Friday, October 29, 2010

Equilibrium Playtests

So, gaming isn't dead with a newborn.  It's just slowed down :)

Anyway, got a solid playtest of Equilibrium in:

Early Game

I got down a nice "Draw +2" permanent right at the beginning.  My wife went for the early "1st Pairs".

Really soon I played the bonus for "5+ of 3 Colors" and my wife played the big bonus for "11+ of 1 color".  The strategy lines were pretty set.

Mid Game

Thanks to my deep draw, I got *all* three of my big bonuses.  My wife only got 2 of hers.  She did complete her pair.  And she hinted that she was going all Blue.  She had plenty of Most Blue and 9+ Blue score cards down.

I started fleshing out my chances with some "Count +1" cards so I could run my deck very thin.

Late Game

I flesh out my "Count +1" to be one of each color.  I also sneak in a "Most Yellow" since I know my wife isn't saving much.

Then right around the end, Wham, my wife hits me with a "Trash 3".  Suddenly I am counting my deck and see I'm all the way down to 17 cards.  I immediately stop, as does my wife.


I had 17 cards in my deck.  9 blue, 4 yellow and 4 red.  But I had a Count +1 of each color!  So I met my 5+ of all colors goals for a whopping +39 points.

My wife of course scores her deep blue deck easy with 14 blue cards.  But she only got down a couple of the big point bonuses.  Her final deck has 21 cards in it.

I sneak out the Most yellow since we both had 4 in our decks but I have a count +1.

Final scores: Me 39, Angie 37

Two point victory!  And a nailbiter.

I consider this a very successful playtest.

We did have the "Share 12VP" cards in that pay out like the Cathedral in Notre Dame.  I was unimpressed in their third game.  We both just ended up playing the first 2 we drew and then stopped playing them.  They might be more exciting with more players, but I'm starting to think otherwise.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bouncin' Baby Boy

A quick cross post.  I'm now a proud father.  Read all about it:

Monday, September 27, 2010

New Equilibrium Cards

Tried a couple rounds of Equilibrium with some new cards tonight.  What new cards you may ask?

"Blue Count +1" - A full set of 6 cards of these.  They are permanents that boost the count of that color when you check if you fulfill your score cards at the end of the game.

"Others Trash A Score Card" - All other players have to trash a score card of their choosing.

We also tried reverting to the trash/cycle without asking your opponent.

The plays:

First Game

I get an early "1st Pair" down, while my wife gets the Score Card discount permanent.  She then goes heavy into blue and green spamming a lot of the "11+ of 1 color".

I diversify and go for 5 of each color.  I nail 2 of those big bonus cards.  Ang hits me with a "Trash a Score card" but it barely hurt at all.

Ang quits a bit early with 25 cards.  I stretch it out just *trying* to find the other half of my pair.  At the very end I play a Draw +4 to sneak out my pair.

During scoring, I count only 4 blue in my deck.  Oh no!  But then remember I played a "count +1", woohoo!  All my cards score for a nice wolop of points.  Ang scores all of hers with ease.  Too easily in fact, she should have went a couple more turns.  She lost by 10 points this game.  Of course, if I'd had 1 blue card less then she would have won handily.

Second Game

Pretty much a role reversal.  I play an early discount card and go heavy for blue and yellow.  I decide to settle for 9 each so I don't play any of the 11+ cards.

My wife puts down the "draw +2" permanent early and enjoyed a nice selection of cards for the whole game.

My wife quits a little earlier than me since she didn't get the discount.  However, she nails all three of the 13vp 5+ of 3 color cards.  That's a mountain of points.

I know I need a good score, so I pull out 2 turns on my own.  For the first one I use the trusty Draw +4 to setup my last turn.  I sneak out one more "8vp for 7+ of 2 colors".  I manage to empty my deck and still have exactly 9 blue and 9 yellow.  My wife also has 9 yellow to tie me for a most card... until we remember the "Yellow count +1" I played earlier.  Then I get the extra 3 points I need to beat her.

A nice nailbiter :)


"Count +1 Cards" - Definitely a great addition.  They allow you to put your buffer into play and thin your remaining deck even harder.  I wouldn't have them cost more than 1, but we both played a couple at the price of 1 and I think it was worth the price.

"Trash A Score Card" - Horrible.  Only good on the 2nd turn of the game if your opponent is stupid.  Otherwise it just hits a cheap score card and you wasted your money (cards).  Not to mention the rules overhead is nasty.  What about attachments?  What if multiple people have to trash?  I just don't think this is working.

"Auto trash/cycle" - Definitely becomes a bit friendlier game.  Someone isn't malevolently trying to destroy your deck.  It's faster too.  Still, it leaves out a fair amount of interaction.  Really... I'm pretty split on it and could go either way.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Crokinole - Yea, that's Sweet

So I got my very own Crokinole board over the weekend.  It was a MayDay special straight from China.

How's the board?  Pretty solid I would say.  I only paid $100 for it so I can't complain too much.  There were no dings or dints.  The only minor complains:

  • The lines are painted on top of the varnish.  Odd and annoying.  Didn't cover with 3 coats of wax.
  • The score pegs don't fit in their holes well.
  • There are 3 scruffs in the finish in a symetrical pattern like something was used to stack the boards.
But that's really it.  It's a very nice board otherwise.  I bought some wax and gave it a darn good waxing before we first played.  I also made the rubber and screw pegs and installed them for some very stable play.

And it was awesome.  I've only played 2-player, but this is by far the best dexterity game I've ever played.  There is skill, strategy and FUN!

I really like the rule forcing you to try and bump an opponent's piece.  It makes you attempt all kinds of wild shots.  And if you fail a shot, you have to remove that piece... and any friendly piece it touched!  Ouch!  So suddenly you start adding extra risk for failure of certain shots.

I've already logged 8 games from this weekend.  I'm sure it'll burn out eventually.... but maybe not.  I'd still play Tichu :)

I also can't wait to try the partnership version!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Urges - Why?

Man, I do for some reason just get urges to play certain games.  I really don't know why.  And often times I don't suggest them to my Wife just because I know we've played them a lot and I don't know why I want to play them more.  Almost like I think of them as guilty pleasures.  Isn't that strange?  I think these are the top offenders:

Ra: The Dice Game - I should really get tired of this one.  There isn't a whole lot going on, and it does feel the same from game to game.  And yet the decisions are just interesting enough and the situations unique enough to make me come back.  I'm probably going to give in again soon.

Ascension - I don't think it's an awesome game.  But it is fun by golly.  I want to kill some monsters.  I don't care that I can't really plan my deck out.  I don't care that the center row seems jumbled as piss most times.  I just want to whack a cultist over and over.

Carc: The Castle - The second Knizia.  Maybe he's on to something.  This one is odd.  It breaks a lot of carc standards, and yet it still feels like carc.  I also like the balance of the point sources.  The fight over the biggest house always seems charming to me.  It just has that certain touch...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Subtle Balancing Tweaks

Boardgames are like Movies.  You have a few blockbusters, and a lot of flops.  You might take pity on the flops, but what about the blockbusters?  Those few games are going to be played over and over until every little wart shines through.

Looking back at thousands of plays can often give new insight that wouldn't show up without that much testing.  And sometimes, some simple changes need to be made.  Here I've compiled just a couple of those subtle changes that people have come up with for some true classics:

Tigris and Euphrates - The player going first has a very high chance of winning.  I'm pretty sure it was over 30% in a 4 player game.  The easiest and most applied fix is:  Have the first 2 players take only 1 action on their first turn.  It's just the same as Through the Desert for just the same reason.

Dominion - Again, the first place player has a higher chance of winning.  The silly rules have a balance of the prior winner going last.  I applaud them for trying something new, but still think this rule is stupid.  Much better and simpler is to borrow from Puerto Rico:  Just continue play until everyone has had an equal # of turns.  Allow people to buy "Ghost Provinces" if they have run out.  Makes for a much closer game IMHO.

Puerto Rico - This was actually what inspired the list for me.  The players that start with Corn tend to kick the Indigo players' asses.  It's true at all player counts.  Hell, in tournaments they often bid 2-3 VP to start with corn to balance things out.  I came across a thread on BGG that showed a much simpler balance for the corn players: Corn players start with 1 less doubloon.  It slows them down just enough in buying the first mid-range building that scores balance out almost perfectly.  Alternatively, you can view it as giving the poor indigo saps a buck to buy their indigo plantation.  Source:

So, are there any other minor balance tweaks for much played classics you have used?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Nearly Dimes

So I do enjoy fiddling with Friendless' Extend Stats over here:

In particular, I like how it forces me to see how much of my collection I have actually played.  And how often I have played them.

He has a metric that encourages people to achieve "dimes" = 10 plays of a game.  So of course, given a metric, I have to try and maximize it.  So what games do I own that are really close to dime status that I just need to nudge over?  And what ones am I likely to play next?

10 Days in the USA - Okay, this one is a slight cheat.  I own all the 10days series, but I just list them as a single game.  They really aren't different enough by my standards.  I just bought 10 days in the Americas, so I figure this one is going to make dime status in no time.

Brass - This comes out like twice a year.  So it may make it, but no time real soon.  Expecially with a kid on the way next month.  2+ hour games in the evening are probably right out.

Sushizock - See, just making this list makes me realize games I haven't played in awhile.  I should get this game back to the table.  It is adorably cute after all.

Ticket to Ride - Maybe when my kids get to 6-7 years old.  I'm just rather burned out on the series as a whole.  I would rather play Transamerica in almost all cases.  It's just more interesting to me.

Utopian Rummy - Yea, my own design.  I only recorded 9 plays after finally giving it it's own page on BGG.  Trust me though, I've played it 100+ as a prototype.  Still, my wife was mentioning it the other day, so maybe it will see the table again.  (If I can find a copy laying around...)

Vegas Showdown - Just played this a month ago.  Had fun.  Want to pull it out again!

Yspahan - Totally burned out for me.  However, my wife still enjoys it a lot.  So it'll probably creep over the 10 plays line.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Allure of the Dungeon Crawl

I think every boardgamer wants to be a dungeon hero at some point.  I know I was just fascinated with HeroQuest when I was younger.  I solo-played my copy over and over.

And yet I just don't remember all that many good sessions.  More recently I have owned and played Return of the Heroes.  It too was good, but just not great.

And do you know what killed my enjoyment in the end?  Combat Modifiers.  I hate the damn things.  I understand their thematic allure, but I think they are just boring as piss.

I don't care if the hill gets me +1 defense.  I don't care if the barbarian rolls 1 more die.  I just wanted to kill something dang it.  Instead I spend time calculating what the rules say I did.

I feel the same way about Memoir 44 and Conflict of Heroes.  Both were solid thematic and easy to enter wargames.  And both wanted me to remember different rules about trees and hills and roads.  Blah.  That is anti-fun.

Probably the only interesting dungeon crawling I've done recently is Catacombs.  There isn't a ton of story.  There is combat goodies, without friggin' modifiers!!!  The most there is are a couple occasional "Deals 2 damage if hits" conditions.  But that's all she wrote.

And yet it all works out fine.  In particular, the whole way arrows and ranged spells work is genius.  You get a small little arrow disc you can shoot from near your character.  That way you can hide behind a pillar and shoot around it.  Brilliant!

I also like the way teamwork plays out.  You can bounce a teammate around a corner and then let them take a nice pop-shot at the archer hiding behind there.  A nice little one-two punch.

I'm not sure it will withstand the test of time in my collection, but dang it, it's going to have a soft spot in my heart for getting rid of combat modifiers for much time to come.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Euchre vs Spades - The Suspense

Had a fun week of playing cards at lunch.  Heck, I always have a fun week of playing cards at lunch.  A couple days in particular though highlighted a sharp divide between Spades and Euchre for me.


My team was down significantly.  We had to make two loners in a row, or a loner without help.  (We play 6-player bid euchre)  My partner calls a regular loner, so I overcall with a no-help.  I get 7 of my tricks, but need the eighth one to fly.  I have a lowly 9, someone keeps a king and nails me.

Now, did I do anything wrong here?  Nope, not at all.  Was there any thought at all to playing my cards?  Nope, not at all.  Was it still fun?  Yea.  But on to spades.


Today we come to the last hand and our opponents are up by two tricks.  My partner makes a huge bid, forcing the other team to bid Nil to stand a chance.  His partner now has to not take all the bags and cover him.  So he's forced to somehow walk a thin line of playing high enough to cover, but not high enough to take slop.

Turns out the covering partner had to trump in one two many times.  Late in the hand I lead a 4 of spades, the covering opponent throws off, and my partner plays the 3 of spades.  The Nil bidder was forced to take it with a 5 of spades.

Now, again, he didn't do anything wrong.  And I wouldn't even say his opponent did anything wrong.  But somehow it was just a much more enjoyable experience.  Maybe some of that is because I won... but I hope that I'm at least somewhat objective about it.  No, I think the real difference was the conflicting goals that the covering Partner had in Spades.  He had a real challenge set out for him.  Two mutually exclusive goals of not taking too many tricks but not letting his partner take any tricks.  It just squeezed a lot more skill and interesting decisions into the game for me.

Still, too bad 6-player spades sounds rather crappy.  Oh well, on to next week!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Taming the Collection

With my first offspring soon on the way I've been trying to trim back the collection a lot.  I still want to play some games with my wife in the next few years, but maybe I'm just trying to be more realistic.  In particular, I don't see new, long & complicated games getting played.  Although, there is a silver lining.  I do get to move a few games classified as "Kids games" into the play room.

So in my current collection, there is only one game I haven't played.  That would be Amun-Re.  I'm thinking about trying it out with some family this weekend.  But I have a conundrum.

I believe the stupid bid-bounce mechanic would drive me nuts.  If you're outbid, then you *have* to bid on something else.  I realize this might encourage higher initial bids, but it almost sounds like a random event to determine what province you actually end up with in 5 players.

And the thing is, I've played Vegas Showdown many times.  It's a very solid game.  And it works by allowing re-bids on the same item.  So does Homesteaders.  So why does Amun-Re need this annoying mechanic?  I don't usually like house-ruling respected games, but what would happen if you allow re-bids?

Well, I know a couple power cards would need removed, but only a couple.  Other than that, would it really break anything?

Grr, we'll see if I get it to the table, and then we'll see if re-bids are allowed in the end...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Equilibrium Playtest

GenCon rekindled some PnP interest for me.  I got to try out a few prototypes too, and so I decided it would be a good time to revisit some of my designs.  I sat down tonight for a round of Equilibrium.

Early Game

I started right off with nailing the "First Pair" score cards in my first two hands.  Nice boon for me.  I followed it up with the permanent "+2 Draw" to let me really control what I paid with.  Notice I didn't actually signal what colors I was collecting.  This left my wife in the dark for quite awhile so I counted on her trashing a nice spread of cards.  Unbeknown to my wife, I was trashing all the yellow out of my deck setting myself up to score blue or red later.

My wife played the "Discount Score Cards" as her first card.  Then she started alternating between score cards for Red and attack cards to reduce my deck.  I think she made me trash and extra 7 cards over the course of the game.  So even though she didn't know what color to hit, she was still making me pay.  Unfortunately for her though, I knew she was going Red and started sniping the red out of her deck.

Mid Game

I played a "7+ of 2 Colors" to delay giving Ang info for another round, but then I finally had to signal a color.  I did about 3 blue score cards back to back.  I had the nice large hand size to work with though, so I could weed out the yellow while going lightly on trashing blue.

My wife was a score card machine.  Dropping more and more red.  And then even the hard to achieve "12VP for 11+ of a single color".  Her early discount meant she could play far more score cards than I since they were each subtly cheaper for her.

Last Plays

My last play was a gambit "Guess Opponent's Blue".  Ang never actually signaled if she was collecting a second color, but I noticed a lot of yellow down and remembered feeding a lot of blue back into her deck.  So I went with "7" as my guess.  The turn after that she drops a "7VP for 9+ Blue" right on top of a "+3VP if Successful" so I thought my guess would be way off.


I slimmed my deck all the way down to a lean-mean 18 cards.  Exactly 7 Red to nail my "7+ of 2 Colors".  And 10 Blue so enough to score all my own score cards.

Ang had to stop earlier than she wanted since she knew I'd been sniping her Red.  She actually went a turn longer than I, but still ended with a bigger deck due to her discount permanent and the number of attack cards she'd played.  Turns out she hit *exactly* 11 Red for the big 12VP bonus, AND exactly 9 Blue for the extra 10VP from her earlier gambit.  (But the 9 was just in range for my guess to pay off)

After tallying the scores, Ang had 2 more positive points than I, but my deck was 4 cards smaller so I won a very close game by 2 VP.  (If I'd guessed one lower, ang would have won.  If Ang had had 1 less Red or Blue in her deck, then I would have won.  If I'd had one less Red in my deck, Ang would have won.  It was all razor thin to me.)


I had a lot of fun.  Our strategies were sufficiently different, and yet reached very similar scores.  You can tell our skill has come up since we both managed to collect exactly the cards we needed in our remaining deck.  Some of that is closely counting cards, but even then you can't exactly know.  You have to guesstimate how much your opponent is trashing of what colors as you go.  It's an engaging and intriguing exercise to me.  And that's how I like it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

GenCon is Over

So I spent a lot of time cataloging my adventures over on BGG.  Here are the series of links:

Hit of the show?  Probably Ascension.  It was a great take on the deck-building genre.  In particular, the rules are a little simpler and the setup time is vastly reduced.  It seems quite balanced to me although I haven't gotten a chance to play it much yet.

The bigger hit was getting to see all the publishers and designers who showed up.  That was quite the treat to put faces to a lot of names.

Now only a year left until it starts again.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ack GenCon Crazies

Only a week to go!  I'm scrambling to get things done at work.  And still keep track of all the game swaps I scheduled at the convention.  Lordy lordy!

I've got to play a bunch of stuff recently, but none of it new to me.  That's far from a bad situation.  Especially since many of the recent games have been solid.  I'll give a couple contrasts here:

High Society - I've always liked For Sale better.  And I've even liked Money better now that I've finally gotten to try it.  I like the idea of not knowing how long the game will last.  But High Society takes that aspect to an extreme.  It just ruins the ability to plan much.  It went on the trade pile after this last play.

El Grande - Well, it's still a classic.  I got to play my own copy a second time.  I think I've got an original release.  The King is a little small, but the friggin' cubes are massive.  The play is just as chaotic as I remember it.  With plenty of take-that and score changing.  And yet, it always seems to get across that "epic" feel.  I think I like it so much just because it's got that special "epic" feel in the minimum amount of time necessary to achieve it.  (About 2 hours.)  I'll be holding onto it and breaking it out a few more times for sure.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Revisiting: Carcassonne the Castle

I now have the dubious honor of buying the same game 3 times.  And everyone of those was a deliberate purchase for myself.  What's even crazier is that I have sold this game twice because I didn't want it anymore.  Not because it was a good deal.  I mean, I've probably lost a good $10-$15 per copy, so let's put it at a $40 game for me now.  What is it?

Carcassonne the Castle

Why do I keep getting rid of it?

1. I maybe kind of like vanilla-carc better.  I sure as heck got carc'd out for awhile.  I had the big-box+Castle+H&G.

2. My wife doesn't think it's as pretty when it's done.  And, I've got to agree with her in general.

3. I was buying new games and needed the shelf space.

So why do I keep getting it back?

1. I enjoy playing it.

2. I keep thinking about the damn thing.

So, here I am on my third copy.  Of course we had to play it.  And you know what?  I think I liked it better than ever.  It was nice and close.  I really like how the bonus tiles add some hard thought to scoring, and then once you get them they can guide your long term strategy.

I think the Keep is just the right level of complication.  I like how much of your score is hidden at the end.

Yea, I just like the damn thing.  So sue me.  Now if only "The City" was simpler.  The whole wall thing there just seems bonkers.  And there's no fun bonus tiles to run along and collect :(

Of course, if I want to be honest, I think I'm on my third copy of Quo Vadis too.  I suppose I have a love-hate relationship with Knizia.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Vacations Over

Had a great time cruising around the Eastern US.  Spent the last week dipping my feet in the Atlantic.

Also got to play a good chunk of games since we traveled with another gaming couple.

Some highlights:

Man I still love Brass and Ra.  Both of these got played and I enjoyed them immensely.  I won both handily, and sometimes I worry that this overly influences my enjoyment.  Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't.  But it was still a great time.

Chaos in the Old World- Played with 4 experienced players.  Turned into a real "Whack the Leader" fest.  I mean, I know that's what it's supposed to be, but damn.  It got tiring quickly.  That play really took the shine off for me.

Zendo and Uptown both got played.  Props to Kory Heath for some great designs.  I heard that Uptown is getting reprinted with Plastic bits.  I might just jump on that, it's just a great game.  I haven't gotten to use the new rules yet though.  Kory decided that they made a slightly better game.  The new rule is just in the scoring:

Your final score = #Groups + #Captured Pieces of the player you captured the most of

I really like the idea of how that spreads the hate around.  And it makes it possible to win with multiple groups instead of the winner always having 1-2 groups.

Anyway, back to work, plenty to catch up on!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Vacation Season

It's smack dab in the middle of Vacation season.

I hiked around the Smokey Mountains last week.  Still did a little game playing, but mostly just collapsed after a long day of walking.

In particular though, I did get another go around with Brass.  Ya know what?  I still like that game by golly.  I know they've recently released Age of Industry, but it just doesn't sound as appealing.  It seems to take just as long and focuses more on short term planning than long term planning.  Bleh to that.

At the end of next week I'm off to Kittyhawk North Carolina.  No oil spill for me.  I'm heading there with boardgaming buddies, so I'm sure tons of games will get played.  The tough choice will be what couple games to bring on the plane with me.  I'm thinking Brass will make the cut.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Boardgame Library

So I just started abusing my local library for books again.  Just finished a very good one:

The Warded Man

If nothing else, it's been a long time since any book has made a character such a bad-ass.  It takes half a book for his inner bad-assedness to surface, but when it does he's out to friggin' get you.

I was sort of lamenting a nice easy way to borrow boardgames as this.  There are a couple locals that I swap games back and forth with a fair amount.  But sometimes we end up just waiting on each other to buy copies of certain games that nobody wants to risk.  (Like Catacombs)

I do appreciate the boardgame library in GenCon a fair amount.  Each year I probably try out 3-4 titles from there.  And then another 5-6 from the exhibit hall.  It just is a mad-house in many ways so it's hard to stay sane and really test out some deep games.

If only I lived closer to Cincinnati.  I hear the CABS library is a friggin' sight to see.  Maybe I should just head down to Origins sometime just to check things out :)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

GenCon Woes

Well, sounds like there won't even be space for open board gaming at this year's GenCon.  How lovely.  Guess we'll just have to take over whatever space we can find.

The whole convention center here in Indianapolis is currently ripped to shreds.  They're trying to get everything put back together in time for the 2012 SuperBowl.  This means next year we should have just gobs of space available to play games.  This year?  Not so much.  Maybe Origins isn't that far... And yet I work a whole 3 blocks from GenCon so it's too darn convenient.

Last GenCon?  Quite fun as always.  I am particularly still infatuated with Ra: The Dice game.  I feared it might have been a flash in the pan, but it's hooked me and staying strong.  It's currently outlasted both Roll Through the Ages and Alea Iacta Est.  I play the others, but I just keep getting drawn to Ra: Dice.  I think it's the setup and the play speed.  There's something to be said for a super short setup time.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Steam for 2

Got a chance to play some nice expansion maps for Steam:

I previously had avoided many of the expansion maps because they all seemed to want to add their own wrinkles and mess with the basic formula.  I understand why they do this; to improve the longevity and keep people playing.  But dang it, sometimes I just wanted another map.

Anyway, I played the Alabama version with my wife.  It went really well actually.  The map was sufficiently tight.  We both reached from top to bottom by the end, but I was weighted very high towards the top and she was weighted towards the bottom.

We also played with some hybrid AoS / Steam rules.

We used the Steam goods production.  We used the Income/Shares/Locomotive chart from AoS.  We used the role selection from Steam, but put everything at half price.  And lastly for scoring we did: Income - Shares + Links and called that good enough.

I won, but only by about 6 points.  I actually really enjoyed how the income reduction acted as a great "whack-the-leader" mechanic.  And here I thought it would just be annoying.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Against my Better Judgement

I never listen to myself eh?  Well at least I'm still sticking to the budget.

I bought and played a few games recently.  Here's some simple thoughts:

Bunny Bunny Moose Moose - As others have said... it just doesn't work.  There's all of 2 times a year you could play this.  The last day of a game convention.  Then you'd have gamers that care enough to follow the confusing ass rules.  But they'd be tired enough to be loopy to enjoy it.  It just isn't going to work in any other environment.

Vasco da Gama - It's okay.  Sequencing your actions is fun.  The limited way to score points just isn't.  I was hoping the logistics made up for it.  They just don't really in a 2-player game.  I still should try it with 4 players to see how the tighter board works out for me.

Until next time!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Musings on Nothing

So I got a chance to play my pimped Acquire.  It was actually quite enjoyable.

The big clay hotel markers were a blast.  I forgot to get an in game shot, but here's a snapshot of them being formed:

They were very easy to see.  The colors matched the stocks just great.  It as easy to read their name.  And the size let us know stock prices without using the reference sheet.  (Small is "N", medium is "N+1", large is "N+2"; all up to 6 large)

Funny enough, I saw someone post a spreadsheet that is supposed to be run on a laptop at the gaming table to help you calculate merger payouts in Acquire.  I suppose it might save a *tiny* amount of time.  But really, it's not that hard of a game to calculate.  I understand calculators for some of the 18XX style games, but I think you're just getting lazy with Acquire.

Of course, I also make my own large & legible payout sheets and drop the units back to $1 so it's not annoying as piss to do the math.  I suppose if you wanted to leave everything in hundreds I could handle the calculator better.

Anyway, off to a fun weekend of friends and gaming.  Got gobs of painting done around the house, so I'm glad to be done for awhile.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Kneading Clay is Danged Hard

Can barely type.  Kneaded 7 globs of clay into custom hotels for my pimped out Acquire.

I went with logs for the cheap ones.  "L" shapes for the medium priced.  And just big square blocks for the expensive ones.  I plan on printing off some labels and sticking on the side for super easy identification.  Wish me luck!

I'm also probably going to place a game order for some Steam maps and Vasco da Gama.  Vasco passes most of my buying tests.  People are still playing it a year later.  Nobody here has a copy I can try out.  It seems to have different ways to get ships if not really different ways to score VPs.

I don't really like worker placement, but I've finally realized it's more of a auction in disguise.  Mainly due to being able to "outbid" somebody on an action just by risking a harsher price on the action.

Anyway, prolly give into that order today.  Will still put me in the black next week on the budget.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

6-Players with cards

6 players is just such a mushy number.  For most game days, I'd much rather split 3 and 3 than play 6 player something er-other.

But at lunch time with the card crew, it just doesn't make sense to do that.  We all love playing with partners way too much.  So instead we play some double-deck bid Euchre.

And I've just decided that double-deck big euchre ends in a blow out a little too often for my tastes.

Spades is probably the opposite end of this.  A team is seldom completely out of a game of spades.  Our lunch games go nice and tight.

So... are there any better trick taking games for 6 players out there?  I know tichu *says* it will play six, but that just sounds odd.  Maybe pinochle or something?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Revisiting Yspahan

Got in a play of an "old" favorite.  Yspahan

Yea, I know it isn't really old.  It's only old to me since it was among the first game I bought.

My wife still loves the heck out of this game.  Me?  I enjoy it.  I don't really like it a bunch anymore.  For the most part, it just feels too worn out.  There are multiple strategies to try... well, sort of.  There's maybe two.  Getting the big buildings fast and spamming souks.  Or getting on the caravan in a big way.

The problem is that the caravan is pretty damn good when you work it right.  If you can throw two guys up there per turn and generate two cards while doing it, that's just a nearly insane number of point.  (I'd say 9 points conservatively.)

I suppose you could generate that much with a solid souk strategy, but it would be difficult.  Hrm hrm hrm.

Maybe I should try it.

See, now I've got myself talking into it being more open than it feels.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Alright, Back on the Wagon

Woot!  Exam is over.  How'd I do?  Heck if I know.  It was a six hour written exam.  They take some time to grade those suckers.  (Should know around mid-July)

So what have I been doing since Friday?

Well first I've been reading a bunch.  I don't let myself read fiction while studying.  I'm reading the Percy Jackson series now so I can stay caught up with my younger sister.

I've also been pimping out an old copy of Acquire I got.  What have I been doing to it?

Well first I re-did the board to give it 4 distinct quadrants.  Then I re-did the number and lettering so that each quadrant replicated the same letters and numbers.  Now when you have a tile, you have 4 places to put it.

This was how the board was made in a version very briefly published in 1997.  I really wanted to try it out, so away I went.

Next I've got some colored clay to form into hotel markers and bake.  I *really* liked the different sized hotel markers from my 1999 version and just don't think I can live without them.  I've never done back-at-home clay though, so who knows how the hell this will turn out.

I sure don't!

More gamin' soon.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Exam Day Cometh

I have a very large professional exam coming up next Friday.  I've been spending a lot of my time studying so I haven't had much time to post on here.

I hope to rectify that sometime in the next couple days.  Enjoy Spring everyone!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Innovation Impressions

I just got a preview copy of Innovation in the mail a couple days ago.  I've since played a couple games and here are my thoughts:

Overall, this is a very solid game, somewhere above "good" for me at the moment.


The card play is very smooth actually.  Draw→Play→Activate.  The card effects ("Dogmas") are just varied enough to really make you feel unique compared to your opponent.

There is a definite progression through time.  It uses 10 distinct decks ranging from pre-historic to "information age" and there is a huge power gain over the course of the game.

There is also tons of ingenious things thrown into that deck progression too.  Cards have distribution of symbols, and the symbols are concentrated in certain eras.  So some cards that depend on draws those symbols have their power rise and fall gracefully over the course of the game.

There are a couple downsides to me though:

The current rules are a little too abbreviated for my taste.  In particular there are no examples of play.  We messed up a couple pretty important rules in our first game.

The game is largely tactical.  In particular, there are many card effects that force you to play new random cards over what you already have.  Not much choice involved there.  I suppose once you know the decks better you might be able to plan a little bit with what symbols you collect on your cards.

The late game does bog down some.  You are limited to only 5 top cards at once, but those effects get bigger and bigger as you go.  Also, as you are allowed to eventually splay out your cards, counting up who has how many of what symbols gets very time consuming.

There are a few cards that seem a little more powerful than the others.  No more so than Terraforming Guild in Race for the Galaxy though, so I wouldn't call it an issue.

I'll have some more finished thoughts after a few more plays.  Let's just say I think it's leaps and bounds better than Glory to Rome :)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Missing the "Try before you Buy" option

So I've actually been pretty good on the gaming budget recently.  I'm well ahead with some virtual money burning holes in my pockets.

The problem is that I just haven't been out to the local gaming groups to try some of the recent releases.  It makes it very hard to stick to the whole "Try before you buy..." rule when you  haven't been anywhere to try games recently.

In particular, I've really been interested in:

Macao - I do like Stefan's other designs.  And after reading the rules (horribly translated) it does still sound interesting.  It just seems to be a little high on the Bit Count with lots of setup and tear down.  And how strategic is it really?  I mean, it sounds like the players will be doing different things, but much of that is just due to what cards they end up with.  And it's not like Agricola where you get all the cards up front and can make a plan from the get-go.

Vasco da Gama - Yea, I don't like worker placement much at all.  But if you add push-your-luck to it, I just might participate.  The whole idea of the navigation scoring seems pretty solid too.  But it still doesn't sound *that* much like my kind of game.

So yea, the sucky bit is I don't think either of these games will be huge hits for me, but I want to try them dang it :P

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


There are only 2 games I can think of that I've owned two distinct copies of.  And I've actually sold or traded away my second copy of both games too.  Those would be:

Quo Vadis and Carcassonne the Castle

And funny enough, I think I want to re-acquire them for the third time.

Quo Vadis is easy to explain.  It's just hard to get played.  I switched to the small box version, but the tokens were just too small to play with.  So I'm moving back to the big box.

Carc:Castle is just weird.  I liked it okay at first.  Traded it.  Then I went through pangs of missing it.  Then I was convinced regular carc was better.  So it left again.  Now for some reason I'm itching to try the damn thing again.   Gah.

Call me a fool.  But I think these two will end up back in the closet.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Clean Slate

Well, my big auction is over.  And it feels pretty good to fit all my games back into my game cabinet.  There's even room for 1-2 more if I want to squeeze them.

I've since turned my eye back to those games I already own.  In particular, I was toying around with Friendless' cool game stats page:

I like to try and get my "Friendless Metric" nice and high most of the time.  Right now it has plummeted to a really low "2".  The metric is: look at your owned games.  How many have you played 10+ times?  Call that N.  Now pick the N games you've played least.  How much have you played the most played game of those N bottom games?

Or in other words: I've played 22 of my games 10+ times.  There are 22 games I've played 2 times or less.  So my Friendless Metric is "2".

So, the quickest way to boost that metric is to play more of my seldom played games.  It generally makes me play and re-evaluate how much I really like those games.

On the flip side, pushing games to 10 plays also lets me judge the longevity of a game.  Sadly, there are a couple games that made it to 11-12 plays, but then puttered out:

Roll Through The Ages is still a great game.  It just feels like we played out the strategic possibilities of the base game.  I enjoyed my couple plays of the Late Bronze Age.  I really just need to make some more print outs of that.

Through the Desert is again still a great game.  It too just feels like I have too much understanding of the relative value of the scoring possibilities.  There's not as much to explore.  I still enjoy it, just not as much as before.

I'm not getting rid of either of the above games, but it will take them a long time to get to 20 plays I fear.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Equilibrium Playtest

Got in a quick game of Equilibirum.  Tested the following changes:

A. The "ALL" cards cost 1, score 6VP and require 8+ of a specific color.

Result?  Very nice.  I really liked them now.  I played a couple.  One of them payed off.  It seemed nice and balanced.  (Not the game bending 9VP from before)

B. Make the "Draw +4" cost as much as you want.

Result?  I liked this.  I used it the only time I actually played it.  I'm worried about the complexity of it though.

C. Allow duplicate permanents.

Result?  Never came up.  I still think it's just fine.  The way the permanents are, you get diminishing returns for each permanent after the first so I don't see any issue in letting people stack them if they really want to.

Quick Session Report:

I tried going a traditional 2-color route with red and yellow.  I played a couple "ALL" cards to test them.  Mainly I just went for efficiently spamming of cheap score cards.  I also played a couple "guess" cards and succeeded on both of them (Not on the head unfortunately)

My wife went all in on Blue.  And I trashed the heck out of her Blue from the beginning.  She played a couple big "13VP for 11+ of a single color".  She stopped way early (27 cards) just to gamble that she'd make it.  (She also had the "1st Pair" cards for a cool 12vp)

Scoring?  Well I did very solid getting just over 40.  My wife?  Only got 10 blue... but 11 RED because she stopped so early.  Doh.  So she scored all her big cards and beat me out by 3 VP.

All-in-all quite a fun game and a nice playtest.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Back on Track

I've done it.  I've put a large number of nice games up for auction over HERE.

Why?  I need the space and I'm in the hole on gaming budget.

What ones were I really sad to see go?

Union Pacific - I really like the idea of crossing Trains with Acquire.  But it just had too much fiddly crap.  The Union Pacific stock was pretty much broken.  And the track cards were stupid and un-needed.  And all that left was just a card game.  And that's a big board with lots of bits to just be a card game.

HomeSteaders - It's not that I didn't like it, I just didn't see myself playing it a bunch in the future and it was worth money right *now*.  My biggest issue?  If you don't comprehend the Magic:The Gathering "Stack", then it's unlikely you'll really understand the market transactions in Homesteaders.  No, the transactions don't actually work like the "Stack".  It just means you need to have a brain that can function like a assembly processor.  Some people do, and other's don't.  Also, I got real tired of pushing bits back and forth.  It was much better than Princes of Machu Picchu, but it did have a similar feel after awhile.

Galaxy Trucker - I enjoyed it.  It just has *so* many damn pieces and parts.  And hey, I've got Factory Fun to fill the same itch.

Anyway, I've already ordered Heavy Rain and Metal Gear Solid 4 to do some interactive movie playing in the theater in the basement.  That and pay off the Crokinole board before it gets here.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Running out of Space in the Game Cabinet

Yup.  It's that time of year.  Tax return time!  Why is that important?  Because it means general auction prices on the 'geek aught to be at a high.

And unfortunately, it's probably time for me to auction some games off.  I've run out of cabinet space and I'm a little low on budget.  (I put my video game and board game budget together this year.  And now there's a silly ~$50 video game I want.)

But it's hard to let go of games dang it.  Especially ones I wanted bad enough to buy in the first place.  What am I really split on?

Endeavor - It seemed so awesome when I read the rules.  And the first players were pretty good.  I just haven't felt the need to play it.  And that's not really making a game worthy of a spot on my shelf.

Daytona 500 - Difficult to find.  Only played once.  It just is an awkward game in many ways.  I really don't like the whole "give a person a car" rule if they don't win any.  And I just like Ra/Metropolys so much better.

Nexus Ops - Completely impossible to ever replace.  But I just never play the damn thing.  And I don't really want to.  It just seems too shallow, with odd card play rules.

Return of the Heroes - Again, impossible to ever replace.  But then again, I never play the thing.  I think I've decided that adventure games just make much better video games than board games.

And besides, I need to make some room for more kids games :)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Back to the Lunch Crowd

I played in a very suspenseful Tichu tournament last Friday night.  Our final game started with the opponents going 1-2-Tichu in the first hand.  We turned around and went 1-2-Grand-Tichu in the second hand.  It just got crazier from there.

Then I went back to lunch today.  I work with a lot of *very* smart people.  Most of them are fairly competitive.  Oddly enough though, there are a couple that love to play cards at lunch and just phone in their choices.  I guess from their point of view, it's just a relaxing time in between crunching numbers all day.  It still makes for an odd game that causes 10s to float in tichu when there are still kings and queens in the opponent's hand.

I guess I can't really complain though.  Everyone there is a fun bunch to play with and I have a great time.  Lunches could be a lot worse.

As for Equilibrium, I did think of one change I think I shall try.  I think the current "ALL Score" cards are a little too powerful.  I think I'll try a couple hands with them as "1 cost" and "6VP for 8+" as the reward.  So it's still the same difficulty of achieving, but the cost/reward has been reduced.  The current "9VP for 8+" was just too game distorting to me.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Equilibrium Playtest

Then I got in a couple 4-player games of Equilibrium.

Overall, I think it went really well.  In the first game, the new players were still learning the mechanics and understanding what it took to win.

There were initially some concerns that it was too difficult to control what your deck composition was like at the end of the game.  We played another game right after that, and those concerns were proven false with one game under their belt.

In the first game Brandon got a great kick off a couple "ALL Score" cards that Angie played to get a nice win.

The second game was a lot tighter.  They knew what was going on and put some plans in action.  We actually all chose to quit at exactly the same time in the second game.  I stayed simple and just scored a couple "13vp for 5+ of 3 colors".  Due to all the attacks, I only ended at 10 vp.  Brandon and Ang missed some key score cards though and ended a little negative.  Cayla ended at 7 VP, but was only 1 card short of hitting a 4VP card that would have given her the win.

Overall, I enjoyed it a lot with 4 players.  I'm excited to try it some more that way.  A couple ideas came out of it:

1. Let people over-pay for cards if they want.

I'm not against this.  I'm just not sure it's needed.  In the last couple turns I could see wanting to dump some fluff, but generally your deck is pretty concentrated by that time anyway.  We tried it in the second game above, but it was only used a couple times.  Of course, the player who did do it came in second...

2. Let people have more than 1 copy of each permanent.

I'm actually not against this the more I think about it.  You could get free 3-cost score cards with enough discounting permanents.  But those discounting permanents aren't free and even "free" score cards still make you trash a card at the end of your turn.

It was interesting to see how much impact the attack cards have in a 4-player game.  It's not that they are harsher, it's that there is a much higher chance of at least one hitting play each turn.  I think it shortened the game by at least 2 turns.  Of course, I'm not actually against that since a 4-player game would usually stretch out a little bit longer just due to logistics of getting 4 people to make decisions.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mini Con Tomorrow

Woohoo! I get to game for 3 days straight.  I've got a lot of catching up to do.

So what will I bring along?  Most a bunch of 40-60 minute "Super Fillers"

Alea Iacta Est - I don't think anyone else has a copy.  And I even pimped mine out.

Homesteaders - Really want to get this played with more than 2 players.

Chaos in the Old World - My last unplayed game dang it.

Factory Fun - A hard to find one, but a good one.

Himalaya - With the 6 player expansion of course.

Witch's Brew  - Not my favorite, but plenty of people love it and I have the 6 player cards now.

UpTown - Works great in a convention setting.

What do I want to play that other people will have?

Metropolys - I really dig this game.

Piece o' Cake - Wrong name, but great filler :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Utopian Rummy Revisited

Well it's been a few months since I've done much with Utopian Rummy.  Suddenly there's at least a little bit of buzz on the game again.  I think much of it came from the great contest that Cate ran over on the geek.  But here's just a sampling of what people are currently doing with it:

1. JuanJosé Martínez is translating the game into Spanish.

2. Nick Hayes is doing a slight re-theme just to get some flavor text and a back story into the game.

3. Jeremiah Lee is making me re-think which jobs are actually more powerful over here:

Sadly I opened up my files to send them over for translation, and realized I pretty much haven't editted the game in a year.  I really was fairly happy with the final result and just couldn't bring myself to keep playtesting changes. I'd rather move onto new things, but I am happy that people are still playing my game :)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dice Musings

So I'm on a real big dice kick lately.  Yea for me.  But now I'm itching to try and design a "Dice Euro" like Roll through the Ages or Ra: Dice.

I've recently had some thoughts as to how I'd do interactions:

Each player gets 8 dice.
There will be 6ish items up for grabs.

First round:
On your first turn, roll all 8 dice.
Place all 8 dice in groups onto the items.
Next player does the same.

Next rounds:
First see if you have the top group for any space.  If so, claim the item from that space and take back your dice. Opponents get pity stuff for getting their dice back.
Now roll all yours again and place them.

I'm worried a little bit about runaway leader stuff.  Not really from getting too good of stuff, instead more like the boxes and squares problem of Samurai.  Once you've won a big fight, you get to place those dice right back in the swing of things.  Maybe delay the dice you win with for a turn.  Might be difficult mechanically though.

Just some musings.  It would have to have items like the SPQR tiles from Alea Iacta Est though.  Those things are quite sweet.  Maybe one face up and one face down.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Slim Pickings

Wrapping up a local no-shipping math trade this week.  I'm doing the running on a Google Spreadsheet, so it turns into a fair amount of work for me.  This is the final leg where people send me their want lists.  Since I know everyone personally, I tend to take the time to check for spelling errors and confirm anything that needs fixed.

I of course turn in my want lists first.  And after looking everything over, I really decided there was very little I wanted to try to squeeze onto my overfull shelves.  I only ended up with two items:

Pow Wow - A simple party/bluffing game.  I like these style with the family and I think this one would catch on well.

Heroscape-marvel-the-conflict-begins - Yea, I have the other master sets just because.  Maybe I'll play them with my kids some day.  Still, this one doesn't add much on it's own.  So I'm not missing it horribly.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ra: The Dice Game - It Has Legs

Yea, I bought Ra: The Dice Game at more than full retail last year at GenCon.  At first, I sort of enjoyed it.  But I just played my 12th game, and I find that I'm actually really enjoying it even more.

What has improved my opinion of it?

It doesn't get boring even once you learn the relative value of many of the scoring opportunities.  These just influence your liklihood of rerolling the various outcomes.

The game length for 2 players is just right at about 20 minutes.

The setup time is pretty much zero.

It still has the great Ra scoring.

Hell, in fact, it's got me wanting to purchase Priests of Ra just to try and play it with my family more.  Ra Ra!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Augmenting Alea Iacta Est

So I finally ordered some new games.  (Basically I waited until my gaming budget was out of the hole.)

And of them, my fav has been Alea Iacta Est (AIE).  Probably not surprising given how much I loved Ra: The Dice game and Roll through the ages.

Anyway, there were a couple glitches with AIE.  Some of the bonus tiles needed english reminder text and I wanted a nice player aid for the game.  So, I've spend some time putting that together.

The bonus tiles I've just taped printed text too, but I think they look nice:

And as for the player aid, BGG is still awaiting approval for that.  You can check out an alpha version over here:

I've found that file uploads don't get a ton of love on the 'geek.  Which is sad, because they are some of my favorite parts.  I do need to go back and revisit a few of my files.  Such as:

Make all the changes to the Brass rules I promised.

Finish off the Uruk aid and upload it.

Yadda yadda yadda...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sorry for the Gap :)

Yea, I let the blog slide for a couple weeks.  I hit a manic session at work and was still trying to fit studying in.  I'm going to cut back to Tuesdays&Thursdays and keep the posts shorter.

Just started kicking up the dust around here for the Indianapolis Mini-Con.  It's our way to survive until GenCon rolls back around.  My main duty is a private math trade.  I run it just on Google Docs with a shared spreadsheet.  It's easier than a BGG list in some ways, but I sure do miss JeffyJeff's OLWLG.

I also want to give a shout out to for quickly coming through in support of the Con when I asked them.  They join a long list of great sponsors that make it an event to remember.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Having fun with the Printer

So since I got a cheap InkJet off Craigslist a while ago, I've been having a lot of fun printing board game related items.

Of course I've done my fair share of PnP games.  I've also done a lot of Prototyping.  (In fact I still have a completed prototype of Equilibrium waiting around for when Seth of TMG gets some time to try it out.)

The other thing I've done is make player aids and rules summaries for many of the games I own.  It's not easy to learn games from 1-page rules summaries, but they are *great* ways to quickly refresh yourself.

Just today I printed off a couple great little summaries for Knizia's Samurai.  In particular, it's nice to remember how the setup changes for different numbers of players.  It also helps for the convoluted scoring in Samurai.  I really think he went a little too far there.

I'm also going to try out Conquest of the Empire tomorrow and some player aids are invaluable for that game.

If you haven't invested in a cheap InkJet printer, it's a great tool to enhance your boardgame hobby.

As for cost, I recommend refurbished ink from somewhere like and cheap 110lb cardstock from Sam's Club.  Makes everything fall way under budget.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Newly Eligible

So I've been trying hard to stick to the "don't buy games that aren't 12 months old" bit.  And I've actually been doing pretty fair.  The only game I bought in December was Chinatown.  That game is over 10 years old, so I think I've been doing pretty good.

I also think I owe someone money for Industrial Waste, but again, it's almost 10 years old.

But there are a few more I need to research more and read the rules for:

You're Bluffing has always appealed to me.  However, it appears similar to Bohnanza, in that it is great fun, but always seems to go on just a little bit too long.

Municipium is an often passed over recent Knizia release.  I've had plenty of chances to play it but just haven't taken the time to try it.  Somehow the rules just seem a little more daunting than they should be.  Still, it's getting played by people on the 'geek.  Which is actually more than I can say for a couple of the others from above.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll return to my review anatomy series.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Revisiting: El Grande

Has some family over to play games yesterday.  Ending up having way too much family over to play games.  Most of them just came to generally socialize.  Which is cool and all, in some ways.

Ended up played some El Grande with a few of the more hard core gamers.  I think it went pretty well.  We had one 12 yro.  He sort of understood what was going on.

It's interesting that El Grande once won the SdJ.  I mean, it wouldn't stand a damn chance these days.  I went over explaining the game, and a couple eyes glossed over.  In the end, all the adults had it figured out by the first scoring round.  A couple of them even gave me a pretty good chase right up until the very end.

As for the game?  The first time I played it I thought it was "meh".  But I played it at my first GenCon where it was nothing but new game after new game.  After a couple years of retrospection, I admit that it seemed better than most of the crop from that GenCon.  So I eventually tracked down a copy to play again.

Well, I think it was worth it.  It's not worth playing unless you have 4 I imagine, but then I could still see it doable.

I really liked the Castille.  Not exactly for the hidden nature, but for the tough balancing act you must make.  The guys you put in the Castille have the chance to help you score two regions.  The Castille and where-ever they paradrop into.  That's great to get two scoring chances from one dude.  However, if you put a ton in there, then you'll be missing out on having a nice spread on the board.  Squeeking one dude in to get third in a region is a lot more efficient than adding him to your horde in the Castille.  But it's very hard to tell where the perfect balance is between these options.

I'm glad I have it.  Now I just need to go find the bigger 6" dildo version of the El Grande so my wife isn't disappointed about the "little King" in our old copy of the game.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Anatomy of a Review: Description

And next comes probably my favorite challenge in a review.  The description.  Why is it a challenge?  Because I want it to be "about a paragraph".  Any longer and you might as well go read the rules.  I really like the idea of trying to squeeze the essence of what a game is about and how it works into a very small space.

What do I mention?

I try to mention the theme at least.  Maybe what the players are suppose to represent or do.

I try to mention what options a player will have on their turn, or what the major parts of a game round are.

I also mention how a player wins.  And if it's a VP game, then a quick summary of the major sources of VP.

I really despise reviews that are nothing but rules regurgitations.  I do not want to tell people about every little bit of the rules book.  If you want to know how to play a game, then go read the rules, not a review.

Here are some examples of my "Descriptions" in reviews:

Acquire - Acquire is a loose stock market simulation game. The players represent shrewd businessmen that invest in various hotel chains that appear on the board. The board consists of a grid of square spaces that are slowly filled in with tiles by the players. When two tiles are placed next to each other a hotel is formed. When two hotels are linked, they merge and become one.

Each player's turn consists of:

A. Playing a tile.
B. Purchasing up to 3 stocks.

The game ends when the board fills up and the player with the most money wins. The ways to earn money are:

A. Having your stocks increase in value (Adding tiles to their corresponding hotel).
B. Earning bonuses paid out to first and second majority holders during a merger.

Yspahan - Yspahan has a largely forgettable theme supplemented by cute camel meeples. They're not pastel sadly, but you can have lots of fun stacking cubes on their backs.

What Yspahan does have is an unforgettable use of dice. Each turn you role a bucket of dice. You put them on an action track grouped by pip count and in ascending pip count. Each space represents a unique action, and the more dice on the space the larger the benefit. Each player takes a group of dice and performs an action. Then a new day starts and the bucket of dice are rolled again.

What actions do you get to do?

1. Collect resources.
2. Place cubes in the market place.
3. Move cubes from the market to the caravan.

You can also build buildings and take cards that both let you break the rules.

You collect points from:

1. Building buildings
2. Having cubes in the market or the caravan
3. Cards that give bonuses

Race for the Galaxy - Race for the Galaxy (Race) is a card game about settling and developing your own Empire. You pay to add cards to your Empire from your hand by discarding other cards from your hand. The cards already in your Empire give you all sorts of abilities and bonuses conveyed by a wide array of iconography. Some cards represent worlds that can produce goods. These goods can be traded in for more cards or consumed for points.

Before each turn, all players simultaneously choose what phases they want to occur. The phases allow different actions such as drawing new cards, adding cards to your Empire, or producing and using goods. If any player chooses a particular phase, then all players get to perform the corresponding action, but those players who actually instigated the phase get a bonus.

Play continues until an Empire reaches a certain size or a certain number of points have been claimed by consumption of goods. The players then add up the points they have earned from:

1. The points listed on the cards in their Empires.
2. The points they have earned from consuming goods.
3. Certain large development cards give a conditional bonus based on other cards in your Empire.

Race for the Galaxy's Description is a little longer than I like.  But I didn't feel comfortable cutting more out of it.  And in reality, it's quite the complicated game.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Anatomy of a Review: Introduction

I thought it would be some decent content to go over each section of my standard review criteria.  So sit back and be prepared for a nice 12 part series or so with short blog entries on each section.

I usually open up my reviews with just the smallest of paragraphs introducing the reason for the review.  Most often I write a review because it's a game I've been enjoying for quite some time.  If so, then I tell them that.  Usually I try to mention how many times I've played it and what my general relationship is with it.  I generally try to write on a thin crusp between objective and subjective in the body of my reviews.  In the introductions though, I'll generally go subjective and express my feelings some.

I think the main point of the introduction is to set the mood for a review.  I want people to empathize a little with me.  I'm an analytical guy by nature and want them to understand that.

Sarcasm is really hard to detect on the internet, so I like to make sure that people realize I'm not going to break out sarcastic comments on them.

Here's some examples from past reviews:

Terra PrimeTerra Prime is a recent release by Tasty Minstrel Games. I received my Pre-Order signed by the designer Seth Jaffee himself. After a couple two player games though, I just don't think the game is for me. Of course, I don't like Agricola nor Battlestar Galactica, so please don't go jumping to conclusions for yourself. I noticed there isn't a lot of information out there for Terra Prime, so I thought I'd give it a good detailed review.

Endeavor - Got a chance to play this exciting game at GenCon. I admit I only played a couple times, but I thought an early review was better than none given the lack of information. My short bit: just an awesome game.

DominionLook mom! It's a BGG Phenomenon.
No it's not dear, that's just "Hype".

Well, is it? That's really the question isn't it? And luckily, the answer is.... *drum roll please* ... up to you of course! Luckily unlike some recent hits (*cough* Agricola *cough*) this game costs under $30 and plays in well under an hour. Meaning? You'll easily get a chance to try it yourself.

For myself though, it is living up to the hype.

(Review Caveat, I haven't gotten in my desired number of games for a review, but I hadn't seen any full detailed reviews yet, so I thought I'd do it anyway.)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Favorite Games of 2009

What "new to me" games of 2009 really stand out?

Roll Through the Ages - This probably squeeks out as my favorite.  I played it first way back in February and have played it a cool 10 times in 2010.  I even paid to upgrade to the second edition with the better dice when it came out.  I really like dice games, and the allure of multiple paths to victory really sealed me in.  The expansion just made a great game even better.  I need to play this more in 2011 :)

Honorable Mention: Ra: The Dice Game - If RttA hadn't come along, I really think this one would have stolen the show.  Even with RttA, I played Ra Dice 11 times, and I've owned it a lot less.  It usually comes out just because it's a little less heavy then RttA.  There aren't really "accounting" phases, just the 3 scoring phases.  I haven't jumped on a lot of the Knizia re-dos.  But this one hooked me.

Metropolys - This is definitely the gamer's game of the year for me.  It was expensive to get, but totally worth it in the end.  I love playing it.  And did so 6 times this year.  I've done a lot of 2-player, and it works fairly well at that number.  More is a bit better, but not a ton so.  It combines so many gaming elements all into one tight package.  I really like it :)

Piece o' Cake - And then the filler of the year.  I haven't had this a long time, but the time I have has been enjoyable.  I just love the play and the theme.  It's all so well done.  I paid import prices and don't regret it.  "Eat or Save" is really an agonizing decision, in addition to the difficult slicing.  Fit that all into 15 minutes and you have a winner.  I played it 5 times already.

So all the above games made my five and dime list easy this year.  I wonder how many of them will again next year.  I'm hoping 5+ plays for all of them :)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Well, here rolls in a new decade.  What's eating at my life right now?

I've got another professional exam on April 30th.  It's a real bitch and will eat away at me with stress until it is over.

I don't really have any new year's resolutions.  I'd say "continue to post regularly on my blog", but really, I do that already.

I suppose I do need to get rid of some games so I can fit everything back into my game cabinet.  I've got 3-4 recent acquisitions sitting outside of it at the moment.  That's fine and all for a week or two, but any longer and my wife will gut me.  If I didn't play it in 2009 does that mean it should go?  But I really do like Galaxy Trucker, I just don't ever want to deal with all the bits...

*sigh*  Another year of petty worries.  I think that means it will be a good one overall :)