Sky Team

Final Cover Image_Update

3 Plays (2 Players)

2023 is shaping up to be a pretty banging year for 2-player games. I noticed this when a bunch of new 2-player games started to pile up both on my shelf of shame and in my preorder queue. Recently we’ve been enjoying new releases including Sail, Lacuna, Match of the Century, and Sky Team. I’ve yet to dig into Undaunted: Battle of Britain because we still need to carry on with last year’s superb Undaunted: Stalingrad. And I’m still hotly anticipating  Patterns and General Orders: World War II. None of this takes into account other 2023 releases that play at higher counts but are killer at 2 players including My City: Roll & Build, My Island, our own Trailblazers, and many others.

Glancing through all of the 2023 games I’ve played so far, it does appear that 2-player games are the strongest genre by far. I expect there will be a lot of these titles among my Top 15 of the year list. Compare this to last year and the leading genre was probably… push your luck, maybe? Roughly half of my top games of 2022 had some form of push your luck.

Sky Team is yet another 2-player release in this hotly contested realm. But rather than duke it out on the ground with the countless other dueling designs, it takes to the skies with a cooperative worker placement dice game. Here, you and your partner act as Captain and Co-Pilot working together to safely land your airplane. You’ll be adjusting your speed, angling your wings, raising your flaps, deploying your landing gears, communicating with air traffic control, applying your brakes, and much more.

You’ll each roll 4 dice to start the round which remain hidden behind your screens. Turn by turn, you’ll alternate placing a die onto the shared control panel board to get the job done. There are plenty of ways you can lose, and only one way you can win. Your altitude track gradually decreases, a round by round timer ticking down until your altitude strikes zero. You better be lined up with the airport runway when that happens.

Some dice spaces are exclusive to one player, other spaces are open to both, and four total spaces (two per player) are mandatory each round: speed (the sum of your two dice) and tilt (the difference between your two dice). Communication is not allowed after the dice have been rolled for the round, yet there are plenty of opportunities for subtle cues thanks to the timing and values of your dice placements.

Sky Team gives you just the right amount of considerations and priorities to juggle across its fast-paced play ( a few minutes per round, 20 or 30 minutes per game). And if you’re feeling cocky, then you can jump in to the intermediate, advanced, and expert scenarios ripe with new modules and challenges such as training an intern, managing your fuel, adapting to weather conditions, and more. We tried the beginner scenario and enjoyed it, but the game really sung once we cranked up the difficulty a notch and welcomed in the added tension.

Through plays one, two, and three, Sky Team has flown upward from good to great to excellent in my regard. The scenario book and box comes with plenty of new challenges and chits to explore, and if that’s not enough then there is even a QR code which directs you to yet more scenarios that recycle and recombine the various modules.

Most impressive of all, it captures a hint of the stress and thrills of flying a commercial airplane via disciplined and coordinated efforts. Much like the execution of a seasoned pilot, Sky Team lands with grace and gusto on the tarmac of our table.


Prognosis: Excellent

The Quest for El Dorado: Dragons, Treasures, & Mysteries

Game cover

2 Plays (2 & 3 Players)

Quest for El Dorado is the gift that keeps on giving. Particularly because we’ve now seen multiple expansions released that blast the variety and replayability of this game into the stratosphere. Unfortunately, the publication and distribution of this game has created another kind of quest — that of navigating the different versions and publishers with all kinds of incompatibility issues just to acquire everything you want. Currently the safest way to acquire nearly all of the good stuff is by ordering the base game and expansions directly from publisher Who knows when (or if) Ravensburger will get around to putting out the new expansions in North America.

But once you complete the Quest to Acquire The Quest for El Dorado (and its expansions) you are in for a grand time. Just like its companions, Dragons, Treasures, & Mysteries is a box that absolutely supplements the full experience in exciting and welcome new ways. It’s just not the strongest expansion of the bunch.

From an overhead view, this expansion provides one major benefit across its three new modules: that of slowing down the leader. If your races to El Dorado have been spoiled by one player consistently racing far ahead and leaving everyone hopelessly in the dust, then Dragons, Treasures, and Mysteries should offer a great counterbalance.

Dragons introduces 4 chunky dragon meeples to the map (each slumbering in their own domains (separate terrain tiles). Their colors match the four types of cards (well… they kind of match…). A dragon lies slumbering on its tile until a player steps foot in its domain and disturbs the peace. And everyone knows that an awakened dragon is a grumpy dragon. From there, it can roam freely (even off of its terrain tile) and honestly become the most nightmarish feature to ever be introduced to this game. 

Any player can discard a matching card to move the dragon one space plus a second space if it was moved into a matching space (mountains and caves “match” the purple dragon). Wherever a dragon resides, nobody can move into our out of the adjacent spaces. So dragons can either serve as a wide blockade that nobody can pass through, or they can free your explorer in place as it hides from the nearby monster. This forces the blocked or hiding player to waste a card moving the dragon away in order to get around or escape on their turn.

Most of the time dragons are merely a minor nuisance that temporarily slow you down or make you take long detours to get around them. But if you just so happen to be short on the card type of a nearby matching dragon, then they really hurt your chances of victory. The key is to plan ahead by purchasing matching cards before entering their domain, and then try to race past them as quickly as possible. 

The dragons module seems like it will easily become the most polarizing addition for El Dorado fans. I can see some folks pledging to never include it again after one rough play with it. It’s not likely, but things could get particularly brutal if one player were to be surrounded by multiple dragons. All that said, the dragons module offers two major benefits to those who are interested: slowing down the leader and putting the useless cards in your hand to good use. This one is absolutely a game changer in how it ramps up the interaction. Quest for El Dorado was already deliciously interactive thanks to how you can block each other with your own figures at bottlenecks. But this module ramps this feature up to 11 and makes you consider which is more important: using a card to advance yourself or slow down your opponent.

Treasures is the second module in this expansion and introduces something that is perhaps even wackier than antagonistic dragons — it offers an alternate path to victory. Now, you don’t necessarily need to make it to El Dorado first to win. Simply lift four of these valuable treasures and call it a day. The moment a player claims a fourth treasure from the board, they are considered for all intents and purposes as across the finish line. From there, you still finish out the current round to see if any other players claimed four treasures or reached El Dorado, and then you proceed to the usual tiebreakers.

But these treasures are not easy to pocket. No siree. Usually they require you to trash multiple cards of the same color or up to a certain color strength. In other words, they can each put a sizeable dent in your deck. But even if you don’t pick up four, they can definitely come in handy. You can discard a treasure to move two spaces for free.

Once more, these treasures provide a massive boon to the players who are lagging behind in the race. If you have no chance of catching the leader, then you can simply pivot to tracking down and lifting four treasures. And if your opponents let you run wild and free with this strategy by ignoring all of the treasures along the path, then it becomes all the easier. That’s exactly what happened in our first play of the expansion. I fell a bit behind after a run-in with a dragon (but I did get the chance to bulk up my deck). Meanwhile one of my opponents raced far ahead with a strategy of rushing the finish line as quickly as possible. But because he and my wife ignored all of the treasures along the way, I pivoted to this strategy and secured the victory when he was still at least two turns from El Dorado.

In our second play with the treasures module (at 2 players), we both stuck to the standard strategy of racing for the finish line. But even then I picked up a couple treasures along the way and put them to good use. For one thing, the cards I trashed to lift the treasures weren’t great, so I ended up with a more efficient deck. For another thing, I spent both treasures to get a little boost across the map when I needed it.

Treasures is an interesting module that feels a bit like a double-edged sword. On one hand, it stands tall and bright like a lighthouse of hope to any players that quickly find they have no chance of reaching El Dorado first. On the other hand, it has the potential to result in an anticlimactic finish if players let one opponent have free rein on all treasures. But here’s a counterpoint for you: isn’t a runaway leader in the normal race just as anticlimactic? Shoot, and now I’ve just convinced myself that this module is more useful than I initially thought.

Moving on, the final module in this expansion is of a mysterious sort. Mysterious in the sense that it plops down “valley” tiles along the path that are foggy and unknown until a player stops next to them. Once a player is touching a valley tile, then it is flipped face up for all to see. One hex displays a little icon that then gets rotated next to the explorer to determine the orientation of the tile. And in the blink of an eye, a mystery is uncovered. 

Once again, this is another feature that serves to slow down the leader and introduce a bit of drama. The first player to reach a valley tile has no idea what it contains or how to prepare for it… everyone else has the benefit of bracing themselves as they approach. Granted, this one doesn’t usually slow down the leader much (if at all). Unless they happened to trash too many cards that were helpful for that tile, I suppose. But I find that the main benefit of this module is that it adds a bit of spice to the race and variety to the map possibilities.

So there you have it. Dragons, Treasures, and Mysteries. After tossing all three modules into each of my last two places of El Dorado, I certainly feel that this expansion was worth adding to my collection. The dragons will probably be the least frequently used module of the bunch, but I enjoy how they mix up the feel of the game. Treasures and Mysteries are much more likely to see regular use.

For those who are big fans of El Dorado, like myself, I can heartily recommend this expansion as a supplement to the fun, even if it is probably non-essential for most groups. Honestly, the thing that I’m most excited about is the cornucopia of opportunities that lie ahead now that I have three expansions crammed into the base game box. Already I’ve enjoyed mixing a sprinkling of all three expansions into an entirely new concoction of a race. Some cards from one expansion, some terrain tiles from another, and some tokens from a third. 

The possibilities truly feel endless. All you need is a careful eye for good map design and enough time to lay it out. Or you can simply venture into the huge variety of community-made maps (found on BoardGameGeek). Just be aware that some of them are truly diabolical, possibly untested, and  even unintentionally sadistic. 

At any rate, for those who prefer to ease themselves into the deep end of El Dorado, I suggest you follow this course: Base Game (there is plenty to enjoy here) -> Dangers and Muisca (this is the strongest expansion, in my opinion) -> Heroes and Hexes (introduces more push-your-luck drama) -> Dragons, Treasures & Mysteries (introduces more brutal interaction and catchup mechanisms, but likely to be more polarizing) -> The Golden Temples (because the new/compatible version is not released yet… and it apparently introduces some changes from the previous version, so I will wait to try it before offering my verdict)..

Prognosis: Good

Match of the Century

US box cover

2 Plays (2 Players)

According to trusted sources, the best match of the 20th Century was actually Monica Seles v Steffi Graf (1995 US Open Final) or Bjorn Borg v John McEnroe (1980 Wimbledon Final). So I was a little confused when I found chess pieces rather than tennis pieces in this new board game that recreates the “Match of the Century”. But I’ll let it slide.

Actually, there is something quite lovely about dumping out a bag of chess pieces on the table and setting them up for a game that isn’t chess. There are only a couple kings and a handful of pawns, but that’s more than enough to get you into the right mood.

Match of the Century features card-driven lane battling much like the most popular titles of this genre: Battle Line (aka Schotten Totten), Air Land & Sea, and Riftforce. These battles take place across four fields and over many quick rounds. These rounds represent chess matches in an ongoing tournament between chess legends Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer. 

Two players compete for advantage in a tug of war track where the winner of the round gets to advance their king closer to victory (or in the case of a tied round, both players advance their king). You earn advantage by winning a lane battle, or in other words playing a higher strength in that lane than your opponent.

Each player has a unique deck of cards they draw from, and the cards feature different values at the top and bottom. You’ll be forced to flip your hand upside down every round as you trade off playing as the black pieces or the white pieces. And every card features a weak pawn on one end and a special pawn (Bishop, Rook, Queen, Knight) on the other. 

One player commits a card to a certain lane, and the other must respond by placing a card of their own in that same lane. The higher valued card wins the advantage, and that winning player slides the marker toward their end of the track. But winning the entire game is a bit more complicated than that.

For one thing, the loser of each lane gets to trigger the special effect on their losing card — and it’s common to want that special effect more than the lane victory itself. The effects can either help yourself or undermine your opponent. Perhaps you’ll strengthen your own mental endurance or weaken your opponent — a critical feature that determines how well equipped you are in future rounds (hand size, bonus pawns, starting advantage).

A played card can be made even stronger by adding up to two pawns to that lane (increasing your strength by one per pawn). So plopping a strong card down with a couple pawns gives you very good odds of winning that battle, but then you leave the door wide open for your opponent to play a high value card with a strong special effect. 

The thing I admire most about Match of the Century is how much it evokes the feelings and themes of Chess. Chess, like many abstract games, forces you to put yourself out there… stick your neck out by advancing valuable pieces away from their safe haven and into hostile territory. Sometimes you have to sacrifice one piece to gain the upper hand on another piece. Match of the Century mimics this sensation by providing a counter-blow to every blow. Sometimes you’ll fall one step back so you can advance two steps forward later. Other times you’ll triumphantly march one step forward only to quickly find yourself sliding two steps back.

The first time I played Match of the Century, I found it intriguing, but not immediately engrossing. It wasn’t until our second play several days later, when we swapped roles and dug into the game further, that it finally clicked for me. 

Between the various tracks, many card effects, and constantly flipping hand, Match of the Century can be a rather dizzying experience at first. But once I felt more comfortable with the systems, that’s when the satisfying maneuvers opened up to me. Then I found clever ways to utilize my current hand and position to trap my opponent and seize the round victory. I figured out when to discard cards from my hand between rounds (an option that initially seems strategically impenetrable). And on those rounds when I felt like I had an especially weak hand, I still found ways to undermine my opponent to gain the long-term advantage.

So after two plays, I’m hungrier than ever to revisit Match of the Century. The only problem is that my main player 2 (my wife) does not enjoy this game at all. Where some tug of war games like Royal Visit hit the spot for her, perhaps because they are more streamlined, direct, and clear, this one is probably the most opaque of the bunch. It takes a fair bit of digging and determination to find the satisfaction in this competition. And much like Chess, you have to be ok with making painful sacrifices now for larger victories later.

Prognosis: Good

Cat Ass Trophy / Zero Down

Cat Ass Trophy Outset Media English edition

1 Play (4 Players)

As an ultra casual rummy card game, Cat Ass Trophy (aka Zero Down) is fine. It’s perfectly fine. As a Knizia-designed card game, it’s aggressively mediocre.

My first hint at this was the fact that across four entire hands, I couldn’t manage to conjure a single rummy set of 5. Much of this was simply due to the fact that other players were dealt better starting hands than me. The other reason is that whatever rummy path I ventured down, I never saw a fifth (or often even a fourth) card of that type that I could claim from the market. When four entirely different hands turn out to be duds, that’s when you start to wonder if it’s an underlying design issue rather than a one-off fluke.

The object of the game is to collect sets of five cards of the same number or the same color. A set of five cards is worth zero points, and points are bad in this game. Where players maintain a hand of nine cards throughout the game, it’s possible to get a “purrfect” hand by having five of a color and five of a number (where one card is shared among both sets). We had one player reach this lofty goal, and because they did it in one round, they crushed our total scores even after four rounds. I would have been happy to just get a single measly set of five cards, just one time, but alas it wasn’t meant to be.

Instead, I had to just try to accumulate multiple cards with matching values, because at least you only score each value once (much like Knizia’s Llama card game). Or when I felt like my hand was decent early in a round, and there were no prospect for me in the public display, I had to rush the end of the round by passing. After the pass action is chosen by anybody for the second total time in a round, then everyone else gets one more turn and you’re stuck with whatever is in your hand. That’s a nifty little feature that adds a hair of tension to the game… after the first pass everyone is on edge hoping they get more turns to take the regular swap action (swap one from your hand with one from the display).

And although I appeared to have the worst luck of the group due to my failure to create any rummy sets, that’s not the primary reason I call this Knizia card game aggressively mediocre. I’m perfectly fine with heavy doses of luck in a simple, fast, and small game. The problem here is that our play of Cat Ass Trophy was as lively and entertaining as a funeral home. You could see it on the expressions of the players, even the ones who were winning. You could hear it in the noise at the table, or rather the lack thereof. Heck, even Whale Riders: The Card Game (which isn’t Knizia’s strongest card game either, not even close) managed to bring way more drama and energy to our same group that same night.

Add to all this the fact that half the art features cats showing off their anuses — all for a cheap gag — and I’m finding far more reasons to avoid this one than revisit it.

Prognosis: Poor



Lacuna packaging

3 Plays (2 Players)

If there is one thing that publisher CMYK deserves praise for, it is their thoughtfully planned productions that enhance the game experience. Whether it’s the ability to set up Wavelength and pass around the box with no table required, or the charming Dalmatians and dice in Spots, or the ease of setting up The Fuzzies, or in this case the sprinkling tube of Lacuna… as well as the metal pawns, colorful flowers, and wide spanning cloth board.

Without any context, the components beg to be handled and played with. But one doesn’t need much context to get into Lacuna. The game is as smooth and simple as it gets. On your turn, position one of your pawns between two matching flowers anywhere along the unbroken, invisible line that connects them — then claim both of the flowers. Take turns doing this until all pawns are out, then claim all of the remaining flowers on the board that are closest to your pawns. The player who claims the most majorities of the 7 flower types wins.

The more you play, the more you uncover clever decisions: Which colors to gun for, where exactly to position your pawn between them, how to box your opponent out of end-game flowers on the board. It’s a delight to uncover these strategies. The one decision I haven’t quite cracked yet is which flower to claim during setup if you are the start player. Currently, this still feels like weak recompense for the massive turn order advantage that the second player has for getting to place the last pawn. Perhaps I’m just not crafty enough to know what to do with that starting flower token. But the game is quick enough that there is no harm in playing two rounds and alternating the start player.

The simplicity and speed of Lacuna, combined with the unique abstract challenge and a perfect production, make this one of the most fresh 2-player games in years. Lacuna has a breezy timelessness to it that many 2-player titles can only dream of providing. It’s not the most tense or riveting game among my collection of duelers, but it doesn’t want or need to be.

Prognosis: Good

MLEM: Space Agency

MLEM: Space Agency final cover (English)

4 Plays (4 Players)

Review copy provided by the Publisher

Welcome to the future. Cats now rule the world, and so they’ve set their eyes on space, the final frontier. You and your team of catstronauts are catapulting yourself far into the cosmos via a series of rocket ship launches. The goal is to travel deep into the galaxy beyond, but if you can’t get that far then at least land yourself on planet yarn or planet goldfish or a moon or something. They all seem like quite lovely places for a domineering cat like yourself to inhabit.

Here, players take turns being the cat commander, or catmander for short (not to be confused with Charmander) — the catmander pilots the rocket ship and all other players jump aboard with a catstronaut of their own. The fearless feline leader then collects up the 6 dice and begins the flight. With every roll, the catniptain separates the dice results into groups of matching values. The twos here, the fours here, the afterburners here, and so on. The only groups of dice that you can use for this roll are entirely dictated by the current position of the rocket ship. All the rocket spaces spread out across a long neoprene mat like a wavy trail of purrils and pawsibilities.

If your rocket ship is on a space that shows ones, threes, and afterburners, then those are the only dice that you can use to advance forward. Much like Knizia’s legendary Pickomino, if you pick the threes then you must set aside all threes and can no longer use those dice for the rest of the round. But there is a bit more nuance to the dice restrictions here that can help you reach far into outer space. You are allowed to select multiple valid groups to propel your rocket ship forward (adding the sum of all these dice to move that many spaces). Plus, afterburners are almost always great to use because those dice stay with you for the next roll.

The ability to pick one or more valid groups of dice to move forward allows the pilotpuss much flexibility in where the rocket stops after each roll and either play the long game (try to conserve dice and travel far) or the short game (hit a closer target and bail). You may want the rocket ship to land on a certain space because it gets you to your desired destination, or you may want it to land on a certain space simply because the probability of not exploding or traveling faster on the next roll are higher. After each roll of the dice and movement of the ship, every player, starting with the head whiskers, can decide whether to bail on the nearby planet/moon or stay on the rocket for another roll of the remaining available dice. If you do happen to peace out at a rocket space, it’s always beneficial to be the first kitten to abandon the caboodle because wherever you end up will typically grant you more points than later meowards who follow you. 

Planets are area majority battles for points (with ties going in favor of the first to arrive) while each moon only has one space for a catstronaut (granting immediate points) and the following moons at the same space grant diminishing points. These points ever tempt you to abandon ship, because the risk of a cosmic catastrophe is very real. The moment that the leader doesn’t roll a single valid die for the space that the rocket ship is at is the moment that ship erupts into a burning ball of flames and fur. Fortunately, these catstronauts have nine lives, so your dead kitties always come back to you to be used on a future launch.

So the challenge of MLEM: Space Agency is in bailing out at the perfect moment to gain maximum points and then hoping that those you’ve left behind meet a quick demise. It’s a game of collectively crossing your fingers on a shared-incentives rocket, cheering on your captain, and then protracting your claws or beelining it for the nearest floating rock when things get a little dicey (or in this case, less dicey).

The incremental increase of points as you travel further from Earth may not seem like a compelling enough reason to keep pushing your luck further, but that is only the case if you aren’t also considering the competitive objectives and catstronaut abilities. Like many other misunderstood Knizia games, the brilliance is hidden in the unfolding subtitles. Those who don’t discover those deeper layers may hastily judge this game to be lacking in meaningful or satisfying decisions.

In a game where the winner’s score will be in the range of 30 or 40 points, every point matters, and the competitive objectives each grant 5 points to the player who claims them. That is certainly not something you should ignore if you are hoping to win. These achievements are claimed by putting out your cats onto four different planets or moons, or by having three kitties on one planet, or by getting two catstronauts to the end of the track first — this last one hasn’t been achieved yet, but we’ve gotten very, very close. On that note, I’ve heard some folks claim that outer space is basically impossible to reach. But to offer another take, we have managed to reach outer space once per play in our first three plays, but not in our fourth. And I nearly reached it a second time in the same game (that thrilling near miss actually cost me the victory).

Competing over objectives is only half the battle. The other half happens before the rocket ship even takes off as each player decides which ability to contribute to the ship. All eight of these powers are a joy to utilize. With both hope and fear in your heart, you’ll strap yet another kitten to the next rocket ship as it prepares for launch. And often your decision will be influenced by what the other players contribute before you.

One ability allows the rocket ship to launch from the satellite rather than from Earth, giving the group an immediate head start. Another ability contributes a one-time-use die that can bail you out of an otherwise disastrous situation. If somebody puts out one of these cats, then you might be more tempted to throw down a point multiplier cat — one which doubles your points if it lands on the right type of destination (planet, moon, or outer space). But as soon as somebody aspires to double their points, the next person might be tempted to add their sabotage cat to the ship (this cat takes a die with them when they bail off the ship). Finally, the parachute kitty lets you still bail from a ship after it has crashed, and another cat lets you bail above or below your current rocket space.

I can’t stress enough how brilliant and impactful these abilities are. For one thing, they evoke a playful social banter during the launch phase as you try to convince your friends to aid your filling ship and then watch as they make the altruistic decision, the selfish decision, or the evil decision. Then, as your ship takes flight, you’ll watch each other squirm in discomfort at the consistently difficult decision of when to bail. The parachute cat will encourage players to stay aboard to the bitter end, while the double points cats will tempt players to either bail early or push to the next lucrative level that is nearly within reach. Each turn keeps all players involved, yet feels distinctly different from the last thanks to the mix of cats on board and the unpredictability of the dice.

And unlike basically every other push-your-luck game in existence, here you can have the worst luck ever on your own turns yet still be competitive in the game. That’s exactly what happened to me during our first two plays. I couldn’t roll a good dice result to save my life, and whenever I was commander our rocket would basically instantly explode near the lowest planet and moons. My poor luck became the running joke of both plays, to all of our amusement, but I still came out winning both games because I made great decisions during other players’ turns. We enjoyed all the drama of a push-your-luck game, yet it didn’t come at the expense of one player’s miserable misfortunes. In other words, with MLEM you can have your cake and eat it too.

The base game provides plenty of variety to explore that I would happily play over and over again, yet it doesn’t stop there. Publisher Rebel Studio went as far as cramming 3 additional modules into the game which also bring some neat variety and spice. One is basically a private objectives module where players are incentivized to land on specific planets and moons. Another sprinkles juicy bonuses along the rocket track which can either grant the commander bonus points, an extra die, or a rocket boost forward if the ship lands on that space exactly. The final one is the wackiest of all with a UFO ship the gradually descends from the top of the rocket track, sometimes restricts your starting dice, yet makes up for that restriction with powerful one-time use abilities; and if the rocket stops precisely on the UFO’s current space then that ship commander gets major bonus points. 

All three of these modules introduce more considerations to chew on, yet they also give way for luck to have a bigger impact on the final scores. Sometimes the commander gets the perfect roll that lands them on a point-scoring exploration token or UFO. Unlike the standard planet/moon scoring, there isn’t much that opponents can do to keep up with such luck other than hope they likewise get lucky on their turns or stay more competitive across the planets and objectives. Plus some UFO tiles simply take away one or two of the commander’s dice right at the start of the round (but this is compensated with a free re-roll or one-time-use bonus). 

After four plays with various combinations of modules, I find myself leaning toward the vanilla experience perhaps with exploration tokens thrown in. Mostly because it makes for a tighter experience that focuses on the best parts of MLEM. But I can see how some folks might have strong preferences for using or excluding certain modules.

If you can’t tell, I’m already a big fan of MLEM: Space Agency. As somebody who has played far too many Knizia dice games, this one easily lands in my Top 3. Even in the broader sphere of push-your-luck titles, MLEM soars far above so many others by being spicy yet not overly punishing, interactive yet not needlessly brutal, chaotic and hilarious yet clever and strategic. 

It was available at Essen Spiel, but many will likely have to wait until the game releases more broadly in 2024. Speaking for myself, MLEM has launched high up the rankings as one of my favorite releases this year.

Prognosis: Excellent

Black Friday Stocking Stuffer Sale!


Bitewing Games and Allplay have teamed up to offer a Black Friday Buffet! Our Stocking Stuffer Sale is live now through Tuesday, November 28, with SEVENTEEN small box games selling at $16 (or less) each. As always, shipping is a low flat rate for most regions ($4 in the US, $9 in Canada/EU), making this a great deal to treat yourself, gift others, or both. Thanks for your support!

Prognosis: a forecast of how the game will likely fare in my collection, and perhaps yours as well.

Excellent– Among the best in its genre.  This game will never leave my collection.

Good– A very solid game and a keeper on the shelf.

Fair– It’s fine. It’s enjoyable. But I’m not likely to seek it out or keep it around.

Poor– Really doesn’t fit my tastes; not one I want to revisit… but hey, that’s just me.

Hopeless– Never again. Run & hide. Demon be gone.

Article written by Nick Murray. Outside of practicing dentistry part-time, Nick has devoted his remaining work-time to collaborating with the world’s best designers, illustrators, and creators in producing classy board games that bite, including the critically acclaimed titles Trailblazers by Ryan Courtney and Zoo Vadis by Reiner Knizia. He hopes you’ll join Bitewing Games in their quest to create and share classy board games with a bite.

Disclaimer: When Bitewing Games finds a designer or artist or publisher that we like, we sometimes try to collaborate with these creators on our own publishing projects. We work with these folks because we like their work, and it is natural and predictable that we will continue to praise and enjoy their work. Any opinions shared are subject to biases including business relationships, personal acquaintances, gaming preferences, and more. That said, our intent is to help grow the hobby, share our gaming experiences, and find folks with similar tastes. Please take any and all of our opinions with a hearty grain of salt as you partake in this tabletop hobby feast.

Leave a Reply