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Forget good example, I'll be a horrible warning. :: First game I've played in a while

J M
United States
Beaumont
Mississippi
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Into The Echoside

It plays really well. I played it with a friend that has zero knowledge of ICP music but loves deck builders and we had a good time.




It truly is fun. The flavor card mechanic and the the epic cards make it brutal some times and the crew type is pretty neat as well.
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Fri Aug 26, 2016 11:47 pm
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My Favorite Game Mechanism in... :: Mystic Vale: My Favorite Game Mechanism

Jamey Stegmaier
United States
St. Louis
Missouri
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https://youtu.be/dkV9S9MekF4

Jamey discusses an interesting choice players have while drawing cards in Mystic Vale.

www.stonemaiergames.com
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Fri Aug 26, 2016 10:18 pm
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Con in a Box - Resources for boardgaming convention directors :: Game Design Workshop

Eric Engelmann
United States
Derwood
Maryland
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Congress of Gamers, Winter Game Fest, etc.
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Yeah, it's a common dream to want to be a best-selling author, a millionaire athlete, a famous actor, a rock-n-roll star, and, in the gaming community, a top-100 BGG game designer. The thing is, you don't have to actually GET there to have a great time pursuing the dream.

A local boardgaming convention event can provide a great deal of support to aspiring designers. In my part of the USA, a con director's choice is basically to organize something through UnPub or roll his own. I've used the UnPub option successfuly for many years, but was unable to organize an event with them for my latest con. So, I thought I'd make a list of ideas and resources con directors can use to produce an independent event.

I'll start with an outline and flesh it out as time permits.

What designers want/need (often not the same)
Depending on where they are in the development cycle, they may want/need:

1. Peer support
2. Play testing
3. Feedback from testers
4. Marketing (direct to customer/Kickstarter prep)
5. Recognition (awards for a most novel, best, etc. design)
6. Face-to-face with a publisher
7. Sales

As con director you could help with:
Peer support
Get the designers in a room with each other, preferably an hour BEFORE the play testing begins. Remind them to bring business cards, paper, pens, camera, etc. Name badges should be available. If you have an active designer in your area, have him meet and greet during that hour and get a conversation going. Arrange a group lunch. A Q&A with an authority or publisher could be a huge draw.

Play testing
Ensure con traffic will discover the designer area and is encouraged to play. Be sure it's on your web site, and post a welcome sign at the door. If the designers have art, use it. Play testing helps designers notice rules that are confusing to new users, broken combos, and other design flaws using a series of "fresh" gamers.

Feedback from testers
Yes, your friends all tell you the game you've wrapped yourself around is super-swell, but they are friends. Anonymous feedback from new users let's you see the cold, hard, unforgiving truth. Your design is great, but rules suck. Your design sucks but they like your presentation. Too many notes. Con management should provide an anonymous feedback mechanism in addition to voting. Using a checklist will encourage completion of the form. Anyone have a finished form to share? Here's UnPub.net's online form: http://unpub.net/feedback/
Here's a first effort printed form I'll be using: http://emsps.com/cog/downloads/PlayTesterFeedbackForm.docx

Marketing
Put each game design/designer and a blurb on your con web site in a developers' showcase space. If the designers have art, use it.

Recognition
Awards cost a few bytes of data on a web site, or perhaps a nominal trophy/plaque/certificate. Is an award from your local con going to persuade a company to risk $50K on a game design? Almost certainly not (though it might help just a bit with demonstrating drive), but it can go part way to explaining time spent to puzzled friends or spouse. It's the "participation" age, so the more awards the better. How about these:
Most innovative game concept (this one could actually draw publisher attention)
Best implemented game prototype
XXX Con Design Competition Champion
Critics' Choice
Playtesters' Choice
etc.

Face-to-Face with a publisher
I really don't know how one would arrange this. Anyone know?

Sales
Some designers may have a self-published earlier game or a Kickstarter promotion under way. Let them know if it's OK for sales to occur, so they'll know whether to keep them secret or not .
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Fri Aug 26, 2016 9:17 pm
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Iain's insightfully named blog :: Getting into Magic ... as a parent

Iain K
United States
Arvada
Colorado
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Thos post started as a response to Brandon over on his BGG Blog August 25th - Lots of Magic! but it quickly grew out of hand. Then I realized ... I have a blog!

bwbollom wrote:

So good to hear that you and your son have been enjoying it! That's really awesome! It's so easy to get hooked, and then nothing else can really take it's place at the table LOL! What are y'all playing? Standard? Commander? Just fun tabletop casual games? Whatever it is, I hope you keep having fun!


First, I should clarify. I never got deeply into MtG "back in the day" I gravitated towards another Garfield design (and other "Deckmaster" member) Netrunner. In part due to my own interest and in part due to the interest of the guys I gamed with at the time. We also got into Iron Crown's Middle-Earth TCG. I still play both of those on-and-off but have done so after getting back into them (and getting a new set of cards) back in the 00's (oughts?).

So fast forward to a couple months ago. My son enjoys Pokemon, and we occasionally play another descendant of MtG, Harry Potter Trading Card Game. One of the shops we go to for Pokemon cards carries Magic which perhaps inspires him to tell me he'd like to try Magic. Now when your seven year old asks to play Magic, you let them. I believe that you never know what a kid can do. You let them show you what they can do.

OK, for reasons that I won't go into, largely due to embarrassment, my entire collection of MtG cards two months ago consisted of a starter deck set of Portal 2nd edition.



Seriously, if you could teleport your entire collection of cards from the 90's could you have chosen a more worthless pile of cardboard?

NOT going into that!

shake

Anywho. He enjoyed the game and wanted to play more, so I began to surf the net for advice on the plethora of products available in the MtG universe today and I came across a great channel hosted by The Professor at Tolarian Community College:

http://www.tolariancommunitycollege.com/

The Professor gives great advice and we were soon enjoying Magic using Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014, and a handful of Welcome Decks (free promo decks of mostly commons).

OK, back to answering your question. The internet search, and our visits to local stores really opened my eyes to the diversity of Magic players, play settings, and play styles out there today. My son and I sort of "bracket" the MtG community age wise. When we go to a shop, he's always the youngest one there and I'm one of the oldest laugh

But that's a much wider spread of folks playing then there were in the 90's. I think one of the reasons I didn't get into MtG too much back then was I was a bit old for the crowd, as a 20 something ! Now those teens have aged, and still play, and as they age, the age range of MtG players widens commensurately.

I think this has led to what really surprised me about MtG today: the breadth of ways to play. Back in the Day, MtG was getting to be expensive. You'd show up to play and someone would walk in with a suitcase of cards and the room would groan. It got so that the players who spent the most, won the most.

The game has broadened as it and its community has matured. Often in ways that appeal to budget conscious folks like myself. If you want to play Standard, Legacy, or Modern; more power to you. To my mind, they're like the Formula One; performance circuits for serious players who love the game and choose to focus their time/budgets on playing at that level.

But for the masses, guys like me who aren't "all-in" on MtG (yet), there are now really vibrant alternatives. Ways to enjoy MtG on a budget (of money as well as time). I'll focus on the three of those ways that I see us enjoying: Cube, Commander, and Sealed. If I understand correctly these have all evolved from fan creations into officially sanctioned styles, and two of them involve drafting. Ironically, I was first exposed to the joys of drafting by Garfield's Netrunner. But by now I have played many games who owe their genesis to Magic's drafting: like Dominion and Thunderstone.

OK, now back to your question. We've been enjoying play in what amounts to cube and sealed formats. Basically we have a small collection, which can be described as a crappy Cube. But we've been growing it, and improving the Cube's quality, through occasional sealed drafts wherein we get 12 boosters, open six a piece and build our best efforts from the contents. Once we've had a half dozen games or so from those decks, our favorites join the singleton cube. Now that our collection has topped 600 cards [cue LOL] we're actually starting to refine our 360 card Cube, cards get removed as better cards of that color join the collection.

Now let me just address a viscous, and completely true rumor, our Cube does include “Hand of Death”.



What can I, as the Cube's creator, say? On our first pass at the Cube we didn't have enough Black cards. Let me put that more clearly as you might not have heard over the sound of another reader's head exploding like that guy from Scanners. When I built this Cube, we did not have 60 unique Black cards. The reason was simple, in our trawling for Welcome Packs, we got all colors of cards except Black. So it was, literally, all hands on deck and black cards from that old Portal deck were pressed into service.

While you're questioning my sanity, let me also address any concerns you might have about my seven year old playing a game rated 13+ … Yes there are some cards that are a bit graphic. We have a system to address those. I have a roll of contact paper. The sort of stuff you use to cover text books.

I can see the growing looks of horror on your faces as you realize what I'm about to write.

I cut small squares of the material, and cover those images which my son does (or might) find “weird”. Basically he dislikes gory stuff, although sometimes I'm surprised by what bothers him. For example: Disperse



Of course, there are images _I_ am glad to have covered … I'm looking at you Macabre Waltz.

I tested the material on jank cards, and it doesn't remove any ink and is thin enough to work on unsleeved cards (I'm sure one of you just fainted). Not to worry we sleeve cards of value and one's were actually shuffling/cubing/drafting. Hey it works for us, and the issue of covering a valuable card hasn't come up.

So it's fair to say we're enjoying styles of kitchen table Magic. I do plan on participating in Sealed and Booster drafts at our local stores. But I'm waiting for the Kaladesh prerelease. Eldritch Moon simply has too many cards I'd have to paper over (tentacles, tentacles, everywhere!) and although Conspiracy 2 looks really cool, I'm not convinced that many of its cards would contribute to our Cube's desperate need.

I should mention that one of the aspects of limited formats that appeals to me is that everyone at the table starts with a roughly equal chance. Sure someone could draw a Planeswalker or some other dominant card, but we all pay the the same amount to play. As a bonus in my case, I walk away with cards that improve the Cube while getting valuable experience playing against adults.

But the boy is making a fine opponent, but I can't play as aggressively with creature removal and counterspells against him as I would against a fellow adult. Let me close with an example of his savvy from a recent session.

We've been playing Magic for about a month now. He's completely taken with the game. He plays well and likes to draft although his deck building skills are still developing. I had him on the ropes today: he had three life and I had seven. I had a 4/4 angel out and a second creature (a 3/3 with +1/+1) whose name escapes me) while he had nothing that could block fliers. In fact, he only had a Pyre Hound with a +1/+1 counter on it (ie a 3/4). He's playing a pretty basic Red/Green Aggro deck (which, ironically, I brewed for him). It was obvious to me that I'd win on the next turn.

Well, I say obvious. So the little man plays Chandra's Outrage, destroying my angel, and dropping my life total to 5 while adding a second +1/+1 to his Pyre Hound.


Chandra's Outrage

Then he plays Rolling Thunder (XRR casting cost) with X=4, to send my other creature to the graveyard and adding a third +1/+1 to his Pyre Hound, which astute readers will note was then a 5/6. He swung in with the Hound to end the game taking my undefended life to zero. He likes the game …


Rolling Thunder


Pyre Hound


On a final note. The MtG community is so diverse, large and active online today. I believe there's as much content online regarding MtG strategy and play as there is for all other tabletop games combined (saving RPGs perhaps). For a boardgamer like myself it's an amazing treasure trove that I look forward to delving into.

Cheers.
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Fri Aug 26, 2016 8:55 pm
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Chris Brandt Game Sessions 2016 :: 8/20/2016 - Chris T's birthday ... Splendor, Scythe and Scythe

Chris Brandt
United States
Springfield
Virginia
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I made the trek down to Richmond to introduce my old gaming posse to Scythe. Ben B was kind to lend me his upgraded giant map... I wish I had kickstarted that version, but maybe I can pick one up later.

Splendor

This was a REALLY interesting Splendor game for me. In most games people take the cheap (read: NO POINT) cards as long as they think they can, and then at some point switch from engine building to engine running. And, three of the four of us did that. I like to take a look at the nobles and see which colors will get me there fastest and started concentrating on black and blue.

Brian, on the other hand, took a few of the cheap cards but then started reserving the most expensive cards, collecting chips, and buying them. Yes, he got started very slowly, but he soon had a big lead and even with engines running at full speed, nobody was going to catch him! It was definitely contrary to how I've seen Splendor played, but this is one of the reasons that I make it a point to keep in touch with my Richmond friends, because they are excellent gamers who are tough and innovative competitors. Kudos to Brian on an easy win!

Brian - 15
Bill - 9
Paul - 8
Chris - 7

Scythe Game 1

I have said in the past that Scythe is a game that you almost have to play once before you really "get it". Well, let me rethink that. In a relatively low scoring but close (except for first) game Paul took the win. Playing white, he capitalized on the ability to take two of the options in each encounter and his character raced around the board picking up encounters. This gave him some big boosts. Yes, I know in the past that I've said that encounters are not as good as it seems at first glance, because you have to give something up to get something good. Well, if you can take two things, then you can take the freebie encounter, which can be used to defray the cost of your second one. Paul did this extremely well and took an easy win.

I thought the Richmonders would like it. Kevin and Paul liked it pretty well, but Chris T wasn't sold. He said it seemed unnecessarily complicated. As he said, "It's like Terra Mystica, without all that simplicity." I say... that's a joke, son!

We all ended up in the lowest popularity bracket, which led to the low scores but Paul still managed a convincing win.

Final scores:

Paul - 58
Chris B - 46
Kevin - 44
Chris T - 44

Scythe Game 2

After Paul took the white faction to a big win in the first game, I drew them for the second game. We had discussed that in Scythe, you need to be sure to play to your faction's strength. In this game Kevin did it in spades... rolling to 80 points and the win. Kevin's scoring was interesting. He dominated in cash, stars, and hexes. He had no resources left at the end (very efficient) and only scored two points from the structure proximity card. He was everywhere, with the yellow faction... the one nobody wants to tangle with because of the card stealing ability. Kevin didn't build buildings, but he got all of his mechs out quickly and also enlisted early, capitalizing on later enlistements by Chris T and Paul.

It's my blog, so I get to write about my game, which was highlighted by the dumbest move in Scythe history. One thing I have only done once (and it cost me the game) was to take the factory, which, in the one time I did it... was immediately driven out on the last turn of the game. In this game I took the factory with seven power points and a handful of cards. The next player to go was Paul, who attacked and I knew he could get to 11 combat points with his six power and a handful of cards. I decided to go for broke and spent all seven power and my 5 card for 12 points and the battle win. It was costly... because everyone began attacking me at that point and drove half my pieces back to my home base. OUCH!

It's still currently my favorite game (duh!) and I look forward to redeeming myself. Paul, after his convincing first win staggered home in this one.

Final Scoring:

Kevin - 80!
Chris T - 61
Chris B - 41
Paul - 24

Kev Con is coming up next weekend and I'm hoping to get in another game or two of Scythe!
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Fri Aug 26, 2016 8:39 pm
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The Cardboard Hoard :: Games I play with my wife

Eric Buscemi
United States
New York
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I've previously blogged about the games I play with my daughter, but another important gaming partner I have in my house is my wife. Although she is not crazy about the hobby like I am, she still plays all sorts of games with me, and with our kids. But here, I'm just going to focus on games we play as a couple.

DC Comics Deck-Building Game
While this is probably not what most people would expect at the top of this kind of list, this is the game my wife and I most frequently play. Its streamlined deck-building design, with no restrictions on how many cards you can play per turn and only one kind of currency (power), make it simple to teach and play, and the expansions have given the game new life more than once for us. Our favorite iterations are the base game, the Heroes Unite expansion, and the Teen Titans expansion. However, we did not care for the Forever Evil expansion, which was a bit too cutthroat, or the cooperative Crisis expansion, which took us way too long to play.

Ticket to Ride
While I readily admit that Ticket To Ride is a tighter and more tense game with more than two players, it becomes an enjoyable zen route-building experience when I play it with my wife. The lack of blocking becomes a positive, where my gamer friends see it as a detriment. Like with DC Deck-Building, expansions have helped keep this game fresh for us, from the small-box USA 1910 card expansion, to the India & Switzerland and Asia & Legendary Asia map expansions.

Carcassonne
Unlike the previous two games, my wife and I prefer the base game when we play Carcassonne. The simplicity and elegance of the standard game trumps the additional options of the two expansions we have (which is why we don't have more than that). Part of the charm of the game is seeing the countryside we created together, although this isn't just an idyllic and pastoral pastime for us -- we're pretty competitive when we play one another.

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small
Where Agricola is far too heavy and time consuming for my wife's liking, this game is a lot less complex and still has a good weight and feel considering its shortened length. Especially considering you only take twenty-four total actions (three per round over eight rounds). The thirty minute game length makes this a good choice for us on weekday evenings. I'm also fairly certain the cute animeeples raise my wife's opinion of the game a bit.

Splendor
This tableau/engine builder is another game we get to the table fairly often. Where some people find this game's design a bit too stripped down, I think the streamlined design, as well as the relatively short play time at two players, is why my wife enjoys playing it with me.

Honorable mentions: In addition to the games above, there are some games my wife and I like to play with more than two, usually with one or two other couples, including Codenames, A Fake Artist Goes to New York, Camel Up, and Brewin' USA.

Finally, the following two games are frequently recommended couples games that just didn't work for me and my wife.

Patchwork
This is the game I most commonly hear people recommending for couples over the last two years, but there was something about the spacial aspect of placing the tiles on a quilt with a finite number of spaces that my wife struggled with. While I love this game and still play my copy with others, as well as on the Android app, it's not something we play as a couple.

Paperback
Another frequently recommended couples game, especially for word game lovers, this also fell flat with my wife, who is a fan of Scrabble. The mix of deck-building and word building just didnt gel for her, and I wound up trading this away, despite enjoying the game myself.

All in all, I consider myself very lucky to have a partner that -- despite not fully understanding my obsession with this hobby -- will sit down and try out all sorts of different games with me, as well as accept my growing collection of board games without complaint, and frequently let me escape to gaming events and conventions.
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Fri Aug 26, 2016 7:44 pm
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Gaming Bits: Board and Card Game Reviews :: Gaming Bits: Sushi Go Party! Review

Jonathan Nelson
United States
Birmingham
Alabama
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Sushi Go Party! is a game by Phil Walker-Harding, published by Gamewright. It is for 2-8 players. In this game, players will be creating a menu of delicious sushi style dishes. They will then try to grab the best combination of tasty items to score the most points possible. The player that do this the best will be declared the winner.

To begin, the game board is placed in the center of the play area. Players choose a color and place their chosen color's pawn on the 0 space of the board. Players can then choose to create their own menu combination or they can use one of the suggested menus based on their chosen play style. The menu tiles that match the chosen cards are then placed in the appropriate slots on the game board. The chosen dessert cards are shuffled and placed in a face down pile beside the board. The other cards that were chosen to make the menu are shuffled together to form a face down deck that is also placed near the board. Play now begins.

The game is played over 3 rounds. At the beginning of each round a certain number of dessert cards are shuffled into the deck based on the number of players. Cards are then dealt to each player. In a 4 player game, 9 cards are dealt out each round. For more players the number is less and for less players the number is more. Once each player has their cards, the deck is returned face down beside the board.

Each round of the game consists of several turns. Turns happen simultaneously. On a turn, players will choose 1 of the cards from their hand to keep. This card is then placed face down in front of them. Once all players have done this, everyone flips their card over. Players then pass the cards remaining in their hand to the player on their left, beginning a new turn. The process is repeated again. Choose a card, place it facedown, flip it over, pass cards to the left. This continues again and again until everyone's hand of cards is empty. This ends the round.

At the end of the round, scoring takes place. First any dessert cards a player has collected are set off to the side of their area. These cards will remain until the end of the game. Each remaining card in a player's area is then scored based on the menu tiles on the board. The rules for scoring each particular type of card is also referenced in the card guide of the rulebook. Players will move their colored pawn on the scoring track of the board to represent the points that they have earned each round. Once each player has completed their scoring, all the cards except for the dessert cards are added to the main deck along with the new dessert cards as dictated by the number of players. The cards are then reshuffled. A new round then begins with each player being dealt a hand of cards.

Once 3 rounds have been played completely through including scoring, the game is over. Players then score their dessert cards as indicated in the card guide of the rulebook. Players compare their scores and the player with the most points is the winner.

It should be noted that there are several cards in the game that are special. These cards may allow a player to take extra actions, take a card from another player's hand or even copy another card that the player played previously in the round. The specific rules for each of these new card types are all included in the card guide of the rulebook.


COMPONENTS
This game comes with some of the absolute cutest looking cards that I've ever seen. They are very good quality and the finish on them is top notch. I absolutely love the artwork and so does my daughter. The cuteness factor is very high. The game comes in an embossed tin with a very nice insert inside, much like the original game of Sushi Go! except that this tin is much bigger. The main reason for this is the board that comes included with the game. In my review of the original game, I stated that there needed to be a better way to keep up with a player's score than just a pen and paper or scoring cards. Well it looks like my wishes have been granted. I absolutely love the new score board. It's really super sturdy and has indented areas for each of the different menu tiles to be placed into. The menu tiles are thick like the board and are just the right size for reference. The pawns are very brightly colored and are super sturdy as well. There are so many different new card types that have been added to the game to allow for lots of different combinations. With my problems addressed and lots of new content included, I have nothing to complain about as far as components go.
10 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is very informative and look really nice. There are lots of great pictures and examples throughout the book. There are several different meal combinations for setting up the cards included so that you can create a game that suits your play style. The rules also contain a great card guide section that explains in detail how each of the many cards work and score points. There are rules clarifications scattered throughout the book as well to help clarify anything that might be difficult to understand. There are also some cute little jokes and silliness placed here and there through the book. It reinforces the cuteness of the game in my opinion. Overall, the rulebook is really well put together and covers everything that you need to know to play the game. There's nothing difficult to understand. I'm really pleased with the look of the rulebook. It definitely improves on the original.
10 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
I really enjoy card drafting games, almost as much as I like deck builders and worker placement. There's something fun about choosing cards and then passing them around, hoping to get something good to go with what you just chose. I like that a lot. This game doesn't disappoint. The card drafting mechanic in this one is top notch. It's the card drafting game that card drafting games should aspire to be. Sushi Go! was already an excellent game with lots of great choices to make and a lot of fun and cute cards. This version of the game adds a ton of new cards and ways to score points. If you can't find a way to play that you like, then obviously you don't really like card drafting games. This game plays great with any amount of players. The original only went to 5 but this version goes all the way up to 8 players. I don't ever see myself playing with that many people all at once, but knowing that I have that option if I ever need it is awesome. The game is really simple and it's easy enough that even younger players can enjoy it. That said, some of the new cards add a great bit of strategy to the game that even veteran gamers can enjoy. Overall, I'm thrilled that there has been so much more added to a game that I already enjoyed and loved. For me, things just got sweeter.
10 out of 10

OVERALL
Sushi Go Party! is a light weight game of card drafting. The theme and artwork is super cute. I absolutely love the look and design of the cards. I also like that the original game was given an upgrade with a new board and player pawns to replace the score pad with. The game also adds lots of new cards to expand the game even further adding more strategy for more advanced players. The game itself isn't all that long. Most game sessions last around 30 minutes or so. The card drafting mechanic is extremely well executed in this game. Fans of games like 7 Wonders, Sea of Clouds or Fairy Tale should really enjoy this one. The game is really easy to play even for younger players. My kids really like this one, especially my daughter. She loves the super cute card designs. There's a lot to like about this one. For me, I already loved the original. This one is like adding whip cream to your favorite dessert, it just makes it better. I highly recommend this game. If you liked the original, then you'll love this one. It's definitely tasty.
10 out of 10

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Gamewright at their site.

http://www.gamewright.com
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Fri Aug 26, 2016 7:36 pm
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Chris Brandt Game Sessions 2016 :: 8/3/2016 - Scythe - I knew I was missing something

Chris Brandt
United States
Springfield
Virginia
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So... I am not sure about the date, but I keep notes on games and found this one that had not been reported yet. Yes, another game of Scythe, this time three player with Ben and Larry.

Scythe

This is another one of those Scythe games where I thought I had the win and was in a position to put down two stars and end (and win) the game... but Ben did it first.

I pushed to get into the top tier of popularity in this game and fell just short of the win. I quickly got out my Build recruit, which gave me hearts whenever I or people to my left and right (which was everyone else in the three player game!) built. I upgraded trade so that I could take two popularity when I needed them and made it happen. But, Ben beat me to the punch putting down two stars on his last turn. While my multipliers were better, Ben had amassed 25 coins (Larry and I each had 12) for enough of a margin to take the win.

There was surprisingly little expansion and very little combat. Ben held the factory for the two hex bonus and Larry was still getting his feet wet with the game. He recently stated that he was beginning to grok it, but in this game it wasn't clicking.

Final Scoring:

Ben - 73
Chris - 62
Larry - 44
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Fri Aug 26, 2016 6:55 pm
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Diary of a Fantasy Adventure Design :: Starting Tile: Prototype form

Greg Mahler
United States
Pleasant Hill
California
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Looks really cool so far.
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Fri Aug 26, 2016 6:02 pm
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The guy with the glasses gives his short-sighted impressions :: Two steps into madness

Adam Thyssen
Canada
Sparta
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As a precaution, I just want to warn any sensitive readers that there are some minor spoilers below when I get into replayability with Mansions of Madness. I wouldn't want to ruin anyone's experience with the game, so proceed at your own risk...

Mansions of Madness: Second Edition

I'm still reeling at how much I spent on this game, so let's get this out of the way first. I have as much trepidation about FFG/ANA's new pricing strategy as the next person, but I haven't gone so far as to boycott them outright (obviously); I decided to just judge each game on its own merits and go from there. As it is, I'm not a big fan of the LCG model (having ignored Android: Netrunner entirely, and only picking up a handful of the Star Wars: The Card Game expansions before giving up) so I'm safe on that end. Mostly, I will just wait for FFG/ANA games to go on sale and pick them up then if I'm interested and have had some time for the release hype to fade. Mansions though was an exception... As is typical for the summer, our game group's intensity drops significantly, so I was already on the lookout for solo games to scratch the board gaming itch. Initially intrigued but skeptical of Mansions' solo playability and app integration, it wasn't until a recent episode of The Dice Tower where Tom Vasel suggested that he had enjoyed the experience so much, he was interested in playing it solo. I don't always see eye-to-eye on Tom's reviews, but he has stated in the past that he's fairly averse to solitaire gaming when there's so many other multiplayer games to play. For a game to capture his attention so much as to have his consideration for solo play suggested that there might be something worthwhile here... On a recent trip to Ikea for new gaming shelves (shelf pr0n post coming soon!), I had also picked up some under counter lights which ended up not working as I had hoped; but they were happy to take them back and issue me a refund. There are probably much better places for that money to have gone, but (fittingly) in a moment of insanity, I put those funds to good(?) use and this is how Mansions ended up in my possession before it had reached the point of being on sale.

I played my first scenario solo a few days ago, to try and get my head wrapped around some of the game concepts. It's an interesting feeling, testing out something you've payed well more than you're normally comfortable paying, and hoping it doesn't flop on you. I'd played a few games of Arkham Horror and one Gen Con Eldritch Horror scheduled event, so I was familiar with the setting, health and sanity, cards etc. I had initially been very interested in the first edition of Mansions as well, but had heard enough disparaging remarks about how easily it could be "broken" that I hadn't pursued it further. Playing solo, it is expected that you will control two investigators to solve the scenario. As would have been expected, that first solo play was full of pauses for rules look-up and explanation, but still went over quite well and took just shy of 2 hours. I was impressed with the slick app interface, and its ability to provide the control for the game without overstepping the fact that it was there to support a board game - not replace it. Puzzles still relied on you not taking more attempts than your relevant skill allowed, and it didn't perform any of the rolling for you (which I don't know why, but I was really apprehensive that it would). It displays item placement, but really leaves the fiddlyness to the player to handle. My fear going in was that the app would be playing the game, and I'd just be moving the pieces on the board to compensate for its actions; I was (needlessly) worried about whether it would track where player pieces were on the board (it doesn't), and if it would dictate exactly where events would transpire, or how monsters would move, or that it would narrate every encounter I had. (I probably could have just read about the app, or downloaded it and tested it out to disprove these fears but meh...) As it is, the app takes a fairly hands-off approach; it doesn't run the game so much as support it. I'm still wrestling with the notion of this game's obsolescence, as there will no doubt come a time where the development of the app will cease and progressing technology will render it useless. However, I'm still the person who purchased and really enjoyed Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 knowing full well that by the end there would be a box of useless cardboard, and the memories of the experience would be what remained. I have absolutely no regrets with PL, but it cost me less than $60 - almost half of what Mansions did... As I say, I'm still not 100% sure I'm comfortable with the fact that Mansions has a shelf-life. But based on the great time we had with Pandemic: Legacy, and have had so far with T.I.M.E Stories, I'm not going to deny myself the chance to enjoy it. It may very well be the case that once all of the scenarios are exhausted, I will have changed my mind - but at this point, the investment (while higher than I can reasonably be easily comfortable with) looks like it will "pay off".

The biggest unknown in that equation is going to be the replayability of Mansions, which I now only have some cursory knowledge of. Last night I was able to play it again, this time with a friend; it being his first time, it seemed fitting to play the introductory scenario again to help him learn the ropes. Plus it gave me the opportunity to see how much difference I could or couldn't expect from repeat plays of the same scenario. Despite the fact that there's no conceivable way that the app could know that we were playing as a team instead of one player controlling two investigators, the game felt substantially more difficult. It may have had to do with my terrible dice luck in this second game, or dealing with having to consider another person's input, but this second play felt more involved than it had in my solo session. Predictably, the mansion layout was different, but the NPCs and initial encounters were the same, and the items we found were more or less similar with a few exceptions. However midway through the scenario, it became evident that we were following a different tack than my previous game. More monsters were spawning than in my initial game, and the fire that had started in the first game became a much bigger issue in the second. Ultimately, to complete the game the first time, I had to close a portal that had been opened before a Star Spawn came and clobbered us; once the portal was closed, the game was complete. On this second run-through however, when we discovered the portal no less than 4 monsters spawned. I assumed our purpose was to disrupt the occult ceremony, so we mostly ignored the monsters deeper in the mansion. Turns out once the ceremony was complete, we then needed to grab the evidence and escape the mansion. The monsters, and more importantly the blazing fire, now presented a much more pressing threat than I had anticipated.

I was particularly thrilled that the scenario didn't end with the same requirements that it had the first time, and maybe I'm a little more impressed by that simply because it turned that expectation on its ear. I was really glad to see that playing the same scenario over again payed off in a different manner, complete with a different narrated epilogue than I had seen on my first game. It gives me hope that if each scenario has multiple directions the story can go, that Mansions will have more replayability than would be initially presumed. As it is, I have another game night coming up this Wednesday, and as there is yet more new players to the game, I will be running the introductory scenario yet again. I have no idea what, if anything, will be altered with this play but I'm interested to see just how much difference is available.



Mystic Vale

We had hoped to play Vast: The Crystal Caverns that evening, but time was short - so I pulled Mystic Vale from the shelf instead. As I've written previously, I wasn't really taken with the game before - but my opponent that night had been a big fan of Dominion, and so I felt that it would be worthwhile to expose him to the game in case it was something that he would enjoy. Plus, it seemed worthwhile to give Mystic Vale a second shot and see if it played significantly better or worse with 2 players than 3 - which is admittedly rare for me, but not unheard of.

Unfortunately for me, the game feels very much the same at the lower player count as at the (slightly) higher. There are less advancements available in each tier, which means there is less of a chance that you'll be seeing the same ones - but less chance isn't no chance, and random shuffling still brought out 3 copies of at least two different advancements. Playing with two, the game feels much tighter point-wise; my opponent was able to nab decent value vale cards, whereas those that were available to me offered special abilities but no points, and I used those abilities to grab advancements that provided end of game points to try and close the gap. Our final score was 31 to 29, so it wasn't an artificial feeling - we were definitely keeping the race tight between us.

Ultimately, my opponent had many of the same feelings that I did on my first play through. That the game felt incomplete, and that there were inevitable expansions coming to help flesh out the game. But he too felt the novelty of the mechanic was interesting and likely to be developed into something much more satisfying. He also took issue with the time involved in breakdown, having to pull all the advancements from the sleeves and re-sort them into their appropriate piles was a burden. It's not something I generally had an issue with, as I like to use time like that to decompress and discuss the game, but I can understand how others might dislike it. My second play definitely helped settle my mind that Mystic Vale really isn't a game for me, and it will hopefully be traded to someone that can better appreciate it.
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Fri Aug 26, 2016 5:19 pm
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