Boardgames To Go

Mark Johnson's occasional and opinionated podcast, Boardgames To Go, now has its own blog on Boardgamegeek.
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Right place, right time

Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
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That's a Palm Pilot on the left, and a pink iPod mini on the right. Yes, I've been doing BGTG that long!
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From gallery of MarkEJohnson

Ah, the wonders of the modern age! This week I traveled to Rhode Island on a business trip. After posting a joke about distinguishing between Connecticut and RI drivers, gamer Charley Eastman (he of the Little Wooden Cubist podcast that once was) saw my location and suggested we meet in person to play some games. How wonderful! As luck would have it, we were able to make that work. He drove down from the greater Boston area to meet me, we talked about gaming, family, and podcasting, and then we played a couple games.

The only game I had with me is a small, light wargame about the Roman Civil War, called Caesar XL (Victory Point Games). It's definitely a light one. In fact, the "XL" is a play on same-designer Joe Miranda's more famous Napoleon 20 series. Those battle games have no more than 20 counters on the map. Caesar XL has no more than 40 (get it?). Most of the time, a lot less. It's a point-to-point map, as Caesar and Pompey battle it out for supremacy over the Roman world. Rather than just a military game, there's a simple economic system and a way to win a political victory by accumulation of Forum cards and their special conditions (and rewards).

I liked it ok (more than its block game big brother, Julius Caesar: Caesar, Pompey, and the Roman Civil War, I think), but the dicing to resolve battles was tedious. More than anything, I'm holding out hope that the intermediate and advanced versions of the game will offer more interest than this first outing with the basic rules. There is a whole bit with Barbarians and other counters that we never got to use at all.

In our game, Charley won as Pompey. When our two leaders finally met in battle, he defeated Julius Caesar. Though I promoted Octavian soon enough, the loss of my supreme leader was a heavy blow, and I didn't take enough time to regroup before putting myself in harm's way again.


From gallery of MarkEJohnson
Next we played a couple games of Cube Quest. I'd never even heard of this one from Gamewright. That's a company focused on kid & family games for the American mass market. I like what they do, and had never seen them attempt something so big & deluxe as Cube Quest. It's a flicking game with variable units and strategies. Pretty clever. The "mouse pad" playing surfaces, as Charley called them, don't lie flat, but that's actually a GOOD thing. Maybe Gamewright is making lemonade out of lemons, but I thought the waviness of the "terrain" added a lot of interest and challenge to the core dexterity game.

First Charley taught me the basic game, using Grunt defenders and Strikers mostly for attack. Even with just those units, there's a lot to think about in how you initially deploy your units, position them for defense as the game goes on, and make your own attempts to capture the opposing king. True, some shots--intentional or otherwise--have you chasing deflected cubes all over the floor, but that's ok. I appreciate that, like Crokinole, sometimes there is the need to make a shot with power. It's not all about finesse.

For our second game we used several of the more advanced cubes with their own special powers. The Stealth guys were the most fun, though in the end I won our game by old-fashioned brute force, not a trick play.

Thanks again, Charley!

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