Don’t forget to check out my other tabletop posts!

New year, new tabletop post!  I played all four of these games a few weeks back at a friend’s place.  We’ve got some bugs, a ghost, and castle building.  Adventure awaits!

Ludwig is a fun dude
Ludwig is a pretty fun dude.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig

Vegas Showdown with castles
Vegas Showdown with castles.

Bezier Games, the creators of one of my favorite games, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, has another fun game on the shelves in Castles of Mad King Ludwig.  It’s a building game similar to Vegas Showdown with tiles of varying costs and sizes.  Six tiles are up for bid each turn with a rotating player, the master building, deciding how much each piece will cost that turn.  Costs range from 2,000 to 15,000 and are paid from other players to the master builder for the turn (the master builder pays the pot instead).  For each turn that a tile isn’t purchased, a 1,000 piece is placed on it, kind of like how tiles move down the cost chart in Vegas Showdown.

You are trying to build the best castle you can with the tiles you buy.  Tiles come in different categories — kitchen, outdoor, etc. — and have various modifiers on them for connecting different types of rooms.  If you fully close off a room, you’ll receive the bonus for that type of room which could be anything from a free hallway to scoring bonus points a second time.  One thing to note is that the game ends quicker than you’d expect.  I really hope to play this one again soon.


A word matching game with a poison pill
A word matching game with a poison pill.

Codenames is a party game with a 5×5 grid of cards laid out, each with a single word on them.  I played with teams of two, so I’ll reference everything that way, but I’d imagine you could play with teams of any size.  While one player is looking only at the grid of face up cards, the other player is looking at a card with colored squares matching the grid (see above).  That player has to look at that colored-in grid card, look at the 5×5 grid, and find the words that match his team’s color.  He can then say two words: a description and a number.  For example, if I said “football three”, I’d want my teammate to guess which three word cards fall under the description of football.

Rounds are timed and the first team to get all of their cards wins.  The guessing player(s) can guess as many words as they want, but there are a few catches.  If you guess an incorrect word, you give the point to the other team.  If you’re behind or just feeling bold, you can try to guess words you either weren’t given clues for or words based on clues you received in prior rounds but didn’t complete.  Also, there is a single assassin card (grey on the colored-in grid) that, if guessed, is an automatic loss.  The describing player needs to be careful in what they say to steer teammates towards their words but away from the assassin.  Games only take 10-15 minutes but are surprisingly fun.

Hive Pocket

Bugs? Gross. Bug tiles that move around? Fun.
Bugs? Gross. Bug tiles that move around? Fun.

Hive Pocket is a smaller, travel version of Hive.  In both, you win by surrounding the opponent’s queen bee tile with tiles of your own.  Hive Pocket comes with five basic tiles: the queen bee who can move one space, beetles that can move one space including on top of others, grasshoppers that jump in a straight line, spiders that move exactly three spaces, and ants that move any number of spaces around the perimeter of the hive.  There are also two advanced tiles that I did not play with, the ladybug which moves exactly two spaces on top of the hive and one back down and the mosquito which can move like any tile it is currently touching.

The most important rule of Hive is the “one hive rule”.  If moving a tile would ever create two islands, it can’t be done.  Also, when placing tiles down for the first time, they cannot be placed adjacent to an opponent’s tile.  I only played one round of Hive Pocket, but I did borrow it.  I’m going to try and play it again soon.


Co-op clue with a single silent player.
Co-op clue with a single silent player.

“The mailman-looking guy, in the outdoor setting with the desk and ladder, with the statuette thing.”  Mysterium shares a basic premise with the classic game Clue in that you are trying to determine the person, place, and thing involved in a murder.  But, instead of competing against other players, Mysterium is a co-op game where the murdered person is a player.  Well, the ghost of the player.  The ghost player sets up the vertical holder and decides which three keys (person, place, thing) each player needs to guess.  It’s up to the ghost player to shepherd the other players along into solving their own death.

What makes Mysterium tough is that the ghost player cannot speak.  The only help they can give other players are through image cards.  Since the game is designed to be played dynamically with tons of card combinations, these cards are never simple.  For example, a card with a tightrope, three birds, and a hot air balloon might mean the ghost player wants you to guess the person that you think looks like an old-timey race car driver because they have a red scarf, which is the same color as the balloon in the image.  Yeah, it can be pretty difficult and frustrating.  “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME?!” will undoubtedly be a common phrase during play.

There’s nothing that limits players from helping each other, thankfully.  You can place bets on if players are guessing correctly or not, each correct bet giving you a point.  You also get points for how quickly you guess all three keys.  If you reach the end of the game, you’ll be able to see more image cards for the final round of guessing where players have to decide which set of person/place/thing cards is the one true answer.  Mysterium is tough, for sure, but took an awfully long time to play.  I’m not sure I’d vote to play it again soon.

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