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When in Rome
I think that by now most people have played a board that uses some kind of companion app or iPad integration. Sensible Object had a lot of success with Beasts of Balance, which combines an iPad app with a balancing dexterity game to create a truly original and enjoyable experience. Their newest title is When in Rome, which integrates with Amazon Alexa to create a mostly voice controlled board game. For those who don’t know, Amazon Alexa is a virtual voice controlled assistant which can be accessed using an Amazon Echo device; it can control devices around your house, answer questions, play music and a bunch other features. When in Rome is the first board game to integrate with Alexa, and after seeing it in action at this year’s UK Games Expo I was eager to give it a try. This is a globe trotting quiz game in which two teams of players will be traveling across 20 different cities in an effort to score points and win the game; players will either end the game early by collecting three souvenirs from around the game board, or the game will be decided on points after playing nine rounds. I know that the game sounds quite gimmicky, and that words like ‘quiz’ or ‘trivia’ are often enough to turn people away, but I’ve played it and the game really surprised me. Each of the game’s 20 cities has a different voice actor and the questions are relative to the location that you are currently in, and can be quite funny at times. The rules are easy enough to learn and Alexa tends to guide you through the game’s mechanisms. My wife and I tried it over the weekend and we both liked the game, I can see this one being funny after a couple of drinks; and the game’s simple rules make it accessible at any level. I’ll write a little more about the game once I’ve had a chance to play it with different gaming groups. Annabelle managed not only to get a lot more points than me but also got her third souvenir to win the game. This is definitely one to look out for if you like party games and you’re looking to try something new.
I haven’t played the games from the Green Box of Games quite as much as I would have liked to at this point, so the next game that we played was a new one to me from that collection of games. Tunnel Run is a simple race game in which the track is made up of six sets of six different symbols. Each card has one of the matching symbols printed on it, and players use the cards to maneuver three cubes from one end of the track to the other. When a card is played the player chooses one of their cubes to move along the track to the next instance of that symbol, if the space is taken they move past it to the next space with the matching symbol until they have moved the cube off the end of the track across the finish line. The first player to successfully move all three of their cubes to the end of the track is the winner. Annabelle opted to move one cube at a time while I tried to move all three at once. I got all of my pieces close to the end while Annabelle got all of her cubes across the finish line to win the game. It was an interesting little game, one that I think might work really well with four players at some future games night.
We went on to play our first ever game of Santorini next. I feel like I’m a bit late to the party with this one, from what I’ve seen on other blogs and Instagram feeds this has been a particularly successful photogenic abstract game over the last two years or so. The game with two players is very simple though it gets a little more complex with three or four players. Players have two pawns on a five by five grid, and a set of building blocks each individually representing a first, second, third and fourth layer. On each turn players move a pawn, but can only move up or down by one layer; then they add another building block which again can only be up or down one layer from where they now stand. The winner is the first player to successfully get a pawn to stand on the third level of a structure. The fourth level pieces act as a way to block people from achieving a win condition. We both came close to winning at different points, but Annabelle managed some clever play to bag her third consecutive win of the afternoon.
We met with my parents for an evening of games and I ended bringing Klask along with me, I knew that it was the kind of game that my step dad would enjoy. While my mum and I prepared drinks and set the table up for gaming, Dave and Annabelle had a quick game of Klask. I can’t actually remember who won but I know that they both enjoyed the game.
Exit: The Game – The Sunken Treasure
This is the ninth Exit game that I have played, all with the same group of people too. I’ve become attached to the series in a big way and am always eager to get the next game in the series once it gets an English language release. It is difficult to talk about an Exit game without spoiling it so I will be careful not to ruin the game, I’ll also hide the next paragraph just in case people want to skip over it.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
How this game differs from the rest of the series is that usually at the start of an Exit game you get some kind of book or journal with 12 or 16 pages of clues. In the Sunken Treasure you must solve one page at a time, in order, before progressing to the next page. This does make the game much easier because you know exactly which puzzle needs to be solved next. It wasn’t my favourite Exit game because some of the puzzles felt a bit frustrating as they didn’t make a whole lot of sense; but I think it would be the best starting point for someone wanting to try a game from the series.
Top Secret Files: the game
I spent €2 on a Kickstarter game recently which described itself as a team based code breaking game. I don’t really know what I was expecting for that price, I wasn’t expecting a cut up piece of paper with a few words printed on both sides. We had six minutes and a five number code to try and piece the game together and figure out the five letter word to diffuse the bomb and win the game. We didn’t, it was shite, never again.
We ended the evening with a game of Karuba. My wife and I recently added this to our collection and we’ve played it quite a lot with two players, this was our first time playing with four. In Karuba players will all be given the same tile to either add to their board making paths to get their adventurers to the matching temples, or they can scrap the tile and move their adventurers along one of the paths that they have created on previous turns. The game rewards players for getting to the temples first, meaning that you must keep an eye on what other people are doing if you want to get the most points. The game is simple, charming and as we found out plays well with four players. Annabelle managed to get to two of the temples before anyone and ended up winning the game comfortably. It’s always a nice evening when the four of us get together, thanks for reading!
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On Saturday afternoon the England football team smashed the Swedes 2-0 to take us to the England’s third ever World Cup Semi Final, our first since 1990. Between the heatwave and good football results there’s a real sense that the nation’s spirits have been lifted. I’ve well and truly got World Cup fever at the moment, and what better way to celebrate than to play an obscure 80’s football abstract game. In 3-A-Side, Each player controls three footballers, as the name would suggest and must score three goals before the opponent manages to do the same. Although this is a pretty obscure game from the 1980s it actually plays really well, and has an interesting mechanism where players have more control of the ball for having more players nearby. The game was close, with both teams taking possession of the ball at key moments to keep the game going. In the end I managed to score my third goal and win the game.
Allen 3 - 1 Alex
This is certainly one of my favourite abstract games at the moment, albeit one of the most frustrating games too. In Quarto, there’s is a 4x4 board and 16 unique playing pieces. There are a number of different properties attributed to the pieces, either tall or short, dark or light, square or circle, hollow or whole. If someone plays a piece that makes four in a row of any one property, then they win the game. The twist is that at the end of every turn you select the next piece for your opponent to play, meaning that when you lose the game it’s often because you have given the wrong piece to your opponent to play. I thought that I was doing quite well, then I stupidly gave Alex a square piece allowing him to win the game.
Next up was Hive, John Yianni’s classic insect based abstract strategy game. In Hive players each have a set of hexagonal tiles with a variety of different bugs printed on them, each of which works in a slightly different way. The game starts with each player placing three of their tiles connected to each other in the centre of the table including a Queen Bee of each colour. In subsequent turs players can either add another bug to the game or move a bug that is already in play. The group of pieces must never be separated from one and other and the aim of the game is to have the opponent's Queen Bee completely surrounded by either player’s pieces. This is an outstanding game, one that is loved by many here on the Geek myself included. We had a long strategic game, and we were both close to losing at different points. I managed to move my Queen Bee to avoid it being closed in and eventually won the game.
Roll to the Top!
Earlier that day my Kickstarter edition of Roll to the Top turned up in the post along with a bunch of stretch goal extras. I’ve played a digital version of the game and I really enjoyed it so far, I couldn’t wait to try the real thing. This is a roll-and-write game with several different pads containing setups of varying difficulties; we decided to play the Burj Khalifa board as it was described as the easiest in the rulebook. A set of different dice are rolled each turn and players have the option to add the rolled numbers to a space on their sheet. Each subsequent space above the one that you have used must have a higher number, meaning that players need to be careful not to risk too high a number too low down on the sheet. In addition players can add the values of multiple dice together to use in a space, and the number of dice rolled will change from turn to turn. The game is pretty light hearted but satisfying to play. Alex gambled early in the game with high numbers and struggled to finish his tallest column, allowing me to get the win by completing my last space on the board.
The last game of the evening is an old favourite of mine. Lost Cities is a simple two player card game in which players are trying to make sets of cards in five different suits to score the most points. What makes the game interesting is that for each suit that you try to score points in you lose 20 points, meaning that you have to be careful not to gamble on scoring in too many different areas. In addition players put a card down and pick one up each turn either by playing or discarding a card, if a card is discarded it becomes available to pick up for the opposing player. We played three rounds and added up the scores, which is how I usually play the game. The picture above shows a badly played round in which Alex and I went for all five suits each and didn’t score well at all. Alex was ahead after two rounds but I pulled it back in the third to win the game. It was a great evening of gaming with a great brother-in-law, Cheers Alex.
Allen 398 - 309 Alex
The next day my wife and I went for a wander around Manchester City centre to enjoy the heatwave and find some new games to add to our collection. We bought a few from Fanboy 3 and Travelling Man and sat down to play one at Chapter One Books in the Northern Quarter. I’ve wanted to play Karuba for a while now after seeing so many people enjoy the game on my social media, so I was really glad that we added a copy to our collection. This is a fairly simple game in which players are building routes across their board and maneuver their adventurers to a temple of the matching colour. One player will have a full set of tiles in a stack face down while the other players have theirs on show, this player acts as the ‘caller’ selecting a tile at random then all players use the same tile. Players can either add the tile to their board or discard the tile and move one of their adventurers across the board. The game was just as fun as I thought it would be and we both managed to win a round. We had a great day in Manchester, Hopefully England will beat Croatia in Wednesday’s Semi Final and take us to our first final in 52 years. Thanks for reading!
Allen 21 - 24 Annabelle
Allen 21 - 19 Annabelle
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For those living outside of the UK we are currently in the middle of a heatwave, and being from the UK I’m accustomed to our usual miserable climate. Consequently when the sun does appear everyone moans more than when the weather dreary, myself included. This post covers some of the games that I played over the weekend whilst avoiding the summer sun. Annabelle went on a hen do on Saturday, so we squeezed in a few games of Klask along with her fellow hen Laura, who managed to beat both of us with ease. Klask has only been part of our collection for around a week now and I’m addicted. The game is like a tiny version of air hockey that uses magnets under the board to move the players paddles. It’s simple and great fun to play, though it’s only a matter of time before I lose some of the tiny pieces.
After dropping Annabelle off I spent the evening with my good friends Ginge and Kim at their house. We started the evening with a cooperative game that is getting a lot of attention here on the Geek at the moment. They were both new to The Mind so we didn’t do particularly well. I think that the nuance of the game’s strategy lends itself to playing again and again with the same people; my wife and I managed to beat the game the other day in a two player game but we’ve played together quite a few times. In The Mind there is a deck of cards numbered from one to one-hundred, and players have to play their cards sequentially without discussing what is on each card, relying instead on a collective sense of timing. We only managed to get to level four, partially because Ginge was too fast and Kim was too slow to play a card. Still we had fun, and it’s a great way to start a games night.
Israel Cendrero and Sheila Santos recently posted a link to the print‘n’play file for Waffle Hassle in this blog post. I like their designs so I printed the game off and tried it out with Ginge and Kim. In Waffle Hassle, players will be collectively building a waffle with a combination of different toppings and cream all over it. At the start of the game players are given a scoring card which dictates how many points each topping will be worth to them, and players have the opportunity to bag five bonus points if their side of the waffle has the most cream. Four of the starting cards are played face down to create an ungarnished waffle, then the game begins. Cards are added to the waffle each turn, then players pass their hands of cards between each other for the next turn; this continues until all of the cards are played and then scoring commences in accordance to the scoring cards. There is a lot of strategy here for a game containing only 18 cards, I can see myself enjoying this quite a bit. The cream bonus became the deciding factor and Ginge won the game pretty easily.
Ginge 21 - 16 Kim
Next up is a game that is fairly new to my collection, but one that I can see myself having great fun with in future games nights. Meeple Circus is a dexterity game in which players are recruiting performers and performing a series of shows for their circus. The game consists of three rounds with each round requiring a more complex display of performers. There's a companion app that plays a circus theme tune that acts as a timer for each round, players are awarded extra points for finishing first adding a sense of urgency that usually results in me dropping pieces. It’s an enjoyable experience and the game doesn’t take itself too seriously. After telling us that she was terrible at stacking games, Kim came back from behind in the final round to win what ended up being a very close game.
1st - Kim 56
2nd - Ginge 53
3rd - Allen 51
NMBR9 was the next game of the evening. This is one of those games that can be taught in seconds and feels like a nice gentle game to begin with, but later starts to make your brain melt as you try to figure out how to make your last few moves count. On each turn players are given an abstract shape relating to one of the numbers from zero through to nine adding it to the tableau in front of them. As the game continues players will have the chance to build up to a higher level, but only if every space underneath is covered and only if the piece has more than one piece supporting it. The numbers given to the players are dictated on a deck of cards and each players will receive two instances of the same number by the end of the game, meaning that they will place a total of twenty pieces. Once the last piece has been played, players add up their scores. Pieces score their face value multiplied by which level they are on not including the base level. The game is fun and satisfying if you have a taste for geometry and conceptualising shapes in your head. I usually do pretty well with these types of games and managed a narrow win.
1st - Allen 83
2nd - Kim 78
3rd - Ginge 71
The last game of the evening is a small card game that quickly became one of my favourites after obtaining a copy last year, so much so that I rated it a perfect 10/10 here on the Geek. The game is really a cross between a trick taking game and a city building game, and has a great balance of simplicity and strategy. In each round players will be playing a card from their hand that contains six city spaces and a number. The numbers will then dictate the player order, and in that order each person will choose one of the played cards to add to their city. The cards must overlap either above or below a previously played card in the city, and each of the types of spaces scores in different ways. All of the players points will come from the layout of their city at the end of the game, so the strategy surround not only the placement of the cards but also in obtaining the ones that will add the most points to your city. In addition some spaces will add resource cubes to your city and other spaces will use up these cubes for additional points; Players can use an unspent cube to add to value of a card that they have played during the trick taking phase and pretty much guarantee themselves first choice of the cards on display. The game was close in the end, Ginge focussed on making a big city, Kim and I ended up with a large lake, but in the end I managed to edge ahead and win by a few points by scoring reasonably well in all areas. A great night with two great friends, thanks for having me guys.
1st - Allen 66
2nd - Ginge 59
3rd - Kim 58
The next day, and my wife wanted to play a beautiful wooden game to play around with her camera and take some artsy pictures, so I dug out my copy of Cathedral which hasn’t been played for a while but is still a wonderful game. Players each have a set of building pieces of various sizes and the aim of the game is to try to play them all while preventing the opponent from playing their pieces. If a section of the board becomes completely surrounded by a players pieces, which can include parts of the outer wall, then that part of the city claimed and the opponent can’t play there. In addition if an opponent’s piece is completely surrounded by your own, then you can take the piece off the board and give it back to them. Neither of us managed to place all of our pieces, but as I had a pair of two space pieces and Annabelle had one five space piece, I ended up winning narrowly. I’d forgotten how much I like this game.
Another day, another few games of Klask. I’m going to make a prediction, that this will end up being one of my most played board games if not the most played game overall within a few months. It’s just so easy to pick up and play. She beat me 6-5, I beat her 6-5, then we went on to play the inevitable decider. We got a bit rough with the game and ended up sending the little white pieces flying a few times. In the end it was my wife who took the win, finishing 6-4 in our last game.
Annabelle 2 - 1 Allen
The last game that we played on Saturday afternoon was one of my all time favourite abstract games. Axiom is amongst the most complex as far as strategy goes for an abstract game, and is best played on a Lazy-Susan as both players will need to see the game from different angles. The game starts with twelve ‘Axiom cubes’ which act as the playing area and four ‘Sceptres’ which are the player’s pawns. The aim of the game is to move one of your Septres on to an Axiom cube containing one of the other player’s Sceptres. On each turn players have the choice to move one of the Axiom cubes changing the shape of the playing area or to move one of their Sceptres. Players can move across different planes when moving orthogonally, or on the same plane diagonally. Annabelle wasn’t too keen on this one, I think that the strategy was a little too convoluted for her taste. Though she did play quite well in the game she eventually left a piece open to be taken and I won the last game of Sunday afternoon.
Monday evening now, and Alex and I stayed up and played a few games after work. We started with a game of ZERTZ, a game from the GIPF Project that I haven’t played all that much compared to the rest of the series. It isn’t one of the better games in the set but is still worth digging out from time to time. The game starts with a set of black disks outlining the play area, the size of which will vary depending on how long the players want the game to go on for, we opted for the smaller standard game. Players have two options on their turn, either they add a white, black or grey ball to the playing area and remove on of the disks, or jump a ball that is already in the playing area over another to capture it in the style of that little marble Solitaire game. If a set of occupied disks are separated from the group they also become captured. If a player obtains a set number of balls the game ends and they win. This game has some interesting strategy with players first loading the board up with coloured balls, then being careful not to give away positions that would allow the opponent to capture multiple balls in one turn. We had a close game, but then I managed to achieve three of each coloured ball to win the game.
Next up was another GIPF game, although it’s one that has been left behind in the newest printing of the series. TAMSK is one of the most bizarre abstracts in my collection and always provides an interesting experience for new players. Players use sand-timers as pawn and must flip their sand-timer with each move, if one should ever run out of sand the piece is removed and the player has one less piece to play with, so timing your moves and being mindful to move all of your pieces is really important. Players must also place a disk on the space that they move to, and each space can hold a certain number of disks with the centre spaces holding the more disks than the outer positions. If a space has no more room for disks then a play can not move their sand-timer there, so players will naturally be drawn closer to the centre as the game goes on. The aim of the game is to try to be the player who places the most disks on the board. Our game was very close, but Alex accidentally blocked himself late in the game, allowing me to place all of my disks and Alex to place all but two.
...and then, we held hands.
The last game of the night was another favourite of mine. ‘...and then we held hands’ is a two player cooperative card game about two people overcoming the emotional turmoil of being in a relationship and finding love. A pretty funny theme to play with your brother-in-law but the game itself is excellent. Players must play cards from their hand or their partners hand to move their pieces around the board and overcome a set of challenges. Hoping eventually to try to enter the centre space on the board within one turn of each other. The twist is that players can not talk about the game while playing, so you have to hope that you can trust your partner to make the right moves at the right time. Alex and I were really close and seemed to understand each other’s playing style. We managed to get through all three rounds and Alex got into the the centre space, but I was one card short of getting in so we just barely lost the game. Luckily I married Alex’s sister and not him. Thanks for reading!
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Fanboy 3 in Manchester - A Tale of Two Shops
Fanboy 3 is Friendly Local Gaming Store in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. It has two floors, games to buy, a library of games to play and an in-house coffee shop; there’s plenty of space for people to play and tournaments for a variety of games. I think that the place is great, so much so that my wife and I spent Saturday afternoon there enjoying the coffee and playing games from the board game library, which will be the topic of the rest of this blog post. Things haven’t always been like this however, Fanboy 3 used to be at another site not far from where it is now. In the previous shop there were gaming tables right up against the the shelves of stock and you couldn’t get close to the merchandise without leaning over people.
I wrote a thread here on the Geek’s FLGS board and found plenty of people who felt the same way. What can I say? They listened to the criticism and responded by creating a great place for board gamers to hang out in Manchester in a new site. They have addressed every concern that I raised and went a step further. I only wish that I could remove the original thread criticising Fanboy 3, but BGG do not tend to remove discussion threads as a rule. I would however like to show you guys what a great afternoon we had at the store. I’d like to thank the owner and the all the staff at Fanboy 3 for providing an enjoyable place to play games, and for being open to trying something new.
Century: Eastern Wonders
This is a game that I’ve wanted to play for a while but isn’t formerly available yet, luckily Fanboy 3 had a demo copy for patrons to play. The game is a follow up to Century: Spice Road and the two games can be combined to form a third game called Century: Sand and Sea. We decided to try Easter Wonders on it’s own and the game really lived up to its hype, and it was just as simple and enjoyable as the first title. Players maneuver their ships around the randomly generated board collecting and trading goods, then use those goods to fulfil contracts in one of the four harbour spaces. In addition players will be placing their outposts on the various spaces in order to us the market action on that space, placing outposts will also grant extra scoring opportunities and player powers as the game goes on, and will make outposts played by other players on the same space cost more resources. Our game was pretty close, I got the fourth contract but Annabelle scored points in other areas to win the game.
Annabelle 71 - 61 Allen
This is a game that my wife and I kept seeing pop up on Instagram and were eager to try. Topiary is a simple abstract game about well trimmed hedges, what’s not to like about such an original theme. The game consists of a five by five grid of tiles, all but one of which start off face down. Players have a hand of three tiles and take turns placing their meeples along a ‘line of sight’ orthogonally or diagonally across the board; then they take one tile to their hand and replace it face up to the same space on the grid of tiles. Players are aiming to have the values of the tiles go in ascending number order along the ‘line of sight’ of their meeple, along with matching the topiary styles on the tiles for a few bonus points. The strategy is a little bit fiddly to get your head around but is quite satisfying once you get the hang of it. I did much better with this game managing some pretty high scoring combos and win the game.
Allen 81 - 53 Annabelle
Another game that I have been eager to play is Azul, which is nominated for this year’s Spiel des Jahres award. I was drawn in by the game’s gorgeous presentation, and the fact that it looked quite abstract. In Azul players are essentially drafting for coloured tiles which are placed in specific rows on their player board of varying lengths, then in the next phase the tiles are cascaded into a kind of tableau to score points. Players have to be careful with the positions in which they place their tiles on their board, as making a mistake could cost you points, or could result in some tiles being worthless; ideally players want the exact amount of tiles to the number of spaces in the row. It was a simple game and I did enjoy it, I think that I imagined it to be a little bit more complex but simplicity isn’t a bad things. I’d like to see what the game is like with a bigger group but it left a great first impression. Our game was tight, I think that I was ahead for most of the game but Annabelle scored big in the final round to push ahead and win. I’d like to add this game to my collection soon.
Annabelle 58 - 51 Allen
The final game of the afternoon wins the award for the game that I’ve played most often without actually owning. I’ve played other people’s copies, and the great iPad app too. Patchwork is a simple two player abstract game that sees players spending units of time and currency to acquire pieces of fabric to build their patchwork quilt on a board in front of them. The player with the most time units takes their turn next, meaning that players will often find themselves taking several turns at once. Some of the pieces of fabric will give you an income of currency at set points in the game and once both players have used up all of their time, they score a point for each unit of currency they have, but lose two points for each empty space on their board. I had far too many empty spaces on my board towards the end of the game and couldn’t pull it back. Annabelle ended up winning her third game of the afternoon.
Allen -17 - 5 Annabelle
KLASK - I’m so glad that I finally bought myself a Klask board. The game is like a shrunken air hockey table, where each person's paddle is controlled by moving a magnet under the game’s board. It’s the kind of simple, childish game that I really enjoy.
Santorini - I finally got my hands on the beautiful abstract game that people keep telling me to play. The game seems simple, and plays with up to four people, which is always a nice little bonus.
Imhotep - Imhotep is a fairly new game that my wife and I keep seeing popping up on our instagram feed. It looks like a fairly simple eurogame with nice big chunky cubes. I’m looking forward to trying this but I don’t know an awful lot about how the game plays.
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Sunday morning started off with so many productive plans. Let’s go to the gym, get on top of the laundry, I’m going to mow the lawn today. After a lazy lie in, Sunday ended up with my wife and I sitting in our pyjamas playing games on the kitchen table, and I couldn’t be happier. What better way to spend a day off than to play boardgames with your best friend? Sunday marked the end of a week off for me and work has been particularly difficult over the last few weeks, so it was nice to just forget about everything and just play some great games with my favourite human.
Kerala: The Way of the Elephant
This has been a great addition from my collection, Kerala is simple, strategic and satisfying to play. Designed by Kirsten Hiese and published by KOSMOS, Annabelle and I first came across this game at last year’s UK Games Expo. We were drawn in by the colours and the chunky wooden elephant pieces, and ended up buying the game after seeing how Kerala plays. Essentially players build up a tableau of cardboard tiles which are pulled out of a bag randomly each turn. Players place the new tile on a space next to one of their two elephant tiles, or on top of a previously placed tile; once a new tile has been placed the elephant is moved on top of the new tile. Players must try to maximise the amount of points scored in their tableau while adhering to having only one group of each colour, or two groups of their player colour. Any tiles that do not conform with this rule make you lose points at the end of the game. I tried to focus on scoring the five point tiles, while Annabelle just went for a riskier larger more spread out tableau. Despite getting a minor penalty for some rogue tiles at the end of the game, she beat me pretty comfortably. This is the first time that I’ve played Kerala as a two player game and I was impressed with how well the game played, and how little down time there is between turns.
Annabelle 82 - 67 Allen
Meeple Circus is one of those games that I kept seeing pop up here on the Geek and through Instagram, and every time I saw it I wanted to buy it just a little more. Matagot have a habit of making games with great aesthetics that are usually excellent to play too. Designed by Cédric Millet, Meeple Circus sees players build up a group of circus performers and attempt to balance, stack and maneuver them in each of the game’s three rounds to score the most amount of ‘applause’ (points) as possible. With each round players will gain more performers, allowing for more opportunities to score points with bigger more high risk moves. The game has a companion app that acts as a game timer, playing frantic circus music as the players arrange their performers for the current round. I thought that I was pretty good at dexterity games, but I was terrible at Meeple Circus. Not that it detracted from how much I enjoyed the game, I thought that it was great and I can’t wait to play it again. Annabelle managed to score more than me in each of the three rounds to beat me for the second time that afternoon. This game really lived up to its expectations.
Annabelle 62 - 51 Allen
The third game of the evening was a game that I’ve had in my collection for a little while but haven’t had the chance to try yet. Annabelle and I are both big fans of the first game, Kingdomino, so we couldn’t wait to play the newest chapter in the series. Designed by Bruno Cathala and published by Blue Orange Games, Queendomino can be played either as an expansion to Kingdomino or as a stand alone game; when played as an expansion it allows four players to play a 7x7 grid, which I think is the best way to play. Essentially Queendomino takes the basic rules of the first game and adds a few layers of complexity, and extra board and extra pieces. When I first saw pictures of the game I thought that it was going to be much more complex than it actually was, in reality Queendomino is quite straightforward. The red spaces allow players to purchase towns which are displayed on a central board as single space tiles available to all players in exchange for money. Knights are used to raise a player’s money equal to the amount of spaces of a single colour that they are placed in, and towers allow the player with majority to take control of the Queen, who grants an extra crown in one region of the game at the end. Both knights and towers are given away with certain city tiles. Annabelle and I agreed straight away that this was an excellent game, and that we would probably be seeing a lot of it over the next few months. Annabelle went heavily for the city tiles and ended up scoring huge amounts of points for choosing this strategy at the end of the game and won yet again. That makes three losses out of three for me, but I still enjoyed the games. It just makes me want to play again to get my revenge. Thanks for reading, please let me know what you like to play with your better half in the comments section below.
Annabelle 174 - 147 Allen
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Tue Jun 12, 2018 11:24 pm
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UK Games Expo 2018 - Convention Report
Last weekend saw the return of the UK Games Expo, which is the largest board game convention in the UK. This year it was bigger than ever, expanding to two halls at the Birmingham NEC as well as the nearby Hilton hotel. Annabelle and I attended for the press event, which this year had a day all to itself on Thursday, then we were joined by our friend Charlotte to attend the convention on Saturday. I will try to cover as many of the games that we managed to have a look at over the course of the weekend, though some of them are yet to be listed on the BGG catalogue (I’ve written such games in bold). I’ve enjoyed every UKGE that I’ve been to so far, and this year was no exception. It was great to catch up with some of my favourite designers, and people from the board game community; anyway here is most of what we came across over the course of the weekend. I’ve mixed together the games that we saw at the press event and games that we saw at the convention itself.
The first person that I wanted to see at the UK Games Expo was Gavin Birnbaum of Cubiko Games. He designs the most interesting games often with an emphasis on dexterity, and hand makes all of them out of chunky wood. One of his games called Carreau has probably been the game that I have played most over the last year or so. I was eager to see what Gavin had at his stand this year, I knew that I had seen a prototype the previous year of a game called Wrecking Cube. We ended up playing a round of that which was very fun, and we bought one of the five copies that Gavin had made for the convention. We also tried one of his new prototypes called Paras, which was an unusual little dexterity war game and very enjoyable to play. I think that I know what I want to pick up from Gavin Next year now.
I'm a big fan of this publisher so it was great to see them at the convention. Oink Games is a Japanese publisher that releases bizarre games in tiny boxes. I grabbed Deep Sea Adventure off them a couple of years back at the Essen Spiele and loved it. It’s amazing how much game there is in these tiny boxes. This year they were promoting Troika and Startups from the same designer Jun Sasaki. Both games looked equally unusual, but I'm sure that they played well.
Kris Gould of Wattsalpoag Games returned to the convention with his new game Echidna Shuffle, which was actually being released on the first day of UKGE. Echidna Shuffle is a charming pick up and deliver game with some beautiful chunky plastic components. Unfortunately the game sold out so quickly that I didn't manage to grab myself a copy. Room 17 Games had their new game which is about to be Kickstarted this summer called Miremarsh. I'm usually a little put off by miniatures, but the way in which the game played intrigued me, with all players controlling a set of expendable goblins and trying to pass a series of tests to with the game. The presentation looked outstanding, Room 17 did a great job with both the artwork and the miniatures which are all unique in the game.
It's always nice to see what HABA are releasing next. They have a habit of designing excellent children's games that adults can enjoy equally. This year we took a look at a sequel to Rhino Hero called Rhino Hero: Super Battle, which is much bigger than the original game and harder because you have to hand little monkeys off the sides of the cards. Another game that we liked the look of was Burg Kletterfrosch, in which players must use two strings to traverse a ball into the correct lot on the board, occasionally two players will have to take a string each and balance the control of the frog between themselves. It's great to see that HABA are still making beautiful creative games, one day when I have children I’m going to fill my house with their products.
One of my favourite Game publishers is Pegasus Spiele from Germany, who returned to the convention with some excellent games on offer. First up was the Istanbul: Big Box which contains the base game, along with Istanbul: Mocha & Baksheesh and Istanbul: Letters & Seals. We ended up seeing the Big Box all over the convention at different shops so I think that it was pretty popular amongst attendees. They also had a spin off dice game that was promoted as more of a family-weight game than the original called Istanbul: The Dice Game. This one looked really interesting, retaining much of the symbolism and mechanisms from the base game.
Pegasus also had Reiner Knizia's new title Axio, which appears to be related to his classic abstract game Ingenious; That one is a must buy for me. They also had a new speedy card game called Nimble with some gorgeous artwork. And finally the hilariously titled Memoarrr!, a memory game with some interesting mechanisms and gameplay; this is one that I would like to try at some point in the future, controversially I still enjoy a good game of Memory.
We looked at two of Gamewright's titles that were being demoed at the Coiledspring Games booth. Annabelle was drawn in by the little dog miniatures in Cha-Cha Chihuahua: The Game of Dancing Doggies, a great looking colourful family game in which players are trying to attract as many Chihuahuas as possible to their dance floor. They also had Tiki Topple, which is actually 10 years old now but I hadn't seen the game before; I quite liked the theme and the colourful components.
Devir had some of their new titles on display at the press event on Thursday. It's not a publisher that I am usually familiar with but their games seemed to be quite eye-catching. We first looked at 1,2,3! Now you see me..., a little card game with plenty of animeeples in, then we took a look Dungeon Raiders which had some great artwork. Neither game was particularly new, but they were both new to me and both looked interesting enough to at least try out.
CMON Limited is a publisher that I often shy away from, because miniatures are not something that I tend to crave in my board games; however the two games that they were promoting at this year's UK Games Expo looked amazing. Dragon Castle takes mechanisms from the solitaire game that people play with Mahjong tiles and turns it into a competitive set collection game. I could see myself really enjoying this one with my family. They were also displaying Way of the Panda which has some excellent miniatures but from a gameplay point of view probably isn't for me. Then again I said that about Blood Rage and I was dead wrong.
It felt like we had to queue forever to get into the Bring and Buy, but it was worth it. We found some great games but I'll list those a little later in this post. We sat down and chilled out for a while, and tried some of the simpler games that we had bought. I grabbed a copy of Tri 3D which looked better than it actually played, but I'd be willing to try it again with two players instead of three. Annabelle and Charlotte had a few games of our newly acquired copy of Pylos. I used some of this time to catch up with Ryan Hough and to look at his Unpublished Prototype. I've been chatting with Ryan for over a year now through Facebook but this was the first time that I had met him in person. He is the admin for a great community on Facebook called Abstract Nation. His Prototype had some gorgeous looking 3D printed pieces, and a clean minimal rule set. Essentially each players pieces can stack into each other, which determines how many spaces they can move, plus the game has two win conditions. I'd love to play this at some point in the future, it certainly piqued my interest.
Every year the UK Games Expo hosts tournaments for one game or another. This year it appeared that the main games being played were Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game and Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game, both from Fantasy Flight Games. I admire the commitment that people have to these games but tournament play really isn't something that I've ever wanted to participate in myself. The same goes for all the LARPing and Cosplay stuff too dotted around the convention.
Dice Hospital caught my eye. I like the hospital theme partly because I work in one, and partly thanks to the old PC game Theme Hospital. Dice Hospital is a gorgeous looking worker placement game with some great artwork; I'd love to add this one to my collection one day. We were drawn in by the artwork for a little card game called Gobblin' Goblins, the first game for a new publisher called Toon Hammer. The game seems like a nice family weight set collection game,one that I wouldn't mind trying at some point. A little while ago I played a great card driven war game called Quartermaster General, which I felt handled asymmetry really well. This year I came across a new version called Quartermaster General: The Cold War, which covers what I feel is the most interesting war, if you can call it that. The game looks fantastic, I'd love to give that one a try.
Since the last time that we attended the convention, Annabelle and I managed to get our hands on a copy of Beasts of Balance, and excellent iPad driven stacking game with some bizarre components. This year we got a chance to see some of the new creatures in the Beasts of Balance: Battles expansion, which also adds a bunch of cards to the game. The publisher Sensible Object also had their second game on display called When in Rome, which is an Amazon Alexa driven trivia game. It would appear that they are going to stick to technology integration with their titles, which is great. I'm interested to see what they experiment with next.
This year Brain Games expanded upon their ICECOOL range, first with ICECOOL2 which can either be played as a stand-alone game or combined with the first Ice Cool to make a larger more diverse game; and secondly Pyramid of Pengqueen which is a kind of one versus many maze game with some interesting magnet based mechanisms. I was fortunate enough to try the latter game and it was great fun, I hope that they continue to publish games under this franchise, who doesn’t love penguins? Another title that Brain Games were promoting this year is Pikoko by Adam Porter, a trick taking game in which you can only see your opponents cards. This one really caught my eye and became the first new game that I played at this year’s expo, it was one of the most unusual card games that I’ve played but one that I'm sure will be making many appearances at my games nights this year. It was a very enjoyable experience.
It wouldn't be the UK Games Expo without the amazing Bez, who is always a joy to be around. I recently backed their Kickstarter for Kitty Cataclysm, which I had the privilege of playing at this year's Airecon in Yorkshire. Bez had a new game to show me this time called +, which was a beautifully simple speedy card game. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that Reiner Knizia had designed a new party game called Clickbait, and in true Big Potato Games fashion, it comes in a great looking but awkwardly shaped package. I can see this one being pretty fun to play once it hits the market, I know that I would like a copy.
Last year we seen a new collectable card game by the name of Lightseekers with some interesting mechanisms and integration with augmented reality when played with the digital version of the game as the cards could be scanned with a smartphone. This year the game returned with a Warhammer theming under the name of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar - Champions. There is certainly a lot of lore to draw from in the Warhammer universe so this can only be a good thing.Charlotte and I got sucked into playing a game called Pixit from H. P. Gibson & Sons. Players use a set of identical dice to build the pixelated images on the games cards. I didn't look at the games rules but it seemed like there must be some kind of speed element. Space Cowboys had a prototype for a game called Orbis which I feel is likely to be a big hit when it gets released. It's one of those super simple eurogames with plenty of options for strategy, and an element of tableau building which I enjoy. I'll have to keep my eye out for this one in the near future.
We spotted a gorgeous looking party game at the Asmodee stand by the name of TAGS. The game is a silly fast paced word game and looks like it accommodates team play really well. It's nice to see a publisher putting so much effort into the presentation of a party game for a change. YAY Games games were back again this year. They managed to win 'best abstract game' last year with Ominoes, and this year they returned with another game from the series called Ominoes Hieroglyphics, which uses some of the same symbols but plays more as a tile laying game. I loved the original game so I would be willing to try the new one.
There's a publisher that my wife and I really like called Strawberry Studio, who make small simple card driven games. Last year we picked up a copy of Strawberry Ninja, a great co-op or solo game; this year we wanted to get their new game called Scare It!. We were fortunate enough to have a demo of the game and it was great fun to play. I'm looking forward to seeing what these guys do next. At this year's Airecon, our favourite game of the convention was Backpacks & Blisters (second edition), an interesting card driven game set in the lake district. When we visited the Ragnar Brothers we were given a Backpacks and Blisters tea towel containing the games board as it's design, great stuff! Annabelle wanted some kind of nautical game due to her pirate roots, so we also picked up a copy of Niña & Pinta which deals also with parallel universes, somehow. I can't wait to give this one a try.
At the press preview Coiledspring Games had some great games on display. We were first drawn in by SOS Dino, a cooperative family game with some great dinosaur miniatures. Players must work together to save four dinosaurs from four active volcanoes. They also had expansions for one of my favourite releases of the last few years, Kingdomino. The first can be played as a stand alone game called Queendomino, which has been described as a gamer's version of the original game adding more complexity; and they had the new expansion Kingdomino: Age of Giants which adds some big chunky giants to the game. I didn't get a chance to see how the second expansion works but I'm pretty sure that I will end up adding it to my collection eventually, I adore the base game.
Repos Production had some interesting stuff on display this year. I'm a big 7 Wonders fan, so it was great to see the new large expansion with some little plastic boats called 7 Wonders: Armada. They're hoping to have this one available for Essen this year so keep an eye out. There were a few new family party games with Concept Kids: Animals and a prototype for Just One. They had a party game that revolves around dreams called When I Dream that looked like great fun, they had it set up on a bunch of beds in the main hall, very creative.
I came across a charming self published game called Hidden Hoard, which really looks great considering the fact there isn’t a big publisher behind it. The game is a fairly simple family weight game in which players battle it out to deduct what the hidden location is for that round. In addition the game’s board is huge and covered with all kinds of cryptic codes and symbols. There is actually a set of coordinates to figure out on the game’s board itself and a prize of £10,000 for the first person to solve it. What a great way to draw attention to your new game. KOSMOS had two new EXIT: Das Spiel games at the UKGE this year which was a pleasant surprise. I have played every game from the series so far (that has been released in English) and wasn't expecting the new wave of games to be released until the end of June. The first is Exit: The Game – The Sunken Treasure, the second and more difficult of the two is Exit: The Game – Dead Man on the Orient Express. I was also fortunate enough to get my hands on the promo game Exit: The Game – The Secret of the Premiere, which was given away at conventions at around the time of the original release a few years ago.
Anyone who has been to a board game convention will know that it’s one of the best places to add new games to your collection. You can buy directly from publishers, from vendors or from the bring and buy section. Here’s what the three of us walked away with:
Samarkand: Routes to Riches - An odd looking strategy game that uses camel meeple.
World Monuments - An abstract-ish building game with chunky wooden pieces.
Quads - An older game from my favourite designer Kris Burm.
Pyramid of Pengqueen - A one versus many treasure hunt game with a magnetic board.
Hidden Hoard - A family game that doubles up as an actual treasure hunt for £10,000.
Pikoko - An excellent trick taking game with a clever twist.
Exit: The Game – The Sunken Treasure - One of the newer Exit games, apparently a fairly easy one to complete.
Exit: The Game – Dead Man on the Orient Express - Another new Exit game, this time a much more difficult one.
Exit: The Game – The Secret of the Premiere - This was actually a promo to celebrate the release of the original Exit games.
Orc-lympics - Another title from Brain Games, this one is a drafting card game.
Nimble - A speedy card game with some excellent artwork.
Sticky Chameleons - A family game that uses weird sticky tongues. Sounds gross. Niña & Pinta - A nautical game from the Ragnar Brothers for my wife.
Scare It! - The newest game from Strawberry Studio, very enjoyable to play.
Central Market - A colourful and simple looking card game.
Tri 3D - A multi-tiered abstract game that cost £1.75, can’t argue with that price.
Sandcastles - A light and simple card game with a great theme.
Lightseekers - An intro deck for a CCG. Looks like it hase some interesting mechanisms.
Wrecking cube - One of five prototypes for a new game designed by the amazing Gavin Birnbaum.
Loony Quest - I tried this one at Essen a few years ago, it’s a great little game.
TRIUMPH - An old fantastically ugly looking abstract.
Quarto - A classic abstract game, I’ve been after a copy of this for years.
Pylos - Another classic abstract. I’ve only ever played a giant version of this game.
7 Wonders CN Tower Promo - An alternative artwork card for Palace, containing the Canadian National Tower.
7 Wonders Duel: Stonehenge - I was given eight of these in a pack from Repos Production, some of which I’ll be giving away here on my blog.
When I Dream: Bonus Cards - Some more juicy promo cards.
… and this is what our good friend Charlotte picked up from the convention:
Magic Maze - After playing the game, this was not what I expected it to be. Very enjoyable co-op party game.
Istanbul - One of my all time favourite eurogames.
Istanbul: Letters & Seals - The second main expansion, one that I do not own.
Ominoes - This is a game that I enjoyed at this year’s Airecon.
Backpacks and Blisters Promo Dishcloth - You didn’t misread that, Charlotte was given a dishcloth with the design from the game’s board.
Exit: The Game – The Forgotten Island - Charlotte found an unplayed copy of the game in the bring and buy, great find!
Exit: The Game – The Sunken Treasure - Like us Charlotte bought one of the newer Exit games.
7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon - The expansion to the greatest game ever made.
Carcassonne catapault Carcassonne: Expansion 7 – The Catapult - Probably the silliest expansion for Carcassonne.
Our favourite game from UK Games Expo - Pikoko
Congratulations to Pikoko by Adam Porter. This great little trick taking game is fun to play, feels original and looks phenomenal on the table. Players can only see the cards in other player’s hands, and gamble on how many ‘tricks’ they believe each player will win on a given round, include themselves. The game has a good degree of psychology and behaviour involved, and won ‘best new card game’ at UKGE this year; well deserved in my opinion. Thank you for reading!
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Fields of Green
I enjoyed a rare week off from work last week and luckily my wife was off work too, here’s a little bit of what I got up to. I was joined by my best men (I decided that it would be better to have two at my wedding), Matt and Chris for a couple of games on Wednesday afternoon. When I first learned about Fields of Green, the game was described as a reimplementation of Among the Stars; which piqued my interest because Among the Stars is in my top 10 games of all time. Today was my first time playing it, and although many of the rules were the same it doesn’t feel much like a reimplementation. The addition of a harvest phase to the game means that players have to have a working engine at the end of every round, taking into account food, water and money supplies. In addition the game punishes you for not being able to afford harvest costs by turning the cards face down and making you spend a card later on to turn back face up. This was our first play of the game and it made a great first impression with everyone at the table. Matt had a lot of Constructions on the table and had found ways of gaining points for them, Chris had a little engine going throughout the game that was churning out victory points, and I focussed on getting cash then adding buildings towards the end game managing a fairly narrow victory by the end. This is definitely one that I’d like to play again very soon.
1st - Allen 54
2nd - Matt 51
3rd - Chris 30
Next up we played the amazing looking Photosynthesis by Blue Orange Games, which has to be one of the most interesting eurogames on the market. I would go as far to say that with the absence of random chance the game feels more like an abstract game, especially when played as a two player game. Players each have a colour of tree, and must grow their trees to their full height and harvest them to score points. The trees on the board collect sunlight which can be spent to take the various actions in the game, and as play continues players will have an opportunity to grow their trees to collect more light. The trees cast shadows around the game board and can prevent other trees from collecting light. Players will get the majority of their points from growing their trees to the maximum size and harvesting them for points; so they must strike a balance between having trees on the board to gather light, and removing them to gain points. It was a tight game, with everyone trying to block the light from each other’s trees, but in the end I managed to score some late points to win the game. This has been a great addition to my collection this year.
1st - Allen 97
2nd - Chris 77
3rd - Matt 57
We decided to finish Wednesday afternoon off with something simple, and NMBR9 is about as simple as it gets. Players must stack a set of pixelated shapes representing the numbers one through nine in the order dictated by a set of cards. At the end of the game the shapes are worth their numerical value multiplied by their level on the stack. The shapes are awkward to stack, but really satisfying when you manage to do it effectively. I love these kinds of shape and geometry games where you have to conceptualise abstract shapes in your head, but I did pretty badly in this one never quite getting the pieces to fit. Matt on the other hand played very well, getting some of the higher numbers several levels up in the stack winning by a big margin in the end. A great afternoon with two great chaps, always nice to see these two dapper gents.
1st - Matt 160
2nd - Chris 144
3rd - Allen 135
Friday now, and my wife and I sat down to a game of Five Tribes, one of my favourite Bruno Cathala games. This takes the central mechanism from Mancala and adds some eurogame elements, such as set collection, end game bonuses and the ability to set up elaborate combos. This is a great game, though it it can suffer from a bit of analysis paralysis due to the amount of moves available to players each turn. I think that the game plays well with two, though it’s probably at its best with three or four. Annabelle found a way to make her yellow meeple worth extra points and finished the game with loads of spices. I tried to focus on keeping hold of money and picked up a genie that increased the value of my white meeple. In the end Annabelle won her first game of five tribes with a pretty comfortable margin. I should really invest in some of the expansions to this game.
Annabelle 257 - 219 Allen
Next up, one of my favourite games from the Continuo series, Rhombo Continuo. Our dinner was almost cooked so we thought that this would be a good way to fill the time. Players take turns in adding one of the games tiles to the tableau, and score points for each coloured region that is extended equal to the number of triangles in that region. It’s one of those simple and relaxing games that you can play in any situation. The rhombuses can make the shape of the playing area quite bizarre and disorientating, but this only adds to the enjoyment of the game for me. My wife and I were neck and neck all the way through, but she pulled off some big moves late in the game to win her second game of the evening.
Annabelle 410 - 399 Allen
7 Wonders Duel
For the last game of the evening, I finally got my wife to try my favourite game. I was always reluctant to get her to play 7 Wonders Duel, because the game doesn’t really accommodate different skill and experience levels very well; it’s quite easy for a new player to be beaten and feel quite disheartened by the game. Annabelle decided to try and go for a science victory, which is an approach that you don’t often see in this game because it can be quite difficult to pull off. She ended up being one science symbol away from winning, but I held her off until the last card had been played and the game went to points. Even then I only won by five points. I think that given a few more games Annabelle might pull me apart in this game at some point in the future. Hopefully we’ll play the game again soon.
Allen 57 - 52 Annabelle
On Saturday we ended up relaxing in my parents garden with a glass of bubbly after watching the Grand National (a famous annual horse race here in the UK). We ended up trying The Mind for the first time, which I was eager to player after seeing it on both Stuart and Steph’s blog here on the Geek. Essentially this is small a cooperative card game in which players all have cards in their hand and must collaboratively play them in the correct order without verbally communication what is on their cards. The deck is made up of the numbers one through one hundred, and players get cards equal to the number of rounds they have played. So players have one cards in the first round, two in the second and so on. The game sounds simple, but there is a nuance to timing your moves and reading each other’s body language that makes The Mind a really entertaining game. We ended up playing two rounds, getting to round five in both games. The game had some funny moments when a few players had cards that were close to each other and started to panic play them at speed. We ended up playing two games and getting no further than level five each time. A great way to end a great week off. Thanks for reading!
Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:54 pm
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I am this week’s Geek of the Week!
Thank you for putting me forward for this Stuart! I’ll be over here on this thread answering questions if you’re interested. Thanks to everyone who has read my blog over the last few years.
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Just to give you a heads up, this blog post is going to be a little bit all over the place. I’ve been ill recently due to asthma complications and have decided to amalgamate what was going to be two blog posts. It covers the long Easter Weekend and one other night at the end of the following week. I had some great times with my family and played a lot of games, so bear with me as this may end up being a pretty long blog post. The long Easter weekend started on the Thursday evening for us as my wife and I celebrated two years since first meeting. We went to our favourite restaurant Next Door in Frodsham for some amazing food and cocktails and we had a great night. I can’t stress enough how much better my life is since I met my Annabelle, though if you’ve been following my blog over the last few years you might have noticed that. She’s made me happier than I ever could have imagined being. Thursday was also our last day of work for a little while so it was a relief to be able to relax a let go for few days.
On Friday we set off for Cumbria for the annual Easter family holiday. Every year my family get a pair of static caravans somewhere in glorious England, last year it was Yorkshire and this year it’s the Lake District, next to Lake Windermere to be specific. Our holidays tend to revolve around three main activities; rambling, boozing and gaming, usually in that order. We have a lot of family from the Isle of Man who join us, so it’s great to get together and have a laugh. After some frantic packing, Annabelle and I set off on what ended up being a four hour drive due to accidents on the motorway, roadworks, and every man and his dog wanting to head to the Lakes for the long Easter weekend.
Upon arriving at the caravans my youngest cousin Sophie was very eager to show me the game that she designed as a school project called Scars and Broomsticks, using characters from the Harry Potter universe as pawns. It was heartwarming to see how much effort she had put into her game and her enthusiasm to get people to play it. The game was basically Snakes and Ladders with the addition of ‘Wand’ spaces to roll an extra turn. There’s no choice or agency to a game like this, but kids seem to enjoy the swings of luck that come with every roll of the die; we played a round and my wife ended up the winner while I sat in last place. Sophie is a big fan of gymnastics, so I thought that it would be apt to bring my copy of Fantastic Gymnastics to play with her. I see this as really more of a toy than a game, but it’s fun to play with all the same. I somehow managed to get the gymnast to land perfectly on my first attempt making me look like I know what I’m doing, which ended up being his only landing after several members of my family had a go. I really don’t see the point in playing this game using a point system, if you manage one successful landing in the game then that is a pretty big achievement in itself.
Every year I buy my Isle of Man family a new game for Christmas, this year they got it a little bit later. I gave them a copy of the amazing Catch the Moon, a simple stacking dexterity game using rickety ladders stacked on top of one and other as its core mechanism. We played a five player game which ended up going to a tie breaker for all but one player, Auntie Karen, as she had caused the stack to fall more than the other players; then we collectively managed to use every ladder in the game meaning that everyone but Karen won. I’ve played this a few times and I’ve never seen that don’t before. Next up was one of my favourite family weight games called Engel und Bengel, where each player has an allocated number of dice and must roll and place them on a variety of rows across a series of randomised cards. Some rows make you gain points and some rows make you lose them, and players must allocate at least one die if possible on each turn. The game has lots of twists and turns, and really got all of the players engaged, laughing and shouting. Hana ended up winning by a pretty comfortable margin, much to her delight. The six of us went on to play Cubiko by the amazing Gavin Birnbaum. We had all had a little bit to drink at this point so playing a game that uses throwing a bouncy ball seemed like the best idea at the time. Players are trying to bounce the ball into one of the 3x3 grid spaces to place one of their coloured cubes, with a view to either get three in a row or three in one space. Each combination is worth a set number of points and the first team to ten points is the winner. We played the game in three pairs as the game usually caps out at four players and it ended up being very close with every team effectively one move from winning, but my step dad and I got a fluke last throw to win the game.
As our first evening was nearing an end and everyone left awake was rather pissed we attempted to play Cockroach Poker, which didn’t work amazingly well. I underestimated how easy it would be to teach this to five other people how to play this game when everyone had consumed as much alcohol as me. People were playing the cards face up, trying to give cards back to players who knew what they were, and after a few rounds we gave up and balanced some wooden shapes in Bausack instead. We stuck to the Tower of Babel game mode in which every player contributes to a single tower, aiming not to be the person to knock the tower over. It was great fun, and as could be expected the game degenerated to everyone throwing the games pieces at each other and into each other’s drinks; this was a good sign for everyone at the table to call it a night and retire to bed.
Saturday morning started with a ramble along Ullswater Lake heading up a path towards Aira Force Waterfall. There were 13 people in our group ranging from primary school age to post 70, and the path was quite vertical at times so we took our time; I was glad as I felt a little bit rough from the night before too. The waterfall was mind blowing, well worth the difficult hike to get there. We stopped for a little while and ate some lunch before the much easier walk down the hill, along with plenty of other visitors to the Lake District. The weather changed six or seven times while we were out so everyone was soaked by the time they got back to the car. We headed back to the caravan through what had become a snow laden mountain road in the few hours that we’d been away to celebrate my cousin Daniel’s 12th Birthday.
We got back to the caravan and played a game brought by my Isle of Man family. Obama Llama is a party game in which players either mime or describe a rhyming phrase containing a famous person’s name and some kind of action, such as Tom Cruise wearing platform shoes, or George Clooney pulling a mooney. The game had some really funny moments but I didn’t know a lot of the famous people and neither did the older players, which did get in the way a little. Daniel’s team ended up winning thanks to his impressive acting skills, then we celebrated his birthday and ate a lot of food and started drinking. There was less focus on gaming on the second night because I think that everyone was still quite tired from the day’s long walk. After the kids had gone to bed most of the adults went to the pub on the campsite for a few beers and to watch the Joshua vs Parker boxing match.
We returned to our caravan after watching the boxing and thought it best to squeeze in a game of two before sleeping. We started with Beasts of Balance, an app driven dexterity game that sees players balancing plastic shapes on a large plinth in order to manipulate an environment full of animals on your iPad screen. Players scan the piece that they want to play on the plinth which is connected to the iPad, then add it to the stack, adding animals to the habitat then crossing them and migrating them to make new creatures on the screen. This game can be really engrossing in the right group, and my family we’re hooked. We ended up playing a few rounds and doing pretty well, I think we even ended up breaking the high score at one point. We were down to four players for the next game so another Cubiko game hit the table, this time it was Carreau which is a game that gives everyone a little catapult to play with, again this was a wise decision after a few drinks. Players use their catapults to project their coloured dice at the board with a view to getting it the closest to the bouncy ball at the centre of the board, essentially the game is Boules but with catapults instead of boredom. My step dad is very good at this game and ended up winning pretty quickly, but Carreau still had everyone laughing and enjoying themselves.
My step dad Dave and I were now the last two people left awake, which gave us our only chance of the holiday to play some two player abstract games. First up was YINSH from the GIPF Project series of games, which seems like a simple five in a row game but has tons of choices and strategy. We ended up having a very close game, at one point both players had scored two rows and were looking to score a third to win; I ended up finding the winning move more because of an oversight from Dave than because of my own strategy. Growing up I watched Dave play a lot of Chess, so I thought that I would introduce him my favourite twist on the game from my Pyramid Arcade set called Martian Chess. This is about as counter-intuitive as Chess variations go because you control every piece that is on your side of the board at all times, meaning that if you take an enemy piece you are also giving away control of one of your own pieces. The game has three sizes of piece, each can move in a different way and is worth a different number of points when taken. Dave thought that the game was hilarious because he just couldn’t keep up with losing and gaining control of the games pieces, which didn’t stop it from being a close game but I ended up winning by a mere 14 points to 12 in the end.
The next day we had a bit of a lazy morning and a few games of Tumblin-Dice while we ate breakfast. I’ve been after a copy of this game for years and was fortunate enough to find a copy at this years AireCon, along with a bunch of custom dice already in the box. Today the family set out for more walking, this time we did a route near to Coniston Lake which wasn’t quite as vertical as the one from the previous day, followed by lunch and a boat ride up and down Coniston Lake. It was rather cold by this point so we wrapped up and enjoyed the scenery.
My Isle of Man family ensure that we all go egg rolling on each Easter Sunday. I don’t quite know where the tradition comes from but essentially people decorate a hard boiled egg, go to the top of a hill and throw said egg down the hill. Then they collect the eggs and repeat, this continues until the eggs are broken. It’s a bizarre tradition but always a good laugh with my family, I tried my best to hit Annabelle with an egg but she was just too nimble. Once all the eggs had broken and we had cleaned up after ourselves we returned back to the caravans for more games and more booze.
Once we returned from our walk the younger kids were eager to play another one of my games, so Cubiko hit the table once more. I paired an adult with each of the younger children and we played another six player game using three pairs. The kids loved playing this one because it was so simple and quick, I paired up with my youngest cousin Sophie who ended up being much better than I at getting the bouncy ball on to the board. In the end Annabelle and Daniel scored a diagonal row to win the game and we moved on to the next game. After enjoying it so much the other day my family asked to play Engel und Bengel again, and this time my grandparents joined in. This has been a bit of a hidden gem of a game for me, one that I got cheap on a geek auction on BGG and haven’t seen anywhere else since. The game was filled with hilarity as my grandad got all of the luck and my nan getting nothing but unlucky rolls. Grandad ended up winning and my nan came last, much to his delight.
The children had now gone to bed and we squeezed in two last games before calling it a night. We started with Go Cuckoo! by HABA - Habermaaß GmbH, a simple dexterity game that sees players build a nest out of coloured sticks and attempt to balanced heavy eggs in it during its construction. Once a player has placed all of their eggs on the nest, they get an opportunity to place a large wooden bird on top to win the game. The nest ended up being built in a sturdy way and held most of the game’s eggs in place by the end, I managed to place the bird and win what ended up being a fairly short game. We finished the night and the weekends gaming with a small push your luck dice game called Trophy Buck. Players take turns to take three random dice from the bag and roll them, then they can either keep the points they have or roll again for more. If a player ‘startles’ three different buck dice then they have bust and score no points points for the round. The game is light hearted and easy enough to teach. Dave managed a good run using nearly all of the game’s dice and ended up winning quite comfortably. Another great Easter weekend with my lovely family.
Peaky Blinders and Board Game Night
Fast forward now to a week or so later as Annabelle and I had my parents over for food and gaming. We gave them tickets to a Peaky Blinders afternoon drinking event at the Wirral distillery in Spital, my parents like the TV show and my step dad was an extra in it at one point. We added a few Gins to our collection while we were at the distillery, it seemed rude not to; though I was having to keep my own alcohol consumption to a minimum due to being on antibiotics and steroids for my asthma. We dropped my parents off for a few hours and they seemed to enjoy themselves, I can’t help but feel like there was a bit of role reversal as I collected two tipsy parents and brought them home for tea.
As my gorgeous wife prepared our Katsu Curry, my parents and I started the evening with a few three player games. We started with a game that I picked up at this year’s AireCon called Ominoes, a very enjoyable family weight dice rolling abstract game. Players roll a die, take an action associated with the outcome then add the die to the board; players are trying to group their own dice faces together on the board while trying to prevent the other players from doing the same. We had a pretty close game with all of the players needing one more group to win the game, and in the end Dave managed to score the neutral colour to win. Next up was Red7 by the amazing Carl Chudyk, this was very popular a few years ago but seems to have dissapeared from a lot of people’s games nights, it’s still a great game in my opinion though. Red7 is simple, players must be winning at the end of every turn by playing cards in to their tableau, by changing the rules of the game, or by doing both. We played the variant that makes the game go on over a number of rounds, and after an unusually long and close game Dave again came out on top. We squeezed in one last game before food was ready, a light hearted rug placement game by Dominique Ehrhard called Marrakech. This game sees players manipulating a central character called Assam around the board using a die and leaving their coloured rugs along his path, should a player land on your coloured rug then they pay you coins equal to the number of spaces covered with rugs. It’s a fairly simple game but still has plenty of strategy involved. Dave trapped me into a corner filled with his rugs and made me pay him ten coins, eventually leading him to his third straight win of the night.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
After we had finished eating we moved on to the main games of the night. My family and I have been working our way through the EXIT: Das Spiel series of games, which work kind of like a room escape game but with more imaginative puzzles to solve and some good solid themes. The series also won the coveted Kennerspiel des Jahres last year, well deserved in my opinion even if you can only play each game the one time. I’m not going to go into too much detail about these games because I would hate to ruin them for you, but we ended up playing both Exit: The Game – The Secret Lab and Exit: The Game – The Pharaoh's Tomb back to back, the latter being my new favourite in the series. They both took a little over an hour to play and we were awarded seven stars for the first game and six for the second, so we did pretty well. All four of us managed to solve at least one puzzle in each game, as was our experience of the other games in the series. I’m looking forward to playing the rest of the Exit games with my family, they’ve really become amongst my favourite series of games.
I’ve really been enjoying my Cubiko games recently, so Carreau hit the table again. This game is getting to a point where it is starting to make a regular appearance at most of my gaming nights. As with the game described earlier Dave excelled at the game and after everyone had a few points on their board he managed to knock the ball off the board gaining three points, enough to win the game. We moved on to one of the stupidest games in my collection. Make 'n' Break contains 10 coloured wooden blocks, a timer and a set of cards showing positions for the blocks. Players must frantically build the arrangements on the cards to see how many they can build in the time limit. What makes the game so funny is that some of the arrangements are simple and some are ridiculous and almost unnachievable. Our game was noisy and full of laughter, somehow I managed to win the game quite comfortably. I’m pretty sure that we made a few new scars on my gaming table in the process.
Going from one silly game to another now as we played a very filthy game of Tapple. Players have a category and must give an answer relating to one of the remaining letters removing it from future answers, then press the button to restart the 10 second timer again. We played with some of the suggested questions from the game but mostly using questions from our imagination, which usually give the best answers. After some pretty shocking answers to the question “name something that is wet,” we moved on to our final game of the evening. I’ve played a lot of Cubiko games over the last week or so, consequently it seemed appropriate to end the evening with a game of JamSumo. The game is split into two types of rounds, Jam rounds where players try to flick their dice through the central hole; and Sumo rounds where players are trying to knock each others dice off the board. Players over-estimated how well Dave was doing and targeted him, allowing my mum to swan in to take the win. It was another great night with some of my favourite people. If you have made it this far through this long blog post, thank you for reading!
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On Saturday, my wife and I drove up to the Harrogate convention centre along with our good friend Charlotte to attend AireCon 2018. This is a three day board game convention with support from CGE, Travelling Man (a chain of FLGS across the north of England) and the UK Games Expo. The event is a little smaller than the UK Games Expo, and has more of an emphasis on not just exhibitors but sitting down and playing games courtesy of the extensive Travelling Man library. There was also a large bring and buy section, a family gaming zone and an area for RPG gamers. We found the atmosphere of the event to be very friendly and welcoming, with lots of people buying and playing games. It was a fun weekend, here’s a little bit of what we got up to while we were at the convention.
The first stand that we came across was Asmodee, who had several games out for people to try. One of their representatives told me about Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, which is a cooperative deckbuilding game in which players play through seven different campaigns, each related to a different book from the Harry Potter series. It looked quite interesting, reminding me a little bit of Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game, and the presentation of the game looks superb. I used to play a lot of deckbuilding games but I haven’t picked one up in a while, maybe this will engage me in the genre again. Next up they had the newest game from the Civilization series called Sid Meier's Civilization: A New Dawn. It’s not the kind of board game that I would typically play, though I have enjoyed the PC series in the past, but they’ve done a great job of making the game look more appealing. Asmodee also had Azul on display which I was hoping to try, but the demo copy got a lot of attention and I didn’t get a chance to try it. I think that I’ll just end up grabbing that one at some point, it’s definitely my kind of game.
At last year’s UK Games Expo I missed out on the chance to try Ominoes from YAY Games, which ended up winning the award for best abstract game at the convention. This time I tried the game along with Charlotte and two other people from the expo and ended up buying a copy. It was a close game, but Charlotte pulled off a good combo to win the game eventually. Ominoes is a dice driven abstract game with some area control and a bit of luck too, I think that it could be played well with less experienced gamers because the luck element could balance out the skill differences. The next game we ended up looking at is not a new game, but one that draws me in every time that I see it; The Great Fire of London 1666 is a big sprawling eurogame from Richard Denning, who is also of the the director and organiser of the UK Games Expo. It has an enormous board and hundreds of pieces, I’ve liked the look of this one for a while and I’m pretty sure that I’ll add it to my collection eventually.
Over the years I’ve tried a few games from Ragnar Brothers and have enjoyed a lot of their designs. This year they were promoting Backpacks & Blisters (second edition), which is a re-design of a game originally designed in 1993. The theme of this game really drew me in, which is rambling in England’s Lake District and admiring the beauty of the region. It sounded pretty abstract but it has some really interesting card driven mechanisms and some amazing artwork of the various sights of the Lake District; it’s a part of the country that both my wife and I have a strong connection to. Charlotte ended up picking up a copy of the game and was eager to give it a play. We also got a chance to see a prototype of their new Roman themed game by the name of Quantum Romanum which looked interesting too, hopefully we will see a more completed version at this year’s UK Games Expo. Next up I had another chance to see Softwar from Ben Green, a neon abstract game that uses dice as pawns. I originally looked at this game at last years UK Games Expo, and the design has come along since then; you should see this appearing on Kickstarter later this year. I’m interested in this game so I’ll let you all know when the crowdfunding campaign begins.
Next we ran into Behrooz Shahriari, aka Bez, at her table. She was inviting as many people as possible to come and draw a cat on a piece of card to stick on the wall, and by the end of the convention the wall was completely covered in cats. This was in aid of Bez’s new game design called Kitty Cataclysm, which we were fortunate to all sit down and play. The game was an enjoyable hand management game with a strong social element and no shortage of cat puns, we all loved it. I bagged a few high scoring cards early in the game and ended up winning fairly comfortably. The game is currently available to back on Kickstarter so please click the link below if you are interested. Bez was also promoting her word game system by the name of Wibbell++, as well as Yogi which is a reimplementation of In a Bind published by Gigamic. We had a great time at your table Bez, looking forward to seeing you again at the UK Games Expo later this year.
Czech Games Edition were demoing a few of their titles, including a prototype for a new edition of Vlaada Chvátil’s drawing and guessing party game Pictomania. I didn’t get a chance to try the new version but I have seen the old one play and it’s a hilarious game. You have to simultaneously draw a picture and guess what other people are drawing, and the game rewards players that take their actions quickly. After the huge success of Codenames I’m eager to try some more of Chvatil’s party games. I also had a chance to try a new abstract game due to be Kickstarted called Thieves, a two player game that sees players coordinating four pawns in an effort to take a coin from the centre of the board and maneuver it to their side of the board to win the game. What made this game interesting is that the game’s movement reminded me of Backgammon, in that players roll two dice out of a little cup each turn, the difference being that the two dice had colours on each face showing the direction by which pieces can be moved that turn. I played a game with one of the people representing the game and ended up winning after a fairly long round.
And finally we had a look at Room 17 Games’s stand and being drawn in by an interesting looking dexterity game. Flicky Spaceships plays exactly as you would imagine it to, flick your little plastic spaceship then collect whatever resource you land on. The resources are then spent upgrading your spaceship and gaining points. The game is active on Kickstarter, so if you’re interested click the link below for more details. We also took a brief look at Museum Rush which is a card driven museum heist game with some great artwork, this one will be Kickstarted a little later this year. The last of the exhibitors that we looked at was Four Elements, which looks kind of like a colourful Carrom variant. Each player plays as a different element and must build a wall out of their pieces to protect their ‘Lord.’ Players then take turns to flick a disk at each other’s pieces in an effort to knock the ‘Lord’ off the table. The game seemed pretty simple and fun, I don’t know if I’d play it over Carrom but I liked it nonetheless. It might be a good way to engage younger players towards games like Carrom.
The Open Gaming Area
After checking out the exhibitors we were eager to sit down and play a few games. Travelling Man had brought a fairly extensive catalogue of games to play, so we started off with a game of Colt Express. This one got a lot of buzz a few years ago, winning the Spiel Des Jahres in 2015. The game has an interesting programmed movement mechanism where players play a series of action cards, some face up and some face down, and have them resolve in order. Sometimes a player can unexpectedly move you from a space early on in a round and mess up the actions that you have chosen to take. Annabelle and Charlotte took great pleasure in shooting the crap out of me and punching me from one cart to another, and Annabelle ended up winning the game by a country mile. I liked the game, but I think that it might be at it’s best with five or six players to add a greater degree of interaction between players.
I’ve seen quite a lot of people playing Celestia here on the Geek, and we were fortunate enough to buy a copy on sale from one of the vendors. Celestia is essentially a push your luck game in which players gamble on the likelihood of other players passing a series of challenges. Like with Colt Express, the game is probably better with bigger numbers but we enjoyed it anyway, so much that Charlotte ended up going and buying a copy for herself. We played two games, the first one I won and the second Charlotte won. Annabelle was intrigued by the people on the next table playing a round of Tsuro, so I got a copy from the Travelling Man library and taught the others how to play. This is a game that I have never owned, but have ended up playing a few times over the years. Players have tiles that extend the lines on the board and must use those lines to maneuver their piece around without falling off the side; while trying to make the other players either move off the side of the board or move into each other. Charlotte was the first to be eliminated and it was pretty close between Annabelle and I, but in the end I was forced to fall off the side of the board and lose the game.
After The Convention
It was getting late, so we headed back to Charlotte’s house for a curry, a few drinks and a few more games. I was eager to play my new copy of Tumblin-Dice Medium after wanting the game for quite a while now. The second hand copy had a bunch of extra dice, including D10s and D20s in each player colour. We ended up playing three games and all won a single round. The game was as fun as I thought it would be, I’m so glad that I managed to find a copy. Next up we played a quick round of Battle Sheep, which wasn’t a new game, but one that I’m enjoying quite a lot at the moment. I got quite lucky early in the game, splitting my pieces fairly evenly around the board, and managed to split my whole stack into single spaces. Annabelle was shortly behind me and Charlotte behind her, after having a small stack blocked off early in the game.
Next up was an abstract game called Callisto which is an improved version of an earlier game called Callisto: The Game. The main change is that the playing area can be modified depending on the number of people playing the game, and that each player has less pieces to play. This is essentially a polyominoes game with an area control element, the game is a bit kinder than others in this genre. I managed to play all of my pieces to win the game. I love this new edition of the game, definitely one that I will be adding to my collection at this year’s UK Games Expo. The last game of the evening turned out to be the best that we had played all night, Annabelle was having a post-curry sleep so Charlotte and I decided to play a two player game of Backpacks & Blisters (second edition). The game sees players trying to scale the various peaks and sights of beauty across England’s Lake District, by playing cards and equipment, and being careful when to eat your chocolate. The game was easy to learn and flowed really well. I ended up taking advantage of the various bus routes to score big and won the game narrowly.
Anyone who has been to a board game convention will know that it’s one of the best places to add new games to your collection. You can buy directly from publishers, from vendors or from the bring and buy section. Here’s what the three of us walked away with.
Celestia and Celestia: A Little Help - An interesting little push-your-luck game, along with an expansion that adds a little more interaction.
Cockroach Salad - Another party game from the makers of Cockroach Poker.
Codinca - An abstract code building game that I first played at last year’s UK Games Expo.
Evolution: The Beginning - A simpler game from the Evolution series of games.
Fleet - My wife loves boats, so any game with a boat in tends to catch her eye.
Highland Clans - An odd little eurogame set in Scotland.
Jin Li - I don’t really know what this is, but it’s from nestorgames and it was only a fiver from the bring and buy.
Kreus - A cooperative card game with great artwork from CMON.
Mammut - We we’re both sold on the woolly mammoth meeple in the box.
Meeple Circus - A great looking meeple stacking game by Matagot.
Ominoes - A dice based abstract game that I tried at the convention.
Polarity - A magnet based dexterity game that I’ve wanted for a while.
Robber Knights - An odd looking tile laying game, this one looks pretty interesting.
Those Pesky Garden Gnomes - I have no idea, I think that we bought it because it had a silly name.
Tumblin-Dice Medium - Annabelle spotted this in the bring and buy, I've wanted a copy for ages.
And this is what Charlotte picked up from the convention.
3 Wishes - A small card game from Strawberry Studio.
Backpacks & Blisters (second edition) - Rambling in the Lake District simulator from the Ragnar Brothers.
Callisto - An improved version of Reiner Knizia’s superb abstract game.
Celestia - Purchased shortly after playing our copy.
Design Town - A remade version of Flip City which includes expansions.
Dream Islands - An unusual island hopping game with cool looking meeple.
Hanabi - The small cooperative card game that won the Spiel Des Jahres a few years ago.
ICECOOL - One of my favourite dexterity games.
Kingdomino - The most recent winner of the Spiel Des Jahres.
Our Favourite Game From AireCon 2018 - Backpacks & Blisters (second edition)
Our favourite game of the weekend has to be the new edition of Backpacks and Blisters. The Lake District has a special place for all three of us, and the game has a great balance of strategy and simplicity. I feel like any group could play it and get the same amount of enjoyment, just a shame that I didn’t buy a copy myself. I’ll leave you with a picture of the Geek Refresh Station from the expo toilettes, if only everyone going to the bring and buy had found this! Thanks for reading.
Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:33 pm
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