Archive for Loofish
1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 Next » 
I've been faithfully logging every play for quite a while, back to 2008 reliably, a bit further back than that more spottily. And January 2016 turned in my highest single month play count in all that time, with 67 plays over 27 different games. It surpassed another January, 2011, not a coincidence it was the month after we got Dominion: Prosperity and Seaside. But this month was not dominated by one single game, rather a broader survey of games. But it does feature a new most played game for the month.
Small World (10 plays, all but 1 2 player with my wife Jenny, the other 3P with wife and son)
This game seems an unlikely candidate to dethrone the champion, an older game which we had played out, seemingly, a while ago. But a number of factors come into play. First, the iPad version of the game on sale. Which my wife picked up and then got some of the expansions: Small World: Be Not Afraid..., Small World: Grand Dames of Small World and Small World: Cursed!. The next step was that she became a little obsessed with it, playing it over and over. And finally, the game has a Face-to-Face mode, like Pass'n'Play but for 2 player - you can sit opposite and it displays your stuff from your side on your turn without you having to rotate the device or even move it. So it was something we could play on the couch, at a restaurant, waiting in line, pretty much anywhere. And importantly, having a computer do all the fiddling with the little bits (though I admit I kinda like that part) makes the games go by pretty fast. It has been a lot of fun messing around with the new stuff and even the kids have joined in (sometimes with some gentle coercion) so it has been a great game for us.
Star Realms - 9 plays (all 2P with my wife)
For 10 months straight, I have been opening my Most Played list with Star Realms. It has racked up 146 plays in that time and was so close to holding onto that title for an 11th month. It has fallen off a little - in frequency of play at least. But when Star Realms: Colony Wars lands at the FLGS, I suspect it will pick back up, perhaps even with more multi-player as both my children have enjoyed this game. And it still holds a crucial spot in the 'what do we play tonight, nothing too long or complicated' genre of games.
Ghost Stories - 6 plays, all solo
Last year, I played through all the different monks one at a time (my preferred mode) on Initiate level. I got plenty of losses, but I began to start to get my head above water more. So I challenged myself this year to play on Normal level. My goodness, the first couple games were rough, overwhelmed by haunters and curses, it was a toss-up if I would be killed or haunted out of the game. But I took my losses and came back stronger and I won the game with my favorite green monk, twice in a row. And the first time it felt like I was rolling really well, worrying me that I had to roll really well to bet the game. But the second win came more easily with less reliance on the dice and more on good planning and taking opportunities. And dealing with curse-throwers without mercy. And I won on my second attempt with the yellow monk too. I might even be getting better at this game. Imagine that.
Guildhall/Guildhall: Job Faire - 6 plays (all 2P with my wife)
A year ago we were playing this quite a bit and it seemed like a good contender for most played of the year, with us playing "mega" Guildhall with 2 and having taught it to a few in the game group with just the base game. But it tailed off a bit, partly due to other games and partly due to set up considerations - going between everything in to only half is a good few minutes of card sorting and then shuffling. But it came back off the shelf this month, as part of our first day of gaming of the year. Mega-Guildhall, so all 12 guilds in the game, a great big deck. It was fun but it did get a bit bogged down. And when we played it the next day, it seemed like the game actually stalled as we drew cards we already had in play and it was not a card combo bonanza we usually enjoy but a race to draw a certain card. Then my wife suggested slimming down the deck to only 2 copies of each card (as opposed to 4) so that then every card drawn is potentially useful to someone, even if it isn't you. We gave it a try. First, the deck was much smaller and easier to shuffle. Second, there was still a bit of an incubation time at the beginning of the game as things built up but it got crazy faster and played out to completion in a much more satisfactory fashion. Safe to say, this was a variant that was a big hit and as a 2 player at least, that will be the way we play it from now on.
Matcha - 6 plays (all 2P, oddly enough)
This was a game store pick up from that day recently when nothing seemed to be calling out to me - or at least nothing I felt like I could afford that day. But a micro game about the Japanese tea ceremony seemed like it might be interesting.
The game centers around collecting one each of the 5 items you need for the tea ceremony, or alternately 4 of one item. There are cards representing 4 of the items, each numbered 1-4, plus 2 zero cards. 6 cards will be laid out in the middle in 3 pairs and then each pair will be considered by each player, playing cards face down in one or both spots. If you play to a card and your opponent does not, you get the item shown on the card. If you both play there, the best match wins the item (they should match on either number or symbol, there is one of each per pair). If you play a card that does not match, you win the 5th item (the white whisk) instead - unless both of you mismatch. After the first pair is resolved, cards are played out to the middle pair and so on. You only have 5 cards to play, so you have to pass at least once, so working out when to do that is part of it. After all 3 pairs have been resolved, assuming no one has won yet, a new set of 3 pairs is dealt out and the process begins over again. It has been our experience the game is usually done some time in the second full round.
Our first couple of games felt pretty random, my wife had 4 of the items on our first turn and I just had 3 of the yellow sticks. But then it laid out perfectly for me to get the last yellow stick I needed and that was that. It felt a little anticlimactic and abrupt. But as we played again, we started looking and thinking a bit more, working out what our opponent might try to play and looking for ways to counter. And then maybe including some bluff as well. You are still very much constrained by the cards you are dealt - you might want to win that blue 4 but a lack of that kind of card in your hand makes it tricky if it gets contested. My favorite moment of playing this so far was we were both close to winning but my wife just needed either a red bowl or one more white whisk. So she could win it by matching the card at the red bowl - or by not matching it on purpose and winning that way. I had a great card to win the red bowl...but maybe that was the wrong move? That agonizing moment of indecision just made the game for me (and I guessed wrong too).
It is a neat little game, very beautiful. And it makes me more eager than ever to pick up the designer's other game about tea, Elevenses which has been out longer but not shown up in my FLGS yet...
I won't go over every game here, those were the 'most played' but I will briefly mention the new to me games too.
I already talked about Monty Python Fluxx in my last post, so no more needs be said here. If you like shrubberies and naked organists, you probably will be OK with this.
We did get to try out Takenoko: Chibis. My wife picked it up, I think as a present for herself last year. But she put it on the shelf and said it was 'for Christmas' and then we sort of forgot about it. But at last we remembered and I am glad we did. Takenoko is a very pleasant family game but sometimes the achievements you are trying to get fall in your lap and other times (especially the gardener ones) they just seem impossible for not that many points. Chibis adds Ms Panda, another adorable little panda miniature who moves around like the original panda but does not eat - because she is ready to mate and apparently pandas don't eat then. But if she moves to the spot where the male panda is, biology happens and a baby panda appears - and gives the player who did it a little bonus as well as a couple points. In addition, it adds some new achievements and some more land tiles, with a variety of interesting effects. One had one of each bamboo and all grow at once. Another causes all the bamboo of that type to grow all over the garden, not just adjacent. And there is another lake tile to help with irrigation. And a few more but those were the ones that came up in our game - the extra lake came out right away in fact! It is a little more involved but I thought a good bit more satisfying, with the gardener achievements a bit easier. It ended up a close game - my wife won because she got the Emperor's 2 points - and I think it will be a permanent addition to our games of Takenoko.
And there was one more new-to-me game played in January and it is all you lot's fault I got it: Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King. First impressions: we liked it a lot (and agree with you about the non-similarity with Carcassonne). For the fuller write-up...see next post.
Photos for this post from crosenkrantz (Small World), bkunes (Guildhall), huffa2 (2 of the Matcha, punkin312 (the other Matcha) and styren (Takenoko) - thanks a lot!
Our last game night was in danger last week, with warnings of bad weather coming. It was a real shame too, as it was their son Jacob's birthday, sp there was going to be a trip to the Escape Room for the kids and I was going to be the responsible adult (both his parents had already gone through this escape room so someone who didn't know the answers was ideal). Then there was going to be more games back at the house with cake and ice cream. It was going to be a good time. But wintry weather doesn't have to be particularly bad to put a stop to things here.
The Friday was bad but the storm passed over and enough plowing had occurred that roads were passable if not great. The Escape Room stayed closed and cancelled that part but it was decreed that, if we could get down there, the party would go ahead. My wife Jenny had already ventured out to go look after some dogs for her job, so we were game. And indeed to make it a little easier, we were offered the gust room (the kids were supposed to stay over anyway), so we wouldn't have to drive home in the generally icy conditions.
The traditional Birthday Pizza was due soon so we open up with some Deep Sea Adventure.
We moved down in a group, each grab a 2 and swam back up but the dice were nicer to some than others and Jenny ended up just short as the air ran out. Round 2 was very similar, Rick and I got back pretty comfortably but Kristi and Jenny were struggling a bit. Kristi was close but fumbled her roll on the last turn. Jenny was behind her and needed a double 3 to make it out...and rolled it!
Final round went a little oddly, both Rick and Jenny turned back a little early and of course made it out easily. I ended up a little deeper than I meant to get but with 2 out early both Kristi and I have time to make it out. And I have the best treasures.
I wondered if, after some hilariously optimistic dives, this game might settle into a rather set groove but there was still enough variation, coming a lot from the roll of the dice, to separate divers and challenge them in different ways. I am so glad I picked this up.
Pizza awaited us back on the boat at the end of Deep Sea Adventure so we replenished our energies, then after we had that we got back to gaming. Another shortish game required so that was flavor of the month Splendor. Jenny blockaded black for a while but tried a middle row strategy without enough bottom row stuff to push it along so she started off strongly but fell back. I went for one of the nobles in a fairly focused fashion pushing up green especially and that paid off, I could then spring board into some other scoring cards and it all enabled me to cash in for a 4/4 noble and a scoring card to push me up above 15 before anyone else.
My group loves this game. I am happy to play it but I am not quite getting their enthusiasm (and I am prone to feeding off such enthusiasm myself). It's fine. But not best ever game material. Am I missing something? I even won 2 out of the 3 games we have played.
As part of the birthday party, the boys were going to play a couple games. So I led them in a game of Exploding Kittens while the other adults played Basari. That was pretty interesting, the dynamic of a teen/tween group of boys, one of which was not that interested and was happy enough when he got blown up. But a couple of the others were making smart plays (as far as smart plays will take you in this game). And my eldest was calmly hoarding cards. It went down to the end, with my son's hold lots of cards till the end game approach working out (plus he got the extra defuse). Then the whole horde was gone in an instant.
When I wandered back into the adult game room, the game of Basari was not even half done and Rick let me have his spot in the game while he did some other things. He left me in quite a spot, lacking gems and behind in points but I rallied a bit, winning green though I fell short of the full lap by a whisker. Kristi got that and yellow while Jenny claimed the other 2 and her lead only grew in the third round, helped by a lack of blue so she ended up winning that with a 2 gem holding. I jumped ahead in the lap race, plus I maintained my lead in green. Kristi's challenge to Jenny in red and yellow actually fell away and I was on to finish the lap with a roll of 2...and I rolled a 1. So everyone completed the lap and I won green, while Jenny won all the rest. So I managed to catch Kristi for a share of 2nd place...well behind Jenny.
The boys were supposed to play their other game led by Rick but they were off playing something with nerf guns so we played Wits & Wagers. A cheeky low bid after Rick led off meant we were leading mid-game. A couple of colonial America questions - oldest city in the US (Saint Augustine, FL) - how old? Older than I thought but Rick had a pretty good idea. So he was a bit ahead. Final question was also colonial, Jenny went all in with a slightly off answer - she had lagged all game and needed a big win with no one else getting much to win. That didn't pay off. Rick split his bet and I went more for one, as did Kristi. But I kept some back to make sure of 2nd place and Kristi did not, betting enough and winning that she took 72 points in that hand alone and she jumped over both Rick and me to win.
We love us some Wits & Wagers. Though we keep discussing the 'best way' to bet. The allowed to change your bet as much as you like until the sand runs out is fine but we keep wanting to tinker with it to stop tactical betting - so I will bet just enough to keep you behind me whatever the result. Perhaps we just need to hide our winnings?
That game the boys were supposed to play after Exploding Kittens was Monty Python Fluxx but they weren't coming back to the table. So (over Kristi's objection) we played it instead. I've played Fluxx, I find it OK, not as anti as some but Kristi likes control in her games so this chaos really gets to her. Still, she gamely played and we had some fun - an excuse to quote the great work is always welcome for most of us. It was a bit annoying at the beginning with a draw-5 rule but still only play-1 so hands grew to enormous size but then a play-4 came out and then Kristi played King Arthur, Excalibur and then dumped down the goal that used those two, I think it was "Strange Women Lying in Ponds Distributing Swords is no Basis for a System of Government". She admitted after she was trying to make Jenny win!
It was supposed to be Kristi's pick after suffering Fluxx but she deferred to the rest of us and someone suggested Crokinole. Rick and I teamed up against Jenny and Kristi and the opening was like pro level, I shot in the hole, then Kristi did then Rick did! It settled down after that and I did a lot more pinging off the posts but the boys built a lead over several rounds, only for that to evaporate when a couple of disastrous post pings opened it up for the ladies to leap forward into the lead with a 60 point round, then they completed their come-back the next round to take victory.
Dexterity was now the way forward so we piled up the stories in Rhino Hero. Game 1 Kristi got underway with a double roof and I got some down early on and felt pretty safe for a while as it was over on Rick and Jenny's side but then it came back to Kristi, she balanced the roof as far one way as she could and made me put the rhino up there. That did not go well, giving her the win and me the joy of knocking it down.
Game 2 and it was a while before I even got to play as it went back and forth plus skipped me once. Everyone else was getting their cards played while Jenny was ahead thanks to a double. And Kristi set me up again with a tantalizing rhino placement. And I obligingly knocked it down again. but this time she gave the win to Jenny.
We finished off with Parade, as energy began to droop. Jenny had a torrid time, she kept just picking up cards and I really was worried that the couple purple I had would count me out as Kristi and Rick had just 1 card each. But Jenny held at 5 colors and the other two began to take some points and it was pretty clear that the game was mine for the taking as I took either only purple or low cards. I was holding 2 purple for the end but things became a little tricky as the end game triggered and I had to use both of them though fortunately I had managed to acquire 2 low cards in another color by then and so it was smooth and I scored 8, with Rick just behind with 11. And Jenny with majorities in about 4 colors did not score quite so high as she might have.
That was all the gaming, we then joined the boys in the lounge to see what the big movie they were going to watch. The selection was Dodgeball and I confess I rolled my eyes a little, though I will concede it was perfect for approximately 14 year old boys at a sleep over. We were thinking we'd just slope off to the guest room but ended up watching the whole thing and laughing a lot. The Wall Street Journal reviewer did not want to review it but then when he did, he apologized saying Dodgeball "is erratic, imbecilic if not completely idiotic, inconsequential in even the small scheme of things, and thoroughly entertaining". I thought that got it about right and it was a huge hit with the crowd it was playing to this night.
And that was that, all in all, a pretty cool birthday party, ice laid on outside and everything.
Photos for this post come from (in order of appearance) van00uber, FreedomDriven, ZackStack, joshp, punkin312, TheCelt and matador. Thanks to all of them!
I was in the friendly local game store recently, partly to pick up my wife's Groo subscription, but while we were there, it seemed rude not to browse the game shelves as well.
We wandered the shelves, looking at the new releases, poking around the small box games, casting an eye over the big shelf of various older games. And I had a slightly curious feeling - that I didn't really need to pick up anything today.
I should add a caveat or two before anyone sends out the BGG gamer paramedics. If I had seen Codenames, I would have bought it. But though my browsing before I got there said it was in stock, I couldn't find it. And there were certainly games there I wouldn't mind at very least trying out if not owning myself. But there are a number of competing factors, not least being 'if I have this game, why do I need this other game?' I did look hard at Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King and I was tempted but the other part is that I need some buy-in from my wife as well. She wasn't convinced. Her thought was that if she wanted Scottish, we have Glen More and doesn't it look a bit like Carcassonne. She already thinks we don't play Carc enough. So if I have those covered, why do I need Isle of Skye?
Cost is a factor too. The post-Christmas austerity, but also we are going on a school trip to the Galapagos this Spring, a glorious bucket list opportunity. But it also is not a casual cheap excursion, so new games are a luxury we perhaps shouldn't be indulging.
Another thing I have slowly come to realize (after more than a couple false starts) is that I do need that back up from my wife. She is the one that will be playing most if not all of these with me so if she don't like it, even if I love it, the chances are strong it will languish on the shelves, unplayed. This is slimming down my BGG browsing too, the long games are really unlikely to qualify. Even though I enjoyed the couple times I dipped a toe into the 18xx games, I don't see her doing the same - a game of 4+ hours with a lot of math is really far from her wheel house.
The part of me that wants to try new things is really left to learning games on Yucata and Boiteajeux. Jenny likes simple but replayable games, that she can master. I have not really been a member of the Cult of the New for a while but I have tried to council myself that the Cult of the Proven is a better place to be anyway, especially for someone who does not often get to try before he buys.
I know that another factor is seasonal, that I distinctly recall about a year ago feeling exactly this way, that I didn't really have much need for more new games, that the ones I had already will keep me going and gaming through the year. But I did end up picking up a few here and there. But for now, I will just browse and then get back to playing what's on my own shelf already.
Already a week into the New Year and I still haven't put together a post looking back at the year of gaming as a whole. Or indeed a post of any kind, though it is partly the back to work drive and partly that best of reasons, playing games instead of writing about them.
But a post about that little batch of gaming will have to wait. First, the age old question, how was gaming for me in 2015?
All in all, it came in at a fantastic 464 plays for the year, compared with 2014 (393 plays), 2013 (263 plays), a very positive trend. My best in my BGG logging plays career, though back before then, in the regular CCG games days, I suspect I managed more - and this year's total was boosted by a CCG-like frenzy of play.
List of the games played at least twice (first logged plays in bold):
Star Realms 137
Rat Hot 21
Guildhall (with Job Faire) 19
Ghost Stories 14
Animal Upon Animal 13
Deep Sea Adventure 9
No Thanks! 9
Rhino Hero 9
Lords of Waterdeep (with Scoundrels of Skullport) 8
Small World (including Cursed!, Be Not Afraid and Grand Dames expansions) 8
Exploding Kittens 7
Hive (with Mosquito, Ladybug and Pillbug expansions) 6
Lanterns: The Harvest Festival 6
Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small 5
Elder Sign 5
Race for the Galaxy (with 1st arc expansions) 5
Roll for the Galaxy 5
Dominion (with Seaside and Prosperity) 4
Draco Magi 4
Steam Works 4
Electronic Catch Phrase 3
Le Havre: The Inland Port 3
Hey, That's My Fish! 3
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game 3
Nations: The Dice Game 3
Terror in Meeple City 3
Tigris & Euphrates 3
The Train Game 3
Apex Theropod Deck-Building Game 2
Ascension: Deckbuilding Game 2
Carcassonne: The Castle 2
Firefly: The Game 2
El Grande 2
Merchant of Venus 2
Mice and Mystics 2
Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper 2
Piece o' Cake 2
Tales & Games: The Three Little Pigs 2
Traders of Carthage (now Osaka) 2
Wits & Wagers 2
Wyatt Earp 2
Zombie Dice 2
Zooloretto: The Dice Game 2
Notable singleton plays (new to me): Android: Netrunner, Dune, Humm...ble, King of Tokyo (with Power Up), Loopin' Chewie, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, Shut the Box, Ticket to Ride (on India map)
Most played (Star Realms) will come as no surprise to anyone following this blog or some of my other BGG contributions. I didn't quite make a 10x10 (unless I can use Star Realms more than once...), 6 dimes but 5 more plays and I had it, with 3 at 9 plays for the year. All in all, 17 nickels is quite a lot and another 43 games with at least 2 plays.
H-index for the year: I played 9 games at least 9 times. And overall, my H-index went up to 23.
New-to-me games: Most new to me games are because I bought them, but my friend Rick came up with quite a few from the vaults, including the classics Dune and Merchant of Venus and the unexpectedly fun Humm...ble. I don't generally play a lot of new games so a total of 31 new to me games and 9 new expansions is about what I'd expect, maybe a little higher actually.
New in the Collection: Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small (and More Buildings expansion), Android: Netrunner, Animal Upon Animal, Apex Theropod Deck-Building Game, Asante, Deep Sea Adventure, DVONN, Epic, Exploding Kittens, Jungle, Lanterns: the Harvest Festival, Le Havre: the Inland Port, Loopin' Chewie, Patchwork, Rhino Hero, Roll for the Galaxy, Snowdonia, Star Realms, Steam Works, Terror in Meeple City (as Rampage), The Train Game. (I owned King of Tokyo: Power Up, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective and Ticket to Ride: India & Switzerland before the turn of the year).
Out of the Collection: Machi Koro, Othello, Risk, Upwords. We had a big spring clean and got rid of some of the old games we don't play any more. Those went to the thrift store. Machi Koro I sold though for a loss - by the time I sold it, the supply had caught up and the demand was not there.
Total collection: 269 games, including 61 expansions.
Online gaming also had a bumper year. I am still playing a mix of tournaments and pick up games on Yucata.de, numbers boosted by a regular participation in the Underworld League, which has short, quick playing 2 week tournaments. So my total number of completed games on Yucata ended up at 788, quite a bit higher than previously, as compared to 2014 (553 games) and 2013 (658 games). But as well as the tournaments, I play some more casual games, mostly through the Lords and Ladies of Yucata guild on BGG, where there are people wanting to learn games (hi Alicia!) and a vote to determine the Game of the Week (hi Jesse!). I climbed a few ranks in the meta-game there too, I started at Novitiate and have climbed to Macom Priest, which is 6 promotions during the year. Actually I had 7 because I had my first demotion as well - going on a losing run right after promotion is not a good plan. As of today, I have 2068 completed games, Roll Through the Ages remains my most played (170 plays) and El Grande remains my highest True Skill (1323). I have 3 games where I am in the top 100 - El Grande, Targi and (new for this year) Maori. I learned a good few games there too, including Cacao, A Few Acres of Snow, Founding Fathers, Industrial Waste, Kashgar, La Isla, Nations: the Dice Game, Pergamon, Sobek, Space Mission and the Voyages of Marco Polo.
In addition to Yucata, I came back to play at Boiteajeux.net. Now, I play there a lot less, completing a mere 38 games, but they do have some games I was interested in trying out, including Concordia, Deus, Dungeon Petz and Tzolkin. And I also learned Trajan (which I have ended up liking more than I expected). The GIPF games, I tried out a bit too, but then I got back to playing those in real life, so I put them aside. Plus, of course, Agricola. I did also compare the different versions of Castles of Burgundy and Nations: Dice Game. I learned Burgundy on Yucata so I am used to that version and like it a bit better - the wide screen format of the BaJ one puts me off a bit. But I think Nations is a little better on BaJ, it does a few things a bit more smoothly, though I am happy playing it on either site.
And that, as they say, is that for 2015. Next post will be about what I am looking forward to in 2016.
Unashamedly stealing from Sean's blog, I thought I would compile my own list of the best game experiences of 2015. This is not supposed to be the best games but the best or most memorable game experiences of the year. I pulled 10 out, in no particular order. And I ended up cheating because I think there were some pretty good ones, though some entries will be brief - I already blogged about them. Funny how that goes...
1. Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
Both my wife and I are fans of mysteries, so after Shut up & Sit Down caused the huge demand, another print run was delivered and I finally got this game last Christmas. And in January, we sat down to play Case 1 The Munitions Magnate.
The non-spoiler version - we got the wrong guy, missed a vital lead to follow (over-worried about taking too many leads to get there I think). But we still scored decently, because the side case we picked apart with cunning accuracy. It took the whole evening and I had a great time. And upon reflection, I think we did it a bit wrong in that we were more worried about points rather than just enjoying the thrill of the investigation. My wife also enjoyed it but found it mentally taxing - she has never quite been in the mood to go through it again since. But I still put it up as a year highlight. And after the escape room experience, this game came up and we found that our friends really wanted to try it out too. So 2016 should have more Holmes.
2. El Grande
I love El Grande but this was a particularly memorable play. I had jumped out into the lead and that was reinforced by the next couple of rounds, where I got the score all the 4 regions card (which I had the majority or good presence in each). Indeed at one point I had 59 points and my nearest competition was Rick at 40. I felt a bit like I had already won and the rest of the game was playing for the runners up spot.
Ah, such hubris! Inevitably, my lead was whittled down and then my wife Jenny made a surge. She had a good board position in lucrative regions. A key turn was the score every region's first place - she played it, nudged the balance of power and scored all 3 of her best regions, including a mighty 12 points for Old Castille. By the end of that, she had not only caught me but had sprung into the lead. I got control of the king for the last turn, taking New Castille for my monarch but I had lost my grip in Galicia. I had a strong contingent in the castillo. I could knock Jenny down to 3rd in Aragon (a swing of at least 6) and I had New Castille, but the other things that needed to happen did not and she won with 115 to my 109.
Absolutely mind-bendingly incredible game, I was so sure it was wrapped up mid-game and yet you cannot assume anything in this game. And to say Jenny was pleased by her victory over me would be rather an under-statement. (And an aside, she did that to me again in a game of The Princes of Florence).
I have had considerable trouble getting my head around Innovation. But this particular play was something of a break through, I got off to a great start, scoring off metal-working 6 times in a row, taking the monument achievement and then the first achievement next turn. I was on a roll. Jenny had developed her tableau, then one turn using Physics, she basically scored her entire hand, raced up to 42 points and could take the next 6 achievements and win if I didn't get one first. I did get one (at some cost) then it became a race to score one of the specials. I got 4 out of 5 of my colors to 8 or above before she used her splay right ability twice more and won. I would have picked up the last on my next turn too. A close, exciting game and for once I didn't feel completely at sea playing it!
One evening, I proposed to my group that we try Spyfall using the implementation at http://spyfall.meteor.com to handle the randomization and distribution of roles. My group greeted the premise and workings of this game with considerable skepticism. The spy doesn't know where he is?! How come? And the whole asking questions flow of the game was confusing - how could this even work as a game? Surely it was too straightforward? I couldn't really answer the concerns, I hadn't played the game, just read about the excitement it caused here on BGG. But we gave it a try.
After a bit of a false start, the penny dropped and suddenly we were playing it round after round. I was a Spy twice, both quite memorably, the first time I was rather flummoxed, there was a running question after the sub and then the hospital about the oxygen mix, so Rick asked me that. I said I thought it was fine and hoped that was OK. Jenny asked Kristi if she had seen her sunglasses and I was so confused. And very quickly they were onto me, the game stopped and I was revealed, not realizing I was on a space station (Jenny was a space tourist!). The second time I started the round, but I had nothing yet to go on, so I asked Tom what he thought about the food. This worked out well, then after Rick had asked Jenny whether she preferred Orient or Cassandra I was onto it, so when she then asked me whether I liked to freestyle or follow the conductor I knew the answer to her question and to our location. But I got lucky that my opening question was just the sort of thing to ask on a train.
We ended up playing it for 2 hours and it came out again the next time we were together. As everyone goes crazy about Codenames, let's not forget this rather amazing party game came out this year too.
5. Glen More
Glen More is a favorite of ours, but I will confess it was more the circumstances around the game, which had a visitor to our fair city come by, for the first time in too many years. We had dinner, reminisced, caught up and also we had to play at least one game, which turned out to be Glen More. I wrote more about that here: Magic Mike
Hopefully it won't be another 15 years...
6. Terror in Meeple City
I got the Rampage version of this in the Barnes & Noble sale this year and while we had several very silly fun plays of it, it was one particular one where our friends' 6 year old son Ben jumped in on the game. He was quite the force of nature and I have to say that you haven't played this game properly until you unleash a small boy upon it. His mom ended up winning but Ben managed a very creditable 2nd place.
and that play was followed by;
Survive: Escape from Atlantis!
Two things I remember very clearly about this game. One is that it was requested by Tom on behalf of his wife Susanna but then she couldn't come. So we played it in her honor. And sent her photos of us playing it which seemed very funny at the time. Also, the end game was rather thrilling. A lot of meeples gone or unable to reach shore, Rick had 2 left in a boat, just pulling up on the beach - or they would on his next turn. And there were 5 tiles left - he would get the penultimate one if he made it that far. Kristi draws a whale, Rachael draws a boat and Tom draws a whirlpool. Somehow it got back to him and Rick's 2 guys jump out and he shows they were his 5 and 6! Then he pulls the volcano and my swimmer, right at the shore gets blown up. It was a brilliant ending.
7. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
The day I took on Escape from Dol Goldur was a pretty epic one. Clearly a highlight of the year, and I blogged about it here: Back to Middle Earth
8. Hey, That's My Fish!
Another one where it was more the circumstances than the actual game. We were camping, hiked around Hanging Rock state park, we were back at the camp and waiting for the camp fire to settle down a bit for marshmallow toasting. So my wife produces her iPad and we all play some penguins. It was just one of the moments, out in the wild, fire crackling away, all of us together and engaged in this silly little game (that my wife is utterly ruthless at). It was a perfect gaming moment.
And then the toasting began...
9. Merchant of Venus and Firefly: The Game
Also known as Science Fiction Double Feature Day.
Not the best plays of either game ever but to play them back to back was still a pretty memorable day.
Winner of the game I thought I'd never play but ended up playing award. Much to write about this game (and I did here) but for this, it was 5 hours including a stop for food, we played through all 15 turns and Rick's Fremen won by having more strongholds than anyone else at the end.
And that, all in all, was a pretty good year.
So the blog writing kinda dried up over Christmas, partly due to one of our lap tops dying so the one I had been using was donated to my son. So I wasn't able to really sit down and sketch out a post.
My game plays had been a little sketchy as compared to my normal December. In a year where I have played more than usual, December turned out to be a little light, for the first 3 weeks of it at least, partly because I was consciously not forcing it. Ironically, my wife getting busy with work again spurred a flurry of plays, although these did more to make sure that Star Realms would be December's most played game, as it has been for every month since we bought it. Because what she wanted was a quick relaxing game she knew well.
For Christmas, I did not actually receive any games. My wife got some games for her iPad (Splendor, Small World and expansions for Star Realms). But I did give a game. I have had something of a tradition of getting my kids a game for Christmas and I have had mixed results. They liked Mice and Mystics and King of Tokyo, though they did not take to the Heroscape stuff I got them. Apparently, they do their building in Minecraft.
But they don't pull them out spontaneously, they require prompting to play any of those games. So I nearly did not bother, thinking I am basically buying them a game for me. But then a Star Wars game would be cool so I ended up picking up Loopin' Chewie. Despite how completely manic Chewbacca looks on the cover, this game was an immediate hit, we all played it in various combinations. I went undefeated through the initial bouts - beating both my children in head to head battles and then outlasting my wife and son in a 3 person round. But they were all gunning for me so in the end, I was dethroned and then the rest of the family carried on playing it without me. I defy anyone not to have fun playing this. My wife's only regret - it is not for 4 players, so we can't all play at once. (That would be the Loopin' Louie version).
For the Saturday, my wife's labors were catching up with her a bit (early morning visits then late night ones as well). So though she had some time in the day, she wanted something pretty straightforward and that ended up being Ingenious. She is definitely the abstract master of the house which was demonstrated once again here. I was going pretty well, I had tracks moving up pretty well except purple which she was low in as well. But I moved up in yellow and orange then Jenny played to her blue, got to 18 and so got another turn - which she used to block off the blue mass that she had just scored from. It was a great play, just what an Ingenious should be used for and it surely sealed my fate, for though I got purple up to respectability, both green and blue lagged - ironically the 2 colors that she had maxed out in - and she got enough purple to get to 11 and take the win.
Along with Qwirkle, this is the abstract game I forget I like, but I rate it higher than Qwirkle. A great game with a variety of ways you can play (more laissez-faire or mean and cut-throat). I've won by getting all my scores to 18 before, though games where someone wins with 8 or 9 are not uncommon. The central question is always do I push this one that scores me a lot now or this one that I need more but only scores me a little? Good stuff.
Sunday was a similar day of an afternoon free for play but with the additional advantage that my wife was better rested. The game she wanted to try out was her new acquisition, Small World on the iPad, which had a couple of the expansions as well which we don't have in the physical form for some reason. (And as an aside, our friends have some of that stuff but we have never played it with them). The iPad has a pass and play mode but it also has an additional way to play called Face to Face where you can just lay down the tablet between you and the board stays where it is but the relevant information comes up in a different orientation depending on whose turn it is.
We played through a game. Jenny took Mercenary Elves, Hill Ratmen and Wealthy Amazons, while I had Seafaring Skeletons, then Barricade Goblins. I thought she was out of sight early on, though my maneuvering with the goblins got me a lot of points (they get +3 if they occupy 4 or less regions, so I kept abandoning regions then attacking, moving across the board en masse). But it turned out we tied. And I didn't even know that the game had a tie-breaker. But it turned out my small efficient goblin team was unfairly discriminated against by it so I lost. But it was a lot of fun and we played again.
In the end, we played 6 back to back games. One game I took 4 different races, the first time I took so many in a 2 player game. Then in the very next game, my Merchant Halflings ended up staying active throughout the whole game. Which made the game a little weird and off, but still. But the next game, we had great hordes fighting across the board, elves and skeletons and ratmen, a real ding-dong battle that was basically decided by the die rolls on the last turn - Jenny made hers and got an extra point, while I missed mine. Final score 102-101.
It was a fun time and it makes that we had not gotten the expansions all the more strange, because we both do enjoy the game. I blame my OCD packing away games - can't fit any expansions into that perfectly arranged box insert. But given that prior to today we had played Small World once in 3 years, it seemed like an expansion was the way to reinvigorate our interest, plus the app makes the game very smooth and easy to play, though we both missed some subtleties of making moves - you have to formally remove guys from the board before you start attacking if you want to abandon a region, for example, and no take-backs either.
But it was a fine way to spend a relaxing Sunday afternoon, interspersed as it was with Christmas treats. In fact, I can think of few better ways to spend that time.
The photos here are from Scott Rogers, punkin312 and crystal_bubbles - thanks to all 3 of them!
Winning the BGG competition for the game Steam Works was a big highlight for the year. It was great to see my avatar up there and even better when the game showed up at my door. I hadn't known anything about it before the contest but my reading about it had me pretty excited and interested in giving it a try. But would it live up to the promise?
So in Steam Works, each player is a steampunk era inventor, putting together machines that do various things in order to impress her majesty Queen Victoria. It is a worker placement game and each player has a number of personal actions they can do. But what makes this game rather unique is that one of those actions allows you to create a device and the device is a new action space that will do something when you send your worker there. What's more, you can send your workers to use other players' machines for the benefits (though they get something out of the deal as well). Each machine is made up of components (that do something) and power sources - each power source tile can be connected to 4 different devices and to use a device you stand on the power source, thus one worker can cause 4 separate effects to occur if the machine is built correctly. There are some limitations on the construction - the 3 different types of power (clockwork, steam and electrickal - yes it has a k) may not be suitable for all components and may have different effects depending on the type of power used. But there is a fair amount of latitude in device construction. Actually putting them together can be a little tricky as well; the basic ability is a 2 tile construct - a power source and a component. Adding to that or building a new bigger machine requires a machine of its own with the correct components.
the conveyor belt of components
So in practice, each turn you have 2 workers, you have to pay them to go do something (as costed on your player board, the first one is free) or if you choose, you can take that payment as income instead (someone else pays them for their work instead presumably, and you get your cut). As the game progresses, Age II and Age III components become available and a new worker is gained at the beginning of each Age, though each new worker costs more to get them to work for you. The game clock is run by prestige points which are taken whenever some uses another player's device. These determine how quickly the game moves through the ages as well as a final pile of them that will show when the game ends. Once the end game is triggered, everyone takes their last actions, then add up points they've scored through using devices, prestige points from other players using their machines plus the point value of each component of the machines they've constructed.
So each player has a lot of options on how they will approach their game but in addition, each character has some unique facets. In the basic game (the A side), each of the inventors has the same set of player actions, though their starting tiles will vary. On the B side, each inventor will have a whole different set of actions and sometimes of ways of paying for things.
So at this point of the Challenge, I have had 2 plays at 2 player (there are some minor adjustments for 2 player but they are quite minor) and one aborted play at 5 players. I'll mention that latter one now. Having played it once with just my wife, we both thought the game itself is reasonably simple though the options it presents give it complexity. So we thought it might be a good fit with the game group last time we got together. Maybe it would have been if we had played it earlier in the evening but by the time it was laid out, it was 9pm or so, folks were a little tired and though I tried to present it as well as I could, the sheer number of options kind of overwhelmed them. The other part is that seeing your path to how you get points is hard at the beginning - none of the Age I components generate points, for example. But it was the end of Age I and me laying out a whole new row of components for Age II which finally broke one of my opponents and he said he could not play on. We had already been thinking about abandoning the game and trying something easier but when he said that, we all agreed that it was time to put it away and try it again another day. He said after that he thought it looked cool but he just couldn't get his head around all the options he had, why pick anything over anything else? It wasn't making sense.
My wife and I played it again the next day and had an absolute blast cranking out points. But that first play can be pretty rough.
We sat down this time and decided to try the B side inventors for the first time. I had Duke Augustus Shaughness III, who has a robot butler, a free worker in effect with some restrictions on what it can do. My wife was Dame Permelia Taylor, who is a businesswoman, very adept at generating capital for paying workers or for putting into machines and making points. At the beginning, I had an extra worker and was doing well, making a device to manufacture other devices and to expand them (linking that to a variety of power sources so I could add to any machine). Jenny's main device made money. As Age I ended, she felt that the Duke's butler was rather over-powerful - an extra worker right away does feel a bit strong - but her cash machine was about to go into overdrive. I built a machine that both generated clockwork sources but incorporated an ornament grinder which turned 2 tiles into points. So placing on that power source got you 2 tiles and something to do with those 2 tiles. It was quite pleasing. Jenny built a machine using the patriotic haiku generator which took money and generated points. She used it. I built one too (mine was a sonnet) and she used that too. I had trouble running out of money to power the machine but she seemed to not have that issue, churning out points in various spots - and because she was using my machine a lot (and I was using her cash machine where I could), the game progressed at a fast rate, whistling through Age III and onto the end, with her pile of VP chips quite tall and mine somewhat more modest. And to rub salt into the wounds, though I had built out my machines more, using a lot of different basic sources means the machines were not worth a lot of points - she beat me in the value of inventions as well.
J: 28VPs, 8 device points = 36
D: 17VPs, 7 device points = 24
I really like this game. I like the options and the challenges (money, components, putting them together, generating points) it offers. There is a lot of variety at different levels, the random order of the components you get, the inventors you pick, these combine to make each game unique. And there are clearly a bunch of ways you can go.
I wish there was a way to make that first play a bit more approachable, the central question has been "how do I win?" and that remains obscure at the beginning of the game. I also think there are going to be some 'standard designs' emerging, like J's cash machine (2 monetisers (making £3 each) both linked to a clockwork source) and things that use sources for points linked to components that give you sources, like the one I had. But there are a variety of components and a multitude of ways to put them together. Sifting through the possibilities in the context of an individual game is going to be part of the fun of exploring this game.
Now will I get my group to give it another shot? I hope so, because it is worth it.
Photos today from the box cover by ad7m (the game's artist, Adam McIver) and both actions shots from includingtacos. Thanks a lot!
Thu Dec 24, 2015 10:36 pm
I am cheating a bit here since I did not play the game in question on the 21st, but when you have 2 blog topics-worth in one day, you spread them out, else you give neither the proper shrift.
So as I talked about in my last post, our friends had organized a trip to an escape room. When we arrived at their house a little ahead of departure time, I was anticipating a little light gaming as an appetizer. What I found was 4 of our friends huddled round the table deep in contemplation of a game in progress. And such was the impact of this game on our hosts, they had gone out and bought their own copy, so Rick, our host, my wife Jenny and I could in parallel enjoy a game of Splendor.
Now this has clearly been a big hit with board gamers, a SdJ nomination (and many say it should have won), while it did grab the Golden Geek award. So I was aware of the game and its reputation. So what did I find?
It really harks back to the "old days" when Euro games had 4 page rule books, including the cover page and the acknowledgements. Basically, you are acquiring gems (which are the famed poker chips) in order to buy cards. The cards give you a permanent discount of a particular gem type plus maybe some points depending on how expensive it was to get. You can either buy these cards directly from the display or reserve them, taking them into your hand and getting a gold, which is wild for any type of gem. There are also noble tiles that come to you if you are the first to get some combination of cards (each were either 3 cards each of 3 different color gems or 4 each of 2 different types). The game end is triggered when someone reaches 15 points, the rest of the round is played out and most points wins.
Our play was a 3 player, it started off slow, but each of us had an eye on the nobles, all 4 featured a black gem requirement and 3 of the 4 had a red gem one. So those gems were sought after early on. I missed out on an early black but I did get the first red and those turned out to be the rarer ones in the middle part of the game. After the initial setting up, the middle game began to accelerate as we each had enough gems to begin taking cards that we barely had to pay for. My wife was strong in diamonds and she took the noble needing that, Rick was strong in black gems but lacking red so I was able to get one of the nobles and then to push up to 4 in each to get a 2nd noble. This was still relatively early and we cleaned up quickly from here, grabbing cards with points, but I managed to break the 15 point mark and as last player, that meant I had won. Rick was a turn behind, a 5 point card in his hand ready to play next round, while Jenny was also very close, claiming 2nd place with 12 points.
After the success of our escape room antics, we ordered pizza and then played again, this time 4 player with Rick's wife Kristi joining us. She had won the intense 4 player that was happening when we had arrived, this type of game is right in her wheel house.
In this second game, again there was a number of red and black requiring nobles but I was more scattered in my acquisitions early, getting a whole set of different ones. That seemed to be what was going on across the table, we had only 1 or 2 cards left in the level 1 stack of cards by the end. Jenny was hoarding gold, which was bad for me as she was to the left of me, so whenever she let any go, it was snaffled up by one of the others. But we all built our little gem acquiring engines and the pace increased. I remember thinking to myself it was time to go more for points and then cursing as the card I was targeting was acquired ahead of my turn. Jenny had the first noble and Rick got another but I realized I was in line to acquire all the other 3 if I could get one more black. That had been my bugbear, I had 3 in every gem except that one. Jenny reached 15 points on her turn but she went first so we each had another turn...and I watched as both Rick and Kristi both picked up a noble each ahead of me when I played the black card from my hand and took the remaining one. But none of us got ahead of Jenny.
Splendor is a rarity in our play group in that I was not the one that brought it in. Rick and Kristi played it first with another couple, who were also in the escape room jaunt, thus why we had 2 copies in play simultaneously, another rarity. They liked it enough that they got their own copy. My wife liked it enough that she 'subtly hinted' it might appear in my Christmas stocking this year. So what did I think?
Well, I was obviously aware of the game, one cannot be a regular on BGG and not be. It is on my wish list and I have thought about picking it up a couple of times. But I had resisted thus far at least partly because, though it is clearly a popular game, it is not without its detractors. The theme is window dressing and some speculate that without those lovely poker chip gems, the game may have disappeared without trace. In the world of light-medium games, competition is fierce. A lot of folk dismiss it as ho-hum, nothing special. I can see those criticisms and, as I sat down to play it, I can't say I was blown away like some of my friends were. But mechanical engine building games are something I generally enjoy and as the game gathered pace (a feature I did like), I could feel my enjoyment of the game growing as well. A couple of things nag at me. First, the noble tiles. It seemed like the one who got 2 would win. Apart from that they are good points that don't even take an action to acquire, that seems like a flaw and makes games more of a race to the nobles rather than a more diverse game. But then, I may be misremembering but I think Rick had 2 in our 2nd game and he did not win. Perhaps he had one and we all had 1 each? But then in our first game, he was a turn from winning too, that time for sure with only 1 noble. My second reservation is that the game will tend to play out similarly each time. Perhaps the exact mix of colors and gems will be different but the arc will be broadly similar. It is too early for me to say if that is true right now, though I suspect I will get the opportunity to find out. And also, our friends have played around 10 games already in just a couple of weeks and they are raving about it. So I will accept that it might just be as splendid as they all say.
The box cover photo is by W Eric Martin, the in-game photo by gqdaddy - thanks to them both!
Sunday was centered around a visit to Cipher Escape, an escape room in the Triangle area. We were 12 strong, in order to take on their biggest challenge, Geek Out.
Ah Geek out! Le Geek, c'est Chic
Our friends had already been to this place to play their Tavern based escape room and escaped with barely a minute left. So they were eager to get us to go and take on the bigger room.
Have you heard about the new game craze?
Listen to us, I'm sure you'll be amazed
Sixty minutes is all that you will get
All packed in and it's sure to make you sweat
Solve the puzzle, find the clue
No pressure but it's up to you!
Big fun to be had by everyone
Might not look it, but surely can be done
It's called Le Geek! They're doing it night and day
Allow us, we'll show you the way
Ah Geek out! Le Geek, c'est Chic
This one you are helping out this techie person look after their cat. Why it takes 12 of us is unclear. But we did something and now we are locked in and have to work out how to get out...in 60 minutes.
We were packed into this small room but there was stuff everywhere, hidden in drawers, inside books and all over. It really was a team effort to just go through everything. We had a pile of hopefully important and relevant stuff in the middle of the room.
All that pressure got you down
Has your head spinning all around
Feel the cupboards, check the sum
Then make sure to tell to everyone
Like the days of solving all the codes
Now we geek, in frantic modes
Just come on down, to fifty eight
Find a spot to make your escape
We put everything together pretty well, found what we needed to do. The math puzzle I had I did correctly but answered the wrong question (embarrassing) but it turned out what was in that box we had already inferred from other stuff. Then we put the code we found in the door pad tried it and ...the door did not open.
Did we miss something?
Then a voice came over the walkie-talkie, asking us what code we put in, because he thought we had it. And then we tried the door again and it opened - we had just been a bit too eager to get out!
We had solved it with 8 minutes to spare. Indeed, we were the only group to solve the room that day.
It was really fun, as was talking about all that happened, because with a big group, there was no way to follow all that happened. So we will have to try the other rooms there (smaller group required) and I hear there are other rooms in Raleigh and Winston-Salem...
I've fallen behind in my Challenging write ups, but neither the 18th nor the 19th actually featured any board games, dominated as they were by the irresistible force of Geek that is Star Wars. Not that Star Wars precludes some gaming related activity, but somehow it just never fell into place for me to play Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game. Or even our copy of Star Wars Monopoly...
I actively requested that as an option on Friday night, but it was vetoed in favor of us watching Return of the Jedi in anticipation of watching the new movie the next day. Plus there was some drama - I had bought the tickets at the box office on Thursday night. My wife had dogs to look after Saturday afternoon and evening and as a result, we had only a narrow range of options. So I asked for the 11:40 showing on Saturday morning. The clerk assured me that was no problem, I paid up and was on my way. But as I was putting them into my wallet, I noticed they said Friday morning. So I screech to a halt, about turn and point this out to the clerk. Luckily, it was not busy at this particular box office at this time (I heard that another local theater was mobbed), so I was able to exchange my tickets in short order so I paused only to check the date and time was correct this time, before hurrying on my way to pick up our Chinese food that was to be dinner.
But the story did not end there. Because when I was checking they were still where I left them, I pulled them out and was horrified to find only 3 of the 4 tickets I had paid for. So back I go to the box office, this time to guest services to see what could be done. And it turned out, nothing needed to be done, I could just show the person collecting tickets my receipt for 4 tickets and I would get in. But it still left me a little anxious, so much so that I didn't even tease either of our children that I only 3 tickets so one of them would have to stay home. I couldn't bring myself to do that in case it really happened that one of us missed out.
But as it turned out the next day, the front entrance was crowded with people waiting to be let into the iMax showing, while we, content with a standard viewing, were ushered toward our theater without issue and walked straight in, about 25 minutes early - and it was still really full. So we had to watch as 2 pairs rather than as a 4. The minutes counted down, the trailers started. So many trailers. I think a lot of films wanted their trailer showed before this one. A lot of dark foreboding ominous trailers, blending together so much that led to to a couple of conclusions: first, the animated funny movies were a lot more memorable afterward (Zootopia in particular) and second, the trailer to Batman v Superman. The Star Wars trailers made me more excited to see the movie. The Batman v Superman one had pretty much the opposite effect.
Then the Lucasfilm logo came up and the goosebumps crawled up my arms.
No further spoilers here, but we emerged into the daylight a couple hours later, dazed and happy.
My wife was then off to work and I had a holiday party to attend at our neighbors' house. My teenage son was somewhat reluctant to come along, but I told him, it is only next door, let's show our face, say hello, maybe have a snack and if he still wanted to go home, he could slip away. We walk in and are confronted by a long table covered with a variety of desserts and suddenly my son was OK with sticking around for a while.
A game free couple of days, but very enjoyable nonetheless and I knew that gaming would return, indeed I knew that Sunday would be pretty game-centric. But that will hold for the next post.
1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 Next »