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Mix of reviews, critiques on the classic games, and my random musings about board games.

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Collection Building: Animal Games

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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This is a departure from the other Collection Building articles. Today the focus is on the theme of animals rather than a game mechanic or a situation in which a game can be used. Animals tend to fascinate many children. There is so much to learn about the fellow inhabitants of planet earth. There is a wide variety of animal games, and many more games that I don't know about than I do know about. As such, this is not a comprehensive list, but a guide to my experiences with animal games, and hopefully it will guide your journey into the animal kingdom.

Zooloretto
The 2007 German Game of the Year (SDJ) winner for good reason. Zooloretto allows players to take control of their own zoo. This means that they must acquire animals and kiosks for their zoo while balancing limited funds and restricted space. Animals include Elephants, Monkeys, Cheetahs, and Zebras. The game plays in around an hour and works for 3-5 players. I wouldn't play with kids much younger than 8 since there is some strategy to learn.

Aquaretto
The sequel to Zooloretto, except now players are in charge of a marine park. Animals include Dolphins, Whales, Sea Lions, Polar Bears, and Sea Turtles. This was a great game for my sister since she loves dolphins. The scoring rules are a little more complicated than Zooloretto, since the performing animals act differently than normal ones, but it isn't too much more to learn. Acquaretto plays in around an hour and works for 3-5 players.

Fauna
A fun and educational game all about animal trivia. Wait, it's not that boring. Sure, the game does require thought, but it's not that hard. Here's how the game works. The top half of a card is displayed with a picture of an animal, the genus and species name, as well as how many areas the animal is found in. Players then take turns placing marker cubes on the board in areas they think the animal is in, as well as ranges for weight, height/length, and tail length. After all players place their cubes or pass, then the card is pulled and the right answers are awarded points. If you're wrong, but you happen to be adjacent to a right answer, you get some points. The game goes until a certain point level is reached, or for a certain number of rounds, depends on how you want to play it. I was able to play this on Thanksgiving night with one of my uncles, a cousin, my dad and my sister. My uncle, who does not play games, really enjoyed it. It helps that he's a HS science teacher, but he asked to play it again for Christmas, which is a really good sign. Fauna plays in around 30-45 minutes with 2-6 players, though I find it best with 4-5.

Botswana
This is a card game with an animal theme. There are some really cool animal figures, but the theme doesn't shine through. Still, kids will have fun with a simple card game, especially since there are animals around. There is some strategy, but also a good amount of luck. Botswana plays in around 30 minutes with 2-5 players, best with 3-4.

Price Wars
Zooloretto ~ $30
Aquaretto ~ $40
Fauna ~ $35
Botswana ~ $22

Botswana is really the best bang for your buck. I can't speak to the replayability, but it seems high to me. If you want a more immersive experience, go with Zooloretto or Aquaretto. If you have kids that just love everything animal, go with Fauna.

My overall pick, Botswana. It likely appeals to the most people, and has a lower price point.
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Wed Nov 28, 2012 7:55 am
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Top 7 Games to take on Holiday

David Montgomery
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Modesto
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As American Thanksgiving approaches, and the December holidays grow ever closer, I wanted to talk about good games to take with you to family gatherings. Most family gatherings won't consist of "gamers" but they may consist of people who are willing to play games. As such, it's good to have some short games to play, games that are really easy to learn, and maybe even some games where it doesn't matter if people come in and out since it's a busy time.

#7 No Thanks
Plays with 3-5 players. No Thanks takes around 15 minutes to play. It's all about knowing when to pass, and when to take cards. It's quick to explain, really simple choices, and doesn't require full attention from all players at all times.

#6 For Sale
Plays with 3-6 players. A quick auction game. Players bid on houses, then use the houses to earn money. It's a fast auction game, good for a few laughs with the various artwork on the houses, and good for gamers and newbies alike.

#5 Tsuro
Plays with 2-8 players. A game of last man standing. Players play tiles to move their marker on the board. If you run off the board or into another player, you're out. Really simple to learn and do well in from your first play.

#4 Dixit
Depending on the version you have, plays 3-6 or 3-12 players. Dixit is a storytelling game with quick play and amazing artwork. When you're the storyteller, you give a clue about your card, then put it in the center. All other players then put a card in. All cards are revealed and players try to pick which card belongs to the storyteller. It's a great game for kids of all ages, especially ones with vivid imaginations, but adults will get a kick out of it too.

#3 Wits and Wagers Party
Plays with 4+ players. If you have a large group, break into teams. Wits and Wagers is a trivia game where you don't need to know the answers, just have a ballpark idea. The questions are things that most people won't know, but might have a reasonable guess about. 7 rounds keeps the game short but interesting, and the questions may spark some conversation.

#2 Ticket to Ride
Plays with 2-5 players. Ticket is the most complicated game on the list, but that's not a bad thing. It's probably not great for little kids, but for the teenager and up, the game makes sense. There's only 3 things you can do on your turn: draw cards, play cards, get more tickets. You really only have to decide between the first two most turns. The game takes around an hour, but it's a great game to introduce the family into the world of boardgames.

#1 Incan Gold
Plays 3-8 players. Incan Gold is a push your luck game. With each card, you must decide if you want to take what you have and run, or risk it and try to find more treasure. The game plays for 5 rounds, so even if you don't do well in a round or two, you still have a chance. Incan Gold takes a play to see it work, but most people say "let's play again" after they learn. It's a great game for a larger group, and a lot of collective emotion as cards come out.
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Wed Nov 21, 2012 4:26 am
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2012 Christmas Game Guide

David Montgomery
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Modesto
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As a reviewer, I'm frequently talking about different games. I give my opinions on games, and try to give you ideas of what to buy for yourself or others. So why a Christmas shopping list? Well, a few thoughts. First, it's nice to have a set of recommendations in one place. Second, it's a lot easier to point people to a list rather than a blog and say read reviews.

These are my thoughts, with the help of some friends, especially Nick, Rose, and BGG user stevepwalker.

Formatting note, each category has 5 games in it, except for the Personal Favorites. Those games are ordered alphabetically, not in an order of preference. There are no repeats on the list, but there are games that would work in more than one category.

Personal Favorites
These are games that are great in a variety of situations. They're things that most casual gamers should have in their collection. They are games I've enjoyed, and they work for a lot of different people and situations.
7 Wonders - A card driven civilization building game. Many different paths to take in the game: Merchant, Science, Warfare, Buildings. Plays in around 45 minutes, less as you play more.
Dominion - The grandfather of deckbuilding games. Play cards to gain more cards, and ultimately victory points. Plays in roughly 30 minutes, depends on the set of cards.
For Sale - Quick auction game. Bid on properties, use those properties to gain checks, try to make the most money.
Incan Gold - Push your luck game with a great sense of adventure. Knowing when to run is key in the game. Lots of fun for all ages and all types of players.
Settlers of Catan - One of the classics of modern gaming. Compete to gather resources, build roads, settlements, and cities. Be the first to 10 points and you win. Lots of luck, good amount of skill.
Ticket to Ride - Another classic of modern gaming. Build routes on the map to complete tickets. Have a network of trains to complete lots of tickets. Easy to learn, quick to play.

Family Games for Young Children
These are primarily meant as games that young children can play with their siblings and/or parents. I don't have much experience here, but I thought some ideas on this category would be helpful.
Animal Upon Animal - A simple game of stacking animals on each other. It's hard to do well, but simple to play and understand.
Botswana - A card game about gathering animals.
Forbidden Island - A co-op game(everyone works together) about gathering treasure on a sinking island.
Loopin' Louie - Perhaps more of a toy with a game connected. Players try to make the plane land in someone else's farm. The plane steals chickens until only one player has chickens left.
Sorry Sliders - Players slide pawns down a track, trying to score points in the center area. Somewhat similar to Curling, but with much simpler scoring.

Family Games for Older Children
As kids get older, they're able to play more complicated games. Here are some games that are fun for kids and adults. These games offer a challenge, but are also light enough that people won't be upset. The themes are also kid friendly.
The Adventurers - Ever wanted to feel like Indiana Jones? This really is the game for you. Avoid the walls closing in, the giant boulder running you down, lava pits, a rapid river and a rickety bridge.
Castle Panic - A Co-op tower defense game. Work together as a team to defeat goblins, trolls, and other fantasy evils.
Say Anything Family - Ever wonder which boy band is the best, or which Disney princess in your dad's favorite. This is a great way to find out. Lots of fun questions, and players can write anything they want as an answer.
Word on the Street - A tug-of-war of words. Work in teams to spell long words that fit the category.
Zooloretto - Ever wonder what it might be like to run your own zoo? Zooloretto gives each player a chance to see how well they'd do as a zookeeper.

Games for all Ages
These are games for families, for kids, for adults, basically, whoever plays games. They're not the most complex, but they are fun, and fairly short.
Can't Stop - A push-your-luck dice game. You roll 4 dice, combine 2 dice to make numbers, and then move that marker up. You only get 3 markers each round, and if you don't roll your numbers you lose. You can freeze after any roll, so there is an interesting choice to be made.
Flash Point: Fire Rescue - Save people, and pets, from a burning building. It's a great theme, a good challenge, and has good replayability.
King of Tokyo - A game of King of the Hill with all the randomness of a Godzilla movie. Players are trying to destroy each other and the city of Tokyo.
Shadows Over Camelot - A Co-op game in the times of King Arthur. Work together to fight the forces of evil, defeat the black night, find Excalibur and the Holy Grail, hold off the Picts and Saxons. And if that wasn't hard enough, there might be a traitor amongst you.
Smash Up - A faction card game with minions and actions. Minions are played to bases to earn points for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. There are fun combinations of decks, like Ninja Dinosaurs, Alien Wizards, and Pirate Zombies. Each faction plays differently, and each combination of two makes for an interesting game.

Stocking Stuffers
These are relatively inexpensive games, I believe all are under $20, perhaps even $10. They're quick to play, and work in various situations.
6 Nimmt/Category 5 - A quick card game involving numbers. Play is fast, everyone is gathering cards but trying to keep their totals low.
Bananagrams - A different take on the classic Scrabble. Awesome carrying pouch, and no letter points make the game play faster and easier.
Mr. Jack Pocket - A simplified card version of Mr. Jack. Jack tries to stay hidden as long as he can, while the inspector hunts him down. Good for 2 players.
No Thanks! - A quick card game with numbers. Players use chips to pass on cards or take cards. Cards are points at the end of the game, but like golf, the low score wins. Chips are negative, and when you take a card with chips, you gain the chips as well. Make a run of cards and only the lowest card in that run scores.
The Resistance - An interesting deduction/find the traitor game. Plays quickly and doesn't feature player elimination like Werewolf/Mafia does.

Games for Teenagers/Young Adults
I'm thinking of games I was able to play in High School and College, plus some new games that would have been great for those groups. A lot of the family games would work here as well. The biggest thing for this category is theme. 13-25 is a time of life where most people, guys especially, want some theme in their games. Theme helps draw people in. These are all games with fun themes and good gameplay to back it up.
Battlestar Galactica - Amazing theme incorporation, often a tense game, superb with 5 players.
Munchkin - A fun card game. Very random, fairly light. If players don't take it too serious, it's a fun game.
Risk Legacy - This is THE GAME to buy for someone who loves Risk. It's such a different game experience while holding on to the same mechanics. It's still dice rolling and armies all over the place, but the game will end. It's a matter of points and objectives not just take over the world.
Small World - A fairly quick (~45-60 minutes) combat game. Players use combinations of fantasy races and powers to stay on the map and earn points. Eventually all good things must come to an end, but new things come out. Combat is simple, turns are quick, but choices are meaningful.
Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game - If you have a son/father/brother/nephew/husband/fiancè/etc. who loves Star Wars, buy this for them. They will love it. This is Star Wars space battles in a box. There's a lot of room to expand, but this is a great place for anyone to start.

Couples games
These are all 2-player games. They come recommended to me by several couples. I will say that I am not an expert, or even a novice here. Really, Games with Two is your best resource for couples games in general.
Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small - I haven't played this, but the wonderful people over at Games With Two did a fantastic review. Here's the link http://gameswithtwo.blogspot.com/2012/07/living-off-livestoc....
Lost Cities - An adventure game using numbers to gain points on various trips. You have to play cards in ascending order, and once you skip something you can never go back. Several interesting choices in the game.
Hive - A tile game where each piece type has a different power associated with it. I've only played it on the iOS, but it's a challenging game, and a good battle of wits.
Kahuna - Players use cards to place or remove bridges from various islands. If you gain the majority around an island, you take control of that island and remove your opponent's bridges to that island. That action might cause them to lose a majority on another island, and the ripple effect ensues.
Mr. Jack - A deduction game that uses special character abilities. Jack the Ripper assumes a hidden identity which the inspector attempts to uncover. Jack tries to escape under the cover of darkness, or last 8 turns, in either case he wins.

Games for the Non-Gamer
These are some ideas for games to get someone who isn't already a gamer. They may never become a hardcore gamer, but these are some fun games that are easy to learn, play in under 30 minutes, and work for a variety of people.
Beyond Balderdash - A hilarious game about making things up while trying to sound like the official answer. Balderdash is just definitions of words, Beyond Balderdash extends that to dates, places, and all kinds of other things.
Blokus - A great game for visual spacial people. The puzzle pieces are tricky to get in the board, and other players often mess you up, but it's a great challenge.
Ingenious - This is a big matching game. The challenge comes as space gets tighter and your options decrease. There's a lot of planning, but also choices to be made each turn.
Qwirkle - Place tiles in rows and columns with either the same color or the same shape, just no doubles. Gain extra points for making a Qwirkle (all 6 pieces in a row/column)
Take it Easy - Similar to Bingo, but all skill instead of the random luck of numbers. It's a puzzle game, and no direct interaction, but a true challenge of a game.

Games for the Zombie/Horror Enthusiast
I am not personally one of these people, but I know Zombies are a big thing lately, and there are several games that use the theme to varying degrees of success. The same goes for the horror genre, though I've played some of those games.
Arkham Horror - This is the biggest game for the category. It's a mega co-op game. There are bunches of cards and even more tokens. There are also around a dozen expansions. It's a fantastic game for Lovecraft fans, and a solid game for people looking for a deep co-op experience.
Elder Sign - Set in the Arkham Horror universe, Elder Sign is a co-op dice game. The challenge is to collect Elder Signs before an evil one awakens, wreaking all kinds of havoc. Players use cards, strategy, and lots of luck to complete quests and earn items crucial to their success. This is by no means easy, but it is a good challenge.
Give Me the Brain - Ever wonder what would happen if a bunch of Zombies ran a fast food restaurant? Well, this game gives you the opportunity to find out. It's a fairly quick card game where you try to get rid of your cards as quickly as you can.
Zombicide I don't know much about this game besides that it was a huge kickstarter success. I've heard it called "the definitive Zombie game" so it's probably a good buy for zombie fans. I know it's a bit pricy, but the game, especially the miniatures, looks to be well worth the price.

Party Games
These are games that work for a large group of people. They're meant to be loud and energetic games with a lot of laughs.
Bang - A wild west shoot the bad guy game. The sheriff is known to all players, but all other players are hidden. The outlaws try to kill the sheriff while the good guys try to kill all the outlaws.
Dixit Odyssey - Any Dixit works, Odyssey plays with the most people. Dixit has amazing artwork, and draws on players imagination and story-telling abilities. Even if you're not a good storyteller, or a creative person in general, this game is still a lot of fun.
Mafia/Werewolf - A hidden identity and player role game. The werewolves/Mafia know who each other are, but the "regular" people have no clue who is who. The "bad" guys get a kill every night, and then the group as a whole can take someone out during the day for suspicions of being the "bad" guy. It's an interesting exercise in group think
Telestrations / Eat Poop You Cat - Words into a picture or a picture into words. The game is a hilarious example of how bad communication is amongst people, especially when you can't draw. There are no real winners or losers here, just a great way to spend time and recount things at the end.
Wits and Wagers Party - A trivia game where you don't really have to know anything. Sure, having an idea about things is good, but these questions are set-up so that you don't have to know it exactly in order to do well. The game plays fast, but there's room for discussion and chat. It also helps to know those around you, so when that random movie question comes up, you know to bet on the movie "expert." Or when the science question comes up, you bet on the guy who's taught HS science for 20 years. The better version of Trivial Pursuit.

Games for Gamers
There's a lot of variety in games that gamers will like. What this category attempts to do is give some games, both new and old, that should appeal to a wide variety of gamers
Agricola A classic Euro style game with a lot of replayability. Players act as a farmer, balancing growing crops, raising animals, procuring resources for the home, and feeding their family. There are a lot of choices to be made here, and not everything can always be done.
Black Friday A Stock Market manipulation game. There are a lot of ways to adjust the market, a lot of back and forth, fighting to increase the value of a good so you can sell it for more, or lower it, so your opponent's stash is less valuable. The game can get a bit mathy, but it's money, so not too bad.
Cosmic Encounter The grandfather of variable player powers. Cosmic is a negotiation game with a streamlined combat system. There's a ton of chaos, but it's mostly controlled chaos.
Power Grid Another economic game with a twist. Players purchase power plants to power cities and buy resources to power the power plants. Power plants involve an auction, purchasing resources is done from a market so that the player who is "losing" pays the least for resources.
Twilight Struggle A political game that recreates the cold war. Twilight Struggle is tense, has a lot going on, and will actually teach you a thing or two about the cold war era.

Games Released in 2012 that are Worth a Look, Even Though We Haven't Played Them Much or At All.
Descent 2.0 - An update to the dungeon crawl game Descent. The game is designed for fast play, has an optional campaign mode, streamlined combat.
Love Letter - A game of risk, deduction, and luck. You're trying to deliver a letter to the Princess, and stop others from doing the same. You have to balance powerful and weak cards to not be too much of a target, but not so weak that you can't deliver the letter.
Mice and Mystics - A dungeon adventure for intrepid mice. Yes mice, not men, well, mice who were once men who are trying to become men again. Here, rats, roaches and the dreaded cat are the dangers that lurk in the castle. This game has a unique twist on the dungeon adventure and a great family friendly theme.
Seasons - Like the name might suggest, this is a game played over several seasons, which each season affecting players in different ways. There is a lot of card drafting, a good mix of luck and skill, and adapting to new challenges.
Suburbia - In a way, this is Sim City the boardgame. Then the game launches in new ways that truly make it a boardgame.

Where to actually buy the games.
There are several places to buy these games. Target, Toys R Us and Barnes&Nobles carry some of these games, but not all. Amazon has just about every game listed here but can often be a little expensive.
I personally recommend these online sites

boardsandbits.com
coolstuffinc.com
funagain.com
gateplay.com
miniaturemarket.com


I hope these give you some great ideas for games to buy for those around you.
56 games should give you some ideas. For some other thoughts and opinions, check out Games with Two's list which you can find on their blog http://gameswithtwo.blogspot.com/2012/11/2012-christmas-gift...

My Best of the Best Games to Buy This Holiday Season

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures
Incan Gold
Ticket to Ride
Dixit
Flash Point Fire Rescue

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you. May your days be spent with the ones you love.

Don't forget to visit my blog website bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com
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16 Comments
Fri Nov 16, 2012 6:49 pm
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Have games, will travel.

David Montgomery
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Modesto
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Yesterday (November 11th) I had the opportunity to travel to play some games with a new group. This meant traveling around an hour each way, but it was worthwhile. I managed to get a carpool for half the distance, which made it less driving for me, and some good company. It also meant getting some good tacos on the way home, but I don't want to turn into Games and Grub here.

Now, traveling an hour for games isn't something I normally do, nor is it going to be something I do often, but every once in a long while is ok. I've been in contact with a game store owner in the area about running an X-Wing tournament, so today served as a demo day and a chance to gauge more interest. I'm pleased to report that I ran a few demos, and had a couple of people interested in the tournament.

On the drive back, I was talking with the store owner about things, and he wants to run a tournament of games. That would involve playing different games over a series of rounds. For instance, one round you'd play Dominion, the next Ticket to Ride, and so on. Players would get points based on their finishing order, so there's reasons to fight for 2nd or 3rd. The last round would be a showdown between the top scorers for various prizes. I think this is a really neat idea for a tournament, and a fun way to showcase different games.

I believe that this is the longest trip I've made for the sole purpose of playing games. I've had longer trips where I ended up playing games, but those were more about seeing friends from college. This weekend has turned into a great one for games. I hit 13 plays over the course of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Since tomorrow is a day off of work, there should be some more gaming, and then there's Monday night game night. Can I have a 20 play weekend? It would sure go a long way towards 300.
As it stands, I'm back on pace, and that makes me a happy gamer.

Original post at http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/11/have-games-will...
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Tue Nov 13, 2012 7:42 am
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Collection Building: Card Games

David Montgomery
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Modesto
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Since the mid 1990's there have been a slew of Collectible Card games or CCGs as they're commonly referred to. For awhile, I got in to the Star Trek CCG with my cousins. That was a fun bonding experience and made for some awesome Friday nights hunting down the Future Enterprise (the first Ultra Rare)

In 2008, things changed. Two major paths started in gaming. The first, the Limited Card game. Buy a core set, buy chapter packs as they were released, but nothing is random. I like the model, since it lets you control your costs. The second path was the deckbuilding game. Instead of building a deck outside of the game and playing it, the game was all about building that deck.

Dominion
Dominion introduced the deckbuilding mechanic. The base game had everything you needed to play with up to 4 people. Then there were expansions which added, and added, and added, to the possibilities in any given game. Now, one would think that with all those expansions Dominion would become impossible to learn. And they'd be right, if it wasn't for the clever mechanic that there are only ever 10 special cards in any given game. This keeps the game easy to learn and quick to play. It also adds near infinite replayabilty, to the point where you could never play every single possible game using all the cards.

Eminent Domain
Eminent Domain added building to the deckbuilding concept. In Em-Do, players build up an empire of planets. These planets give bonuses, produce resources, and help with technology. Speaking of technology, there's an interesting and deep tech tree in the game which gives it added depth. Em-Do is still simple because there are only 5 things you can possibly do on your turn. It's also highly interactive because you can do something on other players' turns.

Race for the Galaxy
RftG follows in the shoes of San Juan. Each round, players select an action. Then all players take each of those actions, with the player who selected the action getting a bonus. The goal is to gain the most points through colonizing planets, researching developments and selling resources. The game uses cards for almost everything. Each card is either a development or a planet. Players use cards in their hand to pay for the developments and planets. They place a card facedown from the deck when they produce a resource. When they trade a resource they take cards from the deck. Using cards for everything, except points, is an interesting feature of the game. I like that it offers you more choices, even with a limited hand of cards. It also keeps the extraneous components down, which is a plus when it comes to table space. The one knock I have on Race for the Galaxy is the lack of interaction. I know that the 2nd expansion offers rules for takeovers, but it's so limited, the rules are more trouble than they're worth. The more I played, I tried to anticipate what other players would select for their actions so I could combo off that, but with so few action choices, this rarely made a huge difference to me.

Fluxx
Cue the collective groan in 3,2,1....
Ok, now that you've got that out of the way, let me talk about Fluxx for a minute. The game is random, it's often crazy, and it can take forever to play, but it is simple to teach, easy for people to get into, and it offers a lot of theme choices. I personally like Monty Python Fluxx. I think the trap that many of us fall into with Fluxx is playing with too many expansions mixed together. You can do it, but what you're really doing is prolonging the game. What I've done with Fluxx is institute a 1 hour time cap. If no one has won in one hour, we either end it right away, or do something that everyone can agree on, like one last turn. Typically I go with the person who has the most keepers at that point wins.

Munchkin
Sure, let out another groan. I'll wait.
Better? Good.
Munchkin is a decent game under a couple of circumstances. 1. Do not consult the rulebook other than at the start of the game. 2. Keep things moving. 3. Don't waste cards early, level 3 is not the time to make a stand against someone, level 8 or 9 is.
For those of you who've never heard of or played Munchkin, here's the brief rundown. You go into a dungeon, fight bad guys, have bad things happen to you, gain treasure and gain levels. First person to level 10 wins. What frequently occurs is that players get to level 9 and then all the bad cards come out to stop them. At that point it becomes a game of luck to see who can get a monster to fight when people don't have bad cards to hurt them. I don't have any great solutions outside of this; it happens, so factor it in to your strategy. Also, you can clamp down on the hand limit, which should keep things moving as well.

Price Wars
Once again, these are amazon prices.
Dominion ~ $30
Eminent Domain ~ $29
Race for the Galaxy ~ $25 Currently Out of Stock but give it time.
Fluxx ~ $10-15 depending on the version you want to buy.
Munchkin ~ $20

From a pure price standpoint, Fluxx wins out, but you're doing yourself an injustice if you think that's all there is to card games. Dominion is a good game, but it's not for the budget conscious, because you will want to buy more expansions. Race for the Galaxy is good, but again, expansions drive the price up. If you want a relatively cheap card game, go for Eminent Domain.

I personally take Dominion because I have the expansions. If I only had base Dominion, it wouldn't be my pick.

Please feel free to comment with any games you think others should look at.
I know Ascension, Thunderstone, and Lord of the Rings LCG are popular games, but since I haven't played them, I can't really recommend them.

For more articles, feel free to visit my blog bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com

As always, thanks for reading.
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6 Comments
Wed Nov 7, 2012 6:38 am
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Collection Building: Worker Placement Games

David Montgomery
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Modesto
California
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Original blog post at http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/10/collection-buil...

Some of the most popular Euro style games utilize Worker Placement as a fundamental mechanic. First, we should look at what worker placement actually is. Using BGG's description, "Worker placement requires players to draft individual actions from a set that is available to all players. Drafting is done one-at-a-time and in turn order. There may be a limit on the number of times a single acton space may be used each round. Usually, each player has a limited number of pieces with which to participate in the process. In other words, they "place workers" to show which actions have been drafted by which players." That's all well and good, but what does it actually mean? Well essentially, you take turns choosing actions to do, and typically you block everyone else from being able to do exactly the same thing.

Worker placement is probably the most highly ranked mechanic on BGG. There are currently 5 games in the top 20, 9 games in the top 50, 13 in the top 100, and 23 in the top 200. I personally haven't played many worker placement games, but I am a fan of the mechanic. The detractor for me is that they often take awhile to play, and they are thinky games.

I'm only going to talk specifically about games I've played, since that's the only way to be honest about things. I will mention that I've heard a lot of good things about Stone Age and Alien Frontiers, and I want to play both of those, but since I haven't, I can't recommend them.

Agricola
I had heard a lot of things about Agricola before I got a chance to play it. The biggest thing I knew going in was to make sure we played the family game before playing the full thing. The family game serves as an introduction and leaves a few of the variable cards out of the game. Agricola is all about running a farm. You need wood, brick, stone, etc. to build improvements, you need to gather animals and farm your land, and you always need to feed your family. All of these things take actions to gather the resources, and since everyone needs all of the same things, you have a lot of tension. I think Agricola is a well designed game, but it never really struck a chord with me. I can win my fair share of games, but there's just something lacking for me.

Lords of Waterdeep
I had a chance to play this at game night a few weeks ago, and I really enjoyed it. It's set in the Dungeons and Dragons universe, which I know basically nothing about, yet I still enjoyed the theme. You recruit agents: Clerics, Wizards, Thieves, etc. to help you accomplish quests. These quests earn you victory points and other rewards. Workers are used to recruit agents, build buildings (which gives everyone an additional spot to place their workers), gain new quests, and play Intrigue cards (which affect other player(s) in some way). The best part of this game was that it took a little more than an hour, and that was to teach 3 new players how to play and then play the game. It gave me a similar feel to Agricola while being more engaging and faster.

Kingsburg
I talked a bit about Kingsburg in the Dice game article, but it warrants mention here as well. In Kingsburg, players use dice to influence advisors. The higher the advisor number, typically, the better things they give you. There are times when splitting up your dice is actually more beneficial, or even taking a lower valued advisor. What I appreciate about Kingsburg is that you almost always have options. You may not get exactly what you want, but the odds are that you'll be able to get something that helps you. Once you get the resources you need, you use them to buy a building. Each building gives you a different bonus. What really makes Kingsburg a game is the end of year combat. That forces players to spend time investing in their military instead of just playing a resource game.

Price Wars
Agricola ~ $50
Lords of Waterdeep ~ $40
Kingsburg ~ Out of Print, hopefully coming back soon
Stone Age ~ $35
Alien Frontiers ~ $60

Like I said in the open, these are heavy games, and with heavy games comes a heavy price tag. If you're really on a budget, this is a category to skip. If you're looking for a lighter game in the genre, go for Stone Age. Based on price and my enjoyment level, I'd choose Lords of Waterdeep. I think it has great replayability and has a good enjoyment/time ratio.
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Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:30 am
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Collection Building: Next Level Games

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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Original Post http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/10/collection-buil...

Many gamers ponder where to go after the into/gateway games. They like the ideas put forth in those types of games, but they want something a little deeper, a little longer, maybe a little bit more complicated. Many factors come in to play here, but the key question is what have they played. Here are some of the games I've had success with when it comes to furthering someone's interest/love in games.

Acquire
Acquire is a classic from noted designer Sid Sackson. Players place tiles on the board to increase the size of hotels. They then buy stock in hotel chains on the board. The goal is to merge hotels, have your hotel taken over so you get paid out on stock, and then to invest in large hotels for the end of the game. It's not the most intuitive game at first, but it is a familiar concept for many adults due to the stock nature of the game. It takes about 90 minutes to play, and it makes you think, but I enjoy it from time to time.

Cosmic Encounter
Cosmic is the second designer game that I ever played, so it has a soft spot in my heart. Getting into the game can take time due to a variety of card effects, but this is less for all new players. Cosmic focuses on hand management and negotiation. It is a confrontational game, but rarely is it a "beat-up on one person" game. Cosmic has a great deal of variety, with 50 unique player powers in the base game, and 20 in each expansion. Cosmic is a great game, but it is not for everyone. There are moments of backstabbing and cunning plans, there are times where you pull a rabbit out of your hat that annoys everyone else. There are ways to be nice, ways to be mean, and ways to be everything in-between. If you take Cosmic too seriously, you won't have fun with it. But if you're willing to laugh things off and not let a loss ruin your day, it's hard to say no.

Mystery Express
Fan of Clue? Here's a fun deduction game that adds a lot of variety and options to that experience. Mystery Express simulates a murder on the Orient Express, except for the ending. Players spend time to investigate 4 categories - suspect, location, motive and modus operendi. Unlike Clue, there are two copies of each card, so players have to figure out which card only has one copy in circulation. There are various means to see cards, as well as trade cards, which makes the whole investigation more complicated. The game takes around an hour, and it's great for people who really like Clue or deductive games.

Power Grid
Power Grid is probably the heaviest game for next level, and because of that, it probably appeals to the smallest group, but in the right group, it's a great game. Power Grid is all about getting power plants to fuel cities, buying the resources to run the power plants, and expanding into cities. You have to balance all three aspects so you're not wasting power, or buying resources at a high price, and certainly so you don't get blocked out of cities. If this all sounds like a big spreadsheet, it kinda is. The thing is, that other players influence things, and change what you want to do throughout the game. I see it as a big economic puzzle, with some key choices on when to do certain things. It is long, roughly 2 hours, but most games are close until the very end.

Rattus
What's more fun than the Black Death? Well, many things, and that's true of games. There are games that are funnier than Rattus, but Rattus is still a fun game. It loosely falls under the "Area Control" umbrella, meaning that you're trying to have cubes on the board and survive. Through the game, you will use different roles to do different things. Each role lets you do something special, like add extra cubes, make a cube safe forever, etc. but each power you have makes you more likely to lose cubes when the plague hits. For more info on Rattus, read my review.

Price Wars
Acquire ~$24
Cosmic Encounter ~$42
Mystery Express ~$38
Power Grid ~$30
Rattus ~$35

As you can see, most of these games are fairly pricy. The good thing is, they're fairly hefty games, and you're getting a lot out of them. It all really depends on what you're looking for in a gaming experience. I'd say that Power Grid is probably the best bang for your buck, Mystery Express will probably appeal to the most people, and Cosmic Encounter offers the most variety. If I have to pick one and only one, I'm taking Cosmic for the replayability.
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Wed Oct 24, 2012 10:38 am
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My Top 7 Gaming Moments So Far

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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Original Post http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/10/top-7-gaming-mo...

I spend a lot of time talking about games, but not nearly enough talking about moments in games. Games are memorable based on what happens, the crazy things people do, or making that one roll that wins you a game when you had almost no chance making it. This list is a tribute to those moments, the things in games that I will remember for a long time.

#7 2008 - Starfarers of Catan
Who knew that a Saturday night in December could so drastically alter one's life. A friend of my next door neighbor in the dorms came by and asked if he wanted to play a game. He was heading out, but he said "Ask the guy next door, he likes games." So the guy asked me and I was reading for class, but I decided a diversion would be a nice thing. So there I was, playing a game I had never heard of with 4 people I didn't know, but it was a blast. I got into it really quickly, since it did resemble Catan. I admit to having some amazing luck that game, and I ended up winning because of it. But that's not the important thing. That night sparked 3 good friendships, many nights of nights playing boardgames, mostly Cosmic Encounter, and truly finding where I belonged in College.

#6 2009 - Formula D
My dad and I are big Formula 1 fans, so buying Formula D for Father's Day was a perfect gift. We didn't get around to playing until August, but when we did, what a race. All 4 of us got together, and it was a tight race. My dad and I got out to early leads, but my sister kept things close. Dad and I were neck and neck going into Rascasse (2nd to last turn) when I hit the brakes just a little too late. He was able to come out of the corner in a higher gear, and beat me to the line by about 5 places. My sister was hot on my heels, but she broke late as well, which allowed me to get out ahead. Racing around the streets of Monaco was a great way to break in Formula D.

#5 2007 - First time become lord of Catan
Late in the summer of 2007, I got together with my gaming family to play Catan. I've been playing for nearly 9 months at this point, and I'd yet to win a game. Now, I didn't really mind, since I was having a good time playing, but still, I really wanted to win. I jumped out to an early lead by cornering the ORE market. Most players needed to trade with me in order to build cities or knights, so I was a popular guy. All of that was just enough to get me through, and at the end, I heard those words that felt so good, "All hail lord of Catan."

#4 2010 - First game of Munchkin
I'm not a huge fan of Munchkin these days, but back then I was young and naive. I sat down to learn the game. The rules basically made sense, and everyone seemed to have a good natured attitude towards it. Then things got nasty, as they're prone to do in Munchkin. Things were really close, everyone was at level 8 or 9. Then it happened, DIVINE INTERVENTION, and oh look, I was a Level 9 Cleric, which made me a game winner, along with the other 2 Level 9 Clerics. So we had a 3-way win thanks to Divine Intervention. It has to be the least frustrating game of Munchkin that I've ever played.

#3 2011 - Shadows Over Camelot
In my 32nd game of Shadows, I was finally the traitor. Now, not all of these games have used loyalty cards, but still, that's a lot of Shadows to play Loyal. When I first saw the card I got excited, but I knew I couldn't show it. I was playing Sir Percival, which has the power to look at the top black card before deciding on his evil action. This is fairly useless, unless you have Lancelot's Armor. So, I convinced the knights to let me get the armor. I was victorious in my quest, but I knew I still had to play things loyal. I couldn't always play really bad black cards, but I tried to pick the worse of the two, or at least what I thought would hurt more. As it turns out, the game was running very loyal. Loyal knights seemed to be cruising towards victory. Then it happened, a string of bad black cards, Vivien, Mists of Avalon, Dark Forest, all in quick succession. I knew this was my chance, so on my turn I chose the more hurtful of black cards. I kept this up for 3 rounds, by then I was gathering some attention for my poor card play. That's when I did it, I falsely accused a fellow knight, and then played Fate to send myself to Traitorland. From there it was a relatively easy cruise for me, the game lasted another 2 rounds, and then the knights were no more. Muhahaha.

#2 2012 - 7 Wonders
I was at a game night, and we had an hour left to play. There were 5 of us, 3 who had never played 7 Wonders, so I suggested it as something relatively light. I set off to explaining the rules, and everyone seemed to understand what was going on. There were some questions along the way, but that's to be expected. By the 2nd age, everyone was going at a good clip. In the 3rd age, I knew things were going to be close. There was a lot of coins out there, and several key guilds in play. We tallied up the scores at the end, 46-45-44-42-26. I have never seen the top 4 covered by 4 points, it was intense. The 3 new guys were 45-44-26. I ended up winning, but I didn't think I had it until the score was final. 2 of the guys liked it so much, they went and bought the game for themselves. That's the mark of a good time.

#1 2009 - My 2nd game of Battlestar Galactica
I'm playing President Roslin, and a key crisis comes up early on. My turn comes to add cards, and I put them on the table. My friend Aaron says something to the effect of "That's how a cylon plays cards." I pointed out that I couldn't possibly play cards that hurt us, since both of my colors were positive. He wasn't buying it though. Everyone seemed to ignore it after we passed the check. I was in fact a cylon in that game, and we did win when Admiral Tigh revealed himself as a bomber and destroyed Galactica. Aaron knows me pretty well, and he's perceptive, but for him to call it that early still makes me smile.
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Wed Oct 17, 2012 11:10 am
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Top 7 Game Publishers

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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Original post and full blog at http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/10/top-7-game-publ...

I try my best to judge a game based on the merits of the game. One of the merits of a game is the company that publishes the game. This isn't always a guarantee that the game will be great, but there are some companies that excite me more than others.

#7 Tasty Minstrel Games (TMG)
TMG is an up and coming company. They've had some early successes with Homesteaders, Belfort, Martian Dice, and my personal favorite from them, Eminent Domain. They've had some growing pains, but they're a company looking to publish great games, and provide fun games for families and gamers alike. I've enjoyed the TMG games that I have played, and I hope there are more to come. A few are in need of an expansion, and I hope TMG focuses on building up their existing product line as well as adding quality to it.

#6 Gryphon Games (Part of FRED distribution)
I've enjoyed many Gryphon games, from the non-gamer favorites of For Sale and Can't Stop to the slightly heavier Roll Through the Ages. Gryphon Games targets casual gamers who are looking for an enjoyable play experience in a relatively short time. (Under 1 hour, typically around 30 minutes) Games that are fun and short tend to be a hit with people of all ages and gaming backgrounds. I really appreciate having games like that around, since I can introduce them to people and play almost instantly.

#5 Wizkids
Wizkids is fairly new to boardgame publishing, but they've made a big splash. When they acquired the Star Trek license, my Trek fanboy heart was overjoyed. When I saw what they did with Star Trek Fleet Captains, and to a lesser extent, Star Trek Expeditions, I was simply amazed. Wizkids has been in the HeroClix business for a long time, so they're no stranger to amazing sculpts of characters and vessels from a variety of properties. Wizkids has published some very strong games in their short existence, including the highly innovated Quarriors, and the highly intriguing Mage Knight. They're a company on the rise, and I look forward to seeing what the have in store.

#4 Rio Grande Games (RGG)
RGG is best known for Carcassonne and Dominion, which are two games I rate highly and enjoy. Those two games also show the two paths that RGG has taken in game publishing. In their early days, RGG was primarily a game importer. They sought out great games in Europe and brought them over to the US. With Dominion and Race for the Galaxy, RGG started publishing some of their own games. I've greatly enjoyed this shift, since I'm not a huge fan of "euro" games. RGG has a good blend of games, and I think they're a company that offers something for everyone.

#3 Z-Man Games
Z-Man takes the shotgun scatter approach to games. They like to publish a lot of games and see what sticks with their audience. There isn't anything inherently wrong with this approach, though it can lead to some good games not getting the recognition they deserve. The best Z-Man game I've played is Pandemic, but they have published a lot of other really good games: Agricola, 1960, Ascending Empires, Ares Project, No Thanks, Neuroshima Hex, and countless others.

#2 Fantasy Flight Games (FFG)
FFG is best known for large scale productions. Twilight Imperium, Descent, StarCraft, Rune Wars, and many more. I've yet to play one of their "coffin box" games, choosing to focus my efforts on some of their smaller games, such as Cosmic Encounter and Space Hulk: Death Angel the card game. FFG is well known for stunning production quality. They put a great effort into miniatures which make their big games look fantastic. FFG is also known for their LCG (Limited Card Game) lines. They have taken the business model of a randomly distributed card game and modified it with predefined chapter packs. This allows everyone to own all the cards for a set price. FFG has a superb commitment to quality and growth in the board game industry, and a propensity for expansions.

#1 Days of Wonder (DOW)
DOW has made some truly great games, Ticket to Ride and Shadows over Camelot are two of my favorites. Every DOW game that I've played, I've liked. There are some that are better than others, but all of them have something to offer. DOW focuses on superb quality and a very small quantity. This keeps people coming back from more, without feeling that they could never keep up with the flow of new releases.
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Thu Oct 4, 2012 9:42 am
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Wrapping Up September, Looking Ahead at October

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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Welcome to October, and a special Happy Birthday to my sister.

September was simultaneously the best and worst month of boardgames for me. The bad news, I only had 2 game days which accounted for a total of 8 game plays. That's the lowest all year and has me behind pace. The good news, a weekly game night has started up at my local game store. It's not big on boardgames yet, but we had some people stop by who were interested in playing the next time, so here's hoping. Also really big news, I played my 1500th boardgame last week. It was For Sale, for anyone who's interested. Cosmic came in at 1501, but I couldn't swing it for 1500.

What got playing in September?

Tsuro x3
Dominion x2
For Sale x1
Lost Cities x1
Cosmic Encounter x1

That brings the YTD total to 210, which is 15 behind pace for 300. Hopefully with the weekly game night, I'll make some ground up.

I acquired 4 new games this month. I received Angry Birds: Knock on Wood and The Resistance in a trade for some LoTR chapter packs, and I received Fleet and Solar Circuit Racing from Kickstarter campaigns. It's really nice to see games coming in from Kickstarter.

September was a productive month in terms of posts with a total of 10, though we'll call it 9 since the monthly updates don't really count.
I got out 3 reviews, Dominionark Ages, Catacombs and Shadows Over Camelot.
Also, there were 3 additions to the Collection Building Series, Co-op, Team, and Dice.
Finally, there were 3 bonus articles, 2 random musings, Kickstarter, and the upcoming game Story Realms, as well as my Top 7 Places to Play Games.

Looking at October, there are some exciting things coming. I should have an interview with the designers of Story Realms, that should be in the next few days. Also look forward to new reviews of both new and older games. If you have suggestions for games I should review, feel free to leave a comment, or head over to the BoBG facebook page and vote there. I'm going to have a couple of guest reviewers come in to review Munchkin and Money. I'm going to try to review games in the Gryphon Bookshelf Series, at least the ones I own, which is 1-8. I'm open to having guests come in the review the rest of the series. If you're interested in that, let me know and we can talk about that.

Thank-you everyone for reading, commenting, tweeting, re-tweeting, etc. You all are the reason I keep writing articles. The next article will be #100, which I'll be using as something fun and frivolous. Also, BoBG is nearly at 10,000 views since launch in December. I know other blogs have gained a larger following, but 10,000 is something I never thought would happen this fast. Once again, thank-you to all of you, the loyal readers, the one time readers, and everyone in between.

As always, come by the blog, bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com and have a good time. Thanks for reading.

Cheers!
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Mon Oct 1, 2012 7:34 am
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