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Mississippi Queen

Jeff Myers
United States
Fresno
California
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I like racing games. The goal is self-explanatory, so if I'm teaching someone a racing game, I don't have to go through a long explanation of how someone wins the game. I get to avoid saying something like, "Okay, so for every worker you will score two points, but you might get more if you have this bonus tile. Oh, you also get points by having a contiguous placement of wheat tiles, but you will get a penalty if you build them next to any tile that has this symbol on it because I think that in Germany that's the symbol for radioactive sewage. Also, put all completed goals under the magical halibut card, but remember to turn them sideways. No, you can't call that tapping."

In racing games, the first person that crosses the finish line wins.

Now that might be complicated a little by crossing the finish line and surviving, or crossing the finish line with this thing in your hand, but really you are just trying to get across the finish line. Not only that, but in most racing games, the concept of who comes in second or third place is still important. In a regular Eurogame, I often don't care if I come in second place. I usually try to go big or go home, but in a racing game, if I can't get first place, then I will try my best to make second.

In Mississippi Queen, the first player to cross the finish line wins, but you have to pick up two girls on the way. Don't worry. They are plastic and easy to pick up. You just have to approach them slowly. This racing game was designed by Werner Hodel and published by Goldsieber, so it's in one of those big boxes. It was published in 1997, and it was the Spiel des Jahres winner for that year. Mississippi Queen will play from 3 to 5 players, and takes less than an hour to play. It's a family friendly game and my nine-year old would be able to handle the rules with no problem.

As I mentioned, the goal in Mississippi Queen is to pilot your river boat along the Mississippi, pick up two passengers, and then be the first to arrive at the final port. Your river boat has two wheels that are used to indicate speed and coal. The river is represented by large interlocking tiles that feature river and island hexes. At the start of each round, the player that is farthest down the river will take their turn and move their boat a number of spaces according to their speed. You can modify your speed up or down by one at the start of your turn, and you get one free course modification that can be taken at any time during your turn. See how confusing language can be? I said course modification instead of turn because I had already used another meaning of the word turn. Dumb. If you want to increase or decrease your speed by more than one or make additional course modifications, then you have to spend coal. You only have a limited amount of coal, so you have to use it wisely.

You navigate your way along the river which builds as you advance to a new tile. You then roll a die to determine which direction the river will turn or if it continues along in a straight line. You don't know where the next tile will be placed exactly, nor do you know where the islands are placed. Obviously, you are not a very experienced river boat captain. Maybe you spilled your mint julep all over your map, or maybe you caught the map on fire while you were smoking a cigar talking about how you tricked someone into painting a fence for you one summer. I don't know. It seems like you should have a better sense of what's coming up next with the course of the river. Maybe you are really drunk and nearsighted or it's very foggy. Whatever. Basically, you navigate the river, pick up two southern belle passengers, and try to get to the last tile before your opponents.

This is all great fun and I don't really mind not knowing what is coming up next in the course of the river. What I do mind is that you can be bumped by other boats. I could be all set to pick up my petite plastic passenger, and another player can plow into me and bump me into another hex. Now maybe I haven't spent a lot of time as a river boat captain on the Mississippi, but I'm pretty sure if a river boat plows into another river boat at high speed, it does not ricochet off into another part of the river. I'm pretty sure both boats take heavy damage, and might even burst into flame. At that point, both ships would be in a race to see who gets to the bottom of the river, because they would sink, along with their plastic passengers, cigars, banjos, and mint juleps.

This bumping mechanism means that the last few turns of the game can end up being a little silly, as boats try to bump their way into the final port. Does it kill the game? Not really, it's still a fun family racing game with good components, and that makes it a winner for me.

This was originally posted as part of my Spiel des Jahres winner series on my blog at gameguythinks.com.
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Sat Feb 16, 2013 4:17 pm
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    Alhambra: Tense but simple mechanisms keep me coming back

    Jeff Myers
    United States
    Fresno
    California
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    The original post can be found at gameguythinks.com. I thought I might add some additional thoughts here, though.

    Quote:
    I was recently asked to consider the common features of some of my favorite games. Basically, I like to have interesting choices on my turn, but I don’t want too many of them. Three is a good number. I also like collecting things or completing networks or structures for victory points, rather than trying to eliminate other players or having to create a complex economic engine to generate point revenue. I’ve also been thinking about how I’m falling behind in my quest to review all of the Spiel des Jahres winners, so I thought now might be a good time to talk a bit about Alhambra.

    Created by German designer, Dirk Henn, Alhambra is a game for 2 to 6 players, and has all of the elements of what I typically enjoy in a eurogame. Alhambra has received many awards, including the Spiel des Jahres in 2003. It takes about an hour to play and is recommended for ages eight and older. The two-player game uses a dummy player, and it’s not bad. It’s not as good as the robber in Pergamon, but it’s pretty good. Three is the sweet spot for the number of players. If you get more than four then it’s impossible to plan anything, and you spend a lot of time just waiting for your turn.


    I recently played with four, and the wait wasn't too bad, especially when there are no AP sufferers.

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    In Alhambra, players gather a variety of currencies that they then use to build structural additions to your palace. Everyone starts with a fountain tile and then builds out from there as they see fit. While the game rewards efficiency in the purchasing of tiles, the placement of those tiles is very free form. This actually fits thematically, as I discovered while reading a bit about the real Alhambra. Mark Johnsonwould call this “wiki-worthy.”

    Quote:
    The Alhambra did not have a master plan for the total site design, so its overall layout is not orthogonal nor organized. As a result of the site’s many construction phases: from the original 9th century citadel, through the 14th century Muslim palaces, to the 16th century palace of Charles V; some buildings are at odd positioning to each other.


    On your turn, you can choose to take currency from a set of face up cards, use currency to purchase building tiles and place them in your collection, or make some simple alterations to the arrangement of your tiles. Normally, you only get to do one of these things, but if you can purchase a tile with exactly the right amount of money, then you get an additional action. Since there are four tiles available at the start of your turn, you could potentially take up to five actions, if you had enough money. I can see no thematic explanation for this mechanism. Well, I suppose that people who are efficient make better plans, so maybe that’s it, but I can’t recall a time I was rewarded in the real world for having exact change.

    You score victory points based on having the majority of a particular type of building. This happens three times during the game, based on card placement within the currency deck. The game ramps up a bit as players start to accumulate buildings and you can see who you else has buildings of the same type as the one’s you are trying to collect. It’s very difficult to plan anything, because the tile board and the available currency can change so much between your turns. This is why having three players is best. Otherwise, all you can do is try to have a variety of currency card types and values available, in hope that you can take advantage of whatever comes up on your turn.

    You also score points by forming a contiguous wall with your tiles. This and some additional rules for tile placement make building your palace pretty interesting. I rarely take advantage of the restructuring option, but every so often it’s important to make room for a new tile, especially when building out your wall.


    I know some people don't care for the restrictions that the walls bring. I guess having to place the tiles to a particular orientation is enough restriction for them, but I like the wall mechanism. It allows for players who may be behind in building collection to potentially stay in the point game.

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    I enjoy Alhambra, and it seems to hit the table at least once a year. I think it’s the tension between the available currency and the available tiles that makes this fun for me. Queen Games has published quite a few expansions for the base game, but I’ve never tried any of them. I like the regular version just fine, and I think you might like it as well.
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    Fri Dec 21, 2012 9:24 pm
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    Augmented Reality and Boardgames

    Jeff Myers
    United States
    Fresno
    California
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    I've tried to find some kind of geeklist related to this concept but I haven't found anything.

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    I’m talking about taking an existing board game and augmented the game play experience by providing additional information through a device that takes sensory input from the physical game as it is played.


    The full rambling post can be read at Augmented Reality for Boardgames at Gameguythinks.com

    Feedback here on the Geek or on my blog is always appreciated.

    Jeff
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    Thu Dec 6, 2012 7:53 pm
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    The Castles of Burgundy: Longish but worth it

    Jeff Myers
    United States
    Fresno
    California
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    I finally played The Castles of Burgundy after letting it sit on my shelf in shrink for six months. I was taken back a little when I started punching out the tiles. There are so many of them!
    Quote:
    The game comes with a main board, six double-sided player boards, dice, and a whole bunch of tiles. So many tiles, in fact, that it can be overwhelming at first, especially for baggers. Relax, and punch through to the end. Gather up the tiles by the colors on the backs and then bag them. After placing them in the standard 4″ x 6″ bags, I realized that they didn’t really fit into the box insert like I wanted, so I went to the craft store and bought 3″ x 4″ bags. That was much better. I am not insane. I am organized.

    I eventually got past the punching a bagging. Even after my first play, I knew that this was going to be a keeper for me. This is some serious Stefan Feld goodness and I'm sure it will see many years of play. Highly recommended.thumbsup
    Check out the rest of my ramblings at gameguythinks.com
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    Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:56 pm
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    NaGaDeMon Part 2 - Completion

    Jeff Myers
    United States
    Fresno
    California
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    I'm making progress on my game for National Game Design Month. You can check on my progress on my blog, but here's a snippet.

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    I actually like this game, which is surprising, because I usually hate my designs once they hit the prototype stage. The big question now is where do I go from here? I need some help at this point if I want to turn this into something that I can continue to develop.

    First, I need playtesters. I need people to play this and give me honest feedback. I’m not really sure of the best way to do this however. Obviously, if you read this post and you are interested, just say so in the comments and I will send you everything you need. I could also post something on the NaGaDeMon site or on boardgamegeek, which has extensive resources for game developers.

    Second, I need an artist to do some basic graphic design. Right now, I have cards with some images I took from Microsoft Word, but I need some simple art that I don’t have to worry about. Unfortunately, I cannot offer much money, but I am willing to negotiate with any artists out there who are interested.


    After another play test with some friends, I will most likely put up something in the Game Design forum, if anyone is interested in playtesting or has feedback.
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    Fri Nov 9, 2012 6:03 pm
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    NaGaDeMon Part 1 - Creation

    Jeff Myers
    United States
    Fresno
    California
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    I posted some of my initial concepts for my NaGaDeMon project over on my blog at gameguythinks. Here a snippet from that post:

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    I had an idea for a game about food trucks almost a year ago, but I was unhappy with my initial efforts and even more dissatisfied with my subsequent attempts for revision, so I shelved the concept. I think NaGaDeMon 2012 is a perfect opportunity to dust off this concept and try again.

    Working title: The Food Truck Game

    Basic concept: Players begin the game with a simple food truck and seek to earn popularity through recipe and truck upgrades, social networking, good reviews, advertising, and customer satisfaction. The player with the most popular food truck after a set number of rounds wins the game.

    Game mechanisms: I suppose I would call this a resource management game. Money will be the primary resource that drives a player’s ability to earn popularity and upgrade, but it will have no endgame value other than a tie-breaker. I would also like to include a random element with dice rolling, because my wife likes to roll dice. I would like for some of the available upgrades to have the ability to influence the results of those dice rolls.


    I would prefer that any feedback you might have regarding the design be given on my regular website, but if you feel like just giving me some encouragement here on BGG, that will be greatly appreciated as well.
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    Thu Nov 1, 2012 5:13 pm
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    Dominion: Every Day I'm Shuffling

    Jeff Myers
    United States
    Fresno
    California
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    Everyone seems to like this game more than I do, but I cannot deny that it was an innovative and solid design.

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    Dominion was designed by Donald X. Vaccarino, who later designed Kingdom Builder. Both games were nominated and won the Spiel des Jahres, so Dominion wasn't just hype. It was a toned and sweaty prizefighter of a game that KO'd the competition back in 2009. The game plays from two to four players, ages 8 and up. I cannot verify how successful it might be played with an 8-year-old. This is not a game I've played with my kids. You can play a game of Dominion in less than an hour, usually quite a bit less.

    Dominion comes with 500 cards and nice tray in which to arrange them. The tray is really helpful, because you don't use all of the cards in every game, and it’s nice to be able to take just the sets you need each time you play. Don't get too bent out of shape if you've never spent this much money on a card game. That’s 500 cards for goodness sake, and I'm not talking cards like the two of clubs. I’m talking about text heavy cards that feature some very nice illustrations.


    Read the entire review at gameguythinks.com.
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    Mon Oct 29, 2012 3:29 pm
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    Qwirkle: A New Classic

    Jeff Myers
    United States
    Fresno
    California
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    Does anyone else have odd names for some of the Qwirkle shapes?

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    Qwirkle comes with 108 tiles in six colors. Each color set has three tiles of six different shapes. There’s a square, a diamond, and a circle. Then there are shapes that I call club, Sun Boy, and photon torpedo.


    If you would like to read the full review, please visit gameguythinks.com. This is one of those great family games that I'm always happy to recommend to gamers and non-gamers alike.

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    This games seems like a classic and I think it will be around long enough to someday be classified in that way. I have a feeling that when many of the games I love has passed into obscurity, you will still find Qwirkle on floating anti-gravity dinner tables across the federation of planets.
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    Fri Oct 26, 2012 10:46 pm
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    Lost Cities: An Adventurous Journey into Putting Numbers in Order!

    Jeff Myers
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    Fresno
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    I started playing Lost Cities about five years ago, and it has become one of those old familiar games for me. Designed by Reiner Knizia and distributed as part of the Kosmos Two-Player series, Lost Cities is a card game about mounting expeditions to faraway lands, disguised as a card game about managing the contents of your hand and placing cards down on the table in ascending numeric order.

    You can play a game of Lost Cities in half an hour with gamers of most ages. The recommended age is eight and up, and I think that’s reasonable. You can play three rounds and take the highest score, or you can just score each round by itself.

    The game comes in the standard Kosmos two-player sized box, mostly due to it being a standard Kosmos two-player game, and contains a deck of 60 oversized expedition cards, a board, and some rules. Much has been said about the fact that the game can be played without the board, but that type of minimalist rhetoric is just a knee-jerk reaction to all those games that represent abstract expressionism.


    Read the rest of the review at gameguythinks
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    Tue Oct 23, 2012 2:33 pm
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    Out with the Old

    Jeff Myers
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    Fresno
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    My friendly local game store, The Crazy Squirrel, is holding a used game swap this weekend and I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to clear out some space in my garage. I’m not selling any board games, but I did pack up a few boxes of RPGs and related source material. It hurts my head to think of the money spent on this stuff that I am now selling for pennies on the dollar, but I have to remember that it took me over 30 years to accumulate all that material.

    Why am I selling it instead of just storing it or better yet, putting it in a bookcase? Honestly, most of this was in a bookcase for more than a decade, and I read all of it, even if I didn’t actually play some (most) of the RPGs or adventures. I just don’t need this stuff anymore. Maybe someone else does. The idea of having an RPG library just doesn’t appeal to me anymore. At some point in my 40′s, empty space became more valuable to me for some reason.


    The rest of the post at gameguythinks.com, is mostly about the items I decided to keep and why. I wonder if any of the other gamers out there that are 40+ still have most of most of the games that they have purchased over the years?
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    Fri Oct 19, 2012 2:34 pm
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