Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Taking Stock: New Games with the In-Laws

I was lucky enough to receive lots of great new games from the Mrs. this year for Christmas. (You really are the best!) I also picked up a couple games from my brother Christopher who got me in my family's secret santa.

I'll delve into all of my new additions soon, I'm sure, but of immediate interest are those that should be a great fit with my most frequent gaming group--the in-laws. Thus far our favorite games seem to be those that are interesting, interactive, not too heavy, and are great with five players--The Resistance and Cosmic Encounter, for instance, both work pretty well.

There are three new additions to my collection that could be ideal for this group:

  • Panic Station. I'm hoping that this one fills a niche similar to The Resistance. One player starts as the alien host and tries to defend his hive against human exterminators. The two twists here--the humans don't know which one of them is the host, and the host may be able to infect the humans to force them to switch sides and join forces with the host player. We played for the first time on Christmas, but we got many rules wrong so the game we played was not anything like the actual game.
  • 7 Wonders. This title is a light civilization style game that can supposedly handle up to seven players quite well. I'm hoping my love of Through the Ages translates to a much lighter and quicker playing civ game, especially since we can get all five of us involved.
  • Space Alert. I've been thinking this one could be an excellent fit for our group for a while. We haven't played any fully cooperative games together, and since Space Alert is quick, lively, and can support five players I think it might work beautifully in this context.

I've also been meaning to introduce a few of my heavier strategy games to this group, including El Grande, Puerto Rico, and Shogun, and some heavier thematic games as well, such as Fury of Dracula and Battlestar Galactica, but those are all longer and more difficult to teach than the above three, so all in due time!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Board Game To Do List

Finish learning my new games so that I can be prepared to play them when the opportunity arises.

  • Shogun Finish reading the rules, then either browse a FAQ online or play through a practice round depending on how difficult the game seems.
  • Battlestar Galactica I've read the rulebook to this title twice already but I certainly don't have a firm enough grasp on how the game works to be able to teach it. I definitely need to play through several rounds on my own to understand Battlestar enough to get it to the table.
2) Get the most complicated games off my list to the table.

I will need to review the rules to both El Grande and Puerto Rico before introducing them to a new group.

3) Brush up on the rules to a few underplayed games that I'd really like to focus on in the coming months.

  • Netrunner I loved this game back in the day but it has been so many years since I've played it that I really need to reread the rulebook cover to cover. I have two decks assembled that I could try playing with right away, but it may make sense after relearning the game to sift through all my cards and create some new ones. This will allow me to better understand some of the individual cards as well.
  • Chaos in the Old World A combination of area control and combat with some clever mechanics, Chaos has only hit the table two or three times and I certainly will need to brush up on a number of details. I'd definitely like to see this one played five to ten times this coming year.
  • Le Havre This is a fairly new addition to my collection that has seen only one play, a shortened learning game with the Mrs. Le Havre may be slightly weighed down by being best for three players--it seems we generally have four or five at the table. Despite this, I have a feeling I will love Le Havre and I'd like to give it a full trial--ten or more plays next year.
4) Delve more deeply into Lord of the Rings: the Card Game.

I've now played it twice solo and would like to get at least one more play logged to familiarize myself with the cards and mechanics before I involve any other players. In the near future I would like to buy a few more adventure packs and start to dabble in deck building with more than one sphere.

5) I would like to continue to pursue the construction of the two Magic: the Gathering cubes on which I've been working.

The commons cube should be fairly easy to finish, I just need to order a bunch of cards that I'm missing from an online store. Since they are all commons I should be able to complete it for a pretty small amount of money. Once I have a working cube, Magic will be another option to play with the in-laws, as Jean, Tom, and the Mrs. all know how to play and Mike could probably be convinced to jump in if we were all up for a big session.

6) I recently posted a list of a few games I was looking forward to purchasing, but I really need to examine my collection and decide what types of games I should buy.

I'll delve more deeply into this topic in a future post.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The List: November 2011

Four more games off the list...

Games Off The List

  • Bang! Played this with the in-laws while Emily and Jon were visiting. A hidden role game somewhat akin to Werewolf and The Resistance but less free-form as players must play cards to accomplish their goals in the game. Somewhat promising after two plays but I do have some doubts.
  • Alhambra Played this light Euro with the Mrs. recently. In the past she has had her way with me in this one but we reversed roles this time and I dominated the game. Still not crazy about Alhambra, but I'd be willing to play it again in the right circumstances.
  • Metropolys The Mrs. and I played this one with Emily and Jon, and it went over fairly well, I believe, with all participants. We played the introductory game since I was teaching new players, and it is certainly better in its full format. Metropolys has an interesting auction mechanic that sets it apart from anything else in my collection and I do enjoy it quite a bit, though it is hard for it to see the table since Stone Age and Ticket to Ride fill a similar niche and are very popular.
  • Scotland Yard Played this one with the in-laws. Mike took on the role of Mr. X and did have a chance to pull out the victory, but us detectives closed the gap and tracked him down. He could have played his hand more aggressively early and almost certainly shook us at that point, but he played it a little risky hoping to give himself a major advantage later in the game. We enjoyed our session and do intend to try it again with a different Mr. X.
Two months ago, when I first started following The List this year, it was 16 titles long. This translates to four games per month through the end of 2011, a pace that I've managed to match thus far. Many of the eight remaining games, however, are fairly heavy, and two of them (Shogun & Battlestar Galactica) I've never played before and will be difficult to learn and get played. I'm confident, though, with a bit of a push we should be able to fit all of these games in before January. Perhaps an all-night New Year's Eve gameathon to wrap it all up could be arranged?

Games Never Played
  • Shogun
  • Battlestar Galactica
Games Not Played This Year
  • Carcassonne
  • Carcassonne: the Castle
  • Blokus
  • Puerto Rico
  • El Grande
  • Wits & Wagers

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The List: October 2011

I've made good progress on my games to play list so I thought I would post a quick update.

Games Off The List

  • Merlin's Company hit the table during our last game night, and was quite easy to pick up. Shadows Over Camelot is a fairly simple game and the expansion only added a little bit of complexity. I'm fairly confident this will get played again soon as Merlin's Company seems to add good things to the game.
  • Lord of the Rings: The Card Game looks very promising. It is a combination of the deck building in Magic: The Gathering, the co-operative game play of Ghost Stories, and a unique quest/adventure system that is very interesting and thematic. I played the first quest scenario in the game (Passage Through Mirkwood) partially with Abby's assistance. At first the game didn't seem to be all that difficult but near the end enemies really started to pile up and we won by a very slim margin. Looking forward to many more plays of this!
  • Memoir '44 I played with Mike several weeks ago. We both enjoyed it but I'm not sure if there will be many opportunities for use to play the game as usually there are 5 of us and not 2! We do at the very least need to replay the first scenario on opposite sides one of these days...
  • Say Anything we played three weeks ago at game night, and again with the in-laws more recently. It is a solid game, and fun, but I find I'm generally not that interested in party games this light anymore. Time's Up and hidden role games like Werewolf & The Resistance are much more substantial and satisfying in party situations.

Games Never Played

  • Shogun [Have yet to read the rules for this one.]
  • Battlestar Galactica [Read the rules almost twice through. I really need to play a solo walk through of the game before bringing it to the table, however, as it is quite complicated!]
  • Bang! [Read the rules to this and it looks quite simple. We will play it the next time we have 5-7 players.]

Games Not Yet Played This Year

  • Alhambra
  • Carcassonne
  • Carcassonne: The Castle
  • Metropolys
  • Wits & Wagers [Next party situation I'll try to get this to the table.]
  • Blokus
  • El Grande [Thinking of trying this one out with our 5 player family group.]
  • Puerto Rico
  • Scotland Yard [I feel like this one will work with the Mrs. & the kids.]

Monday, October 3, 2011

Game Night 10/1/11

Attendees: Nicole, Ivan, Jessica, Tom, the Mrs., and I

Game Played: Shadows Over Camelot (with the expansion, Merlin's Company)

This was our first play of the game in quite some time since it had become too easy for the loyalists to win and too difficult for the traitor to have an impact on the game outcome. We added Merlin's company for the first time which spiced up the game in a variety of ways, most significantly with the addition of the possibility of a second traitor. The expansion suggests only including a second traitor card with 7 or 8 players, but even with 6 this time we wanted the chance for 2 to liven things up a bit. We decided on 9 loyalty cards total, 7 loyal & 2 traitor--in retrospect we should have gone with 5 loyal & 2 traitor to guarantee one enemy player, since the resulting game had no traitors and thus was far too easy again!

This was Nicole's first play of the game and we at first suspected her as a traitor simply because she seemed overwhelmed. What we didn't really account for is getting thrown into a game of Shadows for the first time with experienced players and the expansion is in itself enough to have this result. The Mrs. and Tom also seemed to suspect me early, and it is true that my opening actions did fit into a high suspicion mold. I had a large hand of cards (after drawing for my two opening turns at Camelot) and still did not have any clear advantages to any quest, which is definitely a sign of a traitor. Also, the quest I did undertake first was that for Lancelot's Armor, which is a very beneficial quest for a traitor to win as it only adds one white sword to the round table and gives a traitor multiple opportunities to hurt the loyalists through stealthy black card play. In my defense, I think my early game moves were the most advantageous ones for me to make to help further our cause, but they did cast some doubt on my loyalty at the time.


The game was still enjoyable despite being another easy win, people seemed to like the new travel cards which injected some additional drama & uncertainty into game play, and some of the other new card additions (such as the variable value fight cards and the new witches black cards) were fun as well.

Thoughts On Our Next Play

Next time we will definitely guarantee one traitor and have the possibility of a second. Also, when we have a new player at the table it would be very helpful to simply deal them a face up loyal card so that they can concentrate on learning the game system without the confusion of trying to play the role of the spoiler! This is certainly what we should have done for Nicole this time, but we lucked out when she wasn't dealt the traitor card. Next time we play Shadows, keeping these thoughts in mind, plus the travel cards and other expansion additions, I feel like the game could vault back into heavy rotation on our play list. We shall see.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Wishlist: Top 5 New Games

Should I refrain from thinking of new games that I want until I've actually played all the new games I currently own? Probably. Will I listen to reason and do so? Certainly not!

Some of the titles on this list have yet to be released and the others have been only recently published. Despite this, however, they all look amazing and I need to have them soon!

Top 5 New Games on my Wishlist

  • Nexus Ops is a game I've had on my radar for quite some time. It has the reputation as a Risk-type game with a shorter playing time and more forced aggressive feel, which sounds like a perfect fit for my tastes. I've played the game once with Dave, who owns a copy, and though I wasn't blown away by it I'm convinced with a couple more plays, perhaps multi player, it will be a keeper. I would especially like this for Thanksgiving time when I get to play with my brothers, as it is light, aggressive, and tactical.
  • Panic Station is the latest semi co-operative game with hidden traitor/hidden team mechanics. Somewhat in the same vein as Battlestar Galactica, The Resistance, and Shadows Over Camelot, Panic Station should be an excellent fit for our game group. The basic premise is that players are boarding an abandoned space station and trying to destroy "the hive," basically the control center of an alien parasite that can take over human bodies and inhabit them. During the early part of the game one of the players secretly becomes "the host" of this parasite and begins to work against the human team by attempting to convert them, one by one, to be infected as well. The human players never quite know who to trust and the paranoia factor, apparently, is quite high.
  • A Few Acres of Snow is a game that combines a somewhat similar deck building mechanic to Dominion with an area control/map style board game that is somewhat akin to a war game. The mechanics here seem really cutting edge and interesting. Though I love Dominion, the game is certainly very streamlined to showcase the base mechanic in the game. A Few Acres of Snow really gets creative and fleshes out some of the ideas in Dominion to make a whole new type of game. The downside here is that it only accommodates 2 players and I don't have that many opportunities to play those types of games. Generally I only play 2 player games with the Mrs., so if she really takes to the game it will be a hit, if not it will end up like Memoir '44, largely unplayed and sitting on the game shelf...
  • Star Trek: Fleet Captains is a brand new Star Trek themed game with exploration, direct conflict, and a ton of variability. The early reviews of the game emphasize that the actual game play is amazing with a ton of theme and interesting mechanics. The major downside, apparently, is that there have been some problems with broken components and the cards/tiles included on the game are on pretty thin card stock which has disappointed some early buyers. I am really intrigued by this one though it has an unfortunate player count as well--exactly 2 or 4 players can be in on any one game, which is a small downside though the option for the 4 player game makes it far more likely to hit the table than A Few Acres of Snow.
  • Summoner Wars: Master Set is the latest edition of a game that has been getting very good press ever since its release. This is basically a tactical miniatures game that uses cards instead of minis. What makes it great is that it has pretty simple rules and comes with 6 different army factions, one of which each player chooses to control during the game. This lends a fair amount of replayability, especially because many other armies are already available to add to the game and future ones will continue to be added as well. This is also a 2 or 4 player game, however I envision playing this one with Abby so it could still see significant play at my house if she enjoys it. The game is suggested for 8 or 9 years and up, so I feel like it could be a good fit.
With so many of these games that I'm considering being tactical or combat related I really need to start getting some of the somewhat similar titles I own to the table to make sure I have the appropriate audience to make them successful. Neuroshima Hex, in particular should be a good indication if I can make Star Trek, Nexus Ops, or Summoner Wars work with my game group. This list could, of course, have been a lot longer than it ended up being, perhaps some of the next 5 games I'm interested in buying would have been better suited to my group. Panic Station is the one here that I'll stand behind as an almost certain success given our group's past interest in the genre.

I'll delve a little deeper next time and share some of the other games topping my wishlist.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cavemeeples & Taoist Monks, Oh My!

There are two strategy games in particular that I have been both 1) craving and 2) playing frequently. And yes, I'd like to be playing them right now! In fact, I'd be up for playing either one three times in a row right now. Seriously.

Stone Age and Ghost Stories are both 2008 releases, which, as it turns out, was an excellent year for board games. The Mrs. is reasonably interested in playing both of these games, which is also a huge plus for me!

  • Stone Age is a worker placement game for 2-4 players. In this type of game each player starts with a collection of pieces (the 'workers' in 'worker placement') that they take turns using to claim spaces on a common board. Those board spaces then give the player that claimed them a particular bonus or the ability to use a special action of some kind. Other games in this genre include Age of Empires III and Agricola(another game I particularly enjoy). Stone Age is a great fit for many people since it is pretty straightforward to explain and easy for a new player to pick up, but it really has a great deal of strategic depth that I still have only begun to explore after my 13 plays. Until recently, this was one of those games that I have greatly enjoyed despite my very limited success at it (Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization being the most extreme case of this!), though I have shown considerable improvement over my last four or five plays. Stone Age is a game I've been thinking a lot about lately, considering ways of tweaking my strategy and thinking of how to handle certain situations in the game. As an aside, the playing pieces for Stone Age are often called 'cavemeeples,' a clear reference to the first game to have little wooden pieces meant to resemble people (mini people = meeples), Carcassonne, another game of which I'm quite fond, and incidentally also on the List.
  • Ghost Stories is a co-operative game in which players take on the roles of Taoist monks attempting to protect a small village from waves of evil ghosts, demons, spirits, etc., and ultimately defeat their leader, Wu-Feng, who has risen from hell to torment the innocent villagers. Each monk in the game has one of two special abilities at their disposal to lend the team in this goal, and it is critical to the players' success to find creative ways to combine those abilities to win the game. Ghost Stories is highly thematic with excellent, though somewhat cartoon-like art, very challenging (though the difficulty can be increased in subsequent games as the players' skills improve), and extremely satisfying when the team can pool resources and get just enough luck to defeat the incarnation(s) of Wu-Feng. The game is great in almost every way, though I feel like the greatest of its features is how varied the play is each session. There are 10 different incarnations of Wu-Feng, and the players don't know which one (or which four in the higher difficulties) will appear until late in the game. Every time Ghost Stories is played the ghosts will appear in a different order, the village tiles will be randomly arranged, and each monk may have an alternate player power. All these plus the ability to make the game almost impossibly difficult if you are so sadistic to choose to do so, makes Ghost Stories a gem of a game.
Care to play?

Strangely enough, as I review all the raving I've just put down about these excellent board games, I realize that neither one is in my top five favorite games of all time. Perhaps I should be writing a top five games list...