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.