Boardgames To Go

Mark Johnson's occasional and opinionated podcast, Boardgames To Go, now has its own blog on Boardgamegeek.
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Recent Gaming (part 1)

Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
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That's a Palm Pilot on the left, and a pink iPod mini on the right. Yes, I've been doing BGTG that long!
Yes, I've got a new podcast recorded. This weekend my plan is to finish the move from my traditional blog (now renamed the Archives) to this new home on BGG. If all goes well, it will be seamless to my feed and your podcast subscriptions. The new show will be up early next week. Wish me luck!

Wow, I’ve managed to get in a lot of gaming recently, and that should continue at least throughout the summer—probably all year. Previously I posted my list of games played at a local Games Day, while my other gaming has been with coworkers, the Santa Clarita group, online (iOS and play-by-web), and even some with the family. Let me expand on that, in reverse order.

My wife & kids (now teenagers) are not really into boardgaming, but they’ll play things now & then. They even got me a new party game, Luck of the Draw, for Father’s Day last month, which we need to try soon. I’m a huge fan of original Coloretto (less so the boardgame versions of that idea), and almost picked up Coloretto Amazonas when it was first released. Then we all heard pretty atrocious things about it, and I steered clear. Thanks to an opportunity to play it online at designer Michael Schacht’s play-by-web site, however, I discovered it’s a very pleasant pastime for just two players. I had to find a private seller in Germany to track down a copy now (shoot, it would’ve been a cheap & easy acquisition when it first came out!), but that wasn’t too difficult or expensive. Make no mistake—this is very light, doesn’t have much to do with Coloretto (only part of the scoring), and is only worthwhile with two. However, it’s light fun, the artwork is fantastic for nature-lovers, and I think this will be one my wife & I play now & then for years.

There was another OOP card game I was after, one that would’ve been even cheaper and easier to buy if I’d known about it in 2002. Believe it or not, I’m talking about the The Game of Life: Card Game (not the The Game of Life: Adventures Card Game that’s still widely available). Like others in my generation, I actually have fond memories of the original The Game of Life (with its Wheel of Fortune-style spinner!). I also have the good sense not to try to play it now, because I believe I’d hate it. I’m sure that’s why I overlooked the spinoff card game a decade ago, failing to notice it was another of designer Rob Daviau’s gems (original GoL designer Reuben Klamer gets a co-design credit). Some browsing I did here on BGG uncovered the GoL:Card Game, and I decided I had to have it. A kind friend gave me a copy, and I eagerly set out to play it with my family. Again, I’d read that 2-player is the way to go on this one, though it can also work with three. I played one game against my wife, a “test” game to how skipping college and having tons of kids compared to getting a degree, a high-powered career, and deferring marriage & children until established. (You see, I’m going to play this game with my teenage daughter next!) We liked how it turned out. My starving-artist-with-kids-galore strategy did not win…but it was not a disaster. What it lacked in money, it (nearly) made up for in life experiences. Had I known the deck better, I could’ve used those Rainy Day cards to save what little money I had and use it later to help some kids go to school, or get married themselves. My wife’s college-bound strategy scored more victory points and had its own interesting experiences. Later I played against my daughter, this time skipping college but doing a little better family planning. She, meanwhile, ended up with a power career: lots of money, but no time. The cards you play require one or the other, and she had a hand full of cards that cost time, so she was stuck. I was a repairman, later a cop, put in overtime, saved my money, had kids & grandkids, retired…and was elected President of the United States! Just as I’d hoped, despite being a fun, fictional game, it actually brings up interesting situations and choices in life to spark conversation with your family. I’m really glad I’ve got this one, and will be on the lookout for spare copies that turn up. (It used to be sold on the pegboard rack at Target/Walmart. They’ve got to be at garage sales and thrift stores now.)

Edit: I forgot to include Zombie Dice! Steve Jackson Games has mostly gone in directions different from ones I most enjoy in boardgames, so I almost overlooked this fun, little diversion. It was really the iOS version that got me to try it. That implementation is pretty cool, and showed me how there's actually some cleverness and smart game design to this zombie-themed push-your-luck dieroller. Since I've played the Left 4 Dead series with my son on Xbox 360 (and he's started watching Walking Dead with some friends), I thought he might get a kick out of this one. He's going to college in a few months, and it might be a fun pickup game there, too. What makes it better is to give the dice names: the easy victims on the green dice are Girl Scouts, the average yellow ones are Townsfolk, and the tough hombres on the red dice are the Sheriff and Football Coach. It makes me want to get the expansion, not for the silly Santa die, but for the Hottie and the Hunk (which I'd rename the Hero, actually).

I still enjoy play-by-web boardgaming, often playing games of Brass or a variety of things on Maori remains a favorite there, along with Industrial Waste, The Downfall of Pompeii, Thurn and Taxis, plus more. The Hanging Gardens is a smart game that flew under the radar—check it out online if you’ve never given it a try elsewhere. Good stuff. I’ve even started to warm up to Thunderstone in this presentation, a game I don’t care for in its physical form (too slow). Just recently I played A Few Acres of Snow after a hiatus. I even loved the 1st edition of that game, and felt even better about the 2nd edition rules. Now I see you can pick from a shopping list of rules variants online, either to tweak your own notion of perfect balance, or just to jumble things up a bit. Really fantastic. Now I’ve just read that Rattus and Hawaii are coming to soon, and I’m looking forward to both. (Hawaii is a game I’ve already been playing online at Board Game Arena, where realtime 2-player outings finish in 25 minutes.)

One of these days I’ll do a podcast about iOS boardgaming. I actually do quite a bit of this, too. In fact, I’ve never stopped playing Carcassonne on that platform. It’s just done so well! I’ve purchased and downloaded most of the rest of family strategy boardgames for iOS (often on sale), but only dabble with them. I really gave Caylus a try, but after several games I lost interest. I’ve downloaded Le Havre, but have yet to try. I don’t actually enjoy Le Havre, but I was cool on Brass when it first arrived, and the opportunity to play over & over showed me how great it is. Perhaps that can happen with Le Havre. The iOS game I have been enjoying immensely is Magic: The Gathering (I guess this particular game is subtitled Duel of the Planeswalkers). I really loved my mid-90s MtG days, and this brings back fond memories. It also highlights the fiddly timing rules that were always a minor stumbling block, but I remember enough to play well and pull of a few clever tricks. I gladly paid the ten bucks to unlock the full game, and it’s been one of my best purchases for iOS.

Over the weekend I’ll post about boardgaming with the other groups, especially since I’ll be adding to that tonight. As a tease, lately some titles have been Eclipse, Hawaii, Get The Goods, King of Tokyo, and Big City with the game group, while the coworker lunch group has enjoyed Roll Through the Ages, For Sale, and Exxtra. (I’ll throw in We Must Tell the Emperor!, a solo wargame I’ve played myself over several lunch hours.)



Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames
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