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Customer Reviews: 7
Top Reviewer Ranking: 3,635,819
Helpful Votes: 187


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Tobago
Tobago

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good, beautifully designed entry-level strategy game, April 18, 2010
= Durability:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:2.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Tobago (Toy)
The premise is pretty straightforward: you and your compatriots are hunting the island of Tobago for treasure. The thing is, the maps to these treasures aren't maps at all, but collections of clues that are dispersed among all players via cards. Throughout the game, players add clue cards, one at at time, to four piles, each of which represents a treasure. Each card narrows the possible places on the game board where that treasure might be found. Once the location is narrowed down to a single spot, players can drive their miniature ATV there, pick up the treasure chest, and discover the gold inside. Except that the gold's not all for you; every person who helped narrow down the search gets a part of the booty.

There are other various elements, like creaky statues, the occasional cursed treasure, and magic amulets that help you defend against the curse or help you take an extra turn when you need it. The game ends when all the gold's been parceled out. Winner is the player with the most.

STRENGTHS

-- Beautiful board and pieces. Lots of the elements are made of wood, including some carved and painted items like statues and palm trees. If you're going to be spending an hour staring at and handling a game, it should look good, and Tobago does.
-- Relies more on turn-to-turn tactics rather than an overarching strategy. So it's not too overwhelming, and mistakes made early on can be overcome in later turns.
-- Involves just the right amount of cooperative game theory -- that is, basing your moves on how you think your competitors would play. This is an essential component of any quality game.
-- Variable board configurations. Because of the modular game board, there are 32 possible island configurations to play with.
-- Easy to explain. If you know how to play, it should take you 5-10 minutes to explain to a newbie. If you're starting from scratch, expect 10 minutes more. Which is pretty fast for this genre of game.

WEAKNESSES

-- Just a little too heavy of a reliance on luck. Your power in the game comes from the cards you hold, which are drawn randomly. You can exchange them, but it's a still a random draw. I'm not sure how they could improve this, and to be fair, it's a minor quibble.
-- Relies less on an overarching strategy than turn-to-turn tactics. If you're a veteran of strategy games and want something intense, this may feel too simple.

CONCLUSION

This is a great entry-level game for families and gamers looking for something a step up from, say, Risk. It's roughly on the same complexity level as Settlers of Catan, maybe even easier.


Small World
Small World
Price: $36.13
59 used & new from $28.00

116 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like Risk, but 100x more fun, April 15, 2010
= Durability:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Small World (Toy)
Remember Risk? Remember how fun it was to attack your opponents' armies and take over their land? Remember how that fun lasted for a while and then, several hours later, you'd hunker down in the corner of Australia, waiting for the game to mercifully end?

Small World is the answer to that. It takes all the good parts of Risk and repackages it in a clever construct with a beautiful design. The premise here is that instead of simply having armies compete to take over territory, players control races, each with their own special set of powers. The powers give you the ability to, say, attack lands more powerfully, or defend them more toughly. What makes it fun is that these powers are embodied by various races -- e.g. Dwarves, Amazons, Giants, Tritons -- each represented by colorful, gorgeously drawn tokens, and each with a special power. Because the races and powers are randomly combined at the beginning of the game, each game is different than the last and requires a completely new strategy.

STRENGTHS:

* Variety of strategy. This is requirement number one for any game that's going to hold my interest over time. If it's too "solvable", then the challenge of playing the game quickly diminishes after just a few games. Because the possible power-race combinations number in the thousands, it's unlikely any two games will ever be the same.
Interaction. Requirement number two. So many board games these days involve four people tending to their own pieces, playing their own separate games. You can't do that in Small World and expect to win. You have to both a) be very aware of the other players' movements, and b) be ready to attack them without mercy.
* Design. Days of Wonder puts out some of the best-looking games out there. Lots of little visual flourishes make interacting with the pieces and board that much more enjoyable.
* It scales. There are actually four boards in the box: one for each number of players (2 to 5). This makes the game board perfectly balanced, no matter the player count.
* It's relatively quick. A two- or three-person game will take about an hour. A four- or five-person game less than 90 minutes.

WEAKNESSES:

* There are a LOT of pieces. This presents a few problems: it takes a few minutes to set the game up; you'll be screwed if you lose a piece (they don't include extra player tokens); and if you buy one of the expansions, you'll have a hard time fitting it into the box, because it's a very snug (though well-designed) fit as it is. Not sure how they could have gotten around this without making the game pricier.
* There are a lot of small rules. This is a byproduct of having dozens of races and powers -- each has to have a paragraph of explanation in the rulebook. Each player gets a cheatsheet for quick reference, but it can seem a little overwhelming at first. Again, not sure how they could have avoided that, and they did a good job making the text quick and to the point.
* It can take a few games to get the hang of how it flows. Not really a weakness; just a reason to play the game more.

CONCLUSION

If you're ready to move past Risk, and you're ready to take on a little nerdery (hello, Berserk Goblins and Forest Elves) in your games, pick up a copy of Small World. The best part may be that it's highly expandable, evidenced by the two expansion packs already available, each with a number of new races and powers. With a foundation as solid as this, it should take a long time for it to grow old.


Havana
Havana
Offered by Rockin B Games
Price: $49.95
2 used & new from $49.95

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A simple, tactical card & resource game, April 15, 2010
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Havana (Toy)
One measure of quality with a German strategy game is the amount of attention a player must pay to his opponents' moves. In a good game, you must pay attention and react. In a great game, you must anticipate. Havana is a simple game, but if you don't recognize what your opponents plan to do next, you're likely to get screwed.

In Havana, players collect building material, workers and pesos in an effort to build the most valuable collection of buildings. To get these resources, one has to play action cards from his deck. Everyone has the same set of 13 action cards, but a player may only play two at a time. The twist is that each card has a different value -- with higher values going to the more powerful cards -- and whichever player has the least valuable cards for the round gets to go first. Which means he gets the first shot at the available buildings. Then, after each round, more money and material are put out, and a new round begins: each player replaces one of the two cards in front of him, discarding the old one, and the turn order is determined anew.

There isn't much more to it. Due to the simple rules, players can concentrate on the two things they need to win: how many resources they need, and what their opponents are going to do next.

REPEATABILITY: High.
Because the available buildings change every game, and the building material is often pulled randomly out of a bag, each game is different. Players who take a certain tack one game will need to reassess and plot again during the next one.

DESIGN: High.
They took pains to commission different drawings for each building card, which is impressive. The cost symbols on each building card are large and clear, and readable from any angle. The action cards have some amusing artistry, including a cigar-chomping matriarch named Mama. The building material and worker pieces are wooden, not plastic, and the former stay hidden in a pleasant cloth bag. Where English text is needed, it's concise and well-written.

INSTRUCTIONS: Moderate.
For a simple game, they're a little long and a little heavy on the prose. I would have preferred to see more diagrams and symbols. (A common complaint with most board game rules.) Still, shouldn't take more than 10 minutes for you to learn the rules and 5 minutes to teach them to others.

COMPLEXITY: Moderate.
Even though there are only 13 cards to choose from, picking the proper one to play can require a few brain cycles spent traversing the decision tree.

LUCK: Low.
Randomness determines available building and material type, but a good player should be able to roll with whatever comes up.

OVERALL: The game takes only 30-45 minutes, and scales well between two to four players. (Though I think it plays better with three or four.) I'd recommend this game for people who are just diving into strategy games, have mastered Settlers of Catan, and want something new but not too complicated. If you're already building a collection, and you're looking to expand, I'd still recommend Havana, but keep in mind that it's more tactical than strategic.

FINAL RATING: 8 out of 10


Gourmet Game Night: Bite-Sized, Mess-Free Eating for Board-Game Parties, Bridge Clubs, Poker Nights,  Book Groups, and More
Gourmet Game Night: Bite-Sized, Mess-Free Eating for Board-Game Parties, Bridge Clubs, Poker Nights, Book Groups, and More
by Cynthia C. Nims
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.20
102 used & new from $0.01

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delivers on its promise, April 5, 2010
Gourmet Game Night hits dead-center at the cross-section of two of my very favorite things: game-playing and entertaining. My wife and I do a lot of both.

We cooked eight recipes out of the book, and they were all, without exception, delicious. Some certainly ranked higher than others, but I think more important is that none were duds. Our least favorite -- the artichoke-stuffed mushrooms -- were still tasty, and we all would have been happy to eat them had nothing else been available. But they held nothing to some of the more outstanding dishes that all had us going back for seconds, thirds, and fourths. Our favorites all offered interesting contrasts in flavors:

- A citrusy salmon poke, served in a bitter endive leaf
- A sweet/sour cherry chutney & cheddar bruschetta
- Grape tomatoes stuffed with a sesame-flavored edamame paste

None of the recipes are difficult, but they're also not quick. Many of the dishes involve roasting, or marination, or multiple parts. This is a good thing -- you're serving your guests quality goods. You should expect to spend some time in the apron here. (Though Nims makes special mention at the beginning of the dozen or so recipes that can be made on the quick.)

THE COOKBOOK

Nims adds a few subtle touches that go a long way toward helping your average cook. Two examples: 1) each recipe has a special instruction for how to double or halve, which is often not as simple as multiplying the ingredients, and 2) she tells you which parts can be made ahead of time without compromising the recipe. This last point is an important one. My one complaint about the book is that if you're making a lot of dishes at once -- which you will be, since each dish is small and going to serve less than a full meal's worth of food -- you'll be flipping back and forth a lot between pages. There's no easy way around this, short of binding the pages in a ringed binder. Thus, the tips about pre-cooking some ingredients should be heeded as much as possible.

THE EFFECTIVENESS

This is the crux of the issue. Quality cookbooks abound these days -- does Nims fulfill her mission of food that can be eaten tableside? By and large, the dishes we chose to cook suited gameplay very well, as soon as we found room at the table to put the platter (we have a fondness for playing component-heavy games). The shrimp cakes and salmon bites sat in finger-friendly leaves of lettuce. The bruschetta were easy to pick up and eat in one or two bites. One warning: Nims occasionally builds a dish around a particular piece of a party-friendly hardware, like single serving spoons, or shooter glasses for soup. It's often easy to work around these, just be aware. Or, if you're a frequent entertainer, invest in some; there is a list of retailers on the book's website.

BOTTOM LINE

Without question, Gourmet Game Night achieves what it sets out to do. I recommend the book for anyone who hosts game nights or is looking to start.


Then: The Earlier Years
Then: The Earlier Years
30 used & new from $3.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 60 tracks of Giant-y goodness, December 5, 2000
This review is from: Then: The Earlier Years (Audio CD)
For the price of two, you get four: their first two albums, plus two albums' worth of b-sides. And it's all so good. The conversation between the old people left on the Dial-A-Song answering machine is priceless.


Sony SRFM32 Walkman Digital AM/FM Stereo Radio
Sony SRFM32 Walkman Digital AM/FM Stereo Radio
8 used & new from $44.97

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars perfect for what it's designed to do..., October 16, 2000
... which is be small, and receive radio signals. it does both of those things very well. if i get static while listening to an FM station, i flip the little city/rural switch, and most of the time, everything is better. the lock button is very handy, since it deactivates all buttons on the device to avoid accidental channel flipping or powering down. the small nub on the middle radio preset button is extremely helpful, since it allows me to find my favorite radio station if i'm fiddling around with the walkman in my pocket.
the only setback: i did notice that it sucks batteries quicker than it should. other than that, i love it.


Rushmore: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Rushmore: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Price: $11.99
80 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars music for revolutionaries, October 11, 2000
'rushmore' the movie could be a worthless piece of rubbish and 'rushmore' the soundtrack would still thrive on its own merits. but the fact that 'r' the movie is such a brilliant piece of filmmaking only assists in heightening the spirit of 'r' the soundtrack. listening to it arouses the giddy feelings from the the first, second and god knows how many viewings of the film. director/writer wes anderson employs the power of a well-structured soundtrack in this film like few others can do.
but let's talk about the music. i've got a cursory knowledge of the mod scene in the british invasion, but the wealth of it on this album is making me investigate some of the music i've taken for granted. (listening to classic rock radio for years makes you think that all the kinks ever recorded was 'lola'. uh uh.) amazing jams such as the who's "a quick one while he's away" and creation's "making time" sit side by side with great harmonic ballads like the faces' "ooh la la" and two cat stevens tunes ("here comes my baby" and "the wind").
on top of that, there's the kinks, john lennon, unit 4 + 2, chad & jeremy and french musician yves montand. interspliced between all these songs are the delicate guitar harmonies of mark mothersbaugh, a mainstay in anderson's films (both of them).
anderson originally wanted to use only music from the kinks. his decision to invite many of their british contemporaries along for the ride enhances the range of emotions in this great film and makes for a disc that will be out of its jewel box more often than not.


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