Saturday, January 15, 2011

HOT BOX - Key Market (Review)

If you haven't already read it, you can see my box opening here (on the Kindle, hit the 5-way about 5 times to the right get to it, then press BACK 5 times to get back) 

Key Market is a game I was excited about when I first read about it coming out in Essen 2010 (the huge board game fair in Essen, Germany that occurs annually in October) when a large portion of the latest and greatest board games are released. Nearly all of the games designed by Richard Breese that I've played so far are among my favorites: Reef Encounter, Keythedral, Key Harvest, Aladdin's Dragons both for the production values as well as for the game play. He really takes pride in the games he produces and it shows.

To repeat the game summary from my previous post:
Key Market was originally designed by David Brain. It is an economic game that fits into the R&D Games 'Key' series. Similar to at least 2 of the other games in the series (Key Harvest and Keythedral), you have a farm and workers who must work the fields, but in this game you must bring your goods to market to turn a profit. Some workers can be promoted to the Guilds from Apprentice up through Master which gives your farm better capabilities in producing and selling goods.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Happy Birthday to me! The big 4-0

Yesterday was my birthday! My 40th birthday! It's hard to believe...I don't feel 40. In fact, I feel even younger the last couple of years what with all the gaming and such as I've been having a blast! I've found something I really enjoy being involved with. And I have made some great friends because of gaming.

For years it was just my wife, me and the kids. I've always had a couple of good friends over the years but they live far away and I don't get to see them very often. I actually wish I could have gotten into gaming 15-20 years ago like I am now, before I was married and had more responsibilities beyond myself because I think I would have put myself out there more and found some really great friends. Yes, I made some friends in my college years but no one I REALLY connected with to the point that I wanted to keep in contact with them. Well, maybe 1 or 2 good friends, but ones that I've since lost touch with and haven't been able to find.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Timely Topics - Box Inserts: To Toss, or Not To Toss?

Last week before I had my friends over for a gaming weekend, I realized I needed to clean up my Board Game Back Room (along with the family room where the kids games and more family friendly games are stored) as it has become cluttered with a variety of new games that I got for Christmas and a mish-mash of games I already own that hadn't been put back properly.

In putting everything away I realized I needed to make some decisions about consolidation and such if I wanted to fit everything in.

Now, here's the rub: my philosophy ever since I started buying games was to NEVER get rid of the inserts and never to combine boxes. This was true for pretty much everything although I did combine two Carcassonne expansions into the base box. And, I later went on recently to re-purpose the Inns & Cathedrals expansion box for my home-made copy of Troyes (but that's a topic for another blog entry)

But otherwise, my reasoning for keeping inserts was (and still is) simple: I wanted to keep the game as it was originally designed together without tossing anything from the box. This included the advertisements, catalogs, and booklets that weren't even relevant to the game.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

HOT BOX - Settlers of America: Trails to Rails (Review - Part 2)

This is Part 2 of my review of Trails to Rails - see Part 1 of the review if you haven't read it yet or want to review (press to the right on the 5-way on your Kindle, then press Back to come back here after reading it)

(STRATEGY ALERT: Further down you will encounter some strategy related information. If you don't want to read strategy don't read the specially marked section at the end -- until that section you should be safe. If I accidently help you with strategy elsewhere -- oops, sorry!)

Ok, so I covered the basic mechanics in my previous post. Then, when I started this post I started covering the rules in more detail. It was working out to be a nice rules summary. BUT, I've decided that's not what my blog is really about - anyone can read the rules in detail for themselves here: Settlers of America: Trails to Rails rules

My blog is about an assessment of the game itself in my opinion and perhaps the opinion of others that I played with or noticed on Board Game Geek. Therefore, I have removed the rules details unless it pertains to the discussion.

Oh, by the way, one rule I didn't mention before was the victory condition: You win when you deliver all of your goods! In a 2- or 4-player game you deliver 8 goods. In a 3-player game you deliver 10 goods.

So, here's the scoop:

Sunday, January 9, 2011

HOT BOX - Settlers of America: Trails to Rails (Review - Part 1)

My friend Bob brought over Settlers of America: Trails to Rails  the other night and we tried out his 2-player variant and again played last night but in a 4-player game with friends Wes and Rog. Bob LOVES Catan and all the various incarnations and we've recently been playing some other 2-player variants (with a lot of interesting elements added).

I got on the gaming bandwagon in 2008 and subsequently played a lot of other different games before I got around to playing Settlers of Catan. Now, if I had STARTED with Catan before some of the other deeper games, then perhaps I would have enjoyed it more. In fact, I found it a bit bland and prone to screwage - as in screwing yourself by poor initial placement and/or bad luck with the dice. I have seen this happen to others as well as myself.

Long story short: I pretty much avoided anything Catan related for a long while. But Bob loves Catan. He introduced me to Catan: The Card Game and I loved it, especially with the expansions. We played that repeatedly over a few weeks. Also, Wes taught me Starship Catan and loved it as well.

Later, Bob started throwing interesting 2-player variants at me and I started to like Catan more as long as it had more choices and luck mitigating options.

I could go on and on about this but this is not a Catan review, it's about Settlers of America.

But, now you understand how I have learned to love Klaus Teuber's designs. I will say I find the games a tad on the long side sometimes. But this is not necessarily a bad thing AS LONG as the game is also interesting and engaging. And, Bob has found ways to tweak them to shorten them up without affecting game play and balance.

So, I was VERY interested in trying Trails to Rails. This game came out in mid-2010 and apparently had a decent showing in Essen as well. However, it is billed as a 'family' game, but I have a hard time believing that. This game has a lot of choices and is very open with a rather large board. You must plan long range and watch carefully what everyone else is doing so you don't miss out on a good opportunity. I think this ultimately will be too much for anyone that is new to gaming or of the younger generations.

The Basics
(NOTE: No strategy is discussed in this blog entry. In the future I will include strategy spoiler alerts if anything is what someone might consider strategy if this is a concern for them)
This game is a lot like Settlers of Catan. You will see the same hex grids with the familiar landscapes but they produce some slightly different resources: Mountains product Ore, fields product Wheat, and forests produce Wood. However, the meadows now product Steer and the reddish-brown hilly areas produce Coal.