Recent gaming: Animals on Board, NY 1901, Pandemic Cure, Last Spike, My First Stone Age, Mmm!, Leo
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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May 30-June 5, 2016

The Tabletop Gamers of SCV (Santa Clarita Valley) had their monthly game night at our local Barnes & Noble. Another good time, good turnout, good games played. Plus I got to meet with friends and try out some award-nominated kids' games.

-Mark


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1. Board Game: Animals on Board [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:1445]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Very eager to play this again. I heard about it from some speculation that it might receive a Spiel des Jahres nomination. It didn't, but perhaps it should've! It's a game that is easy to play & understand but has some tactical depth to it. There's something like an I-divide-you-choose mechanism (like San Marco), as well as a quasi set-collecting mechanism (like Zooloretto). Nice components, attractive artwork. I wonder how much you need to watch & remember what everyone is doing (unlike Zooloretto, the tiles collected are held face-down) and whether that will remain fun. I guess you could play it with open holdings since what players take is trackable info. (The old Acquire debate.) As it stands, I just want to play it some more.
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2. Board Game: New York 1901 [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:685]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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This outing fell a little flat because I didn't warn the new players how the ending can sneak up on you. In fact, it snuck up on me, too, which meant that none of us really got to unfold our full strategies. Just the same, it continues to have that quality of being someone sedate during the beginning, almost on auto-pilot, and then the subtleties of the tactical situation reveal themselves halfway through. Then people usually want to play again. I hope I get a chance to do that with these gamers.
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3. Board Game: Pandemic: The Cure [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:239]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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I've had a roller coaster experience with The Cure (albeit a brief one). I had such high hopes before its release, then was underwhelmed when I first played. Now I'm coming around to see what it really is. If there were no Pandemic boardgame, I might rate this even higher. As it is, though, I must be one of the few that prefers the original game, with its card flips and plannable turns over the die rolling. To each his own.

However, the REAL story about this game is a funny one about me (I think). I'm the curmudgeon that prefers my games to be about the real world, either historic or contemporary. That's one of the things I really love about Pandemic. In this play, though, the owner of the game was a more typical(?) gamer who thinks my topics are kind of dull and wanted to add some flair. He'd replaced the standard Pandemic roles with superheroes, so my Containment Specialist was Green Lantern (complete with figure), and the "diseases" we were fighting were represented by supervillains. I'm not a DC guy, so I couldn't identify them, but I remember the yellow one was a gargantuan woman who looked like Raquel Welch! Made me chuckle at my fuddy-duddy self before I went back to games about building cities and railroads.
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4. Board Game: The Last Spike [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:2892]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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This is my friend Greg's current go-to game to fill 30 minutes with some strategy. It continues to win people over, and typically we play back-to-back games. This morning I took a look at the 1975 original edition...which looks like it is barely the same game. That one had the same "last spike" mechanism, and a similar board (sort of), but was built on a roll & move, Monopoly-style framework. The new version discards the latter for an Acquire-style framework and is a big success. I'll always have some feeling that the slight variations in historic routes (here captured only as costs to playing different tiles) can create some random imbalances in the game, but that's only a quibble. In fact, I'd much rather include this real-world effect than have a game that's perfectly smooth, balanced, and neutral. That would be boring. This game strikes the right balance. Really great.
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5. Board Game: My First Stone Age [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:1948] [Average Rating:6.81 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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I believe there are now several "My first..." sort of eurogames. Not all with that same title (which I think is claimed by Hans im Gluck), but other, similar "kiddie versions" of adult boardgames. In general, I think it's a good idea, as kids notice what games their parents play--this gives them the chance to play something recognizably similar, not just their own game. Also, I don't need kids' games to be seriously fun & challenging for the parents, too. I just don't want them to be tedious, or otherwise have the parent checking their watch for how much longer the game will last.

My First Stone Age was far from tedious, but I didn't really love it, either. I still think it might make a good purchase for a gamer-parent who has a little one. Not TOO little, since the delightful wooden bits are actually a choking hazard (says so on the box, too). That's no longer a problem by the time your kid can learn the rules & play this one with you. Age 5-6ish, I'd say.
 
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6. Board Game: Mmm! [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:4182]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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This was one-and-done, for me. Being a Knizia game, I had some hopes for it, though truthfully I haven't played a good kids' game from that legendary (and favorite) designer. Maybe he's done some that I've missed. this one has some die rolling, and a friend smartly compared it to Can't Stop. Maybe that's it because I've never been as fond of Can't Stop as my friend, either.
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7. Board Game: Leo [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:2577]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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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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What a delight! The game description (and notable designer of dry abstracts) gave me no expectation of how fun this was. If my kids were little again, instead of in college, I'd love to play this with them. (I always think of kids games in that context--playing with them, not games they just play by themselves.) In fact, I thought this was pretty fun to play with adults, and could see this as a fun opener/closer on any game night. Yes, it's got a strong memory element, but it's done as a co-op exercise that was both fun & funny when we played.
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