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  • Danielle R.

January 2020 Game Play Journal

Hello everyone! My resolution for this year is to keep track of the games I play and the impressions I had. Each month I will post the games I played and how I enjoyed them. Plus, the observations I made from watching the other players interact with the game. Many of my friends are not gamers so be prepared for some unique opinions and observations. This list does not cover the games I’ve playtested. It’s made up of only published or Kickstarter games.



January 1, 2020


Zoo Year’s Eve – 2 players

We flew to Arizona on New Year’s Day and we played Zoo Year’s Eve, a social deduction game published by XYZ Game Lab on the plane ride. I picked this game up during PAX Unplugged and saved it for the plane ride. It was the first in their line of Quark Games, so it was similar to Button Shy 18-card wallet games. I think there was maybe 20 cards that made up the whole game. It traveled very well and I’m a huge fan of social deduction, so we got to lie about getting animals from the zoo into the party. I personally enjoyed it. The artwork was stunning and appropriate for the game. Jessa had an intense reaction to the elephant not being allowed into the party which I found interesting. It became her number one goal to get them into the party. I ended up losing because of it. Jessa is not a social deduction person so beyond the artwork and theme she had no interest in playing again. I personally found the game to be a great addition to my traveling games collection.

Liked: Artwork, Theme, Travel Size, Social Deduction, Player Count (2-6 players)

Dislike: Snake cards (because I’m scared of them)



January 2, 2020


Coup – 3 players

I was told the Coup would be a great fit for me. It was a social deduction game that had a low player count but I found it hard to teach to non-gamers. They didn’t seem to understand the goal and didn’t make risky choices like I did. This ended up working for my dad since he won just by having good starting roles and being a good bluffer. I was really the only one who enjoyed the game sadly. My dad mainly got enjoyment out of winning.

Liked: Social Deduction

Disliked: Too quick to lose the game if you’re the only one who takes chances


Silver & Gold – 4 players

Silver & Gold is a Pandasuarous flip and write where you get to write on the cards and search for treasure using Tetris-like shapes. This was my second time playing the game and first time teaching it to new players. My family caught on very quickly and began to create their own strategies. They enjoyed the thinking aspect and bonus symbols like palm trees included on some cards. There was little confusion during the scoring phase too which was great! I would recommend this game to new players easily.

Liked: Easy to teach, writing on cards, graphic design

Disliked: The game didn’t come with erasers, so it was annoying to clean. The markers worked well though. (I am picky and it doesn’t affect the game, just clean up.)



January 7, 2020


Funkoverse – Batman Edition – 2 players

I was excited to play this game. I had the large Batman edition and the Golden Girls expansion. My co-worker Joe wanted to stick with Batman for his first play. This game is cool because it’s customizable and you can switch characters, weapons and game objectives. At PAX Unplugged I had heard this would be a great gateway game so I thought it would be perfect for Joe. Unfortunately, the customizable part made it more difficult for him to understand and grasp the rules. There were a lot of pieces and reference cards, so he started out overwhelmed. It took about half the game for him to understand everything he can do. I think this game is good for casual gamers that understand games with asymmetrical character roles/abilities. Not a good choice for brand new gamers.

Liked: the customizable games, batman characters, different games in one box

Disliked: the difficulty to brand new people



January 11, 2020


Never Bring A Knife – 4 players

Never Bring a Knife was given to my friend Josh to review for his YouTube channel. It’s a social deduction game about a group that has successfully completed a bank heist and is realizing there might be some cops in their crew. So, you will be working to see who has which role. An interesting twist is you pass your role card counterclockwise, so you knew if that person was on your team. Also, there is another role in the middle who’s the leader and at times you may swap for that role. I’d play this again because our game seemed like an outlier. The set up made me the only cop. We started with 3 cop cards and 3 criminal cards then we shuffled. To begin we removed a card, placed a card in the middle then gave everyone a role. Then we looked at roles counterclockwise from us and began. Quickly they all determined that I was the cop and shot me. I love the randomness of the set up but if the split is all against one the game can be hard to play. I managed to confuse them for a bit, but the game still ended quickly. I won’t buy it, but I think in some larger groups it could be a lot of fun.

Liked: The randomness of set up and the new spin on starting with information about other players roles.

Disliked: The theme has been done in so many games that it doesn’t appeal to me. Also, the artwork wasn’t my favorite. The colors were dark with black text on money green coloring which made cards hard to read.


Mysterium – 4 players

I had been told this game was like a party game so I thought Jessa would love it. That was a lie. It’s more like CLUE and Dixit had a murderous baby. The game was fun, but we were one wrong guess away from losing this cooperative game. The idea is interesting, but the card draw limit for the ghost made it hard for us as psychics to guess our people, place and murder weapon. Thankfully we had a great ghost. I could see this game stinking if you had a terrible player in the ghost role. Overall, I enjoyed it, but the game had been so overhyped that it didn’t meet my expectations. Jessa also didn’t like being mislead into thinking this was a party game.

Liked: That you worked cooperatively to decipher the clues. The artwork was great, and I loved the ravens being a piece of the game.

Disliked: How easily this game could be terrible if you had a bad ghost. For new players that aren’t familiar with the game I recommend choosing the killer, location and murder weapon rather than making it random. That way you’ll have an easier time giving clues to the players playing as the psychics.


Kodama – 4 players

I thoroughly enjoyed the art and building a tree in this game. I was taught the rules and they messed up explaining the seasons but once we knew it, the game was easy to pick up. The game was light but there was enough strategy to keep people engaged.

Liked: The art, theme, seasons, interesting scoring track and ease of learning

Disliked: Nothing!



January 15, 2020


Tsuro – 2 players (played twice)

You place tiles, follow lines and try not to crash into other players or fall of the board. Joe picked this up crazy fast and he enjoyed it so much we played it twice in a row plus another game in one lunch!

Liked: Ease of learning, strategy, the concept and how much Joe enjoyed it

Disliked: The quality of the components. This game was brand new and the art on the cardboard was chipping off in the corners.


Bloom – 2 players

This was a roll & write about collecting points based off groupings of colored flowers. The game was easy to teach and quick to play. Joe liked it but felt that I had an unfair advantage since I play strategy games like this all the time. The theme appealed to me but did nothing for him. The game didn’t do anything super unique, but it was still a fun filler game for our lunch break.

Liked: Easy to teach and quick to play.

Disliked: The game doesn’t come with pencils. I’m a firm believer that all roll & writes need pencils. We had to run back to the office and grab some which cut into lunch.



January 16, 2020


Subatomic – 2 players

Subatomic was Joe's first deck builder and he picked it up fast! I was able to explain the game and play in our hour long lunch break. He found it fun and easy to strategize. He came very close to beating me. He couldn't believe I chose a game with a science theme until he realized how fun it was. This is probably still my favorite deck building game.

Liked: Theme, ease to teach, artwork, graphic design, deck building

Disliked: Nothing



January 17, 2020


Deep Blue – 2 players

This was the second time I’d played this game and I enjoyed the light deck building with a push your luck element of diving for treasure. There have been a ton of ocean or underwater themed games, so I’ve been skeptical to try them. I’ve become a little overdosed on the theme. But this game has been light for how many pieces there are and easy to teach. I taught it to 4 groups at a charity event the next day after playing this with Jessa. Her favorite part was collecting jewels and putting money in her plastic treasure chest. I think it’s a great game for new gamers who are learning different mechanics.

Liked: The mechanics, the artwork, the components

Disliked: That you could win the game by jumping in on other people’s dives. I don’t think you should be able to play bonus cards on other people’s turns.



January 18, 2020


Secret Unknown Stuff: Escape from Dulce – 3 players

Josh needed to review this game for his channel so he set up the longest game they had, and it was way to long. It took over an hour for the game to start getting fun and for us to not feel like we were going to die. In the game you are playing cooperatively as beings that have been kidnapped and woke up in the basement of an alien building. Your goal is to get out by fighting and teleporting to different levels. Each level gets harder, but you collect armor and weapons to help balance your team as well as leveling up like in a videogame. Once we had weapons and armor the game became enjoyable as we rolled to defeat all kinds of aliens/mutants/government agents. Problem was after 4 hours we were so strong that we could defeat the multiple bad guys easily, so it was really spending a large amount of time setting up to know you’ll win. Since he needed to review the game we pushed on past when most of us would have been happy stopping. This game comes with shorter missions which I’d be willing to try since I did enjoy the game. It just overstayed its welcome and they advertised the length of time it would take wrong in the rules. Overall it was a good game, but I’d never play the long version again. I am happy to say we didn’t use up any of our extra lives in winning!

Liked: The characters, leveling up, dice drafting, 3D board

Disliked: Length of set up and play


Crokinole – 2 players

This is a really fun dexterity game about flicking disks trying to get them into the center. I enjoyed it so much I looked online to see what it cost to buy myself the game for our wedding. I may just ask to borrow my friends though since it’s not a cheap game.

Liked: Dexterity and quality of the table/components

Disliked: Nothing


Parade – 3 players

The idea behind this game is great! Using the colors and numbers to see what cards you take. Depending on the number on the card played is how many cards you get to skip before you take cards with lower values or the same color. I couldn’t believe it was the first time I played it. I do think they just tacked on the Alice and Wonderland theme though.

Liked: mechanics, artwork

Disliked: the tacked-on theme, something like Mardi Gras would have been more appropriate


Welcome To... – 3 players

Since playtesting my game Inn Keeper, I had heard many people mention the similar feeling of Welcome To... and it’s placing numbers in chronological order. After playing the game I can say they are very different but both really good. I loved the use of both sides of the cards for the game. Plus, the fact that we are all interacting with the game at the same time, so you don’t have to wait long for your next turn. The theme was cool, and the game was taught to me, so I understood it quickly. The pleasant graphic design helped me need to ask very few clarifying questions. It’s a great flip & write game that I look forward to someday owning.

Liked: everything

Disliked: nothing



January 19, 2020


Qwixx – 2 players

This is a very thinky roll & write which was up both our alley, but I don’t see myself taking this to my friend’s game nights. It makes for a good filler for my gamer friends.

Liked: The strategy behind which things you take and the simultaneous play.

Disliked: I like themed games, and this didn’t have one. So basically, nothing about the game. They also don’t give you pencils in the box.


Canvas – 3 players

This game will be coming to Kickstarter soon. In Canvas you are making and scoring your three canvases of art. You can buy pieces of the painting to set collect art to go on your canvas to score points. The artwork looks similar to Dixit. The game comes with cool components like easels and a unique theme. It’s the best art themed game I’ve played. With there being different scoring condition goal cards every game there is a lot of replayability. I’d suggest checking out on Kickstarter when it’s out!

Liked: Components and theme

Disliked: That someone could hoard the art tokens which stopped other players from having a larger selection of cards. Not sure if this will stay in the game but I intentionally grabbed all the art tokens to see what happened and it only messed one player up.



January 25, 2020


Istanbul – 3 players

I have been told for months to play this game and I’m glad I finally did. My cousins introduced me, and I loved it. Any game where you can choose to collect items, build storage, earn or trade for money and more is up my ally! The idea of dropping off your player pieces in multiple areas is really cool and unique. It’s a game I think all designers should play and own.

Liked: Everything

Disliked: Nothing


Hanabi – 3 players

This game was hard. We all don’t know what cards are in our hands, but other players do. The goal is to stack the cards from 1 to 5 in all the different colors while avoiding making mistakes. You could give clues, but you only have a set amount before you need to start discarding cards for more clue tokens. I wasn’t really into the game. I found it frustrating that no one was interacting with me because I seemed to have all the high cards in the beginning. I was told we spent much longer to get the 1’s then they were used to. I think the game is a cool idea but not for me. I also think the rainbow cards shouldn’t be introduced on a player’s first time playing the game.

Liked: Throwing cards away to receive extra guesses.

Disliked: The artwork seemed very dated.


Azul – 3 players

Azul is a beautiful game with great components. It was mostly easy to teach minus the scoring which is a bit confusing to new players. I’m still a fan of the first game and I hope to eventually play my stained-glass edition.

Liked: Strategy, art, components, theme

Disliked: Explaining how tiles score points



January 26, 2020


Spirit Island – 3 players

This game was long and punishing. My cousin decided to go with a mid-level difficulty for my first game and I chose a character with more simple abilities. This was another game people wanted me to try and it’s probably the most difficult cooperative game that I’ve played. We lost hard core after hardly surviving for two hours. I had never felt this kind of defeat before in a game. From the start we were losing and playing defense. We finally lost before it hit 3 hours. I think I would try it again but would have someone pick all the roles, so they were more balanced and we’d start on the easiest level. I don’t mind losing a game but to have not once felt like we had a chance was rough. The game design was really cool though with the different fast, slow and invader phases. I can see why others enjoy it. I won’t be buying this, but I am open to giving it another try if it’s an easier version.

Liked: Art, game design, component quality

Disliked: The difficulty, component number (we were losing so badly that we needed more people)


Pandemic – 3 players

After a crushing defeat in Spirit Island we decided to try to cure a Pandemic together and I’m happy to say we did! I still love this game. This was the first time I played it with other people that knew the game, so our strategies were on point for a quicker win!

Liked: Theme, Co, Graphic Design

Disliked: Nothing


I hope you enjoyed my wrap up of gaming in January! Subscribe to my blog for future posts, reviews and monthly game journal wrap ups!