First, I am a guy with (not including this), three Xanga's and a Facebook, so its really too bad that I'm going to be burying these reviews in BGG, but since I'm writing them for my sake and my sake alone, I suppose I won't bore anyone with them.
After many many months of trying to convince family members and Halo playing friends to play board games with me (and many many months of little success) I began looking around for some kind of local board game group, with some success. Turns out, the closest board game group (at least the closest with any kind of easily detectable online presence) is in Berkley, a 45 minute drive. Bite bullet, play games.
So, these are the games I've been playing:
Shadows Over Camelot(FTP): I've always wanted to play a co-op game, and this is one of the higher rating ones. I was a little wary, as the reviews on this site make the mechanics of the game sound so slow and like a extravagant game of poker. I was happily wrong, the game (despite all five of us being newbies) moved at a quick pace with little downtime and because of its essential co-op nature, your not bored on other peoples turn, everyone was asking each other what they were doing or what they should be doing. Theres just enough tension to make it feel like the game was a threat, but not enough to smother the fun. Conclusion: now sits on my wishlist.
Category Five (FTP): A little filler card game thats received the Mensa Select award. While I find that badge to be a dubious honor at best, I discovered that while you could blindly throw out cards with little thought, if you intended to play well, equal amounts of thought, prediction and risk analysis is required. It took a couple hands for the game to really "click" in my mind, and before that I was scoring 30+ points per hand. Conclusion: Fun, and would gladly buy for friends who were in need of good stocking stuffers.
Taluva (FTP): I got to play this one twice, a excellent game of the tile laying variety. I might start recommending this as a gateway game over Carcassone, as your options, while not any more plentiful that the illustrious Carc, seem almost easier to grasp and teach. It rewards creative play and more aggressive playing tactics, and the tiles are absolutely stunning. Like I said, I played twice, with a marked difference in my tactics the second time around. My co-gamers commented on my increased aggression, and I quite enjoyed burying the little villages beneath volcanic activity. Conclusion: now sits on my wishlist.
San Marco (FTP): My first time playing an area control game, and it was interesting. I did fairly well, keeping an area in my sole possession for 75% of the game and ending in second place. The game itself... well I cannot offer any comparisons to other area control games, but I enjoyed the hand drafting mechanic (though I never felt I truly was able to strike the correct balance between the two hands) and Conclusion: Fun, and I'll gladly play it again, but its not going to end up on my shelf.
High Society(my game): I make note of the fact that I own this one because that also meant I had to teach it, something I'm never so excited to do because I find that I don't do it very well. The other issue with teaching a game is that means no ones played it before, and in those circumstances I find myself under pressure to make sure its an enjoyable experience for everyone, because I want to be able to play it again, and I've found that this simple equation is usually true
Understanding the Rules = Enjoyment of the Game = Fun = Lets do that again
Conclusion: Still one of my favorite auction games. I know, its not Ra, but its fun, short and simple. Money management is key, possibly more than any other auction game I've played yet.
Colossal Arena(My game): Colossal Arena is possibly the only game I own that goes faster with more players (I take that back, Tsuro also goes faster with more players). I enjoy its balance, with two players it can take on a chess lite feel of "If I do this, he'll do that and then..." and the more players you add in the chaos, but they also add to the importance of each move you make. When three players are going to be laying down cards before you get another shot, you better believe you've got to make the best of it. It always surprises me, a guy who usually equates card games with light, for this can make you think... and it has sweet artwork.
Conclusion: A favorite of mine.
Red Dragon Inn (First time play) Maybe it was the fact that the rules weren't explained very well (karma?) maybe it was that I took a hard knock on the first turn and the rest of the players were convinced that killing me off fast was the most advantageous thing to do (which it might have been), but in the end it wasn't fun, and in a game made of theme and luck of the draw, if it aint fun... well, why bother? Conclusion: I suppose I'll have to give it another chance, just to be objective, but I'm not going to go out of my way to do so.
Caylus (First time play) My first real heavy gamers game, and my discovery that I am not a meaty game kinda guy. Currently, if you look at my collection you'll discover that my game most likely to burn the brain is the afore mentioned Colossal Arena, and to say Caylus was a step up is a slight exaggeration. But besides that, what can I say? A fun time was had by all, but I spent a great deal of time going "Doh! Shouldn't have done that" and "What the heck am I doing?". I'll play again, thats for certain, though I might look wistfully over at games that take less than 2.5 hours to play. Conclusion: It makes my brain hurt, and I haven't really decided if thats good or bad :-)