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During my time as Geek of the Week one of the question I was asked was about Grail Games and I answered that I'd really liked to one day get the chance to play Die Macher, Twilight Imperium (Third Edition), Indonesia and Dune. But I answered it with the air of someone who never really expected to, I just could not quite envision the circumstances where I would end up with that opportunity. And of that list, I would find Dune the least likely of the lot, being now long out of print and at best I would only find the de-Herbertised version Rex: Final Days of an Empire.
Fast forward to our last game night, with our friends Kristi and Rick. I don't even know how it came up, there were some reminisces of gaming glories gone by, like the time Rick and I played Iron Dragon in our hotel room in Philadelphia whilst at a conference (the same trip that I had my first Belgian beer, so many fond memories of that). And then it came out, just like that, Rick and Kristi talking fondly of their old games of Dune, with me with my mouth probably hanging open because I have known and gamed with these people for over 10 years and in all that time, this had never come up before. Though upon more sober reflection now, it made sense as they had been involved in the hobby a long time and Rick had even worked in the local game store. And I did know him to be a huge fan of the books.
But next thing I know, he has brought down the game box, along with a couple of expansions Dune: The Duel and Dune: Spice Harvest. And most wondrous of all, the custom board that one of their friends had made, which my poor photography will not do justice to but I did try.
So then came the question of when could we get together to play this game? And the answer came much sooner than I expected, a window of opportunity opened and we jumped through. For the whole week before, I was a bit giddy, I watched a video to try and learn the game play and it seemed pretty straightforward, just follow the phase structure. But that doesn't really tell you how it plays, how the varied abilities of the different factions mix and clash. I did not know what to expect.
The day came, ironically gray and wet for our trip to the desert world. There were 4 of us for the game, Kristi, Rick, my wife Jenny and myself. Rick made the executive decision to remove the Bene Gesserit and the Guild so we each got one of the other 4 factions: I was House Atreides, Kristi was the traitorous Harkonnen, Rick the Fremen and my wife was the Emperor. Turn 1 was quite instructive in the game flow, new spice appeared on the board but one batch was right ahead of the storm front - suicide for those that went to retrieve it. As the Atreides, I got to peek at all the treachery cards as they were bid upon, getting a Karama card for myself but unable (or at least unwilling) to prevent the Harkonnen pick up a couple of cards - and of course a couple more I did not know about. The Fremen swarmed in from the other side of the planet and the Harkonnen and Atreides shipped in troops to the unoccupied strongholds. And then I saw the advantage of moving last as the Emperor's troops, led by a couple of Sardaukar, moved into the stronghold I had so recently arrived at. And outnumbered as I was, I stood little chance in the ensuing battle - but I did get to see how that worked.
The next few rounds saw the Harkonnen biding their time, the Atreides gathering spice as best as they were able and the Emperor and the Fremen in a running battle which went back and forth. The Emperor was distraught to find Count Fenring had betrayed her to the Fremen and Captain Aramsham was also killed by a poisoned weapon but the Emperor built up for an attack on Sietch Tabr with a surprise up her imperial sleeve, as she unleashed the Lasegun on the unsuspecting Fremen troops but the personal shield of Jamis caused the nuclear explosion that wiped that stronghold clean. The Harkonnen then made a play for Arakeen but I had the movement advantage this time and I simply moved out to take the Harkonnen stronghold instead. That was slightly tense - a Truth Trance told the Harkonnen that her leader was true but I found that Lady Jessica was a traitor. I had the numbers but I had to make sure I won, as if I failed somehow, the Harkonnen would have 3 strongholds. So I entrusted this mission to Dr Yueh, whom I knew to be on my side, his defense was sound and I won the battle. And while we settled into new quarters, the Fremen massed outside.
They moved the following turn, the storm had moved only slowly so I was still placed as last to move. The Fremen attack Arakeen, but the Harkonnen declined to fight them and sent their forces at mine. I had some tricks up my sleeve and I also had bought both poison defenses as they came up, so I had high hopes of killing the Harkonnen leader with my poison weapon. But there were too many troops, led by a Cheap Hero. My fear was that our fight here would simply allow the Fremen to move in and finish the victor but that was no longer my concern, my spice stores depleted and my troops all off-world.
But the Harkonnen had other ideas and took their chance to a play for the victory themselves, attacking the Emperor's forces while the Fremen were gathering their strength and the Emperor was stretched thin and it seemed that the game was there for the Harkonnen to take. But she did not count on the bravery and selflessness of the Emperor's leader Bashar, who knowing that the Harkonnen would not oblige him, played his Lasegun (yes, she got it again!) and his own personal shield to throw back the Harkonnen with nuclear force.
And this was the cue for the Fremen to reclaim Sietch Tabr.
Entrenched forces meant taking a stronghold was now hard, though the Harkonnen were weakened enough that the Atreides were able to retake one. But with the end of the game approaching, only the Fremen held two strongholds and both were well defended. The final twist was the Harkonnen unleashing the Family Atomics, removing the shelter from the storm that Arakeen and the Imperial Basin enjoyed. And then Weather Control moved the storm up upon the Fremen. But they are hardy and used to the wilds of the desert planet, so their force was not completely wiped away, indeed the storm protected them, for no one else could approach the stronghold through it.
And so the end came and the Fremen were victorious.
It was a wild ride, the double Lasegun explosion plays by the Emperor were a highlight that will live on in our memories. It took a while - Rick said their last game had been won on Turn 2 in under an hour through a fortuitous turn of events, but this one went the full 15 turns, taking around 5 hours including a stop for dinner.
It was an interesting game and I must admit I struggled with a few things. The ultimate goal, taking 3 strongholds, seemed very difficult from my position. As it turned out, the Harkonnen had 3 Atreides traitors so it was even tougher than I initially imagined but working with the economy of the game, it seemed just unfeasible to ever get enough troops and equipment into play to make that happen, especially with everyone else trying to do it too.
The way the economy works is very intriguing though. The currency is spice and it is used to buy treachery cards, bolster troops in battle and to ship in men from off-world. It gets expensive to do all these things really fast. I was getting spice from holding a stronghold in the imperial basin and from gathering it from the spice blows. The Harkonnen was in a similar position (but had twice as many cards). The Emperor had a steady income from our bids, plus was also gathering spice when she could, though had the most troops to bring in from off world, starting with none in play at the beginning. The Fremen had the freest time of it, with no troops to ship in from off world, they could muster a good sized force without bankrupting themselves - in this game, Rick ended the game with over 30 spice. But it was a lot of fun bidding up the worthless goods and chuckling as someone spent 4 spice on a Jubba Cloak.
The combat system is pretty neat too. The whole system of committing troops (which you lose), boosting them with spice, selecting a leader and player attack/defense cards, all handled by tugging things into a large cardboard wheel, is very smooth and the outcome has a genuine feel of danger to it, due to the uncertainties about what your opponent might play and over the leader you select might betray you. The drawback is that combat feels so dangerous that it almost encourages the biding of your time, awaiting that right moment to strike. But that heart in mouth feeling when you turn over your combat wheel and you see what happened is pretty special. It was occurring to me as I write this that the Fremen are there is discourage turtling, because the longer the game goes, the more it would seem to favor the Fremen, with their lower spice needs and home advantage. So if you are not them and you want to win, you have to take your chance.
This was a difficult one to get my arms around and perhaps there are just too many factors to really do that like I can with a Euro. But there is no doubt it really captured the feel of the book and I really enjoyed the whole experience (well, except nearly getting wiped out, that part was not so fun). I'd long waited for my chance to visit Arrakis and I hope it won't be too long before we get the spice to go back. Maybe with a full complement of 6 players, even?
Photos this post from Lou-Dawg, Brave Sir Robin and Pableras - thanks! The board photo was my own fuzzy effort.
It had been a while since our last game night but finally at least some of us lined up to get together, though even then one regular attendee Tom was away in England (it is a tough life). But it did give me an opportunity to bring out some 4 player offerings.
We got there a little early, before dinner. A last chance at the swimming pool was mooted beforehand but when the hour came, it was gray and overcast and no one really felt like swimming. So we decide (naturally enough) to play a few quick games instead.
Eyes fell upon Exploding Kittens, which I must admit I did not expect to play so early. But strangely that is where I found myself, a hand full of Nope cards but not much else. But the fun of this game is playing the cards with their full title (probably a short-lived joy but it hasn't lost its charm for us so far). Things kicked off in this game when Kristi drew the first Exploding Kitten then just put it right back on top and looked at me with a smirk. That's what happens when you keep saying you can't do much with your hand and unfortunately I was telling the truth so that was my defuse gone as well. Then I put the kitten a few cards down which I thought was being clever but when skips and attacks got played I lost track of when it was coming up! Some further shenanigans ensued and I got the fun of drawing twice which I tried to cancel (the Pope of Nope Has Spoken!) but sadly a Jackonope rode in and so I had to draw and that was me exploding. Jenny (my wife) got an extra defuse but the last spare one lurked at the bottom of the deck and the face off between her and Rick came down to who drew it. And when it was Rick, he knew he could just place the next exploding kitten on top and Jenny would be able to do nothing to avoid it.
Looking for another quick game, I pull out Rhino Hero. Rick and Kristi hadn't played it before (which actually was something of a theme to the day) and our first efforts were a bit pathetic, the tower was quite precarious and it actually fell just as Rick was getting ready to add a wall - he didn't even touch it, just looked at it too intently. Their son Ben saw the game and wanted to join in too so we graciously let him (who do they make these HABA games for anyway?) and he did really well, the tower grew quite tall to the point that we were just wondering if playing it on the kitchen island was a mistake. I managed to reach up and put my walls and roof on there, it teetered a bit but held. For just long enough that as soon as Jenny's wall touched it, it fell away.
There really is such a sense of tension and excitement and anticipation as the tower grows tall but the next collapse is never too far away. Fast and exciting.
After dinner, another game for a specific time zone, this time the pre-bed time for Ben. So I pulled out Rattus, then I picked the roles, one of each type from the base set and from Rattus: Pied Piper including the eponymous musician as his power is one of my favorite mechanics in any game (take one of your population into another region and as many rats as can follow him there). I also had the King, the Soldier, the Monk, the Courier and the Peasant. I've had this game for a while but because it has a maximum of 4, it has never quite hit the table (we've played a few times with 2 but it lacks something at that count). It turned out we were quite aggressive in our plague piece moves, with no population allowed to build up anywhere. Populations rose and fell and those seeking the king's protection (mostly Kristi and Jenny) did especially well. After a particularly virulent bout of plague hit my folks, I took to doing a spread out tactic, seeking the less densely populated areas of the board and hopefully hiding there. That worked to some extent, while a bit of a build up in Russia occurred while the plague marched around the western half. Although I wasn't involved, I figured the final plague would do its work on them but Jenny pulled some pied piper maneuvers, pulling out the rats from Russia, sending one of her people to see the king and, having reduced her stake there, moved the rats back again on her next turn, but the outbreak still hit her pretty hard, Rick too and Kristi got off the best, so it was no real surprise when she emerged the victor, with me somehow sneaking 2nd.
Really glad to get this played with them at last and they liked it too, in fact thought their cousin would really enjoy it so I have to bring it again when he is in town! My pleasure.
I think the hit of the night was Deep Sea Adventure. We had tried it a bit with 2 players and it was OK but it lacked a little something and as I suspected at the time that something was more players.
The first game was 3 of us while Kristi was busy and predictably we all badly misjudged the opening round, no one even got close to making it back but it did clear out some less appealing treasures and round 2 was more profitable. I went straight down to the 3 level, grabbed a tile and headed right back up again, actually getting out of the water in plenty of time. The other 2 were slower and poor Jenny was unlucky in her dice rolling, so while Rick just about made it back, Jenny drowned again. And so in that cycle of self-destruction, she pushed even harder in round 3 and went down in flames. Well as in flames as you can underwater. Both of us made it out rather easily in the end and it came down to what treasures we had managed to salvage and there I had done quite a bit better, scoring the win with 35 to 21.
With her 6 year old now in bed, Kristi was available to try this out. Just one more player made such a difference, it was very exciting as we leap frogged each other going down and especially exciting heading back to the sub. Once again, no one made it back in round 1 but again it cleared the decks a good deal and I thought I had things well in hand when I got back with the extra 3, but everyone got something - a first for this game! And in the final round, with the level 4 treasures well in play, everyone grabbed one, there was a scramble back and it looked like Jenny might be left adrift but she had just enough air to make it back on board just as it ran out. There were breathless moments and cheers when the dice came up right. Counting up I was pretty pleased with my score but then everyone else started announcing their scores and, with 34, I was in 4th place! And it was first time diver Kristi that took the win with 38 by a point over Jenny. A great game that really delivered on the excitement and nervous tension.
The next game was going to be Roll for the Galaxy. I proposed it, knowing well that Kristi does not like Race for the Galaxy. But having read session reports of folks being won over by the dice version, I wanted to give it a try with her. She looked dubious. I explained it was simpler and easier to grasp than the card game but the piles of tiles, and dice all over the table did not support my argument. She soldiered on but it was clear there was a lot she was not comprehending, so we offered to scrap the game and play something else but she said she wanted to carry on. By this time, a turn or two, Rick was starting to see how things worked but when their 6 year old came back downstairs, the interruption was enough of an excuse that we cleared the game away as a failed experiment and I pulled out a different game that was more Kristi friendly.
That game was Lanterns: The Harvest Festival. This was a sort of birthday present that my wife got because she wanted it herself, which is fair enough in my eyes. It is a very pretty game and we had enjoyed our 2 player games though they both came out very close which made me wonder a bit if it is was one of those Euros that always come out close pretty much no matter what you do. However, a lot of those concerns pretty much disappeared in a 4 player game. This is a tile-laying game, the tiles featuring lanterns floating on the water in 7 different colors. When you match colors, you get a card of that color; if you match colors using a tile that has a special symbol on it, you also get a favor token, plus everyone gets a card the color of the side of the tile facing them (which is why we played the start tile as a diamond rather than as a square). You use the cards to build sets and claim scoring tiles featuring 1 of each color, 3 pairs or 4 of a kind and you claim the topmost one, revealing the one underneath which will be worth the same or lower points. Jenny seemed a master of setting herself up to collect the one of each color tiles though unluckily for her I stumbled into the 10 point one when the right color fell my way right before my turn. The 3 pairs pile was whittled down the fastest, meanwhile I had a run of 4 of a kinds and everyone had a good pile of score tiles. A close finish, we all scored our final tiles, taking 2 of the extra 4s in the process - an almost perfect amount of score tiles - and added up. And that last 4 pushed me up over Jenny to take the win.
There was definitely a bit more random luck, in the cards that you get given by your opponents (they always give you something though) which might set you up for something or might not. Quite a bit less control with 4 players but it did feel like you had your chance to make clever plays (the draw of a game like this). And just from my limited plays, I can see there are deeper levels (appropriately for a game about a lake) where you start to consider what cards you want to give your opponents, which sets to pursue and what playing there might do for them. But it hit the right note for us at this point, time and tiredness beginning to take their toll on our concentrations and it seemed like a good point to call a halt on what turned out to be a very satisfying game night.
Photos for this post from jemione, The Innocent, Nekrataal, joeincolorado and punkin312 - thanks to you all!
Mon Sep 21, 2015 12:16 am
My birthday just passed. I am old enough where my birthday is not a day of intense anticipation and excitement but it is still remains a day to look forward to, where there will be some nice food to eat, maybe a drink or two and something new to entertain us of an evening.
Now, despite board gaming being my main passion and hobby, I don't generally get a great pile of games for presents. My brother usually gets me music and my sister is my source for the British versions of the latest Pratchett. My in-laws generally just get me an Amazon gift certificate (useful) but my wife will usually come through something good. And this year, she seemed to out do herself. They came is a few distinct categories:
1. The One I was Hoping For: Roll for the Galaxy
I had hinted strongly over this one while looking at it in the FLGS when it first came out and she remembered. Not a surprise this being on my wish list with its sister game so beloved but having played it a few times now, I like how it has some of the feel of the original but its own flavor too. I also appreciate that this is a dice game that is distinct from other dice games too, not just a sci fi skin over Yahtzee roll 3 times - you roll once and then you have to deal with what you got (and quite a bit of dice manipulation can stack that heavily in your favor).
In a perverse way, that I haven't won at it yet is another plus, I don't quite get how to win at this yet. I can cobble together a tableau of tiles with some vague synergy (but making that more than vague eludes me thus far) and my wife likes it because she has kicked my butt every game so far. One thing that just bugs me slightly is that you start with 3 out of your 12 tiles already in play. Like I missed playing the first quarter of the game or something. I know I am being silly thinking this.
2. The One I Got For Myself: Deep Sea Adventure
Quite a few of my regular reads kept posting pictures and generally talking excitedly about Deep Sea Adventure. I am a little prone to infectious excitement but also I loved the look and the ideas in this little game so it was not a difficult decision to spend some of that Amazon loot on a copy. The tough part was opening the box, it was such a perfect fit and the lid came so perfectly down to the bottom of the box, you couldn't get any purchase on the two parts to get them apart. After a bit of shaking, we succeeded then my wife got crafty to stop that being an issue again, gluing some bits of cork into the top of the lid, so the lid sits a little above the base. Oh and we tried the game out too.
But I am reserving judgment on it for now. While it works perfectly well and we were able to drown multiple times in a row due to our amazing dice rollng and greed, it did feel a little lack luster, despite how much I appreciate the design and the aesthetic. Hopefully there will be a game night this weekend and we will definitely play it then, with a more complete complement of players I expect this game to shine.
3. The One I Didn't Expect: Le Havre: The Inland Port
A friend of mine brought Le Havre over when it came out. Our learning game took a long time. Then our next game also took a long time and we decided pretty much that while we liked it ok, it was just too long for us. We also picked up Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small not too long ago and enjoyed Uwe's 2 player only take. I was aware of the existence of the Le Havre 2 player game but only in a vague 'it exists' sense, I knew almost nothing about it.
It turns out it is rather fine. A couple of nice innovations wrapped up in a quick 30 minute game, the placing of your buildings on the Ora et Labora style resource wheel is cleverly efficient. The warehouse resource storage board with the different directions of movement in 2 dimensions corresponding to increases and decreases in your stocks is also very neat (as well as giving some wrinkles to the planning when you run into the edges of the warehouse and can't increase to the right any more). This one is a keeper, I think I like it better than the Agricola 2 player even, though that may be partly the unexpected surprise factor.
The One She Got For Her: Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
My wife might not be constantly reading on BGG or browsing rule books all day, but she does like games and there is a definite fraction of my collection that is games that my wife picked out. And I'd say she has rather a better hit rate than me despite her less research-based method of choosing, as several of these are among our most played games. So she was quite taken with how this game looked on the shelf, but she was restrained and read up on it a bit first. There she found it was a beautiful little tile laying game with some set collection scoring and some potential for clever play. In other words, right in her wheel house.
The first game was rather charming and I could see it trading off with Rat Hot as our week night tile layer - not too taxing but still a satisfying play. In the middle of the second game, I had Second Thoughts, it felt like the game was always going to be close unless one of you played like an idiot (and I should note that both of our plays ended with us separated by a single point) so it was always going to play out rather similarly every time and I felt a little underwhelmed. But later that same game, further enlightenment struck me, that the whole game was about anticipating your opponent's moves and getting in ahead of them for that scoring tile they were after - which is just what she did in this game, stealing (yes, stealing!) that 4-of-a-kind tile from right under my nose. So I begin to think that those serene looking lanterns floating on the lake have some hidden and treacherous depths.
5. The One That Didn't Arrive Yet: Patchwork
We were chatting about games, talking about 2 player only games and I brought up Uwe's new quilting game with the tetris tiles and the great reviews. My wife pretty much demanded we get it. So I ordered it from our FLGS' web site, expecting to pick it up in a day or two. But it looks like the current printing has sold through already and they don't know when it will be coming in. I said that there was no rush, we will wait for it.
It will be like having an extra birthday.
Photos this post from W Eric Martin (x3!), bwbollom and Webgears. Thanks!
Such a small and seemingly insignificant event, the power flipped off and then a few seconds later, the lights came back on and the computer restarted. I snorted in irritation, right in the middle of the article I was reading and I waited impatiently for the machine to bring up the start screen. Clicking on the web browser, I wondered if it would take me right back to where I was or if I would have to search for it. But the browser did something I did not expect, it gave me the connection time out page – it was no longer connected to the internet.
Sighing again, I did those things you do. I unplugged the modem and also shut down the computer properly and rebooted. But the light on the modem indicating internet connectivity remained stubbornly dark.
And as I write these words a full week later, that remains the case.
So I had a whole week of being unable to get my email, log onto BGG or watch cat videos.
Well it so happens I have quite a few things to do that don't involve being hooked up to a computer. I read the latest Usagi Yojimbo and got started on an Iain Banks book. We finally watched the 2014 Godzilla movie which has been sitting in its packaging for several months. And, surprise surprise, we played some games.
The remainder of this post will be about one of them, Friedemann Friese's Friday. Because one of the things that happens at the moment is my wife is pet sitting and this week she had a couple of St. Bernards to look after. So while she was out doing that, I had a bit of time to work on my island survival skills.
I've written about it before, and I think I have mastered at least Survival 1-0-Level 1. So I thought I had a pretty good handle on how to go about it, even with the added difficulty of an Aging card in the deck from the start. Like that you want to thin your deck, but if you do it too rashly, you end up cycling through the deck too fast and picking up too many Aging cards – and getting the extra bad ones. But I still have some learning to do.
As I sat down to play this week, one of the thoughts I had was that I over-valued food. You draw a food card, it gives you an extra food, but its fighting scores tend to be low – a lot of them have 0 – so it is treading water because you immediately spend that health again drawing the next card. So I played the game with that in mind, looking to get better fighting cards over food, in other other words, overcoming the hazards using less health rather than spending it to draw more cards.
It started pretty well, I got rid of my aging cards and picked up useful abilities. But the funny thing about the food cards is that they do replenish the health you lose in overcoming hazards and in deck honing by elimination of aging and initial deck cards. So while I cruised through the green deck and did pretty well in the yellow phase, I was not as bountifully healthy as I might be. And turning into the red hazards, that really started to hurt, because an ill-timed aging card coming out can leave you very far from overcoming the hazard and leaving you with a harsh penalty to pay. I was hanging on and as the red deck dwindled, I was starting to wonder if I would have enough in the tank to defeat either of the pirates. But as it happened, I never had to confront that concern, the very last hazard I had to face, wild animals, 4 free draws, get 11 fighting, or cannibals, 5 free draws, get 14. The potential for disaster was high and I didn't have much health left to get passed any obstacles. Indeed I did not have the health, especially after a -4 fighting aging card got flipped and no exchanges in sight. I paid what health I had but it was all in vain, I was very far from escaping the wild animals and we will draw a veil over Robinson's fate on the island. My final score was -10.
It is not wasted if you don't learn something and I did. Incredibly, eating food is vital to survival on a desert island. But within the context of the game, while sometimes drawing a 0 fighting, +1 life food card is just treading water, sometimes it is in among the cards that overcome a hazard easily and it actually does replenish your health. And keeping that reserve stocked up is vital in overcoming the more difficult hazards (because many of them are hard to beat on the initial draw alone), shedding the useless and dangerous cards and of course in having enough strength to beat the pirates at the climax of the game.
So I went into my next game once again ready to indulge my hungry feelings. In setting up the next game, I saw that it might well be more important in this game particularly, as one of the pirates, though relatively easy to beat (7 draws, 16 fighting) charged 2 life points for each draw. The other was a returning pirate I had seen but not faced last game, no special rules but 10 draws to get 40 fighting seems pretty tough.
The early game went smoothly. Some of my dead weight didn't get purged as completely as I like, some weak cards managed to slip into a successful hazard, so I couldn't get rid of them, but I had enough exchanges to shed them. More worrying were the aging cards. I had gotten rid of the early ones, but once in the yellow phase, I was having more trouble finding opportunity to dump them. I was also a bit worried about my fighting levels, I had some neat abilities but you need a few heavyweight weapons, some 3s and 4s to really get the fighting total up. Going after those pretty hard depleted my health a bit but I also had 3 aging cards still in the deck going into the face off with the pirates. I was a little worried about the health draining of the weaker pirate so I faced that one first. But as it happened, I defeated it easily, without loss of health. And using some cards up that I might have liked in the other battle. So then the final battle, 10 draws to get to 40 fighting is almost impossible but I drew my cards and exchanged my bad cards for better cards. But I had to keep drawing and drawing and I got to the bottom of my deck, reshuffled with the last of the aging cards added. I don't know that I ever have had the aging deck depleted before. With 2 health left, I was close but not quite there. I drew an aging card, suicidal, -5 fighting. But I had a destroy ability left and got rid of that, then I got an equipment card drawing the weapon I needed to finish the battle. No health left and I was lucky not to draw one of the Aging cards I had exchanged out previously.
So I had barely won and in many ways my score was very similar to the previous game, with 4 Aging cards still in the deck and the same number of hazards undefeated, except with the addition of 2 defeated pirates (a significant addition, admittedly). But I had a revelation at the climax of this game about the Destroy ability. I had rather underrated this ability, surely it is better to exchange for a new card than just turn it over to become 0? But I had missed a vital part of the rule for this ability, that it removes the destroyed card from the game – it is a way to remove those aging cards from your deck while still overcoming hazards. This was like a bolt of lightning to my Robinson's brain! How had I missed that? And a lesson in game design – if you are undervaluing an ability, perhaps you don't fully understand how to make best use of it?
This made me eager to give the game another go. I meant to get it in Friday, just because, but the kids wanted me to watch movies with them, so it ended up being Saturday morning. Perhaps a clear head after a good night's sleep, but more particularly the lessons learned in the last two games, this game went like a breeze. I was able to keep my health up and strip out the bothersome aging cards, a lot of time without losing tempo in the latter part of the game when you need to keep winning things. In fact, I did so well that one of the pirates (defeat all remaining hazards) became a draw 11, get 32 fighting hazard which came about rather easily. The other pirate was draw 6 to get 20, also a bit easier, especially with the level of health I had maintained. At the very end, cycled through and drew the first of the meaner Aging cards and it came right up in the ensuing battle – but I had the newfound power of Destroy at my command now and I won the game at a canter, with only 1 Aging card left in my deck, a bunch of life points left and a higher overall amount of fighting in my final deck. My final score was 92, comparable even to my best score on Level 1 (I have my internet back so I can look that up!). I think that I am game for the Level 3 challenge now. So a week offline was not entirely wasted then, right?
Thanks to Gambiteer, SapoLJackson and styren for their photos!
I am not usually the one on the cutting edge of board games, getting the new hotness right when it comes out. But once in a while I inadvertently end up in that position. Though I must admit I would never have expected it to be a game like Kickstarter phenom Exploding Kittens. I mean, it is clearly a pretty random game with a short table life, really the opposite of what I look for in a game.
It came about in a very simple way: my wife read that the Oatmeal was contributing to a card game and that it was going up on Kickstarter. I heard about it from the huge numbers it was putting up in a very short amount of time since its launch. But that first part, where my wife knew about a whole game with lots of Oatmeal pictures, she pretty much told me to back it. And to get the bonus NSFW deck too.
For a small card game to garner so much money and attention was down to those 2 factors, the Oatmeal artwork was a huge draw (he helped get a whole museum built to Tesla, so a little card game should be a piece of cake), plus that extra level for a few dollars more pledge level to get the ruder version certainly boosted the pledging of almost everyone, over 95% of all pledges ended up at that level. It aimed for $10,000 but in fact got $8,782,571 with 219,382 backers.
Now it funded in February, promising a July delivery and I thought that was pretty optimistic, given the delays and issues that a lot of small publishers have had with bringing projects to life via Kickstarter. But to their credit, they did it: it was shipping by the end of July, we got our copy on August 3rd. That is mightily impressive.
The game comes in a nice box with a little kitty surprise when you open it. The box is divided into two with spaces for 2 decks of cards. The bottom of each side is illustrated like a litter box. Now the divider itself I found a little squashed, not sure what happened but it leans heavily to one side. But it is not a huge deal. The cards are nice quality too. There are also 2 sets of instructions in a big fold out sheet, one for the regular deck and another for the NSFW deck. I am not quite sure why, they are functionally the same. Oh and there was also a little cartoon, personalized with a tale of Kittens coming to my house. It was a nice touch, a little extra step that they by no means had to do.
So they nailed the presentation, but what about the game itself? Well, it is pretty light, a social lubricant game. You have an initial hand of 5 cards, including a defuse card. You can play any number of cards from your hand which may allow you to look at what is coming up, grab a card from another player or shuffle the deck. There are also cards (skip and attack) that get you out of the draw at the end of the turn. A pair of cards can be used to steal a random card from another player (and there are a few cards which are purely in there to make pairs with). You can also adopt some rules for what to do with 3 of a kind, though we didn't play with those. There is also the Nope cards, in which you cancel another action played by another player, including another Nope.
Then at the end of your turn, you draw a card and hope it is not an Exploding Kitten. If it is, you can play a defuse card and return the kitten to the deck. If you don't have a defuse, then you are eliminated. And you play until only 1 player remains.
Now most turns will consist of only the draw phase. And even the turns where you get to do something may not have that much impact on the game's outcome. Really, the whole point of the game is to play the cards with their sub-heading - you don't just play a Nope card, you announce that the "Pope of Nope has Spoken." That is somehow more fun that it has any right to be. You can do a couple of useful things like peeking at the top of the deck and seeing if you should play your skip card this turn, but those occur relatively rarely because you don't often get both in your hand at once. A lot of the game is hanging on to your defuse and getting another if possible while desperately hoping not to draw an explosion.
But there are a couple of little touches that make it more fun than I expected. Obviously the Oatmeal's art and humor shines throughout the game. As I mentioned above, reading out the sub title really adds to the fun and you often end up playing cards on your turn just so you can do that. I'll add that while there are funny cards in the NSFW deck, I found the regular deck the funnier because they weren't trying so hard to be NSFW. There is a minimal amount of combo play but that is minor. But the one little touch was the defuse cards. For a start, everyone gets one, so even though it is an elimination game, everyone will more than likely be in it until the latter part of the game. And the nature of the game is that it cannot go past once through the deck, a very clever piece of design. The other part of the defuse is that when you play it, you put the exploding kitten back in the deck but brilliantly, you can put it back wherever you like. You can just stick it on top or you can turn your back on everyone and stealthily put it a couple of cards down. Or wherever you like. That really adds to the mind games and the dread of drawing a card at the end of your turn.
My last comment is that having 2 decks does add to the life of the game, you can play it twice and then put it away and it won't wear out its welcome so fast. It is not a game to play over and over and over but as a filler or that one more before we go, in the right mood, it is a pretty good way to fill 15 minutes. There will be giggles.
The photos for this post were by pk2317, cinderbike and jemione. Thanks!
Sun Aug 16, 2015 12:34 am
It has been a busy few days even outside of the usual work and school routine. It is all rather getting in the way of my BGG routine, behind on my subscriptions, I haven't updated the blog, no post on my usual weekly geek list, plus the month changed so the monthly round-up is awaiting. But it has been some fun busy. Last night an after-work do, with good nibbles and an intriguing imperial amber ale. And before that, we got a visit from an old friend, Mike:
Now I went with that blog title, but technically we met through a different CCG, so it really should be L5R Mike. Back in the days before kids, I played L5R and one of the ways I played was via email. You would write out your deck numbered 1-40 and each time you drew a card your opponent would give you a number and that was the card you drew. And one of the regulars I played was Mike. With some, it would be all business, but Mike was a bit more chatty and we emailed back and forth, with turns of a game as a side issue. When he came back to the States, he and his wife even visited us in Minnesota.
Fifteen years later...
Mike is doing a course in the Triangle so he contacts me to see if I am free which of course I am. I get barbecue, he comes over. I kid you not, he looked exactly the same as he did last time I saw him, back in the last millenium.
We chatted for a while on a variety of subjects, veering often in games past and present, but he gave us a great lead on the desserts in a pizza place in Cary. Pretty funny when the visitor is giving the host tips on restaurants! We dined on our pulled pork, brisket, collards and hush puppies. And, though he couldn't stay too long because work tomorrow, he couldn't leave without playing a little game, could he now?
We go downstairs and browse the game shelves, he picks up Glen More, one he has seen but never played and I am more than happy to oblige. I got some resources, but both my wife Jenny and Mike picked up fairs as well (plus she got a butcher), giving them early points, while Mike pushed a chieftain gambit - he doubled down when he got Castle of Mey. I didn't get any chieftains all game, not even tams, I got whisky early on then the big turn, I was left behind with forest and quarry in front of me and the Abbey a good jump ahead, so that was my play. The others both grabbed distilleries and Jenny got the first tavern (I got another) which she worked with Loch Ness and my whisky lead disappeared. I did get Castle Duart for the village bonus as well, though none of us had especially many villages, I also got the combo-butcher and finished with a flourish with the all 5 goods annual fair. Jenny had the in game lead and I thought my bonuses would not be enough to catch her but when it came down to it, we all had the same size of Scotland (15 tiles each) and I was the only one with bonus points - and pretty good ones at that. So I jumped up and took the win, with Jenny in second and Mike a very respectable score for a first game, just a few back from her.
Then Mike had to go, so we bid him farewell, it was great seeing him and he was a lot of fun to play games with, so I hope it won't be another 15 years till we meet up again.
Following the example of Bill Kunes, I made a Geek List of the games that make up my H-index, which is the number of games you have played at least that many times. It is an adaption of a measure from the scientific publishing world (where it is how many papers you have published have been cited that many times).
My gaming one is 22 (Played Call to Glory and 21 other games at least 22 times). It was fun to put together.
What struck me was the number of games I have waiting in the wings, as it were. I have 7 games, all with 21 plays each and another little group of 3 at 20 plays. Which means with 3 more plays (of the right games) I could have an H-index of 23.
I like to think this is because I am a deep gamer who studies each of his games intently, but really it is a function of time - people who have been in the hobby longer will have a larger H-index.
Anyway, check it out: Loofish's H-index
Last year, I came to the conclusion (on the back of the number of games I was playing) that I like playing solo games. Some of my most played games of the year were solo, like Onirim and Ghost Stories, plus some of my favorite game plays of the year were playing Merchants & Marauders and Firefly: The Game solo. One game I bought specifically to play solo was The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. I played it a lot, my most played solo game of 2014 and I only played 2 scenarios. That gives you some idea of how tricky it can be to win - some of those plays were the single sphere decks running through the first and easiest (but by no means easy) Passage Through Mirkwood - I played with each deck 3 times each and even got a couple wins. But the ratio was of win:loss was heavily in the loss's favor.
Now the third scenario in the base box is the hardest and most folk say it is for all intents and purposes impossible playing it solo with a single deck, as I had been doing. Plus some other comments from BGGers led me to the great revelation - I should play this two-handed, with 2 decks and me running both, as it is both easier and a more rewarding experience. Now I don't usually like doing this, I don't care much for the 2 player variants that have you run 2 boards. It starts to feel like work. But I did used to play some of my decks against each other in my CCG days (playing Legend of the Five Rings) so this would be a hark back to that. So I resolved to pick up the rest of the rules relevant to playing the game with 2 players and try this game out that way.
That was the turn of the year and I haven't play this or any other solo game since.
The reason for that is the best one, that I have been playing games with other people. My soloing really got started because my wife was working odd hours a lot, I had down time but found playing games on the computer just not as engrossing as pushing around the real cardboard counters. But while there was someone to play against, I would do that.
Well, my wife's latest vocational adventure has her off at odd hours again and I decided it was really time to follow through on this pledge to return to Middle Earth - and this time with some extra help.
The extra rules are not really that much, there is a designated start player (who is the target for enemy engagements when that is enforced) and there are a couple of abilities that play with the distance between the two parties - Ranged allows you to attack an enemy engaged with another player, Sentinel allows you to defend for another player. But the groups Quest together so a lot of the meat of the game is the same.
So I head back to the Passage Through Mirkwood, the first and easiest scenario with the 2 decks I already have, both built from the ones at the Halls of Beorn. A Leadership/Lore (Aragorn/Denethor/Theodred) and Spirit/Tactics (Eowyn/Gimli/Thalin).
It went quite smoothly. We had a lot of questing power and Aragorn and Denethor take care of the forest spider. Weirdly, not many other creatures come out, a couple of treacheries and quite a few locations. Which were building up and raising the threat level we needed to advance the quest but then the Northern Tracker showed up, then things started to go very well. We pushed through to the final part and went on Beorn's Path - no Ungoliant's Spawn to fight, just Quest. Big nasty orc arrives, but then the next turn (the 5th) Gandalf does a sneak attack, smacks the orc dead and then the combined questing power, enhanced by Faramir, blows way passed the 10 we needed (I think it was up to about 21!). We won on the 5th turn, no one dead, barely a scratch on us.
Leadership/Lore 33 threat, 0 dead, 2 wounds = 35
Spirit/tactics 34 threat, 0 dead, 3 wounds = 37
4 victory points for the orc, 4 round = 108
Buoyed by this success, I decided to give the Journey Down the Anduin a try, same decks. My initial draw was OK but lacked a real plan for the troll. The 2 sneak attacks and Gandalf meant I was keeping it - plus the steward of Gondor. In contrast to last game, there were a lot of enemies - a pair of Misty Mountain Goblins initially, but a big orc and of course the troll waited in the staging area. Things looked up a lot when I drew the forest snare. We dealt with the goblins (and Thalin was amazing this game, seeing off the eastern crows about 3 times). Gimli took a couple of hits though, which made him mighty but vulnerable. And my healing was not coming out. The treacheries hit, quite a bit of damage around and before ensnaring the troll (brave Gondor Spearman), the spirit/tactics group had a rising Threat. Gandalf sneaked to damage the troll then fight the orc with Aragorn, Denethor holding him off. Then Gimli and his fellow Dwarf Axehand finished off the troll and we were on the river in part 2. We maintained a degree of control here, engaging and dealing with enemies as they appeared, but a few locations clogging up things. We did have quite a few allies, including Faramir so some powerful questing was happening, and Eowyn had a boost to her will, but a 16 point quest is quite a lot. We did a big chunk of it, then the brown lands with a 6 point cost showed up, getting in the way. I resolved to push through, leaving the spirit/tactics guys to engage any enemies, the leadership/lore allies and heroes tapped out to get as much will into the quest as possible, each boosted by Faramir. The threat from the staging area was pretty high, so a big push was needed, but a treachery (despair) hit and Gimli was lost. We completed the quest - just! - but that moved us into the next phase, and that had consequences, new enemies to defeat and we got the orc chieftain and the marsh adder. And they were not going to wait to be engaged. An earlier treachery had wiped out the 1 health allies (luckily a Daughter of Nimrodel had healed Eowyn right before she died) then the last 2 enemies to defeat and complete the scenario were attacking. Aragorn and company had to engage the Marsh Adder and we lost both Denethor and Theodred in quick succession. The other group were down to a spearman, a rider, a dwarf plus Thalin and Eowyn. Fending off the orc chief, who gets stronger after each attack was costly. Lost the spearman then the dwarf, the orc was hurt but not down and we had less ability to hurt him now. The Adder was defeated, Aragorn leading the charge, but he then looked across at his friends and allies, the orc chieftain growing in furious power. They did not have enough to defeat him if they defended, but if they did not defend, then they lost one of the heroes and they did not have enough to defeat him anyway. Aragorn knew what he, a Sentinel, must do. He put himself in the way of the orc charge and despite his staunch defenses (boosted by the power of Lorien), his wounds were too great and he fell under the orc's blows. But his sacrifice was not in vain, for Thalin, Eowyn and the rider fell upon the chieftain and did just enough damage to defeat him. They had won, though the cost was great.
L/L: 30 threat, 3 dead (28), 0 wounds = 66
S/T: 45 threat, 1 dead (11), 3 wounds = 49
11 points of enemies vanquished
10 rounds completed (+100) = 204
And that was me enthralled.
So, I had had my warm-ups on the familiar. The whole point was to tackle the one I couldn't play single handed. So, breathing deeply, I took on Escape from Dol Guldur with the same pair of decks. Thalin was the one captured - certainly not the worst outcome. A good start: Snowbourn Scout took care of one of the opening locations, holding Gandalf's Map, so Eowyn acquired that. A King spider and Dol Guldur orcs had the other 2. The early game with less resources and only one ally per turn, it felt hard to get things done, Gimli and Denethor defended stoutly though it was hard to clear the deck of enemies, but a few things went our way: the spirit contingent drew a lot of their handy events - the when revealed effects of caught in a web were blocked, some damage was avoided. Slowly but surely, the quest was pushed along, with the hummerhorns in the staging area the main concern as the threat for Eowyn and co creeping up. We got past the Necromancer's Pass (though it cost us the Citadel Plate) and got control of the engagements, despite not many real fighters and defenders. The Gondoran spearmen defended and Aragorn was called upon to help out Gimli, so the dwarf could attack. Spiders and Orcs were killed and the first part was completed. We got a good chunk of the 2nd part done with the help of Faramir - Steward of Gondor was out and helping a good deal with resources. A sneak attack from Gandalf was a big help here too. Aragorn got caught in a web but the Miner arrived to help out with that, Erebor got the Citadel Plate back and with Thalin back with the party, Gimli was able to equip that. We just had the small matter of that Nazgul to deal with and the hummerhorns - but Gimli took that damage and was made very mighty. Denethor was able to keep the Nazgul at bay, we got enough quest power to complete that large amount of questing done, with all the objectives in our possession too. A daughter of Nimrodel was vital to heal up Gimli a bit but then treachery struck and we lost her. Time was short for him and more treachery hit the questers, Theodred perished then but we were nearly there if we could just defeat the Nazgul. Aragorn and the Gondor spearman wounded it. We quested, the orcs that showed up looked to stop us finishing the final part, but Radagast's Cunning allowed us to get those final progress tokens on the quest then Gandalf and Aragorn combined to finish off the Nazgul. We were sorely wounded but we had escaped from Dol Guldur to tell the tale.
L/L 40 threat, 1 dead (8), 5 wounds = 53
S/T 42 threat, 0 dead, 12 wounds = 54
5 vp from enemies, 9 rounds completed = 192
This was a really engrossing game, I was surprised by how long had passed when I looked up, found my cold cup of tea and that it was time to get kids to bed. I was profoundly happy to successful make it through the scenario, though this nagging feeling that I did some small things wrong persists. But the experience is what makes it, and there I have no doubts.
Photos from Surya, bkunes, cesquintero, dimitrisasp - thanks!
I wasn't quite sure what my next post was going to be, I had a couple of topics in mind but sometimes you need that little something to grab you and say "write about this!"
Then I played Dominion for the first time in a couple of years and I had my next post.
I first played Dominion in late 2008, we would have regular lunch games at work at the time and this appeared one day. The reaction at our table was similar to the one happening at game nights all over and I quickly got my own copy and just played it (actually resisting all expansion enticements) all through 2009 but as the year turned, it had started to wane just a bit and I only played it the once in all the first half of the year. Then, that summer my wife went off to the UK with the kids and I was going for the 2nd half of that trip, being not actually able to take 5 weeks off. While they were away, I went to a game night at the FLGS, it was just after GenCon and a tired but elated attendee had come back clutching Dominion: Prosperity. We played it twice that night, just Prosperity cards, and it re-energized my enthusiasm for Dominion, taking my beef with the game (it had become a rather straightforward race for provinces and there are only so many combinations of 8, too many games ended 5-3, you get the idea) and destroying it completely with Colonies and Platinum. Just those 2 cards were enough to fire my excitement and it went to the top of my wish list. As it turned out, it was not until Christmas I got the expansion, along with Dominion: Seaside. We played 6 games of it Christmas Day and then January 2011 is still the record holder for most game plays in a single month and by far the most played game was Dominion. It was my first game to reach 100 logged plays. And then, after Superbowl 2012 (during which we played Dominion instead, my wife won our 5-game Dominion Bowl series 246-238), the box sat on the shelf, untouched and unplayed.
I asked myself when I started writing this why didn't it get played in all that time? I think it is a combination of things, a cycle that had temporarily played itself out and we had moved onto to other things and other games. But the thing that stopped it coming back out was what as a chemist I call the activation energy, how much effort it takes to get it back out and sorted out and ready to play again. Dominion's rules overhead is negligible but the whole sort out this and pick which of these. Once it is out, it almost demands multiple plays in a row, if nothing more than to justify all that effort in setting it up. And so it lingered on the shelf until my wife, playing around on her iPad, found the Dominion app, played a quick game or two and mentioned she'd like to play it again.
I took a completely random set-up, without regard for cost, set or anything. I obviously included the platinum and colonies, I don't understand the written rule about sometimes including them, but as it happened there were quite a few cards from Prosperity, including the Bank, the Counting House and the Vault. It was a really good set, cards from each pile were bought at some time in the games we played. One particular game from this day I want to discuss but to give it its proper context I will briefly touch upon what happened in the 2 games prior.
The setup was Cellar, Ambassador, Worker's Village, Feast, Caravan, Bazaar, Counting House, Laboratory, Vault and Bank. In the first game, I had glanced at the Vault and didn't quite get it (it has been a while) and I set about building up my economy with silvers, card draw, some extra actions, working up to Gold and then buying those VP cards. My wife did see its use and demonstrated it, discarding her less useful cards for money and spurring on her economy and that gave her that edge to spur her to a pretty close win, 54-48. In the second game, I decided to use the one card that neither of us bought in the first game, namely Counting House. Counting House is fun because it is contrary to most Dominion instincts, because you actively want coppers in your deck to power it. But coppers are clunky and slow. This set did have a lot to mitigate that though, the worker's village with extra card plus extra buy, cellar to cycle, vault to discard caravan and lab to draw more cards and bank to make them worth more in the hand. A good turn with a counting house can be a really good turn. My wife went the opposite way, abusing the ambassador to hone her deck to a waif of a thing and burning through her deck in a single turn. My economy was slower but more powerful ultimately but by then she was down to a honed deck and was buying a province or colony a turn. The game ended on provinces (with 1 colony left as well!) and neither of us were sure who had won. After counting, it turned out the humble estate, the 1 VP card you start with, that my wife had given me as part of honing her deck with the ambassador, had just won me the game by a single point, 62-61. It was a brilliant game.
Then my wife wondered aloud what this would be like if we added in the gardens?
The gardens are another VP card that scores based on the size of your deck. It would synergize so well with counting house, especially with the extra buy of worker's village in play. So we did it and it was madness.
Go on, take another copper..
Of course, we both went flat out to go for a counting house strategy. Naturally the main thing you need is a counting house (cost 5) but the first few turns, my wife kept coming up with 4. So she bought a string of worker's villages. I got the first counting house and was setting up the engine, too busy to think of the consequences of that opening. I had the best of the early part of the game, nabbing a couple of gardens and a province and even a colony. Then my wife had a series of turns that would obliterate me completely.
Firstly, she had a decent discard pile when she drew into her counting house. She had played a string of worker's villages, dumped her hand with the vault, then drew back all the coppers with the counting house, which joined the bank in her hand to give her 32 gold to spend. With multiple buys, she bought all the rest of the gardens in one go. Then on her next turn, she drew another counting house, picked up all her coppers again then reshuffled her deck by drawing the last card of her deck with the vault (a very clever play, I thought, keeping all her coppers in the discard pile rather than her deck). At this point, I thought the pain was over, but then with her new fresh deck, the whole thing happened again, a village fueled drawing of cards and extra actions, another monstrous turn. I was like a boxer that had taken too many punches, too stunned to fall, too befuddled to do anything except play out my cards until the inevitable moment when she bought out the last colony to end the game.
We counted up.
Now I had a decent score. a few colonies and provinces, a couple of gardens. 56 points is not terrible as such. Until you looked across and saw what she had. Poignantly, she just crossed the 50 card mark on her last turn, making her gardens 5 points a piece, she had 6 of those, 3 estates, 3 duchies, 4 provinces and 6 colonies. 126 points.
I was rather floored and awed by all this. It was remarkable. I had to get up and walk around (though I did that in the middle of the game when she drew that 3rd counting house, though I did so in mock outrage. But really, another one? Come on!)
As a post script, my wife did persuade me to try the same set up again. After a few minutes, my card gamer brain kicked in and I started to wonder if you could race and beat it. All CCGers know that speed kills. So after a suitable recovery period, I sat down and played again, she again went for counting house and I very deliberately did not, picking up a couple of caravans and labs and grabbing ambassadors to just grind all the fat out of the deck. One thing I did that amused me (even if no one else finds it funny) was that with 2 ambassadors, I could hone it quite fast but with a 3rd, I could then use that on the other 2 and hone it a bit more. So I did that, giving her a pretty useless card. As I was honed, she was powering up, then I churned through the colonies (with a couple silvers, couple golds and a platinum, I was comfortably making 11+ gold a turn, drawing through most of my deck in a turn). Her engine was turning and I knew it had to be fast. I thought I had done it when she hadn't managed to get a multi-garden-buying turn, my last turn a colony and a garden which took me to exactly 20 cards. But when we counted, she had managed 4 colonies to match mine and that extra estate I had given her (in an eerie symmetry to the earlier game) was the difference in a 44-43 win for her.
Despite all the fun I have had with Star Realms in the last few months and the various other deck builders I have tried over the years, this single glorious afternoon of gaming confirmed to me what I already thought - Dominion is still King of the Deck-Builders.
Photos from monteslu, punkin312 and onethinline - thanks!
June's plays picked up with 37 plays, in no small part to the addictive qualities of Star Realms. Many months, 7 plays would be enough to take the top spot but the return of Guildhall to our table (both as a group game at game night and our head-to-head mega-Guildhall games) was surpassed by the quicker playing and easy set-up of Star Realms - and the way we can just play one more game before we go to bed.
First plays were thin on the ground, I got a first play of the King of Tokyo: Power Up! expansion, which I have only owned for like a year - it seemed we as a group had had enough of giant monsters just as I got it. But I played it with the family, my youngest got to be the giant panda and it was a lot of fun (though he lost, so he may want to go back to his old standby of Gigasaur...). I also bought and played Snowdonia, a game that has been in and out of my shopping cart a few times but the continued enthusiasm I see around the Geek for it convinced me it was worth my time. We tried it out, we both enjoyed the play, perhaps me a little more, as I could see the possibilities a bit more (my wife was a bit tired, but not so tired not to play and indeed win!). There was a moment where we were looking around the board wondering how we were ever going to play out all our cubes then the event cube came out, the government workers completed a bunch of stations and it was suddenly 2 turns at most from the final reckoning. Expect to hear more from me on this in future posts!
That play of Innovation was a good one too, Innovation is a game I have struggled with, one that should be right in my wheelhouse, cards with unique powers, comboing off each other, but it has never quite gelled in my brain. Finally, I think I made a break-through with this play, a really fun game, I started strongly (I played Metalworking first turn, drew out 6 cards in a row with castles on, taking that achievement and then the first scoring achievement next turn!). Then a key moment, my wife with a strong board but less points and a hand full of cards was invited by my physics dogma to draw 3 6s, with the proviso that she would lose all her cards if any matched in color. I didn't think she would, she is not a big risk-taker at the best of times, but she did, she pulled it off then she scored a huge number of points with one of her own cards next turn and suddenly she could win by just scoring achievements! Then I managed to prevent that and it went to 5 achievements a piece and a race to score one of the special ones, I was a turn away from all 5 colors at 8+ when she splayed all her cards up or right. Wow, it was fun.
Last thing to mention: we put all the cards from Jambo and Asante together and played. It sort of worked, but the game was weird, prone to streakiness and empty turns. It made the things that kinda bug me about both of those games worse without making the good stuff better. So not recommended - in fact, my wife wanted to work on a variant version that does use both sets of cards - the 2nd game we played was part of that effort and it might work out.
Star Realms 16
Tales & Games: The Three Little Pigs 2
King of Tokyo (with Power Up!) 1
Lords of Waterdeep 1
Mamma Mia! 1
Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game 1
Wyatt Earp 1
At the halfway point of the year, I thought it might be cool to see how gaming is going and adding it up just now I have 207 plays so far (compared with 170 in 2014), which quantifies my feeling that we are getting more games in this year. Most played (no surprise) is Star Realms with 46 plays, pretty good given I didn't pick it up till March. 3 other dimes for the half year: Guildhall, last year's champ Rat Hot and Animal Upon Animal.
New games in the collection: Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, Jungle, Animal Upon Animal, Rhino Hero, Star Realms, Spyfall (only browser version!), Asante, Apex Theropod Deck-Building Game, Snowdonia and (not yet played) Rampage.
Games left the collection: Machi Koro.
So that is 10 (physical) games added and 1 subtracted.
I got some of my unplayed expansions played, still waiting for the chance to play Coup: Reformation, but got all the Hive expansions played and just played King of Tokyo: Power Up!. Still a couple to go - Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 2 – India & Switzerland is the longest unplayed, while More Buildings will probably be added next time we play.
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