Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Cult of the Not So New - Sept. 2007

Gah. Missed last month's ten year look back, so here we are already in Sept. 2017 and its time for a little thing I like to call Cult of Not So New 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 Sept 2007.

Prime Movers for July - Descent: Journeys in the Dark
Back in the fall of 2007, this guy jumped up 11 spots to #79. I'm not really sure why. The second expansion for the line (Altar of Despair) had dropped in the spring of 2007, so I doubt if that caused a late rise in ratings. I had to look back into the forums to find a post in mid Sept. 2007 that indicated that Kevin Wilson had finished the design for Road to Legend. At the time, this was what the Descent fans had been dying for - a campaign. The campaign model proved so successful that Descent 2nd edition would re-introduce it (with the same name no less) in their supplemental app to that game.  When the original Road to Legend was released, it was very popular - I expect we'll see this guy again before it drops out.

Still a thing?
Nope. The original Descent currently sits at #242. Though it had its faults, the original was an amazing game that was a sight to behold. Coffin box game LOADED with minis and cards and chits and tiles. Now, you can't buy a dungeon crawler without expecting to get a load of stuff in the box (and not just minis, but well done minis - the original Descent ones were good, but the heroes lack a lot of detail compared to the 2nd edition versions).

Falling Star - Bonaparte at Marengo
Not a true "falling star" as it only moved down 6 places (falling stars are supposed to be ten or more places). Last time I reported on this, it had slid less than ten spots as well. I've never had a chance to play this game, though I've seen it played a handful of times and it looks interesting as heck. The game itself got decent reviews, but was hard to come by even 10 years ago and is even harder to get your hands on now. I recently started listening to a Hardcore History pod cast about WW1 and at the start, the caster talks about the Napoleonic wars, which peaked my interest a little in this. I might have to take a closer look the next time I have a chance.

Still a thing?
BaM currently sits at #1031 - in large part I'm sure to the rather niche spot it holds (2-player war-game), the scarcity, and the fact that it was supplanted by Napoleon's Triumph (#320). Triumph is larger and broader in scale (covers more scenarios) and thus more sought after.

Hot Lava Birth for Sept - Time's Up! and Fury of Dracula
Time's Up broke into the top 100 at #98 and Fury (second edition) made it to #99. Time's Up is one of my favorite party games and is just plain fun. Everyone plays in teams and there are 3 rounds to the game. Everyone is guessing at the same list of people (other versions include books, movies, and songs titles too). Each team gets a limited time to get through as many as they can and then it moves on to the next team. After the list has been done once, the second round repeats except that clue givers can only give a single word clue (though you can be as animated as you like to help). The third round is more of the same, but no speaking at all. It is really good fun, and there is even a phone app, which actually works spectacularly well as both timer and the list. Fury of Dracula was a FFG reprint of an older game that had been out of print for a while. I have never played, but I was told it was essentially Scotland Yard with a bunch of other stuff added on. The couple of times I saw it being played, it didn't look like everyone was loving it, so I've never been inclined to see what the hype was all about.

Still a thing?
Time's Up took a fall out to #353 and Fury has fallen to #360. TU is still a great party game that I'd be happy to play anytime, anywhere. Fury has once again fallen out of print (and was part of the Games Workshop line of licenses that they took back from FFG). While not loved enough to rank up, it is going for stupidly high prices on the secondary markets again. Funny what a little time does for things.

Top Ten Trends for Sept
Die Macher moved up 1 spot to #10 - interesting bit of trivia for those that care: Die Macher is game #1 (literally the first game id) in BGG. If you have never played the game before, you should take the time (and you'll need a lot for that first play) to fry your brain and play this.

Still a thing?
Though a classic and still an amazing game, this odd game about running for office and German elections has fallen off to #159. This is still an amazing game that holds up, it is just long and a HEAVY brain burner. For me, this is a great game that I don't own because I'll never get it played more than once every 8 years.

Top 5 Winning Movers for Sept (Highest ranked games that have shown any positive position movement in the last month that aren't in the top 10.) Holy wargames Batman!

  • Memoir '44 - for a long time, this was the gateway game to WWII games. Heck, maybe it still is. Memoir is built on the Command and Colors system (before it got really really good with Ancients and Battles of Westeros). The game is still fun and it is especially fun when you put it together with a second set and 8 players for an Overlord match. 
  • The Settlers of Catan - Catan and its 10 million variants and expansions never truly goes away. 
  • Tide of Iron - This guy had its hot lava birth earlier (July 2007) in the year, so not a surprise it was still moving up. Our second WWII game and the second most complex of the bunch
  • Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) -  the grand Avalon Hill game with a ton of scenarios and chits.  The third entry of WWII games in the list. Not sure what happened in 2007 (especially Sept) that caused a surge in WWII game popularity, but ASL popped up again for some reason
  • Dune - He who controls the spice... This was an older game in 2007, so why the movement? Probably because FFG announced they were going to do a reprint (which ended up being a retheme). 

Wow. Lots and lots of heavy games covered this month. My brain hurts just having thought about all these war-games and brain burners.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Game Pimping - 3D Style

Just like Psy (that wacky Korean master of dance), you too can make your games cooler by adding some flair. Lots of people print out player aids and play mats for games that didn't have them. Some folks keep it simple and replace paper money with poker chips (highly recommended by the way). Some just change out the cubes or cardboard chits in their game for shaped wooden bits. Some people are crafty and like building card racks and box organizers from foam core sheets (for the record I have done all of these things at one time or another). But for the hardcore, there is another thing you can do - create your own accessories using plastic and 3D printer. Now, 3D printing isn't cheap. A cheap printer will run you in the $300US range plus the cost of printing materials. A cheap printer typically doesn't have all the bells and whistles and is smaller, thus limiting some of the things you can print out. If you use a service online, it can also be a little pricy, but if you have access to a printer or a FabLab of some kind, here are some ideas for you.

[ And yeah, it has been a while since I visited this topic, so I thought I'd throw out how versatile a 3D printer can be showing some examples of things you can print out if you have a 3D printer. The majority of the items I'm going to show can be found on the fantastic community site - if you want the files to print on your own printer (or if you want to have them printed from a site like Shapeways. ]

If, like me, you have a large game collection and hate having to lug a huge pile of boxes to game night, a 3D printer can offer you some help in the form of printing a compact game box that is both box and insert in one. While Codenames isn't a large box game, we can reduce the game's footprint a fair bit into a cool little box. Heck, there is even a round slot in the base of the box for the timer - this is a great design and is a fun project to start with if you are new to your 3D printer.

Maybe you have a game and expansions like Machi Koro. This printed box not only neatly holds all the game and expansions, but the dice and cardboard bits as well. This one is also a good project for a new printers, though it might be too tall for some printers (hey, there are a lot of cards in the game and expansions).

Boxes are among the simplest of designs to print, though depending on the design, they can use a fair bit of material and take a bit longer to print than some of the other things I'm going to show. Don't let that stop you from printing them, because they are slick.

Ok, how about something that makes the games easier to play? Here we have a tray for the two-player game 7 Wonders Duel. This game has a tableau of cards that overlap (which is important since you can't access/reveal cards that are covered). If you've played this game, you know that it can be a pain and is a mess. With a 3D printer, you can make life much simpler. This tableau/rack holds each card in place and is especially nice, since I can move the whole thing back and forth between the players to make it easier to see the cards that are available. It is also cool because this particular pimp is printed in pieces and put together like a puzzle, which means that when you take it apart, everything fits inside the original box (yeah, you'll have to toss the insert from the game if you didn't already).

Looks like they needed to print more trays than they did ;)
This next one isn't going to fix in the box, but is one of those things that once you have, you'll never be able to play without. If you've ever played Carcassonne, you know what a pain in the butt it can be when you are reaching across the table to place a piece and your arm (or sleeve or belly or necklace - I've people do all of that at one time or another) screw up the board. Well, don't put up with that anymore. In what might be one of the fastest and simplest prints you can do, you can make trays for the tiles that will keep your board together. These 3D printed trays each hold nine Carc tiles and interlock. They are also fairly thin (i.e., they don't use a ton of material) which means that printing out a tray doesn't take much time (of course, printing out a boatload of them does...). And yeah, you need way more of these than you think you do. Unexpected added bonus to Carc tile trays: if the tiles are all sitting in interlocking trays, then guess what? The whole game board is slidable! Yep, the person on the far side of the table can not only pull the whole map to them on their turn, they can rotate the whole thing if they desire (table space of course being a limiter here). Unexpected bonus #2: The Isle of Skye tiles are the exact same size as Carc tiles, so these work equally as well for each player's individual tableau - the ability to slide your tiles out of the way to handle the start of round auction stuff is awesome.

I talked about my adventures in printing these - card holders for Viticulture. One thing to note about 3D printed items. PLA (the plastic material that is a popular option for printing) is hydrophilic - that means it likes water and moisture, which makes it a great medium for acrylic paint and spray paints. I printed out a set of these in one color and then a quick spray of spray paint later and I have a rainbow set of card trays (not that having a set of black trays would have been horrible).  These certainly aren't as important a game accessory as Carc tile trays to playing the game, unless you are as OCD as every other game player I know about the neatness of card piles.

Remember when I mentioned that some people print play mats for games without them? What about games that need them? This tray is an accessory that you can print to help organize your play mat for Terraforming Mars. The little slots keep the cubes in place (which makes screwing up where a cube was a lot harder). The divisions between sections is nice as well. The designer of this tray also made it in multiple parts (for smaller printers) that fit together puzzle-like. If you like, print/paint them in different colors for the players.

For the record, I designed exactly NONE of these. All of these were shared to the community on Thingiverse and were free for me to use. Take a look, you never know what you might find out there.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Collection Churn August 2017

Given the rate of change in previous months, things were relatively quite in August on the game collection front. I acquired a few new items, but they were really more or less late arrivals.

Let's start with the outgoing items:
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft the Boardgame - when this originally came out, I was really excited. I loved the Ravenloft concept as kid (when TSR originally introduced it), and while I'm not really a role player anymore, I love me a good dungeon crawl. This isn't a bad game by any means, but I'd rather play Descent given all the time and effort I've put into painting my collection (plus, I think it is just the better game). For those not familiar with Castle Ravenloft, it is a slick co-op dungeon crawler with a random "dungeon" layout each time (the best analogy I can come up with is the Diablo computer game - each level is the same story, but the layout is random). 
  • Kingdom Builder + Nomads, Crossroads, Marshlands, and some mini-expansions - Kingdom Builder is a top five game for me. So why did I sell it off? See my notes in the acquired section below. 
  • Hare and Tortoise - once upon a time, I thought it'd be cool to own all the Spiel de Jahres winners. But the realities of limited space and games that never ever got played finally got a hold of me and this ended up on the sale block.  I think I only ever played the game once (and I don't think it was my copy). I was thinking it might be a good family game, but I don't think this would have ever gotten played.
And the acquired:
  • Kingdom Builder Big Box 2nd edition - As I mentioned, I really like this game. So much that when Queen games announced a Kickstarter for the Marshlands expansion, I jumped without a bit of hesitation. They also were offering an empty Big Box you could buy to hold everything. About a month after that, they announced another expansion (Harvest) and a different box. Well, I was a little annoyed, but they setup the KS to handle those folks that ordered Marshlands and Big Boxes. So, all was good with the world. I should have received everything by Nov 2016. Except that nobody did AND - Queen decided that the best thing to do was just ignore their customer base and not give updates or answer inquires. Around July of this year, they announced the game would be shipping soon. To make up for all the problems and delays, they simply shipped all backers a full Big Box (which has every single thing that has been released for the game). Since I didn't need what was essentially two copies, I sold off my original game and just kept the new. The general consensus of the backers was that Queen screwed up financially and had been using new KS campaigns to pay for previous campaigns and had screwed up badly at some point. While I might buy a Queen game again someday, I'll not be backing them through KS any more.
  • Fields of Arle - way earlier in the year (I think April), I made a trade offer for FoA. Then I moved and it took forever before I got around to getting the games shipped from my side. Well, I did eventually get my side shipped off. And then, it took forever before I ever heard back and got a delivery of FoA from the other side. Well, it did finally arrive. I like Ewe's later games and this was described as a really big sandbox game, which I think works well for me and my love, Alyson. We like Agricola ok and really enjoy Caverna. This is yet another farming game, but from what I hear, has less contention than most of his games (which some friends I have find disappointing). That's ok by me - I still have Agricola, Caverna, and Ora et Labora. 
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Thursday, September 07, 2017

What I've Been Playing August 2017 Edition

Well, last month was surprisingly hectic for whatever reason and not much writing has gotten done and not much hit the tabletop for me. One of the main reasons? Legendary DXP was released and I've been playing the crap out of that. My thoughts at the time of its release can be found here. Here we are a few weeks later (and at least three patches later), and I'm still playing the crap out of the game. There are still some issues that I have with the game:

  • Not being able to examine cards in the discard pile, KO pile, VP pile (yeah can "see" cards, but not examine them, and the layout of those piles hides the important details)
  • No confirmation on discards or KOs (which is more annoying when you are trying to look at your own cards and an event takes the card you have touched or are looking at). I'm used to it now, but this is a constant source of frustration for new players.
  • No needed information available on schemes including the number of "things" (wounds, villagers, escaped "things") that effect winning or losing
  • There are still a handful of card interactions that don't work properly (and like most software, a new release seems to fix some and breaks others that were fine before)
  • There is no log of things that have occurred - look away for 40 seconds and your hand can be drastically different because the game discarded for you and you don't know why. 
Like a lot of the players who have played the hell out of the game, I have gotten to a point where I tolerate that stuff because I like the game a lot and I know the cards enough to either avoid the issues, or I just know the game enough to be careful. Is the game better than the when it was in beta? Hells yes! Is the game better than when it was released? Yes. Is it still getting better each week? Again yes. The development team is working their ass off to fix issues and put out a constant stream of fixes. They are working on a revised UI to address a number of things that the community has said the game needs in terms of features. They have made themselves available to anyone that wants to voice their opinion on Discord and they are really responsive to suggestions and bug reports. I've seen (and experienced) them working with individuals to resolve problems. They chose to release at GenCon when things were not 100%, but have been trying to get past that and the stream of patches and marked improvement from launch week shows that. Do I think the game was worth $2-$5? Yes, easily. Is it a game of the year candidate? Not currently, but maybe it will be by the time it hits Steam in Dec or January. Is it for everyone? Nope. The limited platform (currently only iPad 4 or better) and online only (even for solo play) makes it a no for a lot of people. The limited player pool at the moment also makes finding matches hard at times, but I'm enjoying solo play a lot (it is a bit faster than playing with real people). In the next few months, Android users should get to play and PC/Mac users after that. That should make the pool much more interesting.

I've also been playing a lot of Paperback (the app, not the physical boardgame). For those that haven't heard of Paperback before, it is a deck builder meets Scrabble. If you don't like deck builders or word games, you can be done right here. For the rest of you - this is a great game and I think that because it is such a niche game, it hasn't gotten all the recognition it should (maybe recognition is the wrong term here because I believe it is currently the number one word game on BGG).

The idea here is that you have a deck of cards that will grow as the game goes on. Each card may have a single letter or sometimes a pair of letters (like "CH" or "ES") and a value. Some cards also give you the ability to increase a word or neighboring letter's value, get free cards, draw more cards etc. When you string together the letters to make a word, that word's value is totaled up and you have the ability to buy either new letters or VP cards (in the form of wild cards). You need those wilds to build bigger (longer) words, but those same cards that are your endgame score do not help your word's value during the game. You both need them and they clutter your deck.

It really is a clever game and has been a nice change of pace from Legendary. And while not required, its fun to see what words you can come up with when your hand is a "N", "T" and 4 wild cards. Sure you could just play "NOT", but its always a good time sending something funny to your opponent. There is a good AI (the hard AI basically cheats and pulls crap out of its dictionary) for solo games and async play for playing against friends for bragging rights. Also, playing against other online writers and editors from the Punchboard Media group is tough (though fun).

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