Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Coming (VERY) Soon!

Stay tuned! 

Monday, May 22, 2017

What Did I Play This Week: May 15 - May 22

Fairly busy week (somehow I have had a busy May) this week with personal issues and my kid's diving meet that consumed most of the weekend. I'm hoping that moving in has settled a bit (though we still have boxes everywhere) so that I can get some actual table games and not just all electronic plays in. If so, I just might get Yokohama to the table yet.

Race For the Galaxy
So yeah, been playing Race a bit on the iPad. I'm trying to improve my win rate (head-to-head) against the Hard AI, but I still have a couple of slow going games against real friends as well. While the game works ok, there are a couple of issues I have with the app implementation. The online identity is by device, so I can't play my iPad games on my phone. Also, notifications are sketchy, so I don't always notice when it is actually my turn. This would get more play against my friends if it was better in those two departments. I'm on the fence about buying expansions at this point because the game is ok, but not great. I need to read some reviews of the expansions to see if they will be worth the money (at this point, I'm leaning towards no). I'm definitely getting better against the AI, but there is still room to explore by playing 3-4 player games instead of just head-to-head games.

Cthulhu Realms
I branched out a bit and have been playing against random online opponents. I've lost twice in close games. I'm about ready to go back to Star Realms, because it has a larger player base (or at least feels that way) and because I just think it is the better game. There are more options in Star Realms and the theme doesn't carry this game enough to matter. This really needs an expansion and I'm about ready to put this back onto the virtual shelf. And for all that talk, I'm really just burnt out a bit on the concept and Race is holding my attention just enough that I'm not sure I need to go back to Race either.

Kingdom Builder
Kingdom Builder is one of my favorite games. I love the puzzle solving nature of the game and I love that expansions mostly offer variations, not more complexity. it looks like an area control game, but it mostly is not. Really, players expand their areas in the ways that best allow them to score points (which can sometimes mean groups, sometimes lines, sometimes spreading out). How you score points varies every game. How you can manipulate things varies each game. In other words, it is a puzzle and whoever can do it the best (or make it hard for the others the best) wins. At some point Queen games is supposed to be FINALLY sending out the last expansion (from the Kickstarter which was supposed to ship in November of last year). With that thought in my head, I started an online game with my love. Maybe not the smartest thing to do - I absolutely destroyed her. Not the best way to get her to play it more often with me. Luckily she likes it almost as much as I do.

I had a small bit of time the other evening, so I challenged my love to a game of this on our devices (yeah, sometimes it is easier to just play on our iPads than get out a game and move to a table). I have not played this in a while and got smoked. I just didn't manage my turns very well and she did the opposite of me and scored more than double my points. Patchwork is a balance between filling in as much of your quilt as possible, while spending the time and currency better than your opponent. It isn't always possible depending on the array of pieces and your and your opponents choices, but it is fast and I like seeing if I can fill in my board better than the other player. This gets stale for me fairly quickly because there isn't much variation, but I like it in small batches.

Epic Card Game
My only "real" game played this week! Epic is a heads up card fight, not unlike Pokemon, Magic, et al. Where it differs from the CCG / LCG crowd is that it was released as a complete game. That's not 100% accurate, but it is close. Really, with a single box, you can get plenty of decent play. If you want a few more options, or want to build out decks, a couple more copies will let you do that, but with the way we play, one would have done it for us (and yet, I have three copies). Typically, my son and I (he's my only opponent) draft 30 card decks and play. This weekend, we just dealt out random "decks" and played. And this is where the beauty of Epic lies - even with 30 random cards, you can get a satisfying enough game played.The game is deep enough (deep enough that they have world championships for the game) that you can deck build and there is definitely some strategy to your play, but you don't have to have a perfect "build" in order to enjoy the game. In fact, there are TONS of cards that feel WAAAAYYY overpowered (thus the name - every card is "Epic"). We only had time for a couple games and we split the two. At some point in the next couple of months, the app form is going to hit, and I suspect that I'll be playing it a ton. This one is fast, fun and feels deep and we still enjoy it after a couple years of being around (and I haven't even looked at expanding it yet since we feel like we've barely explored it).

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Looking for Michelle Seite

What you see here is a tableau or rack for 7 Wonders Duel. This little beauty keeps your layout sane (for those of us that the layout drives insane). You can take it apart and store it and the game in the box without issue (provided you throw out your insert).

At the beginning of May, I offered to give the above print to one lucky commenter to the post. That lucky person is Michelle Seite! Michelle, I need you to contact me so I can get this sent out to you! You can send me an email - charles.hasegawa@gmail.com (I also followed you on Google+, so you can find me that way as well) or send me a message in Facebook. Heck, if you need to, leave a comment on this post (I moderate comments, so if you want to simply send me your address that way, I won't publish it).

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What Did I Play This Week: May 1 - May 15

Life is still busy. This past weekend I had two family birthdays plus Mother's day. We're still unpacking from our move, so there is still a lot of chaos and very little time for games. Mostly I'm getting in a couple digital plays here and there. This post technically covers two weeks because in the week of the 1st-8th, I only managed one little game of Cthulhu Realms. Speaking of...

Cthulhu Realms
As before, I got in a couple more games with my friend on the iOS app. One thing we kind of decided was that if a player managed to get very early 7 or 8 cost card buy in the first couple of hands, you typically destroy the other player and quickly. It is a decisive advantage. We ended up trying a game where we agreed not to purchase a 7 or 8 for the first 6 hands. I lost by a wide margin (not because of this rule, but just because my deck sucked and his didn't). The games are fast enough I don't care much, but I have to wonder if this version (vs Star Realms) is too luck dependent because of this. Having a broad range of experience with Star Realms through a large amount of league play, I know that skill overcomes luck over the long haul in Star Realms. Maybe my sample size is too low, but it feels like it is easier (because of the less varied shared deck) to gain a really powerful card early through luck.

My friend Robert was back for another beating. This time we skipped winter and played with Traders and Builders, Inns and Cathedrals, The Phantom, and The Princess and the Dragon. This game ended up even more lopsided. Robert vowed to practice some more and started another game with me that is unfinished. It has started out much closer, but we'll see how it plays out. For the record, the interface for Carcassonne is STILL one of the best that has been done for a table to application game.

Race for the Galaxy
This might be a surprise to those that know me. I haven't been a big Race fan over the years. While I do enjoy San Juan (there are some interesting designer dairies out there about where Race and San Juan came from), for whatever reason, I never really enjoyed my playings of Race. Recently the app hit iOS, so despite my earlier misgivings about the game, I download the app and began to play a good deal of this on my iPad. After revisiting it solo and getting to a point where I generally beat the medium AI, I played against my friend Matthew Frederick (who does like and own the game). I was able to get my engine going in both games and won (though I still don't know that it was skill and not luck of the draw).
I can also say this - I only beat the hard AI about 1/3 of the time, so my approach to the game doesn't appear to be the best one (unless the AI seriously cheats). So am I now a fan? I think the jury is still out. I will say that the fast play against the AI has allowed me to get a better familiarity with the cards and some of the strategies (much like playing a load of Star Realms let me start understanding that game at a different level). I still doubt very much that I play ideally. I've been mostly playing 2-player as well (vs 3-4 players when I played with actual cards). I like the two player version better I think. I also still feel like the early luck of the draw is too hard to overcome. Start out poorly and you can't catch up nor recover. I'll keep playing and see if I can't uncover better play, but so far this is only barely holding my interest more than Cthulhu Realms did.
One last note - I mentioned the interface for Carc above and the main reason I did was because it has been out since forever ago and it still has a better interface than a game that has been out like a week. How hard is it to highlight that your opponent is online when you are playing a game? If I can see that my opponent is in the game, I won't take my turn and leave to wait for a notification. The rest of the interface isn't too bad, but this one simple thing shouldn't be something I have to point out to a game that just came out.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What I'm 3D Printing Today - Not Every Print is Perfect

The last time I spoke of 3D printing, I was printing card trays for Viticulture. Basically these:

So, I printed off 5 trays and took them home to paint. I even had cans of spray paint in green, yellow, purple, blue, and orange already. I got through painting four of them.

Look decent right? The cards fit nicely (though the orange structure card stack is just a hair too tall for the rack). Well actually, they aren't ALL great. When I started painting the green one, I realized that print had had issues. The base had curled up while printing. One of the first issues I had encountered while learning the 3D printer, was getting the print to stick properly. It is important that the first layer adhere to the print bed properly for a couple of reasons. The most important being that if the print moves before the print finishes, the layers being printed won't be in the right spot. In fact, usually what happens is you end up with a giant mess. Alternately you get what happened to me. Check out the green tray here:

As you can see, the corners pulled up, which ended up warping the whole thing. I ended up tossing it and will try and reprint the trays. It'd be really nice if there was a good way to recycle the material from bad prints, but I don't know that there is a cheap or easy way to do it. For now, bad prints = trash.

There are a couple things you can do to try and mitigate print problems like this. For the printer I use, the important steps are:
  1. Clean the glass plate that the printer prints onto. You want to make sure there is no dust and no finger prints or oils on it. Either will degrade the melted plastic's ability to stick onto the glass plate.
  2. Heat the plate to a high enough temperature. If the plate is too cool, the extruded material hardens too quickly and contracts immediately. 
  3. The SPECIAL SECRET - spray something on the plate to help the print stick.
So what is the SPECIAL SECRET? Ozone killer. Aqua Net. That's right, I know I said to clean the plate, but once it is nice and clean, spray a bit of Aqua Net onto the surface.

There are other choices of course. Some folks like blue painter's tape. That worked ok for me, but was too much of a hassle between prints and often was a hassle to actually get off the bottom of the print.

Why bother, when the same stuff that gives you great 80s hair works so well? I mean, when you think about it, girls and boys in the 80s were just on the bleeding edge of 3D printing, using their hair.

Ok, that was a little off track. The main point was that the technology isn't prefect. Sure, it is pretty awesome, but it is also frustrating and inconsistent too. Like anything else, sometimes you just have to try again. So I'll re-try the print with a nice clean and freshly sprayed bed. I suspect that the next print will be just fine since the other trays appear to be fine. 

Collection Churn April 2017

I noted to Brandon Kempf (from WDYPTW) last month that my BGG numbers finally tipped - I have more previously owned games than ones that I do own now. 454 vs 438 (note that 454 is actually games + expansions - the real game number is more like 300 but whatever). Part of the reason for that stems from trying to reduce my collection to a more manageable number of games that actually get played more. Some of that comes from a maturation point in my collection - while I like new games, I stopped buying first and deciding later - I'm trying to be more conscious about what I acquire. I still impulse acquire on occassion, but I know what I like and what will get played and so there is less impulsiveness in my collection now. At any rate, I'm on a quest this year to scale down. Here is what happened last month:

Acquired: 7 Wonders Duel, Terraforming Mars, Yokohama Deluxified

I played 7 Wonders Duel a while ago and liked it and only finally got around to trading for it. I liked it enough to print a 3D playing area for it - you still have a chance to win one! Small box is also a good thing as part of the churn is due to a lack of space for all my games.

I also ended up trading for Terraforming Mars. Still not quite sure this will get the play, but it had so much buzz last year I thought I'd take a look. It is still in shrink, but my trade was local, so there was no shipping - two of my games out the door and only one came in, still on track!

My last acquisition from last month? Yokohama Deluxified. When I ordered Orleans Deluxe from TMG, I was super happy with the result. I bought a game blindly that had great buzz and was given the nice bits treatment. When they announced that Yokohama had also caught their eye and was going to be given a facelift too, I was already ready to jump in with both feet. Except that I didn't have the money when the Kickstarter was happening, so I ended up having to get it on the secondary market. I found a seller who simply submitted my address when it was time to ship. Because I just moved last week, I still haven't had a chance to break this out. Playings are coming soon!

Sold or traded:

  • Colt Express - I liked this ok, but it is too fiddly for what it is (and I don't have fat hands). The family liked it ok, but not enough that I felt like keeping it.
  • Cockroach Salad - I got this because it sounded funny. It was. For a minute. The kids enjoyed it, but it just wasn't really my thing. 
  • Carcassonne Mini Expansions - I like Carc and had purchased the 6 mini expansions, but my Big Box 2 is more than enough.
  • Can't Stop - another I like, but I didn't need the game on my shelf. There are online and app implementations when I need a fix. I also still have alternate push your luck games in my collection.
  • Trajan - a fine Feld game, but I wasn't taken enough by it to feel like it owned a spot in my collection over other games
  • Fortress America - this was something of a nostalgic keep in the first place. Loved this as a kid - never was going to get played as an adult.
  • Pandemic - I have an unopened Season 1, so don't really need the original game. I'm not a huge co-op guy anyway.
  • Small World - I still have Small World Underground and like 5 expansions I should rid myself of. SW is fine once you get past the garish art, but I don't see this hitting the table.
  • Antidote - this was an impulse buy and a game I didn't really care for. Maybe because I suck at it, but mostly because it wasn't very interesting. 
  • Pirate's Cove - a pretty good pirate game, but it too just collected dust on my shelves
  • Fire and Ice - once, I thought I'd have a big game room with cool games sitting out on display. I found this at a thrift store and thought it looked good, but it never did come out of the box.
  • Citadels - I thought the kids would like this, and they did (a little). Not enough interest to keep it around. 
  • Hive Pocket - for some reason I thought it'd be nice to have a smaller form of Hive. Nope, it is too small for me. The regular Hive isn't a huge game anyway. Not sure what I was thinking.
  • Formula Motor Racing - this was a Play-To-Win game that I won from the Geekway. Mostly a filler for 6 players. Not terribly interesting.
  • Chaos in the Old World - I like this game. I just don't get it played and probably hadn't played it in over two years. 
  • Lord of the Rings - I got this in a math trade as part of a bundle some time back. See Pandemic above - I'm just not a co-op guy. 
  • Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation Deluxe - another good game that we never ever played.
  • Glen More - I like this game, but am horrible at it. I can play online at Yucata.de if I really want. I really don't want to, so I got rid of it.
  • Skull - Like Liars Dice, but less random. Suffers at the end of the game. Liar's Dice is better IMO.
Thus far for the year: 27 sold or traded + 9 acquired for a net of -18 games or expansions. Five of the nine I've acquired were expansions (3 for Descent and the Millennium Blades card rotation), so I feel good so far about where I'm headed. 

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

New to Me May 2016 --> Did it Stand the Test of Time?

BGG user Martin G does a monthly list - New to you a year ago (date) => Has it stood the test of time? This month's list can be found at here.

For me last year, I played only a couple of new games (which was really weird since I was at the Geekway during May of last year). I recorded four new games in May of 2016 - two were new from Geekway's Play to Win Table, and the other two were also learned at the Geekway.

This hadn't been delivered from Kickstarter yet at this point last year, but Jamey Stegmaier had donated an early copy to the Geekway for the Play-To-Win table. Myself, my girlfriend Alyson and my buddy Robert managed to sit down to the first game play of Scythe at the Geekway to see what the buzz was about. Since then, I have not had a chance to play Scythe again, but here is what I remember about the game - it was beautiful. I really liked the art style and all the bits etc. As for the game itself, it felt like an odd combination of engine/euro/war game. The fighting wasn't central to the game and not in a destroy you like Risk kind of thing. There were mechanics that reminded me of Euphoria, though it wasn't really the same kind of game. My gut reaction to the game was that it was good, but I didn't see why the hype was so high. I still don't, though admittedly that was my sole play of this game ever. VERDICT: Scythe currently sits in the BGG Top 10, though from my one play, I kind of feel like that is more hype than because this is truly a Top 10 game. If I ever get to play this again, I could opine about this more appropriately. For now, I can't say anything one way or another.

Telepathy: Magic Minds
Alyson and my daughter both like deduction games, as do I. When I saw this and read the box description, I decided we should try it out (plus it has Charles Xavier on the box top). Alyson and I only played a partial game, but I enjoyed it enough and knew my daughter would like it, so when I didn't win it from the Play to Win drawings, I bought the game. The game is pretty straight forward. Each player gets a board that is a large grid of pictures (wizard hat, cauldron, deck of cards, magic hat, etc) in various colors (orange, white, black, green, etc). Each player picks one spot on the board and the other player tries to deduce what it is. You call out a grid spot - like M-8 (Orange witch's hat) and the other player says yes or no. No means that your item is not in row M, nor column 8, nor orange, nor a witch's hat. Yes can mean that any of the choices matched. So a no would mean I could mark off all of row M, all of column 8, orange and witch's hat. After a couple of no's, you can really start making better elimination choices to whittle down the selection. When a player is ready to guess, they declare so and make their choice. VERDICT: still the same as when I purchased it. The game plays quickly and is a good logic puzzle between two players who are racing to solve a similar puzzle. You can get unluck and hit a couple of "yes" choices early, which makes it harder, but a quick mind helps.

Deep Sea Adventure
Justin Heimberger and his daughter introduced this little press your luck game to us. We all pressed our luck a bit too much and we all drowned/suffocated trying to get our treasures back to our sub. You roll a die to move and the more you are carrying, the less you can move (thus the fair amount of press your luck). It is a simple little filler game that kids will probably enjoy. VERDICT: Though I only played this once, it is simple enough to know that it is what it is - just a funny little filler. Not bad nor great. There are a ton of games that fit this bill.

Christopher Darden has a number of large games that he brings to the Geekway library every year and my friend Robert and I usually end up playing one or more of them. This incredibly loud shuffleboard kind of thing was there and so of course we tried it. Basically, you are sliding really heavy wood pucks down a long chute and trying to get them to slide into the small openings to various slots. It is a bar game and yeah, it is pretty loud. Definitely one of those things you get if you have a basement with foosball, pinball, darts, etc. VERDICT: not a game I'd try and own I think, even if I had the aforementioned gamer space. There wasn't anything particularly striking about the game to me, and like I said, it is LOUD. It was a cool novelty to be sure.

So there it is. After a year, one thumb up, one that needs more play and two that didn't impress.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Cult of the NOT So New May 2007

BGG user JonMichael Rasmus (jmsr525) has been doing analysis of the games and their trends each month for, well 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 May 2007.

Primer Mover: Yspahan.
In May of 2007, Yspahan moved up 15 spots to #77 on the BGG charts. It is a dice-euro game. A group of dice are rolled at the start of each turn and grouped by their value on an action board. The board is ordered, so the bottom action always gets dice (whatever the low number group is), but the top line or two may rarely see dice (the person rolling for the round had to have rolled all the numbers). On their turn, players each pick a grouping and take an associated action. More dice makes the action more beneficial to you. This was a pretty new mechanism at the time and the game was getting good attention.

Still a Thing? In 2017, Yspahan has fallen back in the pack to #390. While new and interesting at the time, dice started getting used in more and more euros as a way to change up the flow of a game in interesting ways. In fact, Grand Austria Hotel uses a similar kind of dice allocation deal. I played a number of games of Yspahan on yucata.de and while it was ok, I never loved it, though I never could really say why. It isn't a dice thing - I like games with dice. Apparently I'm not alone in this opinion about this game though.

Falling Star: Santiago 
This month ten years ago, Santiago fell 11 spots to #81. And ten years later, that still makes me happy. I'm sorry, I just don't like this game. I only played it once and that was more than enough for me. It is a negotiation game and that plays a heavy part in the game, which I generally don't enjoy. It is (still) rated well (7.1) and I know a lot of people that really like this game, but I did not.

Still a Thing? Santiago has continued its downward trend and currently resides at #460 on the BGG charts. I do recall that this is a game that plays best with five players (BGG apparently agrees), so I'm sure that has something to do with it. Games that need large player counts don't tend to bubble their way to the top unless they are fantastic.

Hot Lava Birth: Arkham Horror
Ten years ago, this hit the top 100 at #98. I have to admit, I was surprised to see this here. Not because I was surprised this was popular (and still has fans) but because this came out in 2005 and didn't hit the top 100 until 2007. AH is a coop adventure game that drips in theme, but is fairly long. This came out when there was not generally a big market for coop games, but the Lovecraftian theme was strong and not well represented at the time, so this did well. I didn't play this until about 5 years ago and while I really wanted to like the game and liked the concept, I found it much too long for such a complicated coop and disliked the incoherent story and incredibly frustrating play.

Still a Thing? Ish. AH has fallen down to #197 on the current BGG charts. I suspect due to its length, as well as there being a lot more game choices in the field, including a number of games from the same publisher - FFG. More recently, FFG released Eldritch Horror, which in my mind lives up to the promise of everything a Lovecraftian coop story/adventure game should be. EH is so good that AH shouldn't even be at #1097 let alone the top 200.

Top Ten Trends for May 2007
El Grande and Twilight Struggle each moved up a spot while BattleLore got out of their way. All stayed in the Top Ten, just a reordering of places.

Still a Thing? Well, BattleLore has fallen back to #209 from its top 10 appearance. This sort of thing gives me hope that some current top 10 games are also flashes in the pan. BattleLore was not a bad game, but not really top 10 stuff. It also didn't help that Days of Wonder gave up the license to FFG, who in turn redid the game into a (better) 2nd edition. Twilight Struggle continued its climb over the next 10 years and is currently at #3 on the charts. El Grande, while still a classic, has fallen out to #49. Some of that may be due to scarcity. Even after the 10th year Anniversary print in 2005, El Grande was hard to find in retail stores. The game certainly still holds up, though it is a game that is really bad for players with AP. If you have never tried it, you should really try and find a copy or go play it at yucata.de

Top Five Winning Movers May 2007
These are the games that showed the greatest amount of positive upward movement outside of the top 10.
Shogun (Fifth Month!)
* Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition
* Combat Commander: Europe
* Imperial

For the fifth straight month Shogun made the list. As I mentioned last month, Shogun was a remake of Wallenstein, which while popular, was hard to get. Shogun was filling the void.

Interestingly, YINSH had been out for a while (2003), but has always been one of the more popular of the GIPF series. If you enjoy two-player abstract games, YINSH might be for you. No clue what might have caused it to bump up.

TI3 was the 2nd revision of the series, but done by FFG, which back in 2005 (when the TI3 was released) meant it came in a coffin box and weighed about 20 lbs because of all the upgraded bits. The expansion for TI3 (Shattered Empire) had come out sometime in 2006, which might have helped TI3 crawl up the charts some more. As it is, TI3 still sits in BGG's top 50.

Though I'm no Grognard, Combat Commander: Europe is my current #1 game of all time. It is a card driven chit war game, so it definitely has limited appeal, but it really is a fantastic game. It too came out in 2006, so it isn't much surprise that it started gaining traction and climbing the charts. It currently sits in BGGs top 100.

Lastly we have Imperial. This was designer Mac Gerdts second game (and the second game to feature the rondel mechanism). Imperial is a stock game set back in age of imperialism in Europe. It might feel a little like a war game, but really you are investing in the countries, not trying to conquer the world (unless that meant you were raising the value of your holdings). Imperial still has its fans, but currently just sits outside the BGG top 100. It was also redone as Imperial 2030 in 2009, though the revised version is not rated as highly as the original.

And that's all for this month's look back at May 2007