Sunday, November 30, 2008

Game of the Month

November's game of the month is Dominion. Yep, the same super over-hyped Dominion. November's game of the month for me was again between Agricola and the eventual winner. Though I picked Agricola to play twice (as opposed to playing at the suggestion of others), Dominion was interesting enough to pass the big "A". Dominion is about building a victory point engine. You get VPs by actually building a money engine which you can use to buy actions that let you do more/buy more, or purchase VPs. The twist being that you build your engine through a deck of cards. Each player has their own deck. At first, you cards are nothing more than a combination of VPs and money and you pretty much are buying specialty cards to try and get the big VP cards. The downside to actually purchasing VP cards is that they get in the way! Whatever you purchase goes back into your deck and when you have played through all your cards, you shuffle them together and start back through them - meaning if you buy a lot of little VPs, your chances of getting good hands later starts to diminish. If you hold out for only the big VP cards, you won't win. There is a fine balancing act in collecting money, actions and victory points. What makes this interesting, is that the game scales well and is SHORT. You only draw 5 cards each hand, so typically, you've figured out your play while the other player/players are going. There is very very little downtime and the action is quick and yet still interesting. Its a fine game. If it has a flaw, it is that the shortness of the game means that you'll play through the card combinations fairly quickly. I fully expect that heavy players of the game will be bored and onto something else in a month or two. In fact a number of folks have logged huge numbers of plays online at Brettspielwelt. However, what I saw was that it really is a decent filler - you can get in three games easily while others finish off their games or in waiting for your group to show up. This is worth having JUST to have a filler worth playing. After having played it, I feel that I'll likely pick this up next year, along with card sleeves - you have to have sleeves for the cards. The cards are handled, shuffled and re-shuffled A LOT. I like this one a lot better than Race For The Galaxy. Though the only real similarity is that both of these are card games, they have a similar sort of feel in that you are building a points engine. Dominion however, is easier to learn. You'll only have the "overwhelmed with options and card text" feeling for about 5 minutes, then 5 minutes later the first game is done and you get it and are ready to play again. On the flip side, with Race For the Galaxy, you feel overwhelmed the entire first game. The second game you get it, but have no idea what combinations of cards work well. By the third or forth time through the cards, you start to get the picture, but by then you could have played about 16 games of Dominion. Competitively.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Taught Agricola to Nathan Winchester. We played a two-player standard game (i.e. with occupations and minor improvements). It actually went fairly smoothly. We both ended up "cheating" slightly but caught our mistakes partway through the game and just kept on going. In fact, I'm sure that neither error would have changed the game's score. So how does it play with two player? Fine. It felt more fiddly with two players - maybe with more players helping restock and such it doesn't feel as fiddly, I don't know. At any rate, It doesn't feel as tight as with more players (though Nathan commented on how tight the game felt - not an unsurprising remark for a first play). I will note that having played 3 times now, I have twice had a hand of occupations that sucked. Most of my occupations were "end game scoring" type, meaning I had no early help for food. I really don't see why a short draft or redrawing of cards shouldn't be done. I do enjoy the game though and will probably try and get it out again a time or two before the end of the year.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Random Thoughts Monday

My mother and sister were in town and I got to play a number of games with my sister as well as my whole family and friends. We played some Blokus Trigon, Rumis, Chinese Checkers, Apples to Apples, YINSH, Jambo, and Zooloretto. My son also taught Grandma to play Blink and Ghost Party.
So after finally playing Jambo I'm left with - meh. The game sounds half interesting and simple enough, but its mostly just simple. There doesn't feel like enough interesting choices. and the game just goes along and then poof - its over. I want to play once more, but I don't see what the big deal is now that I've played.
A couple of plays of Rumis reminded my why I like that game. It plays quickly and I really enjoy spatial games. There was a puzzle my great-grandmother had when I was a kid, and the pieces remind me of that a lot. At any rate - I need to bring this along to game nights more - its a good way to knock out 30 minutes.
I still suck at YINSH.
Apples to Apples is a mixture of the mundane and the hilarious. But, its good enough for a group of non-gamer friends. What I really need to get is Why Did the Chicken...?. This is a game that is begging for the clever quip to come out.
Playing Zooloretto reminded me why it won the 2007 Spiel - its a good family game. My mother picked it up after one playing and did quite well the next couple of times. Next time, we'll play Aquaretto.
YAMT - this math trade saw me trading off Twilight Imperium II (and expansion) for the original Blackbeard. Don't know if Blackbeard is easier to trade, but it is worth more... I'll have to play it at least once to see if is worth keeping. (the picture reminds me of the stupid Yellowbeard movie). I like pirate-y games, but haven't played one that's really great. Pirate's Cove isn't bad, but its a bit lighter. I think most people (myself included) just aren't sure what we really want from a pirate game. Is it theme? Game play? Why can't we find a "decent" pirate game?
Well, its about that time. For the third straight year, I'm participating in the BGG Secret Santa. I'm about to leave a clue here for my secret Santa target (not that he'll ever find it). My target this year (I'm not naming him) explicitly stated that he didn't mind a used game. To this end, I'm making a trade with Mike Gingold for Groo: The Game. This doofy game (and its expansion) are near the top of his want list, and despite being doofy and a Groo game, just isn't that common. This should make a nice present. I'll probably see about throwing in a light little two player game for him and his wife as well. And what do I hope to get? I don't really know. Nor care. Mostly, I'd like to open my present and just say - I didn't expect that. Last year I made a friend in Jay Moore (despite his being an MU fan). He had a clever present a day thing for a couple of days leading up to Christmas where I was to try and work out who he was. It took a little work, but I did. I also got to meet him at the Geekway and thank him in person. The BGG has lead me to meet a lot of nice folks.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Trading in Circles

My friend Mike Garrett likes to point out that the true winners in all the math trades are the shipping services. I simply accept that cost as part of updating my collection. Better to pay $10 for a game that will get played than keep a game I don't want in my collection. Looking back at my trade list this year, I spot a few games I've traded away only to re-acquire. Jambo was one of the first I traded off (along with Masons) for Age of Mythology: The Boardgame and All Wound Up. All Wound Up was the game I wanted out of this trade, and I didn't feel bad giving up Jambo (which I knew I could get again) for a bigger game in Age of Mythology. Overall, a bad trade. Though Masons isn't that great, All Wound Up was terrible. I traded it away. AoM sits on my shelf. However, I'm getting Jambo again as part of a trade I made for Memoir 44. Next on the circle of trades - Basari. I traded this for Pizzaro and Co in a math trade (which I traded away later). I got Basari back as part of 3-game package for my BattleLore expansions in a math trade.
And the last one was Bus. I traded this for Bus. Yes, this was one of the first recorded same-game-arbitrage instances. I traded my copy for an upgrade to my warped boards. Annoyingly enough, almost right after my copy went out the door, I got an email from Splotter telling me they'd ship me a new board for free. So I could have saved myself some money by skipping this whole trade. Oh well. In looking at most of my trades this year, none standout as super trades, but I'm happy with the way 90% of them have ended up. I keep thinking I'm hitting the end of trading, but then I decided to move something else. I'm sure there are some games that will finally get some plays as my son gets older that will influence keeping things or trying to get others. Hopefully, folks will want to keep on changing out their collections as well.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Random Thoughts on Monday

Ok, I already broke down and bought a game. But I swear, that is the last one for the year. Really. I snagged a copy of Ubongo. There was only one copy being sold in the US (on the BGG market) and it was $25 so I grabbed it. It wasn't terribly expensive and its not getting traded much (well, Mike has a copy for trade, but he has everything anyway...) If it had been a new game or one that is always in stock by retailers or something I would have waited. So anyway, last game buy of the year.
And BTW, that really means last purchase after Le Havre - which was supposed to be the real last purchase. Le Havre is sounding a bit to me like the next Agricola (i.e. really popular, but not yet picked up by a company in the US). This could take another year to get over here, so a few of us in the area pitched in to import some copies. About $58 with shipping, which isn't too bad (my pre-order Agricola was more). If I don't like it (or need it), I'm sure it'll trade quickly this spring.
I purchased Sorry! Sliders for my son for Christmas. He'll love it, and I'm pretty sure his mother will too since she like Crokinole. While I love playing games with my son, its even better when we play things as a family. Sorry! Sliders is getting attention on the BGG because it is a mass market game that isn't derivative drivel of existing crappy games (how many versions of Stratego(19), Monopoly(360+?), Candyland(9), Risk(20), Operation, Chutes and Ladders, etc can they make). Having just said that, Stratego is not a terrible game, and I have a soft spot for Risk, but I really wish that the toy companies in the US would put some effort into creating something that isn't total ass or a Transformer version of an existing game. And nobody is playing Monopoly (and those of you that are, don't play it correctly anyway), so just stop buying them.
We played some Pitchcar last week. My son likes this and its fast, so my wife will play too. My daughter plays, but gets bored really really fast and walks off. That's ok, she still has a couple years to get to the point of really playing games. I also got in a game of Battleball with my son. I really like playing this with him, but its a pain putting the guys back into the plastic. Maybe I should just give up and throw it all into the box. Its not like I'm going to trade this game away or anything.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Game Night (sort of)

Well, rather than the planned normal Gamer's Inn night, I had to change plans. You see, my wife somehow managed to break her ankle early in the morning. With her out of action, I knew I'd be at home watching the kids. After dinner, Erik VonBurg stopped over to play a few games. I had promised my son that we'd play Micro Mutants and that he could play with us. Erik, being a good sport (and liking the game anyway) played along and Erik and I each "won" a game. Ashton enjoyed playing with us both and we all had fun.
After the kids went to bed, We looked at what to play next and Erik asked about Qwirkle. Since this is a quick game, I showed him how to play and we whipped through a game in no time. I was able to pull away a bit at the end of the game. Qwirkle is a light abstract with not much to it, and I'm not sure if Erik cared about it much one way or another. One thing I did note - in my dining room, you can't tell blue from green and red from orange. I keep this one because my wife likes it and it'll be a good family game as the kids get older.
After Qwirkle, I taught Erik how to play Pandemic (at the normal difficulty). We were the Dispatcher (me) and the Scientist. We managed to knock out the black plague right away and despite blue and yellow blowing up, we headed to asia to knock out red. We killed red by cheating and not getting to a research center. We realized our gaff a couple turns later, but kept going. It didn't matter. We had a huge number of outbreaks at the end of the game and lost. I should play this a little more often - its really a tense game for as short as it is.
As we headed back to the room to pick another game, Erik asked about Crokinole. I like Crokinole and don't play it as often as I should (for as much as the board cost), so I was happy to get it down. We played to 11 points (winner of each round scores a point). Erik and I went back and forth a bit, then I pulled away at the end with a bunch of way lucky shots.
We finished up the night playing a little PÜNCT. Neither of us had played this, so neither of us knew what to expect. What happened was Erik winning very quickly the first game. We played again, and I snuck in a win. We played the rubber match and it was a little more tight, but still quick with Erik winning. I'm not quite sure how I feel about this one. Its fast (fast as Zertz was), but I can't decide if that's good or bad. I should throw a Gipf game into my bag each week to blow out filler time if they are going to play this fast...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Just finished a three-player game of Samurai on MaBiWeb with Nathan Winchester and Justin Easley. I believe this was Nathans first 3-player game and Justin was pretty brutal. I made a huge mistake in the first piece I played, which strangely, nobody took advantage of the whole game. Because of that, I played a mostly reactionary game, trying to take advantage where I could. I made a decent comeback, but Justin played a strong game and we had no real chance. Stupid Justin. Final scores (majorities, others, total) - Charles: 1 - 5 - 9, Justin: 1 - 5 - 10, Nathan: 0 - 7 - 7

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Trade Trade Trade

Well, as I might have mentioned - no purchases doesn't mean no new games if I can trade. I made a random trade offer last night of Container (plus my pre-order resin containers) for Galaxy Trucker. I was pleasantly surprised to find an acceptance in my inbox this morning. Very happy. Now I get rid of one more un-played game in my collection for one that I know will get some play. Of course, now I want Galaxy Trucker: The Big Expansion, but one thing at a time. As for Container. I really thought I'd like it. It sounds like a game I'd enjoy, but I never got around to playing it. I saw it being played in AZ once, but I found out later that everyone but Scuba Steve hates it. Oh well - I know he brings it, so I can probably try it at some point, but I don't need to own this one at this point and I'd really rather have Galaxy Trucker. I also was able to work a deal for my Memoir '44 game, Eastern Front expansion, and winter/desert board. Looks like I'll be getting Lost Valley - a tile laying game where the tiles are diamond shaped and its about finding gold? Rumis - a 3D abstract game that is decent fun and Jambo, which is a two player card game that I never got to play when it was in my collection before. Not a bad set of trades really.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Trouble with Trouble

I bought the game Trouble for my son about a year ago. I figured it would be easy enough to teach my son to play a roll and move game. At the time, he could count, but just didn't get the how to count out his move correctly - often he'd say one before lifting his piece or otherwise miss-move. No big deal really. We pulled it out last week and played with all the rules (which is to say you land on someone and send them back - something we didn't do before when we were still struggling to move correctly). Now, a year later, he got it just fine. In fact, its a good game to play with him, because it helps him adjust to bad things happening to him in the game (which he actually has no issues with, he's really fun to play with in that sense - he's a really good sport). Also, its really easy to set up my pieces so that he is more likely than not going to land on them. Which also points to the main reason this game is not played by anyone who isn't six years old. Its bad. The strategy to the game is don't move a piece out until someone else just goes past your starting block, then come out and land on them. Yes, there is a little luck, but beyond that there isn't much to the game. With four players playing similarly, the game is not only about luck, but would become unbearable long. I can only hope my son learns this early on so I'm not stuck playing this over and over for long periods of time.

I'm Done Buying Games

Well, no, not really. I'm done for a little while - say through the end of the year. I'm placing an order with some friends for Le Havre, and that will be my last purchase (for my collection) for the year. I'm taking a harder look at the old budget and I've decided I shouldn't be buying myself things with Christmas looming. I may be buying something for Secret Santa (but possibly not - I have a number of popular items in the shrink still I can send out) and probably will get Sorry! Sliders for my son for Christmas, but no more games for me this year. Which as I've noticed lately shouldn't be an issue. I need to play what I have more anyway. And, trades don't count - I still may get something I've been wanting through a trade. I just keep need to keep telling myself that I don't have to have every game and that there are enough people around that DO, so I can play those games anyway. So, what is on the front lines of things I want to buy? Dominion, Galaxy Trucker, Duck Dealer, and Ubongo are pretty high on my list. But again, I'll live just fine without any of them. I was on the fence with Dominion anyway, so I'd like to play it first and I want to play Ubongo to know if I need/want both Ubongo and the Extreme version. What I really need (and don't need), is for my son to get older so we can play more of my games.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Game of the Month

October was a fun month for games - I got to play a number of games with my son, who is sprouting into a little gamer. I played 33 games, 17 of which were with him. There were two games I was trying to decide on for October Game of the Month, but I think I have to go with Galaxy Trucker. Galaxy trucker is a "puzzle" game. There are three progressively harder rounds in two parts. The first part has you compete with the other players to place ship tiles onto your mat, thus making a ship with cargo holds, energy plants, weapons, engines, etc. After that phase is completed, there is a second phase where you run your newly built ship through a gauntlet of events that can fill your ship with valuable cargo or (more likely) blast your beautiful creation to pieces. The second part is pretty random, but its also fun and good for a couple laughs. I'm terrible at this, as are a couple of the guys I game with, but we all love this game.
The reason I picked this over my other choices is that it got me seriously in the mood for and thinking about other puzzle games. I've been looking at and thinking about getting Ubongo and Ubongo Extreme. Playing Master Labyrinth at the end of the month solidified in my mind that I truly enjoy puzzle games. Galaxy Trucker delivers that along with some goofy fun as you watch your creation fall apart.
So what missed the cut? Micro Mutants: Evolution was a close second. This lighter game (or heavy game of Tiddley Winks) is a lot of fun as far as I'm concerned and my son really enjoys it. It take a little skill and throws in some random (and unique per team) "powers". Its simple fun and it amazes me each time I play how quickly my son picked it up both from getting the rules to being able to jump the pieces around.

Happy Halloween

This year, I had a couple of fellow gamers over to my place for a few games. In between a quick baked ziti dinner and answering the door a few times, we snaked in a few games. Joining me were Amelia Boli, Matthew Frederick, Dion Garner, and Rob Smolka. We started the night with a new game that Rob brought over - New World: A Carcassonne Game. This is one that I had heard panned a number of times, but was willing to play since Carc games are not terribly long regardless. This one has a couple of differences in the scoring and adds a twist with the two explorer meeples, but in the end, its still just Carc - which to me is take it or leave it. I'll still happily play Carcassonne: The Castle, but just don't crave the rest. I did manage a win here, despite that I never thought it was possible. Charles:82, Dion: 80, Rob: 72, Amelia:81, Matthew: 64
Since it was Halloween, we moved on to a more thematically appropriate game - Ghost Party. This is basically a roll and move / push your luck game. You move around a track until the Hugo the Ghost makes his way to the top of the stairs, where he starts chasing you around the hallway. Each roll is either a number (you move on of your pawns) or a ghost (Hugo moves three spaces). I have no luck and Hugo managed to catch two of my three people nearly every round and I managed a very low score. Matthew managed an easy win here. Matthew:-14, Dion: -17, Amelia: -20, Rob: -26, Charles: -40
Next up, we stayed with the "spooky" theme and pulled out Betrayal at House on the Hill
. This is one of the AH/Hasbro games that is out of print and currently sells for a good amount of money. It has been unplayed in my collection now for a while, because I haven't had the right time / place / combination of people that would play. Basically, its like playing a B horror movie. A group of people are exploring a spooky mansion - does it matter why? As you explore the house, you find things and different things happen which test your character's mental and physical health. At a random point in the game, someone (again randomly) turns traitor. At that point, the combination of things that caused the traitor event indicate which of 50 scenarios you finish the game with. The traitor gets one booklet to read over and the rest of the players get another. Each side then has secret objectives to winning the game. Our particular game had Rob as the traitor. He found a "Spirit Board" and summoned a Banshee. He then set about trying to kill us all. We had to find a set of rooms and / or artifacts to do 5 exorcisms (skill rolls). At the time the haunt started, we had one of the rooms in play (and you could use each only once, so we were not looking good). To our luck, the Banshee was pretty much retarded and Rob had no real control over it to try and kill us. He did manage to get the banshee to kill Matthew, who had bad luck all night. In the first room he had looked in he managed to get caught on fire. Despite Matthew not having any luck for this game, we as a team we discovered a lot of the rooms fairly quickly and in short order won the game. Now, this isn't a great game, but if you like a cooperative horror themed game, its ok. Its A LOT shorter than Arkham, but I think you really have to have the 4-6 players to make it interesting. Also, the scenario we played wasn't that interesting and my readings indicate that some scenarios are better than others. I had the latest revisions to the scenarios printed out, so some of the issues that others have talked about with confusing scenarios wasn't an issue for us. It was a nice light ameri-trashy romp, but I don't see this coming out very often - even though it is short.
Amelia decided to head out, so with about another hours worth of gaming in us, Rob suggested we try Master Labyrinth. Getting to get in yet another new game was fine by me, so we set it up and started in. I predicited it taking a couple turns for this to grok, and at least for me, that was true. Dion seemed to hit his stride early on and grabbed tokens quickly. Matthew grabbed a couple and screwed me early, while Rob struggled and hated it the whole time. It finally clicked for me and I really hit stride grabbing a lot of points and one bonus. This game is a puzzle game and one that you'll like or hate. I liked it (winning helped). Final scores were - Charles: 105, Matthew: 93, Dion: 74, Rob: 41