Monday, December 31, 2007

End of 2007 Gaming Goodness

Well, I ended 2007 on a good note, with a fine day of gaming. Jason and Justin Easley came over early to get the day started. We played some Exxtra while I made breakfast and to get us started. I won the first game, but Justin had a nice streak of luck and managed to squeeze out two more wins, included a VERY close last game, where he just couldn't roll an X and finally got doubles for a win.
After breakfast, we sat down for real gaming and Jason asked for us to try out Wabash Cannonball. This turned out to be a great little game that is only marred by two things - the components are minimalistic (at best) and this is published by the putz of the gaming community John Bohrer. Despite that, this was an interesting game - my best description for this might be that it's a bit like Union Pacific, except that you auction off the shares of the lines and the money payed for the shares is all that company can use to invest. Its really a slick little game that plays pretty quickly. I managed a pretty good sized win here over Justin and Jason (96,62,73). <rant-on>Now, I'm hard pressed to say that I'd pay JB $40 for this. The money is literally just color paper (not event construction paper thick, but color copier paper) with amounts printed in the middle (like - $100). The shares are not much different. The map is small thin cardboard affair, and the instructions look like he ran them off a photocopier. Now, if this was a home published affair, the world would be in an uproar that the guy making the game wanted $40 ($30 + S/H) and yet this is EXACTLY what it looks like you are getting. Given that I hate paper money and have poker chips, I can make this game for about $5 (tops) with a small amount of effort. Would I pay $40 for a better produced version? No. This is still at best a $20-$25 retail game (meaning you'd expect this for $15 on most web shops). I'm annoyed that it was decent and that the publisher wants so much for it. Bah. <rant-off>
After Wabash, Justin Kosec arrived and I pulled out Tier auf Tier so I could try this with four adults. Justin E and I had apparently drank too much coffee to start the day as we were both terribly jittery. Justin K was not jittery at all and won his warm up.
Next, we pulled out Race For the Galaxy. This was Justin K's first time playing, and though he was familiar with San Juan, he still took a game to take everything in. I ended up playing a "brown planet" strategy that seemed to sneak up on my opposition and I won (44CH-28Jas-41JE-16JK). As Justin had the mechanics down now, we played again. This time Justin E started out strong with a military strategy and nailed a huge win. (29CH-30Jas-51JE-40JK).
Jason only had about 90 minutes left before he had to take off, so we finally decided to pull out Union Pacific. Jason owns this, but hasn't ever played it before and I enjoy this game, but rarely play it and was happy to explain it to everyone. We played with unlimited UP stock and I made sure to explain the importance of that stock's payout many times. We had the initial dividend card come up very early in the game (which turned out to be a predictor for the rest of the game) and the race for UP stock began. I was easily in the lead after the second dividend payout and the others raced to catch up on UP stock, realizing how much I was pulling away. In the end, it didn't matter as the last dividend card came up long before the end and I won by 21 points (101CH-80JK-74Jas-69JE). It wasn't until I started writing this that I realized how similar that Wabash and this game felt. Both use railroads as the theme, but are really just investment games. The track serves as a way to limit the options when increasing the company's worth, but otherwise really doesn't serve any other purpose (ie shipping or moving goods or people doesn't happen). You only score for those rails you have invested in. They are of course not identical, but (and I hate to say it) - Wabash scratches the same itch, and for me it does it better and faster.
After Jason left (Happy New Year buddy - I was glad to sit down and game with you), Justin E asked for Mykerinos. As I've reported before, this is a fun little game that I'm terrible at. I continued my losing ways again and both new players beat me up (55JE-54JK-49CH).
We finished our day out by introducing Justin Kosec to the 3-player-all-time-favorite San Marco. There isn't much to say that I haven't said before. Justin K's newness was definitely a factor as was the incredibly small amount of banishments we saw. I managed to win my last game of the year (84CH-61JK-72JE) and look forward to gaming in 2008.

Friday, December 28, 2007

2007 Recap

Well, the year isn't quite over yet, but that's ok - I thought I'd put down some thoughts on 2007. Maybe its cliche or trite to do these sort of lists, but here are the Things of No Interest Best and Worst of 2007.

Best Game

Age of Empires III. Though I only played it a few times, this was the game that grabbed me the most. I really liked the multiple paths to victory and the need to play tactically based on your opponents and the buildings that were available to you. Just enough randomness and minimal downtime appealed a lot to me here.

Biggest Surprise

A tie for me between Descent and Race For the Galaxy. Now, RFtG is not the end-all-be-all of gaming, but it is a slick, interesting, fast playing game and it scratches some itch for me. Descent is that game I wish I had had growing up. I'm really enjoying painting the minis and look forward to playing this in the future.

Worst Game

Hansa: Changing Winds. Hands down the worst variant EVAR(not ever, EVAR). I enjoyed Hansa and was looking forward to a variant map. In fact, I like the new map. I HATE HATE HATE, the other new rules as they hose this game. How could 5 playtest games not revealed how bad this was? BLECH.

Most Played and What I learned

Ingenious. I got the free computer version and played a bunch against the AI. Then I played a bunch online against my sister and Matthew Frederick. And what did I learn? This game is too random. I'd prefer to play this only as four-player in teams from now on.

2nd Most Played and What I Learned

Samurai. This is a GREAT game. It plays so very differently with 2-3-4 players. A lot of people don't like it with four and I'm sure not many play it with two, but its really good with any number, you just have to come at it differently.

Best Kid's Game

My favorite kids game this year has been Tier auf Tier. This is fun with the kids, and a surprisingly good dexterity game for all adults as well. The pieces are well done and there is a good amount of skill needed.

I Wish I Had Played More...

Age of Steam. Still my favorite game, I wish I had played more. Nuf said!

Best Spousal Game

Crokinole. This was the only game I got my wife to try this year that she boldly proclaimed she really liked.

Best Filler

Exxtra. I've read reports this is getting a reprint. I hope so - its a fun little game that in many ways is better than Can't Stop.

Of All The Games I Acquired This Year, I Wish I Had Played...

Die Macher. I am sooooo playing this in 2008. Really.

Looking Forward to The Most

Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization? Brass? Nope - I'm on THE bandwagon - Agricola. I already paid for mine - print and ship it already!!!

Game Day

Friday Dec. 28, 2007
I had the day off today, and Justin and Jason Easley came over to spend the day gaming. Justin wanted to show Jason Crokinole, so we started off with a couple games. Justin played Jason and then me, winning both games. Justin and I's game was pretty close and somewhat tense towards the end as we traded center shots. After cleaning up, I suggested we play a game of Race For the Galaxy. We started with random hands, which meant I had nothing extraordinary to start with. After a few cards were built, I named a 6 pointer that gave bonuses for alien worlds, so I aimed myself at trying to finish up that way. That seemed to pay out pretty well as I won this game 41-36-30 (me, Justin, Jason).
Next up, Justin picked Cuba. I have only heard that this is similar to PR, so I was interested to see if this was as good as advertised. The rules were pretty straight forward and we started playing. I made some poor choices and typically, was behind Jason in the actions I needed losing out to a lot of points. I finished well back of this one and Justin won easily, 81-76-64 (Justin, Jason, me). Its true, this is similar to PR in that there are roles, production, and shipping and selling of goods, but its sufficiently different in execution that its not a complete re-hash. Its too bad really, because this seems like a decent game - but I think this one will get the same amount of play due to PR-burnout. Its not really a 6-7 game, except that I probably wouldn't request it. I didn't dislike it, but I don't have any itch to play it again either.
After we finished, I checked the time and figured we'd better play Age of Steam, lest we fail to play it. I picked the Ireland map for us and set everything up, explaining the unique actions for the map. Starting out, I wanted to make sure and get at least one of the two red-blue sea-lanes (which I did) and hopefully one of the yellow lanes as well. As it turned out, I got both yellows. Jason built on the West side of the map while Justin went north and East. The first few rounds were expensive for me as I built up my southern/eastern empire knowing that the end game would likely bring me extra income from someone having to use my lines. Jason struggled and finally had to start giving me income in order to stay in the game. My infrastructure payed off as I started making money. Though I took out more shares than either Jason (who had far less than either Justin or I) or Justin, my ability to make large deliveries at the end and my network gave me a pretty good win 95-80-54 (me, Justin, Jason).
We had barely 20 minutes left, so I pulled out Tier Auf Tier to show the guys (since they both have small children too). This one is actually pretty decent fun for adults as a filler game, since there is a lot more placement strategy. Justin managed the only major fall of the game, but made a couple good placements to make up for it. I somehow manged to get rid of all my pieces for the win, despite having drank too much coffee today.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


"I love it when a plan comes together"
"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

Um, no, that isn't the Hannibal I was referring to. This being a game blog, I could only mean Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage. This of course is the Valley Games reprint of the classic Avalon Hill game. Considered by many as one of the finest card driven wargames, it was out of print and VERY expensive for a long time. Valley Games reprinted it, and I actually nabbed a copy off Tanga for a good price. I had yet to get it to the table though. Mike Garrett came over last night and I got to pull this out for us to fumble through (as most first playings always seem to be). Mike played the Romans and I the Carthaginians. I went over the rules (as best as I understood them) and we got started, with neither of us having a clue what we were doing. My cards were such that I risked moving a general from Spain to Sicily to start attacking, but Mike squashed that in short order - in part by breaking a rule we wouldn't figure out for a while - that a general can only move 5 combat units (CUs) on a ship. His larger army attacked (as Mike put it - to see what combat was like) and beat me. I was a bit tentative with Hannibal and used my first turn to mostly try and place political control (PCs) markers in play. This went pretty well for the first couple of turns, though neither of us was making much headway. Then Mike went for an assault on Africa. Normally, doing so leads to a large advantage for the Carthaginians (due to allies giving the Carthaginian player a larger number of battle cards), but Mike had a card that canceled out the African allies help. His attacks took out my general and he started to siege Carthage. I was forced to recall Hannibal to Africa to try and stop the Romans. One good roll for me and a bad roll for Mike let me save Carthage and expel the Romans from Africa - saving the game. It was of course at this point we figured out the CU limit for sailing, which drastically changed how the game was played - since Roman generals can't move unless they have at least 5 CUs, going to war via the ocean meant risking your general (and his armies) getting stranded. Oh well. a couple of turns later, Mike again assaulted Africa and this time was able to siege Carthage before I could stop him - winning on turn 7.
Now, for a first playing, I have to say I still have no clue what needs to be done. I have a better feel for the strategy cards and what's out there, but the rule we played incorrectly about moving armies skewed this game pretty badly. Though the basic mechanic of the strategy cards is similar to Twilight Struggle, its sufficiently different that the games are not all that alike. In fact, unlike TS, I didn't feel like the strategy cards were the defining factor of the game - the dice were. As the Carthaginian, the dice give you pause when considering moving by sea. They also play a roll in the outcome of a fight (you can win a fight and still lose a load of guys). Sieges are determined by the dice. In the end, a lot of things are simply determined by the dice - and yet, I didn't feel like the game was nearly as random as say Manifest Destiny. I liked how the battles are resolved, though again, you can be the dominant attacker and lose quickly with a little bad luck. Overall, the luck factor here is just enough to make things interesting (its about playing the odds) without taking away from the strategic and tactical portions of the game. This one needs a few more plays before I settle in on how I feel about it, but I like this one from what I've seen.
Lastly, some notes on the components. On first look, the components look super, but I think things are really hit or miss. The board is a giant 10 piece puzzle. I like it - it doesn't warp like a regular board might, but... I think I'd have preferred a folded map ala GMT games. They could have made it with the same artwork, but there are a couple places where the lines of the puzzle make it hard to tell if there is a line between cities or not. The art on the board is great - its quite beautiful. Its also hard to tell exactly where the regions are though. The rest of the pieces are neither spartan (heh) nor overly artsy, but I HATE the counters used for the armies. They have different numbers on either side, and they tend to get knocked over in their stacks, which can be a huge pain - which side was it on? A minor complaint, but it seemed to happen a lot. Also, maybe a lot of folks are familiar with the ancient geography of the Mediterranean, but I'm not. If a card says I can do an action in a region of the board, I'd like the art to show me where its talking about, rather than trying to scan the board in the middle of a game. I'm sure you'll hear - "after you play it a couple times you'll know", but I think that's a cop out. Don't get me wrong, the pieces and board for Twilight Struggle were far inferior to what you get here, but I think there is still some obvious room for improving things. My complaints are not going to drop my rating/feelings about the game just yet, but I thought I'd throw those out there.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Now, I've never played Container. It just arrived today. But I already have a few things to say. First about the colors and artwork - I don't care for the colors of the ships and blocks. That said, I don't care that much either, as I plan to re-paint them in bright colors ala the box art. And, I pre-ordered this, so I also plan to paint my plastic containers when I get them. No, I'm not hand-painting them. A coat of spray paint (and for the plastic bits, an ink wash) will suffice.

Kevin Nesbitt posted a strategy article on the geek. One of the things he wrote struck me - "Despite Container being listed as a 3-5 player game, I want to let everyone know how strong the game is with 3 players. In fact, I think the game is strongest with 3, very good with 4, and quite difficult with 5. The reason is simple: more players means tougher price competition, which in turn means a more unforgiving economic system." Interesting - I look forward to giving this game a few plays. There are games that scale well (for instance Power Grid), and then there are games that simply play differently with various numbers of players (Samurai is very much like this). I'm hoping this falls into the latter like category. Samurai is interesting in that as you add more players, your focus has to change because there is simply more competition for resources. Some people don't care for this with anything but three players, but unlike a game like Hansa, which doesn't play well with two or four, I believe Samurai plays well with 2, 3, or 4. The approach to the game is simply different. It'll be interesting to see if Container is the same. It'll be too bad if this turns out to be 3-player "only" game ala San Marco, as 3-player games are (for me) tough to get to the table.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I am RED

I play red. There are a couple reasons for that. I'm a Husker fan for one. So yes, that red pawn is not Sooner Red, or Cardinal Red, or whatever retarded red you think it is, it is HUSKER RED. That said, when I played with the AZ gamers, nobody had a claim on red and since its a fairly common color in games, I usually took it. Now, everyone had "their" color: Jason Sato was always yellow, Jason Maxwell always tries for purple, Matthew Frederick = green, Matt usually was blue IIRC. I'm not sure, but I think Bobby usually went blue as well. Group dynamics are always interesting. Here in Omaha, I've still managed to hold red, despite having a lot of competition for it. I've offered to take black on occasion, but I still seem to get red frequently. Games like A Game of Thrones tended to throw me, because you didn't "pick" your color. There is nothing worse than figuring out your next move only to realize you don't own those pieces.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Race For the Galaxy

There seems to be a lot of talk about RFtG. Both in my comments and my emails, so I thought I'd try an open a bit a dialog, because this game current has my interest. If you have anything you want to say about this game, please drop me a line or comment and I'll be happy to add it to the thread. So first up Jason Easley.
Jason: I was reading up on the game in several places, and it has been indicated that several expansions were already done, in the sock, before the game even went to print. So, if I get this right, they stick a $35 price tag on a card game (with only a handful of chits, no wood), and then you can buy the full version of the game for more money. Now, I think the game is great (had to get my own), it looks stunning, plays well, etc. But for $35 for a card game, I would hope that I could get the full version, instead of being baited into spending more money so either :a) more people can play, or b)I get to play with more variety.
Charles: First off, RFtG is about $5 more than San Juan, a game that it is comparable to (assuming prices at an online store like ThoughtHammer). I believe that RFtG is actually printed on nicer linen finish stock and has some nice player aids, so I'm ok with the price - though I can certainly see where $35 for a card game might keep non-gamers away - heck, $20 for a card game might keep anybody away. But I don't think its really overpriced. As far as them selling the "full version" - I wouldn't be surprised next Christmas to see a deluxe version or something with the expansions included. But as far as this game goes - it is a full game. A full 4-player game that doesn't feel in the least bit incomplete to me. Its fun and interesting. I can certainly see where they've left the door open for "more" and I'm excited to see what they have in store. In fact, the only thing I'm disappointed in thus far is that its only a 4-player game. Heck, Blue Moon is $20 with like 10 expansions. You can get them or not, and it doesn't take away from the base game being complete.
Matthew F: Jay (of Rio Grand Games) noted that the art -- a unique picture for every card -- cost him a small fortune, and unlike a CCG, won't sell tens of thousands. As such, I don't see the $35 as out of line.
Charles: I guess I hadn't thought about that, though that's another thing I like about RFtG over SJ - there are much fewer duplicated cards in the deck.
Mike Garrett: So it's a safe bet that this will be hitting the table quite a few times in the future, I think you'll get your money's worth.
Charles: I think this will see my gaming table a bit in the future for a number of reasons, the biggest being - if you know how to play, this game actually becomes a very good filler. If we have 30 minutes at the end of a night and 3 people that can play, this is a good choice. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying this is the greatest game of all time and its all I want to play, because its not. But I do think its one of those rare really good short games. Based on $$/play, this will easily be a bargain choice for me, with or without the expansions - though $$ per play has never really been my main consideration in purchasing (see Age of Steam and Heroscape).
(slight change of direction - a comment from a previous entry)
Matthew F: I played Race for the third time last night. I quite like it, it's very enjoyable, and I'll happily play again, probably many times. That said, man is it ever a multi-player solitaire game. Yes, there's a little bit of interaction, in that you might not choose Develop or Settle if you think someone really needs it, but it won't stop you from picking it. Wish it was a little more interactive, that's all. I find that there's a lot more interaction in Puerto Rico, precisely because only one person can choose each role, and the timing and availability of those choices can greatly affect other players. San Juan is less interactive than Puerto Rico, but I still find it more interactive than Race for the Galaxy. I look forward to expansion cards that improve interaction, that would be great!
Charles: There is some amount of truth in that - the extent of interaction at this point is which cards to hold so that they don't go back into play, and which action to take. Personally, I never worried about which action would help other players though I did try a couple times to take an action I thought might benefit if another player took a certain action - case in point: I took TRADE once, without any goods to sell. Mike was baffled, but I gambled that someone was going to play SETTLE. Someone did, and I settled a windfall world, thus getting a good into play. This was a strong (though gambled) action, as nobody else had goods either, so I wasn't helping anyone else. However, this sort of play has been rare thus far. Personally, I think that in PR and SJ, there feels like more interaction due to the roles HAVING to be taken (not taking a role in PR will help someone in the next round). But I like the cat and mouse approach of simultaneous action selection. How well you read what others are doing can make a difference in the game, though its not the whole game.
Mike Garrett: I agree that the simultaneous selection adds needed spice to the recipe, I always thought San Juan was rather bland.
Charles: Just out of curiosity, what sort of interactions would you like to see, that wouldn't just destroy the game? The ability to devastate other player's worlds (like a one time use Death Star type development)? The ability to suppress types of cards (ie nobody can use any Alien tech or world abilities this round)? I'm not sure these will happen or not. I guess I don't see this becoming too much more interactive other than through repeat playings such that you play the cat and mouse games with your opponents.
Jason E: Oh it is a full game alright - I meant to convey that I think that it is kind of funny that all the expansions were done before the game even went to press. I picked up Cutthroat Caverns a while back, and it had an expansion released right along with it - as a separately available item. RFtG is beautiful - everything about it is attractive, from the VP chips to the cards, heck even the insert is cool. So I can see why it is more expensive that San Juan (not to mention inflation). But why not release the game to be playable with a full slate of 6 (instead of 4) right off the bay?
Charles H: Tom Lehmann explains exactly why in his designer diary entry. The short answer is that the expansions will change the way experienced players will approach the game. In fact, there will be blanks in the second expansion that allow players to submit their own card. The best will get added to the third expansion. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd think you'd see some sort of mass effect card or at least a card that hurts or slows other players down come out from the community. I've got a couple ideas like this already in my head. Like a Death Star card - costs you 5 military + 3 cards and is worth 5 VPs. During the development phase it can be used to kill any planet on the tableau once during a game. Its powerful, but one shot and costs a lot to get to the table. You can use it to slow down someone out in front, but its unlikely to be on the table and in use so early in the game that you can't recover from its effect.
Mike Garrett: I say leave the game alone, it is what it is. I think any player interaction would detract, not make it better. We can play Game of Thrones if we need to 'interact'.
Charles: True, but not in 30 minutes.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Game Night

Friday Dec. 14, 2007 - Game Shoppe
I headed down to the Game Shoppe to get in a bit of gaming Friday night. Mike Garrett and my buddy Steve Wicklund were known to be coming, though who else might be around was not known. I had purchased Race For the Galaxy last time I was in the Shoppe, and had only just taken the shrink of it a couple nights ago. After reading through the rules and "playing" a few hands solo, I could see why this had been generating some good buzz and I really wanted to get a couple plays in. I got my wish. We started the night with my explaining the game to Mike G, Heath, and Mike's friend Mike. Essentially, the game is a card game, where the cards are everything - money, worlds, developments(improvements), and goods (ala San Juan). In fact the game has a very familiar feel to San Juan (which is not surprising after reading the designer notes). At any rate, we started with the predetermined hands as recommended in the rules. Steve walked in just as we started, and I explained the game as we began. I don't remember which world I started with, but I remember thinking that I'd probably be trying for lots of military worlds and such, but after 4-5 cards on the table, that wasn't apparently how things were going to happen for me. However, I got a few good cards to the table and managed two good bonus (6) cards that gave me the edge at the end. The scores were Mike 26, Mike G 30, Heath 30, Charles 36. Heath bowed out, and Steve sat down, so we started another game, this one with the starting hands being random. This time, the card draws were not going in my favor, and I couldn't get any worlds into play and ended up playing most of the game card poor (my initial cards seemed to be development heavy or bonus (6) cards). Mike started out getting a couple alien (yellow) worlds into play and a good development that made him card rich from the outset of the game and he had no problem cruising to the win when Mike G built 12 crappy cards. As with San Juan, just ending the game by building 12 cards means nothing in your score - bonus cards typically are what determines the winner (though not always). This game's scores: Mike 31, Mike G 25, Steve 26, Charles 20. With only about an hour left in the night, I got Mike to pull out Edel Stein and Richt again. Though its not my favorite game of all time or anything, it is a great game and Steve had been interested in trying it since I told him about my last playing. This game was fairly even through the first round, though the second round saw Mike G and I often picking the same action and thus losing position to Mike and Steve. In the last round, I had a pretty good gem collection going while Mike was down to a single red gem. However, Mike often choose the money action while the rest of us were fighting over other crap and he won handily. Final scores - Mike 90, Mike G 80, Steve 77, Charles 72. Still a fun night, though I got no closer to Nickel or Diming anything.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

0-1 Count, He Hits One Out!

Well, it wasn't BeyondMonopoly. Today I got to open the second gift and get my second clue. This gift was a nice Husker mug. My note mentioned that Santa has a geekbuddy named Cornjob that is also a Husker fan. I was told I might be able to get a clue from him, so I geekmailed him. I was also told that Santa isn't a big Husker fan. So, now my clues were going to be limiting my list down to those matches to people that listed Cornjob as a geekbuddy. Cornjob is fairly well known/popular, so there were still a good number of suspects. I shot him a geekmail and got a reply back shortly that the perpetrator had a microbadge - a Star Trek microbadge and that Cornjob had met this person before. Armed with this detail, I narrowed the list down again. One particular user caught my eye - MUKid. They're both living in MO, he meets the other criteria, and I can see why he wouldn't be a Husker Fan. And, I was right! Woooo hooo. Now, I'm not opening my other presents until Christmas, despite being allowed to according to the rules. Besides, I got my present - a new geek buddy. Thanks for the fun MUKid

Yes, you may barf now.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Shout Out To My Secret Santa

My Secret Santa package arrived today. I've received a few instructions warning me not to look at the return address/addressee from "santa" in my BGG mail. So, I do my best not to look while still making sure its a box that is for me (have a few ebay items coming in for the kids I'm getting antsy about). I open it and what do my eyes see? Packing peanuts (green). Hmm, disappointing. I hate those things. They always are oppositely charged with my arms and I can't get them off. So, I dig in and there are a number of packages and some instructions. Santa is making a game of this. I'm to open Gift #1 right off the bat to get started. Ok. Its a few paint brushes and a note about painting my Descent figures. Hmm, clue one is he/she is a reader of this blog. The only people I don't know that I know have read this blog are Verkisto, Yehuda, and somebody named Shea. Not so much of a lead. Now, the "real" clue is that my Secret Santa (dun-ta-ta) (sorry, my kid has been doing that a lot lately thanks to the Backyardigans Secret Agent episode - now back to my thought)um... oh yeah, my Secret Santa (dun-ta-ta) rates AoS a 10 just like me! (or maybe I'm just like Santa). Ok. Well. According to the geek, that's like 440 people rating it a 10. I just spent a bit of time and have it down to about 287 folks. That's largely due to pure brute force, as there isn't any way to do real db queries like I'd like (select users where user has secretSanta2007MicroBadge and AgeOfSteamRating = 10). I finger printed the tag, but the BGG doesn't have a fingerprint database to search and unlike the cool guys in CSI Miami, CODIS doesn't turn up any hits for me either. H said he has my back and to follow the evidence, but what does he know? Anyways, the rules of this game are that after each clue, I get to send out one geekmail to try and guess my Santa's identity. I'm going to send out one email now - basically, I'm going with the first guy who rates AoS a 10 that lives in the US. The lucky recipient of tonight's SPAM is... David Fair (BeyondMonopoly). Sorry David, your geekname just shows up early in my list.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tis the Season to be Jolly

I am happy. A very large thanks to Mike Gingold, as this is mostly due to him. Today, I hold in my hands (though obviously not while I'm typing this - that would just be silly) a copy of Chinatown. Chinatown is #2 in the Alea big box series. Chinatown is also out of print, and an English version was never published. Only the German Alea version was ever released, making this somewhat hard to get. I now need only #8 (Mammoth Hunters) and #10 (Rum and Pirates) (ok and technically #12 - In the Year of the Dragon, which hasn't been released in English yet) to finish the collection. None of which should be an issue to get. Now, Mike didn't just Secret Santa me with this - its a trade. I'm making him a copy of Atolla Modulis (which is something of a pain, but well worth the effort here I think), but I think I'm on the generous end of this trade - so again, thank you Mike. I'll try and finish soon. Now, in addition to the other things I posted about playing earlier, I have to think about getting this one into play :D

Nickels and Dimes

Its getting closer to that time of year. The end of the year. Time for lots of looks back at the year that was. For board gamers (and bored gamers), that means looking at their nickels and dimes (or for those that don't get that - the playings of games that got either 5 or 10 plays). I'm not sure why this is such an obsession with gamers. In some cases it shows what a gamer really likes to play. In others, it just shows that their group plays the same fillers a lot ;). Interestingly, Liar's Dice is nowhere on my list this year :(. A look at my playings this year shows that I have a couple games sitting on the fence. To wit - a couple playings of Hansa - Changing Winds and BattleLore will push those two into the dime category. Having said that, I also said I wouldn't play any more of this variation of Hansa, so I guess it'll have to live with "nickel" status. I'd love to put a couple more BattleLore playings under my belt - live or on Vassal. Also on the periphery is Gulo Gulo with four plays. If you've played this and have kids, you'll know why it can go from 4 to 10 in one night with ease. Then there are a load of games that are sitting on the nickel fence.
  • Hansa
  • Oh Hell!
  • Taluva
  • Tikal
  • Crokinole
  • No Thanks!
  • San Marco (possible)
    So, the real question is - do I want to push these games that I have already played a number of times this year to 5 playings, or do I want to try and get in some of the games I wanted to get in by the end of the year? I have a pretty good shot at making those all nickels on my list (assuming Justin K plays his turns in our online Tikal game). If I do that, that should make 14 games that hit my Nickel and Dime list for 2007. Now, the truth is, I don't care if any of these don't make the list, as long as I got to play something...
  • Thursday, December 06, 2007

    Samuari Bridge

    Despite having never officially played Heroscape, I am a fan. I have collected nearly every set available for purchase (though I do not have the 3-4 promo figures). One day while looking around for scenarios to print out, I discovered (a webzine about Heroscape). In one issue, a guy talks about (and rougly shows how to) building custom bridges out of balsa and other craft materials. One of the cooler ones was a Samurai Bridge. I thought - I can do that! So I went to Michaels and grabbed some materials and just started winging it (winging it to the pictures). So at any rate, here is something of a pictorial of the construction.
    Laying out the frame.Frame done.Starting the bridge floor.
    Floor doneStained and starting the railsNearly finished!


    You'd think I couldn't possibly care. A game I've never seen nor played. I've read about it a bit. It sounds pretty fun. Its Agricola. Its quite possibly the most current hot and anticipated game out(not out) right now. If you are curious how good it is, people have taken to making paste-ups (ie printouts of each card that are "pasted" to the German version) so they can play it. See, the game has a lot of cards that are all in GERMAN. Z-Man Games has said they'd print the game in English after getting 750 pre-orders. The pre-order news was announced on Nov 14. As of 12/6, the count was 727 pre-orders. That's crazy. And cool. Now, assuming they get the rest of the orders, we still aren't likely to even get the game (yes, we - I pre-ordered) until APRIL. Anticipation...

    Monday, December 03, 2007

    All I Want For Christmas...

    Someone asked me today what I hoped to get for Christmas. To the best of my knowledge, they are not a board gamer, so saying things like Agricola, Antiquity, Indonesia, Princes of the Renaissance, Himalaya, Brass, and Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization wouldn't have meant much. Sadly, even to my family, who understand I love games, it wouldn't mean anything. That's ok - it doesn't have to mean anything. It'd be nice if it at least registered somewhere on their radar that I might like to receive a game for Christmas, but truth be told - if I get anything resembling a game for Christmas it will likely be a mainstream kind of game that you can find at any store. I would be floored to actually find a game I had wanted under the tree. Now that I have that out of my system...

    Truth be told, I'm at that age that it doesn't bother me. I enjoy hunting around eBay for games. I like looking for the deals. I like putting together my occasional ThoughtHammer order of at least $125 to save $8 in shipping ;). Beyond gaming though, I really fall into two gift categories - 1)Rather pick it myself than have someone choose for me or 2)So expensive, nobody is giving it to me as a gift. So what do I want for Christmas? Something I wouldn't have thought of. Something I wouldn't have purchased myself, but discover later that I'm really glad I have. Which is to say - I don't know. For now, I'll be happy if my kids really enjoy Christmas and I get a chance to play some Guitar Hero III. Lastly, I'll be happy if I get to play a few games - especially some Age of Steam.

    Friday, November 30, 2007

    Game Night

    Friday Nov. 30, 2007 - Game Shoppe
    I headed down to Bellevue to meet up with Mike Garrett for a bit of gaming. Didn't know if anyone else was going to be able to make it, so I brought along a number of different games. I was the first to arrive and after a quick look around, I went ahead and grabbed the new Power Grid deck as well as Race For the Galaxy. Now, there is a chance I could get these for Christmas, but I'm taking no chances ;). At any rate, Mike Garrett gets there and we sit down with another Mike and Scott to play some games. We started the night with Edel, Stein, and Reich - one of the Alea small box games that I've been interested in trying for a while now. Mike described it as a Hoity-Toity-Rock-Paper-Scissors-with-an-auction-bidding-mechanic, which is pretty much exactly what it is. There are four colors of gems (red, yellow, green, blue) that score you points at the end of each round if you have the majority (or tie for, in which case you get half). Reds are worth more than yellow, which is more than green, which is more than blue. When you win the majority, you also give back 1/2 of that color (or simply 2 if you tied). There are 3 rounds. Each turn of a round, you get a card face up in front of you and one group card. The individual cards have number of gems, as well as a $$ value. The group card is either a certificate, or a special action of various usefulness to anyone. Then each person selects an action which will be revealed simultaneously later. You can either go for the gems, the money, or the action/cert. If you alone pick that choice, you get it. If three or more pick that action, nobody gets that action. If two people picked it, they bid their stash of gems back and forth until one player takes the offer from the other player. The "winner" then gets the action. After 7 turns, there is scoring and you go to the next round. I liked this much better than Hoity Toity, because the bidding/auction mechanic makes it more gamey or something. I liked it enough to win by a good amount at any rate. We next switched gears as the other Mike got out The Downfall of Pompeji. I really enjoy this one and its quick. The only part I hate is the setup of the cards. As per my usual - the omen cards all ended up in a clump on top of the AD card :(. Whatever. Anyway, we had loaded up the board and started running. Jason Sato had taught me the key to winning this game - get at least one guy out EVERY round. Unfortunately for me, Mike also got a load of guys out. We checked the volcano, and tied! So a tie game it was. Next I pulled out Q-Jett and Heath sat down with us for a quick race. I think Mike Garrett both likes and hates this game, as he always seems to get screwed. This was no exception as he fell short of finishing the race one space! It was pretty tight, but the other Mike managed to cross just ahead of me. Mike and Scott then wanted to play Condottiere. I hadn't tried this one before and was interested. It felt a lot like Ivanhoe to me. They aren't really the same, but they really scratch the same itch for me - I'll stick to the one I have. BTW, Scott won this one with a quick connect 3-areas victory that we couldn't stop. Finally, looking for something short to end the night, I pulled out Exxtra to try. I hadn't had a chance to play this yet, so I was quite glad they were willing to play. As expected, it was fast - fast enough that we played twice. Scott pulled out to a commanding lead the first game and won easily. Luck went badly against me in the second game. I placed a 76 on the top score twice and twice had it knocked off. I also rolled a 75 and it too got knocked off. Mike Garrett managed to roll his way to a much closer win to end the night. After playing, I think I like this better than Can't Stop. Its faster, with less downtime and is just as fun.

    Tuesday, November 27, 2007


    Finished a nice close game of Tikal yesterday with Jason Maxwell and Matthew Frederick on Matthew bid an awful lot early and spent a load of guys to lock down two temples, which may have hurt him later on. Jason tended a bit more towards the treasures than either of us, which probably was a factor in his winning. I tried my best to lock down temples to keep them from scoring for Jason and it looked like that plan might have worked, except I made a critical mistake at the end of the game. I let Jason win the last round's bid, thinking to cost him some precious victory points in what was shaping up to be a close game. However, that clever plan let Jason slip me into the lead going into the last scoring. Going last was not going to win me the game and Jason won easily. Jason won 113-106-101 (I could have scored 107, but I didn't want to redo my turn again knowing I couldn't win). With Jason going in front of me, I missed scoring a 6 temple that Jason might not have scored. Still, it was a close and tense game.

    Saturday, November 24, 2007

    Hell Hounds and Spiders

    Next up on the paint train are the spiders and hell hounds. I really went minimalist on the spiders. Brown paint with a small amount of yellow for the the regular ones, and black with red for the masters. Then I decided to go back and dry brush some silver onto the black ones body. It came out cooler than the pictures make it look (and I just noticed I got the crappy brown spider in front center - good job!).

    For the Hell Hounds, I went with a bright yellow base, then did a red mane and orange dry brush for the masters. The base units simply have an orange mane with white dry brushing. The picture actually looks better than I think the units turned out. The yellow was waaayyy to bright. Oh well, things still look better than unpainted.

    Friday, November 23, 2007


    Ok, so the one thing I really hate about BattleLore is the setup. Even having all the pieces in Plano cases its still a hassle. Its also a small hassle to move your units across the board. Until now. Inspired by this thread, I decided to try out making magnetic bases. I looked into the GF9 bases, but they were a bit costly as far as I could tell, so I went to Michael's and bought a couple of rolls of magnetic tape. I cut out little bases of illustrator board and "mounted" the tape to that. Another piece on the bottom of the figures and voila. Its definitely solid enough to lift the whole unit easily. Though it looks intrusive in the picture, its really not that noticeable. And yes, I started painting the units. I'm trying to keep it as simple as possible - a couple bands of bright colors and a wash.

    Thursday, November 22, 2007

    Too Many Rules

    I have too many games and not enough time to play them repeatedly. In fact, its very rare that I ever get in multiple playings of a game at one sitting - the exception being when I see my sister and we play a few face to face games of Blokus or Ingenious. At any rate, the problem this causes is that I often play games where I am either completely unfamiliar with the rules, or at least don't remember them all. Case in point - my latest playings of Descent. After the playings, I like to review the rules if the game is complex. In re-reading the rules I found that I had (again) forgotten to collect threat tokens (as the overlord) when surges are rolled (two surges = 1 threat token). Not only that, but the last two times we've played, we played with the monsters at an easier level than we should have (we used the card for the number of heroes, not number of players).

    Descent is not alone - I always feel like I'm forgetting some rule. Sometimes, its an important rule, sometimes its some side case or a tie-breaking condition. How do some people keep all the rules straight?

    Monday, November 19, 2007

    Journeys in the Dark

    Saturday, we got together to play a game of Descent at my place. Attending were Mike Garrett, Steve Wicklund, Justin Kosek and his friend Ben, and Justin Easley. I played Overlord again and Mike and I picked the same scenario we tried our last time out. This time, there were of course 5 heroes (4 new to the game). Mike spent a good amount of time with everyone picking characters and we tried to explain the basics of what everything meant. After a bit of time, the group felt they had a good balance of characters - two tanks (Easley and Ben), two magic users (Kosek and Steve), and a rogue (Mike). I had read a bit about playing against 5 heroes and eventually settled on using 1.5x4-player monster HPs. This seemed to work out well and was pretty balanced, though still a tad on the easy side for the heroes. Things started a bit slowly, as Mike discovered that his combination of skills and weapons meant he couldn't do much damage despite his ranged abilities. Coupled with the new players feeling things out, the first few rounds were slow. Once everyone figured their guys out and how best to use them in concert, things sped up a lot. Easley's tank was nearly overpowered with his ability(Knight) to spend a couple of fatigue points to move two spaces and then attack three times! Plus each time he used this ability, all adjacent firendly figures gained fatigue back. Ben's tank was also nearly as lethal in that if he killed a monster, he could spend a fatigue to then conduct another attack against an adjacent monster (he also regenerated a fatigue each turn). Kosek's character raised my cost to play cards by an additional threat token, but otherwise, his and Steve's mages were as expected - heavy ranged damage dealers. The kick to Kosek's character was his ability to do a ready action and then give that to another character (often to a tank that had already taken out a load of guys). It quickly became apparent that my two best assets were going to be: spawning beastmen(the command ability of the red beastmen is nice) and hitting the group with traps. I got into play the Trapmaster card, which let me reduce the cost of traps as well as up the damage, and set about trying to trap the group to death. Things seemed to be pretty even, as I couldn't seem to kill anyone, but did burn through the threat cards once, scoring conquest tokens (BTW, my run of bad luck with the Hellhounds continues as I still am oh-fer in successful breath attacks). The group countered the loss of conquest by activating a glyph. The group got to a chest which scored them more conquest, but I balanced that out by killing Mike. This was far and away my favorite kill. I hit Mike right after he got an equipment card that effectively gave him hand grenades. I hit him with a control curse, which allows the Overlord to use the character to make an attack. I, of course, used him to attack himself. Easy kill! ;) The group activated another glyph to gain more conquest, but I was then able to kill Kosek, leaving the group 3 conquest tokens. Sadly, it was at this point that the group pretty much all needed to go. We really were only 1/2 way through this scenario, and in my best guess, it could have gone either way. I had a good chance to try and put a hurt to Easley's tank, which would have netted me enough tokens for the win, but the next area also offered multiple things (chest and glyph) which they might have gotten to first. We had to call this one a draw. With two plays under my belt now, I have to say this: I like this game. My only real complaint is the time factor. It takes a bit of time to get started, and it takes a couple turns for the players to figure out what is going to work for the party. It also takes a couple turns for the Overlord to figure out what isn't going to work for him. Once you have the mechanics down and can look at the dice to quickly determine the result, things speed up a lot. We played for a solid 4-5 hours and were only halfway to completion. That's a lot of time to invest in a single session. On the flip side, nobody realized how fast the time was going, which was a good indicator we were all completely absorbed by the game.

    Wednesday, November 14, 2007

    When Enough Is Not Enough

    I counted 19 in my collection. It comes with one. I printed another 3 (two are mounted and I will mount the third when I figure out how I want to do it). That's 4. I have (2 copies of) one from a spielbox magazine, but its supposed to be for 7 players (who would play 7-players?). That's 5. Then I have 7 expansions (each being two). Four of those are the "official" expansions and the other 3 are licensed. I have played a measly 8 of them. And yet... There are more out there. 30 official ones listed on the BGG. A LOAD of PnP ones as well. There are some I have little to no interest in and some I will NEVER bother trying to get because only a few hundred were printed for Essen each year. But, there are still more I'd like to add to my collection. I'm not sure why. Because I can?

    I am of course talking about Age of Steam maps. This part of my game collection is probably the second most expensive part of my entire game collection (behind my stupid Heroscape collection). I finally ditched the AoS box (well, it sits on the shelf as I'm not just tossing it) and have a hanging file folder box I use to keep all the stuff in. All but one set of maps fit in it (the one being Ted Alspach's Disco inferno maps, which aren't creased and I haven't wanted to bend and rip them). At any rate, there is just something about these maps. I love looking at them. They really are not "artistic" or fancy or even attractive - at least not in any normal sense. Some games have great maps that you could easily frame and hang as artwork. Not these ugly things. And yet, I still need more. There is something of a debate in the AoS community about expansion maps and what they "should be". Some designers are using the AoS game as a framework and altering enough rules that their map is almost a re-design. Some designers are just putting out maps of areas that are either interesting to them or "their locale". I prefer the traditional maps myself, though I do like Ted Alspach's twists on the game as he doesn't tend to deviate really far away from the base game (Disco Inferno not withstanding). I played a prototype of Matthew Frederick's "Ants of Steam", which was fun and a bit different than the norm, but I think he's pushed that on the wayside. At any rate, there are a number of maps I'll still probably try and get (Steam Brothers maps). I can only hope I finally get to play them all at some point...

    Monday, November 12, 2007

    Tikal Head-To-Head

    I just finished up a two-player game with Jason Maxwell on We played with the auction rules and he killed me 169-153. It was the first time playing two player for both of us and the game has much different dynamics than the three and four-player version. Jason managed to score a basic monopoly on the treasures - getting a whopping six sets of three to my ONE. The treasures are much more important here than when there are other players. He got a lucky break and tripled up early and then used his powerful score to keep me out of the other tiles with treasures. The second thing I discovered is that unlike the multi-player games, guarding a temple early is not a benefit. The shear number of temples means that there is not as much fighting over them. Guarding temples early on gave me good points, but let Jason maneuver his men into better positions later in the game while I struggled to distribute my remaining pieces. I think a guard early may only be truly effective in two-player if the cost is one or two men, and its a 10 or 9 point temple. Which brings me to the last point - in two player games, you are much more likely to get all your men on the board. You have a lot more time and action points over the course of the game. Spending men to guard a temple is therefore expensive. You especially don't want to blow your 3-pt piece as he allows you to jump around swinging temple points easily to you in the scoring rounds.

    Saturday, November 10, 2007

    Descent Beastmen

    Ok, so after playing Descent, I decided to give it a go with painting some of the figures and the first round is now done. It came out pretty decently I think. I kept its simple and with the understanding that I'd be hitting it with a black ink wash at the end, so I tried for brighter colors than I normally might have used.

    This first shot shows the beastmen after spray painting them. The paint I grabbed had a satin finish, which wasn't quite what I wanted, but ended up ok. I'm going to try my best to find flats for the rest.

    Here we have the guys after a couple swipes of paint. Some of my paints are a bit old and not "strong" enough - I had to use multiple layers - that's too much work for this sort of thing. Apple Barrel paints are so cheap, I may just buy them fresh going forward.

    Finally, here is the finished product - figures after the black ink wash. It really makes the details on the figures stand out - too bad my photography skills suck.

    Monday, November 05, 2007

    Opps, I Did It Again.

    I started another project. I am the king of getting started. Please don't ask how many things I start and don't finish. Maybe that's why I like blogging - there really isn't an end. Ok, so after playing Descent, I thought to myself - "self, those figures would look way cooler with a bit of paint". So yes, I started painting. Just the beastmen for now. I spray painted them a base brown. I've added gray/white hair to the normal and red/orange to the master versions (to keep something of a "red" theme to those pieces). So far, so good. I need to probably hit the orange hair again, then do the loin clothes. Then I'll do the bands on their legs/feet, and maybe the little doll on their waist. Finally we'll end with a quick black wash and be done. At that point, I'll likely never finish the rest of the set ;) The painting thing is something from my youth I've never been able to shake, but with the internet, there are lots of hints on painting that makes this much easier. Plus, I'm just not anal about it like I used to be. After looking at the Heroscape figures, I realize that they can be a bit sloppy and not matter. Winter is coming, so maybe I'll get more done.
    Maybe I'll finish all the other projects I have lined up: Atolla and all the other print and play stuff I need to do. Then, to top it off, I found a back issue of HS Codex that shows how to make really cool custom bridges for HS. Man, I really want to make some.

    Sunday, November 04, 2007

    AZ Gamers Tikal

    Just finished a game of Tikal on with Matthew Frederick, Jason Maxwell and Dion Garner. Jason had only played once before and not the auction variant, and it had been forever since Matthew had played (not sure if he played auction variant either). The bidding got a bit out of control early on and Matthew took himself out of contention fairly early. I capped a 10 and 7 in the early mid-game and rode that to a comfortable win. Don't put too much into that given the inexperience. I'm going to see if these guys want to go again, and I'm sure that things will be much tighter. Final scores: Matthew 59, Dion 85, Jason 90, Charles 106

    Saturday, November 03, 2007

    Game Night

    Friday Nov. 2, 2007
    This was Mike Garrett's birthday and he had wanted to get together at his place for some games. I had suggested Descent, knowing that everyone had wanted to try this out, and he agreed. Unfortunately, once it came Friday night, only his friend Dave from Lincoln was able to join us, but we plowed forward anyway. Knowing that we might only have 3 players, I brought along my copy of San Marco just in case, and Mike suggested we start with that, so we did. Dave had not played before which probably helped me to win by a good margin. Mike got killed for the second time in a row, which just seems to fuel his enthusiasm for the game.
    Next we unpacked Descent. This is an interesting dungeon crawl that, like a lot of Fantasy Flight games, takes a playing or two to get through the rules and bits. If you stick with it, you are usually reward with a fun experience. This night, I played Overlord to Mike and Dave and lead them through an adventure that I had downloaded of the internet - Betrayal of Ismondor. This particular adventure has a good amount of self deprecating humor and tongue in cheek dialog. It got the prescribed laughs and WTF's as I started to read, as I had not warned the guys ahead of time what was in store for them. The first encounter looked to be daunting, but they worked through it in good order and though I had initially played it conservatively on them, I started really trying to hammer them after they danced through the first area. Dave's character had an ability that cost me extra threat tokens and some of the monsters I spawned initially were not so tough, making for a fairly easy time for the heroes. Too bad for them that the first treasure really sucked. As they started the next area, the started getting in slight trouble. The trouble really happened when I was able to spawn two sorcerers - which seemed to be a bit overpowered relative to the cost, but I made due ;) Unfortunately for our heroes, the sorcerers proved to be too tough and one bad round by Mike let me make my second kill of the night. Had they been able to finish the second area, things would have dramatically gone the other way. Oh well, maybe next time.
    Being that we now had time for one more game, we decided to finish with another playing of San Marco. This time things were not going well for me. I was banished off the board a lot, and Dave shot way out in front. Going into the last round, I was a good 20+ points behind Mike and Dave, who were within 2 pts of each other. I must have done a super job dividing things up, because I came from way back to end up winning in the final scoring. It helped that Dave missed a chance to score 8 pts near then end and that probably cost him the win. It also helped me that I had the final banishment of the game and needed a two or three to benefit. I rolled a two. So there is a small amount of luck in the game, but as long as nobody spends all night agonizing over the choices, it really plays in about an hour and is well worth it.

    Tuesday, October 30, 2007

    Tikal - The end.

    And there it is. I finished in second place a mere 40 pts behind the winner. My gut tells me that the other two players were not very experienced due to their actions (or inaction in this case) that allowed black to run away as far as they did. I'm as much to blame as well. I failed to notice the crazy advantageous setup black had on the left edge of the board until it was too late. By then, the others had already given up on stopping black and we simply raced to second. Black scored an obscene 50 pts in the last round, a good twenty-ish more than any of us...

    Wednesday, October 24, 2007

    Math Trades Again

    The Thanksgiving Math Trade has started. I believe the idea is that folks will get the results by Thanksgiving time. Anyway, I did my part and loaded the list with crap:
  • Nexus Ops + dice tower
  • Heroscape Jandar flagbearer
  • Sunken City
  • I'm the Boss
  • ChiZo Rising
  • Ivanhoe
    The only interesting part of this math trade is that you are supposed to list "non-game" things as items or sweeteners only for every 5 games you list (or as one person already pointed out - 5 games you are going to submit a blank want list for so that you could list your geekgold). I'd be really surprised if I trade more than one of the above.
  • Monday, October 22, 2007


    I finally inventoried my Heroscape collection. I got a bit tired of not being able to remember what things I have and which things I still need. The result? I have a lot of stuff. With the exception of the three promo figures and three of the blisters from wave 6, I have nearly one of everything that has come out through wave 7. I have doubles of the base set, the ice set, the forest, and some random doubles of the blisters from different waves (Romans, grut orcs, minute men, snipers & vipers). I finally saw the new Marro base set at Walmart, but didn't feel like dropping $40 for it quite yet. Also coming out sometime in 2008 is the jungle expansions. Gah! Too much stuff!! I even had to get a bigger tub to hold it all. And then, I discovered the best thing to do was put the terrain in the big tub, and the trees and icebergs and such in the other. What a pain.
    UPDATE: I saw a flag bearer at Toys R Us today and snagged it. They had two of the same (Jandar). I would have bought another set if they had had it.

    Tikal Analysis part V

    Wow, the last round seemed to go by pretty quickly. I'm convinced that I'm out of the game. Black has a 5 pt lead on me and has pretty good position. As you can see from the board, a new volcano just came out. So, I need to bid to get the volcano in front of black. That means putting myself even farther down. If beige wants to outbid black, then great, I score second. I just need to score in front of black. But regardless, I think my position on the board is such that second place might be as close as I can get (even that is no sure thing). One nice thing - I had two pairs of masks. Another player discovered the third match to one of the pair, so I went to discover a treasure thinking I'll trade for the match. And what happens? I discovered the other third treasure. So now I have 3 of one and 2 of the other. I need one more treasure to trade and I'll have a pair of triplets. That helps my score, but I don't think it helps enough...

    Sunday, October 21, 2007

    Oh Hell!

    My aunt and uncle were in town over the weekend, so after a nice dinner out, we sat down for a bit to play some cards. The game played was Oh Hell!. Oh Hell is a trick taking game played with a standard deck of cards. You deal out an even number of cards (in our case 10) to start and bid on how many tricks you are going to take - the stinger being that the dealer cannot bid an amount that will equal the number of tricks in play - thus at least one person each round will fail to make their bid. Now, the last time we played, my dad harassed my mother about hosing whoever followed her. Because I felt a little bad for her, I sat to her left on this night. It was me, Bruce Peterson, Steve Hasegaw, Linda Peterson, then Cathy Hasegawa. In the first game, Linda took a little bit to get in the groove and fell well back, but my uncle cleaned up. We played again, and this time I won by a good margin (which stopped my dad from picking on my mother for a bit). Our last game of the night saw Linda making all her bids for the win.
    Oh Hell is a decent game, but there are a lot of variants out there - Canyon, Rage, Wizard, etc. that I'd rather play with gamers. This on is still a good for the family though.

    Saturday, October 20, 2007

    Plans for the rest of the year

    While it might be a bit silly and premature to try and "plan out" the rest of the year, I realized that we are getting closer to the end of 2007 and there are still a load of games that need to be played ;).
    So, looking at the calendar, I think maybe 6 more game sessions (maybe more, but 6 is probably reasonable, considering the holiday impact on schedules and such). So, here is a short list of games that I'd really like to get in before the year ends.
  • A Game of Thrones: Storm of Swords 4-player. A bit shorter and just as interesting as the "original" game.
  • Age of Steam. I'd like to get a map played that I haven't tried yet, but at the same time I don't want to introduce an alternate map to players that are new to the game...
  • Torres. This is such a good game, I can't believe I have so few plays of it.
  • Die Macher. Still need to get the king daddy of euro-games to the table.
  • Shogun. The stupid tower keeps calling to me...
  • Nexus Ops. It might be that I grew up playing Risk and Axis and Allies - whatever, I get this itch for a dice and combat and conquest periodically.

    Ok, so I just re-read that list and realize, that the above games probably take up most of 6 sessions, especially as there will be rules teaching and new players (and add in extra time for Justin Easley and his AP ;) ). There are still more games I'd like to play - Descent, Age of Empires, Imperial, Mare Norstrum, Battlelore, etc. Maybe I can find a long Saturday somewhere in there to try and work in a chunk of games.
  • Game Night

    Friday Oct. 19, 2007
    My wife and her friend took our oldest children out for the evening, leaving me to watch our youngest. After seeing them into bed with a story, I sat down with Mike Garrett and Justin Easley for a bit of gaming. We were deciding between Age of Steam vs a couple of other games, and decided to skip Age of Steam with only three players (Mike didn't seem to care for it with three). We started the night with High Society, a Knizia filler that for some reason I had never tried before. Mike explained it and off we went. In the end, Justin ended up having spent too much cash, and my -5 put me too far behind Mike, despite his having the IRS audit (1/2). Next, I introduced the two of them to San Marco. This is a great game that doesn't come out much since it really shines with only three players. Its a pretty straight forward area control game, where the actions for each turn are determined by a hand of cards. The trick is that the cards are divided by one player, and the other players get to pick which of the cards they want to use first. It makes for some delicious decision making. Finally, we ended the night with a game I've been wanting to play again since I was first introduced to it - Vinci. My buddy Matthew Frederick once said this is a great game while you are playing it, but the ending sucks. He was quite accurate about this, so I wanted tot try out the variable ending rules (roll a die to randomly determine the end of the game). Of course, as soon as Mike hit 120 pts, we start rolling and ended the game. At that point, I could only get within three points of Mike, whose civ had just started its downward spiral. Another turn and Mike might have been out of the game. C'est la vie.

    Friday, October 19, 2007

    Tikal part IV

    So here we are at the start of round 5. This last round included scoring, which put me in third place, down a single point to jendi and a couple more back of the leader cpsof95 (black). I capped a temple at 6 to ensure myself some pts for the rest of the game and was able to grab a couple of points that black was wrapping up. In this next round, I really need to go before black so I can dig a couple more layers up and then cap one of the many temples he's locking down. I wish red would lock down that seven so that black and beige can't score any off it. Otherwise, this round looks to be pretty uninteresting.

    Thursday, October 18, 2007

    More Printing

    I'm going in the wrong direction. I have this package of cardstock, and its like I can't NOT print something if I have it. Anyway, added a couple more printouts to my list of things to mount and cut.

  • Space Junkyard. There are actually two versions of this, the second being a revised version with nicer graphics. I choose this one of course.
  • Triumvirate - the official 3-player expansion for Mare Nostrum.

    I also need to mention - double sided stuff is a pain in the arse. I think I've got an ok solution, but its still a pain to do.

    Also of some minor note. I've been trying to find some textured papers to print on. I found a "sketch" pad of specialized artist's paper (I forget the exact type). The have different types for inks, charcoals, watercolors, etc. At any rate, this paper's texture is very similar to the the linen finish that some game boards have (The Game of Thrones boards are good examples). The color laser printer has trouble with paper that is too thick, so I printed out some stuff on my wife's inkjet printer (her printer handles larger papers that mine does not). As was typical, the end results appeared to be "muted", but after a spray of Krylon crystal clear, they are nearly as bright as the laser printed version (though more effort of course). I now need to finish the work and see if the end result was worth the effort and increase costs. If so, I might try to do Mike Doyle's PR-II set this way.
  • Sunday, October 14, 2007

    Why Do I Collect?

    A gamer blogged about collecting and buying and the obsession many of us have with this hobby. So here's my response to why.

    Why do I collect boardgames and why do I feel the urge to buy and trade them all the time? First - I like to play games. I like the problem solving exercise I get. I also like the competition aspect. Though I enjoy sports and athletics, I'm not a natural gifted athlete in any way, so mental gymnastics have been the only thing I can effectively be competitive at (this might be why I also like golf competitions, since its usually done by handicap). And I like the social aspect. I like sitting around talking and BS'ing about anything. The game is an activity itself, but it also allows for other things to happen simultaneously.
    Yeah, so what does that have to do with owning a bazillion (201 and counting) games? When I first started playing, I never imagined I'd own 20 games. But what I found was, if I really liked a game, I wanted to have it around in case I wasn't playing with my friends that owned the game. I also wanted it, in case I wanted to play and they hadn't brought it out to game night. And so, my collection grew. At one point, I started grabbing anything that sounded good or was cheap. I realized I was starting to just horde and started trading most of those games away. My collection is now comfortable. Which is not to say that I won't be getting more games. It just means I like where my collection is currently at. I don't feel like I have any glaring "holes". I have games that are good for just about any number of people 2-8+. I have strategy games, war-ish games, card games, race games, abstracts, ameri-trash games, euro-snot games, filler games, thematic games, gamer games, classics, etc. In fact, I hit a certain point where I wanted to play new games less, and play some of my games that I owned more often. So what keeps me buying now? New and interesting games. Things that I will enjoy. Price helps, but you can sell a lot of crap on Tanga that I won't touch. Expansions draw me in, but there are limits. I haven't touched Runebound yet, due to my completist needs. I've also gotten into some rarer games, but only if I will play them. I don't need to own things I won't play like Rail Baron and Advanced Civilization.

    Saturday, October 13, 2007

    Game Night

    Friday Oct. 12, 2007 - Game Shoppe
    After a bit of confusion on what we were going to do tonight, I headed out to the Game Shoppe in Bellevue. My only real plan was to meet up with Steve Wicklund to try and get in some Power Grid. As luck would have it, when I arrived, Mike Garrett was at the store when I arrived, so things looked good. Bob Huntsman and his lady friend Isabelle were there waiting for their group, so we all sat down to play No Thanks! while we waited for folks to show up. My copy was new and Mike didn't do a great job of shuffling the cards, so there was a lot of grouped cards that first game. Bob and Isabelle weren't impressed, so Scott and Sam joined us for a second game. Mike easily won both games.
    By then, the other(s) had shown up in Bob's group, so Scott, Mike and I broke off to go setup Power Grid while we waited for Steve. He was along shortly, so I jumped head first into explaining the game. I sort of pushed him into the deep end, but he seemed to grasp everything really quickly. We played the American map, with the most eastern (cheaper) areas. What made this game really strange was that nuclear power came out early and often and Steve and Scott were fighting over it. There was at least one turn that Steve wasn't able to power his 5-city nuclear plant because he had no fuel. I stayed away from that, but ended up with a couple expensive oil plants. Coal and garbage were not seen much, nor used much. In fact, we had a lot of expensive plants early (a bad sign that the mid game would stall with bad plants) and sure enough, things stagnated right after we jumped to step 2. At this point, I could power 12 cities, so I kept plowing ahead in my purchases of cities. I grabbed a garbage plant to power 3 cities and when the others stalled, I simply built to 17 and ended the game powering 3 cities in more than the others. Scott and Steve were new and the weird plant battle the had going on hurt them a lot, but I give a lot of credit to the AZBoardgamers for my success - playing with that ruthless efficient bunch really honed my PG skills and it showed - I was able to pour it on when they slowed down. For the record, I started with the #06 (garbage) plant, not the #04 plant. The Noah garbage strategy wins again!
    After we finished up, we had time for another game, so I pulled out Mykerinos - a neat little area control game that I'm terrible at. This game was no exception. I only got a couple guys into the museum and I failed to notice that all of the red patron cards were gone before the final round, eliminating my chance to get the full set of patrons. I scored a load of boards the final round, but it was too little too late. I easily ended up in a last with Steve pulling out the win. This game is fun, but there is a lot going on to try and think about, and I'd need to play it a lot more to really get a better handle on it.
    Scott was done for the night, but Steve wanted to try No Thanks!, so the three of us played a quick hand of this. I was finally able to do some damage and won the last game of the night.

    Wednesday, October 10, 2007

    Print and ...

    Well, its supposed to be print and play. Lately, I've done a lot of printing. A lot. My company conveniently put a color laser printer out which I've put to good use. Last night as I cleaned up my office, I realized I've been printing a lot of things. Here are the things I have printed that I need to cut and mount:
  • Atolla Modulis (Power Grid expansion)
  • Alternate Vinci map
  • A couple copies of the Zooloretto expansions
  • The Puerto Rico Haiti expansion
  • Mike Doyle's first Puerto Rico revision
  • Michael Schacht's Dschunke: Das Legespiel
    Hmm... Only one of those is really a PnPLAY - Dschunke. The rest are all expansions (or in the case of the Mike Doyle stuff, re-imaged). I don't know why I like doing this stuff. Maybe its because when I'm done, the things look a lot like a purchased set of pieces. It might be because I like having game things that not a load of other people have. I don't know. At any rate, I foresee a lot of gluing and cutting in my future...
  • Tuesday, October 09, 2007

    Tikal Analysis part III

    Ok, so here we are at the start of round 5. Roughly half way through the game. No volcano this turn, which means a lot of positioning, because its likely we'll see one next round. Scores are pretty well tied up. Jendi made an expensive move to cap the temple, but that should pay off. This round has a level 5 temple out. I'm in a good position where it may pay to bid 3-4 to grab that tile, move a guy on it, raise it to a 6 and cap it. That would help me to mitigate the guaranteed 21 pts that Jendi is going to see from his the rest of the game. 4 pts might hurt, because it would leave me short to bid on the volcano the next round. We'll have to see how the bidding goes. This is a game where it pays to have a really strong bidder in front of you. When scoring comes around, someone that will take the volcano will give you scoring second, which is often just as good and doesn't cost you anything. I really hate bidding just so that the slob after me doesn't win the volcano. There are only 3 artifacts to grab this round, so I'd be hard pressed to see them, plus I'm not really in a position for them to help me. If I get really lucky, someone will pull the matching mask to mine, so I can get a 3-piece set.