Archive for Alec Chapman
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Anyway, how's your sex life?
What ho, chaps and chapesses of BGG
Isn't it weird when one of your subscriptions suddenly activates after years?
I am a subscriber myself to the idea that nothing is more tedious than other people's dreams, but bear with me.
Anyway, I am a very rare dreamer and seldom wake up with anything more than the barest inkling of what happens, quickly replaced by the daily feeling of utter despair that we all face when forced to remove the duvet and head out into the horrors of the real world / the shower.
However, I distinctly remember one thing about my dream last night and that is a bizarre abstract board game brought to... wherever I was in the dream by... whoever was in my dream (I told you I don't remember much).
It was called Formations and looked super complicated. Anyway, my alarm went off and ruined the rules explanation.
The board for said game was a collection of straight pieces of wood with squares on them, I estimate about 15 squares long by 1 square wide. and there were enough to form a square board, but one that could be set up in a variety of deformed ways too.
I don't think we played this game, but the pieces were marked with symbols and made up formations that would move around the board together.
So far, so tash-kalar I suppose, but I have never played Vlaada's abstract opus, so have no idea why such a thing would pop into my head.
Now, the world is full of average and disappointing abstracts, so I thought I would take a couple of hours and try and make some playtestable rules for said silly game.
So I did, and you can try it yourself
Obviously I've not playtested this ever, so you could go down in history as the very first person to play it! But unlike my other design I tried to wrestle with, there's a complete game here. Sure it'll be flawed but you could conceivably play through a whole game of it, so that's an improvement!
So - has anyone reading this ever dreamed of a game that didn't seem to exist or some wacky amalgam like I have come up with here?
Anyway, how's your sex life?
Last weekend saw the return of the only really intensive gaming weekend known to increase the global retail price of lamb shanks, LoBstercon!
I may hardly qualify as one of the legendary 'con attendees, but this episode was a particularly idiotic example of how to do yourself significant harm through excessive board gaming.
But what did I actually get done? Well, I managed to buy some new clothes for the first time in ages - see, since I was at work up until 7am the first day of the con I had intended to pack the bag before leaving for work so I could grab it and immediately leave in the morning. Turns out I did everything EXCEPT that.
So, not for the only time in my life, I'm sure - I brought as many games to an event as I did pairs of socks... and nothing else.
But despite my singular commitment to self destruction did I manage to get everything done I wanted?
WANTED TO TICK OFF THE CON TRADITIONS LIST
My bi-annual game of Puerto Rico didn't happen, but since I always humiliate myself I was pretty cool with that.
More upsetting was the lack of Tales Of The Arabian Nights, a game I missed out on the previous 'con because I literally had laryngitis.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Incidentally, being unable to speak didn't stop me teaching Robinson Crusoe four times that weekend.
One of the few games I play "super seriously" (to a maximum level of one game a con) is Tichu and despite a breathtaking dead spot in the middle of our game and going down 900-700 as a result, Martin and I managed to Tichu/1/2 on the last round to steal a glorious victory from the lean mean bomb drawing machine that is Scott and Charlotte.
WANTED TO TRY
Five Tribes or K2 which were both on my "want to try" list weren't in evidence.
Specter Ops wasn't out yet, but I got to have a go at Letters From Whitechapel which was a nice alternative to the other games in its class - a bit more to it than Scotland Yard without the overkill of Fury Of Dracula. I still can't see wanting to play it again without a timer on the detectives.
Sheriff of Nottingham was an absolute blast! Don't know if I have ever bought a game halfway through the first play before - a reminder of my bad old habits, yes, but never mind.
Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island
Carried it all the way there (despite not packing any, you know, clothing) and it sat unplayed all weekend as far as I know. Probably a victim of the "let's just play this game again" feeling I had.
Sentinels of the Multiverse
I did play a LOT of Sentinels of The Multiverse though - five games of variously eccentric or epic battles - Ambuscade dropped easier than a Brazilian footballer in the final third, but The Ennead went the wire in a game dominated by two explosives wagons.
That was quite a game. Poor old Skyscraper took 30 points of damage in two turns as a result of those things (and a forced area effect play) and died saving her comrades (Thorathian Monolith), only for a third explosives wagon to be drawn and assist in slowing the advance of the Egyptian gods. Fiddliness is a characteristic of Sentinels, but the seven start of turn effects on the Villain turns was pretty extreme even bearing that in mind.
Shadows over Camelot
The game I was expecting to sit unplayed actually did get an outing, and despite my feverish attempts to teach it wrong (in my defence I had been up a LONG time by this point) we had a great time. It was only slightly unfortunate that the chosen traitor was the first timer at the table, while Bonnie Kate is some kind of Shadows savant...
XCOM: The Board Game
I greatly enjoyed the one play of this - I have no idea what on earth I did to dice in a past life but there is no way my bad luck in attempting success rolls with a 1/3 across this game and Arkham is reasonable. I wouldn't mind, but give me Summoner Wars and I'm rolling that 1/3 every time. Galling. Thanks to great support from everyone else the world was saved. Not sure the RAF will be asking me to lead fighter squadrons, but my budget auditing was absolutely perfect.
Xia: Legends of a Drift System
This is just too long. It's great fun, but we only played to ten points and despite a glorious victory everyone was seemingly too drained to give me props for my
luck terrific perfomance. I always appreciate any game that features rules simply because they're cool, but still - it went a good hour too long for this type of romp, imho.
The jury's out. Bizarrely, I seemed to penalised for playing the face character 'properly' and kill stealing / insisting on saving for the fireball to show off. This game's ok - but with Sentinels in the collection I'd just never dig this one out instead.
This is more like it! Someone showed me it at 2am on Friday night when we were about to go to bed and I forced everyone to sit back down and learn it from the rulebook immediately. We only played world 1 which is apparently very easy - it's another game I'm glad to play but I doubt I would buy it for myself.
I don't get it. Everyone is acting like this game is amazing, and it was fun - but I saw it out almost constantly and everyone was raving about it. Sure, it was enjoyable, but I didn't have that kind of experience with it. Another one I'd never own anyway, because six players are hard to come by and that would be easily my preference here.
There were a bunch of other games played, but the chief takeaway from this weekend was a stinking cold, exhaustion and despite these, a timely reminder that this is one of my favourite places to be in the world. There's something just unavoidably wonderful about your only significant decisions being "what game shall I play next?" or "can a Thai restaurant take out a restraining order to stop you eating there every night?".
And sure, there were irritating moments too - there always are when 100 gamers get together and try and decide how to have fun - but that's all by the by - I got a lift home from a new gaming buddy, so I'm not going to complain for one second. Hoorah!
Anyway, how's your sex life?
It' s nearly Christmas folks and since, inexplicably, war isn't over (nor is it just the end of love; though it remains good for absolutely nothing*) you probably look at this time to escape such harsh realities and play a bunch of board games with your
captive victims family at this most cardboardy time of the year.
Seriously though. F--K WAR*
But hey! Enough of the real world. You need to just take a moment to choose how you will sell one of the best hobbies in the world** to unsuspecting Monopoly players all year - well.... I wrote an article on that very subject already.
Click here to read the old article I am re-gifting to you again this year.
So, with the caveats in the above article in mind, and with a plea for sympathy for the fact that I'm actually working night shifts Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (sucks, right?) I am going to do a recommendations list for an unsuspecting family you want to suck into this world of gaming goodness. As I say in the old article. Ignore any or all of these if you know they won't work. Do NOT force the issue.
1) Ticket to Ride
As I said in the Catan retrospective, not all clichés are undeserved. I would say this is an almost perfect gateway. Inoffensive theme, simple rules(simpler than Settlers) and not THAT competitive for a Christmas afternoon. I could also say that unlike Settlers, which has a more abstract goal and infrequent points scoring, perhaps this one is better for the slightly drunk post Christmas dinner gaming crowds than that other cliché.
As for which one to get - I got Marklin and regret that decision to be honest. Not only do the expansion maps not work with it, the set up is irritating and the extra rule is just annoying to new players. In my experience. I would get either the original or Europe, probably depending on which geography appeals more. The extra rules in Europe are nothing like as annoying as Märklin. In my opinion.
too conflicty? want a co-op?
2. Forbidden Desert
Pandemic, which I prefer, would be a bit too obviously gamey with all the different ways to move and all the deck to track.
Forbidden Island is a far less entertaining story for me because collecting cards just feels more arbitrary than the random set up of clues in Desert, which I know it isn't really, but still - if I can't be subjective here, where can I?
I think Forbidden Desert hits the sweet spot for this crowd. After a MUCH quicker setup and explanation than Pandemic it's got excitement, forehead slapping moments, tension and, unlike the reshuffled "intensified" disease deck easily trackable goals (i.e. a sand pile and the four parts). I think its a crueller game than Pandemic at times but for the play time it works perfectly for that "Damn it! One more go!" feeling in a way that a gruelling loss at Pandemic perhaps won't. My advice? Play on the easiest setting. It may be a little "too" easy sometimes, but you will not get players to enjoy themselves if you have no luck and drown early.
Also, general co-op rules with non-gamers apply: SHUT UP AND LET THEM MAKE THE CALLS.
Is Ticket To Ride not conflicty enough?
3. Small World
Want to smack each other in the face? Yeah, good idea to channel that rage positively, so let's go with this one. It's not the most amazing conflict game out there, but it will handle the whole family and as long as they can understand the concept that to win a fight (all things being equal) they need tokens equal to...
two more tokens than the total bits of Cardboard in the defending area (aka Cost = 2 + x)
If their rage is sufficient to ensure they cannot get "2 plus cardboard", perhaps let them step outside and have the fight anyway. Charades or Trivial Pursuit will lead to blows inside that will need stains removing from your new reindeer onesie and that's not a Christmas evening anyone wants. I also think that the level of control is good. It's not all about rolling dice and who gets lucky (though, yes, in edge cases it can end up that way) so it's a bit more fun than Risk for me - though if your family can be persuaded to spend the next few years playing a Risk: Legacy campaign then power to the dice tower, I say!
They want a money game like Monopoly
4. Power Grid
OK, this is a weird one, but I just don't seem to enjoy many economic games. I certainly don't own many. Mine and my wife's favoured economic slog is the Crayon Rails series and I just refuse to recommend that to you for reasons you can find in the relevant retrospective I did on them (find that by clicking here).
Out of the whole gamut of "get rich" games, Power Grid stands head and shoulders above the pack in my experience. It's the one auction game I can stand to really get into and I like the supply and demand considerations in the resource market an absolute tonne. I even like the jostling for position. It's probably the most complex game on this little list. Well, it definitely is the most complicated game on this little list, but in real terms it's not actually any more complicated than Monopoly. It also isn't any longer, but I frequently hear the complaint that each turn is really long - this is because the players are engaged at all times, unlike in a poorly managed game of the classic.
Are they still obsessed with Monopoly after all that?
5. SUCK IT UP AND PLAY MONOPOLY
Do you love your family or not? Just look up and plead to use the speed die rule (it's easy to botch one), play by the rest of the rules as written (DO NOT PUT ANY FINES ON FREE PARKING!***) and I promise it won't be the worst game you'll play in the next twelve months.
Or if you can manage to persuade them, do your best to get Clue/Cluedo to the table instead. It's still pretty good (despite the fact the moving mechanic feels a bit redundant and silly in this day and age).
Anyway. Ignore the recommendations, pick your own, suggest stuff below. Whatever you do, have a bloody great Christmas you lot!
Spoiler (click to reveal)
I'm sure you can discuss the veracity and applicability of all these song lyrics on the RSP forum. Have fun
Spoiler (click to reveal)
I'm sure you can discuss the veracity and applicability of this statement on the General Gaming forum. Have fun
Spoiler (click to reveal)
I've never understood this house rule. The whole game is about money leaving the system, but you want to keep it in the game and furthermore give it to somebody entirely at random? You're insane.
Mon Dec 22, 2014 10:51 pm
Anyway, how's your sex life?
Retrospective 10: Mecanisburgo and Android
Obtained: Both Cash.
Fate: Mecanisburgo still here, Android traded for Mansions Of Madness
So it is with a heavy heart that I recall these two games, both of which suffer from similar issues and are set in similar worlds.
Let me be clear though, from the outset. I really like both games and it's only because of the few issues I have with them that they are not more often played and, in Android's case, no longer in my collection at all.
Android is a game I was hugely looking forward to and it almost met my hopes with its fun conspiracy, unique ideas and a true air of real enthusiasm about the way it has been put together and the attention to detail.
This image is by user "endou_kenji"
You can read my old review of Android by clicking here, and it was mainly due to being true to my principles that I traded it away. I just wasn't playing the game.
Why do I think this is? After all, I had played it with several people and they had enjoyed their times - I am just not sure that given the many, many games on my shelves I would choose this one at any stage.
The chief barrier is teaching - as I have become busier and busier, our rare chances to have a game night mean that taking a flier became less and less attractive - and having to teach a game that absolutely needs all that up front teaching and explanation is not where I want to be right now. I hope it's getting more plays where it is now. I disagree with everyone who said they didn't like it because:
a. The central idea is counter intuitive
-sure, you aren't "discovering" a killer so much as making the killer be discovered, but this is a game!
b. The consipracy is overpowered
- I think this is one of those "I played a six hour game and lost - there must be a flaw in the rules" arguments.
But the game is incredibly long and super, SUPER, complicated for the people I play with most regularly. I no longer have the game to check, but I think the point at which I sort of gave up hope was the way that positive or negative "points" on your stories are, for theme reasons, all called different things depending on what works in the story - but are functionally the same. Only problem is that this means for more casual players they keep asking what the keywords mean because nobody else seems to have them.
That's not a huge issue, but is symptomatic of a huge issue. This is very much a gamers game, and I don't game with 'gamers' often enough for this to get the plays.
In fact, the smoothest game I ever experienced of this was that way precisely because I didn't even play! I acted as a kind of GM and made sure everything ran correctly.
I fricking love it though, so if anyone I know still owns it and wants to set up a session at LoBstercon, let's have at it!
This image is by user "EnterTheUser"
As for Mecanisburgo, (read my original review by clicking here) it's my equivalent of the hipster games everyone seems to play - a tiny fanbase, obscure rules questions and a rulebook so counterintuitive you'd be scratching your head for weeks unless you took the time to set the whole thing up and run through a couple of turns for real.
Basically, though, I still adore it. Mainly because you do get the sense that you are the president of a seedy future megacorporation sending out agents to take advantage of opportunities.
Unlike in Android, the central idea of collecting people or materiel to obtain points, or at least to obtain the things you need to build the things that score points (sigh) is consistent on a gut level.
"OK, so I am going to the courthouse to try and persuade that Mutant Psychic to join our corporation. Don't know if we'll have company. Want me to take the robot just in case?"
It's just plain fun to know that rather than sending a generic meeple to pick up three wood, you're going to be sending your pet racing driver to grab nuclear material from under the noses of your opponent's ninja. The fact that until the conflict begins you do not know who your opponents have sent is an intriguing mind game in itself.
But it feels logical, right? You commit your resources, but the more effort you spend on winning conflicts, the less money you'll have to spend next turn and if you can't meet the wages your staff demand, they'll just leave.
If you concentrate on obtaining Scientists to achieve the research goals, your frontline is going to be weaker. Again, makes sense.
The problem is where the international requirements step in.
If you had keywords written on every card then this would help, but it needed to be multilingual and therefore we are stuck with an unwieldy sheet of symbols and miniature rules that, in a couple of cases, only apply to one or two cards across the entire game.
When your central conflict method is basically just addition with a card as a tiebreaker, the need to constantly double check for additional bonuses or penalties you may have missed is a bit annoying.
This image by user "cnidius"
Unlike Android, I have kept Mecanisburgo because in the end, while the outcome is sillier and the theme less obvious, I just remember enjoying it more. The conflicts are always tense, the scores usually pretty close and at the end even if you didn't win you have a whole tableau full of agents, technological achievements and assets that you didn't have when the game started. You feel like you've achieved something worthwhile.
I really, REALLY fricking like this game. I should dig it out again (maybe I can double bill it with Galaxy Trucker)!
Fri Dec 12, 2014 12:15 am
Anyway, how's your sex life?
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!
Anyway, how's your sex life?
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.
Anyway, how's your sex life?
Retrospective 7: Dexterity Games
(Bausack, Villa Paletti, Jenga)
How obtained: All cash methinks, Villa Paletti was from France.
Ah the wonderul world of dexterity. Beloved of people who don't drink a lot of caffeine, hated by those of us who live on the stuff because we work shifts and anyone without the solid as a rock musculature of a fighter pilot.
Basically, what I'm trying to say is that I'm the sort of gamer who knocks over towers. A lot.
While todays youngsters are spoilt with Animal Upon Animal I think Jenga was probably the first competitive dexterity test I remember. Every time I play a game where the rules take two sentences...
take a piece out and put it on the top. Don't knock the tower over or you lose.)
...I have a pang of longing that every game could start so quickly. Save us all from long rules explanations (VLAADA!)
In fact, the "one person loses" rather than "one person wins" approach is ideally suited to a more grown up pursuit - drinking games! So I do have a Jenga set now, but sadly this is NOT my legendary Jenga drinking game set, which I donated to the bar at the Roxy nightclub in Kolkata, India. I imagine they binned it the moment I left, since it probably stank of liquor and cigarette smoke.
The great thing about the Jenga drinking game (you knock it down, you do a shot) is that it parallels that Douglas Adams invention...
Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy wrote:
...an old drinking game that Ford learned to play in the hyperspace ports that
served the madranite mining belts in the star system of Orion Beta.
The game was not unlike the Earth game called Indian Wrestling, and was played like this:
Two contestants would sit either side of a table, with a glass in front of each of them.
Between them would be placed a bottle of Janx Spirit (...)
Each of the two contestants would then concentrate their will on the bottle and attempt to tip it and pour spirit into the glass of his opponent - who would then have to drink it.
The bottle would then be refilled. The game would be played again. And again.
Once you started to lose you would probably keep losing, because one of the effects of Janx spirit is to depress telepsychic power.
As soon as a predetermined quantity had been consumed, the final loser would have to perform a forfeit, which was usually obscenely biological.
Ford Prefect usually played to lose
I'm not saying Tequila is very similar in effect to that old Janx spirit telepathically, but it does tend to have an effect on dexterity gaming performance somewhat similar to that fictional libation.
I've always had a soft spot for a game that only works because of unavoidable production issues i.e. if it was perfectly made and on a perfectly flat surface, the first move would be a real terror.
Anyway, Jenga is still some fun every now and again, but it got totally ripped to pieces by Bausack when I got to play that game. It's a little like No Thanks! but instead of cards and chips you're talking about building blocks and diamonds.
The sort of default mode (there are several) is one of either trying to buy a nominated piece with your money, or paying money to avoid a nominated piece.
The big catch is, of course, that the pieces are not lovely regular blocks you can use to fill up a regular tower, but a horrid mixture of what appear to be door handles, model vases, an egg cup (even, horribly, an EGG) all of which you somehow have to use to build a stable structure.
All pieces after the first cannot touch the ground, so you have to be really, really careful you don't end up with a balancing nightmare too soon (rest assured you'll have a problem eventually) because the true joy of this game is the wild creations you'll end up with.
I've had amazing success with this one at non-game centric functions in the past and despite the odd frustrating moment it is usually a great fun time - particuarly if you can swing it so that the opposition run out of money first and cannot pay to avoid the pieces you pass to them.
This image is by user "Firepigeon"
I'm not sure it's a truly great game in terms of the rules (I mean any of the various versions included in the book), but the use of all the crazy pieces and the way you have to adapt your building and try and to anticipate what you'll be stuck with later (the egg is still there, so maybe I should keep my egg cup uncovered...) is the real fun. I don't think which rules you choose to use matters, in the face of the fun that gives you.
In a fit of holiday feeling, I discovered a new copy of Villa Paletti sitting in the back of a toyshop in Chamonix, France (sitting in the valley next to Mont Blanc, Chamonix is one of my favourite places in the world) - now, for some reason I was certain that this game was either very rare or out of print - so I picked it up, only to find that neither of those assumptions was correct. It's a lot of fun, although that is despite the fact I'm not really sure there aren't a lot of issues with the ruleset. Just like in Bausack this doesn't really matter, though.
If I remember correctly, each type of column is worth a different amount of points and the person with the highest number of points on the highest level of the tower is the current "master builder". Whoever is holding the "master builder" at the time the tower falls is the winner (unless that's the person who knocked it down).
Where it all gets a bit vague for me is the turn when someone proposes that no more pillars can be removed from below - meaning a new level can be placed. This seemed a bit unfair in multiplayer games since if you're in the wrong place in turn order there's nothing you can do other than risk pulling an extra piece to stop that lucky individual gaining a huge advantage. This is because the person who places the new level will obviously do so in such a way as to free up his own pieces and endanger others.
this gorgeous picture is by user "richardtempura"
As with the other dexterity games mentioned, the rules being a little strange doesn't really matter, since the tension is all in the lovely moments when you try and rescue a pillar that may be non-supporting, only to catch the higher level on its way out and become a supporting pillar inadvertently. The game comes with a nice metal hook to save you trying to reach into the middle of a forest of pillars with your hand.
I've only seen this game reach the top once and that game definitely did not involve me!
I think all of these are great fun and will continue to hold onto them. If I was getting rid of any of them it would probably be Villa Paletti, but on reflection the few sessions it gets per year are more than worth the house room.
I've played some others - Riff Raff and the like, but nothing has really beaten this little selection. I can certainly point you in the direction of Bausack (or, as I believe it is now known, Bandu) as a great, slightly more thoughtful alternative to another game of Jenga this Christmas.
Anyway, how's your sex life?
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!
Anyway, how's your sex life?
Retrospective 5: Duel Of Ages
How Obtained: In gratitude for working on BoardGameGuru's website
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. Are you reading this quote for the first time? If not, do you think I should stop including it?
I like rolling dice. Do you?
If you don't you need to run away from the first edition of Duel of Ages. That's what you'll be doing all game.
Man I've had some epic sessions of this - including one tight as hell game that was tied at bedtime and had to continue the next morning for another hour (ok, it didn't HAVE to, but we were having fun) as well as a game at LobsterCon in which a hugely powerful Spartacus killed off character after character of mine until meeting his match in the unlikely form of a character called Brad The Slacker...
In summary it's a light war game with strange time travelling mission elements.
Instead of this skirmish just being about killing members of the other team - for which you only gain one point (for ending with more members alive than your opponent), in fact you'll be getting most of your points from how you perform in the grandly titled "adventure keys".
These are mini boards acting as the scoring zones - featuring either set targets to complete on each space, or producing a changing target from cards, which will then have variable results based on how by much you beat or miss the target.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Though you can win by wiping the opposition out of course this is much easier said than done when the characters are somewhat balanced (a draft helps here) and a powerful weapon is discarded after a single kill.
So, it's important to note that there are differences in how challenges are resolved between the first and second versions of this when taking into account my thoughts - I've only played the original with all its flawed production elements of bendy boards and tiny counters.
I particularly 'enjoy' the unlisted set up section where we hunt for the right tokens for our characters after drafting them - many of which are quite similar. A good five minute task after I collected all the expansions!
In the first version you roll dice for resolving absolutely everything and the really thematic stuff has to happen in your head. If you're the sort of person who likes to read a lot of flavour text and really get the theme handed to you, you're not going to find this much more than a dice fest. If you're a fan of tightly balanced Euro type games exclusively this is going to irritate you a lot.
To give a feeling of what a game is like, I guess I can insert a game report here...
This picture is by user "Ravenhoe" but more importantly features me (I'm the one who hasn't done his hair and EVEN more rarely shows me without a beard which only happens very, VERY occasionally)
(I'm adding some extra notes here for additional context)
Sir Gawain, The Knight
Sgt. Gritt, The Sarge
Ace Cannon, The Quarterback
Matt Fade, The Escape Artist
Bladed Terror, The Deadly Life Form
Reaver MkVII, The Battered War Machine
Raygun Roger, The Gallant Space Hero
Mildred Stonegutter, The Battleaxe
(guest appearances by a Stingwhip, and by a Grizzly Bear and her Cub)
Gana, The Shapeshifter
Minx and Jinx
Frostdancer, The Graceful Warrior
Brad The Slacker, The Slacker
Mick The Lion
Platters: Congo, Yazoo, Lithopolis, Painted Desert
Adventure Keys: Lith Alliance, Bases, Royal Tournament, LabyrinthsA difficult and hard to traverse map set up with a banishment zone south of the Congo, meaning the banished were out of the adventure areas for a long time.
The only easy route out was quickly covered by team white with the Stingwhip Sentinel (one of the in game static artillery units - in this case a particularly violent hedge), which led a charmed life and survived the whole game.
First Blood went to team black as, following an initial injury to Sir Gawain from Gana (a shapeshifter), who had shifted into his form, and from Frostdancer, he was shot to death by Sgt. York (WW2 soldier) a little later, who was packing the Seeker rifle.
Immediate retribution came for Team White from Mildred Stonegutter (the 1950s sexist battleaxe type), who took exception to Frostdancer attempting to walk away from her - braining him with her rolling pin.
Meanwhile The Bladed Terror (some sort of horrific beast from the future) was performing sterling work for team white, having won the skirmish at the royal tournament (presumably the entrance qualification criteria were reasonably full of loopholes), this creature of mass destruction then destroyed the enemy HQ, and then, with a little help from the Quarterback (yes, a quarterback), killed both Minx and Jinx, who were approaching white's base with a view to destroying the HQ and getting back on level terms.
In the late game, much of the board was being covered by York, who had grabbed the Sniper Rifle from his team's vault and took up a covering position over the royal tournament and both the ancient and colonial labyrinths.
During his time as vicious sentinel of the yazoo, however, he took out Raygun Roger (basically Flash Gordon) - not on his first two attempts when Roger was flying high on his jetpack and thus an easy target, but upon York's third attempt, firing through thick swamp. Showing off, much?
In response, Sgt Gritt (a different WW2 solder to Sgt York) risked his own neck to send the grizzly bear and cub after York (pets are a little bit like artillery, but they move), thought they never got close as York decided his time was better spent trying to get his team back to level scores in the labyrinths.
Sgt Gritt had already killed Brad The Slacker from long range using a scoped Model 1903, and repeated the trick on Camden Drake late on.
(I think there was a cheat here - pretty sure we failed to enforce the rule where you have discard a weapon that has killed someone)
Team white (me) was in the lead for most of the game, at one point leading 5-1, having taken an unassailable advantage in the lith alliance and destroyed Black HQ as well as doing serious damage to the opposition ranks.
Team Black (my brother) came roaring back late on with assaults on the Royal Tournament and the colonial labyrinth - only being thwarted in their attempts for a draw by three successive squeaks on the bar-room brawl challenge, eventually running out of time.
Thanks to sterling work from Mick The Lion, Team Black won the Modern Labyrinth easily.
Team Black also took a late control of the royal tournament, thanks to the cover from York's sniper rifle.
They also controlled the ancient labyrinth, which had been entirely ignored by Team White.
Team Black Scored 3 Points.
Unfortunately they had lost 4 of their members; Frostdancer, Minx and Jinx, Brad The Slacker and Camden Drake all never left the field of battle.
Team white on the other hand only lost two members - Sir Gawain and Raygun Roger.
The white team also controlled the future labyrinth thanks to Roger and Reaver.
Along with the destruction of the Black HQ and the lead in the Lith Alliance, Team White therefore scored 4 points.
The Colonial Labyrinth was tied.
Final Score 4-3 to Team White
An excellent fun game this time, that swung back and forth, despite a very difficult map set up to traverse.
Team White MVP: Bladed Terror
Team Black MVP: Mick The Lion
This image by user "tiredmind"
How do I feel about this game these days? Well, I've put it on the trade list so you would think I've gone off it, but actually it remains one of the more fun experiences I can have - I just wonder how much play I'm going to get out of it since it has
a. Unfashionable central mechanisms
b. Been replaced by a newer edition
I may play it once every two years - I'm trying to decide if that much play is worth it if I ever get an offer - I suspect given its general poor components vs high value of a complete out of print game means such offers will be few and far between and I can avoid having to make the decision at all, which would be pretty cool all told.
In any case, I reckon I need to play this again soon to give me a good idea how much I like it these days - mainly to see if I can play a fun game in 90 minutes rather than the 8 a side epics I've played in the past.
In any case, I like rolling dice - but I wonder if Summoner Wars has got the drop on this one for its (MUCH) quicker set up and easier accessibility for more casual gamers. However, it is even more abstracted and you lose that awesome time travel update where you can give Spartacus a baseball bat and launch a guided missile at Napoleon who is driving away as fast as he can on an ATV...
But once again writing about it has made me think how much I want to play it again, which has to be a good thing!
EDIT: I was interrupted by the return of my wife from work before I did my usual proof read, so have made some syntax corrections and tried to make the whole thing a bit more readable.
Anyway, how's your sex life?
Retrospective 4: Galaxy Trucker
How obtained: Cash
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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