Tuesday, April 17, 2018

2018 Geek Madness - Final Four!

We are down to the Final Four! So, for those that haven't kept up - it is that time of year again! Time for the 15th Geek Madness Tournament. Each year, folks get to vote on their favorite games in head-to-head matchups to determine the best! Past winners:

Past Champions of the Aldie Award:
2017: The Castles of Burgundy
2016: Power Grid
2015: 7 Wonders
2014: Android: Netrunner
2013: Android: Netrunner
2012: Agricola
2011: Agricola
2010: Power Grid
2009: Twilight Struggle
2008: Power Grid
2007: Power Grid
2006: Power Grid
2005: Puerto Rico
2004: Tigris and Euphrates


The full 2018 bracket

Last year's title winner (Castles of Burgundy) was eliminated in the previous round of 8. We have a new title guaranteed to make the finals against two classics - one that has won the tournament multiple times and the other a two-time runner-up. The new games I haven't played at all, so I'm going to pick solely based on which I'd rather play if I only had the opportunity to try one or the other.

Terraforming Mars vs Gloomhaven
I predicted this as the likely showdown last week. Two new hotness games. Let's start with Terraforming Mars.

What I think I know about Terraforming Mars: card driven (though not a deck builder) game, engine building game, asymmetrical player factions, slight nod to tactics over long term strategy, medium (towards the heavier side) of Euros.

What I think I know about Gloomhaven: dungeon crawler, legacy game, card driven, branching quest-story.

So far, I have avoided Terraforming Mars due to its length and a number of reviews that have indicated that there is a fair bit of luck of the draw with cards and a lot of card reading that needs to be done. If this was a 90 minute game, that'd be ok, but a 2+ hour game makes me hesitant to try this. It is likely the kind of game I'd enjoy playing at least once. On the other hand, I love fantasy games with a campaign, but this game has a couple of reviews that have kept me away (that and the price of the game, but since we are assuming I got the opportunity to play one or the other of these two, that isn't the consideration here). Things I've read that don't sound fun: make or break decision points (anyone that ever read a choose your own adventure book as a kid and kept their finger in the last section they were at knows why this sort of thing is obnoxious), setup and teardown, and between game maintenance. I have Descent 2nd ed (which I love) and a lot of it. It lets me play solo, co-op or head-to-head, campaign or Diablo (random dungeon) style, and is in my head, quick.

So how do I choose? I waffled on this one a lot. In the end I picked Terraforming Mars. Gloomhaven would be one where the satisfaction would come from playing it a bunch and experiencing the life of the campaign and the growth of the heroes. All I'd really get out of a single play would be an understanding of the mechanics. With Terraforming Mars, I'd at least get a chance to see if this is something I'd really like, or if it is just the next "Agricola hotness", which I feel it may be. Being that doesn't make it bad or mean I wouldn't enjoy it, but it seems as though a lot of the appeal and hype is from the same player crowd. Regardless, if I had to pick one to sit and play, Terraforming Mars would be my choice. Lucky for me, it sounds like the app version is coming soon and I'll actually get to try it out sooner or later.

Ticket to Ride vs Power Grid
This is an amazing match up of what are now "classic" games. I've written about the two before, so if you want my thoughts on why I like each please go back and check my previous posts.

So how do I pick the "better game"? If I use the same standard as I did for Terraforming Mars and Gloomhaven - which game would I rather sit and play if I had to pick one - I might say that it depends on who I would be sitting down with at the table and how many of us there were (which feels like I'm looking at my two kids looking at me while I pick my favorite).

For two or three players, Power Grid is just no good, while Ticket to Ride really shines. For 4-6 players, both games are excellent, but Ticket to Ride is easier for newer players. But if the 4-6 players are gamers, Power Grid is SOOOOOO good. When I first got into gaming, it was probably 6 months of weekly game nights before I played the same game twice and I'm sure that Power Grid is the first game I got to replay. After a little while, I could get a game of PG in just about every week and never minded if I did. On the surface, it all seems very straight forward, but the depth of manipulation needed to do well at the game is what makes this one a perennial champion in this tournament.

After more than 10 years, Ticket to Ride has not only survived, but thrived because of the things that make it a great game. Large number of expansion maps that make the game interesting and different without completely overhauling the experience (note, this is also the same for Power Grid), really good for any number of players (2-6), and quick turns with simple enough choices that a new player isn't overwhelmed, but interesting enough decisions in the game for experienced gamers to want to play.  A family game that gamers can enjoy.

In the end, I voted for Power Grid. While both games are excellent and while it certainly sounds like I was making an argument for Ticket to Ride, I've just had more "great" gaming moments playing Power Grid. Not that Ticket to Ride hasn't been for me, because any game that I can play with my family and gamer friends is a great game.

So there you have it. If you too want to vote, go let your voice be heard! Vote at: 2018 Geek Madness Tournament: Round 6 - Final Four


See you next round and be sure to check us out at PunchBoard Media!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

2018 Geek Madness - Elite 8

We are down to 8 finalists! So, for those that haven't kept up - it is that time of year again! Time for the 15th Geek Madness Tournament. Each year, folks get to vote on their favorite games in head-to-head matchups to determine the best! Past winners:

Past Champions of the Aldie Award:
2017: The Castles of Burgundy
2016: Power Grid
2015: 7 Wonders
2014: Android: Netrunner
2013: Android: Netrunner
2012: Agricola
2011: Agricola
2010: Power Grid
2009: Twilight Struggle
2008: Power Grid
2007: Power Grid
2006: Power Grid
2005: Puerto Rico
2004: Tigris and Euphrates


The full 2018 bracket

Normally, I vote for all the games I really enjoy, but this year I only voted when I've played both the games in a match up. That being said, we are now down to the wire, so I'm voting in all the matches and here are my thoughts.

Castles of Burgundy vs Terraforming Mars
As I said last week, I really like CoB and would happily play it in most settings. Like a lot of Feld's games, it is a point salad, but it doesn't feel like a point salad bar (which I think a lot of his designs tend towards). This feels well crafted and purposeful which is likely part of why it is so highly ranked.

Terraforming Mars was last year's hotness in Euro games. For me, the two biggest reasons I haven't tried it have been game length, and from everything I've read, there is a bit of a learning curve and possibly an issue with the luck of the draw on tech cards (a flaw found in lots of games like Race for the Galaxy, Agricola, etc). I've also read a fair bit of commentary about knowing who was going to win long before the game was over. All things that have kept me from being excited about playing it.

So, game I like vs game I'm pretty luke-warm about trying? CoB gets the vote.

Gloomhaven vs Agricola
Hmmm. To recap: Agricola is a very good game (I prefer Caverna, but to each their own). Agricola was THE heavy game that finally knocked PR off its throne and opened the door for people to admit that other games were superior. As mentioned, I prefer Agricola's spiritual successor Caverna for a couple of reasons. The first is it feels more accessible to play when you don't play much. Agricola has a LOT of cards and the best way to play the game involved drafting at the start to ensure you have some synergy, but that also means having more than a passing knowledge of the base cards and what you are seeing. The other thing about Agricola that I don't love (which I know Agricola fans disagree with me about) is that it feels like I spend most of the game trying to figure out how to feed my family instead of how to build a good game engine. I get it. I also know that if I played it more, I'd probably get over that as I got familiar with it, but I just don't want to put the effort into it when I feel like I can get what I want from a similar, but different game.

Gloomhaven is definitely the kind of game that I should really like - a campaign dungeon crawler in a legacy format that gives you your own gaming story. I suspect that if someone handed me the game, I'd have a great time with it and would easily vote for it over Agricola (because really, this is vote for your favorite game).

So which did I vote for? Well, a BGG user (MisterG) summed it up pretty succinctly for me:
I suspect a lot of Gloomhaven votes come from folks looking to justify spending a great deal of money on one game and/or are still enjoying the dopamine rush of a new gaming experience. Here's my bet: within five years, Gloomhaven fans will have moved on to the next big thing (or several) and its ratings will have fallen below workhorse Agricola. Agricola has its coterie of haters, and I understand their enmity, but nonetheless, it has stood the test of time admirably. I don't believe that will happen with Gloomhaven.
Since I've not played Gloomhaven, I really have a hard time saying that it is the better game. I don't love Agricola, but I respect the game, so I voted for Agricola.

Power Grid vs Through the Ages
This wasn't even a matchup that I had to think about. Again. One of the best games of all time against a flawed game? Yeah, pretty simple in my mind. You can call PG an exercise in math, but if that's all it was, it wouldn't have won this tournament 5 times since 2005. PG kicks ass because it is a kick ass auction game where sometimes the best thing you can do is sandbag a little. Playing the timing and manipulating the other players idea of what the timing actually is through the auction is what makes this such a wonderful game. Honestly, most of games I'd feel compelled to think about as better than PG didn't make it this far in the contest. If PG and TtR win this round, it will be tough choice for me, but not against TtA...

For those that have been living in a cave and don't know how I feel about it - Through the Ages is the board game version of the amazing Civ series of computer games. Not the official one, but really - who are we trying to kid? I loved Civ - I bought a PC back in the early 90s just to play Civ. The first time I played TtA, I was in love. Then I played it some more and honestly it didn't take that long for me to realize that TtA is not a good game. There, I said it. NOT A GOOD GAME. It is a long heavy game (which is perfectly fine by me), but it is a bash the loser game. And if you are the loser, sorry, there is no catchup mechanism, you are just screwed and will play out the rest of the game in misery. The worst part is, you might be the loser due to pure bad luck in the early part of the game. Military is king early and you might not be able to get the things that others are getting. If so, they have no incentive to attack anyone else with power and you will get repeatedly bashed. Thematically it makes sense, but it doesn't make the game enjoyable.

Ticket to Ride vs Pandemic Legacy
Ticket to Ride is one of my top ten games for a good reason. The base game itself is a wonderful gateway game that I still enjoy. The map variants tweak each game in small but interesting ways. The reason this game is so good is that it is both accessible to new players and still has interesting decisions for experienced gamers. And by still, I mean that I will still play this game anytime someone suggests it. It is good regardless of the number of players and honestly, I have enjoyed every single map I've played. It is just a good game...

Pandemic Legacy got a lot of love a couple of years ago. I didn't really spend any time reading up on it because I have a copy of the game and didn't want ANY spoilers. I'm normally not a huge co-op guy, but the general buzz about this game at least lead me to consider it enough to get a copy.

That being said, I cannot see a legacy co-op game being ahead of Ticket to Ride for me. My family and I just like the game too much for that.

Now, as of this write-up, my top two picks are losing by a large margin and my last two picks look to be the winning ones. If that holds true, then it looks like one powerhouse classic is going to go up against one of the new hotnesses. We'll see who actually makes the final four and if you want to vote for your favorite (or against a game you dislike), please do so at - 2018 Geek Madness Elite 8

See you next round and be sure to check us out at PunchBoard Media!

Thursday, April 05, 2018

2018 Geek Madness Sweet 16

Sheesh, been so busy personally since the start of this beast, and now we are already down to the Sweet 16 this week! So, for those that haven't kept up - it is that time of year again! Time for the 15th Geek Madness Tournament. Each year, folks get to vote on their favorite games in head-to-head matchups to determine the best! Past winners:

Past Champions of the Aldie Award:
2017: The Castles of Burgundy
2016: Power Grid
2015: 7 Wonders
2014: Android: Netrunner
2013: Android: Netrunner
2012: Agricola
2011: Agricola
2010: Power Grid
2009: Twilight Struggle
2008: Power Grid
2007: Power Grid
2006: Power Grid
2005: Puerto Rico
2004: Tigris and Euphrates


The full 2018 bracket

Normally, I vote for all the games I really enjoy, but this year I'm voting only when I've played both the games in a match up. I thought I'd share my basic thoughts on the 26 matchups I did vote on. I've found that unlike the real March Madness Basketball tourney, there isn't much chance for a Cinderella story. A game might upset someone in the first round or two, but the heavy hitters pretty much put them in their place sooner rather than later. So here are my Sweet 16 votes.

Castles of Burgundy vs Puerto Rico
These are two well respected games (numbers 11 and 14 respectively on the all time BGG Top 100). I really like CoB and would happily play it in most settings. Like a lot of Feld's games, it is a point salad, but it doesn't feel like a point salad bar (which I think a lot of his designs tend towards). This feels well crafted and purposeful which is likely part of why it is so highly ranked.

Puerto Rico was king of the hill for a LONG time, but the evolution of heavy euros has shown us that there are better ways for games to do things. I am not a fan (so yeah, I voted for CoB). I know that there are a lot of folks that still love and play PR, and I liked it in the beginning too. This (like lots of games) is best when all the players are of a similar experience level, so after being introduced, I desired to learn the game more so that I didn't feel like I was throwing the game when playing with my regular group (major flaw #1 - player to the left of the newb has an advantage). Luckily for me, this was one of the first games to have an app developed for it (albeit for the PC). I acquired a copy and played the crap out of it (its pretty fast solo against AI). What I found was - there just isn't that many interesting choices. The game felt scripted (which is honestly why I don't love Chess as well) and it never felt like you could make interesting choices if something was not working out for you. Couple that with the kingmaker flaw I just mentioned and the fact that better games came out after it means that this was a pretty easy match up as far as I was concerned. I likely would have picked about anything (maybe not, I'm going to claim hatred for some of the other games below) over PR - put PR up against a GOOD game, and it isn't close.

Carcassonne vs Agricola
This was an interesting matchup to me. Agricola is a very good game (I prefer Caverna, but to each their own). Agricola was THE heavy game that finally knocked PR off its throne and opened the door for people to admit that other games were superior. As mentioned, I prefer Agricola's spiritual successor Caverna for a couple of reasons. The first is it feels more accessible to play when you don't play much. Agricola has a LOT of cards and the best way to play the game involved drafting at the start to ensure you have some synergy, but that also means having more than a passing knowledge of the base cards and what you are seeing. The other thing about Agricola that I don't love (which I know Agricola fans disagree with me about) is that it feels like I spend most of the game trying to figure out how to feed my family instead of how to build a good game engine. I get it. I also know that if I played it more, I'd probably get over that as I got familiar with it, but I just don't want to put the effort into it when I feel like I can get what I want from a similar, but different game.

Carcassonne is really whole different category of game. Carc is a tile laying game that could be considered a gateway game. It also has a slew of expansions that make the game interesting and different in lots of ways. I have played a TON of Carc, because Carc was one of the first (and still best) conversion apps on the iPad. A lot of expansions have been released and I the easy online and async play made this a game I kept playing. I also learned quickly that this is a dick game - it invites play that will piss you and the other players off. That's when I stopped playing it as much. I pretty much only play this two players now (as lots of players is slow and chaotic) and even then, somewhat infrequently.

So which did I vote for? I voted for Carc, because honestly if there were two games forming and I had my choice of which to play, I'd probably opt for Carc and hope I didn't flip the table (or have it flipped on me). Kidding aside, I'm just more familiar with Carc (honestly in my two game scenario, I'd probably see if the Agricola group would consider Caverna instead first).

Power Grid vs Pandemic
This wasn't even a matchup that I had to think about. One of the best games of all time against a co-op with the Alpha player flaw? Yeah, pretty simple in my mind. You can call PG an exercise in math, but if that's all it was, it wouldn't have won this tournament 5 times since 2005. PG kicks ass because it is a kick ass auction game where sometimes the best thing you can do is sandbag a little. Playing the timing and manipulating the other players idea of what the timing actually is through the auction is what makes this such a wonderful game.

I've read that Pandemic Legacy is amazing, but that wasn't the match up here, so bye bye silly co-op game.

Through the Ages vs Stone Age
For those that have been living in a cave (in the stone age) and don't know, Through the Ages is the board game version of the amazing Civ series of computer games. Not the official one, but really, it is - who are we trying to kid? I loved Civ - I bought a PC back in the early 90s just to play Civ. The first time I played TtA, I was in love. Then I played it some more and honestly it didn't take that long for me to realize that TtA is not a good game. There, I said it. NOT A GOOD GAME. It is a long heavy game (which is perfectly fine by me), but it is a bash the loser game. And if you are the loser, sorry, there is no catchup mechanism, you are just screwed and will play out the rest of the game in misery. The worst part is, you might be the loser due to pure bad luck in the early part of the game. Military is king early and you might not be able to get the things that others are getting. If so, they have no incentive to attack anyone else with power and you will get repeatedly bashed. Thematically it makes sense, but it doesn't make the game enjoyable.

Stone Age is a mediocre worker placement game. It was a good game for its time, but the mechanics were done better in the game that came after it. That being said, it doesn't suck like TtA, so it got my vote. I'm not foolish enough to think it matters, but I just can't say that TtA is the better game - it isn't.

Dominion vs Ticket to Ride
So, the Granddaddy of all deckbuilder games (Dominion) vs what is arguably the best gateway game and series of games? Let me break it down for you. Dominion is not that great. Honestly, Thunderstone came out shortly after Dominion and it was miles better. It didn't take long for deck/dice/bag builders to take the fundamental mechanic and do more interesting and less flawed things with it. Is Dominion a train wreck of a game? No, it just is boring to me. I'd rather do yard work than play Dominion (and if you know me, you know I hate yard work).

Ticket to Ride? One of my top ten games. The base game itself is a wonderful gateway game that I still enjoy. The map variants tweak each game in small but interesting ways. The reason this game is so good is that it is both accessible to new players and still has interesting decisions for experienced gamers. And by still, I mean that I will still play this game anytime someone suggests it. It is good regardless of the number of players and honestly, I have enjoyed every single map I've played. It is just a good game...

And there were my picks. There were a number of matchups I didn't do (obviously since I only talked about 5 of the 8) - Gloomhaven vs Scythe (GH is currently leading), 7 Wonders vs Terraforming Mars (TM is winning), and Terra Mystica vs Pandemic Legacy (PL leading). I may have to vote for what I know in the coming rounds - we'll see how I feel.

See you next round and be sure to check us out at PunchBoard Media!

Monday, March 12, 2018

2018 Geek Madness - Round 1

It is that time of year again! Time for the 15th Geek Madness Tournament. Each year, folks get to vote on their favorite games in head-to-head matchups to determine the best! Past winners:

Past Champions of the Aldie Award:
2017: The Castles of Burgundy
2016: Power Grid
2015: 7 Wonders
2014: Android: Netrunner
2013: Android: Netrunner
2012: Agricola
2011: Agricola
2010: Power Grid
2009: Twilight Struggle
2008: Power Grid
2007: Power Grid
2006: Power Grid
2005: Puerto Rico
2004: Tigris & Euphrates


The full 2018 bracket
Normally, I vote for all the games I really enjoy, but this year I'm voting only when I've played both the games in a match up. I thought I'd share my basic thoughts on the 26 matchups I did vote on. I've found that unlike the real March Madness Basketball tourney, there isn't much chance for a Cinderella story. A game might upset someone in the first round or two, but the heavy hitters pretty much put them in their place sooner rather than later. So here are my first round votes.

Caverna vs A Game of Thrones
This was the first matchup I found where I've played both games and it was a tough pick. I enjoy both game a lot, but I went with AGoT because not only is it a great game, but I have some vivid recollections of past games, something Caverna hasn't done.

Puerto Rico vs Modern Art
PR was fine when it came out and there weren't better choices, but there are so many better games out there. Modern Art may be the best pure auction game ever made.

Trajan vs Splendor
Trajan is one of Feld's more interesting games, but Splendor is such a good gateway game that is still fun for gamers that I had to pick Splendor.

TS vs Santorini
Another hard choice for me. Santorini is a really good abstract - a spacial one at that. But Twilight Struggle is full of angst and oozing with theme. Maybe you have to have been a child of the Cold War to understand, but TS is such a good game.

Concordia vs Glory to Rome
While I think Glory to Rome might be better than Race for the Galaxy, it is not even in the same league as Concordia.

Galaxy Trucker vs Roll for the Galaxy - GT
This was a tough choice. I liked Roll for the Galaxy better than the original by a hair, and while I like Galaxy Trucker, the timed chaos of the game isn't really my thing. I went with Galaxy Trucker her almost entirely because I like the iOS app implementation so much.

Ra vs King of Tokyo/New York
I think that if King of [whatever] wins here, it will be because Ra is old enough that it has fallen out of people's minds. Ra is far and away the better of these two choices in games.

Five Tribes vs Castles of Mad King
This was something of a toss up for me. Both are fine games and I have no argument for why I picked Five Tribes over CoMK other than that's how I felt when I voted.

Mansions of Madness vs Go
This is a tough matchup in that the two choices are so very different. Go is the classic abstract - beautiful and deep. MoM is the modern horror tale game (so modern it uses an electronic app). I don't buy the argument against MoM because of the app - it was not the first game to use electronics as a supplement to the game (Stop Thief and Dark Tower come to mind as games that had a computer assistant to the game long before we all had smart phones and tablets). I picked MoM because I'd just rather play it than I would Go.

Eldritch Horror vs Memoir 44
Another horror story game vs a simplistic war-game. Don't get me wrong, I think Memoir 44 is a good game - I played a lot of it. I'm just at a place where I really like the Lovecraftian stuff and EH is really a top notch game.

Carc vs Star Realms
I suspect that Carc will win this fight, but I voted for Star Realms. Star Realms is such a good little on-the-fly deckbuilder game.

Crokinole vs Netrunner
I never really got into Netrunner and Crokinole is such a great dexterity game. Not much of a choice for me.

Race For the Galaxy vs Troyes
I think Race is HIGHLY overrated and Troyes is one of the best use of dice in a eurogame, so you can see why I'd pick Troyes here.

Mage Knight vs Ora et Labora
Mage Knight was fun, it just wasn't 6+ hours fun. I think Ora is one of the better Ewe games, so again, this was an easy pick for me.

Pandemic vs Russian Railroads
Alpha player co-ops just don't do it for me. Russian Railroads isn't the best of the worker placement games by a long shot, but I'd rather play it than Pandemic.

Through the Ages vs Shogun
I loved Civ on the computer and loved TtA when I first played it, but it didn't take much for me to feel that it was flawed. A long "bash the loser game" is not my idea of a good time. That doesn't mean Shogun was the default choice either, because Shogun is a great game and a lot of fun.

Patchwork vs Roborally
I'm a software developer by profession, so you'd think a programming game would be my thing, but there is too much chaos and not enough fun for me in Roborally. Patchwork is a fine two-player game and easily is my preferred choice between these two.

Orleans vs Shadows over Camelot
Orleans is easily one of my favorite game from the past couple years. It will have to be a much better game than a mediocre co-op to best this one.

Tigris and Euphrates vs Alhambra
Tigris is a decent game (arguably one of Knizia's best games), but it is dry as the Arizona desert. Alhambra is a good though not great game. I went with which I'd rather play.

Eclipse vs Innovation
Innovation was horrible. I'd have even picked Dominion over Innovation here. The fact that Eclipse is a good game didn't even matter.

Marco Polo vs Battle Line
Marco Polo is one of a handful of newer games that found a great way to use dice in a Euro. Battle Line is a fine two player bluffing game, but Marco is better.

Terra Mystica vs Imperial
I'm a fan of the Rondel, but Imperial was long and dry. Terra Mystica is a pretty good game and easily was the better choice for me here.

Lords of Waterdeep vs Bohnanza
Nothing wrong with the bean trading game, but it doesn't beat out one of the top worker placement games ever.

AH: TCG vs Alchemists
Maybe I choose Alchemists because I already picked MoM and EH. Maybe. Alchemists is a great deduction game that is a lot of fun.

Dominion vs Love Letter - LL
Sorry big D, Love Letter wins over whatever you were selling. There are so many better Deck Builders out there now. Like PR before you, I acknowledge your place in history, then I vote for some stupid little card game instead because I don't like you.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar vs Kingdom Builder
When Tzolk'in came out, there was a lot of hype around it. I found it to be ok, but it didn't latch onto me like it did others. Combine that by putting it up against one of my all time favorites? Not even close. Kingdom Builder by a mile.

See you next round and be sure to check us out at PunchBoard Media!

Friday, March 09, 2018

Cult of the Not So New March 2008

BGG user JonMichael Rasmus (jmsr525) has been doing analysis of the games and their trends each month for what seems like forever. I thought it might be interesting to look back at what was so hot 10 years ago. So sit back and enjoy this blast from the past. Based on information in the geeklist - BGG Top 100 Analysis March 2008

Prime Movers 
In the Year of the Dragon +11 to #60
Ok Feld fans, remember this? After Rum and Pirates, Feld expanded on his start of his Alea Big Box run with ItYotD. For those that are not familiar with this game and are thinking that you missed out on some yummy point salad, well, not really. There are different ways to score points for sure, but this game is all about mitigating and avoiding all the bad things that are coming - a design that would also be seen in his next game, Notre Dame. This is a game that feels like I'm trying not to lose more than the other players, rather than trying to win. I played it a bit online (there is an async version available to play on MaBiWeb) and decided that while there is nothing wrong with the game, it just wasn't really a game I got excited about. I think a lot of the hype at the time was around how different it was from a lot of the Euros that were currently popular (remember, Puerto Rico was still a big thing 10 years ago).

Falling Stars for December
NONE! Fallingest star was Louis XIV dropping a few more spots out to #90. Louis XIV was/is the first in Alea's Medium Box line of games (released 2005). Something of an area control/influence game, players are trying to gather influence in the Sun King's court. The game's rules were pretty bad by Alea standards, but the game itself wasn't terribly hard to learn. It was a cool little game except for one thing - there was a set collection portion to scoring points and unfortunately it was totally random. At least for me, it spoiled this game. Out-planning the other players only to lose because someone got lucky isn't terribly appealing. Others must agree to some extent as Louis is sitting at #503 ten years later.

Top Ten Trends for March
Lots of games in the top ten moving around!
El Grande (+1 #5) - Today, El Grande sits just outside the top 50 at #51. Still one of the best area control games you can find. If you can't find a copy or 4 other folks to play with, you can play for free online at Yucata.de

Caylus (-1 #6) - I remember when Caylus came out. I have still never played Caylus. It was supposed to be the PR killer (and was for a while) until the next game in the list hit the market. Caylus still sits in the top 50 at #44
Agricola (+1 #7) - No surprise here. This hit gamer's tables and never looked back.

Princes of Florence (-1 #8) - Poor PoF. Auction games were starting to fall out of favor by this time as we start to see engine games, worker placement and other mechanics become more favored by designers and players. PoF now sits outside the top 100 at #116

Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization (+8 #9) - TtA continued its climb. Like Agricola, it wasn't going to go anywhere for a while. It currently sits at #22, but the revision is doing well in its place.

Age of Steam (-1 #10) - Hey look! Age of Steam was still in the Top 10! Age of Steam was one of my favorite games until Martin Wallace revised it as Steam. A lot of folks still prefer the original, but I like the mechanical changes that were made (especially how new goods got onto the board instead of the silly dice thing from the original). Regardless of whether you like Steam, AoS, or Railways of the World, the basic premise of building track and moving goods is the same and these are all really good games. Age of Steam too has fallen out of the top 100, sitting at #114, but still enjoys many dedicated fans.

Top 5 Winning Movers for March
These are the the five games that made the biggest jump up the BGG charts since the previous month (not in the top 10).

Race for the Galaxy (currently #47) - Race had early reviews as far back as Oct. 2007 stirring up gamer's desire to get their hands on this game and when it was more widely available near the end of that year, this game was THE game to be played. Not strange then that this was still climbing a couple months into 2008. This felt like a slightly more wide open version of San Juan and it was obvious from some of the things on some cards that there was going to be more to this game than just this one set of cards (and there was a lot more planned). After a few plays, I started feeling like the game is a little random and that you can have a good idea if you are going to win or lose after the first 3-4 cards are down. Well, of course its random, it is a card game, but this has never really sunk its hooks into me because of that. Last year (2017), the app version of the game and its expansions hit the market and renewed my interest in seeing how the expansions changed the game. It was fun for a bit, but even with the new cards and the ability to fight against the best AI I've seen in a game, I don't know that my initial impression has changed all that much.

Combat Commander: Europe (currently #101)  - Combat Commander is simply one of my favorite games of all time. I know that war games are not everyone's cup of tea and I know a number of people that have tried CC and said it was too random or chaotic for them. I still love this game (and in fact, embrace the chaos of war that this game injects). The main reason this game is so fantastic is that this game has a better narrative than any game I've ever played - there are more memorable moments per game than any other. I can remember more details about a number of matches from this game than I can from all other games I've played over the years. There are more highs and lows produced each session than almost any other game I've tried and I can't stop gushing about how good Combat Command is and how much fun I have when I sit down to play it. There are a lot of expansions and scenarios that have been released for CC and yet almost universally, fans of the game will tell you that they'd play the very first scenario in the game over and over because you never really know what is going to happen and each session is just that much fun. It says something in a scenario based game when you don't get bored with the very first scenario, but even if you played through all the pre-defined scenarios, the random scenario generator in the game is so well done that you have to wonder if the designer didn't make that up first and then started cobbling together stories for a random set of stuff he generated.

Brass (currently #33) - thanks to a recent KS re-release of the game, Brass is still comfortably in the top 35. I have not ever played Brass itself, though I own and have played the revision that Martin Wallace did in Age of Industry. Brass was also released late last year in digital form, so I suspect I may finally investigate the game in that format before I ever actually get a chance to play it on the tabletop. I found over the years, Martin Wallace revised a number of his designs and I have always been a big fan of the more streamlined revisions over his original work. That being said, there have been so many people whose opinions I trust that have said that I have to play Brass, so maybe I'll use this as a reminder to do so.

Struggle of Empires (currently #323) - hey look! Another Wallace game! This is also another one of those games that I never played, but I played his revised version that was used as part of the Conquest of the Empire game. Friends of mine that have played Struggle of Empires really like that game, but it is longer and (as I've been told) is best with the full complement of seven players. This is a war game, with (literally) shifting alliances. Part of the beauty of the game is the bidding system at the beginning of each round which is used to pit players against each other and create a set of alliances. Definitely a niche game, but one I think people would enjoy if they have a chance to try - this is one where you need a group that gets together regularly and likes this kind of thing, or will hook up at a convention to play it. 

Ticket to Ride: Europe (currently #89) - I can't even begin to guess why this might have made a random move up the charts 10 years ago, but the game itself is great and its hard to argue with the fact that it still sits in the top 100. Europe is its own standalone game, but only has minor differences from the original game in terms of rules/mechanics. In fact, owning only this or the original is required to play the expansion maps. I eventually sold my original game and kept this (but I have the Anniversary set, which covers my America and 1910 needs). Europe (besides being a different map) added stations and ferries (which are used a lot on other maps). Stations help players from getting shut out as much and ferries just make claiming some routes require wild cards. All in all, this is a good set to own.

And that's all for this look back at BGG history and what was hot a decade ago.

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Thursday, March 08, 2018

What Did I Play Last (week/month/2months)?

Good Lord it has been a crazy busy start to the year. February was a bit hectic (like I knew it would be) with family in town for a week and being all short (because 2-3 days less in a month makes such a big difference). Being busy meant less time for painting, playing games, and of course writing and posting. So instead of a monthly look back, I'm going to try and look back at what I played in January AND February!

Ticket to Ride: USA 1910
I started the year with an unofficial goal of playing each of the Ticket to Ride maps I have in my collection or on my iPad at least 5 times. My love, Alyson, prefers multiple plays to get a handle on the strategy for a map as opposed to jumping back and forth between maps all the time, so I thought maybe we'd play through what we have and we started with America and specifically 1910. I still enjoy the original map and like the options that are available to players through the 1910 routes. We played a couple of Big City and a bunch of "everything".  Because of the huge variance in route locations and point values, it feels a little more luck based when you play with all the tickets. About the only other thing to note about this variant - I'd rather play 1910 on the table with the Anniversary Edition set than on my iPad.

Ticket to Ride: Pennsylvania
For those that are unfamiliar with this map, Pennsylvania adds the addition of stock to the game. When a player claims a route, they often have the choice of one or more stock certificates to claim along with the route. At the end of the game, points are awarded based on how much stock you own in each company compared to other players (ie there are payouts based on 1st place, 2nd place, etc). Grabbing stock before other players makes an interesting incentive to play early rather than trying to hide your route intentions and often times, you may grab a random route because you can, not because you are trying to get anywhere. The new mechanism doesn't completely overhaul the game, but it does add a nice little twist other than just a different set of routes on a map. With only two players, you "burn" stock by picking up a share for yourself and choosing one for a dummy player as well. It makes the two player game especially good I think. Alyson took a few close losses and they started handing me my butt me on this map. One of my favorite expansion maps boxes you can get.

Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper
This is my favorite of the Mystery Rummy games and I brought it to my office to teach my game friends there. It took a game or two for the group to become fully familiar with the cards, but I think we have some fun sessions ahead of us. I really like that we can play this with any number and the game is still a blast. It still may be best for two players, but the ins and outs of trying to hold out from laying down and getting caught with playable cards adds some nice tension to this game that isn't in the other MR versions for whatever reason.


Splendor with Cities of Splendor
One of the guys I work with had brought this in and so I finally got a chance to play (and see) the various expansion modules for Splendor. He mentioned that he thought that the additional things mostly were geared towards a slightly faster game and I think I agree - for experienced players, a faster game was the most likely outcome. We only added The Orient cards in order to keep the complexity down for the other non-gamers and I liked the new cards. While this alone wouldn't justify the cost of the expansion, it could have been a mini expansion and I'd have been utterly satisfied with just it. If you like Splendor and feel like you've played it to death, this is probably a must have to rejuvenate the game.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game
I finally got around to trying this out. I've had the base game for a while and even printed out an insert for the cards. All I managed was to sleeve the cards and read through the rules. When I finally sat down and played, I played one rule incorrectly, but I enjoyed it and need to sit down with it some more. In some ways, this felt a bit like Pathfinder Adventure Card Game in that I can see that the character deck tuning will take a little time to fully understand the cards and how to play what your character can do. This kind of game - a lot of enjoyment comes from playing and setting up a deck that makes your character awesome (instead of gimpy with random cards). Of course some of the enjoyment comes from the theme and I like the way FFG sets up the episodes and ongoing story. I'm totally soloing this game and I need to play through the base set to really know how much I want to put into it. Other people I know are very enthusiastic about the game, so I may be a bit more forgiving in my initial evaluation (though my initial thoughts were that this is going to be pretty good).

And that's it for the past couple of months. Sad, I know. Like I said, it has been busy busy. Hoping things settle down a little bit here this month, but I suspect not :(

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Painting Descent - Crusade of the Forgotten

So, as part of my February Painting Challenge, I said I'd get the last hero (Astarra) from the Crusade of the Forgotten Hero and Monster collection for Descent finished. The main reason I chose her? Once finished, I'd have completed the set (and for me, completing anything is a miracle). So I did (complete painting her). I wasn't planning to detail out my work on her like I did Augur, but as I was working on her I noticed a couple of things and so I took a couple quick shots that I thought I'd share. These are kind of the thing that I typically encounter when working on minis.

First off (at least for Descent), I take a look at the art for the figure(s) to get a sense of the colors and details that might be on the figures. A lot of the monster figure art is a bit similar/bland (at least on the monster cards you get in the game), so there is a fair bit of leeway in deciding on what to do. In those cases, I also look to see what others have done with their paint jobs. Astarra's art is pretty straight forward, but like a lot of figures, the card art doesn't show all the figure (she is mostly cut off from the knees down), so I went looking for other paint jobs, and there just aren't many. Not a huge deal, just thought it was odd that so few folks have painted this figure and posted pictures. At any rate, her card was good enough to get started. I painted her skin in first and then hit her with the tan so I could lay down some yellow. As I was doing that, I realized I had missed some skin. if you look closely at the picture (I circled the offending part), you can see that I painted the back of her leg yellow. I decided I'd finish the yellow and come back to redo the leg.

Again, this kind of thing is typical for me. Once I start filling things in, I realize that something is not quite what I thought it was going to be. Now, I could have left that part of her leg yellow and honestly, nobody would have likely noticed, but I knew, so I had to fix it. Having said that, there are plenty of times I would have it something alone, but this was going to be easy enough to fix that I went ahead and corrected it. The other thing to note - when I was painting the cloth at the top of her boots, I realized there was a little leg band / ornament there. It was a detail I hadn't even noticed until I got there. That happens a fair bit to me too - I get about halfway through painting and have to stop to figure out exactly what it is that I'm painting. It can be cool to suddenly find extra details, but it can be a pain in the butt to realize you have a bunch of extra detail work you have to deal with too.

At any rate I got Astarra done and here she is along with the rest of the Heroes and Monsters - enjoy!

Golems
Medusae
Sorcerers
Andira Runehand Tahlia Tetherys Astarra

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