Critic's Corner: Game Reviews

Board Game Reviews by Corey Whelen at Outset Media
*Not all games reviewed are distributed by Outset - we just like them!

Earth 2.0: A Planet Review

by Corey Whelen
20 September 2021

2-4 Players, 30 Minutes, Low Complexity, Medium Strategy, Ages 8+

Cosmic dust swirls through the ether; specks of light riding the wave of the universe’s expansion. With but a gesture, you swirl the dust around your finger, coalescing it into a shape- a sphere- a PLANET. Yours and yours alone to decorate- sweeping grasslands, frigid tundra, or endless oceans? Pick and choose, mix and match, but don’t forget- the landscapes you choose will reflect the life that grows on your little planet. And much like being alive on a planet, you’ll be arbitrarily judged and awarded points for your performance. Build a perfect world brimming with monkeys, dolphins, and penguins- where pests like mosquitos and people who talk during movies don’t exist. You can do these things (and some other thematically similar things) in the aptly named Planet by Blue Orange Games.

The Sky is the Limit: A Cloud City Review

by Corey Whelen
30 July 2021

2-4 Players, 30 Minutes, Low Complexity, Medium Strategy, Ages 5+

One of the best feelings in board games is looking down at the end of a board game and seeing the sum of your efforts. Your big pile of cash in Monopoly, your conquered nations in Risk- that completely arbitrary pile of bits and bobs that signifies your superiority over the other players. Some of my favourite games are emblematic of this principle- Patchwork, Tiny Towns, and Kingdomino, for example. These games are all about building and planning- fitting different pieces together in the most efficient way to maximize your points. Every decision impacts your long-term strategy, every mistake comes back to haunt you. Cloud City is very much typical of the genre in these ways. It’s not the most complicated or clever puzzle, but what really sets it apart from other tile-laying games is the pieces. You’re not placing cardboard tiles, you’re building a little 3D future city. And I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that’s the coolest thing you COULD build in a board game.

Oceans of Fun: A Fish Club Review

by Corey Whelen
9 July 2021

1-2 Players, 5 Minutes, Low Complexity, Low Strategy, Ages 5+

One of the best things about the ongoing board game renaissance is that we keep seeing classic board games get reimagined and reinvented. No, I’m not talking about Minions Operation or Socialist Monopoly (yes, it was real, and just as bad as you’re imagining.) Rather, I’m talking about seeing classic board game mechanics employed in new, more interesting games. Kingdomino, for example, somehow took dominos to fantastic new heights, King of Tokyo breathed movie-monster magic into Yahtzee, and in much the same way, Fish Club has managed to elevate the classic game of Connect 4 into something that feels entirely new and interesting.

It’s a Tree eat Tree World: A Photosynthesis Review

by Corey Whelen
28 May 2021

2-4 Players, ~40 Minutes, Medium Complexity, High Strategy, Ages 8+

In any given meadow in any given forest, an intense battle plays out, hidden from human eyes. It’s a common sight on Discovery Channel: a limited number of resources means animals and insects are locked into constant battle for survival. Nature can be savage, but we often overlook the most heated and desperate struggles for survival because we simply cannot perceive them.  There’s only so much dirt and sunlight to go around, which means that every plant we see is jockeying for position, determined to spread the seeds that will become the next generation of canopy, sucking up all the sun and leaving only scraps for the plants on the forest floor below. Photosynthesis takes one of these centuries-long struggles, condenses it down to a half-hour, and makes it a whole lot of fun.

A Vicious Cycle: A Flamme Rouge Review

by Corey Whelen
12 May 2021

2-4 Players, ~40 Minutes, Low Complexity, Low Strategy, Ages 8+

If I were to sell you on a racing board game, you’d probably expect high-speed action, hair-pin turns, and the very real possibility of a teensy bit of drifting. Flamme Rouge is very much the opposite of that- it’s a tricky little racing game that rewards the cleverest player as opposed to the fastest. You see, Flamme Rouge is based on that sport of kings- cycling. More specifically, players will be partaking in the early days of the Tour de France, the most famous bicycle race in the world.

Big Enough for the Both of Us: A Kingdomino: Duel Review

by Corey Whelen
22 December 2020

2 Players, 30 Minutes, Low Complexity, Medium Strategy, Ages 8+.

The Amazing (Camel) Race: A Camel Up Review

by Corey Whelen
10 December 2020

3-8 Players, 30 Minutes, Low Complexity, Low Strategy, Ages 8+.
Disclaimer: Not distributed by Outset Media

Some games are battles of intellectual prowess. Cerebral competitions where every move is calculated, and the shrewdest strategist is victorious. Camel Up is not one of these games. Camel Up is a game where you bet tiny plastic coins on tiny plastic camels that are racing around a tiny plastic pyramid. And honestly? I couldn’t be more excited to recommend it to you. Stick with me here, this is a weird one.

Why am I Hungry Now?: A Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza Review

by Corey Whelen
28 August 2020

2-8 Players, 10 Minutes, Low Complexity, Low Strategy, Ages 8+.

Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza. Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza. These words echo through every round of the appropriately titled party game- it’s a chant, a mantra, an implicit agreement among the players that the second those silly words stop, shenanigans will ensue. Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza is an extremely hectic variation on Slapjack, which means the player with the quickest reflexes and the best memory will come out on top.

Keys to the Kingdom(-ino): A Kingdomino Review

by Corey Whelen
9 June 2020

2-4 Players, 15 Minutes, Low Complexity, Medium Strategy, Ages 8+

There aren’t many games with as much prestige as Kingdomino. With a list of accolades and awards longer than some menus, this simple little tile-laying, kingdom-crafting game makes a big impression!

Critics Corner: The Christmas Collection

by Corey Whelen
13 December 2019

It’s that time of year again! Time to deck the halls with decks of cards, time to hang the stockings near the game-shelf with care, and time to entertain friends and family during those interminable holiday gatherings!

Luckily, Outset Media has your back with plenty of Christmas themed games that are more fun than listening to Grandma talk about her extra toenail again! We’re going to take a look at three of our favourites for entertaining through the holidays!


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