Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Another Back

Trying again. I went with a font that made the HASEGAWA a little easier to see (though lets face it, it'll be hard to see regardless - the labels are only going to be 1" in diameter. The image background is a bit cleaner and the dragon head sits higher in the frame, thus is is easier to make out above the numbers. I changed the denomination of the yellow chip to 500 instead of 2. Mike Garrett (aka the Fonz) suggested that the 500 might be more useful. I think he's right.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Return of the Chips

Yep, I got bored and went back to trying to figure out the chip designs. Here is what I came up with for the backs. It isn't the same artist, just a black and white Japanese dragon with "Hasegawa" encircling the image. I'm showing the original front designs I came up with too. I've decided not to put numbers on the fronts at all. Not sure I'm going to go with these or not, but after nearly two years of this, I should probably come up with some design for these things.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Things of No Interest

Checking the stupid old five and dime list. Seven games are at 4 (nothing near ten to even try for) plays and need another go round before the year is out. Chaos in the Old World, Chicago Express, Hive, In the Year of the Dragon, Stratego: Legends, Taluva, Tichu. Now, I'll knock Stratego off tomorrow with my son (which will make 4 of 5 five and dimes thanks to my kids).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Best of 2009

So for me, the Best Game of 2009 isn't limited to only games that came out in 2009, but rather the best new game from my Cult of the New 2009 list. This year I have a number of games that could make the cut: Pokémon Trading Card Game, Hive, Steam Barons, Combat Commander:Europe, Confucius, and Chaos in the Old World were all games I enjoyed an awful lot. Interestingly all of these games seem to have a very different feel, which makes it hard to choose one. It's like trying to say whether you like ice cream, chicken fried steak, or sushi better. Me? I love em all and they are different so you aren't comparing things of equal "value".
Steam Barons is a really excellent variant to Steam. Its complexity really strikes a chord with me, and I really enjoy stock manipulation games. I'm not sure how much anyone else in the group will want to play it, but I'll be trying to push this to the table again soon.
Combat Commander:Europe is exactly what I think a WWII game should be like. To me, this captures the feeling/flavor of the WWII combat on a small scale. The decisions are interesting and I really like way the cards drive everything. The game is so engrossing, you forget about the fact that you are playing with chits. I know some guys that dislike the amount of randomness and chaos, but I think it likely captures the true flavor of the combat. It is also just feels clean. Everything is driven with the cards and you don't have the crazy complexity of something like ASL. I really want to play this a little more often.
Hive isn't a game I talk about much or think about, but when I start playing it, I'm totally engrossed. It is both complex and simple at the same time. It is really a fun game. I wonder if this could be played by 4 players using multiple sets? I also like that the expansion piece is interesting but isn't required to make the game better. There needs to be a travel edition of this game!
Pokemon wouldn't normally be something you'd think of as that great a game and maybe I'm just swept up by my son's enthusiasm for all things Pokemon. Maybe it just satisfies my craving for a CCG / deck building game with its variation and yet simplicity. Whatever it is, this was my most played game this year. That doesn't mean it should be the game of the year, but it is one indicator that I enjoyed playing it.
Confucius was a game I had barely read anything about before playing. All I knew was that it had some system for giving gifts to other players that obligated them to you. There is more to it than that of course. This is at its heart a worker placement game, but the players have a higher level of interaction than most of the other worker placement games I've tried recently. There also seems to be multiple ways to score points and block other players. Really an interesting game.
Chaos in the Old World was another game I had not heard a single thing about until Mike Gingold emailed me to ask me what I had heard. Not having heard anything, I did some reading and discovered that this was a new FF game based on the Warhammer universe (which didn't mean a thing to me). What caught my eye was a set of unique mechanics and four asymmetrical forces. Initial reports seemed to make it sound as if one side or another was easier, but after playing this a few times it seems to be very well balanced. There is a good amount of randomness to parts of the game that can suddenly make one faction stronger or weaker and there is dice to resolve combat, but for the amount of complexity and options here, the game is quite fast to play. Not only is it fast, but its entertaining. The last one is why I've settled on Chaos in the Old World for my Game of the Year 2009. The game entertains me and I still want to play it. It isn't a brain burner that has me replying my turns and wondering what I should have done on my third turn differently. Rather it has a couple of - "that was awesome" moments each game. Like when you get a single die and roll multiple 6s (six is a hit plus another roll) and wax a stronger force. Or use your cards to completely neuter another player's forces. From a game I had never heard of to my favorite game of the year!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cult of the New 2009

Here we go, the annual listing of the new games I played in 2009 and some brief thoughts. I played 60 new games this year. Most of them I owned to start, though not all. I currently own 45 of these - that's up from last year as I have made a late effort this year to play a lot of my unplayed games. Only 5 of these are expansions to existing games. I present these in no particular order. the games I currently own are marked with an asterisk.
  • Pokémon Trading Card Game* - This was a game I got for my son as a reward system. It started out with two full pre-made decks. Worked out pretty well as he loves the game and the cards and pretty much anything Pokemon. I was later able to pick up a steal of cards (900 or so) for $50 from craigslist. I built a ton of decks and my son now has 10-12 decks. We play this a lot and I'm still surprised at how good a game is here. This TCG gets good marks from me because of the good variety and the ease with which you can build a new and interesting deck. There is a good variety to the cards, but it has become pretty obvious that newer cards have ramped up the power, making a lot of the older cards duds. That isn't terribly surprising given the evolution of the game over time, but you can easily tell why CCGs are money sinks.
  • The aMAZEing Labyrinth*- Another "Labyrinth" game, this is a bit simpler than its Master Labyrinth cousin. Still a bit complicated for a 5-6 year old. Otherwise, if you like puzzle games, this one is fine.
  • Cluzzle*- this party game was entertaining enough. I suck ass at making things with playdoh though. As with all party games - you need the right crowd at the right time.
  • Mechanisburgo- This was a game I really wanted after I had read about it. It sounded super - lots of good euro mechanics and dripping with theme. Of course the real issue was in the icons. A bit much made for overload in trying to take it all in. After about an hour, it wasn't terrible, but our one and only play was also hampered by the fact that each rules question we had took forever to try and find the clarification. And a couple of times, there was a reference to something and we weren't sure what was being talked about. The real kicker for all of us though was the randomness. There was too much of it, especially at the end of the game with the super winning conditions that randomly show up. I liked this game, but it felt like it needed some serious house rules to be worth playing again. I traded my copy away.
  • Power Grid - Power Plant Deck 2*- finally got to try this and I wasn't that impressed. I guess if you always played with it, it'd be ok. Otherwise, the changes in fuel consumption make for a different game than you are used to. With a lot of fuel-hungry plants, the cheap fuel plants are a huge advantage.
  • Smarty Party!- a trivia game where the goal is to know just a bit more than everyone else. You don't have to know all the answers, just the ones the other players don't. The categories are all over the map: sports, movies, tv, McDonald's menu items etc. This one is pretty fun if everyone is equally skilled at trivia, otherwise one or two people can kind of be out of the fun (true of most trivia games I think).
  • Time's Up! Title Recall!- I got to play both the original and this variant for the first time this year. This is a a great game that is good at parties as well as when the group gets big enough with the regular gamers. I think I like the title recall version a little more than the other.
  • DVONN*- I really liked this game from the GIPF series. I kicked ass the first time I played it and was smoked the second. Fairly different feeling from the others. Good filler - it seemed to be quicker than the others in the series.
  • Gem Dealer- um this game sucked. It is the dumber version of Knizia's own Ivanhoe card game. Ivanhoe is ok. This game was not and mostly the winner was whomever got lucky in the draw of the cards.
  • Mexica*- Surprisingly, I hadn't yet tried this one from the Mask Trilogy. Played it two-player with Nathan and found a decent game here. I have NEVER seen this played at a game night, which surprised me a bit - this was a fun game.
  • Pokémon Master Trainer*- I found this at a thrift store and was surprised to get it home and find it 100% complete. It is actually not a bad game for a roll and move deal. Like most Pokemon games, you try and collect a bunch of Pokemon so you can battle it out. This one lets you upgrade Pokemon, so trading with others (or stealing them from others) is likely needed if you want to win. A bit longer than I'm willing to play normally, but it does a good job keeping with the theme - and there are worse games out there.
  • Senji*- We only got to try this once, and I mis-played a pretty important rule. We have not tried again for whatever reason. I should drag this out to a game night soon.
  • Hive*- One of the great new abstracts I learned this year (and there were a lot of them). I really enjoy this one. I never feel like I'm playing very well, yet still feel like I do ok when the games are over. With or without the mosquito, this is just a good game.
  • Kinder Bunnies: Their First Adventure*- I think I actually like this better than Killer Bunnies. It is faster, more limited, and though random, it doesn't feel as random as Killer Bunnies.
  • Age of Steam Expansion - Secret Blueprints of Steam Plans 1&2*- I thought this expansion to AoS was alright. It takes away a bit of the direct conflict. The problem for me was that it was super inconvenient for everyone to hide their maps. I don't know - nothing special here I guess. I'd play it again if someone really wanted to try the maps, but I have other maps I'd rather try first.
  • 2 de Mayo- an interesting two player game with "pre-declared moves". You write down your moves and then execute them (or not). Something of a cat or mouse game. I was probably a bit too tired when I tried this to appreciate it.
  • Age Of Conan- Fantasy Flight had a really good year with Euro-Ameritrash games. This one was a good mix and a nice thematic romp. A bit longer than it needed to be, though not terribly so. I only had a chance to play it once, but I'd play it again if it was offered. Not quite good enough to shell out for, I'd trade for it if I had anything left to trade.
  • Bombay- this game sounded ok, looks great and is short. Except that by the time we got done playing nobody was all that impressed. Then someone pointed out that we had the exact same scores we would have had if we had done nothing but passed every round. Blech.
  • Confucius*- a really fun worker placement game that has a couple of unique mechanisms. This was a total surprise for me. I'm not sure what I expected, but I loved it immediately. The gift system is really cool and this needs to hit the table some more.
  • The End of the Triumvariate*- Finally tried this three player game out and I think I'd have to say it is my three-player game of choice. Most three-player games suffer from letting one person kick ass when the other two enter into any kind of conflict. This game steps around that well and is really well balanced. An odd number to try and get played much, but like San Marcos, the right game when you do have three players.
  • Ninja vs Ninja- Nathan and I tried this out while waiting to play Planet Steam. It is a goofy little two player game that was short and fun, though a bit luck driven.
  • Planet Steam- I got to play this monster at the Geekway 2009. It is a heck of a good game and it looks great. It also comes in a monster box and cost around $125. Though it was good and I'd happily play it, there are other games in monster boxes that cost $125+ I'd rather try first (yes, I'm talking to you Antiquity). Though I'm serious - I'd like to play this again Chester!
  • Qwirkle Cubes*- Ok, I admit it, the original Qwirkle has better gameplay. That being said, I liked the production of the cubes better than the original. The gameplay isn't that much different and the QC takes up less room so I have stuck with this version.
  • Roll Through the Ages: Bronze Age- I was not all that enthralled with this one. I don't know why. Maybe because the dice sucked (our copy was really hard to see the images). Maybe because the game just isn't that interesting. I'd rather play Airships or To Court a King any day.
  • Chung Toi*- This is sort of Tic Tac Toe, except that after you hit a stalemate, you can start moving your pieces to try and win. Nothing special, but it looks coolish...
  • Combat Commander: Europe*- This was one of the best games I was taught all year and after playing I immediately purchased a copy. And there it sits on my shelf. Of all the games I have, this one deserves to see more playtime. I have way too many two-player games. My son needs to get older sooner.
  • Hamsterolle*- This isn't a bad dexterity game. It isn't all that special either. I need to try Villa Piletti still, but I suspect that the whole concept of stacking/dexterity games is more fun to me than the actual games because I seem to rarely be entertained. Sac Noir might be the only one that I played that was really entertaining.
  • Ido*- This is a very pretty looking abstract game that has a fairly unique mechanic as well as a HUGE footprint. The game itself is ok, but not exceptional. It might get to see the table occassionally, except that I need a truck to take it anywhere. Ok, that's an exaggeration, but it definitely doesn't just fit in the bag.
  • Le Havre*- this should have been on last year's list, except that DHL somehow lost our shipment in German customs or something. By the time we got our order, we could have just waited and got it through Funagain or whomever. At any rate, the game is interesting. I'm not sure if it is more or less interesting than Agricola, but it is in the same vein for sure. At any rate - good not great and long enough that I usually would rather play something else.
  • Steel Driver- due to the economy I chose not to pre-order/pre-pay for the Wallace Treefrog sets this year. After trying Steel Driver, I saw where this wasn't a bad stock game and ended up getting a copy. I ended up trading it away in a math trade later though. While slightly different, it scratches the exact same itch for me as Chicago Express - and I like CE better. That meant I wasn't going to ever bother bringing Steel Driver out, so I traded it off. So anyway - good game, but not better than CE.
  • Die Weinhändler- Bobby brought this out one night. It is a set collection game that is semi-interesting and a little luck driven. Short enough that you don't care either way.
  • Star Wars: Epic Duels*- I got this in a trade. This is a much sought after game that is out of print. I'll be honest here - I have no clue why after I played it. Yeah, its ok. Its Star Wars and you can play fights between different characters from the movies. Each person/group has different play styles and such, but its basically a quick (very quick) squad (three person squad) level "duel". Big whoop. My son likes it and its fast, so I've held onto it, but I really don't get what the fuss is all about.
  • Go West- Dion pulled this out and I have to admit, it isn't a bad little game. Quick and with a enough interesting choices (kind of press your luck). Not something I needed to add to my collection of games, but I'd play it again.
  • Runebound*- One of my son's favorite new games I've taught him this year. This really seems to be best with two players. It is just too long with three people. I'd want to kill myself with more. With two going at a good clip, this one is a fun little romp. It is a bit luck filled, but the cards have interesting flavor and there are tons of expansions to keep things new.
  • Cow Tipping- I finally got to try Matthew Frederick's new game. It was super close to getting published and then bam! It didn't. Too bad - I liked it. I imagine it will eventually see the light of day - there is a lot of crap that is terrible that gets published every year, this should eventually see the light of day (because it is not crap).
  • Caylus Magna Carta*- I still have not played Caylus, but Nathan and I tried this out two player and it was pretty fun. Not too long either. If this scratches the same itch as Caylus, I'm not sure I need to play the longer more complicated version.
  • Doom: The Boardame*- I've kept this because it has always sounded like a good two-player game with a similar system to Descent, but in a faster play time. Tried it out with my son and it went ok. He needs another year or two before he'll really enjoy it, but he did like it. So did I.
  • Flaschenteufel*- Ah the tricky tricky bottle imp. I didn't really get it, but unlike other trick taking games I didn't quite get (Control Nut), I want to play this again.
  • Power Grid - Korea/China*- I tried China, but not Korea. Does that mean this should be on the list again next year? China was a good alternative, but we played with six and I really just don't like PG with six.
  • Tales of the Arabian Nights*- this was a pure impulse buy and I have to admit I enjoyed the game a lot. There was the occasional gaff in the book, but not that big a deal I don't think. There was the occasional oddity - you can basically react any way you want, there is no penalty nor bonus for "staying in character" or anything and some of the status changes can really slow you down and or crop up pretty randomly. Despite that, it is what it is - a multiplayer choose your own adventure. Its more about the social stories then about gaming.
  • Timber Tom*- Here is a game that is really nicely done. The board and bits are great and the game looks really cool. Sadly, the game is just slightly lacking. I'm not sure what it needs, but its just missing something. I think the problem is that there is just enough randomness to determine the outcome of what is otherwise a decent little game.
  • Stratego Legends*- Here is a game that got killed by trying to re-imagine a classic game a bit too much. This version is better than the original, but I'm sure when it came out it got mauled for being a "collectible" (think CCG) style game. Truth is, they shouldn't have tried to even go that direction with this.
  • Airships*- hey everyone, its Yahtzee! with a theme and stuff. No, its more and different. How about - Its To Court the King with a theme about building blimps...
  • Medieval Merchant* - Here is a game I've had for a long time that is rated well, yet I've never seen played (until the night I brought it out). It isn't a bad game and I can't really compare it with much else. Yet at the same time, it doesn't have a totally unique feel that makes me want to bring it out a lot either.
  • Mr. Jack*- Dion taught me this quick little two-player deduction game. I think it is a really clever game, though I don't have any clue how you win this sucker as Jack.
  • Thurn and Taxis*- I got this years ago from Tanga (with an expansion). Despite the Spiel de Jahres and such, I hadn't seen this played before but finally got Bobby to teach me. And back on the shelf it went. It is actually not a bad little game, but it wasn't compelling enough to keep coming out while I still have so many other unplayed games.
  • A Castle For All Seasons- I missed the hype on this game and was surprised to see a newer game that I had never heard of. After playing it, I found it an interesting game with an odd currency system that is the heart of the game. I'd play this again, but it feels like enough other games that I don't care if I own it (yet).
  • Chaos in the Old World*- one of my favorite new games this year. It is fast, and interesting. A really good combination of euro and ameritrash. My only real complaint is the fragile cultist pieces just don't quite match the normal FF quality.
  • Chicago Express: Narrow Gauge & Erie Railroad Company*- this expansion would be a total rip off if I didn't love this game. You know what? It still is a total rip off. You could play this game 20 times and not need any kind of expansion or variant. $30 for a couple of wooden bits? Seriously? Don't get me wrong, the expansions are nice little variants, but - come on!
  • Dampfross*- I knew what I was getting when I bought this and I knew what I was getting into when I first started playing this. What I wasn't expecting was the length of the game (long). Nor was I expecting to enjoy the game as much as I did. Although the game was a bit long, it really wasn't bad. BTW, this game would never even get considered as a Spiel choice these days.
  • GIPF*- This might be the best of the whole GIPF series. Nuff said.
  • Munchkin Quest*- A tongue in cheek dungeon crawl. It really isn't a bad little game. It has some take that kind of stuff, so I can certainly see where a 4 player game could be a bit long. But, as a two player game, it was kinda fun. It might be grand as a three. Who knows, it could be good for 4. Or it could be too long.
  • Why Did the Chicken?*- Ok, this is one of those games that is conceptually great, but you really have to have a funny group of people to play with.
  • Atlantic Star*- Everyone says that Showmanager is the better version. I admit, the theme of Atlantic Star was lost on me. Since there was essentially no theme, this turned into a marginally interesting set collection game.
  • Oasis*- I was surprised that this Tanga game was actually not bad. I'm told it really should only be played with five players. That's fine, it was light, but with a few interesting choices.
  • Steam*- as an AoS fan, I really didn't expect to care for the changes offered here. Surprise! A couple of them are ok. It definitely takes the edge off a difficult and tense game and turns it into a slightly complex, but more mass-appeal euro. The new production mechanism is a huge leg up on the crappy original. The other changes make for a less tense, but faster playing game. My preference will be for AoS, but this is a good alternative.
  • Magna Grecia*- I wasn't sure what to expect. This is a connection game that I didn't quite grok. The rules are pretty straight forward, but for whatever reason I seemed to not grasp this one out the gate. It isn't a bad game, but I can see why it has been lost in the shuffle of games since it came out.
  • Khronos*- this is a clever game. I can't think of anything else like it. The rules seem a bit odd at first, but if you step back from it for a minute, they make perfect sense when you think of it in terms of time travel (which is probably why some people won't like it). I liked it and want to play it some more. There is a bit of randomness in the draw of the cards, but that could be toned down pretty easily with a change to the drawing rules.
  • Sunken City*- another Tanga game I finally played this year. This is a race game. It isn't anything spectacular nor does it suck. It just is. Too bad, since it looks really cool while you are playing it.
  • Steam Barons*- I wasn't sure what I was expecting. I guess I was expecting a variant of Steel Driver based on Steam system (since both are Wallace). Instead, this was a COMPLEX stock game. Steve Bauer said it felt like 18xx-lite. I liked it a lot, but this is not for people that can't tolerate AP. To do well, you have to be able to get a handle on what all the companies can do - what two goods are each company going to move and how far EACH TURN. Now, we are pretty sure that we didn't do anywhere near as well as we could have since we took a fairly "AoS" approach to our playing. I look forward to more playings next year.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Reviewing 2008 (yes 2008)

As it is nearing the end of the year, I thought I'd take a quick look back at what I had listed for my 2008 Game of the Year and my Cult of the New list. Last year I went with Indonesia as my game of the year. A pretty decent game, but looking back at my list of games I have to note that I've decided I like Chicago Express much more. What does that mean? Nothing, I'm just saying that I've played Chicago Express lot more than Indonesia. This year's forthcoming Cult of the New list has 60 games so far, so it may take a little while to write it up. You may think you know my game of the year, but I have 3-4 contenders bouncing around right now. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Blah blah blah

Random things that have passed through my head recently (about gaming):
  • My son asked to play Heroscape. I kinda want to play, but the desire to set it all up and have to put it away later is much much lower.
  • Cult of the New count so far this year is around 60 games thus far.
  • I played Sunken City with my son sometime or other, but I have apparently lost that play. I went back and added a play on some random date in Oct. I wonder how many other plays I've forgotten to add
  • Forgot to add Khronos and Magna Grecia from Friday night...
  • The new Steam expansion sounds pretty cool - new maps and a stock variant to the game. And yet... When I find something I like, I don't feel like looking for something new. That's why it took me forever to even try Steam. I like Age of Steam, so why would I need to try something else - I KNOW it won't be as good (and while I liked parts of Steam, I still like AoS better). I like Chicago Express, so why would I need another stock game? And yet, I'm intrigued. I'd like to know if I can scratch both the AoS and CE itch at the same time.
  • I got a set of dice off ebay - something of an upgrade for the micro dice that came with Union vs Central. I have nearly enough for a second set. I need to play this game and see if it is worthy of a card upgrade.
  • I ordered my BGG Secret Santa gift like a week ago from a Canadian company (since my target is in Canada) and they had shipped the gift out in like an hour. Awesome. The gift was wrapped (at least it was supposed to be) and included a small note about how Santa lives in the warm weather, not the cold North. I sent A Castle For All Seasons. I was able to get the Winter promo cards from Rio Grande for $4. I'll send those out with a card when I get them from Jay. That is about the extent of the clue giving and so forth I'm up for :)
  • I got my Secret Santa gift this last week. Two really - a game and a card game. I peeked under the wrapper to see what the game was (so I could update my wishlist appropriately and so I can figure out trades and such up through Christmas). I didn't "unwrap" it though - it sits under our tree ATM. I didn't look at the card game. I was guessing it might be Gubs, but the box is more "double deck" sized (ala Tichu or something). Gubs was the only card game on my list, so either they re-packaged it, or I truly have a surprise.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Game Night

Friday Nov. 27, 2009 - My house. I hadn't intended to play games this Friday night, as my wife was going out and I was watching the kids. However, I got a call that Matthew Frederick and Amelia Boli were in Mesa, so they stopped by for a little gaming. We started out the night with Khronos, which Amelia had played a few years ago, but was new to Matthew and I. I've had this one for a while now, but hadn't got it to the table yet. Though the rules make sense for the most part, the concept is somewhat fourth dimensional and can take a little bit to wrap your head around. It is quite an interesting game with a unique theme - essentially, you control a pair of time travelers that can move between three eras (might, faith, and reason). There are three types of buildings which can be built and depending on where, when and what size they are when built, can effect a "ripple" through time - thus changing the face of other boards. In once sense, this is an area control game played on three boards. Of course, the time effects keep it from being that simple. I found it to be pretty interesting, though a little bad luck (and poor planning) kept me from doing better at the end of the game. I do like that the way you can change the buildings by doing something in the age of might or faith and it allows for some tricky planning. Though I understand the game, I might have a harder time teaching it. I'd like to give this another go though. I was actually thinking that an online implementation of this would be super, as it would make things easier to see - it was sometimes harder to "see" what your changes might do. Also, three seemed a good number for this game. It is supposed to play five players, but I could see the downtime being an issue as there is almost nothing to do when it is not your turn (though it is still interesting see the boards all evolve. Amelia won with 29pts, Matthew and I were close to each other with him having 22 and I had 21.
After Khronos, we decided on another "new" game in Magna Grecia. This was another game I've had sitting on my shelves for quite a while. This game is about building a network of roads, cities, and markets. Each round a tile indicates what actions a player may take, and the order that they will take them in. In this way, the players should fairly, though randomly, have the same number of firsts and lasts in the turn order and everyone is allowed the same amount of actions. You build up a network and try to make yours the "most important" by connecting to other places. You can piggyback on other players' places, but typically this costs you more than it does for them so you won't make as much. It was an interesting game, but it probably plays better with four players than three. In our game, Matthew and I were in early competition with each other and it somewhat left Amelia alone until later in the game - at which point she was able to take a lot of points from Matthew. I finished a distant third at 26 points to Matthew's 37 and Amelia's 42.
Despite my rather poor showing, this was a fun evening and I got to play a couple new games. I'd definitely like to play Khronos again. Though probably not part of the "regular" rotation, it's unique mechanics call for at least an occasional chance to hit the table.

Game Night

Friday Nov. 13, 2009 - Gamer's Inn. I must be getting old. It used to be that I'd want to hit the game night as early as possible to get in as many games as I could. Now I'm satisfied with getting in a couple of new games, or a decent old favorite. This particular Friday started with Nathan Winchester and I grabbing some Indian food. That has nothing to do with gaming other than I wanted a decent dinner more than I wanted to go play something dumb. At any rate, once we got to the Gamer's Inn, there were a number of folks playing games, and one table where someone had setup Android and was waiting for folks to join her. That didn't hold much interest for us, so we sat down and Matthew Frederick, Matt Cullinan and Amelia Boli joined us. Since we had five and I'd heard that was the ideal number for Oasis, I pulled that out and Matthew and Matt explained the game. The game is pretty straight forward and along the lines of Ticket to Ride in terms of difficulty (not surprising as it is an Alan Moon game). Like TtR, there is a decent amount of subtle depth to the game, which meant of course that I was not going to come close to winning. Matt was the first to place his camels, and since I was the second person to do so, I chose to cut him off. Amelia and Matthew then followed suit and cut me off, which was the beginning of the end for me. As is also typical in games where everyone bashes me - Nathan quietly did his thing and ended up killing us by a wide margin.
After Oasis, Nathan bailed to join Dion Garner in some game that nobody had played or read the rules for before. And though I like playing with Dion, I do not enjoy trying to learn new games that he is explaining/reading the rules to - especially a new Wallace game. So, Noah Antwiller sat down in Nathan's place and we agreed to play Atlantic Star. Atlantic Star is a card game where you are picking cards to try and make 4 different "sets". There is a limit to the cards you can hold before you must turn in a set, and sets that are all the correct color earn a bonus. And of course, your sets are competing with the other player's sets - the higher valued sets of each color score more points. We screwed up early on and didn't take out the first couple of sets turned in, which I don't think had an overall effect on the game - it definitely helped me out by a factor of NONE. This was my first playing of this and it showed. Matthew was the only player behind me - because he screwed himself up thinking one of the routes had an 'F' component (when it did not), and he had to screw his longest route. I ended up with exactly half of Amelia's points when we totaled it all up and she was declared the winner. This is actually a bit lighter and is probably a good gateway game. If there was one universal complaint about the game, it was the theme. Everyone else at the table has played Showmanager before (Atlantic Star is the remake). Everyone also agrees that the Showmanager theme is vastly superior to the "making cruise ship routes" theme of Atlantic Star. I didn't really care, but I can certainly see where the Showmanager theme would be much more interesting, as I hardly noticed or thought about the theme here at all.
After our cruise lines game was finished, I pulled out Chaos in the Old World. I really wanted to give 4-players another go. Matthew, Noah, and I were joined by Greg Perschbacher. I explained the game in about 10 minutes and off we went. Matthew and I both chose to play factions we hadn't before and so Greg was Khorne, Noah was Slaanesh, Matthew was Nurgle, and I was Tzeentch. About halfway through the game I realized a couple of things. Tzeentch starts slow and the hits harder towards the end of the game with loads and loads of point - evidenced by the zero points I had through half the game. I was very near corrupting three zones, which would have scored an enormous number of points for me. Nurgle is an early game faction - they need to score early and often before their zones get corrupted. Khorne is Khorne - they need to hit everyone. Period. Slaanesh needs to avoid everyone. Noah managed to keep Khorn off his back and was making a killing on the dial. After he had double dial'd a couple of times, we ganged up on him to slow him down, but he finished the game off around the 5th turn with another double dial move that none of us could match. I really enjoy this tactical game. Despite the fact that the Old World cards can really turn the game in favor (or out of favor) for a faction really quickly, the game plays so quickly that it doesn't bother me at all. Our playing was a whopping 75 minutes including setup and rules explanation. I've found playing three different factions to be fun and didn't dislike any of the ones I've tried. I'd happily play any faction in a future playing.
After Noah whipped up on us, we finished the night with a quick game of No Thanks! I took a couple of low cards and teens early on, then got lucky and connected almost all the teens together. This was enough for me to pull out a win. Overall a good night, playing two more of my games I hadn't tried before and playing two other quick yet satisfying games.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Random Game Thoughts

Random gaming thoughts while I wait on builds and stuff.
  • I can't decide if I want to play At the Gates of Loyang. I've heard that is is better than Agricola and Le Havre. I've heard it has way too much downtime and AP. I'm pretty cyclical in my playings - I'll get out of playing heavy and long AP games, then get bored of fluffy games and go back. My recently played slate is fairly non-heavy (Chaos in the Old World, Atlantic Star, Oasis, http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/215, easy version of Steam, A Castle For All Seasons, Notre Dame), so maybe I'm just in a "lighter" cycle ATM. Right now, a brain burner would be ok, but sitting around waiting does not.
  • Since I published my "unplayed" list at the end of September, I have played 7 of the 73. Not bad in under two months (really only 4 game nights). There were also three other new games (and one new expansion) that I've tried that weren't on that list.
  • Still on the radar: Khronos, Imperial, Shogun keep calling. And Senji. And Union vs Central.
  • I've now played Chaos in the Old World three times (once at each of my last three gaming sessions). This is a little rare for me to be able to get a game out and get it played each session. It is nice though - I'm plenty happy to report I like this game a lot and have found that other than the first game, this game is really pretty quick. This last 4-player game I was in really finished in about an hour after we explained the game. It is interesting - each faction not only plays differently, but is paced differently. Slanesh and Khorne have a steady feel to them. Tzeentch starts slow, but can really come on when the areas get corrupted. Nurgle needs to jump out of the gate early before the populous areas disappear from the board. The only problem I have with the game is that the Old World cards can really tip the game. Everyone has to understand this and really work together to bash the player that has an advantage. In our last game, there were no heroes on the board to slow down Slanesh and that player had two turns of awesomeness, which was too many. Other than that, this is good fun in a short amount of time.
  • I lied - I have one other complaint. In three games, at least two of the cultists have had their standards broken off. Cool looking - yes, but the flimsy little things were never going to last. That's obvious. Why did they bother with that design?
  • Mayfair is releasing an "upgrade" set of locomotives for Steam - for $25 ($20 at an online retailer). That's about $0.14 for each little wooden train (which is not terrible). While I'm happy with the disks, I know that the market for upgrade bits has taken off a little (as evidenced by Agricola). Now, I'm all for the little bits upgrades, but really - $25?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Where to Roll the Dice

Ok, a little while back, I saw a post on the BGG about a free dice tower. I sent off a reply and was one of the lucky ones, so I'm finally getting around to talking about the tower in full. First off, the point of a dice tower is two-fold. First the thing should "roll" the dice such that it would be impossible for someone to cheat. Secondly, it should keep the dice confined so that they aren't flying off the table or across the board and disturbing the pieces. Beyond that, a dice tower is really just for show. So, how well does the cardboard "Dice Turret" work? It works well. The cardboard is sufficiently thick and scored such that folding and assembling the thing is pretty easy. The instructions are a bit hard to follow at first, but the designer put together a youtube video that shows how easy the thing is to assemble and it really was. It handles a load of dice well and keeps everything in play (though I didn't drop a D4 nor a D20). All in all it works well. Should you get one? They cost $10.99 including shipping. If you don't have a dice tower and play games with dice, this is a good choice. It's white cardboard, so you can decorate it however you like. Measurements are: Tower - 8 1/2" H x 3 5/8" W x 3 5/8" D, Tray - 9" x 4 1/4". Basically, not too big and not too small.
If you don't want one of these, what other options do you have? Well, you can just get a dice tray. I have one of those too - a tray from Deluxe Yahtzee that I picked up at Goodwill. This works fine for keeping the dice in place, but isn't as cool as a tower (and technically would allow a "dice handler" to cheat - not really a concern for me). If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I've made a couple towers from foam core. I liked these - they are pretty easy to make and sound pretty decent. I went out and bought a sheet of foam core to see how much cost and effort it would be to make one again. The tower I made was large: Tower - 10" H x 4.25" W x 4" D, Tray - 10.24" L x 4.25" W. Though my dimensions aren't much bigger, the size difference is a lot. The sides are taller too, which I found to actually be a disadvantage - its harder to see the dice. Cost-wise, my tower cost about the same or slightly more (foam board, felt pad, toothpicks, texture paint) and it took me much longer to put together since I had to measure everything, cut it out, poke holes, etc. Is mine "nicer"? Sure, but again, there is a level of effort that a lot of people just don't have in them. Also, the design of my foam tower is such that it doesn't come apart. A lot of towers come off the tray and rest in it, making it easier to tote around.
There are a couple of other commercially available towers that I know of. Blue Panther has a couple of wooden ones you can get. The under $10 one has almost no tray to speak of - I think I'd skip this one. Their other is about $13 wooden guy measuring 7.75" high by 3.75" wide by 3.75. I'm not clear if you have to assemble this one or not, but the price doesn't include shipping (unless you are buying $150 worth of games from B&B). I might order one of these to see what it is like. Chessex still makes a clear plastic dice tower for around $15+. I've seen this one and while it certainly works, I didn't care for the way it looked (it looked cheesy - please forgive the slight pun). It was also dinky. There are some expensive custom ones you could go for - wood, legos, etc. I'm not going to get into those at the moment. Anyway, for the Dice Turret, if you are interested, you can find them for sale on the BGG. They sound nice, work well and are really pretty quick and easy to put together.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Age of Steam vs Steam

After my session report from Friday night, Mike Garrett (aka The Fonz) said, "I'm trying to understand why you like AoS better. Steam seems to be superior from your description." Fair enough. Except that it isn't. But before I explain why, I want to point out that we played the BASIC rules for our game of Steam. The standard game has an auction for the actions / turn order. This is important, because the first reason that the original Age of Steam is superior to Steam is the auction / turn order mechanic. I like auction games, and the auction in AoS gives the game a lot of its tension. The players that manipulate the auction well typically do well. If you mis-manage the auction (spending for an action that nobody else was going to take, paying too much for early turn order, etc), you will lose the game. That's all there is to it. Ok you say, but you can play the auction in the regular Steam rules. Yes, that is true, but the other thing about AoS that has been lost is the shares. In AoS, the shares haunt you the entire game. You do not want to take out money before you need it, because you'll pay for it the rest of the game. Combined with the auction mechanic, there is a lot of tension in deciding if you should take that extra share. The Steam share mechanic allows you to get money at any time and you have the ability to pay it back almost immediately. I understand why they did it and it works out ok, but it makes the game much more soft and forgiving. Sorry, but I like AoS for its utter brutality. I don't need a dumbed down version so my wife will play this with me. She'd hate either version and I wouldn't enjoy trying to play either of them with her anyway. Now, that is not to say that I wouldn't play Steam again - I'm 100% sure I will. It does some things really well - like the good production and population of goods on Urbanization (almost to the point that Urbanization is retardedly overpowered now). I like the split point and income tracks, but the missing shares takes a lot of bite out of the game. And Steam isn't perfect. Haters like to point out that it bothers them that they have to run a circular route to make 5 or 6 hops when they can make a short run that is closer but makes less money for them - this hasn't changed at all. And I hate to admit it, but I really think I prefer the track counting in AoS to the simplified connection counting In Steam. On the flip side, I appreciate that Steam is much more manageable time wise. So there you have it - it isn't that Steam is superior (except for the production thing). I liked it and it did some things well. Some people could see those changes as making the game better than AoS, but I see it as watering down the original to make it more palatable for the general gaming populace. I'd still rather play the original. If there was only 90 minutes left in the night, I'd be happy to play Steam and scratch that itch. Given the right group of players though, I'd be more inclined to play the superior original.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Game Night

Friday Nov. 6,2009 - Gamer's Inn
Headed over to the Inn to meet up with Mike Gingold, Bobby Warren and the regulars. Noah Antwiller got there about the same time and the four of us sat down to start the night with a game of Tichu. Bobby and I roared out to the lead with a couple good hands and some terrible ones for Mike. We then missed two Tichu calls and Mike and Noah were running away with the game. It finally looked grim as they needed only 15 points for a win while we were still at 510. However, Bobby and I then went Tichu 1-2 and pulled ourselves up to competitive. The last hand saw us manage to grab 90 points, but we couldn't go 1-2 for the win and came up short.
After that, we had six of us (Matthew Frederick and Amelia Boli showed up) so we played a quick game of Liar's Dice. Noah was out first on the second call of the game and a couple turns later, it was my turn. Mike and Matthew made it to the end and Matthew finished with the win.
Next up for the night was a four player game of Steam using the basic rule set. Mike, Matthew, Noah, and I sat down to the German side of the board. Having not have played Steam before, I wanted to see how the basic rules changed the game. Essentially, Steam varies from Age of Steam by a couple things. For one, you take 'shares' out at the point you need money - you do this by moving your marker back one spot for each $5 you need. This one thing makes the game a little less stressful, but also speeds things up a lot. Second, when you move a good, you must either score on the income track or score victory points. This is normally not a tough decision, but near the end of the game, you have to balance out your spending or you can give up critical points. In the basic game like we played, you pick an action, and that determines the turn order for the next round. The "better" actions also cost money in addition to pushing you to the end of the turn order next round. Finally, the best change is the goods. Rather than random, there are sets of three goods in piles. When you choose the goods action or urbanization, you pick which goods pile you want. This is the best change of all of them and adds back a nice piece of strategy from a simplified version of AoS. Overall, it was good and faster than AoS. I'd rate this pretty high and I though I like AoS better still, I'd definitely chose this for a quicker AoS fix. I even managed to win this one. Charles:55, Noah: 50, Matthew: 48, Mike: 40-something.
We ended the night trying a three player game of Chaos in the Old World. Three player definitely changes the dynamic a little and I have to say that a second playing shows how fast this game can be. Mike, Matthew, and I finished in a little over an hour including explanation of the rules to Matthew. I was Slanesh, which meant I was trying to lay corruption in areas where there were noble markers or hero tokens. I was nailing huge sections, while keeping Matthew's Khorne forces from killing me. I ran the dial around very quickly and won. I think for three players, the game would be better without Khorne, as I was able to easily limit Matthew's ability to kill anyone.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Misc Things of No Interest

Yes sir - time for another pointless posting. Let us start with - Dice Towers. Once upon a time, I built a couple of these out of foam board. I traded one away and gave another to The Fonz for his birthday. Well, I never rebuilt nor replaced mine. So the other day I'm poking around the BGG and happen to catch a thread from someone who has created his own cardboard dice tower. He offered to send out a some to the first few posters who agreed to throw up a review. I received this over the weekend, but haven't had a chance to put it together yet. There is actually a youtube video of him putting it together and while a little complicated, its also pretty slick. I'll be putting this together soon. I think I'll also make another foam tower so I have something of a baseline to compare the two. I'm hoping to play Chaos in the Old World again this weekend, so we'll get to put it through its paces.
Apparently I'm in denial. I refuse to become a Magic Whore, yet I cannot resist the siren call of other CCGs. I actually kind of like the Pokemon TCG (they call it a TRADING card game not a COLLECTIBLE - whatever). I think what made it really fun was when I lucked into a HUGE lot of cards at a very good price. I took the cards and built about a dozen decks for my son and I to play with. We don't really mess with the decks, but having lots to choose from is a good time and the decks I built do pretty decently against the commercial decks (though I have yet to build one that can compete with the championship ones). At any rate, I saw an auction this last week and threw in a bid for the Call of Cthulu LCG. This is another FFG CCG turned LCG. FFG decided to take their card games and package a base game and then sell chapter packs (set of 40 or so card that come out monthly with known cards) rather than blind 10 card boosters or whatever. Being a fan of A Game of Thrones, I'm pretty well all in on that one already, but I really believe it plays better with four than 2, so it hasn't seen much action. Call of Cthulu is a two player game, so depending on the complexity and maturity level of the theme, I may be playing this soon with my son. I really like the appeal of having built base sets.
On a side note, I see where FFG is going to release investigator figures for Arkham Horror. They are going to sell in packs of two or three and be fully painted. This would be really cool, except that there are 49 investigators with all the expansions. At two to a box, that is at least 25 boxes you'd have to get to get em all. I believe the retail is going to be like $15 (so maybe $11 online). Are you kidding? That's almost as bad as my paying $20 for Chicago Express: Narrow Gauge & Erie Railroad Company (it was worth it).
I'm really close to pulling the trigger and ordering stickers for my poker chips. I still can't decide if I want to leave the denominations off the front art. They'll look cleaner and I'm starting to lean this way, but I still kind of want the denomination on both sides of the chips. Bah - I'll probably end up dragging my feet on this one for another couple months.
Essen 2009 has wrapped up and I can say I payed very little attention this year. If there was a big deal this year, I missed it. Last year was about the Agricola follow-up Le Havre and The Splotter game Duck Dealer. Planet Steam and Fits and a bunch of other games. I have so many unplayed games still that it is probably a good thing this year seemed quiet. I can very quickly come up with a bunch of games that I still need try and a bunch more that need to be played more - just from my collection. And a ton more I don't even own. Now, having said that, I would still like to be able to go to Essen someday. Someday

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Chaos in The Old World

Chaos in the Old World is a new game from FFG. Mike Gingold had pinged me about this game out of the blue one day - I had never heard of it before. After reading up on it, I decided it was to be included in the next game order. The game is set in the Warhammer universe (and since I'm not a Warhammer player, it made very little difference to me at all). Basically, each player takes the role of one of four gods of the Warhammer universe trying to subvert the world (whatever world that might be). Each of these evil gods has a different take on things - Khorne is all about combat (this player does better by winning fights), Nurgle is the god of disease (this player does well corrupting certain areas of the board), Tzeentch is the magic god (this player does well corrupting areas where there are magic), and Slanesh is the god of pain (this player does well by corrupting areas where there are certain markers). Each player gets a handful of plastic pieces representing three types of units: cultists, warriors, and the greater Daemon. The cultists are typically non-combat units that corrupt the world. The warriors fight the battles, and the greater Daemon is a beast for fighting. Each round the players (always in the same order) have a set number of points they can spend either playing cards (which cost from 0-3 pts) or bringing pieces into play for their cost. Once you've spent all your points, you are done until the next phase of the game. In the second phase, you have combat in areas where two factions have combat units. This part is mostly a straightforward dice affair. Then after that is the corruption phase. During this phase, a number of different things happen. Factions can corrupt the area based on the number of cultists they have and the number of total pieces and cards played can earn a player points. If too much corruption occurs, the area becomes ruined, which earns players points for their corruption efforts, but makes the area un-scorable thereafter. Then there is a bit of clean up for the next round and a quick check of the victory conditions.
It is all pretty straight forward, except that each faction has different strengths. Khorne's ability make his units better at combat, but they cost a bit more. His cards cost a bit more, but allow him to kill people much much more easily. Tzeentch's units are pretty weak, but cheap and his magic cards are often cheap or free and he gets a lot of them to play. This faction tries to take advantage of the other players after they are done setting up for the round. Nurgle and Slanesh each have their strengths as well, which means that each player has to play tactically to keep the others from over playing their strengths while trying to really do well. The game also has a number of limiting factors that keep the game from being all that long. Yes, there is a bit of randomness and dice determine the combat. If you don't like Ameritrash type games, just stay away. Otherwise, this one is a pretty good offering from FFG. Nicely done boards and bits wrapped around a decently fun game.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Game Night

Friday Oct 16, 2009 - Gamer's Inn and Llarry and Steph Amrose's
Something of a strange night logistically... The night started out over at Nielsen's Custard. Nathan Winchester and I met there for a bit to eat and played a game of Hive. I really like this game and won due in part to Nathan pointing out a sure loser play about halfway through the game. I play this strictly by feel - having not played enough to try an put together a strategy when I start. It is just a good abstract. I'm really thankful that Nathan seems to enjoy abstracts as well.
We headed over to the Gamer's Inn to hook up with Matthew and Amelia and Matt Longieliere after we finished up at Nielsen's. When we got there, nobody was in site, so I pulled out GIPF and Nathan explained it to me. This abstract is the father of the GIPF Series and one of the few I hadn't tried before this night. It is very much a good game and I think might be my new favorite of the series. I can't wait to see what the potentials (GIPF Project Set 1, GIPF Project Set 2, and/or GIPF Project Set 3) add to the game. This was fairly easy to pick up and was able to sneak out a win.
I had made plans with Mike Gingold to meet up at Llarry and Steph Amrose's place in Tempe, so I headed over that after a few minutes of chit chat with everyone. I was pretty much the last arrival so the group split up for games. I sat down to play Notre Dame with Steph Amrose, Bobby Warren and Dan Reilly. It has been a little while since I've played this, but I've enjoyed it each time. I never really got an engine going the way I wanted to while watching Bobby score a lot of points with his park. Surprisingly though, Steph was the winner by a point over Bobby: Steph-55, Bobby-54, Dan-26, me-43.
The other group wasn't done yet, so Steph suggested A Castle For All Seasons - one I had never heard of. As they setup and explained the game, my first two impressions were: "great art and bits" and "I have no chance of winning this first play". This is easily one of the best looking Rio Grande games I've seen - a gorgeous double sided board, lots of cardboard markers for the buildings, lots of different shaped wood bits, cards - the whole nine yards. The game is pretty straight forward - action selections somewhat similar to Race for the Galaxy (though each action is only done by whomever played the card), and building gathering tight resources to "buy" VPs and such. That is an over simplification of course. Despite the really nice wood bits, I think I'd have appreciated cardboard tokens for the goods. you see, each good has a value depending on its type: 1, 2, 4, 5, wild (which can be any of the others). To buy a building, you must pay using at least three different good types and with EXACT change. It is not intuitive to try and figure out the costs just looking at your goods and referencing the value card. To make it worse, no building is "odd" costing, so getting the right number can be a pain. Overlooking that - the mechanics and speed of the game make this fairly interesting and I'm surprised I have missed this one last year. the final scores were Bobby-57, Steph-46, Dan-45, me-26 (yeah, I sucked bad).
After getting my butt handed to me in A Castle For All Seasons, I pulled out Chaos in the Old World. Mike joined us as he and Bobby switched places. I ended up with Khorne and went over the rules. Overall, the game is very straight forward and really a good Ameritrash game. Each faction is unique and really must approach the game differently. After three turns I zeroed in on exactly what I needed to do - fight a lot. I didn't need to win, just kill people all over the board. This started to really pay off, though it looked like I may have started too late. Mike made a huge swing of points in the late-mid game and I thought he might hit 50 points and end the game before I could end the game with a dial victory. He came up just short and it was actually Dan who came out of nowhere to challenge for the win. Luckily, my victory condition (dials) was the first victory check and I just won the game. I look forward to another round of this too. Our initial game was a bit long due to setup and rules, but I can see this being a fairly decent 90 minute game.

Misc. Gaming

After being taught the Mr. Jack, I actually acquired it in the math trade the following week. Nathan Winchester was over one night (for a work related briefing) and we had time to get a couple of games in - each as Jack. I started as Jack and it was 4-5 turns later than I was exposed. I made one stupid move, but I'm not sure there was much I could do otherwise. Nathan did a bit better than I did, but he too was found out. We both agreed it is harder than hell to win as Jack. There is an online implementation that I think Nathan and I need to try out.
A couple of nights later was our monthly dinner group (pizza night) and after dinner, I pulled out Why Did the Chicken?. This game lets everyone try and come up with clever answers to randomly put together phrases or questions. Though the group is clever and has a good time, only about half the folks were coming up with decent answers. While there were a couple of good laughs, probably not enough to see that one again here. Oh well.
Later that weekend, I got to try out another new game - this time with my son. The game was Munchkin Quest. What had interested me about this game was a review on the BGG (that and I could get the game from Boards and Bits with all the bonus materials thrown in for free). Basically, it is a dungeon crawl/romp/loot-whore-free-for-all with the Munchkin brand of humor. I have not played any Munchkin games due to the reputation that proceeds them. For me Munchkin humor means something along the lines of Dork Tower - a whimsical satire of D&D. The game was a slight bit much for my 6-year old son, but only a hair. I had to explain his best choices a lot, but he enjoyed it enough to keep asking for it since we've played. It has a bit of randomness and a good amount of "take that!" built in, but overall it is not a bad game. The expansion lets 5 or 6 play, which has to be WAY to much. There is a small amount to do or pay attention to when it is not your turn (and turns are generally fast), but I can't see that this would be fun for long with 5 let alone 6. For two players, it is very tough and then very easy. Still entertaining though.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Game Night

Friday Oct. 2, 2009 - Gamer's Inn
This was an interesting evening. The Gamer's Inn was having some crazy large Magic thingy, so we had been "relegated" to another location! The owner of the store is supposed to have the area next door, but doesn't yet, so the building owners let him have use of another empty store area nearby - this is where we ended up for the evening. The cool part being, we had this nice big quite area without the boisterous Magic crowd. We also ended up having a large turnout of folks, so it worked out well. The evening started out for me playing my new ding and dent copy of Metropolys. Join me were Nathan Winchester, Amelia Boli and newcomer Doug Oppedahl. This smart little game has one major flaw I think - since it is pretty easy to figure out what people are going to try and score, it sucks if you get the hardest secret goal - the tri-area fountain bonus. Doug actually ran away with the game: Doug-49, Nathan-19, Amelia-18, Charles-36.
As there were so many people out this evening (and more had come), Amelia left us and was "replaced" by Matt Longieliere. I finally picked up Dampfross for us to give a go at. We played with the rule that everyone used the same roll for the initial build to keep things even despite none of us ever having played before. The first part (building track) went fairly quickly and we got to the racing right away. Interestingly, Matt and I were heavily favored by the dice gods in the early races and often it was just the two of us racing around. Nathan was especially in a hole early as his outlier tracks were never on the routes. I had a fairly decent network, but not always the fastest/shortest routes. We played all the way through and despite the amount of time we spent playing the game (I want to say it was nearing 3 hours) I was actually entertained for the vast majority of the game. This is definitely not an all the time game - maybe once or twice a year kind of thing, but it was fun and we could have easily ended early by lowering the amount for the win. I won here at $225 - the other scores were Doug-179, Nathan-189, Matt-144.
Amelia came back over to our table and Doug called it a night, so I pulled out Chicago Express and the expansions. I really like this game and was interested to see how different the expansions make it. The Narrow Gauge gives you blocking tokens which become available when towns are built into. The Erie is a single share company that comes online in the middle of the game. Though both are interesting, I doubt I'd play them together again. The Erie just isn't as interesting with the additional ease with which other players can just screw you. At any rate, the game started with a stall as Nathan tried to figure out what I was going to start bidding for the red company. We were opposite each other for a change, and I believe Nathan won the share for $14. He immediately felt screwed (anyone ever win red and not?). I went for yellow. On my second action, I used a Narrow Gauge train to force Nathan into a more expensive route - he retaliated in a move that won me the game. He cut off yellow - effectively making it worthless to anyone that wasn't already invested. I was the sole holder of that stock. Since it had no value to anyone else, all the future shares put up were other companies. Basically, I collected full value from the start of the game for my company while everyone else was getting split value. A few turns later, Nathan realized he had to buy a yellow share to keep me from expanding my lead away from him, but I was able to end the game before he could make up what he needed. Final tally: Matt-42, Nathan-57, Amelia-29, Charles-60

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Order Up!

Driven by a desire for a certain game to play on Saturday night with my Dinner Group, I placed an order this week for some games (cause it would be silly to order just one little game). First up is Munchkin Quest. This is supposed to be a fairly decent little dungeon crawl with the Munchkin brand of humor. This could be a bit chaotic, but that's ok - the target audience is my son. The next game in the order came out of nowhere to spark my interest. Mike Gingold asked me about Chaos in the Old World. I had no clue what this was, and assumed from the WARHAMMER on it that it was some sort of minis skirmish game. Wrong. It's a euro from Fantasy Flight. I read a bit and watched a Scotish video review and decided I needed to add this bit of ghoulish gaming goodness to my collection. Thanks a lot Mike. I threw in a few Runebound decks to give my son at Christmas time. Oh yeah, and I ordered a party game - Why Did the Chicken?.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Game Night

(Slowly but surely getting caught up here) Friday, Sept 25, 2009 - Gamer's Inn.
We started out this Friday night with my new copy of Martin Wallace's Steel Driver. This feels something like a cross between Chicago Express and I'm not sure what. There are five rounds of bidding for a company stock. Each turn the stock price starts at zero and you earn only whatever value you can eak out that round using your investment to "capitalize" that company (or companies if you can get your hands on more than one share that round). After 5 rounds, there is a final company payout to each shareholder. The value of the company being determined by picking up goods connected to the various company's track and getting the most sets of different goods. Overall, it is a shorter investment game with a couple subtleties (and a bit more fidliness than needed). This evening the game had Greg Chandra (new), Dan Brugman, Noah Antwiller, me, Steve Bauer, and Greg Perschbacher. In the second round, I elected to get shut out and went into the third round with the ability to get anything I wanted (I got two shares). This was not the way to go and it took me out of the game. Not to say it isn't a valid strategy, because the eventual winner (Greg C) did the same later in the game. Greg Chandra took 4 of 5 shares in one company to made a killing with it. Final scores: Greg C-1050, Steve-800, Greg P-550, Noah-900, me-770, Dan-?.
After that brutal mess, we farted around figuring out what to play and I got Bobby Warren to pull out Pandemic with the On the Brink! expansion for Noah, Greg C and I to try. As the Archivist, Epidemiologist, Scientist, and Researcher, we beat the game! It helped that we didn't have the first bad card for a number of turns.
I've been trying to get a number of my un-played games played recently, so after saving the world, I pulled out Thurn and Taxis and asked Bobby to explain. I've had this 2006 Spiel winner for a couple years now and just finally tore the shrink off it. I found it an interesting play and actually a bit deeper than I thought it was going to be. Though it isn't heavy nor anything crazy special, it was interesting and I'd certainly play it again if asked (especially with the un-opened copy of the expansion I have on my shelf ;) ). Noah had one gamble/mistake that cost him a lot and we all finished well behind Bobby. Final scores: Me-19, Noah-16, Greg-20, Bobby-27.
Greg wandered off to try something else or go home, so we were joined by newcomer James Smyth for a game of Taluva. This is underplayed in my collection and one of my favorites. This was the first shot I've had at playing it with four and was good as expected. I got too aggressive near the end and setup Noah for the win on the last tile.
Dion Garner then came over to our table for a game of Smarty Party! I don't remember what his other choice was, but Dion is terrible at trivia games (seriously terrible). This game seemed to go very quickly and Bobby took the win.
Bobby took off, so Noah, Dion, and I finished the night playing Wyatt Earp. It has been a while since I last played, so I needed to hear the rules refresher and off we went. The first round was nothing special, but I scored a bazillion points in the second round. Dion and Noah caught me though near the end. I was finally able to win, beating Noah and Dion by $1000 - a very close game.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Game Night

Friday Sept. 18, 2009 - Gamer's Inn
I started off this gaming night with Dion Garner and I declining to join in a game of Battlestar Galactica. Though I want to try this out, I just wasn't in the mood for this sort of deal this evening. Dion had a couple different games available and pulled out Mr. Jack for the two of us to try out. I knew this was a two player deduction game, but nothing else other than it got good word of mouth. I was surprised to find a game that was pretty fun and I recently traded for this. Dion played Mr. Jack and I was actually able to figure out the truth of the matter in about 4 turns, which was just about when Matthew and Amelia showed up.
Next up was another new game to me - Medieval Merchant. I've had this for a while, but hadn't gotten it out before. Matthew Frederick and Steve Bauer went through the rules for everyone (myself, Amelia Boli and Richard Aronson) and we got started. This was one of Jason Sato's favorite games and I can see why. It is hard to describe the game - it is something of a push your luck, area control (but not quite), investment (but not quite) euro. I sucked at it of course, not optimally using my special power token early enough. Final scores were: Charles-33, Amelia-32, Richard-40, Matthew-42, Steve-43
Since the 19th (the next day) was Talk Like a Pirate Day, I had brought along Pirate's Cove. Richard left for home, so Steve, Matthew, Amelia and I set about to plunder the seas. The two times I've played this, I have gotten just killed - either I pick the same as someone else, or the Dread Pirate Roberts (or in this case Blackbeard) follows me around beating the crap out of me. This night was a good example and I started with three moves to the same island as Steve and Blackbeard. I somehow managed to shake Blackbeard and he then managed to hit Matthew something like 4 times in a row as he tried to bury his treasure. It was pretty funny really (mostly because it wasn't me for a change). We ended the night with scores of Matthew-16, Charles-17, Amelia-18, Steve-26.

Tunnel Add-On For Carcassonne

If anyone cares, you can get a small expansion in Spielbox magazine for Carcassonne. I'm not sure it is worth the price, but there you go (be warned, this is a German magazine and the content is in German). We need a magazine like this in America - there are always great expansion contents inside. C3i is great like this, but I don't tend to play that type of game much.

Publisher Hans im Glück and spielbox have co-produced the new Carcassonne add-on “Tunnel” which will be a supplement in the upcoming issue of spielbox. It consists of a cardboard sheet with 4 tiles and 2 types of chips in 6 colours.

Secure your copy early (as a reminder: the “Katharer” add-on has been sold out for a long time and the demand is still high!). Please use our new web shop for your order. You can find a banner to the shop on our start page. Here is the direct link: http://www.nostheide.de/webshop/xtcommerce/index.php?language=en .

Subscribers receive the add-on in their subscription copy as usual.

With kind regards as always
Yours Barbara Nostheide

Monday, September 28, 2009

Trades of No Interest

Apparently any imbalances in the gaming "Force" have been restored. 3 for 3 in this last math trade. I managed to trade off: Dixie - Bull Run (unplayed, two-player card game), Wits & Wagers (un-fun group "trivia" game), and Tier auf Tier + Goodnight Moon game (two kids games). In exchange I'm getting: Mr. Jack, Lord of the Rings - The Confrontation: Deluxe Edition, and a mini digital camera for my kids. Mr. Jack was surprisingly fun, so I was happy to start adding it to my math trade lists. My wife will hate it, but I imagine it'll be good for my kids as they get a bit older. My son loves Stratego Legends (it is his number 2 game!), so he should like LotR:The Confrontation - I've been eying the Deluxe edition for a while now. The kids had outgrown Goodnight Moon game and I have a load of dexterity games, so Tier auf Tier was no real loss to me. They have wanted their own camera for a long time though, so this little camera should be fun for them. I'm also working on an order or two for some games. I really want to try Munchkin Quest (which I've read is actually a decent little dungeon crawl with Munchkin humor tacked on). I think I may finally spring for Metropolys, which I enjoyed a lot, but is kinda pricy retail. I think I'm finally breaking down to get CE and the expansion too. I have the original Winsome version of the Erie expansion - maybe I'll geekgold auction the sucker :). What else? A Game of Thrones LCG: Kings of the Sea is out (it adds the 5th house - Pyke). Yep, I've played like twice and yet I feel the need to have the whole set. More realistically, I may get a few Runebound expansions, as my son says this is his favorite game.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Musings of No Interest

I think I felt a disturbance in the force. I realized that I haven't purchased a new game, nor traded for a game in quite a while. Oddly, I haven't felt driven to run out and get something new either. Have I reach some sort of equilibrium? I still have stuff I'd rid myself of in Math Trades, but I'm not overly concerned about getting rid of them either. I have plenty of project things I'd like to get done, but probably won't anytime soon. I do believe I've really knocked out a lot of my unplayed games this year. I even like a few of them. Still have a load of them to try though - Steam, Khronos, Medieval Merchant, Bus, Die Macher, Thebes, Scepter of Zavandor, Magna Grecia, and Imperial to name a few (oh there are more to be sure). I've also managed to get in a few older games that I haven't seen hit the table in a while (like the rcent playing of El Grande). I look around my game room and see a number of games sitting there that I'm sure my son could handle now, but I'm also starting to get greedy and wonder when he'll start grasping basic tactics and not just the mechanics of the games. I realize that my daughter asked me to play a game with her too tonight (Blink) and we didn't get to it. I have to make sure to play with her when she asks. One gamer is fun and two would be great, but mostly a guy needs time with his baby girl - especially time that doesn't involve sitting there and talking about shoes (seriously, she is 4 and can talk about shoes forever if you let her). Don't get me wrong, we can do whatever interests her, but she is pretty perceptive and knows I'm about to fall asleep when she starts talking about the skeetchers she wants. Geez, I just found another 5 games I need to play. Time to cut this commentary short...