Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What Did I Play This Week: May 23-29

In a change of pace, I actually got to play a fair number of things AT THE TABLE in the last week. Finally settling in a bit from moving earlier this month. I really hate moving. I still have boxes of games and stacks not put away, but it is getting better. On with the rewind!

Kingdom Builder: Marshlands
I wrote about this playing previously The long and the short of it - I love Kingdom Builder, so another expansion is, in my mind, a good thing. This one, like the first expansion for Kingdom Builder, has some good points and some less interesting ones. Its hard to pin an exact thumbs up or down on this one without a bunch more plays. I also need to mix it in with the rest of the game that I have (we played with only this expansion) before I can tell if the new bits are just more of the same or special in some way (I suspect the former). That isn't bad to me since I like the game so much.


I finished yet another online game of Carc with my buddy Robert. He only lost by a little over 100 this time. He immediately sent me another game request, and insists he won't lose by 100 the next time. He definitely is learning (despite the scores). I don't mind Carc, but I think we need to limit the expansions to make the games faster. I like all the parts, but the games just take too long to finish when you have 150 tiles in play. Even if you are using the builder. And for online play, the dragon makes it slower too. So while I like being able to try and get back pieces and so on, the game length is dragging down my enjoyment of playing this.

Race for the Galaxy
More online play! I snuck in another win over a friend online. Very close game. There are still a couple of things I don't love about Race, and I wish the notifications were better in the application (and that it told you when your opponent was online, so you didn't take your turn and leave). That being said, I still can't beat the hard AI on a regular basis. Not exactly sure where my decision making weakness lies, but I haven't yet felt like I need to purchase any IAP (i.e. the expansions). I'm sure this will keep showing on my weekly lists for a bit, but it isn't consuming my free time, more like it is just there.

Though I didn't intend it to be, Memorial Day turned into something of a family game day for me. It was nice to get in a bunch of different games with just about everyone in the house.

7 Wonders Duel
While dinking around BGG the other day, I ran into a thread on 7 Wonders Duel that clarified a rule about the cards that have a good with a 1 coin on them. I've been mi-understanding this card. It means you can buy one of those goods for exactly 1 coin (regardless of whether your opponent has some or not). This was a revelation that I shared with my daughter (my main opponent). I asked if she wanted to give the game a go and she agreed. We went back and forth, and as we entered the third age, I realized she only needed one new type of science card to win the game. The top two cards of the tableau were exactly the same - a symbol she didn't have. I had to figure out how to beat her before she could get either card, which meant I started planning how to get multiple actions (I had a couple of those kind of wonders) at just the right time. Then I realized that she had The Messe wonder (which allows you to build - for free - a top row card, covered or not). Thankfully, she couldn't afford it, so I started working on slowing her down and hitting her with a ton of military. It came down to luck of the flip. I flipped a card that had three shields on it and was able to hit her for a military win right before she was going to build her wonder and win. This was the third time I've stolen a win from her right before she could beat me. She may never play this with me again.

My son wanted to play something, so I grabbed Splendor, which my daughter also joined us in playing. Both kids started slowly (for a change - they usually have great engines going while I flounder around) and I built up a good enough engine to grab good cards and then finally a bonus that gave me 15 while the closest the kids could manage was 8 or 9 points. Splendor is a fun game, but I need to play it more in order to play better. Normally one of the kids really smokes me in this game, so I was happy to sneak in a win over them.

Las Vegas
My daughter wandered off to make hamburgers for everyone for lunch, so I pulled out Las Vegas to play with my son and my love's son. I like this little dice game. It is generally quick and has a little push your luck. We always play with the optional "ghost player" using an extra set of dice, which adds just enough to the game to kick it up a notch while not making it longer or more than it should be. Me and the boys managed to get two games of this in. Through nothing more than shear luck, I won both games. My son somehow managed to score the exact same thing in both games and was last in both games (he, like many gamers, claim that dice hate him and that he never wins at dice games).

I finally got this to the table! Over the years, I've really stopped doing "flyers" on games. I tend to wait until the buzz is really big and I know more about the game before I jump. The few times I do, it generally works well (the only recent exceptions I can think of that didn't? Between Two Cities and Lanterns: The Harvest Festival). The flip side of that has been great games like Euphoria, Splendor, Orleans and now Yokohama.   I wanted the TMG "Deluxified" version of Yokohama based on two things - how much I enjoyed Orleans and how well I think they pulled off the deluxe version (and since these are one and done printings, I wanted to get a copy before the prices got stupid like we did with Orleans).

So I received my copy and reviewed the rules and watched the how to play rules. And then didn't get to play and didn't get to play. And then finally we sat down to play. And I had to go through the rules again. Thankfully, the game isn't too bad rules-wise. No, this game is pretty straight forward as far as rules go. The game is about running a shipping company in Japan and is your medium weight euro game. It is definitely Feld-esque in the number of different ways you can score (point salad for the win!). On your turn, you optionally do some stuff, take your required movement and related action stuff, then once again you optionally can do stuff (and by "do stuff", you might have the ability to take an additional board action or you can fulfill an order). In other words, your turns should be fairly quick. If the action is to take an order card or a technology card, it might take an extra minute to review your choices, but really it feels pretty quick paced.

Where it gets meaty is the number of options you have and the number of things you have to keep track of on each little short burst of a turn you get. There are a dozen ways to score points and you can score often. Because of this, its hard to know if getting 3 points and a couple goods is worth the same or less than an option of just 8 points. The game is fluid and quick enough, you can't really math that out beyond a turn anyway. Which is how I like games of this kind. We liked this game a good amount, though I think I forgot to collect points or coins from my technology or trade buildings about a dozen times during our game. The game setup supports a good amount of variability to each game and I'm excited to see if that also means you can take a number of different approaches to the game to do well.

Ticket to Ride: The Card Game
The last game I played on Memorial Day was a head-to-head game of TtR:The Card Game with my daughter. I like this little memory game, though it is definitely better with 3-4 players instead of two. We both should have been much more aggressive with taking tickets as we had huge stacks of train cards at our disposal. I managed to have most of the tickets with cities, so got a huge amount of bonus points. I also just flat out had more tickets, so scored a lot more than she did.

Have a great week everyone and be sure to check us out at PunchBoard Media!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Thoughts on Boardgame Expansions

Not my collection, but this is about how much HS stuff I own
After writing up my notes on Kingdom Builder: Marshlands the other night, I thought I'd throw out my random thoughts on game expansions.

When I first got into the Boardgaming hobby around 2005, expansions were nowhere near as common as they are today (unless you played Heroscape). Some games, like Age of Steam and Power Grid, had expansion boards/maps that could be used as an alternate playing board, but typically that was the extent, except for a few one off games. Anymore, it seems that most games are designed with an expansion ready to go to the printers the moment the base game arrives in the player's hands. And I get it - from the publisher's point of view it is a huge win. The expansion material might have just been part of the original design, but was taken out to keep the base game costs down, so selling an expansion is great for them as the development costs are really low. For games like Descent, Imperial Assault, Eldritch Horror, Dominion, Legendary, etc - you have a built in player base that loves expanding a game because they are die hard fans of the game (also of note, there seems to be an overwhelming number of "completion-ists" in this hobby and in some ways, the publishers are using that to their advantage). At any rate, I thought I'd share my train of thoughts on expansions by first exploring the kinds of expansions I see.

Solo, co-op or +players expansions - i.e. expansions that change the player counts of a game.
I don't really like playing solo plays of games, so for me, that isn't an appealing addon for an expansion. Solo play addons take the value of the expansion down because of that. For example - Orleans: Invasion. The expansion is a good sized one, and has more to it than a solo and co-op set, but they could have gotten away with just the new buildings and scenario as a smaller expansion instead of a "large" one that also has solo and co-op. Co-op options fall in the same boat for me as solo. If I wanted a co-op game, I would have bought that in the first place. A solo expansion is fine if it is a purely solo expansion (Archipelago offers a deck expansion just for solo play). Give me the option, but don't bundle it in with "real" expansion stuff.

Adding player counts is a mixed bag and really depends on the game. The original first edition of A Game of Thrones: The Boardgame was a five-player affair. The Clash of Kings expansion for the game was spectacular and added a sixth house. Frankly, the game was better with six players than it was with five. But that's not true of all games. Sometimes you have to wonder why the publisher thought another player would be a good thing. Kingdom Builder is a good game with 2-4 players (though the game is pretty tight with four). Their first expansion added an addition player set of pieces. Why add in a fifth player? The setup is the same (ie no additional board space), and downtime is an issue since you can't plan ahead with that many players, so why in the world would you add a fifth player? It does not make the game better in any way.

For deck building games, expansions are a must for this reason alone. If you only play the base set of cards over and over, it doesn't take long to figure out all the synergies and best choices. Make the variability of the mix higher and (in theory) your interest in the game should last longer. It must be true - look at how many different Dominion, Thunderstone, Legendary (Marvel), Ascension, etc expansions there are. AEG's and FFG both seem to have adopted a financial model built on you buying expansions. Deck builders are not the only genre where this works though. Kingdom Builder, Orleans, Power Grid, Eldritch Horror, etc - these games have expansions that change up the game experience with minor different tweaks and new content. The other thing this kind of expansion can do - fix weaknesses in the base game. Is there that one building that NEVER gets used in your games because it doesn't work well with other things? Add some new content that has good synergy with it and give players a reason to use it.

MOAR boards and cards!
Ok, we are talking expansions, shouldn't all of them EXPAND the game? What I mean by expandability is that we literally are expanding the game. New map boards in Arkham Horror and Eldritch Horror expand the existing map. Scoundrels of Skullport for Lords of Waterdeep adds additional boards that give the players new places to place their workers. These kind of expansions typically introduce more complexity to the game as opposed to variability expansions that just change the game's content. You now have more options, not just different ones.

Viticulture might have done this better than any game I can think of recently. The full Tuscany expansion is really a large number of mini expansions, most of which truly expand that game (some are more cards for existing decks, so those are variability expansions, but most of Tuscany change the game by adding new options). Tuscany definitely ups the complexity level of the game. After you add enough of the mini expansions, the number of choices you have on any given turn is fairly large. However, I have found this to be a "really good thing" in Viticulture. Having so many different ways to score points or accomplish your tasks starts to make it a bit of a puzzle game - how can I do my task (sell wine, harvest grapes, etc) in the most efficient way possible while being a stumbling block to my opponents? And that's not to say that others aren't doing it well too. As I said, Waterdeep's expansion adds new areas and complexity to the game, but it is awesome and really opens the game up, making it better. I mentioned earlier the first edition A Game of Thrones: The Board Game really needed that first expansion. Besides adding another player house (Martell) to the game, the fixes that the Clash of Kings expansion brought (ports - which fixed such a major flaw in the game that it became printed on the base game map in the 2nd edition) coupled with the other additional options really made the game a better game.

Sometimes, the expansion that expands isn't great - it just makes the game longer or more complex. Sadly, pretty much everything that came out for Zooloretto is kind of in this boat. Zooloretto is good because it is a nice family game that was easy enough for kids to play, but had enough good choices for gamer adults to enjoy. The expansions just gave you more and more and more options. Instead of three things to do with money, now I have twelve. Sorry, that defeats the easy access of the original game and still doesn't make it more of a gamer's game. Have you played Carcassonne? Have you played Carc with 8+ expansions? What about Alhambra? Sometimes more isn't better, it is just more.

Look at all those cards.
Oh the horror!
What do I want in an expansion?
For me, variability is the thing I tend to care about the most when deciding on whether I should get an expansion. When I really like a game, new content or different options from the ones you normally have open up the game in interesting ways. For a game like Eldritch Horror, new cards mean the likelihood of any game's story being like one of the previous games is much lower. I have so many Legendary sets (and I think I only have like half of them) that I could play the game for a week or two straight and barely have scratched the combinations of possibilities.

Expandability is ok at times, but not when it adds complexity and then fails to make the game better somehow. If it means you can try a lot of different paths to winning, not the same tired formula every game - that's great. For a game like Alhambra, I've found this isn't quite the case with its bazillion mini-expansions. A few of the expansions are good and make the game more accessible for players, but a lot of them just make it longer or more convoluted. When they don't make the game more interesting or efficient, then you don't need them.

Carcassonne and its expansions are a mixed bag for me. The expansions add new and interesting ways to play, but they also make the game longer and more complex. I guess it depends a lot on how much you like a game when deciding to grab this kind of expansion.

Expansion issues?
Back in the day... you used to get a new Power Grid map and you'd toss it in the box with your base set. Done. Have you seen how much stuff there is you have all the Descent 2nd edition expansions? No way that fits in the base box. Or the base box and the expansion boxes (mostly because the hero and monster packs come in blisters, but whatever). Queen Games started doing "Big Box" releases (and often you can order an empty big box if you collected all the stuff along the way) which would keep everything in one (albeit large) box. A lot of enterprising folks either build or buy storage solutions for games to keep everything together (because really, if the expansion is integral, it needs to be altogether for you to play). Storage concerns for the never ending stream of expansions is a real thing.

You can also have too much. Sometimes I think publishers keep trying to churn out stuff until they "Jump the Shark". I think most publishers end up doing this with their deck building games. At what point is enough, enough? When money is involved, I suppose enough is when it doesn't look like one more will make money, but for me, it depends on how much I like the game and how much I'm going to actually play it along with how much is it actually costing me.

Another issue with expansions - what do you do when it is easy to discern new parts from the old? If you are playing a deck building game like Thunderstone (and I mention Thunderstone, because the original game was a horrific offender here), then all the cards from different sets need to match. The backs can't be different colors, nor can the finish of the cards be different, lest you are able to tell if the next card you draw is a new one or an older one. Even if the printer gets them all the same (and FFG is really good about this) - the older cards are probably going to be worn looking while the newer are nice and sharp. You can sleeve all the cards (and I'm a sleever because of this very problem), but that is an added expense to both the base game and each expansion.

Last note in my head. Hey! Every game doesn't need an expansion!!!! Seriously. Sometimes a game is just good as it is. Leave it alone. Samurai is one of my top five favorite games and it does not need a new map nor does it need an expansion for more players or secret powers. It is brilliant exactly as it is. Don't you think it is a little sad that only a few of the BGG top 20 games don't have expansions? Again, I understand that the publishers and designers want to make money, but are they trying to make the best games possible, or the best cash cow they can? I have no problem with expansions, except when I play the base game and it feels broken or incomplete. An expansion should feel like an option. I should be able to enjoy a game and not need an expansion. If I need it, it should have been in the game in the first place. If it makes the game I love, more enjoyable, then it was a good expansion.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Quick Look at Kingdom Builder: Marshlands

I love Kingdom Builder. It is one of my top 5 games. Why? It is a great puzzle game and what I've really grown to love is that each expansion doesn't seem to make the game more complex, but rather, the level of each game's complexity is limited in the exact same way - there are four game boards, each board has one or two features. There are three scoring cards for each game. That's it!* (that's not entirely true - Crossroads broke this rule, but even then, the increased level of complexity is pretty small).

So back in January 2016, I backed Kingdom Builder Marshlands on Kickstarter. I mean, why not? For $55 I got Kingdom Builder Expansion 3 - Marshlands + all Queenies (the mini expansions) + 200 new wooden settlements in an empty Kingdom Builder Big Box. I'm not going to go into all that followed with that Kickstarter campaign and the campaign that came right after it for the 4th expansion, but for now, it is enough to say that I did end up receiving my Marshland expansion. Though I've had the expansion for a while now, it took me until this evening to actually play it. My love and I decided to play this yesterday and we elected to play with just this expansion's boards and scoring cards.

This is not a full review, since this was the only play we've had with the expansion. Impressions are often wrong after only a single play, but I thought I'd share them anyway. If you are looking for something a bit more in-depth, check out Eric's review of Marshlands at What's Eric Playing? That being said, here are my initial impressions:

  • Quality - mixed bag. The tiles and hexes are the same quality of the previous incarnations of the games, but the card backs do NOT match. This is the main reason that I often sleeve cards - because the backs of the cards don't match properly and it is very easy to tell which cards are new and which are the older ones. Sleeves are the equalizer (assuming a colored, not clear sleeve). The cards themselves are a little thin, but not horribly so. The rest of the materials are the quality you'd expect from Queen games.
  • Scoring cards - 6 new cards that are mixed in terms of how interesting they are. To be honest, I find this to be true of ALL the scoring cards that have come out - definitely a mix bag, so no better or worse than other expansions. The main difference being that these are mixed with the originals. The issue I have is that the cards score very differently. One card like Miners, scores less (on average) than Lords (at least for two players games this is true) which means you can focus on the bigger scoring cards. That's fine I guess, but seeing certain cards means that is all the game will be about. 
  • Boards and new abilities - also something of a mixed bag. They added a new type of terrain (Marshlands) which you can only build on with a handful of cards. Except that you can use any of the abilities in the game to build on the terrain, so it isn't as limited as you might think. The more interesting thing about the boards are that instead of castles, there are palaces which score points for you only if you have the most settlements adjacent to the palace. As for the various new actions, they are a mixed bag of interesting and questionable, but they also added a twist where if you can get two tokens (1 from each location) of a type, there is a bonus ability. The ability could enhance the original tokens, or be a new thing to itself. Cool idea, limited appeal. 
Overall, this expansion feels a lot like Crossroads did for me (again, at first glance). That is to say - I'm happy for the new variety, but it doesn't do something so special that this is a must have. Doesn't mean that this or any of the expansions are bad. If you enjoy the base game as it is, then you can pretty well skip any of the expansions. But, if you like the game and play it a lot, then more variety keeps things interesting (the Dominion quandary). 

Introducing Punchboard Media

A while back, my buddy Brandon Kempf (of What Did You Play This Week? etc) hinted that it'd be cool if I revived my blog. Seemed like a good idea at the time, so I did. A little at first and then a bit more as I've tried to find a groove. Before too long, he then asked if I'd be interested in a little venture that he was working on with some other folks. And now here we are - Punchboard Media!
Our Mission Statement
Punchboard Media is a supportive network of board game media content creators committed to promoting games as a way to bring together families, friends, and board game enthusiasts across the globe, while advocating for openness, fairness, and inclusion in the community.
So what does that mean? It means that I somehow snuck into a brilliant group of opinionated and passionate game enthusiasts. Some are doing written content - such as myself. Others are doing podcasts and videos. Some are doing a little of all of it. Topics vary from rules explanations and how to play segments, reviews, and just general opinions about games we play, the state of the gaming world, kickstarter, gaming conventions - you know, BOARDGAMES.

For me, it means a little more exposure and probably some collaboration (or at least participation) with other folks that I might never have even had an opportunity to chat with. In recent years, my pickup on new games (Cult of the New!) has been a bit slow, not sure that will change too much as far as actually playing the newest hotness, but at least I'll have heard about the games and will know what to keep an eye out for.

So head on over to the Punchboard Media site and check us out. Read a few posts, listen to some podcasts, watch a few videos, and then - go play some games!

Monday, May 22, 2017

What Did I Play This Week: May 15 - May 22

Fairly busy week (somehow I have had a busy May) this week with personal issues and my kid's diving meet that consumed most of the weekend. I'm hoping that moving in has settled a bit (though we still have boxes everywhere) so that I can get some actual table games and not just all electronic plays in. If so, I just might get Yokohama to the table yet.

Race For the Galaxy
So yeah, been playing Race a bit on the iPad. I'm trying to improve my win rate (head-to-head) against the Hard AI, but I still have a couple of slow going games against real friends as well. While the game works ok, there are a couple of issues I have with the app implementation. The online identity is by device, so I can't play my iPad games on my phone. Also, notifications are sketchy, so I don't always notice when it is actually my turn. This would get more play against my friends if it was better in those two departments. I'm on the fence about buying expansions at this point because the game is ok, but not great. I need to read some reviews of the expansions to see if they will be worth the money (at this point, I'm leaning towards no). I'm definitely getting better against the AI, but there is still room to explore by playing 3-4 player games instead of just head-to-head games.

Cthulhu Realms
I branched out a bit and have been playing against random online opponents. I've lost twice in close games. I'm about ready to go back to Star Realms, because it has a larger player base (or at least feels that way) and because I just think it is the better game. There are more options in Star Realms and the theme doesn't carry this game enough to matter. This really needs an expansion and I'm about ready to put this back onto the virtual shelf. And for all that talk, I'm really just burnt out a bit on the concept and Race is holding my attention just enough that I'm not sure I need to go back to Race either.

Kingdom Builder
Kingdom Builder is one of my favorite games. I love the puzzle solving nature of the game and I love that expansions mostly offer variations, not more complexity. it looks like an area control game, but it mostly is not. Really, players expand their areas in the ways that best allow them to score points (which can sometimes mean groups, sometimes lines, sometimes spreading out). How you score points varies every game. How you can manipulate things varies each game. In other words, it is a puzzle and whoever can do it the best (or make it hard for the others the best) wins. At some point Queen games is supposed to be FINALLY sending out the last expansion (from the Kickstarter which was supposed to ship in November of last year). With that thought in my head, I started an online game with my love. Maybe not the smartest thing to do - I absolutely destroyed her. Not the best way to get her to play it more often with me. Luckily she likes it almost as much as I do.

I had a small bit of time the other evening, so I challenged my love to a game of this on our devices (yeah, sometimes it is easier to just play on our iPads than get out a game and move to a table). I have not played this in a while and got smoked. I just didn't manage my turns very well and she did the opposite of me and scored more than double my points. Patchwork is a balance between filling in as much of your quilt as possible, while spending the time and currency better than your opponent. It isn't always possible depending on the array of pieces and your and your opponents choices, but it is fast and I like seeing if I can fill in my board better than the other player. This gets stale for me fairly quickly because there isn't much variation, but I like it in small batches.

Epic Card Game
My only "real" game played this week! Epic is a heads up card fight, not unlike Pokemon, Magic, et al. Where it differs from the CCG / LCG crowd is that it was released as a complete game. That's not 100% accurate, but it is close. Really, with a single box, you can get plenty of decent play. If you want a few more options, or want to build out decks, a couple more copies will let you do that, but with the way we play, one would have done it for us (and yet, I have three copies). Typically, my son and I (he's my only opponent) draft 30 card decks and play. This weekend, we just dealt out random "decks" and played. And this is where the beauty of Epic lies - even with 30 random cards, you can get a satisfying enough game played.The game is deep enough (deep enough that they have world championships for the game) that you can deck build and there is definitely some strategy to your play, but you don't have to have a perfect "build" in order to enjoy the game. In fact, there are TONS of cards that feel WAAAAYYY overpowered (thus the name - every card is "Epic"). We only had time for a couple games and we split the two. At some point in the next couple of months, the app form is going to hit, and I suspect that I'll be playing it a ton. This one is fast, fun and feels deep and we still enjoy it after a couple years of being around (and I haven't even looked at expanding it yet since we feel like we've barely explored it).

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Looking for Michelle Seite

What you see here is a tableau or rack for 7 Wonders Duel. This little beauty keeps your layout sane (for those of us that the layout drives insane). You can take it apart and store it and the game in the box without issue (provided you throw out your insert).

At the beginning of May, I offered to give the above print to one lucky commenter to the post. That lucky person is Michelle Seite! Michelle, I need you to contact me so I can get this sent out to you! You can send me an email - charles.hasegawa@gmail.com (I also followed you on Google+, so you can find me that way as well) or send me a message in Facebook. Heck, if you need to, leave a comment on this post (I moderate comments, so if you want to simply send me your address that way, I won't publish it).

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What Did I Play This Week: May 1 - May 15

Life is still busy. This past weekend I had two family birthdays plus Mother's day. We're still unpacking from our move, so there is still a lot of chaos and very little time for games. Mostly I'm getting in a couple digital plays here and there. This post technically covers two weeks because in the week of the 1st-8th, I only managed one little game of Cthulhu Realms. Speaking of...

Cthulhu Realms
As before, I got in a couple more games with my friend on the iOS app. One thing we kind of decided was that if a player managed to get very early 7 or 8 cost card buy in the first couple of hands, you typically destroy the other player and quickly. It is a decisive advantage. We ended up trying a game where we agreed not to purchase a 7 or 8 for the first 6 hands. I lost by a wide margin (not because of this rule, but just because my deck sucked and his didn't). The games are fast enough I don't care much, but I have to wonder if this version (vs Star Realms) is too luck dependent because of this. Having a broad range of experience with Star Realms through a large amount of league play, I know that skill overcomes luck over the long haul in Star Realms. Maybe my sample size is too low, but it feels like it is easier (because of the less varied shared deck) to gain a really powerful card early through luck.

My friend Robert was back for another beating. This time we skipped winter and played with Traders and Builders, Inns and Cathedrals, The Phantom, and The Princess and the Dragon. This game ended up even more lopsided. Robert vowed to practice some more and started another game with me that is unfinished. It has started out much closer, but we'll see how it plays out. For the record, the interface for Carcassonne is STILL one of the best that has been done for a table to application game.

Race for the Galaxy
This might be a surprise to those that know me. I haven't been a big Race fan over the years. While I do enjoy San Juan (there are some interesting designer dairies out there about where Race and San Juan came from), for whatever reason, I never really enjoyed my playings of Race. Recently the app hit iOS, so despite my earlier misgivings about the game, I download the app and began to play a good deal of this on my iPad. After revisiting it solo and getting to a point where I generally beat the medium AI, I played against my friend Matthew Frederick (who does like and own the game). I was able to get my engine going in both games and won (though I still don't know that it was skill and not luck of the draw).
I can also say this - I only beat the hard AI about 1/3 of the time, so my approach to the game doesn't appear to be the best one (unless the AI seriously cheats). So am I now a fan? I think the jury is still out. I will say that the fast play against the AI has allowed me to get a better familiarity with the cards and some of the strategies (much like playing a load of Star Realms let me start understanding that game at a different level). I still doubt very much that I play ideally. I've been mostly playing 2-player as well (vs 3-4 players when I played with actual cards). I like the two player version better I think. I also still feel like the early luck of the draw is too hard to overcome. Start out poorly and you can't catch up nor recover. I'll keep playing and see if I can't uncover better play, but so far this is only barely holding my interest more than Cthulhu Realms did.
One last note - I mentioned the interface for Carc above and the main reason I did was because it has been out since forever ago and it still has a better interface than a game that has been out like a week. How hard is it to highlight that your opponent is online when you are playing a game? If I can see that my opponent is in the game, I won't take my turn and leave to wait for a notification. The rest of the interface isn't too bad, but this one simple thing shouldn't be something I have to point out to a game that just came out.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What I'm 3D Printing Today - Not Every Print is Perfect

The last time I spoke of 3D printing, I was printing card trays for Viticulture. Basically these:

So, I printed off 5 trays and took them home to paint. I even had cans of spray paint in green, yellow, purple, blue, and orange already. I got through painting four of them.

Look decent right? The cards fit nicely (though the orange structure card stack is just a hair too tall for the rack). Well actually, they aren't ALL great. When I started painting the green one, I realized that print had had issues. The base had curled up while printing. One of the first issues I had encountered while learning the 3D printer, was getting the print to stick properly. It is important that the first layer adhere to the print bed properly for a couple of reasons. The most important being that if the print moves before the print finishes, the layers being printed won't be in the right spot. In fact, usually what happens is you end up with a giant mess. Alternately you get what happened to me. Check out the green tray here:

As you can see, the corners pulled up, which ended up warping the whole thing. I ended up tossing it and will try and reprint the trays. It'd be really nice if there was a good way to recycle the material from bad prints, but I don't know that there is a cheap or easy way to do it. For now, bad prints = trash.

There are a couple things you can do to try and mitigate print problems like this. For the printer I use, the important steps are:
  1. Clean the glass plate that the printer prints onto. You want to make sure there is no dust and no finger prints or oils on it. Either will degrade the melted plastic's ability to stick onto the glass plate.
  2. Heat the plate to a high enough temperature. If the plate is too cool, the extruded material hardens too quickly and contracts immediately. 
  3. The SPECIAL SECRET - spray something on the plate to help the print stick.
So what is the SPECIAL SECRET? Ozone killer. Aqua Net. That's right, I know I said to clean the plate, but once it is nice and clean, spray a bit of Aqua Net onto the surface.

There are other choices of course. Some folks like blue painter's tape. That worked ok for me, but was too much of a hassle between prints and often was a hassle to actually get off the bottom of the print.

Why bother, when the same stuff that gives you great 80s hair works so well? I mean, when you think about it, girls and boys in the 80s were just on the bleeding edge of 3D printing, using their hair.

Ok, that was a little off track. The main point was that the technology isn't prefect. Sure, it is pretty awesome, but it is also frustrating and inconsistent too. Like anything else, sometimes you just have to try again. So I'll re-try the print with a nice clean and freshly sprayed bed. I suspect that the next print will be just fine since the other trays appear to be fine. 

Collection Churn April 2017

I noted to Brandon Kempf (from WDYPTW) last month that my BGG numbers finally tipped - I have more previously owned games than ones that I do own now. 454 vs 438 (note that 454 is actually games + expansions - the real game number is more like 300 but whatever). Part of the reason for that stems from trying to reduce my collection to a more manageable number of games that actually get played more. Some of that comes from a maturation point in my collection - while I like new games, I stopped buying first and deciding later - I'm trying to be more conscious about what I acquire. I still impulse acquire on occassion, but I know what I like and what will get played and so there is less impulsiveness in my collection now. At any rate, I'm on a quest this year to scale down. Here is what happened last month:

Acquired: 7 Wonders Duel, Terraforming Mars, Yokohama Deluxified

I played 7 Wonders Duel a while ago and liked it and only finally got around to trading for it. I liked it enough to print a 3D playing area for it - you still have a chance to win one! Small box is also a good thing as part of the churn is due to a lack of space for all my games.

I also ended up trading for Terraforming Mars. Still not quite sure this will get the play, but it had so much buzz last year I thought I'd take a look. It is still in shrink, but my trade was local, so there was no shipping - two of my games out the door and only one came in, still on track!

My last acquisition from last month? Yokohama Deluxified. When I ordered Orleans Deluxe from TMG, I was super happy with the result. I bought a game blindly that had great buzz and was given the nice bits treatment. When they announced that Yokohama had also caught their eye and was going to be given a facelift too, I was already ready to jump in with both feet. Except that I didn't have the money when the Kickstarter was happening, so I ended up having to get it on the secondary market. I found a seller who simply submitted my address when it was time to ship. Because I just moved last week, I still haven't had a chance to break this out. Playings are coming soon!

Sold or traded:

  • Colt Express - I liked this ok, but it is too fiddly for what it is (and I don't have fat hands). The family liked it ok, but not enough that I felt like keeping it.
  • Cockroach Salad - I got this because it sounded funny. It was. For a minute. The kids enjoyed it, but it just wasn't really my thing. 
  • Carcassonne Mini Expansions - I like Carc and had purchased the 6 mini expansions, but my Big Box 2 is more than enough.
  • Can't Stop - another I like, but I didn't need the game on my shelf. There are online and app implementations when I need a fix. I also still have alternate push your luck games in my collection.
  • Trajan - a fine Feld game, but I wasn't taken enough by it to feel like it owned a spot in my collection over other games
  • Fortress America - this was something of a nostalgic keep in the first place. Loved this as a kid - never was going to get played as an adult.
  • Pandemic - I have an unopened Season 1, so don't really need the original game. I'm not a huge co-op guy anyway.
  • Small World - I still have Small World Underground and like 5 expansions I should rid myself of. SW is fine once you get past the garish art, but I don't see this hitting the table.
  • Antidote - this was an impulse buy and a game I didn't really care for. Maybe because I suck at it, but mostly because it wasn't very interesting. 
  • Pirate's Cove - a pretty good pirate game, but it too just collected dust on my shelves
  • Fire and Ice - once, I thought I'd have a big game room with cool games sitting out on display. I found this at a thrift store and thought it looked good, but it never did come out of the box.
  • Citadels - I thought the kids would like this, and they did (a little). Not enough interest to keep it around. 
  • Hive Pocket - for some reason I thought it'd be nice to have a smaller form of Hive. Nope, it is too small for me. The regular Hive isn't a huge game anyway. Not sure what I was thinking.
  • Formula Motor Racing - this was a Play-To-Win game that I won from the Geekway. Mostly a filler for 6 players. Not terribly interesting.
  • Chaos in the Old World - I like this game. I just don't get it played and probably hadn't played it in over two years. 
  • Lord of the Rings - I got this in a math trade as part of a bundle some time back. See Pandemic above - I'm just not a co-op guy. 
  • Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation Deluxe - another good game that we never ever played.
  • Glen More - I like this game, but am horrible at it. I can play online at Yucata.de if I really want. I really don't want to, so I got rid of it.
  • Skull - Like Liars Dice, but less random. Suffers at the end of the game. Liar's Dice is better IMO.
Thus far for the year: 27 sold or traded + 9 acquired for a net of -18 games or expansions. Five of the nine I've acquired were expansions (3 for Descent and the Millennium Blades card rotation), so I feel good so far about where I'm headed. 

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

New to Me May 2016 --> Did it Stand the Test of Time?

BGG user Martin G does a monthly list - New to you a year ago (date) --> Has it stood the test of time? This month's list can be found at here.

For me last year, I played only a couple of new games (which was really weird since I was at the Geekway during May of last year). I recorded four new games in May of 2016 - two were new from Geekway's Play to Win Table, and the other two were also learned at the Geekway.

This hadn't been delivered from Kickstarter yet at this point last year, but Jamey Stegmaier had donated an early copy to the Geekway for the Play-To-Win table. Myself, my girlfriend Alyson and my buddy Robert managed to sit down to the first game play of Scythe at the Geekway to see what the buzz was about. Since then, I have not had a chance to play Scythe again, but here is what I remember about the game - it was beautiful. I really liked the art style and all the bits etc. As for the game itself, it felt like an odd combination of engine/euro/war game. The fighting wasn't central to the game and not in a destroy you like Risk kind of thing. There were mechanics that reminded me of Euphoria, though it wasn't really the same kind of game. My gut reaction to the game was that it was good, but I didn't see why the hype was so high. I still don't, though admittedly that was my sole play of this game ever. VERDICT: Scythe currently sits in the BGG Top 10, though from my one play, I kind of feel like that is more hype than because this is truly a Top 10 game. If I ever get to play this again, I could opine about this more appropriately. For now, I can't say anything one way or another.

Telepathy: Magic Minds
Alyson and my daughter both like deduction games, as do I. When I saw this and read the box description, I decided we should try it out (plus it has Charles Xavier on the box top). Alyson and I only played a partial game, but I enjoyed it enough and knew my daughter would like it, so when I didn't win it from the Play to Win drawings, I bought the game. The game is pretty straight forward. Each player gets a board that is a large grid of pictures (wizard hat, cauldron, deck of cards, magic hat, etc) in various colors (orange, white, black, green, etc). Each player picks one spot on the board and the other player tries to deduce what it is. You call out a grid spot - like M-8 (Orange witch's hat) and the other player says yes or no. No means that your item is not in row M, nor column 8, nor orange, nor a witch's hat. Yes can mean that any of the choices matched. So a no would mean I could mark off all of row M, all of column 8, orange and witch's hat. After a couple of no's, you can really start making better elimination choices to whittle down the selection. When a player is ready to guess, they declare so and make their choice. VERDICT: still the same as when I purchased it. The game plays quickly and is a good logic puzzle between two players who are racing to solve a similar puzzle. You can get unluck and hit a couple of "yes" choices early, which makes it harder, but a quick mind helps.

Deep Sea Adventure
Justin Heimberger and his daughter introduced this little press your luck game to us. We all pressed our luck a bit too much and we all drowned/suffocated trying to get our treasures back to our sub. You roll a die to move and the more you are carrying, the less you can move (thus the fair amount of press your luck). It is a simple little filler game that kids will probably enjoy. VERDICT: Though I only played this once, it is simple enough to know that it is what it is - just a funny little filler. Not bad nor great. There are a ton of games that fit this bill.

Christopher Darden has a number of large games that he brings to the Geekway library every year and my friend Robert and I usually end up playing one or more of them. This incredibly loud shuffleboard kind of thing was there and so of course we tried it. Basically, you are sliding really heavy wood pucks down a long chute and trying to get them to slide into the small openings to various slots. It is a bar game and yeah, it is pretty loud. Definitely one of those things you get if you have a basement with foosball, pinball, darts, etc. VERDICT: not a game I'd try and own I think, even if I had the aforementioned gamer space. There wasn't anything particularly striking about the game to me, and like I said, it is LOUD. It was a cool novelty to be sure.

So there it is. After a year, one thumb up, one that needs more play and two that didn't impress.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Cult of the NOT So New May 2007

BGG user JonMichael Rasmus (jmsr525) has been doing analysis of the games and their trends each month for, well what seems like forever. I thought it might be interesting to look back at what was so hot 10 years ago, so sit back and enjoy this blast from the past. Based on information in the geeklist - BGG Top 100 Analysis May 2007.

Primer Mover: Yspahan.
In May of 2007, Yspahan moved up 15 spots to #77 on the BGG charts. It is a dice-euro game. A group of dice are rolled at the start of each turn and grouped by their value on an action board. The board is ordered, so the bottom action always gets dice (whatever the low number group is), but the top line or two may rarely see dice (the person rolling for the round had to have rolled all the numbers). On their turn, players each pick a grouping and take an associated action. More dice makes the action more beneficial to you. This was a pretty new mechanism at the time and the game was getting good attention.

Still a Thing? In 2017, Yspahan has fallen back in the pack to #390. While new and interesting at the time, dice started getting used in more and more euros as a way to change up the flow of a game in interesting ways. In fact, Grand Austria Hotel uses a similar kind of dice allocation deal. I played a number of games of Yspahan on yucata.de and while it was ok, I never loved it, though I never could really say why. It isn't a dice thing - I like games with dice. Apparently I'm not alone in this opinion about this game though.

Falling Star: Santiago 
This month ten years ago, Santiago fell 11 spots to #81. And ten years later, that still makes me happy. I'm sorry, I just don't like this game. I only played it once and that was more than enough for me. It is a negotiation game and that plays a heavy part in the game, which I generally don't enjoy. It is (still) rated well (7.1) and I know a lot of people that really like this game, but I did not.

Still a Thing? Santiago has continued its downward trend and currently resides at #460 on the BGG charts. I do recall that this is a game that plays best with five players (BGG apparently agrees), so I'm sure that has something to do with it. Games that need large player counts don't tend to bubble their way to the top unless they are fantastic.

Hot Lava Birth: Arkham Horror
Ten years ago, this hit the top 100 at #98. I have to admit, I was surprised to see this here. Not because I was surprised this was popular (and still has fans) but because this came out in 2005 and didn't hit the top 100 until 2007. AH is a coop adventure game that drips in theme, but is fairly long. This came out when there was not generally a big market for coop games, but the Lovecraftian theme was strong and not well represented at the time, so this did well. I didn't play this until about 5 years ago and while I really wanted to like the game and liked the concept, I found it much too long for such a complicated coop and disliked the incoherent story and incredibly frustrating play.

Still a Thing? Ish. AH has fallen down to #197 on the current BGG charts. I suspect due to its length, as well as there being a lot more game choices in the field, including a number of games from the same publisher - FFG. More recently, FFG released Eldritch Horror, which in my mind lives up to the promise of everything a Lovecraftian coop story/adventure game should be. EH is so good that AH shouldn't even be at #1097 let alone the top 200.

Top Ten Trends for May 2007
El Grande and Twilight Struggle each moved up a spot while BattleLore got out of their way. All stayed in the Top Ten, just a reordering of places.

Still a Thing? Well, BattleLore has fallen back to #209 from its top 10 appearance. This sort of thing gives me hope that some current top 10 games are also flashes in the pan. BattleLore was not a bad game, but not really top 10 stuff. It also didn't help that Days of Wonder gave up the license to FFG, who in turn redid the game into a (better) 2nd edition. Twilight Struggle continued its climb over the next 10 years and is currently at #3 on the charts. El Grande, while still a classic, has fallen out to #49. Some of that may be due to scarcity. Even after the 10th year Anniversary print in 2005, El Grande was hard to find in retail stores. The game certainly still holds up, though it is a game that is really bad for players with AP. If you have never tried it, you should really try and find a copy or go play it at yucata.de

Top Five Winning Movers May 2007
These are the games that showed the greatest amount of positive upward movement outside of the top 10.
Shogun (Fifth Month!)
* Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition
* Combat Commander: Europe
* Imperial

For the fifth straight month Shogun made the list. As I mentioned last month, Shogun was a remake of Wallenstein, which while popular, was hard to get. Shogun was filling the void.

Interestingly, YINSH had been out for a while (2003), but has always been one of the more popular of the GIPF series. If you enjoy two-player abstract games, YINSH might be for you. No clue what might have caused it to bump up.

TI3 was the 2nd revision of the series, but done by FFG, which back in 2005 (when the TI3 was released) meant it came in a coffin box and weighed about 20 lbs because of all the upgraded bits. The expansion for TI3 (Shattered Empire) had come out sometime in 2006, which might have helped TI3 crawl up the charts some more. As it is, TI3 still sits in BGG's top 50.

Though I'm no Grognard, Combat Commander: Europe is my current #1 game of all time. It is a card driven chit war game, so it definitely has limited appeal, but it really is a fantastic game. It too came out in 2006, so it isn't much surprise that it started gaining traction and climbing the charts. It currently sits in BGGs top 100.

Lastly we have Imperial. This was designer Mac Gerdts second game (and the second game to feature the rondel mechanism). Imperial is a stock game set back in age of imperialism in Europe. It might feel a little like a war game, but really you are investing in the countries, not trying to conquer the world (unless that meant you were raising the value of your holdings). Imperial still has its fans, but currently just sits outside the BGG top 100. It was also redone as Imperial 2030 in 2009, though the revised version is not rated as highly as the original.

And that's all for this month's look back at May 2007