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

Archive for David Montgomery

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Words Words Words OR Scrabble and Other Word Games

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/02/words-words-wor...

I haven't played many games of Scrabble, but you wanted my take on things, so here it is. I find Scrabble challenging, I don't find too many flaws with the game, but I don't like it. I think that there's two problems with word games in general - one, the biggest vocabulary always wins, and two, there's virtually no luck, or all luck based on the tiles. Now, don't get me wrong, Scrabble is a good game. The board is interesting in terms of the various tiles, but it boils down to who knows the most before the game. To me, that's not much of a game when all players don't have a reasonably equal chance to win.

Boggle is a step in the right direction, since it removes the luck of tile draws, thus giving every player equal access to words, but the main problem still remains. The person who knows the most words will once again win.

I do find challenge in word games when it's timed to see how many I can get in a given period. The problem is that these are best suited for computer games, little social networking apps, and phone games, thus they are best as single player games. Even then, the experience is less than satisfying. Maybe it has to do with pure skill games and the way that players can get better than everyone else through practice or certain other means. If one person is always going to win the game, or almost alway win, what's the point in playing?

So the question becomes how do you improve Scrabble. Well, the first idea is make sure you play with people right around your vocabulary level. Sure, sometimes you'll know more words, sometimes others will, but that makes the game closer. Now, this isn't perfect since there's not a great way to quantify vocabulary knowledge. So what might help? How about a list of possible words, something like 30-50 words so players can play quickly even if they get stuck. I really don't have great solutions here.

Some other word games that might scratch the Scrabble itch, but do it in a more compact or fun way.
Word on the Street (Junior version as well)
It's a two player/team game where one team reads a category and the other side has to come up with a word that fits the category. They then spell the word moving each letter in the word one spot closer to their side. This causes people to come up with words using b's d's, g's, w's, etc. and stretches players vocabulary. It will favor the bigger vocabulary, but there are ways to win before that becomes an issue. It may not be the best alternative, but it's out there.

I don't know of any other word games, but I know they exist. If they don't, maybe it's a sign that the masses have given up their thesauruses in favor of simplistic language and that word games just aren't all that fun to play with the same group over and over again.
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Thu Mar 1, 2012 7:40 am
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Mousetrap - It's a game? And a Bonus Review - Bonkers!

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/01/mousetrap-its-g...

Mousetrap: Part game, part construction project.

When you boil down Mousetrap, you end up with a simple roll and move game, which is typical of most games in this series, but there's a bit more than that here. The fun part for most people was the creation of the full mouse trap, and watching something you built function. I think as a child, I probably played the actual game twice. I wanted to play by the full rules, I really did, but building and triggering the trap was always more fun.

I think Mousetrap is ultimately judged on the toy factor. It's a fairly simple game, with little choice, but it's a pretty fun toy. So, the question becomes how to make Mousetrap better. My answer, don't try. Play it as a toy, let the kids have fun with it, and when they're looking for better games, go elsewhere.

It's probably a cop-out to recommend the Adventurers again as a next step game but I think it works. You have a fair amount of the toy factor, but Adventurers combines the toys with a decent game.


BONKERS or SCORE!
Since that was relatively short, I'll give you a bonus micro review.
It's a Milton Bradley game from the 1978 called This Game is Bonkers or Bonkers for short. The object of the game is to get 12 scores, the first one to do this wins the game. So how do you score? There are 3 ways; 1st you can roll a 12, 2nd, you can land on the score spot, and 3rd, you can get caught in a loop. Now, this would be very simple, and take a very long time, but whenever you land on an empty spot, you can place a tile that tells you how to move. At first, this takes awhile, but eventually there are combos that lead you to scores. Also, if you land on a spot that someone else occupies, you get to roll again. This goes on until you land on an empty space after you've placed a tile, or until you "Go to Lose!" Every player is also given a token that allows them to send another player to Lose. Now, the fun part of this game is yelling "SCORE!" whenever someone scores a point, and sympathizing when someone goes to "LOSE."

Now, is this a great strategic game? No, not at all, But, it's a great way to start or end a game night. I know it's not in production anymore, but there are ebay copies, as well as thrift store and garage sale possibilities. It's a fun game with numbers, and if you approach to have fun rather than to win, you'll be glad you played it.

Also remember, it's the people that make things fun, appreciate those people who play games.
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Wed Feb 29, 2012 7:20 am
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Replayability

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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Originally Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012
http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/01/replayability.h...

One of the key factors I look for in a game is replayability, or the ability for the game to be interesting over repeated plays. The subject is very subjective, because what defines interesting, and what defines repeated? I have to address the matters in a personal way, so my biases will not only creep in, but this article will be oozing with personal bias.

First some definitions. Interesting to me in a game means that the players have to figure out how to deal with each other's actions and figure out what to do in order to win. Specifically, players can do something that gives them the element of surprise, or do something unexpected that makes others adapt.
Repeated: a desire to play more than one game within a short amount of time. I know this is still vague, so for me, with the knowledge that I play games about 3 times a month, usually for long game days on the weekends, sometimes more, sometimes less. All of that is to say that playing a game about 10-15 times in a year is repeated.

If you take a look at my list of games played two main things stick out. First, there are a few games I have played a lot, and secondly, a lot of games I have played a few times.

Here's some of the play count list, without the game names

207, 189, 74, 45, 45, 37
32, 32, 28, 27, 23, 21
For those who know me well, it's no surprise that Cosmic Encounter and Dominion take spots 1 and 2, and there's a great reason for that; they are replayable games. Those two are perhaps the best examples of near infinite variety. Assuming a 5 player game of Cosmic, there are currently 5,273,912,160 possibilities of alien power combinations.
And for Dominion as of the Hinterlands expansion and including the BGG promo cards (total of 157 cards) there are 6,790,908,493,212,710,000,000 which is 6 sextillion, 790 quintillion, 908 quadrillion, 493 trillion, 212 billion, 710 million possible set-ups to play, which can be doubled if you want to worry about a colony game, or no colonies.

Needless to say, neither of those numbers will ever be approached in my lifetime, yet alone in games I play. Also, my apologizes to the non mathematically inclined, didn't mean to scare you with large numbers. So why those two games as my top two played? Well the answer is fairly straightforward. I like the way those games play in their simplicity (once you know what's going on), and then the things that give them variety make me want to try the different combinations. I think the lack of changing features is an aspect of why the big name games don't do well in comparison. There isn't a new challenge to figure out, or some new strategy to explore, it's all the same again and again.

Now, everything I've presented leads to the possibility of most games meeting the criteria. At first I thought that might be a problem, but I realized that the great thing about hobby boardgames is that they are vastly replayable. There are hundreds of games published each year, yet I'd wager only a fraction of them see even 10 plays.

There was a bit of an outcry over Risk Legacy, which has components for 15 game plays, and then the modifications are done. At first this bothered me, and then I looked at how many games I had played more than 15 times. For me, that answer is oddly enough, 15. Now, I expect that to nearly double by the end of the year, but still, if you get 15 plays out of a $30-$40 game, that's not bad. It comes down to $2-$3 per play for one person, which is fairly cheap entertainment.

Replayability seems to be at war with new games. I love opening a game, learning the rules, figuring out new strategies; but I realized in writing this that the true measure of a game for me is how much I play it in the long run. Carcassonne was the first game I ever owned, getting it back in 2007. Back in those days I didn't log my plays, else it would be in the 15+ category, but it's a game I'm still playing today. Same thing with Ticket to Ride, Cosmic Encounter and Pandemic, which are all games from my early days of gaming. It may take awhile to get to 15 plays, but the good ones are worth the time. It's also nice to play a game without having to reference the rulebook.

I hope this encourages you to pull an old favorite off the shelf and give it a play. I did with Pandemic this past weekend, and though we lost miserably twice (getting 8/9 starting cities all in the red area is just plain rough), we were all glad we played it again.
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Wed Feb 29, 2012 7:18 am
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Two Go In, One Comes Out - Co-op Style

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/01/two-go-in-one-c...

(This one really needs to be viewed on the actual blog for all the pictures.)

Forbidden Island
Matt Leacock
Gamewright Games
2-4 Players
Plays in about 30 minutes
Versus
Pandemic
Matt Leacock
Z-Man Games
2-4 Players (5 with Expansion) Plays in about 60 minutes

Since these two games share a lot of similarities; same designer, both are co-operative games, and both share similar mechanics. With that in mind I’m going to review both at the same time, pointing out their differences, giving each part a running score, with no ties allowed, and always a point difference, and we’ll see which one I like better when all is said and done.

Overview
Forbidden Island is a family geared co-op game, meaning that everyone works together against the board. Players find themselves on a sinking island where they must collect 4 treasures and then get off the island before it sinks completely. There are several ways to lose the game, but only one way to win.
Pandemic is geared a bit more to the medium gamer. It’s also a co-op game, but this time you’re members of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control, which is headquartered in Atlanta, thus the starting point) who are trying to find cures for 4 major diseases while treating the diseases around the world. Yet once again, many ways to lose, only one way to win.

Components
Pandemic has a few more components, but Forbidden Island’s are snazzier.
Pandemic has a fixed board which I think gives it an edge in game to game balance. It also allows for outbreak trackers as well as how many infection cards to draw each turn. Forbidden Island counters with a tile for each land area. These tiles are of great quality, and have a normal side, as well as a sinking side. Forbidden Island has the advantage of being random each time you play, which is nice to have variety.
As I alluded to at the start of the section, Forbidden Island has snazzy components, which come in the 4 treasures that the adventurers attempt to collect.
As it always does, it comes down to scores. Both games have excellent components, but snazzy wins out, so Forbidden Island 10, Pandemic 9.

Game Mechanics
Both games involve players getting a set number of actions each turn, trying to move around the map and fight a losing battle. Players attempt to collect sets of cards to collect the items that help them win the game. Each player has a different character ability that helps them do something special to help the team. In FI you have a pilot who can move anywhere on the map for an action rather than just up, down, left, right. You have a messenger, in both games, who can give someone else a card without having to be on the same spot. In Pandemic you have a scientist who can research a cure with one fewer card than normal. The interaction of these powers, and the players’ ability to maximize their effectiveness is the key to winning or losing.

One flaw in both games is that sometimes you’re going to lose no matter what you do because of the way the cards come up. That’s not a huge issue since everyone wins or loses together, but it still may irritate some.
The deciding difference for me is that Pandemic has a bit more that you can’t account for, which keeps players on their toes, and I also prefer not needing to save one specific card and get everyone to a specific location in order to win. Therefore, Pandemic gets a 9, Forbidden Island an 8 for mechanics, making our running score 18 to 18.

Player Interaction
The player interaction in both of these games is found in the actual players. The game does require teamwork, but it has a fatal flaw in the puzzle-like nature which can lead to one player telling everyone else what to do in order to win. This probably isn’t a bad thing at the end of the game, but it is rather annoying if it happens the whole time.
With that being said, I try to encourage each player to make their own decisions, but also take advice from the other players. Sometimes someone has a great idea that I didn’t see, and sometimes I see something they didn’t which allows us to learn and appreciate the advice of the other players.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that both games can be played by yourself acting as multiple players. To some this is a good thing, to others, not so much. Personally I like that aspect, and I have played both games acting as two people to see if I could beat a hard difficulty. In playing solo games, I noticed that I missed that check of running it by someone and having input.
Ultimately, I think both of these games were designed for players to work together. Forbidden Island is slightly easier, which makes the choices less complex. There’s less to work out, and fewer choices to be made, so for that reason Pandemic takes the edge 4 to 3. There isn’t a lot of interaction, thus the low scores. That brings the running tally to 22 to 21 Pandemic.

Theme
Finally something where these two games are miles apart.
As I’ve previously stated, Forbidden Island is a gigantic treasure hunt. Watching the tiles flip as they take on water, and then sink with too much water feels tense and rather thematic.
Pandemic is about curing diseases, which to me is a good theme to have, but the game doesn’t envelop the theme until you actually develop a cure. By the time you have a cure, then it’s fun to cure a disease completely from a city, but until then it’s a micromanagement game.

I feel like the mechanics in Pandemic could be adopted to several different themes without much effort, while Forbidden Island works perfectly. Therefore Forbidden Island gets a 9, and Pandemic a 7, for a score of 30 to 29 Forbidden Island.

Learning Curve
Forbidden Island has very simple rules to explain. It’s very much a game geared towards families, meaning mom and dad, or big brother or sister will be around to help younger kids, and that makes FI a Short learning curve.
Pandemic is still on the short side of the curve, but it ventures into the medium due to enhanced complexity. Therefore Pandemic is a Short-Medium learning curve.
For ease of learning, Forbidden Island a 9, Pandemic an 8. Making things 39 to 37 Forbidden Island.

What I like about these games
I think I’ve given a lot of reasons why I like both of these games, so I’m going to give you my favorite part of each game. Pandemic was the first teamwork game I played and we had a lot of fun in college with a good amount of people. Forbidden Island is a game I can teach to anyone and because of that, it’s a game more people have bought than anything else based on playing with me.
No score for this category, and none for the next one either.

Why I don't like these games
Both games suffer from the general or dictator problem, but I think that would be a cheap way out. Specifically in Pandemic, I dislike the abrupt end. It feels like the job is only half done when the cures are researched, and I want to go cure the world rather than leave it in shambles.
For Forbidden Island, I dislike the abandoning tiles rule. It can almost be a greater help than hindrance. I know that’s rare, but it is still a problem.

Replayability
I decided to add a new category to my reviews and that is replayability. The point of the category is to talk about the variety between games and how much I find myself wanting to play the game.
Both of these games have moderate replayability. There are some changes in terms of initial set-up, the player powers and the people playing the game, but at some point it starts to feel more like a puzzle. It’s been over a year since I last played Pandemic, and sadly I don’t see that changing, but that’s not my choice. Forbidden Island is still a newish game to me, and it continues to see play time, but I don’t long to play it frequently.
Pandemic gains new legs with the On The Brink expansion which added a lot of new player powers, and 3 new ways of playing the game.
Before the expansion, the scores would have been Pandemic 5, Forbidden Island 6, but the expansion for Pandemic brings the replayability up to an 8, giving us a 45-45 tie.
Overall
As full games, I like both of these games, but I think that owning one is sufficient since they are so similar. I like both of these games for different reasons, yet they scratch the same itch. In order to break the tie, I have 2 deciding factors: Bang for Your Buck and if I had to own just one, which one would it be.
Forbidden Island has amazing production value for the pretty low cost of ~$20. Pandemic + Expansion goes for ~$50 online. Simply put, Forbidden Island is the far better bang for your buck.
Now, for which game I’d rather own, it’s really tough for me. I like having both games, I enjoy playing them both, and they’ve worked with a variety of people. The biggest thing that sways it right now for me is the ease of play in Forbidden Island. Both games have their place, and if I was playing games more often, I’d probably take Pandemic, but Pandemic is also a longer game, which keeps it off the table more often than not.
So there you go, my winner is Forbidden Island just by a little bit.

Will you like these games?
The only reason you wouldn’t like Forbidden Island is because you dislike co-operative games, or simpler games. If you like playing family friendly games, give it a shot. It’s also a nice break for college students.
Pandemic would be great for high-school or college students, as well as an adult game group. It can be played with the family, but older kids would be better.

Amusing Story about a Gameplay
There isn’t one defining moment in Pandemic for me. There have been a lot of tight games, but I can’t recall a particularly memorable one. Forbidden Island is another story. I once played a game where Fool’s Landing came up in the initial set of sinking tiles, and then I drew a first turn Water’s Rise, followed by turning over Fool’s Landing thus losing the game. For those of you who don’t know the game, Fool’s Landing is the tile that everyone has to get to at the end in order to win the game, so if it sink’s completely, the game is over.

Final Thought
It’s hard work comparing two games at once, but I think the extra work was worth it. Let me know what you think.
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Wed Feb 29, 2012 1:43 am
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Dice Dice and More Dice OR How Beginner's Luck is Personified

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/01/dice-dice-and-m...
Yahtzee


So first, Yahtzee is probably my second most played game due to having a handheld version which gets a lot of play time. Also, I took an initial liking to the game by rolling all 6's on my first ever roll, which I know no one will believe but hey it happened. Those are my personal biases coming in.

There are many things to like in Yahtzee. First, DICE, and lots of rolling. I know that I loved dice early on. It appealed to my love of numbers, but it was also fun to take the dice and see what could be done with them. Secondly, having limited options with what to do with the dice make you plan ahead and also react to the rolls you get. Finally, who doesn't love shouting YAHTZEE!? I mean really, it's just fun to get into the game.

Yahtzee is not without it's problems. As much as I like the diminishing choices, it also makes it not a very good game. It would be better if there were limited choices early and you had to unlock further scoring opportunities as you went. Also, there's not a game beyond the dice rolling, so ultimately the game comes down to luck of the roll. It would be great to see some special power awarded for completing that large straight, or full house.

Yes, I know that Yahtzee would be a completely different game with those things, and it probably exists. I still enjoy playing Yahtzee as is, but that's on the handheld which is just me, so a game takes about 5 minutes. I'm not sure I'd want to get out a specific game of Yahtzee, or even 5 dice and some paper to play. Simply put, there are better dice games out there.

On a random note, the theoretical maximum score is 1540, something I've never even gotten close to half way; though I consider a 630 game pretty good.


Here's some ideas for random dice games

Liar's Dice
Decathlon, a fun game using different Decathlon events. Requires 8 dice and a pencil to play
Delve, an adventure style game, meaning 4 heros go on a journey, meet bad guys, get stuff, etc. I've played this and it's a tough game, but fun and plays in about 30 minutes.

This is not an inclusive list, so if you have any dice games you enjoy, leave a comment and I'll edit the main post to include them.
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Wed Feb 29, 2012 1:37 am
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My Top 8 Gaming Memories of 2011

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/01/my-top-8-gaming...

#8 All of the wonderful games of Dominion online, which can be found at dominion.isotropic.org If anyone ever wants a game, my sn is mathguy89 and I’d be happy to play with you. The best of those games was watching my friend beat me for the first time, and to hear her reaction over skype. It didn’t take her long, but she’s yet to win another game against me, so she needs to try again.

#7 The Westmont departure week. With a visit from I&L, things were bittersweet. It was great to get a sendoff in gaming fashion and the friends that were there truly meant a lot. Capping things off with an 8 player game of Shadows Over Camelot was a great sendoff, even if the Mists of Avalon overtook Camelot.

#6 First game of BSG with the Exodus Expansion on January 14th. A great 6 player game with a lot of momentum swings. Zack finally got a boost as the lead pilot with the CAG title card and all signs pointed to a great semester of BSG.

#5 Risk Legacy. Without spoiling my future review let me say that if you have a regular game group and you enjoyed RISK at some point, then this is something you need to look into and highly consider buying. In our second game, one player was one die roll away from winning the game, and was then wiped off the board on the very next player’s turn which lead to player 2 winning.

#4 Watching the successful Kickstarter funding of Eminent Domain and then playing the final game 6 times in 3 game days. It’s what I was looking for in Race For The Galaxy. Also a hit with Aaron’s family and the quote “I’m going to warfare your ______(fill in the blank)” now reigns supreme.

#3 The ongoing GURPS campaign set in Greek mythos in an attempt to put back the 7 deadly sins to Pandora’s box. We never finished, but it was fun to try things out.

#2 The delayed gratification that was 2010 Secret Santa. I won’t go into all the mess that was 2010 Secret Santa, but rather I choose to focus on the good that came of it. I will simply direct you to my posting on BGG about it. Santa was very generous and very humble about everything.http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/59662/item/1654942#ite...

#1 Zackcon. 3 days of gaming from noon to midnight with appropriate breaks for food. Amazing people who loved playing as much as I did. And Kudos to Carol for learning everything and being a great sport. We also had Rockband thrown in there just to keep us from overloading on boardgames and some good pool time.
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Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:17 am
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The Cylons are Coming, the Cylons are Coming

David Montgomery
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Modesto
California
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Battlestar Galactica
Designed by Corey Konieczka
Published in the U.S. by Fantasy Flight Games
Plays 3-6 players in the base game, up to 7 with the Pegasus expansion. Best with 5 or 6 players, with 5 being better than 6.
Play time is around 3 hours, which can vary depending on player experience.

I decided to depart from my normal review format a bit for BSG. I’ve brought in my friend Josh, and we’re going to have a running discussion on the game while still covering all the main review points.

Overview
Battlestar Galactica or “BSG” is a semi-co-operative game. It follows roughly the first season and a half of the television show, as the crew deals with the massive assault on their homeworlds and the realization that the cylons now look like humans. This comes into game terms by handing a loyalty card to every player. Most of them say “You are not a cylon” but one or two of them, depending on player numbers say “You are a cylon” Players get another loyalty card at the half way point in the game, which usually means someone will switch teams from human to cylon. The uncertainty brought in through this is a great driving force in the game, and causes everyone to play the first half a little cautiously since you don’t know if you’ll switch sides or not.
The game progresses through a series of “jumps” to different locations, which are brought on by crisis cards. These cards force players to make decisions on resource loss, or the loss of skill cards to try to avoid said losses. This continues until the fleet jumps a distance of 8, usually accomplished in 3-4 jumps, and then jumps again, or one resource drops to zero. It’s a great balancing act between losing some of everything without losing too much of any one thing.

Components
D: Ok, so let's talk about components. It’s a FFG game, so a lot of detail has been put into the game pieces. What are your favorite pieces?
J: Definitely the toys (meaning vipers, raptors, raiders, heavy raiders). They work well with the board setup.
D: Now, one thing I would have loved to see would be painted minis, do you think those would help the game at all?
J: I guess. I don’t really care personally, but it might be cool for long time fans of the show.
D: I’d say that BSG has the best components in a game I’ve ever seen. Do you agree with that, and is there anything you’d change or add in regards to the components?
J: Yeah definitely, there's just so much to handle, it's exciting for everyone(meaning everyone has something to do). I wouldn’t add anything. I feel like you need that many components to make the game true to the show, it's pretty much the simplest they could have made the mechanism and adding anything would clutter the game.
D: That’s probably the best way to put it. The components are very true to the show and that makes them great, even if you don’t know the show.
D: I give the components a solid 10/10. If you’re looking for awesome miniatures that have a great use in the game, this is for you.
J: I agree with 10/10. Especially with the variety in the skill decks. Different players get to handle different things, and it keeps things exciting.

Game Mechanics
J: The important thing to note is that BSG takes awhile to learn and you will most likely be completely confused the first time you play it.
J: Speaking strictly about mechanics, it's won't always feel really balanced between human/cylon, since human wins tend to happen more as the playing group as a whole gets better, but from our experience I think it still feels pretty balanced.
D: Right, it has a learning curve to be sure, but the actual mechanics are fairly easy to pick up since it's basically draw cards, move your character, do an action, then draw a crisis card.
J: oh yeah, that's definitely simple, but even that's complicated by Executive Orders and stuff, and the insane amount of options you have for an action, playing cards or activating locations, as well as the President and Admiral title cards.
D: True, the good thing is that not every possible action is useful on every turn, so the options do slim down.
J: Once you start seeing crises come and go, it starts making sense.
D:Right, and the crisis cards are the driving force of the game. I think that's the hardest part for new people to see since everyone worries about failing a check not understanding that some are more crucial than others.

J: Yeah the skill check is definitely the most complex mechanic. New players always panic over whether they should keep cards or play them... sometimes for like ten minutes.. And let’s not forget secrecy rules.
D: Of course. The secrecy rules in BSG are a bit strict. Basically, you can never say exactly what you have, only make vague assertions about things. Of course different playgroups will have different enforcement levels. I think we’ve tried to be a little more relaxed on things, without getting rid of the balance.
J: The secrecy rule is one of the hardest parts of BSG. It still confuses even the most advanced players, since there is a lot of wiggle room.
D: True, I think the key is to be relaxed with new players, let people learn the game, and then correct for the future rather than admonish the past mistakes.
J: I score the mechanics as an 8.6. Because the basic mechanics are easy to understand and once you actually get them each turn becomes a lot of fun. The only reason I take some off is that it'll take some players a long time to even understand the simple things. But again i think for staying true to the show that's about as simple as they can get.
D: I give the game turn mechanics an uninspired 5/10. It all boils down to draw cards, do something, draw a crisis, rinse repeat, every once in awhile something different happens.

Player Interaction
You’re a cylon. No I’m not, you’re a cylon. Wait a minute, we’re both cylons?
D: The player interaction in BSG often looks like that. Everyone pointing fingers, throwing cylon accusations around, only to be either completely right, or completely wrong. It makes for entertaining gameplay, that’s for certain.
J: (laughs) Yup... The amount of decision-making involved between the players.. it's truly co-op. It often even gets cutthroat among players on the same team.
D: I think that might be more the people we play with. There’s a few of us who always think we know best. Plus, we’re always worried that the one we trust is secretly the cylon.
J: Between experienced players there'll always be different views on situations. On top of that, the paranoia induced on the human group by the hidden Cylon makes every player really alert to the actions of every other player. Only thing, I guess, it's really easy for new players to get completely ignored and manipulated here.
D: Right, I think we've seen far too many new players just take the approach of "well if you think that's best then ok" rather than doing it themselves.
D: It really is the paranoia that drives BSG. Once you know where everyone stands in terms of teams, it’s a bit boring.

J: Yeah, the paranoia is great. Personally, I don't mind that happening, since I love the game's mechanics so much, and just enjoy watching games play out.
D: The other part of player interaction that really shines is you have to listen to everyone else, but that doesn’t mean you have to do what they say. You make the final call, but if you ignore your teammates too many times, you will find yourself rotting in the brig.
J: Yeah. Wow I also totally forgot the brig. Yeah that makes life miserable for new players too often.
D: Player interaction makes this game for me. You can never truly know everyone’s true nature until it’s too late. Sometimes you have to trust someone, and be willing to get hosed by that trust. For that reason, it’s a 10/10 for interaction from me.
J: It's definitely 10/10 for me. There’s just so much interaction in so many different ways, it's rare there's a boring moment because of all the decision-making. Nearly every turn has at least one difficult decision.

Theme
D: Obviously with a licensed game, you’re going to get theme. Unlike the 300th iteration of Monopoly, this game was specifically designed for Battlestar. One of the first times I played the game I said something to the effect of “I feel like I’m in the show, and everything is going wrong.”

One of the character cards you can
choose from at the start of the game
J: Yes, definitely stays true to the show. When I watched the show *after* playing the game it was amazing how everything fit into place. So yeah... definitely a great theme.
D: And that’s where you and I differ. I watched the entire show before playing the game, whereas the game got you to watch the show. It’s nice to know that both ways work well. For all the reasons mentioned before, the theme incorporation for me is a solid 10/10.
J:honestly when i played the game first i thought i probably wouldn't like the show.. it was so dark, haha. But yeah, it was mindblowing playing the game like five times, *then* seeing the show and thinking "WOW, that makes SO MUCH more sense!"
I give it a 10/10 but would like to give it a 10.6/10.

Learning Curve - Long-very long
There’s a lot for new players to get. Don’t think you’ll understand it all after reading the rules, or playing one game. It probably takes 3-4 games to understand why things are working they way they do.
Why I like this game
D: For me, this game is all about the people and the theme. I love the deduction aspect of the game, which really boils down to psychology. I try to understand why people do what they do, and didn’t do what they didn’t do. I’d also say most games have been close, where things could go either way in the last few turns, and that’s always a fun place to get to in a game.


J: Once you get to know the game, and get to know all of its idiosyncrasies, you realize it's a strategy game unlike any other. So many exciting components come together to create a fantastic game where you're managing skill card strength, skill card actions, a space battle, and your own loyalty. All while dealing with the paranoia of finding out who's on your team. It shines in player interaction and it's really a new kind of co-op game. The thing I love most about it is that it creates situations where everyone will have a different perspective. My first few games, i stayed quiet and allowed everyone else to give me directions. Once I learned the game, and how to play the Cylon, I found myself talking a lot more and guiding the group towards different decisions, and really becoming a part of the group. The game stays exciting, and things can turn around for either team at any given moment.

Why I don't like this game
D: If there’s a negative in the base game, it’s lack of variety. This gets addressed with expansions, not always for the best, but options still exist. The other downside for me as an experienced player is that games run a bit long for what I’m looking to get out of the game. There are some games that feel insanely close, and those I don’t mind. Heck, I’ve played a 5 hour game that was close all the way through and that was a lot of fun. It’s the runaway games that seem to take forever that I have a problem with. Also, the game has started to feel a bit samey to me, but I can’t put my finger on why that is.

J: Especially if you're not a regular boardgamer, the first few games are going to suck for you. The other players will make most of the decisions for you, and you might get overwhelmed by the massive rulebook (33 pages). Don't give up though! It all eventually makes sense. Another thing I don't like is how "out of your hands" the game feels. A lot comes down to how kind the Crisis and Destination decks are towards you. You can play an extremely ineffective Cylon, but if the Crisis deck gives the humans streaks of non-jump icons, they are unlikely to emerge victorious. Still, specific situations emerge al the time that give each player their moment, so that's not much of a flaw for me.


Overall
D: If you had asked me 6 months ago, I would have given it a 10/10, but now as I’ve been relegated to playing forum games, or Vassel games, it’s dropped down to a 9/10 for me. I still like the game, but it’s just not as good without knowing your opponents and watching them squirm as you accuse them.
J: Still a 10/10 overall for me.
Will you like this game?
If you’re a fan of Battlestar Galactica the show, you owe it to yourself to give it a play. If you enjoy longer games with a good theme then you should enjoy BSG. If you’re looking for something to win by yourself, this isn’t for you. You have to be willing to work as a team, and not expect everything to go your way.

Amusing Story about a gameplay
D:For me the most amusing game was the second one I ever played. It was my first time as a cylon, and on the first skill check I placed cards into the check and my friend says “That’s how a cylon plays cards in a check.” I laughed it off, but the die was cast. I revealed shortly after sleeper, and passed off my loyalty card. Another player ended up in the brig, since everyone was convinced he was the cylon. Fortunately for me, he wasn’t. The Admiral bided his time, slowly allowing Galactica to take damage, and then revealed at the end, destroying the last two locations as he departed.
I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the one time I accidentally added 3 cylon cards instead of 2 to the mix. It still take some grief over that, even three years later.

Final Thought
This game is hard. It could probably beat a team of only humans. Probably not all the time, but it would still make for some close games.
Also, I used to be an amazing viper pilot, then I took an arrow to the knee so I’m relegated to a desk job.
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Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:15 am
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Gaming History 3 - The Morph of the College Group

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
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http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/01/gaming-history-...

When we last left my personal history series, we finished my Sophomore year and what was essentially
the end of the Cosmic heyday, though I didn't know it at the time. At this point, if you haven't read the history series, parts 1 and 2, I ask you to go back and read them.

That summer I decided to start watching BGG auctions to try to find some new games at lower prices. Life as a college student didn't make me dirt poor, but it wasn't bringing in tons of money either so I needed to find deals where I could. This lead to procuring Battlestar Galactica and a couple of other games. I leave the others as a group since I really don't remember which ones they were, but BSG sticks out because it changed the way we did game nights. As the group started to split, living in different dorms, our game times became more sporadic and less spontaneous. Sure, we still had Cosmic, but it was BSG that kept people together. We brought a new one into the fold, a guy who lived across the hall from me and would wander by stopped and watched. The interesting thing with my subsequent purchases was a shift towards story and theme. Dominion was also a big help in giving us a change of pace game, something a bit shorter but still fun. My junior year was also the start of having my sister on campus, which lead to a lot more Ticket to Ride. On my drive down to campus I listened exclusively to old Dice Tower episodes, and it stuck with me. I've been a dedicated listener ever since.

Unfortunately for me, my last two years of games at school kinda blur together. That's to say that there was a lot of game playing, a lot of repeats of games, and a lot of the same people. My senior year had a lot more games played because we were playing shorter ones, and followed a pattern where Friday or Saturday was a guys game night, meaning BSG or Cosmic and then the other night was an everybody, typically meaning Ticket, Dominion, Catacombs, Smallworld and a lot of Dixit.

Dixit was the price I paid for having friends who were very well read and often English majors. Not to say that Dixit is a bad game, it just would never be my first choice in games, yet I find myself wanting to play it again.

It started with 4 of us playing Catan. By the end of my time, we were up to 20 different people who played with us at some point, though usually 4-8. It wasn't a huge legacy, but it was a lot of fun.

I was blessed with a total of 3 roommates who enjoyed playing boardgames. Not nearly as much as I did, but it was a great place to start and they didn't mind the storage space being taken over by boxes of games. I know that games will never be like they were at Westmont, but we can only try to keep things going. Sure the game plays are more sporadic, but the ones that do happen are always enjoyable.
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Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:12 am
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Free Parking is not a Windfall, OR How to Actually Pass Go and Collect $200

David Montgomery
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Modesto
California
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This was posted on january 1st
Happy New Year and Welcome to 2012!

I'm starting off the year with a large dose of irony. Yes, that's right, we're talking about Monopoly today, which you probably guessed from the title. If you read my history sections, you'll know that I played a fair bit of Monopoly growing up. So much that between the ages of 7 and 15 it was probably my favorite game. Risk came in there a bit, but overall Monopoly was a classic.


Obviously, a game that is as widespread as Monopoly has to have something going for it. I think it does at least. First off, you've got property collection and trading, two fun concepts which make the game work. Secondly, dice. Seriously, if you don't like rolling dice, go talk to your doctor, I'll wait for you. That whole notion of rolling again on doubles, but if you do it 3 times in a row you're in trouble has a fun push your luck aspect.

Now, that's about where Monopoly stops being fun. You go around, get properties, that much is fun, then no one has a set and trading must ensue, but no one wants to give you a monopoly. This causes games to go into the 2,3,4,5, even 6 hour mark, at which point people stop caring, not to mention half the people you started playing with have been eliminated and are off doing their own thing.

I hold that if Monopoly is played firstly by the rules, and then as a cut-throat economic game, which I'll explain what I mean by that in a moment, then games take less time and people have more fun. First, by the real rules. FREE PARKING IS NOT A WINDFALL SPOT! It's a nothing spot. No extra money, no $50 or $500 from the bank all the time. Secondly, auction off properties if the person who lands on it doesn't buy it. It keeps things moving and gets money out of the game which is the whole point. Now, what I mean by cut-throat economic game. Trade with your opponents, but if you give them property, make them pay for it. Go ahead give them the monopoly they want, but make them pay way over the list price for it, that way they don't have the money for houses and hotels. When you want a property, offer them a good deal, remember, you want it more than they do, so be willing to pay for it.

Remember, the goal of Monopoly is to bankrupt all the other players, so don't try to be nice and charge less, or give out loans. Just take the money and run.

Now, if you were like me and enjoyed Monopoly growing up, or even if you still do(I do by the way, it's just not ever my game of choice, though it is fun with the right people) take a look at two different games. The first is Acquire. It's an older game, first published in the 60's, but it's been through a bunch of editions and printings. It's a game about stocks in hotel chains and mergers. It doesn't have dice, but it is still fun. The second game to look at is Settlers of Catan. You get to roll dice - Yay! and the dice yield resources to you some of the time, but not all, much like Monopoly. Catan has a lot of trading, so much that you probably can't win the game without trading to your opponents every so often. The great part about both of these games, the playtime is a pretty controlled 1-2 hours. Also Catan can now be found in Toys R Us and Target stores in the US. Perhaps a nice way to use one of those giftcards you got for the holidays this year.

P.S. Do we really need 300 different versions of Monopoly? Sure it's fine that they exist, but please try to keep it to 1 or 2 versions, 4 if absolutely necessary.
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Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:11 am
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I Don't Think We're In Candyland Anymore

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2011/12/i-dont-think-we...

It occurred to me, with the help of a loyal reader's reference to this blog, that I don't talk about games in the mass market. That mostly has to do with not playing them much, still, for many of us, these are the types of games we grew up playing. I'm talking Candyland, Monopoly, Clue, Risk, Battleship, Life, and many others in that genre. Let me state that it is not my intention to shred these games to pieces, but rather to extol their virtues, discuss their shortcomings, and offer some tweaks for a more enjoyable gaming experience, as well as other games that might be in the same vein.

With those guidelines in place, I give you the first in a series aimed to provide a better game based on something you probably played as a child. I also welcome a suggestion for further games in this series of discussions.




I Don't Think We're in Candyland Anymore OR How to Avoid Plumpy and Hope to See Queen Frostine


Our journey begins in a land of candy with children venturing through the woods to grandmother's house, or, something along those lines. I admit, I enjoyed Candyland as a young child. My mom, my sister and I would play but it usually left me wanting more out of the game. That's when I realized that I wasn't really playing Candyland as much as Candyland was playing itself.

Candyland is little more than a color matching game, and even that is being generous. You draw a card and move to the next square of that color. The problem with that mechanic is that the player has absolutely no choice. Think about how many times you've been squares away from victory only to be sent back to the near start with little to no chance of winning. Simply put, it doesn't make the game fun for most people over the age of 7. I won't go as far as saying that this is a horrible game, but we can do better.

How about a simple tweak that forces players to make a choice? Perhaps draw 2, choose 1 to play, and then either discard the other card, or keep it in hand so the next time you draw one card to make a two card hand, and then choose one to play. This gives players a little bit of strategic possibilities while maintaining the essence of the game. For the older gamer, perhaps allow them to play a card on someone else, rather than move their own piece. I haven't tried either of these suggestions, but I think at least the first has something to it, while the second might be a bit too much of a departure from what the game was intended to do.

In summary, Candyland itself is not a good game for older kids, but it does provide a great learning tool for children to match colors and play a game by the rules. Eric Summerer of DiceTower fame recently talked about playing this with his son who actually played by the rules for the first time ever. That itself speaks to the accessibility of Candyland. It's a fun theme, but ultimately the game falls flat.

If you or your children do enjoy Candyland, give The Adventurers a look. I'll be reviewing it sometime soon, hopefully January 2012. It follows the idea of moving along a path, but has a lot of choices to be made by the players.

I hope you enjoyed this discussion on Candyland and how things could be better. Next week look for Do We Really Need 200 Versions of Monopoly? OR It's Free Parking, not collect $10,000.
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Tue Feb 28, 2012 2:45 am
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