My wife did not remember trying this years ago at Origins so it was essentially a learning game for her and a refresher for me. I was really focused on interpreting the rules correctly as that last time we played we didn't play things correctly and missed my wife running away with the end game objective scoring. Wow! She crushed with the Knight card. I knew what she was doing, but didn't do much to keep pace or counter it. My wife, 51. Me, 35.
In the evening after dinner my BIL and I played a 2p game of Hanabi, recording an 18 point result. We discarded a yellow 1 early that we really needed as it took forever before we saw another. When we finished we recruited my sister and dad to join us for a play using the Variant 4 rules where you play for a perfect score before the fuse runs out. This was sister's first time and things continued to click nearly every round and it was exciting to see how much my BIL and dad were getting into it--we had played a few times at Christmas. We got our perfect score.
I was about to run back across the street when they saw I had another game in my pocket and as I was setting it up to teach them so they could play I got roped into playing as well, which ultimately led to two plays of No Thanks!. My dad won the first, I was second, then my sister and then my BIL. The second game placements were in reverse order.
Taught two of my coworkers over lunch and each of us scored a win with an epic third game that was really close and literally came down to the last card where had I pushed my luck one more round I may have won had they passed--and they don't know exactly if they would have or not. Fun break.
In the morning over coffee we played three games: BK(40), HK(28) - Farmers, Fishermen, Workers HK(73), BK(63) - Ambassadors, Lords, Merchants BK(41), HK(41) - Ambassadors, Citizens, Hermits
In the evening, two more with a heavy Nomad expansion focus: BK(53), HK(40) - Citizens, Discoverers, Merchants. We used all Nomad expansion boards. BK(72), HK(70) - Ambassadors, Workers, Lords. We leveraged the Caravans and Nomads tiles quite a bit in this one.
BK(49), HK(44) - Discoverers, Families, Shepherds BK(62), HK(45) - Farmers, Hermits, Lords In our second coffee game of Kingdom Builder it came down to my wife having difficulty building into the fourth sector where she was only able to build one settlement which allowed her to score, but not many points.
We are enjoying the simplicity of the design with tons of variety which makes it feel different each time and require careful thought as if you have a new puzzle to solve each time which is that piece of the game that everyone talks about that I didn't see in those early plays.
My BIL, sister, dad and I successfully completed the first scenario in the box, Prison Break, with 3:24 remaining on the clock. It was really fun. My BIL and I were the only two with actually escape room experience and thought it simulated it fairly well. The first part was a little slow going as we were getting oriented with the system. Part 2 went really quick once we figured out the steps. The last part we figured out the keys very early but didn't figure out the order until the clue card.
My dad, brother in law and I played two games of Hanabi using the Variant 3 rules where wilds are included and you are playing for 6 suits. We scored 24 points in both games. In the first game we made some early mistakes and rallied for our points. In game two we played better but it was slow building as we started with mostly mid to high cards after getting all our ones early.
In the afternoon we gathered at my sister's for another Escape Room scenario. This time we played the Virus and started out really well getting the code to part 1 early on. But we struggled from there, to the point that we never even got to part 3. We missed something fundamental and have decided to play it again given the confusion, so we packaged it all up and will give it another go next time it gets pulled out.
I was pleasantly surprised to record so many plays this week. I've already had the biggest January I've ever had since joining BGG.
In general we seem to be leaning more and more towards multiple plays of a single game over an evening, depth rather than breadth. That's no problem for me, because I really love exploring the decision space of a game, and I find it a decent way to find out if something has the possibility to be a long-term keeper, but this week proved to be a mixed bag...
Thanks to some store credit which brought the expansion to our door last week, and KT's expressed enjoyment of the game, we decided to get Mystic Vale back to the table with Mystic Vale: Vale of Magic thrown in for good measure. Game 1 was a relatively leisurely affair as we got used to the new advancement and vale cards. Ooh, more symbols and text to read! As we'd experienced previously, this game starts off slowly but then pushes you into moving on as the Level 1 advancements disappear. KT went to town on the vale cards and gathered points from her deck as well, while I kept up as best I could, but she won 41-29. We set up again later in the evening for a rematch, and this time we had clearly learned a few lessons from the previous game. I got off to a good start, but KT had some wonderfully synergised cards in her deck that gave her some massive spending - at one point she had 46 Mana (I think that's the currency!) to get rid of, and she did so in style, picking up no fewer than 18 points on her final turn to win 56-38. I felt I played quite well, but... The third game was very different in feel. Neither of us went very much for the point cards, although I invested in them more heavily, which paid off nicely at the end, as KT finished the game but simply couldn't pick up the points she needed to win. 30-23 to me in this final game, meaning that she won the series 2-1 despite my single win. KT would have happily played again, but it was getting late. Even so Mystic Vale has now picked up more than 10 plays since it entered our collection in November, and that's a pretty good showing - in fact, it's our most played game since it entered the collection, edging out even our long term favourites.
Flash Point: Fire Rescue made its way back to the table on Wednesday evening as we start to get to grips with the various niceties of the Advanced game. Having been absolutely hammered at this a few weeks ago we decided to take the designer's advice once more and add in the extra elements bit by bit. We therefore set up the board at Recruit level, but without hotspots or vehicles, so with the roles and the hazmat tokens. We also took more time to go through the various roles and decide which might work well together. KT went for the medic card, while I went for the chap who specialises in extinguishing things, so one to save victims and one to fight the fire. This combination worked pretty well at the start, thanks also to a slightly fortuitous layout that placed three victims quite near to exit routes, and we were only really hampered by the three false alarms that we picked up. We managed to save all seven victims without too much trouble, and then realised that we hadn't quite been following the rules about replacing POIs, and that following them correctly might well have made things trickier. Next time...
When KT is in the right mood I like to throw some new stuff onto the table and see if I can get the unplayed pile down just a little. Friday night looked as if it would bode well, and with some new cardboard having been welcomed into the house that very morning I took the opportunity to get some fresh stuff to the table. It was an evening of mixed results.
Our first play was a couple of runs of my freshly delivered review copy of Arcane Academy, the tile-linking wizardry game by Eric Lang and Kevin Wilson, two heavy hitters of the industry. This is a pared down game by their normal standards, but it is a clean and efficient design and very thinky. In our first game, just getting used to things, KT worked things out almost immediately while I backed myself into a corner, and she totally destroyed me in the final scoring, 36-5. We set up for a rematch and I worked things out a little better this time through, though not enough to prevent KT from sneaking out a second win 23-16. This is a pleasantly clean design, with enough space to make some interesting and involved choices, and packs a lot of punch into its thirty or so minutes. I'd place it on the heavier side for that kind of length of play, despite its cheery exterior, and even at this early stage I would recommend it for couples looking for something meaty rather than light for their spare half hours. KT awarded this an 8, I gave it a 9, so we're looking at a provisional rating of 8.5, which is pretty high for us.
Next up was Summoner Wars: Master Set, which has sat unplayed on my shelf for a long, long time, and which I have been really keen to play with KT. I've played some games of this on my phone, enjoyed it enough, and wanted to find out whether this would click and be the chess-like game that KT would enjoy playing with me. Sadly this did not turn out to be the case, and we both found the game to be a crushing disappointment. I picked the Deep Dwarves while KT went for the Benders, but we both found the game to be very slow and uninvolving, and even a good way into the game both Summoners on the board sat there unharmed, and we waited and waited for something exciting to happen. I know that many people love this game with a passion, so the fault is surely ours, but what were we doing wrong? Did we choose the wrong factions? Should we invest in the Phoenix Elves and Tundra Orcs and get used to them before going back to the Master Set? Is Ashes just more fun? Are the Commons really as dull as they feel? There is something at the back of my mind nagging me about this game, and I think that KT would play it again, but is it worth saving? In the end I just lost interest and we packed it away and put it on the trade pile, but I felt terribly disappointed.
Next up was Attika, an oldie that I had read about many times, and which I had bought a while ago in decent condition. We set up and played what I thought was a reasonably enjoyable game of this, which I won by linking the two temples together, but once again it felt as though the endgame was going on for ever. Back in 2004 this must have seemed very fresh indeed, but I think it is showing its age a little, and the tech tree, such as it is, doesn't really capture the essence of building anything. Still, it was a fun little game, with decent components as well, but to the trade pile it goes.
Last up was The Great Dinosaur Rush, another review game. I read the instructions while KT baked some cakes and poured us some wine, and it sounded like real fun, but, again, this was going to disappoint. The components are pretty good, and the idea and theme are great, but the execution of the game feels messy, as if one too many mechanisms have been added to the pot to try to keep things interesting. The obligatory shifting of the reputation track felt totally surplus to requirements, and the rules for building the dinosaurs were clear enough, but did involve several trips back to the nitty-gritty of what was allowed to go where. This was a real shame, as the building of the dinosaurs themselves caused us to laugh out loud many times, and for KT to exclaim at one point “my dinosaur's got really bad posture”, but this also meant that the digging phase was quickly done with, while the building phase took a disproportionately large amount of time and made the game grind to a halt. We had to abort our first game because of a misreading of the rules, and I won the full game 91-80, but neither of us really cared too much by that point, and we both awarded this game a provisional 6 out of 10. We'll see what more it has to offer before writing the proper review, but, like Aquarium, it just feels as if there is too much shoehorned in, and especially for a game that is presumably aimed at the family market, some elements of it are far too fiddly and complicated.
KT and I both agreed that, while it was good to spend a fun evening playing games and reducing the “to-play” pile, we would both have been happier getting in a couple of games of Agricola and/or The Castles Of Burgundy, so that has become the target for this week...but any help in saving Summoner Wars would be greatly appreciated!
Also this week my review copies of Warfighter: The WWII Tactical Combat Card Game and The Colonists arrived, the latter including twenty two (yes, that's 22!) sheets of cardboard to be punched. At first glance it does seem to be a mightily impressive design, but I have deep and dark forebodings about getting to grips with the various elements of the rules, and feel that we shall definitely have to go in first with the introductory scenarios. Warfighter is something entirely new to me, but I have been wanting to try a DVG game for some time, and the opportunity to get a review copy to the table was too good to miss. I also bought a copy of Antike Duellum, simultaneously providing us with a mid-length two-player civ game to play as a route to Polis: Fight for the Hegemony and breaking my 2017 resolution. I've started a Geeklist for those who have also fallen from their self-imposed standards, so do come and join us few brave souls.
Finally, for those in the UK a reminder that my current auction runs until the evening of Sunday 5th. At the current rate there will be plenty more games to add in the next one.
No group gaming or kids gaming this week! BOO! So I soloed it up instead, plus got quite a few online games played too.
Discoveries - Another go of the clever little solo variant here. Man, it's tough to beat (mainly due to how powerful it is, and how well it rolls). But it's fun to play, and gets the game to the table, and as I really enjoy the game, that's great!
Infection Express - Noticed this posted somewhere (the monthly PnP projects geeklist, or the SGoyT geeklist, I forget now), and it was a pretty easy PnP build, so decided to give it a go. And oh boy, it's great! Really gives the feeling of Pandemic in a compact and quick format! I played 4 times, and lost each one, but felt I was getting better each time. Really good for travel I think (although probably not on a train; I'd lose the cubes too easily!).
Port Royal: Ein Auftrag geht noch... - Had 2 plays of this using the solo co-op rules. Lost the first, but won the second, with rating of "Pirate". Huzzah. Such a clever co-op mode.
Online (all on yucata.de)
Jaipur - Love this game. I really should invest in a physical copy (it's been on my wishlist for years now; just need to bump it up the priority list). I lost 2-1, but it was a pretty close game throughout. I went with an "I don't care much for camels" strategy. Which apparently doesn't work that well.
Cacao - A 2 player game, which I lost 67 to 60. I was ahead the entire game until the VERY LAST TURN, when my opponent scooped up enough extra gold to jump ahead of me. DARN IT! Such a close game. Another one I really should pick up a physical copy of, especially seeing how many games of it I've played online!
Yspahan - Chris Kirkman from Dice Hate Me keeps going on about this on The State of Games, and now Jessica Wade (of the same podcast) has also started bigging it up, so I decided to give it a go. Really interesting game, and it's dice-based action drafting, but from before it was cool! Impressive. I'm not very good at the game yet, but I've played it twice, and have 2 other games on the go at the moment, so it's clearly appealing to me!
The Castles of Burgundy - A 3-player game, me coming in a respectable 2nd place. Had I rolled a 1 or a 5 instead of a 6 (or had a worker left) on my last turn, I would have been able to get the last Building I needed to finish a 3-size Building area, AND the last building to get the buidlings bonus tile. Still wouldn't have won me the game, of course, but I would have broken 200 points. Ho hum. A great game nonetheless.
Guildhall - 3 players. I lost, yet again, but I only realised there was a 3rd player after changing the view settings, as it was only showing the 2nd player's cards and I was therefore always targeting him (he came 2nd). Whoops! That's the trouble with having multiple games running concurrently; you lose track of which game is which sometimes, and taking my turns via the browser on my phone means it's often too small to see everything!
The Palaces of Carrara - Hadn't played this in a while, so thought I'd have a 2-player game of it. I'm really in two minds about the game; on one hand, I really enjoy the mechanics and the pushing-your-luck as to how long to hold off before triggering scoring of the cities or building-types, but I also find the theme rather bland. It feels like it could do with one more little mechanism somewhere (possibly if yucata implemented the advanced play with the 8-point buildings it might feel more interesting?). But still, a fun and clever game. I lost, inevitably, as I went too much into money and not enough into VPs.
Prp and I played three times to finish a seven-game series of Summoner Wars I had dubbed "The Corruption of the Jungle Elves." Prp used her deck Saturos Is Everywhere throughout. I had at first used a "pure" Jungle Elf deck Abua Shi's Discovery Channel, which Saturos clobbered. Then I had graduated to Nikuya Na Smells Like Jungle Spirit, which included some Jungle Shadow units, as well as NN poison shenanigans. That was competitive enough to go for three games, with Nikuya Na winning the middle play only. The last three games pit Saturos against the Jungle Shadow summoner in the deck Melundak Attack Pack. Melundak won the first two games of this series, but we played one more, and Saturos had a final victory, leaving Prp with four out of the seven plays.
I also playd three games of Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls, using the official Dragon's Lair variant for all three. The third was the best of these, scoring D 2/121. I fought the Dragon on the first turn of the third level, and I had four companions to back me up, along with Go Berzerk and a blessing. Even so, after my Magician was wounded, I used the Potion of Prescience to make sure I'd get the job done.
With the game group, I played Scythe for the first time. I was predisposed to be unimpressed with this game, because of its vast hype. But I had a really good time, coming in second in a four-player session, while the win went to the other new player. I was the Crimeans (yellow), and I only got one additional worker for the whole game. That just worked fine with my strategy, which produced early mechs and emphasized popular goodwill.
After too damn long, I blew the dust off of Space Hulk: Death Angel - The Card Game. I played with locations and enemies from the base game only. I lost an entire team in the Void Lock. I was surprised to get anyone at all to the final location (the Genestealer Lair). But Brother Valencio alone arrived to face the Brood Lords with a dozen 'stealers on his tail. He couldn't use a combat card (it had been played the turn before), so he used a move/activate to take out the Spore Chimney as a final altruistic gesture.
Prp and I had a couple of plays of Drakon in a single sitting, both with the escape variant. I won the first and she won the second. She was the Druid, like always, but I had fun playing the Knight.
Some lunchtime gaming at work introduced me to Battle Line, which deserves its good reputation. It's a simple, but intense game. I won my first play and lost the second. I still haven't got much of a handle on the tactics cards.
We also played Hive, which was a little lopsided due to my opponent's relative inexperience.
In a game of Feudality with Prp, I tried a military strategy, which worked pretty well and had a lot of advantages. And I got Wolf! I did forget to use my kirk's healing ability after a major offensive, and it might have allowed me an extra attack preventing her win--lessons learned.
Finally, Prp and I had our first play of the Vorakesh scenario in Runebound 3E. Prp's Lyssa got a trusty steed, which was huge (+2 dice). My Laurel was able to equip herself well, and had at least one good combat skill, and she was the first to reach Vorakesh, after killing many zombies and acquiring one companion. Nevertheless, Laurel was defeated by the villain. Arriving two turns before the end of the second act, Lyssa was able to overcome Vorakesh.
Two people couldn't make it do DnD night so we had a board game night instead.
This was our first time playing Castles of Burgundy with four players. Four is a little long and one of the players was new to the game (and not a gamer either) so it took a while. But we all still had fun and I wouldn't have a problem playing it with four again.
Friday night a friend stopped over and he's been wanting to play Dice City again. This was our second two player game.
I went for a resources strategy and he went for a military one. I lost by 10 points. The dice just wouldn't fall where i needed them to and if they did he shut me down. I was never able to buy a ship. I think that part is on me though. I'm sure there were a few turns where i could have bought the smaller ships, i just forgot about them.
We had fun with it. I would like to try it with three, although it might go a little long with three or four.
After that we learned TMNT dice masters. Neither of us had played dice masters before, even though i've had the Marvel Dice Masters: Uncanny X-Men starter set for two years.
We played the short game and only used 10 health. I'm not going to run out and buy more but I would play it again. I'm a big TMNT fan so that helped. I'm not a fan of the art style of the newest show. Thankfully the cards don't use that artwork much. It looks like the next set, Heroes in a half shell, does use that art a lot. I doubt i'll be getting that one.
Days of Ire: Budapest 1956 - At this week's meetup, we played a 4 player game of Days of Ire. This is a 1 vs All game where the 1 player is playing as the Soviets, and the rest are Revolutionaries. Structurally, it's a but like Pandemic for the Revolutionaries, although I didn't really think of that comparison while we were playing. There's very much a tug of war feeling to the game, because the revolutionaries are running around resolving events and the Soviet player is adding more events every round. The game was interesting, but but pretty mechanical. I'm not sure how often I would want to play it. Rating: 6
Star Wars: Empire vs. Rebellion - On Wednesday evening, my wife and I wanted a lighter game with a small footprint to play together, so I brought out Star Wars: Empire vs Rebellion. My wife hadn't played before, so I walked her through the tutorial. The game is basically blackjack with a couple of wrinkles, so it was easy to teach. I won more events as the Empire, but my wife took higher value events to win the game. We both had fun with it, despite being a lot more luck heavy than we usually enjoy. The strategy cards throw some really great decisions and bluffing into the mix, and we felt like those and the character cards really made the game. Rating: 7.5
Bruxelles 1893 - I've been curious about Bruxelles 1893 for a while. My wife and I both love the art style, which I know isn't for everyone, and the game itself is right up our alley: kind of Feldian in design. I traded for it earlier this month, and played a 2 player game for the first time this week. I tried to focus mostly on building and scoring crests with area majority. My opponent was a little more familiar with the game, and did a great job of making sure he had no money troubles for the whole game. This pretty much meant that I almost never won any card auctions. Ultimately, I lost by 30 or so points (winner had 137, I think), but it was very much a learning game. Rating: 7.5
DOOM: The Board Game - On Thursday night, my buddy came over to give his copy of the new DOOM board game a try. He also has the original Doom, which we've played many times, so we were excited to see the changes. We played the first mission of one of the Operations (basically the first mission in the book). I played as the marines as a Solo Operative, and he played the invader. I never really felt like I was at risk of giving him the 6 frags he needed to win, which was a big change from the original game (which the marines never won in all our plays). In the end, he was able to kill me 3 times before I collected the last objective I needed to win. After the game, we were able to see a couple of things he might have done differently to make it a little harder on me. I think he's just used to taking it easy as the Invader, because he always won pretty easily. Definitely looking forward to playing this more, and even trying out the Invader role. Rating: 7.5
Five Tribes - On Friday night, my wife and I sat down to a game of Five Tribes for the first time in just over a year! I can't believe it had been that long since we played this great game. We both felt a little rusty, but we threw in the Artisans of Naqala because it doesn't really add any complexity. I got off to an early lead in claiming tiles, and was really just focusing on that in the early game. Then I got the Djinn who makes yellow meeples worth more points, so I started focusing on those when I could. Mid-game, I claimed the Djinn that lets you spend a Fakir or white meeple to put out a palm tree, so I started doing that. My wife ended up overtaking me in tiles domination, and also went heavy into Djinns and goods (she was able to put together a complete set). I dabbled in goods, and ended up doing surprisingly well with two 6 good sets. In the end, I thought we had both done pretty well, so I was a bit surprised to outscore her by 50 points or so. This is a really good game. We're both thinking about leaving the Artisans expansion out next time, just because the luck element is pretty strong. Rating: 8
Mysterium - On Saturday evening, we played a round of Mysterium with some friends we haven't seen in a while. We played with the "3 ravens for the whole game" difficulty, and really did surprisingly well with it. My wife was the ghost and she successfully guided the other 3 adults to their cards by the 5th turn. Our one younger player got there by the seventh. In the final reckoning we guessed the correct set of cards by a vote of 2-1-1. Mystery solved! Rating: 8
Alchemists - I've been playing a lot of Alchemists online this month, and it just got me more excited to introduce my wife to the game. We played a 3 player game on Sunday with another friend. I've come to think of it as a pretty simple game, but it took quite a while to teach. Everyone caught on pretty quickly, though, and the rounds flew by pretty quickly. I gambled on publishing a couple of theories, but hedged well and was able to zero in on the real solution when someone debunked my theory. Of course, then I forgot which theory they debunked and republished the exact same one. That ended up costing me the game, with my wife just overtaking me in the finals scoring. The other player was right there in it, but then goofed up in the last round and forgot that it costs money to publish. Everyone had a good time with the game, though, and it is really rising in my estimation. The worker placement is tense and interesting, and the deduction is just so much fun! Rating: 8
Santorini - After Alchemists, I played a best of three series of Santorini with our friend. He had just picked up his copy and was interested to see how it played. I ended up winning the series 2-1, but mostly because in the last game he just overlooked my path to victory despite it being pretty easy for him to block. I enjoyed the game, but really need to have my wife try it before I even think about picking it up. Abstracts are not really our thing, but this one might be fast and fun enough to fill a niche in our collection. You know, if she likes it. Rating: 7
Stewart and I played Uwe Rosenburg's Nottingham at lunch.
Stewart is into learning a new game every day for the most part. That suits me since I love trying to get as close as I can to playing all my games each year. Inka was my 130th different game played this year (my recording year started April 12th, 2016 and goes to April 12th 2017)* out of my collection.
In the evening Melissa, who is in Montreal, took a picture of a Boggle shake on her phone and sent it to me. I set the timer and we played it over the phone. Not exactly face to face but not one line either!
Saturday I got up early in the morning to drive to Regina to attend the PGX. My niece, Allie and her husband John were going to be coming for the weekend but were not expected to arrive until supper so I thought I was safe to not miss this. In the end they came sooner so I left by 5:30. Still I got in a number of good games.
It was then time for the game of Scythe that I was signed up for. I had played once before but wanted to give it a second try. It felt much better on the second play. The trouble is, now I want to play it again.
At that point I had to leave for home, a 2 hour trip. After Getting home, I played Viticulture Essential Edition with John. I also taught himTenzi which we used for a start player game.
In the morning John and I played Russian Railroads with the mini expansion and the small components from the Germany expansion.
On Wednesday Falk (who likes his minis) taught Alain and me War of the Ring (Second Edition). Falk played the Free People's side while Alain and I split the Shadow Armies side with Alain taking Saruman and his forces along with the Easterlings and Southron and I taking Sauron's forces. To say we did not do well is an understatement. In addition to not being familiar with some of the card actions we were too hesitant with attacking early and put too many of our eggs in the Saruman basket at the expense of moving the Southron into a position where they could attack or at least defend. Poor rolls didn't help...in one case I had one army lose 4 regulars after rolling four ones. In the end, the Free People's army secured its needed 4 victory points, equalling all that the Shadow Armies were able to secure. I blame the poor rolls on my deep seated desire to have the Fellowship succeed. Everything felt very thematic and that was a real treat. It's definitely a game I'd like to try again but with 2 or 4 players. I felt the team with two players was at a strategic disadvantage with activations, communication and, most importantly, the best way to proceed.
Gaming with My Wife
On Monday Sharon and I broke out Village. When I play with my wife, its always a race to die, something I'm not particularly fond of but it does present a challenge. Our strategies were polar opposites. Sharon focused on selling and the Church. In the market she outsold me 16pts-3pts. In the church, between end of round bonuses and the end-of game bonuses she outpointed me 11-6. I focused on travelling, netting all 24 possible points while Sharon earned 4. I also spent time in the council chamber, ensuring first player and then pushing a guy ahead in the last round to get 4 points as well as the wagon I needed for the last travel space. Sharon died more successfully than me, earning 7 points to my 4 but it wasn't enough as I took a 43-39 win.
On a snowy Friday night in Mont Tremblant, Sharon and I pulled out Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries. It was probably only our third or fourth play of this. As I recall, the first two plays were both one sided, with each of us taking a win. This time it was tighter but our routes weren't competing as much as they could. My routes were much more concentrated in the south west and extending up through the middle while Sharon's were much more on the east side. The high number of ferries in the southwest forced me to lay down triples to substitute for locomotives and that cost me time and trains on the board. Sharon took the game 115-102.
On Monday I tried The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game in an attempt to avenge Sunday's loss to AARON. Things started off well for me as I was able to complete 3 mines in the first round which left me flush with silvers and, consequently, options. In round 2, AARON narrowed my lead by completing buildings and grabbing the bonus while I just widened my tableau. In the third round I was able to grab a second unique animal and get the 3 point "all 7" bonus.s In the fourth round AARON jumped ahead of me for the first time but I was able to sell 2 goods, finish my cloisters and technology to grab those bonuses which put me ahead 22-12. In the fifth round AARON added an additional 13 points by beating me to ports, finishing another set of buildings and drawing 3 cloisters. I added 11 of my own points by finishing sets of buildings, ports and adding another couple of unique animals. The early silver bonuses really won the day for me 33-25.
On Tuesday I got two solo games of Guilds of London in, this time remembering to score Boris every round. Game 1 saw me go down to Boris 43-36. I had no efficient way of getting liverymen on the board early on and then found it hard to get things going. I did well on the plantation but didn't get many guild masters on the board. I fell short of getting a third mayoral reward card by only getting 2 2nd place awards. In Game 2 I redeemed myself with a 66-50 victory over Boris. I took advantage of favourable card draws to finish out my best game yet. I had five masters on the board (including 3 of the central buildings - notably ignoring the increased hand size I usually go for). I had four 2nd place finishes, knocked Boris out of some second place points and scored 25 points off Mayoral rewards for a big end game come back.
On Wednesday I was able to get one play of Friday. Its not often I even get to the pirates in this game but, in this game, I had good card draws early in the game to get add some nice cards to my stack. I had enough "destroy" cards and paid enough life to shed most of the bad cards out of the deck, with the exception of "Stop" which came up 3 times before I had a destroy in hand to kill it. The first pirate had a defense value of 52 but gave me a +1 attack value per card. I drew some high cards and 3 "doubles" and that was enough to put me over the edge. The second pirate had a defense value of 25. Once again I had enough doubles and life to get through it with 3 life to spare. A rare, rare victory.
Later on Friday night I pulled out the Sentinels of the Multiverse app. This time I played against Citizen Dawn. My first, and only, attempt against her several months ago were a bloodbath. This time my team of heroes (Legacy, Fanatic, Ra and Tempest) had enough attack power, the environment (Megalopolis) was kind enough to the heroes, and I understood what it took to flip her back that it was a pretty easy win for good.
A quick game Elder Sign using the randomly chosen team of investigators consisting of Darrell Simmons, Bob Jenkins, Dexter Drake, and Jenny Barnes against Yig. Terror effects were everywhere and it was hard to leverage Jenkins' and Drakes's special abilities. Nevertheless, it was a win against the old ones. Jenny was my most valuable investigator as she had 9'tokens in hand before she recovered the 10th Elder Sign.
Like many here on the Geek, I got my start in gaming with friends playing Dungeons and Dragons. My friends and I spent many weekday afternoons, weekend evenings and long, hot summer days playing our way through D&D adventures and a smattering of other RPGs(Top Secret, Toon, Paranoia, Gamma World, Traveller). After many years off of gaming I rediscovered gaming with all of the great modern board games available. I forget where I heard of Empire of the Imagination (maybe a podcast). It is the story of Gary Gygax's life. I particularly enjoyed reading about his early involvement turning GenCon into a successful event and the earliest developments of D&D. Less happy were the constant troubles he and TSR found themselves in. The biography's style might not be for everyone as it takes some storytelling license as if a DM were fleshing out a paragraph from a module but it is a story told with affection and will bring back nostalgic memories for D&D players. The biggest problem I had with the book was in the last few chapters where the author tried to put Gygax's impact in a larger context using the words like "his contribution simply cannot be understated" too many times. But, if you want to understand the development of D&D and the man who developed it, it is a good place to start.
As many of you know, I am trying to limit my game purchases in 2017 and play the games I own more. Well, Clank! has been at the top of my wish list for some time and if CSI wasn't out of stock, I'd probably own it by now. I went to my weekly meetup game night and someone brought it. I was very excited to play it. As it turns out, we played it wrong as we were not advancing the dragon track whenever someone claimed an artifact. That might have influenced my opinion some as the tension was not as high as I thought it would be, largely because of this error. Regardless, the game was certainly enjoyable and I would gladly play it again, but I left the table thinking I was glad I never bought it. I think I would have regretted this purchase in the long run, although admittedly, it's a fun romp in the dungeon and would be easy to teach, so the game certainly has its merits.
I'm really starting to get into this one. This was the first deck I've built using Arkham Horror: The Card Game – The Dunwich Legacy: Expansion cards and they certainly made a difference. Agnes Baker didn't waltz through the scenario, but my fortuitous early pull of Rite of Seeking allowed Agnes to be an investigation maven and really advanced the act deck quickly. Plus, her ability to inflict damage on enemies when taking horror really helped out when faced with the Ghoul Priest at the end of the Gathering. I escaped the scenario unscathed and look forward to playing Midnight Masks this week.
Yes, five plays! Interesting story here. I got this game for my seven-year old son for Christmas. When we first played the game, I was disappointed in the mechanics. This is a memory game that will only challenge the youngest of young children. We had to house rule things such that every time the hut token was revealed, we shuffled ALL tokens and reset the board. This makes the game more random and a complete luck-fest, but it also increases the tension when only a few tokens remain. Are you going to pull the hut tile, or some worthless resource spot? My son originally wanted to play Splendor, but changed his mind to this one. After one game, my five-year old daughter wanted to play. Four games later, all I heard from both of them was "Daddy, can we play again?". In fact, the pure joy that my daughter expressed when she found the hut tile and was able to trade in resources for a hut was something every parent should experience and is the primary reason why we play games. It was glorious to watch. I originally rated the game a 5 based on the bad mechanics, but after house ruling it and seeing the joy on my kids faces, I've raised this to a 7 and if it keeps hitting the table, it will probably go higher. This is now my most played game of 2017 with eight plays so far.
Tuesday and Wednesday I played 3 games of Strat-O-Matic Baseball. I'm finally getting back to my made up playoff. I played the first three games of the NLCS pitting the '91 Red and the '91 Mets. The Reds have show some great pitching, keeping the Mets in check. The Reds are up 2-1 in the series. One of the games went 1-0. First time I've had a game with that low of a score.
Thursday night game group, there were just four of us so I drug out Thebes for a try. I finally got this to the table with a group. We had a great time and I'd like to play again. I had a hard time getting any decent cards to dig with. It was a lot of fun once we all knew what we were doing and could get some strategies going.
After Thebes, I brought out No Thanks! for a couple of plays. Always a lot of fun to teach this to new people and see how they react to it. Not knowing if they should take a card or not.
My parents in town for the weekend, so a few lighter games were played. We got the weekend started with some Monopoly Express over coffee. I didn't score a single point in two games. Pushed my luck a little too hard.
My daughter suggested Suspicion with my parents and we drug my wife in too. The more I play this game and actually get some strategies going it's a lot more fun. We were able to keep our identities hidden a little better in this one.
We wrapped up the weekend with a game of Bausack. I found this at the thrift a long time ago and keep forgetting about it. It was a lot of fun and I'll have to remember to get it out once in a while.
I had only played this solo, or with 2 players before, but this week I managed to get a full 4 player game in. It took about 3 hours, and we had quiet a bit of explanation throughout, but we all had fun. My winning streak in this has also come to an end. My wife beat me by 9 points.
Good week of gaming for us with several different sessions:
8.0Smash Up Went over to Grace and Stephen's for dinner and pillaged their game closet accordingly. Stephen pointed out that it had been a long time since we'd played head-to-head smashUp so we gave it a whirl before dinner. I'm beginning to prefer this 2 player rather than any other count (3 is still good, 4 and 5 are too many). I crushed him with shapeshifting aliens, arrayed against his zombie-robots. He had a really good combo, but I thought the shapeshifters would meld really well with the 1VP invader, and I was right. This combo might just be powerful enough to make aliens playable at higher player counts. . . we shall see. Final scores: me 17, Stephen 9
8.0Dixit After dinner we played with the ladies and tried a 4-player game of Dixit. I never get points in this game but enjoy doing the kookie sound effects and such that make it enjoyable. Stephen has quite a knack -- he won again. I think he's 3/3 in his last 3 plays of Dixit. Final scores: Stephen 30, Grace 28, Alisha 26, me 17
8.0Quadropolis Grace, Stephen and I all enjoy this tight game, and my wife obliged us so we played a 4-player. I don't know if we're playing a different game or what, but we love the classic variant and how tight the board gets with 4 players. Our one concern is that harbors are overpowered, so we might try expert to see if it mitigates that. Unlike many reviewers, though, I have not found the base game to be overly simplistic -- we love it! I took a commanding win with a factory strategy -- didn't score a single point from harbors but they powered my factories very tidily. I, personally, enjoy the variable paths to victory in this game. Final scores: me 53, Grace 42, Stephen 41, Alisha 29 (she is losing interest in playing this one. . .)
Saturday game night
10.Snooker Solitaire I won another tournament! I believe this is my third win. This victory meant I got to lift the trophy that Mark Tuck designed for me -- cool beans!!
Results: Beat Eddie Collins 47-41 in round 1 Beat Billy Yards 50-42 in round 2 Beat Rick O'Shea 54-32 in quarter-final Beat Joe Lewis 55-36 in semi-final Beat Bobby Black (!!) 63-36 in final
Not that I'd ever get sick of Snooker Solitaire, but I might try to shake it up soon with different opponents, cues that are limited in different ways (tons of power, very little chalk, for example?) or even different table setups (long and narrow, perhaps?). Just for fun.
8.0CodenamesNEW! Opened up game night with four rounds of this one (how are you supposed to log that, 4x or 1x? Who knows). We all had a blast, Alisha really wants to buy this one. Instead, I swapped with a friend of mine -- they had received Codenames for a Christmas present, and didn't care for it. So we're doing an extended loan of Forbidden Desert (not my fave) in exchange for Codenames. Might be permanent sometime but for now just for a few months. Final score: girls 3, guys 1
6.0Emergence: A Game of Teamwork and Deception Ugh. . .we've tried this game in many different ways and the humans still win every time. A game with a lot of potential but that's ultimately just broken. Oh well. This time we played, the humans quickly amassed 17/20 knowledge tokens, while the AI had 2/40. We prevented them from getting their last three for about twenty minutes, but didn't want to do the painstaking work it would take to amass our own 40, so we conceded the game. It just isn't fun.
I don't want to bother trying to fix it, but this time we brainstormed a few variants that we might try. I think the simplest would be reversing the start: instead of the humans knowing who each other are, they would not know, and the AI would know who all of their partners are. That should help the AI to be more coordinated in harassing and attacking the humans, making it a fairer fight. Honestly though, I just don't want to take the time to finetune this one. Should've happened before it shipped Final score: humans (Ashley, Ashley H.) 17/20, AI (Steven, Jon, Andrew, Nathan) 2/40
8.0Ra Jon and Ashley were running a 5k in the morning so they left, and Ashley H, Nathan, and myself played a 3-player game of Ra. I'm 90% satisfied with how my card-game retheme came out -- I think it plays well and is reasonably legible. A few print errors made some cards darker than intended, but overall we had a great time. Ashley swept up with really savvy voting in this one. Final scores: Ashley 57, Nathan 30, me 29
8.0Kingdom Builder Ashley had to leave, so Nathan and I played one last game, as Alisha was working on her student teaching work by now. We both enjoy Kingdom Builder so we gave it a whirl -- one of my favorite games that I rarely get to play (hence why it's on my 10x10). We had Lords, Merchants, and one other as our scoring, with the ship, stonehenge, desert, and hut as our bonus tokens. I focused on the Lords scoring, getting a majority in two quadrants (where Nathan was absent) and taking second in his two quadrants. This was the difference as we scored, and I won by about 5 or so points. Had Nathan grabbed into one more of my quadrants, it would have been a dead heat. Final scores: me 72, Nathan 65
N/A7 Wonders x2 NEW! Went over to Blaine and Elizabeth's house for dinner and Blaine taught us this game. I own it, have watched several playthroughs, but didn't feel confident teaching it yet as it's got some oddities (like the military tokens) that I didn't grasp very well. Having played it twice, I now feel confident and Alisha even said she would teach it to the lighter players (it's not that much more complicated than Tokaido, really) so I think it'll turn out to be a great purchase for us. Final score: Alisha 55, Elizabeth 47, me 41, Blaine 40 (Alisha's military and gold cards won the day) Final score (2): Blaine 58, Elizabeth 56, me 48, Alisha 46 (Blaine's science and military cards carried it, and he built a better engine than I did. I focused entirely on science but stalled out in round two without enough resources to propel me forward).
All in all, a good game, looking forward to more plays.
Two plays. I tied for second on the first one which was a rather mean game in that the highest score was a 9. Used pure random 10 from Intrigue and Seaside. I think there were at least three cards which could generate curses and four attack cards. We had Embargo as well. Won with 72 on the next game. I basically went big money with using Vault to use VP cards as currency. I believe it was Intrigue and Dark Ages. It was called One Man's Trash, IIRC.
A pretty good week of gaming for me as a friend came into town providing an unusual Wednesday game night.
After a couple of month's absence, I played GWT twice, both as 2P winning both (though my opponents were first timers).
I really like GWT with two. There is still enough opportunity to interact with your opponent and the game feels far less random than with four, as getting a bad hand isn't nearly as crushing.
TM had also been on hiatus (3 months!) but it finally reappeared for a 4P and a solo play.
The 4P was fun and highly competitive. I did not win .
I also played a solo game, and starting to re-evaluate my thoughts on the solo game. I don't think it's especially good. To win, you can't use many of the cards at all, just those which affect global prarmeters. Otherwise, you're just doing standard projects to raise your TR to get more money to do more standard projects. I found it highly repetitive and boring.
It's still a great multiplayer game, though.
A 4P which I won in a blowout. I finished more than 50 points ahead of second place who finished more than 50 points ahead of players three and four.
I like FC at any player count, but four seems to shine brightest. The competition for cards is fierce forcing a very careful valuation of each action.
I also love the fact the game allows for flexible strategies. If you find yourself locked out of something in a round, you might be able to spot other paths to take.
Two more plays, bringing my total to eight in a short period of time.
I won my 4P game, though with a fairly low score. The 3P was a wholly different experience as I ended the game with an almost completely polluted country, scoring only four points from my landscape.
Almost no cleanup buildings came out in the game, and I didn't adapt to that very well.
And that's it...all the boardgaming that was for the week past. Until next time...
My wife was gone yesterday for the day visiting relatives with our son, so I had the day to myself. I decided to breakout two of my favorite solo games, Cuba Libre and Snowdonia. I decided to do another Geeklist this year to keep up with my solo plays because I enjoyed looking back at my 2016 list and my notes on each play. 2017 Solo Games Quest.
I played my first game as The 26July Forces...and lost badly. I allowed the Government Forces to spread across the map early in the game and with the help of The Syndicate they were able to keep me under control and had the win secured going into the third Propaganda phase. I hadn't played CL in a while and it showed. I had to spend a lot of time going back to rule book. After learning and playing other COIN series games over the past 4 months I kept second guessing myself on the rules. Even with a bad loss I still really enjoy this game and it just cemented the fact that it is the only COIN series game I need to be happy(for now). Sorry for the dark pictures. My son was taking a nap in my office when I took these pictures during the beginning of the game. I forgot to take a picture of the end game board before I packed it up.
Snowdonia has been one of my favorite games since the first day I played it, but it only hit the table once last year. When I looked back at my Geeklist from last year the lack of plays stuck out and was a big reason I decided to cull my heard of games. I spent too much time buying new games and not playing the games I enjoy the most. Since I haven't played Snowdonia in a long time I decided to start again with the base game. The base game would be enough for this to be a top 10 game for me, but it is all the expansions/promos that pushes it to the very top. Even after a slow start I managed to score 157pts which is only 8pts away from my person best score.
The contract cards I selected required a lot of digging and a few tracks, so that is why my track and stations score are lower than normal for me. I have always been bad about scoring any points with the Surveyor and like in most games I waited until the last few turns to move him at all. I really need to get this to the table more often because this continues to be one of my all time favorite games. One of my Solo Goals for 2017 is to play all the scenarios that I own. I think it is 9 or 10. Should be a fun goal to complete.
A slow week for games, what with rampant illness and construction in my house, but an amazing game night branching from Friday into Saturday...
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong was better than I expected. My friend who owns it, Jon, told me beforehand that it "fell flat for [his] group," which didn't exactly instill confidence regarding the quality of our pending session. That said, once everything was laid out and explained, I thought, "oh, this is like Clue and Codenames put together." That's not a bad thing. In fact, if I played this more, I'd probably bump up my initial rating. What I like about it is also what I dislike about it, but it is still a favorable assessment: since all of the clue-giving is stacked up-front at the beginning of each round, there is less stress on the clue-giver to respond to poor deduction from teammates. However, it also provides a little less agency because the gap between rounds is typically longer than it is in Codenames, resulting in more blurring of information. With lots of clue parameters, there is both a tighter net to cast onto the case AND more information overload. I like it. I want to play again.
Summoner Wars with Grace this week led to the reappearance of my least/most favorite broken card in the game, Gror, with his signature "hammer quake." It's a crazy ability, and everytime I play against Grace and she picks Guild Dwarves, she inevitably has one or two Heroic Feats waiting to slap onto him and effectively clear my entire side of the board. I enjoy the Guild Dwarves quite a bit, and that's not just because of Gror. They are very tanky, like Vanguard. I think I lean more towards those factions than the swift assassin factions like Shadow/Jungle Elves. Mountain Vargath are in the middle sweet spot--very aggressive, but not glass cannons. Anyway, take a look at Gror facerolling my Vanguard troops and summoner...
See Gror. See Gror smash.
See Gror smash again. See Jim lose.
Captain Sonar was interesting. I've played this game four times now with effectively the same group of eight players, give or take a different person each game. I was Engineer twice and thought that was awesome. I loved that role. I was captain once and didn't do as well as I expected, offering little ability to coordinate my team efficiently. This most recent session I was radio operator, and wow, I was terrible. Seriously. I tracked the enemy superbly for the first part of the game, and we ended up with a close hit on the opposing sub early on, but then the other team went silent, and I just lost all ability to have any clue where they went. We fired four more torpedoes and we missed on all of them. I lost us the game single-handedly, no question. I just don't get how the radio operator is supposed to do anything after an enemy silence (not to mention they silenced four more times over the game...). Just picking a new place to start tracking them is entirely arbitrary, since one immediately invalidates oneself based on the the initial tracking which can no longer be reconciled. Ach, it was a bad game for me. I was pretty disheartened. It dinged my enjoyment of the game and dampened my anticipation of playing again... I don't know. I still like Captain Sonar, but I definitely prefer FUSE if the sole criteria for comparison is real-time cooperation (it's not, I know, but whatever).
Arkham Horror: The Card Game was sweet. I played 4p Carnevale of Horrors with Zoey, Daisy, Jenny, and Pete. Basically, Zoey is "murder everything that moves," Daisy is "read ALL the books," Jenny is "evade and conquer," and Pete is "just try and touch me." Carnevale of Horrors is long and difficult, but quite interesting. The spatial element of Arkham LCG is really exploited in this scenario, and stakes are quite high. It's no surprise that the overall difficulty of the standalone scenarios is harder than the singular campaign missions, but wow, this was really hard. Without giving too much away, there is a very strong "escort mission" element to this scenario, and like all escort missions, escorts love to run directly (and irrationally) into the stream of fire from all available enemies. The game knows that people are frivolous and irrational, and very much capitalizes on that thematically. Quite good. A poignant moment was when a big baddie popped right on top of Daisy when everyone else was far afield in combat elsewhere. Daisy's player used Mind Over Matter and Encyclopedia together to absolutely crush the poor enemy into pulp. Said player announced loudly that Daisy had taken her encyclopedia and bashed the monster's head in, screaming "KNOWLEDGE!" I hope to play this scenario again soon. Overall, I think I dislike this LCG with 4p--just too much to track and so much clutter on the table. It's an awesome 1p and 2p game, though, and that's my preference.
Puerto Rico was a delight, as always. Tight, fast, and tense. Anastasia and I were tired last night and decided to play a round before heading to bed. We split a beer and went to town. I ended up winning by just less than a ten-point margin after getting all but one corn plantation and shipping my brains out. I normally go big markets/office and build my way to the end, but I rocked with the corn this time, and captain'd many a shipment to the old country.
Ascension: Deckbuilding Game was awesome this week. Anastasia caught the Playdek bug and started playing with my sister and cousin and I. I am absolutely loving Dreamscape. The more I play, the more it is becoming a favorite card set. I played a quick game against the AI using Dreamscape, Realms Unraveled, and Dawn of Champions together. Despite the card dilution, Insight was not in short supply and the cards meshed really well. I ended up with an Enlightened powerhouse with two Daybreak Askaras, which, well, got all sorts of wombo combo by the end. Anastasia noted again that we should really get some new physical cards this year, and made an exception to our purchase austerity under the "expansion clause," (her words, not mine!). RU, DoC, and DS are fo-sho inclusions, with Year Two Collector's Edition likely there, too. Perhaps a Miniature Market order is in store for some time later this year.
When I first saw Blood Rage on Kickstarter in early 2015, I balked at it. Frankly, for many, many years of gaming, I was rabidly skeptical of anything that didn't look like an efficiency puzzle or simulation. That is to say, narrative and drama were not qualities that appeared positive to me in a board game. I wanted mechanics first, and mechanics only. Perhaps this reflected my consideration that what I knew was comfortable, and having started in the hobby with Carcassonne, Puerto Rico, Settlers of Catan, and Power Grid, I knew what I knew, and branching out was not on the table. Beyond that, recollections of many painfully boring games of Risk and Axis & Allies mostly made the thought of high-conflict, plastic-filled games to be something repugnant.
When I first heard of the term "Ameritrash," I quickly adopted the related pejorative connotation and turned my nose up at it, writ large. Such was the misguided folly and hubris of my initial stint of the hobby. From as early as 2002/2003, I held onto this thought. Nexus Ops? Screw that. Starcraft? That's a video game. Twilight Imperium? No negotiation, thanks. Arkham Horror? Totally unbalanced. Chaos in the Old World? What is that crap? SIGH. How narrow-minded. How myopic. How foolish. However, I am confident that I am still warming to true, pure Ameritrash--it's something I want more of, but it's not yet something I prefer. There is one caveat to this summary...
HYBRID GAMES. Check my uberbadge--for two years now, it has plainly broadcast "EuroTrash." At first, I meant this to be a joke about my love of Euros and the perversion of their counterpart game category. However, I've since come to adopt it as meaning a love of hybrid games. Eclipse was the first to catch my eye. I saw the cubes and discs of a streamlined economic infrastructure overlaid with modest miniatures, strong graphic design, and tremendous depth of emergent strategy and dramatic player interaction. I was hooked. It defied my understandings of categorization. I then found Merchants & Marauders, which, while on the more thematic-heavy end of the spectrum, still rides on a frame of luck mitigation, supply and demand, and slim rules for its scope. Despite an ever-flowing influx of precious Euros onto my table, Eclipse and Merchants & Marauders remain in my top three games. I suspect this will never change. They are masterpieces. They are hybrids.
ALL OF THIS brings me back to Blood Rage. My initial impressions of Blood Rage were unfounded and incorrect. Had I actually taken the time to read the rules and observe some gameplay, I would have seen that this, too, is a glorious example of what a hybrid game can accomplish. The area control and kill kill kill aspects are carefully framed by variable scoring, winning-through-losing, and tremendous bluffing and combat simplicity which do away with clunky mechanisms to accomplish satisfying progress on the board. The special abilities are powerful but equitable, the questing element ramps up area control through subterfuge, the drafting and upgrades provide customized clan strategies, the statistics on each player board afford an Eclipse-esque visual infrastructure which guides the game economy... wow. This game is so much SMARTER than I first thought, and I smack myself for having passed over it for two years.
I played twice--first 4p, then 3p. The first game was a pure learning game, really, but the game is so intuitive it was very easy to put axe in hand and start swinging. Sure, everyone was excited to get big monsters on the board and start plowing through enemies with them, but everyone also took the time to visualize strategy and tweak the emergent gameplay that jumped out at us during the draft. I successfully pillaged Yggdrasil early and started pumping up my rage bar for more actions in the second and third age. I quested and upgraded, snagging an early Dwarf Chieftain for some heft, while the other three players duked it our for competing area majority in Jotenheim. About mid-game, Piper, on my left, started stacking bonuses for getting nailed by Ragnarok and releasing troops from Valhalla. He ended up winning as it was very hard to counter his sacrificial lamb strategy. He spread his warriors out all over the place so he could rush into any pillage and die. The end scores were very tight, but we were amazed that Piper effectively won by losing as often as possible. We were blown away that any other theme would have sucked for this game, whereas the Twilight of the Gods was ideal--it perfectly captures the justifiable reward for death and loss as well as triumph and survival. I came in second.
The second game was even faster (huge selling point for Blood Rage, too, is just the speed of the game for how much depth it has!) with just 3p. I again started with the Dwarf Chieftain, but quickly upgraded my warriors to two-strength, making them far more formidable on the board. Anastasia jumped in this round after I assured her she would like it way more than she thought (she had the same assumptions I did when I first heard about the game... "HARD PASS"). She quickly grokked the board and started harassing Jon and I anywhere we put down units, since she grabbed a Valhalla bonus early. We all succeeded in our quests, but I maxed rage to 12 income going into the second age, so I had a massive economy advantage over Anastasia's 7 and Jon's 8. I drafted the Fire Giant ASAP, and also grabbed the upgrades which allowed me to invade from Valhalla. Suddenly, I was a war machine. I waited until Jon piled up three warriors in a Jotunheim province, then invaded with the Fire Giant and cleared the board.Kill my Giant? Invade from Valhalla. Kill my leader? Invade from Valhalla. Kill my two-strength warriors? Invade from Valhalla. Still, Jon and Anastasia were by no means out of the game. My success had to be kept in check as they capitalized on Ragnarok scoring and big quests that I just couldn't disrupt. Anastasia also threw me for a loop by drafting every cunning battle card possible, negating my bonuses, stealing my glory, undercutting my warriors, and canceling my card text. I managed to pillage Yggdrasil every age, so I maxed all of my clan stats by the end of the game. When we were done this second game, I was just transfixed by the mechanics and strategy. The player interaction is so brutal, but so conciliatory, too. You know you can't win every battle, so maneuvering the tit-for-tat jockeying is careful and critical. We all sat back from the board and just mouthed, "wow." Best of all? Anastasia looked me in the eye and said she revoked all negative comments she originally voiced about Blood Rage. She was hooked, too. She said she couldn't believe it, but she had to admit it.
As for atmosphere, it could not have been better. We had lots of mead and beer, all Norse-themed (like Guulden Draak, Viking Blod, and The Abyss), and one guy showed up with a playlist which could rival my own normal fare. He had lots of ethereal Scandinavian metal for the most part, but opened the 4p game's Third Age with the perfectly-apt aforementioned World of Warcraft track for Orgrimmar as of Cataclysm. He also played the metal cover of Fierce Battle from Final Fantasy VI as we were all about to end the final pillages of the game. On the other end of the table, a big 4p game of A Feast for Odin was being played. Obviously these are different games, but the spontaneous NORSE NIGHT was pretty sweet.
Thankfully, this copy of Blood Rage was part of my game group's pool-money-and-buy-a-new-game-to-raffle-off. I won Xia this way earlier last year, but Sam, who happens to live about five minutes away, won Blood Rage, which means I get to play it all the time. His wife, Eee, is also very skeptical about games like this, but Anastasia assured her that if she could love it, so could Eee. I hope this means we get lots and lots of 4p Blood Rage happening in the future.
I am typically hesitant with my first-play ratings of games, but if I love Eclipse and Merchants & Marauders as I do, I'm deceiving myself if I don't also rate Blood Rage a 10/10. It's incredible. I am totally disproven in my false assumptions. I'm going to convince my game group to back Rising Sun as soon as it is available.
"We have to change our way of thinking if we really want to change the future." - Saki Watanabe, "Shin Sekai Yori"
A good week for games this week, getting in a whopping 7 plays for my Challenge, trying a new game that I was highly anticipating, and playing an oldie-but-goodie with friends that are newish to the hobby.
3 different games played overall this past week.
HanamikojiNEW! * Plays this Week: 2 * Comments: I’d heard so many great things about Hanamikoji from so many different people that I made sure to put a pre-order on the game a couple months ago. I finally had the chance to try it myself at the beginning of this last week. It lived up to the fairly high expectations, as I found it to be an exceedingly smart little two-player card game. The rules are quite simple and turns only consist of drawing a card and taking one of four actions (each action can only be taken once per round), but the game can still make for some agonizing decisions despite this simplicity. I really enjoy these types of head-to-head tug-of-war games where you try to get into your opponent’s head, so Hanamikoji was right up my alley. And the artwork is simply gorgeous. I’m so glad I picked it up.
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Mummy’s MaskNEW! * Plays this Week: 7 * Comments: The reason that my game count is so low this week is because we finally got our copy of the latest Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (PACG) base set! I have a Paizo subscription for decks, but I’d put in a pre-Essen order containing the big ol’ base set back in October. It took a fair amount longer than expected for the Targi expansion to come into stock, so that held the whole order up. It was driving us nuts to be receiving the adventure decks and character add-on deck with no base set to play. Now the base set is here and we can binge on PACG goodness. I certainly acknowledge the system’s weaknesses, but I still love it to pieces. I think Lone Shark Games has done a very good job at trying out small variations in the different campaigns, because for a junkie like me they all feel a bit different. They’ve done an absolute stellar job at making the new characters they add feel different, unique, and fun. Mummy’s Mask in particular has some character powers that I’ve never seen in other characters.
For our first campaign, I’ve chosen to play Yoon (the Kineticist) and Tyler’s elected to play Mavaro (the Occultist from the add-on pack). Yoon burns things with fire, but it’s all raw talent, not spells. She’s a child and knows zero spells (she’s not allowed any in her deck). She also gets to recharge a blessing from her discard pile at the end of her turn which I absolutely love. Mavaro, on the other hand, is the ultimate jack-of-all-trades. He has a ludicrous amount of items in his deck, but he can choose to treat weapons, spells, and allies as “items” for the sake of rebuilding his deck. So his deck composition can change from game to game, which is crazy! His key power is being able to display a card and gain all of the skills in the “check to acquire” box and use his INT skill for any of those skills. This allows him to carry around spells and not have to banish them after casting, or suddenly become strong for a particular check.
So far, Yoon and Mavaro have done pretty well as a duo. We completed all of the scenarios for the base adventure, only failing one scenario once. We’ve since cracked open the first Adventure Deck. Mummy’s Mask has a few new things going on, which fit into the setting thematically. Each Adventure so far has a built-in way to potentially give players Curses. These mess with your player hand and deck and they’re a bit of a pain to get rid of. On the flip side, Traders are a positive thing that’s been added for players. After winning a scenario, each player gets to choose an available trader to visit. Different traders deal in different types of wares (e.g. weapons, spells, etc.) and more will become unlocked throughout the campaign. Each trader offers 1 + # of players visiting him/her cards of their specified trade and players can choose to trade in a set amount of boons for one of the available cards. This adds a nice way to possibly get upgrades for the types of cards you really care about, and it’s integrated in a cool thematic way. I feel like it’s an improvement of the plunder system introduced in the Skull & Shackles set, which was a neat idea, but I ultimately found to be a little disappointing.
Between the little variations made in this set combined with my enthusiasm try out such a large number of the new characters as well as the general setting (Ancient Egyptian-esque setting with tomb delving), it’s quite possible that Mummy’s Mask might end up taking the place of my favorite PACG campaign yet. We’ll have to see how things develop. I’m greatly looking forward to the ride.
Pandemic * Plays this Week: 1 * Comments: To wrap up the week, we went over to our friends’ apartment to catch up and play Pandemic with them. This is the married couple that we’re friends with that we’ve been introducing board games to for the past couple of years. The husband visited his sister’s family a few months back and they played Pandemic and Machi Koro together. He really liked both, so his wife ended up buying it for him for Christmas. They hadn’t played together yet, so Tyler and I were happy to come over and help teach it. It had been a while since we’d play the standard game, but our 20-ish plays of Pandemic Legacy about a year back ensured that we were pretty well-versed in the rules.
We played on the introductory level (4 pandemics) with the Researcher, Medic, Quarantine Specialist, and Scientist. Tyler and I noticed that a couple of the roles were new compared to our original version of Pandemic and some other characters had been tweaked a bit. We did a good job at keeping outbreaks under control, but the player card draw deck began to run low. We won with two cards left in the draw deck to spare, plopping a research station down in LA with Government Funding and the Scientist curing two diseases there (getting a card from the Researcher in between). Our friends seemed to really enjoy it and were glad we were able to help explain it. They plan to play it just the two of them sometime soon. We always have a lot of fun hanging out with these friends and playing games, and this time was no exception!
It’s game day at our place tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to trying out Clockwork Wars with 4P. CW was my best new-to-me game of 2016, so I’m really excited about that!
On Monday, a play of Pergamon. I thought I had the game in the bag early on, taking some nice bonus points. However, in the end, my friend got extra points and finished with 2 of the three best expositions. After the tally of points, a tie! 37 to 37, but I won on the tie breaker.
On Tuesday, a solo play of Atlantis Rising, still in the easier level, and I won, using the Champion, the Priest and the Scholar, with 11 unflooded tiles. Then the debut of Orléans: Invasion, using the cooperative module. This one is a great module: difficult, requires cooperation, has several choices to be made - really nice. We lost.
On Wednesday, another play of Orléans: Invasion, this time we would lose yet again, but we "rewind" my drawing, as we needed on Soldier, and the only one left was in my play area. With this, we managed to win, using the Councilman, the General and the Innkeeper. Next was Goa, which was undusted after over two years for me. It was a very close game, in spite of the other two saying I had won easily. In fact I lost by a point! 46 to 45 to 36. I could have won, but my last drawing of cards was almost totally wasted.
On Thursday, Goa was back again. Yet again, I was pointed as the clear winner. And I lost, of course. This time by two points: 52 to 50 to 48. Then I made a rule: if they ever in future Goa games say I won at any point, the game will be immediately over and I win. Next was two plays of No Thanks, and I won both.
On Friday, we started with Mythos Tales, in case 5: The Serpent's Vengance. It was the first time playing with only 2p, but we did fine: our choices were on point and, at the end, manage to answer 10 of the 12 questions, for a total of 16 points, and a win in the eyes of Armitage! Next was the debut of Impulse, which is an excellent 4X in a tiny box and that one can play in around 90 minutes. So many decisions! Very rich enviroment for play. The game was going in a controlled pace, until one of my friends attacked twice to gain control of 3 gates leading to the Sector Core. Not only that, he was able to gain several points by destroying two large fleets. In desperate I build a fleet and attacked him, only to give him the victory, as I was defeated and he got 20+ points.
The final battle:
On Saturday, Impulse was back. This time, with a mix of sneak attacks, that almost wiped out a race, and trading, I won.
Finally, on Sunday, I got to learn Shipyard. Damn! There is so much to do, to think about it, so many timming concerns, all blended in a very smart game. I truly enjoy the pacing and how, as the rounds go by, you discard Goals, keeping only the ones you think are better for you - more games should have this mechanic. As it was a theme in the week, I was pointed as the likely winner, and, as in all the other times, I lost, but it was darn close! 85 to 84 to 83! Wow! I was the last, but I could have done better - I should have taken another goal, wich would net me 15 points, instead I went with the one that gave my 12.