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How to Waste $80,000 and Board Game Development

Kevin Gordish
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Westland
Michigan
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Detroit Free Press ran an article about a guy who spent 80K developing a financial board game. It appears to be a roll and move game.

http://www.freep.com/article/20130915/COL07/309150035/retire...
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Fri Sep 20, 2013 11:48 pm
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Hasbro HeroQuest Petition

Kevin Gordish
United States
Westland
Michigan
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In light of all the Hasbro news, I introduce the Hasbro Bring Back HeroQuest Petition. Please sign and share:
https://www.change.org/petitions/hasbro-petiton-bring-heroqu...#
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Tue Dec 18, 2012 8:41 pm
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Outpost Review: Bite my Shiny Metal A$$

Kevin Gordish
United States
Westland
Michigan
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Economic Engine and Auction games are two of my favorite styles of games. Assessing value and build a competitive advantage is skill important within economic games. Add in the auction element complicates matters because price structures become more variable given current market availability and demand; however, the toughest aspect of auction games is to keep the ego in check. Winning auctions does not always translate in winning the game.

Last year I managed to purchase an OOP copy of 2038, an 18XX game, set in space designed by James Hlavaty and Tom Lehmann. My favorite thing about 2038 is the randomness of exploring hexes on the board, which is a novel twist to the 18XX formula which usually is highly deterministic and lacking luck. By now you are wondering, "What's the point with this 2038 tangent?" Stowed away in my 2038 box were mail order instructions on how to obtain the advanced rules for another game called Outpost.

In previous posts I have shared space themed games are among my favorites. I have fond memories of watching Star Trek: TNG on Sundays with my dad. Maybe that's why I like space so much. Therefore, I will use a space theme for my review of Outpost, by using references to a space themed cartoon show and favorite of mine: Futurama. Though I must admit I do not like the post cancellation episodes. They strive for mediocrity and have delusions of adequacy. Now, moving onto the review of Outpost.

Professor Hubert Farnsworth: Good news, everyone. Tomorrow, you'll all be making a delivery to Ebola 9, the virus planet.

Yes, good news indeed. Stronghold Games recently released Outpost: 20th anniversary edition, a 2-9 player game, is a reprint of a classic James Hlavaty game originally printed and released by TimJim Games in 1991. TimJim games while not visually most attractive games by today's gaming standards are quite fun. They are a good buy on eBay or conventions especially since TimJim Games folded in 1998.

My Outpost game play experience has been limited to games with six players. Though, I suspect I would not want to write a review about playing 2 player game Outpost. This version of Outpost is played with the advanced rules from the 1st edition and includes optional game play cards designed by Tom Lehmann known as the "Kicker" cards from Kickstarter.

Bureaucrat Number 1.0: D-D-D-D-Don't quote me regulations. I co-chaired the committee that reviewed the recommendation to revise the color of the book that regulation's in. We kept it grey.

The original artwork was pretty close to military grey or ocean grey and had plain spartan white cards with black print. The new edition includes space themed artwork and color. The upgrade in art is roughly tantamount to when Hollywood starting using Technicolor.

Zapp Brannigan: Brannigan's law is like Brannigan's love: hard and fast.

Outpost is not the fastest game, but is it rewarding. The first time playing my gaming group managed to play Outpost between two and three hours, closer to three. The game was lengthened by ten minutes after people could count their cards correctly and the resultant mockery.

The basic premise in Outpost, each player controls a planetary upstart colony and races to build an empire. Each player begins the game with 3 factories and 3 workers. The factories manufacture production cards or the currency used in Outpost when run by either humans or robots. The resources are drawn from matching factory type deck. Each card has a number value and these cards are used to purchase upgrades. The upgrades can earn players victory points and ends when a player is the first to reach 75 victory points.

Managing game variables within Outpost is key to winning. At the start of the game players start with:
1. Hand Limit of 10 production cards
2. Maximum of 5 human workers. This is known as Colony Support.
Purchasing upgrades can expand your hand limit or number of workers. Some special production cards do not count towards your hand limit.

The basic turn order is quite simple (these are not the rules in entirety):
1. Determine Player Turn Order. This is done by player VP's
2. Replenish purchased colony upgrade cards. This is accomplished by dice rolls and changes the cards available for bid. Sometimes multiple cards of the same type are available for bid.
3. Distribute Production Cards: Collect money from your factories. This is what makes the game fun because the draw deck for each factory has production cards with an average value. Players draw cards corresponding to the factories they run. Sometimes high cards are drawn other times players are stuck with low value cards and could not even afford a small can of Slurm let alone being able to competitively bid.
4. Discard Excess Production Cards
5. Perform Player Actions: This is the core part of Outpost. In turn order a player, starts an auction for an Upgrade Card or Kicker Card. Additionally, they may Buy New Factories, Buy additional workers (Colonists or Robots), and finally assign what worker operates each factory.
6. Check for Win: Check to see if a player reached 75 or more VPs.

Moon Rover Ride Narrator: No one really knows when, where, or how man landed on the moon...
Fry: I do!
Moon Rover Ride Narrator: ...but our Fungineers imagine it went something like this.
Fry: That's not how it happened.
Leela: Oh, really? I don't see you with a Fungineering degree.


The rules are quite straight forward and don't require an advanced degree. After a few rounds every player should know what they are doing and won't require extensive rule referencing. Printed on player’s game boards are the names and the average production values each factory manufactures. Additionally, when new upgrades come into the game to be bid on players can simply reference what is printed on the card. Basically, RTFC. Though, I thought the print was too small.

In my first time playing I wasted at least one bid because I expanded my colony support or maximum number of workers too high. I never maxed out on factories, in effect wasting money I could have used else. I safeguarding in case I wanted to have extra production. It was the wrong bet.

This game is not like 18XX games where holding onto excess money is a wasted opportunity because held money produces no income. Holding onto money in Outpost can be a strategy for buying higher VP cards. As an example, in our first game for more than half the game I was behind by at least 20 VPs, but later in the game I bought a top-end factory (Moon Ore which produces production cards with an average value of 50) and then purchased the Moon Base for 200 and earned 20 VP's. Everyone thought I was way behind until performing this action.

In addition to upgrades giving players VPs, they are prerequisites for players to be allowed to buy upgraded factories and the upgrade cards also grant purchase players discounts for future purchases for certain types of cards. One fun upgrade card is the "Wiley Trader" this allowed a player who owned the card to choose a player trade them a card and take a card from them of the same type, but a higher value. Hate play can be fun.

Bender: Bite my Shiny Metal Ass

Lost my first game of Outpost and worst yet the guy who had to leave for work would have won the game that day. He was utilizing the titanium strategy to win. Producing small victory points each turn. I came in second and possible first if I didn't screw up discarding some cards I should have held onto due the hand limit exclusion rule.

Thumbs Up:
Tense Auction Game; combines the fun of St. Petersburg and Power Grid.

Tight game mechanics.

Thumbs Down:
Plays a little long and auction games with fewer than three players usually not that much fun.

Not much bad about Outpost

Author of Diceslam
www.diceslam.blogspot.com
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Sat Feb 25, 2012 10:03 pm
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Ora Et Labora Review: Analyzed through Dr. Sheldon Cooper of Big Bang Theory

Kevin Gordish
United States
Westland
Michigan
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As I write, my girlfriend and I are listening to David Bowie’s Young Americans album on my recent gift to her: a new Audio Technica Two Speed Turntable. Speaking of Bowie, check out the new Jimmy Fallon Tebowie video. This parody of the Major Tom song is as funny as William Shatner performing Rocket Man:

Jesus replying to Tim Tebow:
This is Jesus Christ to Tim Tebow
Please leave me alone
Don't you know my day of rest is Sunday?
And I'm sick of watching all these Bronco games.

Lately, I have been hooked on watching reruns. One of the shows I’ve been watching is The Benny Hill Show on a local TV station which airs mostly kitschy B-List movies and post 70's era shows. Besides the recycled program the local commercials are funny. Previous to watching Benny Hill I only knew two things about the show: the theme song, "Yakety Sax" has been much parodied and the dames on the show have top-shelf bristols.

Besides watching Benny Hill before bedtime my girlfriend and I have started watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory. Hilarious, the show is packed with science, nerdom, and numerous pop-culture references. Together we have been enjoying the show so much I ordered Season 1.

This week I am going to review Uwe Rosenberg's new game: Ora et Labora, (OeL) recently released by Z-Man Games while interspersing quotes from Dr. Sheldon Cooper, my favorite character on Big Bang Theory.

Sheldon: You know, in difficult times like this, I often turn to a force stronger than myself.
Amy: Religion?
Sheldon: Star Trek.

Religion from an evolutionary biology perspective has numerous proposed explanations. Some evolutionary biologists claim religion fosters group co-operatively and enhance fitness. Ora et Laboram, translated as pray and work, is a game for 1-4 where players control a monastic economy during the Middle Ages. Players control clergyman: one prior (a monastic superior) and two lay brothers to produce goods, upgrade goods, purchase land and construct buildings and settlements. This religious urban planning builds up and improves the community. The player who "prays and works" the hardest wins.

Leonard: Sheldon, why is this letter in the trash?
Sheldon: Well, there's the possibility that a trash can spontaneously formed around the letter, but Occam's Razor would suggest that someone threw it out.

Normally, I don't like to trash a game right out of the gate, but it warrants it. Last Wednesday my gaming group opened Ora et Labora. For the first 30 minutes while reading the rules our group inspected, made fun of, and tried to justify the game components.

The player boards are made of card board thinner than that of Le Havre or Agricola. The two sided rondel must be deconstructed when the other side is desired. Though, it is not necessary to lock the spinner on the rondel. Also, the player aides are made of very thin paper and ideally should either come as France or Ireland version player aides. Instead all information is on one page. Half pages would be more useful. Simply put, Occam's Razor applied to Ora et Labora results in the following conclusion: Cheaper components result in higher profit margins and miffed gamers. I think I will wait until Z-Man Games releases a 10th anniversary edition.

Penny: Ok Sheldon, what can I get ya?
Sheldon: Alcohol.
Penny: Could you be a little more specific?
Sheldon: Ethyl alcohol ... 40 milliliters.

In Ora et Labora there two ways to play the game: as Ireland or France. The differences between the France and Ireland games are some different buildings and Ireland produces whiskey while France produces wine. Now alcohol is important to both countries cultural identities. As a physiologist, I have a strong side interest in evolutionary biology. Evolutionary biologists discuss proximal vs. ultimate causation.

My favorite example of explaining the distinction between the two is using sex. The proximal reason for sex is because is feels good. The ultimate causation reason for sex is copulation produces offspring. The same could be said for alcohol for Raj in the Big Bang Theory. Drinking alcohol is pleasurable and results in a buzz, but the ultimate reason for Raj drinking is to meet and talk to girls. I suspect the same may be true for Ora et Labora. The monks produce alcohol because it tastes good and is probably safer than the local drinking water, but without alcohol who would want to perform manual labor to produce goods.

Sheldon: My new computer came with Windows 7. Windows 7 is much user friendly than Windows Vista. I don't like that.

This is Rosenberg's first game with a rondel. This game mechanism helps eliminate the need to stock the board with additional goods each round like in Le Havre. This stocking of the board in Le Havre was not a major gripe. I admit to liking games with rondels (such as Imperial and Eve). In each round the goods (lumber, peat, clay, livestock, grain, coins, and wild) increase in value when not purchased. Later in game rounds grapes (or malt) and stone enter the game. The game is played over 24 rounds plus a bonus round. Obtaining goods is great, but there's more to the game than the introduction of a spinning rondel.

Sheldon: Oh, Research Lab is more than a game. It’s like the slogan says, the physics is theoretical, but the fun is real.
Leonard: We must not be playing it right.
Penny: All right, five. One, two, three, four, five. Oh, wow, look at that, my Department of Defence research grant is renewed.
Sheldon: Oh! Great roll! Now you can demolish your Soviet-style cyclotron and build the large Hadron Collider.
Penny: Yay.

I was surprised Sheldon would come up with such a boring roll-and-move game similar to the event driven spaces of The Game of Life. There's no dice in OeL; players may take one of three main actions:
1. Place a clergyman: think take actions obtain goods or use card actions
2. Clear land to produce more lumber or peat: gain lumber or peat and make room for more buildings
3. Construct a building. Goods serve as the cost to construct buildings and settlements. When goods are upgraded by using actions they can utilized to build better buildings or upgraded eventually to victory points.

Before or after a main action: Buy landscape to expand available land and thus building spaces. As they get bought up they become more expensive. Covert resources: grain into straw, coins for a larger denomination.

The use of the clergymen are important to the game because the help upgrade goods. Of course there are no cyclotrons to upgrade, but grapes can be upgraded to wine, livestock to meat, etc.

Leonard: What the hell are you talking about?
Sheldon: I’m attempting to communicate with you without my meaning becoming apparent to those around you. Let me try again. Have the indigenous fauna accepted you as one of their own? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink

Besides a funny Monty Python reference, our first game we did not know what the hell we were doing and why we were building certain buildings. During later game rounds, new buildings become available. Although, there is a player aid I would suggestion looking at the building cards. For instance, building the Chamber of Wonders and trading in 13 different types of good results in 30 VPs. Knowing what's ahead will significantly help planning. Mid-way through our first game we leveled up and realized what we wanted to work towards.

Sheldon: He is 6th on my all-time enemies list between Joel Schumacher, who almost ruined the Batman franchise (you gotta give him that one after the Bat-nipples), and Billy Sparks, who lived down the street from me and put dog poop on the handles of my bicycle. In the words of Khan Noonian Singh from the immortal "Wrath of Khan," "He tasks me. He tasks me and I shall have him!"

Over the course of the game, players construct buildings by trading in resources. The buildings serve two purposes:
1. They contact "Place a Clergyman" Actions
2. They grant victory points immediately and additional victory points when settlements are placed adjacent to them. Within the game certain buildings must be constructed on certain types of land: coast, plains, hillside, or mountains. Additionally, the yellow cloister buildings must be built adjacent to other cloister buildings.

Building is a very fun part of the game and equally frustrating. Getting mad at another player for ruining your plans of a future building purchase is amusing. When a player constructs a building they may use its action without expending a coin on their turn and use the action immediately by using the prior.

Other players may Issue a "Work Contract" and pay 1 or 2 coins to use an opponent's action. This action is similar to the mechanic in Le Havre; The workers are only removed from their locations after all of them have been placed. The maddening part of the game is having to pay your opponent to use beneficial building actions.

Sheldon: Dr. Sheldon Cooper for the win!
During select rounds when new building cards enter the game to be available for purchase, there is a settlement building phase. Settlements are built by trading in goods with food and energy values. Settlement cards are important because they to add VPs to your score at the end of the game.

Victory points are had in three ways:
1. Upgraded Goods
2. Constructed Buildings and Dwellings (The Shields)
3. Settlements Points: (Red House Values) the key is to build next to settlements

After the 24 rounds plus the bonus round, victory points are calculated. Our group was surprised who won. We expected the guy who had many building and settlement points would win; however, another player who upgraded many good won. I definitely want to play the game again and will have a strong strategy in hand.

Thumbs Up:
Another fun Rosenberg game with lots decisions

Streamlined Game Play

Gambling Aspect: Will the goods still be available when you turn comes around

Thumbs Down:
Cheaper Game Components: With great power comes the great responsibility to produce good game components. Opening the box felt like the string on your Ball in the Cup broke.

Religious theme (Might not appeal to free-thinkers and Richard Dawkins types)

Kevin Gordish
Author of Dice Slam Blog
www.diceslam.blogspot.com
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Thu Jan 19, 2012 4:56 pm
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Eclipse Review: Analyzed Through Ferengi Rules of Acquisition

Kevin Gordish
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Westland
Michigan
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Saturday board gaming and playoff football constitute a good weekend. I was excited to tell a friend I finished a four hour space game, Eclipse. She was happy I wasn't playing the Eclipse Twilight: The Movie game. Eclipse: New Dawn for the Galaxy, released by Asmodee in the U.S., is filled with space exploration, aliens, wormholes, space bases, and epic space battles.

While playing Eclipse I thought of how Star Trek Deep Space Nine (DS9) shares parallels with Eclipse. DS9 is located near the planet of Bajor and travels sometimes require use of a wormhole. What made DS9 unique was it was the first Star Trek Show to focus plots character development and story arcs due its stationary setting. This key feature allowed producers and writers to introduce a fantastic string of prominent reoccurring characters, my favorite character: Elim Garak, a "plain and simple tailor”, exiled Obsidian Order spy who plotted to murder a Romulan Senator to force the Romulans to ally with the Federation against the Dominion was key to the Federation winning the war.

Secondly, DS9 transformed the Ferengi people from slithering, bungling fools with S&M energy whips in Star Trek: TNG to a respectful race with culture and customs. No longer were the Ferengi comedic rough shot. Though, Quark and Odo interactions remain some of the most comical scenes among all of Trek.

As such, I will utilize my review of Eclipse using a Ferengi’s most trusted and sacred source of economic theory and practice: the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition.

Rule of Acquisition 34: Peace is good for business and Rule of Acquisition 35: War is good for business

Eclipse is 2-6 player game played over a series of nine rounds. In the game during peaceful conditions or by avoiding fighting, victory points can be gained by upgrading one of your three technology tracks, opening diplomatic relations with other players and by controlling space hexes via influence tokens or discs. Under war conditions victory points are earned by entering into battle, killing opponent’s ships, and by destroying ancient ships. The victory points are earned by drawing from the reputation tile bag for entering into battle or by taking over a space hex. The space hexes score victory points at the end of the game when a player controls them.

Rule Acquisition 141: Never Pay Retail:
Eclipse is an expensive game weighing 2,680 or almost 6 pounds, but there is value with the price tag. My gaming group likes buying board games by the pound. The heavier the better! If you like heavy board games this game is for you. Agricola, Le Havre, Railways of the World are all fun games and quite heavy. Upon opening the box, I thought the player mat sheet was actually a punch out sheet! The two-sided ginormous player mats do appear confusing with a lot going on, but after going over the rules and playing a few rounds the player mats become intuitive.

Rule of Acquisition 22: A wise man can hear profit in the wind and Rule of Acquisition 45: Expand or Die
I am not going to explain the rules in entirety; however, I will briefly highlight the different actions to share the favor of the game. On the player mat there are three tracks: Money, Science and Materials. Player's can take the following actions on their turn and expends one token from their available actions:

1. Explore: New space hexes are placed on table to create a modular board. Exploring is a way to expand production of money, science, or materials through conquering a planet. Occasionally, "ancient ships" will be discovered. Upon destroying the ancient ships a player can view a secret tile and either take 2 victory points or a special benefit. It appears, from my experience, early game the benefits are more advantageous and late game the victory points may be a better deal. Following the ancient ship battle a player may place population cubes on the planet of a corresponding color to increase production. Exploring and Conquering a planet in effect requires use of two action tokens (also known as influence discs).
2. Influence: Move influence discs on the board to hexes without an opponent present or remove influence discs from the board to place back on your player mat. The latter options is a way to reduce upkeep costs at the end of a round the number of actions taken has an associated cost. However, keeping the influence tokens on the board has two distinct benefits: required to increase resource production and controlled space hexes are worth victory points at the end of the game. Additionally, influence allows you to place additional cubes on the board after you have placed your maximum of three.
3. Research: This action is important! Research allows players to gain technology to increase the effectiveness of their ships in battle, research reduces the cost of future technological upgrades and completing research tracks can be worth victory points. In addition, research allows for players to upgrade production capacity and to produce victory points through use of the build action. What is interesting is each round new technologies become available by random draw and they may also disappear when players purchase them.
4. Upgrade: Players have access to simple ship upgrades: shields, weapons, targeting, etc. After players have researched technology they may perform better upgrades to their ships.
5. Build: Construct ships for defensive or offensive purposes, space docks to increase defense, orbitals to increase production, and monoliths to score additional victory points.
6. Move: Move through wormholes to other hexes. To engage in battle move ships into other player's controlled hexes. Battle engagements result drawing reputation tiles or victory points. Destroying ships increases the probability of drawing a higher victory point; however, players may only keep one victory point.

Rule of Acquisition 85: Never let the competition know what you're thinking and Rule of Acquisition 236: You can't buy fate
The basic flow of the game takes place during three phases: Actions, Battle, Upkeep and Clean-up Phases. The ingenious of Eclipse is players may take one any of the available actions on their turn and play continues to each player has passed. Even after a player has passed, weaker versions of actions may be taken as a reaction to another player's action. The tension in Eclipse results from wondering when the opponents will strike and how many actions to take on your turn. Increasing your number of actions increases the upkeep costs. Is there enough cash-flow to support the number of actions taken?

Yes, players can buy fate in this game. Research and Technology Upgrades are key to your ships performing better in battle. These upgrades are vital because during battle ships have a better capability of destroying other players ships and/or ancient ships resulting in better reputation tile draws and expanding your empire. Battles take place with rolling D6: 1 are always a miss and 6 is always a hit. The upgrades affect the dice rolls by altering hit points and damage.

Rule of Acquisition 218: Always know what you're buying

A debate has circled our table during research purchases: Is it better to buy smaller cost technologies to receive discounted prices on future technologies or is a better to spend your entire tech budget for a expensive upgrade, but with kick-ass benefits. Our last game a player was able to mop the table by having strong ship upgrades early in the game. More playtime should resolve this question.

Rule of Acquisition 76: Every once in a while, declare peace, It confuses the hell out of your enemies

Entering into diplomatic relations with another player is a way to declare peace and open trade relations in a loose sense. By this agreement a player take one of their population cubes and diplomat and hands it to another player. It is only worth one victory point, but it immediately increases production of money, technology, or building resources. Last game I declared peace with a neighboring opponent, but was still pinned between two players. It reminded me of the Princess Bride, "Never get involved in a land war in Asia." There were too many fronts to defend!

Rule of Acquisition 16: A deal is a deal....until a better one comes along
Players may break diplomatic relations and attack previously allied players. Better find a good deal because this action comes with a hefty price tag: The traitor card worth negative two victory points. That player holds this card until another table at the table commits the same treacherous act.

Rule of Acquisition: More is Good....all is better
As previously stated, the game ends after nine rounds and the player with the most victory points wins. Players by default have room for up to four reputation tiles or less depending on whether diplomatic relations were entered. Diplomats occupy the same space as a reputation tile. This game has multiple tracks to victory and equals depends on what your fellow players are working on.

The introductory game of Eclipse can be played with all human races and the beginning game stats are exactly the same. Meaning players start with the same amount of resources. In our second game, we played on the reverse side of the player mat to play with the aliens. Each alien race has a specific competitive advantage. Examples include starting with more money, being able to research two technologies with one action, being allowed to place influence tokens and population cubes on hexes with ancient ships, etc.

Our group enjoyed the alien side due to the asymmetrical start conditions. However, the random fashion of exploring new space hexes poses a larger problem on the alien side. A bad space hex draw may trap your production of money, technology, or building resources at a low production level. In one recent game I could not make enough money to take additional action. I am diverging once from the Ferengi references to make room for another epic quote. While playing Eclipse, I started to think of the classic Space Balls dessert scene:

Skroob: Tell him to comb the desert. Do you hear me? Comb the desert.
Col Sandurz: Are we being too literal?
Dark Helmet: No, you fool. We're following orders. We were told to comb the desert, so we're combing it.
Dark Helmet: Found anything yet?
Trooper with Afro Pic: We ain't found shit.

There are times while exploring new space hexes I felt like, "We ain't found shit!" There were times I when I really when a planet which produces more money. Eclipse forces players to exploit currently what a empire is good at doing. Instead of focusing on a futile attempt to increase production of money, technology upgrades or battle become an option.

Also, worth mentioning is the rules on exploration. Exploring a new space hex allows player to select one the following: inner, middle, or outer ring hex to explore. There are limited amounts of outer ring hexes, which prevents players from becoming too isolated and promotes player conflict. Wormhole technology allows players to bend the rules to allow players to move more freely on the game board.

Finally, Rule of Acquisition 19: Satisfaction is not guaranteed.
I'm competitive and not happy when I lose. No worries it's not my fault that I lost. Luckily, I don't dwell on losses very long.

Some complaints at the gaming table: "Everyone spent the entire game building up forces and only one massive battle during round 9" In the next game forces were built up and battle never took place. In the third game, forces were built and quickly utilized. With such a small sample size, there is inherit variability in game play; however, some players are left unhappy because their plans were interrupted during the game.

Thumbs Up:

Quality Game Production with epic sized game board and loads of plastic ships
Action Phase is filled with vital decision options
Second guessing: Is defense or offense a mistake or the right strategy at a given time.
Fun exploring and deciding your empire's fate

Thumbs Down:
Down time during between actions and games have lasted between 3-4.5 Hours.
Players building fleets and not battling

Post thoughts: After playing Eclipse I want to break out my copy of TI3 I have not played in a while. It has been sitting in the hall closet for two years at least. And I leave you with, "Mr. Sulu, set course to GeekBoardis, War Factor Nerd"

Eclipse is currently available for purchase.

Author of Dice Slam Blog
www.diceslam.blogspot.com
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Tue Jan 10, 2012 7:24 pm
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Belfort Review: More Fun than Tossing the Dwarf (Don't Tell the Elf)

Kevin Gordish
United States
Westland
Michigan
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This past week has been hell. Trapped in partial quarantine coughing louder than a back firing car and expelling what could be described as Slurm I was tired of being sick. It's difficult to get a doctor's appointment during holidays and especially between Christmas and New Year's. I avoided urgent care because the last time four hours were wasted only to have a doctor charge my insurance and not to write me a script for an antitussive. Black tea, whiskey, and lemon were more helpful than that doctor. My current health has reminded of an episode of Red Dwarf where a smug Rimmer has placed the crew in quarantine. Kryten points out, "You are obliged to provide us with minimum leisure facilities. Games, literature, hobby activities, motion pictures." The smeghead Rimmer rattles, "And in accordance with Space Corps directive 312, you'll find in the storage cupboard over there a chess set with thirty-one missing pieces, a knitting magazine with a pull-out special on crocheted hats, a puzzle magazine with all the crosswords completed and a video of the excellent cinematic treat, "Wall-papering, Painting, and Stippling - a DIY guide". No crossword for me this past weekend, but I have been watching DVD's (Lost in Translation, Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy, and The Help) and trying to write game reviews. Luckily, I was able to reach my primary care doctor after hours and get something better than a True Dungeon Horn of Plenty Ultra Rare Token, a script for cough syrup containing codeine.

After four days on the script I am feeling better and was actually permitted out of quarantine to see A Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. The medicine is so efficacious I would be willing to let an Afghan farmer plant an opium field in my backyard!

Today, I will be reviewing Belfort by Tasty Minstrel Games. This game is one of my favorite games of the past year. After two rounds of playing this Euro-style game, which mashes together worker placement, resource management and area control mechanics I was anticipating playing this again just as much I want to see the forthcoming The Hobbit Movie; this game is precious! The game art is staggering and simply looks great.

Belfort is a two to five player game. So far I have only played five player games. Players utilize dwarf and elf workers for resource extraction and actions while gnomes are used for special tasks. Players have seven months (rounds) to build the town of Belfort. At the end of the game the player with the most victory points is the winner.

The elves, dwarves, and gnomes serve main functions:
1. Resource board actions: Elves and Dwarves help players to receive goods (wood, stone, metal or gold), establish new turn order, and recruit additional elves or dwarves for more actions and during scoring rounds (rounds 3, 5, and 7) the number of elves and dwarves contribute toward victory points.
2. Game board: Guild Actions. The guilds are a unique feature to this game. Each game five different guilds are dealt and have powerful actions attached to them. Or players may use elves or dwarves to activate property actions or gnomes to upgrade property actions.
3. Players leading in number of elves, dwarves, and gnomes gain victory points during scoring rounds.

Belfort is deceptively complex looking because there are three game boards (Calendar board, Resource board and the main Game Board), but is quite intuitive to learn. I will briefly detail the rules; but with most games the best way to learn to is play.

The game setup begins with five guilds placed on the board. The different guilds increase game play variability and make new game different. Some guilds provide additional resources other guilds increase the amount of player interaction. Years ago when Stone Age came out we played the hell out of it for maybe 6 months. The leather dice cup is now heavily worn. However, Stone Age eventually felt more predictable and we felt we were on autopilot when we played. Belfort has more choices: what and where to build. After the guilds are placed turn order is determined and each player starts with 1 wood, 1 stone, 1 metal and 5 Gold along with 5 property cards and 2 are discarded. Gold is extremely important in Belfort because you will need it to pay for the following during the game: recruiting new workers, hiring a gnome, guild actions, purchasing more property cards and paying taxes. Advice: Don't run out of gold.

The Round Order is as follows:
1. Calendar Update: Move Turn Marker forward. Rounds 3, 5 and 7 (the final round) are the scoring rounds.
2. Placement: Starting with player 1, place workers (elves and dwarves) on the "planks." Planks are locations in the game with specific actions and include: guilds actions, property cards with actions, turn order location, and recruitment of additional workers. Initially, the property card actions are unavailable and become available after building properties. If no guild actions are available and a player does not want to take other plank actions, the player passes and places remaining workers to collect resources on the resource board.
3. Collection Part 1: wood, stone, metal, gold are collected from the resource board. These resources are used to pay the costs associated with building properties. Additionally, if players choose to recruit new workers or get a new turn order marker. These collection actions are always resolved in the same particular order. Part 2: Collect income generated from properties built. This is denoted by gold at the top of cards and pay taxes. Taxes are determined by player's status of the victory point track and increase with the amount of victory points. This method of taxation reduces the run-away winner issue.
4. Actions: Resolve Guild/Property Actions (this actions are usually used first to get additional resources to build properties), Visit Crazy Ord's Trading Post (once per turn exchange resources to get resource flexibility), Build Properties (by trading in resources and place property marker on corresponding building in a district of your choice), Build walls (a way to put property marker on the game board to establish dominance in a district), Build guilds (instead of players playing gold to the bank they pay it to the guild owner; so far no one in our group has bought a guild), Hire a Gnome (cost three gold) They are important! Gnomes are important for two reasons there are a finite number in the game and it’s a race to purchase them. Also, they contribute toward victory points and upgrade action/worker productivity. It's also nice when the gnome guild is on the board. When the gnome guild is on the board gnomes become cheaper to purchase. This is a strong guild. Buy a Property Card (this must be your last action if taken. Buy a property card from one of the three face up cards or take your chances by taking one off the top of the deck.
5. Scoring: Two ways to score establish District Majority by having most number of properties in a district. Points are scored in a (5/3/1 pattern) or Elf/Dwarf/Gnome Majority by having most amount of these workers and points are scored in a (3/1 pattern). While smaller in point value the worker scoring is very important; several of the games I've played with my group the scoring has been very close due to workers!

Belfort is fantastic fun because of the hate play potential. When placing properties on the game board in the districts it is possible to both score points and piss off players by reducing their majority in a district. Also fun is the strategy of placing workers on the resource board. Will you maintain the most workers in an area to receive the extra resource or will the next player place one more worker and negate the bonus resource?

Finally, I want to mention those elusive gnomes. Besides infesting gardens in the Harry Potter movies, the gnomes are important for scoring rounds and because they upgrade the property cards or serve to upgrade your elves or dwarves. Within the game there is a finite amount of them determined by number of players. The upgrades elves or dwarves are akin to Cities in Settlers of Catan. The upgraded workers produce twice as many resources when collecting them. Instead of collecting 1 wood an upgraded elf may collect 2 wood and etc. The resources are vital because they are needed for building costs.

Thumbs Up:
Plays 5 players
Choices: Multiple Pathways to Victory and opportunities to hate play
Game of the Year and more fun than tossing a dwarf (but don't tell the elf)

Thumbs Down:
In most worker placement games, game play is clockwise fashion. However, in Belfort turn order is assigned. If not paying attention the next clockwise player sometimes jumps the gun and takes their turn only to be reminded, “It’s not your turn. Look at your turn marker”

If you like flipping poker chips, flipping the circular dwarves or elves tokens can be a mistake. The upgraded dwarf and elf tokens are on reverse sides of the normal elf and dwarf tokens. Flipping a token accidentally or unconsciously to the upgraded side could be construed as cheating

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Fri Jan 6, 2012 6:49 am
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Great Space Coaster Get On Board--Undermining Review

Kevin Gordish
United States
Westland
Michigan
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"Shut up Ricky, just shut up right now! Unless the next words out of your mouth are directions back to the fish skeleton I'm gonna punch you right in the stomach!" Undermining designed by Matt Tolman may not be as fun as a ride of the Great Space Coaster, but it has one of my favorite game themes: space. Space game almost always hits my wish list. Today I feel as if I was hit by a space coaster or George Bailey walking home without a coat in the snow. Last night while watching It's A Wonderful Life I started coming down with a cold again! My second cold in a month.

Setup consists of shuffling of the contract deck, stacking of the victory points next to the open contracts, and random placement of the tiles on the board, Afterwards the game board resembles a space themed version of Bejeweled. Before continuing I have only played one five player game of Undermining; thus, I may not know every nuance the game has to offer. Due to the vast number of new game releases, my group plays a game says, "That was fun," the game is placed in the trunk of a car for months. This issue has really taught me what games I like to play. Ten years ago we used to play new games for months. Now, great games are played for weeks. This rant does not need to continue in this forum and I will leave for another day.

Players win the game by fulfill contracts to gain victory points ( trading in resources: Uranium, Titanium, Diamond, Niobium, and X-ium) or by UMV upgrades. The upgrades are vital because they increase the effectiveness of the UMV making it easier to fulfill contracts. The early available contracts have higher point values and as each one is bought the victory point value descends. The game ends in a fashion similar to Stone Age when a victory point stack is depleted the game ends after players complete one last turn.


Game Play consists of several basic actions costing (1AP):
1. Drill: allows players to either break up impassible rock or to take aboard resources
2. Drive: move up two spaces
3. Unload: when at the refinery (above ground) unload resources to your warehouse
4. Build: spend resources to upgrade UMV
5. Contract:: when at refinery trade resources to fulfill contracts
6: Charge: gain one energy cube. Spending two energy cubes grants one additional action/pass through another player on the board.
7: Portal: move from one open one open portal to another. Move quickly on the board.

8. Alien Tech: Powerful and kick-ass game changers. Acquired by drilling through the tiles with special symbols and do not consume action points. One card benefit is to gain 8 energy cubes amounting to four additional actions.

Each player starts with three available action points and the UMV upgrades buff the available actions by increasing the amount of actions available each turn, drill or drive actions, and finally adding cargo space. The additional cargo space is helpful by reducing return trips to the surface where the refinery is located. Three actions Unload, Build, and Contract may be performed on your turn, but must be done at the refinery. As mentioned before the

As expected Z-Mans puts out some nice game components, however, I did have some gripes with Undermining. The short rule book did not describe the alien tech cards well. My group was able to deduce the amount of foreign symbol tiles equaled the amount of alien tech cards. The player mat has ample space on the left for your warehouse or storage space for resources. It would have be better to reduce the warehouse size and print the available actions on the mat. The game includes player aids, but the print is too small.

Matt Tolman followed up by posted a rules supplement titled the "The Lost Pages" resolving some of the ambiguity of the rule book. The supplement addressed my groups questions about the alien tech cards and also included a variant play scenario in which players receive alien tech cards by unloading a matching symbol instead of a random alien tech card.

Overall, Undermining is a fun game to play between longer games or while waiting for your other friends to arrive. It might not receive regular play with my gaming group, but it has a solid design.

Thumbs Up:
Space Themed; More fun than watching George Clooney in Solaris
Fast Turns
Family Game or Filler game

Thumbs Down:
Lack of exciting game play
Not as fun as watching the new Star Trek movie, but mining is necessary to raise funds for an ionic tractor disruptor because Sally Struthers has trapped the CBC ship in a positronic tractor beam

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Sun Dec 25, 2011 5:31 pm
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Paris Connection Review

Kevin Gordish
United States
Westland
Michigan
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Many thanks to John Bohrer of Winsome Games for this review. He was instrumental in helping me acquire a copy Paris Connection from Queen Games, a reprint of a 2010 Essen Winsome Games release of Paris Connection. Winsome Games games puts out some bitchin fun train games, Baltimore and Ohio is one that comes to mind.

Last Friday the physiology department hosted the annual holiday party. The burnout of classes made refreshments and the assortment of salty Chinese Food was a nice respite. Even better was the after-party at the local brewery with flowing pints of oatmeal stout. Oatmeal good for breakfast and dinner. Johnny Cash was right, "And the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad, So I had one more for dessert." Every year at the party I try to bring a light new game to introduce to my non-gamer colleagues. This year I broke out Paris Connection and by the end of a three player game, my friends were shocked about how fun this new game was.

When I ordered the game I told my girlfriend I was expecting a new game to come in the mail and to keep a look out for a box. "What's this one about?" "Paris Connection is a resource management game involving the pimping out of Paris Hookers. You have to keep a strong pimp hand and have the most money at the end of the game." "Really?" she asked. "Laughingly, Nooooo, it's another train game." "The first choice sounded like more fun."

Paris Connection is a light train game involving a business management/stock trading game mechanism. The wooden trains included in the game serve dual purposes: they represent built track and when in hand they represent shares in each color company. The game plays three to six players.

At startup, trains of each color are placed around the Eiffel Tower and on the valuation track. The rest of the trains are placed in the bag, depending of the number of players, a varying amount of trains are secretly drawn and placed beyond player's shield. This starting hand represents the shares you have an interest in. It has officially been determined that any game with player shields and secret planning instantly rules! The remaining game in the bag are placed in appropriate piles around the board.

The game is simple, but strategic and consists of only two actions:
A. Build Track: Take up five trains of one color and build track
B. Exchange/Purchase Stock: Take one share from beyond your shield and exchange it for up to two shares of another color.

The rules of building track are stream lined. Two trains can occupy the rural hexes (green) and only one train can be placed into a city. Trains are built adjacent to the starting spots surrounding the Eiffel Tower. Building track has two effects on gameplay: its dimishes the stock piles and when a train is built into a city it raises the stock price by a corresponding color amount. Smart placement can quickly raise the price of a stock. The tension begins when prices of stock start increasing when does a player begin to start purchasing shares and dump underperforming companies. Will enough stock still be available to purchase on your turn.

The game ends under two conditions: there is only one color of train in the stock piles (5 of 6 colors have been exhausted) or a player has built a train in Marseille. Of all the cities, building in Marseille, has the greatest benefit because it is worth the most, four points. At game end, shares are totaled at the current stock valuation multiplier. Dependent on the number of players there is a varying share holding limit. For every share above the limit there is a twenty point penalty. This has not been a factor yet in my game play sessions. I imagine Paris Connection with larger groups, there might be an opportunity to benefit from going over the share limit if the price was right.

The board is sharp looking, but it must be said, the six accompanying little boards to place the trains onto are completely pointless. The intent to the show players available trains that can be used to build or purchase. Why spend time organizing the little trains onto the boards? Making small piles near the board is sufficient and reduces the setup time by a few minutes. Honestly, the six pieces of cardboard could be used as firestarter and not change gameplay. Also, the trains are a bit thin and can be sometimes difficult to pick up. When building track usually players pick oup five trains and slide them on the board to the planned hexes they intend to build.

Overall, Paris Connection is a fast light game with some strategy.

Thumbs Up
Quick and Plays up to Six.
Board Looks Great
Great to Introduce to Non-Gamers or Physiologists.

Thumbs Down
Not as satisfying as Chicago Express, 2038 or Baltimore and Ohio, but those Trains Games are a Horse of a Different Color.
Not as fun as Paris Prostitutes.

Author of Dice Slam
http://diceslam.blogspot.com/
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Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:37 pm
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