Matt's Board Game Back Room

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

Archive for -matt s.

[1]  Prev «  4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , 8  Next »  [9]

Recommend
9 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

HOT BOX - 'Dominant Species' (What's in the Box?) - Where I act a bit too anal about my new game....

-matt s.
United States
Eugene
Oregon
flag msg tools
/geeklist/240879
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: EurogamerMicrobadge: The Quest for El Dorado fanMicrobadge: 2020 Copper SupporterMicrobadge: I survived 2020!Microbadge: I play with red!
Well, here it is in my grubby washed and dried little hands - DOMINANT SPECIES! I've been lusting after it since before it became available. But even with all that lusting I was waiting to get it as it's a bit pricey and I hadn't had a chance to play it yet. I also felt that maybe the wooden cubes didn't do the game justice - I thought: "It's a game about animals killing each other, right? Not little cubes eating other little cubes!"

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

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

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

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

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

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


(read more and see the box opening...)
Twitter Facebook
7 Comments
Wed May 25, 2011 10:06 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

HOT BOX - '7 Wonders' by Antoine Bauza (Review) - Yes ANOTHER review of this 'Kennerspiel de Jahres' nominee

-matt s.
United States
Eugene
Oregon
flag msg tools
/geeklist/240879
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: EurogamerMicrobadge: The Quest for El Dorado fanMicrobadge: 2020 Copper SupporterMicrobadge: I survived 2020!Microbadge: I play with red!
Seriously, you really want to write a review of 7 Wonders? Really? There are already 54 reviews on BGG. 54!? Wow.

From gallery of tasajara

The box for 7 Wonders - some of the nicest box cover art I've seen


Well, this review has been rolling around in my head since playing it this weekend with 6-players at Lorna's house and then 3-player with my kids.

So, sorry to subject you to another. And, with the nomination announcements for the Kinnerspiel de Jahres today (although Spiel de Jahres seemed to me the more appropriate category for it), I'm sure there will be another 50+ reviews in the coming weeks. Ah well, I guess I'm 'on the bandwagon' with this one.

Ok, I've played this game a handful of times so far. And, I have to admit that I really do enjoy playing it. It is not an extremely deep game but it has some interesting decisions to make. It is light enough that I can play it with my kids (although I suspect they are nearing the point where they can wade into deeper waters) but it has enough meat on it to keep me interested. I love that you can play it as easily with 3 as you can with 7 (I've heard 2 might be ok, but it might not be - hopefully I'll get to try it that way soon). And, best of all, it's just a fun game!

Well, I guess you know my opinion so you might as well stop reading now......



No? Still there? Alrighty then.

I taught this game to my kids on Sunday evening. My son is 8 and my daughter is 11. They love Dominion, Thunderstone, Stone Age and other light-ish to middle weight sorts of games, although I was a bit concerned about their ability to parse the symbols and the variety of functions. Still, this is billed by many as a family-friendly game and they often surprise me in their ability to pick games up. I was probably most worried about my son due to the age of 13+ listed on the box (although BGG says 10+ which I think is probably more accurate) but he picks up stuff pretty well so figured this was be a good test.

(read more...)
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Mon May 23, 2011 6:56 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

CLASSICS CLOSET - 'Doubletrack' (Review) - Reliving a Game from my Youth

-matt s.
United States
Eugene
Oregon
flag msg tools
/geeklist/240879
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: EurogamerMicrobadge: The Quest for El Dorado fanMicrobadge: 2020 Copper SupporterMicrobadge: I survived 2020!Microbadge: I play with red!
When I was a kid we actually had quite a few games around our house that I remembered playing. A good number of them really. However, I'd kind of forgotten the extent and variety until I first discovered and started looking around on BGG back in 2008. As I ran across them/remembered them I started marking them as Previously Owned and, in this case, 'Want in Trade'. Some others I remembered included: Inner Circle, Leverage, Touring, Waterworks, Survive!, Stay Alive, Operation, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Tri-Ominos, Quadominos, Pictionary, Yahtzee, and many more. And, I'm not ashamed to admit it that we owned Monopolyand it was one of my favorite games!

So anyway, last year I picked up the version of Cave Troll with the figures and I marked my version with the chits for trade. I wasn't sure if I'd ever get any bites on it, but recently I did as I received a trade request in exchange for Doubletrack. I'm sure not everyone has heard of this game but it was one I certainly remembered.

From gallery of tasajara

Doubletrack box (this is a fairly large box at 12"x20"x1-1/2")


In this game, I recalled there being plastic gates attached to the board that controlled access to certain paths on the board and you used a physical (cardboard) 'pass' that had to be inserted into the gates to open them up. I always found this functionality intriguing both the gate itself as well as the concept - each player controls a gate pass (or several in some cases) which gives them more control over who can go through them and when. I don't recall seeing this sort of feature in more modern games (if you've seen it I'd be interested to hear about it in the comments)

I also remembered the mechanic of using a Big pawn on an outer track that moves and then affects what the Small pawn on the inner track is doing.

So, I accepted the trade and thought this could be fun to play again.

Soon it arrived. It was a bit more beat up than the copy we used to own, but it had all the familiar components to it. There's something about getting your hands on a game you remember from your childhood that brings back warm memories of simpler days. You get this sense of zipping back in time, remembering where you would play it (on my bedroom floor with it's bright red carpet - no really, that's what I chose, much to my mother's chagrin), who you played it with (my sister mostly, sometimes my friend Jeff), and some vague memories of really enjoying it.

Well, my son and I got this game out the other evening. As we got out the pieces my son was intrigued by the gates. I had him install them, get the money chips out and set up initial money while I started reading the rules. There were more to the rules than I remembered. I wanted to be sure to go through everything and, as I explained it to my son he eventually said - "Dad, let's just play!" He's a little impatient. He had tired of fiddling with the gates and was ready to play. But reading the rules takes time! I guess it was my own fault for not following my own advice about reading the rules ahead of time. Especially when it comes to someone like my son.

From gallery of tasajara

Example game set up for 4 players

Anyhow, I glossed over the rest of the rules, except I'm glad I covered one rule in particular. There are certain actions which let you (rather force you) to sell a gate pass, sell a card from your hand, or even sell the lead (if you are leading). Something that surprised me about this game was that it used a blind auction for the selling part! I hadn't remembered that at ALL. I'm not sure if we ignored it (just as we ignored the auction in Monopoly) or if we did something else entirely.

(read more...)
Twitter Facebook
4 Comments
Fri May 20, 2011 5:12 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
10 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide

TIMELY TOPICS - Tension in games - Ratchet it up, please!

-matt s.
United States
Eugene
Oregon
flag msg tools
/geeklist/240879
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: EurogamerMicrobadge: The Quest for El Dorado fanMicrobadge: 2020 Copper SupporterMicrobadge: I survived 2020!Microbadge: I play with red!
I love tension in games. I'm sure you know what I mean, those games where the tension builds and you can feel your adrenaline start to rise. You get that little bit of shakiness as you are about to pull off what you hope is a big move, but afraid of how the other person might counter.

The other night I got to play some good, tense games with my friend Cary. It's amazing how something as simple as a game with just cards, bits and a handful of rules can have such an affect on you. Your blood starts flowing and you get an almost euphoric feeling. Like I'm feeling right now after playing several tough games.

Tension is probably the biggest draw for me in a game - the tensest games are the ones I seen to remember and enjoy the most. Every move you make seems crucial. You can't let your guard down one bit or it will be the end of the game for you. You are engaged and focused on the game throughout.

What kind of elements seem to make a game tense for me? I'd say its a handful of things:
* The ability to plan ahead and make a clever move that surprises your opponent.
* The ability to quickly turn the tables then have it turned right back on you again.
* Racing to meet certain conditions in a set period of time (not just 'time' itself, but in the depletion of cards or resources)
* Multiple possible paths to victory.
* Auctions where every auction has value in it, either for what's in the auction or for the need to prevent someone ELSE from getting what's in it (or at least making them pay the price).
* Brinkmanship - taking a chance and putting yourself out on a limb in the hopes of achieving a goal before others can stop you (hopefully)
* Tight two-player games (this isn't crucial for me, but I love head-to-head competition and find it the most interesting in games) Don't get me wrong, multi-player games can also be tense and terrific at those higher numbers, but 2-player to me is where it's really at.

So, what specifically got me so amped up in these games we played? Well, let me tell you...

(read more....)
Twitter Facebook
8 Comments
Wed May 18, 2011 5:15 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
7 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide

HOT BOX - 'Pastiche' by Sean D. MacDonald (Review) +Can you be color blind and play this game?

-matt s.
United States
Eugene
Oregon
flag msg tools
/geeklist/240879
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: EurogamerMicrobadge: The Quest for El Dorado fanMicrobadge: 2020 Copper SupporterMicrobadge: I survived 2020!Microbadge: I play with red!
(I started writing this review a couple of weeks ago when I was quick on the uptake, or so I thought. I neglected to get it completed and since then, a glut of reviews have come out. So why read yet ANOTHER Pastiche review? Because I'm awesome. Oh, and because my father played - he is color-blind and you might want to know how this plays if you play with someone that is also color-blind)

As I mentioned in the box opening for Pastiche previously I knew I would have to have this game as soon as I saw it. I love art. I love mixing colors. Yada-yada.

I've played it a handful of times now and am ready to tell you if I actually LIKE this game or not. Well, not until a bit later.....first let me tell you about the components.

THE COMPONENTS

From gallery of tasajara

Pastiche! The box!

When I initially opened the box and looked at the components I had a couple of immediate thoughts about them. First, it was obvious the quality of the components was excellent - tasteful artwork, clean, consistent graphics, and nice quality and thickness of the various tiles. The box itself has nice thick walls and feels luxurious.

The Board
This is a board game, right? I thought the board looked really nice with the painter's palette. Here's the board with the cards on them (note: these are fairly small cards)

From gallery of tasajara

The palette board with cards on it and example of the size of a card (back showing)

However, I was concerned about HOW BIG the board was in relation to it's function which was solely a placeholder for the color cards - it isn't exactly 'central' to the game - well sort of. I guess it seemed a bit overkill when first looking at it. Others have noted this in reviews and comments with everyone coming to pretty much the same conclusion: the board size ends up being just fine because there is so much card churn they kind of get messy on the palette and there's enough room that they don't mix together. Interestingly, this fits nicely thematically as well as functionally. Personally, I still think it could have been tightened up a bit, but when you're playing, you won't really find any issues here.

I DID wonder why it wasn't organized differently with perhaps the primary colors grouped together with white and black, then the others listed in some other manner perhaps by value or something. I think this arrangement (or perhaps a myriad of other possible arrangements) could have been laid out. In practice, it just doesn't matter much - you get used to where the colors are and generally can spot them quickly. And, if it really bothers you, just lay them out in any order you want because it won't affect the game one bit!


The Player Aids
In looking at the player aids, I wondered why they didn't show pictures of the color trading rather than writing it out in words -- it seemed symbolically it might be more clear. In thinking about it more, it's probably because they either would have had to invent a 'multi-colored' icon of some kind and/or shown all the possible combinations - neither of which would have improved the player aid at all. Overall, I really like this player aid and it does ultimately make it easier to look for color combinations in most cases:

From gallery of tasajara

Summary card - turn order summary on one side, color mixing on the other side.

One small issue is it's a little confusing being able to tell the difference between what color mixing happens on the table with the hex tiles versus what you must 'trade in' to get other colors. Ultimately, though, this is only a problem for new players during the first couple of rounds.

(Read more...)
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Tue May 10, 2011 5:10 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
8 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide

TIMELY TOPICS - I like to Fiddle with my bits (Fiddliness in gaming - what's the big deal?)

-matt s.
United States
Eugene
Oregon
flag msg tools
/geeklist/240879
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: EurogamerMicrobadge: The Quest for El Dorado fanMicrobadge: 2020 Copper SupporterMicrobadge: I survived 2020!Microbadge: I play with red!
I love my game bits! This is of course why I'm so obsessive about storing them properly. I love opening a game and seeing lots of bits or having lots of chits to punch out and sort.

So what's the deal with everyone bothered by fiddliness in games? No really!? Most games have stuff you have to mess around with - pieces all over the board, drawing tiles or bits, etc. And, honestly, I'm sort of tired of hearing about games being 'too fiddly'. I love fiddly!

Well, I thought I did. But then I wondered: what exactly is 'fiddly'? Once I started looking into it, everyone seemed to think 'fiddly' means something different. And, often, 'fiddly' seems to be associated with something 'bad' in relation to evaluating and describing games although I didn't really see that at all.

If I'm going to be writing more game reviews, I really want to make sure what I'm saying comes across clearly without ambiguity. And, although I like the word fiddly quite a bit (because to me it means a game has lots of bits that you might have to move around a lot) it seems there is too much confusion in it's usage.

So, my first stop was the dictionary (well, several online dictionaries rather). Here are some 'official' definitions I found:

FIDDLY
* Small and awkward to do or handle (www.dictionary.com)
* Requiring dexterity to operate (www.wiktionary.com)
* Requiring close attention to detail : fussy; especially : requiring an annoying amount of close attention (www.merriam-webster.com)
* Difficult and annoying because you have to make small complicated movements with your fingers (www.macmillandictionary.com)
* Difficult to do, especially because you have to deal with very small objects (www.ldoceonline.com)
* صعب (www.almaany.com - arabic)
* Requiring dexterity to operate (www.allwords.com)
* U.K.: tricky to do; difficult to do, handle, or use, usually because intricate work with the hands or small objects are involved (encarta.msn.com)
* Nitpicky, detailed, fine, small, repetitive, possibly boring. Usually used in reference to a task. (www.urbandictionary.com)
* Complicated or detailed and awkward to do or use (oxforddictionaries.com)

Ok, formal definitions are all fine and dandy, but do these REALLY describe what people are talking about when referring to board games being fiddly? Somewhat I think - they are definitely related. And, I'm a little disheartened as fiddly seems to be more of a bad word than a good word, even by those definitions above depending on which dictionary you're looking at. But, I suspect there's something more to it than just that when relating to games.

(Read more...)
Twitter Facebook
10 Comments
Fri Apr 29, 2011 7:23 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
21 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide

THE CREATIVE GAMER - Making mini-'Troyes' (OR, my impatience overshadows the potential for the reprint)

-matt s.
United States
Eugene
Oregon
flag msg tools
/geeklist/240879
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: EurogamerMicrobadge: The Quest for El Dorado fanMicrobadge: 2020 Copper SupporterMicrobadge: I survived 2020!Microbadge: I play with red!
Last year just after Essen, Lorna brought back a bunch of games she'd purchased (as she always does) and invited a few people over to play (as she always does). I got to try out some the previous year (after Essen 2009) and enjoyed the experience and didn't want to miss out this year as well. I had a couple of games I really wanted to try including The Great Fire of London 1666, Norenberc, Key Market, Porto Carthago, Sun, Sea & Sand, and Troyes (among others).

Of those, I still haven't played Norenberc or Porto Carthago. Lorna traded away Norenberc after a couple of plays and I didn't even get a chance to try it I'm hoping to get to play it eventually (even if she didn't like it), as well as Porto Carthago. The Great Fire was good but not quite what I was expecting. After a 2nd play earlier this year I enjoyed it a bit more than the first and would still eventually like to get a copy as I love the theme.

PLAYING TROYES FOR THE FIRST TIME
Troyes had some of the best buzz coming out of Essen so I was really looking forward to it. And, I think it ended up being the first game I got to try out of the bunch. The first round took well over an hour as the mechanics were so different, the iconography was puzzling, and the rules were a bit of trouble to get through.

Eventually we struggled through it enough to complete a game. I REALLY enjoyed it. I loved the interesting usage of dice and all the things you could do with them. The idea of competing for which color dice you get, the different benefits of each type, plus being able to improve upon/change bad rolls was all very interesting and exciting.

FAILED ACQUISITION OF TROYES
I decided I wanted a copy for myself. So, I went looking for one but it was almost no where to be found (or at least not for a very reasonable price). They had pretty much sold off all their stock at Essen and only a few remained for retail purchase. I found a couple of copies on the BGG Marketplace but they were all in Europe with high price tags and just as high shipping. And, there were murmurs of Z-Man publishing it in the future. I decided to wait although I knew it likely would be a longish wait. Could I wait? Hmmmm, well yes.

THE SEEDS OF DESIRE ARE SOWN
At first I DID entertain the thought of making my own copy. I know some people frown on this but generally I only would consider it if it was out-of-print and hard-to-get or just not available at all. Really, all of this was true and murmurs of re-prints can often take months or years, if ever. Although, I was pretty sure this game would get a new printing and probably not too horribly far off either to meet the demand that Essen had generated.

So, I waited. For a while. Well, ok, it ended up being only a couple of weeks. I originally played it for the first time on October 25th. I had a mostly usable copy made by November 11th and it was pretty much completed by November 17th.

Now, in my defense, I REALLY WASN'T planning on making a copy. Anyone who knows me knows that I'll do things the hard/long way because if I'm going to make the effort to re-create a game I'm not going to do it half-way. And, because of this, I knew it would be a lot of work. So, I decided against it and figured I would just wait.

But THEN one evening I remembered I had some miniature dice (100 to be exact) that I'd purchased for $1 from some online deal earlier in the year. Hmmm, I wondered if it had the correct distribution of dice....? I checked. It did! Well, except there weren't enough WHITE dice if you can believe that. And not enough BLACK dice. BUT, it had enough yellow and red dice. I found I DID have enough green dice to maybe use in place of the white dice. And, there were enough purple dice to replace the black. Those seemed like reasonable trade-offs. Although, I was concerned the yellow and green might get confused. And I knew I'd have to deal with the fact that the white building and spaces would now have green dice associated with them. But ah well, I was excited to possibly have found a use for some of these dice that had been sitting around for months!

But did I really want to make this game? Did I have the rest of the components to put it all together? Did I really want to spend the time doing this project?

(Read more....)

(Warning - this will take you to a really long post with a lot of pictures! If you don't feel like reading everything just jump down to the sections that look interesting and look at the pics, especially near the end although the ones in the middle are cool, too. I thought about breaking it up but thought I'd just make you, poor reader, suffer instead. You're welcome.)
Twitter Facebook
6 Comments
Thu Apr 21, 2011 11:40 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
13 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

HOT BOX - 'Pastiche' by Sean MacDonald (What's in the Box?)

-matt s.
United States
Eugene
Oregon
flag msg tools
/geeklist/240879
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: EurogamerMicrobadge: The Quest for El Dorado fanMicrobadge: 2020 Copper SupporterMicrobadge: I survived 2020!Microbadge: I play with red!
Gosh, a whole other week has gone by since I last posted! I've had a couple of posting ideas but just been too tired to stay awake enough to think them through.

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

From gallery of tasajara

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

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

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

So, here it is!

From gallery of tasajara

The box. Ready. Waiting.

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

From gallery of tasajara

Back of the box.

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

(Read and see more....)
Twitter Facebook
2 Comments
Tue Apr 19, 2011 7:45 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
23 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

TIMELY TOPICS - Fear of the Unknown Box (Games I Have Avoided Playing)

-matt s.
United States
Eugene
Oregon
flag msg tools
/geeklist/240879
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: EurogamerMicrobadge: The Quest for El Dorado fanMicrobadge: 2020 Copper SupporterMicrobadge: I survived 2020!Microbadge: I play with red!
Howdy! Glad you could stop by today. I've kinda been busy and haven't posted here in a bit. What have I been busy with? Work. Kids stuff (soccer, dance, etc). Attending part of the EGG game day. Being sick. And creating a new Ticket to Ride map. Yes, a new map. Days of Wonder is holding a $10,000 contest for the best new map submitted and will be part of an anniversary box (or some such thing) that will come out next year (for DOW's 10th anniversary). My wife, Lynda, came up with an idea and I started running with it. I'm not saying anything else until we've submitted and it's past the April 15th deadline. Not that you'd copy our ideas or anything, right?

Anyhow, so I've been somewhat busy with that. We've barely play tested it though and I need to revamp the map and the tickets again but it's been a blast seeing it come together and having fun doing graphics stuff.

But, I've also been thinking about a topic that has intrigued me. I have noticed that there are certain games I've had a 'fear' of playing and tended to avoid. By 'fear' I mean having trepidation around playing them. I get that funny twisty feeling in your stomach when I think about playing them and I'm not sure if I really want to. I've been wondering why I was avoiding certain games because, when I finally got around to playing them, I often really enjoyed them! It is silly to avoid them because THEY ARE JUST GAMES! And, if I had continued to avoid them I might have missed out on the great fun and experience of playing them.

So, here are some of the reasons I've come up with for having 'Fear of the Unknown Box' and the games that fell into that category for me.

"IT'S TOO POPULAR" - Dominion
Some people are extremely averse to popular culture whether it is games, music, etc. I'm only slightly averse to pop culture. I avoid some of the more popular music much more than I used to but am still drawn to some of it as well. Games are the same for me. I tended to avoid Dominion for a long time after it came out and likely would never have ended up purchasing my own copy had not a friend of mine forced encouraged me to play (thanks Bob!). I'm not really sure if I had a specific reason to avoid it - maybe because it was Deck Building which I'd never really done before and maybe because it was just the 'hot thing' and avoided it as a result.

But once I learned it and then tried out Intrigue and Seaside I decided I liked it enough to have it myself. AND, later I taught it to my Dad and he instantly loved it and immediately bought his own copy. I've had a lot of fun playing with my family as well as many of my friends - it is one of my daughter's all-time favorite games, so I'm glad I gave it a go.

"IT'S TOO COMPLICATED" - Web of Power, Age of Steam
Now, here's the thing that I think has affected me the most: I get an idea in my head about what the game is about and end up making it out to more or different than what it really ends up being. In other words, after learning the game and playing for the first time I went "That's it?!" and I wondered why I avoided it to begin with.

Just last week I finally played Web of Power for the first time. I admit I was intrigued by it, but I had in my mind that it was a negotiation game and had all these complicated rules and powers in it. What it turned out to be was a fast playing area control game with a card driven mechanism. When Cary taught it to me I literally thought "That's it?" as I was expecting much more. Now, the 2-player game is a bit more complicated than that, but really not all that much more. 3-player this game really shined AND it's a pretty easy game to understand in terms of the rules. Of course, how you play the game is a bit more complicated. BUT, this was a game I was nervous about playing and then found my fears were unfounded.

Age of Steam (which I finally learned to play last year) was another game I imagined in my head to be more complicated than I thought. When you read through the rules and play a turn or two you realize there's really not that much to the system itself. You take shares (money), bid for turn order, build tracks, build cities, improve your shipping capabilities, ship goods and earn income. It makes sense. The money is really tight and you have to manage it carefully, but the mechanics are pretty straight forward. Again, it comes down to the game play and the interactions that are more complicated BUT there's really nothing to fear in the game itself. I found I loved it and, even though I got trounced my first game out, I have learned to love the game to the point of buying my own copy and several expansion maps.

"IT'S A CO-OP" - Last Night on Earth, Betrayal at House on the Hill


(read more....)


Related geeklist: Fear of the Unknown Box (Games I Have Avoided Playing)
Twitter Facebook
16 Comments
Tue Apr 12, 2011 11:30 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
58 
 Thumb up
0.07
 tip
 Hide

TIMELY TOPICS - Getting it Wrong - Traps Game Explainers Can Fall Into

-matt s.
United States
Eugene
Oregon
flag msg tools
/geeklist/240879
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: EurogamerMicrobadge: The Quest for El Dorado fanMicrobadge: 2020 Copper SupporterMicrobadge: I survived 2020!Microbadge: I play with red!
(reposted from Matt's Board Game Back Room)

The other day I found out I've been playing a rule wrong in Troyes. Not horribly wrong as I don't think it would have impacted our games too much, but it also might have opened up the possibility of the game being played differently.

In this case, it was actually the ABSENCE of a rule - empty spots in buildings aren't filled in with gray citizens unless an event causes them to be placed (or when you place them during setup)! I had assumed all dice should be in the game and, therefore, all the spots should be filled in the buildings when 'Assembling the Workforce'. DRAT! I HATE getting rules wrong.... It really bothers me, even if I know it might not have impacted the game much. I know some people might write these off as unintentional 'variants' (ok, sometimes you do this and end up with a better way to play, or at least a different interesting way to play) but it just irks me to get it wrong from the original rules. The absence of the rule along with an assumption is what trapped me here.

So, it got me thinking about some of the traps that Game Explainers might fall into.

Here are some common traps that I have (or seen others) fallen into:

TRAP: Forgetting to teach important rules.
Danger of the trap: Well, this one is fairly obvious - if you forget a rule you can completely change the game, perhaps even breaking it. Also, when you remember it later and let everyone know, they can think you were holding it back on purpose until the moment you 'remember' it and it's to your benefit. Or worse, it can completely ruin someone's strategy and take them out of the game. I have been on the receiving end of this before where I thought one thing and it turned out to not be allowed or something due to a neglected rule.

Example: Caylus - In a 2-player game I played a while ago, the rule not taught to me was where the worker in the Inn can be removed voluntarily the next turn when the Inn is activated or be left there if the other player has not pushed him out. Actually, this doesn't apply just to 2-player. I didn't realize I could remove that worker on subsequent turns - I thought it had to be forced out. I mentioned this and the person I was playing with seemed to confirm it would stay. On the first turn I had placed a worker there and NEVER got him back for the rest of the game as the other player never used the Inn to force me out. So, I was basically 1 guy short the ENTIRE game. The plus side was I never had to pay more than 1 Denier after the other player passed...so at least I had some benefit from it.


TRAP: Not teaching all the rules up-front.
Danger of the trap: Ok, sometimes it's not necessary to teach everything up front, but it's related to "Forgetting to teach important rules" in that, not knowing something until later may really mess up the game for someone at the time the rule is revealed which will influence how someone is playing earlier on. Yes, if it's a learning game then you can kind of let it go, but it's still irritating. Now, some games are so complicated this is fine, or the rules don't impact what you're doing now (such as with a wargame - you can't/don't need to learn it all up front), but I say that if you know the rules and know they are important, even to a small degree, it's best to teach it at the outset rather than at some inopportune time later as this can ruin a game for some people and they may never want to give it another shot.

Example: Downfall of Pompeii - Some people teach this game in halves - teach the first half then once the volcano starts erupting, teach the 2nd half. Now, the 2nd half rules just aren't THAT complicated in terms of understanding how movement works. In fact, you should probably teach the 2nd half rules FIRST so that when you teach the first half rules, players know WHY they might want to place one of their people in a particular building. Note there are some important movement rules in this game that also tend to be 'forgotten' so don't fall into that trap as well!


TRAP: Making an assumption about the game play that is incorrect. (aka: mis-applying a rule to an incorrect situation)
Danger of the trap: Some games lend themselves to this, especially if they have a theme that fits the game well. You can sometimes assume a rule is correct when, perhaps it is not due to something about the mechanics of the game. Or, what may seem 'intuitive' may not actually be correct, so making an assumption will lead you astray.

Example: Thunderstone - I had previously been taught this game (some months earlier) and when I got it myself I skimmed through the rules quickly then started playing with my friend Bob. Boy was the game rough. We had the hardest time getting any sort of attack to kill anything off, even with the 'suggested' setup.

As it turned out, Bob later discovered that I had incorrectly taught that each Hero/Militia had to be equipped with a weapon before they could fight in the dungeon. I had glanced at a rule further on that discussed this but it was related to a specific situation. It seemed to make sense with the theme so I assumed it was correct and didn't think anything else about it. Man, it just about ruined the game for us. Luckily we still enjoyed the theme, so we kept trying to play it, but we found it odd that we were scaring off monsters just to get the game to progress towards a merciful end!

In my defense, I will say the rules aren't entirely clear in this game sometimes. BUT, there are other ways to figure out when things have gone horribly wrong. My suggestion: If a game seems horrible or problematic, re-read the rules, check the forums and make sure you didn't play it incorrectly before dismissing the game completely.


TRAP: Assuming you learned the rules correctly and continuing to re-teach the game without verifying the rules yourself.
Danger of the trap: If you learn the game wrong, then teach it wrong and it propagates out, it continues to snowball and pretty soon there are large numbers of people playing it wrong. Check the rules yourself, even if it means reading the rules on your own before the next time you play. I've found many games where I was taught one way and then discovered that a rule or two were incorrect. This is ESPECIALLY bad if the incorrect rules essentially breaks an otherwise good game, thus potentially damaging the general consensus of the game.

Example: Monopoly - Yes, the old standby for this trap. When did YOU learn that Monopoly had auctions? I had NO idea when I was growing up playing it. I loved the game anyhow and didn't care it could go on for hours and hours. In fact, that's usually how I won because everyone else grew weary of it so sometimes I 'won' by default. Not that Monopoly is the end-all, be-all with the auction in it, but it certainly improves the game.


TRAP: Creating a rule when no rule exists and actually means NO RULE for a reason.
Danger of the trap: Well, most of the reasons already mentioned above - basically it comes down to ruining or changing the game, perhaps in a negative way. Every rule in a game affects how it is played. If you add a rule it may take away or change some of the important options in the game and it may become incorrectly balanced in some way.

Example: Troyes The reason I started this list. Yes, I assumed there was a need to do something when, in fact, there was never a rule that said so. It seemed implicit, but I have seen this sort of thing before in other games and you have to be careful about reading into game rules. If there isn't a rule to do something DON'T DO IT. The tricky thing here is you would think there would be a rule or something stating that 'you might not use all dice every round as a spot can be left open in the buildings' or something like that, just to make it clear. However, what is clear now may not have been at all clear that such a 'rule' or comment was necessary to the game designers or play testers.


TRAP: Learning a (difficult) game cold as a group reading straight from the rules
Danger of the trap: If you aren't familiar with it and particularly if it's complicated (say 6+ pages of rules) you're better off waiting and not wasting everyone's time while you try to puzzle them out. There are exceptions to this (kids games or simpler games; getting your hands on a game at a convention you've never played before and no one is available to teach but you are eager to play - although this is still dubious for some games) but I'm inclined to walk away and find something else rather than endure a group reading of the rules.

Example: Shipyard - When I first learned this the game explainer had 'skimmed' the rules beforehand. Ugh! It took at least 1-1/2 hours with 2 people (not me) trying to figure out the rules by the time we got the game set up and taught. The game took 3 hours to play so I had invested 4-1/2 hours in the game, on a day with limited time for more gaming. Once we got into the game I really enjoyed it but having taken so long definitely detracted from my enjoyment of it. THEN, I discovered later that several rules had been explained slightly incorrectly. Also, part of the setup was incorrect. I have since written up my own reference sheet (which took me several readings to get completed and I STILL got a couple of things wrong).

Now, in the game explainers' defense, the rules to this game were overly complicated in my opinion and also were confusing because 2 player rules were mixed in with the regular rules (which, I have found to often be problematic - keeping 2-player differences in one section near the end of the rules is a much better way to write rules in my opinion).

Still, my lesson learned was to never learn a game cold if it's an overly complicated game to begin with. Do the learning BEFORE offering to teach it, or don't teach it at all. This is why I didn't break out any of my new games @ Gamestorm - there are plenty of OTHER games to play, I don't want to waste precious gaming time trying to puzzle out the rules. You are under pressure and you're going to make too many mistakes and eventually ruin the game for at least some if not all those involved.

Another story along the same lines direct from Gamestorm this year -- one that REALLY bothered me and I'm glad we took action as we did. Rog wanted to learn the new Resident Evil Deck Building Game - I wasn't really interested but I thought I'd go check it out with him and decide if I wanted to play. Well, when we got there several people were already sitting there and they were going to make room for us, but as we were working that out they were mentioning no one had played it before (including the person running the demo!?!?) but it was 'Dominion -like' and should be easy enough to figure out. And, at least one of the players claimed to never have played Dominion. I said I was going to just watch and Rog had a terrified look on his face like "let's bail". So we did. Best decision we made at the convention I'd say. Man - I can't believe they had someone there running an official 'demo' of the game (presumably someone being compensated in some manner) and hadn't even played it before! That's a disaster waiting to happen....


Some guidelines I use to help avoid some of these traps:

* If you've never played a game before, review the rules AHEAD of time, set up the game and play a mock turn or two, most especially for more complicated games. This will save time for everyone involved. If you get caught in this trap as a player, cut off your hand and run away to find another game (or rather, just excuse yourself politely).

* Spend time reviewing the rules to games during or after teaching, even if you've played dozens of times. Even just skimming through the rules right before won't hurt if you can catch yourself on something right from the get-go. Some games also have player boards/sheets/screens with information on them and reviewing those can help as well.

* Create or print a player aid ahead of time. Having a summary of the rules helps give the game structure and people can read it themselves between turns to get up to speed faster. It also makes teaching the game easy as you can just follow along (and if it's well made it can help remind you of the smaller niggly rules). I almost always try to have a player aid for more complicated games, especially when teaching to new players.

* Check the BGG forums and ask a new question if necessary. BGG is rich with information and full of knowledgeable people that answer most questions in a very timely manner (often a matter of minutes). Don't hesitate to look something up or pose your question if something is questionable, ambiguous or otherwise doesn't seem right. No one is going to think you're an idiot (well ok, someone may - but most people on BGG are polite at least, even if you ARE an idiot) and your game learners will be happy you made the extra effort.

This certainly isn't a comprehensive list of traps or solutions, but I think I have seen them enough to consider putting them on this list.

If you have any others, feel free to comment and offer them up.

Now go play a game (and teach it correctly, please!)
Twitter Facebook
27 Comments
Tue Apr 5, 2011 3:40 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls

[1]  Prev «  4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , 8  Next »  [9]