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Mix of reviews, critiques on the classic games, and my random musings about board games.

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Collection Building: Dice Games

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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Original post and more in the collection building series can be found at http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/09/collection-buil...

Many board games use dice for movement or combat, but those games would not be classified as dice games. What I'm looking at are games that focus on dice. The most prevalent of these games is Yahtzee. These are games about utilizing your dice. Sometimes, various combinations score points, other times different rolls let you do different things, but the main idea is that the roll of the dice determine what you can and cannot do.

When it comes to dice games, there are several types. There are the quick filler games, like LCR and Liar's Dice, and longer strategy games like Kingsburg and Roll Through the Ages. Several dice games take a pre-existing property, and transform it into a dice version. Hasbro experimented with this idea for Battleship, Monopoly, Risk, Clue, and Sorry and called it their Express line. While I appreciate the attempt to make these big name games faster, it really changed too much of the game's identity. Two of the big names in hobby games did this as well, Catan and Carcassonne. Ticket to Ride incorporated dice into the game, replacing the train cards, but it is not solely a dice game.

Let's talk more in depth about a few of these games.

LCR
LCR is a very simple game. Each player starts with 3 chips. Each turn they roll 3 dice. For each L, they pass a chip to their left. For each R, the pass a chip to their right. For each C, they put a chip in the center. The goal is to be the player who has all the chips at one time, meaning no other player has chips in front of them. There isn't any strategy to the game, just roll the dice and do what it says. I can't recommend this for gamers, but it could be a fun party game, or maybe a drinking game.

Liar's Dice
In Liar's Dice, the goal is to be the last person with dice left. Each player starts with 5 dice. All players roll their dice, and then the start player makes a statement about all the dice at the table, based on only knowing their own. The next player can either call them a liar, in which case all dice are revealed, and then if the asserter was right, the player who called them a liar loses a die, but if the asserter was wrong, they lose a die. If someone doesn't call liar, they must up the statement in some way, either by calling more of the same die face, or by calling a higher die face. For instance, if someone calls four 3's, I could call four 4's(5's,6') or five(or more) any face.
Liar's Dice actually has some strategy and some bluffing, so it is a real game. The dice are crucial, but so is the ability to read people, and do some quick probabilities in your head.

Catan Dice Game
The Catan dice game is an interesting play. Each turn, you roll 6 dice up to 3 times. The faces of the dice are the 5 standard Catan resources and gold. Gold acts as a wild, which is a great help. The game only lasts for 15 rounds, which keeps play time under 30 minutes, maybe 45 as an absolute long. In the game, you use resources to build roads, settlements, cities and knights. Knights grant you one free resource of a given type once during the game. They don't offer many points, but they can be a swing in the game. Things have to be built in order, which is a little confusing at first, but it keeps the game moving along. I've only played this a couple of times, but I find it a short version of Catan without the trading, and a fairly good competition between the players. There's a lot less you can do to mitigate bad luck, but given the time length, that's ok.

Kingsburg
Kingsburg fits more into the boardgame that heavily uses dice, but I think that it is a dice game at heart. In Kingsburg, players roll dice, then take turns placing one or more dice on various advisors. These advisors give the players different resources or army points, or victory points. Once an advisor is claimed in a round, no one else can take it. There's a lot of strategy in how you place your dice, but even the best strategy can be foiled by poor rolls. There is a lot going on here beyond the dice, but if you like dice games that let you do something meaningful with your rolls, Kingsburg is a great choice.

Roll Through the Ages
RTA is a civilization building game with dice. Players have to balance workers, food and coins with the threat of disaster. The more cities you build, the more dice you get to roll, but the more people you have to feed each turn. If you can't feed your people, you lose points, but if you don't have enough cities, you won't have enough dice to do things to score points. RTA has a fine balance to it, but there are a lot of ways to win. I think it's one of the most replayable dice games out there.

Price Wars
Since we are building on a budget, let's look at the costs of these games.
LCR - $5, though if you have some poker chips/buttons/M&M's around and 3 dice, you could play this for free.
Liar's Dice -$8, though if you have one cup and 5 dice for every player, you can play this for free too.
Catan Dice Game - $12 for standard, $20 for deluxe. The difference is a dice cup, colored player pages, and nicer dice.
Kingsburg - $50
Roll Through the Ages - $25

If you're on a really tight budget, I'd say salvage dice from other games and play Liar's Dice/LCR. If you've got a bit more money to spend, Roll Through the Ages is a really great value purchase.

My pick for a dice game to own is Roll Through the Ages. Word of advice, track down "The Late Bronze Age" expansion, it's available for free online. It really does add to the game.
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Fri Sep 28, 2012 11:18 am
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Thoughts on Dominion: Dark Ages

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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Original post and full blog at http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/09/dominion-dark-a...
Reviewing expansions takes a bit of a different format for me. I assume that you have some familiarity with the base game, either having played it, or at least heard about it. With that in mind, let's take a look at Dominion Dark Ages.

Each Dominion set has a general theme/mechanic. Seaside had durations, Prosperity had a lot of treasure, Cornucopia had variety, and Dark Ages has trashing. Many of the cards give you a benefit when you trash them, or let you interact with the trash. Dark Ages is probably the deepest of the expansions so far. Many of the cards present subtle strategies, and interesting interactions. They also enhance many earlier cards which have fallen out of favor, or were deemed to never be great.

If you don't want to read all my thoughts on cards, go ahead and skip down to the end now.

Dark Ages also provides a new way to start the game. Players now start with 3 unique Shelters as opposed to 3 estates. These shelters don't provide victory points, and only one is even classified as a victory point card. Necropolis is an engine builder's dream with +2 actions. Now, this is worse than a village, since it doesn't have a card draw, but you get it to start. The Overgrown Estate is 0VP, but when you trash it, you get to draw a card. Not great, but it's not meant to be in your deck all game anyways. The Hovel takes up space until you buy a victory card. At that point, you can trash your Hovel. The Hovel is the worst of the shelters, the Overgrown Estate is nice to get an extra card one time, and Necropolis is great for the bonus actions.

Some other general cards are
Spoils - A one shot treasure card worth 3 money.
Ruins - cards you typically don't want to see. Not as bad as a curse, they are action cards, but they don't cost you VP. There are 5 different types

Abandoned Mine: +1 money, basically a copper that takes an action
Ruined Library: +1 card
Ruined Market: +1 buy
Ruined Village: +1 action, would only be good in a Peddler game, or Throne Room, so you at least get +2 from it.
Survivors: Look at the top 2 cards on your deck, and either discard both, or put both back on top. This is the Ruin I mind the least. I like setting up my next hand. Still, it's not great.


If you haven't guessed it, I'm going to briefly talk about each card, and give some impressions on them.


Altar (Cost 6) Trash a card, gain a card costing up to 5. This is a simple card, it lets you trim down your deck, and gain useful cards. Early on you can gain big action cards, late game, gain duchies. A very solid card.
Armory (4) Works like a Workshop or Ironworks in that you gain a card up to 4, but you get to put it on your deck. I like using this early to gain a silver into my hand, but it also works well with action cards.
Band of Misfits (5) Use this as if it was any less expensive card in the set-up. I've yet to play it, but it seems really powerful, but not brokenly so.
Bandit Camp (5) +1 card, +2 actions, gain a Spoils. I like spoils cards. They do help you out, even if they're temporary. Probably not the best 5 in the game, but still a solid one and a viable strategy.
Beggar (2) Gain 3 coppers in your hand. Also a reaction, when someone plays an attack, discard this to gain 2 silvers, 1 to your discard pile, the other to the top of your deck. This helps mitigate attacks like Swindler and Saboteur, ones that mess with your deck. It makes Margrave and Minion a bit less hurtful to you. The normal action is great for a Moneylender(Base) deck, or Gardens(Base) deck, also helps Counting House(Prosperity) and Coppersmith(Intrigue). For a 2 cost, it's got some good things going on. Just be careful to not over copper.
Catacombs (5) Look at the top 3 cards of your deck. Either put them in your hand or discard them and draw 3 cards. If you trash the Catacombs, gain a cheaper card. It's a solid card. Seeing what you would draw and deciding if you like that or not is a good ability. It's a better Smithy, which is why it costs more.
Count (5) Do something bad: Discard 2 cards, put a card from your hand on top of your deck or gain a copper. Then do something good: +3 money, trash your hand, gain a Duchy. I've seen Counts work really well in 2 games. The ability to combine saving a card and then trashing, or discarding 2 cards and then trashing is good. Late game, take a dead end action, forward it to next turn, and then grab 3 money. At worst it's a gold that makes you lose a card or two.
Counterfeit (5) Worth $1, +1 buy. Take a treasure card and play it twice, then trash it. It turns copper into silver, silver into $4, Gold into $6, and Platinum into $10. It works really well on Spoils, since you're losing them anyways. Counterfeit works well early to trim your deck of Coppers, and then works late to get you extra money to buy victory cards and get rid of the money that doesn't help you in the end. One of my favorite cards in the set.
Cultist (5) +2 cards, each other player gains a Ruins, you may play another Cultist (meaning you can chain them for a grand total of 1 action). When you trash a Cultist +3 cards (so yes, sacrificing Cultists on the Altar is both a viable strategy and a really fun combo). I like Cultist. I think the chaining is something fun in Dominion, but I'm glad it's not overdone.
Death Cart (4) +$5. You may trash an action card from your hand. If you don't, trash the Death Cart. When you gain this, gain 2 Ruins. Death Cart isn't without it's drawbacks, but the ruins give you something to trash from the get-go. Yes, Death Cart does make you want to say "Bring out your dead!" Trust me, it's more fun that way. Solid card here.
Feodum (4) Victory card worth 1 point for every 3 silvers in your deck. When you trash a Feodum, gain 3 silvers. I don't want to spoil too many strategies here, but Feodum is fun and makes for wonky math.
Forager (3) Trash a card from your hand. +$1 for each differently named treasure in the trash. Most of the game, this is worth $1 for copper, or maybe $2 for copper and silver. I've yet to see this with loans, talismans, quarries, etc in play. I think those would make Foragers really good.
Fortress (4) +1 card, +2 actions, when this is trashed, put it in your hand. It's a village that comes back to you when trashed. It works well with Foragers, Upgrades, Remodels. It's a safety for Death Cart and Rats. Not something to buy all the time, probably a weaker $4 in the grand scheme of Dominion, but a good card.
Graverobber (5) - Choose One: Gain a Card from the trash costing $3-$6, or trash an action card from your hand and gain a card costing up to $3 more than the trashed card. Graverobber is a conditional Expand(Prosperity), but also a fun way to get cards back from the trash.
Hermit (3) - Gain a card costing up to 3, you may trash a non treasure card from your hand or discard pile. If you don't buy a card, trash the Hermit, gain a Madman(Yes, Hermits turn into Madmen).
Madman (0*) +2 actions, then you may return this to the Madman pile to draw 1 card for every card in your hand. Madman is a great draw card. You have to jump through a couple of hoops to get there, but a double Madman turn near the end can be the difference in the game.
Hunting Grounds (6) +4 cards. When this is trashed gain a Duchy or 3 Estates. Great card to draw 4, cool trash ability.
Ironmonger (4) +1 card, +1 action, reveal top card of deck, get something based on what it is, discard it or put it back on top. It's solid, but it can be luck based. As least you get something for it, either an action, +$1, or a card, so it's never bad, it just isn't always great.
Junk Dealer (5) +1 card, +1 action, +$1, trash a card from your hand. The mandatory trashing can hurt at times, but you're in control of playing or not playing your Junk Dealer. Just be careful. At least with so many cards that have a when you trash do ... benefit, you'll rarely be in a no win scenario.
Knights (4 or 5) Each Knight does something different. There are 10 unique knights with their own abilities. All have an attack though, which is each other player reveals the top 2 cards of their deck, and trashes one of them between $3 and $6. If a Knight is trashed, trashed the attacking Knight. I've yet to play with all the Knights, but I like the variety in them. Certain Knights are better than others, but you know what you're buying when you get one. A fun idea, maybe not the best execution, but enjoyable so far.
Marauder (4) Gain a Spoils. Each other player gains a Ruins. This is a really good attack card. It gives you that temporary gold, it hurts your opponents, what more can you really want?
Market Square (3) +1 card, +1 action, +1 buy. When one of your cards is trashed, you may discard your market square and gain a gold. The card action buy is a nice thing regardless of the setup, not great, but helpful at times. The reaction part is great because you gain free gold. This works when either you trash a card from your hand, or you are attacked and have a card trashed, i.e. Swindler, Saboteur.
Mystic (5) +1 action, +$2, name a card, reveal the top card from your deck, if they match, add the card to your hand. This is the modified Wishing Well(Intrigue). The bonus, if you have 2 Mystics, you're getting +$4, and at least one card for sure. This combos really well with anything that lets you put cards back on your deck like Scout(Intrigue), Spy(Base), Wandering Minstrel(Dark).
Pillage (5) Trash this. Each other player with 5+ cards in hand discards a card of your choice. Gain 2 Spoils. Pillage is mean, no doubt about it, but it's one shot. I like that you have to weigh the timing of Pillage with the fact that you're going to lose the card. You're buying it to gain 2 temporary cards which will hopefully turn into a Province. Not the best thing if you ask me, but still an interesting card.
Poor House (1) +$4. Reveal your hand, -$1 for each treasure card in your hand, to a minimum of $0. This is interesting for two reasons. First, it's the first card that costs $1. Second, It can actually hurt you if you have too much money around, it will take money off the table from cards like Market(Base) or anything else that gives money. I've yet to play a game with it, but it seems to have some interesting dynamics going.
Procession (4) Play an action card from your hand twice, then trash it and gain an action card costing exactly $1 more than the trashed card. Procession is an interesting twist on the Throne Room(Base). It's a good way to get rid of Ruins and Rats. It has other uses for getting rid of actions you no longer want. Overall an interesting card, but one that takes a good amount of forethought.
Rats (4) +1 card, +1 action, gain a Rats, trash a card that isn't Rats from your hand. When you trash a Rats, +1 card. That's right, Rats multiply and take over your deck. They go really well with a card that lets you trash something, Death Cart, Procession, Hermit, Graverobber, etc. Rats take a careful balance, else you may find that you have nothing but Rats, and no one to rid yourself of them.
Rebuild (5) +1 action, name a card. Reveal cards from your deck until you reveal a victory card that isn't what you named. Trash the victory card and gain a card costing up to $3 more than it. Rebuild is a great way to turn Duchies into Provinces, Provinces into Colonies, and Estates into useful $5 actions, or Duchies. I haven't seen the full depth of Rebuild, but it's a good card, and a solid way to gain points.
Rogue (5) +$2. If there's a card in the trash $3-$6, gain one of them. If there isn't, each player reveals 2 cards from their deck and trashes one of them costing from $3-$6. Like Graverobber, Rogue takes cards from the trash. Rogue has a way to put other player's good stuff in the trash, where Graverobber puts your own stuff in the trash. I've had both in the same game, and we all liked Graverobber better, just due to the trash your own stuff, but Rogue is still a good card.
Sage (3) +1 action, reveal cards from your deck until you find one costing $3 or more. Put that into your hand, discard the rest. Sage is a great cycler. You're going to find something good, but near the end, you'll find Provinces and Duchies. I like sage a lot in the early game. It sorts through the copper and estates/shelters and finds what you're really looking for.
Scavenger (4) +$2. You may put your deck into your discard. If you do, you may look through your discard pile and put one card on top of your deck. This is a better Chancellor(Base). The ability to have a card in your next hand for sure is a nice thing. Not amazing, but a solid ability.
Squire (2) +$1 then choose one: +2 actions, +2 buys, gain a silver. When the Squire is trashed, gain an attack card. Squires are great for the trash ability alone. They're also good for gaining free silver, or giving you those extra actions to make your deck work. Squire is a card I would buy at $3, so $2 feels like a steal.
Storeroom (3) +1 buy. Discard any number of cards and draw that many. Then discard any number of cards, +$1 per card discarded the 2nd time. Storeroom isn't amazing, but it is good. It lets you sort out the cards you don't want for new cards, and then the cards you don't want for money. It isn't the focus of a deck, but it plays an excellent support role.
Urchin (3) +1 card, +1 action, each other player discards down to 4 cards in hand. When you play another attack with this in play, you may trash the Urchin and gain a Mercenary. Urchin itself is a nice little attack. The power of the card is in the Mercenary.
Mercenary (0*) You may trash 2 cards from your hand. If you do, +2 cards, +$2, each other player discards down to a 3 card hand. Mercenaries work a lot better in +2 action games, just so you can use the cards you gain. They're great to thin out Ruins, Shelters, Rats, and Curses. The downside is the need to trash cards, but if you have things to trash, Mercenaries are great.
Vagrant (2) +1 card, +1 action, reveal the top card of your deck. If it's a victory, curse, shelter, ruin, put it in your hand, else put it back. Vagrants set up your next hand. They aren't great, but for $2, they're ok. They stay useful all game, but are best early and late.
Wandering Minstrel (4) +1 card, +2 actions. Reveal the top 3 cards from your deck. Put the actions back in any order, discard the rest. This card is an action lover's dream. I tend to like money a bit too much, so Wandering Minstrel fails me, but for action players, it dominates. It's cheap, so it's easy to get a lot of them. It feels a bit too good as a $4, but in some games it won't be great.

Some of my favorite cards in this set, in no particular order, are Rats, Counterfeit, Death Cart, Cultist and Mystic. I need to play a bit more to order that list, but you can bank on me doing a Top 7 list o Dominion cards sometime in the future.

So that's some thoughts of each of the cards. As you can tell, there are a lot of different cards here. There are 35 different kingdom cards for the setup, as well as Madman and Mercenary which are only from Hermits and Urchins. I've played a few games with all Dark Ages cards, and that seems to have the best mix of cards. Mixing them with all the others can leave you without trashers, and then the odds of Ruins and Spoils drop drastically.

Here's the big question, where does Dark Ages rate overall? Well, I really do like it. The set is not friendly to new players, trashing is a complicated mechanic as it is, and Dark Ages makes it more so with cards that do something when trashed. Prosperity is still my favorite expansion, and Seaside is still my #2, but I think Dark Ages has slid into #3 for me. It's still a bit early to tell, but it's done something no other expansion has done. It's made me excited for Dominion again. If you've been reading my blog, you've noticed that I haven't played a game of Dominion (in person) all year until the end of August. Well, you're looking at the reason I broke it out. These cards are interesting, there's tons of depth and options that I've yet to explore.

If I was telling you what expansion(s) to get for Dominion, I wouldn't say Dark Ages first. But if you've played some, and you're looking for something a bit different, get Dark Ages. It certainly has the best bang for your buck.

PS, my apologies to Games and Grub. I wasn't trying to steal your thunder with a post on Dark Ages, but I think they're vastly different in style. Read their thoughts on Dark Ages on their blog http://gamesandgrub.blogspot.com/2012/09/talkin-trash-to-gar....
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Tue Sep 4, 2012 6:59 am
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Top 7 Gaming Distractions

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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Original post and my full blog at http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/08/top-7-gaming-di...

This is a list of infamy. These are the things that take away from gaming time, make games take longer, and have people waiting for someone to take their turn. If you find yourself doing things on this list, try to avoid them.

#7 Conversations
I like players talking during the game. It's meant to be fun, and games are a nice way to catch up with people. What can be a problem is someone talking to you while it's your turn. It's different if you're discussing a trade or something related to the game, but asking me about work or life on my turn is only going to make the game longer. A lot depends on the game. If it's something fun and simple like Can't Stop, talk away. If it's more complicated like Agricola, Cosmic Encounter, or something in that vein, then please, give me time to think when it's my turn.

#6 Smoking
Sadly, some of my fellow gamers are smokers. This means that they need to go outside and have a smoke every so often. That means that the game grinds to a halt, and then I don't want to be around them with the smell. This may not be a problem for others, but for me, it's an issue.

#5 Game Pieces
Think Poker for this. Players have chips to play with, and do so mindlessly at times. In other games, like Catan, you have a lot of pieces you aren't using yet. This gives you time to build things and play with the pieces. This becomes a problem if you lose track of the game. Also, having spare dice can be problematic, since many players are prone to rolling dice constantly. They're all mindless activities, or just ways to do something, but they can distract others.

#4 Children
One downside of playing games in someone's home is that their kids are around. If the kids aren't gaming, then they're likely going to want something at some point during the gaming time. One little thing isn't a problem, but when they want attention on themselves, it gets frustrating. Games start taking a lot longer, and then eventually someone has to step away to play with the child. The solution to this, turn your kids into gamers.

#3 Significant Others
This can be a significant other playing in the game, or not in the game. For the ones playing in the game, often they will have glances or some other signal when something goes wrong. There also tends to be an unwritten agreement where they don't mess with each other. When only one is playing, the other is often around, bringing snacks, acting all lovey-dovey, etc. It can be distracting for the other players with all of that going on.

#2 Food
Everyone needs to eat sometime, but not all the time. Snacks are a pain because most leave some form of residue on your fingers, so you need to wash your hands before resuming play, which just takes a long time. If everyone takes a dinner break, that's a good thing. People will eat quickly and get back to the table. The problem is the frequent trips to the kitchen to get something to eat.

#1 Cell phones
Specifically smart phones. Sure, they can be helpful, there are all kinds of apps for dice rolling, coin flipping, and some for specific games to track something or help set-up or score at the end. The reasons cell phones are #1 is the people who get on the internet and look up videos, or check e-mail, text everyone they know and so on. What's worse is when they take a call in the middle of a game, and they make it a long call. I've gotten phone calls in the middle of games, and they were important to take, but I try to keep them short. Courtesy is the idea here, and if people have to remind you it's your turn for the 4th time this game, you may want to put the phone away.

Feel free to comment with your own gaming distractions.
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Wed Aug 29, 2012 1:16 am
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Collection Building: Introduction Games

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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Original post and my full blog here http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/08/collection-buil...

First impressions set the tone for a relationship of any kind. First impressions in the board game realm are just as important as impressions with people. Monopoly, Risk, Life, Trivial Pursuit, and games in that ilk are the standard of boardgames to most people. The bar is yet relatively low, but many people have a comfort with these games, and that has shaped what games should be in their mind.

Because of these preconceived notions, I feel like every gamer needs to have a game that they can pull out to show people what a designer board game is. Now, I run the risk of sounding really snobby here, so I'm doing my best to dance around that. Ultimately, we play games to have fun. If people have a good time playing Scrabble or Clue or Monopoly, that's great. I've done my best to never discourage people playing games, no matter what the game.

The goal of introductory games is to show people that there is a whole world of possibilities in games that they may not know about, and those games are something they might enjoy. As always, I'll provide a few examples, give my thoughts on them, and hopefully help you reach an idea of what you'd like to have in your collection.

Settlers of Catan (3-4 players in the base, 5-6 with expansion)
This was the game that started it all for me. It was my first exposure to a game where everyone played the whole time, and had things to do even when it wasn't their turn. If you're not familiar with Settlers, you are trying to build settlements and cities with resources that you get on dice rolls. You'll rarely have everything you need, so you have to trade with other players. The dice are a comforting part of the game to players. The idea of trading is familiar, but the frequency is new to people. A lot of people can really get in to Catan and have fun the first time. Catan appeals best to the dice fans, and people who like Monopoly.

Carcassonne (2-5 players, 6 with Inns and Cathedrals expansion)
Carcassonne was my 3rd game, and my first exposure to meeples. Just for the meeples themselves, the game is worth a look. Carcassonne is a fairly basic game to teach players. Drawing a tile, playing it to the board, and adding one of your tokens to the tile is fairly simple. There are some choices, and a lot of unique arrangements you can make with the tiles. Building a map is a fun thing for people of all ages to see, especially when it comes together. Can Carcassonne get a bit aggressive? Sure, but that's true of most games. Carcassonne is a great introduction to people who enjoy puzzles, and long term strategy.

Dominion (2-4 players, up to 6 with Intrigue)
I first played Dominion in 2009, and I was instantly hooked. I bought it for my birthday, and it started a bit of an obsession. I've always been a fan of card games, I dabbled in Star Trek CCG and Pokemon, so I liked seeing cards interact. The idea of deckbuilding always intrigued me, but as a kid, I never had the money to have the best cards or a lot of the good cards, so I knew I'd never be great. Dominion changes that idea. It's deckbuilding, but the whole game is building your deck. Everyone starts with the same deck of 10 cards - 3 victory points, and 7 money. You have to use these cards to buy better cards, slowly making your deck bigger and better. The base game comes with 25 unique kingdom cards, and you play with 10 in each game. This gives a lot of variety and makes most games feel different than the last one you played. If someone is a fan of a CCG like Magic the Gathering, or Yu-Gi-Oh! this is something for them to look into. They might just appreciate not having to spend $100+ every few months to get new cards.

Ticket to Ride (2-5 players)
Ticket to Ride is the first game I ever bought for myself. I played the German board (Marklin version) with my gaming family. That's the most complicated version of TtR, but I liked the core. I decided to get the US map, since it would involve the least amount of hunting for odd cities, and thus save time. I'm so glad I bought TtR. It's currently my 3rd most played game (if you count all the different maps, 4th if you don't) and I don't see that changing. It's a game I can play with just about anyone. On a player's turn they have 3 options, really only 2 that come up every time. You either take cards or play cards. The third option is taking more destination tickets, but that isn't something to do every turn. The scoring is fantastically simple, you get points for trains on the board, you gain points for completed tickets, you lose points for tickets you don't complete. It's hard to nail down a particular group of people that would be best suited for the game. I don't want to cop-out and say everyone, so instead I think that Ticket is a great way to get people who used to play games as a kid, but lost interest due to a plethora of things, back into gaming.

Price Wars
No, not a game, just time to talk money. Remember these are Amazon prices. Better prices can be found if you hunt around a bit.
Catan ~ $34 for the base, $47 for the base+expansion
Carcassonne ~ $22
Dominion ~ $31
Ticket to Ride ~ $37

Like all these categories, this comes down to the budget pick, and the pick you want to have around.
Carcassonne takes the budget pick, but if you're willing to go up a bit, get Dominion.
As for the game to have around, my winner is still Ticket to Ride. It works for the widest range of people, and trains are just fun. If you want to take a 2nd in any category, I'd encourage you to take it here and also get Dominion.

These 4 games are fairly common these days. I think Target even carries at least Ticket and Catan, maybe more, haven't checked lately. Since they are common, you can generally find someone who owns a copy of at least one of these and ask to try it out. I like all 4 of these games, you can't go wrong with any of them.
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Sun Aug 26, 2012 9:25 am
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Top 7 Games I Want to Play, but Not Buy

David Montgomery
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Modesto
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Many times there are games you like to play, but there isn't much purpose in you owning them. For me, the most common cause of this is that I would only play with a certain group of people, so there's no reason to have multiple copies of the same game around. Many times, these games are expensive and/or hard to store. Most of the games on this list are games I haven't played, and I've talked myself out of buying for one or more reasons.

Honorable mention to Settlers of Catan 3D. The reason it didn't make the list is because it isn't really its own game. The game looks amazing, but there's no way I could ever justify the cost.

#7 Memoir '44
I used to own Memoir '44, but I traded it away. I grew tired of the game system, and felt that it was lacking an epic feel. I've heard that playing with 8 players in the Overlord format helps that notion, but I don't have 8 people to play Memoir with, so that would be wasted money and space for me.

#6 Wings of War
Let me be specific here. Wings of War with the plane miniatures, and all the stuff that makes it look really cool. I've played Wings of War, and I have a good time playing it. It's fun to get everything set-up and turn the table into a war zone. My gaming dad's brother owns a lot of the game, and he visits once, sometimes twice, a year. We'll get together a big group and play then, but outside of that, it's something we wouldn't play.

#5 Heroscape
I've never played Heroscape, but man does it look awesome. The miniatures look amazing, and the terrain looks even better. The rules seem complex enough to be interesting, but not overly complicated. The problem I run into is storage space, and money. I'd love to play with someone who has the game, but it's not something I'm willing to get for myself.

#4 Descent 2.0
I owned Descent for about a year, and over that time, I never got it to the table. The game is big, bulky, and has a lot going on. Descent 2.0 does seem to fix a lot of that, but it has a potential issue, Campaign play. Now, I love the idea of a Campaign, but right now, my gaming time is sporadic, and I feel like this would sit on the shelf and gather dust while shorter games come out. Plus it's something that seems hard to bounce in and out of, so that restricts play to having the same set of people.

#3 Crokinole
Crokinole is on this list for the simple reasons of cost and storage space. Yes, I know that the boards can be hung on a wall, and that removes a fair amount of the issue of storage, but it increases the cost. See, if you're going to put something on the wall, it should look good. That means buying a more expensive board. Plus, without ever having played the game, it's something I don't want to invest in right now. Maybe someday, but not soon.

#2 Pitchcar
Flicking a disk around a track just sounds like a good time. The problem with that, once again, is storage. The track for Pitchcar is rather overbearing. It would be a lot of fun to own the game, but then I'd want to get all the cool pieces, the crosses, the loops, jumps, etc. and that just adds cost to everything. This is best left to the play if I ever get a chance, but don't buy category.

#1 Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition
This is the inspiration for the list. When I first heard of TI3, I knew I wanted to play it. The game sounds fascinating, with a lot of depth and choice. The problem, 8 hours. There is no way that I can get at least 6 people together to play a game for 8 hours. It just won't happen. Even if it did, there's no way I'm storing the game at my house the other 364 days of the year when it didn't get played.
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Tue Aug 21, 2012 8:33 am
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Collection Building: Party Games

David Montgomery
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California
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Original post at http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/08/collection-buil...

Hopefully, there are many opportunities to pull out a game with a large group of people. This typically means more than 5, but often times even more than that. If you're tired of the standard party fare such as Trivial Pursuit, Cranium, and even Apples to Apples, consider one or more of the games here.

All of these games are designed to play well in a large group. They aim to encourage players to talk and have a fun time in a large group.

Say Anything (3-8 Players)
When I describe Say Anything to people who've never played it, I say it's Apples to Apples with a lot more freedom. One person asks a question such as "where would I go on my dream vacation?" Everyone then writes down an answer. After everyone has written one, the "judge" picks their favorite in secret. Then players have to place their tokens on which one they think the judge picked. If they're right, they get points, if not, they don't. Whoever has the most points after some number of rounds (there are official guidelines in the rules, but really, it can be open ended so long as people are having fun) wins.
Say Anything gets people talking about the questions. It can be a great way to get to know people. I've heard of it being used at youth groups or small groups to get to know fellow members. It could also be used in an office to get to know coworkers, or as a team building exercise.
There is a risk that some questions can go to risqué answers, but that all depends on who's playing. There is a family version that attempts to eliminate the remote possibility of such answers.

Wits and Wagers (3-20 Players) Well the box says 20, I'd say more depending on how you want to run teams.

W&W is a trivia game, but don't run away screaming just yet. The game is about knowing things, but not exactly. It helps to have a general sense of things, but some questions are so obscure, no one will get it right. Actually, most games will see no one write down the exact answer. You see, W&W is all about numbers. In a round, a question is asked. Everyone writes down a number. Then, the answers are ordered from low to high. Players place their token on the answer they think is the closest to the right one without going over. So it doesn't matter if you don't know the exact answer, but if you know an estimate, you can do well. At worst, go for the insane bet, and see if it pays off.
There have been 3 versions of this game, Wits and Wagers, Wits and Wagers Family, and Wits and Wagers Party. I like them all. They're all functionally the same game, just different questions, and some different means of scoring points. I was a playtester for Wits and Wagers Party, and I did receive a free copy of the game. This in no way affects what I think of the game, since I already liked the system before I got a free game.
Wits and Wagers has been hit or miss for me. Some people love it, and some people dislike it. They point to the lack of player interaction. While I see what they're saying, a party game is meant to be the lubricant that gets the conversation started.

Mafia/Werewolf (6-20ish Players)
This is an experience game. There are two sides in the game, the Mafia or Werewolves, and the normal people. Each side is trying to eliminate the other. The normal people generally outnumber the other side 2:1 or 3:1, but the Mafia/Werewolves know who each other are. The game is divided into 2 phases. In the first phase, the M/W group awakens and kills off one of the normals. Then everyone wakes up to find someone missing/dead. They then kill off someone in an attempt to extract justice for the previous murder. At this point the game sounds pretty violent, but it really isn't. There's some strategy in who you kill off and when as a Werewolf, and as a normal, you're looking for any odd behavior to give you a clue as to who is working against you.
This game is a lot more fun with a great storyteller moderating things.

Dixit (3-12 players, depending on the set. Odyssey goes to 12, regular Dixit only to 6)
Dixit is similar to Apples to Apples. Players have a hand of cards, except instead of words, they have artwork. The artwork is simply fantastic. There is great depth to each card, and so much variety. Each card has these little nuances that players can key on, and there really is no wrong way to describe these cards. I'd love to have posters with various Dixit cards, that's how amazing the art is.

Price Comparison
Say Anything ~$17. SA Family ~$16.
Wits and Wagers ~$20. W&W Family ~$14.
Werewolf ~$10. Though you can play with a standard deck of cards, if you know the rules.
Dixit ~$24. Odyssey ~$27.

Party games are all about what you think will be the most fun for the people involved.
If they love storytelling, it's card to beat Mafia.
If they're creative artistic types, I say Dixit.
Have a bunch of trivia fans? Go for Wits and Wagers.

Say Anything really is the easiest game to get people to play. It's accessible, there's not much other knowledge required, and it's a great way to get to know people.

On a budget, I say get the Family version of Say Anything, and then learn how to play Werewolf with a deck of cards. None of these games are bad, I enjoy all of them for different reasons. Say Anything is probably the best bet to not fall flat. That's something you really want when buying games on a budget.
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Fri Aug 10, 2012 7:23 am
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Collection Building: Short Family Friendly Games

David Montgomery
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Modesto
California
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Original post at http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/08/collection-buil...

A friend and avid reader suggested I talk about buying games on a budget. Awhile back I wrote a big article on building a collection which you can find at the top of the page. She suggested that I expand things, so that's what I'm going to do. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to write a series of articles detailing different types of games to put in a small game collection. I'm going to try to keep them inexpensive, since many people are on a small entertainment budget. I hope to highlight several games that provide excellent value for their cost and offer a lot of replayability. The primary focus here is on game play. You want to have great games when you have very few in your collection. You're not necessarily worried about fancy components or tons of miniatures, you want strong mechanics, fun themes, and games you can play often with a wide range of people.

This may be a category that a family will want to purchase multiple games from. By no means is anyone restricted to just one of these games. There's a lot of good ones out there. My picks are games that I enjoy, as a 23 year old, playing with my family and friends who aren't necessarily gamers. All of these games play in 30 minutes or less. (Most of the time)

These aren't in any particular order, but I will pick my favorite at the end.

Word on the Street (there is a family version, I haven't played it) 2-10 players, divided into 2 teams
This is a great game for helping kids learn vocabulary as well as spelling. If you're not familiar with the game, here's a brief rundown. Your team gets 30 seconds to come up with and spell a word that fits the category. As you spell your word, you move the letter tiles closer to your side. You want to be the first team to get 8 letters off your side of the board. Categories are fairly simple, but coming up with a word that uses a lot of letter tiles, or specific tiles is a challenge. The game can be played by young and old alike. You could get a category such as "A type of cheese" Now, your first thought might be cheddar, but what if D is already off the board? Maybe you need to go with Swiss, that's a lot of S's. Or maybe you go with limburger. That uses a lot of letters, but be sure to spell it correctly. Word on the Street, a fun game for vocab and spelling, and a lot of fun with the family.

Tiki Topple 2-4 players
I've talked a lot about Tiki Topple on the blog, so there's not a ton of need to go into it yet again. Younger players may get upset when their tiki is toasted, they do tend to get attached to things easily, but it can also be a lesson in not revealing hidden information and making the best of a bad situation. In the game, players try to maneuver tikis up the board to match their hidden goal. No two goals are the same, but some are similar. Each round takes about 2-5 minutes, so this can be a nice game before bed, or anytime a quick game is needed.

Incan Gold 3-8 players
A great push-your-luck game with direct interaction between players. The treasure aspect of the game is fun for all ages. Even setbacks are only temporary in the game. There are interesting decisions, and it teaches little ones to not push too far. The game is played over 5 rounds, and each round can take anywhere from 30 seconds to maybe 10 minutes, but the average is probably right around 3-5 minutes, meaning the full game takes 15-30.

Can't Stop 2-4 players
This is an old classic from legendary designer Sid Sackson. The idea of the game is simple, roll 4 dice, make pairs, move up the board. The game is challenging because you can only take 3 numbers, and you have to take the first ones you roll. If you roll none of your numbers, you're out. Be the first person to claim 3 numbers all the way to the top and you win. It's quick and easy, there's a lot of fun interactions, egging on, calling people chicken if they stop too soon, or doing the "whomp whomp" when someone rolls poorly. Just thinking about this game brings a smile to my face. The time on this is hard to nail down. I've seen a game end on 1 turn, and I've seen games that take 30 minutes. I'd say that 90% of games are done in under 20 minutes, and probably 95% in under 15.

No Thanks! 3-5 players
I did a comprehensive review on No Thanks! which you can find here. The game can be a bit too mathy for young children, and there is also the strategy of knowing when to take something and when to pass that can be hard to master. It's a fun game, but it can be a bit hit or miss with kids. For time, you're looking at about 10 minutes to finish the game, which is great if you want to play multiple rounds.

For Sale 3-6 players
I recommend For Sale for older kids, probably in the 10+ maybe 12+. There's a lot of auctions, and a fair amount of strategy. That being said, houses are fun to mess with and competition for the space station can get really intense, especially when no one wants to be in the cardboard box. For time, this is probably a 15-25 minute game. A lot depends on how many players, how many rounds of betting, and how intense those competitions get. The 2nd half is usually pretty quick.

Price comparison - I used amazon.com and was looking for the ones specifically fulfilled by amazon
Word on the Street ~ $15 for junior, $17 for normal
Tiki Topple ~ $17.50
Incan Gold ~ $25
Can't Stop ~ $30
No Thanks! ~ $12
For Sale ~ $20

My pick here has actually shifted. It used to be Tiki Topple, which is still a good game, but I'd have to take Incan Gold these days. It's a little more expensive, but I've never met someone who didn't like it after playing. Kids seem to like the idea of adventuring for treasure, which gets them in. Even if they lose, they still collected something, which is a positive experience.
My runner up is Can't Stop. Sadly, the game is just too expensive for what it is right now. What I would recommend is mocking up your own board, finding some spare pieces and dice, and giving it a try before you buy it.

As a final note, I'm not the blogging expert on gaming with the family. I recommend two sites. http://fathergeek.com as well as http://growingupgamers.blogspot.com. Both are great with family recommendations, as well as interesting reads.
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Wed Aug 8, 2012 11:59 am
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Redesigning Star Runner - Part 3 of the Design Series

David Montgomery
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Modesto
California
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Awhile back, I started talking about Star Runner, the game I'm designing. That was mostly in this posthttp://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/04/star-runner-par....

Well, a lot has changed since April. With the help of a good friend, I've taken the game and trimmed it down to the core. I had a lot of ideas that sounded really good in my head and even on paper, but when they were put into a game, they weren't elegant. A lot of things felt too clunky, or too math based, and because of that, the game was taking 4-5 hours and not even getting played to completion. At first I chalked this up to a completely new game taking far longer than any other play but when play 2 came and took about as long, even after changes, I was growing weary. Then, the best thing happened. I brought the game with me on a weekend to LA, and got a chance to pull it out and just explain things to my friend. It became very clear to both of us that there was too much going on. Set-up for the game took 45 minutes, and I hadn't even explained all the rules.

We left the game set-up and talked about the core ideas. Essentially, what made the game tick? It started the process of trimming the fat. In a way, I had built a shorter version of Twilight Imperium 3, maybe something like Eclipse, but that wasn't what I was going for. I wanted smuggling, not combat, and stealth, not blatant aggression. Perhaps the downside of being 22-23 is that you want to play games that have a "cool" factor. Lots of pieces, lots of cards, abilities, etc. The simple fact was that 500+ cards was never going to be feasible for a game with so many other components.

So that was end of crew and unique ships. Players had too much to worry about that they didn't need to decide which one of 3 ship types, and then which of 3 ships in each type to buy. I also didn't need to worry about how to balance 30+ crew members on top of everything else. Maybe an expansion someday, or something to add later, but nothing for now.

Let's get back to the core ideas. You're probably asking yourself something along the lines of "what is actually driving the game?" Here's the elevator pitch(a conversation in an elevator where someone asks what you do, or something like that) in a very rough form. Star Runner is a smuggling game in space. You have contracts to complete. In order to do so, you go to various planets, buy resources, and then sell them to the planet that needs the resources. You use money to buy more ships, upgrade your ships, and by technology for your ships. The person who does that the best, wins the game.

In an effort to further explore these ideas, let's dig into each one.

Contracts
Contracts are what they sound like, a list of resources to be delivered to a planet with a reward for doing so. Nothing too original here, contracts exist is many games. The twist for these contracts is that players have far more choice, and when they pass on a contract, it doesn't get discarded, it gets incentivized. I'm leaving the details of that vague for now, but I'm going to talk more about it later.

Ships
Like any good smuggler, you want to be known for great exploits. A good way to go about this is to have multiple ships to carry out your nefarious activities. Players have to balance having multiple ships versus upgrading the ships they already have. Again, probably nothing too original, but these work well and have a nice blend of attributes.

Technology
This is the area that underwent the most changes. They started as cards that came from a randomized deck that players could buy with special resources. They transformed into a common pool that had several different techs which could always be purchased. This was a good step, and I liked this place, but no one seemed to want to buy tech at this point. So it changed one more time. This time, tech is something you buy for your entire fleet. The costs are simplified, the abilities are straight forward, but the choices each player has to make in regards to technology are tricky, and sometimes subtle.

The core of the game is contracts. At the heart of contracts is the market. Everything else revolves around that. The game is economically driven, you're trying to gain money, use it to do stuff, and have the most stuff at the end.

In the span of 3 weeks, I took a game that had tons of stuff going on, 25 resources, 18 planets, a black market, mining, mining resources, 50 tech, 9 different ship types, passengers, crew with abilities, and a some other things, and boiled it down. Now there are 8 resources, 12 planets, a black market, mining which now uses the same 8 resources, very modified tech, very simple ships (down to 4 types).

For all that work, the game went from taking 5-6 hours to now taking 2 and a half hours. I'm fairly confident that I can get that down to 2, maybe even 1.5 with some streamlining. At that point, I feel like I have a game that people will enjoy, but moreso that I will enjoy. As an aspiring designer, I want to design something I want to play. If I can't enjoy my game, how can I expect others to enjoy it?
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Wed Jul 25, 2012 9:34 am
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Expansions Part 3 - Dominion and Carcassonne, Where to Stop?

David Montgomery
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Original post at http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/07/expansions-part...

In the last article on expansions I said I was going to talk about Carcassonne and Dominion expansions, the good and bad, and what felt like a complete collection.

Dominion

All of this talk is predicated on you knowing the base game, because I'm going to talk about what these expansions do to change that for good and bad.

Let's start with perhaps the most controversial - Dominion. All these expansions are viewed through the lens of what they are after Hinterlands, before Dark Ages, and not what they were when they came out.


Intrigue - This functions as a full game, since it includes all the basic treasure and victory cards. It's also needed if you're going to play with more than 4 players. Notable cards include Nobles, Minion, Torturer, Saboteur, and Pawn. The set of cards are a bit mean, lots of attacks, and the reaction card - Secret Chamber - isn't great in comparison, but I feel like this is a worthwhile expansion for large groups.

Seaside - Duration cards. Basically, cards that do something now, don't get discarded, and do something on your next turn. I love this mechanic. I think it gives a bit more strategy to the game, though it can enhance play time, since players are really gearing towards card drawing decks. There are some engaging attack cards, Pirate Ship, Ambassador, Ghost Ship, and some just plain fun cards, Treasure Map, and Treasury. I think Seaside is a great expansion to own and play with. I wouldn't necessarily want it as my only expansion, but it's fun.

Alchemy - One word for this expansion - Potions. Potion cards are a new form of currency. There are cards that can only be purchased using a potion and some amount of money. This does increase the cost of those cards, and forces players to consider the drain on their deck from a card that doesn't contribute to the Province quest, but it may help get cards that get you to Provinces. Alchemy has a bad rap because several cards feel like they are just redone versions of original cards, but I find the changes enough to warrant inclusion. Alchemy isn't for everyone, it has one of the meanest cards in the entire game - Possession - but all things can be counteracted and it does adjust strategy.

Prosperity - Why 7 can be a good amount to have. Many of the cards in Prosperity are bigger versions of base game cards. Expand is a bigger Remodel, Kings Court is a bigger Throne Room, etc. It also added Platinum and Colony cards to the game for better or worse. What Prosperity really does is add to the game length. Provinces are no longer the goal, instead it's Colonies which cost 11. This leads to players spending more time buying money and action cards, which lengthens the game. I like the strategy change, because some cards are more useful in long games, while other cards are less useful. It forces players to adapt to different strategies, and now players hate getting 10 instead of 7, a much less common occurrence.

Cornucopia - Variety. I like to call this the "new player" expansion. Cornucopia has a lot of cards that deal with having different cards in your deck, so it's perfect for those who like to buy one of everything to see what it does. The card set is interesting, but I found some annoying - Tournament - and many others lackluster - Harvest. Big Kudos to Horse Traders for being the most fun reaction card in the game, and arguably the most useful in most games.

Hinterlands - Plenty. Many cards in this set do multiple things. There are cards that do something when you buy them like Embassy, Ill-Gotten-Gains, Cache, Noble Brigand, Nomad Camp, Mandarin, Farmland and Inn. That's almost 1/3 of the set that does something when you buy it, and then it does something in the game. Hinterlands to me is the most refreshing expansion I've seen. There are some cards that do very different things, but they don't feel overpowered, nor are they overly complex. They are subtle at times, but when used right, the cards do wonders.


To conclude the talk about Dominion, some advice lists for expansion purchases based on different criteria.

If you own Base Game

Seaside
Hinterlands
Prosperity
Intrigue
Cornucopia Alchemy

If you own Intrigue
Prosperity
Seaside
Hinterlands
Cornucopia
Base
Alchemy

If I had to pick only x sets of cards, since you can buy the basic treasure/victory cards separate, this is what I'd buy.

Prosperity
Hinterlands
Seaside
Base
Cornucopia
Intrigue
Alchemy

If I had to draw the line in the sand for Dominion I would say start with Intrigue game, get Prosperity and Hinterlands, maybe Seaside, and call it there. That gives you 75/100 cards and a lot of neat ideas to explore.

Carcassonne
Let's take a little bit to talk Carcassonne aka Carc. The game presents almost limitless expansion potential, but how much is really enough? I think the answer to this really comes down to another question. How much do you play Carc? For me, I used to play it often, probably 1-3 times a month. Now, I'm lucky to play 1-3 times a year. With that in mind, let's talk about the different expansions.

Inns and Cathedrals - This is by far the single most important and necessary expansion to Carc. It adds the intrigue of double or nothing roads, gives players a large meeple to use in takeovers, and has some neat tiles. It's also important if you have more than 2 people playing so you get enough tiles to feel satisfied. I always play with I&C.

Traders and Builders - I like the expansion. It has city tiles with trade goods on them which are given to the player who finishes a city. This gives you reason to complete someone else's city, which is an interesting twist. It also has a pig and builder meeple. The pig goes on an existing farm, and gives the player an extra point per city at the end. The builder can be placed in a city or on a road, and then whenever you add to that feature, you get to draw and place another tile. This isn't something I pull out with new players, but once someone has played a couple of times, this is a great depth enhancer.

Princess and Dragon - This is the attacking expansion. The princess appears on some city tiles and forces a player in the city to remove one of their meeples. This drastically alters the flow of the game, and makes life rather annoying. The dragon roams around the board and devourers any meeples in its path. Also making the game rather annoying. The dragon does mitigate some of the large farm problem, but it really just creates a lucky break for the first player who can place in an open farm. I'm not a fan of this expansion.

The Tower - I've personally never played this, and likely never will. The whole idea of capturing your opponents' meeples seems out of place here. If I want to directly attack someone, I have a lot of other games that do it better than this seems to.

Abbey and Mayor - This expansion did two things I really liked, and a few that I didn't. First, it gave everyone a one use tile that ended everything it touched. The trick is, you have to wait until there's a tile on every side, essentially, you're looking for a missing hole in the board. This gives you the ability to end a city or road that may not have a legal tile available to play. The other thing I really liked was the Mayor meeple. It is worth one point of strength, for determining who has control in a city, for every shield symbol in the city. This gives those symbols a further reason for existing, and I think ties in nicely to the theme. The thing I didn't like is the wagon and the barn. The wagon rules are a bit convoluted and complicated for Carc. The barn is ok, but I think it just further promotes big farms, and that's something that isn't apparent to newer players.

The Catapult - Great idea, horrible execution. I think the idea of some randomness in the game is fun, but the way they did it just doesn't work. For one, the catapult is horrible, so much that a friend actually built one for me out of scrap wood. It currently sits on top of my game shelf. I've never played by the actual rules to the catapult, it just seems a little too random. I'd like to sometime, but it's not something for new players.

Wheel of Fortune - This is how I'd by the basic game now. It has all the original tiles, but it also has this neat wheel mechanic. Players can add meeples to the center and get certain points for different things in the game. I think this gives players a chance to catch-up, and score points for some things that aren't normally scored, which is good. I think it's not something to play with the first time you play Carc, but it makes a much better base game.

Bridges, Castles, and Bazaars - I haven't played this expansion nor do I own it. I also probably never will. The bridge idea sounds interesting, but the others don't appeal to me. (If you have played this, leave me a comment, and I'll go back and edit this with your comment to have a more complete view)

Those are all the big box expansions. I'll talk about those before briefly going over the small box ones.

I can't imagine Carc without Inns and Cathedrals. I think that needs to be part of the game. So definitely get that if you like Carc. I highly recommend Traders and Builders. The rest, up to you. If those two were the only 2 big box expansions I have, and I'd be happy.

The River - This eliminates the starting tile and replaces it with the river. This helps break up the mega farm. Overall, a great thing to have.

The River 2 - Splits the starting River in 2 directions, further breaks up farms, but does require more play area.

King and Scout - Like the tiles, never use the bonus things, find they give too much of an advantage.

The Count - Interesting idea to start with a big city, don't like the stealing/sharing aspect of the Count.

Games Quarterly - Like having more tiles, nothing groundbreaking here, just more good Carc.

Cult, Siege, Creativity - Love the cult pieces, they give an interesting dynamic to the cathedrals. The sieges are a nice change up, not too many of them around to wreck havoc, just enough to mess with people.

For me, the only mini expansion worth getting is the River, maybe River 2. The rest do add to or change the game in some way, but none are necessary for an enjoyable experience.

So that's my thoughts on Dominion and Carcassonne. Agree or disagree with them? Let me know. I think the big message here, don't buy everything. It's not worth it, because you'll never play with them all.
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Sun Jul 22, 2012 5:55 am
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Expansions - Continuing the Conversation

David Montgomery
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Modesto
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Original Post at http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/07/expansions-cont... Come by and read all the articles and feel free to comment as always.

It looks like GameswithTwo and I have had some similar ideas for blog posts lately. I kinda started the talk on expansions, not that the idea is original to me. GwT now has 2 parts to their expansion series, so I'm going to do a follow-up to discuss some comments I got here and over on BoBG.

Expansions take many forms. I want to take some time to discuss the different types of expansions we see for different games. This is by no means a complete list, nor is it meant to tell you what to do. I'm just trying to offer my own opinions, as always, and you can take them for what their worth, and since they're on the internet and reading this is free, that's about what they're worth. (Trying to inject some humor, just go with it.)

Increased player count with something else
These are probably the best kind of expansions. You take a game that was really good with 2-4 people, and now a 5th player can join in. This has been done in a lot of games, Carcassonne, Cosmic Encounter, Battlestar Galactica, Shadows Over Camelot, just to name a few. More players is typically a good thing, but we have to be careful that the game still works well at that number. Just because a game plays 3-8 players doesn't mean it's a good game to play with 3-8 players. Maybe the sweet spot is at 5 and it works well at 4 and 6, and then ok with 7. More players typically increases the play time of a game, so keep that in mind as well. Maybe that 60 minute game with 4 people is great, but a 5th would make it 90 minutes, and that's just too much for what the game is. That's not always the case, but something to keep in mind.

New "modes" of game play
This can be something as simple as variable map set-up or scenarios for a game you already know, or it could be a completely new way to play the game. Seafarers of Catan did this for Settlers by giving players boats to build and islands to explore. Battlestar Galactica took a page from Arkham Horror when it comes to expansions. The core gameplay is similar, or even the same, but there are new characters, new cards, maybe a new way to end the game that players can pick and chose from.
This type of expansion gives players flexibility as well as new ways to play the game, which kinda makes it feel like a new game each time.

Maps
There are several games which utilize new maps to bring in something new to the game. The main three that I can think of are Ticket to Ride, Power Grid, and Formula D/De.
Let me address each one.

Ticket to Ride started by making full games with a new map, so if you wanted a new map you had to buy a $50 game with train pieces and train cards and new tickets. This wasn't horrible, but in 2011, Days of Wonder released 2 Map Expansion Packs with a double sided map. These cost around $20-$25, which is a great deal. At this point I have way more Ticket to Ride than I'll ever get bored of, but that's a good thing. It means every time I play it, I can explore some new aspect of a map, and continue to rotate through different things. I consider the Ticket Map Expansions to be well worth it.

Power Grid is an interesting case study. I enjoy Power Grid, but I play it maybe once a year. At that point, I don't need anything more than the original map for the game. At one point I had 3 different map packs, and I think I played on at least 1 side of all of them. I had a friend who really liked Korea, so we did that map with him, and so on. What I found was that each map did bring something new to the table, but I ended up trading away every map expansion because I didn't have the need for them. I've yet to feel like one of them was crucial to enhancing gameplay, or made me like the game more. Rather, each map just brought something different to the table. If I played Power Grid more often, say once a week or even once a month, I'd probably want a new map set, but right now, I'm content with just the original map.

Formula D is a blend of Ticket to Ride and Power Grid. First, the backstory. My dad and I are long-time fans of Formula 1, so this game is a great fit. It's great to race around all the different tracks that we see on TV. Even so, they don't get used. We play it so little that if Monaco was the only track we had, we wouldn't get bored with it. I love the idea of having all these maps, because we do get new ways to play, and it would be a lot of fun to race a season over the course of weeks/months. The problem is, I just don't see it happening, especially since so many of the classic tracks are long OOP, and rather pricy to acquire.

For the next part of this series, I'm going to talk about 2 games with a lot of expansions, Dominion and Carcassonne. I'm going to look at the advantages and disadvantages of each and every expansion so far, which will be a long, but hopefully useful article. I'll also try to give some advice on where to call your collection complete in terms of those games, but remember, there are no hard and fast rules to games.
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Tue Jul 17, 2012 10:35 am
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