Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Game of the Year 2008

This one took me all of about 5 seconds to pick. Besides being a terrific game, Indonesia introduced the world to Siap Faji - one of the most fun things to say EVER. So, what makes this such a great game? Its a terrific economic game that is almost entirely driven by the player choices. The one random part of the game has so little randomness to it to almost not matter (the cards each player gets that indicate the various spots for cities each phase of the game are the only bit of randomness). I love that the game is shaped by the group dynamic, and yet you still have to play the economies of the game properly to win. What I found really interesting is that this game seemed to play out faster with 5 players than with 4 - which after I thought about it wasn't that strange. The game length is based on how quickly companies were put out and in a five player game, they got gobbled up pretty quickly. My friend The Fonz asked me why this isn't in my top 10 games. Well, its right on the edge, but held back by the one thing I hate about this game - the little "chits of fiddleyness". I have yet to hit on a better scheme for handling the shipping, which means each round of the game is full of the stupid chits. That and the shipping payouts are something of a hassle. Now, Power Grid has fiddleyness too, but this is a step up the complexity chart from fiddley to annoying. Now, I expect to play this some more in 2009 and perhaps the beauty of the game will finally overshine the wart on the nose here and push this into my top 10 (though I'd have to bump Ave Ceasar, which I really like). I hope to avoid 4-player games of this as I like the speed of the 5-player games, but will likely not complain regardless of which way it gets played.

Game of the Month December 2008

This month I had a lot of new games and a couple of old favorites played. Thus far this year, Medici is the only older game I've made a Game of the Month, otherwise my picks have been games that were new to me. In sticking with that, I'm going to go with Ubongo and Ubongo Extrem as my top picks for December. Why two games? Well, in many ways they are the same - everyone gets a board and a set of pieces and try to solve a puzzle the fastest. The fastest players (usually) score better and can taunt the dumber (err slower) players. There are two sides to each board, each with a different puzzle. One side takes less pieces to do than the more difficult side. There are two major differences between the two games - difficulty and the scoring (much better in Extrem). Ubongo Extrem is much harder than the original due to shapes that just aren't as intuitive to put together as the original's Tetris like shapes. For me, Extrem is the better game. However, my son can play along fairly well with the original, if he does the 3-piece puzzles and us adults do the 4-piece sides. The only problem for me with plain Ubongo is that I don't feel challenged. The speed part seems more related to dexterity than mental ability. The other reason that Extrem wins for me is that there is a Ubongo Extrem Craxy Expansion which has even crazier and harder puzzles. And the expansion is print and play. I just need to get it printed. For me, more of something I like is almost always a good thing. But again, they are still about the same.

Monday, December 29, 2008


I started playing a solo game of Runebound tonight and let my son play along with me. He got to roll the dice (I help him with the math a little as he's just starting to learn addition) and I just told him the results and read the cards. Its much simpler than I thought, though more complex than he's ready for currently. Rougly speaking, the game is a series of adventures players take on in order to gain experience and money so they can better equip themselves to handle the next level of encounters. Eventually, you get through to the 4th level of encounters and the winner is the player that has met a certain high level goal. You can play solo against a "timer" or whatever. There are a bazillion extra card decks that you can buy to expand the game as well as a couple of full on expansions. For now, we'll just be sticking to the original (2nd edition) game. My son had a great time and is super excited, despite basically just doing 4 green (easy) encounters. As long as we can keep things out without getting them disturbed, I don't mind playing a little each night with him. I also don't mind doing the reading and combat rules with him doing the dice and addition (hey anything that helps him practice math and reading).

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Game Night

. Day after Christmas game night, and yet I didn't play any of my new games. That is not to say I didn't play plenty of new games, but my Christmas presents from my wife (A Game of Thrones LCG and Dominion remain un-played). So, I headed over to the Gamer's Inn to meet up with Bobby and Mike. There was a guy (Rich Irving) from California looking for a game or three who also joined us. Mike had wanted to play his new copy of Chicago Express, which I was happy to teach. Everyone was new to the game but me, which meant I had no clue how the game would play out. So what happened? Everyone just started trying to make their company more valuable to a crazy degree. Rich started with Red and I grabbed the second share hoping to pull down some cash as he made the company valuable. Rich was able to snag two of the three red shares pretty early though, and I couldn't close the game down fast enough to keep him from earning the win. My starting company, yellow, got no help from other players and I didn't get a chance to increase its value early enough to put me ahead. Final scores: Rich-47, Bobby-33, Mike-43, Charles-42.
Next, I pulled out Hare and Tortoise to get it played. This little family racing game was one of Jason Sato's favorites and I felt wrong owning and not having ever played it. Well, I finished 3rd behind the two experienced players (Bobby and Rich). The game was alright and probably needs a couple plays before I'll get it. Everyone claims it plays best with 5 or 6, so I may bring it along for a decent 5-6 player short game.
Noah Antwiller had arrived, so we got Bobby to pull out Funkenschlag - EnBW Edition (Power Grid), which had a couple of rules changes (if nobody buys a plant, two go out instead of one and you redo the turn order immediately after buying plants + a couple other minor changes). I don't know how much those effected the game (if at all), but the redoing turn order after the plants is weird after playing lots of regular Power Grid. Noah somehow managed to get into coal pretty much by himself the whole game as well as placing after me and cutting me off. I made a good run, but when he got his 5 and 6 plants (coal), we all knew it wasn't going to be long before he won. I managed a comeback of sorts to finish a nice distant 2nd - Noah, Charles(tie breaker), Bobby, Rich, Mike.
Rich had time for a short game before needing to head out, so Bobby pulled out Sushizock im Gockelwok - something of the next evolution of Pickomino, but better. This version is a fast playing and light press your luck game, with a much better playing time than Pickomino. Having played it, I'd get this and skip Pickomino forever :)
After Rich left, I pulled out both Aquaretto and Zooloretto for a combined game. I had not played Aquaretto before, so after getting the lowdown from Bobby and Mike, away we went. After just this playing, I can see a bit where I might like Aquaretto better than Zooloretto. I liked playing the two as a whole, though it makes for quite a bit longer game. If you only tolerate this series, you won't want to play the combined game. If you enjoy them, you'll enjoy the more gamer-y feel of playing both together.
We finished the night playing yet another new game for me - Control Nut!. I've had this little trick-taking game for years (since I love trick taking games), but have never had the chance to play. Basically, you score points by taking the 1s, 3s, and 7s (each has one or two stars on it) and multiplying the number of stars you get by the number of tricks you take. That part is pretty simple. The complicated part is that there are 4 special cards (out of 8) in play each hand. The hand starts with an auction for those cards - you bid three cards. If you win the card, you give one card from those three to each of the other players. So you have to balance your ability to take tricks with getting the specials. It sounds better on paper than it seemed to play. I never quite grokked it and Bobby and I got killed by Mike and Noah 135-318 - blech.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Cult of the New 2008 - Addendum

Well, I should have figured I'd end up adding to the total before the end of the year. So, here are a few more games to add to my post about the Cult of the New 2008. Guess they can come of my Still Unplayed list :)
  • Hare and Tortoise - this was slightly more complex than I thought it was going to be. There is a bit of math and tactical planning and I'm pretty sure it'll be at least 3 years before my son can play this (if then). Its a nice little race game.
  • Power Grid -EnBW - I'm not sure I care for one rule change - the turn order re-shuffling is done immediately after you buy plants. I do like that if nobody buys a plant, two come out, but I don't know if that sped up my one playing that much.
  • Sushizock im Gockelwok - the faster version of Pickomino, its also easier to understand. I'd pick this up well before I picked up Pickomino. Put this on my list of games to get.
  • Control Nut! - after finally playing, I can confidently say that I have no idea how to play this game (as far as playing competitively - the rules are pretty straight forward). There are better trick taking games I think.
  • Aquaretto - I got to play this as part of a Zooloretto+Aquaretto game. Putting the two together is a little long, but adds a few nice, "Hey! I need both those trucks you jerk!" moments. I can see where I might like Aquaretto better as a standalone game.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Want to Play Again

I do not know why I am so "listy" lately, but here we go with another list of games. This time, games I've played only once that I want to play again. *Note - this isn't the games I've only played once list, because I don't need to list games I don't care about playing again.
  • Acquire - this classic is despised by Matthew, but I think it mostly doesn't see me play it because the edition I own is a massive pain to carry around and because I don't remember all the rules. Sato and Bobby really handled all the payouts IIRC, so I payed attention to the game, not the details in my one and only playing.
  • Arkadia - need to try this again. Bobby said it is better with 4, so I'd like to get a full set of folks for it.
  • Buried Treasure - its been forever since I played. I decent little pirate themed card game, that I remember nothing about now, just that I liked it the one time I played it.
  • Conquest of the Empire - yeah, I know its the lite version of Struggle of the Empires, but I liked this one when I played it. The biggest issue I think is that this is probably best with 6 and getting six others to play might be a hassle. Especially since if I get 6 together for a long game, we're more likely to play Starcraft or A Game of Thrones.
  • Daimyo - I only tried this with three players and it felt too unbalanced. I think this one is a 4-player only, so I'd like to try it again that way.
  • El Grande - seriously? I've only played this once? That needs to be fixed.
  • A Game of Thrones: Storm of Swords - The one time I played the 4-player version, I found it to be very well done and very balanced. Must try it again.
  • Manifest Destiny - despite the randomness, I rather liked this game.
  • Metropolys - this was a fun area control / bidding game. Its also pretty quick so I'd like to play it some more.
  • Modern Art - pure bidding game that I've only played once. I don't know why that is.
  • Vegas Showdown - I always forget about this one when looking at my games and try to pick one out to play. Its a good game and one I need to try and play more often.
  • Warrior Knights - I hosed up the rules and we all hated this. However, I kinda want to try it again - there seems to be a decent game in here somewhere.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Another Satisfied Customer

Well, here go. Apparently like most humans, my secret Santa target has no self control (I waited last year :P). At any rate, here is his posting from the BGG. Thanks to Santa's helper Mike Gingold for making this possible.

So, after waiting (very patiently) all this time, I come home from a game session tonight, and my wife tells me "This just came for you." Could it be??? Yes! It's my Secret Santa package!
"Yes Virginia, there is a Santa, and he apparently lives in Arizona." This explains the cryptic question about whether I like salsa. It also explains the 2 jars of absolutely delicious looking salsa that were hiding amongst the packing peanuts. Locally (AZ) made stuff, not that mass-produced slop! Yummy! :devil:

(SS, you had me a little worried there for a minute. I wasn't sure whether you meant the food or the dancing. I'm relieved to find out it was the food!!):laugh:

Also inside is a wrapped box that doesn't quite match up with anything I'm figuring to get off my Wishlist. I am perplexed, and anxious. I send off a quick note to my SS, asking if it's all right to open it. He answers, but I'm still not sure if I should wait, or not. I decide I'm going to try to be good. This lasts for maybe 15 minutes, until my wife tells me "Just go ahead and open it" for the third time. (Yes, it's all her fault!) Hey, I can take just so much - I'm only human - so I tear into the box. As I open the top flaps, I see "There are 2 items in here" written on the inside of one flap, and "Make sure you get both" on the other. BOTH? This box isn't that big, and I was not that good, was I? :what:

So, I start to paw through the peanuts, and come up with - OMG!!! - Groo: the Game!!!!!!! I search a little further, and find Groo: The Card Game Expansion Set as well!!!!! :surprise:

Now, I've always been a big fan of Senor Aragones, and I love Groo, but I was not expecting this!! Both those games have been out of print for quite a while, and no one was offering it for sale. I don't know how he did it, ninja but my Santa managed to get ahold of both! He has gone way above and beyond what I could have hoped for!



Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Still Unplayed

I have issues. Among them is the need to buy games I haven't ever played. Sometimes, its because I'm collecting games, sometimes its because it sounds like something that will be fun with my kids as they get older, sometimes I just NEED it. Whatever. I did work on getting the number of un-played games down (as evidenced by my 54 new games played last year). Next year, I'll definitely be working on getting that number down (faster than I acquire games I hope). There is some sort of fine line between playing new games, and getting previously played games played again. You'd kinda like to get in another game of a good game so that you can apply what you learned in the previous playing while its still fresh in your head. Also, a lot of games just don't reveal themselves until after a couple of playings (for good or ill). I also know that there will be more new games coming out next year that will have to be played, but I'll do what I can to this list. Here are the games I still own that I haven't played and why I keep them (or what I'm going to do with them). Yes, that's 78 games or expansions to try (and I left out a couple of expansions to games I haven't tried the base game).
  • Age of Mythology: The Boardgame - I've heard the combat is bad, but I still want to try this out and see what the game is about. There seem to be enough fans that there must be something here to like.
  • Age of Steam Expansion - Northern California - The flip side of the Penn "coal" map. This is supposed to be an "advanced" map. Every time I've wanted to play it, there has been some newb wanting to learn AoS.
  • Age of Steam Expansion - Mississippi Steamboats / Golden Spike - Haven't even taken the shrink off this yet. I think the group here tried the Steamboats and didn't care for it, so this might be harder to get to the table.
  • Age of Steam Expansion - Secret Blueprints of Steam Plans 1&2 - this is probably the next AoS map I'd like to try as long as I can get 4 people (it doesn't do 5) that already know the game.
  • Age of Steam Expansion - Special 2008 Spiel Limited Edition: Essen Spiel & Secret Blueprints of Steam Plan #3 - I can see the extra Secret Blueprint getting played long before Essen gets time...
  • Age of Steam Expansion - Texas, Oklahoma & New Mexico - Brown cubes? Yes, I want to try this too. Ok, I get it - I have too many expansion maps.
  • Age of Steam Expansion - The Netherlands - this is a SEVEN PLAYER map. Not so many folks want to try it.
  • Age of Steam Expansion - Vermont, New Hampshire & Central New England - ok, the worst possible way to end this list of maps is THREE maps. I guess you'd ideally want to play NH then Vermont, and finally CNE. Good thing I like AoS
  • Aquaretto - I only really want to play this with Zooloretto, not so much as a stand alone game.
  • Ark of the Covenant - Maybe I'll pull this out and teach my son the basics of Carcassone. I'm afraid it might be a bit premature to try and show him this. He'll get the matching part ok, but he's a ways off in understanding the scoring I think. I go back and forth.
  • Attack! - I think I'm going to just sell or give this away. I have a few A&A games in my collection to cover the large but light wargame itch...
  • Axis & Allies: D-Day - both this and the next were simple collection items (either cheap or math trade for other stuff). Whenever my son is old enough, these will see the light of day.
  • Axis & Allies: Europe - see the previous entry.
  • Basari - one of these times when I know Bobby will be around, I'll bring this along. I enjoy Edel, Stein, and Richt so I didn't mind picking this up as part of a math trade pack of games. I'm unclear on whether I'll want to keep it or not.
  • BlackBeard - I might try this solo or two-player, but I'm not dying to play it either...
  • Blood Feud In New York - this one sounds interesting, but I'm not sure this will see the table next year over other more interesting choices.
  • Bootleggers - this older game is supposed to be pretty fun (although a bit random). I'd like to play it this year. My best chance might be the Geekway in St. Louis with the Easleys
  • Bus - another game that is supposed to be decent. I'd like to play this at least once so that I could play it online with Justin
  • California - this cheap little game is supposed to be decent family fare, but is still a bit too much for the kids. Probably just sit there for the next year taking up space :)
  • Clans - got this in a math trade as part of a three game package. I've tried playing it online, and I don't really get it. Even if I did, there doesn't seem like enough there to bother. I'll probably dump it as a sweetener in a trade or something.
  • Cluzzle - this is like a little party game. Perhaps we'll get to try it out when The Fonz and his girlfriend visit in January.
  • Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #1: Greece & Eastern Kingdoms - I need to teach Nathan to play C&C:Ancients so that we can work our way to the expansion. Baby steps.
  • Control Nut! - come on! Somebody has to want to try this out with me (Bobby!)
  • Cosmic Encounter - with the FFG re-release of this classic, I feel my chances of getting this played have gone up in 2009. Really, I had gotten this with hopes of getting another and doing the 8 player mod. Guess I don't need to do that now. Instead, it'll sit in the AH/Hasbro section of my collection. Just sitting there.
  • Crib Wars - pretty sure I can get Bobby and Mike to play this at some point in 2009.
  • Die Macher - geez, you'd think that I'd make time for this super classic at some point. I'd be way more inclined to play if I knew this wouldn't be more than 4 hours.
  • Diplomacy - um yeah. This is not going to be played. I really would rather play AGoT over and over. I just don't see what this has over it that would make me set aside 7-8 hours.
  • Dixie - Bull Run - Don't really know anything about this one. It was a sweetener to my re-acquiring Battle Cry, so I didn't mind getting it. I should try it before I just get rid of it.
  • Doom - Mike Gingold says this is much faster than Decent. Maybe I can get him to play it with me once or twice.
  • Feurio! - I know nothing about this one. Good bad or otherwise, I should try it out to know whether to get rid of it or not.
  • Fifth Avenue - in my collection as part of the Alea big box series, it has been panned as (easily) the worst of the series. It will probably remain un-played again this next year.
  • Gulf, Mobile & Ohio - this was part of the Winsome Essen collection I shelled out for. You bet I'm playing this in 2009. But maybe I'll finish my poker chips first.
  • Hamsterrolle - one of two dexterity games to try and get to the table in 2009
  • Hare & Tortoise - this was one of Jason Sato's favorites, in his honor alone I will have to get this played in 2009.
  • Heroquest (plus expansions) - I told my son I'd teach him this after he "graduated" from Kindergarten. I will finally get this off the un-played list.
  • Honor of the Samurai - This looks a little interesting, but the reviews make it out to go on and on and on past its welcome. I don't know if I'll get to this or not.
  • Ice Lake - this was tanga trash and it looks ok, but it also looks like tanga trash. I'll probably dump this at some point. Maybe I should offer a "trash" offering in a math trade.
  • Ido - I like abstracts, but need to be in the mood to play one. This one is huge, so not likely to get dragged out to a game night. Maybe some time when Nathan comes over.
  • Imperial - I probably just need to prod a little to get this to the table in 2009
  • Le Havre - technically, I have to actually get this before I can think about playing it, but I imagine shortly after getting it, I'll be trying it out.
  • Magna Grecia - route building with interesting choices. Decently rated and been around since 2003. Why haven't I played this yet?
  • Mare Norstrum - I probably have to get at least 5 others to try this out with me as I understand there to be some balance issues unless you play with 6 (which also means the expansion gets played too).
  • Margin For Error - Another trick taking card game. I might have to do some sort of theme night to get some of these games played. Anyone for all trick taking card game night?
  • Marvel Heroes - I swear my son is pushing his reading skills to the limit just so I'll play this game with him. Because of the large amount of text, I told him he has to wait (really, I have enough games with no writing that we can play until he can read the stuff on his own). I don't see this actually getting played unless I'm asked to play it by someone else.
  • Mechanisburgo - this one looks tasty! I might get it played before 2008 is up!
  • Medieval Merchant - Supposed to be a fun game that I know Bobby would play, yet I haven't even tried to get this played.
  • Mexica - I need to play this mask game so that I can finally say that I've played them all (and then, I need to play Java some more)
  • Monsters Menace America - this looks like lighter fare, but still a bit advanced for a 5 year old. This probably sits for another year or so.
  • Mü & Lots More - hey look! Another card game to play. Technically, lots of card games.
  • Mystery Rummy: Murders in the Rue Morgue - sort of another card game. This rummy game is one I need to pull out with Stephanie (and maybe Nicey and Nathan)
  • Oasis - this was a Tanga pickup from long ago. Bobby has commented that its a good little game, but should be played with 5
  • Pirates of the Spanish Main - really, not going to play it. I should ship this off to Jason Maxwell and tell him see if he can get some little card game as a sweetener in a math trade to send me (yeah, like I need ANOTHER card game). At any rate, I'm way more likely to dump this than play it in 2009
  • Power Grid Power Plant Deck 2 - Nathan has really been wanting to play Power Grid so maybe I should teach him using this deck. He learns, I break in the deck and everything is much more equal footing.
  • Power Grid - Korea/China - I really want to play both of these. Actually, I'm pretty sure Nathan will be hooked on Power Grid, so I'm pretty likely to get these into play in the next year.
  • Preußische Ostbahn - I have no idea how to say this... as closely as I can tell, it appears to be a slightly more complex game, but in the same vein as Chicago Express, which means I'll love it and want to play it a ton of times and still never quite get it.
  • Primordial soup - Freshly Spiced - the game of eating poop, but now for up to six players and with more powers (I don't even remember the ones from the base game). Soup is maybe a 2-3 times a year game, so this might come out.
  • Raceway 57 - you know what this game is? A showpiece in my display. Maybe if I get bored at some point, my son and I will give it a whirl.
  • Railroad Tycoon - seriously, scroll back to the top of the list - I have plenty of AoS to keep me busy next year, which means I see no reason to bust this one out.
  • Return of the Heroes - I doubt my son will be ready for this even if we play a ton of Heroquest. Maybe, but I highly doubt it.
  • Risk 2210 A.D. - will this be the year I finally play this? Nope.
  • Risk Godstorm - I give this less of a shot at getting to the table than 2210.
  • Runebound (2nd) - though I doubt I'll play this with my son, I might get Erik to teach me this one. Then I can figure out if I have to become obsessed with the expansions...
  • Saga - this was another random sweetner from tanga. The Tom Vasel review makes it sound decent. Its all cards, but SHOCKING - its not a trick taking game like all my other ones ;). I don't know - still not going to work to hard to make this one get played.
  • The Scepter of Zavandor - I can't imagine not getting to play Amelia's favorite game next year.
  • Scotland Yard - This is a deduction game that is too old for my son, so this will probably stay on the shelf for another year or so.
  • Shogun - This is one that definitely is near the top of the list of things to get played in 2009
  • Star Wars: Epic Duels - I'd like to give this a whirl, but I'm content to wait until my son is a little older.
  • Stratego Legends - slightly too old for my son still. I could pull it out and play the normal Stratego with him, but we have plenty of other things to try out.
  • Sunken City - Hey! Another one Bobby needs to teach me. Geez, you'd think I couldn't play a game unless I had Bobby to show me how.
  • Sword and Skull - hmmm, a roll and move pirate game. Let me think about it a second - ok no.
  • The Collector - this kinda looks like an ok auction game. I might try and see if its worth keeping.
  • Thebes - yeah yeah, I'll play it. Nothing wrong with digging for treasure.
  • Thurn and Taxis - Bobby, will you play this with me and show me why everyone likes it?
  • The Traders of Genoa - a negotiation game where the value of things is harder to calculate. Ok, I'm listening. Ok, I'm not, but I'm willing to try and get this played in 2009
  • Trias - yes, lets try to get the meeple-saurs to the table.
  • Villa Paletti - one of a the other dexterity games I have to pull out in 2009.
  • War! Age of Imperialism - still in the shrink, this one smells like eBay.
  • Warcraft: The Boardgame - call me silly, but this one still sounds fun to me.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Kids Games

I played a couple of kids games with my son today. The first was a thrift store $2 find called Guess Who. This is a pretty good little deduction game where players try to determine the other player's person by asking yes no questions. Each player has a stand of all the people you could be and then they flip down the people you won't be after asking questions - are you a girl? are you wearing a hat? Do you have red hair? I think when my children realize how to quickly cut down the choices, they'll be ready for the next step of games. Until then, my son likes this and its quick, so it isn't bad playing a couple of games. BTW - it was NOT this edition. The second we played was called The Great Race (aka First to Reverse). This is nothing more than a roll and move game. I picked this up at a thrift store too, because the ages are for 3+. As I said - its a roll and move, where each player gets a different combination of dice that have different numbers on them. The more dice and the bigger the numbers, the farther the player has to travel on the board to win. Nothing special here, but in giving my son the two-dice players, he's learning to quickly add the pips of the dice together (which will help make some other games down the road much easier I think).

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Scotland Two-player mapAfter some dinner with my wife and kids and a little bit of shopping, we returned home, and Nathan Winchester dropped by to get in a little lighter-than-last-time two-player gaming. I suggested a few things, and of course, Nathan wanted to play Age of Steam. I pulled out my Scotland map, which I had never had the chance to tryout. This is a tight little player designed map with very little in special rules or changes, just a map for two-players. We dove in and after a couple turns, two things became apparent. We were going to run out of goods very soon and Nathan was going to lose. He had taken three more shares than I at the point that we were making a profit and didn't need more shares and during the last couple turns Nathan was making smaller deliveries than I consistently. Nathan also got hosed a bit by where he had built his main line - the goods didn't come out into his areas at all. I ended up winning 55-38. AoS definitely hits a sweet spot at 4-5 players, but this wasn't a bad little map to get in our AoS fix, and can probably be played in about 75 minutes, making it a decent two player option.
Next up, while deciding what to play, Nathan asked about Carc, so I pulled out Carcassonne:The Castle. Once again, luck was against Nathan, who despite nailing the bonus pieces ahead of me most of the time, pulled ones that were similar and not as devastatingly powerful as my single double-castle scoring one that let me score a whopping 40 points. I won 111-76. I think in the future, I'll play with the scoring tiles face up to allow for a bit more tactical approach to grabbing the bonus tiles.
It was about 11:15PM, so I pulled out a game I hadn't played before, but which I knew to be pretty quick - Pecking Order. I picked this one up at a Tuesday Morning on cheap, which was cool since I had been keeping an eye out for it after seeing The Fonz playing it at the Game Shoppe in Omaha once. Basically its a fast and light little bluffing/deduction game. Players each have cards 1-12 that they place on spots on a board. If you place a card where your opponent is, they have to reveal the card (you do not). If your card is higher, they take theirs off, otherwise you do - still, the "attacker" never reveals the card. There are also a couple of other spaces that let you look at a card and two spots that if you fill both, you get a big bonus. Apparently, I suck at this sort of thing, because Nathan kicked my butt 105-135. Again, another fun little two player game and I'm glad I finally got to try it out.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cult of the New - 2008

Here we go, the annual listing of the new games I played in 2008 and maybe some brief thoughts. I played 54 new games this year. Most of them I owned to start, though not all. I currently own 34 of these and would pick up a few more (and trade off a couple too). I present these in no particular order.
  • Chicago Express - one of the more intriguing games I learned this year. Its pretty straight forward in exectution of the rules and such and plays in 60-90 minutes (if I don't have to butcher the rules for everyone). What this one has is a lot of subtlety. You can play this straight forward, but you'll lose to someone that understands how to manipulate the game.
  • In the Year of the Dragon - a fine game that is about building a points engine and trying to out maneuver the other players through turn after turn of events (most bad). I played this 7 times last year and enjoyed it, but while its a solid game, I probably won't ask for it to come out (though I'd certainly play it). I'm more likely to get in an occasional game of this online.
  • Micro Mutants: Evolution - this game was one I'd never heard of nor would I have even wanted to play it if I had known about it. Luckily for me, I was wrangled into a game of it. Basically, this is Tiddely Winks on steroids and its pretty fun. My son loves this game.
  • Qwirkle - I had read good things about this and grabbed a copy. Turned out to be one my wife enjoyed a good bit. I was a bit disappointed in the quality of the game (the wood blocks are not terribly even and the colors are hard to distinguish), but the game play is light fun. One guy I know calls it Scrabble for dummies. Pretty accurate description I think ;)
  • Agricola - poor Agricola. Never did make Game of the Month for me, which is too bad since this is a pretty good game. I still am only going to play this while drafting the cards, otherwise I can tell you after picking up my cards if its even worth playing. If this has an issue, its that its a bit fiddly to play. With 4 or 5, you need a lot of space and then there is just no good way to lay everything down so that everyone can get to things easily.
  • Blokus Trigon - Yep, this was new this year. Much like a couple of entries further down this list (Ubongo + Ubongo Extreme), I like the way this one taxes my brain differently than its Tetris like brother. Its not nearly as intuitive looking, but its really better than Blokus if for no other reason than it plays 3 well.
  • Ca$h 'n Gun$ - another one I wouldn't have thought I'd like. The game is pretty simple and really, if you play it as a game you miss the point. This is more of a party game that a gamer's game. If you don't think playing the final scene of Reservoir Dogs sounds fun, you are wrong.
  • Battleball - this is straight forward smash em ups and I pretty much only play with my son. Its great for him learning to count and he gets a kick out of the battles. He also is starting to understand some of the varying strengths and weaknesses of the different pieces (though he is still most likely to pick a guy based on looks ;) )
  • Indonesia - one of the best games I learned last year. For an economic game on a single board (no expansion maps or whatever), this one has great replayability. Its full of interesting decisions and plays out pretty differently (and actually faster) with more players. Its a little fiddly, but really a good game.
  • Notre Dame - I didn't expect to like this one as much In the Year of the Dragon, but I think I might prefer it for 3 people. Much Like ItYotD, you are building a points engine against a negative event cycle. The theme is different and the mechanics are a little different, but they scratch the same itch I think.
  • Dominon - how do you spell HYPE? This one had been getting the BUZZ in gaming circles for a while for its super packed game playing in a short time frame (15-25 min a game). When I finally got to play I had to admit - its pretty good for what it is. Unlike Race for the Galaxy, this one's game length doesn't go on longer than it should.
  • Pandemic - I've played a couple of co-op games before and they just aren't my thing. Pandemic feels different. It feels more tense and the game's theme is a good fit for the mechanics. My wife likes it since we aren't in competition. Its good enough I purchased a copy and plan to keep it.
  • PÜNCT - just another GIPF game. This one is probably my second favorite of the series so far (behind YINSH). Like most of the series, its two player filler really.
  • Blink - Its the old card game SPEED, but with shapes and colors. This is a kids game and the production supports it - the cards are really high quality. Nothing special, but a 5-year old can play it and its easy to handicap by simply taking more cards.
  • Ghost Party - This older Ravensberger title is light push your luck style fare. The kids like it and we pulled it out on Halloween to play. Not a bad thrift store find.
  • Escalation! - the first couple of times I played this, I enjoyed it, but another play or two and this one lost its luster. Its not a terrible game, just a light card game filler.
  • StarCraft: The Board Game - my first purchase of the year was this behemoth. Underneath the loads of cards, cardboard and plastic is a pretty fun game that scales fairly decently from 2-6 players. Still, at 45 min a person, it won't see the table as much as I think it should.
  • Heroscape - you'd think with as much of this as I own, that I'd have played it before this year. Nope. The few times I tried it were everything I thought it'd be - just simple fun. Sooooo many combinations!!
  • Himalaya - best described as what RoboRally should have been. Programmed movement, area control and influence, pick up and deliver. It sounds like a mess of mechanics, but it all works pretty decently together and plays up to 6.
  • Glory to Rome - this is what I had kinda hoped Race For the Galaxy was going to be - an interactive building game. This one is a little subtle and best played by those that are familiar with the game. Still, after playing Dominion, this one might be a little long for what it is.
  • Ice Flow - this is a race game / puzzle game where players try to optimize their movement across the ice. Not a bad game (great looking game), but it didn't grab me as special either.
  • Duel in the Dark - This two player game simulates English night time bombing runs against Germany during WWII. It does indeed do just that, but it just seemed to be a guessing game. Guess which way the bombers are going - North or South. Guess right and you win. Guess wrong and the other guy wins. I have a quarter in my pocket - we can play DitD in 10 seconds by flipping it and then go play something good...
  • Patrician - this one was a new game from the same guy that brought us Hansa and Zooloretto. I only played this online (against real people on MaBiWeb) and it wasn't bad (though much like Hansa, there is some randomness that can make the game impossible to win). I'd play it online again, but I don't need to own it.
  • Bobbin' Bumblebee - this is the Loopin' Louie clone. I don't know what the big deal is. Its a battery run dexterity game. Its ok and I can see where there is a little skill, but you need some skill and reflexes to play Lightning Reaction too...
  • Galaxy Trucker - this was one of my new favorites of the year. What is it? Its a timed puzzle game followed by a short bit of decision making while random things ruin your ship. Its the perfect glue to hold together the puzzle part of the game. Its not at all a serious game, but there is enough game to be interesting.
  • Metropolys - I didn't know what to expect when I saw this hit the table. Turns out that this is a decent bidding, area control game with a board that looks really ugly. The board also grew on me as the game went on. This is one that I think would be really great filler for 3-4 people (30 minutes?) once people had played a couple times.
  • Hamburgum - this is a Rondel game ala Antike or Imperial (still haven't played Imperial). This one is about building churches rather than conflict and war. It was ok, but I like Antike better. The both feel a lot alike with lots of ways to score, but you can't be a jack of all trades and master of none to win.
  • Filthy Rich - The Fonz introduced me to this one. I had never heard of it or seen it, and I've never seen any other game with a unique mechanic like it since. The game board is a 3-ring binder with pages that hold cards. The cards represent billboards which you are trying to get displayed. The sheet you place the billboard on is important, as your display could get covered up. I liked it enough to finally get a copy in trade (should be here any day now).
  • Chinatown - I finally got to play this (before it was reprinted) and it was pretty much exactly what I figured it would be since its basically a pure negotiation game (which I don't typically care for). I sure wouldn't shell out the kind of money Z-Man wants for their new version unless you only like negotiation games.
  • Primordial Soup - after acquiring this at 50% off (it always sounded really fun) I was able to get it ot the table almost immediately. Was it as fun as it sounded? No, but it wasn't terrible either. It might be more entertaining with the expansion. Or not. It suffers from wicked bash leader syndrome. Honestly, for a variable power / power combination game, I think I'd be more inclined to just play Vinci.
  • Subbuteo - I had never heard of this one, but Justin wanted to play at the Geekway and I'm glad he instisted. We probably looked like a couple of spastic tards jumping around the table flicking guys (and then chasing after them), but I have to admit I had a good time (minus the bump in the pitch). I thought about trying to track this down, but I don't have a place for it yet.
  • Manoeuvre - when I heard about this game, I really wanted to try it out. It sounded like a quick and dirty C&C:Ancients type clone with a number of different armies. That's pretty close as far as descriptions go. Being that is neither a good point, nor a bad one. This is a good one if you like quick little battles, but its a bit much for a filler.
  • Ticket to Ride: The Card Game - yet another one from the hype machine. After playing it, I think it might best be described as a non-confrontational Mama Mia!. Again, neither good nor bad, nor exciting.
  • Apples to Apples - hard to believe I had never played this before. I knew I'd enjoy this with the right group, but still had never played. Then I was able to get this in a super random trade with a local fellow. Not just Apples to Apples, but the Party Box version and the expansion (basically just about all the cards :) ). And yes, it was a good time with much hilarity. Definitely depends on the group.
  • TransAmerica - couple of the local gamers (Bobby and Mike) hate this game. I don't know, I didn't think it was all that bad. I've played worse. Much worse.
  • Incan Gold - nope, hadn't played Diamant either. Mike Garrett (yep, same guy as above) taught us this one. Pretty nice little press your luck game that plays lots of people and easy for non-gamers to pick up.
  • Master Labyrinth - can't remember when or where I got this from, but it took forever to force it to the table. Once there, I discovered a tricky little puzzle game which I enjoyed quite a bit. Really rewarding if you can make the clever play.
  • New World: A Carcassonne Game - I didn't actually think I'd ever try this after seeing how much Bobby didn't care for it (he's the Carc King). However, Rob brought this out and it turns out that it wasn't that bad (except for the stupid winding scoring track). There were some pretty wild score swings, but since I'm not the Carc King, I didn't mind this game.
  • Balloon Cup - Justin pulled this out to kill 10 minutes at the Geekway. As we played, someone pointed out that they had seen us playing the same game with a different theme (Battle Line) earlier in the con. After a half second of reflection, I think he was right. Knowing that now, If I get a copy of Battle Line, I won't need this one.
  • Betrayal at House on the Hill - Halloween seemed like the right night to get this to the table. Once a year seems about right for this too. Its a story telling game and like any kind of campy serial, not all the episodes are that great.
  • Manila - I only have two words for this: Butt Pirates
  • Jambo - I finally played this and just kept waiting for it to be cool. Once we were done, I wondered if I played it wrong, because it hadn't been even half as interesting as the hype surrounding it seemed to be.
  • ZÈRTZ - another of the GIPF series and the one I've found the least interesting so far. The fact that it appears to have been (easily) "solved" doesn't make it any better.
  • Terra Nova - here is a little game that is truly an abstract with a tacked on theme. It is not a terrible game, but its not very interesting either. Good for two when you can't think of anything else to play.
  • Heimlich & Co. - a deduction game. Here you get to move / score anyone you want and only you know who you are. At the end of the game you get bonus points for guessing who everyone is. Do you move someone else to throw off suspicion? The only reason not to announce who you are at the start is that there are a couple bad things that can happen to you. Definitely a kiddie game, but not a bad one.
  • Bamboleo - this is a dexterity game with kind of a cool presentation. A wood disk balances on a cork ball. It won't slide off, due to friction (and in fact, it will tilt an amazing amount to one side or another). After that though, its not terribly exciting - pull off a piece and hope not to make a huge mess. I'd rather just play Bausack.
  • Wits and Wagers - its a party / trivia game. Clever enough concept, but only with a trivia kind of crowd. I'd rather play something funny.
  • Jungle Speed - this would have been fun when I was 10 (or possibly in college as a drinking game). Flip a card and if its a match to someone else's, grab the stick. If you grab it on accident, hit yourself with it for playing this game.
  • Babel - this is a two player "take that" kind of game. Which would be ok, but it seems to be completely luck based.
  • Quoridor - get your piece across the board while forcing your opponent through a maze. Nothing great here, except for maybe a nice abstract that scales well with children (you can handicap the number of fences a player has, giving more to the child).
  • Wasabi! - a pretty straight forward set collection game that is gorgeous looking. If you like Sushi, you'll appreciate the theme, if not you'll probably pass on this lighter fare.
  • Ubongo - its a puzzle game. Each player gets 3 (or 4 on the harder puzzles) tetris like shapes and has to fit them to match the outline on their puzzle board. If you like puzzles and racing to finish before the other players (I do), you'll enjoy this game.
  • Ubongo Extreme - much harder of the two Ubongo games since this one uses hex-based shapes. Some of the easy puzzles are just impossible. A good step up from Ubongo
  • Arkadia - I have yet to figure out how to describe this game. It was fun. It was a combination of things - stock like scoring, building area control, etc. Play it with me sometime and you describe it.

I'm So Tired

Nathan Winchester came over last night to play a game of something. That something of course was Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage (hence the picture of the game). Nathan had no clue what he was getting into, having not seen or played anything like this game before, but Nathan has enjoyed learning loads of new games so doesn't seem to mind indulging me in whatever I feel like pulling out. Hannibal is a two player, card-driven, area control game with a little bit of "fighting". Battles are carried out almost like the card game "war", but they favor the stronger force. Combat is one of the weaker parts of this game and is a bit goofy, but its ok. The heart of the game is the card driven fight for control of the board through political influence. After going through the rules (for both of us, since my previous plays were a long time back and I couldn't remember all the little details) we dove in, neither of us sure what to do. I played Rome, while Nathan controlled Carthage (just like my last game of this when I played The Fonz). The first couple of rounds worked well for Nathan, who had a load of good cards, while I struggled with only two or three 3pt cards in the first two hands of cards and was stuck with two generals each of those turns that needed the 3pt cards to do anything. For the first 4 turns or so I was losing influence left and right from the board. However, Nathan extended Hannibal a bit too far and I smacked Hannibal out of the game before turn 5. Surprisingly (or not if you've ever played a game against me), this didn't turn the tide like I hoped, as Nathan still maintained a tie or lead in controlled areas for another couple of turns. Scipio Africanus finally joined me and that helped me recoup some losses and also let me put a dent into Carthage's operations in Hispania. Nathan mounted a comeback of sorts, smashing Africanus and getting some much needed relief from African troops and pushed the game into the early morning hours. Finally, the last turn came and he didn't get cards that were going to allow him to reach the victory conditions, so he surrendered. It was a long hard fought battle and some good cards kept Nathan in it early (but also kept him out of the end of the game). It was also a learning game so we both took the outcome with a grain of salt. However, this leads me to one of the major problems with this game - randomness. The game doesn't feel random while you are playing - it feels very strategic, despite the random card battles and die rolls for sieges and attrition. But in the end, it really sucks that a close close game gets decided solely on the cards dealt out in the last hand. In this case, Nathan needed a tie of areas controlled to win. Had he been dealt any of the cards that caused areas to go out of my control (Syracuse, one of the islands, etc), he would have had me and there wouldn't have been much of anything I could have done. On the flip side of that, I had a great last round hand, with two campaigns, a card destroying all the political control in one African area, etc. Again, there was nothing he could have done to stop that. I don't mind randomness in games - playing the odds is ok. However, after playing a 4+ hour game, nobody wants the outcome to come down to only luck. We had both managed to play to essentially a stalemate after 8 turns, and then Nathan loses to me and not because I outplayed him (per se).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What's Next (year)?

Random thoughts about gaming in 2009 (as we wrap up 2008):
  • Now that Nathan Winchester is hooked, maybe we can start a regular sort of two-player game thing - maybe C&C:Ancients, or some of the longer two player games - Hannibal, Twilight Struggle, etc
  • Hopefully Le Havre will arrive and I'll get to play it :)
  • Will 2009 be the year I'll finally get to play Die Macher? Probably. Dion is always pushing it.
  • Looking forward to the Geekway 2009 edition. Of course, its only a couple days, and of course I want to play like 5 epic games already...
  • I really need to find more excuses to post pictures of The Fonz
  • I kind of liked keeping track of trades, the games I acquired, and my plays in 2008 - but as the end of the year approached, I found I've been lazy. I won't be doing the same thing in 2009. Maybe its enough to just blog the playings and record them on the BGG.
  • I promised to teach my son Heroquest when he gets through with Kindergarten, so maybe I should read the rules so I know how to play.
  • I got through a pretty good number of my un-played games this last year. Hopefully I can keep cutting that number down in 2009. Its helped, because I finally got rid of some things that I really didn't need to keep. Some others that are on the fence that need to get tried so I can decide to keep them or cut them: Magna Grecia, Lost Valley, Mare Norstrum, Scepter of Zavandor,
  • Think I'm going to thin my "owned" list to take out the kids games. I'll still put comments on them as to appropriateness and record a play or something, but there is no need to clutter my collection with their kiddie games. My kiddie games are staying :)
  • Get another game shelf - I'm full and need more space. Even if I clear out stuff, I'm full and need more space. What will I do when my room is actually full?
  • Play some more: Age of Steam, Indonesia, A Game of Thrones,
  • Saturday, December 13, 2008

    Its About Time

    In December of 2006, I last played A Game of Thrones (playing the Storm of Swords 4-player game). The last time I played the regular/expansion version was two and a half years ago! So I was quite happy to finally get this one to the table again. Joining me were Nathan Winchester, Mike Gingold, Matthew Frederick and Amelia Boli. Now the plan had originally been to play Starcraft, but that plan changed and in retrospect, I'm glad. A Game of Thrones is my #2 favorite game (behind Age of Steam of course), but it doesn't come out much, probably because of its length - if you don't start the night with it, you won't finish (or more likely, you stay up too long). At any rate, I drew Baratheon, Nathan was Tyrell, Mike was the Lannisters, Matthew was Grayjoy, and Amelia was house Stark. I've played Baratheon before, but never won with them, so that was fine by me. Having Amelia to the north of me was good, because I knew Matthew would be harassing her the whole game. Despite being a first time player, I don't assume Nathan will be an easy mark, so I needed to establish my foothold early and try to hold on hoping he and Mike would fight it out. The early game was a bit strange, as the first few turns saw Mike and Matthew dink around back and forth befor drawing a line in the sand and wasting a turn re-organizing and planning. Nathan played Tyrell well, but was probably not aggressive enough against either Mike of I. My problem stemmed from the fact that while there was early mustering, there was not much supply changing, which killed me in terms of armies - I was spread thin over too large an area. I eventually lost ground to Nathan (and probably should have lost more). However, I was able to place two ships off the northern areas, and those two ships probably made all the difference in the game. With them, I was able to help Amelia keep Matthew from decimating her and position myself for a strong last turn free for all. Going into the last turn, I had 5 cities, Nathan and Mike 4, and Matthew 3. First tie-breaker was supply and Mike was sitting at 6 barrels, so all he needed was to drop me one city - or so he thought. My plan involved finally turning on Stark and taking Amelia's area(s) through attacks that everyone else would think were happening in the south. Nathan struck first causing me to retreat. I used my ships and move my retreating knight to an empty space with a city in Amelia's area - in retrospect, I should have not done that, but it mattered little as Matthew immediately invaded the same space and booted me out. Strangely enough, Nathan moved a knight out of a city he controlled (forgetting to place any influence marker) and I ended up retreating their after losing another battle elsewhere. I was also able to take Harrenhall from Mike and ended up with 5 (or six cities - we didn't check if the retreating knight counted for occupying the city space, but it didn't matter as nobody else had 5). What I really enjoyed about this game (and every game I play of A Game of Thrones) is the balance. The game really balances well and while you may hate your current position or feel out of the game, it rarely happens. In fact, everyone spent most of the night complaining about not being able to do something, or how badly they had screwed up, but pretty much everyone was in it until the end. Our game clocked in at about 4.5 hours + 30 minutes for rules, which I didn't think was bad for a full 10 round game.

    Friday, December 12, 2008

    Mid-week Gaming

    Dion called to see if I was up for some gaming, so Nathan Winchester and I dropped on over to his place. I thought we'd be getting in some Power Grid, but we ended up playing Agricola instead (for some reason, Thomas felt Agricola would be faster despite having played many games with Dion before). It was Dion Garner, Morgan Burt, Thomas Dunaj and Nathan and I. So we pulled out Agricola, did a draft with the I deck and off we went. This was the first time I had played the I deck before. It allows for a number of things to happen off other players, though most of what I saw wasn't really detrimental towards others (Nathan and Morgan each had one thing that cost you resources when you took a certain action), but for the most part, the interactive pieces were available to all or just piggybacked off actions to give you a benefit. During the draft, I mostly grabbed a few cards that matched up decently towards The Well - hoping to get an early start on food. I also got a minor improvement that gave me food anytime someone slaughtered any animal for food. Well, my well strategy seemed to play out. Between the early food from my Well related cards and the rate at which Nathan and Dion killed animals, I never worried about food and focused on getting points on the board. This allowed me to nab a lot of animals for my farm and afforded me the ability to get 5 family members at the end of the game. Final scores: Dion-35, Morgan-33, Thomas-26, Nathan-25, Charles-44 (I think 16 or 17 of those were bonus points from cards). BTW, Dion grabbed extra family members early in the game which the slowest guy should never do as I'm sure Dion added about 30 minutes to the game trying to figure out what to do with his extra guys at the end of each round ;) One last thing about drafting cards. It really shouldn't take too long to do the draft. Look them over and quickly and find something that is either cheap and helpful early, or compliments something you have already. If you do that, you can eliminate about half the cards you see each time you are passed a new stack. The point to drafting is so you don't end up with a handful of cards that never let you build your food engine, or cards that are all end game scoring for very different things. Its not like Dominion where you are trying to build the BEST hand - its really about just not having a CRAPPY hand.
    Next up, we had a little time left for one more game, so Dion asked if we'd play Attika. This is one I haven't played in a while, so I was happy to teach the game. I also discovered that I had previously mis-understood a rule about the amphoras (you only earn them if you build the building group together - its not enough to just get them built). Anyway, I ended up being the unlucky first player (I think the first player gets hosed) and of course, didn't draw my main city, instead drawing The Fountain and the Silvermine - whoopppeee :( Then I spent the rest of the game trying to block out Morgan and Dion from connecting two temple/shrine things. Morgan was looking close to doing so, then Dion, but it was Nathan that was able to slap down all his roads for the connection. Though I still like this best as a two player game, its a good closer for four players and (like half the games I have) should come out more often.

    Tuesday, December 09, 2008

    Hurray for Trades

    I got a trade request this morning for my Manoeuvre game (which I picked up nearly new at Bookman's). The offer was for Marvel Heroes, which is out of print and won't be reprinted due to licensing costs or some such. At any rate, my son will get a kick out of this game in a couple years. Now, Manoeuvre was ok, but it is still available if I want it, so I see this as a good trade for now. The best part was that I didn't have to go looking for it, it found me.

    Monday, December 08, 2008

    Best and Worst of 2008

    Yes, its about that time of year. No, not Christmas or Bowl Games (both good things), but rather that time of year when the end of the year Geeklists start coming out. Being that I'm that kinda guy here are my best and worsts of 2008.

    Best New Game Played in 2008

    I played a number of new games this year, but I think my favorite game that I played that I had never played before would have to be Indonesia. This is a sweet Splotter economic game that is shaped by the choices of all the players. Its a little fiddly, but I have enjoyed it every time I play and each time its been pretty different. I think its actually better with five players than four, decreasing the playing time rather than lengthening the game.

    Worst New Game Played in 2008

    Ok, I admit it was probably just the fact that the game I played in had a weird streak of stupid randomness, but I really didn't care for Manila. And of course, this was the game that I ended up winning (and subsequently giving away) at the Geekway 2008. It should have been a game I liked, but man did I think it stunk. I would have to be pretty desperate to be talked into another playing of this.

    Most Played Game in 2008

    Samurai tops my list of most played games, mostly due to the number of games I played on MaBiWeb. Thanks to MaBiWeb, I played a lot more of In the Year of the Dragon too! Samurai has been one of the few games I play that I really enjoy the more I play it. It is such a different experience playing 2-3-4 players (and live vs web). This one just is fun to me.

    Best Trade of 2008

    I made a lot of trades in 2008. Most were of the sort where I got rid of something I didn't want for something I really did. A few were probably trade ups for the other person, but none are ones I'd take back. The one I can say I'm plenty happy with is the one where I traded Container for Galaxy Trucker. I had not played Container and it was looking more and more like I wouldn't. Galaxy Trucker however will get played around here and by my family. Its silly fun and I really am glad its in my collection.

    Biggest Disappointment in 2008

    Wow. That's hard to say. I'm not terribly disappointed in the games I've played this year. I was looking forward to Chicago Express (yes, I'll call it by its new name), Agricola and Dominion. They all lived up to the hype as far as I'm concerned. Chinatown was close, though I can't say I was that hyped about it anyway. Jambo was definitely one I thought would be much better than it was. Word of mouth on the 'Geek is still good on this, but I just don't see much to the game.

    Surprise of 2008

    Micro Mutants: Evolution is the hands down winner here. I had never even heard of this game. Then Jay Little pulled it off the Play-to-Win table at the Geekway and surprised us. This dexterity game has a fun theme, actually takes some skill, and is a blast to play. And I can play it with my son, who is much better at it than I thought he'd be. This one showed up for $10 on FFG's Holiday Sale, which is a little sad given how surprisingly good this game is.

    Game I wished I had played in 2008

    UPDATEDue to a change in plans, looks like I'm going to get to play A Game of Thrones. Now, since that is going to happen (knock on wood), I had to go back and look at my list and think about this one a little more (picking AGoT was easy). Maybe its my current mood or whatever, but I kind of want to pull Conquest of the Empire out. I played the original a lot as a kid in junior high. When the new release came out, I was only so so about actually getting it. Then I played the game with the revised rules and saw a cool game. I keep being told its Struggle of Empires lite, but since I've never played that game, what do I care - this is a cool game.

    Sunday, December 07, 2008

    Gaming with My Wife

    Nathan and his fiance Niecy came over for pizza Friday night. After I finished making pies and we had our fill, I pulled out a couple of games to play. We started the night by breaking into The Downfall of Pompeji - literally as I hadn't even broken the shrink on this since receiving it [gulp] last year from my secret Santa (sorry Jay). Now, while short and gamery, I knew that throwing people in the lava and burning them would appeal to Stephanie, and I wasn't off the mark on that call. Everyone had a good time burning each other's families and extracting revenge later. Niecy beat us all fairly easily. Somehow, I had the most people in the volcano...
    After that, we played Zooloretto, which my wife had played before and liked. This evening however, our kids were not being very good as grandma put them to bed, and we had to take an intermission to deal with them (we threw them in the volcano). By the time we finished, my wife was tired and cranky and said the game lasted too long. Ah well.

    Saturday, December 06, 2008

    Thursday Night Age of Steam

    I invited Nathan over for a little gaming Thursday night. We were figuring out what to play (while at work), and Nathan sounded like he wanted to learn Age of Steam (which is fine by me, being my favorite game). So, I shot Dion Garner a line to see if he'd be interested in joining us. He was able to join us and also invited his neighbor Morgan Burt. Dion has played AoS before, but not often and not in a while. Morgan had played Railroad Tycoon, but not AoS. So after explaining the rules I pulled out the original rust belt map and off we went. Well, I started building first, using engineer to connect two cities through a town near the west-central part of the map. Morgan grabbed the SW and Dion the NW. Nathan played on the east coast all by himself. Of course that meant it only took until turn two for Morgan to screw me over. I had to adjust my plans a bit, and by the time I was ready to seriously move longer goods, I was leading the share race by 3-4 shares. Those extra shares took me right out of the game. Dion had never found any good routes, and didn't move many long ones at all. In the last round, Morgan managed to move to 6-routes and won. Morgan:83, Nathan:79, Charles: 75, Dion: 40
    We had a little time left and looking for something short, I pulled out my new present from Secret Santa (thanks) - Ubongo Extrem. This is a little timed puzzle game where each player gets a different puzzle shape each round and has to fit 3-4 pieces onto the shape the fastest. It differs from the original Ubongo in that the pieces are built from hexagons rather than squares. Sometimes the puzzles are really easy and you can get them done in 10 seconds. We also had a number of them where we all cried uncle and threw the pieces back in the pot. There is a little bit of luck involved in the scoring, but the scores were tight and I'll happily claim the win. Charles: 30, Nathan:26, Dion 29, Morgan: 27

    Thursday, December 04, 2008

    Game Day

    Saturday Nov. 29, 2008 - Game Depot. The day started out with my arrival at the Game Depot. I spent a bit of time looking around and checking out the new games. Okko looked pretty interesting (though after checking on the geek, I'm less interested) as did the big box for the new Killer Bunnies game (yes, I know how bad the card game sucked, but I have a young son). The LCG for A Game of Thrones also caught my eye, but I said no more purchases for the year, so I sadly walked away from them all. Bobby had to run and get Christa from the airport, so when Mike G showed up, he offered to teach me Dominion with Bobby's copy. Dominion is one game that has been getting a load of hype and I wanted to try before I grabbed a copy. I can safely say that I'll be getting one sometime next year. Its a pretty good game that plays really quickly (which is good for what it is). Its a VP engine game where the action revolves around you building a deck of cards turn by turn and trying to balance the cards you need to accomplish your goals with getting victory point cards (which just water your deck down). As with any new game where there are a dozen actions that have text to pay attention to, I felt a bit overwhelmed to start the game. That lasted about 5 minutes and I never really felt it even when we changed cards for the second game. Mike beat me 43-31 in the first game and I came back for a 36-33 win in the second game.
    Bobby and Christa arrived so the four of us sat down for some Tichu (Christa and I were partners). Apparently Bobby had talked a little smack outside to Christa, indicating he was the best Tichu player of the four of us - it came back to haunt him as he went out last in every hand we had (we played a half game to 500) and he and Mike scored a measly 45 points (to our 550). It should also be noted that Mike nabbed all of those points for their team.
    After Tichu, we split into a couple of three player groups and Bobby, Christa and I started playing some Wasabi! This is a little set collection game with a sushi theme. The game is really gorgeous, though pretty straightforward to play. I got smoked here with Bobby winning 24-22-16(me).
    Next up, I asked Bobby to teach me Arkadia, and he obliged. This one was a bit different and a little hard to describe, though easy to play. Its something of a influence game with a bit of the stock market and some spatial game play thrown in. I liked it a good amount and need to try and play it as a 2 or 4 player game. It really doesn't take too long to play and is probably a good finisher for the end of the night when you want something satisfying, but not long.
    I finished off the day with a game of Agricola (using the standard deck) with Mike and Matt Cullinan. We did a card draft of the occupations and minor improvements. none of the cards were crazy special, and the game was pretty standard. Mike couldn't pin down which way he wanted to go and the game was between Matt and I. I eeked out a couple more points than Matt to win 33-31-19

    Monday, December 01, 2008

    What Was I Thinking?

    At the beginning of the year, I built a list of things I hoped to do by the end of the year. As we approach the end of 2008, I thought I'd review the list. I Bought games I planned to: Starcraft, Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #1: Greece & Eastern Kingdoms, La Citta (traded La Citta without ever playing it), Indonesia (though I thought it'd be Antiquity), Battle Cry and Himalya. Played games I planned to play: Race For The Galaxy and Agricola.
    Failed: to paint my Descent set, put my BattleLore guys on bases, play Die Macher or A Game of Thrones (though I plan to get AGoT in yet), acquire a few games: the rest of the Alea big box set (which is ok - I don't have the room yet) and Through the Ages (quality control issues kept me away). I did manage to play or trade away a larger number of my unplayed games - the number is still big, but dropping faster than I thought it would. Some of that had to do with my son started playing games, so I did play a number of games with him. Some of that was just a better effort on my part.

    Of course, things changed way back in April (we decided to move back to AZ) and that threw a wrench in things, but that's ok. It has been an interesting gaming year. I've started to think about next year a bit, but for now - the things I will try to do this month (aka, this year): finish Atolla for Mike Gingold. Play A Game of Thrones. Whew. Trust me, those are two big orders, but doable this year. There are also 19 games sitting at 3 or 4 plays that I might have to push up to the nickle list. Wabash is also close to needing to be on the dime list. Not sure I can stuff in two more playings, but we'll see. I have a lot of games that hit nickle and dimes this year - more than I certainly thought I would.