, nothing beats fueling up. Phillip and I jaunted over to the breakfast at the Westin Hotel. While I loved the hotel, I was not that impressed with the breakfast. I give the buffet 2 out of 5 cayenne peppers (for the fruit and oceans of orange juice.)


Father O’Connor from KC, as I recall.

Next up, was admiring the New York 1901 minis and Goons of NY expansion that Bradly and Bryan braved the crowds to get for me on Thursday.


Check out those awesome pre-painted figures. Great detailing and painting on each color. The well made package comes with enough to replace all of your architects, and even a free little variant so that you can still use your originals as part of the game. Plus, Blue Orange printed up the expansion / variant designed by high school kids in an after school game design club. I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks very challenging and breathes some new life into the game for those that have played it multiple times.


Limited edition! Not shown in actual size. 

I just knew that by Friday or Saturday Blue Orange Games would be sold out, and they were! That’s good news for NY 1901 fans craving for a new board, right? Let’s get on the horns (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and convince them to green light any future enhancements to the game.


Ah, now the doors to the dealer hall finally opened. The gang spread out, in hopes of catching the last of our to-do list. First up for Dustin and Dave was trying out Merchants & Marauders.


“You think Elvis Costello is a genius? Bruh, you crazy.”


Phillip went to the Pokemon booth to pick up something for his daughter, while I checked out The Dice Tower’s corner booth in a back alley. And there, I ran into this guy…

Third letter unfortunate accidents provided by….SeaFall

Eric Summerer was kind enough to visit with me about the Board Game Gumbo segment. He shared with me that his number one hottest game at the con was Harry Potter:Hogwarts Battle. That’s not surprising given the IP, but what was surprising to find out was how much the few people who have gotten their hands on it (it sold out its very limited release early each morning of the Con.) It is such a rich intellectual property that I hope this is the first stage of a long road of good quality Potter games.


Then it was off to Portal’s booth. By this time, Dustin had already gotten his minis problem from Cry Havoc taken care of. Even though the game had long sold out, Ignacy was able to find a damaged copy and traded out all of the good miniature figures for the mad amount of robots in Dustin’s game. Dustin was one happy camper at that point. Again, big props to Ignacy’s team at Portal. They were wonderful people to meet and provided excellent customer service even under trying times.

Anyway, I asked Ignacy to give me a good pitch for Imperial Settlers. I liked it so much, Phillip and I ran back to the board game area to watch a game. I liked that so much that I ran back to Ignacy’s booth and promptly bought the game from him:

And I was standing on a six foot tall box wearing David Bowie platform shoes, too. 

Ignacy is much, much taller than he looks on video. He joked that he has to scrunch down when he does photos with Stephen Buonocore so that they don’t look too incongruous together. If you ever get a chance to watch a demo by Ignacy or even just talk board games, you will see (1) his command of English is rapidly improving; (2) he has an enthusiasm for gaming that is unmatched in the industry; (3) his work ethic is legendary and well deserved and (4) he is just a fun guy to be around.

There were a few more stops, all quick hits for us. We looked at the very nice but very expensive Kingdom Death Monster new sculpts. We watched demos of The Networks and Trekking the National Parks (very close to buying the latter, and will buy the former as soon as it hits retail). We even snuck in a great demo from Adam Rehberg who had been pitching a new craft beer game called Brewin’ USA.

Mmm…..craft beer. But no Abita yet. 

You can tell that Adam loves the theme  because it shines through in his presentation and in the components. If I had not been so tired and a little ready to hit the road, I might have hung around that booth longer and picked up the game. It looks very intriguing.

That ended the tour of the hall. While waiting for the Krewe to assemble for the long trip home (a pirogue can only be paddled so fast), we grabbed a quick few turns of King Chocolate.

Count de Chocolate

Here is a game that I am puzzled by the BGG fan reactions. Yes, the box is a little plan, and the artwork could use a boost. But, the game itself has some interesting mechanics in how you chain the chocolate production. It would seem a reach at two players, but we found there were a lot of strategy calls with three. I am not ready to buy it, but I would certainly play it anytime someone brought it out to the table.

That wraps up our Gen Con tour for 2016. I will have one more post with my final thoughts and Top Ten News Events at Gen Con.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!