A Review of The Stuff of Legend: A Hidden Traitor Game That Can Be Fully Cooperative


The Stuff of Legend is a Hidden Traitor game that was on Kickstarter back in October 2021.  We’ve been looking forward to this for a while:  it was on our Top 10 Anticipated Cooperative Games of 2022  mostly because this is a Kevin Wilson design (one of the people responsible for the amazing Arkham Horror 2nd Edition).   The game promised delivery in June 2022, but it didn’t arrive at my house until May 27th, 2023, so it is just about a year late.


The version we got was the Kickstarter Bogeyman version, with a slip cover: see above right.  The retail/normal version will look more like the above left.  We’ll discuss differences later below.

The Stuff Of Legend


The Stuff Of Legends is a best selling Graphic Novel … which I knew nothing about when I backed this game. The Stuff of Legends universe basically provides the backstory and setting for this game: players take the role of toys trying to save their kidnapped boy from the Bogeyman!


Even though I didn’t know the IP, the universe and art are quite compelling.  In fact, my Kickstarter version came with a nice-sized comic book called The Dark, Book I.


The art is fantastic in this graphic series, if a little dark.


The production is very good. 

Cooperative or Hidden Traitor Game?


Those of you paying attention might have notice that the game box says that this is a Cooperative game (see above), but we introduced it (at the start) as a Hidden Traitor game: which is it?  It’s kind of both and neither. Let me explain.


Like many Hidden Traitor games you might have seen, everyone is given a loyalty card at the start of the game.  All players are on one of two teams: the toys trying to save their boy (Loyal to the Boy) or trying to help the Bogeyman kidnap the boy (Loyal to the Bogeyman).   Most players are Loyal to the Boy, and at most 1 or 2 (depending on the number of players) are loyal to the Bogeyman.


Here’s the thing: At player counts 3 and 4: there is a 50-50% that no one is loyal to the Bogeyman!! At the start of the game, you shuffle together 1 Boy Loyalty card and 1 Bogeyman loyalty card, and only one of them it goes into the the deck with all the other loyalty cards.  So, it’s possible that no one is loyal to the Bogeyman at the start of the game!  The remaining card is placed on the board, and through a wacky card called “Muddying the Waters” players can swap loyalty cards with that!


Those of you who follow hidden traitor games may find this seems reminiscent of Shadows Over Camelot, the old Days of Wonder game (out of print for many years).  It’s possible that no one is a traitor in that game as well! In fact, we tend to play Shadows Over Camelot with a house rule that makes the game fully cooperative by never selecting traitor cards: See our Top 10 Games That Can Be Played Fully Cooperatively.


Having said that, if you play with 5 or 6 Players, you are guaranteed to always have at least 1 and maybe 2 loyalty cards of Bogeyman.  

What’s weird is that there is a card called “Muddying the Waters” that can really mess with this: it allows you to swap your loyalty card with the one in the center.  If it looks your team is about to lose, you can play that and maybe swap teams!  Your loyalty can be dynamic in this game.

“But Does It Make Sense to Play Fully Cooperatively?”


Does it make sense to play this fully cooperatively?  I think it does!  We played a 4-player game and they just barely scraped by a win for the Boy team.  I ended up being the Traitor!  Here’s the thing: I couldn’t do very much to sabotage the other team: since actions are mitigated by voting, I couldn’t do anything too horrid.  And there is no special advantage to the Bogeyman team for revealing! In Shadows Over Camelot and many other Hidden Traitor games (like Battlestar Galactica and Unfathomable), once you reveal the Traitor card, you get some special actions to sabotage the others!  Nope!  Nothing like that here!  At the end game, all I could do was just say “I don’t have anything I can do” and discard a card or two, hoping to cause a Coin Flip.  


This lack of special traitor ability is both bone and bane for this game: if you have to have special rules for the traitor team (Bogeyman), then you have to obliquely ask to see the rulebook and try to find all the things you can do.  But then you sometimes feel like you can’t do a lot, even if you are a traitor!  In fact, about the only thing you can do near the end of the game is try get your hand discarded quick so you can force a Coin Flip (which forces the endgame closer).

From a cooperative perspective, I feel like this game could be played fully cooperatively because the game was still hard!  At the end of the game, the Boy Loyalists still had to guess to win, and they had a 20% chance of losing still!  I think we could house rule this and say “Let’s just play cooperatively and force all of us to have Boy Loyalist cards”.  I think this still works (but only at 3 to 4, since the balance of the game shifts with more players).

Solo Play


Straight out of the box, you can’t play this solo.  This is a Hidden Traitor game, so you typically need lots of people.  But, as we pointed out in the cooperative section, just above, you can play this fully cooperatively!  And our experience was that the game was still hard even when playing cooperatively!  So, what if we simply play solo as the fully cooperative house-ruled game?  What if the solo player plays two or three toys and manages them as if it were a 2 or 3-player cooperative game?


So, we are stepping beyond the bounds of this game!  We are stretching the rules to make it fully cooperative! Then we are stretching it again to make it solo!  Does it work?


It does!  See above as I play a solo game handling 3 characters!  It’s a bit overwhelming managing three hands, but I was able to play this way.  In fact, the extra overhead of managing three hands sort of balances the fact that you have perfect information in the solo game: playing only two hands might be too easy.


You might think “Oh, this game is too easy if you have perfect information”.  It didn’t seem that way to me!  I lost my solo game because I chose the wrong exit!  The thing is: I had to make a choice of exits, because I was running out of time!  The Boy would have been lost had I not chosen an exit!!  I needed to look at more of the exits, but I ran out of time.  

That extra intellectual overhead of managing 3 hands helps balance the perfect information, so it was still an interesting game solo.

Kickstarter Version


So, I backed the deluxe Kickstarter version of The Stuff of Legend called The Bogeyman Edition.  Here’s the thing: I think the normal version is probably the way to go if you are interested in this game.  Why do I say that?


First of all, the miniatures that come with the Kickstarter version, as great as they are, seem  … less useful.


The cardboard standees seem thematic to the game as you are playing toys.  The miniatures represent the toys in their “violent phase”, which is also kind of a light-toned color reminiscent of flesh.  I think, if there were a reveal moment in the game, where the traitor flips from toy to traitor, maybe these miniatures would have made sense (I got from toy to standee!) But there is no such moment in the game! 


You “suspect” who the traitor(s) are, but there’s no accusation mechanic in the game which causes a reveal.  Maybe you can do that if you are accused? But why would you?  There’s NO reason to reveal you are the traitor: there’s literally no special rule or advantage for the traitors once they are revealed.  It’s better to just stay hidden and sow lingering doubt as to whether you are the traitor or not.


Every one of my friends preferred the cardboard standees (over the minis) for the action selector: it seemed to evoke a more a sad toy vibe, which seems more representative of the overall vibe of the game.  After all, you are trying to save your boy, so you are sad toys until you rescue him!

In fact, the only time we used the miniatures for action selection was when Sara said “I’m being violent and shooting troops this turn, so I’ll use the mini instead!”  A silly reason probably not worth the extra $$$ I spent.


Another reason: even though the Kickstrarter metal coin (which is needed to flip) is super cool as a giant metal coin (and it’s really big), it is actually harder to flip than the same size plastic coin! People were so scared of ruining the coin or the board as they flipped the coin, they just made me (the owner of the game) flip it, as any damage it did was mine! It’s cool, but may be easier to flip as a plastic coin!


As crazy as it seems, I think the retail version might be the way to go if you are interested in this game: it’s just easier to play, cheaper, and maybe more thematic. Decide for yourself.

Interesting Hidden Traitor Ideas


One of the most innovative ideas in this game is that your hand of cards is a scarce resource: every time you run out of cards, you have to flip the loyalty coin to refresh your hand.  Every time you flip that coin, something bad happens:  the Boy moves closer to death or the Bogeyman acts!


The Boy is a maker on the right side of the Board: every time the Boy side is seen, he advances one space. If he ever makes it to the bottom, the Boy Loyalists lose!


If, on the other hand, your coin flip reveals the Bogeyman, you have to draw bad news Bogeyman card!


This whole tension of trying to use your cards as best you can to avoid coin flips is really interesting!  Am I discarding early because I am trying to force coin flips, or do I really just have bad cards and need a new hand?


There’s also an interesting idea of stained helper cards. Sure, many hidden traitor games have the idea of “helping out” with support cards, but any card that has the black ink (see the card above) is “tainted” and causes the character to invoke his weakness!


For example, the General’s weakness (Doubt) will cause him to discard a random card if any of actions becomes stained. Again, this is interesting: “I can only offer 3 red symbols if they are stained!” Is the person offering to help because that’s all he has, or is it because he is a traitor and wants to stain your action? Remember that action cards are a scarce resource: you may have to settle for a stained action rather than causing yet another coin flip!



Something that’s unique to The Stuff of Legends is the exploration! I haven’t seen many Hidden Traitor games is the idea of exploring! (Arguably Battlestar Galactica has it, but that board is much more static) But, The Stuff of Legend has it! Lots of Location and Encounater cards are randomly laid out at the start of the game. The players must explore the world of the Stuff of Legend to find the proper exit, but exploration has painful consequences, invoking troops and leaders and general bad stuff! But then there are mitigation cards for exploration (you can peek and swap Encounters and avoid a path), which makes it feel like you have some agency on your exploration!


Every location in the game has some cards which will generally cause bad stuff to happen, but every so often you find a way to peek at the exits!


This exploration worked really well in both the Hidden Traitor and Fully Cooperative version of this game. As cool as the exploration is (I prefer games with exploration), it does tend to make the game longer. Generally, most hidden traitor games are shorter: under an hour or even under 20 minutes. The exploration does tend to make this game longer: about 1.5 to 2 hours. Caveat Emptor. (Interestingly, my solo game clocked in at one hour).



From an objective point of view, The Stuff of Legends adds some interesting ideas to the Hidden Traitor genre: the stained Action Cards, the Action Cards being the scarce resource that cause coin flips, the exploration mechanism, and the dynamic loyalty cards. It’s a little frustrating as the Hidden Traitor because you can’t do too much to sabotage the others, even when it’s clear you are a Hidden Traitor: that’s probably the biggest complaint we had. But, the gameplay was interesting: the game can sit in this weird almost cooperative phase which just makes the game tense and interesting. Completely objectively, I would probably give this a 7.5/10. If you like Hidden Traitor games, this is really different: it may be a bit long (mostly from the exploration), so I suggest you give this a try and see if you like it! It’s probably better at higher player counts, like most traitor games.


Completely subjectively, I don’t like Hidden Traitor games, and if that’s all The Stuff of Legend were, I would probably immediately sell it! But, with a little nudge, you can play this fully cooperatively. The game is still hard enough even without the traitor(s), so it does make sense to play this cooperatively: Extending that idea even further, you can play this 3-handed as a solo game, and it works as a solo game.

Objectively, this is a 7.5/10 if you like Hidden Traitor games. The fully cooperative game is probably a 6.5/10 or 7/10. The solo game is probably a 6.5/10. If you like solo or fully cooperative games, you can play it that way and it’s still pretty good.

Of course, if you like the Stuff of Legend graphic novel, that probably adds a full point to the rating: there’s a lot of theme here. We saw our rating of Deep Rock Galactic go up recently when we played Deep Rock Galactic with someone who really liked the video game!



I sleeved my Loyalty cards because I was worried we’d be touching them a lot. Nope, not really. BUT the Loyalty cards have to stay pristine: any imperfections in the backs (a ding on the edge, a scratch) will make them identifiable to other players even when flipped. It’s probably best to sleeve them anyways: It was only 9 cards.

A Review of Red Carpet In Ruins


I don’t think I’ve played a murder mystery game in 8 years! The last time that I played was at a Murder Mystery Party hosted by Charlie and Allison sometime before the pandemic.


Recently, Sara was rooting through some of my new games and found Red Carpet in Ruins. She started looking at it, and said “Hey! We should play this!” I called Charlie and Allison right then and there. Although it took us a week to all agree on a date, we finally got a group of 8 together to play through Red Carpet in Ruins last night.

Murder Mystery 


In case you’ve never seen a murder mystery game, someone is murdered (pretend, not for real) in a group involving 6 to 8 characters: your group has to work together to find said murderer!


Each of these characters (see above) has a motive to murder the victim! In Red Carpet In Ruins, we are role-playing characters from a 1959 Hollywood film set where the main actor has been murdered! The group must uncover the murderer! However, there is a catch: the murderer is in the group of folks, and he/she will do anything to cover up the murder! Over the course of a night (3 to 4 hours), each player role plays a single character, usually going as far to dress up!


Throughout the night, little books tell you where you were, when you were, how you were, and things that need to be revealed as you play. At some point, after everyone has revealed all the relevant plot points, accusations start flying! Everyone writes down who they think did it, and you reveal the final murderer!



Charlie and Allison have played a lot of these (according to them, all of the “How to Host a Murder Party” mysteries) and they pointed out a few differences in this game:

  1. Times are very well-defined: Inside the character books, players times are very well-established, so if you are ever asked about your whereabouts you can very clearly articulate your location
  2. Map and character standees are included: If you really want to note where people were, a map and standees are included—many murder party games don’t included this
  3. You know if you are the murderer right way: Some Murder mysteries don’t tell you that you are the killer (or not) until the final act—in this game, you know before you even come to party.

Charlie and Allison, the connoisseurs, liked all these new changes.  Although we didn’t really use the map that much to show movements, we could have. And knowing you are the murderer lets you concoct better alibis. 

Although, the murderer in our group confesses that it was very stressful knowing they were the murderer all night: they actually would have preferred not knowing (like some of the older games).



Unlike most of the games in our Top 10 Cooperative Detective Games, there is an awful lot of preparation for a Murder Mystery Party! This isn’t a game you can just pull off the shelf and say “Hey! Let’s just play this now!”

You have to send out invitations early: people have to know when it is so they can prepare.  Players have to prepare in multiple ways: they have to get costumes (although strictly speaking, you don’t need to wear costumes, it helps make the evening more fun), and they have to read about their character in their informational booklet.  See below: each character gets an invitations and an informational booklet.


Also, it’s very important than everyone commits to coming: even the host doesn’t know who the murderer is, so the game can run aground if not all players show.  This is why it’s so important to spend some time making sure everyone agrees on a date: the game will not work if everyone doesn’t show. (There are some mitigation strategies, but even those are limited because the info packet is needed to run a character: if the info packet is not there for a character, it’s unlikely the night can continue).

So that makes the Murder Mystery Party a little fragile: one player, by not bringing their info packet can completely derail the evening. Make sure everyone is committed.



Costumes aren’t strictly necessary, but they really do throw you into the theme of the game.


My group didn’t go crazy, but we did just enough costuming to get us into the mood.  It’s up to your group how much you want to get into it: we did just enough to make it fun for us.

Do whatever your group finds fun!



Gameplay proceeds in three rounds over a night.  Each round is about an hour, and in that hour “pivotal plot points” need to be revealed: each character has many points (as described by their informational booklet) that need to be revealed: who they saw, what they heard, when they saw said things, and so on.  Once everyone (except the killer) has revealed the important plot points, play proceeds to the next round.  


We punctuated our rounds with dinner (between rounds 1 and 2) and dessert (between rounds 2 and 3): the game strongly encourages this ethic, and even provided suggestions of music and food on their web site! After the final round, accusations are made and everyone makes a guess as to the killer! And the final murderer is revealed!

One thing to point out: everyone has to tell the truth to the best of their abilities: this is how plot points gets revealed … except for the murderer: he/she is doing everything he/she can to lie and stop the truth from coming out!

Hard Core Board Gamer Thoughts


There is a weird thing I realized after playing last night: Murder Mystery games like Red Carpet in Ruins are Social Deduction games and Hidden Traitor games disguised as Detective games!  The accusations I saw flying around last night reminded me of games of Coup or Avalon: people behave just like Social Deduction games! Finger pointing! Yelling! Accusations! And then, there’s the Hidden Traitor element where the murderer tries to lie and remain hidden! Just like Shadows over Camelot or Nemesis!

I point this out because, on the surface, Murder Mystery games “feel” like they should go into Top 10 Cooperative Detective Games.  Nope nope nope nope nope.  Although there are elements of sleuthing and detective-type deduction, Red Carpet in Ruins was much much more of a Social Deduction Game with some Hidden Traitor elements. The lack of detective game is even worse if you are the murderer: you don’t get to play the detective part of the game at all … you just become the Hidden Traitor and lie lie lie.

I realized after playing that I don’t like Social Deduction games and I don’t like Hidden Traitor games.  The detective parts and engaging times with my friends kept this enjoyable, but I didn’t like the Murder Mystery genre nearly as much as I remember.  Caveat Emptor: Murder Mystery Games are not nearly as much a Detective game as you might think.

Reusing The Game


You can reuse the game when you are done: the only “non-resuable” pieces are the invitations. You’ll notice I just made a copy of the invitations and that worked fine.

My wife’s co-worker wants to try this, so I reset the game: I put the Objects back in their envelopes (there are objects that are revealed as the game plays), gathered the info packets, and put everything back in the box. I will pass it on, and suggest she makes copies of the invitations so she can pass it on …



The fun part of Red Carpet in Ruins was spending 3-4 hours with my friends: we got to dress up, solve parts of a mystery, and be roleplay silly 1959 Hollywood stereotypes for a night. Do you enjoy being a bit of an extrovert and roleplaying with your friends? Then you will enjoy this … just be aware there is a lot of preparation. If, on the other hand, you are an introvert and don’t like the roleplaying, this may not be for you. And to be clear, Red Carpet in Ruins is more of Social Deduction game (with a Hidden Traitor) than a strict mystery game. If you are an introvert hoping to engage in just the detective part of the game, you may be sorely disappointed.

Me and all of my friends had a good time last night. Decide for yourself if this is something you’d like .. maybe I can pass it along to you!

A Review of Illiterati: A Cooperative Word Game


Illiterati is a cooperative word game for 1-5 players, Ages 7+, and about 30-45 minutes long. I backed this on Kickstarter back in March 2022 and it just arrived at my house today, May 10th, 2023. It originally promised delivery in April 2023 … that means it only missed by 10 days! That’s absolutely fabulous in Kickstarter terms, to be only 10 days late, so: good job guys!


The Kickstarter version came with Matte Card sleeves.


This box is a beautiful cover that pulls open, kind of like a hardcover book in a case: see below.


Let’s take a look.

Unboxing, Components, and Gameplay


This is a smaller than normal box: about the size of a big book like an encyclopedia … and I am guessing that’s the vibe they were trying for: this is a cooperative game about spelling words for books.


This is a word game: you will be spelling words using tiles. Players will work together and can share letters, but this is still a word game.


The letters  are on really nice tiles: they are drawn from this amazing draw bag … and discards go in the other bag. These bags are fantastic: I can fit my whole hand in!  They are NOT too small! 


On each player’s turn, they draw some letters … (depending on # of players and some other things) … trying to spell relevant words!

There are two types of books every player needs to “complete”: a red book and blue book (see above).  Each book has its own criteria: see above and below.


The basic flow of the game is that you have to spell words that match the book you currently have. Above, you can see the RED book criteria: I have to spell words (with a total of 8+ letters between them) that are “Things That Live Underwater“. There’s an additional criteria: the words have to use 3 (or more) letters with the yellow sun sign. (Ignore the right side of the card: that’s for final play!!!)


In the second round, I am able to satisfy the book criteria (spelling SALMON and PRAWN, with ONN being yellow letters), and I can “complete” this book. I discard the letters to the bag, turn the the book over (to show it’s complete) and draw my next book.


My next BLUE book requires 2 words that rhyme over 4 letters each!


Of course, this wouldn’t be a cooperative book if there weren’t some sort of Bad News cards every turn! The Illiterati cards (see above) are the bad guys: they are trying to stop us from completing books! At the end of every turn, an Illiterati card is flipped and something bad happens! See above!


If the same Illiterati comes up again, then he/she activates the new bad news AND the old bad news! See above!


Although you want to spell words for your book, this game is about survival from round to round: if you ever have unused letters that aren’t part of a word, you may have to burn letters! If you have to burn too many letters, then you lose!


The Burn Tracker tracks how many letters you have burned: see above. Interesting side note: no one can complete a book if any letters have to be burned on your turn!


Once each player has completed their own two books, then cooperative players have to do a Final Chapter! Independently! Above I have to spell “Holidays or Events” using 12 or more letters AND there has to be a match of 5 symbols! Whew! Note that the V and Y aren’t burn letters because there is a small shared “library” of letters that don’t have to be used and can float from round to round.


If you forget the rules, the summary cards are very good: See above.


In fact, you almost don’t need the rulebook: the difficulty Levels and rules are summarized on just a few cards.


All-in-all, this is a really nice production. See above.



The rulebook is pithy and short.  Thank goodness: we’ve had so many games with ridiculous rulebooks lately.


The game gets an A- on the Chair Test (it hangs over the side just a little). It’s easy to look over at the rulebook on the chair next to me when I have questions: in this way, I never have to take up precious table space, as the rulebook is easily accessible next to me.

The components and set-up are good enough.  I was displeased that the Set-up did NOT tell us to shuffle any of the cards: it’s obvious after you play once, but it really needs to be stated (for example, last week Valor and Villainy: Lludick’s Labyrinth went out of its way to tell when to NOT shuffle and when to!).  There were also a few times when I went to look for a rule clarification, and I couldn’t find one.  Luckily, most cooperative games make this easy to move on (and this one works: “What should we do?  Let’s come to a quick consensus”), but it was slightly annoying.

Overall, it was a pretty good rulebook.

Solo Play


The back of the rulebook gives us rules for Solo Play. Thank goodness they are so simple (and thank you for following Saunders’ Law)! The only real change is that you draw 10 tiles at the start of your turn instead of 7: This makes the game flow essentially the same (i.e., no real big changes for solo play).


See a solo game set-up above. I enjoyed the game solo. It wasn’t anything special, but I really like word games, so I had fun. It was, in a weird sense, like Bananagrams: if you’ve never played that game, you just spell words until you run out of letters. There was an element of that in there, because you almost never have the right letters for your Book (“Things that live underwater”) on the first round or two, so you just spell words to stay alive.


See me trying to spell words, just to stay alive! There’s not a lot of “sea” words in this lot!


After my second round, I got the right letters to spell some “sea” words, so I could move forward.

I generally had fun. I would play this again solo, but see the caveat below.

Cooperative Play


Cooperative Play worked well, and it didn’t. Let me explain: The cool part of cooperative play is that you can share ANY letters you want! I would call out “I need an X? Anyone got an X I can use?” Generally, you were looking at your own area, but occasionally helping your neighbor. Cooperation abounded as we shared letters and ideas for words! If someone got done early on their book, they could offer another brain!


My problem, and this might be just me, is that I like my word games to be … quiet. When we were playing cooperatively, people were asking for letters (“I need an E!”), muttering under their breath (“What is a Kwijybo?”), and helping each other (“Oh! You can spell QYZBUK!”), and generally making a lot of noise. This is good in MOST cooperative games, but not for me in a word game. This may be a me-only problem. In general, this was not too much of an issue … but a few times, I found that I couldn’t think about my letters with so much noise.


So, to be clear, the game has elements of frenzy, which may be fine for you. In a word game, that type of frenzy is not for me. I think I would prefer this game at two or maybe three players: at four and five players, this would be too much for me.



So, this game has a timer … and we pretty much ignored it. This is SUPPOSED to be a real-time game, but we really don’t enjoy real-time games. There is definitely some notion of “you can play without the timer if you want” in the rulebook, and by gum, we did not use that timer! Like I said earlier, I don’t like my word games to be frenzied, and the timer exacerbates that chaos even more!


What’s even more funny is that the TIMER GOT STUCK SO MANY TIMES!! I tried using the timer a little in my first few solo games, and the sand would just stop falling. Once I poked the timer, it would start up again, but I can’ t tell you how many games I played where the timer just got stuck!


In end, the fact that we do not real-time games, I personally don’t like frenetic word games, and the timer didn’t work … completely discouraged us from using the timer. At all.

The only reason to use the timer, we think, was to avoid Analysis Paralysis for certain friends. I have friends who would probably spend 20 minutes on letters per round if left to their own devices (you know who they are). That’s fine if that’s how you want to play, but you have to know what kind of game you want. In the end, none of my primary game group has Analysis Paralysis, but we see the necessity of the timer “in certain situations“. Decide for yourself: we think using the timer “twice” would be the sweet spot: so, about 6 minutes. You just may have to use a different timer.

Word Games


I love word games! I mentioned in my review of Paperback Adventures that I love the idea of cooperative word games, because they are games I could play with my Mom! So, Illiterati is a word game I could play with my whole family, including my Mom! Illiterati’s game rules are quick and easy to learn. I think Paperback Adventures is the better cooperative word game: it’s not real-time, it’s easier to collaborate quietly, and it has more depth. But, having said that, I do like Illiterati: it’s a lighter cooperative word game that’s easy to bring out.

Illiterati is probably easier to bring out as a solo game than Paperback Adventures: if I want a quick word game, then Illiterati is much more accessible. Also, Illiterati works with 1-5 players, whereas Paperback Adventures only works with 1-2 players. That extra player count comes at the cost of a more manic and frenetic word game: Paperback Adventures is more subdued at only 1-2 players.

If you like cooperative word games, I think Paperback Adventures and Illiterati are both good choices: it just depends on what you want in your game.

The Vowel Problem


One problem to look out for is the Vowel Problem, wherein you have an assortment of letters with no vowels! In some games of Scrabble, you can get stuck without any good letters and no vowels!! Paperback Adventures has the innovative way of avoiding he Vowel Problem problem by always have a vowel from the monster you fight! In all my plays of Paperback Adventures, I always felt like I had a good assortment of letters to spell interesting words.


Illiterati almost has the Vowel Problem! Luckily, there is a quick rule you might miss on your first pass through the rulebook:


The Redraw Rule (on bottom of page 6): “When life gives you LMNS…” .. basically, you can redraw up to seven letters at the cost of an extra Bad Guys draw when you draw the Bad Guys. We didn’t use this rule, because it’s easy to forget in the heat of the moment, but it’s good to know it’s there for when you get LMNS … and no vowels.

Optional Rules


Do you want silliness? Completely optional are some silly rules called Pandemonium Powers on page 7 (see picture above). You don’t have to play with them (and we didn’t, as they weren’t our cup of tea), but I could see families liking these rules. They are just silly rules to make the game more fun for some groups: “Choose 1 player: They cannot use their hands this round!”

I like that they are optional. Generally, it feel like Illuminati has done a good job of making this package have enough ways to play for any group.

  • Don’t like real-time? You don’t have to play with the timer!
  • Want some silliness? Play with the optional Pandemonium Powers!
  • Want PVP?  There’s a Player vs Player mode
  • Want to play with younger kids? There’s a Junior Mode!
  • Want a Solo mode? There’s a solo mode!

Seriously, I appreciated that: My group doesn’t like real-time, and we still could have fun with this game.



I liked Illiterari: it’s a lighter cooperative word game that works. The components for Illiterati are top-notch and I love the art and book aesthetic of the game. Even though the game is supposed to be real-time, we just never found ourselves playing that way (either solo or cooperative). The timer also didn’t work: the rules say it’s perfectly fine to pay without the timer, but we can see that timer being necessary for certain groups which are prone to Analysis Paralysis.

I think I would prefer Illiterati at no more than 3 people total: I liked the solo game, but cooperative game had too much frenzy. Too many people makes it harder to think about words. I prefer my word games to be quiet: at higher player counts, this game is not quiet! That may be just be me, but be aware of that.

I would give this a 7/10. I liked it, I would play it solo (especially when I want a quick word game), and cooperatively with one or mayyyybe two more people. You may love the frenzy and prefer the large player count for the whole family!



This is a book game, so we have to have an Appendix, right?


We also got some bookmarks (that aren’t used in the game, but pretty cool).

The sleeves that came with the came were very nice, but I am not sure they were necessary. The cards were linen-finished, and you don’t handle them that much.


We also got a small expansion for another game: see above.

A Review of Valor And Villainy: Lludwick’s Labyrinth. Our Next Campaign? Part I: Unboxing, Solo Play, and First Impressions


I Kickstarted Valor and Villainy: Ludwick’s Labyrinth sometime ago: back in July 2021. This promised delivery back in September 2022 … it didn’t quite make it. My Kickstarter copy delivered to my house about May 7th, 2023. I have been looking forward to this game: it made the #10 position of my Top 10 Anticipated Cooperative Games of 2022!

Strictly speaking, Valor and Villainy: Lludwick’s Labyrinth is a standalone expansion to the original game Valor and Villainy: Minions of Mordock. See below.


The original of Valor and Villainy: Minions of Mordork was a one-vs-many game, where one player took the role of the Villain and the rest of team fought against him.  This new expansion Valor and Villainy: Lludwick’s Labyrinth is fully cooperative and offers a campaign where all the players work together to fight the villainous bosses controlled by the game!  Although this expansion is completely standalone, you can do some combining of it with the original game.  


The Lludwick’s Labyrinth plays 1-6 plays, Ages 14+, and takes about 25 Min/Player. If you believe the box. Let’s take a look below.

Shipping Box Unboxing


This is the Kickstarter Deluxe Edition that came in a box … with a box within a box!


Note that I also got the expansion: Valor and Villainy: Antagonist’s Arsenal, which can make the original game of Minions of Mordok solo and cooperative, as well as the deluxe token token set! See below.


I am very curious about this Antogonist’s Arsenal expansion, because I can turn the original game into a co-op! That will probably have to wait until another day before we get through today’s game: Lludwick’s Labyrinth!


Today’s game is Valor and Villainy: Lludwick’s Labyrinth (are you following all these games in the Valor and Villainy universe?): It’s a cooperative boss battler game, with an underlying campaign. It’s a big boy.


This isn’t quite as big as The Isofarian Guard from a few weeks ago, but it’s close!


This big mama-jama takes up the entire box!


See the poor Coke can tremble in fear at the size of this box!

Game Unboxing


Upon opening the box, you see … a pizza?


Ah! On the other side is a discussion of this deluxe edition of the game! This is great! It discusses how the deluxe edition of the game works with minis, cardboard tokens, and how the upgrades work.


My favorite moment in this unboxing is reading the last sentence of the second paragraph: “Once you have read this sheet, you can -DESTROY IT!” This tips me off that the game has a sense of humor and has really thought about how to explain how the Deluxe Edition fits in. I think I knew I was hooked when I read that!

IMG_7526 (1)

The rulebook is next: it’s a good size and very readable.


Note that the side of the box shows you how to put this back together! That’s awesome!


The next two books are the Campaign Book at the reference sheet. Note how thick the Campaign Book is! I also am worried about this binding … I don’t like it when books won’t just stay open on their own! we will deal with this by GASP folding the rulebook … I didn’t like it, but we had to do it!!!


See above as it doesn’t stay open without some help. 


There’s a real nice reference sheet too!


Under all these books are … envelopes!


I said this was a campaign game: the campaign unfolds from the envelopes (you can reset the game: there are no legacy elements according to the rulebook). There are 8 chapters.

Underneath the campaign envelopes are the GameTrayz for the tokens.  Note that there are two of them: one for each side of the table!  This makes it really easy to unbox the game: just pull out the trayz!


Under the trayz are miniatures! Oooh! Pretty spiffy!


The little cardboard holder holds all the cards of the game.  Be careful not to necessarily unpack all your cards right away! The order of these cards is very important: these cards will guide your campaign and need to come out in a very specific order!


Ah! There’s all of the miniatures!



Under the minis are the dice and boards for the heroes (and a few other odds and ends).


You may THINK we are done, but no! Under the tray with the boards are a BUNCH of punch out boards Seriously! They are kinda “secretly hidden” under the last insert! I didn’t realize they were there until I went looking for the Board of Doom!


If you get the the upgrade tokens, you won’t need to punch out everything, so hold off on unpunching these too.


What a fantastic looking game! I love how this looks! I was so excited to moving forward!

Unwrappening and Unpunchening


Before I could move forward and actually PLAY, I did have to devote some cycles to unwrapping, unpunching, and filling the GameTrayz.  This was a little more chaotic than it should have been. 


First of all, the Deluxe Tokens have to go into the GameTrayz! The game box side shows a picture, but they aren’t notated very well. I had to kinda go by picture and guess.


This was not as easy as it seems. First, it’s not 100% clear which deluxe tokens replace which cardboard tokens. And it turns out, you still need SOME of the cardboard tokens!


See above as I punch out the shields but NOT a lot of of other tokens? Because not all tokens have replacements, but most do!


I spent a lot of time trying to sort the tokens: probably too much. It was good, in the sense that I had a better sense of all the tokens in the game, but annoying because the deluxe tokens aren’t labelled. They are kinda labelled in the pizza sheet on top.


And this just made me laugh: you are REQUIRED to keep the cardboard skeletons! They are needed to prop up up the inserts after you punch out what you need!! I was laughing my head off at this! I am the only person I know that keeps Cardboard Skeletons!! (I did a whole article on them here) So, it was funny to see a game require them! See below as the punchboard skeletons go back in the bottom of the box …


A lot of the other punchouts are either (a) tiles to explore or (b) backings for cards.



You have to be careful with the cards: I initially unwrapped all the cards, but the order of the cards matters!  A lot of these cards are revealed as you play!




It’s also a little chaotic because you are uncardening and it tells you GOTO THE CAMPAIGN BOOK!! But but but … I am not ready!! Nope, get over to the campaign book now!

And that leads to the first play.



The base rulebook is quite nice.


The rulebook gets an A- on the chair test: it sits on the chair right next to me very well (very little droopage). I used the rulebook a little, but the tutorial was so good, I didn’t really need to…



This is probably one of the best, if not the best, tutorials I have done! This really felt like I was doing an in-game Video Game Tutorial that taught all the basic rules! Two decks (Story deck and Event deck) guide you through an entire game!!! The decks showed WHAT to do, what NOT to do, explained what your choices were, how the game unraveled, how you explored, how to set-up the dungeon, how to fight, how to upgrade, how to get loot. Seriously, this was the most fantastic tutorial I have ever seen. Take a look at how intricate and well-spoken the tutorial card above is.


You can see the tutorial decks above: the Event deck and Story deck. These were so good at laying out the game. I feel like I haven’t seen a tutorial this good since Tainted Grail (see our review Part I and Part II here) And you know what? If I had a tutorial this good for The Isofarian Guard, I may not have sold that game.


This Tutorial filled me with confidence: I still see a large rulebook full of rules, but I feel like I understand a lot of the game from this tutorial. That really helps take the edge off how daunting this game looks.

Bright and A Sense of Humor


In case it’s not clear from the art and some the monsters … and the pizza on top of the game as you open it … this game has a sense of humor. I think that’s why I gave this a chance on Kickstarter: the game doesn’t take itself too seriously! I love the art! This game doesn’t feel like every other depressing fantasy game (speaking of Tainted Grail) out there! The art is bright and crisp! The game looks silly but still professional and fun!

It is still a boss battler with a lot of rules (which the tutorial really helps with), but you are chasing demons who stole the pizza making guy. Seriously! Or should say, … not so seriously. Grin.

This game would be a contender for my Top 10 Cooperative Games With a Sense of Humor.

Solo Play


The tutorial took me through my first play. See the Game set-up above (and we had to fold the Campaign book to keep it open! Nooo!)


Something that is a little weird is the border: it’s easy to set-up (surprisingly so: just follow the marks), but it constrains the dungeon to be no more than 5×5.


The first play has you play two characters: Welliam …


… and Rowan.


You use their miniatures on the map, and the Tutorial guides you through movement, combat, exploration, treasure. It tells you places you could make different choices, as well as things you CANNOT do. Like I said, a fabulous tutorial.

I had a great time. The nice thing about this tutorial is that it scales for 1-6 players: each player just alternates reading the cards, and all players just play the two characters out. Once you start getting into the game, you get to play your own character.

Cooperative Play


We used the same tutorial to play through with 4 players. It worked great.


I promised my group that if we tried this game, we’d watch the intro video on the big screen! See above, with the silly animation showing the kidnapping of Guiseppe, the pizza-making guy!


The video was silly but it gave a nice backstory and sense of what’s to come. It also doesn’t take itself too seriously: I get so tired of depressing fantasy.


As a group, we played through the same tutorial I played as a solo player. At the end, I asked the group “Do you want to continue playing?” The answer was: yes! We’ll be starting the full campaign next week. The real question is: will this be like Tainted Grail where we played for a while and stopped because were sick of it? Or will this be like Roll Player Adventures where we played all the way through and loved it? Only time will tell!



So, Valor and Villainy: Lludwick’s Labyrinth is a silly boss battler with amazing components and just about the best tutorial system we have ever seen. This tutorial gives both me and my group a lot of confidence to move forward and try the full campaign. We’ll be running through the campaign over the next few months!

My game group has finished Roll Player Adventures and are looking for a new campaign (Spoiler Alert: We loved Roll Player Adventures! It made the #3 spot our Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2021). At the moment, we are intrigued by Valor and Villainy: Lludwick’s Labyrinth: a funny, well-produced, brilliantly presented, cooperative boss battler. Check back in a while: we’ll let you know how it’s going. I suspect this will end up in my Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2023! (Or will that be Top 10 Cooperative Expansions of 2023? Strictly speaking, this is an cooperative standalone expansion for the original Valor and Villany!)

A Review of The Legends of Storm City: A Cooperative, Superhero, Print & Play, Roll-and-Write Game


So, we are going to do something a little different this week: this week’s game is a Print & Play game that was #2 on our Top 10 Anticipated Cooperative Games of 2022! I think the reason we were so interested in it was because they haven’t been too many cooperative roll-and-write games! We’ve seen Escape: The Cooperative Roll and Write (see our review here), and there are a few more coming out this year … and that’s about it! We are also super interested (no pun intended) because we really like cooperative Superhero games here at Co-op Gestalt! See our Top 10 Cooperative Superhero games here!


However, this is a new experience for us! This is a Print & Play from Kickstarter (see the Legends of Storm City Kickstarter here). It was released this January 2023! And when we say released … we mean that we got a bunch of PDFs in a google drive that we have to print ourselves.

Print: Headed to the Print Shop


My printer at home isn’t great for Print & Play (and the ink costs are ridiculous), so I though I’d head to my local FedEx store and print it there, using their super high-quality color printers.


It all fit in a paper bag (which will end up being the final home for it once we pack it away). What was the cost? And what did we get?


You can see out costs above and below:


So, 36 pages cost $20.33 + tax = $21.98. The printer was even smart enough to realize that some of the pages were black and white, so I only got charged 17 cents per page instead of 64 cents for the color pages.


Overall, they printed very well and look nice.

Cut: They forget a step!


I think they forgot a step when they named these games: They call these games Print & Play, but I think a better name is Print & Cut & Play! You still have to go through a lot of work to cut everything up before you can play!!!


Since this is a roll-and-write, you write on the sheets(s) and then throw away the sheets when you are done: think of a Yahtzee pad that you fill in and then throw away when done. That’s what a roll-and-write typically does.

What are our options?

  • Print multiple copies of the game sheets like Yahtzee!  Mark up the sheets as I play, and then throw the sheets away when the game done.  Expensive, as you saw the prices from the Print step
  • Do some erasing to reuse the sheets, but eventually throw them away.  Okay for the short term, but as saw from the printing prices, I don’t want to print more than I have to!  And erasing always makes the sheets look yucky
  • Laminate the Cards and use dry-erase markers.  Great idea, but the margins are quite thin on sheets, and laminating only works when you have lots of plastic on all the edges.

None of these are great choices for this game. However, in this case, all the cards are basically “standard” card size: If I use card sleeves, then I can cut the cards out and place them in sleeves! Then, I can write on the card sleeves!


The card sleeves fit perfectly! See above. The only problem is that paper I printed on was pretty weak, so I chose to reinforce the card sleeves with real cards.


I have a bunch of empty cards from GamesCrafter, so I chose to use those, but I could easily see using cards from a plain deck of cards as well for reinforcement.


Cutting this out was … not fun. I even have a very nice little cutting helper, and it still took me 1.5 hours to cut everything out and sleeve it.


You can see above that I got decent results. If you are OCD, you probably don’t like that the papers don’t fit flush against the card stock: basically the white outline of the cards needs to be centered. Depending on how OCD you are, you can spend the time to center the pieces of paper … I didn’t spend that much time on that.


I spent 1.5 hours cutting and fitting.


A little tip: keep the PDFs nearby, or take a picture of your full sheets (like I did above). As you cut up the cards, you forget which backs go with which cards because the backs aren’t labelled. (They probably should be).


There are 6 cards types and 6 backs. See above.


By the time I was all done, I was pretty tired: this was a lot of work. I kind of wished I could have spent $30 to have the game printed and shipped to me. I paid $5 for the kickstarter PDF files, $21.98 for printing for $26.98. Them I spent 1.5 hours of my life cutting and fitting sleeves (not to mention the .5 hour at the FedEx store) .

I would have preferred a $25 kickstarter with $5 shipping. I don’t think I realized how much work a Print&Cut&Play was until now.

One final note: I want to say that the Legends of Storm City people did a phenomenal job making all the PDFs aligned! It was easy to just cut many sheets at once because everything was precisely aligned on the page. That probably cut (no pun intended) an extra hour of the cutting process. Thank you! It could have been a lot worse!

Read: Oops, Another Step


Before we play, we have to read the rules.  I think that turns this into a Print&Cut&Read&Play!


The rules are on standard pieces of paper … because that’s how I printed them. Strictly speaking, I did NOT have to print the rules or the scenario book (which would have dropped the printing price quite a bit): I could have looked at the rules on my phone or padd. In the end, I prefer to get away from my technology when I play games, so I went ahead and printed all the pages.


The joke here is that I only get a B on the Chair Test: the pages tend to flop over the edges of the chair a little! This is funny because I printed the rulebook, so it’s my fault the form factor isn’t a little better! It was nice, however, to have the rules easily flippable on the chair next to me as I played.


I will say, these rules aren’t great. I’ve had to read through them several times to get what’s going on. Some of the word choice and tense choice suggests this is a translation, so that explains parts of it. There were a bunch of places where I just had to “move on” as I read in hopes the rules would be clearer later.

I’ve played through now a few times, and the game does start to make sense. The rules are mostly there. I think the rulebook needs some better elaborations and organizational rethinks. Look, I only paid $5, so I can’t complain too much, right? Still, it was a frustrating read. But I did finally understand most of the game.

Go And Get Your Own Components!  This is a Print&Play After All

This seems like another step: Go And Get Your Own Components or GAGYOC.  Since this is a Print&Cut&Read&GAGYOC&Play game, we need to bring our own components (besides the sheets) to the table. The only components we’ve had up until now are the sheets we printed.  But, we need more!


The most important thing for us is the Ultra Fine dry erase marker!!  Because we want to be able to reuse all the cards, we have sleeved them: we will be using a dry erase marker to mark up the cards.  It is VERY IMPORTANT to get the ultra-fine for this system: the little boxes on the cards are pretty tiny, and any bigger marker will be completely illegible.  Even the Ultra Fine isn’t perfect (see below), but it works.  (We saw how important Ultra Fine Markers were when we reviewed another game with dry-erase boards: The Forests of Adrimon.  See our review here and how much we complained for NOT having ultra-fine markers).


We also need a bunch of 6-sided dice:


6 black dice (brown) for the bad guys,  6 white Dice for the good guys, 2 red dice for bad guy threats, 2 yellow Dice for good guy abilities, and one green dice for bad guy abilities (not shown).  Since I didn’t have any yellow 6-sided dice, I chose to use a 10 and 20-sided and re-roll when I don’t get a 1-6.   Hey, I am scraping by to get all the dice I need, all right?


The final step to GAGYOC is to gather some tokens. Now, the tokens come on a sheet you can cut-up (left above), but I think the Scythe metal coins work as perfect replacements! I don’t have to cut anything else!


The Scythe metal coins worked surprising well: it was pretty obvious what coins should be what tokens. See above.


So, that’s kinda all your components!

Set-Up: Are We Ready to Play yet?

Nope! One more step!  Gotta set everything up!  Let’s got through the cards and choose the appropriate cards to use:


Above are the 4 Hero Cards: each player takes a card to take the role of one of these heroes.  The game can play 1-4 Heroes.


The goal of of the game is to take out the Elite Villain before his/her Main Plan come to fruition.  Choose one Villain to fight (above, right) and take his/her Main Plan (above left).


Each Elite Villain also has some Henchmen: See above.  These are the Henchmen cards: you’ll choose three sets of these when you play, maybe all different, maybe some if the game.  These Henchmen work for the main villain!  (The Scenario book will help you choose these).


There are also Side Plans which cause problems for the Heroes: players must choose 1 Side Plan as well.


Finally, there are Intervention Plans (see above). Players will choose two of these.


The Set-Up from the book will show you how to set-up: see above.


In the end, your board should look something like this!

Play: We Made It!


So, we made it to the Play step of the increasingly misnamed Print&Play! I think, in the future, we will call these Print&Cut&Read&GAGYOC&Set&Play games. I mean, it was a lot of work to get here! The name should reflect that!


The main mechanic of the game is to roll dice and assign them to something. The Elite Villain, 3 Henchmen, and 2 Plans are all marked with a “random” but unique number from 1 to 6 (and marked on the card at the start of the game). On the Villain turn, when we roll the Brown dice and roll that number, we activate the appropriate card! The red dice activate threats in a similar way. Above, you see the Main Plan activated once (with a 5), the Side Plan activated twice (two 6s), and the little tiny die (supposed to be green) activates the special ability on the Henchmen (henchman 4).


It’s a little easier to see up close: See above as the Ninja is activated on 1s (1 in the white diamond tells us which card).

The bad guys do damage to use trying to take us out. Villains win if they activate the main plan, or if they defeat one of the heroes.

In fact, the Heroes lost their first game as Strike One lost all health (white, orange, blue, and yellow blobs).


The Heroes win if they defeat al Elite Villains or deactivate the main plan. Nefertary was only one point away from being defeated!



Actually … maybe we did win, since we took out the Main Plan before Nefertary killed us!! Heroes deactivate spaces (marked with Xs), Villains activate spaces with Os. Villains roll a 6 on the black dice to activate, Heroes roll 6s on white dice to deactivate.


The Hero turn is similar, except they roll and assign White Dice! (And you get one reroll). White dice on Henchmen or Villains means you need to roll again to attack, White dice on Plains deactivates them one space.


There are much more specific rules to the Villains and Heroes, but that’s the crux of the game: alternate between Villain and Hero turns until someone wins!

Solo Play


This game supports Saunders’ Law and allows solo play. And thank goodness! Since the rules aren’t very good, the solo player really needs time to go over the rulebook a few times and get a few games under his belt before he teaches the game!


Once the solo play gets going, it has a nice flow of rolling black dice, figuring out bad guy effects, then rolling white dice for good guys effects (with a possible reroll). I generally had fun once the game started moving, but it was pretty hard to get to that point. The rules made this hard to learn.

Cooperative Play


This was one of the more “interesting” plays we’ve had in a while.  Unfortunately, not in a good way.


Since I hadn’t played solo in a while, there was quite a bit of downtime upfront rereading the rules. And I was reminded how many rules there were!


We were using the crappy dice I had, when Andrew remembered I had Roll Player Adventure! With real properly colored dice!


From then on, he dice were SO MUCH better! That helped a lot!


This 4-Player game took about 1.5 hours.


And my friends did not like this.


In the end, we won, but we completely smashed it. It wasn’t really that hard.



This was my first real experience with Print&Play, and I think it really needs to be renamed to Print&Cut&Read&GAGYOC&Set&Play to represent all the work it takes to get to the final play!  I guess I don’t honestly think they’ll change the name, but I didn’t expect there to be so much work.

If you have a printer with cheap ink, then I think printing at home is probably good for you. Unfortunately,  the printing costs for me seemed to suggest I print someplace more professional, but I did pay for it!  With a $5 cost for the Kickstarter and $21.98 cost for the printing, and then several hours of work to assemble everything, I think I would have paid a little extra, like $30 for the game to be professionally printed and boxed and shipped.


In the end, I liked the game, but friends really didn’t.  Their scores were quite low: 3/10 from both Sara and Andrew, and 5/10 from Teresa. Essentially, they never felt involved, there were too many rules for a small roll-and-write, there weren’t a lot of choices, and they never connected with their hero.

What I would really love to happen is to see a bigger company pick this up: there’s a good game in here, but it’s a diamond in the rough.  The rules need to be really tightened and cleaned up.  And the assembly is so much work.  The best thing, I think, is if the game got a professional printing and you could write on the cards!  Silver and Gold is a great game where you can write on the cards with dry-erase markers: that’s just what this game needs! I suspect this game could even fit in the same sized box as Silver and Gold!  (Just make sure you get an ultra-fine dry erase marker)


I like The Legends of Storm City, especially once you get into the swing of things. But it needs some work: I’d give it a 5/10. I like it and I’d play it again, but I just worry about forgetting the rules because the rulebook isn’t great. As a counterpoint, remember that my friends didn’t really like this at all.

That said, I’ll bet I would bump this to 6 or even more if they tightened the rules and professionally printed Legends of Storm City like Silver and Gold.

Did You Know That There Is a Game Design Boy Scout Merit Badge?


Recently, my friends Mike and Dustin, the Scoutmasters for a local Boy Scouts troop, invited me to discuss some board games I had designed. I learned, upon arriving, that this talk was to satisfy one of the requirements of a Game Design merit badge for the Scouts! I did even not know such a merit badge existed!


It turns out there is an 8-step list of requirements you need to meet.  The full list and discussion is here but here’s a quick rundown of the requirements for a Game Design merit badge:

  1. Analyze previous art
  2. Discuss possible directions with a counselor
  3. Discover what Intellectual Property is
  4. Take an existing game and vary some of its rules as an exercise
  5. Design a New Game
  6. Create a Prototype and Test your New Game
  7. Blind test your New Game
  8. Meet with a professional to discuss game design


So, my meeting with the group satisfies item 8 from the list. Strictly speaking, I am a professional, as I made money from my board game designs of Co-op: The co-op game and Sidekick Saga. Even though I didn’t make a lot of money, strictly speaking, I do qualify as a professional!


Over about 20 minutes, I brought out various prototypes of my games (from 3×5 index cards to in-between prototypes to full professional printing), talked about the importance of keeping a journal, discussed the importance of testing, and implored the group to be receptive to feedback. Even as an adult, it’s hard to hear criticism of something you have put a lot of time and effort into: I wanted younger kids to be aware that feedback/criticism can be essential to learning and improving!


We also discussed the differences between Game Design and Game Publishing: Designing a game is very different than trying to Kickstart and sell your games!


In the end, I ended up hanging out for a little bit and talking about game design and watching the kids and their games in various states.


Thanks to Mike and Dustin and the troop 2020! It was great talking to you guys!


A Review of Skytear Horde: A Cooperative Tower Defense Card Game


Skytear Horde is a cooperative tower defense card game that was on Kickstarter back in January 2022. It promised delivery in October 2022, but was about 5 months late as it just delivered to me in early February 2023.


The game plays 1-3 players, but it’s only cooperative at two players (the third player plays the Horde). As a solo or 2-Player cooperative game, players assume the role of the the good guys (“The Alliance”) , keeping the bad guys (“The Horde“) from destroying our tower.


Let’s take a look!



This is a tower defense game and it’s mostly cards, so the box isn’t really that big: see the Coke Can above.


The Kickstarter version I have has the magnetic sealing box. It also has some pretty great art o the inner cover.



There are some cardboard punchouts (which we won’t need, see below):


And the rulebook, which we’ll discuss more below.


This is mostly a card game: see cards above.


What’s this thing? A really awesome game mat … that only comes with the Kickstarter version (but it looks like you can buy it here).


The Kickstarter version comes with a bunch of plastic tokens; these replace the cardboard versions (it looks like you can also get these here).



The game looks great!  It is definitely a card game mostly!



This rulebook was very concise: it’s only 16 pages, but I generally liked it.


It has a nice little Table of Contents. Notice how readable the font and the layout are!


This rulebook does something I haven’t seen before: it puts the “card breakdown” with the Components list. What a nice way to save space in the rulebook! We list all the components as well as the breakdowns! This is just one of many example where the rulebook is the model of concision.


One small issue I have is that set-up without the playmat is different from the set-up with the playmat! I would have strived to make the set-up work the same regardless. Note that the Minion cards are above the play area without the playmat (see above) …


… whereas the minions are off the left and right with the playmat. It’s not a big deal: at least the playmat labels the spaces so you know where everything goes.


The overview is nice (except for one major flaw, which will discuss later below after we understand the game better).

The next pages describe the seven stages of the game (very well I might add). There are pictures, the font is big and readable, the prose is concise and to the point.

It’s not quite a FAQ, but there’s both a “Edge Cases” section and a Glossary, and a Cards and Decks section on the last page of the rulebook. Taken all together, these three sections tends to answer most of my questions as I played the game.

This sounds dumb, but I liked the paper of the rulebook as well (it’s not as nice as Canvas’ linen paper, but it still felt nice).

The fact that the rulebook was only 16 pages made the game seem that much less daunting to play. The font and layout were easy to read: things were easy to find, and elaborations were generally somewhere in the rulebook (the Glossary and Card and Decks section were particularly helpful). Sometimes concision comes at a cost: there weren’t a lot of examples in the rulebook, but I don’t think I needed them.


Oh, and the rulebook fares very well on the Chair Test: A! On the chair next to me, the rulebook is very readable, it has very big fonts and simple layouts, and it fits perfectly on the chair.


And the back cover is used for something useful: Cards and Decks list. Fantastic!

NOTE: the rulebook also did a good job of suggesting cards and decks to play for your first game. It wasn’t a flashy first play guide, but enough to get you going.

Components and Gameplay


This is a Tower Defense Game.  There are two sides: the Alliance and the Horde.  In the solo and cooperative games, the players play as the Alliance.  In the PVP game, one players take on the role of Horde, and the others(s) take the role(s) of the Alliance.  Since we are only discussing the solo and cooperative modes here, we will always be playing the Alliance.

The Alliance must choose a Castle to defend (since this is a Tower Defense game): see above. The first playthrough recommends Gaping Maw.


Each Alliance player gets a deck of 40 cards:


There are four very different factions for the solo (or 2 players) player to choose from: see above. They are nicely color coded so you know which deck is which.


Most Alliance cards are Allies (see above); The allies will fight for the alliance! The allies will go into the Lanes on the playmat to fight the Monsters of the Horde. For example, The Shaidrus (above) will do 3 damage when fighting (lower left), has 7 hit points (lower right), and costs 6 Mana (upper left) to buy.


To win, the Alliance must defeat the Outsider! Players choose an Outsider to fight at the beginning of the game. See The Dreaming Matriarch Outsider above: you will have to do 8 damage to him to defeat him!

IMG_5892 (1)

The Outsiders don’t start in play: you have to destroy a series of Portals to get the Outsider!!! Most Portals are damaged like the Monsters (via Hit points, bottom right). Example: the Portal above has 6 hit points. The portals can be varied for different difficulties and modes: there are many different Portal cards.



Along the way, the Outsiders will be summoning Monsters from the Horde deck: see above. At the start of the game, you typically choose one set of Monsters to fight: the upper right corner has a symbol which indicates the monster set.

Basically, to build the monster deck, you take the Common Monsters (upper right) and a Monster faction of your choice (upper left) and shuffle them together. This is the Horde to fight against!


The purple cards are the bad guys: the Horde.


Oh, and just to annoy you … there are the Minions. They can’t really be killed, but they keep coming back. Every time you defeat them, you essentially reset them back to nothing. You need to keep the Minions under wraps though, because they keep getting stronger and stronger as the game proceeds! And the stronger they are, the more cards you have to discard at the end of the turn! (The Minions “pillage” cards from you if you don’t engage them)


The game follows the standard cooperative tropes: bad guys go, good guys go, some other stuff happens, things fight! There are seven phases to the game: see above, but it’s essentially about the Alliance fighting the Hoarde.


The lanes on the playmat are where combat happens: there are some rules about how the Horde always slides to the left. Battle take place in those lanes: upper card vs lower card. (If there’s no monster to fight, your Ally damages the Portal. If there’s no Ally to battle the monster, your Castle takes damage)


The Alliance gets some Mana at the start of the every turn (as specified on the Portal card). This is how the Alliance buys new cards from their hand!


The only way to draw new Alliance cards is to defeat a Horde or Minion card! So you are constantly fighting as much as possible to keep your hand full.


Basically, the game ends when Alliance’s tower is destroyed:


OR the Outsider is defeated and the Alliance wins!


Solo Game


Like I alluded to earlier, the rulebook was inspiring enough that I felt like I could jump right in!  See a solo game all set-up above!  I chose the Blue Alliance cards with the Gaping Maw Castle to defend.  The suggested Outsider to defeat is The Hatred Bringer (who is mislabelled as such in the rulebook)!


Interestingly, my first play went very quickly … because I played it very wrong.  The problem is the Portal rules are poorly specified (see discussion below). My second game went a lot better and it lasted a good hour and a half.  I think I still got a few rules wrong, but generally the game seems to flow pretty well.  You have to make interesting choices: which Allies do you summon?  How much Mana do you use this turn?  Do you save Mana  up?  Do you exhaust characters to get something special?  Do you send Allies in to die to keep the Minions under wraps?  Do you go after the Portal?


There were a lot of interesting decisions. The game also felt fairly balanced: I felt I could have lost, but I also always felt like I had a chance.

It took me three games to get the solo game right, but I enjoyed the solo game quite a bit.

Cooperative Play

I couldn’t seem to get my group interested in this game for some reason.  Granted, Skytear Horde feels like mostly a solo game anyways, but I was a bit surprised I could never interest my group to try it out. Caveat emptor!  

Portal Rules


Unfortunately, as much as I like the rulebook, the Portal rules are very poorly specified/inconsistent/wrong! And this is a major part of the game: how many portals do you have to destroy before you can start fighting different phases of the Outsider? The text says “Once the stage 1 portal is destroyed, the stage 1 outside will be summoned.” But the picture shows the Stage 1 Outsider being summoned after Stage 2 or Stage 3 portal!!! What’s going on? Even worse, the text afterwards says “After you defeat the stage 1 Outside, the stage 2 Outsider is summoned”.

This is why my first play went so quickly: I destroyed the first Portal, summoned the Outsider (phase I), killed him, summoned Stage 2 and was done! After playing a few times, I think you must keep destroying Portals to summon the next Phase of the Outsider. I think? The rules are really unclear here, and it really tarnished my view of the first few plays of the game.



I like Skytear Horde: it’s about a 7/10. There’s a lot of interesting decisions, the cards look nice, the rulebook is good and concise, and the game feels like there’s a challenge. There’s always a chance you could lose, but if feels like (if you play smartly), you can pull off a win.  It’s also easy to vary the game difficulty by using different Portals or Outsiders. There’s also a lot of variety in the game with all the different Alliance forces and the different Horde forces.  Generally, this was fun and it didn’t feel too random.


I’ll wax philosophical for a second and wish Skytear Horde had more story: you just choose decks, Portal cards, Alliance forces, and  Horde decks without any background informing you.  Sure, it’s cool and easy to just throw some decks together and play, but it’s not particularly compelling.  Compare Skytear Horde to a few weeks ago Tower Defense Game called Deck of Many Things which had a real great progressive story!  I want the story from Deck of Many Things! But I want the gameplay from Skytear Horde!  It’s interesting how we got two cooperative (but mostly solo) Tower Defense games almost back-to-back!  I want the best of both worlds: the story of Deck of Many Games but with the smoother and more balanced  Skytear Horde mechanisms.

A Review of Cantaloop 3: Against All Odds


I was SO EXCITED when this came in the mail from GameNerdz: It was just released about a week ago (late March 2023), and I had been waiting for this! Cantaloop 3: Against All Odds is the third game in a trilogy of point-and-click adventure games, in book form. Honestly, this game should have made my Top 10 Anticipated Cooperative Games of 2023, but I wasn’t sure when it would be released when I made that list!


The original game of Cantaloop was so great it made the #1 spot on my Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2021! The follow-up game (Cantaloop 2) had it issues, but I liked it enough that it made my Top 10 Cooperative Expansions for 2022! Where will the third chapter of the Cantaloop series fall?




Just like books 1 and 2, Cantaloop 3: Against All Odds is a spiral bound book. See Coke Can above for scale.


There’s a bunch of cards in the three pockets at the front, a trigger sheet, a combine form, and some extra bits.


Like the original two books, this game is all about reading clues via the red acetate (see above) when necessary.


Although the red acetate is still the main “gimmick” of the game, there are two new “gimmicks”. The first are the clear acetate screens: see above. When you put them together, they reveal exactly one number on a postcard … which tells you which clue to read: see below. This “gimmick” is used in a number of puzzles in the game.


The other new “gimmick” is the little tokens you flip: this is used in about in about 10 puzzles in the game.


The components from this are very much like the original two books.


Point-And-Click Exploring!


The Cantaloop books are the closest you will ever get to a point-and-click adventure computer game!  If you like the Monkey Island computer games (which you know we do: see here and here and here),  then this will appeal to you.  Like the first two books, this keeps the sense of humor flowing!  Cantaloop 3 is that more fun as little jokes appear as you explore.


The exploration of computer point-and-click adventure games is definitely here: you turn pages to get from scene to scene, exploring as you go!  It really did feel like I was exploring when I was playing.

Game Arc


The game proceeded in very much like an Adventure game! In the beginning, the exploration is fun and new as you discover new areas and look around! You find new objects, combine objects, and solve some simple puzzles and have a blast. The mid-game arc is about solving some of the more complex puzzles: there’s still some exploration and fun puzzles. Unfortunately, the game seemed to fall down a bit in the last part of the game—the puzzles were a bit too baroque and non-sensical. I found myself in the help section quite a bit near the end game.


Now, there is an “easy mode” which can mitigate some of this, but the issue I had was that some puzzles were just too fiddly. I had to do something with a can (without giving away too many spoilers), but wasn’t allowed to unless I emptied it in exactly one place? The game felt cumbersome at the end. I was just reading through the help to try to get to the end story.


Let’s be clear: the end story was fantastic! I really enjoyed the final ending! It felt satisfying after going through all three books.

I found the beginning and middle story arcs to be great, the ending arc to be tedious, and the final resolution to be very satisfying.

Save Game


I ended up playing Cantaloop 3: Against All Odds over three nights, about 3 hours per night. The last night was about 4 hours, so overall I got about 10 hours of gameplay out of this.


I had to put away the game at one point (for my game group): I just put all the components in a little plastic bag (see above) and put it away. It was pretty easy to come back to it the next night.

Mature Audiences and A Sense of Humor


So, this game absolutely has a sense of humor! It would easily make the Top 10 Cooperative Games With a Sense of Humor! There are jokes all over the place (just like books 1 and 2: in throwaway gags, overarching themes, and the cards have many little jokes on them.


So, I loved the sense of humor, but be careful: there’s a lot of swearing in the game, maybe at a PG-13 level. That may or may not bug you. There is one particular puzzle (you’ll know it when you come to it) that will cause some people some consternation. Even though there is a harmless and juvenile sense of humor in the game, there is still some what we would call NSFW moments.

This may just be a difference between German and American sensibilities (as the designer Friedemann Findeisen is German). I didn’t personally have a problem with it, but be aware.

Learning from the Past


One of the things I liked is that they learned from the past. Cantaloop 2 strongly needed a FAQ for some of the puzzles (see our review here to see why), and it looks like Cantaloop 3 has one! See above.


Another complaint from the first book was that the pages were flimsy and prone to tear (especially with all the page turning). Both the second and third versions fixed that! The pages are a sturdy paper that stands up to the all the page turning (and you do a A LOT of page turning as you play).

So, good job to Cantaloop 3 for learning from the past issues.

What I Liked


This game has a great story. I felt like I just finished binging Season 3 of the Netflix classic Cantaloop, but the difference is, I was part of it the whole time! The overall story and final resolution were worth waiting for.


The designer is obviously a Ron Gilbert and Monkey Island fan (as are we): we loved that. There were more than a few allusions to Monkey Island, and one particular puzzle from Monkey Island 2 almost stolen as-is! You’ll know it as soon as you see it!


One of Ron Gilbert’s later games was Thimbleweed Park. There was a newish mechanism where the two characters had to “split” and you ran each of them separately. Cantaloop 3 did this well by having Alice, Hook, and Fly have separate (but connected) adventures within.


Notice how certain items only belong to Alice and Hook (see above). This separation was interesting, and explored the puzzle of how separate characters can communicate with each other. That was interesting.


I had fun playing through this, even when I was very stuck and needed the help system.

Help System


There is a help system, and it really helped me move along when I got stuck (especially at the end). I can’t underscore how important it is to have this help system! In a video game point-and-click, the system keeps perfect track of the state of the game. In this game, you have to be marking off points … and you may forget to mark one off! So, the help system will help you recover if you ever get stuck.


The help system was just … okay. There was one particular puzzle that I got stuck on for 20 minutes and the help system didn’t help at all. I only knew I missed solving a puzzle: the help system just affirmed I was in the right area of the game to solve it.

Still, I would have thrown this game in the bin if I didn’t have the help system. Some of the puzzles were baroque and unintuitive: I would have never finished without the help system.

Part of me feels like that’s a failing on my part: “I’m not smart enough to solve all the puzzles”, but at the end of the day, if I am not having fun looking around, the help system helps kick you in the right direction and puts you back to the fun parts of the game.

What I Didn’t Like


I am not a cheater: I solved a musically based puzzle with some musical knowledge, which means I bypassed a clue which I didn’t need. I guess it’s kind of funny, but it bugged me that I got this card because I solved a musical puzzle without needing extra help. This kinda made my grumpy.


Some of the puzzles were too hard or too baroque or just plain unintuitive. Many times, I felt like I solved a few puzzles, but some strange precondition means it wasn’t really solved. In video games, it’s sometime “fun” to revisit old locations and look around on a journey to solve harder puzzles, but it is a little too much work in this paper-based adventure game with the red acetate: sometimes extra exploring in this physical world with red acetate is exhausting. The harder puzzles in a video game are less exhausting because it’s more fun to explore. The harder puzzles here in Cantaloop 3 were frustrating because it was so much physical work (turning pages) and eye-strain (red acetate).

Solo vs Cooperative


At the end of the day, this is really a solo game. You can play multiple players, but they will all just be helping through. It’s good to have multiple brains to solve puzzles, but the way the game interacts and reads, it’s probably best as a solo experience. But, I could see this being fun playing with maybe one more person, if they had the right attitude.



If you do play this, make a copy of the time trigger sheet (see above)—that way the game is completely replayable. I look forward to playing it again in a few years when I have forgotten all the puzzles.


Although you can play this without playing the previous two books (no state carries over from the previous books), why would you? The story that unravels over all three books is fantastic, and you want to be part of the whole trip!

If you have already played the original books a few years ago, do you need to replay them now? Not really. I didn’t! I just had a vague sense of where they left, and that’s all I needed! You can just jump in and pick up where you left off!



I loved Cantaloop 1: Breaking Into Prison so much it made the #1 spot of my 2020 games! I liked Cantaloop 2: A Hack of a Plan well enough, but I had some reservations. The third book Cantaloop 3: Against All Odds fits somewhere in the middle. Book 1 gets a 9/10, Book 2 gets a 7.5/10 (if you ignore the last 2 puzzles), and Book 3 gets an 8/10.

Cantaloop 3: Against All Odds is more of the same: a sense of humor, a fun point-and-click adventure game, and a fascinating story. It really only loses a point because some of the ending puzzles are baroque and unintuitive, but not enough to take away too much from all the great times I had playing the rest of the game.

I look forward to playing through the adventure again in a few years when I have forgotten all the puzzles! And I look forward to Cantaloop being a Netflix series.

What a ride! Thanks to Friedemann Findeisen to making this game. I had a blast playing all the way through!

Review: Marvel Dice Throne and Dice Throne Adventures. Together Again For The First Time!


Those of your following along know closely here at Co-op Gestalt know that we reviewed Dice Throne Seasons 1 and 2, plus Dice Throne Adventures a while ago: see our discussions here. We liked how Dice Throne Adventures turned a 1-vs-1 dice battler into a cooperative adventure game!


When Marvel Dice Throne went on Kickstarter November 2021 … we weren’t that interested. Sure, we loved Dice Throne and Dice Throne Adventures, but interest in Dice Throne seemed to be waning in my gaming circles.


We played a small Dice Throne tournament at RichieCon 2021(see trophy above, made by our own Teresa F.), but there was no real interest the next year at RichieCon 2022. The trophy stayed home with Caroline, the original winner. See below.


As the interest in Dice Throne seemed to have waned in my groups, I wasn’t sure if I should back the Marvel Dice Throne battle chest on Kickstarter: it did work with Dice Throne Adventures (according to the FAQ), but it was pretty expensive. In the end, I chose not to back it.


Fast forward more than a year: I find myself seeing the smaller Marvel Dice Throne kits at Target and other places: see above for the Captain Marvel and Black Panther pack. I have heard plenty of reviews that seem to really like the Marvel Dice Throne packs! The Dice Tower in particular seemed to like it! I do love my superheroes (see my Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2022 and My Top 10 Cooperative Expansions of 2022 as well as my Top 10 Cooperative Superhero Games), so I thought it might be worth reconsidering. In the end, what put me over the top was the Marvel Dice Throne works with Dice Throne Adventures: the thought of brothers Thor and Loki adventuring together in the lands of Dice Throne Adventures just sounded so fun. It turns out you can still get the Marvel Dice Throne Battle Chest (with all 8 characters from the Kickstarter, and some Kickstarter extras) from shop.dicethrone.com: see here.


Components: Battle Chest


A big old box came in the mail in mid December 2022. See above.


Like the Season 1 and Season 2 Dice Thrones (see here), the Marvel Dice Throne Battle Chest (see above) comes with 8 characters to play: all of them are Marvel Heroes!


Each hero comes in its own tray, so it’s almost trivial to pack or unpack each hero. You can see all 8 characters on the side of the box (and where they go): Thor, Loki, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and Black Widow.


See all the character packs in their trays above.



Stored in the middle of the box is the rulebook and some tokens. Each hero has its own set of tokens that you must put into the appropriate tray.


There are also a bunch of standees for each hero … Why? Because you need those for Dice Throne Adventures!


A picture is worth a thousand words: here’s all the heroes unpacked!




The sleeves didn’t come with the Battle Chest, but after such a great experience with the original Season 1 and 2 sleeves, I went ahead and forked out the extra bucks for the sleeves. See above. I found them almost essential: you touch the cards a lot, and these help protect your cards.


I also forked out a few extra bucks for the Promos: see above. These probably weren’t essential: you just get one promo card per hero, a Mythic card per hero, and a randomizer card per hero.


See all the promo cards above. The Mythic cards are cool and foiled: they give each hero a one time ability. Again, not strictly necessary.


I went ahead and got all these extras (sleeves, the promos, and a dice tray (see red tray above)) to get free shipping with the core Marvel Dice Throne Battlechest. Do what you will.



They’ve had many iterations to get this the rulebook right: the rulebook is good.


On the Chair Test (see above), it gets about a B- or C+: it kinda works. I wish the rulebook were thinner and taller so it would fit on the chair better.


Not too much to say: good set-up, good annotations, good explanations, well organized … and it uses the last page for useful game information. (see quick reference above).  Good rulebook, despite the lower score on the Chair Test.

Me vs. Me


Before jumping straight into the Dice Throne Adventures with the new heroes, I wanted a chance to run some of the Marvel heroes through their paces. I will bet many people’s first game will be Thor vs Loki. At least, that’s what I did. I played a “Me-Vs.-Me” solo game, where I just jumped back forth between the two heroes.


Both heroes played so differently! Loki was what you’d expect: a trickster with illusions as a key defense!


Thor was the powerhouse with his hammer having some incredibly interesting mechanisms! It really felt like Thor flinging his hammer!


Physically moving between the two sides of the table seemed to work really well for a “Me-vs-Me” game. Partly, it would “reset my context” as I switched from side to side, and partly it made it easier to see all the relevant hero information (since it was geared towards a different seat at the table). I really like this idea of switching perspectives to learn the two heroes: we’ve talked about the Changing Perspectives Idea many times here at Co-op Gestalt.

In the end, Thor defeated Loki, but it was a close match. I found myself role-playing both sides a lot more than I expected “Thanks, dear brother, for the hammer!” “By Odin, Loki! Yield!” I found myself muttering these things under my breath! No one else was around! These characters are so well-known and beloved, it was hard not to!


And maybe that’s why Marvel Dice Throne has more appeal than Dice Throne Season 1 and Season 2Marvel characters are well-known and beloved characters that you want to inhabit.

I recommend a “Me-vs-Me” game to learn some of the new characters, especially before you play Dice Throne Adventures: It’s a fun way to learn the strengths and weakness of the characters.

Dice Throne Adventures


The only real acknowledgement in the Marvel Dice Throne game that this works with Dice Throne Adventures is that a punch-out figure of each hero is included for the Dice Throne Adventures.


Unfortunately, I had to steal a base from one of the characters standees in the base Dice Throne Adventures box to give Thor a base: “You shant be needing this for now”.


Recall that Dice Throne Adventures alternates between two major types of games: the Portal Crawl: Minion Battle and The Boss Battle. Each major game takes about 2 hours, so usually you only do one per gaming session. The idea of the Portal Crawl is that you and your group are looking to unlock the portal so you can get the big bad boss! There are lots of little minions battles along the way, and once you collect all all the portal shards, you can fight your way to portal!


See Thor above as he arrives at the final portal!


Once the portal has been reached, you can fight the Boss! Above, we see The Fallen Barbarian! Fighting the Boss is very similar to the “Me-vs-Me” game, with a few rule changes to automate the battle a little bit more.

Thor battling the Barbarian in session 2 of Dice Throne Adventures!

Once you defeat the Boss, you then go searching for the next boss with a Portal Crawl followed by another Boss Battle .. until you get to the final Boss!


To be clear, Dice Throne Adventures is a campaign game! You are looking to take out the Mad King, and you alternate between Portal Crawls and Boss Battles as you fight your way to the final confrontation! See the campaign scoring sheet above.

Solo Play


Dice Throne Adventures played out solo the same way as it did before, except that it seemed more fun with Thor! I’d do silly Thor-like quotes as I played … “Taste Mjolnir evil lady!” “Come to me, Mjolnir!” I felt more connected to this beloved character, and I role-played him: I seemed to really care how well he did! The Portal Crawl felt like a scene in a Marvel movie where Thor has to scour the country-side looking for a portal … “Where in Odin is this portal?


Then, there was an epic battle as Thor arrived to take out the Fallen Barbarian! “You are worthy of battle with me Fallen Barbarian! Come at me!” Again, as I played, I would inhabit Thor and have fun with it!


Of course, one of the best parts of the Dice Throne Adventures game are the upgrades for your deck: see some of the Rare and Common items I was able to find/buy after my battles. The upgrading helps keep you from having “too much dice rolling” … there is a lot of dice rolling.


The solo game was a blast. Playing a known hero (like Thor) really added a lot more fun than I expected.

Picking Heroes and Training


You can’t quite jump into cooperative play without getting to know the characters and mechanics first: remember, the rulebook from Dice Throne Adventures explicitly says “You need to know how to play Dice Throne first!”.  Sara and Teresa took the roles of Scarlet Witch and Black Window (see above).  We joked that this first play was like a session in the Danger Room, learning how your powers work!


Be careful when you let newer players pick Heroes just for the sake of being a hero!  All heroes have a difficulty rating between 1 and 6, and that difficulty can influence a player’s enjoyment.  Scarlet Witch is rated as a difficulty of 4 out of 6, and Sara found that playing Scarlet Witch frustrated her. She chose to play a different character for our later adventures.

Cooperative Play


Cooperative play went pretty well.  There weren’t quite as much Marvel quotes as when I played solo, but some!


One of the things I liked was the we could help each other in combats: the solo mode always had Thor going it alone, but if one of us was struggling with a combat, one of our compatriots could come over and help us! 


The Melodic Maiden caused quite a bit of consternation for Black Widow, so Thor had to come over to make sure she didn’t die early on!


We ended up playing three player, and it was probably for the best!  The game barely fit on the table with 3 players and the Adventure board!  One more character, and I would have had to get another table!  I think that means I recommend the game for 1-3 but not four?  See above as we take over the entire table!


Generally, the cooperative game lasts longer than the solo game: just from going back and forth, but it should still be “about 2 hours”.  


In fact, the set-up shows you how to scale the game based on the number of players (starting health, starting gold, King’s Hand, treasure) which was real nice!  The game did feel decently balanced: there were a couple of times when we thought we might die, so that’s good!  This balancing for different numbers of players seemed to work.


We ended up winning!


In fact, I realized that I had been playing the treasure wrong: when you get loot, EVERYONE gets to roll the loot dice!  And it feels like you will always get “about 3-4” cards as upgrades to your deck.   I originally didn’t see the rule where you always get dealt some extra cards: even if you didn’t get any during play, you will still have SOME to choose from.


My group is continuing to play: the nice thing is that, even though this is a “campaign”, we can come back to the game easily: there’s not much story, just your cards and a little bit of state.  If we wait a year to come back and play, it’s still easy to just drop into … “Oh ya!  We gotta fight the BLAHBLAH bad guy to win!



We were surprised how much more we enjoyed using Marvel Dice Throne heroes! The heroes abilities were very thematic for the heroes! For example: Thor yields his hammer with devastation! Loki fools with illusions and bag of tricks, avoiding damage whenever possible! Scarlet Witch has reality altering powers (altering dice)! Black Widow can jump out of the way!

Thor fighting though portals in session 1 of Dice Throne Adventures to get to the Boss monster!

And taking these Marvel heroes through Dice Throne Adventures was that much more fun! We found ourselves role-playing the heroes: we’d inhabit the heroes, make silly quotes (from the movies and comic books), and generally care for the heroes (probably more than we’d care to admit) since these figures are so well-known to us.


My only real complaint is that there is no Marvel specific stuff for Dice Throne Adventures: all the minions and bosses you fight are generic fantasy villains. It’d be cool if Thanos or Kang were the villains to fight the Boss Battle! Or if the minions were some lesser Marvel villains (like the bifrost giants or Toad or some lesser mutants). It worked okay, but I think an expansion which updated Dice Throne Adventures with Marvel bad guys would go a long way towards making Dice Throne Adventures more fun.


If you were on the fence for buying Dice Throne Adventures, (see our original review here), using Dice Throne Adventures with Marvel Dice Throne might just put your over the top.

A Review of The Big Pig Game (A Cooperative Eating Board Game)


I feel like I had to add the qualifier “board” to the title when I describe this board game this because “The Big Pig: A Cooperative Eating Game” sounds like something very different! The Big Pig Game is a lightweight cooperative board game for 1-4 players, Ages 10+, taking 40-45 minutes. It’s all about eating food cooperatively (yes, I know, that’s a weird sentence).


The Big Pig Game was on Kickstarter back in April 2022 and promised deliver in January 2023. It’s mid March 2023 (I got mine about March 10th, 2023 in the mail). So, the Kickstarter is about 3 months late: that’s not so bad in the grand scheme of things.


This is a very cute game: I got it because it had the same vibe as the Kim Joy’s Magic Bakery game which did very well in my cooperative gaming circles (see our review here): Kim Joy’s Magic Bakery even made our Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2021!


Let’s take a look at The Big Pig Game and see what we think!



The Big Pig Game is slightly smaller than the standard Ticket To Ride box size: it’s about the same size as The Lord of the Rings Adventure Book Game from a couple of weeks ago.


You can probably guess that this game leans into the “cute” aspect pretty heavily. The characters are cute little animals eating food together: if you don’t like the cuteness, you might want to stop reading now. This game is jut a lightweight, cute game. It’s not deep. And it embraces cute. Caveat Emptor.

We liked the components quite a bit because of the cuteness (except for one major issue, see later below).




The rulebook is good enough.


The components are well-labelled on the first page.


And the “theme” is explained on the next page. It’s a silly theme about raiding the kitchen while the humans are gone: it’s very silly and cut! Like I said, this game embraces that cute factor.


The set-up follows and consumes the next two pages. It’s good set-up and description: note that it has a set-up section.

The game then explains the basic structure pretty well.


The rulebook does pretty well on The Chair Test: it stays open and is readable on the chair next to me.  The font is a little thin and small, but it’s still quite readable.  Probably a B or B+ on The Chair Test.


The back cover made me laugh: it’s a fake ad for chili!! I’ll forgive that they don’t use the back cover for something game related.

Overall, pretty good rulebook.

Components and Gameplay


Each players chooses one of the cute little animals to play: there are 10 in all. See above.


Each character has varying Hingers, Hand Sizes, Item Limits. Each player has 4 action spaces (the donut slots), but these actions do vary among the characters.


If you look closer, you can see what each action space does: again they vary by character.


To win the game, the players must eat all the food before the human family returns: the board above has a different track depending on the number of players. Basically, as soon as the humans reach the house, the cute animals get caught red-handed and lose!


To win, the cute animals must collectively eat ALL the food on the 4 boards before the humans gets home! Above, you can see the tiles on the four different foods. Every time the cute animals “eat”, they take some of the tiles, depending on their hunger. The cute animals can eat from any food they like, but they have have bonuses or penalties depending on many things.


One Bad Things card comes out at the start of every turn, causing bad things to happen.


If you are playing the more difficult game, you use Very Bad Things instead: see above.


Each player has a hand of cards (Actions) that do Good Things for you and the other players: this is a cooperative game!


There are also Items you can buy on your turn that generally give you some bonuses.


If you eat ALL of one food, you get a Bonus! See the sample Sweet, Savory, and Healthy Bonuses above.


There is a player aid to help you, but it is not great: it doesn’t really help with all the player actions.


The most important question in the game: How do you eat? Either one of your cards or one of your 4 actions allows you to MUNCH or RAVENOUS MUNCH.

When you MUNCH, you use you base Hunger (it’s 4 for Big Pig above), plus bonuses (Big Pig gets +1 for Sweet Foods, +1 for the action), plus any Penalties (usually from Bad Things, none here). So, a simple MUNCH of Sweets for Pig Big would give him a MUNCH of 4+1+1 = 6.


From one of the Sweet foods, Big Pig could take two 3s or one 6 to be efficient. Big Pig could still take a 4 or 5, but it would be wasteful and not use his full hunger.


When you MUNCH, you keep the piece and can use it to power the BOOST action on the bottom of the Action Cards (“Look What I found” above requires two BOOST pieces, “Hyper” requires three). RAVENOUS MUNCH usually is a bigger hunger, but you don’t keep the pieces for boosting: the immediately go to the side of the food.


Players win together when they have eaten all the food (see above for 4 empty plates) before the Humans get home!


Along the way, players can ENCOURAGE each other (notated with the little cheerleader tokens above) for an extra +4 or +6 hunger on the next MUNCH/RAVENOUS MUNCH. This is a cooperative game! Sometimes its better to help your friends eat!


So, this game is about cooperatively using your hunger to MUNCH and eat all the food!

Solo Play


The game supports Solo Play (thank you for following Saunders’ Law)!


The only real change to the rules is that game board uses a different track, depending on the number of players: the solo track is much longer since the the solo player only plays one character and will have many fewer actions.


See above with a set-up for a solo game.


The solo game works fine, but it has the Roll Player/Ares Expedition Crisis mode solo problem to a certain extent: with fewer players, fewer cards come out, fewer Items can be in play, and fewer opportunities for collaboration come out (See our discussion in Roll Player Adventures and Ares Expedition: Crisis mode). Don’t get me wrong, the solo mode works, it’s fun, but one solo character simply doesn’t have quite as many cards come out at the same time.


I liked my solo play okay: I was mostly grumpy with the components (see Issues discussion below), but I was able to get through the game and learn it so I could teach my friends.

Cooperative Play


This game shines in cooperative mode.


Players happily take some of the cute characters and inhabit them.


The cooperative game really felt cooperative! The little encouragement tokens, as silly as they are with little Cheerleaders, really encouraged that cooperative vibe!


And each player’s action were different enough! For this really light game, we found ourselves talking amongst ourselves: “I’ll eat sweet things if you let me have the sugar packets” and silly things like that. There were a surprising number of collaborative moments for such a simple and silly game.


The cooperative game was chill and relaxing. Cecil the duck stole everyone’s heart.



There is one major issue with the game: the tiles don’t really fit in the middle! This is the main gimmick of the game, and I found that I could either “force” all the tiles to fit, or have them hang off the side: neither solution was great. The “forced” tiles were very hard to get out of the board. The “relaxed” tiles looked messy and moved too easily.


You CAN get them to fit (see above), but it actually interfered with the playing of the game. I feel like just a slight tweak to the tiles or the board could have fixed this issue!! The tiles don’t need to be packed in there so tight!!! They should really be just a little looser.

I am grumpy about this because this is the main gimmick of the game: the food pieces/tiles fit into the dual-layered boards and it looks cool … but the tiles are too tight.



So, if you can get over that the tiles are too tight, this is a fun, relaxing, end-of-the night for multiple players. The solo game is okay (maybe a 6.5/10), but it does teach the game. The cooperative game is much better: it is just a great way to hang out with your friends and have a chill time! The Big Pig Game gets a 7.5/10 or maybe even an 8/10. When I want a relaxing game, this is a fun, light, and surprisingly interactive experience while still being an interesting game.

My friends like this better than Kim Joy’s Magic Bakery, and I think I agree. I had a such a chill time playing this. This would be great for families or a group wanting a light game.

I know lost the hard-core gamers a long time ago: I think they saw Big Pig and bailed. But you know what? They might actually appreciate the simplicity of this game.

UPDATE: the manufacturer is reprinting the cardboard pieces that don’t fit! See the Kickstarter Update here!


I sent an encouragement token to my friends (via text) this morning. See below. I could see this becoming a thing with us: those cute little tokens really are a cheer-up.