Friday, June 29, 2007

My Top 10 June 2007

About every 6 months or so, I revise my top 10 list. As you can see (if you are really astute) there has been an update to the Top 10 games listed on the right side. Here are my thoughts about the rankings:

Age of Steam
1) Age of Steam. I've liked this one better than Power Grid for a while and finally just gave in and gave it my top spot. After not playing for 6+ months, I got to teach the game to a couple guys the other night. This is still my top game.

Power Grid
2) Power Grid. I really enjoy Power Grid, because it incorporates a number of mechanism that I think are easy to understand (auction, supply and demand, jockeying for position) and have been mixed together quite well. This game plays equally well with any number from 3-5. I dropped it only slightly, because with six players, the randomness of the power plants negatively effects the game. Its also fiddly in managing the goods track and to a lesser extent, the power plants - though a single person can easily handle those portions of the game. The rest is easy enough for a beginner to quickly pick up and its still a great game. I'm looking forward to the new power plant cards coming out at the end of the year.

Game of Thrones, A
3) A Game of Thrones (plus expansions). The third place is still the same. This is one freaking great wargame. Nearly no luck and all strategy makes this a nearly perfect. Everyone's house plays differently, yet the game is really well balanced. It also captures the flavor of one of the best fantasy series exceptionally well. This would be number one if it didn't take 5+ hours to play.

4)Torres. Still at #4, still don't own this. I really really should. I should also play this more, as I really enjoy it. The action point system and the spatial system really connect with me (it probably why I also enjoy Java and Taluva).

Twilight Struggle
5)Twilight Struggle. New to the list this time around. I really like this one, despite the length. It just oozes theme and is really fun. I wish I knew how to make it play a bit faster. There are a few cards that can really unbalance the game, but they are there on both sides. Much as in the real Cold War, a little luck and smart play will usually win out.

6)Tichu. This is my favorite trick taking game, and I like it with either 4 or 6. I have got to find some people to play this.

7) Samurai. A great Knizia game that took me a while to understand the 3-player strategy. I still have no grasp on the 4 player strategies. Even the two-player game is fun. I've been playing a load on MaBiWeb. This one looks great when its set up and is entertaining no matter the number of players. I'm going to try working on some new maps for playing face to face.

Carcassonne - The Castle
8) Carcassonne The Castle. Dropping down to #8 from 5. This is probably my favorite two player game. Knizia's take on the Carc franchise is very well done. Its pretty simple to learn and has enough to it to make you think a bit. I wish regular Carcassonne was this entertaining.

9) Ingenious. Hmm, three Knizia's in my top 10? Well, there are a load of games that could make number 10 in my list depending on the day - today it moved up a spot. This one plays equally well with 2-4. The more I play it, the more I like this one.

10) Antike. I miss playing this one. Fast and furious and good "lite" Civ style game. A lot of people claim the end game drags on, but I have yet to play a game where I found that to be true.

The Mystery is Revealed!

Ok, so I got my mystery 3-pack of games and I have to admit, I'm a little disappointed. Not that I was expecting a gold mine of games, but I was hoping for one gem in the bunch. As one Tanga-poster said - "I look at it this way - I got 3 games for $7 each, which is cheaper than going to three movies, and I'll probably get more entertainment out of the games even if I only play them once or twice."

Ok, that may be true. OR I might just not ever play those games, in which case, I wasted my $20. The thing that really bothers me is that previously, Tanga Mystery games had been decent games. The types of games we received were all things that would have gone out as a CHEAPER mystery pack. Unfortunately for Tanga, I will be among the many that will not go out on a limb for a mystery pack again.

The games I received were:
Double or Nothing - This is a nothing special Kniza game that should be ok with non-gamers.
Ostrakon - A light party game where the idea is to correctly guess the opinion of the group.
Ice Lake - This actually turned out to look like the most interesting of the bunch. Players write out their skater's movement plan (left, right, straight) in secret then take turns moving (ala Roborally), with the idea being that the ice is thin and where you go leaves a "crack" (marked with erasable pens) in the ice. The goal is to surround your opponent and make them fall in (I guess).

So, nothing terrible, but I wouldn't have purchased any of these on their own. These games average a 5.88 (just below - "Ok game, will play sporadically if in the mood"), with the high being Ostrakon at 6.1. If one of these games had been a solid 7 (even if I owned or didn't want to own) I, and I think most of the disappointed Mystery Pack owners wouldn't have been disappointed.

Monday, June 25, 2007

June 23, 2007 - Oh Hell!

My parents, Steve and Cathy Hasegawa, came over to play some cards. After my kids were in bed, they suggested we play "the bid game" - known to the rest of the world as Oh Hell! The seating was myself, my mother, then my father. We started with 16 cards each, planning to work our way down to 1 (I'm not sure why you don't go the other way, there is no tension in the last couple hands if you work your way down). As we reached the midpoint of the game, I had built up a good lead. We took a short break, at which point my dad asked to switch places with my mother. He was convinced that she had been hosing him with her bidding the whole game. Of course, we switched and dealt the hand of 8 cards. My mother (who is annoyed now), promptly bids 6 (as it turned out, she had no cards under a 10 in her hand, but she also only had a single trump). I was thinking about bidding 3, because of A-K-J in non-trump + 2 middle trump. Know that my mother would lead, I let her have her 6 bid, and bid 1. My mother lead a card and I end up taking the trick with a 7, giving me my one trick! I lead a low trump and won again, because my mother had no trump left. Frustrated, I said - why did you build 6!?!? At which point, my dad busts up laughing (which he did not stop for 10 minutes). My mother, not happy about being laughed at then quit. I'm not real sure I'd have bid 6 with her hand, maybe 4. My dad didn't care, he felt justified that his low score was my mother's fault. Me? I was winning, so I'm claiming the win.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Forgive the mess

I apologize as the look of this page jumps around a bit. I hated the way the page layout was and I want the display to be wider - I'm planning to expand the template to post to 1000 rather than 800. And if you still run at 600x800 or whatever, grow up and join the modern era of monitors bigger than 15" - the defacto should be 1024, not 800.

Hansa - Winds of Change review

As posted on the BGG
I've enjoyed playing Hansa since I discovered it - it plays quickly and while there are choice, its not a game that will cause a player to sit all night deciding on their move. When I heard there was an expansion map, I was excited, because I could see the limited replay ability of the first. At first glance, this map looks nearly the same - it not, its actually considerably different. A number of the direction arrows have been reversed, new lanes have been added and this map allows you to move against the direction of the arrow by paying double the move cost. There are also new scoring rules - the additional scoring also makes for much different considerations. The end scoring is ala Hansa Extrakarte, which after a few playings, I'm pretty sure is not all that great. In fact, the scoring seems to reward the leader more than it helps bring a player who is behind back up. Still, this is a worthy option for fans of Hansa. Its always nice to have a bit of difference in a game you enjoy.
At this time, this is a print and play - I've not seen where this has been printed yet. It is available as an option in online play at MaBiWeb.
- New map with new options is a breath of fresh air to Hansa fans.
- The Extrakarte scoring can lead to a runaway leader.
- The first time you play this map, expect to make mistakes ;)
As I said, if you want to play this, you need to print out the JPG image available here or go play online at MaBiWeb. I recommend the latter to get a feel for if you want to spend the time printing and putting together this new map.
I've downgraded my rating for this and Hansa to a 6/10. Luck drives this game far to much, and while its always been light tactical fare, the new scoring rules don't help mitigate that. If anything, I'd rate this map slightly below the original. I think the current rating (7.4) is only this high due to the newness and once that wears off, the ratings should come back down to earth.

June 23, 2007 - Hansa Winds of Change

Last of my pool games finished up with something of a lopsided win. I managed to get markets all over the board for ties or ownership and I never seemed to give up that position. Combined with a bit of luck and I snuck out to a lead that never was in Jeopardy. I finally wrote up a review of this map - I just don't care for it that much - it has a runaway leader problem and amplifies the luck. At any rate, the final score was:
R. N. Dominick: 43
Charles: 80

Friday, June 22, 2007

Game Night

Friday June 22, 2007
Tonight I hosted a small game night. I had invited a couple guys I had been in contact with from the boardgame geek as well as my friend Steve Wicklund from work. Joining us was Justin Easley. We started the night with a playing of Taluva, which Steve and I wanted to try with three players after playing a rash of two-players games of this. The game was definitely more interesting, and Steve surprised himself with a win.

After that, Justin wanted to learn Age of Steam. I pulled out the France map and set about explaining the game. Though a bit overwhelming at first, they dove right in. At the end of the first turn, we realized that we had overlooked the importance of Paris (Paris gets half of all the good production in the game, in addition to taking every color good, except black). We agreed that we should start over (besides, it worked out to be a good introduction to the flow of the game). Once we got going, it got interesting. Being new, Justin and Steve built a bit randomly at first (though Steve immediately took away what I was planning to do first turn out). Despite their initial hickups, the game stayed tight for the first few turns - Steve was the first to turn a profit. After 4-5 turns, I had setup and started running moves of 5 and then 6. This allowed me to pull ahead, though Steve and Justin stayed close. In fact, Steve started having to move 3s and 4s (he just ran out of options). Justin stayed close, moving a good number of 4s and 5s. With income reduction, I never pulled too far away. Then, towards the mid-end game, Justin and I started having to feed Steve a point or two each move in order to keep up with each other. On the last two turns, Steve clawed back in with multiple deliveries of 6, while Justin and I continued to get 5s (one point of which went to Steve). In the end, Justin's lack of track cost him second place, while Steve and I ended up being pretty close in track. My slim income lead allowed me the victory.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

And I would have gotten away with it, if it weren't for those meddling kids!

Who doesn't love a good mystery? Well, whomever the mystery doesn't work out for, that's who. Last night's Tangathon finished up with me making two purchases - one being the long awaited Age of Empires III. A quick check of online retailers came up with this:
  • Time Well Spent 1 left, $42+shipping
  • Boulder Games OOS, $42+shipping
  • Fairplay OOS $42+shipping
  • Funagain In-stock $54+shipping
  • Thoughthammer OOS $42+shipping
  • Tanga Age of Empires III = $42 including shipping for me.

  • So, not only did I get a decent price, I actual am going to get the game (of course, then I found out you can get another color set of pieces, so I know I'll end up ordering those at some point.

    Anyway, back to the title of the post. Prior to the long awaited AoEIII, Tanga put up the old Mystery 3-pack. Being the sucker I am, I got one. Last time around, people claimed to have received some really good games - Ra, Samurai, Amun Re, Ricochet Robots, For Sale, etc. Previous mysteries have been less than enthusiastically received, but they were also cheaper. Only time will tell if I got a deal or not.

    Wednesday, June 20, 2007

    June 20, 2007 - As Blogged on My BGG Blog

    My Collection
    Vegas Showdown
    Monsters Menace America
    Return of the Heroes
    Die Macher
    Under the Shadow of the Dragon
    Notre Dame
    Hoity Toity

    What do all these games have in common? They are all games I picked up from Tanga. For those just joining us, Tanga is a site that offers a daily sale special of somewhat random things. Of special interest to the boardgame community is the fact that often the daily sale is a boardgame. Of all these, Vegas Showdown, Die Macher, Notre Dame and Cluzzle would have likely been purchased at some point, regardless. Possibly Return of the Heroes and the expansion. So why the others? They were fairly cheap. Oasis looked decent, MMA fit my AH/Hasbro collection, Hoity Toity might play ok with family.

    What it really boils down to though is that I like buying games. I like my game collection. I like when non-gamers come to my house and see my wall of games. I don’t feel a crazy urge to own every game out there, but there are still games I desire to own. I feel “comfortable” with my collection. I have some good gamer games and good non-gamer “gateway” games. I have a few children games. I have abstract games and theme games. Near-wargames and Eurogames and Ameritrash games. I have dexterity games and card games and dice games (no, I don’t have Bunco, which is not a game at any rate). I have games that are good for 2-8 players (and a few that probably qualify as solo).

    Despite my continued acquisition of games, my collection growth has slowed down quite a bit in the last 6-8 months. There was a point where I felt like there was a lot of gaps in what I owned. Now I don’t quite have the same compulsion. I have a lot of really good games in my collection. At one point, I started getting a lot of games that sounded good, without playing them. A lot of those have been traded away in math trades (to the point that I have very little I feel like parting with anymore). I still have some games that are only in my collection because they were on clearance – Niagra, Roborally, Who’s the Boss, etc that I plan to rid myself of at some point. My buying now seems more aimed at completing the gaps in my collection (a few Alea big box games are still missing from my collection), grabbing the really hot games that have gotten good feedback., grabbing things that are not likely to get printed again (Railroad Tycoon, Conquest of Empires, Formula De), and getting expansions (Age of Steam maps, Battlelore, Heroscape, etc) – my list of Games Acquired in 2007 supports this.

    So why bother blogging about this? There currently is Tangathon going on. Normally, Tanga lists a single item each day and when it sells out, you wait till the next day. During the Tangathon, they appear to try and get rid of excess inventory by running multiple listings – when an item sells out, a new one appears (it also looks like a new one appears if a listing sits for a long time). Us game collectors love bargains – have no fear, we will usually spend the dough for a hard to get item or really nice game, but in the end we love bargains. That’s why there are so many thrift store lists on the BGG. Now, the argument goes that Tanga is not a bargain (at least its not cheaper than any of the other deep-discount online sellers), because you can’t get free shipping like you can with some online stores. True, but the online stores require you to purchase (typically) over $125 worth of merchandise to get the free shipping. At any rate, I’ve been spending too much time watching the listings at Tanga, trying to get a bargain or two. I was one of about 4 people to snag Notre Dame. I’ll be the first to admit I wouldn’t have normally grabbed this (despite it being an Alea /RG big box game), but I had spent the time and I felt obligated to myself to get something out of this ;).

    The funny part about the whole Tangathon is that a lot of folks are just waiting for the primo listing – Age of Empires III. Apparently, the site “borked” up just prior to the Tangathon kicking off and a few folks got a glimpse at some of what was coming and the prices. Now everyone is waiting to see it (and I’m sure, getting a few things that they wouldn’t normally grab). Hopefully, I don’t give in and grab a few things I don’t really need.

    Tuesday, June 19, 2007

    June 18, 2007 - Hansa Changing Winds Tourney

    Another pool game. My opponent this time was Corey Malczewski (hardcore). I went second again, but this time the luck fell on me and I was able to both cover the board with markets as well as scoop up a good number of goods, scoring in little blitzes. With a tight score, I was able to end the game (I counted correctly this time) and grab a few more points, pushing me out in front for the win. Final scores - Corey: 55, Charles: 65

    June 18, 2007 - Hansa Changing Winds Tourney

    Finished another game in my pool, suffering another loss. At least this game was closer, though I still was behind most of the game. At the end, I thought i had a chance, but I miss counted and when I tried to end the game, I came up 1 short, allowing my opponent - Justin Green (shumyum) to end the game after another turn. That alone was a 6-pt swing. Not sure if I could have won if I had ended it, but it would have been close. Final score:
    Justin: 71, Charles: 62.

    I'm getting a better handle on the new Hansa map, but I'm decidedly against Hansa as a two player game - the luck is far to prevailing. Three players is definitely the sweet spot for Hansa.

    Sunday, June 17, 2007

    June 17, 2007 - As Blogged on My BGG Blog

    Things I Just Don't Understand on the BGG
    Why are some games split and others not. Why are there 354165432^2 editions of Monopoly and yet there isn't a separate listing for the Decennial edition of El Grande. There was, prior to the game coming out, but then they got merged. That makes no sense whatsoever. My version of El Grande is very different from someone with the original. Not a small difference, like German vs English printing. If I list El Grande in a math trade, what is the first thing that will get asked? Which edition?

    There are all kinds of inconsistencies like this on the geek. How about Twilight Imperium? This has 3 listings - one for each version. This makes sense, since the versions are substantially different. Cosmic Encounter does not, despite the vast differences between the Eon, Mayfair and AH/Hasbro versions.

    How about Ave Caesar? The original has different maps than the new release. QJett is essentially the same game as the original, but the pieces and theme make it really different - should it have a separate entry? Why not? Monopoly does.

    What about Hoity Toity? It and Adel Verpflichtet are lumped together, despite different publishers, packages, and contents (including the fact that HT plays 6 players). It is a different game - why not allow it its own entry?

    The new Age of Steam has a new entry (3rd ed), yet the first and second editions are still lumped together (ok I know, 1st and 2nd were really just printings with a few minor corrections, so this is ok). But if the changed rules etc for AoS3ed warrant its own entry, why not Conquest of the Empire? The re-issue of Conquest is pretty different (in nearly every way) from the original Milton Bradley Game Master version.

    I guess if I had a choice, I would vote that editions of the game that are different (i.e. not a reprinting with corrected rules or including the scenarios on the internet ala C&C:Ancients or Twilight Struggle) should have their own entry. Let us list our collections correctly. As for the language question (is this the English, German, or Dutch printing of Union Pacific?) - maybe the entries should have a some sort of additional metadata so when I list C&C:Ancients, I can select 2nd ed, or I can select English on my copy of Traders of Genoa.

    June 17, 2007 - Hansa

    This game was part of pool play in the MaBiWeb Changing Winds tournament. My opponent was Lindsay Scholle and I got killed. I'm still figuring out a few things about the new map, and its hurting badly. This game saw me watching as Lindsay racked up points each turn. When I had a chance for points, it typically meant setting up my opponent for enough points to negate my turn. I finally ended the game and the scores were:
    Lindsay: 63
    Charles: 44


    No, that doesn't mean I have no friends. I ran across a post by Brian Bankler (of The Tao of Gaming) about extended BGG stats by John Farrell. My results are at here .

    So here is some "analysis" of my stats. First the things that don't make sense. Time spent playing is bogus. This is based of the listed playing time. For example, A Game of Thrones is by no means a three hour game, yet this is how its listed. If everyone knows what they are doing, a 6-player game is at least 4+ hours. AT LEAST. Nothing wrong with that, its a super game, but I can't fathom how you'd ever play this in three hours. The time section is a little meaningless to me.

    Favorite categories was interesting to me, but the breakdown was odd. It shows me having 9 war games (don't tell that to a GROGNARD, since nothing I own really qualifies as that in their mind). It also only shows 9 expansions (that's wrong, I counted 27, NOT including Heroscape).

    The most unusual games I own is a listing of games that have the fewest user rankings (I guess). Not sure why someone would bother ranking something like Pitchcar Special Long Straights, but whatever.

    Now the interesting stats. Starting with Most Played Games I Don't Own.

    NameMy RatingPlaysUsed to Own?
    Blue Moon6.55Y
    Havoc: the Hundred Years War4.05Y

    Of these, I would re-acquire Yinsh and possibly Blue Moon. Yinsh is a great abstract two-player game. Blue Moon was interesting, but I think it really needs a lot of playings before the fun comes out. At some point, I will own Torres, Backgammon, and C&C:Ancients. Torres is a super game and for the life of me, I don't know why I don't own this game. Backgammon is just one of those things I'll get in time. C&C:Ancients is one of those where I need to have a regular playing partner first I think. Pickomino was a gift for my mother, but I'm indifferent about owning it myself. Maybe when the kids are elementary school age and are working on their math. The others I do not want anything to do with. Byzantium sounded so good on paper, but wasn't as much fun when you actually played it. Actually, it was fun, but the endgame was disappointing especially after 3 hours. Havoc was just not good.

    According to the list, here are the top 5 games I should play soon (all of which I own):
  • El Grande - yep, I do need to play this. I also need 4 other players first :(
  • Funkenschlag Atolla Modulis - Hey, I spent all that time making this didn't I?
  • Conquest of the Empire - this will probably stay in the shrink for a long time.
  • Vegas Showdown - this does need to get some play time.
  • San Juan - this needs some play time too (so do a lot of a games ;) )
  • Tuesday, June 12, 2007

    June 12, 2007 - Samurai

    Finished an interesting 3-player game of Samurai on MaBiWeb with Matthew Frederick and Tammy Smolka. Tammy is still learning the ins and outs of the game, so Matthew and I spent a lot of the game jumping on every chance we got to load up. In the end though, the best I could do was try for a tie. Tammy had the last move and ended the game with nobody having a one majority and Matthew and I tied with the same number of pieces.
    Final Score (majorities, other, total):

    Tammy: 0 - 5 - 5
    Charles: 0 - 10 - 10
    Matthew: 0 - 10 - 10

    Sunday, June 10, 2007

    June 9, 2007 - Crokinole

    We had some friends stop over for pizza after we all went to the circus and in showing off our new dinning room table, I also got to show off my Crokinole board. Jason Roewert showed some interest, so we sat down and I taught him to play. Of course, since I own the board, I should probably practice on the thing, as he soundly defeated me 100(+) to 45. Ah well - he really liked it and I'm sure we'll sneak in a game anytime he comes over.

    Saturday, June 09, 2007

    June 9, 2007 - Hansa Wandering Winds

    I wanted to try out this map again after getting crushed in my last outing. This time up, I played a 3-player game with Tammy Smolka and Matthew Frederick on MaBiWeb. I started out just grabbing goods and setting up markets until I ran out of markets, then I got lucky and had three turns where I was able to grab three goods tokens of the same color and sell those off. I also was in position to end the game and score additional bonus points. In the end, I scored 10 more bonus points than Matthew and Tammy and my lucky run of goods at the end of the game made the scores look more lopsided than I felt it was. That's the one thing with Hansa, there is a good portion of luck. If you are in good position to grab goods, but the markets are full of 1-barrel or mis-matched colors, there isn't much for you to do.
    Final Score -
    Tammy: 29
    Matthew : 46
    Charles: 63

    Friday, June 08, 2007

    June 7, 2007 - Samurai

    Rubber Match between Matthew Frederick and I. Our previous head to head matches were split, as we figured out the differences in play for two-players. This time out, I tried for a cautiously aggressive game. After I few turns, I decided that unless Matthew changed the way he was attacking the board, I'd try to set things up such that I could end the game by eliminating one of the types from the board. This appeared that it might work, as I tried to feed Matthew pieces of the type he already had a majority in (buddhas). Near the end, I felt like I had a good shot at ending the game in two turns, unless Matthew had some move I couldn't see. Unfortunately for him, he tried for an extra hat and fed me another rice piece giving me majorities in rice and hats. My next move took the last two hats off the board ending the game. I've said it before, but I really like this game. I really enjoy that it plays quite differently for 2-3-4 players.

    Tuesday, June 05, 2007

    June 5, 2007 - Samurai

    Back for more I tell you. After getting beaten by Matthew in our last two player game, I was determined to have a better showing in the re-match on MaBiWeb. This time out, I started very aggressively, trying not to allow Matthew to be efficient in the use of his pieces. I hoped that I wouldn't find myself at the end of the game without the ability to do anything. As it turned out, we burned through all the hat pieces in record time, and I was able to get the last piece off the table ending the game with each of us having one majority, but myself having more other pieces 5 to 3. The tie-breaker is coming.

    Monday, June 04, 2007

    June 3, 2007 - Samurai

    In an effort to destroy my winning percentage in Samurai, I asked Matthew Frederick to play a two player game of Samurai with me. I wanted to get a handle on how this plays two-player. Matthew and I played the game out fairly evenly, however I made a mistake at the end of the game that cost me the win. My impression after playing loads of 3-4 player games is that a two player contest is likely to come down to the end game position. Its tense, but the "screwage" factor is more limited.

    Friday, June 01, 2007

    May 31, 2007 - Crokinole

    I finally got to play my board last night (you know - this one):

    At any rate, I don't even want to post the scores as my wife just killed me. It took me a little while to get the hang of flicking the disks around in the general direction that I wanted. Stephanie also managed to land in the center about 4 times, which I NEVER managed to do :(. She won easily 100-20. I think I'd rather play with the alternate scoring (basically you get 1 or 2 pts a round for winning that round and play to a set number like 8 or 12) so that you don't get those crazy runaway rounds.

    I want to play this with four players, as I imagine that the team version is a blast.