Monday, January 08, 2018

New to Me January 2017 --> Has it Stood the Test of Time?

First of all, it is terribly hard to believe that it is already 2018 and I'm now looking back at 2017. How does that happen? Well, using the way back machine that is Friendless' stats (monthly timeline), I find that I had only a single new game to me a year ago - Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries.

Hi from Santa!
I have not ever played this at the table. After this was originally released, I did manage to snag an actual copy from overseas (a friend was in Norway IIRC). That copy was eventually traded or sold before being played. No, it wasn't until the online version released this expansions that I got to try it out. So what do you need to know about this particular expansion?

First, the boxed version is technically not an expansion map and thus not part of the official "map collection". No, this is a special stand alone version that is designed for 2-3 players. Unfortunately that means you can't use it as a base set to the official maps (except for maybe Switzerland for 2-3 players). The train colors are black, white and purple, which is different and cool, but not important.

The game map is an interesting mix of tunnel routes, a few ferry routes, a super long route (worth 27 points), and lots of choke points - this is a map designed for conflicts. Like the Switzerland map, wild cards are not quite so wild. The locomotives can only be used for tunnels or ferries (or the mega route - more on that in a second). Because of this, you can draw the wilds from the offering without having to suffer the "only one" penalty of the base game. If you haven't played Switzerland before, you will soon realize that wilds are great for the tunnels, but not being able to use them on the rest of the map is a pain in the booty.

The mega long route has a special feature - you can use 4 cards of any color (or 4 wilds) towards one of the links in the chain. So yeah, 9 of one color is hard to get, but 7 + 4 + 4 is a little more reasonable to achieve - especially since digging for cards is pretty common.

So is this a fun map? It is! It does stand the test of time (at least as an add on to the online/app version of the game. Either head-to-head or with three players, this is a rough, but fun little map. It is plenty easy to get cut off from your routes which adds a nice bit of press-your-luck play against the other player(s). Like nearly every map I've played of Ticket to Ride, the map gets better and better the more you play it and the more familiar you are with the possible ticket combinations. This isn't a map with a lot of longer routes to claim, so you really have to beat the other player with finished tickets if you want to outscore them.

Would I recommend this for folks that only play on the tabletop? Yes, but if you already have the original or Europe, I think I'd lean towards the Switzerland / India expansion (#2 map collection) first. Both have a similar flavor, but the #2 map collection set offers you a second (also excellent) map. If you already have the map and are looking for another good low player count map, you can't go wrong with this one.

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Thursday, January 04, 2018

What I played Last Month: Dec 2017

Time to recap the games that were played during the last month of the last year so we can move onward into the New Year. But first...
Happy New Year!
And now, on with the show!

I love Ticket to Ride and Nordic Countries was a new map that came out for the online game this past year (or at least that's when I finally acquired it - either way...). I fully admit that this got attention last month in an effort to hit the 5 play mark for 2017. That being said, this is a good map and especially good for 2-3 players (much like Switzerland) in fact, it has a number of similarities to the Switzerland  map, so if you enjoy that but want to switch it up a little, this is your best bet.

If it seems like I talk about this a lot, well that's because it has become one of our go to games for "lunch gaming" at work. It is quick and fun and is interesting to play. The first half of the game is a slice the pie and everyone gets their piece and the second half is an auction. The whole games is about trying to have the majority in various "shares" whose values you can manipulate slightly throughout the game. Whomever has claimed the most points at the end wins. Easy peasey lemon squeezy. This is one of those games that isn't overly complex, but has interesting choices and is also fast - it never overstays itself.

Ingenious is one of my favorite Knizia games that is a little older, but still a great abstract for multiple players. The spatial understanding of the game is simple enough, yet offers reasonable chances for cleaver plays. Where I enjoy this the most though is the partnership game. The changes to play with partners are modest at best, so the game is still fundamentally the same - collect as many points as you can in each color, the color that you perform the poorest at is your final score - classic Knizia, just done team style. I really wish they'd fix the iOS app for iOS 11 so that I could go back to having this in my regular rotation of games that I play with my love.

Kingdom Builder is a Top 10 game for me (some days it is easily a Top 5). I finally punch my whole Big Box 2 set (which Queen Games sent to Kickstarter backers late last year in response to their utter failure to properly handle their Kingdom Builder campaign and backers). My buddy Robert was in town and we both like the game a good bit, so we threw together a map and played. Unfortunately, two of the 4 scoring items were based on occupying the edges of the boards, which I was never really in a position to manage. I concentrated on the other points (by creating very long trails of my pieces). I ended up about 8 points short of Robert, which is a lot closer than I thought the game would be at first glance. 

I'm not sure I can explain my secret obsession with Cthulhu themed games. Maybe it has to do with the idea that it is grownup version of Scooby Doo - random gang of friends bands together to solve the mystery! (Which just happens to be about unexplainable horrors, not old man Johnson trying to get away with "it"). At any rate, I enjoyed the app integration that Fantasy Flight games put together for Descent 2nd ed (Road to Legend) and I liked the conceptual idea of this game, so I worked on a trade last year and finally put something together. It wasn't until New Year's Eve that I got to play it though - and only at my friend's suggestion! We really enjoyed our playing. Instead of stacks of cards (ala Eldritch Horror), the app really cleans a lot of that up by simply displaying the Mythos phase text and actions in app. There is a fair bit of event stuff in the app as well (and of course, the monster logic). We really liked that combat with monsters was descriptive and generally different each time - I may have rolled against my agility ability on most of my dagger attack checks, but the flavor text described a different thing each time, which made the combat feel more like part of the horror story instead of just another mechanic. There are also a handful of logic puzzles built into the app, which I know a lot of people won't like, but my group enjoyed their inclusion and felt they weren't out of place. I may just need to play this a couple more times and then just write up a full review (I'm halfway there with this write-up now).

Another one that I made sure to play (online with my love) so that I got in at least 5 plays before the end of 2017. Seems like a legit reason to play a game that is both fun and worthy of play. One of these days I need to track down the expansion for this game. This is one I don't mind physically getting out to play and everyone in my household likes playing it.

This is a game that pulled off my home shelf to put on my work shelf. I've now gotten to play it a couple times this past year because it is in the work rotation. After a game or two more, I'll likely swap it out for a different Mystery Rummy game. That being said, Wyatt Earp is a perfectly good game, maybe just a little fiddly around the rewards and such, but a good part (if not officially) of the Mystery Rummy family. A bit more random/less control available than others in the series, but still fun.

And that wraps up my plays for last year. See you next month for my January wrap-up which is already looking to be slightly long - I'm playing through all the Ticket to Ride maps with my dear Alyson, so while the amount of plays probably isn't going to be wildly different, the list may be a bit long.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2018

2017 Nickels and Dimes

I think my bookkeeping is mostly accurate for plays. In 2017, I decided to record online plays as long as they were against a real person and not some AI (otherwise this list would really suck). Yeah, a lot of these were online in some form or another, but I think that's great that we live in an era where good games can see action even when I don't have a chance to sit at the table with someone.

Nickels (at least 5 plays, less than 10)
Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game (9 plays)
This should be no real surprise as I talked about this game a lot this past year. I played a ton online and it spurred me to play a lot more on the tabletop after not having pulled out the actual cards in a long while. Still hate the setup/teardown, but still love this game. I love finding new combos and making do with whatever cards are available to me. Having tons of expansion sets really helps keeps this going.

Codenames (7 plays)
A little bit of a surprise to me. I had this game at work because I thought I'd 3D print a box for it. Some co-workers thought it looked interesting and asked to play. Of course, they like it. They like it more than I do, but I like it enough to indulge them since they indulge me in other games. My issue with the game is that a lot of the game is just having teams that click. If you have that one guy in your group that doesn't think the way you do...

Twilight Struggle (7 plays)
These were all online against friends after the app was released on all platforms. A good game that I maybe "drank from the firehose" on. It still is a good game, just a maybe not in large bursts. Not many other games work so well with the theme, but this one is all about the feeling/tension of the Cold War era.

Automobiles (6 plays)
I don't recall why, but I started playing this with friends online ( ) and found it to be more fun than I expected. I'm not sure what it was I expected, but I guess I thought it'd be more like Trains, but with a race car theme. There are a "abilities/cards" that I didn't care for that kind of ruin some matches, but generally speaking, this one is a fun little "bag builder" and race game.

Can't Stop (6 plays)
I have over 900 plays of this online at and another PBM friend had never played, so I gave him a quick lesson so that he could say that he's played Can't Stop. This is still my number one favorite push your luck game. It is simple and fast and a masterpiece of a game.

Carcassonne (6 plays)
These plays were all online via the amazing iOS app. Carcassonne boasts one of the best apps of all time, which make playing this a joy - for two players. I just don't enjoy the game with more than two as there is too much downtime and a lack of control. I love almost all of the expansion content as well (maybe not The River, but that doesn't break the game either).

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries (6 plays)
Ticket to Ride also boasts one of the best online games with a ton of maps. This map got the most attention from me this year. We found it to be a good alternative to Switzerland, which is a fast and furious two-player game (the map plays more, but we like it best head-to-head). I actually enjoy just about all the maps in one form or another, but the newness of this (vs Switzerland, which still has the best music) earned it a number of plays.

7 Wonders Duel (5 plays)
This game has no app (that I know of) so these were actual tabletop games for me (gasp!). My daughter and I like this little game, though it does suffer a little from "hate drafting". If you aren't familiar with the concept, it means that a lot of times you are taking/drafting the card that screws your opponent more than anything. This can make for a frustrating game, though at least the games are quick. If you have the 7 Wonders itch, this is a good quick fix.

Epic Card Game (5 plays)
What? Another tabletop only game? The Epic app should be out in 2018, so I suspect that I'll have a ton of this game played next year. I still enjoy a quick draft and fight with my son. This is Magic, but without any pretense - jump in and duke it out.

Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper (5 plays)
What the what? Still another tabletop only game (I'd love to see this series hit the app scene)! Jack is my favorite of the Mystery Rummy series and we prefer it two-player (though we skip the "Guess the Ripper" part). My love and I play it and I think we are split for wins all time. Another that needs regular playing. I think I'd like to play some others a little more as well, but every time I do, I think - I'd rather be playing Jack the Ripper. I'm not even sure why I like this one better. I think it is because you can hide your hand to try and go out (ala Gin Rummy), but if you get caught, every card that was playable counts against you. Because of this, there is a little bit of push your luck against the other player - you don't know how close they are to a lay down.

Quarriors! Quest of the Qladiator (5 plays)
I forced 5 games of this on my son earlier in the year to figure out whether I should (once again, no less) keep or sell the game. We like the game, but it still isn't a first (or 5th) choice, so back to the chopping block it went. Really, if someone pulled it out and wanted to play, I would - its a fast and fun little bag builder game, but I'd rather play Dice Masters head-to-head I think.

Santorini (5 plays)
I missed the kickstarter (frankly, I didn't even know the game existed until chatter about the shipments started) on this and when I found out about the game, I was a little sad - it reads like exactly my kind of game. So what did I do? I 3D printed a copy! The game is a lot of fun and I liked it exactly as I thought I would - without any special power cards. I need to print a set and try the game again, just to mix it up a little.

Spires (5 plays)
This was a surprise game and perhaps the best new game I played last year. Spires is a card game that is a mashup of Parade and Edel, Stein and Richt. What that means is - you are trying to collect limited amounts of cards - get too many any your pile of points suddenly switches to a giant pile of negative points. The trick is that each round, you and your opponents pick one of the cards from a set of shops. If you are the only player that picked a shop, you get the card. If more than one player picked a shop, all those players bid for the card there. Bidding is simply a choice of a card from your hand. There trick here is that the winning player gets all the cards that were bid in addition to the shop's card. So now, when you don't want anything, you are trying to guess what other players might want so that you can try to hose them. Of course, they are trying to do the same to you as well.

Splendor (5 plays)
This was a mix of online (iOS app) plays and tabletop games with my family. Despite being a gateway game, I really enjoy this game a lot. It is simple to learn (mechanically), but not as simple to grasp the top player tier of playing (at least for me). I think not having fully figured it out is what keeps me coming back to it.

Dimes (at least 10 plays)
Race for the Galaxy (27 plays)
The first of three dimes that were all thanks to a new app being released last year. This is a combination of the base game and expansion plays - all thanks to the app. The app did give me a better appreciation for the game in general, though not enough that I ever want to play this on the tabletop now. The app is well done enough that I have zero desire to mess around with the cards for this game. Sorry Race fans, I still just don't love this game and still don't know why you do either.

Paperback (23 plays)
My introduction to this game was because of the app (and I still have not ever played it on the tabletop and suspect I'm unlikely to). I like word games and the digital realm is perfect for this kind of thing. Word game mashup with deckbuilder? Yes please!

Cthulhu Realms (11 plays)
I am (was - I got a little burnt out) a huge Star Realms fan, so when I tried this game, I liked it - its basically a slightly slimmed down Star Realms, but with a Cthulhu theme. When the app came out, I was super happy to play it - again, Star Realms, but not Star Realms. So I played it a bunch and then the burn out returned. Still a fun game.

Biblios (10 plays)
I'd been hearing about this for years and got it in a math trade last year. It then became a staple and favorite lunch game at my office. We like it with either three or four players and it is quick and easy to play. I can see us playing this quite a bit in the coming year as well.

And that covers it for the list of games I played most often this past year. I know there are a few great games on the horizon for app conversions so I suspect there will be a few new games that will appear in the list and I'm sure we'll see games like Ticket to Ride again next year as well.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

My Top 10 iOS Games

There are a lot of app conversions of boardgames out there - believe me, that was the sole reason I got an iPad back in the day and why I upgraded to a new iPad Pro last year. While I do more than just play boardgame apps on my iPad, playing boardgame conversions really was the main reason for my getting one. After dinking my way through numbers 11-50 (five at a time). I'm finally going to wrap up my lists with my Top 10.

I took 50 of the best and dropped them into Pub Meeple's Ranking Engine so I could sort them and here is what I got counting back from 10 to number 1...

Dominant Species
This game has gone through a couple of revisions trying to improve the AI (the original AI was bad). The current AI is just ok. Sadly, this implementation doesn't have any online play either, so how in the world is this a top 10 game for me? Well, Dominant Species the game itself is ridiculously good. My biggest issue with the game on the tabletop isn't the length of the game, but rather that it is a hassle trying to understand the state of the game after every single change. When the application handles that for you and you can instantly see what has happened without rechecking everything, it makes the flow of the game that much better. So while I sit and wait for the online multiplayer feature (never going to happen) I can still get in a play or two of what is a really fun game. It won't be something that everyone will appreciate, but as one of my favorite games, its hard not to rank this high on my want to play list.

Twilight Struggle
Twilight Struggle is a brilliant card driven game that so perfectly captures the tension and feel of the Cold War that it is hard to describe if you didn't grow up in it. One of the game's only shortcomings was that it was truly at its best with players that were familiar enough with the cards to know when to press an advantage and when to feint. Because of the game's length and because the game was a two-player game, it was often hard to find a match and a reasonably matched opponent. Twilight Struggle the app was developed and released cross-platform, which opened up the game to a whole new set of people that might have not been able to play and learn the game and allowed fans of the game to finally find a match. The app is brilliant in presenting the game and enforcing the rules. You can get the odds of success (or degrees of success) before you commit to a course of action and you can play in realtime against your opponents or play asynchronously. This is one of the best games to be released in the last few years, both in terms of the game itself and in the execution of the application.

I like word games. Scrabble is a family favorite and Words with Friends is a favorite online game. When Paperback was released this year, it was a breath of fresh air. I had never heard of the game, but what could be better? Let's mash up a word game AND a deck builder! One of the best thing about playing electronic word games is that you (and your opponents) cannot play a word that will be argued about. It either is accepted or not - play on. And play on I did. I played a lot of online games against friends this year (and happily played random online games as well). The game is just fun and a joy to play. I do have to warn you, the hard AI cheats. And by cheats I mean - it will use obscure words you never knew were words - that kind of crap. Despite that (and really, how else do you expect the hard AI to be harder?), even games against the AI are fun (and fast).

It has been seven years since this game first arrived for our mobile game playing pleasure and it still screams out to be played. As a game system, Carcassonne has stood the test of time because the game is both simple and engaging. The application? The application still stands as one of the best table-to-mobile device conversions ever done. It is intuitive and easy to use, it looks great, it is easy to create a game for pass and play, solo, or against online opponents, and when playing online, the notification system is top notch (I still don't know why other applications can't show you that the other players are in the game like Carc does). On top of that, there are a wealth of expansions available which make playing this game a joy. I wish there were more (like some of the mini expansions and bridges). This is how good this game is - developers should have to play this game at least 20 times before they are allowed to start making other boardgames into mobile versions.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game
Pathfinder Adventures (as the app is properly named) is the mobile implementation of the amazing Pathfinder ACG: Rise of the RuneLords. A purely card based game, the tabletop game somehow mashed up something of a deck builder with what is basically a dungeons and dragons style campaign. Like a lot of card based games, the biggest drawback to playing is having to setup and teardown the card stacks each game. Well, problem solved! Not only does the mobile version of the game solve the card management problem, they enhanced the game, taking the implementation of the game to a whole different level. Each adventure has a small bit of dialog and story to make the whole game really come together and feel less like just a mechanical card game. It is really fantastic. There are a wealth of expansions and cards available and the development team spent a lot of time putting in extras. And this is where I'm torn on the game. There are lots of extras - character decks, story decks, dice skins, etc. All which you need to buy after the original purchase. I'm ok with that, it is a viable and not unreasonable way to make money on this game. This was the first game that I spent "real money" (ie more than $4-$5) on for an iPad game and I got my money's worth as far as I'm concerned (and only the chapter packs are necessary for advancing the game, the rest is just chrome).

Really, the game is so well done that I just wish they were spending time converting the other PACG sets instead of sticking more stupid crap into this game. I don't need 10 more fancy dice skins, or 10 more new promo cards that I'm never going to see in the game because I have all the other cards in play already. That's right, my only complaint with the game is that I want more real content.

My Top 5!
Steam: Rails to Riches
Steam is one of my favorite games of all time. I learned to play Age of Steam and was a huge fan, but have since become a convert and prefer Steam for some of the streamlining that it offers. All of which is a little irrelevant since there is only Steam: Rails to Riches available on the iPad. For the record, this is a really decent implementation and it lets me scratch the itch to build a rail line and move some goods. The AI is ok, though not  overwhelmingly hard and there are a good number of free and pay to play maps available to mix things up - some of the maps are designed for specific number of players and adjust rules slightly. If you get tired of beating the AI, play online with your friends. This didn't appear on anyone's list on the BGG Top 10 list, but I have to believe that is only because the game itself is something of a niche genre. Otherwise, this is a great game even at full price ($5).

Kingdom Builder
Kingdom Builder is one of my favorite games of all time and this app could have easily been my number one favorite game, but it isn't. The idiots at Queen Games decided that rather than having a separate online presence for this game, they'd make this application simply a hook into the online game on BSW. And that might have been ok, except that online play on BSW is live only. Here is a game that would have been perfectly suited to asynchronous play and instead, your only option is live play after you get online and create an account on BSW. Oh and by the way, anytime BSW updates things, they won't actually test that you can still get into a game from the application that you bought. Also, since we are tied to the BSW implementation, you never get any of the expansions for KB either.

Despite those complaints, I really like the game enough to still pull this out and play - occasionally when it isn't broken, online too. I really do wish they'd disconnect it from BSW and do this game some real justice. Then all they have to do is add async play, an undo feature, and start adding in the expansions. If they ever did this, Kingdom Builder is probably the only game I'd play for the next three months.

Lords of Waterdeep
Lords of Waterdeep is one of my favorite worker-placement games. I think the reason that I enjoy the game is that (generally speaking) the number of workers you have is set. This pushes you into a game of tactical choices and guessing what the other players are going to try and get and getting there first. The theme could really be anything, but the D&D theme works here. Not only is this a fantastic game, but the Skullport expansions are also fantastic and make the game even better. When you tie that all together with an application that is very well done and lets you play this amazing game solo, pass and play, or asynchronously with your friends, you have a no-miss combo. This is another game that every board-gamer should have in their app collection.

Ticket to Ride
I love me some Ticket to Ride. The original game by itself is a fantastic gateway game that gamers can love. But the game is more than just TtR, it is a franchise of maps, each with their own quirks and modest variations on the rule set. It is all the small differences that have given this game its incredible longevity.

So what about the app? The app is great and offers a wealth of additional expansions that very nearly make it a pure digital translation of the game. What really makes this an exceptional port is that it is hooked into Days of Wonder's online game setup, which means that all the online players (regardless of platform) can play together, which makes finding players and matches a cinch. Truly a great game that has been well updated on all its platforms.

Legendary DXP
If you have been following this blog this year, this is no surprise and one could argue that this doesn't belong in the list, but despite the re-skin of the game, this is straightaway Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building game (just without the Marvel part).

Legendary is one of my all time favorite games (deckbuilder or otherwise). I find the game engine works really well whether playing solo or competitively. The only thing I really dislike about the game is the amount of time it takes to setup and put away the physical game itself. Legendary DXP solves that problem as well as enables you to play with online players. The game is so quick that a three-player game takes only a few minutes and then you are starting the next one. For months I played the heck out of the game and only recently have I slowed down with my plays. The app was a bit rushed when it was first released but the rough edges have been sanded a lot and the game continues to get better. Once they start working on expansions, I might not play anything else for a long time.

And there you go. There a lot of good games coming out or that are out that are currently on my radar as well as a ton of older games that I'm waiting for updates on. Here are some that I hope to try out soon:
  • 7 Wonders
  • Cottage Garden
  • Through the Ages (if you like this sort of thing)
  • Smash Up!
  • Tokaido
  • Qwixx
  • Metro
  • Everything -
This is the perfect time of year to watch for apps to go on sale too. A lot of publishers run discounts on various games this time of year.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

50 iOS Boardgames - 5 at a Time (15-11)

There are a lot of app conversions of boardgames out there - believe me, that was the sole reason I got an iPad back in the day and why I upgraded to a new iPad last year. While I do more than just play boardgame apps on my iPad, playing boardgame conversions was the main reason for my getting one. This series will do a countdown of my top 50 boardgame apps - five at a time. I took 50 of the best and dropped them into Pub Meeple's Ranking Engine so I could sort them and here is what I got...

** Note: There are a ton of boardgame apps I never purchased, and a huge number that I have, but that are currently not playable on iOS 11 - I'm only covering those that I can play and still have installed on my iPad.

Numbers 15-11
As I have previously noted, the following list is pretty interchangeable as far as rankings go. I might pick any of these over the others depending on my mood and the amount of time I have to dedicate to playing.

BGG just recently released their Top 10 Apps Every Board Gamer Should Own compilation and this game was not in any of the contributor's lists and I'm not sure why. As far as I know, this is the only Command and Colors based app in existence and it is pretty well done. Someday we might finally see Command and Colors: Ancients, but for right now, this is what is available. There is a decent campaign mode, multiplayer option etc. If you are a fan of the C&C system or BattleLore 2nd edition, you should give this a look, because you won't be disappointed.

Ascension is one of those boardgames that I have no real interest in playing on the tabletop. It is a deckbuilder with a bazillion cards (thanks to an endless flood of expansions). For what this game is, it would not be worth my owning nor the time it would take to spend playing it. However, as an app on my iPad, this is one of the oldest and better apps I have. It is a GREAT five minute diversion. And where all of the expansions might just overwhelm the tabletop game, they are a boon to a game where you can whip through the same cards game after game in minutes. Sure, you can play online async (or essentially realtime), but this game shines as solo quickie. It is also a shining example of a great user interface that is easily and intuitively accessible.

Galaxy Trucker
If you've never played Galaxy Trucker on the tabletop, you are missing out. This is a real time, race against the clock (and other players) puzzle game. Players are racing to grab parts to build the best ship possible for the upcoming race. In the race, players will face a variety of obstacles as well as opportunities to grab cargo for a bonus payday (should they finish the race). The game is hectic, chaotic and crazy fun. How in the world would you manage to translate that into an application for tablets and phones? Well, first, you offer the game in all its real-time glory. Then you offer a new mode - an action point based / turn-based system - which sounds like it would ruin the game by taking away what is a fundamental mechanism of the game. Except that the new mode is actually fantastic. This new mode of playing is perfectly suited for electronic devices and allows you and your friends to play an extended asynchronous game. The app interface is fantastic and still gives you a great experience (the race is actually better and faster when the device does it all for you). I honestly think I prefer the action point way of playing (though I'd not want to play that way on the tabletop). This one really shines and if you have never played Galaxy Trucker before, you should take a look at this app.

The first of two Uwe games in my top 15, Patchwork is a little two-player game where players are trying to fit oddly shaped pieces of fabric onto their boards in an effort to make the most complete and non-hole filled quilt. Honestly, I think this is unlike any other game he has done (and really, it is not like any other I can think of either). The app does a good job of quickly handling bookkeeping and allows you to match up against an AI or friends online for async play. I liked the implementation enough to dump the tabletop version because it is simpler for my love and I to just play on our iPads.

Le Havre
The other Uwe game in my top 15 is one of his classic worker placement / engine building games in Le Havre. Not only is this a top notch game, the implementation is a nearly perfect adaptation of the tabletop game, right down to the layout and art work. It literally looks like someone put a camera over the game setup on a table. The game play is smooth and supports solo and multiplayer options and is a great way to get in that heavy euro-game fix when you need it. I understand why Agricola was in the voter's Top 10, but I personally prefer Le Havre and this app is such a good port that your brain has to spend zero time going between the real game and the electronic version.

Next time I'm going to finish with the FULL TOP 10!

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2017 Year in Review

Well, if this year has taught me anything, it is that life just doesn't always go as planned.  For me, in 2017, this has been especially true in both my personal life as well as my "gaming life". Since this blog is about the games, let's just stick with that.

I have a couple of Geeklists I like to do each year and I did my best to keep them current as the year went on. The first was my list of 2017 Goals. The list was based on my plans:

  • Work through painting a lot more of my Descent 2nd ed collection
  • Thin out my collection
  • Put some more repetition in at least one game each month.

Well, I moved in May and I can pretty well say that since moving, I have not spent much if any energy at painting. In fact, things had gotten crazy in earlier in the spring and put painting on hold for me. I need to just carve out some time to paint - it is like chicken soup for my soul and it relaxes me and encourages my creative side. In 2018, I think I'll avoid too many specifics around painting and just say - I'd like to be a bit more regular about it. To jump start this, I agreed to finish painting my Mice and Mystics set and trade it. 

As for thinning out my collection - as I noted in an early post, I've had a net reduction of 38 games and 8 expansions from my collection. I have since sold of my Pathfinder ACG set so that brings the total to 39 games and 17 expansions less than I started with this year. If you are interested in seeing the full list of games and why they left (or entered) my collection, you can find the list here.

Finally, thanks in part to a couple of smaller/shorter games and lots of really good conversions of boardgames from the tabletop to the iPad, there were a fair number of games that saw me get in a lot more playings this year:
  • Paperback
  • Race for the Galaxy
  • Cthulhu Realms
  • Biblios
  • Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game
  • Twilight Struggle
  • Automobiles
  • Can't Stop
  • Carcassonne
  • Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
  • 7 Wonders Duel
  • Codenames
  • Epic Card Game
  • Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper
  • Quarriors!
  • Santorini
  • Spires
All of those were games that saw at least 5 plays (and there are still a few that might crack the list). For me, that is a pretty big list given that I didn't attend any conventions this year. I'll cover all my Nickels and Dimes in depth in January, but for now I'll just say that is a pretty good list as far as I'm concerned. 

As far as 2018 goes...

As I said above, painting will be a something I try and return to doing more. I don't see a whole lot changing as far as my goal of continuing to tighten up my collection. I really don't need to have a crazy broad library of games that might get played only once a year (at best). Which means that the other two goals (reduce the collection and play individual games more often) are likely to also be part of my 2018 goals. 

This past year also saw my becoming involved with the launch of the Punchboard Media group, which I have really enjoyed. Writing is also something I've been enjoying and I hope I find the energy to continue doing so. I've been a bit sporadic this year and I'm going to try and find a better rhythm in 2018.  I'm also hoping to possible do some joint writing efforts / contributions with other members of the group in 2018 and I know that a couple of ideas have been tossed about already. I'm looking forward to those collaborations as we all like talking about games. Stick around, lots of good stuff coming next year.

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Friday, December 15, 2017

Cult of the Not So New - Dec 2007

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 December 2007.

Prime Movers for December 
Race for the Galaxy +70 #29
Agricola +14 #13

Quick! Name two big games that were released in 2007. Not much surprise that these two showed up in the prime movers category. RftG 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 the year, this game was THE game to be played. 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). Sadly, it took TEN YEARS for us to get a port of this game onto our tablets and phones. I've played a fair bit of Race because of the app this year, and while I enjoyed it more than I enjoyed the tabletop game initially, I still think 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. Race currently still resides in the BGG Top 50.

Agricola was of course the Puerto Rico killer. That one game people liked enough to knock PR off its top spot (a spot that nobody thought PR would ever surrender). Obviously it hadn't done so yet, but climbing to #13 in the first year of release is pretty impressive. Ten years later, Agricola sits at #15 on the BGG charts.

Falling Stars for December
NONE! Fallingest star was Louis XIV dropping six to #82. I don't think I've talk about Louis before so let take a look! 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.

Hot Lava Birth for December
StarCraft: The Board Game #96
Blood Bowl - Third Edition #100

I'm going to mention Blood Bowl first - I love the concept, but have never played. This looks like one of those games that stays around with its cult following and it would periodically poke its head up and then disappear back into the woodwork. This particular entry on BGG currently sits at #230, but there are multiple entries and still tons of fans, so I'm sure we'll all still know what this is 10 years from now.

Starcraft was a new release in 2007. One of FFG's coffin box games meant that you were about to get a monster of a game. Tons of plastic and probably a heavy (physically and time commitment-wise) game. And they didn't disappoint. Fans of the original computer game loved Starcraft because of the amazingly well balanced factions and cool story (let's face it, Blizzard used to make tons of kick ass non-MMORPG games). Here, we got a tabletop game that had six factions (2x each of the three races) and lots of "toy" factor with model ships (that broke a lot) and armies. There was also a pretty fun game here. The game was designed a bit like AGoT such that you were going to be in conflict with the other players from the moment you started the game - the biggest twist was that everyone secretly placed orders on the board spaces. The orders stacked and were executed in reverse. If someone placed an order and then that got covered by three other orders, you could get screwed by that particular action getting delayed, or happening well after the board had changed. Don't get to a spot early enough and you allow someone else the chance to invade or occupy a space last. Truly, the planning portion was what made this game amazing.

Unfortunately, this was one of FFG's premium games and was expensive. Coupled with it being long playing, it had somewhat limited appeal. Additionally, FFG lost the Blizzard licenses and it didn't see a reprint and is slowly getting harder and harder to find. Nowdays, Starcraft sits around #326

Top 5 Winning Movers for December
These are the the five games that made the biggest jump up the BGG charts since the last month.
  • Agricola (Second month!) - see above
  • Commands & Colors: Ancients  - I've been a big fan of Borg's C&C system which has been used in an almost silly number of games. This feels like the Penultimate version to me (I count Battles of Westeros as the top version) and the huge number of expansions that came out for it and the number of fans probably agree to some extent or another. The reason I like this version is the mechanics have been refined and just work really well with this style of warfare. And while a lot of the C&C based games used minis, the GMT Ancients line bypassed that for simple blocks, which made it easy to setup and handle during the game. 
  • 1960: The Making of the President (Second month!) - 1960 was the followup to the amazing Twilight Struggle. It is also a card driven area-control game, but instead of the cold war, this game focuses on the Presidential race between Kennedy and Nixon. I've heard it described as more strategic than the tactical nature of Twilight Struggle, but have never had the chance to play it. This is one that I really wish would get made into an app or computer game.
  • Combat Commander: Europe (Second month!)  - 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. This game has more memorable moments per game than any other I have played. 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 played 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.
  • Race for the Galaxy - see above
Next month we roll into the new year for Cult of the Not So New - see you then!

Be sure to check us out at PunchBoard Media!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

50 iOS Boardgames - 5 at a Time (20-16)

There are a lot of app conversions of boardgames out there - believe me, that was the sole reason I got an iPad back in the day and why I upgraded to a new iPad last year. While I do more than just play boardgame apps on my iPad, playing boardgame conversions was the main reason for my getting one. This series will do a countdown of my top 50 boardgame apps - five at a time. I took 50 of the best and dropped them into Pub Meeple's Ranking Engine so I could sort them and here is what I got...

** Note: There are a ton of boardgame apps I never purchased, and a huge number that I have, but that are currently not playable on iOS 11 - I'm only covering those that I can play and still have installed on my iPad. I also am apparently bad at counting and numbering (sigh).

Numbers 20-16
As I noted last time,  the following list is pretty interchangeable as far as rankings go. I might pick any of these over the others depending on my mood and the amount of time I have to dedicate to playing. Interestingly, these are all card games of one sort or another...

Tichu is one of my favorite games of all time. Probably because I grew up in a family that played a fair amount of cards and trick taking games. Tichu was one of the first climbing games I ever played and I really love the pre-playing Tichu declaration.

When this was released for iOS (all devices) it was a no-brainer to purchase. I didn't expect to play online at all, rather just solo practice with bots. And that would be all well in good if it weren't for that damn Becky. If you have played this game with the AI bot Becky, you already know. If not - beware. She will make your blood boil. She will call Tichu over you (when she is your partner) and do other very very dumb things. Despite the poor AI play, it is still Tichu and I like it a lot and the app is quite playable otherwise.

Baseball 2045
I was turned onto this game by a friend that is a big baseball fan (which I'm really not). I was semi-interested as I am a fan of deck building games that are not Dominion, so when this was released, I grabbed it and learned the game. The game itself is really pretty good and gives you a decent feel for managing a set of games (as the manager of a club) through the deck building mechanism. It is unique as far as I know and it is well done. I don't jones to play this all the time, but it is different enough that it still sees action from time to time.

The app itself is also top notch - decent enough tutorial and it plays smoothly and doesn't seem to have a lot of those "accidentally touched the wrong thing and now I'm annoyed" moments that for some reason a lot of games have. What it doesn't have is online play so that I can play against my friends (the ones that would be fans are all in the midwest, many thousands of miles away).

Cthulhu Realms
Despite being a big Star Realms fan, I had not heard that a variation of the game had been done with a Lovecraftian theme. A buddy brought it over and we played it a couple times, and I enjoyed it, but at the time I was in the midst of spending all my time playing Star Realms on my iPad. Fast forward a while and the app for CR is released. At that point, I had burnt myself out on Star Realms. I recalled liking this game so I grabbed the app. I burnt out on this a little faster than Star Realms which I think might just be because there doesn't feel like there is as much depth to this game. It is still fun, especially with the lighthearted art that is somehow goofy and creepy.

The app is really well done - this was/is a good example of what a conversion of this kind of game should be - building off what Star Realms had brought us before. There is a decent little campaign game and good online play, including an indicator of others that are around online and might be available to play.

I have played a lot more games two-player this year than in the past and in looking around, kept hearing about Jaipur. This was supposed to be a gem of a game though I never had a chance to try it. When the app was released, I snapped it up and was pleasantly surprised to find a decent little game. The game is fairly simple really - collect cards of the same type and turn in the sets. The more you have the better off you are. The rub is - your hand size is limited. Normally you take a single card, but using camel cards, you can take more cards if they are the same type. There is a bunch of tough choices - do I turn in two cards right away to grab the early points, or wait and grab points and a bonus for more than 2 cards? Do I grab the camels so that I can grab bunches of cards, knowing that I'm about to give the other player a lot of new card choices? It is a clever game.

The app itself is pleasant enough that I'm not sure I will ever get the physical game - having the cards and coins managed by the game is very nice - the movement of the cards is quite quick and of course, I need no physical table space for everything. The game supports solo, online and pass and play modes, which is fantastic. Even better, the solo mode is really good. It is something of a campaign with stops on your routes having slight variations to each game that keep things interesting. The AI is decent (or I'm really below average at the game), which is also nice.

Star Realms
I'm going to start by saying - I cannot say enough good things about the game of Star Realms. It is a fantastically well done game that I have really enjoyed for years. I helped host a weekly league (if you want to call it that) at a local game store for a while, and enjoyed playing this with my friends many times. When the app was released, I was in heaven. I played game after game solo and against my buddies online. Where I really found a groove with the app was when I found an online league for Star Realms on BGG. Then I REALLY started playing a lot. I played for a long time - at least ten seasons of games. I fell out of the top bracket and fought my way back and was near the top of the leaderboard at least a couple times. But... playing as many matches in a demanding short time frame began to wear on me and when life got busy, it was hard to keep up and I realized I was simply burnt out and so I dropped from the league and really haven't played a lot since.

All of which has nothing to do with the fact that Star Realms might be one of the best implementation of a game of all time. It only falls this far on my list because of pure burn out (remember, I ranked these games based on my desire to play them vs playing something else loaded on my iPad). There is almost nothing about the app that I don't like. The AI is decent enough (though not nearly as good as a top tier player) and there is a campaign to keep the solo games from being stale. Online is easy to play, including async play. Added benefit - there are versions of the game on PC/Mac/Android/iOS and you can hop between any of the platforms to play your online games. If you have never tried this game, you are missing out on a fantastic game and a fantastic app. Go load this up now.

Next time we head into the top 15! Stay tuned, there are some great games coming.

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