Matt's Board Game Back Room

Join me in my cozy little back room filled with games! Ooh and ah at some new releases. Learn about some more recent games. Or, look back at some older and classic games. From Euros to Ameritrash, kids games to grown-up games, easy to intense - nothing much is ignored in Matt's Board Game Back Room! (Updates will be cross-posted from my blogspot blog - click my Blogger microbadge to go there now)

Archive for Hot Box - What's in the Box?

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HOT BOX - 'Walnut Grove' (What's in the box?)

-matt s.
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You may have heard of the game 'Welcome to Walnut Grove' or more specifically how it's most commonly known and listed: 'Walnut Grove'

Or maybe you haven't....?

Well, just before Essen 2011 I did a blog post listing games of interest to me coming out around Essen: TIMELY TOPICS - ESSEN release games that look interesting to me & why

Near end of the long list I had a 'theme' section of games that I was interested in due to...ah...theme. Interestingly, the game at that time was the former longer name I listed above. Somewhere during or after Essen it seems to have been shortened to just 'Walnut Grove'

Anyhow, Walnut Grove was on my 'theme' list for a couple of reasons. One was that it represented 'small town' life, much like in Village and Helvetia which represented 'village' life, so WG seemed to be in that same range. Another reason was it was the location of the American TV Series 'Little House on the Prairie' about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her life living in early pioneer America. I watched the show and also read the series of books as a child, so it had special meaning to me.

Well, I have a friend that goes to Essen and I got to play several Essen releases in the months following Essen, mainly due to her, although I never quite got to play Walnut Grove (looking at her game list, I'm not sure if she even had it actually)

Regardless, I didn't get to play it right after it came out, but it seemed to keep bubbling up in my mind. Then another friend of mine played it and really liked it. So, without me actually having played it, I ordered it (along with Hawaii) from funagain.com and had my friend Chris bring it with him to EGG (Eugene Games Gala) so I didn't have to pay shipping

During EGG, we ended up playing someone else's copy of WG as 4P and I loved it (even though I did pretty terrible - we all did fairly poorly as I recall since we had all just learned it)

Anyhow, I was glad I'd picked it up as it is relatively fast but also has lots of interesting/hard decisions to make. This isn't a review but an opening of the box to see what it is that you actually get. Hopefully I'll have time to write a review soon to go into more detail.

So, here goes, in my usual fashion of taking you through the wonderful goodness of cracking a game and smelling the wonderful smell of fresh cardboard. Enjoy!

Here we have the box, ready to be opened:



You can see the lovely artwork showing a covered wagon hauling a couple of workers/farmers (Is that 'Pa' driving the wagon? Doesn't quite look like him...), with Ma on the left holding baby Carrie, and it looks to be Laura there carrying a couple of buckets of water or perhaps grain.

Very nice artwork on this box. And somehow it looks familiar...why is that...?

Here's the side (notice the picture wraps around):



Oh, there's Pa! Now HE certainly looks familiar...can't quite put my finger on it.....

And here's the back of the box:



Hmmm, down at the bottom it says it was designed by Paul Laane (who also designed and did the art on Toscana and also runs Aqua Games). In addition, it says it was designed by Touko Tahkokallio (who also designed Eclipse, a game I have sadly not played yet)

And, the Illustrator appears to be Klemens Franz. Clicking through to his page I see he also did art for.....ah, wow, Agricola, Le Havre, Bohnanza - hmm, I sense a common EWE thread here - plus Automobile, Endeavor, Glory to Rome!? - ah, the German version, and a bunch of other well known games. Well, no wonder it looks familiar! And, no wonder Walnut Grove is getting some comparisons to Agricola (although that's not really the reason I think)!


Well, let's get cutting and tearing....





Ah, the lovely smell of a freshly opened game....




Lets see we have the rules sheets:




The resource cubes - wood, dairy (although I think they look more like sheep than a blog of milk), grain, fish and stone.




The farmer and hired hand pawns (nice wooden pawns, but it's hard to tell which one is 'Pa'):




Two cloth bags (one for the coins, one for the tiles):




The coins:




The town board:




Here's the back of the town board with the same art from the box cover:




Some of the various tiles (mostly landscape tiles here):




More tiles (in particular season discs, bonus tiles, houses and sheds, and neighborly help tiles):




And finally the player boards:



I will say I really like the look of this game - the colors, the pieces, etc, although it might be neat to replace the resource cubes with appropriately shaped tokens. Perhaps even with some of the special Agricola tokens.

Finally, here's an overall shot of all of the components:



I want to do a full review eventually, but my initial impression so for is that the game is very intriguing because it is extremely tight - most times you feel like you're barely sustaining yourself and your workers, let alone trying to go for a lot of points. The scores tend to be fairly low, especially in the first couple of times you play. These facts, for me, make me want to play it again and try to do better. And, because it's so short, you're likely to be willing to play another game right after.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you enjoyed looking into this box as much as I did!



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Sat Jun 2, 2012 2:00 pm
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HOT BOX - 'Potion Making: Practice' by Sergy Machin (What's in the Box?) - Interesting looking game from Russia!

-matt s.
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Hello, good to see you here today. It's been a busy week since my last post. A garage sale, selling a bunch of stuff on ebay (mostly non-game stuff), first day of school for my 2 kids, and a game night squeezed in. Oh, and a trip to Portland for a Taylor Swift concert for my daughter's birthday present. And it's been in the 90's all week including during the garage sale...I just haven't felt much like writing otherwise.

My recent plan has been to do a writeup on my favorite abstracts. Well, my friend Lorna (unknowingly) beat me to the punch, although I have different games I'm profiling so I'll probably still finish it sometime but just haven't been motivated to do it. Perhaps the copy of Black Box I thrifted will help me get back on track.

Well, I got some inspiration in the mail for something ELSE to write about. I have been reading the blog [blog=759][/blog] since the beginning of August looking at some of the interesting games they've been publishing in Russia. Well, last month I saw they had started posting listings on ebay selling English versions of games by the publisher Rightgames RBG SIA.

One of particular interest was Potion-Making: Practice. Yes, a bit of a strange name in English but that didn't deter me from wanting to try it. Interesting graphics coupled with the 'best game in Russia for the past 5 years' certainly piques one's interest. AND it was a fairly reasonable price even when factoring shipping from Russia. Ok, maybe a bit higher than you'd expect to pay for a card game, but as there are no other sources there weren't many options.

Well, it arrived and I was very excited to get it opened, but wanted to give it the HOT BOX treatment. To my surprise I ALSO received a shipment late in the afternoon containing a tabletop 'photo studio' I had ordered which comes with lights, a light box, mini-tripod, and 4 velvet backdrops all in a nice case. Of course I had to pull it out and set it up so that I could try some photography with it instead of my usually 'flash' methods with the hopes of getting something a little more professional looking.


The photo 'studio' in the case and in-use

Needless to say I had a lot of fun playing around with the setup and lighting and such. I hope it shows in some of my pictures, although I still need to work on some techniques. Also, the size of the 'studio' is a little small for large games so I might still need to figure out something in that regards.

Anyhow, let's take a closer look at the game!


The package that arrived from Russia

The package that arrived concerned me a bit as I could feel a box inside a simple plastic envelope....man, I could only imagine the possible damage to the box.

But once I opened it I understood....



Ah! The game must be inside this simple shipping box!


Opening the box

Inside was the game and a bit of protective bubblewrap. It appeared to have arrived intact just fine! It had even arrived a couple of weeks ahead of what the estimate was (mid-September)

Well, the box is fairly small, but that's expected as it IS just a card game.



So, it's time to cut into it and get it unwrapped:


Cutting the shrink and ripping it off...


Freshly unwrapped box

The box itself looks really nice and I'm loving the artwork so far!

However, one thing I'm noticing is that the insert seems to be of a lower quality cardboard and the slip cover just a medium weight card stock, but with very nice high-gloss printed artwork that makes it looks like a book of magic.

Sliding the insert out confirms that it is just thin corrugated cardboard folded into shape and a medium weight cardstock folded insert inside of it to create the divided sections and give it a bit more structure.


Sliding out the insert


Full view of the insert

It's reminiscent of a cheaper game box, more like a simple card game box rather than a more solid mid- to higher-end cardboard box such as you might get from Z-Man. You won't want to stack too many games on top of this box.

Inside we find...



The single sheet of double-sided, semi-gloss printed rules (and extra smaller sheet with a partial game example) as well as the thin card stock score tracks (also semi-gloss)

There is also a baggie with 12 player pawns (2 each per color) and another baggie with all 75 cards in it.


The pawns and cards

The cards are of a mid-range quality with a smooth finish on both sides - some might say the cards are perhaps a bit thin. Luckily there doesn't appear to be a lot of shuffling in this game. I do like the artwork and overall they look very nice.

Here are some example cards:


Elixir of Fire, Love Potion, Elixir of Wisdom

As mentioned before, the score tracks are of thin card stock so they'll need to be handled somewhat carefully.


Score tracks in play

The colors don't seem to mean anything and the artwork is pretty basic. And, I can't say that I'm a fan of this method of scoring points having two markers per person...it's a touch more difficult to tell who is ahead and who isn't, but I think it's certainly serviceable. We'll see how it works during gameplay.

One issue I have here though is that on the reverse side of the larger scoretrack is a 'map' of how all the formulas relate to each other....



But since you need to score during the game and ALSO likely want to refer to the map, it seems a little awkward. Plus, there is only one map - it seems there should be at least 2 or 3 that could be shared among the players and without having to turn over the score track.

I will admit the map is really nice, although a bit tiny to read - it's a great idea but I'm not sure about the execution of it here. That being said, I'm suspecting that having the map may or may not actually be that useful during a game - just read the cards and react to what's available on the table as it's all there implicit in the game. Playing it will certainly bear this out. If it's important I'll be scanning it and printing enlarged copies.

A note about the pawns here:


They are small plastic pawns - somewhat 'wizard hat' shaped. They are a bit slick but seem to be fine for the game.

And finally, here's everything in one shot:


All of the components

I'm excited to give this game a go. After reading through the rules it appears to not be an overly complicated game - it seems to be more tactical than strategic, which is expected for a shorter game. I'm interested to see how the whole practice of creating formulas works with the cascading effect of having to make more and more complex potions. The aspect of a shared set of cards on the table that are used to create the potions is an interesting concept.

The theme seems fun and I think fits this, although it seems like it mostly is there for flavor as all you are doing is mixing ingredients to make formulas, but then you don't actually DO anything with them after they are mixed except to mix them further to make more potions and such.

Now that I've stated that, it's exactly what the game title says: Potion-Making: Practice - you're making potions! I'll have to look into the expansions to see if maybe you get to DO something with the potions after you've made them.

Well, that's a quick look into the box of this game that seems to be a hit in Russia and is just now making its way out of the country.

I'm looking forward to maybe playing it this evening so hope to have a review put together in the near future if we do get it to the table.

Thanks for stopping by! Now go play a magical game with your family or friends....


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Fri Sep 9, 2011 10:12 pm
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HOT BOX - Z-Man 'Factory Fun' vs. Cwali 'Factory Fun' (What's in the Box?)

-matt s.
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Factory Fun is one of my favorite games of all time. In this game you are trying to maximize profits by fitting machines into your factory and connecting them in such a way as to generate more profits than what it costs to place each machine. This may sound a little dull but if you like puzzle sorts of games the fun factor cannot be beat!

I was introduced to it early in my gaming resurgence in 2008 by my friend Chris (it's one of his all-time favorites as well) and immediately fell in love with it. I loved the puzzle aspect to it. I loved the components. I loved the artwork. I loved that it played quickly but still was a lot of fun.

I soon was looking for my own copy and ended up purchasing it directly from the designer, Corné van Moorsel, straight from the Netherlands along with a few of his other games. This was a little before the incredible price increases started occurring.

Then, when I heard there was going to be a reprint by Z-Man I was somewhat interested but figured I wouldn't bother since I had it already. I also saw some of the artwork and I wasn't sure - I loved the hand-drawn artwork of my original version and didn't know if the slicker artwork was an improvement or not.

Then I started reading more information that came out about it and they mentioned that it had pieces for 5 players instead of 4 (cool!), the pipes were done as tiles instead of shaped pieces (hmm, not sure about that), and the player boards were double-sided for standard and expert play (awesome!)

Well, I finally caved and decided to get it. And it arrived. And...it sat on my shelf. I can't even remember how long now. Since earlier this year I think. Yes, definitely earlier this year. *sigh*

Perhaps I just wasn't ready to give up on my older copy of the game...

Then Chris got his own copy of the game recently. And opened it right away! Gah! It was time to open mine. He posted a pic of the neat containers he used to put the game pieces in.

He said the containers were for 'spices'. Apparently they had 'spice' labels on them and and he was complaining about it. I suggested he make his own labels and he promptly did! Very cool!



Ok, I'm motivated! I've actually been planning on opening it for the last month or so with the intention of doing a comparison of the old and new versions but hadn't 'gotten around to it'. Well, it is finally time...to see WHAT IS IN THE BOX! Then, further down, I do a comparison of the components of the two versions.

So, here's the box, ready to be opened!



I have to admit I like the box art quite a bit. I'm ok with the people on it, but I REALLY like the factory - the look of the machines and most especially the lights on the ceiling. I don't know why I like them so much, but I do...


Two cuts and we can start peeling....




...then open the box....




...inside, besides the manual, we find...

a nice stack of cardboard! Yes! Lots of neat stuff to punch!


And more cardboard! All the beautiful factory boards! I love the light that looks like it's coming in the windows and the 3D effect that creates with the shadows! It looks even nicer in person than in the photos I'd seen.

I was really getting excited now!

Here are the wooden player bits and some baggies for putting everything into and the box with the empty insert:


But why do included baggies always have to be so BIG when provided in games? Flexibility...I know....but still. Guess I'll be pulling out some smaller ones.

Ah, it's time to punch everything now!


Here's everything punched out...


...and put away neatly in the insert.


Now, I'm not fully convinced about the insert yet. YES, it has appropriate sized spaces for all of the components. And YES, it looks really nice in the box. But NO, I'm not convinced I will keep with this solution permanently. In fact, I'm pretty sure I won't - mainly because I sometimes store my boxes sideways and these components will be EVERYWHERE because there's too much space between the insert and the top of the box - everything will definitely start moving.

For now....I'm using it this way, but it will probably change soon. I'm just not sure what I'm going to use yet. Maybe a plano - I might need to go shopping for something special.

OK. Now that I have it opened and punched, how does it compare to the original version?

As mentioned before, I'm not crazy about the people on the cover of the new version. Looking at the two next to each other, I'm still loving the original cover with the hand-drawn images and I think the people look more realistic - something like you'd see in a real factory. Although, I *do* like both covers for different reasons and I'm not disappointed by the new one at all.


A comparison of the boxes.

You can see the new box is substantially bigger. In fact, the new box is SO big it can contain the original version inside of it...


...and, I think there would still be enough room in there for all the new components as well if the insert was left out (I didn't try this but maybe that will be part of a permanent solution....)

Next up is one of the factory floor boards:

Comparison of factory floor board

This is the same floor for both games. There are several differences here. Interestingly, you can see that the size of the factory floor is actually slightly smaller on the new board, but the overall board is bigger.

The nice features of the new board are: the artwork (love the shadows), '+' marks for the corners of the spaces rather than fully drawn lines, and the key at the bottom for costs is a great touch.


Comparison of the score tracks

The new score track is much bigger, has cleaner graphics, and appears easier to score on with the alternate colored spots. It's definitely an improvement over the older score track.


The pipes (left) and the reservoirs & supply tanks (right)

The components have changed quite a bit, and yet they are very similar at the same time. The pipes on the new tiles have nice shaded graphics and all of the tiles are the same shape. They are also double-sided with curves and straights on one type, the 'T' and '+' on another, and the cross-over and double-curves on the third type.

Now, I like that they are double-sided and consistently shaped. HOWEVER, I almost prefer the actual 'pipe' shapes because they 'look' and 'feel' like real pipes, like you're actually piping things together. Ultimately though, the new tiles are easier to keep lined up on the board. Again, I like both for different reasons in this case.

The reservoirs are all very similar, especially the supply tanks which even have the same octagonal shape. Of course the graphics changed a bit for the new ones, but the biggest change is the colors. In particular, brown was changed to orange and yellow was changed to green, plus blue and red changed tints slightly. Personally, I prefer the original colors although I presume the color changes (and the patterns in the tanks) are to make the game color-blind friendly which I fully support. But I still prefer the original colors for me...

In particular I miss the brown. One of the most famous/recognizable machines is the 'Megabrowner' which is a machine that takes a 1 input of blue and makes it a 3 output of brown (i.e. it's very valuable in the game). The machine is still named 'Megabrowner' but now it has orange as the output instead of brown. That just doesn't seem right to me...

Speaking of machines, let's look at those next:


All of the machines, sorted alphabetically with old and new machines side-by-side.

The original version had 48 machines. The new version has 7 more machines for a total of 55 - this allows it to support 5 players (playing a game consists of using 10 machines per person)

Here are close-ups of each set.



You'll notice the names are all the same and the colors and input/outputs are mostly the same (if you consider the converted colors mentioned above) - although at least 1 or 2 machines have changed input/output colors I think. Of the 7 new machines, there's one anomaly - I don't know if this is a mis-print or intentional for some reason, but there are 2 machines named "Sonic Pack 3" in the Z-Man version, one that is identical to the original and one that is very different. Somehow I split them across columns/images, but one is at the top of the right-most image and one is at the bottom of the image to the left of that.

Interestingly, one of the new machines is named "Z-Manixer".....it has two '3' value inputs and outputs - garbage. Well, perhaps black output is supposed to represent something different, but we've always considered it 'garbage' output since it just ends up being a dead-end in your factory line.

Regarding the machine graphics, the machines themselves look good overall, but I still prefer the hand-drawn Cwali version as I feel they have a bit more 'personality' to them. Also, the new version doesn't show workers working at some of them like they do in the original version

Also, the pipes are a bit more clear on directionality (input vs. output) and the sizing of the pipes to indicate the value is an interesting idea (1 is smallest machine pipe, 3 is largest) which I actually like quite a lot in theory, but it seems strange to connect up large pipes to small ones scale-wise. I'm fine with playing it, but I'm not completely sold on it.

The thing what I like most on the new tiles is the 'value' (i.e. income that is immediately generated) is printed very clearly in the center of each tile making it easier to compare (versus the original versions) when trying to decide which machine you might want to grab during that portion of the round.

And finally we have the player pieces as well as the 'multiplier' markers used to determine the value of a pipe flow for end-game scoring:


Special Essen 'expansion' crossover pieces, player markers, and the bonus multiplier markers

The player colors have changed somewhat. I'm fine with the changes because I like more color, but the 'boring' original colors were kind of 'fun' because they were 'boring' and fit with the theme.

The former 'bonus' tile only available from Essen is now included standard in the Z-Man version - it simply allows you cross over 2 sets of pipes which can sometimes be very handy when things are on the wrong sides of the board.

The multiplier markers have changed significantly and, I must say, for the better (for the most part). Why? Because they make obvious the scoring you will get at the end of the game. The original version has simple clear round discs that you would put over the pipe numbers when you connected 2 machines together - those numbers are multiplied by '5' at the end of the game for final scoring.

This version simply does the multiplication 'early' and you place a maker with the final VP value instead. This makes it much easier to see your end-game score (and everyone else's as well) as those clear discs were nice but would easily get lost on the board (and sometimes on the floor as well).

Well, that's my breaking out of the newer Z-Man version of the game and comparison of it with the older Cwali version.

I certainly like the components in both versions, but the older version is more compact and the line drawn art really appeals to me. But, the new version has some really nice slicker graphics and also has some changes that were made that ultimately makes it easier to play and understand. AND, the components are actually interchangeable between games as the new ones are only slightly smaller than the older ones.

I think I'll be keeping both copies because I really like the new changes, but I love the old version. Call me sentimental I guess.

Thanks for stopping by and putting up with my long-windedness!

Now go out and build a factory or something!

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Tue Aug 30, 2011 1:10 am
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HOT BOX - 'Navegador' (What's in the Box?)

-matt s.
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Hello! Glad you could stop by again today! I want to show you one of my new games that I'm really excited about!

I had the opportunity to try Navegador on my last day @ Gamestorm 2011 earlier this year. I really enjoyed it. There seemed to be many different paths to victory and the score came out very close in the end (I squeaked out a victory although I think the experience players let me backtrack on one turn where I bought a spice factory a little too early on and they suggested I shouldn't).

I love the rondel! I love the achievement multipliers! I love the exploration aspect! I love how the market works!

I loved it enough to pick up my own copy of the game. Last weekend I finally got around to getting it punched and then played (well, we didn't quite finish the game but we 'saved' it with pictures so we can finish the next gaming session).

Anyhow, I took some pics while opening it. Here's the process of opening and punching it:


Box cover - Henry the Navigator, um, navigating...



Back of the box (there he is again!)


Why Henry the Navigator? Well, according to the booklet inside the box: "The explorations along the African coast guided by Henry heralded the Age of Discovery."


You know the drill - 2 cuts at the corner, then peel the plastic!



The moment of truth.... (alas, no box fart )


There's something weird that I pay attention to that not everyone does. No, not box farts! Everyone loves those! It's how well the box top and bottom fit together. Some fit really tightly. Some come off easily. Some are JUST tight enough to cause a box fart. But, it seems to require a certain box HEIGHT to actually cause a box fart. The right combination of tightness and height brings you the joy. And, sometimes you don't get a fart when pulling it OPEN but when you go to CLOSE it....fttttt....ahhhhh. laugh


First look inside


I love the smell of fresh, clean cardboard and ink when first opening a box. I've always loved the smell of fresh paint and this is akin to that. I remember having a scratch-and-sniff book that actually had paint smell on one page and it was one of my favorites. I also enjoyed the gasoline and oil scratch-and-sniff stickers I found one time and had those all over my school folder one year.

But I digress...that smell of a fresh, new game is something pleasurable for me. That is why I take joy in getting a new game, not only for the excitement of something new to play, but also opening it and seeing what's inside, smelling the new smells, punching the pieces and sorting it all out.

So, let's see what we've got here:


The quick reference sheet, and the unpunched chits


Really fantastic looking board - love the old style map look


The board is well laid out with the market on one side, the buildings on the other side, the workers and privileges at the top, and the rondel in the middle near the bottom. Plus, the spaces you travel through to explore the Mediterranean Sea are cleverly laid out such that as you progress different goods come into the game plus it also works as the game 'timer' at the same time.



The bag of bits, plus the rule book and an historical booklet


The booklet titled "Navegador: Historical Figures of Portugal" is interesting as it's just informational and not specifically relevant to the gameplay. It's nice to see effort like this put into a game - it definitely adds to the 'feel' of it.

Here are the figures discussed in the booklet (which is in English and German):
* Henry the Navigator
* King Manuel I
* Bartolomeu Dias
* Vasco da Gama
* Pedro Alvares Cabral
* Afonso de Albuquerque
* Francisco Xavier



Everything punched and ready to play!


And finally, here's the near end-game position of the game I played with my friend Bob last Sunday:



Near end-game position in a 2-player game


If you haven't played Navegador yet, I would suggest you give it a go if you have the opportunity. It is thematic, rewards long-term planning, has several different ways to play (and that changes, it seems, with different numbers of players) and yet, the choices on any given turn aren't overwhelming due to the rondel!

I've really enjoyed playing this game and look forward to more plays in the near future (hopefully).

And, if you can't play this game, I hope you get to explore some other new or interesting game soon instead.

BTW, if you thumb this post - and come back to thumb ANY post of mine this month I will be giving away something special/game related at the end of July (I'm trying something new to see if I can encourage readers to let me know if they read my posts here on BGG or not since 'hits' are not actually available on BGG) - it will either be a copy of the Ticket to Ride map (in Northern Africa) + cards that my wife and I created and submitted to the TtR design contest OR it will be a really nice hand-made copy of Bongo! (made by me!)
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Fri Jul 1, 2011 10:27 am
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HOT BOX - 'Dominant Species' (What's in the Box?) - Where I act a bit too anal about my new game....

-matt s.
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Well, here it is in my grubby washed and dried little hands - DOMINANT SPECIES! I've been lusting after it since before it became available. But even with all that lusting I was waiting to get it as it's a bit pricey and I hadn't had a chance to play it yet. I also felt that maybe the wooden cubes didn't do the game justice - I thought: "It's a game about animals killing each other, right? Not little cubes eating other little cubes!"

Then I got to play it recently and I couldn't resist getting my own copy! And, I found it for a 'decent' price (note: it was still a bit pricey, but I at least got it with another good game and free shipping). Now that it has arrived, I just have to get it played some more!

Not knowing when I'd have a larger group available (because some people I know are afraid of playing it), I did some research and read that it was actually pretty decent as a 2-player. So, I tried playing it 2-player with Bob but I think it was a little too much for him all at once (and a little late at the time we started). I think he'll get it but we might need to start it earlier in our gaming session to give us enough time to spend on a solid full game. I think maybe with another player or two might be good as well, just for some balance...

Oh well, I know I loved it my first play and can't wait to get it to the table again!

And, if you have any reservations about the price in regards to getting it yourself, I will say that it's DEFINITELY worth it - it has terrific components and TONS of wood bits. Some people may be disappointed that it's just cubes and cones, but the designer admits in the rules that it's abstracted, so I'm totally fine with it. The box is beautiful as well with a shiny smooth finish and it feels very solid. OH, of course it's a good game, too!

If you like area control in the vein of El Grande and/or action selection in the vein of Age of Empires III, this game will be right up your alley. Or if you're into animals eating other animals (well, I have to admit that animal eating only happens a little bit in this game).

Note that this game is NOT a simulation (try American Megafauna if that's what you want) and it's NOT a wargame (even though it's published by GMT) but it IS a fairly heavy and long game. The great thing is you're fully engaged pretty much the entire time and you won't notice the time going by at all. (Well, unless you're playing with cro-magnon man, aka. APe man - HA! Sorry, it's late...)


(read more and see the box opening...)
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Wed May 25, 2011 10:06 am
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HOT BOX - 'Pastiche' by Sean MacDonald (What's in the Box?)

-matt s.
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Gosh, a whole other week has gone by since I last posted! I've had a couple of posting ideas but just been too tired to stay awake enough to think them through.

My focus this last weekend was to get started opening my cadre of new games that piled up from last month:


New games & expansions waiting to be opened and/or played

Note that Hansa Teutonica and Fresco I already own, but I now have the new expansions for them -- they are already opened and inside the base boxes just waiting to be played. In particular, can't wait to give Fresco a go with ALL the expansions at once. There was a group that tried that @ Gamestorm and loved it but I missed out

Anyhow, as soon as I saw Pastiche I knew I had to have it - anything that has to do with art, painting and especially mixing colors is a must for me! I ordered a copy and had it delivered to Gamestorm. So, it's been sitting on there all ready for me to open it and get it to the table (and my friend Robert REALLY wanted to play it a couple of weeks ago when he was over) but didn't until this weekend as I knew I wanted to do a 'proper' box opening.

So, here it is!


The box. Ready. Waiting.

A beautiful looking box - tasteful and appealing. Nothing too fancy, just enough to let the masterpieces stand out. I love the touch with the paint palette profile above the name - subtle but suggestive of the board as you will see later...


Back of the box.

Well, ok, you can see the board on the back of the box. But still....

(Read and see more....)
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Tue Apr 19, 2011 7:45 pm
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HOT BOX - Antics! (What's in the Box?)

-matt s.
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I finally got my hands on Antics recently! I was very excited to get it as I loved my first play of it at an EGG game day in December. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to play it again since then but I knew it was something I really wanted to have a copy of. I was lucky enough to get a nice gift card and used it to help get this game.

My son is really into bugs and, in fact, he had an ant farm a few months ago that he got for his birthday last year and loved it. When he saw this game on my table after it arrived he was very interested in it and wanted to play it right away. So, I knew I had to open it soon.

We still haven't played it yet but here are the pics of the box opening.


Antics! box front

I really love the natural look of the artwork in this game. Nice simple box but lots of interest with the ants running along carrying leaves and bugs they are gathering. I also like how the ants at the bottom are carrying signs with "The Lamont Brothers" and "Fragor Games"!

Speaking of The Lamont Brothers, I have also played (and now own as of recently) the excellent race game Snow Tails. They have also design a number of well regarded games with unique game play including Antler Island, Savannah Tails, and Shear Panic.

Read more and see more pics....
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Thu Mar 10, 2011 9:26 pm
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HOT BOX - Haggis (What's in the Box?)

-matt s.
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Hello! You're here!

Have you seen Haggis!? I've been really interested in this card game for a while. I've played and enjoyed Tichu but it requires 4 who want to play which isn't always possible. It has been said that if you like Tichu you will also like Haggis, but the advantage is that you can play with 2 or 3! There is some dispute as to how similar it is to Tichu. Frankly, I don't care how close it is as long as it's a good game. There appear to definitely be similarities which certainly begs comparison.

Anyhow, I picked up Haggis from the Jack Vasel auction. Wow, I just checked and it had 543 items, has brought in over $30,000 so far, and has another $7,000+ left to collect! Amazing!

Well, Travis Worthington sent me my copy of Haggis (2nd printing) which I received earlier this week (before anyone else got it!). Thanks Travis!

Haggis was designed by Sean Ross and is published by Travis's independent publishing company Indie Boards and Cards . They also publish Triumvirateand The Resistance, the latter of which was very popular at the EGG convention a couple of weeks ago. I'm considering pre-ordering copies of both from the next print run.

In anticipation of Wednesday gaming I opened the box and took some pics. I was hoping to get a game in Wednesday, alas, it didn't happen. I'm hoping to get it learned and played within the next week.

Read more...
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Fri Feb 18, 2011 9:07 am
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