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 :)