GameSpot: Alderac Entertainment Group

Hello gamers! Today we’re beginning a new blog feature called GameSpot, where we take a look at one gaming company and the games they provide. Since there are many companies out there all bringing us great games, we couldn’t choose a favourite to start off with, so we’re starting alphabetically, with Alderac Entertainment Group!

Alderac Entertainment Group, or AEG as most of us know them, publish RPGs, board games and TCGs. Formed in 1993 and based in California, they started out publishing hobby magazines (which won several industry awards) before launching into board games in 2009. They are most well known for Smash Up, Thunderstone, and Legend of the Five Rings (which was recently acquired by Fantasy Flight Games).

Here’s a look at some of the games they have to offer today:

SmashUp-contentsSmash Up

Smash Up is a deck building game for two players, designed by Paul Peterson. In it players choose from multiple different factions (such as pirates, ninjas, zombies, robots, and many more) and take turns to draft decks, before laying out Base cards which they then have to capture. It’s a simple concept that quickly gets very challenging and exciting as the factions’ different abilities and strengths play off against each other, and with loads of expansion packs adding new factions and abilities to the game there is endless variety and replayability to be had. And with factions ranging from pretty princesses to Lovecraftian monsters, there are combinations out there to suit everyone’s taste!

LoveLetter-componentsLove Letter

Short and sweet, Love Letter is a game of bluffing and deduction for 2 to 4 players, where you need to get a love letter to the princess while keeping away the letters from the other players. Keeping only one card in your hand, you draw a card each turn and play one each turn, aiming to knock the other players out of the game and retain the highest scoring card. This game has been adapted into several different versions that use the same gameplay mechanics with wildly different themes – Batman Love Letter, for example, has Gotham’s villains trying to escape detection by Batman, while The Hobbit Love Letter has you trying to find the Arkenstone and avoid being roasted by Smaug! With play time ranging anywhere from five minutes to half an hour, this one is great for casual gaming and party or family gaming, and is instantly replayable. The game designer, Seiji Kanai, has designed several other games for AEG, all of them offering the same short, snappy, addictive gameplay, and you can be sure that if you see his name on the box, it’s going to be loads of fun!

imagesDice City

Billed as a ‘dice crafting’ game for 2 to 4 players, Dice City also employs elements of deck building as players need to ‘build’ their city to make it the best city, and therefore win the right to become the new capital of the kingdom! Each player has a large base board upon which they can build, gather resources, and activate abilities, but it’s the dice you roll that tell you which abilities you can use! So with a bit of luck and a lot of strategy, you need to build craftily and outsmart your opponents to win. Another game that can be played in under an hour, Dice City has brightly coloured, well presented components and is easy to get the hang of, so it’s another good casual party or family game.

 

DoomtownReloaded3 Doomtown Reloaded

Doomtown Reloaded is a card game for 2 to 4 players set in the Deadlands universe. As with all expandable card games, you start off with the base set and then subsequent expansions increase your card pool while introducing new themes and story developments. All cards are provided in them, so you don’t have to worry about spending loads on boosters and still not pulling the card you’re after! You pick one of the four rival factions in the game and make use of gunslinging and arcane abilities to come out on top! The beauty of expandable card games is you can start off with a base set and then decide for yourself how much you want to invest in the expansions; unless you’re playing competitively, there’s no need to keep up with the expansions (though most players generally do). And fans of the Deadlands RPG will love this throwback to the original CCG.

automobiles-board-web Automobiles

This is basically another deck-building game, though you’re collecting cubes instead of cards to build your ‘hand’. In Automobiles, you need to construct and maintain a racing car and pit crew, and build the fastest car in order to win the race! Different coloured cubes add strength to different aspects such as handling, garage and engine, and you need to decide which to prioritise while looking out for what your opponents are collecting. This is one of a set of three similar games, the others being Planes and Trains. These offer more intuitive and competitive games that would be great for family gatherings (it takes 2 to 5 players) and rainy Sundays!

 

 Twilight Squabble

154764A recent release that parodies the epic Twilight Struggle game by GMT, Twilight Squabble is a short, sharp game for two players that can be played in about fifteen minutes or so. With some similarities in gameplay to the Love Letter series, players need to advance their chosen nation along the ‘Space Race’ and ‘Balance of Power’ trackers by bidding a card from their hand. You only get three cards in each round or ‘era’, and there are ways for an opponent to reveal what you’ve bid ahead of time, allowing them to surmise what you have left in your hand or what you’ve bid on the other tracker. The aim is to be the furthest along the Balance of Power tracker, but beware! This isn’t as simple as just bidding as high as you can; if you tip the Balance of Power too far in your favour, you’ll trigger nuclear war and nobody wins! The idea is to play it safe and keep ahead of your opponent, but not by too much. The Space Race gives you a way to win if neither nation gets a clear win on the Balance of Power, so as well as balancing the Balance (heh) you need to decide how much to invest in the Space Race too. For a simple, short game, it’s surprisingly challenging, and much can depend on what happens in the final round, so the suspense stays high! Maybe not so much one for the kids, but a good one to bring out over a few drinks with the mates.

cheatymagesoverview Cheaty Mages

In Cheaty Mages, you take the role of a mage watching and betting on arena battles between fearsome monsters. With magic at your fingertips, how can you resist casting a few spells to tip the odds in your favour? The problem is, there are other mages betting on the battles too, and they all have the same idea! Place your bets, cast your spells and sabotage your opponents’ chances in the hope of coming away with the most gold! Designed by Love Letter’s Seiji Kanai, it’s another deceptively simple but wildly fun game for 3 to 6 players! While this would be great fun in pretty much any social situation, I have to admit, it sounds like it’d be a blast at parties …

Junta-box-top Junta

Junta has been around for donkey’s years, with AEG only acquiring it relatively recently. The reason it’s stuck around is because it’s so good! Set in a ‘banana republic’, one player is elected ‘El Presidente’ at the start of the game, and they have control of the bank, which doles out money to the various roles which they assign to the other players (army, navy, air force, and so on). The goal is to have the most money in your family’s Swiss bank account at the end of the game, which you can acquire by legal means (yeah, right), by assassinating other players and taking theirs, or even by staging a coup against El Presidente! It’s like Monopoly with politics and murder! You need to lie, cheat, steal, kill and embezzle your way to victory, so this is not a good game for family harmony! But if you’re in the mood for so highly competitive, strategic fun, this classic game is a tried and tested safe bet. Unlike the other games on the list, this one takes around 2 hours to play and is for 4 to 7 players.

photo-original Pretense

Get ready for this one – it’s a bit of a mind-bender!
Pretense is a game you play while you’re playing other games. There are no dice, no turns, and no time limit; at the start of the evening (or day, or whatever) you draw a card from the ‘roles’ deck, which will give you your objective. If you achieve your objective – which is usually about tricking someone into doing something such as handing you the rulebook or getting off their chair – you reveal your role card and then take theirs! The aim is to have the most role cards at the end of the night – and you can use the objective on each role card you have, so the more you get, the more ways you have to get more! But be careful – if someone calls you out and guesses your role correctly, you’ll have to give that role card to them, and if you have no role cards, you’re out! Billed as a game for 2 to 12 players, this is definitely a case of ‘the more the merrier’.

So after looking at this selection of AEG’s games, it’s clear that what they excel at – though by no means is it all that they’re good at – is producing short, vibrant, fast-paced, addictive games for casual play. These aren’t, for the most part, tournament games or all-night epics – they’re the smaller ‘minigames’ you play in between bigger games, over drinks in the pub, or to kill some time. But that doesn’t make them any worse than the bigger games – in fact many people prefer the shorter games! So if you fancy variety in your game night, or you’re just looking for something short and sweet, take a look at what AEG have to offer!

You can see all the AEG games we have in stock here.

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