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)

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JUST GAMING AROUND - Political Hijinks - Drafting Dinos and Veggies

-matt s.
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First, a slight digression into politics. Or rather, my lack of political veracity.

Story 1: My son joined a new scout troop last year after his previous troop disbanded. One of the many parents seemed familiar for some reason. He was only there occasionally and usually was quietly in the background. I never spoke to him until just before summer. He was going to be teaching the Communication Merit Badge that my son had signed up for. I decided to introduce myself: "My name is Matt. I'm not sure I know your name," and put out my hand to shake. He paused briefly then put out his hand and said "Chris Edwards". We discussed the merit badge and the summer class briefly. Later I was thinking that name sounded familiar. I did a search in the parking lot before leaving and 'discovered' he was a former member of the House of Representatives and a former State Senator!

Story 2: Yesterday (Tuesday), I attended a Habitat for Humanity groundbreaking ceremony for a new 12 house development being built in a local city. I arrived a few minutes before it was to start. I had to park about a block away. There was a lady that got out of her car across the street from me and we ended up walking side by side in the same direction. I asked her if she was going to the groundbreaking. She said she was. "Have you ever attending a groundbreaking before?". She said she had. We proceeded to discuss the organization a bit in our short jaunt to the site. As we arrived several people immediately gathered around her. I quickly realized she was the mayor of the city!

No comment.


On to gaming!

Draftosaurus is a terrific little filler that is filled with 5 dozen tiny dino meeples designed by Antoine Bauza (love his designs), Ludovic Maublanc, Corentin Lebrat and Théo Rivière! When at a local game day in July it was being played at a table next to us. They looked like they were really enjoying it. When I found out it had dinos and involved drafting, I knew I had to have it. I've played it 10 times so far with a variety of people. Invariably they want to play it again immediately.

Sushi Go has always been a family favorite although we haven't played it in a while. This fits a similar bill as you start each round with 6 dinos drawn randomly from a bag. You choose one, reveal simultaneously and then place it on your board into one of 6 pens, or the river for 1 point (if you don't have any better options). The pens have placement requirements such as all of the same type, all different types, or couples (pairs). There is an additional restriction each turn as dictated by a die roll which might force you to play to only certain areas of your board.

Each game has two rounds of drafting 6 dinos. After 12 total turns (12 dinos on your board) the game ends and you count up your points! There are also 2 sides to the board with different placement requirements to give some additional variety. You can also play two games, one on each side, then add up your scores from both to determine an eventual winner.

From gallery of tasajara
From gallery of tasajara


I love this game as its quick (typically 10-15 minutes per game), easy, keeps everyone involved, and is cute and fun without being dumb.

The one slight downside is that you must pass the dinos 'secretly' and keep them hidden in your hands the entire time. It works, but I felt it would be great to have some kind of cup or dish to hold them in. My wife found the game Fluff (a Liar's Dice variant) at a thrift store. They have really nifty small dice cups with lids. And when I saw them I knew I needed them for Draftosaurus. I got them to fit into the box and they have been working faaaan-tastically.


Point Salad is another great drafting game from Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, Shawn Stankewich. Great game for a first one published. Drafting is done in a slightly different manner - there is a field of 6 veggies available for you to pick from. (Ha. Ha. Ha.) You may pick 2 veggies. OR, you may take one of 3 goal cards available. Taking a goal card reveals a new one. However, taking veggies flips over the top goal cards to the veggie side of the cards to fill in the gaps. The cards are two-sided! Point goals are on one side and veggies to score for the point goals on the other side!

The choices become agonizing because you often want BOTH a goal card AND some of the veggies. Or worse, that goal card you really want quickly disappears as someone else takes a veggie causing the goal card to go away. A couple of nifty twists are that you can take a goal card and flip it to a veggie card - either right away OR later in the game (or the end) if you think it will help you more as a veggie.

The only way to score points is with the goal cards you obtain. You are looking for the best combos since one veggie can count towards multiple goal cards. Some goal cards score for specific veggies, some for combinations of veggies, some give you NEGATIVE points for certain veggies. So its trying to find the best balance of positive and negative.

From gallery of tasajara


This is another nice filler that only takes 15-20 minutes to play and is easy to play multiple games back-to-back. This is a new family hit that will be seeing more table time in the future.



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Wed Oct 23, 2019 12:00 pm
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JUST GAMING AROUND - Christmas gaming

-matt s.
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Eugene
Oregon
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Over the holidays (primarily starting Dec 16th with an all day game day, then some Christmas holiday family gaming) I got in a good number of games.

Board Game: NMBR 9
Board Game: 12 Days
Board Game: Carcassonne: Winter Edition
Board Game: Villages of Valeria
Board Game: Medici: The Card Game
Board Game: The Fox in the Forest
Board Game: Abyss
Board Game: Azul
Board Game: Clank! In! Space!: A Deck-Building Adventure
Board Game: Cubist
Board Game: Fabled Fruit
Board Game: Flip Ships
Board Game: Shakespeare
Board Game: Survive: Escape from Atlantis!
Board Game: Sushi Go!
Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy
Board Game: The Cat Game
Board Game: The Quest for El Dorado
Board Game: Ticket to Ride
Board Game: Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails


 9.0   NMBR 9 x5
 7.0   12 Days x3 NEW!
 6.0   Carcassonne: Winter Edition x3
 7.75   Villages of Valeria x3
 9.0   Medici: The Card Game x2
 7.0   The Fox in the Forest x2
 7.0   Abyss
 9.0   Azul
 9.0   Clank! In! Space! NEW!
 7.75   Cubist
 7.0   Fabled Fruit
 7.0   Flip Ships NEW!
 6.75   Shakespeare
 7.0   Survive: Escape from Atlantis!
 10.   Sushi Go!
 10.   The Castles of Burgundy
 5.0   The Cat Game NEW!
 10.   The Quest for El Dorado
 8.0   Ticket to Ride
 9.0   Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails



Some HIGHLIGHTS for me:

NMBR 9 - This was my most played over the holidays. It is a fun little puzzle game where you have tetris-y shaped number pieces that you are trying to place in such a way to layer them higher for better multipliers where: level X number = points. There are numbers 0 thru 9 and you will get each number twice, but in a random order.

So everyone is trying to outplay each other. Yes, this is one of those simultaneous multi-player solitaire games. I LOVE this type of game. And this one makes you think a bit, but plays very quickly. Usually you end up playing twice in a row because you just want to try to do better!


12 Days - This is a trick taking/set collection/majority game played over 12 rounds. It is lightly themed around the 12 days of Christmas so it makes a great holiday game. The deck is comprised of one 1 card, two 2 cards, etc - just like the song! Oh, and there is Santa and Mrs. Claus; They are both 0 but they always win! Except you have to gift the card you won to someone else.

I sucked the first 2 times I played, then switched strategies and was finally able to crush everyone else on my third game. Looking forward to this coming out every Christmas!


Clank! In! Space! - We LOOVE the original Clank! I really wanted to own this version too and got it for Christmas. Just like in the original you are trying to get in and steal an artifact, then get out before getting killed due to drawing too much attention to Lord Eradikus (the Dragon in the original).

Only in this version the board is configurable which lends itself to a bit more variety. Also, you must hack into the computer system before you can get into the storage vault section where the artifacts are stored. The ending is a bit different as well where you don't draw so many cubes for damage on your turn, and it can keep going for more than 4 rounds. There are a number of other differences, but overall, I loved this version as much as the original Clank, and loved the Sci-Fi jokes (or at least recognized them more than the Fantasy ones).

There are definitely differences like the need of being forced to explore more to do the hacking, along with having 'factions' on the companions required to activate some abilities, blue data crystals to activate some abilities, and a couple other variations, so it feels 'similar' but 'different' enough to warrant having both and playing one or the other depending on my mood.


Azul - This was one I was excited to own and happy to have it now. I played it recently and loved the drafting of tiles element, with some puzzli-ness but also some nasty, nasti-ness happening where you can really screw someone over if you plan it correctly (queue evil chuckling) - or you yourself can really get screwed over (sad whimpering). Who knew tiling a wall could be so EVIL!?!? Played this only once 2p with my dad - it was still really good with 2 players. And he CRUSHED me!!!! (whimper)



THE JURY IS OUT:

Flip Ships - LOVE the art! HATE the color choices (my dad who is color blind couldn't tell the difference between the player ship colors)! LOVE that the color choices don't matter much (phew)! HATE that the rules are a little ambiguous how you use the launchpad! LOVE that it plays like some cross between old-school Space Invaders, Galaga, and --various games with large boss at the end--! HATE that multiple plays seem like it might get a little same-y/lackluster! LOVE that each player has different ship abilities!

Overall LOVE it! But hesitant I might only LIKE it! Needs a bit more plays and maybe some rules tweaks/clarifications. I think maybe my expectations were a bit too high going into it. Still...we'll see how it goes over my birthday weekend gaming....



ONE LOW-LIGHT:

The Cat Game - this game is a take on Telestrations/Eat Poop You Cat and Pictionary mashed together. You get a card with different CAT-egories related to 'people', 'movies' and 'something else I can't remember at the moment'. You select one item (or others tell you which type to use) then you grab a couple of cat figures and place them under a plastic sheet on a drawing board, then you must use the cats in your picture.

This could/should have been a winner, but it wasn't, at least for my family. It took WAY too long to go through the picture drawing process (everyone sitting waiting and waiting) then the picture was revealed and you quickly guess the movie/person, etc, over and over and over again. Couldn't wait for it to be done! However, it COULD be funny (and was a little) but too much downtime for too little fun.

We are going to try the team version next time where you have to quickly grab cats, draw and immediately start guessing (more like Win Lose or Draw maybe) to minimize downtime and increase funtime. Hopefully.

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Tue Jan 2, 2018 7:06 am
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JUST GAMING AROUND - My current tendancy towards Good + Short + Small games

-matt s.
United States
Eugene
Oregon
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I've really been into small, shorter games with some interesting decisions.

Here are some current favorites from the past year or so:

Board Game: Sushi Go!
Sushi Go! - The theme of Sushi Go is great, the art is fantastically cute, and everyone has fun no matter if they win or lose. It is a quick and easy drafting/set collection game with some interaction/planning. It has become my go-to game with the kids before bedtime - we can usually burn through a full game in 10-15 minutes (or less) - we played twice tonight in about 20 minutes.

Board Game: Star Realms
Star Realms - This game snuck up on me as it was published in 2013!? but didn't notice it until I saw a post about it in July 2014 as a great small deck builder. The space war theme didn't completely excite me, but looking at the artwork closer really started to draw me in. I kept looking at it and I finally bought it without trying it and boy did we love it! I taught it to bobm174 who loves Dominion and he got super excited about it to the point of writing me a note the next day about how much he liked it. I taught Count Von Luckner the following game night and that's all we played all evening - 4 or 5 back-to-back games! That NEVER happens with a new game! My son and Dad also really enjoyed it. You'd think it might get boring but so far, not for me! Some games it really comes down to the wire (although sometimes its a blowout). I even made some score counters to make scoring easier!

Board Game: Love Letter
Love Letter - I've played this off and on over the last couple of years and it really kind of helped explode the trend of small, simple, fun games. I remember playing it with 4 dudes at a local con and had a great time playing it. My son, daughter, son and even wife enjoy playing it. Yes, the decisions are simple but this one really shines because of the meta game - from round to round, can you guess what the other players are going to do? Can you get in a lucky guess for the win? Cheers, groans, laughter and fun always seem to accompany this game, and isn't that what gaming is really all about?

Board Game: Valley of the Kings
Valley of the Kings - This is another game I heard about around the same time as Star Realms. I love the Egyptian theme. Its a great deck builder that plays with 2-4. The game always ends the same way with the deck running out and all cards being used in some manner. It effectively is a set collection game but the interesting this is all cards can be used as money OR an action, and can eventually get you points. The key, though, is you have to 'entomb' a card to get points for it which means removing it from your deck into your tomb where you no longer have the points or money value, so there is a balance you have to achieve of WHEN to entomb. You also need to get them in the tomb in sets (mostly) to maximize points. Really nifty game. It plays a bit longer until you get the hang of it and learn what the cards do (each is a little different so you have to parse all the cards until you learn them), but definitely fits the good, small criteria.

Ok, thats it for now. There are some others that I might write about later.


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Mon Jan 5, 2015 1:00 pm
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JUST GAMING AROUND - My son helps push to a 'most games played in a month' with Dominion, Diamonds, Love Letter and Splendor

-matt s.
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Oregon
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This was a good month of gaming for me. I got in 54 FTF games this month! The last time I did that many (exactly in fact) was August 2013. And my son definitely helped reach that goal as he really wanted to play games a lot.

The month started out at Lebanon-a-con, a smallish local convention run mainly by two gamers in Lebanon, OR. I got a few solid games played, mostly longer, but definitely good.

Key games for me were: Madeira (which as pending for many months for me), Lewis & Clark(btw, don't play this game 5 player unless they are all VERY fast players - slooowwww snore), Tzolkin (always a fav), and Five Tribes (nice game, might need to pick it up), and Würfel Bohnanza (yet another interesting dice game) among several others.

Then, another friend that goes to Essen every year had a game day and I got a few more good (NEW) games in. Yay! One of my favorite times of year. Games played were: Aquasphere (I messed up one important part teaching - opps!), La Isla (definitely will pick this up), Colt Express (played 3 times! great fun!), and Deus (great civ building game that plays smooth and relatively quickly)

But the primary gaming for me was driven by my son. Almost every day for at least 2-3 weeks he was asking to play a game. Most are shorter but we had a great time playing all of them.

The games were mainly:
Splendor - played a couple of times - he seems to really like this and even plays it at scouts when camping.

Dominion - he has always 'liked' this game, but for some reason he just asking to play it over and over, sometimes 2-3 times in an evening! We mostly just use my a phone app to randomly choose sets (I have all Dominion expansions so we have a lot of variety to choose from). He or I will keep generating sets until we get something that looks interesting, maybe tweaking it a bit. He consistently plays well and he LOOOVES the attack cards. Anything that gives a curse to me and other players is a total joy for him.

I have tended to win more than him, but he definitely holds his own and it is interesting to see his unexpected strategies work for him - he also loves picking up lots of coppers - he will frequently 'buy' them if he has nothing else to buy. He had at least two games where he had 30-40 coppers in his deck! Ill-gotten gains is one of his favorite cards.

We have also had some interesting sets where we randomly ended up with a bunch of cards that make you look at the top of your deck in various ways with interesting effects. We have also had others where most cards trashed other cards and/or generated cards and we ended up with a Trash full of dozens of cards.

Dominion continues to amaze me on how many different interesting interactions and combinations can come about. I will say, though, there are definitely some terrible, horrible combinations that drag the game out for WAY too long no matter how hard you try!

Love Letter - For some reason he is really taken by this game. We've played a couple of times with my daughter and had a great time. But mostly it has been 2 player. This game isn't necessarily the best with 2, but there's still something fun with it, plus its quick. There are a couple of 'better' variants for 2 but we haven't tried them yet - vanilla is still fun for us and tends to generate at least a few good laughs every session.

Diamonds - This has also been a pretty decent 2 player game for us. We have also played 3 player with my daughter and 4 player with my friend Bob (who got us started on it). We don't actually own Diamonds (yet) but have been played with a Clubs deck, using similar plastic gems (large and small in clear rather than clear and red - works better my opinion) and we use the player screens from Rampage which lends it an interesting thematic twist - instead of putting gems into your vault you they are being guarded by your monster/dragon instead. Actually, in Rampage everything behind the screen is 'in the stomach' of the monster so we tend to think of it as the dragon eating the gems for permanent protection

(Side note: Here's a good memory trick for remembering the suit action: Diamond is easy because you get a diamond behind your screen. Clubs is easy because you are hitting another person over the head with your 'club' and stealing a gem Heart you love the diamond so put it in front of you so you can look at it. Spade you are shoveling the diamond in front of you into your vault (or stomach in our 'themed' version)

Anyhow, 2p definitely plays differently since you play 2 cards every trick. You have to play differently than in a 3 or 4 player game because you HAVE to follow your own suit - you can set yourself up nicely sometimes and sometimes you are just stuck. The passing becomes even more important in trying to set yourself up.

Well, we've had a lot of fun with this game as well.


So, overall it has been a great month of gaming, even if many games were with my son playing shorter games - sometimes the interactions in the game and the fun, joy and laughter of my son and myself is what makes it all worth it. AND we're spending time together and keeping him away from his video games and youtube zombification.


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Wed Nov 5, 2014 4:48 pm
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JUST GAMING AROUND - Escape: Curse of the Temple and Relic Runners

-matt s.
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Happy New Year! Its the start of a new gaming year! I'm hoping to get even more good games to the table, get some foam core box inserts created, and get more of my unplayed games actually played. Oh, I also plan on starting a geek list of all the games I've thrifted through the year.

To kick off the year are two games dealing with adventurers and running - lots and lots of running.

Ironically, I did lots (well some) running around outside today with the kids playing 'watermelon' - a form of 500 that my kids play where someone throws a football up in the air and you try to catch it/get it for some points, trying to get to some designated point total first. Well, that's not a board game so no more about that other than to say - that's the first step in my goal to get more physical exercise.

Anyhow, lets get started!




RELIC RUNNERS
Board Game: Relic Runners


This is one of the new games out in September 2013 from Days of Wonder. Production values are excellent - actually superb in terms of art design and production, in particular these nifty game pieces and miniatures:
Board Game: Relic Runners
Board Game: Relic Runners


You play a 'relic runner' who is exploring the jungle finding temples and ruins and excavating them to gain points, special abilities, end-game scoring abilities and the ability to explore more trails (i.e. make them 'known' to you)

In addition, there is a special action board for each player. As you navigate the rivers you advance on this action board that gives you different abilities you can use once, then is reset. You can have up to 3 toolboxes that may give you up to 3 abilities (although you can only use one per turn). There are also 3 tracks you can advance abilities and you and can advance all toolboxes on the same column or different in any combination.

Besides uncovering the items in the jungle, you are also trying to make as my trails known and connect them together to form continuous paths that will eventually let you travel faster and also eventually pick up relics (the miniatures) as they are uncovered. Once a certain number of relics are picked up among all players, the game ends.

We played 2 player for our first game. I found it interesting to a point, but not as dynamic as I thought it might be. I chalk this up a bit to being a first play and not knowing what we were doing. However, I don't see a ton of depth here, so this is definitely a family-friendly game. I would not call this 'light', but maybe 'medium-weight' for families unless they have a lot of gaming experience with Euros.

For me it was pretty light, however, I can see a little bit of depth to it as there are more than one, er, paths to victory. It also helps that the actions, abilities and bonuses vary from game to game as you randomize 2 or 3 levels of them during setup, as well as where they are located on the board. This is not going to change the game wildly, but at least leaves open a bit of discovery and puzzling out of potential optimal paths. The variable end-game bonus points will also help in this regard as well as the 'advanced' version that gives your character a unique special ability of some kind.

Overall, my dad and I enjoyed playing this. It isn't a game that I am desperate to get to the table but it was pleasant enough to definitely play it somewhat regularly for now to see how much more it has to offer.




ESCAPE: The Curse of the Temple
Board Game: Escape: The Curse of the Temple

This game came out in 2012 by Queen who, as you would expect, puts a tremendous amount of quality into the game components, box and, in this case, audio CD.

Board Game: Escape: The Curse of the Temple


I had seen the game early on and was definitely interested in it, then saw it being played a couple of times but never quite made it into a game. Well, my son received this for Christmas and we finally got it played on December 31st at 9:30pm (or so)

The main idea is that all players are working together to escape a temple. You must roll dice (and roll dice and roll dice...and roll and roll and roll) to do everything - get certain pairs to explore and move. Get certain sets of symbols to discover magic crystals and to eventually escape. There are also black masks that lock your dice and golden masks that unlock your dice (or someone else's dice if you are in the same room)

Board Game: Escape: The Curse of the Temple


A soundtrack is provided (on a CD) which you play as a timer. The game takes exactly 10 minutes once you start playing and you have 2 intervals mid-game where you must return to the start tile to avoid losing a die permanently (NOT a good thing) and by the end of the game you have to escape the temple completely. EVERYONE must escape successfully or else you all lose.

In the basic game I played 2p with my son, we dilly-dallied a lot trying to get to 10 keys or torches (i.e. all our dice) to get to 3 gems on the activation tiles. Really, we didn't need to and we held out at 2 on 2 of them. However, after the 2nd mid-game interval we realized we needed to haul it out of there. We were down to 2 gems left which meant it should be pretty easy to get out. Unfortunately, we had well over half the tiles in the temple to explore to find the exit! Luckily we finally pulled out the stops and found it, unfortunately my son was half-way across the temple from it. I was able to get out and gave him one die (as per the rules) and he quickly made it to the exit. Unfortunately, he just couldn't get a 2nd key to make his escape and the door slammed shut before he made it!

It was actually pretty fun and exciting. However, I can see that it could get a bit 'dull' after a few times through with the base game as-is since there's only a couple of different types of activities to accomplish in the game - discover gems and get out.

As such, I'm very happy to see they have included 2 expansions already with the game - I think they are definitely needed. Yes, this is a bit of a luck/dice fest, but the time element makes it shine, at least for me and I'm looking forward to trying the expansions. Despite the luck, I think there's still some decision making to engage in - do you stay together or split up? Do you work longer to get another gem or move on quickly? I'm hoping the expansions add a bit more decision making and/or options as well.

No, this is not a heavy game - anything with a 10 minute timer isn't intended to be. But, I find it to be a lot of fun for something quick and relatively easy to set up.

My son definitely likes the game although the 'spooky' soundtrack seemed to bother/distract him a bit (he's 10). I discovered this awesome Android Timer App that I've installed and will definitely use next game - it removes the spooky part and just has the mid-game and end-game bongs/door slams and drumming. It also eliminates the overrunning of the timer track into the next timer track (sometimes it's hard to hear the transitions).

I really enjoyed my first play, as did my son, and although I was hoping for a bit more, with the included expansions and more expansions available or on the way, it should hopefully keep us entertained for a long time to come.

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Thu Jan 2, 2014 5:05 am
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JUST GAMING AROUND - Snow = Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries?! (x2)?!

-matt s.
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It snowed where I live last Friday. A LOT (at least for us). From 2am to 5pm we got 6 inches of snow! Yea! Well, that's what my kids said. My cats said YIKES! And my wife was happy for the snow, but not happy for wet and freezing kids after playing in it, but was happy I mostly dealt with them and got them cocoa and such.

The following Saturday afternoon and evening turned into a gaming bonus for me! My daughter and I played Morels after she completed her homework. Then, my son and I played Pecking Order (x4) before he went to bed.

Here are Quick Reviews of each:



MORELS
Board Game: Morels

Take a walk through the forest collecting Mushrooms. Cook them up in your pans for points, or sell them for digging sticks that might help you find more mushrooms. But watch out for the Destroying Angels as they may make you sick for a few turns! Keep a lookout for those Morels - get a proper amount and cook them up for some big points!

I taught this to my wife's friend last week on Thanksgiving. Then, I taught my Dad and my daughter (13). My Dad seemed to enjoy it and proceededto beat me his first game! My daughter really took to it although she hasn't picked up fully on strategy yet. We've played it several times since then and she's getting better, learning from her mistakes.

The fun in this game is three-fold:
1) You cannot go over the hand limit. Initially it is 8 but can be expanded by putting baskets into play. The hand limit creates angst in what to pick up - if you get too much variety you can't cook anything up and are stuck with hand of garbage. Focus too much on low point sets and you'll earn few points for a lot of work. There is great hand-management in this game.

2) The timing of what turns up in the forest and the 'decay' is tricky and you can easily miss out on what you need if you aren't careful. This combined with the hand limit are key to getting the timing correct. Also, timing of Destroying Angels can be problematic because they can 'taint' the Decay (cards that pile up and eventually move out of the game, or allow you to get up to 4 cards at once). But they are also useful if you get stuck with garbage in your hand since they allow you to discard when you normally can't - but at a potential high cost.

3) There is enough variety in the card distributions in the deck that every game plays quite differently depending on how the cards come out and what choices the players make. I see myself getting a good amount of mileage from the game (and already have)

The art is fantastic and the gameplay actually feels like you're walking along picking up mushrooms, cooking them up, etc. The gameplay is simple and the fun factor is high as the decisions can be very tough. Once learned it is quick to play and often you desire to play more than one round in a sitting. Love it! Oh, and it just made the Games 100 list as well!



PECKING ORDER
Board Game: Pecking Order

Place your birds on the various platforms and branches such that you earn more points than your opponent and become the top bird! Use bluffing and carefully timed attacks to scare off your opponents birds and steal those points away.

Pecking Order is a Richard Garfield game which never got a lot of attention. This is understandable to a point as the game is very simple and quick. It is the ultimate 2 player filler. My kids and I can play multiple games in 20-30 minutes so it's a fantastic 'quick game before bed' option that isn't boring.

To play, you have a stack of bird 'cards' that number from 1 to 12, plus you have a Jaguar. You mix your deck and draw 1 card and play it, taking turns until all cards have been played. There are branches worth from 1 to 10 points that you can place them on, face down. If you place your bird on the same branch as you opponent, you 'attack' them. They turn theirs over and you state whether you 'won' the battle or not (higher value is better, ties go to the defender). The lowest branch allows you to ALWAYS win ties, the #3 branch lets you peek at one of your opponent's face-down bird, and the there are two '8' point branches when, if you capture both, you get a 3 point bonus. The Jaguar scares off the opponent's bird but he also leaves (you don't earn points for it)

As you can see, the rules are simple but there is some amount of bluffing and deduction going on (you can figure out face-down bird values depending on what battles you lose, what birds you've already seen, etc). It is simple enough that young kids (even 4 or 5) can play and enjoy the theme, but interesting enough to keep you thinking. And it plays so fast its a great 'quick' game before bed, before (or during) a meal, etc. Fun game, definitely enjoy it.




Well, I have one more game to discuss - the one in the title for this post:
Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
Board Game: Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries


I have not played a game 2p with my wife in a long time. This night I said "I don't suppose you'd like to play a game tonight, would you?" and she, surprisingly, said "Ok, sure!" Funny thing is, I was sure it would be a "No" as usual and didn't have ANY particular game in mind. It was later - 10:30pm - so I knew she didn't want to learn anything new at such a late hour.

I threw out the standbys - Flowerpower, Balloon Cup, Carcassonne, Pirate's Cove (2p variant - we have yet to try it), etc.

She suggested, "How about Ticket to Ride?"
"Hmmm, which version?"
"Since its snowing, how about the snow one?"
"Nordic Countries?"
"Yes!"
"Ok, let me get the table cleaned off and set it up"

I quickly got it ready and checked the rules (I always have to verify the specifics for each version - which reminds me I keep meaning to make a good summary card that shows all the minor differences in rules between versions)

She sat down, we reviewed and were off!

Board Game: Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries

Image by Camdin

The first game she got stuck mid-game drawing and drawing blindly to hopefully get a Locomotive (we call them rainbows) for a link she needed to complete a couple of her long routes. Meanwhile, I kept drawing more tickets and placing trains as I always seemed to get the right routes and have the right cards. My routes ran through the middle and then out to the side while hers were along the tougher west coast.

I think she should have been saving up to complete the 9 card, 37 point link while looking for the rainbows but she hadn't even considered it being focused on her high point routes. This particular game had very little interaction/conflicts between our routes.

She was tired and at first didn't want to play another, then reconsidered after we discussed what happened and offered to play again! Woot!

The second game went much better for her. And, there was more interaction. She started out more quickly and near 3 of my closely clustered endpoints on the south east side, so I was forced to put down some trains and get them connected to ensure I wasn't cut off from Tallinn (which is like Las Vegas on the US map - only one way in and out).

I then extended out a bit and she immediately jumped on the single ferry in the middle of the board making my easy straight shot to Narvik a problem. I decided to go around on the West coast instead as I had more cards collected for that way than around her, plus they were longer for more points. She then proceeded to draw tickets at least twice more.

It finally came down to me playing my last trains to end the game or draw randomly for a rainbow to complete a 4 point route. Ultimately, I decided to end it hoping I'd catch her with a missed ticket as well, but she only needed her last play to finish her last route. She ended up with most tickets bonus and the overall win by a wide margin since I neglected drawing more tickets having to deal with the long Western route and few extra trains.

I really like this map - it is very tight but you're also forced to draw more tickets to score enough points to win because so many of the links between cities are very short and not worth a ton of points by themselves. There is also the added risk with the tunnels causing you to plan for and spend more cards to complete the links. I also like that the rainbows/locomotives are very valuable and, at the same time, easy to pick up since you aren't restricted to just picking up one from the display like in most versions. There's enough interesting twists and a sparse, risky map that ratchet up the tension for 2 or 3 players (which is all that it plays)


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JUST GAMING AROUND - First Impressions of 2012 Essen releases: Tzolk'in and P.I.

-matt s.
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I'm lucky to have friends that go to Essen and pick up the latest and greatest. Thanks to Lorna for me being able to try these ones!

As a result I've been able to play a few of them, although there are several that I still really want to play such as Myrmes - just missed out playing it yesterday - and Keyflower - although my copy arrived recently so hopefully I can get it to the table soon.

Keep in mind I've only played P.I. only once so far and Tzolk'in I've only played twice, so these are just first impressions.



TZOLK'IN
Board Game: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar

This was the game I was most excited to try! As soon as I saw the gears and that it was a worker placement game, I knew I had to play it. After reading the rules it solidified my belief I would love it. I even carved my Halloween pumpkin to match the box cover:

Board Game: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
Board Game: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar


From gallery of tasajara
Board Game: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar

The basic game play is on your turn you either place workers to set them up for future actions, or you take them off to perform the actions. When you place workers you place them on 5 outer gears, each of which gives different sorts of abilities: one is for food or wood, one is for any of the resources or crystals skulls, one helps you improve your technology or build buildings and monuments, one allows you to trade goods, get a new worker, and do special actions with corn, and one of the gears has special one-time abilities that primarily give you VPs and also advance you in the temples.

The really interesting mechanism is that after each round of players placing workers or removing them to take actions, the central gear is rotated once, thus turning all the other gears and moving the workers up to better functions/abilities.

The key to being successful in the game is getting your timing correct - placing workers to get you the resources you need at the right time to perform building actions or advancement actions on the other gears. The buildings in turn advance you on the technology or temple tracks, get you resources or help feed your workers during the feeding phases (which occur 4 times in the game)

There are multiple ways to score points so there is a lot of flexibility in what you can do. This is the type of game I really like - placing workers, gathering resources, and finding ways to leverage those to get the most points possible.

The gears make it interesting here because you have to be able to see how you are going to get your timing right and really plan ahead well. And, its very difficult to be patient and let your workers make their way up to the better actions - the temptation is always to 'get something now'

The gears are also a fantastic timer mechanism (it IS about a calendar after all) in that you see exactly when the next scoring/feeding phase is coming up - usually sooner than you realize. This is especially important in the end-game because if you don't time things correctly you'll have nothing left to do on the final round when other players with better timing crank out a bunch of extra points!

I'm really excited about this game and hope to pick up my own copy soon - its tough to get now due to importing of the original printing, thus making the cost high, so I might have to wait until the English printing comes out (unless I can come across a good deal somehow). My first play I scored only 21 points but my second play was something like 58 points. I'm reading that strong winning scores are closer to 90-100 points, so there's definitely more play in it for me.

Some gamers will definitely see this as 'just another Euro' and write it off as being too similar to some other worker placement game out there, but this is the type of game I really enjoy and the gears mechanism provides enough of a change to keep it interesting for me and different than other similar games. There are enough layers/elements to it to keep me coming back to try different strategies including the gears, the technology tracks, the temple tracks, the gear that gets bonus points, the buildings and monuments, and even the crystal skulls themselves are worth points.

Verdict: 9 / 10 -

(and it might be a 10 for me if it keeps my interest with more plays)



P.I.
Board Game: P.I.

This game is one of several new Martin Wallace games this year. I was interested in it as I'm always up for a good deduction game. This definitely fits the bill if you like deduction. The goal is to 'solve' the 'case' held by the neighbor on your right. The only real interaction is that all cases are solved on the same board and information from the others' case evidence can help you solve your own case, and you can somewhat interfere (or indirectly affect) other players by selecting evidence cards that might be more helpful to them if they could select them instead.

First, the board is seeded randomly with suspect and crime tiles at each of the 14 locations. Some tiles are No Suspect or No Crime. Then, 9 evidence cards are drawn and laid out for display at the top of the board. Also, each player is given a 'case' which consists of a suspect, location and a crime (sort of like Clue).

Board Game: P.I.


You attempt to solve the case to the right by making 'guesses' using either the evidence cards or one of your detective tiles.

You only have 5 detective tiles to use in solving 3 cases so you must use them sparingly. Thus, you usually will just be selecting an evidence card. Evidence cards represent locations, suspects and crimes - there is only 1 card available for each.

Once selected, the person to your right gives you information as to how close (in proximity on the board) that item is in relation to itself and the other 2 items of the case. Disc(s) are placed for exactly correct guesses and cubes are placed if the item is directly adjacent to the location of the evidence card (sort of like Mastermind)

Then, the game comes down to deducing from the evidence which suspect, location and crime are involved with your case.

In a way, this game is multi-player Mastermind but with a different sort of spacial element and a bit more depth. The two things that raise it a couple levels above Mastermind are the Detectives which give you (potentially) more specific information but are limited in number and have to be managed (i.e. you have to be careful how many you use on each case since you only have 5 for 3 cases) and the deck of evidence cards. The cards come out randomly but in a fairly significant number. They control where you can make good guesses in trying to get more information.

Interestingly, selecting an evidence card and getting NO specific clues also helps you in determining what is NOT part of your case.

Eventually, you have enough information to uncover your case elements and make a guess if you've solved your case. If you're right you get more points if you are first to solve your case and less points if you are after other players. If you guess incorrectly you are penalized.

Overall I really enjoyed the game trying to efficiently solve the puzzle of my case before the other players solved theirs.

The only major issue I really had with the game was that some cases seemed easier or more difficult depending on how close together the elements were for each case. Also, the board can be a bit busy as there's a lot going on with the artwork and then you add the element tiles and finally the player cubes and discs during the game.

I suspect that it is probably best with 2 or 3 players, because any more and you might be waiting a while as others puzzle over their case evidence.

We felt the rules were a bit dense and hard to understand for what really boils down to a very simple game mechanically.

Overall I really enjoyed it as I do have a soft spot for deduction games (Mastermind was actually a favorite growing up). Its not anything that really wowed me, but at the same time we found we were pulled in more and more as we played as the cleverness of it was certainly appealing and ultimately it was challenging trying to deduce your own case.

Verdict: 7.5 / 10 -



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Mon Nov 12, 2012 2:00 pm
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JUST GAMING AROUND - Worst gaming month EVAR! (well, in the past 3-1/2 years) - I blame it on good weather....

-matt s.
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Well, it wasn't a HORRIBLE month exactly, but my FTF gaming count in August was the worst on record (in terms of total games played) in the
3-1/2 years I have been recording my game plays.

This is what I played:
Set - 2
Dominion: Prosperity - 1
Lords of Vegas - 1
Ninjato - 1
Perry Rhodan: The Cosmic League - 1
Railways of Europe - 1
San Juan - 1
Ticket to Ride - 1
Walnut Grove - 1

I'm not at all unhappy with what I actually played - in fact the games of Lords of Vegas, Perry Rhodan, Railways of Europe and Ticket to Ride were all really interesting plays of those games. Ninjato was a new game for me so that was great (looking forward to playing again, too, now that I understand it better). And Walnut Grove is always fun for me. Dominion scratched an itch where I haven't played it in a while and with the new set coming out I wanted to get it to the table again.

I will say my online gaming has been steadily going up since I started playing more early in the year but I almost never log my online plays. I HAVE logged a couple of Words with Friends (aka Scrabble) plays when my wife and I played full games in one day, but when they are spread out over days or weeks, I just don't bother.

It seems many times the only gaming I can get in is during my 'in-between' times and online play is conducive to this. 'In-between' time is: The time between dinner and the kids going to bed. The time between getting up and taking a shower. The time during my lunch breaks (I work from home most of the time, not that that particularly matters).

However, I am sad that my FTF gaming was so low as I really enjoy that time much more than the online gaming time - I THOUGHT I had more gaming opportunities, and in a way I did, but they were rarely fully capitalized on for one reason or another. When at Scout camp, the scout leader is someone I game with sometimes. We got in one game of San Juan later in the first evening after the kids were all tucked in. But, the following evenings I was either too tired or my son was too scared to be left alone in the tent <sigh>

When visiting my parents I thought we might have some time for gaming in the evenings. We ended up being very busy most of the time so gaming was limited to Walnut Grove with my dad (his first time playing it) when my mom and wife went out shopping, and then Ticket to Ride the last evening before we left. My dad seemed to really enjoy Walnut Grove although it probably helped that he won (I blame it on my tile draws and on focusing helping him see what his options were instead of my own game )

Funny, I always have plans (in my mind) that I'll be able to play a lot of games during the summer when, in fact, it seems summers are the worst for me - I blame it on the good weather!

Although, in July I had one of my BEST months ever with 66 games played! This was helped by the Oregon Cup weekend (which I will be posting about soon in another entry and a detailed geeklist) AND a different camping weekend where we had a lot more downtime (and thus opportunity to play games, albeit mostly lighter games).

I'm looking forward to the school year now as, even though it presents its own challenges, I'm more likely to be indoors and want to set up games nights (and perhaps have more opportunities to do so)

Its funny, for the past 3-1/2 years I've been very consistent about logging my game plays. Sometimes it seems almost pointless, but then I seem to run across opportunities for learning something from my game play logging such as when I last played a particular game or remembering whom I gamed with in the past or, if I recorded details about a game, what happened during the game and what I may have learned about it. Its also interesting to see trends over time of when I have opportunities to play and when I don't.

I'm curious how it is for others on two fronts:
1. Do you log game plays? If not, why not? If so, what benefits do you personally get from logging them?
2. What times of year are more active and less active for you? Is there some consistency to it (such as weather or situations) or just it just naturally go up and down for you?

I'd love to see your comments on game play logging and when you are more likely to be actively playing.


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Wed Sep 5, 2012 6:22 pm
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JUST GAMING AROUND - Yucata.de Online Gaming Review with my Impressions after 100+ plays

-matt s.
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A year ago I was just not that interested in playing games online. But as of late, I have found that I've actually been enjoying it quite a bit.

So what changed? I thought I'd describe my experiences with Yucata (http://www.yucata.de/), what I like about it, what I don't.

In the Beginning
First, let's back up a bit. Last year in March I signed up for an account on Yucata I played a handful of games including Vikings, Oregon and Saint Petersburg. I had a good time with it on and off for about a month but life got busy then and I kind of dropped off playing in May.

Then, I started back up in September again. I really got into playing Oregon (mainly because of my friend garygarison) and also playing Vikings which I played with a variety of people. I loved playing Stone Age FTF but shied away from playing it online at first - it's a dice game and I kind of like actually rolling the dice. However, I later started playing it as well and found that I was having a great time trying out a variety of strategies.

Why might you want to play a game on Yucata?
So, I used to be very against playing games online. I think this stemmed from me playing Hive with an AI - I could play a number of games really quickly and, eventually, I figured out what the AI was doing to win and started emulating it - honestly, it kind of ruined Hive for me.

So, I was tending to shy away from online gaming at all. But, then when I thought about it, playing another player (which is what Yucata offers) seemed much more interesting than playing an AI. When I realized this is when it seems my playing more online really took off.

Reasons to Consider Trying Online Gaming
There are many reasons to play games online. Here are some that you might consider if you are hesitant yourself:

* You can try out a game you aren't sure if you will like or not - before making a purchase. However, keep in mind that some games are better played FTF rather than online - your preferences may dictate this so keep this in mind.
* Ability to play games with someone that is far away from you or that you may never be able to meet FTF. I've been playing with some online-only friends that live half-way around the world and it's a nice way to interact with other people that I might not otherwise have spent time playing actual games with.
* Play games with someone that you normally don't have time to play games with. I play games with several people that are in town but that I don't normally have time to get together with more regularly. It's a nice way to stay in touch and get some gaming with them between FTF sessions.
* Ability to play games in the small time slices in your day. There are many days I am not able to get together with friends to spend even a couple of hours to play a game. Usually if I want to get together with people to play I want to get more than one game played so we usually require several hours. With Yucata, you are splitting up those hours across days, fitting in your moves when you have time. Sometimes I'm waiting for my kids or my wife to finish a task (say brushing teeth before bedtime). In those couple of minutes I can sit down and get in my next move.

Even better, because I'm often playing multiple games, I can play through turns on several games at the same time.

Features of Yucata
So, what is Yucata like? Well, the interface is fairly basic, no fancy bells and whistles in terms of main web site interface. It's 'clean' but somewhat dull. However, it IS fairly functional and not too difficult to get around. It has it's quirks but none that frustrate me too much. Except maybe the in-game chat....

Some features that the site has:
* All the game rules are available on the site and, in fact, can be reached directly from the game interface if you need to check on a rule.
* There is a messaging feature where you can send private notes to other users outside of any games.
* There is a public chat area where anyone could be chatting at any given time - usually it's just for quick meet-ups or for people to give congratulations, etc. I tend not to use it and prefer private messages or in-game chat messages.
* There are user profile pages where information can be customized including putting in your BGG username for cross-referencing purposes. It also has user ranking overall on the site as well as ranking information for each specific game. I don't care about the rankings too much other than maybe to size up other players. Also, I'm ranked in the top 30 currently for the game Oregon so I check on this from time-to-time so I'm aware of it but it's not critical to my happiness in playing games (although it does contribute I guess )
* There are also discussion areas where you can report bugs or ask questions about specific games. The developers are pretty good about getting back with answers to questions within a day or two usually.
* If you're looking for someone to play a game you can check the Invitations list to see if anyone has an open invitation for a game. If not, you can create your own open invitation, or you can stick to inviting just players you know.


Here are the games I have been playing and a bit of info about how they work on Yucata:
Note that I've almost exclusively been playing all my games as 2 player. There's just something about the head-to-head competition that I really enjoy. Also, there isn't a dependency on more players to make their moves so they tend to move along a bit faster.

Can't Stop - This is a classic Sid Sackson push-your-luck game rolling dice to get to the top of the board first. It's a simple and fast game. I haven't played for real since I was a teen but it's been fun to play online. Although, I think I'd rather be rolling real dice, but it's nice to play just the same. Interestingly, it somehow inherited a dice cup that looks like the real leather one from Stone Age! At least it doesn't smell!

The implementation is a little strange as the board is turned sideways to fit the window so you're kind of moving up at an angle. But it's nice that your choices are highlighted at the top for each roll. It just needs a 'wah-wah' sound when you bust

Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers - What I like about this implementation is you can hover over your hunters and your huts to see how much they are worth - no more counting and re-counting ... and counting again which you have to do FTF! Also, when placing tiles, as you rotate your tile to see where it might fit, it highlights all of the legal placements for it. Overall it's a very good implementation although the zooming of the board is a little cumbersome.

Chinagold - This is an interesting abstract game where each player is playing on a different 'board' but each is overlayed on top of the other such that actions you take can benefit both you and your opponent. This implementation is nice as it scores everything for you. The one thing I DON'T like is you can't undo your move - you must click correctly the first time or you're screwed.

ConHex - A nifty connection game that is interesting as it's non-obvious just looking at the board how you're doing - sometimes you think you're doing fine and then you realize you're in trouble. The implementation is really good as it does all the hard work for you AND you can revert your move after clicking somewhere.

Egizia - There's a lot of accounting in this game and the implementation handles it really well. It's clear what actions you can take (although not always obvious). It even has an option to turn on more highlighting to show all of the available action spaces (good for newbies). The unfortunate thing is the board is sideways and can put one a bit off-kilter, especially on the first play or two. It IS nice that there is an option when starting the game to not use two of the more powerful cards if you prefer not to.

Hacienda - Only played a few times and the implementation is very good here. It will let you know what is and isn't legal which is nice in a game that is fairly wide open. Unfortunately, it doesn't highlight all your options when you click a card. And, if you accidentally click a card to buy you can't backtrack because it has already revealed the next card, so make sure you click on what you really want when buying cards. When setting up the game you also have the option of a couple of different boards including ones not normally available in the real world.

Luna - Luna was a really tough game for me to learn FTF. Playing online didn't help that a lot, although this implementation has pop-up lists that show you all of your options when you click on or hover over different parts. This is nice, BUT there are SO many options around the board it's still confusing/overwhelming for someone new to the game. Also, you REALLY need to be able to plan out your moves ahead of time for several turns in advance. There is a NOTES features where you can make notes for yourself, but this can be a bit cumbersome. Personally, I've decided to avoid this game online because I'd rather just put my head into the game and play it through due to it's complexity. I will say it is a very good implementation overall though - very well done.

Oregon - Really nice implementation of this game. You can play very quickly if you know what you are doing. If you need to think/see your options you can click the cards and it grays out areas that you CANNOT place, thus showing where you CAN place - in real life you just do this in your head but clicking the cards and looking makes it much faster and less confusing. I only wish the gray-out part and highlighting showed a bit more contrast for some areas of the board as sometimes it's difficult to distinguish where you can place. Scoring in this game can be a bit tricky so it's nice to have it handled and just let you play the game. garygarison and I can knock out a full game in 20 minutes.

Ponte del Diavolo - Sometimes with abstracts it's hard to know what is and isn't a legal move. This is one where it's nice having the computer manage that for you - if you can't move on a spot you just can't click it. Being able to undo a move is nice as well. This game can play pretty fast although I think a FTF version of this must be really neat with the nifty bridges, so you kind of miss that, although it still looks great on the screen.

Saint Petersburg - This is another game where you kind of need to plan far ahead. Interestingly, I kind of don't mind it online as much as in Luna. I think the reason is because your options are fairly limited in what you can do and it's just a matter of planning what you want to do with your cards, plus the system automatically calculates discounts for you which is very nice. Yucata has a Notes feature which lets you take notes for yourself so you can remember what you want to do on future turns, esp. if you are only taking a couple of turns per day and I tend to make notes to myself in this game. However, you aren't planning so far in advance like in Luna so it's not as bothersome.

When playing St. Petersburg, I was having trouble distinguishing when the switch between rounds occurred so I made a recommendation for an updated implementation and they actually added a highlighting change to indicate a new round had started! Unfortunately, I haven't played much since they made the change, but it's great to see they listen to user feedback.

Stone Age - This is another of my favorite games to play on Yucata and FTF. On Yucata it is REALLY nice because it will highlight all of your legal placements for you which is really helpful in a 2 or 3 player game where there are limits to where you can place. This implementation also shows you your total points (including with your cards in hand, not just the scored points) if you hover over your scoring area. You can also see the other person's total points as well as all cards they have, so you ALWAYS know where you are at in terms of score. This is both good and bad - FTF it's a nice surprise to see who comes out ahead at the end. On Yucata, you always know and the tension is there because you know if you have to catch up and you know what cards the other player(s) are going for. The fact that the cards are all out doesn't bother me because its easy to scan them quickly so it doesn't slow down play much. In person, I could see that being a real problem (plus it would take a LOT of extra table space)

Two things to watch out for on this game: 1. When all placements are done and you're at the end of the round, be sure to click and activate ALL of your tribe members and make sure you didn't overlook anyone. The system will warn you if you forgot one, but if you play too quickly you might click past the message and effectively 'skip' part or all of the end of your turn. It's happened more than once, mainly from people trying to play through multiple games and not reading the messages closely. 2. Be sure to click on and activate your tribe members in the correct order - if you don't click the tool guy first to pick it up, you won't get to use it for your rolls! I wish the game gave you the food and tools first automatically, but alas it doesn't.

Torres - This is a relatively recent implementation of a game despite it being a fairly old game. I love Torres but don't get to play it much FTF, so it's nice to be playing it online. I wondered how they would do the stacks of tower pieces and, at first, I was quite disappointed because they just show an overhead view of the map and then show a number for how many tower pieces are stacked there. This was difficult to get over at first, but then it became apparent that this was a very good solution to the problem on a flat screen - it suddenly became a lot easier to calculate where you were in relation to the other player. Also, one really neat feature is for moving - you can click on one of your pawns and it immediately shows you how far you can move it with the actions you have and how many actions it will take to get there. This is MUCH easier than when playing FTF. I still miss the stacks of towers all over the board though.

Vikings - For this implementation, the circle of Vikings and tiles becomes a simple line of Vikings and tiles that move just move closer to the zero value (instead of turning the rotating circle like in real life). This is a fair change I supposed, but turning the wheel is kind of fun. A great feature here is if you pick a tile/viking combination then the system highlights all legal placements for the tiles. So, you can click on each of the options and see where you might be able to place them - very handy. My biggest gripe with this game, though, is the end-game scoring - it gives you a scoring summary, but it only shows you what you earned for each Viking, but not for any of the end-game bonuses and such! Really annoying and not helpful for newbies at all. Still, it's one of my favorites to play on Yucata because the turns are fairly quick and yet they are interesting as well.

MY FINAL COMMENTS:
Overall, I've really enjoyed my experience playing games on Yucata. The attitude there seems to be very similar to that on BGG with people just happy to play. There's no arguments or swearing and such, just nice civil people wanting to play some fun games.

I will say that occasionally I've played random people where the experience isn't quite as fun as playing someone that I know - someone I can chat with during the game and have a bit of conversation in addition to playing the game. I've played some games where we never chatted much at all and it just felt like I was playing against an AI or robot. I have found I WANT a bit of social interaction and sometimes it's lacking depending on who you are playing. I've sometimes even sent messages to these people afterwards to say 'nice game' and such but still no response. I typically won't play with them again.

What I like about Yucata:
* Large variety of games (72 currently - see list below)
* Relatively easy interface
* Lots of people available for playing
* You can see when people are online and when they are offline (although I've had some consistency issues with this, but it's fine most of the time)
* Performance is generally very good
* Regular additions of new games
* Ranking system encourages good play (but is not critical to whom you can game with although some people might not play with you if not ranked high enough)
* Ability to play games quickly live with people
* Ability to go back and review a game
* Site has relatively friendly people without worrying about getting into disagreements or seeing poor behavior
* BGG username can be entered for cross-identification - many BGG frequenters are also on Yucata
* Private and Public invitations can be left
* Easy to find a game via the invitations

THINGS I WOULD LIKE CHANGED ON YUCATA:
* Chat feature in games is significantly lacking - This one really bugs me. First, you can typically only send in-game 'chat' messages when it's your turn. The other person only receives it when it's their turn - even if they are online at the same time. Also, if it is NOT your turn, you can't consistently 'send' messages AND, if you are successful in sending, the other player won't get it until their NEXT turn. The chat really needs to be 'live' like Yahoo Instant Messenger. This would be REALLY helpful for those teaching games to newbies because they could give instructions to them when it's the newbie's turn.

* Final scoring sometimes not obvious/shown - Some games need better final scoring summaries so that you can see where all the points are coming from. Sometimes its obvious, but when it's not there should be something more explicit.

THINGS THAT ANNOY ME ABOUT YUCATA (but I can live with them):
* No page that shows everything about current invites and games together - There is a page that shows the general chat window, any games where it's your turn and any invitations you have received. There is also a page which shows you ALL of your games (even if you aren't on turn) but nothing else. But I'd like to see them combined so I can see ALL my games AND my personal invites. My reason is that I like to see who is online and who isn't so I might not have a turn but will know I might have a turn soon if they are still online. It's not a huge deal, but I tend to stick to the page just listing all the games and so I miss out on any new invites I might have received. I suspect others may have the same issue.

* No longer works on my (WebOS) phone and some games don't play properly on other mobile devices depending on what features are implemented. I know my WebOS phone is not as well supported now, fine, but it would be nice if the games could be revamped to ensure they work on more mobile devices in general as it's a bit inconsistent right now.

* Some players refuse to play with other players that are ranked significantly lower (due to how the rank scoring works). This is not too wide-spread and I usually just avoid playing with these people and move on to another player or someone I know instead.

ANNOYING THINGS ABOUT ONLINE GAMING IN GENERAL:
* Waiting for a long time for slow players - This is more of problem with other users than anything. If I have to wait more than a few days to make my next move, I've forgotten what I was going to do and kind of lost interest. Usually this isn't a problem, but it does happen.

* Can be a lot less social, especially if playing with random players. Sometimes a pick-up game is nice when your usual gaming buddies aren't online, but it can be hit or miss if they even want to 'talk'.

One other comment: playing several games simultaneously detracts from being immersed in a single game. Sometimes this isn't a problem, but some games its something that bothers me. I love it when someone I'm playing is online and we can play through a lot of turns and maybe even play a full game or finish out a game in one session - its just a much more satisfying way for me to play.

Well, that about wraps up my review on Yucata. Hopefully I've given you some insight into Yucata for online gaming and perhaps have given you something to think about if you've been on the fence about trying it.

Below is the full list of games available on Yucata currently which I pulled from the site then added links to quickly get you to the information or to set up an invitation.

Hopefully you give Yucata or some other online site a shot to try a game or two. There are many other sites out there as well, although I'm not going to provide details here as the focus is on Yucata which I prefer at the moment, but maybe try to find a site you're comfortable with where you like the games and the interface and the players - and if you don't like it move on to another site.

Now get out there and give an online game site a try!


Yucata Info / Yucata Invite / BGG Game Link / Comment
1. (Info / Play) A Few Acres of Snow BETA --> Martin Wallace designed 2 player deck building of war between Britain and France in North America.
2. (Info / Play) Alchemist --> Mix potions and try to make your secret ingredient the most valuable.
3. (Info / Play) Arkadia
4. (Info / Play) Arktia
5. (Info / Play) Aronda
6. (Info / Play) Atlantida
7. (Info / Play) Atoll
8. (Info / Play) Atta Ants
9. (Info / Play) Awale --> aka: Mancala
10. (Info / Play) Balloon Cup
11. (Info / Play) Bangkok Klongs
12. (Info / Play) Black Friday --> Recent Friedemann Friese game.
13. (Info / Play) Campaign Manager 2008
14. (Info / Play) Can't Stop --> Classic Sid Sackson!
15. (Info / Play) Capt'n W. Kidd
16. (Info / Play) Carcassonne H&G
17. (Info / Play) Carolus Magnus
18. (Info / Play) Chinagold
19. (Info / Play) Down Under
20. (Info / Play) Dragonheart
21. (Info / Play) Egizia --> A game I acquired a couple of months ago and now I know how to play because of Yucata! Now to play FTF….
22. (Info / Play) Era of Inventions
23. (Info / Play) Famiglia
24. (Info / Play) Fearsome Floors
25. (Info / Play) Finca
26. (Info / Play) Firenze
27. (Info / Play) Founding Fathers
28. (Info / Play) Four in a row
29. (Info / Play) Gobang & Gomoku
30. (Info / Play) Hacienda
31. (Info / Play) Hexxagon
32. (Info / Play) Hey, that's my fish
33. (Info / Play) Industrial Waste
34. (Info / Play) Just 4 Fun
35. (Info / Play) Just 4 Fun Colours
36. (Info / Play) Kahuna
37. (Info / Play) Kamisado
38. (Info / Play) Kanaloa
39. (Info / Play) King of Siam
40. (Info / Play) Luna --> Good implementation but I only want to play this FTF.
41. (Info / Play) Maori
42. (Info / Play) Masons
43. (Info / Play) Morris
44. (Info / Play) One-Eye
45. (Info / Play) Oregon --> One of my very favorites to play on Yucata - especially if played 'live'
46. (Info / Play) Othello
47. (Info / Play) Pergamon
48. (Info / Play) Pompeii
49. (Info / Play) Ponte del Diavolo
50. (Info / Play) Richelieu
51. (Info / Play) Roll through the Ages
52. (Info / Play) Saint Petersburg --> A tough game to play - Yucata is a great place to get some practice.
53. (Info / Play) Santiago de Cuba
54. (Info / Play) Shanghaien
55. (Info / Play) Six
56. (Info / Play) Sobek
57. (Info / Play) Space Mission BETA
58. (Info / Play) Sticky Fingers
59. (Info / Play) Stone Age --> one of my very favorite games to play on Yucata.
60. (Info / Play) Sudoku Moyo
61. (Info / Play) Tally Ho!
62. (Info / Play) The Speicherstadt
63. (Info / Play) Thunderstone --> Have yet to try this but am interested in seeing how it plays.
64. (Info / Play) Thurn and Taxis
65. (Info / Play) Torres --> A recent addition to the site and a good implementation (although I miss the 3D tower building in real life)
66. (Info / Play) Trias
67. (Info / Play) Two by Two
68. (Info / Play) Tyrus
69. (Info / Play) Vikings --> Another of my favorite Yucata games to play!
70. (Info / Play) War of the Roses
71. (Info / Play) Yspahan
72. (Info / Play) Yucata --> The 'original' Yucata.de game (duh!)



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Mon Mar 5, 2012 1:00 pm
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JUST GAMING AROUND - New games played and briefly reviewed (no really) [includes Kingdom Builders, Mondo and Die Burgen von Burgund]

-matt s.
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Eugene
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So, this weekend I had a birthday gaming weekend with a few friends. The full list of games played is detailed here:
2012 Birthday Gaming Weekend

However, I wanted to give a tiny bit more detailed impression of the new games I played. My resolution this year is to write more with less, so I'm trying that (although I think I have only partly succeeded on this post). The GL only took me 1-1/2 hours to write (that's fast for me!) but this post (now that I've written more of it) took a bit longer. BUT, I covered a number of games in detail so I feel pretty good about it anyhow.

New games I played this weekend were:

Mondo
Snapshot: This is a fun puzzly, speed based, tile laying game. You have a board and you are placing tiles that have animals, mountains, volcanoes and landscape types on them. You are trying to create as many complete landscape areas as possible while minimizing unmatched edges, minimizing erupting volcanoes, and maximizing animals. Play occurs simultaneously for all players pulling tiles from a center pile, much as in Galaxy Trucker. After three 7 minute rounds you total each round's scores to see who wins.

Pros: Fast, fun, puzzly. Advanced goals add additional challenges as does the double-sided boards. Nice quality components and nice clean, clear artwork and colors.
Cons: Speed games might not appeal to everyone.

Verdict: This game was great fun and right up my alley. It was fun trying to grab the tiles you need and rush to get them on the board in the time limit, especially with some of the advanced rules. This game has gone directly onto my Wishlist!

Spy vs Spy
Snapshot: Build tunnels from your corner of the board by laying tiles from a hand of 4 tiles to reach bombs on the board and bring them back to your hideout without getting blown up. You can also place spy tiles to block the tunnels of other players. Bombs that blow up send you back to your start. Bombs you get back safely give you something special such as an extra turn or the ability to place another tile.

Pros: An fun game with some interesting decisions, turns are relatively quick and there's a bit of tension when you roll the die to see if you....err, die, when your bomb blows up.
Cons: A bit nasty for a kids game and can be a little frustrating, but not quite enough going to be a standout for non-kid players. Still, something worthy of playing and being entertained while playing.

Verdict: A fun game for once-in-a-while playing as a filler or kids game. If I found it in a thrift store I would probably pick it up if the price was right.

Alea Iacta Est
Snapshot: Roll your dice and place in varying combinations in one of several areas to collect end-game tiles, people tiles and matching location tiles. You can start off small and later bolster your position in each location by adding to your dice. There are also 'pee' colored tokens you collect from the latrine that give you the opportunity to re-roll some or all of your dice.

Pros: Despite the apparently low number of choices of where to place your dice, there's enough to choose from (both due to revealed tiles as well as values of what other players have placed) to make the decisions interesting. The dice are small but good quality, the latrine is fun, and the ability to expand/shrink the play areas for more or less people. There's even an additional area when playing with more players.
Cons: I could see this game wearing out it's welcome if played a ton, but I enjoyed the game play and choices. The artwork is ok and some of the iconography was a bit opaque on the end-game tiles.

Verdict: This isn't at the top of my list to purchase, but I'd likely pick it up if it was available for a decent price.

Manhattan
Snapshot: Over 6 rounds you get 4 cards that show a 9x9 grid and a dot in one square - this is where you can place a building segment in one of the 6 city areas. The cool thing is because each person sits on different sides of the table the card is oriented from your perspective. Well, it seemed cool at first, but it didn't seem to have any actual effect on the game.

After you get your hand of cards you choose 4 building segments consisting of 1 to 4 floors then start placing them into new city squares (based on the dots on the card) or on top of other building segments giving you ownership. You play a card and then place a building segment to start a new building or to put on top of an existing building. After everyone plays their cards, you get points for the tallest building, a point for each building you are at the top of, and the most buildings you are at the top of in each one of the 6 city areas.

Pros: Simple rules, simple components, simple board. The game is interesting with many decisions and tactics to try.
Cons: Very thin theme may turn some people off. Plastic components are difficult to tell overall tower sizes sometimes when comparing buildings.

Verdict: I enjoyed the game and I don't mind abstract games so the thin theme didn't bother me. There were always interesting decisions to make, but sometimes you could definitely get screwed if you got cards you didn't need when you need to react to a certain situation. This forces you to be creative with what you've got but sometimes even that isn't possible. This may not necessarily go on my Wishlist, but I might pick it up for a good price.

Kingdom Builder
Snapshot: First you set up a random hex grid combining 4 of 8 board sides, each with a different special action building. Then, draw 3 of 10 end-game scoring goal cards. These set the stage for the type of placements for your settlements on the board. On a turn, draw a landscape card and follow the placement rules to place 1 of your 40 settlements. You can gain action tokens from the special buildings and use those on your turn in combination with your landscape card to move existing settlements or be able to place more. The game ends in the round when someone has place all 40 buildings.

Pros: Great looking graphics, configurable board and goals setup ensure a different game nearly every time. Interesting decisions once you get your 'engine' going.
Cons: This is another abstract game disguised with a thin theme. Drawing and playing only 1 card seems it could be a bit limiting, especially in the early game.

Verdict: Definitely has a Dominion vibe, but is very different in gameplay as it's more of a puzzle to figure out how to optimize/combo the landscape card you got with the actions available and the end game goals. The thin theme doesn't bother me at all nor does the limited card 'hand'. Reading the rules prior to playing it was obvious to me it was pretty abstract. Some of the more negative opinions kind of made me not want to even give it a try but the positive reviews kept my hopes up. I have to tell you I am very glad I did try it and I really had a great time on my first play. This type of game really works for me and the variety in configurability will keep me interested for a while. I can't wait for my own copy arrives so I can give it another go!

7 Wonders: Leaders
Snapshot: There are 42 white backed leader cards in this expansion that give certain special abilities. The 'abilities' are generally similar to what you get on the regular building cards such as money, military, end-game VPs, and perhaps some other special bonuses. You draft 4 leaders before the main game starts, then play 1 leader at the beginning of each round. So, it basically adds 1 additional card to your tableau each round (1 leader each isn't used).

You also get 1 new civ board and 4 new purple VP cards, plus some 6 coin tokens (you get to start with 3 more coins than in the normal game to help you pay for the leaders).

Pros: The Leader cards can give you some nice bonuses and extra things like more military or more money. The ability to also use the leader cards to build the Wonder is a nice option (or discard for 3 coins)
Cons: The leaders and extra bonus cards add to the setup and play time. However, this was not too significant, so it isn't too much of a negative.

Verdict: I liked the leaders a lot. You get a few more options or have cards to dump into the Wonder at the very minimum without having to sacrifice a building card instead. I'm very glad that I received this expansion for my b-day. I don't think I'm going to feel obligated to use them every time, but it will be nice to throw something different into the mix.

Die Burgen von Burgund
Snapshot: You are building your kingdom by rolling 2 dice then first picking up tiles (set up in areas for selection according to your rolls) to place in reserve (limited to 3 per player at a time) then put those tiles onto the board using another die. Some tiles grant straight points, some have special abilities that let you get more tiles, place tiles, or get money. Some let you pick up goods and change the turn order. You can get money by shipping goods or building mines. Also, money earned can be used to purchase additional tiles from a special area on the board.

Pros: The dice roll mechanic to limit options is interesting and a great take on the worker placement type of mechanic - not quite worker placement, but with similar results. Turns are generally fairly short so downtime isn't too bad. Despite the limited options, there are ways to expand your options such that you usually don't feel too stuck if you plan carefully. Potential for playing 2 to 4 players is also a big plus.
Cons: It IS luck driven with random tile draws and dice rolls for tile selection and this might turn some people off. Components are nice but the tiles are very small with tiny graphics which can be hard to read from across the table.

Verdict: Ok, this wasn't my first time playing, but it was only my 2nd time and it's been at least 6 months since the first play. I'd been biding my time waiting for it to become available and my lovely wife was able to find a copy for me for Xmas (along with the expansion boards, too!).

I love the combos and the variety of options you have with every dice roll. The gameplay overall is about the right length and seems to be well balanced. There is some interaction, but it's mostly indirect as you try to grab tiles needed before other players take them from you (or steal others' tiles before THEY can get them)

I'm really loving this game - I love the look of it and the puzzly nature of it. I like how the dice rolls limit your options, but you can expand your options by using special tokens. There are a lot of tiles and they come out differently every time which helps change things up, especially since not all tiles will come out every time so you need to be opportunistic with what's coming out. And I love hitting a good combo.


--------------------------------------
Well, that's it for now. Ok, the overall post ended up being fairly long, but each description is shorter so hopefully it's not too much to read through. I'm trying to be more succinct. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm trying.


Now go try a new game that you've got hiding on the shelf, still in shrink, and give it some love!

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Wed Jan 11, 2012 10:50 pm
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