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Dungeon Fighter

Burke Glover
United States
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Dungeon Fighter

Here's a strange amalgam: half dungeon crawl, half super crazy dexterity game. The design, while undoubtedly fun, is seriously at odds with itself. Why bother to include so many complications when victory is largely determined by how consistently you can land your die on the board. Learning from the rules is far more confusing than it needs to be, especially considering that when you pull out something like this you just want to throw it on the table and play, not learn intricate rules. So it helps to have someone who knows how to play. Finally, the difficulty seems geared for intense repeat play (i.e. it's really hard) rather than casual play, which would probably be more appropriate. We managed to kill some of the green (easiest) monsters, but never really had a chance after that. We played twice, and it was a riot, but we never even had a chance, and I'm certain we misinterpreted or skipped many rules. So it's dumb fun, and maybe there's a real game in there, but who knows.

(2 plays)
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Sun Dec 9, 2012 9:17 am
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    May Round-up: 50 games played!

    Burke Glover
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    Let's change up the format today and comment on lots of games all at once. That's fun, right? This is what I played in May.

    Pickomino-4 plays
    This game has been picking up steam around here. I think it's an excellent filler, with quite a lot of non-obvious choices. Folks hoot and holler as their precious worms are stolen.

    Can't Stop-3 plays
    Another solid dice filler that has certainly stood the test of time. Ra Dice was the go-to filler for a while, and while I still enjoy it, I have been much more likely to suggest Can't Stop or Pickomino lately.

    Domaine-3 plays
    Just a fantastic game that I discovered only last year. Not a big hit around the game club but I've been able to get my family to play it a lot lately. I can't get enough of this.

    In10sity-3 plays
    Fauna was a big hit, so I dug out this trivia game. Like Fauna, it rewards reasonable guesses. It also has a risk assessment element that I really dig.

    Saint Petersburg-3 plays
    There really is nothing else out there quite like this odd card drafting economic game. We have a resident expert who is, as far as I can tell, unbeatable. That might turn me off from a lesser game. I always feel like if I get just the right draws and don't make any dumb mistakes, I can win. I always make at least one dumb mistake though.

    Die Sieben Siegel-2 plays
    Playing this twice this month reminded me how much I love trick taking games.

    Wyatt Earp-2 plays
    My mom loves this game. I'm not a big fan but whatever, she plays lots of my other stuff too.

    1955: The War of Espionage-1 play
    This was a learning game that ended abruptly. It has a lot of special power cards.

    Ave Caesar-1 play
    This is one of those games where if you're winning you feel like it's pure skill and when you're losing you feel like it's pure luck. I was highly skilled in the first two rounds, and then incredibly unlucky in the last two.

    Beowulf: The Movie Board Game-1 play
    I liked this, except for the more extreme tiles that can really hose you.
    Games with a "take that" element are fine, but they have to be small, tit for tat sorts of exchanges. In this case there are one or two nukes in the deck that probably should just be thrown out.

    Big Boggle-1 play
    I'm terrible at it but I love it anyway. One thing that's especially pleasing to me is when you have a large game (6 players in this case) and everyone has a big scoring list, meaning everybody found a lot of different stuff.

    BITS-1 play
    This has fallen out of style of late. I can't say I mind. It's not bad, but... meh.

    Brass-1 play
    Brass keeps chugging along. I think an odd metagame has shown up locally wherein everyone abuses the hell out of loans, to the point where it seems like trying to build up a proper income is foolhardy. That may be the death-knell for this once great game. I hope not, but we'll see.

    The Castles of Burgundy-1 play
    Still enjoying this. I don't know if the rules are bad or what (I've never read them myself), but we still make rules mistakes regularly with this one, even after 10 games. No matter, it's fun.

    Container-1 play
    Sometimes I wonder if my understanding of this game has been screwed up by reading about it on BGG. A lot has been said about how players need to be somewhat altruistic to keep the economy going. I always find myself in games where I am the only one thinking like this. If I see others overspending on infrastructure, I feel like I have to bail them out, which encourages overspending. Meanwhile I'm not doing that well. Perhaps I'll try to take a more self-serving approach next time. An incredibly subtle game.

    Core Worlds-1 play
    Here's a tip I learned the hard way: You can't win unless you get some Core Worlds. So be sure to get some of those. You might have guessed by the title that they're important. They are.

    Dungeons & Dragons (3.5 Edition)-1 session
    I played D&D for the first time this month! It was awesome! Can't wait for next month.

    The Hanging Gardens-1 play
    Fun puzzley game with some drafting. Good stuff.

    K2-1 play
    This gets the award for most intriguing new game played this month. Much more elegant than most the new stuff I've been seeing lately, and the theme and presentation are top notch. Excited to play this again.

    Kingdom Builder-1 play
    I never get enough of the special actions, and even when I do I don't use them properly. But learning that stuff is part of the fun. We played with the expansion, which added some nice new scoring rules. The new special power tiles were less interesting to me.

    The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game-1 play
    Neat concept, and I enjoyed playing it, though I have serious doubts about its balance. It was a challenge befitting the theme... we did not survive.

    Merkator-1 play
    I'd like to see this re-themed. It would have anime babes and it would be called "Super Ultra Cube Trading Frenzy Z!"

    Modern Art-1 play
    This particular play was pretty bad, with a first timer getting all the fixed-price auctions. That's the price you pay for a game with this much depth, and I'm willing to pay it from time to time.

    Money!-1 play
    This was played right before that D&D session got started. I was destroying everyone soundly but we didn't get through all 3 rounds. Whatever, I won.

    The Pillars of the Earth-1 play
    This just might be my favorite worker placement game. A lot of depth and the variable turn order draw keeps things interesting.

    Puerto Rico-1 play
    Played another three player game with my parents. My dad's shipping strategy beat out my building strategy buy two or three points. The dude knows how to ship.

    Puzzle Strike-1 play
    It's odd that I'd only play this once, and I don't even recall playing. Hmm...

    Ra: The Dice Game-1 play
    As I mentioned near the top of the list, the shine is finally wearing off on this one. But it got a heck of a lot of play around here. I suspect it may come back around in time.

    Rolling Freight-1 play
    First play. An interesting amalgam of Ticket to Ride and Age of Steam, with some extra dice stuff thrown in. I'd play again, but the stuff I liked best about it was done better in AoS.

    Small World-1 play
    An incredibly close three way brawl. Had a great time with this one. Small World needs to get more play.

    Stone Age-1 play
    With style! Strut your stuff, cave-babes. I'm still torn on this one because of the viability of starvation. And also a general ennui toward worker placement.

    Strozzi-1 play
    Another first time play. I'm a big fan of Knizia, but I had avoided this for a long time because of its connection with Medici, which is just a bit too dry for my taste. That was a mistake, as Strozzi is quite a lot more interesting, at least to me. I find it odd that so many call this an auction game when it really is a drafting game. Strozzi has almost nothing to do with Medici, and that's great as far as I'm concerned.

    Ticket to Ride-1 play
    It was a nice day outside, and Ticket to Ride is a good outdoor game for my family.

    Tower of Babel-1 play
    An under appreciated gem. It's pretty funny how bad the rules are though. It's easy to see how the Knizia goodness got buried under the other stuff. The publisher really botched this one.

    Trajan-1 play
    I still like the Mancala-style movement, and I still think everything else is tolerable at best.

    Web of Power-1 play
    Nice little balancing act between the two kinds of placement. Fun.

    Winds Of Plunder-1 play
    This one has stood up to quite a bit more play than I ever expected. I think it might be more popular around here than with BGG at large.
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    Fri Jun 1, 2012 10:42 pm
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    Trajan

    Burke Glover
    United States
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    Trajan is the latest example in the ultra-complicated Euro trend. Euros used to do one or two things really well, now they try to do ten or a dozen things not so well. The Mancala bit is so good, but everything else about this game kind of rubs me the wrong way. There's no elegance here, just a big pile of scoring mechanisms that all work in their own unnecessarily convoluted ways. Most of them bear no relationship to each other, and it seems like you can just pick a couple scoring possibilities and ignore the others. The timing mechanism is a little too fiddly, and since it's not particularly interesting there's a good chance it will be forgotten from time to time. There is some true depth, though, in the board movement, wherein you can do some real planning. I would love to see this in a stripped down game (though not stripped all the way down to Mancala) with fewer actions and special scoring things to remember.

    Please, game designers! Edit! Cut out the chaff and just give me the wheat.
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    Mon Apr 30, 2012 6:37 am
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    Power Grid: The First Sparks

    Burke Glover
    United States
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    Power Grid: The First Sparks

    It seems like this Power Grid variant was intended to streamline the experience. That's a noble idea, but for me it didn't really work. I just never quite "got" Power Grid, and this doesn't change things up enough for me to feel much different about it. The arithmetic is simpler and quicker which is a plus. The auction house shuffle is still present and still a nuisance. Goofy special rules abound as well, such as "virtual food" provided in specific cases which only exists to provide a chance at a bonus. One of the highlights of the original design, the auction, is much diminished-- it's now a low fixed-price auction, determined in player order. First player picks an item, last player decides to buy it or not, repeat until everyone's got something.

    In the end, I'm not sure who would actually like this design... Some of the nuance has been streamlined out, while a lot of fiddlyness was left in or added. Power Grid fans will find little here to recommend it over that game, and new players will still have to deal with most of the same issues and eccentricities of the original.

    (1 play)
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    Wed Jan 18, 2012 6:51 am
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    Domaine

    Burke Glover
    United States
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    Domaine

    I thought this might be one I'd like. First impression is pretty good but this thing is just brutal! The board is so crowded, and money is so tight that the intensity on this one is through the roof. Domaine is very original, the closest thing I can compare it to would be something like Go or Through the Desert where you are trying to wall off big pieces of territory for yourself. The big wrinkle here is that what you can do is determined by action cards, and you have to pay high prices just to use them. The spacial board play is the meat of the game, but the card play really turns the screws against the player. If you enjoy games where you always have that feeling of needing to do more on your turn than you can accomplish, this game has that in spades. And it's short. Definitely want to play this more.

    I probably shouldn't admit this on the internet, but my first game ended with me having a score of one point. I had several grand long-term plans in the works, but the game ended before any of them could come to fruition. The good news is, I can only improve!

    One more thing about player count... this is a more-the-merrier type game. You want that board to be crowded for maximum player interaction. I'd recommend against playing with two, and the jury's still out on three.
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    Sat Jan 14, 2012 6:25 am
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    Ora & Labora

    Burke Glover
    United States
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    Ora et Labora

    If you like Rosenberg's heavier gamer offerings, this should appeal to you. Me, I often find them just a tad bit on the complex side for my taste. There's a lot to take in here, and it all seems balanced at first blush, so your choices are myriad. There are several ways to score, and at least 8 types of goods that you'll have to use as currency for buildings, settlements, and other goods and VP items. Finding the combos and coming up with a decent engine will require some analysis.

    The big wheel is the central mechanism, and it works very well in the good old Puerto Rico way-- choices which are left unselected become more and more valuable until someone can no longer resist. Like similar mechanics in games past, it's a very clever way to add tension to a game. Should you get that pile of stone now or wait a turn for a bigger pile, taking the risk of someone else grabbing it first? I wonder if a simpler, more elegant game could be made from this one basic idea. Hmm...

    As for the rest of the game, buy up lots of special action buildings, put your workers on them, collect resources to trade for other resources, to build more buildings and special scoring areas, and so on. You can also take opponents' actions and waste their workers for a pittance... this can really hose their plans, and was the weakest part of the game for me. I'm sure it was added as a nod to player interaction, but I felt the game would have been fine leaving players to run their own little engines without outside interference. Still, it's a little bit friendlier than Agricola... despite its food and fuel gathering, there is no punitive phase where you must pay up or face consequences. There are special building phases you'll want to be ready for, but they aren't nearly as common and not building every time won't kill your game.

    Overall, not a bad game, but I would have been happy with a much more paired down design. The wheel mechanism is great, but really just a new face on an old idea, and the rest of it we've seen elsewhere. For those players that want to plumb its depths, I suspect Ora & Labora may have quite a bit of replayability. As for me, I'll play it on occasion until it loses its luster around here, which I suspect won't take long.

    (1 play)
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    Wed Jan 11, 2012 6:40 am
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    German Railways

    Burke Glover
    United States
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    German Railways

    Ohh, here's a tough one to rate. I unreservedly liked everything in the game except that kah-razy turn order system. And even that... I have to give it points for doing something wildly different. I found it kind of tolerable, but then I didn't miss out on more than a round at a time. In my first play, one player missed out on 4 rounds in a row. He didn't do well. If I were that guy I'd probably hate this game. There may be some real depth here, but I'm not sure that depth is a good fit for the whole "maybe you get a turn, maybe you don't" thing. In spite of all, I kind of want to play it again. Maybe it's one of those deals where frustration makes success sweeter... We'll see. For now, it gets a 7, and I could see this rising or falling quite a bit.

    A couple comments on the Queen production... not bad, though there are some color issues. The orange and yellow stocks and trains are very similar, and player colors could have been more differentiated from the stock colors. Also, shame on Queen for not including player aids in a game that so obviously needs them. Those company special powers are critical, and they need to be easily accessed.

    (1 play)
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    Wed Jan 4, 2012 8:19 am
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    Airlines Europe

    Burke Glover
    United States
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    Airlines Europe

    THIS is the game Union Pacific aspired to be. Gone are the annoying track cards, and the Abacus stock (This game's version of Union Pacific stock) is no longer just an automatic grab. The result is a game with all the best parts of Union Pacific and none of the chaff. It has to be said that the board placement seems even less important than before, but that's fine as it lets you focus more fully on the meat of the game--the stock play. So for me this totally eclipses Union Pacific and is a good stock game in its own right.

    There is one caveat, though: you'll have to tolerate a surprising amount of fiddlyness and housekeeping. The deck must be seeded properly, and you'll probably want to assign different players to banker, VP distributor, stock marker mover, and so on. For some, the nuisance will be small, but for me it was enough to bump the game down just a bit from an 8 to a 7. Still, a fun game, and one I look forward to playing more.
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    Wed May 25, 2011 4:29 am
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    The Secret of Monte Cristo

    Burke Glover
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    The Secret of Monte Cristo

    I really hoped to like this one. I mean, come on, it has marbles! Cool, right? And it's got a great presentation too. Alas, I found this to be nothing but extreme frustration. The game's main appeal, the marble slide, is nothing more than an elaborate turn order manipulation system. Games in which turn order is very important tend to rub me the wrong way to begin with, but this one goes a couple steps further. You'd think that seeing that far ahead in the various turn order queues should allow you to plan your moves far in advance, but the actions you take are so short term and tactical, it hardly seems worthwhile. In fact I'd go so far as to say that real long term planning may be impossible. By the time your ball works its way back to the bottom, the state of the game will certainly be radically different from how it was when you made the choice. Furthermore, you can screw and be screwed by the sudden changes in turn order by jumping ahead (or being jumped over) in the action queues, adding to the frustration and lack of control.

    Ok, so the marble system isn't really my thing. What else is there? Nothing especially innovative or exciting, just a worker placement/area majority hybrid which is dragged down by limited ability to plan or get a leg up on your opponents. In all, this is a game with one big attraction, and for me it fell completely flat. Others may find it interesting, but I'll be avoiding this one. Monte Cristo can keep its secret to itself.

    (1 play)
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    Sun May 15, 2011 7:50 am
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    Battles of Westeros

    Burke Glover
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    Battles of Westeros

    I haven't visited the Command & Colors system since Battle Cry, not because I didn't enjoy that game, but because I never really felt much need to play any of its variants. Eleven years later, I was finally tempted by the chance to skin some direwolves for the glory of House Lannister. I'd say the system is slightly marred by the added complication here, but it's still quite playable. The flanking rules add an interesting (if chromey) wrinkle, but I'm not yet convinced the morale or initiative rules add anything especially worthwhile. Familiarity with the various special rules and abilities will certainly help get the playing time down, which will be important if this is to see much play. I'm a bit concerned that the huge impact of generals (with their limited command range) and the "stalwart" defensive formations could mean that you'll always want to keep your armies in clumps and turtle up. If the game rewards slow defensive play to any great extent, it could be an issue, since a C&C game really ought to be as short and quick moving as possible. Westeros gets an extra point for its tried and true system and because I like the theme/setting, but the jury's still out on the long term playability of this one. One last thing: Don't even play until you've glued the figures to their bases. Moving those things around otherwise is just an exercise in futility.

    For Casterly Rock!

    (1 play)
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    Fri May 13, 2011 7:43 am
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