Friday, February 29, 2008

February 2008 Game of the Month

In the Year of the Dragon is my February 2008 game of the month. This was a bit of a surprise to me. This one was played late in the month (a month which was low in plays). I had purchased this one for no other reason than it was an Alea big box game. I had heard some small rumblings that it was a decent game and I was surprised to find a good gamer's game here. The game itself is fairly easy to learn, and yet there are a number of different approaches that one can take. The mechanics are a new interesting mix to me (get greedy and it costs you your place in turn order, which is often VERY important to getting the limited resources available). I expect that in a while this one will be over-played and over-analyzed by the BGG community, but for me, this one should be fun for a while.

Other games in contention this month - Vinci saw a couple plays (and one a win for me) via Vassal. Wabash Cannonball took up a chunk of my time as I worked and rework (and continue to rework) a new map. I also managed a couple plays of this and I still enjoy it. I've played with three and five players and its still good (better with the bigger map and bigger cubes and better stock certs).

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Trading Fool

I've been a trading fool as of late. An Ultimate Trade got me a copy of Edel, Stein & Reich. Shortly after that I traded off Liberté and Samurai Swords in a math trade for Battle Cry and Age of Steam. Now, it should be noted that I traded Battle Cry away a couple months ago for a new copy of Diplomacy (the new AH/Hasbro version of course), so I had to get it back. I picked up Age of Steam, not because I love the game (I do), but because it would be easier to trade than Samurai Swords and because its probably a trade up in value so long as John Bohrer continues to be an ASSHAT. I also got two new laminated maps out of the deal - Japan and Umbria. I currently have it (minus those two maps) in an Ultimate Trade in an effort to try and get a hold of Antiquity. I've been approached about getting OUTPOST if I was willing to up the ante on my end (Outpost is easily a $200-$300 game). If I get no hits, I may very well consider throwing in some of my AoS maps on top to see about Outpost. I don't really want Outpost, but lots of folks do, so...
I also just made a trade for a game I've been wanting for a while - Himalaya. I can't keep waiting for Matthew Frederick's Everest ;) I was able to get the base game and the 5-6 player expansion in exchange for a new copy of Betrayal at House on the Hill and for my Age of Steam map - Disco Inferno. This particular map (sadly) never got played. However, I was willing to part with it since IT DOESN'T FIT in my AoS case. Its been an interesting last few weeks.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Game Night

Feb. 22, 2008 - Game Shoppe
Mike Garrett, Justin Kosec and I planned to meet up at the Game Shoppe for some Friday night gaming. I got there just ahead of Mike and Justin and sat down with Mike Spoto to eat my fast food. Mike S was busy opening Race For the Galaxy and after I finished eating, I offered to teach him how to play. Justin had walked in at that point and we were also joined by Will Suacier. I went over the rules, using the backwards order for the actions and Will and mike seemed to grok the rules quickly. We played with the starting beginner hands and off we went. Will started dropping cards left and right while I worked on military might. Mike went heavily into the brown and was getting cards easily left and right. Justin? I'm not sure what he was doing, but he took a while to do it. Will ended the game with a 12 card build and won. I couldn't ever find any 6 bonus cards for military (as Will had been holding them).
Mike G had arrived in the middle of our game and so we now had five. As there was no real decision on a game being made, I pulled out my new Wabash Cannonball map. Despite its flaws, the bigger map and cubes are much easier to play with (and anything is better to look at). I explained everything and off we went. Mike G won the PA (red), I won B&O (blue), Will took C&O (yellow) and Mike S won New York (green). On his first turn, Justin put red up for bid, and won that. Shortly after that he and Mike G ran track to cut the B&O off. Not being happy with that turn of events, I grabbed a share of green and started helping Mike S increase that stock value. Will grabbed a second share of yellow and Justin managed to get the third (last) share of red. Mike G now realizing that he was getting behind and that his interest in red was far and away helping Justin more, bid for and got a share of B&O (blue)! We laughed at him a bit, buying a stock for a line he had screwed earlier, but I helped him to increase its value and get into Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, the other lines grew with no unexpected things happening in a first game (for Mike S, Will, Justin) - green ran the northern cities, yellow the southern - red and blue ran short of cash in the middle. I ran green to Chicago for the +7 income and dividends. Mike then took Wabash, gambling that his $10 bid would be recoup-able (he did get his line to Detroit, and got in two dividends, thus making a small amount). When we added it all up, I was out in front by about $10-20. I really like this one, but would be less happy playing the original with the crappy map and small bits...
Next out was Ca$h and Gun$. Mike G keeps laughing at me, since I've only rated this a 6.5 yet I keep asking him to bring it out. I had had a long week and wanted some dumb fun, but I don't think I'm changing my rating. It still is what it is. The winner (Will) was unsurprising as he took one haul all by himself.
The last game of the night was a new one to all of us as I pulled out In the Year of the Dragon. This is one I got because it was an Alea/RG big box, but had been hearing good things on, so I wanted to give it a go. This game has a couple of pluses to me - the rules are simple and its easy to teach (I basically read the summary bars out of the instructions to everyone and we started playing) and its full of interesting tough choices. It was a good mix of mechanics that didn't make this feel like many other games I had tried before. Essentially, there are 12 games turns. Each turn, an event happens (though the first two are always - peace/nothing). Each event is typically something bad - taxes, plague, invading Mongols, etc. There are two of each event and one pair is benign (firworks) but earns players VPs. So the game is about planning for the up coming disasters while trying to sneak in as many VPs. on a turn, players pick an action, then pick a person to come to a palace (people give you things during the action or scoring), then the event occurs, then there is scoring and you repeat. That's the game. Most of the people come in two flavors - simple bonus or much better bonus. The interesting part of this is - turn order is determined by the value of people you have selected. Choose a good bonus and you don't move far on the turn order track. Take a lesser bonus and you shoot out on the turn order, allowing you to choose your action before the others (the first to choose an action gets it for free, those after the first have to pay for the privilege). Its really a nice mix of angst. Like PR, I think this may have a limited amount of re-playability as people start figuring out the "engine" (there are already a number of strategy threads on the geek), but I'm guessing this will see some play with the folks in this area for a bit. BTW, Mike G squeaked out a two point win over me here and despite winning this the first time out (he normally dislikes any game he wins the first playing of), Mike seems willing to give this another go.

Friday, February 22, 2008

V is for Victory (in Vinci)

Wooooo. I held on for the win in our PBEM game of Vinci. Near the end, I went into decline with forts, and everyone left those guys alone the whole rest of the game - scored me 7 points a round. My new civ was medicine (add a new guy each turn) and general (+7 temporary guys each turn). This let me grab up pretty good chunks of points while I waited for the ending. Matthew took it upon himself to wipe me out, and he came close. We were playing the variable ending game and so I was just hanging on hoping for the end roll, otherwise Matthew and Jason were very likely going to pass my by. On the 6th try for end game, we got it. Whew. We had a bit of a discussion about the endgame in Vinci and we've decided that we prefer the faulty, yet original ending. Yes, the endgame as it stands has a kingmaker issue, but at least for this group of players, that's not an issue - we don't tend towards favorites and play to maximize our (or minimize the leader's) scores. The random endpoint ends up just being exactly that - random. At least with the known endpoint, you have to plan your for your last couple of civs. We'd rather have to deal with the kingmaker issue than have a random winner.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Slow Month

This has been a pretty slow month for me for gaming. Other than a couple web games, not much going on. I just finished up a game of Tikal on SpielByWeb. The person that setup the game chose to simply go with random draw tiles (which plays 1000x faster than playing with Justin Kosec ;) ). I played ok, but nothing special and ended up in a distant 3rd. GreatWolf won, and won big - obvious about 3 turns out big.
I managed to get my revised Wabash Cannonball map done. You can see it here. Too bad I did it at too low a resolution :(. I'm going to re-start it in another day or two to try and clear up the "blurriness" of the town names and such. Otherwise, I was pretty happy with how it turned out. Friday is game night - I hope to get in a handful of decent new games and at least one play of my new Wabash map.

Friday, February 15, 2008


The results are in from the latest math trade. I'm trading away my copy of Samurai Swords (which I wanted to play for the longest time, but not any more) and Liberte. In exchange, I'm getting Age of Steam and Battle Cry (plus a game called Dixie - Bull Run. Yes, I traded away Battle Cry for Diplomacy (AH/Hasbro) version a few months ago - now I'm looking at it like I traded Liberte for it instead. Whatever. Its interesting that I'm trading for AoS. The box has a ding, but I don't care in the least - I have a box - its empty. I'm probably going to do an ultimate trade and see if I can't get something cool. This math trade, the AoS guy is getting Indonesia, which I really wanted. Ah well.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Blue Moon

When I first heard about this game, I was intrigued. Here was a non-collectible card game that let you do deck building (assuming you bought the expansions). It was pretty simple to learn and short to play. I got it in a trade and after trying it out, I traded it away. It wasn't that it was a bad game, but more that I really didn't have anyone to play it with, and its the kind of game that (I think) gets better the more often you play - meaning you need a regular opponent. Well, I discovered that there is a computer version of the game available. You can download the game here. Now, it won't let you build decks (that I can tell), but it does have the following decks: Hoax, Vulca, Mimix, Flit, Khind, Terra, Pillar, and Aqua. The game interface is well done and easy to use. Additionally, it won't let you make an illegal play. So, if you are interested in trying this game out, grab the files and set it up.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Wabash Map

Ok, I hate the stupid Wabash Cannonball map. It sucks. Not just because its spartan, but because its only barely functional:
- Its small and fiddly to deal with, especially with the dinky game cubes
- It is nearly devoid of color - the small colors are VERY small shapes in the corner of each hex.
- The numeric codes in each hex are not intuitive in the least.
So, I'm working on a new map. I started out with hexes the size of AoS hexes. I plan to use Age of Mythology cubes, which are a lot bigger than the AoS sized good cubes, so bigger hexes is a must if for no other reason than this. I decided to try and stick to the basic color scheme - yellow=farm, green=timber, blue=mine, brown=industrial. I used Paint Shop Pro's textures to fill the hexes with color, without "filling" the hex. I even tried for textures that were related - yellow/farm/grass, green/timeber/wood grain, blue/mine/stone, brown/industrial/bricks. I also found images and made smaller hexes for inside the hexes so that the colors were more like secondary indicators to the pictures of a farm, stack of logs, coal train, factory silhouette and city hall (for cities). For the starting hexes, I found logos from the original companies and re-did the colors a bit (rather than using the ones JB did for his map, as I didn't want to be accused of using any of "his" graphics.
Most importantly, I've clarified the meaning of the numbers (well, at least to my mind). The cost of the hex is clearly shown in the hex itself. For the cities, I've added two "plus" numbers the first is the amount you add to the company's value when you build there. The second is the amount you add when you industrialize the city. So rather than the obtuse 2/2/3 for Ashland, you have a 2 in the hex, and +2 +1. Why in God's name anyone thought that the code should be 2/2/3 not 2/2/1 is beyond me. Did they think it sped things up to do the math for you in case you were the second line to build into an industrialized city?
Anyway, this is a sample of what I have so far. I had originally thought I'd do each hex as the picture, but it was WAY too busy and I couldn't get the numbers (for cities) to stand out in a meaningful way. I will likely end up shrinking this a bit, as I'd really like to get the scoring and action piece onto the board, rather than having them as a separate entity. I'm not nearly done, so I'm certainly open to comments / criticisms.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Vinci - Vassal

Tried out a new game via Vassal - Vinci. This is a pretty decent game and not bad PBEM. I played with Jason Maxwell, Matthew Frederick and Mike Gingold of the AZ Gamers. I started it up and then turn order was Matthew, Jason, and Mike. Most of us hadn't played Vinci in a while, which was ok, since we got to take as much time as we liked, however without someone there to remind you, its easy to forget the other civ's powers (and your own). I know I forgot to use my civ powers once and I think Jason forgot to count his declined civ's points at least once. The game was really over about 4 rounds from the end, when Mike's crazy civ with super defense took over half the board. He put it in decline and still scored like 17 points from it over the next few turns (might have been more). Matthew and I were chasing and Jason just kept hoping for the end of the game. We played with the variable ending and it didn't matter in the least. Mike easily won: Mike-146 Matthew-134 Charles-132 Jason-115. This one doesn't get regular play and is fun enough that it'll probably stay in the PBEM rotation for a bit.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Game Night

Feb. 1, 2008
Headed back down to the Game Shoppe this week to meet up with Mike Garrett for some gaming. We were hoping to grab some other players, but planned on it just being the two of us. When I got there, Mike had pulled out Filthy Rich, an older Richard Garfield game that I had never heard of. We pulled in a kid that shows up at the shop a lot - Tom Nelson and Mike explained the game. This game is really cool in that the game board is a binder. You play a business that makes billboards. You build the billboards by placing the cards for the boards into slots in pages (card sleeve pages) in the binder. There are four pages, and so you can cover up (or get covered), depending on which page is active. There is quite a bit of randomness in dice rolling to get paid, and in the event card deck, but the game plays quickly and has a unique mechanic. I wouldn't want to play this a load, but its interesting enough I probably would play it again when it comes out (plus I won).
After that, I had Mike keep out the money and I pulled out my homemade copy of Wabash Cannonball (which is only slightly less cheesy than the original). I'm working on a nice copy, but I wanted to get this to the table now, so I printed out a quick and crappy copy of the original map. I explained the game to Tom and Mike and we got started. Tom took PA (red) and New York (green) in the initial auctions, I got B&O (blue) and Mike had C&O (yellow). I made a pretty decent effort at nabbing the second blue stock to go up for auction, then poured all the money into pushing blue well up in value - only at the end of the game did I let a stock go to another player and the first three landing in my lap pushed me out to an easy win. This one isn't terribly hard to learn, but takes a playing to see how quickly it plays and to get what sort of value to give a company during auctions. I still need to play this with 4-5 players, but I still feel that this a decent game - its fast and has interesting choices. After I finish my "deluxe" version, I'm going to want to play this even more.
Tom had to take off, so Mike pulled out Quoridor for us to play while we waited for his other friend Mike to show up. I had seen him playing this before, so knew how to play. I wasn't that interested in playing, as I had seen how this would not be a terribly interesting abstract, but I also knew it was quick, so I gave it a go. I had boxed Mike in pretty decently, then screwed up and let him hose me. It was soon after pointed out that I could have kept it from happening to me - which normally would make we want to play again, but this game just never struck a chord with me.
When Mike Linder arrived, Mike Garrett suggested Age of Steam. Linder, despite never having played was interested in trying it out. I got out France for us, as this works well enough with three players. The setup for us was interesting in that there were only a couple black cubes on the board, as well as on the goods chart - black would not be seen much in this game. It also meant that Paris was going to get loads of colored goods. Mike G grabbed a two hop route into Paris right away, so I sucked it up and started a route that would not let me move goods the first turn. Instead I got my engine to 3 in preparation for the second turn. After that, it started to look like it'd be Mike G's game (I had had to dig into the share pool while he did not), but I kept on making 4s and 5s while Mike ran out of those and in the mid-end game kept getting stuck running 3s and 4s. When we tallied up the scores, I finished 2 pts ahead of Mike G for the win - coincidently, two points I took from Mike when I urbanized a town out from under one of his routes.