6.20.2018

TAG

What happens when grown men obsessively play a kid's game well into their adulthood?  This is the basis for Tag.  Based on a true story (as the film reminds us at its beginning and end), this movie is silly, goofy, and often funny.

Five friends have been playing the same game of tag since they were nine.  As adults, every May even though they live in separate cities the group can use disguises, surprise, and whatever they can think of to tag each other.  At the end of the month, the last person tagged has to live with the "shame" of being it until they play again.
 This year Hogan "Hoagie" Malloy (Ed Helms) tracks down and gets together with his friends Bob Callahan (John Hamm), Randy "Chilli" Cillaino (Jake Johnson) and Kevin Sable (Hannibal Burress) with a mission: They all team up to tag Jerry Pierce (Jeremy Renner), the friend who's never been tagged and is retiring from the game after this year.  Hoagie thinks they have an edge: knowing when Jerry is getting married and using that knowledge to tag him.  But Jerry is insanely focused on winning (his encounters with his friends are slow-motion strategic battles) and seems ready for whatever the others come at him with.
While the five friends have a "no girls allowed" amendment for their game, most of the supporting cast is female.  Susan Rollins (Leslie Bibb) is Jerry's fiancee who supports the game but declares the wedding and related events off-limits for tagging each other.  Anna Malloy (Isla Fisher) is Hoagie's wife who's ultra-intense in helping her husband win the game.  Rebecca Crosby (Annabelle Wallis) is a reporter whose business article about Bob quickly turns into an article about this game of tag.  And Cheryl Deakins (Rashida Jones) is the former crush of both Bob and Chill, brought in by Jerry to distract them.

Tag is fun, if pretty light.  The movie doesn't delve into how a kid's game is so important to grown-ups, apart from a few scenes showing how the game intersects with big moments in their lives.  The movie also gets more serious and sentimental near the end, with a slightly-telegraphed twist.  But the comedic action scenes are pretty funny, and the cast's enthusiasm carries into pretty consistently funny scenes.  Tag is goofy -- and it's amusing too.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

6.16.2018

INCREDIBLES 2

The original Incredibles is considered by many to be the best superhero movie ever made.  Fortunately Pixar had 14 years to work on the sequel, and Incredibles 2 manages to live up to the entertaining legacy of the original.

Set immediately after the original movie, Incredibles 2 finds the Parr family (the Incredibles)  family pretty low.  "Supers" are still illegal.  A battle with the villainous Underminer left the city with massive property damage, which the Incredibles are blamed for.  And the government agency which had helped the Parrs has been disbanded, leaving the family with two weeks in a motel before they face homelessness.
 Relief comes from the brother-sister duo of Winston and Evelyn Deavor (Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener).  He's great at sales and persuading people, she's great with technology, and together they have a giant, successful company -- and a plan to make Supers legal again.  They want to make Elastigirl/Helen Parr (Holly Hunter) the new face of superheroes, by recording and broadcasting her crime-fighting.  This leaves Mr. Incredible/Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) feeling left out of the action.  While Elastigirl is battling the mysterious villain Screenslaver, who hypnotizes people through TV screens and monitors, Bob is run ragged as a stay-at-home dad.  He has to deal with speedy Dash (Huck Milner) dealing with new math in school, daughter Violet (Sarah Powell) deal with a boy who she was supposed to date until he literally forgot she exists, and baby Jack-Jack manifesting all sorts of powers.
Incredibles 2 is another excellent movie from Pixar.  There's plenty of humor, from Jack-Jack's uncontrollable powers to director Brad Bird's return as fashion designer Edna Mode.  There are exciting action sequences, surprises with the plot, and several new supers who add to the action.  Incredibles 2 is smart, funny, and thoroughly entertaining.
Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch

6.15.2018

RIFFTRAX LIVE: SPACE MUTINY

One of the most beloved episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 was their making of the 1980s sci-fi disaster Space Mutiny.  So it's no surprise that the movie got a redoing with Rifftrax Live: Space Mutiny.  This comedy feature had all-new jokes, several scenes not shown in the MST3K episode, and lots and lots of humor.

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy (the latter dressed as Alex Jansen) began by riffing "The Magic Shop," a short feature based on a story by H.G. Wells.  Next came a preview of their next Rifftrax Live feature, Krull.  And from there, it was on to Space Mutiny!

For better or worse, seeing extra scenes of Space Mutiny doesn't improve that movie in the slightest.  However, that just gave the three hosts even more material to make fun of.  There are lots of new nicknames for the muscular, dim hero Dave Ryder.  (Max Roidrage!  Bacon von Meatwich!)  There's the heroine who seems as old as her father, the dead character who shows up alive back at her post, and the scenery-chewing villain Calgon.  There also the "spaceship" full of brick walls and pipes, footage shamelessly taken from Battlestar Galactica, and lots of propane tanks lying around.  None of it is spared by the comedy trio.
Rifftrax Live: Space Mutiny is a very funny take on a very bad "classic" movie.  We get everything from jokes about the awful combat ("Why'd you have to kick and shoot me in the crotch?") to how Bill will cover up some nudity without a gorilla-gram.  The humor is consistent from start to finish, and the new jokes made it fresh even for those of us very familiar with the original MST3K episode.  This was a lot of fun!
Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

6.10.2018

HEREDITARY

Family issues and haunting concerns are featured in Hereditary.  This movie is sometimes effective, sometimes wandering in the tone it wants to set.

The movie seems to begin as a ghost movie.  Ellen Graham has passed away from cancer in her 70s, and her family deals with her death in different ways.  Daughter Annie (Toni Collette) has conflicted feelings about her late mother and throws herself into her art: making miniature scenes from her life.  Her teenage son Peter (Alex Wolff) seems concerned with teen interests, like getting high and women in his class.  Quiet younger daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) makes clicking noises and has a disturbing reaction to finding a dead bird outside her classroom.  And father Steve (Gabriel Byrne) just wants to hold his family together.
The movie also enters into ghostly territory: figures appear in the shadows and vanish when lights are turned on, a blob of light seems to flow along the walls or follow people.  But when a horrible tragedy strikes the Grahams, the movie shifts into a different mode: family drama, where the amily members deal with a new horror, often in destructive and vindictive ways.  Then the movie shifts a final time into near-gonzo horror, where things really go insane.
This shift in tones weakens Hereditary, but there's plenty that does work here.  Toni Collette is very good as the mother dealing with both her issues with her late mother and concerns about her family.  Milly Shapiro is nicely creepy as the kid who may have something sinister going on in her own little world.  The miniatures add to the disturbing atmosphere, and while the end phase is crazy it also builds suspense and horror.  I just wish there was more consistency here.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

5.19.2018

DEADPOOL 2

The merc with a mouth is back.  Deadpool 2 brings Marvel;s wise-cracking, r-rated, third wall-breaking anti-hero to the big screen -- though this time there's a lot of drama and angst mixed in as well.  How do the comedy and tragedy blend together?  Well...

The movie starts with Deadpool/Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) facing a devastating loss: His girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) is killed by thugs out to get Deadpool.  This leads Deadpool to try and kill himself (doesn't work, even with lots of explosives), become an X-Man ("in training") get locked up in a jail for mutants, and form his own super team (with early, disastrous results).  And then there's Deadpool's stated new purpose in life.
There's an angry teenager named Russell (Julian Dennison), a mutant calling himself Fire Fists who can create and throw fire.  For reasons we learn later, Cable (John Brolin)m a cyborg from the future, is on a mission to kill Russell, and Deadpool decides that he needs to save Russell to find meaning in his life.  We also meet some new allies -- notably Domino (Zazie Beetz), an amazingly lucky mutant -- familiar faces from the first movie, a surprise super villain; and there are plenty of killings, cursing, and pop culture commentary right up until the post-credits scenes.
So how does it all work?  Ryan Reynolds has the Deadpool banter down pat, making him easily recognizable in a costume that shows nothing of his face.  The mix of drama and comedy is a bit iffy, as we're supposed to accept the snarky jokes about everything with Deadpool's angst about having lost his love and being unable to join her in the next world.  John Brolin plays Cable as a completely humorless near-Terminator, and the rest of the folks in the movie are enjoyable, if not memorable.  There's still plenty of like in Deadpool 2 -- lots of laughs along the way -- but it could have been more consistent.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

5.09.2018

TINY EPIC GALAXIES

There are lots of games where players explore and expand into space.  Tiny Epic Galaxies from Gamelyn Games lets 2-5 players utilize dice, develop or use planets, and advance their empire to score the most victory points and win the game.

Players begin with a Galaxy Mat (which keeps track of their Empire level, ships, dice, energy and culture points, plus the victory points from their Empire level), two ships, four dice, one culture, two energy, and choose one of two Secret Mission cards.  There are a number of Planet cards equal to the number of players plus two (except in a five-player game; that has six Planets).
On each player's turn, they begin by rolling all available dice.  A player can reroll any one unactivated die for free; others can be rerolled for one energy each.  A player can also use the converter to set aside two unactivated dice to turn another unactivated die into any die facing of their choice.

Die facings have several effects.  Move a Ship lets a player move a ship either onto or around an available Planet card.  Landing on a planet lets the player use the planet's ability.  Going in orbit around a planet puts the ship on the colony track.  Ships on the colony track can be advanced with either Diplomacy or Economy die results, depending on what the planet requires.  When a ship reaches the end of the colony track, the player gets the planet (and is the only person who can use its ability) and gets its victory points.  A new Planet card then replaces the taken one.
Energy and Culture results get a player one Energy or Culture for each planet that produces them, one per ship on and in orbit around that planet.  Players can't have more than seven Energy or seven Culture.  And a Colony roll lets a player either advance their Empire level (usually getting more ships, dice, or victory points) or use an ability from a planet the player has colonized.

Other players can get involved as well.  After each die is resolved, other players can copy that die's action by spending one Culture.  When a player uses their last die and other players have chosen whether or not to copy the die result, the dice are all removed and the next player's turn begins.

When a player gets 21 victory points, every other player takes a final turn.  After that, everyone checks their Secret Mission card to see if they earned the victory points from the card.  Whoever has the most victory points wins.

There's a lot to like in Tiny Epic Galaxies.  While players can't combat each other, the competition for planets can get pretty intense.  There are enough ways to change the dice to give players choices, while still having a large element of luck.  The Secret Missions add a nice element of mystery, and being able to copy a die by spending Culture keeps players involved when it's not their turn.  There's a lot of strategy and fun to be found in exploring the Tiny Epic Galaxies.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

5.03.2018

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

Marvel has been teasing the presence of Thanos and the Infinity Stones for several movies now -- and in Avengers: Infinity War, they all make their presence in a very big way.  This movie introduces the Marvel Universe's biggest villain yet, along with virtually all of its superheroes.

The mad titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) has decided that he wants all six Infinity Stones in his golden gauntlet.  That will give him infinite power, which he plans to use to wipe out half of all life throughout the universe, with a snap of his fingers.  Sometimes he sends his servants, the Children of Thanos, to obtain them, while other times he gets involved directly.  And since Thanos is able to beat up the Hulk fairly easily, he is quite a menace.
The heroes aren't going to ignore this threat -- especially since two of the Infinity Stones are related to them: as part of the Eye of Agamotta wielded by Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and a key part of the Vision (Paul Bettany).  Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Doctor Strange, and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) wind up battling the Children of Thanos in New York, then joining up with some of the Guardians of the Galaxy in space to take on Thanos.  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) goes on a quest with the other Guardians to create a new weapon capable of killing Thanos.  And the Vision is brought to Wakanda to have his Infinity Stone surgically removed; he's also protected by numerous other heroes, including the Avengers led by Captain America (Chris Evans) and the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman).
There's a lot going on with this movie (and there's a second part due out next year) and it manages to flow very well.  Even with all these characters, none of the heroes get short-changed when it comes to the storytelling or development.  Thanos is an almost sympathetic character (often calling other characters "my child") and the action scenes work extremely well.  I really enjoyed Avengers: Infinity War and look forward to seeing how its next part continues its cosmic cliffhanger.
Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch

4.23.2018

MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000: THE RETURN

You can't keep a good riffing down.  After the television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 had been off the air for years, a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign and plenty of celebrity support led to Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return.  This is the 11th season of MST3K, now on Netflix, and it continues the tradition of cracking jokes at the expense of some amazingly terrible movies.

For those keeping track of the plot, space pilot Jonah Heston (Jonah Ray) was tricked into responding to a distress call on the dark side of the moon.  He was kidnapped by Kinga Forrester (Felicia Day), granddaughter of Clayton Forrester from the original show, and her sidekick Max, TV's Son of TV's Frank (Patton Oswald).  The two of them are recreating Clayton's original experiment -- forcing a test subject to watch cheesy movies while monitoring his mind -- with the goal of selling it to Disney for a billion dollars.


So Jonah is trapped on the Satellite of Love -- but he's got his robot friends.  Jonah is joined for all the movies by Tom Servo (Baron Vaughn) and Crow T. Robot (Hampton Yount), plus the occasional appearance by Gypsy (Rebecca Hanson) during the movies.  Plenty of celebrity guest stars stop by, from Neil Patrick Harris, Mark Hamill, and Jerry Seinfeld to members of the original MST3K, Jonah and his buddies start each episode with an invention exchange (prop comedy) with the mad scientists, and there are plenty of skits and musical numbers in-between the movie mockery.
 MST3K: The Return is a funny and worthy continuation of the classic TV series.  The movies here are quite varied -- giant monsters, sword & sorcery, time travel, avalanche -- but universally bad, providing plenty of fodder for jokes about them.  The new cast is quite funny and likable, whether mocking the latest awful movie of bouncing jokes off each other in sketches and the invention exchange.  MST3K: The Return is a terrific return of some big laughs.  (The DVD set also has a documentary on how this latest season came about.)
Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

4.20.2018

ISLE OF DOGS

Wes Anderson has always quietly reveled in the quirky, so it's no surprise that he'd step into stop-motion animation with Isle of Dogs, a weird and ultimately warm journey that's everything from an epic quest to a young boy's love for his dog.

Set 20 years in the future, Japan's corrupt Mayor Kobayishi (Kunichi Nomura) has a solution for the dog overpopulation and diseases: ship all dogs, from pets to strays, off to Trash Island.  The dogs there have a miserable existence, forming packs to survive and battling each other for scraps and trash they can eat.  The movie's main pack consists of Chief (Bryan Cranston), a stray who never had a master; Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Boss (Bill Murray), and Duke (Jeff Goldblum).
 The pack's world changes when a small plane crashes on Trash Isle, piloted by young boy Atari (Koyu Rankin).  He's come to the Isle in search of his guard dog Spots (Liev Schreiber), and the pack agrees to help him; Chief doesn't want to, but he's outvoted by the others.  Atari is also Mayor Kobayishi's nephew, and the corrupt mayor makes it look like Atari was kidnapped by the dogs.  Kobayishi also acts against his scientific political rival, keeping the cure for the dog problems under wraps while working on a final solution for the dogs.  And foreign exchange student Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) uses her school newspaper to investigate Atari's disappearance and the government corruption
There's a lot going on in Isle of Dogs -- and it pretty much all works.  While this movie can be darker than many cartoons for children, there are also some silly moments, from the robot dogs to the fights appearing in a cloud with limbs popping in and out.  The voice talent is very good -- especially Bryan Cranston's reluctant hero Chief -- and there's a look and feel to the movie that is pretty unique for movies today.  Isle of Dogs is an impressive and fairly unique movie experience.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

4.09.2018

MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO

Childhood can be a magical time -- and in the Studio Ghibli movie My Neighbor Totoro, this is literally true.  Enchanted creatures are all around, leading to adventures, discovery, and help for two little girls.  (This review refers to the 2005 Disney DVD version.)

Young sisters Satsuki (Dakota Fanning) and Mei (Elle Fanning) are excited to be living in a new house in the country.  Their father Professor Kusakabe (Tim Daly) moved them out there, presumably to be near their ailing mother (Lea Salonga) who's recovering in a nearby hospital.  The house is old but exciting, and there are lots of nice neighbors, including the elderly Granny (Pat Carroll). The kids have a great time, working on the house and going to school.

There are other things happening in and near the house.  At first the kids see "soot sprites," small balls of soot with eyes, in the house.  As the kids explore the giant tree near the house, Mei discovers some small creatures, then comes across Totoro, a giant cat-like spirit with a mighty roar, a big grin, and a pretty unusual way of fighting.  Satsuki soon comes across these creatures, and the grown-ups are surprisingly supportive of the kids' discovery, saying only little children can see these spirits.  And when trouble happens, the spirits turn up to help.

My Neighbor Totoro is a leisurely delight.  While the movie isn't packed with plot twists or developments, it captures the joy of being a young child.  There's a tremendous sense of fun, not only with the cute creatures but with the kids running through a field, exploring their new house, or doing some cleaning or chores.  The animation is very creative, and the voice talent does a good job for the loving family.  My Neighbor Totoro is quite delightful.
Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

4.08.2018

A QUIET PLACE

The monsters have arrived -- and the best protection against them is silence.  A Quiet Place is an effective, creepy horror movie.

When the movie opens, we see the Abbott family -- father Lee (John Krasinski), mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt), and little kids Regan (Millicent Simmons), Marcus (Noah Jupe), and Beau (Cade Woodward) silently going through a drugstore in an abandoned town for supplies.  They speak only in sign language and avoid any possible noises.  We soon find out why there's such a focus on silence: When Beau sneaks out a toy rocket, given to him by Regan, that makes sounds, we learn why they're so quiet: An insect-like creature appears out of nowhere and kills him.
 A year later, the remaining Abbotts are living on a farm.  Lee is taking care of his family, using a radio to try and find other survivors, and working on an earpiece to help his daughter Regan hear.  Evelyn is pregnant and getting ready for the birth of their newest child.  Regan is dealing with her guilt over the death of Beau, and Marcus is nervous about the ever-present possibility that the creatures will return.  While the family do certain normal things (like playing Monopoly with cloth pieces), they've also soundproofed their house and still live in fear.  And the creatures are still around -- and show up at almost any noise...
A Quiet Place works pretty well.  The movie (directed by star John Krasinski) wisely holds off showing most of the creatures until the end, giving us the knowledge that they're fast, deadly, and alien-appearing.  (We never find out where they came from.)  The cast does very well, showing a family trying to stay together in a world where sounds can lead to death.  And the presence of so much silence creates great tension, as actions we wouldn't normally think twice about can be a signal for the monsters to show up.  A Quiet Place is a solid horror movie.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

4.01.2018

MUSE

Lots of games have someone giving clues to their teammates, but none do it quite like Muse.  This game, from Quick Simple Fun Games and supporting almost any number of players, creates a unique challenge for someone to act as Muse for their fellow players.

Players divide themselves into teams; a team can have as few as two players, but I'd recommend at least three players on a team, to facilitate discussion.  A team wins by collecting five Masterpiece cards.  Each turn, a team selects one player to be the Muse.  The team to the Muse's left looks at six Masterpiece cards (with slightly surreal art, reminiscent of Dixit) and two Inspiration cards (which each have an instruction, like "Name a nonfictional body part" or "make a facial expression").  The team then picks one combination of Masterpiece and Inspiration card to give to the Muse, and the Muse gives a clue based on the Inspiration card that will lead the team to that Masterpiece card.
But it's not over yet.  After the Muse gives the clue, the other team shuffles the selected Masterpiece card with the other five Masterpiece cards, and all six are laid out for the Muse's team.  Using only the Muse's clue, the Muse's team has to try and pick the Muse's Masterpiece card.  If they pick the Muse's card, their team keeps it and it counts towards their score.  If they pick the wrong one, the team to the Muse's left gets to keep the Masterpiece card instead.  Then the next team in clockwise order selects a Muse, and the game continues.
Muse works extremely well.  The rules are extremely simple, which is key for a party game.  Players want to find the most incongruous mix of Masterpiece and Inspiration card, to make things hard for the opposing Muse.  Not being able to see the other Masterpiece cards also makes things challenging, as the Muse doesn't know how many cards their clue can apply to.  And there's quite a variety of possible clues with the Inspiration cards, which makes it very impressive when one team guesses a seemingly impossible Masterpiece card -- or seeing afterwards how the clue applied to a missed Masterpiece card.  Muse is simple to learn, challenging to play, and fun with its combinations.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

3.26.2018

UNSANE

Sometimes a skilled director can elevate material that would otherwise be routine.  This is not the case with Unsane, a movie directed by Steven Soderbergh that aims for psychological drama but is pretty superficial.

Sawyer (Claire Foy) is a young, independent woman with a good job in the city.  When she freaks out during a date, she looks up victims of stalking online and takes a trip to a mental institution.  She fills out some "standard" forms, talks to a therapist -- and finds herself involuntarily committed there for seven days.
Sawyer wants to get out as soon as possible, but her tendency to get in fights (sometimes physically) with the other patients and the staff makes this unlikely.  She befriends patient Nate (Jay Pharoah), who advises her to keep her head down and let the seven days pass quickly; he also has an illegal cell phone, which Sawyer uses to keep in tough with the outside world.
Sawyer really freaks out when she sees employee David Strine (Joshua Leonard), who Sawyer is convinced is her stalker, a man who traveled several states to follow her and kept harassing her at her work and home.  No one believes her, though, and she has no evidence that David is anything other than another worker at the mental institution.  Is Sawyer insane?  Is David playing a long and deadly game?  Does it matter that Unsane was shot entirely with an iPhone?  (The answer to the last question is no.)

Unsane is a disappointment.  While protagonists don't have to be perfect, Claire Foy doesn't give us much to make us root for Sawyer, even when everything seems to be stacked against her.  (Nate says she's in her situation because healthcare tricks patients into being committed for as long as their insurance will pay for it.)  The is-she-or-isn't-she-insane isn't that interesting, and it eventually degenerates into grindhouse-level luridness.  And Soderbergh can't do anything to improve any of this.  Unsane is a big disappointment.

Overall grade: D
Reviewed by James Lynch

3.21.2018

LOVE, SIMON

High school has seen plenty of improvements and still has its share of angst and navigation.  Love, Simon is a movie that explores this world through the eyes of someone's big secret.

Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) is a high school senior with a very typical life.  He has a good family with with his therapist mom (Jennifer Gardner), always-joking dad (John Duhamel), and little sister (Talitha Bateman) who's always experimenting with cooking.  Simon has a nice social life at school, hanging out with his friends Leah (Katherine Langford), Abby (Alexandra Shipp), and Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.).  Simon is part of the school play, gets invited to parties, and seems well liked.
And Simon is gay -- something he doesn't tell anyone, friends or family.  When Simon reads an online confession by a closeted gay teen calling himself "Blue," Simon starts corresponding with him, using the pseudonym "Jacques."  Soon Simon is obsessed with getting messages from Blue, as they chat about what it's like being gay but not letting anyone know.
Pretty soon Simon is looking around his high school, imagining that something Blue mentioned might indicate means a classmate is Blue.  Unfortunately, annoying theater nerd Martin (Logan Miller) comes across Simon's correspondence with Blue and threatens to post them to the school unless Simon helps Martin get with Abby.  This puts Simon in a rough spot, since Nick is interested in Abby.

Love, Simon is a mix of drama and comedy, and it's a nice movie.  The movie takes a pretty even-handed approach to Simon's several dilemmas (though the ending may go a little over the top with the high school's acceptance) and it's a fairly realistic look at the teenage dramas that are part of high school.  Nick Robinson is quite good as the regular guy with his one big secret, and the rest of the cast is solid.  (Kudos to Tony Hale as the vice-principal trying way to hard to be cool and fit in with his students.)  Love, Simon is a sweet, good movie.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

3.17.2018

DRAGON FARKLE

What happens when a popular push-your-luck dice game adds in player-to-player combat -- and a dragon?  You get Dragon Farkle, a game from Z-Man Games for 2-5 players where players work the dice and combat each other to raise an army and attack a dragon.

Players use their six six-sided dice, plus an Event Die, to raise an army or combat each other.  Players also get a Companion card (which affects the turns) and a Magic Item (which helps the player, but is discarded after use; players can also only have one Magic Item at a time).

To recruit soldiers, a player rolls their dice and Event Die.  If a player's dice combination earns them soldiers, those soldiers are placed over the player's mat and the dice used are set aside.  If a player didn't get any soldiers, they Farkle, losing any soldiers and Magic Items earned that turn and ending their turn.  If the Event Die came up blank, nothing happens.  If the Event Die shows a Dragon, it eats any soldiers earned that turn; if a player didn't get any soldiers, the Dragon lets them ignore the Farkle and either continue or end their turn.  And if a Rally side (represented by axes) shows up, a player can either double the number of soldiers they'd get on that roll, or get a Magic Item.
 If a player earned soldiers, they choose to either end their turn or continue.  Ending the turn means all the Soldiers and Magic Items earned move onto the player's mat.  If a player continues, they roll any remaining dice, possibly earning more soldiers -- or losing all the soldiers they earned that turn if they Farkle.

Attacking another player is very similar to recruiting soldiers.  The attacking player rolls the six dice and Event Die, earning soldiers (unless they Farkle).  The defending player rolls five dice and the Event Die, earning soldiers.  After both sides roll, the side with more soldiers steals soldiers from the losing side equal to the difference in the soldiers earned that turn; the winning side also gets 500 soldiers from the stockpile.
When a player has 5000 or more soldiers, they can try to win the game by attacking the dragon.  The dragon takes three damage to kill.  A player rolls the six dice and the Event Die.  A Dragon on the Event Die does one damage to the dragon, a Rally does two damage to the dragon, and the blank side does no damage.  However, the results of the scoring dice are subtracted from the player's soldiers.  If the player Farkles, or runs out of soldiers, their turn ends, the player loses their Companion card and gets a new one, and the dragon heals all damage.  A player who hasn't lost all their soldiers can choose to stay and attack the dragon again on their next turn, or they can recruit soldiers or fight other players.  The first player to defeat the dragon wins!

Dragon Farkle is enjoyable, if not radically different from its source game.  The sword and sorcery aspect of the game works well, and the push-your-luck element remains intact, whether recruiting soldiers, fighting other players, or trying to slay the dragon.  This is a nice game, moreso for people who like both Farkle and Dungeons & Dragons.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch