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Asmodee Games' 2015 holiday gift guide
The game board in Cyclades features a sea with islands. Players try to take over islands and build cities to win. - photo by Ryan Morgenegg
Asmodee Editions is one of the biggest names in board gaming. It produces hundreds of spectacular games, and among them are award-wining titles such as 7 Wonders, Timeline, Splendor, Dixit and Abyss. In time for the 2015 holiday season, here are five reviews (two of them for game expansions) featuring excellent games in all price ranges from Asmodee.

The game Mafia de Cuba ($25) is a secret role deduction game where players take on different roles and attempt to win the game according to the rules assigned to that role. The theme centers around the year 1955 in Havana, Cuba, as a group of gangsters are seated around the table. The boss has to get up and answer a phone call, leaving his precious false bottom cigar box filled with diamonds on the table.

While the boss is gone, each player must reach into the cigar box and decide to either steal some diamonds (take the role of a thief) or choose a role to play such as henchman, CIA agent or driver. Each role has a different objective to win, and all roles begin as secrets. Discovering the roles of other players is crucial to win.

When the boss comes back to the table, he or she must recover all of the stolen diamonds to win by interrogating and eventually accusing another player to empty your pockets. If a person has diamonds and is accused, he or she must surrender the diamonds and is out of the game. But the boss can ask as many questions as possible to determine who is telling the truth.

If a CIA agent is ever accused, he or she immediately wins the game. If a henchman is accused, the boss has to bribe him or her. But the boss has a limited amount of bribes, so the boss can lose if he or she accuses too many people incorrectly. A henchman wins if the boss wins. A thief wins if the game ends and he or she still has the most stolen diamonds. The driver wins if the player on his or her right wins.

The fun of the game comes as players pursue their separate agendas to try to win by taking on the games secret roles. Sometimes player goals come in direct conflict. The boss has to investigate thoroughly and be wary of falsely accusing other players. One game played for this review resulted in an immediate win when the boss accused the CIA agent first.

An expansion to the game, Mafia de Cuba: Revolucion ($20) introduces more roles to play in the game such as the revolutionaries, the diamond lover, the crooked lawyer, the traitor and a false green diamond that grants immunity for a turn. Each role has different win conditions.

If someone possesses the fake diamond and is accused, he or she can surrender the fake diamond and stay in the game. If accused again, the player must surrender any real diamonds or be bribed if he or she possesses no diamonds. The traitor wins by eliminating the boss and continuing on to recover the diamonds. The revolutionaries win if falsely accused and by exclaiming viva la revolucion! The crooked lawyer joins forces with whoever is most appealing and the diamond lover wants to get caught so he or she can share a win with another character.

There are a number of secret role games on the market, but Mafia de Cuba is unique, addictive and absolutely a blast to play. It will keep a game party interesting and the fun rolling along. If people are squeamish about telling fibs in a game, this is not the game to buy. The expansion adds some fun new content but the base game is perfect as it is. This is a sure-fire buy for the holidays.

For those bored by the game Risk and want a game that is much better, Cyclades ($70) is a war game for two to five players set in the world of Greek mythology. The goal is to be the first player to build two cities. And the time to play is a reasonable 90 minutes.

Each turn, players must bid for the attention of one of five Greek gods that grant specific powers. For example, Poseidon allows players to build navies and ports while Zeus lets a player hire priests and build temples.

There are multiple ways to build a city and players must decide among several strategies to achieve victory. Of course Greek mythology is not complete without mythological creatures. Every turn a certain number of Greek monsters such as the minotaur, Charon and the deadly kraken are available for purchase. But be careful, monsters only last for a limited time.

The world of Cyclades can also be expanded with Cyclades: Hades, ($45) an expansion that adds the Greek god Hades and his undead armies! But he is only one of four modules that can be added. The first module contains new rules for game setup, module two introduces Hades and his undead, module three contains new monsters as well as Greek heroes and the final module introduces divine favors that can give crucial benefits to players.

The game of Cyclades is a tale of brilliant game design. The play is balanced and exciting to get into. One of the highlights is the set of detailed miniatures in the game. The mythological creatures look fantastic and beg to be painted. The Hades expansion adds flavor and more options but is not as well-balanced as the core game. Cyclades comes highly recommended for strategy war gamers this holiday season.

The card game Timeline is an award-winning design where players look at beautifully illustrated cards depicting elements of history and try to place those cards in the correct date position on the table. Timeline Challenge ($40) is based on the original game but adds a party element incorporating teams and a variety of mini-game challenges.

Each player gets a cool looking player board that contains a set of rotating dials with numbers from 0 to 9. A communal game board is placed on the table that contains a spiral track to a winners circle in the middle and a timeline featuring several time periods throughout history. Whoever wins each challenge may advance on the spiral track from zero to four spaces.

When was perfume invented? How about the compact disc? Sometimes a challenge will require knowledge of an exact date or an approximation. Awards can be given to those who get closest to the correct date in history as well.

Timeline Challenge is a wonderful game, and the addition of team play and separate challenges in this version was ingenious. Know that cards from the original game can be used in this game and there is plenty of room for storage. This is a great game that can involve every member of the family, plays up to 10 people and is for ages 10 to adult. This is a game that will not disappoint for the holidays.
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