Alec Chapman(ALGO)United Kingdom
Lincolnshire"She said the same thing about waffles."
Retrospective 9: The Fury of Dracula
How obtained: I didn't. Pretty sure it was my brothers. In any case, it was obtained 20 years ago, so even if we spent our own cash on it I doubt I'd remember.
If there is one problem with me writing about this game again it's that it's the first game on my retrospectives list that I've written a BGG review for, which you can find here and unlike almost every other game I've ever reviewed, I'm not sure I've played it since I wrote that - which was seven (SEVEN!) years ago.
I do keep meaning to dig it out, but this game, which has plenty to recommend it has one enormous, massive, stinking flaw which I just can't get past.
When it's supposed to be at its most climactic it is a dull, repetitive sloppy affair.
There's a couple of games that do the Paper Scissors Stone combat system and I don't mind admitting that it's far from my favourite way of resolving combat. At least in DungeonQuest you are chipping away at each other and one of you will die first, but in Fury... some combats have gone on for ten minutes while you dodge round each other, becoming in essence an endurance contest rather than a fun game.
This image by user "Voinon" capture the moment when the game is supposed to get exciting, then doesn't.
Unlike DungeonQuest, however, the rest of the game is extremely fun for all players, as the very thematic chase and discovery of enemies leads to a better and better idea of where the evil one is lurking. The hidden movement works really well (so long as the Dracula player resists the urge to cheat!) and all the pieces fit together beautifully - until the fricking fighting starts up and you feel like you're wasting your time.
I mean, come on! This was Games Workshop in the eighties! Couldn't we have had a second combat board and some "lead" miniatures? Perhaps some dice? Combat cards like Cosmic Encounter or something?
At least we could try and reduce combat to a single Paper Scissor Stone round, rather than the interminable battle against boredom this always seems to become.
It's such a shame because I love the rest of the game and what it tries to do - I looked at the newer version but it doesn't really seem to address this issue in the way I would want. If the game is about catching Dracula, then the combat should be short and snappy - if it's even half a game about combat, a proper combat system is a must for me.
So, I'm stuck with a game I can;t really bear to part with but can't be bothered to play. Annoying.
What "catch the bad guy" games do you lot recommend? Plain old Scotland Yard? Letters From Whitechapel? Nuns on the Run? Let me know - because this is one type of game I fricking adore!
Opinions, not always positive, on the gaming world.
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Retrospective 8: Mr. Jack and Extension
How obtained: Cash
This is one of those really intense, serious games that masquerades as a nice friendly cartoony experience thanks to the artwork.
Do not be fooled, casual gamers, into thinking that the cutesy large eyed character designs and bright, primary colours indicate that nobody at the end will be crushed into an Analysis Paralysis ridden pulp by the constant hunt for which of the adorable little characters is actually a serial killer who eviscerates prostitutes - which is perhaps a perfect synergy of theme and art, now I come to think of it.
This image by user "victorstanciu"
Perhaps this is the problem I keep smacking violently into every time I teach somebody this game - there is a major disconnect between art style, theme (if you go beyond a simple "escape" story) and game type.
In short, its an abstract deduction (induction?) game in which one of the shared characters is secretly evil and one player is trying to get that individual out of town before getting caught by the other.
Sure, it's a little less stressful than Go but that's not saying much of course. The number of times my poor wife has literally beaten the table in frustration as she tries to form her plan for the turn, or that I have had an almost physical need to flip the guilty card when being the investigator.... it's intense, seriously.
Now, for many people this is probably a plus - and actually, if I am in the right mood for it, I really think it's a great game. I was planning to play it 100 times, after all.
The only issues I have with it other than those perennial deduction/induction moments of screaming frustration are these:
1. In order to feel the competition has been fair, both players have to play each side. Of course, this leads to some serious issues with scores being tied, so you should really play three games, but that causes a problem too, since the two sides are asymmetric again. What I came up with to address this point was to play best of 5 and whoever is 2-1 down before game 4 gets to choose their role for the next game. Not sure this helps, but at least you have time to get your eye in.
2. Often it has come down to a 50/50 guess on the part of the investigator since escaping as Jack is really, really difficult in my experience and narrowing down to a single character is tough, too. In that case, success isn't particularly satisfying whoever actually wins. Maybe that's just me being crap at the game, though.
This image is by user "MyParadox"
To prevent too much similarity the Extension (i.e. expansion) introduces a bunch more characters to vary the identical setups given.
I really like this sort of expansion since it only makes small changes to the game. Often they keep adding more rules but I reckon this actually gives you more options without adding too much to the complexity (although Spring Heeled Jack stretches the point) - if you like the game in its original form then I can recommend it to you. It's only going to be necessary after you've played a significant number of times, though... let's say, er, 30 or so, depending on how quickly you and your regular opponent(s) dissolve into the same moves over and over again.
I imagine this game is not going to be for everyone - it is very much a two player abstract strategy game closer to Chess or Go than to Letters from Whitechapel. If you are looking for a highly thematic game about catching criminals this isn't really going to float your boat.
For me, it's got a quick setup (a bit longer with the extension), looks relatively unthreatening despite the fact this may mislead the unsuspecting gamer about what kind of game it is and gives a good challenge - albeit one that is asymmetric and may require multiple plays in a session.
Perhaps that sounds negative, I really don't intend to. I'm just keen to accept this game for what it IS, not what it ISN'T.Spoiler (click to reveal)The title of this post is a bit misleading, since you'll escape through manhole covers rather than sewer grates, but I just couldn't resist it.
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Retrospective 6: Code 777
I'm going to start this one by saying that my own little game design for a development of this system (and using a few elements from Hanabi) is still ongoing and delayed only by the fact that I am a mathematics moron.
From that you can probably work out already that my conclusion here is that Code 777 is a game that comes very close to being one I really, really like.
The problem I have with it is really only that it is almost TOO frustrating a puzzle at times. There is a lot of inflexibility in how it will play out and if you're desperately trying to find something specific out that will make the pieces all fall into place, the fact that you get absolutely no choices about what you can find out is infuriating at times.
To a certain extent there's nobody to blame for plays like this other than myself. As I have said, my logic and mathematics centres are a little deficient (bloody artists*) and I'm sure a lot of other players are in these binds a lot less often as a result.
Image is by user "evilone"
Nevertheless and with all these caveats in mind I think there's a bunch of good reasons to keep this game, or to try it out if you haven't already.
1. Abstract problem solving is actually something that can get those who wouldn't play regular, themed multiplayer games playing.
A couple of my family members who would never go near a themed game like Jamaica or Pandemic would still be interested in this - after all, millions of people play Sudoku and all the other word and number puzzles every day, lots of them competitively in newspaper competitions, so there's a niche being filled here. (cf. Ingenious)
2. The components work really well, with one caveat.
The tracking sheets are, for obvious reasons, printed in black and white and this is a little bit of an issue in terms of usability and introduces one point where unintentional errors can creep in - this isn't too big an issue because of the symbols used for colourblindness, but the question cards make no concessions towards colourblindness - surely you could have said "green circles" as easily as "greens"? In everything else Stronghold is their usual exemplary self - there's something so satisfying in working with tiles instead of cards (I WISH they'd do an edition of Tichu on Mahjong tiles) and the stands work great, with all the card stock being good too.
One thing I would like included in the game (this isn't really a criticism more than preference) is more copies of the list of questions. The box does include a single set of cards showing all the questions (and more importantly their reference numbers) that can be asked. Presumably this is to help you use the right hand side of the sheet with the spaces for answers... but passing those around to everyone every time they're running through their inferences from the answers given is such a pain that you tend not to bother doing this.
I'd rather have a single A5 sheet of paper each (and actually, keep meaning to make one) with all the questions on in lots of languages rather than a few cards. Perhaps others find this less annoying, but I really can't face how much longer the game would be if I was double checking my work every time I was making a guess rather than between turns.
3. It is, when you get locked into the mindset, pretty fun.
If you're the sort of person who enjoys those logic puzzle books (or did) then you know the most satisfying thing is wringing every drop of information out of a single revelation as you can. This game lets you do that in pretty much any way you can work out (before you ask, my ways all suck).
You do need to bear in mind that the primary feeling while playing this is infuriated frustration and the almost physical NEED to see what those bloody tiles are saying. It's a very different feeling to playing less abstract deduction games, but it's not bad for that.
It's mainly in the collection though because it's on of the rare games my wife will ask to play, as opposed to agreeing to playing. She's a huge fan of logic puzzles and deduction games - and this genre also appeals to her family more than, say, Ticket To Ride does. I am horrible at it, and as a result it may run a bit longer than I want it to, but if she's having fun then so am I.
Give a try and maybe let me know what you think.
*Bloody sweeping statements!
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Retrospective 4: Galaxy Trucker
How obtained: CashQuote:So my plan from here is to talk about virtually every game I've ever owned. I'm not going to slap the word "review" on those posts, because it'll be a completely subjective recollection of my experiences with each game, rather than a judgement on its merits or qualities from anything other than a personal history perspective.
This is one of those play it once and want it immediately games. I can't remember who taught me it but they did a fantastic job and we had a massive laugh watching our hard earned building blocks float off into space.
They must have done a VERY good job explaining it because the front loading for this game is crazy. If you don't know what any of the bits mean or - crucially - where they are allowed to go, your ship is going to fall apart on the launchpad.
While ripping illegally placed bits off someone's ship is hilarious if they're usually a good player and have had a brainfart, it's far from encouraging for a new player - so, as well as explaining what the most crucial systems do (I usually leave out the aliens for ship 1 with new players to save effort), you have to run through rules for placing engines, turrets and batteries AS WELL as simply telling them which connections are legal with which other ones.
This image is by user "lukaszkuch"
It's a tough sell for even the most hardened gamer, I reckon.
That being said, I have a quarter century of plays for this game so it must have been loads of fun right? Well, yeah!
One of the most memorable moments of teaching my mum, for example, was when she built her ship and walked off (I think she was cooking - cos I am a really good son who insists his own mother multitasks) and we autopiloted her ship through the meteors and such.
Well... I say "through" but really it was "into". Her luck was such that when she returned at the next build phase (number 3 I believe) she had only two components left - an engine and a cockpit. I think she had one little astronaut left. "What happened?" she asked, crestfallen.
We giggled. My brother's ship had blown up entirely and even that wasn't half as funny as her combination of fascination and disappointment as we explained, captain's log style, how everything had gone so very wrong.
The fact that we were able to autopilot her through the trip could be a criticism. It's a building game with a very weird scoring mechanism - not a space flying game. Decisions are pretty obvious, when you get to make any at all.
This doesn't really change in the first big expansion. at least, not if you aren't being VERY generous. I've not played with the second expansion (and don' play enough to warrant checking it out anyway)
Do I mind about that? No. I like the speed building, even when I screw it up and lose the whole saucer section of the notorious "Enterprise" configuration - and enjoy it enough to allow the occasional streaky game to pass without being too annoyed.
And there is an element of cruelty in the game. It is merciless!
Even the most secure looking ship can have its weaknesses. You may have stuck a bunch of armour plating and shields on your windscreen and be bristling with lasers, but taking a meteor up the jacksie on the first round can make things look very different.
This is particularly if it took out the single crucial bit of structure and half your ship is floating into a black hole as a result of rolling the wrong number.
There is a temptation to view a loss or victory as unfairly earned. I don't think that's very good as criticisms go, however, since the unfairness is fairly well applied to all players - I prefer the term "cruel".
Image is by user "Artax"
It's been too long since I dug this out. I guess the teaching is a pain in the arse for me and I've done it at least six or seven times. I'm pretty sure I can remember the rules today - and BGG says I've not played it since four years ago, when tyhe game irritated one player so much he became extremely ill and had to bow out (or was already ill, I forget) - certainly the front cover of my rulebook got stuck to the table of the pub and lost half its printing. Sad times.
I like the game and this is probably why I haven't got rid of it despite the long time since I last played it. Every time I spot it on the shelf I think, "I like galaxy Trucker - I should play it more".
So... I like Galaxy Trucker. I should play it more.
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Retrospective 3: Crayon Rails (Empire Builder, Eurorails, Iron Dragon)
How Obtained: Cash, Birthday, as a thank you for running the semi co-operative pub quizQuote:So my plan from here is to talk about virtually every game I've ever owned. I'm not going to slap the word "review" on those posts, because it'll be a completely subjective recollection of my experiences with each game, rather than a judgement on its merits or qualities from anything other than a personal history perspective.
Opening note: For anyone stuck in Spain with the one copy of your crayon rails game that you did not put your dry wipe crayons in, I can say with authority that in order to get replacements, the word is "Plastidecor". You're welcome.Spoiler (click to reveal)This is going to be really helpful in that most unlikely of scenarios where you're in the situation above and yet still recall an obscure blog post from 2014...
for anyone who doesn’t know Empire Builder. It’s the one where you draw with crayon onto the board. Yes, directly onto the board. It’s the wanton pseudo-destructiveness of this that got Mrs C to try it the first time. Once you have your track you can run your very abstract pawn from town to town, picking up the goods they produce there and delivering them where your demand cards tell you, balancing the cost of building the required track against the income you will get from this and future deliveries. Repeat until rich.
I do have some caveats.
1. I like this game mainly because my wife does.
It’s a gentle, semi serious experience and not hardcore game fare by today’s standards until you reach the extremely experienced level of knowing the decks and best connections etc. I do not intend to reach there and the pickup gamer would not either as UI find the game is simply too long and repetitive for, for example, one hundred plays to be viable.
2. Whoever put six players on the box is insane.
With two players we’re talking two to three hours and with more players you can probably add on another hour for each. I’ve played it, in Eurorails form, with three and four with fun results, but by the end of the four player game I was flagging like a hitchhiker in a hailstorm.
3. Black and Yellow are poor choices for a player colour.
The yellow crayon only shows up in direct sunlight and given the potential playtime and time of commencement involved you will not stay in such light for the duration. At several points yesterday it felt like Mrs C was chugging along on invisible track! The black crayon causes problems of obscuring and looking like part of the board art. I used purple with the black counter. A much better choice.
4. Older versions just aren’t as nice as recent editions.
I have an older copy of iron dragon and its component limitations render it even less attractive – all white counters with pictures only and no words (fail!), poor cardstock and the old style card art is less user friendly and discourages me from even trying it at this point. I hate to be a snob about such things, but since I’m going to be looking at this functional board art for a long time the rest of the pieces being a bit more polished makes the latest editions of Eurorails and Empire Builder a lot more enjoyable – I would only purchase versions of this quality in future.
5. I bought great big washable crayons
This was for two reasons – first, trade value stays up if the original crayons are intact (this point is now moot since I dropped the games and they both sport major dings); second, they draw thicker lines and you can see them that much more easily. I recommend this approach wholeheartedly.
This scrumptious image is by user "msaari"
Note - the above caveats are stolen, literally just copied and pasted, from an article I wrote a couple of years ago - and things haven't changed for me. I still like the game more than I thought I would; Mrs C has stopped taking back two or three builds at a time (GRRR...) as much as she did when we started playing; and the whole process is, for the most part, still fun.
I do think that we're into the stage now where the last few turns are a tedious race of counting mileposts to see who makes that crucial delivery first, which is pretty dull and anticlimactic - especially when I know she's won already (for which I suppose the opposite also holds true for her).
Like a lot of the games I own or have owned these are an acquired taste - I doubt the sort of gamer who loves worker placement or auction games will suddenly morph into a crayon rails fan, obviously.
However, for what they are I do not hesitate to commend them to your attention again - but only the newer editions. I would never even have touched this game in its earlier, ugly as sin editions - which I guess is shallow of me, but there you go.
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Noting that my last three blog posts are entitled "Humble Pie", "Admitting Defeat" and "A Cautionary tale", I think it's time to stop putting myself down and call this one something more neutral.
As promised, if last night's post can be considered a "before" picture, here is the "after" one, being the state of my collection today (minus the ones on the trade/sell pile).
As you can see, there's been a lot of changes...
So my plan from here is to talk about virtually every game I've ever owned. I'm not going to slap the word "review" on those posts, because it'll be a completely subjective recollection of my experiences with each game, rather than a judgement on its merits or qualities from anything other than a personal history perspective.
So I thought I'd start, since it's easier this way, with a game that ISN'T in that picture because I have lent it to some friends of mine (still trying to convert the average person, after all this time)
Retrospective 1: Catan
Back in what must be 2005/2006, I bought my family a game to play at Christmas because I wasn't there with them - I was with my new wife at her family's place instead. That game was Carcassonne, which I chose because it was well reviewed on Amazon yet still quite cheap, comparatively.
On my subsequent visit to their place at New Years, I asked if they had enjoyed it. To my surprise they had enjoyed it. Greatly.
Being much more a computer gamer, I hadn't considered it as anything other than a fun diversion after dinner (when we used to play Monopoly, but more on those horrors at a later date), but hearing how much fun they had had with it, my mum offered to talk me through it.
I had an absolute blast. There were no dice! I felt involved! Nobody was kicked out of the game halfway through. It was a Christmas gaming revolution.
So it was because of the new, intriguing experience that I found myself diverting to Hamleys (possibly the most expensive choice in England) during our shopping in the sales and having a chat to one of the staff there. They didn't have Carcassonne, he said, but why not try this one instead - and brought out Settlers of Catan. I bought it there and then and my journey into modern gaming (with the occasional Sid Sackson throwback) began.
At the time, the regular visitors to my house numbered three so I also invested, after a couple of times having to leave my wife out of the game (as the least interested party), in the 5-6 player expansion - which then became our most used expansion ever. I don't think we used the alternative rule where everyone can build after each trading phase more than once so I'm not sure I can talk about this expansion accuratley in terms of its impact.
All I know is that while many people have decided it's past its prime, Settlers is still a game I enjoy playing whenever I do. That's setting aside the fact that like so many games I have owned, I am regularly destroyed at it.
The fact that it is still the gateway game I use with total boardgaming novices is a testament to its satisfying nature. I've seen all manner of people become trading monsters within an hour of their first being explained the rules. It seems the instinct to wheel and deal comes more naturally in Settlers than in Monopoly, for some reason.
It's obviously better for playing reasonably fast, since the nature of random outcomes can make the odd game or so a bit unfair, but I reckon there's few better intro games - I generally prefer TTR or Carcassonne but the former turns off those prejudiced against train geekery (I know, I know) and the latter has its legendary farm scoring rules to explain - which I can tell you from bitter experience ALWAYS confuse the non gamer. I'm pretty sure they confused me, and I wasn't requiring convincing!
Anyhoo - i still own this and it still gets played. I lent it to friends in an attempt to get them enjoying it, but look forward to getting it back some day and sucking at it some more.
Not all clichés are undeserving of their ubiquity.
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I knew I owned one of these...
I was thinking about how to play Go at work (i.e. whether to bring the nice set with glass stones in, or the cheaper plastic one) when I suddenly have a vague memory of owning something specifically for purpose.
Lo and behold, after a search of my desk drawers, this turns up.
I think it cost the princely sum of £2.99 from Amazon. A 13x13 grid with around 90 white stones (small magnetic backed scraps of plastic) and 90 black stones (small mag... you get the idea). What an ideal way to learn one of the greatest games ever. Beautiful components!
This does mean that if I want, I can set up three 13x13 boards at once and play 3 simultaneous games at a time, with which of the boards I choose to put an opponent on a perfect chance for them to take offence, should that ridiculously unlikely set of events come to pass.
Still, this should be serviceable for the time being, if I want a physical representation of a game state to pore over, in case I need to look at it from a new angle.
EDIT: On putting it back, I find yet another interesting black plastic slab...
The perils of impulse buying. According to Amazon I picked these up in 2011. I would recommend everyone to exercise caution when buying on impulse, or at least... don't forget you did!
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I have made a crucial adjustment to my list of 10 games to play 100 times, in honour of the approaching 1st anniversary of its inception.
It's a bit of a cheat, but since I'm only cheating myself I have given myself a pass
I am joining Haggis and Tichu together. There is a very good reason for this, basically I will only every play Haggis if I have less than a full Tichu quorum, and since it is impossible to play Tichu with fewer than four (I know it is strictly possible, but four is the only Tichu I want to play) so it does make an odd sort of sense for the two to be combined.
Also, it makes room for a replacement no 5.
I've been putting this off for too long.
There is a saying about Go. Apparently, it's commonly said that "you should lose your first 100 games as quickly as possible." so here goes.
I love the game, in fact it was the subject of a review of mine ages ago, when I still wrote reviews regularly. The fact that I am so godawfully, shockingly dogs**t terrible at it makes me a bit afraid of this decision, but also makes me realise that these plays will make me a better person.
I just wish I could stop shaking with fear...
As usual. Volunteers are required for F2F or PBEM games (due to lack of RL opponents available at my time of day, I am relaxing my rules on F2F games only). I can't play real time over the internet due to work commitments and firewall restrictions (grr!), so patient players would be best, methinks!
Also, anyone who wants to learn along with me, get in touch. I think everyone should try and climb this cliff face at some point (since it is my instinctive belief that Go is pretty much the perfect pure strategy game), and while you won't learn anything from me strategy wise, I am sure you will get some laughs watching me drown.
Thanks for reading!
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OK, one may exist already, but following a seriously long Pitchcar tournament at LOBstercon I have been thinking about how to adapt my favourite game into a tournament while still keeping the length manageable.
My thinking so far is as follows is to follow the CE Online model:
* Tables of four players
* Four Planets per player
* No Flares
* No Tech
* No Hazards
* No Reward Deck
First round robin of games is to be played as and when suits the players, with a final for the top four scorers (more if ties exist) on the last day. The final would include flares and the reward deck for more epic play. I would also ban shared final wins for more than two players.
This simplification should help prevent a spiralling time frame. Lack of flares makes it feel less like Cosmic to some people, but their unpredictability make a tournament format in Cosmic even more of a joke. There is enough hand management and negotiation play in the game to make it worth these players while, IMHO.
Edit: Points would be awarded for how many players you beat, +1 for a solo victory. i.e. in a four player game, the solo winner would get four points, while the next two players share second place, so they only get one. A shared victory for two players is worth two points each. Perhps the third place player still gets one if he is on his own...
Ideally, a group of sixteen players would play, meaning we could have a first round in which no two players play each other twice...
Eight is trickier, but I should be able to ensure everyone plays each other twice.
Anyone got ideas / corrections? I assume the lack of flares may be controversial, but perhaps you can see my reasoning...
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Yes, I came in third place and misjudged an external conflict pretty badly, but in the 97(!) games of Tigris yet to come - GULP! - I am sure I will improve my performance.
My buddies also let me play through a game of Tichu, which was without doubt the most one sided game I have ever played in. It was a comedy of errors from Paul and I, coupled with some excellent play from our opponents.
We eventually conceded defeat after going 1000 points behind.
I put some of it down to bad luck, though. Every time I Tichu'd I got bombed. This took the wind out of my sails, somewhat. Nevertheless, it was great to be underway with every single game on the 10:100 list at long last.
Diplomacy has caught my imagination and despite a forbidding sense of exclusion to friends playing it together online I have started two games (a four player interface and rules learning game & a full game) with my buddies.
Given the partially understandable strictness with which these sites are run (though a more obvious instruction for using the site would be useful), I am hoping that playdiplomacy.com will appreciate the completely open way I have said these are games that friends are playing. We do not intend to start troubling the ranking system.
I have spent two very enjoyable evenings writing the first round of missives to my fellow players. The four player set up is unfortunately not a fair one, but for the purposes it was created it will be fine.
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