New to you Sep 10 => Best new game you played this month and why
What's the best new game you played this month (Sep 10) and why? Share your experiences of the new games you've played this month.
It would be helpful, if you could add an entry to the list even if you pick the same game as someone else.. since I use the geeklist entries to compile the summaries. Thanks
New To You Metalist 2010
New To You MetaMetalist
New To You Meta-list - old metalist (currently broken)
New To You Geeklists - Announcement thread
Your Most Played Game (and more): September 2010
Well it finally happened.... I played no new BOARDGAMES in September... Being a new Dad really cuts into socialising and boardgaming time. I still got to play a lot with my work lunchtime group, but they're not ones for learning new games.
I did however play some new videogames (and quite a few retro games from the 1980s as I was adding old games to VGG) and the best new game was by far and away Minecraft. It's a 'sandbox' exploration and construction game where you chop trees to gather wood, make tools, mine for coal/iron etc. but the nature of the game is that you can pretty much do anything you want... one guy used the 'game' to craft a (very slow) 16bit adding machine. While others have built castles and other complex structures.
Luck in games, in measured doses, is the catalyst which enables shocking game-changers that you'll remember and talk about forever.
Let the Lord of Chaos rule.
Greatly anticipated this after watching the TV show, and it didn't disappoint. Strikes a good balance between free-form deduction and structural mechanics. The weakness with games with hidden loyalties is that the mechanics aren't strong enough to keep the game interesting after teams are revealed, but theme helps me ignore it here. And this game creates a lot of tense moments, which I like.
Battlestar Galactica: Pegasus Expansion
Overall, some of the design principles are still a work in progress. But I appreciate that the designer has tried to address criticism and shortcomings with the base game. For example, Treachery cards make a Revealed Cylon's turn slightly less boring; and Cylon Leaders and Sympathetic Cylons are not perfect solutions to even-numbered games, but they at least provide an alternative to the oft-criticized Sympathizer. There's also no ignoring the perks of getting more cards and basestar models. Dress it all up with a thrilling finale in New Caprica. It's not perfect, but I can't envision ignoring all aspects of it and playing the base game vanilla. Multiple elements of Pegasus will always be incorporated into my future plays of the base game, even if just the basestars.
This is the first game in a long time where I just had to shake my head and proclaim ingenuity in the design. It breathes such a fresh air of originality not just into the genre but to board games in general, yet the rules are so simple and elegant. It's fun allocating dice (and in such different ways for the Humans and Demons), it's fun how the damage system works for Humans, it's fun to build the board up from a single chunky tile, and it's fun how the theme works with little minions flooding the tunnels from unguarded openings.
And I can't rave enough about the components. PAINTED MINIS, huge chunky tiles, an excellent insert and a satisfyingly huge game box that houses everything securely, Claustrophobia is undoubtedly the best value in board gaming.
A lot more fun than it sounds or deserves to be. There is some nice discussion and strategizing that usually goes on with the heroes, which keeps it from being a mindless flicking exercise that often ensnares games in this genre. The idea is a little too simple, bordering on ridiculous, but the design of different monsters and characters fleshes it out, and the considerate dungeon structure, variability of enemies etc disguises the ridiculous design, immerses you in the theme, and doesn't make you think, "Hey I'm a loser and flicking a piece and pretending I'm an Elf." Instead, it's "Let me hit that #$#$!"
Only complaint I have is the health track and "pillar" obstacles. The health cubes and pillar obstacles fly all over the place during the game, and some better way to tie them down would be appreciated. The health cubes are especially annoying, since they're so small and can be hard to track down if they get smacked off the table.
Middle-Earth Quest -
The heroes play questing/character development, while Sauron plays area influence and tries to annoy and slow the heroes, so that's 2 games in 1 right there. A weakness is that the heroes can often screw (or fail to screw) Sauron unknowingly, since Sauron advances along his missions using cards (hidden information), and it can be frustrating for Sauron, especially since he can't discuss it till the end of the game. But I think there are enough things in your control to have a fun experience. There's always something to run around and do on the board, and I thought the combat system, which I had heard bad things about, was very nifty and intuitive (far better than the confusing icons in Fury of Dracula).
There are a ton of mechanisms to wrap your head around, but theme can help you persevere (as it usually does when I learn complex games like Battlestar Galactica and War of the Ring), and once you do, there's good adventure to be had. It also helps that there are a lot of fresh mechanisms in here. I like Sauron's actions (be balanced, as each action type yields diminishing returns), the multi-choice cards (use either for movement or combat, reminds me of War of the Ring), and I love the draw, rest and damage pools, and the way strength works during combat.
This is Genji done right (managing your hand to match icons and attain majorities). I am not sure if this one will stay interesting though once you get familiar with the card distribution and can work out some optimal plays quickly.
Lots of people complain that there is no integration of theme here and it's just matching icons and switching tactics ("political leans") from turn to turn based on the cards you have. True, but I think those people came in with inflated expectations for the theme.
Tight elegant design that distills an area-majority game to its core ideas. Problem is I don't really like the core majority idea of an arms race: I-place-you-place-repeat-but-you-have-last-placement-so-I-will-not-place-the-first-one.
Tide of Iron -
Some interesting push-your-luck decisions here (normal vs. suppressive fire, concentrated vs. supporting fire etc), but there's no way I'm spending 1.5 hours on setup so I can play a 1-hour game. Whoever thought up customizable squad bases needs to get shot.
Dungeon Lords -
Dungeon Lords has led me to conclude that Vlaada Chvatil and I do not mix (I have also played Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization and Galaxy Trucker). I can appreciate the design and the many original ideas, but they get diluted in a mountain of fiddly procedural rules. Fiddly procedural rules are okay if they further theme, but these don't.
The decision mechanisms are better and more interesting than that in Agricola, but the painful Adventurer phase is just a pile of procedural crap that's designed to confuse newbies and make them lose (since you basically have to learn a new sub-game only after you realized you didn't prepare adequately through not knowing the nuances of it). Just let me feed two food per head and be done with it.
The wall placement provides some interesting spatial strategy, and the dice determining what color you place emphasizes the importance of flexibility. But the objective cards are too atrocious. Complete your objectives, hope your opponent doesn't complete as many... it takes away the blocking aspect that makes abstract-strategy games fun. Colovini likes long-term objectives, like that in Clans, but at least that is deduced from a set of 3-5 choices, creating opportunities for bluffing and signaling. This has too many secret objectives, so you just do your own thing and hope it's better than your opponents' own thing.
Disappointing, as there seemed to be a good game in the interesting spatial placement.
As our daughter was born in August I didn't even get to the gaming club this month.
As usual, pics by myself.
Keltis - Der Weg der Steine 11x
Probably I should quote BaSL from last month’s new to you geeklist:
(as oe must be pronounced as 'u' in Dutch I guess that's something like 'yuppy', 'whoopie'.)But actually… This little game, which is admittedly the simplest, lightest and most luck-dependent game in the whole family, is really fine for what it is. Although I do think the scoring should be changed for 2 players, it’s really a good short filler (in which a kind of timing/push your luck game replaces hand management) that lasts about 10 minutes and in the weekend I spent in the hills others continuously demanded replaying the game as they really got addicted.
If you have no time to go to gaming clubs it’s easy to turn to gaming sites, especially if they make a championship. So I turned to Yucata again where I learned new games and re-learned the basic rule that I’m very bad at learning games on-line. So I currently have a pretty terrible game of St. Petersburg running; I have played Einauge sei wachsam! But never realy understood what I’m doing (it must be a bit random as I won one of the games somehow); also while I get the rules of Just 4 Fun colors I have absolutely no idea what kind of tactics/strategy should be used to win that game; I simply don’t know how my opponents win, what they do and why.
The only game that I seem to have really learned there this month was Tally Ho! which is a game with lots of tactics, a little strategy – and an unhealthy dose of luck. Well, from an 1973 game this luck level is fine but otherwise after you learn the basic tactics it all boils down to the luck of the tile distribution which makes it possible that one of the players barely has legal moves in the game.
A Gamut of Games
If you have no time for gaming, it’s time to… read books about gaming! After last month’s Blazing Aces! now I received from Barnes & Noble and read Sid Sackson’s classic book full of fine games, stories and dozens of pages of „short reviews” of 300 games from the time this book was published. All I can say is “wow”, this is really a classic, a book full of great ideas, even including the rules for a (later) Spiel des Jahres-winning game (Focus); I’m really amazed, it’s a must.
I will not rest until Biblios is in the Top 100. - Steve Oksienik
Well I been watchin' while you been coughin, I've been drinking life while you've been nauseous, and so I drink to health while you kill yourself and I got just one thing that I can offer... Go on and save yourself and take it out on me
Easy answer here: Castle Ravenloft. It's pure fun. Easy rules fun atmosphere, great bits. I love this game and I really want to play it constantly. I started with a rating of 9 but I'm sure I'll increase it at some point.
Board Game: Tobago
[Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:316]
I finally feel like I have a "good month" of new gaming under my belt. Tobago was my favorite: fun, entertaining, and exactly what I expected. We got the first play in last night just under the buzzer and it was a favorite of everyone else as well.
Other new games played this month seemed to be dominated by Richard Breese's designs. I finally cracked open Key Harvest which I have had forever and also played my recent acquistions of Keythedral and Aladdin's Dragons. All were good and certainly felt like they had some strategic depth. I look forward to more plays with all three titles. And also looking forward to Key Market, though it is the first in teh Key-series not designed by Richard.
The other new games were Niagara - a game we borrwoed while at GenCon - and Glory to Rome. Niagara was good to try and hopefully I can get a couple more plays in before returning it, but not something I would like to get for my own collection. GtR is great but we only played the intro game with half the deck and no building abilities. So looking forward to a game with the full bang. But much better than Race for the Galaxy and San Juan.
I am on a Journey...
New South Wales
...to explore and discover games of all shapes and sizes regardless of colour, condition or creed
A big month of new titles thanks to a Game Con, a batch of retro games and a raft of party games being trialed for my FLGS
Memoir ’44 : Campaign Book Vol. 1
It has taken me 12 months but finally I got to try out a section of the Campaign Book. Playing the Normandy Campaign, my M44 partner and I had an absolute blast with this new format for Memoir.
The reason for that was certainly the introduction of objectives as they give each player some larger purpose within a scenario. The next layer of course, is how the result of a scenario may affect the next and then in turn the overall Grand Campaign, (which we intend to undertake). For those not familiar, a Campaign consists of 3-5 linked scenarios. But a Grand Campaign will add together the results from 3-5 Campaigns (so 16-25 scenarios). We were playing the first mini-campaign of the grander Normandy Campaign.
The other reason why the campaign format shines is that the sides are offered a certain number of reinforcements that can be used at any point during a campaign. This adds yet another tactical decision to the players that may change the outcome of the battle. Add to this yet further variables in the form of Event Rolls and the Memoir Campaigns really do offer great re-playability (did I also mention that Vol 1. Offers 4 Campaigns?!).
I have seen them criticized for a lack of balance and their nature means that each player must play the same side all the way through, so a shift to one side or another may make things tough for a player over a number of scenarios. I haven’t played enough yet to pass comment with certainty, but my initial reaction to that would be that, ‘This is
Sparta…erm Memoir.” Anything can happen in this game and with the inclusion of objectives and reinforcement tokens, I think a decent player should be able to pull a few surprises. I hope this
Star Wars: Queen’s Gambit
Having acquired this for my son’s birthday we finally played this these past holidays. Queen’s Gambit certainly gives off a vibe similar to Memoir ’44. It has multiple areas to manage, most forces are unit based and the game is all about card management and allocating orders to the sections that most need them. It also reminds me of Axis & Allies with its use of templates to outline each unit’s movement, attack, defence and damage stats.
It does certainly look cool when it is all set up and the 3-tier Palace is the eye catching centerpiece. This will see much play in our house and I am very glad to have a copy (thanks Doug).
My only concern at this point is with the balance of the game as it does seem a little harder for the Trade Federation player as opposed to the Forces of Naboo (good guys). But I am yet to play the Trade Federation so time will tell.
Memoir ’44 : Overlord Pack (Tigers in the Snow)
As a Memoir Fan, my first play of an Overlord Map (in person) was a thrill. But it isn’t an easy feat. It does require the Overlord Expansion Pack, possibly other army expansion packs and then the maps are available separately.
Tigers in the Snow offers up 2 massive maps (double-sided paper map sheets) and we played Operation Market Garden. Whilst these maps can be played with only 2, they truly shine with the full complement of 8 players and that is how we played. The paper maps may sound ‘eww yuck’ but they really are very good as all of the terrain is already printed on the maps and special rules listed around the border.
By ‘truly shine’ what I mean is that this style of play is totally unique to the normal play of Memoir. Sure the Command Cards are still there the concept of sections are still used, but this form of the game offers up a landscape that is the equivalent of 2 normal boards put together. This makes the battles feel truly epic as the sides get huge numbers of cards (10+) and the medals needed to win are massive (Market Garden needs 13 medals for victory)! That means you are looking at a battlefield with massive forces.
But beyond all that is the nature of the play itself. Memoir Overlord is a highly social experience. Each side has a Commander in Chief who controls all order cards and must allocate them each turn. A maximum of 3 orders can be issues per turn but despite how they are dished out, only 1 Field Commander (each side has 3 to control the 3 flanks made up of 2 sections each) can be spoken to issue detailed orders. This can result in some hilarious moments when other Field Commanders totally go against your overall plan without realizing it or make tactical blunders that put pressure on the Commander in Chief.
This all adds up to make Memoir Overlord, something totally different to anything else offered up by the system. It’s a bit of a shame that it is so challenging to get up and running as it is quite an expansion hungry beast (I was using no less than 5 different Memoir titles) and getting 8 players together in one space is not always easy. But for fans of the system this is something very cool to experience.
I really loved this one. Long Shot offers up that party game type feel as it can accommodate larger numbers of players and wraps it up in a horse racing theme and bet allocation style mechanics.
In truth the game play is fairly random (when all things are considered). The early turns are generally used to buy up horses and the mid to late turns are used to lay bets and manipulate the horses around the track. Prize money is on offer for any horse finishing in 1st to 3rd place and additional money is paid out for any bets that were placed on those top 3 horses.
The challenge is in being able to spread your money around to try and gain an advantage. The more money on a horse the greater the numbers of players that are likely to try and edge that horse out in front. Having money on a horse out on your own may give you an overall advantage should it come home…but…you will have less support to see it happen.
In truth though, Long Shot is not about mechanics. The appeal is in the social engagement of the players. With the right group the players will be shouting at their horses to ‘Go’ and the final stages will get very excited and boisterous. These are good times and Long Shot allows players of any age to enjoy the fun together. This is on my wish list for Christmas.
This Euro/Conflict Hybrid was a lot of fun. The theme makes use of Greek Mythology in the creatures that can be utilized in the game. The Euro features come in via the scoring and the bidding system used to control the gods that then offer powers to influence the happenings on the board. The artwork is really appealing and the game play is very tight as this game is all about eeking out small advantages that over the course of time could amount to big things.
For me the appeal of this game is all about the various creature powers that can be attained over the course of the game. There are 4 Big Creatures that offer major benefits (and even get their own figure) and then there are a plethora of minor creatures that are represented by a deck of cards.
I also really like how each of the godly powers allow 1 of the key mechanics relevant to the forces on the board, to be used (naval acquisition/movement, soldier acquisition/movement, creature purchase order and extra income). Overlaying all this, each God allows a different building type to be built and these are needed to build the 2 Metropolis needed for victory.
The one potential negative of Cyclades is that it does require its players to pay close attention to the positions of all players and at times several players may be needed to keep a leader in check. If someone is not paying attention it may prove costly and this has the potential to make players feel like they are powerless at times. This may make the game appeal more or less to different groups based on their make-up.
What really hits home about Cyclades though is that I can still recall 95% of all the rules almost 4 weeks after playing it and I didn’t even set eyes on the rulebook. This is a testament to the games simple flow and game engine, which is a major plus as it doesn’t come at the expense of interesting decisions. I’d like to play this again.
With only the one game played so far, the jury is still well and truly out on this one. I definitely got a déjà vu feeling from reading the rulebook and my one play as DungeonQuest really feels like a board game version of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, which I have read over the past 20 years. Whilst this is certainly a good thing for me (as I like the brutality, randomness and potential for sudden death) the solo play was what I was looking at from this title and I don’t think it will end up meeting my expectations on this front. The reason is that the only real measure of success is in how much loot you take out. Whilst I can compare my totals of subsequent plays, I don’t think this will offer any long lasting satisfaction. I wish they had sought to offer up mission based objectives for the solo play. Solo based expansion anyone?
Catacombs is essentially a dexterity game with a fantasy theme and conflict game overtones. One player takes on the role of the ‘Evil Player’ and selects a Lord that must be defeated by the end of the game.
The Hero players take on 4 Heroes (regardless of number of players) and these are classic fantasy fair that make you think of the old video game Gauntlet. The Heroes must battle their way through a series of dungeon rooms in order to reach the Lord and defeat him. The Evil player’s role is to slowly sap the strength of the Heroes and hopefully kill them off in order to make the final battle against the Lord an impossible task.
The dexterity element comes in as each dungeon board has holes in it and wooden discs fill these holes and serve as cover for both sides. The units themselves must then be flicked around the board. Hand to Hand Warriors like the Barbarian do damage by hitting another monster unit, whilst long range units such as the Elf can flick smaller discs that represent arrows. The monsters also have powers that reflect their classic fantasy nature, which is neat. They actually work best when they act like you would expect them too.
There is a surprising amount of skill needed to flick the smaller discs in the game that helps add some realism to the play of Catacombs. The Heroes will also quickly be slain if they simply rush forward and find themselves surrounded by the enemy. That is because the enemy monsters have some interesting powers and usually come in larger numbers. This lends the game a tactical element that is quite the challenge.
With different Lords and different dungeon boards there is a fair amount of re-playability in Catacombs. But at a good 60-90 minutes (our learning game was well over 2 hours) I think I would still turn to Crokinole for my flicking fun and other games for my theme fix.
Articulate is a pretty decent party game that looks to take the trivia genre and mix it up a little. The game relies on the formation of teams, which always helps to minimize the skill factor and avoid making people feel ‘dumb’. Each turn a team must answer a question according to a category like People, Objects, Places etc.
One player on the team acts as the speaker and they draw a card. Listed against the category where the team sits on the board will be an answer. The speaker must give as many clues as they can to help the rest of the team call out the answer. There are a few rules like not being able to make gestures, say derivatives of the word or use rhyming clues but on the whole the rules are fairly light. If the team gets it correct, another question of that category may be asked. When the timer runs out the team can advance a number of spaces equal to the number of correct questions and this new space will dictate what category of question they will be asked next time. The speaker of the team also rotates with each turn.
I’m not a big party game fan but I could see appeal for this style of game within family get togethers. The team approach makes it pretty non-threatening and these games are always fun as teammates struggle to get on the wavelength of others and softly ‘abuse’ each other for not getting it. I’ve managed to trade for a copy in the last week.
Pentago is an abstract game in which the players need to place marbles of their colour in order to get 5 in a row.
Sounds dull except that the playing surface is made up of 4 3 x 3 grids and after a marble is placed, one must be rotated 90 degrees in a chosen direction. This serves to alter the playing surface as the play unfolds and requires concentration and visual/spatial skills of its players.
The components are really nice too.
This party game only allows for 2 sides so it must be played in teams or with 2 players. Each turn a player/team will be read a category by the opposition and they must choose to pass or play the category. If played the card is slipped into a red cellophane pouch which decodes the pattern on the card and allows the 10 answers to be read. The active team then has a time limit (sand timer) to call out as many answers as they can think of in the hope that they name as many of the answers (which are linked to the category) as possible. This is the basic play as seen in the TV Game Show ‘Family Feud’.
A team can also choose to pass, which sees the category forced onto the opposition but only 3 passes can be made for the game. First to 60 points wins.
Outburst is fairly painless fun and quick too. Some categories can be really tough or may have Americanisms in them but on the whole it is pretty good. Sometimes a very specific reference can be given and this can cause issues.
Smart Ass –
This is one of the more simple Party Trivia games on the market. Play is individual here and each player is trying to move around the circular board in order to reach the Smart Ass (literally a donkey) first.
On a player’s turn they roll a coloured dice, which determines what kind of question they will receive. Trick is that the player to the left of the active player reads the question to all other player’s so it is a race to call the correct answer out.
To help bridge the problem with trivia games (we are not all made equal) the questions offer a series of clues that give a little more away each time. If a person gives a wrong answer they are locked out, so the game balances the human nature of jumping in with the need to be patient. Of course we all feel the pressure and don’t want to be beaten.
Now this may have suffered somewhat from being played in the same week as other party games, but Taboo really was a little ordinary. It offers much the same play as Articulate above but it is far more restrictive in its rules.
A key word is again offered by the card drawn for a team and a speaker is assigned the task of offering clues to help their teammates get the word. Several of the general rules (no derivatives for example) are in play but in Taboo a list of 4-6 words are also offered on every card and none of these words can be mentioned in the clues that are given.
The combination of this feature and some really difficult/daft key words make Taboo anything but a fun experience. Teams are dreading pulling a tough key word and the speaker can often become really frustrated when the forbidden clue words offer them little room to move. I’m sure that a seasoned player would evolve to get around the restrictions but I think most play groups wouldn’t give the game enough plays to achieve this.
The Game of Powers –
This was something of a find…not a very pleasant find beyond the actually discovery of an old game…but a find nonetheless. The Game of Powers was released in 1943 (who was buying games in Australia during the war?) and each player takes on the role of a world bank that is trying to gain control of countries. No…not just controlling countries, the rulebook uses the term…’Annex’ countries. That is some weird terminology right there given the context but I imagine the inference was that the banks would lend them money to fight the war effort and therefore they controlled their fortunes. But that is not explicitly stated.
Anyhoo 1 player per turn acts as the central bank and they simply serve as a drawer of cards for the other players. Each player has a card drawn for them which will make them move or allow them to purchase a country. Each player is assigned a quadrant of the board and countries are listed in a quadrant, so a player may have to pay another player to gain control of a given country. The players are also in a race to reach the destination of the country being fought over in a round and a world map is dotted with locations.
It is all very random but that was the main form of play for roll and moves of the time. The country cards did include details like the country’s main exports, GDP, population and area (much like the 10 Days in Series) so that was likely novel for the time.
Formula D: Indianapolis Track –
This was one of the less inspiring tracks for Formula De/D. It offers two forms of play as the Indy 500 outer track can be used or the inner track, which is the classic F1 style. We used the inner track but the corner design really only allowed for 1 gear selection decision and the result of ‘risking 5th gear’ or not would pretty much be the only major factor to split the field or help it come back together.
Carcassonne: The Catapult –
This game is a bit like Catacombs (although far worse) as it tries to blend two different genres and doesn’t really pull it off. In this case we have a Euro trying to utilize a Dexterity Game Mechanic in the form of the Catapult and it blows fairly badly.
12 new tiles feature a carnival illustration and once placed like normal the active player can choose from 1 of 4 tokens to start a particular catapult mini-game. There is a ‘closest to the flag’ style game, a game where you can knock people’s meeple off tiles, replace someone’s meeple with your own and a ‘catch the token’ game which involves 2 people at a time.
It’s all rather silly really. Kids may find it mildly amusing but I was ready to impale myself with the catapult after 15 minutes.
Out of the Dust
Now for a list of games that, whilst I’ve played them many times, have not seen the light of day in over 20 years. These are the games that I grew up on. Almost all of these are Roll ‘n’ Move games. It was trying at times.
Go to the Head of the Class –
This was a trivia game for kids and it had 3 different levels of question. The board was devised into different rooms that each had a different subject. If a player bombed out on 2 consecutive questions they could ask for a Study Hall question next time around, which was more general knowledge.
The game tried to keep people at a similar level with the 3 question difficulties, but it also allowed people to advance for a correct question based on their position. So someone further behind would advance further.
I took on the expert questions for this play and I must say it felt a bit like “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader!” Some of those questions were quite hard in certain subjects.
The Game of Life –
Really this game isn’t as bad as people make out. At least it tells a story as the game unfolds. Sure there is luck on landing on the big windfall $100K+ spaces but so what. You get an occupation, see your family grow and go through the ups and downs of life.
The kids like this kind of game.
The Bugs Bunny Adventure Game –
Classic roll and move as each player is trying to reach the Carrot Castle first. But it is marginally tolerable as each player gets to play as classic Warner Brother’s characters (Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Speedy Gonzalez etc). More than that, each player gets 2 characters each and this allows the players to have some decision making in where they move each character too in order to improve their chances of a good spin to see them land on a ‘move forward’ space to gain an advantage.
This game was actually based on the Popeye Video Arcade Game, which I can remember seeing and playing in my local shopping mall back in the mid eighties! The game is all about catching hearts that Olive Oil sends floating from here little house atop the board. Each player then takes turns to control Popeye and catch those hearts, which have a secret value of 1-3 on the reverse side. Yet another player controls Brutus and the hags, who must try to catch Popeye and end that player’s turn and chance to catch hearts.
Popeye can try to eat Spinach, which has the same effect as Pacman eating a power pill, Brutus is fair game. If Popeye should end a turn on a lower level of the house a Hag card could be revealed to see if she threw a bottle that would also end Popeye’s turn. The one cool feature was Popeye’s ability to leap off a ledge and punch a punching bag. This would make a bucket (drawn not 3D) fall and hit Brutus if he was located in the centre of the house.
This game was a cool as a kid but not so much now (actually it was painful). This was not due to nostalgia though, instead the game plays much better as a 2-player and we played it with 4. The game’s last cool feature was to have 3 dice that were coloured to represent the 3 main title roles of Popeye, Brutus and Olive Oil. I still have those dice (which feature different coloured pips to the face colour) and will always cherish them. That is nostalgia!
Star Wars: Escape from Death Star Game –
Each player received a team of 2 characters (either Luke and Leia or Han and Chewy) and they had to escape the Death Star first to win. The board reflects the Death Star and consists of small circles that can be moved along. In the centre of the board is the Detention Centre and many of the circles are blue, which result in a card being drawn and read out.
To escape the Death Star, the teams need to collect a Death Star Blueprint and visit the Reactor Control Room in order to shut down the tractor beam. Either character can be used to move to these locations on opposite sides of the board. Once both cards are collected, the 2 characters must be moved to the hanger so they can try to fly out. A grid consisting of tie fighters had to be beaten (flown through) by using the spinner to move. If a team landed on a tie fighter, they had to spin again and each number features a battle result (win or loss…can you feel the theme here?). A win result allowed you to continue whilst a loss result sent you back to the hangar.
This game was pretty bad but the Star Wars badge and movie based artwork on the cards earn it some credit.
This game is based on the 80’s TV show that featured 2 US Cops that foiled crime from the back of Highway motorcycles. You know the one…they had 80’s hair, big white shiny teeth smiles and one of the police was Latin American.
Anyways the game featured a board with a circular highway divided into spaces and the inside of the highway featured inner roads, short cut roads and the Police HQ.
The game was somewhat novel as it offered up really cool plastic ‘bad guy’ cars and plastic police bikes. Players would control both a police bike and a gang of crime cars with the aim being to capture your opponent’s crime cars before they captured yours.
Each turn a player would roll dice and these would determine how far they could move their police bike or if they could move their crime car (the dice featured a car icon). So the players had to decide when they should try to get near the gangsters or evade the ‘fuzz’. The game was made more interesting as the crime cards could ignore all road rules, allowing them to go through blocked road sections, ignore 1-way streets and use the short cuts. But the police bikes had to follow all such rules.
The Flintstones Game –
Not much to repot here but standard roll and move. Players take on the roll of 1 of the 4 main characters from the Flintstone or Rubble families and proceed to try and get home first. Rubble cards offer some variation but this is standard stuff.
This is Your City Albury-Wodonga –
This was one in a series of games that was released as a promotional tool to increase tourism and pride in regional cities in Australia back in the 80’s. Local Council’s and companies got on board, so local businesses and council services were featured and local companies even put sales vouchers in the game to encourage business! Trippy.
The board depicts the major CBD areas of the city of Albury Wodonga and the players then had to race each other to the next business destination. It cost $50 to buy a business and the first player to collect 10 businesses won the game. If money ran out you could visit a bank or other facility that allowed money to be gained. Some spots offered event cards. The game was really simple but a little fun as a kid growing up. Not so much now.
The Flying Nun –
I don’t like Sally Field. I despise the Flying Nun TV Show and this game makes Candyland look like Die Macher! I have already wasted too many words here.
Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game
Im sure this is on a lot of lists this month. I love the game. Sure, it has it's drawbacks but it works for my group. One of the games that we have played back to back more than one time. It brings the DnD to people who would not normally play. It's fast and fun, just what I like.
Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization
Wow, what an epic game. The first game made my head dizzy with all the options. I got in a second 3 player game and made a much better showing. I think this would have been my favorite if not for the time it takes to get a three player game done.
Still, I can't wait to get a copy of my own.
I was really surprised at this game. It was very easy to learn and teach. The depth was really a surprise and we played many of this over the first few weeks we got it. I only have one starter set, but look to get the other and an expansion. Give this game a try if you like a quick two player skirmish game.
Combat Commander: Europe
A couple of years ago I was testing the waters for entry-level wargames, and of course at the time, the most popular options were both tactical, squad-level WWII games, descriptors which didn't mean a whole lot to me. I chose Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! – Russia 1941-42. I chose wrong.
Combat Commander: Europe seems like the more fluid experience to me. Designer Chad Jensen packs a ton of game into each player's deck of cards, which allow for unit orders, short-term plans, command confusion, random events on the battlefield, combat results, etc. And the imperfect command needs to be stressed, as the cards here are not so much about robust options but about "realistic" constraints. There are also no dice in the game, and instead, a full distribution of dice is depicted across a deck of 72 cards. This has some weird but fun effects, as players can start actively distorting their distribution at high levels of play. It also prevents the extreme anomalies that come with dice.
As for the units themselves, CC:E follows a standard template. Units have a movement allowance, firepower rating, and range. Terrain can block line of sight and provide cover (defensive bonuses). Units can initiate melees at close quarters, and combined arms is a key element of dealing damage. Leaders create command zones in which more units can participate in an activation, making it a real problem if they're captured or killed. Etc. It's all incredibly intuitive and easy to follow, though there is a lot to absorb as you go. My opponent commented at one point that the nice thing about the rules is that they're always what you expect them to be. Obviously that depends a little bit on your familiarity with some of the basic concepts here, but generally I'd say he's right.
I can't say whether I'll be playing lots of Combat Commander in the months ahead. I can say that if I'm going to play a tactical squad game, this is it.
Cuba is a good game (and an undeniably gorgeous production), but exactly how good remains to be seen.
Each player has an individual board with the potential to produce three types of commodity: "resources" (stone, water, wood), "products" (tobacco, citrus fruit, sugar cane), and "goods" (cigars, rum). Resources are used either for construction or, in the case of water, to occasionally squeeze extra production from your fields. Products may be shipped at the harbor for points or bought and sold at market (possibly generating some cash). "Goods" are not actually more valuable (a natural expectation given their position in a production-chain), but they can be vertically integrated into a player's strategy. In other words, "goods" and the associated scoring opportunities are subject to less competition than "products." An odd distinction, perhaps, but certainly a fresh one in games of this genre.
Cuba's foundation is sound, and the designers went to some lengths to build several levels of replayability on top of it. Most prominent of these are the much-touted "laws," which create new scoring opportunities, remove old ones, favor poor or rich players, and tamper with the supply and demand of resources and products at market. They appeal to me in concept but seem curiously tame in practice, and their passage (2 per round) involves a surprising amount of risk. Players who wish to purchase sway in the Cuban Parliament participate in a blind bid, but even the losers pay up. I can't figure out the design intent behind this, as it mitigates the cost for the winner and exaggerates it for the losers.
Player actions in Cuba walk a fine line between juicy tension and dull constraint. Each round, players choose four of their five possible actions, but there are some very strict ordering issues for at least the first half of the game. Ideally, I would want to see multiple good reasons to order your actions differently. Instead it seems like there is surprisingly little to take into account when deciding what order to play your cards in. On the other hand, Cuba contains a novel mechanism for producing commodities and activating buildings. Each player board contains a 3x5 grid of fields, lakes, quarries, forests, and buildings, but players can only activate one 'cross' (intersecting row/column) on the grid. This makes players think carefully about building placement, constrains perfect/efficient output, and mandates specialization, which is further encouraged by the number of unique buildings available for construction.
Cuba is a beautiful game with a lot of charm. There's a lot that looks intriguing but perhaps not the follow-through to match. I enjoyed it and would happily play again 2-3 more times to form a more concrete impression, but I'm not sure it has legs.
Chaos in the Old World
By now, Chaos in the Old World has become the pre-eminent example of asymmetrical design - certainly it's more accessible than something like Here I Stand. Each of the four Chaos Gods plays differently, and it's always a pleasure to take on a new role within a familiar framework. Three of the Gods seek the corruption and ruination of the Old World, while one of them (Khorne) seeks to destroy the other three. Of the three corrupters, one is by far the most effective (Nurgle), which leads to one of two results. Either the other two corrupters (Tzeentch and Slaanesh) focus on reining him in (usually with Khorne's help), or they concede board-supremacy to Nurgle and slyly pursue their alternate victory conditions.
The dyanmics here are actually pretty simple: two players sprint, two run cross-country. Two mount a frontal assault, two execute a covert infiltration. Direct/indirect. Hare/Tortoise. You get the idea.
And that's all fascinating from a distance, but if roles are dealt out randomly, some players (myself included) will end up playing Genghis Khan and wish they were playing Machiavelli. I assume the reverse is also true. My favorite game involves a similar split (and sure enough, I prefer to play the wily, long-term side), but here it's more blunt.
But enough of the asymmetry, what about the gameplay? The design is rooted in the El Grande school of area majority, except that players have access to a lot of special cards, and units on the board frequently kill each other (combat is dice-based). Chaos in the Old World also implements a nice distinction between short-term and long-term control of a region, with individual clashes in each region combining to form a fuse that slowly burns down. When it's gone, the region is "ruined," and a substantial number of points are scored based on which God did most of the corruption. It's a slick mechanic, and one that makes the game-end trigger a moving target.
A lot has been said about the theme to this game, which some people love and some people loathe. I don't have strong feelings about it, but Slaanesh and Tzeentch aren't really pulling their weight as far as the "scariness" goes. Tzeentch sounds about as disturbing as Jack Kerouac. You're welcome.
Wallenstein is currently out of print, but many gamers are familiar with Shogun, essentially the same game on a different map with very small tweaks to the rules*. For that reason, I will refer to both games here.
Often referred to as a "Weuro" (wargame/euro), Wallenstein blends resource-gathering and construction with army-raising and battles. Attacking plays a small role: 12/60 actions taken over three hours and spread across four possible targets. Opportunity cost is quite high, and attacking simply for the satisfaction of seeing your armies collide is a good way to lose. It's primarily a game of developing and guarding territory, and attacks must be made with precision against players in the lead. Wallenstein and Shogun are not games of conquest. Not by a long shot.
Unfortunately, the game's standout mechanic is the one used to resolve combat, which in my mind comes close to making the whole affair a bait-and-switch. When two armies collide, each side's forces (cubes) are dropped into a tower. Some of these cubes will get caught on various cardboard ledges inside the tower, so sometimes numerically superior forces will suffer defeat (a fairly standard characteristic of combat resolution in games). The twist is that cubes caught in the tower will later be dislodged in other skirmishes. This has two implications. First, players known to have more cubes in the tower are more dangerous to attack. Second, players whose cubes are dislodged in combats in which they are not a participant now have those cubes as an explicit bonus to their next combat. Admittedly this is all pretty cool, but it feels marginalized in a game of protracted resolution-phases and ho-hum building. The game has a strength, it just doesn't play to it.
Each turn, players begin by executing simultaneous action selection in batches of ten: build x3 (distinct), attack x2, gather resources x2, raise armies x3 (distinct). The order of resolution is random, and only the first half is known to players as they program actions face-down. Often it feels like "a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing." SO many steps. SO much planning. SO much resolution. And almost nothing happens. Obviously enough happens to determine a winner and I'll grant that it rewards good decision-making, but I find the experience draining, and way out of whack with any sense of payoff I derive from it.
I look at Wallenstein with a mix of admiration and incredulity. A lot goes in, but not much comes out.
* Every difference between the two games shakes out in Wallenstein's favor. Shogun just gives it a bad map, token special powers, and an auction that perpetuates leaders (essentially amplifying the effect of a poor map).
Yet again another ‘below average’ month with 23 plays of 19 games. For some reason I’m having a harder time this year in getting games on the table.
Anyway, 6 new-to-me games, 5 from my own collection (I’m really trying to get my number of unplayed games down before Essen….). 3 of them are all worthy candidates for the ‘game of the month’ honour. I had a hard time deciding which I liked best, and I might feel different about which one is the top pick, since they are all 3 very good in their own original way, so let’s get started with these.
I had high expectations of Stronghold. I bought it last Essen after hearing designer Ignacy Trzewiczek explaining the game for the second time, and despite his fatigue at the end of the day still as convinced as the first time a day earlier in the morning.
So I finally got it on the table and I’m glad to say the game delivers what he promised: it’s a very tense game, high on theme despite you’re pushing cubes instead of miniatures. Playing as the defender of the castle each round got more and more ‘scary’, and despite the battles with dice plenty of strategic choices. Thanks to my geekbuddy who played it before I didn’t suffer from the rulebook, so I’ll just say: both thumbs up for this game of the month.
Irondale from Smallbox games deserves a place in the spotlight. It packs a big game in a tiny box (it’s basically as big as a normal deck of cards), and despite the short playing time it has an amazing depth, original gameplay, and plenty of decisions. And it’s only $13,- straight from the designer.
It’s basically a tile-laying building game in cardform. Despite the small rulesheet its learning curve is steeper than you’d expect, because all the buildings have special rules. But after your initial game you know what to do, and since a 2-player game is played in 20 minutes, you’ll be wanting more after your first play.
With only 2 two-player sessions down I can’t judge the replayability of this tiny short gem, and that’s the only reason Stronghold ‘wins’ by a hair. But I bet this game will see more plays in a year….
The game is worth far more than it’s tiny size and tiny prize. I also got Politico from Smallbox games, and I have a feeling it’s at least as good as this one. If so, I’m tempted to order the whole series of Smallbox card games….
Moongha Invaders is a very odd Martin Wallace game. It has the feel of an ‘Ameritrash’ game, with it’s cartoony artwork, odd space monsters with different strenths and loads of dicy battles. But mechanics wise it still has that Wallace feel about it, and besides the dice it appears to have plenty of tactics and strategics below the surface. We had quite a lot of fun playing this game, and I’m glad I got a copy of this ‘Ameriweuro’.
Antike is a game I managed to pick up cheap last Essen. The only other Mac Gerdts rondel game I’ve played is Imerial 2030, and this one does feel like a predecessor. Rulewise it’s pretty easy, but it’s all in the player interaction in how it turns out. I’d love to propose this euro/civ-building with battle possibilities to old fashioned Risk players just to show how much better modern boardgames are. Thumbs up.
I’ve never been interested in roleplaying and neither in miniature collectible games, so Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft is the first D&D game I played. It looks good, and it surprised me that it worked as a co-op game. I enjoyed my one play well enough to consider buying it, despite it’s easy rules that might lead to repetitive plays. I guess with enough scenarios (and there seem to be plenty of those in the box already) it might stay tense.
I have a certain fondness for old games. Whenever I see an old 3m game in those nice boxes the collector in me wants to have it. That’s how I got hold of Sid Sackson’s Executive Decision more than a year ago. And I’m sorry to say this 1971 game hasn’t aged too well. I have deep respect that this buy-and-sell game still works despite the simplistic rules, we were all astonished about the small amount of rules, and the fact that it works as an economic game.
But we were mostly busy calculating for the 2 hours it lasted, and it didn’t feel worth it, despite a certain amount of tension. Good modern games seem to be able to pack this kind of tension in a 1 hour game. It’ll probably stay in my collection, just for what it is: a good game for it’s time.
Crokinole - Yea, it is that good. If you at all might like dexterity games, then this one is for you. It's worth it for a MayDay board. It's worth it for a better board. It's just great all the way around. Totally a 10 for me.
Seriously. There is plenty of room for skill. The decisions aren't always obvious. There are risks to consider of removing your own pieces. And it has partnerships! And you can hang it on your wall to avoid taking up cabinet space
Armorica - Quite a good little card game. A couple fairly important rules got omitted, but once we got them straightened out, it's a very tight fight. The decisions are all interesting and there are just enough ways to score points. Very nice! And cheap!
I particular enjoy the fight for having enough food storage capacity to not kill(starve) your guys. And yet, sometimes it's worth starving them so you can get better straights going for more points. Such devious little decisions.
Merchants of Amsterdam - Perfectly okay. Not great, not bad. Dutch auction is cool. The 3 very similar scoring areas? Not so cool. I wouldn't turn it down, but I'm not going to buy it.
Very interesting game with 7 I believe - I like how well this game scales because everyone is playing simultaneously. It also helps that you are only interacting with the 2 players next to you - this can be good or bad depending on how they play! I had a fun time with it although it was a bit of a struggle to understand at first, but ultimately not too difficult despite a lot going on.
I haven't played Civ. for years and a friend had available time and space so we all made time to make it happen. We played with 8 and I found I really liked the modifications in Advanced Civ over the standard Civ. I found myself in a really good position early to mid-game with Babylon. We played with Assyria more in the saudia arabia area rather than standard placement. Unfortunately, I let him squeeze in a bit more than I should have in the fertile crescent and I think this gave him an advantage - but I was trying to be nice and not provoke an all-out war, but he ended up first and I was a lowly 5th...anyhow, it was a great time and we finished in just under 12 hours.
Played this with my friend and my two kids - the kids loved it and want a copy for Christmas. Guess what will be under the tree!
Really liked this crazy card game. It took a while to wrap my head around it - love the openness of it and the psychology/press your luck of what card to put down and when to take a row of actions. This is a bit of the Coloretto mechanic but with more depth. I may have to pick up a copy of the reprint eventually.
I've always wanted to play this but never picked it up. My friend Bob and I played it (last night) and had a blast. I got to be Jack and ended up escaping on the 4th turn using some Jedi mind tricks to get Bob to do my bidding - mwah-ha-ha-ha!
Another game I've wanted to play. I read the rules a couple of years ago, then my wife picked it up over the holidays last year for a discount. Got the rules read again, but still never played it. Anyhow, it finally came out at a game night I was at and I knew I had to take the opportunity to play. I think we played the easiest level and would have won if not for a bad card draw causing an epidemic 2 turns before we would have found the final cure! Must play again!
I was weened on D&D back in the 1980's, and have fond memories of calculating my THACO, playing a bard, drinking grape soda into the wee hours of the morning and exploring a thousand worlds. I often miss those days, but know myself well enough to know that they are long gone, and I have moved on, and am mostly fine with that.
What am I doing posting this on the new-to-you list?
Well, I am posting on behalf of the three wonderful kids at my high school gaming club who had never ever played any table-top pen n' paper rpg before, and who begged, bartered and pleaded with me to run some D&D for them so they could try it and all become satan worshippering geeks with some real greek cred.
So I consented and last Monday I ran them through an introductory adventure to teach them some of the basic rules and concepts. The game ran about three hours, and I managed during that time to have them roll up preliminary characters, teach them some basic rules and processes, and then give them a little taste of the magic. It was a tremendous sucess
They rated it a solid 10/10 and were so enthusiastic about it they would not leave at 6pm when gaming club was done and I had to shoo them out almost with a broom so I could go home to my family and now they keeping coming into my classroom to talk about D&D and bugging me during passing periods and study hall, wanting more, more, more. This afternoon, I had to physically pry the Monster Manual from the hands of one of them so that he would do his classwork. (Don't worry, I let him have it back when he was done!)
And in this sense, D&D was made new to me once again. Introducing it to complete n00bz, who have no prior experience with it... seeing their joy and enthusiasm and excitement and they begin to discover this whole new world of their imagination, it made it new to me as well. All the old joy came back.
So, new to me in the month of September: pen & paper roleplaying with Dungeons & Dragons. Rating: 10/10.
It was a real 10 days in... month for me. I also played a game I have been wanting to play since 2006 (and have owned for about 2 years) and then whipped a couple out for the kids.
10 Days In...
10 Days in the USA - 5 plays - Rated 7
This was a super fun game and great way to start off the month. Played with youngsters and oldsters alike. We were at the cabin and while I was teaching Power Grid my nieces and 1 of my nephews took the game to play it together. They loved it and made their parents buy them a copy too.
10 Days in Europe - 2 plays - Rated 7.5
Even better than USA was Europe. Played it a couple of times with my wife, but I loved it even more. I know it is exactly the same game, but cool to have a map of my home country and I also like having the boats! Looking forward to having both these nice little fillers hit the table
Can't believe I had to wait so long for a game... but man does it just make me angry that it didn;t get played sooner...
Memoir '44 - 2 plays - Rated 8 (should be 9!)
Played with my bro-in-law when the wife was out one night. It was so much fun and played super fast. It took a while to set up but we were reviewing the rules and scenario while setting up so not a big deal. Love that we switched sides and got to play both. Replayability is so high for this game and I want to do a scenario per month, at least!
Couple of games for the kid
Cat & Mouse - 1 play - unrated
OK little roll and move. More of a fun toy than a game. My 3 year old pulls it out and plays it constantly, so I am happy he likes it so much. I will very rarely want to play this with him, so I am happy he is happy messing around with it himself.
Log Jam - 1 play - unrated but better than Cat & Mouse
Fun little variant on jenga. Hit the logs out without disturbing the beaver cause he'll start swearing at you in beaver language. Very cute. The kids were driving me mentla because fo rthem the game was all about disturbing the beaver!! We had fun and I will play this with my 5 year old whenever he likes!
Wow, I played a lot of new games in September!
Here they are in order of enjoyment:
1. Space Alert
So it's Sunday night, about 10pm and my buddy Eric asks if I want play Space Alert. I was somewhat familiar with the concept - co-op game, cd is the timer, setting is a space ship. Since I had to be to work at 6:45 the next morning I asked how long it would take. He said only 20 minutes so I said "Let's do it!"
We had 4 players and after a careful explanation of the rules we started the cd. Now, I am not a big fan of Co-op games; (though after playing and enjoying SoC, DotR, Pandemic and now Space Alert I may be wrong about that - I think I just had a sour experience in my first co-op) but I loved this game! We lost the first mission and one of the players had to leave but we struggled on with 3 players and managed to win 1 of our next 4 games.
To me the tension in the game is what makes it so awesome. I rate this a 9.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! to whoever posted this game in last month's list. I was looking for a solo game to try out and this just hit the spot. I've even gotten some of my friends hooked on it.
I haven't played very many solo games, but the choices and replay-ability (because of the expansions that come with the base game) make this game a hit for me. I rate this an 8.
Yucata is my favorite online gaming site, so when Jenks announced a Yucata site series of tournaments I was really excited. Unfortunately most of the game I enjoy were not included (some were added later - thank you) So I decided I had to learn a new game. I chose Yspahan because it seemed simple to learn (It is - very) and I've really liked other games from Ystari.
So I signed up for the online tournament, and I figured I better get some F2F plays in so I know what I'm doing. Fortunately my game club has a copy of this game and I was able to play through a solo game to teach myself the rules (made 2 major mistakes - oops) then I taught some more people to play it and we had a good time.
I really like the short play time (45 min or less) for a game that offers such great choices. However the 2 player game on Yucata is awful in my opinion. I am glad I learned the game though because 3 and 4 player games are great! I rate this an 8.
4. Scripts and Scribes
This game has been on my want list for a while because I love card games and this one has gotten some great praise around here. When I got a chance to play it I was not disappointed.
I'm not sure what the theme is; (on a scale of 0-10 theme is a 1 for me on the "reasons I want to play a game" list) but the game is great!
I like how much tension is introduced in such a short game. The auction round is better than any auction game I've ever played. I rate this an 8.
I picked this up at Goodwill for $2.00 in shrink. What a great value! I like abstracts and this one did not disappoint. I had never heard of this company (Pin International) but they seem to have made a lot of good games.
Unfortunately I don't have anyone to play abstracts with but I'm hanging on and hoping.
This plays quickly and looks great. I rate this an 8.
I have been trying to get a play of this game in for a long time. Werewolf is a Top 10 game of mine, so I'm always looking for games that have similar situations. After my first play I would have rated this game a 10. The tension was just gripping and the table talk engaging.
After a few more plays though it started losing its charm. The problem is there is not enough information entering the game to help the resistance. Every game I've played the spies won. The end of the game comes down to a guess that must be right on for the resistance to win, but has so many chances to be wrong and give the spies the win. It just doesn't seem very likely for the resistance to win.
Great tension but disappointing results. I rate this a 7 for now.
7. Zombie in my Pocket
I got to play this with the designer and it was fun. We played a 6 player game with 1 winner. There doesn't seem to be a lot of decision making or strategy in this game and the fun mostly hinges on the interaction of the players.
I played this at my game club and while I could see myself playing it more there, I don't think this would work with any of my other gaming groups.
Fun with the right crowd. I rate this a 7.
8. Heroes of Graxia
I have never played a deck building game before and I've been really wanting to play Thunderstone Since I haven't been able to play that yet, I was glad for the chance to try another deck-building game - Heroes of Graxia
I enjoyed the game but the player combat seemed pointless. It was always more worthwhile to kill a monster than attack a player. Several aspects of the game didn't appeal to me. There didn't seem to be any decisions to make at all. I bought and played cards that gave me more money in the early game then just purchased VP cards and killed monsters in the late game and I won. Pretty basic strategy. I am still looking forward to trying Thunderstone but I'm not sure I'll like the deck-building genre.
Seems too simplistic. I rate this a 6.
9. Utopian Rummy
I like card games so I was willing to give this game a try. Unfortunately I discovered I don't like rummy games. I rate this a 6.
I love party games so I was pumped about getting to play this highly touted game. I'm glad I tried it before I bought it. Basically I thought it was almost broken.
Here's the problem: When someone gives a clue that person gets the same amount of points no matter how many people guess the right card as long as not everyone gets it. So the clue-giver only needs 1 person to guess his card right to score points. This means there is no incentive to give relevant clues. I can simply pull a card out of my hand at random and say "Dixit" and there's a very good chance that at least 1 person will choose my card. In fact the other players ideally should play their cards randomly as well. With the rules as written the clue-giver will give a clue and 1 other person at the table will have a card that kind of matches so the votes will be split between those two cards. (and of course the person with the lucky card will score a ton of points because he guessed the right card and got a lot of people to guess his card.) That's all our game came down to was having a card that matched the given clue - and 75% of the time only one other person had a viable card.
No strategy, too much chance. I rate this a 5.
Don't fall in love with me yet, we only recently met
This month was a case of famine to feast, after a poor couple of months of new games.
Metropolys is a game I think I first came across by looking at the game ratings of a new-to-you geeklist entrant whose comments I particularly agreed with. I'm getting quite good at telling whether I'm going to like a game from the rules, and this one hits it out of the park. It's in the "Knizian" genre of short (45 min) games with simple rules but lots to think about and plenty of interaction. In some ways it feels like Ra on a map, as you are bidding on lots which have very different values to different players, and you have only a limited stock of fixed bid denominations to use. In others way it reminds me of a trick-taking card game. It can be very important to 'take the lead' in order to get rid of low-numbered bids. The secret objectives provide just the right dose of uncertainty about player valuations, and there's real satisfaction in choosing just the right bid in the right place to force a difficult choice on your opponents. I've played it 2, 3 and 4 player with gamers and non-gamers and it's gone down well every time. I might actually like it best 2-player, as less happens between your turns and it gets really cat and mouse. Oh, and I actually like the board. 9
Filler of the month is Piece o' Cake. It was an inspired idea to take the "cut the cake" mechanic from San Marco and use it in a game about... cutting cake. I really like the see-saw balance in the two scoring methods. If everyone likes to fight over majorities, then just eating cake becomes preferable. But once everyone decides eating is the way to go, you can get some steals on the majorities. When cutting the cake, you want to set up your opponents to fight over majorities, in the process making them less valuable. It could easily be a card game, but having the cake slices really adds to the experience. 8
Just last night I tried Power Struggle for the first time. It's one of the games from last year's Essen that I was most keen to try and initial impressions are favourable. It feels like a game that was built around its theme rather than having the theme bolted on to generic cube-pushing mechanics. There are lots of moving parts and some really interesting twists on area majority that I didn't appreciate until I'd already lost the game. Firstly, losing a majority can be just as important as gaining one; and secondly, you usually don't want to control the things you actually need, you want to control the things other people need so they will pay to take them away from you. The rules explanation took a while and I was worried that I was going to hate it, but once we got going it moved really quickly, with little downtime, and a 5p game with 4 newbies was all over in 90 minutes. 7 but with definite potential to rise on more plays.
Torres is a classic Euro I'd been wanting to try for some time. It's basically abstract but I like the range of options on offer in your turn and the special action cards are judged nicely. 7
Parade is a good filler in the Battle Line mold. The cards are 0 to 10 in 6 suits, but the ingenious thing is that low, medium and high cards can each become the perfect card to play in different situations. 7
Paris Connection is pretty much the ultimate distillation of the trains and stocks system seen in Chicago Express and other Winsome games. There are only about two rules, and it doesn't take much longer to play than it does to set up. The tension that makes the game is that cubes function both as track and as shares, so if a company attracts more investment, it simultaneously loses its potential to expand. That reminds me of the mechanic in the excellent King of Siam, and SNCF is in the same class of very short games with a decent amount to think about. For a quick train fix, I'd take this over Transamerica every time. 7
More trains and stocks in Union Pacific, which was a game that I felt showed its age. I like the tension of deciding whether to play out your shares or hold on until you've accumulated more, but the game seemed overly determined by the timing of the dividend rounds, which is impossible to predict. And I found the track-building system fiddly and a bit irritating. It mostly doesn't constrain you at all, but when it does, it can be a royal pain. UP seemed to sit awkwardly between the elegant, classic Acquire and the intricate, brilliant Stephenson's Rocket and I wouldn't choose to play it again over either. 6
Founding Fathers was a highly anticipated game for me but my one play was disappointing. Unfortunately we messed up a rule (draw pool cards face up rather than face down), which really slowed things down as we pored over the cards. But regardless of that, I found the three-card hand really constraining. It's virtually impossible to plan more than one turn ahead, as you generally play 1-2 cards per turn and have to draw from whatever happens to turn up. And with draw pool face-down, it becomes important to memorise which events are associated with which state/faction combinations, which is not why I play games. I do like the way the different scoring methods are interlinked (though unsure if they are balanced), but for me this game is an unhappy middle ground between the quick, tactical Campaign Manager and the long, strategic, superb Twilight Struggle. 6, but could go up or down on playing correctly.
Finally, from the look of the cards, I was expecting Mow to be a nice filler along the lines of 6 Nimmt. But there's actually little more to it than something like Uno. The strategy seems obvious, and while the screw-you moments can be quite fun, it won't be troubling my regular filler rotation. 5
Way too close for comfort. Hopefully we'll be better prepared for GA Tech triple option.
I was a busy little beaver this month as I learned new games! Of those three, this one was the best although the other two were quite fun as well!
LNOE proved to be a very alternative to my usual wargaming. The game has strategy, is loads of fun, and I do like the whole genre. Can't say exactly why, but it has always intrigued me. Perhaps it is the variations where something we screwed around with (28 Days Later, Resident Evil) appeals to my interest in science fiction where we screw ourselves over. At any rate, I played the game times and enjoyed it each time.
I also learned
and played it times this month. I really enjoy studying the Cold War and the "what if" possibilities from this era. The game also has a good solitaire system and is easy in terms of set up, play, and break down.
Finally, I also learned
This is a tough game for me to rate. On the one hand, it is not really a wargame per se and I did not find the solitaire system to be as good as some other games (nor as challenging). For comparison, I would say that the Toe-to-Toe Nuclear Combat game also made by VP to be more challenging.
On the other hand, I do like the game because it is fun! And, it is not really trying to be more than fun, IMO. In my youth, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea really caught my imagination and it is one of the earliest stories I can recall from when I was a kid. So in that sense, it is fun to be like Captain Nemo and act out his adventures.
Bottom line: this is a game I will play from time to time, but not one that I would consider a must.
Board Game: Java
[Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:495]
Not a very new game, but I found it a few years ago and this is the first time I found people who wanted to play it. Tile placement games are my favorite kind of euro and I like Tikal and Torres so I thought I would like this. I found I liked better than the other mask series, probably because it's a little heavier and there seems to be more options.
Agricola I don't generally like worker placement games but this one is fun. I liked trying to figure out the timing of when to play your cards.
Stone Age Well designed but too light for me.
Endeavor I could tell this was a well designed game but somehow it's just not that fun. Not exactly sure why.
Board Game: Tichu
[Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:72]
A. B. West
Why aren't you PLAYING a game?
Finally, after years of waiting and over a million page views of BGG, I got to play this granddaddy climbing card game beloved by the epicureans of GeekDom. And yes, children, it is awesome. I wonder why I waited so long? I've been a fan of 4 player team card games my entire life - focusing primarily on Double Pinochle and Bridge. Admittedly, Tichu doesn't topple those for my all time favorites (it would need a bidding system to be in the running), but what it does, it does well. Plays smart, rewards card counting, offers ways to signal to your partner - all good stuff. My only take back is although it rewards skill, I think it favors lucky hands too much. This generally balances out over 1000 points, however, so all is forgiven.
Tichu swings in from the far East and gets an 8.
I'm rather fond of party games these days. Seems like I'm always having a party at my place with too many folks to play a serious game, but needing something to fill the moments. I've got better games than this one, but still, for hoots and laughs - this one works well. There's absolutely no reason to score points, so I could argue it only kinda works as a game. Think of it more as an event. For laughs. To pass the time. And be silly.
Telestrations draws a smile and scores 6.
Ironically, I played this other granddaddy of climbing games in the same month! It was a winner with a sizable group of uppity youngsters. In the end, it's pure silliness little skill. With enough players, it's pretty rough toppling the Great One. But it's got fun as a neighbor - so good enough for a keeper. Nothing I'm going to rush to play, but with the right crowd and size, it works.
The Great Dalmuti puts on a funny hat and scores 6.
I played The Scepter of Zavandor at Origins this year. And at that same con, I got this one for free just for being me - and for getting a board game ribbon. Scepter left me cold - it felt contrived, calculated and missing a theme (although it pasted one on just fine). This cousin of a game didn't depart far enough. The rules are bad - even if the examples fill things in. It isn't produced well (white plastic spill about). Theme again feels artificial and everything else is just too much math with no payoff. It goes on the trade pile!
Phoenicia is stuck in the past and fails to make any memories. It gets a 5 (and should feel lucky for that).
♫ Eric Herman ♫
I like elephants. I like how they swing through trees.
I like this one quite a lot. Simple but with a good number of tactical decisions to make. Challenging but beatable (I'm 5-2 so far.)
Also played for the first time...
Margin Of Error: A Presidential Election Game
A clever solo PnP dice game that does a good job of capturing the feel of election games like 1960: The Making of the President.
Fun little Rummy type game. The see-through cards are a nice novelty, but don't work all that well in actual gameplay.
Board Game: Onirim
[Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:762]
This is a really tough one for me this month as I've played a ludicrous (for me) number of new games this month. In fact at 88 plays of various games this is my most recorded plays in a single month ever, narrowly edging out last December which previously held the top spot. I'm not sure what its been about this month that's seen so much board gaming for me but whatever it is I'm not going to complain!
Anyway, after much thought I'm going to give my 'Best of the Month' to Onirim this month.
I bought this on a whim earlier this month as the concept sounded interesting and seemed to be something that my wife might like, plus the box art called to me and it was fairly cheap. I've now played it 10 times, all two player with my wife using just the base game and no expansions. We've won it 3 times and had fun every time. There's a certain amount of luck with the draw of the cards but it's reasonably manageable and there are plenty of decisions to make. Especially when you draw one of the dreaded Nightmare cards. Given that there a 3 expansions included in the box and we've certainly not played out the base game yet, and the game caters to solo play, I can see this one staying in the rotation as a light card game for some time to come.
Other new to me games this month were:
Old school racing game that a friend just picked up as Esdevium (big UK distributor) managed to unearth a spare crate from somewhere. I'm not a fan of race games in general but I enjoyed this, although that may have been because I won. I'd certainly happily play it again.
Another fairly old game that's still new to me. This is a combination of set collection and negotiation/trading and it plays well. The game moves quickly and produces some really good back and forth between the players as they try and gain that property or building tile that they need to complete their set. I enjoyed it but still wouldn't say that I'm that bothered by it. I'll play it again if someone wants to but I'm not likely to seek it out.
I'm really undecided on this one. The game was certainly interesting and contains plenty of decisions (although I'm not sure how meaningful they really are most of the time) and it keeps the tension up with the secret pay off of the agents. However my 1 play of this didn't give me a good enough feel for the game to form an opinion. One to play again at least once.
Pretty meh dice game with no decisions to be made but at least the giant d12 is awesome.
Decent little filler although there are others that I'll play ahead of this.
Now this is a game with potential and one that I think will require a lot more plays to get the most out of. I've played it once with 3 (a learning game for all of us) and it was intriguing but went on for too long. I then played it with 2 a few days later and it was much better. It moved quickly and required us to make difficult decisions about what to play, which powers to use, how to spend our activation tokens, who to mutate into whom, etc. I think it will really benefit from enough plays to learn all of the cards and should fly along once you have them internalised. This is probably my #2 game this month and one that I may well add to my collection. Great art too, if perhaps a little busy.
One of the games that I played for the first time during the BADGER 4 tournament down at Eclectic Games in Reading. In fact it was the final game that I played and I felt like I didn't have a clue what I was doing. This was compounded by the fact that I was trailing the entire game. Until the final turn, where I managed to win by 2 points, although I'm still not sure how. This seemed like a solid game and I'd like to give it another go. Coming at the end of a tournament as it did I don't feel that I was really able to give the game a fair assessment. We shall see.
Another set collection game but one with a very neat central mechanic with the flowing river going over the falls. I like simultaneous action selection in general (RftG is my favourite game) and it works well here. The take that ability to steal from other players adds to the interaction too. I'd certainly be happy to give it another play.
Played this a couple of times, once with 3 and once with 5 and I think that I preferred it with 3, although it was still enjoyable with 5. This is a fast, simple set collection game with a very pasted on theme but that's okay. It's fun, tight and makes an excellent filler. It's just a shame that the card stock is so terrible. My friend had to sleeve the game immediately on getting it because the cards started to show obvious damage after a single shuffle! Well worth owning a copy though.
The Downfall of Pompeii
This was another of the new to me games played at BADGER 4 and this time I only came 3rd. On the other hand the scores couldn't have been much closer at 8, 9, 10 and 11! It was a fun little game and I took great pleasure in throwing other players pieces into the volcano. Again it's one I'd be happy to give another whirl to and I think would make a decent way of starting off an evening of gaming.
The third and final new to me game played at BADGER 4 (I also played Through the Desert and El Grande, both of which I won, and I came joint 2nd overall in the tournament). I can see why this game has a reputation as a brain burner. It was absolutely bursting with tough choices and I know that I made some poor moves early on. That combined with getting a bit unlucky with the treasure left me in 3rd. Still, I thought the game was pretty good although I doubt that I'll ever play it again.
Another light, simple dice game although this one has a bit more depth than the previously mentioned Cthulhu Dice. At least here there are actual decisions to make with a real push your luck element to the game play. It was fun enough and is certainly a perfectly acceptable way to kill 10 minutes although there are better dice games and better fillers out there, although I'm not sure there are any better 10 minute filler dice games.
I was pretty certain that I wouldn't play a new game this month, but a few hours ago I played this expansion to Runebound which I got in the first geek gold for games thread. I think Runebound is a fine game, but I have a few nibbles with it. First, the game feels a little long for what it is. The game feels like an endless number of fights with little else to do inbetween. Secondly, some combos are strong, but especially there is often a runaway loser problem.
In this adventure variant you fight against giant lords. I like it as it is faster than the main game and feels different enough.
Have you seen the Yellow Sign?
Have you seen the Yellow Sign?
I have been playing this game a lot this month. I think this is a very cool, easy to learn tactical level WWI game.
Castle Ravenloft, which I got for the low low price of forty-four Canadian dollars, was a surprise. I was expecting something good, but was surprised to get something great. Great solo play (and prior to this I had found exactly one board game that I found worth my time to play solo). Great group play. A constant barrage of tactical decisions. Where do I place my pawn. Where do I place the monster. When do I use my one-shot powers. Do I stick with the other pawns or move onto my own tile. Fight this monster or run away from it. Disarm this trap or not. Open up a new tiles this turn or not.
And like all the great co-ops, there is a constant feeling that the game wants to kill you. You personally. The game wants you dead.
The other great new to me's are:
Caylus. This game seems deep enough that you could play it for years and never stop improving. I'm very impresed.
King of Siam. It reminds me of poker in that every turn you have to evaluate if you should act or not. In Poker you usually want to fold, and in Siam, you usually want to pass. The trick of course is recognizing those times when you need to act differently and then choosing to act accordingly.
Lord of the Rings: Sauron. An interesting expansion. We didn't use Sauron, but the rest of the expansion allowed us to win a game without using a main line rush, which was interesting. Essentially is provided for a wider range of potential strategies.
The also ran's:
A Touch of Evil: The Supernatural Game. Played solo and co-op and it's vaguely fun to build up your character and have them take on the big bad, but it's also pretty repetitive and long and fiddly. Also, most of the game board can be safely ignored during the process, so it looks much more exciting and interesting than what you actually experience if you're trying to win.
The I hope to never play it again:
Castle Panic. Castle Panic? Seriously? More like Castle random. Or Castle boring. Or Castle trivial decisions to make. Or Castle we won, who cares?
I didn't enjoy it.
EDIT: I also played a game of Emerald, but due to the context under which that game was played, I have no idea what to think of it.
EDIT2: Crikey, I also played GIPF for the first time this month. It, underwhelmed me. After being amazed by YINSH, PÜNCT, and DVONN, I think I was maybe I was expecting a bit too much.