Matt's Board Game Back Room

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JUST GAMING AROUND - EGG Game Day - ESSEN GAMES GALORE - My first plays and impressions

-matt s.
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The EGG Game Day was the weekend of November 12 graciously hosted by our Chief EGG Head, Lorna (and, yes, I'm very slow to getting this posted - due to Thanksgiving and spending my 'writing' time working on Dominion dividers for Hinterlands), :


Lorna goes to Essen every year and picks up a number of Essen releases then invites locals over to give them a go. I received at least a couple of invitations but unfortunately I was too busy to be able to attend.

So, I was really looking forward to the EGG Game Day as I had most of the day open to be able to play games (well, after an early-day Scouting activity). And, I was really looking forward to getting in some of those Essen games I'd been drooling over.

The night before I read through the rules of Dungeon Petz as it was one of several games near the top of my 'to play' list. I've been hoping that it might be something I could play with my kids. Reading the rules closely really started getting me excited about playing it. I did have some concerns though whether my kids (8 & 11) would be able to play it as it I read through the many moving parts.

I could go into a long description of the details of attending the game day (like I usually do) but I'm not - I'd rather go into a long description of the games themselves. Well, ok, I'm going to try to be short...or medium length at least.

Here's a quick rundown of the NON-Essen games I played first:
* PitchCar - My friend Chris (Togra) left me a message the day before to bring PitchCar as his wife wanted to give it a go. So, I brought it and set it up with her soon after I arrived. Upon setting it up we played a 3-player, 2-lap game with a third, Doug. It had a nice looping hairpin and a longish jump (which we shortened later). She seemed to enjoy it quite a bit despite realizing it was more difficult to play than on the iPad...I didn't even KNOW they had it on the iPad!

* 7 Wonders - My friends Aric and Heather attended for their first time at my suggestion and I wanted to get a game in with them. They have attended a couple of game nights at my house and have been more and more interested in trying different games. I figured they would like this one and we also happened to have 7 people looking to play a game so this seemed like an obvious choice. I've really enjoyed my few plays of it and I'm enjoying trying different ways to try to score points. Everyone seemed to have a great time and the newbies (A&H, plus Greg who only played once before) picked up the game quickly (not surprisingly). Interestingly, all the players with resources were at one end of the table and all the players with military were at the other end of the table - and the military side ended up with mostly the lowest scores, mainly due to lack of......resources! As usual, a quick, fun, solid game.

Well, I have to laugh at myself a bit here - I thought I had played more Non-Essen games, but, nope, it was just these two! Overall, I was there for about 10 hours and I ended up playing a total of 8 games, 6 of which were Essen releases (well, 5 games, I played Mondriaan 2020 twice).

So, here are the Essen games in the order that I played them (barring the Non-Essen releases)

* Dungeon Petz - I had read the rules before arriving and was looking forward to getting this played. It took a little while to get everything set up and fully taught - there's a lot going on here. I love the artwork and I enjoyed the gameplay quite a bit as well. Putting together all the groups of imps with money was an interesting mechanic as it was very difficult to play out your entire turn without knowing what everyone else was doing...you seem to have to just focus on your 1 or 2 key important things then take what you can for the rest. I really like how as your pets grow you get more and more cards for them. Having magic books is nice to give you an extra card or two for the rest of the game. There's a lot to think about, but at the same time

It seems we were mostly pretty lucky with the card draws (or were we just skilled at managing our hands?) - none of us ONCE had a suffering monster OR a mutation. I think if the cards came out differently it could have been more of a problem...we didn't see too many negative effects of 'luck' in this game, although I suspect horrible card draws could likely really screw you over. The tough part is you need to place your creatures in cages BEFORE drawing cards, so you obviously aren't 100% sure you can get what you want. But, it seemed there was enough to do to keep your pets mostly happy and contained. I think getting the 'books' which let you hold an extra card helped as well as having multiple creatures from which to draw and select cards.

The last round was toughest as the differences between the Exhibition and the Customers was fairly wide, plus we all had non planned properly to be able to sell a monster each to both customers (only having 1 appropriate sized creature each)

The point difference between 1st (Lorna) and 2nd (me) was only 1-1/2 points, so it definitely came down to the wire and if either of us had drawn 1 or 2 different needs cards, it could have flip-flopped easily, so I guess luck of the draw can make a difference. But honestly, there's so much going on it's hard to say exactly which moves did and didn't ultimately make a difference by the end.

This game is now on my Christmas wishlist. I think it might be a tad heavy for my kids to play, but I think I can at least tweak it a bit if necessary just to have fun playing it with them.

* Mondriaan 2020 - This is an interesting game from Cwali for 2 players. The game consists of 11 large-ish square tiles for each player plus 1 additional to draw as a starting tile. Each tile has 1-3 colors on it. You take all 11 tiles as a 'hand' and select any one tile to play on your turn. Colors must match on played tiles. You then receive 1 point per 'section' of that color in the extended area (i.e. count all attached tile sections except the tile you played). Keep a running tally on a piece of paper. Whomever has the largest total when no more legal plays are available is the winner!

This game feels familiar and yet different. It actually feels a little like ConHex but without the goal of connecting the ends of the board. The key to the game seems to be getting large scoring areas without letting your opponent get in on them - if you can do that consistently and they can't you'll come out ahead.

Apparently the game was inspired by Mondriaan's artwork, but in reality the lines could have been drawn in a number of different ways (curvy, sketchy, etc) with different colors and the game would play exactly the same. Still, it has a sort of the feel of his artwork, but not enough for me really - no solid black lines, not quite the patterning I'd expect. It works for the game and looks neat, but it isn't Mondriaan for me unfortunately...

The game was fun and fast enough that we played twice in less than 30 minutes including teaching. I'm not itching to get it but if there was an opportunity to pick it up I might.

* Space Maze - I was quite interested in this game reading about it. I loved the idea of working through a maze with different colored space aliens. The goal is to get the relic (tinfoil looking hat) in the middle and get it back to your spaceship. You also get a token each time you steal it from someone else and can win by getting 3 tokens.

The most intriguing element for me was the gates between rooms (square tiles) of the maze are colored red, blue and yellow. These colors must 'mix' to match the color of the alien that you want to move through the gates. Then, you can play action cards to rotate or swap the squares to change who can go through each of the gates. I really liked this idea.

The issue I had with this game was I was expecting the game to be a bit faster paced. The way the cards came out and how you perform your actions, you only get 1 set of moves per turn. Then, if your action cards only let you rotate you're kind of stuck. This all is especially frustrating when you have to use your movement points to get more/better cards instead of moving the direction you need/want.

I would say my expectations were different than what the game ended up being. It was very difficult with 4 players to get yourself anywhere at times, made even more difficult by people then moving you back again wrecking your progress.

Ultimately, I still need to wait to try it again before I determine if this is a game I might want to get. I think the key is understanding how to leverage the action cards to get more 'movement' out of your turn.

* Tournay - I, like many other geeks, LOVED Troyes. For me, it got to the point of making my own mini copy of it before it became available. Granted, it didn't get played as much as I'd hoped before I got the 'real' copy, but I enjoyed the project. And, I still really love the game.

So, when I heard about Tournay it seemed like an instant buy for me, even after reading about it being a card game with no dice, but many similarities including the artwork (which I really like) and work placement aspects.

Lorna agreed to teach and Bryon joined us mid-teaching - he had not played before as well. I liked the idea of having limited space to build your buildings and the idea of building in such a way as to try to set up combos.

In playing, I never quite felt obligated to go after the event cards and so, I didn't. And, according to Lorna, the town criers came out very quickly making this normally shorter game even shorter than usual.

Still, my biggest complaint was the fact that EVERY card has different iconography and it's difficult to say what each building does. Even with the information provided it wasn't always perfectly clear. There is a reference card for all the symbols (a full sheet in fact) but even that doesn't seem to cover everything (or show the possible variety in the symbols).

Now, I'm not against having initial difficulty trying to figure out what cards do, but I will say it definitely made the first play a bit of a slog trying to even read through each of the cards, compare abilities, and make choices when selecting 1 card out of 2. In Troyes, when the action cards came out, everyone read through them once, deciphered them together, then we could move on to playing the game. Our very first time playing from the rulebook was extremely slow, but once we got past the initial interpretation we were good. Here, you had to deal with this sort of situation nearly EVERY TURN! In fact, with the cards in hand and the cards in the tableau it was a bit overwhelming for being a 'simple' card game.

Ultimately, it seemed I made several not-so-good choices and couldn't get any of my tableau to combo properly.

Bryon on the other hand seemed to catch on quickly and was really working his combos. I will say he is very good at grokking new games and performing well right out of the gate, but I was honestly amazed he did so well.

Well, having said all that, I 'got' the general idea, I just couldn't execute - whether this was due to not understanding the cards, or just not getting the right ones to synergize, it's hard to tell.

I will say this is a game that requires knowledge of the cards to a great degree to be able to play well I think. I'm just not sure that if I bought it I would be playing it enough to get to that level.

Anyhow, Tournay didn't click for me like Troyes did - I think Troyes was so innovative in it's use of dice and that part was quite understandable and created a degree of interaction that made it really interesting.

I am intrigued by Tournay, but I have other games ahead of it that I'd rather play instead. Needless to say I won't be making my own mini version of this game although I won't be against picking it up next year when the price comes down from US distribution and/or people re-selling it.

* Trajan - Reading about the Mancala mechanic on Board Game News initially made me scratch my head a bit - how exactly was that going to work? Then, as the idea sank in I began to imagine the possibilities and it had me intrigued.

So, when Chris S. suggested playing it I jumped at the chance. I really had no idea about the specifics of how the game worked, but it was a Stephan Feld game and it sounded interesting so I was ready to give it a go. Also, since Chris had played it earlier in the day and was suggesting it, that seemed to be a good sign that it wasn't a BAD game at the very least

What do you do in this game? Well, you move some bits around in your own little circular 'Mancala'. The bits are multi-colored and get picked up and re-distributed just like in Mancala. The key here is that you want colors to end up in the right pockets such that they begin to match patterns on the special action tiles played adjacent to them. Then, whatever pocket you place the last bit in triggers that associated action AND, if there is also a special action tile there and you match it's pattern, you get to do that as well. There's a bit more to it then that, but you get the idea.

So, what do you then do with all these actions? Well, each corresponds to a different area of the board where you pick up tiles that give you points, resources or special abilities, and some also let you draw and/or play cards.

Without going into too much detail, it basically amounts to a mult-level set collection game where you are trying to be as efficient as possible in gathering the sets and also try to activate combos that let you do more on your turn to get you even more stuff.

The theme on this game is paper thin - if you like theme you may have a problem here as this game really is very abstract and sort of reminds me of a Knizia in this respect - do a bunch of stuff to collect sets of stuff that gets you more points with more or larger sets. There is also the need to collect a set of stuff that everyone else is collecting and have it completed by the end of each of the 4 rounds or else you LOSE points.

Ok, I suppose that sounds boring BUT this sort of game is right up my alley and I quite enjoyed it. I'm intrigued by the Mancala and I love the multiple ways you can score points in this game. It seems you have to really focus on a couple of key areas and then just try to keep up in the rest of the areas and hope you can outpace everyone else with your bonuses by the end.

I'm not yet sure if I'd buy this game right now - probably eventually it will be on my self, but I'm not highly motivated like I am to pick up something like Dungeon Petz.

Still, I really had a great time even though I found I made a critical mistake mid-game which stalled me for about 1-1/2 turns and I never quite was able to recover.

---------------------------------------
Overall, I'm happy to have played all of these, although some of my top interests are still unplayed (Drum Roll, Helvetia, Powergrid - First Sparks, Pala, Village, Walnut Grove, Kingdom Builder) - and I don't think Lorna even has a couple of those.

Anyhow, I'm very grateful to Lorna running the game day and also for purchasing and making the Essen games available for playing. I'm sure I'll be picking up at least Dungeon Petz and perhaps Trajan as well. Tournay and Mondriaan 2020 are on my possible buy list but I think I have other priorities first. I like the concepts behind Space Race but it hasn't won me over enough yet to make a purchase - but it definitely warrants another play or two before I decide for sure...if I ever get around to trying it again.


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Wed Nov 30, 2011 7:38 pm
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JUST GAMING AROUND - More Yucata PLUS Trying out Vassal with 'Inspector Moss 2' - PnP solitaire game design winner (aka Am I Gaming Online Again? 1-Player even?)

-matt s.
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Eugene
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YUCATA REPRISED
I'd stated before that online gaming isn't so much my thing. And then I tried out Yucata back in March and found that I enjoyed it. I played a few games then got busy at the end of the school year and during the summer and didn't revisit online gaming.

Well, a couple of weeks ago I had some friends over and we ALMOST played Hacienda (which I got to play at the Gaming Olympics early last month and wanted to play again), but it was a split decision and we played some other games instead.

My friend garygarison really wanted to try it though so we agreed to give it a go online. I invited him to a game of it, along with 4 or 5 other games (Stone Age and St. Petersburg) with some other online buddies. I haven't had a lot of FTF gaming the last couple of months so it has been a nice way to get in some gaming.

Since that first game we played a couple more times, then moved on to Oregon where he is KING OF OREGON (as he says - he's top ranked on it). We have played several games and finally got to where I only lost by 1 point on a couple of games! And yesterday I finally defeated the King of Oregon!

Anyhow, what's been great about Oregon in particular is that it plays very fast and has a lot of interesting little things going on and every game is different. One game we literally filled up one entire corner of the board and almost nothing else on the board. Other times we've been all over the place. I'm learning to love it's subtleties and fickleness with the card draws (and points draws on the Coal and Gold - which have been KILLING me in the end game, hence losing by 1 point at least twice as a result). I literally cannot stop playing it now. It's been a great way to unwind in the evenings and even get a quick game in during lunch.

I've also been learning to love the tightness and subtleties of St. Petersburg as well. I had never played it before playing online and it's been great online as I can take my time planning out my moves, reviewing what each card's benefits are, etc. The ability to take notes as reminders for myself between turns has been invaluable as well.

I'm really starting to enjoy online play. Who knew!?

VASSAL AND INSPECTOR MOSS
I must digress a bit though - what REALLY spurred me to actually plugging in again was a geek mail I got from one of the designers of the game Inspector Moss: House Arrest,
Jonathan Warren
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he apparently reads my blog and thought I should check it out. It recently won a recent Print and Play contest: Solitaire Print and Play Contest which is pretty cool.

The other designer is:
Rebekah B
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Well, I looked at it and, honestly, I thought the artwork was a little strange with heads stuck on pawns as bodies.

[ImageID= inline][ImageID= inline][ImageID= inline]
The detective you play - Inspector Moss, the dead guy - John Dough, and one of the suspects - Sue Phlaye

And, it's a solitaire game. I don't typically play solitaire games (almost never) - if I have time for myself I'm usually writing about games, pimping games, building my own copies of games, or opening, punching or learning new games. If I'm going to play a game I usually prefer to play with someone else.

Hence, my willingness to play games on Yucata recently - at least it's with SOMEONE. I like the competition against with other players, particularly 2-player games with head-to-head action.

I admitted to Jonathan that I wasn't likely to print it out and make a copy just to play it, but I noticed that it was available on Vassal and might be willing to try it there.

To Vassal or Not To Vassal
Well, I've never actually used [url= I sort of knew about it and that it was a computer application that you could make game components and a framework for playing games, but you manage all the rules and such yourself as you normally would playing a table-top board game - you have to know how to play the game. Without going into details I began to see how LARGE a selection of games were available for the Vassal system. Check it out yourself (well, later after reading the rest of this post of course )

Still being skeptical I installed Vassal and loaded Inspector Moss - a solitaire game where you are a detective trying to solve a murder? It didn't seem possible that this could be very workable or with much replay value.

Ready to Roll with Moss
Once I got the game loaded, it was obvious I was going to have to read the rules to understand how to play. At first I started reading the rules slowly. Then, I started getting more into it the further I got into the rules. It sounded kind of interesting. Well, *very* interesting actually. I could see it was a puzzly sort of game but with movements and actions restricted by dice rolls. Actually, I thought the whole mechanic sounded very clever.

What's Vassal Got to Do With It?
As I was reading through the rules I was starting to play the game as well. Not having used Vassal before it took me a bit to get used to the interface. With Yucata the system handles just about everything for you and has tips for elements when you hover over them.

There's very little of that with Vassal - you get all the components and a couple of buttons (such as to start a new turn, roll dice, etc) but you get to move all the bits around yourself, rotating them as necessary, keeping score as necessary, etc. This lends itself to making mistakes, but also leaves it open to be able to play games the way you want, back up/redo if necessary, etc.

I love this...I love having control and being able to play the way I want to play. Yes, it's nice when the computer keeps track of everything for you, but sometimes you want to be able have more control and play the way you want to play.

Anyhow, the game! 'Inspector Moss 2: House Arrest' goes like this: you are Inspector Oliver Moss investigating the death of John Dough, wealthy bachelor and owner of a large baking company. During a party he was killed in his house where 11 guests were attending - you and what are now 10 murder suspects. A judge orders an injuntion to lock the house down and you must explore the house, examine the evidence, find the murderer, arrest them and haul them out to the waiting police car. And, you only have 45 minutes to do it!

I'm not going to go into full details, but here are the basics to give you a flavor of the gameplay:

* First you roll 7 white dice and 1 red die. You decide which dice to 'lock' and which to re-roll. You can re-roll twice more. You can even re-roll 'locked' dice on the 3rd roll if you wish. And, yes, you might want to do this.

* Then, you can use 6 of the 8 dice in different combinations including:

- Move (1 die, 2 pair, 3-of-a-kind) -- Go through open doors using the matching dice number of a neighboring room that is connected. You may need a pair or 3-of-a-kind of that specific room number to get through locked doors to go that way - very 'expensive' use of your dice. There are also 'secret' passages that may let you move quickly across the board.

Also, as you move into new rooms you begin to 'see' more of the house and neighboring connected rooms (and items in them) are revealed.

- Reveal evidence (small straight, i.e. 2,3,4,5) - The 'evidence' is arrows that point in different directions that prove suspects as innocent (if they are pointed to). The arrows can be rotated to point any direction. This action also lets you re-rotate previously placed arrows if you use it again in the same room (i.e. re-examine the evidence)

- Collect assistance tokens (3-of-a-kind) - If you are in a room with an assistance token you can pick it up. These tokens help you out by giving you 1 of 10 different special abilities including a key to go through any doors for only 1 die, a flashlight that lets you use secret passageways for NO dice, and a phone which lets you switch any 2 evidence tokens.

- Make an arrest (5-of-a-kind) - If you have eliminated 9 of the 10 suspects, you know who did it! Go to that suspect's location and roll a 5-of-a-kind to arrest them. Once you are successful you must then haul them off to the waiting police car (outside the house)

Time Keeps on Rolling, Rolling, Rolling....
After rolling the dice and taking all of your actions, you then must account for the amount of time spent on that turn. There is a timer (score track) that goes from 60 (minutes) down to 0. The standard game you start on 45 and must make the arrest before time is up. You can make the game easier or harder by allowing more or less time. This is a terrific way to ramp up the challenge once you get good at it!

The way time works is this: No matter what the Red die value was when you stopped rolling, that is the amount of time taken. Thus, 1 to 6 'minutes'. This occurs whether you used the red die for your actions or not. I really like this mechanic - very well done!

In addition, if (and only if) you used any 6's in your turn, each counts as 1 more minute. Why for just the 6's? Well, because a 6 is 'wild' meaning you can use it as any number you want. But it will cost you if you use it in terms of a time penalty (even if you use the 6 as an actual 6 you are penalized)

Also, if you used a secret passage, you must also account for this 'extra' time spent by adding the numbers of the passage end values then moving your time marker down the same amount.

Every Little Thing You Do Is...Important
One more interesting little twist is the mechanic for placing the police car - you can actually control it a bit sometimes. The first tile you place that has a door to the 'outside' of the house (on the outside edge), the police car is then placed there. You can see that it might be to your advantage to delay that 'choice' as long as possible to try to get the murderer and the police as near each other as possible.

In my first play, this was definitely my downfall. Once I worked the evidence to narrow it down to just one suspect who was the murderer, that person ended up being on the complete opposite side of the house from the police car. AND, I only had a few minutes left on the clock....needless to say I got pretty close to winning the game (probably just 3 or 4 turns at most) but alas, he got away

It's all these little things of how you place the tiles, how you place the evidence, how you leverage your dice that brings everything together and presents you with an interesting challenge.

Turn, Turn, Turn
I may have left out a small rule here or there, but that's basically the game play. What I discovered from my reading of the rules was what seemed to be a clever and potentially interesting game, for 1 player, in the vein of a 'puzzle' game where you must manipulate the board to get the result you want/need, while also managing risk with the dice and fighting a quickly (sometimes VERY quickly) running clock.

Obviously, you can see that a time limit of 45 means anywhere from 7 to 45 turns (if you never used wild dice that is)...that's a HUGE range. Of course, luck of the dice dictates. If you figure an average of 3 to 4 minutes per turn (rolls + wilds), that's roughly 11-15 turns.

So, you have to be efficient, but you also need to be a little bit bold as well and push your luck in the dice rolling to get the most actions out of a turn that you can. Remember that even though you may have a certain number of turns, you can perform multiple actions on a turn based on your rolls and how the game is set up.

Whoooooo are you?
So, before I give my opinion, there is one last thing that is fun to read. The characters in the game ultimately are just pawns in the game. HA! Literally! But, they are all given colorful and pun-ny backstories in this geeklist: Dicing... with Death: Introducing the Characters of Inspector Moss: House Arrest

Take a read and get to know the characters a bit...none of this makes any difference in the game, but it gives you a sense for 'who' they are.

The evidence before the court is incontrivertable...
So, I have to say that I enjoyed playing this game. I enjoyed it quite a lot, more than I expected. I found myself engaged in it and pushing myself to make good decisions with the re-rolls as well as the actions. I would formulate a plan and then try to get the rolls to execute on it while also trying to keep wilds down and the 'minutes' per turn down.

It was fun trying to get the evidence to eliminate enough suspects and get them oriented the right way. The 'assistance' special actions were very helpful and I had to figure out how I could best put them to use.

So, here's a shot near the end of the first game I played on Vassal:
[ImageID= large]
You can see by the 'timer' in the top-left that it is near 0 so I don't have many turns left at this point. I have narrowed the suspects down to 1 (Sue Phlaye, you bad little...pawn you!) but she is across the house from me and, worse, her location is clear across the house AGAIN from the waiting police car. Thus, I must make good use of my dice rolls and hope I get low time usage per turn.

I have two 'assistance' items in my favor: the 'clock' (far left) which allows me to eliminate any time used for 1 turn (basically a free turn), and I also have the flashlight which lets me take the secret passageways without incurring any additional time penalty. Both very helpful in the endgame.

Well, as you can see from my roll, I didn't get quite what I needed. I was able to use a 5 to move to the neighboring room, then another 5 to move to the diagonal room from there using the secret passageway (which doesn't cost me any time with the flashlight), then 2 of the twos to move to the neighboring room through 1 unlocked door. I had another 2, but actually needed 3 of them to move into the room with Sue. So, accusations would be waiting for one more round. Also notice I had two dice that I didn't even get to use (i.e. two dice of the 6 that I was 'using') - and using the 6 didn't even really help me. AND, the red die was a 6! Ugh. So, I had to spend my clock to allow myself more time on future turns.

I won't play out the whole rest of the game here, but you can see that the odds were stacked against me. Once I got to the room with Sue Phlaye in it, I couldn't arrest her! Man, she's one tough EGG! By the time I did the time for the injunction ran out before I could get her out the to police car and had to let her go free. But I was pretty darn close for my first play! I need to play this again!

Well, overall I feel there is a nice mix of luck and decision making with enough elements to keep it interesting and yet not overwhelming. Other than the special actions which each have their own ability, the rules are pretty simple once you get the hang of them. And, even with the abilities added in, only a couple of them come out during a game so you just have to look those ones up as they appear.

Overall I like the artwork and look of the game. I'm still not overly crazy about the faces on the pawns, but it certainly does give it some...ah...character

A couple of things I might suggest tweaking in the game:
First, I ALMOST want to say change the pawn artwork, only because it might actually turn some people off before they even give it a further look. BUT, it also makes it distinctive and gives it a bit of personality, so it's difficult to actually suggest doing that.

One thing I would suggest changing in the game is the 'Bomb' assistance action. It really doesn't make sense that a detective would place a bomb and create an opening between two rooms. Why not just make it a resolving book case or something? Much more 'mystery in an old house' feeling. The bomb just doesn't fit the theme.

Another change I might suggest - the arrows for the evidence are kind of boring - I think they should either be fingers pointing (which only sort of makes sense but at least goes with the theme) or something else that suggests 'innocence' that I can't think of at the moment. I like the fingers pointing idea at least.

Also, the Informant assistance doesn't seem to be as strong as the other ones. Why not let you look one time at ANY facedown evidence (or maybe ANY?) token (i.e. you don't have to be in the same room) - it seems an informant may be MORE likely to tell you about evidence you do NOT have direct access to. It also lets you be able to plan ahead when working with other evidence. (Also, why doesn't the informant picture have a head of some shady guy whispering or something?)

These are minor quibbles though in a very strong game and it's no wonder it took first place in the Solitaire PnP contest!

The Final Countdown
So, when I played my first game I wondered how it would all come together. And, I was pleasantly surprised. One of my initial concerns was around if it would always be 'solvable' given the mix of randomization going on. Not solvable in the sense of easy to find the solution, just that the concept even worked. Well, I didn't see it manifest into a problem, so that seems to check out.

I will say the game theme suggests 'deduction' but this game isn't really about that - it's about manipulating the board to get the result you want - a single guilty suspect (also note that eliminating ALL pawns causes you to lose immediately). This might disappoint people that expect something else, but if you like puzzly games you should LOVE this one as I certainly did. Plus, the addition of the clock is brilliant as, obviously, you'd be able to put it all together and be successful at some point, but trying to do it within a set time limit is really the key to making this game 'exciting'.

Well, that's the story on this interesting PnP game from a couple of fellow BGGers. I suggest you go out and give this game a go (or maybe even one of the other 165 PnP Solitaire contest games entered) - you might just find a hidden gem (or murderer)

Oh, one final note: There aren't too many components to make a physical copy of this game...in fact, I have plans already to make my own copy, partly because I like the game and partly because I serendipitously have enough round and square tokens as left-over parts from other games as well as some nifty dice and even some boards and a box that are almost exactly the right size for everything. I even have some 'pawns' I might use for the characters (but not sure if I'll be putting little heads on them or not)

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Tue Sep 27, 2011 7:58 pm
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JUST GAMING AROUND - Vikings on Yucata - Did I REALLY just play a board game online?

-matt s.
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I have never really played games online including board games, video games, Facebook games, etc. My only real foray was playing Chess on itsyourturn.com several years ago and only with a friend from work and with my wife's father. Other than that, I have had a general aversion to online gaming and specifically online BOARD gaming pretty much since I started really getting into board gaming in 2008.

When I first started out, one game I played with my friend Chris was called Hive. Man did I LOVE that game. It felt like a fast chess game with interesting mechanics. I immediately went out and bought the wooden version from someone off of BGG (just loved the chunky pieces).

I also tried out the online version against the AI. After playing a few games I realized exactly the strategy it was using to win against me and started doing the same thing but better. Pretty soon I was winning pretty much every game. Then, when I played other people I used the same strategy and pretty much stomped on everyone I played. I quickly lost interest as it had lost it's magic. I was frustrated and disappointed that this terrific game had been ruined for me. I have only played sporadically since then. I'm hoping that eventually the magic will return - we will see. I still have hope.

Since then I have been determined to NOT play games online, particularly against an AI, but even against other players. It just didn't appeal to me, particularly with the bad taste still in my mouth from my Hive experience. I had numerous friends that were playing games online and invitations to play with them, but I generally ignored or politely declined.

Recently I had a great time playing some games FTF with my friend Cary. A day or two later he sent me an email saying he had started playing Vikings on Yucata and that if I wanted to play during lunch or late in the evening he'd love to play. Now, I have heard of Yucata and other such online gaming sites but, honestly, I hadn't even really looked at them - I was aware but purposely ignored them.

For some reason, playing Vikings late in the evening this way sounded fun. I don't know why I had a change of mind. I enjoy playing games with Cary and we'd had a great evening of gaming a couple of days back and perhaps that was...ahem....carrying over. Well, for whatever reason I immediately went over and signed up. I took a look around and set up my account a bit - just settling in and such. Later that evening I got online and sent him a note that we should play. So he fired up a session and I joined.

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Sat Mar 19, 2011 1:06 am
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JUST GAMING AROUND - Small World with my son (or, How To Get Thoroughly TROUNCED by a 7 yr old)

-matt s.
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My son was sick this weekend but he still wanted to play some games, so who was I to deny him? We played Micro Mutants: Evolution (one of his favorites I think) and I added the Advanced rules for variety and we had a great time (but I won). Then, I taught him San Juan (in preparation for Race for the Galaxy which he really wants to play) and he did very well scoring 25 to my 34 points - he really picked up on the game quickly and he never asked me what any particular card did, he just kept building away and he got excited when he built a 5 point monument! I was very impressed! (but I won).

Finally, I mentioned he'd probably like Small World. My wife had gotten it for me for Christmas and I hadn't even opened it yet. He was very intrigued by the artwork and so we cracked it opened and started punching it. He organized the race tiles into the tray while I punched and then starting reading up on the rules (even though I've played a couple of times before, I hadn't actually run the game)

So, I explained the rules, selected a sample race to show how a turn would go, and he seemed to understand and didn't have any specific questions.

I suggested he go first and he said I should go first (I presume so he could see again how it went). I insisted he go first as the first race was the Underworld Ratmen and would give him ton of units to start with and easier inroads into caverns. So, he selected it and proceeded to occupy a good number of areas.

I then selected Spirit Elves. I figured I would decline them quickly then move on to the next race. Unfortunately, my son proceeded to stomp on my elves with his Ratmen! The dirty little rat ! The fact that he immediately started attacking rather than going for easier territory scares me a bit.....

Anyhow, I felt that declining them now when I had all the units in hand wasn't best yet, so I advanced them further into 'greener' pastures. Of course, he started stomping me YET AGAIN! Arggh! This proceeded for another turn (sheesh, I really should have declined after the first turn) and he continued to get a good number more points than me.

He decided to decline his Ratmen and I decided to stick it out once more with the Elves before I decline. BAD MISTAKE. Somehow he had focused in on paying up for the Merchant Amazons (just the race I was eyeing myself). Little did I realize how much more powerful this was than I first noticed with them being Merchants and getting an extra point PER REGION! YIKES! Well, by this time he had overrun half the board with his declined Ratmen and the other half with his Merchant Amazons garnering him at least 15+ points per turn! And I was barely struggling to even stay on the board with his relentless attacks, even when I had them stacked 3 or 4 high!

I next went for Swamp Giants which I thought might let me get into a mountain and stomp on his Amazons a bunch, then pile up for the next round (and also score a couple of extra points for the swamps). Big mistake as I bearly put a dent in his empire and he proceeded to smash my Giants with his Amazon hordes. I quickly declined them then went for Stout Sorcerers figuring I could take out a bunch of the Ratmen using the special ability and hit them while they were down (and finally get them off the board), then immediately decline them so I could get another race on the board for round 9.

Well, I forgot an important rule - when you decline your next race the previous one goes away (perhaps the Spirit Elves lulled me into forgetfulness). Anyhow, the next turn he declined the Amazons and the rest of his Ratmen disappeared from the board (i.e. I just attacked a dying race). I must have taught him the rules correctly because he KNEW this was going to happen and seemed totally fine with it. GAH!

At this point I was actually a little annoyed. Probably because he kept saying "I have so many 10's! I don't even have any 1's to pay up for another race!" My word, what have I done?! I have created a monster in my son!

Well, I finally got to buy up to the Wealthy Skeletons but that only diminished the value of the wealth although it gave me some numbers for moving into the empty areas of the board (unfortunately, I really needed to move into OCCUPIED areas for the full benefit).

He finished up with the Forest Ghouls and tacked on a few more points as did I with my Skeletons grabbing a bunch of vacant land.

During counting, he kept saying, "Wow, I have a lot of 10s!" *sigh*

(needless to say, he won)

Finally tally: Jacob: 107, me: 62

I think we need a rematch........or maybe we should just play San Juan or Micro Mutants again...


(For reviews, commentary and other gaming subjects see my blog at http://boardgamebackroom.blogspot.com)
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Mon Mar 14, 2011 11:40 pm
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