Friday, December 31, 2010

Excuses, A-Holes, and End-of-the-Year Lists

That's right, its about that time - my end of the year lists! I don't know - this year was a little weird. Started out ok, then got busy at work and gaming just wasn't catching my eye. I've hit the saturation point of games (both from a "played that" kind of feel and purely out of space. I did discover a few new gems this year and my son and I have been playing a lot of Pokemon too. And not only did my plays drop off, but my writing did as well. Just too much work. Blech.

At any rate, this wasn't a terrible year for gaming. There was the Geekway 2010, the online Olympics and I introduced another co-worker to gaming. So lets start with all the "Cult of the New" games:
  • Die Macher - finally got to play this and I wasn't disappointed, but it was exhausting.
  • Undercut - Really unique bidding game using Treehous pieces. I like it.
  • Hermagor - This is a favorite of the AZ Gamers I play with, but it just doesn't do it for me.
  • Thunderstone - I like this at least twice as much as Dominion. It isn't the best game ever, but it is fun to me. I wrote a randomizer and web page to generate the cards to use...
  • Union vs Central - Another SUPER long game. This one is a two player logistics game that was fun, but there is so much effort to do anything, and about 1/3 of the actions you can take are "take that!!!" on your opponent. Seriously like a 10 hour two player game of back and forth.
  • Through the Ages - This is another I finally got to play and love. It is Civ in boardgame form. So good.
  • Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation - This is how Stratego should be. Fast, lots of bluffing and fun.
  • Bus - Cool at first, I apparently just didn't grok it and ended up lukewarm. The online interface doesn't allow you to make a mis-click. That doesn't help.
  • Fits - This is the slow boring version of Tetris. I love Tetris - this is meh.
  • UR - I should have loved this, but in our online Olympics, I was too frustrated with the randomness. That and Justin not reading the rules and giving Nathan wins every game.
  • Infinite City - This is a tile laying "take that" game. it was ok, but felt pretty random.
  • Neue Heimat - The best auction game EVER. This is a nasty game and I loved it.
  • Campaign Manager 2008 - This should have been a cool little card drafting game but it fell flat for me. The theme was cool at first, until you realize both sides cards are the same, just different flavor text.
  • Samarkand: Road to Riches - Surprising me this year was this beauty. It is quick and feels a little like Chicago Express. There is a bit of randomness that can take away control, but it plays so quickly you won't care.
  • Castle Panic - I hated this game. I played with people I like, but this just sucked.
  • Ra: The Dice Game - Boring. What can you say about a generic dice game that has a tacked on theme from a game with a tacked on theme?
  • Kingsburg - I do like this game, but only with the expansion. Dice games aren't my favorite, but they can be fun. Besides, other than Twilight Struggle, it was the only game I could beat Nathan at during the Geekway.
  • Dread Pirate - dumb dumb dumb. I didn't hate this like Castle Panic, but there wasn't much point in playing it either.
  • Oregon - I liked this one. Its a clever little tile game with interesting tactical choices.
  • Bisikle - This is similar to Pitchcar, except that you "flick" a little yellow ball with ball bearings. It allows you some control (much like a cue ball in pool) to do some interesting things. The track is plastic and interlocking, which makes for a naturally smooth surface.
  • Diamond's Club - This one didn't excite me - its a gather A to make B to score points kind of thing.
  • Orient Express - Noah brought this old game out. It is a who dunit mystery which was spoiled by luck - if you get lucky, you get more clues, which of course means you can solve the mystery first.
  • Take It Higher! - I enjoyed this one a lot. It is a puzzle game where everyone is placing the same piece to score multiple ways. This particular version has a bunch of extra things to think about, so it might be "too much of a good thing".
  • Thebes - I was surprised to like this one as much as I did. Very random, but fun little planning game and of course, it works well as a family game.
  • Claustrophobia - Another surprise. I had never heard of it, but saw it at the Geekway and got it for my son. This is a cool game - not quite a dungeon crawl, but close. Mechanics are pretty easy and cool with the dice. Well done two-player game.
  • Reef Encounter - I should like this game, but this is one where it really feels like randomness spoils a good abstract game.
  • Telestrations - Might be as good or better party game than Say Anything!
  • Gonzaga - This one was a bit different. You place different sized plastic pieces on the board - sort of "claiming territory". It is a bit of set collection via the claimed areas. Interesting and not bad.
  • Finito! - I don't remember much except this is short and I thought it was easy.
  • IGOR! The Monster Making Game - Total random filler. Cute, but not much here.
  • Top Race - I really like race games. Especially when you can screw other players. This was fun.
  • Fresco - Another gather A to make B to score points game. Meh.
  • D&D: Castle Ravenloft Boardgame - I'm a sucker for dungeon crawls. This is D&D for dummies and that's ok with me. I'm not into the whole role playing thing, I just want to bash stuff. It is a co-op, which is cool too.
  • Axis & Allies: D-Day - speaking of "for dummies", this is the A&A version for dummies. Its a quick intro style game for Axis and Allies, but there isn't a ton of replayability here. At least I finally played one of my Axis and Allies games.
  • Lost Cities: The Boardgame - a lot like the card game, but for four players and with a few twists to keep it from being the same each round.
  • 7 Wonders - I hadn't heard of this before, but it is a quick civ game based on card drafting. It was good enough to play twice in a row (a rarity for our group).
So, I'm not picking just one favorite from that group this year. I really really liked Neue Hiemat, Through the Ages, and Samarkand. They are all good games. For the bottom three: Castle Panic, Ra: The Dice Game, and Campaign Manager 2008 - BARF.

Next: Nickles and Dimes. These are the games played at least 5 or 10 times this year:
Balloon Cup

Pokémon Trading Card Game
Combat Commander: Europe
UNO (yeah, played this a bazzillion times this summer).

Reef Encounter
Through the Desert
Samarkand: Routes to Riches

I think that Ballon Cup ended up as my most played game - it was easy to teach and play with Robert throughout the year. We hate it now. Sadly, Samurai and a lot of other Knizia games left the PBEM world this year. It's too bad as Samurai remains one of my all time favorite games. A lot of the nickles were due to the PBEM Olympics, but as I also discovered, I wasn't a big fan of a lot of them. Ok, that's it for 2010 - hopefully I'll be around more next year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Gaming With My Son

The last couple of weekends I was able to get a bit of gaming in with my son. First off we pulled out Runebound last weekend. This is one of his favorites and honestly one that we can get through pretty quickly for the two of us. I was ahead for a bit, then he got a potion that was worth essentially three levels of experience! I had to race to get ahead and managed to find and kill three red bad guys a turn before Ashton had a shot at his third red bad guy. A very close win. I still have a whole expansion we haven't even touched yet. He still seems to enjoy this one a lot so it'll probably come out some more too.
This last week finally settled down long enough for me to teach Ashton Star Wars - The Queen's Gambit. This old AH/Hasbro game is simple enough that Ashton quickly grasped the game, and yet interesting enough to actually want to play it once in a while. I played the good guys, while Ashton took on the role of the Trade Federation. I started out with Anakin ripping though the star fighters, but Ashton stymied him at the end with a stack of 10 cards which I never whittled down. On the Gungan battle field, I was able to more than hold my own. Unfortuantely, Ashton went ballistic with Darth Maul and it wasn't long before I had no Jedi and lost my real queen. The Captain and fake queen made a break for the throne room, but the droid army put a quick end to the uprising.

Merry Christmas

Secret Santa left me a few gifts. There were a number of "coal" items (Lord of the Rings Top Trumps card game anyone? - it is basically War) and of course a game. Before that, I'll point out that I also received a book - Wayne Cordeiro's The Divine Mentor - a book about growing one's faith. I nice gesture that brings a little more to the whole Secret Santa than just buying a game for another random person.

As far as the game goes, I received Sisimizi - this is one of those random games I stumbled across on the geek (I honestly don't remember what geeklist I found this one on). It is essentially an abstract and fairly rare (at least in the US). When I opened the box, it took a minute to recognize the game - it isn't one I would have expected.

So to my SS - thank you and I hope you and yours have a Merry Christmas.

As to whom my SS is - I still have no clue :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

58 Monopoly Versions

Ah the things you can do during a build cycle...

At the behest of TWERP-5 I now present to you : 58 versions of Monopoly (brought to you by the members of the Online Olympics team:
From ME!:
  1. - My son and I play a lot of Pokemon the card game
  2. - Love nintendo and the wii
  3. - I wish DC had kept the animated series going. It was so good.
  4. - The Chronic-what-cles of Narnia..
  5. - Tis the season after all
  6. - Wrote this as a java program in college. Guess what? Whomever goes first has a distinct advantage.
  7. - Hillbilly Hare is probably my all time favorite
  8. - The new Avengers series on Disney is pretty good.
  9. - The original is one of my three favorite movies.
  10. - Really?
  11. - Really really?
  12. - Hopefully your last one too
  13. - No thank you.
  14. - For Robert
  15. - I used to work for UP and yes, I own this.
  16. - I own this too (still in the shrink!)
  17. - Monopoly really doesn't need a supersize me option
  18. - This is more like it
  19. - best option?

From Chester Ogborn:
1 -
2 -
3 -
4 -
5 -
6 -
7 -
8 -
9 -
10 -
11 -
12 -
13 -

From Justin Easley:

  1. Monopoly: Star Wars
  2. Monopoly: Pokemon
  3. Monopoly: The Simpsons
  4. Monopoly: Star Trek The Next Generation
  5. Monopoly: London
  6. Monopoly: Nintendo
  7. Monopoly: Canadian Edition
  8. Monopoly: Puerto Rico
  9. Monopoly: NHL
  10. Monopoly: Family Guy
  11. Monopoly: NASCAR
  12. Monopoly: Japan
  13. Monopoly: Wales-Cymru
  14. Monopoly: Bournemouth & Poole Edition
  15. Monopoly: Indiana Jones
  16. Monopoly: Dale Earnhardt

Nathan Winchester contributes:
Starting with the worst version I can imagine:

And then the best:

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of properties.  Indeed.

And, since I'm a hippie:

Wait, what?  Why does this exist?

Make fun of my shirt all you want, there are monopolies for it:

Hometown pride?:

Who doesn't love dinosaurs!

And of course, I fully expect everyone to use these:

Friday, November 19, 2010


I apologize for lack of updates, I've been working a ton of overtime at work and then on top of that, my home computer has died, so I've been working on fixing that as well...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tis the Season

Its the annual Secret Santa on the BGG. Oddly enough for me, about every other year I get someone who is willing to put some effort into taunting me with clues and such to try and figure them out. This is such a year. This year has started with this (after berating me for adding a Dora game picture in 2005):

"However, in spite of my initial misgivings, I am willing to allow you to argue your case for this blight from your past being an errant keystroke, childhood relapse or spasmodic convulsion rather than an intentional image posting. You may prove your deserved "Nice List" status by starting a new Geeklist thread at entitled “247 People Who Deserve LCR In Their Stocking”. This Geeklist should involve a discussion/listing of amusing, non-offensive, fictional/semi-fictional individuals who deserve a lump of LCR-shaped coal in their stocking for Christmas. I will help you start your list by offering the first submission: Larry Fine’s (The Three Stooges) barber. You may both submit your own suggestions (as many as you like) and receive comments from others listing their selections (as many as care to post). However, you must amass of list of at least 247 names. That’s TWO FORTY-SEVEN, Charles – that’s important…247."
So I started the geeklist - - at least its something to do.

Monday, September 06, 2010

A Ranger in Ravenloft

I managed another QUICK game of Dungeons and Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game. I again played a solo game, this time trying out the Ranger character. I'm not sure this particular one is a great one solo. The basic setup gives the ranger a basic "do 1 damage to an adjacent monster" ability and lots of the monsters have only 1 hit, so this is a good thing, but the lack of AC and HP means I got killed really really quickly - like 5 tiles quickly. I was up to like 11 XP, but the wraiths and flaming skeletons were too much. Each HP surge was only 4 HP and I didn't have enough space to maneuver away from the dangers. Ah well.

Castle Ravenloft

Castle Ravenloft was once a Dungeons and Dragons adventure game. Ravenloft eventually proved popular enough to spawn its own campaign setting - inspired by gothic horror classics such as the Mummy, Dracula, The Wolfman, Frankenstein, etc. Wizards of the Coast has returned to this setting in a new line of board games with the appropriately (if not obvious titled) - Dungeons and Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game. Wizards is obviously looking to tap into a new market and perhaps pull in some new players to the Dungeons and Dragons gaming scene. I don't know anything about that. I do know that this is a light fun romp with rules that are in line with Heroscape or Claustrophobia. So what is Castle Ravenloft? It is a cooperative dungeon crawl for 1-5 players. Each player takes a different class and the group picks and adventure to from the book to play. Each has their own goal for winning. Typically, losing means getting killed a couple time. On a player's turn, they can move and fight, fight then move, or move twice. If you end at the edge of the board you draw a new tile from the stack of tiles that will make up the game area. When you place the tile, monsters may or may not appear. After a player moves, that player then also executes the monster's turn. monster cards explain clearly what needs to be done and whom to attack. There are other cards for treasure and for encounters and traps that can hinder or help the players. All in all, the game is pretty well scripted so that players aren't flipping through books or looking things up on 12 different tables of numbers to figure things out.
I've played the game twice now - one solo to get an understanding of the mechanics. The solo game had me trying to find my way out before Strahd (the master vampire of Castle Ravenloft) awoke and killed me. I ran around as quickly as I could looking for the exit. Strahd awoke and chased me around quite a bit. I managed to finally find the exit and escape with 1 hit left before I would have lost. The second game was with my son and we were trying to find a chapel with a special artifact. Unfortunately, we found a lot of wraiths who kicked our butt. We finally found the chapel, but had died twice already and were easy targets for the two monsters we found inside the chapel.
So, what do I think? Its fun. It doesn't outstay its welcome. Games are about an hour, which makes this one instantly appealing over something like Descent. Does this mean I should throw Descent away? No. This is different. In fact, it almost feels like Claustrophobia for 1-5 players. Combat is super straightforward and in fact, the exploration piece doesn't really give you an option for which way to lay a tile - you always point the printed arrow towards the area that you are exploring from. There isn't the same feel of gaining treasure like in other dungeon crawls and experience and leveling is a limited deal, but you don't have the overhead of other dungeon games either. The tile mechanism is neat, but the tiles are pretty generic and the maps tend to look just like the last one. The minis that come with the game are ok - they are basically unpainted versions of the D&D:Minis that have been out for a while. One of the hero models is new, but the rest have been seen (that doesn't make them bad). The tiles are nice and there are lots of cards (though the cards aren't the thickest, so I'm not sure how they'll hold up to lots of playing). Wizards of the Coast already has another boxed set coming out which is supposed to be compatible (ie, new monsters and heroes that can be used with either set). I'm not sure how many scenarios you can put together - there can only be so many variations on run through catacombs for some reason or another, but this isn't a bad game so I can see getting both if one gets played enough.

Game Night

Friday Sept 3, 2010 - Rob and Michelle's place.
I got to Rob and Michelle's place a bit on the early side this week (as did Nathan Winchester, Matt and Liz Longieliere). We started the night out playing a game of Ra with Rob. Ra is one of the classics that I'll play just about anytime. There is a good mix of push your luck and knowing when to bid that makes this one great. For this game, Matt pulled down a couple early stacks of monuments and later in the game pulled down more it kept him safely in the lead for an easy win. Nathan managed to beat me, but only because Liz pulled me down to lowest Pharaohs, costing me two points.
Steve Bauer had arrived and we've been trying to get in a game of Samurai, so I pulled it down for us. Matt Cullinan and Matthew Frederick rounded out the game. Unlike my last game (4-player tie) this one wasn't close. Matt took advantage of Matthew nearly every round, and Steve abused me at every turn. I played ok, but didn't see any of my 4-tiles until my last three draws. Matt won easily with two majorities.
Everyone split up again, and this time, Liz joined Matt, Matthew and I for a game of Thebes.  This is a game that has grown on me. Despite the randomness of the digging, it is an entertaining game for what is clearly a family game. The mechanics are well done and mesh well with the theme. I was able to get a few books of general knowledge early on,  and then grabbed a lot of purple. Matt had a load of orange, and so I sucked it up and headed south to dig. I grabbed a couple of oranges before Matt decimated the pile, but pulled in a ton of purple stuff. Then I raced for some yellow and managed a dig before the end of the year, allowing me to essentially double up digging at yellow. Matthew was having a hell of a time - everywhere he planned to go, we managed to get there right before him and dig the hell out of the place. His saving grace was that he was collecting a ton of congress cards. Unfortunately, he was always in position to get them and we weren't. Matthews bonus points from the congresses  saved his hide and he won the game.
I finished the night playing a game of Samarkand with Dion Garner, Rob, and Steve. This is a fun little game whose major shortcoming is that the setup is almost as long as the game. This game felt amazingly fast - Dion, Rob and Steve all played on the East side of the map and left me to my demise. With no help, I think I only landed a couple of card. This game does have a similar feel to Chicago Express in that you have to "play the players" - Rob ended the game very quickly as he had a number of points coming in matching cards.

Monday, August 30, 2010

PBEM Olympic Standings

Medal count after 7 events






Finishing the Reef Encounter series with a gold has pushed Nathan back to the clear leader of the pack. I failed to medal (again). I hadn't played RE before this year, but I have played 7 games recently and I decided I don't care much for this game. The ideas aren't bad, but there is very little chance for truly clever play, which means that luck plays too dramatic a role in determining the winner. In our last game, both of the first two players were able to get a cube and THREE matching reef tiles. Unsurprisingly, the two of them were close at the end, but the other two scores were WAY back of their scores. Well, on to the next game...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

PBEM Olympic Standings

Medal count after 7 events






Tikal was the last event finished and went down to the last game. Things went perfectly for Nathan and he was able to create a tie for last and avoid being shut out of a medal. Interestingly, if you award points for the medals, Justin and Nathan are tied at 12 and Chester and I are tied at 10 - Nathan of course is leading the medal count. Nathan did get to choose the next game and has gone with Tigris and Euphrates.

Combat Commander - #8 Breakout Dance

This blog isn't the only that has been on hiatus this summer. So has Robert Bolan and I's regular games of Combat Commander: Europe. We finally resumed on Monday.  Picking up where we left off, we Robert chose to move forward to the next scenario and choose to play the Allies.
Situation Report: Velikiye-Luki, Russia, Jan. 1943 - As the Kalinin Front - led by several Soviet Shock (but not awe) Armies - drove westward they were able to completely encircle the German 277th Infantry Regiment at Velikye-Luki. Outside relife for this surrounded force was not to be had, however, so orders were given for its units to effect a breakout.
So, Robert setup his Russians and perched his medium machine gun on a hilltop (this was our first scenario with elevated terrain). His only goal? - keep me from getting off the map. My only goal? Get off the map. This scenario also saw us fighting at night, which made the fire orders much less effective. We spent a number of turns just discarding, trying to find the cards we needed. Then I made a run for it and was able to get almost all my units off the map. I had one leader, one squad, and the German hero grouped up in a fox hole. The time event happened and I brought reinforcements back to the map and started moving them down the other side of the map (away from where Robert had been massing troops to keep my set from moving). Things were very grim looking for Robert as I raced my troops across the mostly empty map. When I finally had to move my men past Robert's lone outpost, he advanced on me to go melee. We both had ambush cards (in fact, I had three in my hand) and we were down to whatever fate our cards held for us. Unfortunately for Robert, his fate deck held an event - the dreaded Prisoners of War. This event causes you to remove one of your broken units from the map that are adjacent to an enemy. Robert's only choice was the broken unit involved in the melee. This happened to me as well one time, but twice to Robert during his last ditch efforts to stop me. Having failed, I easily moved all my men off the board at the same time for victory.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Sorry I've Been Gone

Well, here we are - two months since my last post. It has been a busy hectic summer and I have just not felt like posting a thing lately. The thing is - I like posting. There is a certain therapeutic-ness (that's not really the word I'm looking for) to the whole blogging about nothing that I enjoy. So...

I've played some games this summer. Some new, some old. The PBEM Olympics have continued, but we had a couple good sized breaks in the action with vacations. I've either hit a slump, or I just suck - been getting killed lately.

I've made a few trades and bought a few games. Nothing really stands out. Gonzaga was pretty cool. Fresco has been getting a lot of word of mouth, but I didn't see anything special to get excited over. The simple game is ridiculously simple, and the advance game didn't excite me that much - there was clearly a single strong way to play it.

I took some games along on my family vacation this summer. We spent the better part of a week on a houseboat. Of course, with a boatload of kids from ages 4-11, Uno was the big hit. Kinder Bunnies and Qwirkle Cubes were also hits. To Court The King got some play and I taught Wyatt Earp to the adults (one of the non-gamer adults wanted to know where he could buy it as he really liked it). I remain convinced that there are loads of adults that would enjoy a lot of the games that are out there, but until someone can break through the mass market barrier, they just won't make it. The thing with Wyatt Earp - the guy that liked it a lot complained he was lost as I explained it (having likely not played anything like it), but he picked it right up after a couple draws.

Anyways, I need to get a few updates to the Olympics up and a session report from last week. Hopefully we'll be back to normal soon.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

PBEM Olympic Standings

Medal count after 6 events






PBEM Olympics - Fearsome Floors Game 4

The last game of Fearsome Floors was no different for me than any of the previous games. I got a grand total of ONE person out the door while Justin, Chester and Nathan somehow got out easily. Chester won the last game, but couldn't change the fact that the best he was finishing was third. Justin finished second and wins yet another Gold. I got completely shut out in this series - yep, last place in every single game. I apparently just don't get it. I've never been a big FF fan anyway, but this cemented it for me. I'd play this face to face with a larger group as a distraction, but I doubt I'll play it again online anytime soon. As the loser, I went ahead and picked Through the Desert as our next event. I kicked around a couple of games, but decided we'd better play TtD before it disappeared off the internet (also, since I got a refresher game last week, the play is fresh in my head).

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

PBEM Olympic Standings

Medal count after 5 events







PBEM Olympics - Amun-Re Game 4

And it is finally official. Our last game of Amun-Re is done and I finally won a gold - thanks in large part to Chester, it was a clean win, not a tie. The game looked for a long time like it might end up with Nathan and I tied for first and Chester and Justin tied for second (in the overall standings). At the end of the game, Chester made a few moves and pushed Nathan down in the money and forced him down the points to last. Final scores: Justin: 47, Charles: 42, Chester: 41, Nathan: 40. Justin played his best game of this but still finished last in the standings and picks the next game of the series - he picked Reef Encounter. I was surprised to pull out the win here - this is not a game I'm great at. I think for the most part, I had really good card draws for the majority of the time and it made the most difference.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Game Night

Friday May 21, 2010 - Rob Smolka's House
I headed over to Rob's for a bit of gaming, hoping even to teach and play a little Combat Commander. That didn't end up happening, but I got to try a whole lot of new games this night. We started out playing Take It Higher. Joining Rob and I were Noah Antwiller, Bobby Warren and Jeff Claussen. Rob was the only one to have played this version (I believe Bobby being the only other person to play any version of this series) so he explained the 50,000 ways in which one can score in this game. Basically, like in the other Take It... games, everyone places the same hex with different color lines going through it. The goal being to complete lines of the same color to score the points for the line x the number of tiles in the line. Unlike the others, the center is either silver or gold. If you complete a row of gold, you get X number of gold points (10pts) for each. If you do the same for silver, you get silver (9pts). You can also play a rocket for the color line you just completed. Each player has a line of rocketes - the more you complete, the bigger your possible bonus is. I say possible, because you only get the bonus for the lowest rocket space you open up. So if you clear all the rockets at the end of the line, but never the first one, you score no bonus. So each time you go to place a tile, you are frozen with a bazillion options. Other games have worse AP by far, but there is just a lot to consider each time here - maybe a little too much for this kind of game. Didn't stop me from winning though. Final scores were: Jeff 308, Rob 494, Bobby 438, Charles 507, Noah 0 (he wiped his board and didn't count).
We continued down the train to newsville by riding the Orient Express. Noah has been bringing this for a couple weeks now, trying to get us to play it and we finally caved and indulged him. Us being Matthew Frederick, Amelia Boli, Rob and I. This is an older murder mystery / whodunit kind of game where there are clues available to everyone. On your turn, you roll and move to different parts of the train to gain knowledge. Then you roll a die and on a 1 or 6, ONLY YOU get the clue, otherwise everyone gets it.  So basically, everyone is trying to solve a logic puzzle but some people gain clues others don't. Rob guessed early (he wasn't enjoying the game at all) and Noah and I guess a couple turns later. We were both correct and "won". This was ok, but really just random luck helps players win.
After our murder mystery, we broke into Rob's Animal House Liar's Dice set and made a lot of noise. The fraternity players were: Gary Passmore (Robert Hoover), Bobby (Bluto), Noah (Pinto), Matthew (Boon), me (Otter), and Matt Cullinan (Flounder). Making plenty of noise, we knocked out Bluto then Boon. Then Pinto fell and I was out shortly after. Flounder and Otter went head to head, but Flounder had the dice and won.
We finished the night out playing a game of Diamonds Club. Bobby, Matt C, Rob and I played, with me being the sole newbie to the game. This is your standard "collect a bunch of one thing to buy a bunch of other things" game. The interesting portion of the game is in trying to collect the stuff. There are a couple of paths to victory, but it helps to play it once to see any of it - yeah, I finished way in the back. Scores were me 43, Bobby and Rob 58, Matt 59. Rob professes not to care for this type of game, but likes this one. It was ok, but not something I need to own. It is a lighter engine game, but an engine game none the less.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

PBEM Olympic Standings

Medal count after 4 events






PBEM Olympics - UR Game Over

Hmmm, apparently I haven't been keeping up on posting the BEATINGS Nathan has been giving us in UR. Suffice to say, Nathan swept the event. I'm not sure if Justin ever did read the rules or just kind of played it by feel. Regardless, Justin threw this game off a bit and likely helped make Nathan's life that much easier. The final tally was Nathan - Gold, Chester - Silver, Me - Bronze.

So, none of us had played this game before this. And what do I think now? I gave it a 6. It has some cool ideas, but it has issues. The players all need to be on pretty even footing. Much like PR, a weak player will really swing things to one player. Once you gain momentum in this game, its hard to take away. The games are too short to recover. Also, turn order seems to be pretty advantageous. I was last in 3 of the 4 games (and third in the other) and it meant picking starting position last on the board - not good. Nathan of course was first or second in each game. I built a copy of this game and played it two player with Nathan - I liked that a little better, but at the end it drags a little with two. I'd be willing to try this again with some house rules, but online? Probably not unless I was teaching it or really bored.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

PBEM Olympics - Amun-Re Game 3

Our third game of Amun-Re was the closest yet. Justin seemed to have a wad of cash until the last round, when he went all in for his last chunk of land. Unfortunately for him the payoff was last place. Chester wound up beating all of us. I made the most points in the first round, but was so cash poor the whole game that I had pretty much zero chance in the second half of the game to do anything. Final scores:  Chester: 46, Nathan: 40, Charles: 37, Justin: 33. We head into the final round pretty wide open for the medals (except for Justin). I pretty much need to place in first or second to win a gold. Last place would give me a bronze and a third gives me no worse than a tie for silver. Time to get my game face on.

PBEM Olympics - Fearsome Floors Game 3

The third game of Fearsome Floors was more of the same - I sucked and got killed a lot while Justin and Nathan used my people as human shields/sacrifices. Chester was able to get out a guy before me and thus conquered me for third place making it so that I am thus far shut out of the point standings. The good news? I get to pick the next game. The bad? I'd have to win the next game while Chester finishes last in order to glimpse a tie for bronze.Given my amazing record thus far, I don't think that is going to happen. And again - for those keeping track, Daniel Karp didn't die - I got him out just before the game ended.

Games Played Recently

Friday 14, 2010 - Game night ended up at Rob Smolka's new place this week. I brought over a couple of games that I knew he and Michelle (whom I still have yet to meet) didn't have that I was hoping to play. Nathan Winchester and I headed over around 6:00ish and were the first to arrive. Figuring it wouldn't be long before folks started showing, I pulled out Samarkand: Routes to Riches for the three of us to try. For the record, having ten families differentiated by colors is probably not the best game to pull out when players have color issues like Rob does. He figured it out, but there really is not much else that helps you tell the families apart (unlike say the new printings of Ticket to Ride). At any rate, as soon as I got done explaining, Noah Antwiller showed up, so I explained it to him and we were off and running. As expected, Noah drew really well and did really well. I drew cards all over the map, which would have been ok if the players controlling the families had ever gone and taken the goods I had. Final scores were: Nathan 53, Rob 53, me 57, Noah 70. 
After that, a number of folks had arrived, so we broke into two groups. I pulled out Steam Barons which I knew Noah and Nathan would play. Somehow we conned Matt Cullinan into playing with us and off we went. We played the US side of the map (which forces players to start on the Eastern side and work West). Nathan started a company and ended up investing heavily in it in the mid-game. His choice to go with one company rather than diversify hurt his standing quite a bit, and by the end of the game his diversification was too little too late. Noah had chosen a good set of routes for his companies and I left him alone in one of his companies one turn too many since my company was doing well, but not as well as his. Scores were pretty close with me at 109, Nathan 78, Matt 101, Noah 111. I'm now on the fence with this one. I really enjoy stock games and I like the familiar AoS/Steam mechanics for building and moving goods. However, this game is all about the timing - make a mistake and you are probably done (much like Age of Steam). The unforgiveness of the game isn't what I dislike - its the length. A three-hour game with no margin for error can drag on a bit. Even AoS - which I love - sometimes gets to be like this for me, which is why I've been leaning towards Steam a bit when given the choice. This is still a good game, but you have to be ready for a longer ride.
Next up was Oregon - something new to me. Matt chose this one and noted that it only had one flaw - the board was static. Well, after playing, I'd have to say that's not the only thing wrong with the game. So the deal here is: there is a board divided into a grid. Players have a couple cards in their hand that allow them to place in a couple of the 25? 36? areas of the board. Each grid area has 6 spaces that allow for different buildings to be placed (they must match the correct geography), or a meeple. Placing meeples scores you points and occasionally additional benefits. Occasionally, if you can get a building by your meeples, you'll score those points too. So what is wrong with this game? The same thing that's wrong with Samarkand and Amun-Re. If you get good cards, you are likely going to win. Matt and Noah both had bad draws and Nathan and I benefited greatly every time they played, because we had the right cards to do so. This isn't a bad game, but I'm not sure why Matt thinks its all that great. The final scores were me 72, Nathan 72, Matt 61, Noah 66. Tie to Nathan
It was getting late, but Nathan and I finished the night playing a little 2-player game of UR. I had built a set from some wood tiles I had and using dice rather than cubes (which works well, but is hard to track your totals). The game was a bit back and forth for a while and in the end, Nathan had two choices and chose the wrong one and took the wrong tile into his hand. I beat him 44-40.
Over the weekend, my son asked to learn a couple of new games. Not sure if he'd get it or not, I taught him Thunderstone. I set up a random assortment of cards and explained the game. For the most part each turn I asked him the same thing: how much attack do you have? If he had enough attack, I let him know what he could kill, otherwise I let him shop freely, making no suggestions on what to buy. On occasion, he'd get greedy and buy something instead of taking the kill, but for the most part did the right thing. Which of course showed one of the flaws to the game - if the cards come up right, you will do well. Ashton's choices of things to buy made a lot of sense, and his deck was doing well. For me? I'd get tons of attack, but no light, then in the next hand, I'd get three flaming swords and two torches, but not a hero. I was constantly short of being able to attack the monsters and its showed in the final scores. Where Ashton had 70 to my 59. The game went on a bit long (the Thunderstone was the LAST card) and I think Ashton was a bit bored at the end, but he didn't quit.
I also taught Ashton how to play Nexus Ops. This was the first time he'd played a war-ish game that was Heroscape, so the entire experience was new. He did pretty well - trying to work on his secret objectives and easily figuring out the purchasing. What he didn't realize was that HE HAD ALL THE MINES. My early explorations only turned up rock striders, which let me get a load of cards via the Monolith, but I had no cash. Ashton had three dragons on the board before I could slow him down. This was the first time I played two players and I'll say this - you have a lot more money. I met a lot of goals and picked off his guys that were alone and beat him 10-7 (we only played to 10). He wants to play this one again for sure.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Combat Commander - Cold Front

Staritsa, Russia, December 30, 1941 - When winter hit Eastern Europe with its full fury in late 1941, the German 26th Infantry was just one of many Axis Divisions halted more by the extreme weather than the stubborn Russian defense.
In the final weeks of 1941, the 31st Soviet Army - part of the Kalinin Front under General Yushkevich - received a large influx of Siberian troops. Clad in quilted jackets and fur hats and inured to the cold, they led many small-unit actions up and down the frozen front. One such attack took place near Staritsa, Northwest of Moscow, as the German troops of Infanty Regiment 18 were fighting to stay warm in their trenches.
Robert Bolan came over to renew our Combat Commander:Europe series. He chose to continue into the scenarios and scenarios #5 - Cold Front - presented a small troop of Germans trying to outlast the cold-hardened Russians. Robert chose to play the attackers (Russian) and setup first. The map setup such that I chose to try and force Robert to come at me from two major choke points: through a marsh or over a bridge. I setup my heavy machine gun in a trench near the bridge to chew up any troops he sent that way. The other troops were positioned with a light machine gun to handle the marsh. Robert started the game throwing some Russians at the marsh, which was slow going, but mostly ok due to my limited ability to really take a bite out of his troops. I couldn't get my heavy machine gun to bear down and kill anyone either. We quickly discovered that these Russian troops were much tougher than earlier scenarios. Unfortunately for Robert, when they matched up head to head with an overwhelming force, the Germans prevailed.
After I eliminated a couple of squads and a leader, Robert changed tactics and ran a load of troops for my unprotected back line. Points in this scenario were doubled for exits, and Robert was looking to erase the lead I had. With time disappearing, I too moved troops towards the back line (since I had eliminated the resistance on that side of the map already). We both got our troops out safely which meant the score didn't change. What did happen was I got reinforcements - three times! I brought in artillery, a leader, and a rifle squad. We both brought in our escaped troops for reinforcements as time ticked towards the inevitable - an easy win for me. I held nearly 22 points in advantage while Robert had another series of bad roles. But fate would play her hand against me. Robert "rolled the dice" and went melee against my heavy machine guns and we tied! He eliminated my big advantage. I had my reinforcement troops again marching to Robert's side of the map, but at the last minute, swung them around and into a building to chew up his rear forces. Unfortunately for me, Robert had more advance orders and achieved what was unthinkable only moments before - a surrender victory. Reducing my army to the end of my surrender track, I was forced to congratulate Robert on a stunning victory.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Geekway to the West 2010 - Sunday and Wrapup

The last day of the Geekway went quietly. Nathan Winchester and I had a flight at 2:00, which meant leaving about noon. We had no real plans, but Nathan and Jason Easley had a Crokinole match to be played at some point. We found Steve Wicklund wandering about and decided to try and get something played with him until Jason and "My Little Pony" could show up for their Crokinole match.

Since there were exactly three of us and I couldn't find End of the Triumvirate in the library, I went with the three-player standby: San Marco. Steve had played before but needed a quick refresher and then off we went. I was still a bit tired, but this was a good wake-me-up. For once, I wasn't in the lead of this game after two rounds and thus was able to team up with Steve to BASH Nathan in the third round. It was pretty tight down the line, but Nathan did manage to hold on by a single point to finish the game with a win.

San Marco is one of the best three player games out there. It technically plays four, but I have yet to play it that way. The game is a simple area control game, but the genius of the game is the actions that are available each round. Random cards are drawn and then sorted into three piles by player A. Player B then chooses  a stack and executes their actions. Then Player C does the same. Player A (the divider) gets whichever stack is left over. Then the roles switch and you do it some more. A number of actions in the game can deliver points to other players, so when playing three ways, its almost always best to give the losing player points. Thus games are typically close. Three is always an odd number for gaming, but this is one game I have for exactly that number.

After San Marco, Nathan and Jason sat down and got their rears handed to them in much the same way Justin and I did by the My Little Pony team. While they were playing, The Game Nite store folks showed up to their booth with a couple of copies of Bisikle. Bisikle is a game I had heard about and was interested in. Basically, it is a dexterity race game - similar in idea to Pitchcar. The biggest difference being that instead of a puck, you are flicking a ZBall - a marble with a unique internal mechanism of weighted ball bearings which allow for some unique controlled shots. Anyway, I had done some looking and the game runs about $40 online (plus shipping). However, Game Nite was also selling it for $40 - 15% off! With tax, I got the game for less than $40. Justin wondered what I was buying and I explained it to him and he went ahead and snagged their other copy. I was quite pleased. A good way to wrap up the Geekway.

One thing I forgot to talk about - the trade table from Saturday. I had brought out 4 games that I hoped not to bring home: Hoity Toity, Gulo Gulo, Tales of the Arabian Nights, and Hamburgum (which I got off the trade table LAST YEAR). Steve heard I was dumping Hoity Toity and asked for it, so I sold it to him. I was selling Gulo Gulo to John Davis, so for the trade table I had Tales and Hamburgum. I hoped to move Tales as it is insanely heavy and I didn't want to ship it. Hamburgum is really a long box, so shipping that wasn't ideal either. As it turned out, Hamburgum was a pretty early pick - before Tales! With an early pick I quickly scanned the table and decided to go with a package deal of Amyitis and Municipium. Shortly after that pick, I got choosen again and went with another combo of Lost Valley, Space Dealer and Castle Merchants (Castle Merchants becoming my yearly donation to the game library). Sadly, I missed Paths of Glory on the table or I'd have likely taken that instead of one of the packages. Oh well. With my new bundles of games and Bisikle, I still came home 3-4 lbs lighter in games.

Nathan and I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare (especially since the plane was late coming in). We finished up our game of Twilight Struggle we had started Friday morning - I was able to really jump all over a load of points in the fourth round while there was nothing Nathan could do.

And that's it. That was our Geekway. As usual, we didn't play 2/3 of the things we wanted to. I did get to play a number of new games (though for the most part they were disappointing this year). I got to play some old favorites, though no really big games. Oh well. This was one of the smoothest Geekways yet. Unfortunately, neither Nathan nor I won a door prize nor a play to win game - again, oh well. Next year they may be adding another day and expanding the space. I hope so

Geekway to the West 2010 - Saturday

Saturday at the Geekway is the most hectic of the days - there are a lot of events, more people than the previous day, and the realization that you are running out of gaming hours. Nathan Winchester and I started off the day grabbing some coffee (come to find out that there was FREE coffee at the hotel lobby) from Starbucks.We started earlier than Either the Easleys or the UP crew, so we looked over the Play-To-Win table trying to figure out what to play during the day. There was the Crokinole tournament of course, as well as a desire to get in a longer game, but nothing really hit our fancy. And so it was that we ended up playing Ra: The Dice game.

As Nathan and I looked at the Play-To-Win table, a nice lady by the name of Kathleen Gardner saw we were going to play and asked to join us. She had played before, so we hoped that would help with the rules, though she claimed to not really be able to teach it. Michael Silbey wandered by and offered to teach it while he waited for his group to show up for Here I Stand. He quickly explained and we rolled and finished up in short order. Nathan won with a 49, I had 42, and Kathleen 33.

Ra: The Dice Game takes the original game of Ra (a good game) and replaces tile draws and the auction with a Yahtzee style round of rolling special dice. In other words, takes all the good parts of the game, and makes it dumb. The scoring is similar, but really? That's what you keep from Ra - the scoring? The game is well enough made and short, but when will a game be good that has a name like "The Card Game" or "The Dice Game"? Never? Apparently the trick to making a good alternate version of a game is to not include the words "dice" or "cards". Heard of Caylus Magna Carta? San Juan? Roll Through the Ages might be the exception - it should have been called Through the Ages - The Dice Game.

After Ra: The Really Boring Game, Nathan and I grabbed Samarkand: Routes to Riches. After setting up the bazillion pieces and reading the short (really short) rules, Nathan and I started playing a two player game. Nathan won 66 to 55. I had no clue he was that far ahead of me - I really thought the game was closer than that. Steve Wicklund and John Davis were ready to join us in playing something and since we already had the game half setup and it was a Play-To-Win game, we decided to reset and play 4-players. Again, the rules took no time and we got the game going. During the Geekway, I had only two real rules: #1 - Beat Nathan and #2 - Beat Steve. I failed at both this game. Nathan 56, Steve 46, John 37, me 45. I think John wandered off to play Dominion and Jessica Codr was free to join us, so we reset the board for a third playing (we were enjoying the game a lot). This time I put it all together and did much better, finally scraping out a win. Nathan 53, Steve 50, Jessica 44, me 55. We decided that we'd hogged Samarkand long enough and returned it to the trade table.

Samarkand: Routes to Riches is a Queen Games remake of an original Winsome game. Queen gave it a nice treatment (as they did with Chicago Express). They also changed some things - more families and introduced the cards and goods to put an element of luck in the game (because apparently a family game has to have luck in it). Essentially, there are 30 some odd goods spread over the board and families as well. The families are going to create trade routes to the good and become more influential as their routes meet up with other families. Players get an "interest" in the family by marrying into the family. Of course, there is a payment to do so - the payment varies for each family - typically the more goods and more likelihood of connecting to other families makes a family more costly to marry into. Each family has two children, so two players can marry into and help control each family. When a player connects two families for the first time, they get a bonus of two points and everyone in the connecting family gets $3. Everyone in the family being connected to gets $1. At the end of the game, if you hold a goods card where one of your families have a route, you score a number of points (even more if the goods spot is where the family's routes meet). And therein lies the rub - the luck of the draw. No matter what cards you draw, it is not hard to get control of a family and get their route to the good. However, goods on the edge of the board mean picking a family that is not as likely to meet other families. Being the one to make families meet is HUGE - 2pts and $3 (more if you are in both families) is a chunk of points and players will be running family routes into each other a lot to try and make cash and points. If you keep drawing poor cards while someone else draws cards for the goods and all the goods are near one family - that player will do much better. Now, the game is interesting - and fast! Turns are short and really the whole game is 30 minutes or so (plus 10 minutes more to set it up and tear it down), so it isn't bad. It falls into the weight of Ticket to Ride, but much shorter. You can almost see the brutal ancestry of the game and Nathan and I kicked around a couple variants to try to mitigate some of the luck. Frankly, the 2-player variant that the rules provide is really good. This won't see the same itch to play that Chicago Express has from me, but it isn't bad.

Next up was our first match of Crokinole. The Droids Ur Lookin 4 (Justin Easley and I) were taking on My Little Pony (DJ Kenel and Joel Jodeloh) - last year (and I believe this year's eventual) Champions. The first game was not great and we were down 1-0 before we knew it. The second game was much tighter as Justin and I started playing well. I made a miracle shot at one point, clearing three pucks from the center while making a center shot, but then the board cleared and DJ sank two center shots and put us away. It was really a good game and if we hadn't just SUCKED in the first game, we'd have had a shot as we were playing pretty well after that. My Little Pony would go on to trample the Nathan Winchester and Jason Easley team (Pull My Finger) on Sunday as well.

After being killed in Crokinole, I apparently really wanted to get killed by Jason and Justin in Chicago Express, so I talked everyone into a game of it. Nathan won the initial red share, I took blue, Justin yellow, and Jason green. I don't remember a lot of the game except that I was too tired to be playing this. I believe that Nathan ended up getting the second share of red (or we decided two payouts for Nathan was enough) either way, everyone colluded to KILL red and red got blocked before it got very many trains on the board. Regardless, Nathan and I don't seem to be in the same class of Chicago Express players as the Easleys and we finished way behind them. I had 53, Justin- 96, Jason- 91, Nathan- 79

Chicago Express is a brutal exercise in auctions and playing the other players. It is a stock game with no luck and typically requires players to work together over short bursts of the game to make money or stomp other players. The actions / mechanics of the game are pretty simple, but the options and their ramifications are deep and unforgiving - something a lot of people don't like. This takes a few playings to understand (apparently, the 14 games I've played isn't enough). What I enjoy about this game are the tough choices and the speed - the game typically only last about 45 minutes. 

We had to break in the middle of CE for Jason and Nathan to play a game of Crokinole, so during the break, Michael Silbey grabbed me and we played a quick game of Campaign Manager. Since I had half a clue this time, my deck was better, but not better than Michael's. Oprahpalozza was killing me slowly. Luckily it ended about the time Nathan and Jason were finishing up.

At this point, my brain hurt, so we grabbed something requiring less brain power - Kingsburg. This with the expansion were on the Play To Win table, so we took advantage. We only played with the new building card from the expansion, but from what I remember of trying the game out before, this was a big improvement. Jason explained the rules and then went for something of a builder strategy - unfortunately for him, he rolled the worst I've ever seen. I on the other hand had a hot hand for the dice and did pretty well - which was a good thing. After the first attack, all the remaining attacks were FULL STRENGTH. I had built up pretty good defenses, so it wasn't typically an issue for me. I also built in nearly every round and the building bonus in every season helped me to the win. I had - 35, Nathan - 33, Justin - 30, Jason - 24.

Kingsburg is a dice game - more complex than To Court the King, but similar in that dice earn you things which can be used in combination to purchase buildings which give you various bonuses. After a number of rounds everyone must have enough defense built up in the round to fend of the (random) attackers. If you don't, they bash you. So, in effect it is a rich get richer game. I'm not sure how you'd ever catch up if you lost a round (unless everyone was losing rounds). This isn't the greatest game in the world, but for a dice game, its better than most. Players all roll at the same time and place in rounds, making the choices more interesting and with more interaction than most other games of a similar type (To Court the King, Airships, XX the dice game).

After Kingsburg, Nathan and Jason went to play their first Crokinole match (the aptly paired Pull My Finger vs GoldFinger). I sat down with the UP crew (Steve Wicklund, Matthew Steele, Jessica Codr, John Davis) to play a little Liar's Dice. Unfortuantely, the only place we could find table space was in the game library tables, next to two poor souls playing Horus Heresy. The were referring to the rules enough that they didn't fully know the game and I'm sure having a table of folks right next to them playing Liar's Dice didn't help. Luckily for them, I made short work of everyone except Jessica. It came down to the two of us with 4 dice each, then we went back and forth to 1 die and I finally forced her to choose and she lost to my masterful (lucky) rolling.

Liar's dice is a straightforward rolling the dice and guessing how many dice counts everyone has. For me, the appeal is the loudness of the game coupled with a bit of light bluffing. It isn't a pure mathematical exercise, though it can be with the wrong group. What I really like is that this game expands to pretty much any number of people if you have a cup and 5 dice for them. 

 After a bite to eat, we sat down to play the game I'll vote for as worst game of the Geekway 2010 - Castle Panic. This is a co-op game where the players are trying to defend the castle against a horde of constantly advancing enemies. Except that it sucked with 6 players (Nathan, Steve, Jessica, Matthew, John and I). I'm not sure it would have been more fun with less, but at one point I had to get up to go to the bathroom and on the way back, I stopped to watch Werewolf and Piratenbillards. It still wasn't my turn when I got back - only two players had gone. On my last turn, I took Steve's advice and was totally selfish (which I recognized was going to lose the game for us unless we got totally lucky). Surprise! We lost and got to stop playing this. I blame Steve. I also totally had more points in kills than anyone else, so I won (but I played, so I lost).

This is not a great co-op game. Players have reason not to help the others (better we all lose than me let you win) during their turns. It is also really really random, so like Joshua said - the best move is not to play.

After Castle Panic, we broke up a bit and Nathan and I sat down to teach Steve how to play Torres. Steve got the game almost right away, but Nathan and I know a couple of mean tricks that you have to defend against. Of course, being brain dead and tired, I let Nathan get one off against me and couldn't recover - I was close, but chose the wrong power card (got mixed up) and couldn't score near enough points to stop Nathan. At least I beat Steve. Torres - Nathan 280, Charles 271 Steve 261. After Torres, we called it a night.

Torres is one of my favorite games. I really love the spatial aspect to this game. It also really rewards good planning and clever play. A lot of people dislike the abstract nature of the game and don't grok it. That's really too bad, because this is a really good game.