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Sunday, December 4, 2011

JUST GAMING AROUND - EGG Game Day - ESSEN GAMES GALORE - My first plays and impressions


The EGG Game Day was the weekend of November 12 graciously hosted by our Chief EGG Head, Lorna (and, yes, I'm very slow to getting this posted - due to Thanksgiving and spending my 'writing' time working on Dominion dividers for Hinterlands)

Lorna goes to Essen every year and picks up a number of Essen releases then invites locals over to give them a go. I received at least a couple of invitations but unfortunately I was too busy to be able to attend.

So, I was really looking forward to the EGG Game Day as I had most of the day open to be able to play games (well, after an early-day Scouting activity). And, I was really looking forward to getting in some of those Essen games I'd been drooling over.

The night before I read through the rules of Dungeon Petz as it was one of several games near the top of my 'to play' list. I've been hoping that it might be something I could play with my kids. Reading the rules closely really started getting me excited about playing it. I did have some concerns though whether my kids (8 & 11) would be able to play it as it I read through the many moving parts.

I could go into a long description of the details of attending the game day (like I usually do) but I'm not - I'd rather go into a long description of the games themselves. Well, ok, I'm going to try to be short...or medium length at least.

Here's a quick rundown of the NON-Essen games I played first:
* PitchCar - My friend Chris (Togra) left me a message the day before to bring PitchCar as his wife wanted to give it a go. So, I brought it and set it up with her soon after I arrived. Upon setting it up we played a 3-player, 2-lap game with a third, Doug. It had a nice looping hairpin and a longish jump (which we shortened later). She seemed to enjoy it quite a bit despite realizing it was more difficult to play than on the iPad...I didn't even KNOW they had it on the iPad!

* 7 Wonders - My friends Aric and Heather attended for their first time at my suggestion and I wanted to get a game in with them. They have attended a couple of game nights at my house and have been more and more interested in trying different games. I figured they would like this one and we also happened to have 7 people looking to play a game so this seemed like an obvious choice. I've really enjoyed my few plays of it and I'm enjoying trying different ways to try to score points. Everyone seemed to have a great time and the newbies (A&H, plus Greg who only played once before) picked up the game quickly (not surprisingly). Interestingly, all the players with resources were at one end of the table and all the players with military were at the other end of the table - and the military side ended up with mostly the lowest scores, mainly due to lack of......resources! As usual, a quick, fun, solid game.

Well, I have to laugh at myself a bit here - I thought I had played more Non-Essen games, but, nope, it was just these two! Overall, I was there for about 10 hours and I ended up playing a total of 8 games, 6 of which were Essen releases (well, 5 games, I played Mondriaan 2020 twice).

So, here are the Essen games in the order that I played them (barring the Non-Essen releases)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

TIMELY TOPICS - ESSEN release games that look interesting to me & why

It must be that time of year to write up an Essen list of interesting games seeing as it's Essen week this week. Of course, I haven't done such a thing before. And, there really isn't a point to it other than sheer interest. Why? Because I'm not going to Essen and likely won't be picking up most of these - at least not for a while if I do.

My friend Lorna will be attending and she always brings back a good pile of interesting games and I usually get to give some of them a go, so I'll just be getting my fix that way.

Anyhow, my interest for games release Essen has generally been pretty low this year up until last week when I finally got the bug to peruse the Essen 2011 Canonical List on BGG. After I spent a few hours doing that my interest was starting to increase quite a bit - I was expecting to not find too many games to be excited about but as I read through I kept finding interesting items.

Then, as I started to prepare writing a blog entry about my findings, I ran across the Board Game News list: Spiel 2011 Preview on BGG which purportedly had even more games listed and seems to be a more 'official' list, if there is such a thing. Ok, time to spend a few more hours perusing. The interesting thing about this list is it uses a new headings feature that is being added to Geek lists in the impending site redesign; these headings are then designated as publishing companies and their games are then grouped together under them. So, if you like particular publishers you can easily find their newest games.

I then tore through this list and found a majority of them were the same items from the canonical list (there were some I hadn't recalled seeing before), plus some other more obscure titles and/or non-English titles. Ultimately, this seems to be the go-to list this year.

So, as I went through the lists I decided to tag each with an Essen2011 tag so that I could then have a compiled list to work from later. Here's a link to the list in case you're interested. I find tags OK as a feature, but you can't do too much with them as the entries aren't sortable in any way. But, there it is at least.

So, here's my rundown. I have organized them in categories of my interest or into logical groupings by type. The primary grouping is what drew me to them and then secondary either just a property of the game or the element that seemed to grab me. It's hard to explain but you'll see what I mean.

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This section is THE BUZZ - games that were buzzworthy that I also found some interest in. There are OTHER buzzworthy games but the didn't interest me as much (despite looking like good games overall)

The Buzz - Deck Building:
CORE WORLDS
  Deck building in space where you work your way from the outer reaches to the inner core of civilized space - terrific graphics, improved gameplay from other deck building games, ability to keep cards in play until needed…

The Buzz - Different:
FLASH POINT: FIRE RESCUE
  Co-op saving people in a burning building. Great graphics and interesting gameplay with good amount of variability. I'm not much into co-op play, but I really love the theme and the potential for excitement in trying to save people.

The Buzz - Different:
PRÊT-À-PORTER
  Some say this is actually similar to Drum Roll - but putting on a fashion show instead. This one is more economically grounded (in fact was designed specifically that way) but both this and Drum Roll sound interesting for different reasons. I would say this one seems more 'serious' where Drum Roll is more 'fun'

The Buzz - Family Fun:
DRUM ROLL
  You are the owner of a Circus and working to put on the best shows - the higher quality shows require better performers. You try to acquire equipment to let your performers perform at their highest. Once you have a successful show you have to decide whether to gain the prestige points or re-invest in making future shows even better.

The Buzz - Village Building:
KINGDOM BUILDER
  New game by Donald X Viccarino - NOT Dominion although perhaps feels similar. The theme seems even thinner than in Dominion as this looks to be thinly veneered abstract with cardplay for the actions and more cards for the victory conditions. Lots of variability should still change it up a bunch but it's one I'll want to play before buying I think. Some elements look similar to Strasbourg.

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There are different reasons for MUST HAVE games for me - mostly these are expansions/additions to ones I already have.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

JUST GAMING AROUND - More Yucata PLUS Trying out Vassal with 'Inspector Moss 2' - PnP solitaire game design winner (aka Am I Gaming Online Again? 1-Player even?)

YUCATA REPRISED
I'd stated before that online gaming isn't so much my thing. And then I tried out Yucata back in March and found that I enjoyed it. I played a few games then got busy at the end of the school year and during the summer and didn't revisit online gaming.

Well, a couple of weeks ago I had some friends over and we ALMOST played Hacienda (which I got to play at the Gaming Olympics early last month and wanted to play again), but it was a split decision and we played some other games instead.

My friend garygarison really wanted to try it though so we agreed to give it a go online. I invited him to a game of it, along with 4 or 5 other games (Stone Age and St. Petersburg) with some other online buddies. I haven't had a lot of FTF gaming the last couple of months so it has been a nice way to get in some gaming.

Since that first game we played a couple more times, then moved on to Oregon where he is KING OF OREGON (as he says - he's top ranked on it). We have played several games and finally got to where I only lost by 1 point on a couple of games! And yesterday I finally defeated the King of Oregon!

Anyhow, what's been great about Oregon in particular is that it plays very fast and has a lot of interesting little things going on and every game is different. One game we literally filled up one entire corner of the board and almost nothing else on the board. Other times we've been all over the place. I'm learning to love it's subtleties and fickleness with the card draws (and points draws on the Coal and Gold - which have been KILLING me in the end game, hence losing by 1 point at least twice as a result). I literally cannot stop playing it now. It's been a great way to unwind in the evenings and even get a quick game in during lunch.

I've also been learning to love the tightness and subtleties of St. Petersburg as well. I had never played it before playing online and it's been great online as I can take my time planning out my moves, reviewing what each card's benefits are, etc. The ability to take notes as reminders for myself between turns has been invaluable as well.

I'm really starting to enjoy online play. Who knew!?

VASSAL AND INSPECTOR MOSS
I must digress a bit though - what REALLY spurred me to actually plugging in again was a geek mail I got from one of the designers of the game Inspector Moss 2: House Arrest, Jonathan Warren he apparently reads my blog and thought I should check it out. It recently won a recent Print and Play contest: Solitaire Print and Play Contest which is pretty cool.

The other designer is Rebekah B.

Well, I looked at it and, honestly, I thought the artwork was a little strange with heads stuck on pawns as bodies.

The Detective you play - Inspector Moss


The dead guy - John Dough



One of the suspects - Sue Phlaye

And, it's a solitaire game. I don't typically play solitaire games (almost never) - if I have time for myself I'm usually writing about games, pimping games, building my own copies of games, or opening, punching or learning new games. If I'm going to play a game I usually prefer to play with someone else.

Hence, my willingness to play games on Yucata recently - at least it's with SOMEONE. I like the competition against with other players, particularly 2-player games with head-to-head action.

I admitted to Jonathan that I wasn't likely to print it out and make a copy just to play it, but I noticed that it was available on Vassal and might be willing to try it there.

Monday, August 29, 2011

HOT BOX - WHAT'S IN THE BOX? - Z-Man 'Factory Fun' vs. Cwali 'Factory Fun'

Factory Fun is one of my favorite games of all time. In this game you are trying to maximize profits by fitting machines into your factory and connecting them in such a way as to generate more profits than what it costs to place each machine. This may sound a little dull but if you like puzzle sorts of games the fun factor cannot be beat!

I was introduced to it early in my gaming resurgence in 2008 by my friend Chris (it's one of his all-time favorites as well) and immediately fell in love with it. I loved the puzzle aspect to it. I loved the components. I loved the artwork. I loved that it played quickly but still was a lot of fun.

I soon was looking for my own copy and ended up purchasing it directly from the designer, Corné van Moorsel, straight from the Netherlands along with a few of his other games. This was a little before the incredible price increases started occurring.

Then, when I heard there was going to be a reprint by Z-Man I was somewhat interested but figured I wouldn't bother since I had it already. I also saw some of the artwork and I wasn't sure - I loved the hand-drawn artwork of my original version and didn't know if the slicker artwork was an improvement or not.

Then I started reading more information that came out about it and they mentioned that it had pieces for 5 players instead of 4 (cool!), the pipes were done as tiles instead of shaped pieces (hmm, not sure about that), and the player boards were double-sided for standard and expert play (awesome!)

Well, I finally caved and decided to get it. And it arrived. And...it sat on my shelf. I can't even remember how long now. Since earlier this year I think. Yes, definitely earlier this year. *sigh*

Perhaps I just wasn't ready to give up on my older copy of the game...

Then Chris got his own copy of the game recently. And opened it right away! Gah! It was time to open mine. He posted a pic of the neat containers he used to put the game pieces in.

He said the containers were for 'spices'. Apparently they had 'spice' labels on them and and he was complaining about it. I suggested he make his own labels and he promptly did! Very cool!



Ok, I'm motivated! I've actually been planning on opening it for the last month or so with the intention of doing a comparison of the old and new versions but hadn't 'gotten around to it'. Well, it is finally time...to see WHAT IS IN THE BOX! Then, further down, I do a comparison of the components of the two versions.

So, here's the box, ready to be opened!



I have to admit I like the box art quite a bit. I'm ok with the people on it, but I REALLY like the factory - the look of the machines and most especially the lights on the ceiling. I don't know why I like them so much, but I do...


Friday, August 12, 2011

STATE OF THE BACK ROOM - An update on why no new posts here....

Last night I attended a local gaming group that some of my friends frequent and host. My blog came up for some reason and my friend Chris said he hadn't seen anything in over a month. I mentioned that I'd only been posting my blog entries to BGG recently ( http://www.boardgamegeek.com/blog/22 ). Apparently he wasn't subscribed to me there, just here. My friend Robert said the same thing - apparently both are using the RSS feeds here. Now, BGG has RSS feeds as well, BUT, I much prefer some of the OTHER features here on blogger, in particular the statistics that tell me how many people are visiting.

Well, I admit it, I have been neglecting my blog HERE for the past few weeks. I haven't even been checking the stats or anything.

Here's what you've missed from July:



After the discussion last night I was feeling kind of guilty when driving home. And torn. I definitely wasn't getting much traffic here until I started plugging my posts into BGG using the new blogging feature that was added there in February. The thing is, I was only posting the first couple of paragraphs of each entry and then linking here. Some people did NOT like that. And, I admit, it seemed a bit....unsavory to me.

SO, I then tried posting the full posts to BOTH locations. The problem with that is that it took a lot of extra time to reformat everything to look good in both locations. And, I already take too much time writing things up as it is as I am a perfectionist and want to 'get it right' so I tend to write and re-write until I'm happy, then add the re-formatting on top and it was almost too much.

I eventually caved and went JUST with posting on BGG. I actually held a contest there for everyone that thumbed my posts. The reason I did that was because it was very difficult to tell how many people were actually reading my posts - there just aren't stats for that other than the thumbs really. I found that when I did the short posts that pointed to my blog here my hits here would be fairly sizeable but I wouldn't get any thumbs on BGG. So, posts that were actually popular didn't show as popular on BGG. Also, full posts that I only posted to BGG didn't get that many thumbs. But I KNEW people had to be reading them...at least I was pretty sure....well, I just wasn't sure at all.

With the thumbing contest my thumbs went way up. So, at least I knew I was getting people reading it (the contest was always posted innocuously at the bottom of the post). But, I was then neglecting the site here.

Why is this all important to me? Well, here's why: I want to know what I write about that interests people so that I can do more posts in the same vein. If I keep writing stuff that no one cares about then it does a disservice to those that WANT to read.

Of course, I'll still write stuff no one cares about, but it's nice to know what people find interesting and what people don't find interesting.

MOST interesting to me is the month that I didn't post one single item here, I got over 1200 hits! (EDIT: Just realized that's not true, I posted an article about Navegador, but it only accounts for part of the hits) That's just to stuff I already posted. Granted, a good number of hits were still coming from BGG, but many are coming from google searches. I've been getting some good hits from Iran for instance! I would never have known this if I didn't have the stats that I can get from blogger and from statcounter (which doesn't work well with BGG)

I suppose it's perhaps a little selfish to want these stats - knowing that people are reading what I'm writing and apparently liking it enough to keep coming back keeps me motivated to try to write more (I had 114 return visitors in July, even without new postings). Not that I NEED the motivation because I really do enjoy the writing by itself, but it certainly helps keep me WANTING to.

Well, I discussed some of this with another of my friends today and he thinks I should still post to both locations. And, that it what I WANT to do and have all along. But the extra work is sometimes unbearable because the formatting is not straight copy and paste - it requires a bunch of work to get it to come across. He suggested finding/writing some sort of tool that will convert one post into the other. Well, duh, I'm a programmer! Except, now I have to spend some time doing that. I think what I'll need to do is come up with a semi-manual method first then try to re-create that method with code to hopefully cut the time down and minimize manual conversion.

So, that's where I'm at now. I'm not going to abandon this site - it has a lot of posts that I've been very happy with and seem to get some interest from others out there as well. But I also like being tied to the BGG community since I spend so much time there as it is.

Hopefully I can come up with a solution in the near future.

Well, thanks for listening - I needed to clear my head of what I've been thinking. I'm interested to hear what you have to say about all of this if you so desire. You don't have to sign up to post or anything so don't be afraid to tell me what you think!

I hope to see you back here soon!

Friday, July 1, 2011

HOT BOX - 'Navegador' (What's in the Box?)

Hello! Glad you could stop by again today! I want to show you one of my new games that I'm really excited about!

I had the opportunity to try Navegador on my last day @ Gamestorm 2011 earlier this year. I really enjoyed it. There seemed to be many different paths to victory and the score came out very close in the end (I squeaked out a victory although I think the experience players let me backtrack on one turn where I bought a spice factory a little too early on and they suggested I shouldn't).

I love the rondel! I love the achievement multipliers! I love the exploration aspect! I love how the market works!

I loved it enough to pick up my own copy of the game. Last weekend I finally got around to getting it punched and then played (well, we didn't quite finish the game but we 'saved' it with pictures so we can finish the next gaming session).

Anyhow, I took some pics while opening it. Here's the process of opening and punching it:

Box cover - Henry the Navigator, um, navigating...
Back of the box (there he is again!)
Why Henry the Navigator? Well, according to the booklet inside the box: "The explorations along the African coast guided by Henry heralded the Age of Discovery."


 
You know the drill - 2 cuts at the corner, then peel the plastic!


The moment of truth.... (alas, no box fart :( )

There's something weird that I pay attention to that not everyone does. No, not box farts! Everyone loves those! It's how well the box top and bottom fit together. Some fit really tightly. Some come off easily. Some are JUST tight enough to cause a box fart. But, it seems to require a certain box HEIGHT to actually cause a box fart. The right combination of tightness and height brings you the joy. And, sometimes you don't get a fart when pulling it OPEN but when you go to CLOSE it....fttttt....ahhhhh. :laugh:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

TIMELY TOPICS - Time to Game, Time to NOT game

I was looking at my most recent posts and realized I've only posted twice this month! I've come to the realization that I probably will only be able to post once per week writing to the depth I've been writing in the past. This month has been particularly bad as I've been particularly busy.

And, I have a hard time just writing shorter posts in a quick manner as normal blogs tend to be written. However, I've seen other blogs with fairly short posts and they can still be interesting.

So, I'm going to try to fill in shorter posts about topics of interest without going into to much detail.

I can already see this is going to be tough for me.

So, my topic today is TIME. More specifically NO TIME to play games because life has just been too busy. I know this happens to many people and that's why I wanted to talk about it.

May and June are traditionally busy for our family due to birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, etc. This year it was PARTICULARLY busy as the kids were also doing softball/baseball plus dance classes. So, I decided to look back at the calendar and give the breakdown since June 13th (my last post):

  • Ceremony where my daughter 'graduated' from Elementary school to Middle school
  • 8 kids' baseball or softball practices
  • 10 kids' baseball or softball games
  • 4 kids' dance performance dress rehearsals
  • 2 kids' dance performances
  • 2 birthday parties for my son (one for 10 kids, one for family)
  • 1 additional birthday party for my daughter to attend
  • clean the house
  • grocery shopping
  • mow the lawns - twice (and it desperately needs it again now but will have to wait a bit longer)
  • kids' field day on last day of school
  • parents visiting in town
  • cook full barbecue for 10 family members
  • Father's Day
  • 12th Wedding Anniversary
  • Trip to the Oregon coast (had to cut this short to only 1-1/2 days
  • Dinner out for my son on his actual birthday
  • Birthday pictures @ JCPenny
  • Son's baseball pictures
  • Scouts awards/crossover ceremony and potluck
I think there was some other stuff too. And yes, that really was all crammed into 16 days! A couple of the days were absolutely non-stop.

Yes, I did manage to get a couple of games in this past weekend, mostly with my son and a couple of great games with my friend Bob on Sunday.

Unfortunately I missed the EGG Game Day on Saturday due to 2 baseball/softball games that exactly broke up the day enough that I couldn't fit in the EGG day.

I definitely work to try to find time to get some gaming in (I want to get all my games played as much as I can, right?), but I also work to balance that with regular life. My wife feels that I have been spending too much time on gaming related activities. It may definitely be the case that I spend a lot of time thinking about games, playing games, making game player aids and custom pieces, playing games, reading about games, buying games, taking pictures about games, writing about games, and playing games.

But I also feel like I'm not shirking my other duties to my family. I could just as easily spend all my time around TV or movies or rebuilding cars or whatever. It's the hobby I enjoy most so I can't help spending a lot of time on it.

I think the key is finding the right balance - when to game, and when to NOT game.

My wife has pointed out that conventions can be a problem. Gone all day for 2-5 days, maybe a couple of times per year. I admit that taking time off from work to go to the Gamestorm convention each spring is somewhat of a problem. No, a rather big problem really. I definitely feel guilty being gone for that amount of time, and it really irks me that it happens during Spring Break when the kids are off from school. I love going but it costs money and takes away from family time. Next year will likely be a break away from Gamestorm for me as a result.

Beyond conventions is the weekly gaming. If I could I'd be playing games every day, but that's just not happening. I've been very lucky to find lots of different gamers available in my area. I can usually coordinate gaming with someone on my own schedule. The important thing is to find an appropriate time.

In the past, I would have someone over when my wife would go out and do something with one of her friends or her mom. However, this became a problem because sometimes the kids needed managing (showers, homework, dinner, etc) and this conflicted with focusing on gaming and being a good host to my guests. Ok, mostly the gaming for me as most of my friends are understanding that I have kids to deal with. Anyhow, I would get frustrated and sometimes didn't give the kids the attention they deserved. But, I've been learning how to better balance that and take the time needed to get them going without being frustrated...as I said my friends are understanding. I still don't like leaving them sitting alone for extended periods though.

But, we are making a shift now so that either my wife or I will be available to make sure the kids get the attention they need. I also need to cut back a bit on how often gaming occurs. Or, at least try to keep gaming with friends to once a week or every 2 weeks, with maybe an extra day here or there, and then squeeze in gaming as appropriate with the kids. My son in particular seems to really enjoy gaming and has been getting into it more and more, although my daughter loves certain games like Dominion, Thunderstone and Stone Age.

I used to be able to get my wife to play games, but she seems to have backed off more and more lately. I even put together a Ticket to Ride based on her design idea that we entered into the TtR design contest, but I think she only played it twice total. Of course, I only played it a handful of times as well.

It's just not her thing so I don't try to push it on her anymore and encourage her to partake in activities she prefers instead.

Well, that's all I've got. I'm sure if I came back tomorrow I could write a ton more, but I'm trying to keep it shorter, right? Well, that failed I guess...

I'm curious as to how others manage their game time versus personal time. I suspect single people and people without kids will likely have more time to fit gaming into their lives, but whether that's true or not I have no idea.


BTW, check back for my next post. I'm going to start offering a monthly prize drawing to everyone that thumbs my blog posts in a month on BGG and thumbs to this post (click the link to go to BGG to add a thumb) will count as entries for the prize I offer in July. And, yes, it will be game related! You'll have to wait for my next post to find out what it is!

Now, go find some time and play a game. I know you've got a few milliseconds in your schedule for at least a filler!

Monday, June 13, 2011

10+4 BG Questions with Antoine Bauza about '7 Wonders'


This is only my second 10+4 interview with a game designer about a specific game they have designed - I've been hoping to do more but haven't been on the ball about pursuing more. My first one was with Sean Ross about his game 'Haggis' and I got some really great responses from him


The concept of the 10+4 interview is to ask 10 questions, then after receiving the responses, ask 4 follow-up questions.

For this 'interview' I asked Antoine Bauza if he would answer some questions about his game '7 Wonders' and he graciously agreed to do it - well, he said he'd try to when he had a bit of time. My initial timing of asking him was just a couple of days before the Spiel de Jahres announcements. And, once I saw that 7 Wonders had been nominated I knew the chances were low that he would have the time to get back to me - surely he would be swamped with more important inquiries.

Much to my surprise I got responses back - first asking me to send my questions to his email address (rather than via BGG) then he let me know what timeframe he would respond in.

Now, my 'method' for the 10+4 interview is to send 10 questions then 4 follow-up questions after receiving the responses. However, it seemed to me that based on his schedule, getting a response for the 4 follow-up questions might be inconvenient to expect those back anytime in the near future - completely understandable considering the circumstances. So, a week after I sent the 10 questions I sent the +4 in hopes he might be able to respond to them all at once.

And, yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to get his response! With all 10+4 questions answered! Well, I didn't get DIRECT answers on the first 4 questions (see below for details) but I was still very happy to have gotten his response at all. I was truly impressed that he made the effort for little ol' me and my blog.

Anyhow, here's are the questions and answers with some of my commentary interjected for explanation and more detail.

Monday, June 6, 2011

FRESH BAKED - 'Qwirkle' by Susan McKinley Ross (Review) - Lucky Charms the game, or Brain Food for the Avid Gamer?

Ok, here goes. I don't want to hear any complaining that I'm looking to get a bunch of attention due to my writing reviews of first '7 Wonders' and now 'Qwirkle', recent Spiel de Jahres nominees (well, Kennerspiel de Jahres for 7 Wonders).

Qwirkle box cover

 Honestly, it's purely coincidence. I will freely admit that I did the 7 Wonders review and timed it with the nominee announcements only because I'd just opened and played the game and it worked out well that way. HOWEVER, I did not also intend to open, play and review Qwirkle just because it was nominated as well.

As fate would have it, several days prior to the announcements, I literally opened and took pictures of BOTH games on the EXACT same day. Seriously! When I saw Qwirkle was on the SdJ list I was astounded, not only because of the openings foreshadowing the announcements, but I was also thinking "Hasn't Qwirkle been out for a while?!" Who would have guessed (well, here in the US at least) that it would be nominated or even considered? I mean, it was first released in 2006! Well, apparently it was just released in Germany in 2010, thus qualifying it for the SdJ.

Anyhow, that's my story and I'm sticking to it! And, in case you don't believe me, I can show you the timestamps on the pictures. Actually, here they are:

File properties as proof...

After the announcements, I considered sending Susan McKinley Ross (Qwirkle's designer) an interview request but then I heard Garrett's Games podcast from Kublacon over the Memorial Day Weekend (which included her, Richard Borg, and Aldie) and knew that it was pointless then as I wasn't going to top that...there might be a few interesting questions to ask, but I don't think I'll pursue it at this point.

But, I can still do a review, right? Ok, now that I've gotten that out of the way, here's my review.

THE REVIEW
Qwirkle is a very simple game in terms of rules and it sounds a bit like Scrabble (the similarities here are undeniable, although there are definite differences as well):
  • On your turn, play tiles of various colored symbols from your hand to form 'words' (the rules call them 'lines' but 'words' makes more sense when describing it, especially for Scrabblers)
    • All the tiles you play must legally create or extend ONE existing word.
    • It's possible to also create/extend branching words, just like in Scrabble.
  • Score points based on the word(s) you create. 
    • You get 1 point for every tile in the word you create or extend, even if you only added 1 tile.
    • If you create/extend additional words branching off of that word you also get 1 point per tile for those words (thus, some tiles might be scored twice, once per word they are in)
    • You can also earn an additional 6 bonus points for completing a 'Qwirkle' which is a 6 symbol word (the maximum length)
    • There are no other bonuses.
That's it!

Ok, sorry, there's a bit more info that's important to know:
  • The tiles have 6 possible symbols consisting of 6 possible colors on them. 
    • There are 3 sets of these tiles. 
    • Thus: 6 symbols x 6 colors x 3 sets = 108 tiles, so 3 of each color of each symbol. 
      • This is important to remember, especially as the game draws close to the end as you know what tiles haven't been played yet and, conversely, you can determine if ALL tiles of a particular symbol and color are out.
The sealed block of tiles you get (3 layers of the same set of tiles)

  • A WORD consists of one of two things:
    • x different symbols, all of the same color (where x = 2 to 6)
    • x of the same symbol, all of different colors (where x = 2 to 6)
    • NOTE: x different symbols of x different colors is NOT a legal word - each word has one and ONLY one similar attribute - symbols OR colors.
Thus, the smallest word you will create is of length 2 and the longest word you will create is of length 6, making a range of 2-6 points per word PLUS 6 more points in the case of a 6 tile word. Of course, creating branching words will give you additional points although getting huge scores in 1 play doesn't happen very often - I think the biggest score I saw was 15 --> 12 for completing a Qwirkle (6 tile word w/ bonus) + 3 for also extending a 2 symbol word by 1 tile.

The only other thing to know is that there is no board and there are no doubling or tripling bonuses outside of the Qwirkle bonus (which is effectively a doubling bonus).

Example end of a 2-player game

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

TIMELY TOPICS - Confessions from an AP Prone Gamer

I'm an AP gamer. I admit it. If I'm not careful I'll slow games down due to my over-analyzing of a game. The good thing is that I'm aware I have this problem, this affliction. The bad thing is that sometimes I fall into the realm of AP during a game and don't even notice it - and this can be an issue. If you game with me, you can expect it to take longer than what is suggested for the game. HOWEVER, I have been actively working to keep my AP problem under control, so when I say it may take longer, it now usually only takes a little longer. Most of the time....

WHAT IS AP?
In case you aren't aware what AP means, I suppose I should try to define it. AP stands for Analysis Paralysis. What it means is that a player can get stuck analyzing a situation on their turn for so long that they seem to be paralyzed with indecision and, in fact, they likely are - they can't get to the point of making a decision and completing their turn.

I'm sure you may have seen an AP gamer here or there. Nearly every gaming group has one. In reality, just about anyone can suffer from AP from time-to-time. However, a true AP player is someone who CONSISTENTLY takes a long time to take their turn, even if the choices may seem obvious to other players. A true AP player not only takes a long time, they often cannot decide which decision to make about a move and this may be truly baffling to other players.

Now, sometimes spending a long time on a turn is expected. Chess is a good example. People EXPECT you to take a long time on your turn. Chess is a notorious game for this sort of behavior. It is part of the culture really. Perhaps this is why some people are intimidated by Chess or refuse to play it...they can't deal with the length and depth of thinking that is required to fully analyze the current board position.

But, there's an important distinction here for what is expected/necessary for a game. Chess typically has players competing 'in their minds'. They are thinking of hundreds of possible move combinations in their heads. They are planning out multiple moves in advance for themselves while also trying to anticipate what the other player is trying to do and prevent anything catastrophic. This is especially important when you consider that money or prestige may be on the line. This isn't to say you can't plan out several moves in advance in other games, just that it's more critical in chess with the idea that several lines of planning should really occur to be successful.

However, I don't know that I would define that sort of behavior as AP. The reason is because they are still DOING something in their mind - it just takes a long time. But, it's still possible for AP to creep in, to get to the point where the analysis is leading nowhere and a decision cannot be made. This is why they have chess clocks, to force players to manage their time and keep them from falling into an AP mode.

On the other hand, AP gamers take a longer than expected amount of time on their turn. This idea is what I think is the crux of the problem - the EXPECTATION of HOW LONG a turn should actually be during a game. If one person is taking longer on their turn than everyone else expects them to be taking it, then they might be considered an AP player by that group, even if they aren't 'spinning their wheels' so to speak.

The interesting thing with this idea is that AP may mean different things to different groups. I, as an AP player, love taking my time on a turn and not feeling rushed about it. With some people I play with, me taking more time on my turn is fine and they aren't bothered by it at all. Other times, I might be playing the same game with someone else and, if I don't take my turn relatively quickly it becomes a problem for them.

How do I know it's a problem? Well, I'll get to that in a bit.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

HOT BOX - 'Dominant Species' (What's in the Box?) - Where I talk about being a bit too anal about my new games....

Well, here it is in my grubby washed and dried little hands - DOMINANT SPECIES! I've been lusting after it since before it became available. But even with all that lusting I was waiting to get it as it's a bit pricey and I hadn't had a chance to play it yet. I also felt that maybe the wooden cubes didn't do the game justice - I thought: "It's a game about animals killing each other, right? Not little cubes eating other little cubes!"

Then I got to play it recently and I couldn't resist getting my own copy! And, I found it for a 'decent' price (note: it was still a bit pricey, but I at least got it with another good game and free shipping). Now that it has arrived, I just have to get it played some more! 

Not knowing when I'd have a larger group available (because some people I know are afraid of playing it), I did some research and read that it was actually pretty decent as a 2-player. So, I tried playing it 2-player with Bob but I think it was a little too much for him all at once (and a little late at the time we started). I think he'll get it but we might need to start it earlier in our gaming session to give us enough time to spend on a solid full game. I think maybe with another player or two might be good as well, just for some balance...

Oh well, I know I loved it my first play and can't wait to get it to the table again!

And, if you have any reservations about the price in regards to getting it yourself, I will say that it's DEFINITELY worth it - it has terrific components and TONS of wood bits. Some people may be disappointed that it's just cubes and cones, but the designer admits in the rules that it's abstracted, so I'm totally fine with it. The box is beautiful as well with a shiny smooth finish and it feels very solid. OH, of course it's a good game, too!

If you like area control in the vein of El Grande and/or action selection in the vein of Age of Empires III, this game will be right up your alley. Or if you're into animals eating other animals (well, I have to admit that animal eating only happens a little bit in this game). 

Note that this game is NOT a simulation (try American Megafauna if that's what you want) and it's NOT a wargame (even though it's published by GMT) but it IS a fairly heavy and long game. The great thing is you're fully engaged pretty much the entire time and you won't notice the time going by at all. (Well, unless you're playing with cro-magnon man, aka. APe man - HA! Sorry, it's late...)

Ok, so, here's my box opening to give you a nice view inside:

The front of the box...

...and the back before removing the shrink.

Monday, May 23, 2011

HOT BOX - '7 Wonders' by Antoine Bauza (Review) - Yes ANOTHER review of this 'Kennerspiel de Jahres' nominee

Seriously, you really want to write a review of 7 Wonders? Really? There are already 54 reviews on BGG. 54!? Wow.

The box for 7 Wonders - some of the nicest box
cover art I've seen

Well, this review has been rolling around in my head since playing it this weekend with 6-players at Lorna's house and then 3-player with my kids.

So, sorry to subject you to another. And, with the nomination announcements for the Kinnerspiel de Jahres today (although Spiel de Jahres seemed to me the more appropriate category for it), I'm sure there will be another 50+ reviews in the coming weeks. Ah well, I guess I'm 'on the bandwagon' with this one.

Ok, I've played this game a handful of times so far. And, I have to admit that I really do enjoy playing it. It is not an extremely deep game but it has some interesting decisions to make. It is light enough that I can play it with my kids (although I suspect they are nearing the point where they can wade into deeper waters) but it has enough meat on it to keep me interested. I love that you can play it as easily with 3 as you can with 7 (I've heard 2 might be ok, but it might not be - hopefully I'll get to try it that way soon). And, best of all, it's just a fun game!

Well, I guess you know my opinion so you might as well stop reading now......



No? Still there? Alrighty then.

I taught this game to my kids on Sunday evening. My son is 8 and my daughter is 11. They love Dominion, Thunderstone, Stone Age and other light-ish to middle weight sorts of games, although I was a bit concerned about their ability to parse the symbols and the variety of functions. Still, this is billed by many as a family-friendly game and they often surprise me in their ability to pick games up. I was probably most worried about my son due to the age of 13+ listed on the box (although BGG says 10+ which I think is probably more accurate) but he picks up stuff pretty well so figured this was be a good test.

Friday, May 20, 2011

CLASSICS CLOSET - Doubletrack (Review) - Reliving a Game from my Youth

When I was a kid we actually had quite a few games around our house that I remembered playing. A good number of them really. However, I'd kind of forgotten the extent and variety until I first discovered and started looking around on BGG back in 2008. As I ran across them/remembered them I started marking them as Previously Owned and, in this case, 'Want in Trade'. Some others I remembered included: Inner Circle, Leverage, Touring, WaterworksSurvive!, Stay Alive, Operation, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Tri-Ominos, Quadominos, Pictionary Yahtzee, and many more. And, I'm not ashamed to admit it that we owned Monopoly and it was one of my favorite games!

So anyway, last year I picked up the version of Cave Troll with the figures and I marked my version with the chits for trade. I wasn't sure if I'd ever get any bites on it, but recently I did as I received a trade request in exchange for Doubletrack. I'm sure not everyone has heard of this game but it was one I certainly remembered.

Doubletrack box (this is a fairly large box at 12"x20"x1-1/2")

In this game, I recalled there being plastic gates attached to the board that controlled access to certain paths on the board and you used a physical (cardboard) 'pass' that had to be inserted into the gates to open them up. I always found this functionality intriguing both the gate itself as well as the concept - each player controls a gate pass (or several in some cases) which gives them more control over who can go through them and when. I don't recall seeing this sort of feature in more modern games (if you've seen it I'd be interested to hear about it in the comments)

I also remembered the mechanic of using a Big pawn on an outer track that moves and then affects what the Small pawn on the inner track is doing.

So, I accepted the trade and thought this could be fun to play again.

Soon it arrived. It was a bit more beat up than the copy we used to own, but it had all the familiar components to it. There's something about getting your hands on a game you remember from your childhood that brings back warm memories of simpler days. You get this sense of zipping back in time, remembering where you would play it (on my bedroom floor with it's bright red carpet - no really, that's what I chose, much to my mother's chagrin), who you played it with (my sister mostly, sometimes my friend Jeff), and some vague memories of really enjoying it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

TIMELY TOPICS - Tension in games - Ratchet it up, please!

I love tension in games. I'm sure you know what I mean, those games where the tension builds and you can feel your adrenaline start to rise. You get that little bit of shakiness as you are about to pull off what you hope is a big move, but afraid of how the other person might counter.

The other night I got to play some good, tense games with my friend Cary. It's amazing how something as simple as a game with just cards, bits and a handful of rules can have such an affect on you. Your blood starts flowing and you get an almost euphoric feeling. Like I'm feeling right now after playing several tough games.

Tension is probably the biggest draw for me in a game - the tensest games are the ones I seen to remember and enjoy the most. Every move you make seems crucial. You can't let your guard down one bit or it will be the end of the game for you. You are engaged and focused on the game throughout.

What kind of elements seem to make a game tense for me? I'd say its a handful of things:
  • The ability to plan ahead and make a clever move that surprises your opponent.
  • The ability to quickly turn the tables then have it turned right back on you again.
  • Racing to meet certain conditions in a set period of time (not just 'time' itself, but in the depletion of cards or resources)
  • Multiple possible paths to victory.
  • Auctions where every auction has value in it, either for what's in the auction or for the need to prevent someone ELSE from getting what's in it (or at least making them pay the price).
  • Brinkmanship - taking a chance and putting yourself out on a limb in the hopes of achieving a goal before others can stop you (hopefully)
  • Tight two-player games (this isn't crucial for me, but I love head-to-head competition and find it the most interesting in games. Don't get me wrong, multi-player games can also be tense and terrific at those higher numbers, but 2-player to me is where it's really at.
So, what specifically got me so amped up in these games we played? Well, let me tell you...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

HOT BOX - "Pastiche" by Sean D. MacDonald (Review) +Can you be color blind and play this game?

(I started writing this review a couple of weeks ago when I was quick on the uptake, or so I thought. I neglected to get it completed and since then, a glut of reviews have come out. So why read yet ANOTHER Pastiche review? Because I'm awesome. Oh, and because my father played - he is color-blind and you might want to know how this plays if you play with someone that is also color-blind).

As I mentioned in the box opening for Pastiche previously I knew I would have to have this game as soon as I saw it. I love art. I love mixing colors. Yada-yada.

I've played it a handful of times now and am ready to tell you if I actually LIKE this game or not. Well, not until a bit later.....first let me tell you about the components.

THE COMPONENTS


Pastiche! The box!

When I initially opened the box and looked at the components I had a couple of immediate thoughts about them. First, it was obvious the quality of the components was excellent - tasteful artwork, clean, consistent graphics, and nice quality and thickness of the various tiles. The box itself has nice thick walls and feels luxurious.

The Board
This is a board game, right? I thought the board looked really nice with the painter's palette. Here's the board with the cards on them (note: these are fairly small cards)


The palette board with cards on it and
example of the size of a card (back showing)

However, I was concerned about HOW BIG the board was in relation to it's function which was solely a placeholder for the color cards - it isn't exactly 'central' to the game - well sort of. I guess it seemed a bit overkill when first looking at it. Others have noted this in reviews and comments with everyone coming to pretty much the same conclusion: the board size ends up being just fine because there is so much card churn they kind of get messy on the palette and there's enough room that they don't mix together. Interestingly, this fits nicely thematically as well as functionally. Personally, I still think it could have been tightened up a bit, but when you're playing, you won't really find any issues here.

I DID wonder why it wasn't organized differently with perhaps the primary colors grouped together with white and black, then the others listed in some other manner perhaps by value or something. I think this arrangement (or perhaps a myriad of other possible arrangements) could have been laid out. In practice, it just doesn't matter much - you get used to where the colors are and generally can spot them quickly. And, if it really bothers you, just lay them out in any order you want because it won't affect the game one bit!

Friday, April 29, 2011

TIMELY TOPICS - I like to Fiddle with my bits (Fiddliness in gaming - what's the big deal?)

I love my game bits! This is of course why I'm so obsessive about storing them properly. I love opening a game and seeing lots of bits or having lots of chits to punch out and sort.

So what's the deal with everyone bothered by fiddliness in games? No really!? Most games have stuff you have to mess around with - pieces all over the board, drawing tiles or bits, etc. And, honestly, I'm sort of tired of hearing about games being 'too fiddly'. I love fiddly!

Well, I thought I did. But then I wondered: what exactly is 'fiddly'? Once I started looking into it, everyone seemed to think 'fiddly' means something different. And, often, 'fiddly' seems to be associated with something 'bad' in relation to evaluating and describing games although I didn't really see that at all.

If I'm going to be writing more game reviews, I really want to make sure what I'm saying comes across clearly without ambiguity. And, although I like the word fiddly quite a bit (because to me it means a game has lots of bits that you might have to move around a lot) it seems there is too much confusion in it's usage.

So, my first stop was the dictionary (well, several online dictionaries rather). Here are some 'official' definitions I found:

FIDDLY
  1. Small and awkward to do or handle (www.dictionary.com)
  2. Requiring dexterity to operate (www.wiktionary.com)
  3. Requiring close attention to detail : fussy; especially : requiring an annoying amount of close attention (www.merriam-webster.com)
  4. Difficult and annoying because you have to make small complicated movements with your fingers (www.macmillandictionary.com)
  5. Difficult to do, especially because you have to deal with very small objects (www.ldoceonline.com)
  6. صعب  (www.almaany.com - arabic)
  7. Requiring dexterity to operate (www.allwords.com)
  8. U.K.: tricky to do; difficult to do, handle, or use, usually because intricate work with the hands or small objects are involved (encarta.msn.com)
  9. Nitpicky, detailed, fine, small, repetitive, possibly boring. Usually used in reference to a task. (www.urbandictionary.com)
  10. Complicated or detailed and awkward to do or use (oxforddictionaries.com)
Ok, formal definitions are all fine and dandy, but do these REALLY describe what people are talking about when referring to board games being fiddly? Somewhat I think - they are definitely related. And, I'm a little disheartened as fiddly seems to be more of a bad word than a good word, even by those definitions above depending on which dictionary you're looking at. But, I suspect there's something more to it than just that when relating to games.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

THE CREATIVE GAMER - Making mini-"Troyes" (OR, my impatience overshadows the potential for the reprint)

(Warning - this is a really long post with a lot of pictures! If you don't feel like reading everything just jump down to the sections that look interesting and look at the pics, especially near the end although the ones in the middle are cool, too. I thought about breaking it up but thought I'd just make you, poor reader, suffer instead. You're welcome.)

Last year just after Essen, Lorna brought back a bunch of games she'd purchased (as she always does) and invited a few people over to play (as she always does). I got to try out some the previous year (after Essen 2009) and enjoyed the experience and didn't want to miss out this year as well. I had a couple of games I really wanted to try including The Great Fire of London 1666, Norenberc, Key Market, Porto Carthago, Sun, Sea & Sand, and Troyes (among others).

Of those, I still haven't played Norenberc or Porto Carthago. Lorna traded away Norenberc after a couple of plays and I didn't even get a chance to try it :(  I'm hoping to get to play it eventually (even if she didn't like it), as well as Porto Carthago. The Great Fire was good but not quite what I was expecting. After a 2nd play earlier this year I enjoyed it a bit more than the first and would still eventually like to get a copy as I love the theme.

PLAYING TROYES FOR THE FIRST TIME
Troyes had some of the best buzz coming out of Essen so I was really looking forward to it. And, I think it ended up being the first game I got to try out of the bunch. The first round took well over an hour as the mechanics were so different, the iconography was puzzling, and the rules were a bit of trouble to get through.

Eventually we struggled through it enough to complete a game. I REALLY enjoyed it. I loved the interesting usage of dice and all the things you could do with them. The idea of competing for which color dice you get, the different benefits of each type, plus being able to improve upon/change bad rolls was all very interesting and exciting.

FAILED ACQUISITION OF TROYES
I decided I wanted a copy for myself. So, I went looking for one but it was almost no where to be found (or at least not for a very reasonable price). They had pretty much sold off all their stock at Essen and only a few remained for retail purchase. I found a couple of copies on the BGG Marketplace but they were all in Europe with high price tags and just as high shipping. And, there were murmurs of Z-Man publishing it in the future. I decided to wait although I knew it likely would be a longish wait. Could I wait? Hmmmm, well yes.

THE SEEDS OF DESIRE ARE SOWN
At first I DID entertain the thought of making my own copy. I know some people frown on this but generally I only would consider it if it was out-of-print and hard-to-get or just not available at all. Really, all of this was true and murmurs of re-prints can often take months or years, if ever. Although, I was pretty sure this game would get a new printing and probably not too horribly far off either to meet the demand that Essen had generated.

So, I waited. For a while. Well, ok, it ended up being only a couple of weeks. I originally played it for the first time on October 25th. I had a mostly usable copy made by November 11th and it was pretty much completed by November 17th.

Now, in my defense, I REALLY WASN'T planning on making a copy. Anyone who knows me knows that I'll do things the hard/long way because if I'm going to make the effort to re-create a game I'm not going to do it half-way. And, because of this, I knew it would be a lot of work. So, I decided against it and figured I would just wait.

But THEN one evening I remembered I had some miniature dice (100 to be exact) that I'd purchased for $1 from some online deal earlier in the year. Hmmm, I wondered if it had the correct distribution of dice....? I checked. It did! Well, except there weren't enough WHITE dice if you can believe that. And not enough BLACK dice. BUT, it had enough yellow and red dice. I found I DID have enough green dice to maybe use in place of the white dice. And, there were enough purple dice to replace the black. Those seemed like reasonable trade-offs. Although, I was concerned the yellow and green might get confused. And I knew I'd have to deal with the fact that the white building and spaces would now have green dice associated with them. But ah well, I was excited to possibly have found a use for some of these dice that had been sitting around for months!

But did I really want to make this game? Did I have the rest of the components to put it all together? Did I really want to spend the time doing this project?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

HOT BOX - "Pastiche" by Sean D. MacDonald (What's in the Box?)

Gosh, a whole other week has gone by since I last posted! I've had a couple of posting ideas but just been too tired to stay awake enough to think them through.

My focus this last weekend was to get started opening my cadre of new games that piled up from last month:

New games & expansions waiting to be opened and/or played
Note that Hansa Teutonica and Fresco I already own, but I now have the new expansions for them -- they are already opened and inside the base boxes just waiting to be played. In particular, can't wait to give Fresco a go with ALL the expansions at once. There was a group that tried that @ Gamestorm and loved it but I missed out :(

Anyhow, as soon as I saw Pastiche I knew I had to have it - anything that has to do with art, painting and especially mixing colors is a must for me! I ordered a copy and had it delivered to Gamestorm. So, it's been sitting on there all ready for me to open it and get it to the table (and my friend Robert REALLY wanted to play it a couple of weeks ago when he was over) but didn't until this weekend as I knew I wanted to do a 'proper' box opening.

So, here it is!

The box. Ready. Waiting.
A beautiful looking box - tasteful and appealing. Nothing too fancy, just enough to let the masterpieces stand out. I love the touch with the paint palette profile above the name - subtle but suggestive of the board as you will see later...

Back of the box.
 Well, ok, you can see the board on the back of the box. But still....

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

TIMELY TOPICS - Fear of the Unknown Box (Games I Have Avoided Playing)

Howdy! Glad you could stop by today. I've kinda been busy and haven't posted here in a bit. What have I been busy with? Work. Kids stuff (soccer, dance, etc). Attending part of the EGG game day. Being sick. And creating a new Ticket to Ride map. Yes, a new map. Days of Wonder is holding a $10,000 contest for the best new map submitted and will be part of an anniversary box (or some such thing) that will come out next year (for DOW's 10th anniversary). My wife, Lynda, came up with an idea and I started running with it. I'm not saying anything else until we've submitted and it's past the April 15th deadline. Not that you'd copy our ideas or anything, right?

Anyhow, so I've been somewhat busy with that. We've barely play tested it though and I need to revamp the map and the tickets again but it's been a blast seeing it come together and having fun doing graphics stuff.

But, I've also been thinking about a topic that has intrigued me. I have noticed that there are certain games I've had a 'fear' of playing and tended to avoid. By 'fear' I mean having trepidation around playing them. I get that funny twisty feeling in your stomach when I think about playing them and I'm not sure if I really want to. I've been wondering why I was avoiding certain games because, when I finally got around to playing them, I often really enjoyed them! It is silly to avoid them because THEY ARE JUST GAMES! And, if I had continued to avoid them I might have missed out on the great fun and experience of playing them.

So, here are some of the reasons I've come up with for having 'Fear of the Unknown Box' and the games that fell into that category for me.

"IT'S TOO POPULAR" - Dominion
Some people are extremely averse to popular culture whether it is games, music, etc. I'm only slightly averse to pop culture. I avoid some of the more popular music much more than I used to but am still drawn to some of it as well. Games are the same for me. I tended to avoid Dominion for a long time after it came out and likely would never have ended up purchasing my own copy had not a friend of mine forced encouraged me to play (thanks Bob!). I'm not really sure if I had a specific reason to avoid it - maybe because it was Deck Building which I'd never really done before and maybe because it was just the 'hot thing' and avoided it as a result.

But once I learned it and then tried out Intrigue and Seaside I decided I liked it enough to have it myself. AND, later I taught it to my Dad and he instantly loved it and immediately bought his own copy. I've had a lot of fun playing with my family as well as many of my friends - it is one of my daughter's all-time favorite games, so I'm glad I gave it a go.

"IT'S TOO COMPLICATED" - Web of Power, Age of Steam
Now, here's the thing that I think has affected me the most: I get an idea in my head about what the game is about and end up making it out to more or different than what it really ends up being. In other words, after learning the game and playing for the first time I went "That's it?!" and I wondered why I avoided it to begin with.

Just last week I finally played Web of Power for the first time. I admit I was intrigued by it, but I had in my mind that it was a negotiation game and had all these complicated rules and powers in it. What it turned out to be was a fast playing area control game with a card driven mechanism. When Cary taught it to me I literally thought "That's it?" as I was expecting much more. Now, the 2-player game is a bit more complicated than that, but really not all that much more. 3-player this game really shined AND it's a pretty easy game to understand in terms of the rules. Of course, how you play the game is a bit more complicated. BUT, this was a game I was nervous about playing and then found my fears were unfounded.

Age of Steam (which I finally learned to play last year) was another game I imagined in my head to be more complicated than I thought. When you read through the rules and play a turn or two you realize there's really not that much to the system itself. You take shares (money), bid for turn order, build tracks, build cities, improve your shipping capabilities, ship goods and earn income. It makes sense. The money is really tight and you have to manage it carefully, but the mechanics are pretty straight forward. Again, it comes down to the game play and the interactions that are more complicated BUT there's really nothing to fear in the game itself. I found I loved it and, even though I got trounced my first game out, I have learned to love the game to the point of buying my own copy and several expansion maps.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

TIMELY TOPICS - Getting it Wrong - Traps Game Explainers Can Fall Into

The other day I found out I've been playing a rule wrong in Troyes. Not horribly wrong as I don't think it would have impacted our games too much, but it also might have opened up the possibility of the game being played differently.

In this case, it was actually the ABSENCE of a rule - empty spots in buildings aren't filled in with gray citizens unless an event causes them to be placed (or when you place them during setup)! I had assumed all dice should be in the game and, therefore, all the spots should be filled in the buildings when 'Assembling the Workforce'. DRAT! I HATE getting rules wrong.... :(  It really bothers me, even if I know it might not have impacted the game much. I know some people might write these off as unintentional 'variants' (ok, sometimes you do this and end up with a better way to play, or at least a different interesting way to play) but it just irks me to get it wrong from the original rules. The absence of the rule along with an assumption is what trapped me here.

So, it got me thinking about some of the traps that Game Explainers might fall into.

Here are some common traps that I have (or seen others) fallen into:

TRAP: Forgetting to teach important rules.
Danger of the trap: Well, this one is fairly obvious - if you forget a rule you can completely change the game, perhaps even breaking it. Also, when you remember it later and let everyone know, they can think you were holding it back on purpose until the moment you 'remember' it and it's to your benefit. Or worse, it can completely ruin someone's strategy and take them out of the game. I have been on the receiving end of this before where I thought one thing and it turned out to not be allowed or something due to a neglected rule.


Example: CaylusIn a 2-player game I played a while ago, the rule not taught to me was where the worker in the Inn can be removed voluntarily the next turn when the Inn is activated or be left there if the other player has not pushed him out. Actually, this doesn't apply just to 2-player. I didn't realize I could remove that worker on subsequent turns - I thought it had to be forced out. I mentioned this and the person I was playing with seemed to confirm it would stay. On the first turn I had placed a worker there and NEVER got him back for the rest of the game as the other player never used the Inn to force me out. So, I was basically 1 guy short the ENTIRE game. The plus side was I never had to pay more than 1 Denier after the other player passed...so at least I had some benefit from it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

CONVENTIONS - GAMESTORM 13 Gaming Report (SUNDAY, Mar 27th)

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4


This is Part 4 of 4 of my gaming report of Gamestorm 13. If you made it this far - thanks for reading! I enjoy writing these convention reports up, but they sure do take a lot of time to write them. Hopefully they are helpful and perhaps a wee bit interesting to you as you read through them.

SUNDAY

Sunday morning I woke up and my roommate, Peter, reminded me that we had to check out today! Ugh! Somehow I forgot about that! He noted checkout was 12pm - ok, not too bad (it was about 8:30am then). He headed out and I got up and got ready, then spent a bunch of time re-organizing my games and Wes's games (I was his proxy for the Gamestorm Math Trade) among the 5 totes we had. I decided his totes were too big to fit both in the cab of my pickup, but I had brought an extra 3rd one that I knew would fit (I had tested 3 of my totes before I left and they fit with apparent room for a 4th). 

I have a small Ford Ranger without a King Cab or canopy. I had brought tarps, plastic, tape and bungies in case I had to load some into the bed of the truck (to prevent them from getting wet or falling out) but I only wanted to do that as a last resort. So, I was hoping to get it down to 4 large totes along with my two smaller totes and the rest of my junk so I could maybe cram it all inside.

So, I managed to get it all packed into 4 totes with even a bit of room to spare. Inventory: 4 large totes, 2 small totes, 2 cloth shopping bags, one with my computer, sweat shirt, large can of peanuts, and a few misc items, the other with a couple of games, my jacket, water cup and snacks. Plus my small bag for clothes. (It's funny when you travel and have more non-clothes/personal stuff than other stuff because usually it's the other way around. Gamers --- we're such geeks when we go to conventions :) )

Once I was settled on my packing solution I stacked everything and took down some of my personal gear to the pickup but left the games in the room for now. Then I headed back to the main gaming room to see where everyone was and what kind of gaming was happening. I couldn't find Chris anywhere (I guess we were up a bit late and he's not a morning person :) :) ). But, I DID find Tom and he was ready for a game. Doug was ready as well and he suggested Navegador. I hadn't played and was looking forward to learning some new stuff for my last day. I'm in! Mike joined us to round it out to 4.

(Later, I got a text during while playing Navegador that Chris had been working on getting out of the room and packing his van and they found out the van was DEAD! Luckily he found someone with jumpers that got the van going again. Which in turn let him drive around a bit to recharge the battery and get HIMSELF going again with a large Starbuck's coffee)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

CONVENTIONS - GAMESTORM 13 Gaming Report (SATURDAY, Mar 26th)

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4


This is Part 3 of 4 of my gaming report of Gamestorm 13. Each part will be posted over the next few days.

SATURDAY

Saturday was the day of the math trade. For some reason I woke up early so I got up, showered and dressed, then headed down for breakfast. I went to check out the trade room but it was closed although a couple of people were already lined up. So, I went and got Wes's stuff and got in line with them. Soon after security came by to open the door and I went in and got all the games out and waited for everyone else to show up. I got 95% of the trades done in a reasonable amount of time. There was one individual whom we were supposed to meet up with the day before (but didn't notice the note until too late on Friday) so I took those back with me as well. Eventually we met up late Saturday evening and exchanged.

Anyhow, Chris was still waking up by the time I was done and he had a nice filler ready to go...

  1. Mosaix (x2) - I love puzzly games and this fits the bill superbly. I had read about it and Chris pulled it out when we finally got together after the madness of the math trade. He explained the rules quickly and off we went. There are 4 dice that have 3 symbols on them - X, O and (triangle). On your turn you roll the dice then arrange them together in any configuration you want. Then, both players add the pattern to a small whiteboard with a grid on it using a wipeoff pen. The pattern can go any direction on the board and can even go off the board (you just don't draw those symbols). You are trying to maximize distinct groups of 5 (or more) of each symbol. You keep going until one person fills up their board to the point they can't add anything more. Then, you count up the number of groups of each and multiply by the total number of symbols in those groups. Groups of less than 5 don't count towards either total. Add up your totals for each of the 3 shapes and compare scores to see who wins!

    This game is akin to FITS or Take it To the Limit where you are all doing the same thing but in a slightly different way to try to maximize your score. My first game I thought I did good but lost by about 20 points (60-80 or thereabouts). We played again and I won by about 40 points once I learned the trick to a high score (80 to 120 or so). Loved it and will get it when I have an opportunity.
  2. Circus MaximusChris stumbled upon Circus Maximus while I had gone off to check on the dealer room for some deals. When I returned and saw he was hanging out there I knew what we were playing next. He's been jonesing to play since forever and this was his chance. An exuberant guy named Seth was running it and he had drawn the map on a large canvas sheet that was draped over a long table. He had some cool hand-painted chariots (done by his wife) that looked spectacular. He mentioned he had forgotten his camera so I offered to snap some pics and send them to him (this was the only time I brought out my camera). Here are a couple of them:

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