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A Gnome's Ponderings

I'm a gamer. I love me some games and I like to ramble about games and gaming. So, more than anything else, this blog is a place for me to keep track of my ramblings. If anyone finds this helpful or even (good heavens) insightful, so much the better.

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BUS is the ride I hoped for

Lowell Kempf
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Illinois
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The Pack o Games game that I was looking forward to the most was BUS. I was really excited when its stretch goal was met. A pick-up-and-deliver game that is made up of only thirty cards and plays in ten to twenty minutes? That feels like one of those goals, like a Civilization game that plays in only a couple hours but still feels like an epic civilization builder.

So BUS was high on my list to get in the table. And while it isn't going to fire Steam or even Bombay or the Great Heartland Hauling Company, it does satisfy my desire for a quick, small footprint game that still felt like a legitimate pick-up-and-deliver game. And, frankly, it'll hit the table more often than those other games due to its short playtime.

In BUS, you are each playing a city bus driver, earning points by picking up passengers from bus stops and dropping them off at their color-coded stops. Three of the cards are your buses and twelve are roads that you use create a map of four overlapping squares. Three have bus stops, one has a construction sign, six have color-coded stops and two are just streets.

The remaining fifteen cards are passengers. Each card has two different colored passengers, points for completing the whole card and a speed limit. Ticket to Ride style, two are face up to pick from but you can also draw blind.

You see, you can only move as many street cards as the lowest speed limit on your incompleted passenger cards. On your turn, you move at most that many street cards and you can't make a u-turn. You can drop off passengers just by passing through the appropriate street card but you have to stop at a bus stop to get a new card.

Once and only once per game, if you stop on the construction card, you can swap two unoccupied street cards.

When someone completes five passenger cards, everyone gets one more turn and the game ends. Most points in completed passenger cards wins.

What really strikes me about BUS is how much information is on the passenger cards and how well it's used. Each player has an incomplete column and a completed column. After you drop the first passenger off, you slide the card halfway between the columns to track who was dropped off and who is still in your bus. If need be, you flip the card over to keep track of who is who. And your speed and your pints are also tied up in the passenger cards.

Reading interviews with Chris Handy about the game when the series was being kickstarted, I see that the final version had some streamlining done. For instance, an empty bus had a speed limit of five in the original rules but now it has no speed limit. Just teleport to a bus stop, potentially saving at least a turn of empty driving. And apparently you had to drop passengers off on a specific side of the street, which would have been teeth-grindingly frustrating.

I'm really glad those changes were made. Because brevity is definitely part of what makes the Pack o Games series work. They have a short playing time but they still offer a satisfying gaming experience with interesting choices. Playing one makes me feel like I have played a game, not rolled some dice and hoped for a good outcome.

And I really enjoyed BUS. It felt like a full game to me, particularly for its playing time. It definitely felt like a legitimate pick-up-and-deliver game with interesting choices. Factors like not being able to make a u-turn and the speed limits made picking out your path interesting. Carrie enjoyed it as well, saying it was a Tick to Ride experience with a shorter play time and footprint.

In particular, we both agreed that the random set up was key to keeping BUS interesting and replayable. The relative values of passenger cards can radically change depending on the layout.

In general, Pack o Games has not disappointed and BUS may be the high point of the series. It's a game that appeals to the Euro lover in me and feels much fuller than thirty cards that fit into my pocket. In fact, I'd say that if you are planning on just owning one Pack o Game game, BUS should be the one.
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Mon Aug 3, 2015 8:22 pm
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Taking a year or two off from Gencon

Lowell Kempf
United States
Chicago
Illinois
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I was startled to learn that this weekend is Gencon. This will be the first Gecon since 1999 that I will have missed. Of course, I did miss every Gencon before 1999

I knew the last year that I wouldn't be going this year so it's not like it's a terrible surprise or to be honest even that terrible. Living in the Southwest and being a parent and related matters mean that Gencon is impractical and, quite frankly, there are more important things for me to focus on.

There are some things that I will miss. Being able to see friends from all over, although a lot of them aren't able to make it either. The auction hall. That is always fun. Seeing all of the homemade costumes and homebrew boards.

And of course the fact that going to a convention, particularly at convention that includes staying overnight, is a vacation from reality. There is no denying that that's definitely part of the magic of any convention.

But there's a lot of things that I don't miss.

You see, as time has gone on, I have found that one of the things that I tend not to do that much at game conventions is actually game. Some of that is because there are so many sights to see but a lot of it is just trying to get your group together and trying to find a space that you can use.

In fact, I have found that conventions can make it harder to spend time with people. If I want to see folks (and that has become one of the biggest reasons for me to go to conventions), actually visiting them is cheaper and more efficient!

And since I left the cult of the new and am trying to keep my game collection vaguely manageable, Gencon as a massive shopping trip is out. Man, it's disturbing to remember times I filled up the whole trunk with new games.

Conventions are fun and I'm not quitting conventions forever. But not going ten years ago would have been a big deal. Now, not going is just meh.


[addendum
I've now heard from a number of my friends who did go to Gencon this year. Enough of the old gang didn't go that it wasn't good as a reunion. Also, it has become harder and harder to find free space for pickup games, which is a priority for me and my friends. (Although I realize that playing space is becoming more and more of a valued commodity at Gencon and giving it away for free may not be in their best interests)

So not going seems like an even wiser move than before. I don't think Gencon is becoming rotten. I think me and my friends are just all changing. The next time I go, it may be with a focus of being a father. If that's the case, Gencon will be a completely new experience for me.]
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Sat Aug 1, 2015 7:05 pm
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The fascination of a name

Lowell Kempf
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The Origin of Failing Water, which I first heard about as The Origin of Falling Water is a game that has long fascinated me, even though I've never played it or even seen a copy.

The funny thing is, it isn't because of the mechanics or theme of the game. It's just because I find the name so evocative. Seriously, it sounds like the start of a beautiful poem or myth or song. Every time I read it, I feel like I am looking at the opening credits of a Miyazaki film.

As near as I can tell, it's actually about the drains in a mansion which I haven't even figured out is real or made up. And, also, as near as I can tell, it is not about Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water. Heck, if anyone knows the answer, I'd love to hear it.

This is one of the more extreme examples for me of how a name or a theme can so captivate me that the actual game almost doesn't come into the picture. That's probably the mark of brilliance on the part of marketing.

For me, when this happens, it's a strange, almost extraordinary. I tend to be a mechanics first, then theme kind of guy. But we're not even talking about theme. We're talking about title!

That said, when I did get around to looking at the mechanics of the Origins of Failing Water, they do look neat. You play the tricks in reverse order but the 'earlier' tricks determine the trump for the later tricks so the reverse order actually means something. A couple different tables that I used to play at in Chicago would really get a kick out of this game.

Oddly enough, it reminds me for some reason of Nicht die Bonne, a game that I view as criminally neglected. The lack of an English edition might have something to do with that. Both appear to be simple card games that define expectations or predictions.

Mind you, The Origin of Failing Water was available at the geek store, at least for a while, so it has actually had some American presence. I doubt that I will be picking it up because I don't have a table of four, let alone one that is interested in a trip taking games.

But the Origin of Failing Water will probably always be on my radar, if only because I find the name so evocative.
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Thu Jul 30, 2015 9:02 pm
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TKO proves to be a charming little boxing game

Lowell Kempf
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Illinois
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When I was first looking at Pack o Games, TKO was probably the game that interested me the least. The mechanics seemed physically cumbersome and the theme didn't interest me that much. Luckily, it turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected.

TKO is a game about boxing and it has super simple rules. Simple enough that it's pretty much a themed version of Rock-Paper-Scissods. Players simultaneously choose between high punch, high block, low punch, or low block. If you make it successful punch or successfully block below, you get a point in that category.

You see, unlike most fighting games, you're not keeping track of how much damage you're doing. Instead you keeping track of how many successful move you make. I guess this is a boxing game where you are keeping track of the technical points. That actually might make more like real boxing.

When you get five points in any of the four categories, you've won that round. You play to the best two out of three. And trust me, three rounds isn't going to take that long.

At first, the not keeping track of damage seemed a little weird to me. I mean most fighting games are all about the damage. But the tracking points of successful moves is a big part of what makes TKO a good game.

You see, the game comes a stable of eight different fighters. The only difference is that some of them start off with more points in specific moves.

And that proved to be a much bigger deal than I expected. Instead of just randomly picking a move, now you have moves that you want to make. OR do I? Maybe I just want you to think so and will make another move instead! The different fighters create an actual frame work for you to make your bluffing decisions. It's a tiny little tweak but it's a tiny little game so it makes a real difference.

The biggest downside to TKO is that each fighter is made up of six cards that you slide in order to keep track of each of your point meters. That ends up being a little fiddly. On the plus side, each fighter has a cute name and cartoony artwork.

We haven't tried the advanced play with the momentum card. I'm not sure if that will just speed up the game or add some tension to it or even deflate the value of the boxers being different. At some point, we will have to find out.

I couldn't help but compare this game to Dragon Punch since both are fighting games that involve simultaneous selection. And I know the Dragon Punch is the more complex and deeper game so I was expecting that we would enjoy it more. But much to my surprise, we both liked TKO more.

Part of that comes from that while Dragon Punch is the more complex game, it isn't that much deeper. But a lot of it comes from the difference in how their stable of fighters work. In Dragon Punch, your choice of fighter gives you a unique move you'll use once or twice per bout. But your choice of fighter in TKO affects your entire game play. We found greater variety in our TKO plays.

Of course, Dragon Punch can be played while standing in a line or any other pace where you don't have a table or have to fight cats or toddlers for table space. So it has that. But for a quiet game after the toddler is in bed, TKO works better for us.

TKO continues what I suspect will be a trend in my exploration of the Pack o Game series. It isn't an amazingly innovative or deep game. However, it does what it sets out to do very well. It is mechanically very solid with plenty of replay value. The cartoony art is a definite fun plus.

TKO isn't the greatest game I've ever played or the next big thing. It's a little boxing game that you can play in five, ten minutes and offers some interesting choices. I'm glad to have it and it will be part of our quiet evening games and traveling bag.
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Tue Jul 28, 2015 8:37 pm
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HUE is a solid but not inspired start to Pack o Games

Lowell Kempf
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HUE was the first game from the Pack o Games that we tried out. Not only is it technically the first game in the series, it also used mechanics that we were familiar with. I figure we will buzz through TKO and FLY next since those are light, quick games, before we get into the 'heavier' games.

HUE is a tile-laying game where every tile is made up of three squares. Each tile features three of the games's five colors, either with each square being its own color or three stripes running longways, so each square has all three colors.

After you create a starting board, using special tiles that are a crazy quilt of colors, each player gets a hand of cards plus one special poison tile. It's like a normal tile except the middle square also has a poison symbol on it.

On your turn, you place a tile. Colors don't have to match but you must have at least one of your squares share an edge with a square already on the board. You can also cover up one but only one square that's on the board.

You don't draw a new tile. Your hand is everything you will play. The game ends when everyone is down to one card, which becomes their scoring card. You score the three colors on your card (the center one in your scoring card scoring double points) and each one is based on the largest group of that color on the board.

If a group has a poison symbol in it, it is void, even if it would be the biggest group.

While I was worried that the small deck size and small hand size would hurt the game, I found there were a lot of really smart design choices in HUE. Being able to cover up a square adds a lot of depth to your choices. The small hand size with no draws means you are planning out your entire game from the start.

And I really liked how your last card was your scoring card but you didn't make the final decision for that until your last play. You could still change your mind. It added tension and I felt that it didn't penalize the first player the way I've seen similar games do. (I'm thinking of Knizia's Topaz specifically, by the way)

The weakest element for us was the poison card. If you didn't have one that matched a color you saw your opponent working on, it didn't do much. I can see it being much stronger in a four or five player game, though.

In short, we found it to be a game that was very solid with no mechanical holes and genuinely difficult decisions.

It reminded me of a lot of other games. The feel of the cards was like Topaz. The way that color shapes really reminded me of Aquarius. Being able to stack cards brought Rat Hot to mind. I even found the color element brought to mind games like Continuo. And that's just the first four games that come to mind.

And that brings us to what was our big problem with the game. Yeah, we did have one.

Simply put, we had both played so many games like it before. We both have played a lot of tile laying games. We both felt like HUE did everything that it did well but we didn't feel like it did anything particularly sparkly or new. No negative feelings but we were left feeling a bit meh.

Now, if I had found HUE at the same time I found, say, The Very Clever Pipe Game, fourteen, fifteen years ago, I'd have been blown away. It would have lived in my pocket and seen tons of play.

As it stands, it's a mechanically strong game that is super portable and plays up to five players. It's biggest sin is that it doesn't excite us. Am I planning on keeping it? Yes. Would we play it again? Yes. Is it a game that will make it into my stable of travel games for trips or conventions? Yes.

On the one hand, our first foray into the Pack o Game series wasn't that thrilling. On the other hand, finding a well-designed game that wasn't junk is still pretty good darn good.
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Fri Jul 24, 2015 11:08 pm
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where I babble with excitement about getting Pack o Games

Lowell Kempf
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One of the kick starter projects that I had probably too much fun with last year was a Pack o Games. Part of the fun was because it embodied what I am looking for in a game right now. Not a lot of time, not a lot of space so micro games have been really convenient for me.

But what was really fun was the stretch goals. With Pack o Games, the stretch goals weren't additional pieces or parts to games. The stretch goals were additional games. So I was quite excited to follow it and watch more games get added to the project.

And a few days ago, I found all eight of the games that were produced in my mailbox. Yes, they were so small that they fit into the mailbox.

From a sheer size vantage point, each game is remarkably small. 30 cards that are 3 inches long by 1 inch wide. Each one is literally the size of one of those packs of gum that you can buy dirt cheap beside the cash register. I knew they were going to be small but I was still impressed when I saw them in real life.

I have looked at a lot of micro games over the last few years. And something that I realized was that while each of these cards is small, 30 cards is actually a larger number then a lot of micro games. So for as tiny as they are, the potential of having some decent game inside them is remarkably high.

My biggest concern, apart from finding out how good they are from the game standpoint, is there physical longevity. The cards are linen finished but the paper is still pretty darn thin. I don't know how well they will hold up to where and tear. And if the games turn out to be good, they are going to see you somewhere and tear.

My biggest excitement is the variety of games in the series. They are so different from each other that I can't even call it a system. I just have to call it a series.

While there were 10 proposed games in the kick starter project and only eight of them made it to production so far, I was very happy that the eighth game made it. BUS is a pick up and deliver game made up of only 30 cards. I really want to see how that works and I really hope that it works.

Frankly, all the fun I had following the project made the money I spent on it worth it. But if the games are actually fun to play, that would be really awesome.
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Fri Jul 24, 2015 7:09 pm
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My first but not final thoughts on Black Friday

Lowell Kempf
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I've managed to get quite a few blogs out of my couple days in Columbus. For me, that trip was the equivalent of going to Gencon or Origins this year. Except, compared to some conventions, I got in a lot more gaming.

The last game that I got to learn and that I want to talk about is Black Friday. Compared to games likes Splendor or Tzolk'in , there's no denying that Black Friday is both less popular and more obscure. Wait a second, does that mean the same thing?

I have been very interested in learning how to play Black Friday because it's on Yucuta and I haven't been able to really get a sense of how to play it there. I knew that it was a game about the stock market and some of my friends have even compared it to Acquire, as well as saying that it was like an 18 XX game with the train part sawed off.

One thing that I do have to say about Black Friday is that reading through the rule book did not help. I don't know if it's one of those games that you just need somebody else to show you or if it needs a much better rulebook. Both could be the answer but the second one seems a lot more likely.

The very short explanation for lack Friday is that you borrow government subsidies to buy stock hopefully low and sell it hopefully high in order to buy silver bars that are points.

The amazing and disturbing core to Black Friday is the bag that determines market changes. Literally, when it's time for the market to adjust, you pull little wooden suitcases out of the bag to see what happens. Frankly, they could have been cubes but suitcases are a little more thematic.

If you pull out suitcases that match a stock's color, that will do well for the stock. If you don't, bad things start to happen to the stock. If you pull out one of the dreaded black suitcases, bad things happen to every stock and if it's a stock that was already in trouble, it gets ugly.

Every action you take, be it buying stock or selling stock or buying silver bars or even just passing, affects what suitcases go in the bag. So, on the one hand, you do get to adjust the odds of what happens to the market. On the other hand, what gets drawn on the bag is what gets drawn out of the bag and the odds can be completely defied.

What it really reminded me of was the cube tower in Wallenstein or Shogun. You have a sense of what is in the tower and you know what you're pouring into the tower but that doesn't mean what comes out is what you expect or hope.

Trust me, I have not done a good job explaining the rules although I probably done a better job explaining the game then that darn rulebook does.

What I'm hoping that I've conveyed is that Black Friday is all about speculation and trying to influence the market while knowing that you will never be able to control the market. And if you try to go alone and be the only person involved in a stock, that stock is probably going to bottom out and you will be next to other failed investors on the window ledge.

And while I know have an idea how Black Friday works, I have no idea how to actually win or even do well at Black Friday. That's not a bad thing. Exploring a game that has what would you name it learning curve isn't a bad thing and that is something that I can do on Yucata.

Black Friday is not the best game that I learned on the trip but it is the one that I am the most intrigued by. It is a pure and brutal economic game and one that will take me a while to really get the hang of. It's not for everyone but it is a game that I am looking forward to many plays of.
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Thu Jul 23, 2015 5:45 pm
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What I think after I finally play Splendor

Lowell Kempf
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I already know that this is not going to be my last word on Splendor. I am definitely going to pick up the app and I have a feeling I will be getting a hard copy of the game before the end of the year.

Splendor got plenty of attention when it came out last year. It got praise as a simple but solid engine builder and as a game that could easily hit the table. It also got flack for being simple and there were plenty of predictions that it would fade away.

The whole parenthood thing has made shorter games a lot more tempting for me so Splendor was definitely on my radar. And, after months of being curious about Splendor, I finally had a chance to play it during my trip to Columbus. Or, to be more accurate, I got in two four-player games and two three-player games.

To cut to the chase, I really enjoyed Splendor. It didn't wow me the way that Tzolk'in did or make me really think the way Black Friday did, two other games I learned on that trip. But it is a game that I can see playing over and over again happily and a game I can see playing with a wide variety of people, from serious gamers to folks who think Carcassonne is complex.

I am pretty sure that the theme of the game is being gem merchants in the Renaissance but the theme and gameplay don't have much to do with each other. Honestly, the game could have used any theme or no theme at all. It's all symbols and numbers. But the gem theme did give the publishers and excuse to use pretty pictures so yea to that.

Like a lot of the game commentaries that I've written lately, I'm pretty sure that everyone who is reading this has played more games of Splendor then I have. Still, let's do a game summary.

Splendor consists of three rows of cards that are gems as well as points, each row more expensive and worth more points than the last. One row of Nobles who are also worth points. And stacks of gem chips that serve as the currency of the game.

On your turn, you must do one of three things. Take chips. Buy a card. Reserve a card which gets you a wild chip, along with the card no one but you can buy.

Every card is always a gem. The more expensive ones also give you points, which is what you are really after. When you get a card, it counts as a gem for purchasing but one you never have to spend. You can also only use cards to get Nobles. Nobles don't care about chips. Getting a Noble doesn't take an action but you can only do it once a turn.

When somebody gets 21 points, that triggers end game. Everyone gets one more chance try and beat that guy and then the game is over. High score wins.

An important part of the game is the economy of chips. You can only have 10 chips. There are restrictions on how you draw chips. And there's only so many chips to go around. It's an economy of scarcity that will make a desert seem lush.

Cards don't count against your chip limit and you get to use them as buying power without ever spending them. That means the cards are awfully powerful and useful compared to chips. Splendor is all about building up a tableau of cards that will let you buy more expensive and valuable cards, as well as grab those Nobles.

What I had heard about Splendor is that it was one of the simplest of engine builders you're going to find. As you add cards to tableau, you add to your buying power. So, you're buying gems so you can buy more gems. No special powers or weird effects but the game doesn't need those.

When I first started playing the game, I underestimated the usefulness of reserving cards, particularly higher valued cards, and Nobles. Those two elements help you set your long game, as much as you can have a long game in the game this short.

There definitely seems to be a shift in the game from when you are carefully balancing your chip stock to when you don't want to bother with chips at all and want your engine of cards to do all the work. I like that. I like it when your engine takes off and you feel like you have a system going.

Splendor reminds me of two games in particular. Bazaar and Ticket to Ride. Bazaar is all about trading colored stones for more color stones for cards worth points. While it doesn't have a chip limit per se, your 'change' determines your points. The more you have, the less you get so you want to have as small as hand as possible.

The Ticket to Ride connection is a little bit more legit. Both games have you choose between three simple actions on your turn. Quite frankly the actions even compare well to each other. They create indirect conflict through direct competition. Both games are easy to explain but have enough depth that you will keep on playing them.

I really enjoyed Splendor but I can see how it can fade for serious, hardcore gamers. However, I can see it having real legs with casual gamers. It's no a Ticket to a Ride but I think it is coming from the same kind of place. Quick simple actions leading to a big picture.
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Tue Jul 21, 2015 6:04 pm
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Why Catan is different than Munchkin and other thoughts on games of spite

Lowell Kempf
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After playing Flapjacks and Sasquatches, I've found myself mulling about the whole Take That, Munchkin style genre.

Part of what I find myself wondering is when does a game cross the line and get labeled Take That. I mean, you can argue that any game with direct conflict could be labeled Take That but war games don't fit the bill. No one is going to call Advanced Squad Leader a Take That game.

It feels like the qualities we are looking for are light rules, high random and high spite, with a humorous theme usually thrown in. If you can't trash talk or if the words beer and pretzels don't come to mind, it probably doesn't qualify. Still, that's all so vague that I might as well say I don't know what Take That is but I sure know it when I see it.

That said, there are some games that I'm not sure if they count or not. Is Zombies a Take That game? What about Nuclear War? Both games have spite and randomness and are definitely beer and pretzel games but are they Take That games?

For me, Munchkin is one of the icons of the genre. And I pretty much despise the game. I don't mind randomness and I don't mind conflict and I think John Kovalic is pretty darn funny but I can't stand Munchkin.

I realize my problem with the game simply comes from how it doesn't have a timer and how a big part of game play comes from dragging the leader back.

But, you say to me "When you get to eight points in Catan, no one will trade with you and you get hit with the bandit a lot. Isn't that the same thing and yet you love Catan, you hypocrite."

Well, yes, those things are true. However, that just slows you down. It doesn't actually shut you down, let alone drag you backward. The bandit isn't the focus of Catan while attacking opponents is in Munchkin.

I honestly wonder if Munchkin would benefit from player elimination or if that would make the game even longer. 'You have dropped below zero level, you are out of the game.' 'Does that mean I'm dead?' 'No it means you're a serf.' 'Could I be dead instead?' 'Just be glad you're out of the game'

Of course, the real question is why am I even asking myself all these questions about take that games? Is there any real purpose behind the question other than academic curiosity?

Actually, there is. Understanding what makes these games tick and what makes them fun for some people let me figure out alternatives to playing Munchkin. Yes, I could just avoid people who play Munchkin but that seems like taking game snobbery too far.

There are actually a number of potential games (Gloom with its timer of killing off family members comes to mind) but the top of my list is Guillotine.

Published back in 1998 and still around, I've come to think of Guillotine as a modern classic. When I first played it lo those many moons ago, I thought it was cute and silly. However, as I've grown older, I've come to appreciate it more and more. The line mechanic gives the game a timer, as well as some real tension. It might not have enough spite for some Munchkin players but I think it makes for s good crossover game.

I know I am a Euro lover and an abstract lover first and foremost but I can enjoy some cartoon violence in my gaming. I don't have to be 'where's my cubes?' or 'theme is for sissies' There is room in my life for random games (Hi Fluxx and Can't Stop) and room in my life for spite.
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Mon Jul 20, 2015 6:48 pm
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My only concerns with Escape are medical ones

Lowell Kempf
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Escape has been around for a couple years and gotten some decent fame in that time. I've always viewed it as an odd beast of a game. It's a big box (big by my standards at least) and each game only takes ten minutes to play,

Of course, part of the whole idea is that it takes _exactly_ ten minutes to play.

It's a real time cooperative game where everyone is playing speed Yahtzee.

Probably everyone reading this has played more times than me but let's do a quick overview. You are playing archeologists in the classic Indiana Jones mold. You are trapped in a temple in darkest Africa/South America/North Dakota. You need to return the cursed gems and find the exit before the whole place collapses and kills you in ten minutes.

If even one person doesn't escape, you all lose. Maybe the locals kill the rest of you with poison darts. Maybe the gods smite you. Maybe the archeology board at the University of Chicago cancels your tenure. Everyone wins or everyone loses.

The mechanics of Escape combine dice combos with tile laying. Everyone gets five dice. Each die has two men, a torch, a key, a black mask and a gold masks. You use the men and torches and keys to place tiles and get rid of gems. Rolling a black mask will lock that die while the gold masks unlock two locked black masks. Including those of another player as long as you're both on the same tile.

And the real key to the game is the timer/sound track. You have ten minutes and no more to get out of that temple. No one has their own turn. You're just frantically all rolling dice and trying to get the combinations you need all at the same time.

You do need to try and work together, though. You won't be able to get rid of those cursed gems alone. It takes team work to get enough symbols. Plus you are inevitable going to need someone to unlock your black mask dice.

To make things even worse, twice during the timer, you get a warning to go back to the start tile. If you don't, you lose a die. That's like a baseball player losing a hand. It's bad stuff.

And it works. One part party game, one part dice game, one part cooperative, one part pulp adventure, Escape comes together as a frantic, manic, breathless experience. It was a blast and after our first game, one guy said "You do not play this as the last game of the night."

Honestly, if you don't have fun playing Escape, you seriously need to lighten up.

That said, I'm reluctant to add it to my collection. Partially because it is a big box by my standards and, honestly, it feels weird to devote so much space to a ten-minute game although I can't see setting it up and not playing it multiple times.

But that's not the big reason. I have back problems and spending ten minutes being simultaneously super tense and super manic, I felt the start of muscle spasms kicking in. No, I'm not actually joking.

Escape is crazy, silly fun but it might need a medical warning.
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Sun Jul 19, 2015 6:18 pm
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