Review of Set A Watch

The Deluxe Kickstarter slip cover

Set A Watch is a Kickstarter game that was active in late September 2018 and delivered here to the USA in late June/early July.   It’s a cooperative game about keeping watch at a campfire and defeating monsters who would attack your campfire.

Set A Watch: a cooperative fighting game: protect the campfire!

Set A Watch is light to medium weight game for 1-4 players (although, see below).   Each player takes a very different role (Cleric, Knight, Beastmaster, etc): there are 8 roles in the game (6 or 7 in the retail version I think), with each player taking a different role.  It’s a smallish game in a smallish box (barely fitting in the box, but it does fit).

Barely fits in box!

Note that the “board” is in the top of the box!  It’s pretty cool, but I had some trouble keeping the edge (leftmost edge in picture) down during play.


Beast Master uses 8-sided dice!

Each player chooses a character, with 5 special abilities (only 3 at a time can be used in the empty positions on the card).  Each player also has a special ability back at camp (Set Trap above).

Cleric uses 6-sided dice!

Each character gets 3 dice which you role at the start of your turn.  Some characters get 6-sided dice and some get 8-sided dice.  It’s pretty obvious: the 6-sideds are red/orange/yellow, and the 8-sideds are green/blue/purple.

I wish the 8-sided dice used white for the colors so they were easier to see

The dice are the key element to the game!  Whenever you do anything, you assign dice to either abilities or just use the straight-up value to fight monsters with the direct value! Although it seems like the 8-sided heroes have an advantage, as they will tend to roll more potential damage, the 6-sided heroes have abilites that don’t depend as strongly on the value.  We’ll see more below …



The components are really nice.  The box has a magnetic clasp (ooooh!), the rulebook is pretty good, the cards have nice art, the dice are decent (although the 8-sided are harder to read), and in general the game looks really nice.

You even get some nice wooden bits: there are 3 different fire tokens to represent “how high the fire is”!  The higher the fire, the more of the creatures you can see!  Usually, a higher fire is a good thing!  The other wooden bits are a token to show “how many times you watched the fire”.   Everybody has to watch the fire twice before the big battle at the end ….

Solo Play??

You must ALWAYS have 4 characters out, no matter the player count!

So, in Set A Watch, you must ALWAYS have 4 characters in play, regardless of the the player count.   This means that in a solo game, the solo character MUST PLAY 4 characters at a time!  Oi!! Although this game, strictly speaking, follows Saunders’ Law (every cooperative game must have a viable solo mode), it’s a bit much for the first play!! Playing 4 characters for a game you DON’T KNOW is really intimidating!!   I really wish this game had a balancing act for fewer players (like changing the number of monsters that come out depending on the number of players), but it is what it is.



Each player takes a Character and the corresponding dice.  HINT!!!  The back of the character cards is a player summary card!!! Since there are 8 characters and only 4 ever playing, make sure you give everyone a “unplayed character” to use as a reference card!!!   And this makes me very happy: in all the games I played, the player summary card was worth its weight in gold!!  People who hadn’t played got almost everything they needed from either the player summary part of the front part of their card.

The Warrior!

Once you choose your character, you choose 3 of your 5 powers to populate your character.  The other two remain dormant (although you can swap them in during the campfire phase later).  These 3 power cards represent your “hit points”: if all three of them are ever disabled, you cannot participate in combat.  You can heal from the Cleric, or back at the campfire.


The Rulebook has a nice picture of set-up, although the “Line” (where all creatures come out) is impractical.  This is what I ended up doing, putting the line below the board …

Initial Set-Up

Once you get the game set-up, it flows pretty quickly.  It’s a little fiddly to set-up.  There’s spaces for the Horde and Unused Locations in the box …

Unused Locations and The Hoarde in the box!

But everything else is the sides (the Graveyard and the Unhallowed).  The difficulty of the game is controlled by how many Summon cards in the creature deck.  The more there are, the harder the game is! The Summon cards bring in the Unhallowed, which are nastier monsters!



To Win, the players have to travel all the way back home (The Fobidden Tower).  There are 8 locations to move from, and when they get home, they have to do a final stand to defend their home (from the Hoard as well!).


The gameplay is simple: at the start of the turn, everyone rolls their dice, and a decision is made!  One character watches the campfire for the night and the other 3 go and fight the monsters that would attack the campfire!  If any monsters make it through (aren’t defeated) , the adventurers gets wounded, and the remnants go the Horde.

Everyone must stay back (at the campfire) twice, but in the final combat at the Forbidden Tower, EVERYONE FIGHTS!

Campfire Phase

The character decides to check the map and use his double to get rid of monster in the Horde!

Everyone looks at their dice to decide who stay back at the Campfire this turn.   Everyone must stay back exactly twice.  Whoever stays back decides what to do with their dice: they can heal, chop firewood, check the map, scout ahead.  If they roll doubles they can “activate Runes!” (do very special stuff )!  If you roll doubles, this might be a reason to have your character stay back this turn!  Again, the character summary sheet lets you know everything you can do!


In our case, the player uses his doubles to VANQUISH and get rid of one monster from the Horde!  Important safety tip, you MUST FIGHT all monsters in the Horde when you make it back home!  So, it’s important to keep the Horde under control …

So, the guy back at camp just hangs out while his compatriots go fight!

Watch Phase


Each character, in Player Selected Turn Order (PSTO) (i.e., any order they want) can play any amount of dice they want.  I can play 2, you can play 1, then I can play 1 more, etc.

You can use Dice directly as their value for damage against a monster.  The monster’s health is in the upper right corner.


For example: if I have a 7 or 8, I can kill the Bandit with 1 die!  Since this is a cooperative game, I can play a 3 and you can play a 4 (or more) and together we can take it out!  Once a die is used, that’s it for that die this turn.

The second thing you can do it to use your die to activate one of your special abilities!

Use dice to activate special powers!

For example: the Wizard has used two of his abilities this turn (each ability can only be activated once).  This is notated by putting one of the dice on the ability.

Finally, you can “exhaust” one of your abilities to use it again (without needing a die).  Unfortunately, unless you heal yourself, that ability is gone for the rest of the game.  (You can heal yourself back at camp or the Cleric can heal you).

Once all the monsters in the line are taken care of, you go to the next round!  There’s a notion of keeping your firewood high enough to see more monsters, and there’s some other rules, but that’s the basic game.


A winning game!

So, this game has gone over like gangbusters in all my game groups.  I have played it solo, we have played it in my serious groups, a couple of lighter groups, and my Las Cruces group (which is notorious for very different opinions on games than my other groups).  And everyone has liked it!

The game plays quickly (an hour), everyone feels engaged most of the time, and bad dice rolls can be mitigated by the special powers!  I was worried that when a player “stayed back at camp”, that would cause that player to get annoyed for that turn (they are doing stuff, but not quite as much as the other players).  In the end, everyone “got it”!  Someone has to stay back and take it for the team this round!  And it seemed a very cooperative decision … since everyone has to stay back exactly twice, I don’t think anyone felt slighted.

The solo play works once you know the game, but always playing 4 characters is annoying.  I wish there were a better solo mode, this one is good enough to have fun with.

In the end, this game has been a hit in all my game groups.  It’s smallish, fast, fun, easy to learn, and there’s a ton of variety between the different characters.  This gets an 8 on the BoardGameGeek scale!  Good  game!




Review of Thunderstone Quest: The Barricades Expansion (the cooperative expansion) – Part II. The Conclusion.

This is part II of the Thunderstone Quest: the Barricades Expansion review:  See Part I here.   Part I focuses much more on components and overall initial experience.

Dungeon Crawling and Cooperative Deck-Building

The other night, we played two dungeon-crawling cooperative deckbuilder games back-to-back: Heroes of Tenefyr ….

… and Thunderstone Quest: The Barricades Expansion.

The Expansion we will refer to as Barricades mode, just like the rulebook shows you …

Never have two games that were so similar been polar opposites!


Heroes of Tenefyr (HOT) took a few minutes to set-up.  Thunderstone Quest: The Barricades expansion (TQBE) took almost a half an hour.    And this is pretty typical.  I’ve played TQBE a number of times now and it takes a while to set it up.   You could argue that I am not familiar enough with the game to move it quicker, and you’d be right.


But, for a game that’s almost as big as Gloomhaven, it just takes a while to set-up.  You just have to accept it!


I was able to explain the rules to HOT pretty quickly and we got underway.

TQBE took a while to ease into the rules: I had to have the cooperative rulebook AND the main rulebook (remember: this is an EXPANSION so it has its own set of rules) out at the same time to push through the game.

Need to have BOTH rulebooks open to play! The original rulebook from base Thunderstone Quest (on top) and the new rulebook for the Barricades on the bottom!

It’s been like this for every playthrough TQBE!   Really, a player summary card would have gone a loooooong way towards making this easier ….


HOT doesn’t have too many rules.  You just start playing right away.


In TQBE, you keep forgetting rules and have to look stuff up:

  • “Oh ya, bread can be used for skill too?”
  • “Why do we want to use the Marketplace?  Draw a card from the marketplace or deck?” (We never did figure it from the rules, but it seemed too powerful to just take a card from the marketplace, so we assume it meant draw an extra card on your turn)
  • “Wait, when do we get the frozen wounds?  What’s a festering wound?”

We had to look up many rules for TQBE expansion, and we realized (even after a number of plays) that we are still learning things!


Here’s the thing: Heroes of Tenefyr wasn’t for us.  I played HOT solo to learn the game, and I never felt like I had any real choices.  Sure, I could cull a card from time to time, but you always cull your zeroes!  Not really a choice.   It felt like you just turned over cards and saw what happened.  I was hoping the group play would be better (and it was) but my gaming group hated this game.  They said the same thing I did, “It felt like I had no choices, I just turned cards over.”    I liked it better than that with more people, but it felt almost like cooperative war (the card game) … which could be fun with the right group.  Fun and brainless, nice art, but not really a lot of choices.  I liked it okay in the end, but my gaming group rated it very low: 5ish–one person gave it a 2!

I wanted to talk about Heroes of Tenefyr first so I could talk about Thunderstone Quest: The Barricades Expansion.    They really are polar opposites.

HOT is easy to set-up and explain, but has few choices when playing.  But it’s short, maybe under an hour.

TQBE is hard to set-up and explain, but you have SO MANY choices when playing!  And it’s long: maybe 2 hours?



In the end, my group loved TQBE because it has a lot of choices!  It’s just the nature of my game group: your mileage may vary.  We ended up giving TQBE probably a 7 or 8 overall, but we realized we had to “suffer” for our choices.   Set-up and tear-down were long, the rulebooks were a bit daunting (they were well written, but the cooperative mode was separate so it made it messy to go back and forth). At times, the game felt like “work” trying to juggle everything going on.  But it was fun!

In the end, the solo mode was good but 2-3 players was probably the sweet spot. 4 players works.  5 players may be a bit too much for this game…  I mean it works,  but there is so much going on, it becomes a little overwhelming.

Be aware: it’ll probably take 3 hours from start to finish to get through as game (because set-up and tear-down adds another hour over the 2 hour gameplay), but it was a fun game with a lot of choices.

Maybe Heroes of Tenefyr is for you and your game group or maybe Thunderstone Quest: The Barricades Expansion is for you and your game group.  Based on my experience, you are going to like one and dislike the the other.


Top 10 Cooperative SuperHero Board and Card Games

Related image

I’ve been reading Comic Books since I was very young (7? 10?  years old?)  and SuperHero comics were always my favorite.  I wanted to be Batman (with cool gadgets) or Superman (with his flying and heat vision) or Spiderman (flinging webs) or Quasar (who? Read The Pegasus Project) or pretty much ANY SuperHero.   When I first discovered cooperative board games (like Arkham Horror, 2nd Edition) in the early 2000s, I was excited but disappointed!  Why weren’t there any cooperative SuperHero games?  There just weren’t any …

Fast-forward to 2019!  The Avengers: Endgame movie just came out and is one of the biggest movies of the year!  If not the decade!  SuperHeroes are definitely in vogue, and there are a bunch of SuperHero games now!  And a good number of them are cooperative games.  Let’s take a look at the Top 10 Cooperative SuperHero games!


Before we get into the list, let’s talk about a few that didn’t quite make it for one reason or another.

  • Justice League Hero Dice (Flash or Batman or Superman or Green Lantern set): This game is really hard to get a hold of.  I “happened” to just find the Flash version at my local game store!  But, this game is out of print and so very hard to find in the US for any reasonable price.  I did get a German version of the Batman version though (for too much money).  The dice are pretty awesome, and there are some great ideas in here, but it’s too hard to get, and the gameplay is perhaps a little too simple.  I think if this game had been better supported, it might have inspired some expansions which would have made the game better.  The components were just dice and cards, but they were pretty awesome quality. I just wish the game were better.
  • Heroes Wanted: (with Champions and Masterminds I or II): The base game of Heroes Wanted is NOT a cooperative game.  It’s a quirky and silly game of building silly SuperHeroes with different parts (almost like paper dolls) and getting victory points.  They came out with two cooperative expansions (Champions and Masterminds) … and they were just okay.   They replaced all the funny, quirky SuperHeroes with just 4 Heroes that you HAD to play with.    Part of the fun was just the silliness, and it felt like the game was stripped of a lot of its core mechanisms to make it cooperative.  I really wanted to like the cooperative versions a lot more, but it’s just okay.  The competitive version is better.

Okay! Let’s get to the Top 10!  As usual, we will  quickly discuss whether the game plays solo (Does it follow Saunders’ Law?)

10. DC Deckbuilding game with the Crisis expansion(s)!

Plays Solo?  If you play two decks.

By default, the original DC Deckbuilding game is a competitive deck-building game.  As of now, there are 4 Crisis packs (see picture above) that turn the game into a cooperative game.  It’s still, at its core, a deck-building game.  It adds cooperative mechanics as each player takes the role of a SuperHero from the DC Universe (with fairly simple powers) and players try, as a group, to work their way through a set number of crises.  If the players make it through the last one before the deck runs out, they win! The mechanics are a little clumsy and the “crises” feel a little pasted on into the deck-building game, but in the end, it was pretty fun.

Image result for DC Deck Building Rebirth

As of this writing, they are “rebooting” the game. The deck-building engine of the DC Deckbuilding game is called the Cerberus engine, and apparently has evolved through quite a number of products, including Attack on Titan.  The new Rebirth is supposed to add some legacy elements, add movement around the city, and is the “best” version of the Cerberus engine!  Time will tell if it’s significantly better!  You KNOW we’ll review it here on CO-OP Gestalt!

9: Batman: The Animated Series – Gotham City Under Siege

Plays Solo?  If you play multiple characters.


This is a real fun dice-chucker by Richard Lanius (designer of Arkham Horror 2nd Edition!) and Michael Guigliano.  Each player takes the role of a Hero from the Batman (the Animated Series) universe: Batman, Robin, Commissioner Gordon, etc.    You are trying to stop the Villains from blowing up the buildings!  Working together, you role dice, mitigate dice rolls, and move/position your Hero around the city to stop exploding buildings!

The game has a real high “toy factor” with the little minis and the buildings you can move to.  It’s a fun, it a little lucky (with so much dice-chucking)!

8: Thanos Rising: Avengers Infinity War

Plays Solo? No, unless you play multiple leaders (but then it’s clumsy).

So, this is another dice-chucker (like the Batman game at number 8).  Each player takes he role of a hero who is a team leader (become Captain America for the Avengers team or Gamora for the Guardians of the Galaxy team or …).   The players role dice to try to recruit characters for your team, with the ultimate goal of collaborating and defeating Thanos (using the same dice you are using to recruit)!

Like Batman, this one also had a nice “toy factor”, with a Thanos figure who rotates and “attacks” 1 of 3 sectors per turn.  As the game proceeds, Thanos progresses and finds more and more Infinity Stones (gaining more powers for each gem he acquires), until he finds them all and wins!  You have to stop him!

This game is a dice-chucker and arguably more lucky than the Batman game, but I still had fun!  Even when I was rolling bad, I was rooting for my friends who were rolling MUCH better than me!  Fun cooperative game.

7. 5-Minute Marvel

Plays Solo?  No.  This game is really about the interaction with multiple players. You could probably technically play two different characters.

This game is by far the lightest game on this list, but it was so easy to play and so easy to get into!   Each player takes the role of some Hero (each with a different, simple power to manipulate cards).

You all work together to draw cards and try to get all the cards you need to defeat the all the bad guys.  It’s all real-time!  You play cards, take out villains until you finally get to the big bad! But you only have 5 minutes!  If you run out of time, you lose!

The game is slightly misnamed, as you have 5 minutes PER VILLAIN!  You start off with a simple villain, try to beat him in 5 minutes!  Then repeat, with harder and harder Villains until you get to Thanos!  If you take out Thanos, you win!

This is a very light game, but really fun!  And the cooperation REALLY comes through in this one, as you have to share cards in real-time.

6. Oblivaeon!

Solo Play?  Inasmuch as Sentinels is: see this blog post for how to play solo.


Soooo … this is by far the heaviest game on this list.  This is the “final” expansion for Sentinels of the Multiverse (a cooperative SuperHero game), but it is a very different game in many ways!  It adds so many new mechanics, it is no longer the simple, straight-forward card game but a deep, deep game!

Oblivaeon: starting set-up! It’s huge!

The players work together together to take down Oblivaeon (who looks NOTHING LIKE THANOS) as he and his forces shift between realities, and heroes die (!) forcing the players to on the role of new players (who will also die).    Players have to go in knowing that your hero will die, because it might be too much to handle in the heat of the game!


This is real fun, but do not attempt it unless you are ready for a 3-4 hour game which is not unlike Avengers: Endgame!

5. Kick-Ass: The Board Game

Solo Play? Yes.  Really good solo!

This one really surprised me.  I don’t like this comic series.  But the game is really great.   It’s probably the second heaviest game on this list.

Each player takes on the role of a character from the Comic Book.  Their powers are set by some starting cards, which are VERY DIFFERENT for each character.  Players move around the city, keeping crime under control.  They are trying to find the “Big Bad” Villain to fight at the end of the game.  The players have to keep the events (upper part of the board) in check, otherwise the city just gets overridden with crime.

The game has a 18+ rating, as there is some language and imagery that is mature.  That’s consistent with the comic and movie.

But this game is really good!  You feel like you “level up” as you play the game, so you feel like your character is getting better and better as you play!  You become better at Social Media (seriously), hit the gym, buy better equipment, cheer yourself up.  There’s even a smidge of deck-building (your main action cards, but you can only ever have 5 cards)!  But you still work with your compatriots to fight crime, keep the city under control, keep the events under control, all while leveling-up so you can fight the Big Bad at the end of the game.

I really liked this game.

4. Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game

Solo play: Yes.  You can play 2 hands, but there are multiple rules for solo play on BGG.


Legendary is a Marvel-themed cooperative deck-builder.  In this game, you don’t play a particular hero, but you play more like a “manager” as you recruit Heroes to your deck, all while trying to stop villains from moving across the city and escaping!

The game has TONS of expansions and tons of different scenarios in this simple deck-building system.   It feels good to build up your deck and get better and better heroes and take out the Villains as they escape from the Villain Deck.

Strictly speaking, this is NOT a cooperative game, as you are supposed to add up the victory points (of all bad guys you defeated)  and the winner is the one with the most victory points.  We NEVER play like this: we always play purely cooperative, and everybody I know plays it cooperative.  I wish they would just make it official!

3. The Reckoners

Solo play? Yes!

The Rulebook for The Reckoners

By all measures, this game shouldn’t be this high on the list!  At the end of the day, the core mechanic is “really” just a Yahtzee “reroll dice up to 3 times”!

The dice: this is really just a Yahtzee game, but the dice are SO nice!

The game has amazing components, and these components really bring out the theme of the game!  The city locations are these amazing dice trays!

Game Setup from Rulebook

The game has Player Selected Turn Order, (one of my favorite game mechanics), as you can activate your dice in whatever order you like after rolling.

The game feels complicated the very first time you play, but once you get into it, it flows quickly.  Players MUST work together to decide how to help each other.  Do we take out a villain at a location?  Do we do some damage to Steelheart (the big bad you have to defeat to win)?  Do we have to clean up the streets?  Do we go shopping for better gear?

The game is real fun and the component quality is just amazing.

2. Sidekick Saga

Plays Solo?  Yes.  The solo player plays two characters.

Sidekick Saga is Seven Wonders meets Sentinels of the Multiverse meets Pandemic Legacy!  Like Pandemic Legacy, Sidekick Saga has an ongoing story that unfolds over many plays.  Like Seven Wonders, Sidekick Saga has Simultaneous Action Selection, so everyone can play at once (keeping the game moving quickly).  Like Sentinels, each player plays a SuperHero character with very different powers (and these powers can upgrade and change as the game evolves!)

At the end of the day, Sidekick Saga has an ongoing story, city exploration, fast-moving play, great art, and probably my favorite feature: you can make your own Super Heroes!


1. Sentinels of the Multiverse

Plays Solo?  You can, but it’s not built-in to the game:  See this blog entry for how to play solo


This is not really a surprise to anyone who knows me.  I bought the game sight unseen off the Greater Than Game website in 2011 (I have the original version with the original art above!)  I knew nothing about the game.  After I played it, I never looked back … I loved it!

Each player takes the role of a Superhero with their own deck!  Each SuperHero is VERY different and plays VERY differently!  Of all the games on this list, this is the one where you really feel like you are playing that hero and nothing else is like you!

The gameplay is simple: play a card, use a power, draw a card.  That’s it!  (Well, you have to draw a card for the environment and the Bad Guy too ..)  What makes the game interesting is what the cards do!

There are SO MANY expansions to the game and so much content, you could play this game for years!  It also has the best App of any game I have played (if only because you can rewind a turn or two!)

Some  people think this game is too fiddly (in which case, the app is definitely for you), but it seems to bring out the SuperHero genre better than any game I have played!  Even when you lose, it reminds me of old Spiderman comics (“I lost to the the magic guy!  Maybe I’ll go recruit Doctor Strange to help me!”) where you rethink how you go after a Villain NEXT TIME!

Sentinels make me feel like I am playing a SuperHero.


RichieCon 2019! Another Year! Another Blast!

So, RichieCon 2019 came and went last weekend.  We played games for 3 days in a row up at the Rec Center in my area!


There were plenty of games brought my many friends!  Most, however, were Richie’s games (thus the name …. RichieCon).

Richie’s games on the left …


Thanks again to Jeremy for making AMAZING BBQ Butts and Brisket for everyone on Saturday!  Will came in a close second with his chocolate chip cookies …


Great Games All Around!

Everything I played, I liked this year, so there were no losers for me!

  • Thunderstone Quest: Barricades mode (cooperative)
  • Kick-Ass
  • Dinosaur Island
  • Ygdsrasil
  • Flotsam Fight
  • Shipwreck Arcana
  • Spirit Island
  • Sidekick Saga
  • Crosstalk
Spirit Island!  Always a hit!

The clear winner, though, of RichieCon 2019 (even though I didn’t get to play) was “Spirit of 77“!  Junkerman ran this game, and everyone who played it had a blast.  I think Junkerman ran 3 sessions with different sets of people.  Far and Away this biggest hit of the convention!

One game of Battlestar Galactica ran 6 hours!!!


A lot of people also played Exploding Kittens and they all seemed to enjoy it.  I saw Kingmaker being played (very old), Awaken Lair,  and some Deckscape games.  No Unlock games, which surprised  me, because I brought all 12 (?) of them up!

Awaken Lair

Underwhelming Games

I didn’t hear about too many games that didn’t go well this year, but I did hear about two:

  • Bears vs. Babies:  Apparently, this was terrible, at least according to my friend and his 7 year old son!

    Bears vs. Babies!
  • DreamCatchers!  I bought the game because of this review,  but had not one, but TWO sets of friends tell me it was just too random and too generic.

I still want to try DreamCatchers myself because I pronounce it …

Favorite Moments

My two favorite moments:

  1. When Mike, me, and Joe spontaneously started singing the song Albuquerque (by Weird Al) in unison!   (Sorry, no picture)
  2. Seeing two of my games (CO-OP: the co-op game and Sidekick Saga) being played next to each other at two different tables!  The games came out organically (I never suggested anything), and just so happened to be played right next to each other!
Sidekick Saga on this table (Will wanted to play the Tinkerer because he voted for her!) …
… and CO-OP: the co-op game being played right next to it!


RichieCon 2019 was a success!  We will be doing it again next year!  We’ll probably start planning in April, so we can reserve the clubhouse in June again.

Thanks to Josh for designing this year’s token, and Max for printing it!

P.S. As I write this article, Bob sent me an email saying he just purchased Shipwreck Arcana because he liked it so much!



Review of The Shipwreck Arcana: Part I. Unboxing, Solo Rules, and First Impressions

I was SO BUSY all day Saturday with Thunderstone Quest: the Barricades Expansion (see previous post), I barely noticed a new package that arrived that day.  What is it?

What is this?

Opening it up, we find, The Shipwreck Arcana (with the Stars Below Expansion)!  This is a cooperative deduction game for 2-5 players.


This is a very small box, which is VERY DIFFERENT from the Thunderstone Quest box.  It’s so tiny, the rules are just on a fold-out sheet of paper.

The front side of the rules, just a single foldout

What’s In the Box?

The box is actually pretty jammed packed!  It has the rules, some larger cards, a bunch of colored tokens, and bag.

Cards, cards, cards!
Bags and Tokens (and the cards)

The cards and tokens are quite nice.   The art reminds me a little of Tarot Card art.

No Solo Rules?

Only 2-5 players? No solo rules?

So, this is a cooperative game for 2-5 players.  They do not follow Saunders’ law.  So, I developed my own unofficial solo rules: see below.


Basic Set-up (for a solo game): After a few turns where the DOOM token has moved up to 3, and the Guesses token is only at 0! I haven’t guessed anything right yet!

You set-up a line of 4 Arcana cards next to the HOURS card.  The hours card tracks (a) how many guesses you’ve gotten right and (b) the DOOM.   You win when you guess 7 Fate tokens correctly and you lose if the DOOM token makes it to 7!  (You can see I am not doing well here: the DOOM is already up to 3, and I have 0 guesses right!)

Every player has a Number Line in front of them.  (Notice the blue tokens in front of the player).  They are just the numbers 1 to 7.  They are ONLY used to note deductions after clues are given.   If a clue allows you to eliminate some possibilities, you notate that by turning them.  In the example above, I have been able to eliminate 1-6, so I will be guessing “7” at the end of the turn!


Arcana Cards

Every player has a hidden Fate token.  On the start of a player’s turn, that player draws another Fate token.  He now has 2 Fate tokens and MUST play one of them below one of the Arcana cards: this is how clues are given.

An easy clue: If a play a “3” on the “<=5” Arcana card, that immediately tells you my hidden clue is either a 1 or 2 (anything else is too big).   At that point, we’d flip all the Numbers in the number line EXCEPT 1 and 2.

You can make a guess now (“Is it 1 or 2?”), but you have a 50-50 shot.  If you get it right, you get a guess right!  If you get it wrong, the DOOM token advances one space.


Two more Arcana cards

The game keeps going like this, but after too many Fate tokens are places on a card, it “fades” and is replaced.  Fading is BAD! If a card fades on your turn, the DOOM token advances twice!   (Unless you happen to guess a hidden Fate that turn, then no DOOM!)

How does a card fade?  Notice the moons on the bottom of the card: there is 1 on each above.  That means when the 1st Fate token is placed on the card, that is the turn thaty card is fading.  (The cards above have 3 Moons, which means the 3rd Fate token will cause the card to fade).

Watching when fading happens is essential!  You almost HAVE to guess on a turn when a card fades!  If you don’t you lose 2 DOOM!


Neat cards!

I spent all day (the previous day) playing Thunderstone Quest: the Barricades Expansion because there’s so much to the game, and I only played only one game. I ended up all playing The Shipwreck Arcana all morning in (my) solo mode game because I played so many times!  It’s a quick game!  I played probably 8 times this morning and had a blast!

Even though I haven’t played the official way yet (co-op mode with 2-5 players), I suspect this will be a big hit.  It’s easy to teach, quick to play, and pretty fun and thinky.  I’ll get this out at RichieCon 2019 and see how it goes!  Stay Tuned for more!

In the meantime, check out my solo rules below.

Solo Rules: The Unofficial Variant

These are unofficial solo rules for The Shipwreck Arcana.

One 8-sided die (doesn’t come with the game)

You will be playing one player in one position (you DO NOT simulate playing multiple characters). The solo player plays Fate tokens as normally, trying to do the best he can to whittle down the possibilities. Instead of “guessing” when needed, the player will roll the 8-sided die to do the guessing for him. Of course, the player may decide to ONLY guess when he knows exactly which Fate token is hidden, but it’s unlikely you can do that for all guesses.

Set-up the game normally, but just for one player (i.e., only one player has 1-7 Number Line tokens). Turn them all to the 1-7 side.

Play normally. The solo player alternates between two modes: clue-giver and guesser.

When you are in step 1 (DRAW) and step 2 (PLAY) of the game,  you are in clue-giver mode and you know what the hidden Fate token is. As normal, do the best you can to play the Fate token to help future you.

In step 3 (PREDICT), you are in guesser mode. You pretend you DO NOT know what the hidden Fate token is! All you can do is turn over your Number Line tokens based on the information played by you as a clue-giver. In other words, you are ONLY using the information based on the Fate tokens/cards played to eliminate possibilities.

Resolve steps 4 (RESOLVE) and step 5 (FADE) normally.

You win if you get 7 guesses correct. You lose if the Doom track goes to 7. Just like the normal game.

What’s the 8-sided die for?
At some point, you may want to make a guess, but you may have it down to a few choices. Let’s say you have been able to deduce that the hidden FATE token is either a 6 or 7. You could try to get more info later, but you may not have time to waste.  More importantly, if a card is fading this turn, you WANT to guess (or your DOOM goes up 2!!!). If you get it right, you DO NOT lose 2 DOOM, so it probably makes sense to guess.

Roll the die until you roll one of the possibilities. That’s your guess! Follow the rules normally for your guess!

You can’t cheat. (Well, you can). The idea is that you know what the hidden Fate Token in in clue-giver mode, but all you can do is deduce the Fate token SOLELY on info given by clue-giver you to guesser you.

Think of this as a puzzle where you know the outcome, but you are practicing how you would get someone else to the proper outcome.


Review of Thunderstone Quest: The Barricades Expansion (the cooperative expansion) – Part Ia. The Unboxing and First Impressions

Wait, didn’t we do this already?  Oh ya, here: Review of Thunderstone Quest – Part I. The Unboxing and First Impressions

Barricades Expansion to Thunderstone Quest! I think … it’s not labelled very well on the box that it’s a different Thunderstone Quest …

Oh, that’s right!  No, this unboxing is for The Barricades Expansion.  This expansion adds a bunch of cards and a cooperative mode.  As you might recall from the last unboxing, I didn’t want to finish a full review until we got the co-op expansion in (after all, this is a cooperative board and card games site).  I was even a little grumpy because the original Kickstarter implied there would be a cooperative mode built in, but there wasn’t.  This is the second Kickstarter for Thunderstone Quest … adding the cooperative mode.

Expansion  or Stand-Alone?

The original competitive Thunderstone Quest (left) and the cooperative Thunderstone Quest (right). It’s very unclear, but the RIGHT box is an expansion for the LEFT box!

If you look at the box, it’s HUGGE!  Well, at least the Kickstarter version is!  It’s as big as the original game!

And the original game is HUGGE!   Almost as big as the Sentinels box and Gloomhaven!  This is NOT a small expansion!  For purposes of this review, we’re going to call the expansion “Barricades”.

The Expansion we will refer to as Barricades mode, just like the rulebook shows you …

If you just look at the outside box, NOWHERE does it say that it’s an EXPANSION!  Really! You might think you can buy this and play it standalone.  Nope!  You need a some things from the original box (honestly, not that much: the gear tokens, the board, and some treasure).  If you ordered the Kickstarter version, you get a few overall “Thunderstone Quest” expansions:  “What Lies Beneath” and “Frozen in Time”.

With those, you get lots of new monsters, items, spells, weapons, heroes, ALMOST enough to play standalone.  Without those expansions, you do need a lot from the original box.

It’s a bit surprising how big the Barricades box is!  It holds the base Barricades mode and the two expansions that came with the Kickstarter, and there’s still plenty of room to spare!


Adds 5th and 6th Player

The Barricades expansion also adds two more boards and starting decks so you can play 5th and 6th player.  Honestly, we’ve wanted a 5th player the last few times we played, so this is definitely a good thing.

5th and 6th player boards! Plus, the game comes with starting decks for the 5th and 6th player!



The rulebook is pretty good.  The graphic design is quite good, and it reads well.  It also describes all the changes needed for the co-op mode.  But here’s the thing: I had both rulebooks open the entire time, and these are BIG rulebooks!  So, sometimes I’d be thumbing through the main rulebook, and sometimes I’d be thumbing through the Barricades rulebook.

Need to have BOTH rulebooks open to play! The original rulebook from base Thunderstone Quest (on top) and the new rulebook for the Barricades on the bottom!

Since the barricades mode is quite different, or at least different enough, I wanted something that “integrated” the two rulebooks.  The back of the Barricades rulebook had a summary of this, which helped, but I really wanted a summary card!

Given all the amazing production in this game, a game summary card for (a) competitive mode and (b) cooperative mode would have gone a LOOONG way.


Ya.  The components are awesome.

I had to add stickers to the Gameboard to update it: apparently, the second edition fixed this, but the original Kickstarter had problems.  So I had to a “legacy” change and add two stickers to the Marketplace and the Guilds.

No pressure!  I added the two new Stickers …

Stickers added to update the 1st edition board to 2nd edition board!


Thunderstone Quest (the competitive version) is a deck-builder: as soon as I tell you that, you know a lot about the game.  Then it adds some village visiting and dungeon delving to round out the experience and make it feel much more like a Dungeon Crawl adventure.

Original TQ (competitive) deck-building game

The cooperative version adds a bunch of rules to this.  It’s a lot more complicated than I expected: this is both boon and bane.  It’s complex enough to have rich gameplay, but it’s complicated enough to be confounding and confusing sometimes.  There are a lot of new rules.

New Rules: Guardian Dice

The Guardian Dice: roll at the start of each turn!

For a new added element of randomness, some dice (Guardian Dice) are rolled at the beginning of a turn.  The further into the game you get, the more dice you rule.   There are bunch of things these do, but usually, they set “how many monsters attack the town” (there’s much more to it, but that’s basically the idea).

Your job: Beat the big bad and protect the town!  If too many monsters attack the town, they destroy it and you lose!  Basically you lose if the town is destroyed.

New Rules: Barricades and Destruction Chits

These are the Barricades!! (Can’t you tell from the labels?? Oh wait, they aren’t labelled!)

The reason the name of the expansion is called “Barricades”: there are 5 barricades, one at each Village Location on the board.  If you want, players can spend 10 Gold to erect a barricade on a Location.  This is a way of “preventing” monster attacks.  The green side means the barricade is active (and can withstand one monster attack).  The red side means the barricade is down (inactive).  Here’s the set-up, showing the default barricades in inactive mode:


This basic idea (protect the Village) reminds me a lot of Battle for Greyport, another really good cooperative game.   Which do I like better?  Check back later … I don’t know yet …

Oh, when a Location is hit by a Monster, you put a destruction chit on the board.  Here’s my first solo game, near the end of the game: only two Locations of the village are active! the Bazaar (1 space!) and The Temple (1 space).   The rest of village has been destroyed by Monsters!

A solo game with most of the Village destroyed!

How do you prevent Monsters from destroying the village?  Basically, you head to the dungeon and hunt some monsters before they can get to town!

Village: “The scouts tell us that three Monsters are coming to the village to ruin us this day!”

Adventurers: “Well, we’ll go the dungeon and head them off … if we let some through, we’re sorry …”

New Rule: Guardians and their Lairs!


To win, you need to defeat the Big Bad, er .. the Guardian … a number of times.  Thematically, he keeps coming back even after you defeat him.  In the game above, a solo game, you need to defeat the Guardian 3 times to actually win.  How many times really depends on the number of players and the Guardian.

The Guardian’s Lair is new: it’s at the bottom of the dungeon, and the Guardian has a whole bunch of rules.  Remember those  Guardian Dice we rolled earlier?  They trigger some special abilities on the Guardian, which basically beat you up. The number of dice you roll is notated the upper right corner of the board (7 after turn 12+).

Although it looks like I am about to win … I lose on the next turn, because the Monsters destroy the Village!

New Rule: Prestige Class Boards

Prestige Class Boards

This is probably my favorite new set-of-rules in the cooperative version.   Each player chooses a prestige class board and puts it to the right side of their player board.  As you “level up” in the game, you gain new abilities.  And there are a lot of new abilities!  It’s fun to try to level-up your character!  The XP, which were essentially victory points in the original competitive version, are now used to power your level-ups.    The main choice you make in the coop mode: do you use XP to level-up you class board or to upgrade a hero?

The class boards are still available in the competitive version, but it’s a much harder decision!  Your hard-earned XP are victory points needed to win!  But, do you want to use them for your class?  Or upgrading a Hero?  What to do?

In only one game, I found these boards added a LOT of flavor, and since there’s 12 (!) of them, there’s a lot of variety.

A really big box! With a tray!


After one solo play (and congratulations for adhering to Saunders’ Law),  I liked it!  The major downpoint: It was a lot of work to get through one play! I basically spent all day sleeving, getting through the rules, and playing my first solo game.  And I lost.  But I liked the game.  A lot!

My first solo game: I’m just about to lose!

I am looking forward to getting it to the table (hopefully at RichieCon 2019, coming next weekend!) and trying it as a full co-op game!  Stay Tuned!

My solo game just before I lose!

Cooperative Board and Cards Games on Kickstarter in May 2019

Here’s a couple of cooperative games that have struck my fancy for May 2019.

Up again for a second try, this expansion for Venom Assault (a cooperative deck builder with a GI Joe theme) adds more cards and gives you the opportunity to get the base game as well as the expansion.  It didn’t quite fund the first time, so I am hopeful it funds this time: this game made my honorable mention of Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2017!  Give this one a try, I think you’ll really like it!

Check it out here!

The art in this game really captured my attention, and you all know I am a sucker for a co-op, especially with variable player powers!

Raid Boss: Incarnate is a 4-player cooperative boss battle designed to feel like an MMORPG dungeon encounter with all of the teamwork, strategy, and collaboration, but none of the endless grinding!

It looks like it has a comic-booky vibe and looks to be fun.

Check it out here!