I’m not really one for “pimping” games out with upgraded components and such, it’s much more about how the game actually plays for me, first, foremost, and lastmost for that matter as well. But when it comes to improving the practicality of playing? Now that’s a different matter. A little while ago I posted about having made a little dice tray for our collection of Roll & Write games; Well, I also spent an entire evening laminating a set of score sheets for all of them and I also purchased a few drywipe markers to go with them. Much better, and much more practical. There have also been purchases of many different sized sleeves to make certain games easier to handle (as well as protect cards that get a lot of shuffling and/ or are black bordered). I even bought a load of coin capsules to put all the Orléans character chits into, which as well as protecting them (some of the starting pieces are beginning to look a little worn) makes them much easier for Mrs B to handle with her funny fingers. And then there’s the,*ahem*, bondage tape.
I admit that it’s not something I’d ever thought I’d be looking into for my boardgames but rubber banding cards, including sleeved ones, does tend to leave some indentation. And then there are some boxes, especially small card game ones (and I have a lot of them) that just won’t stay bloody closed. Now you can go and buy Hugo’s Amazing Tape at the cost of about £20-£25 per roll but that’s a bit steep. And so when investigating alternatives I happened upon a recommendation for using bondage tape instead, as it’s exactly the same stuff, and it costs about £3-£5 a roll. And it’s good for actual bondage as well, so I am told *coughs*! The tape just sticks to itself and doesn’t seem to leave any marks or residue (I’m talking about on the cards and boxes!) and I’d highly recommend it. Although you may find your automatic recommendations on Amazon start looking a little fruitier...!
An appropriate game for this stuff, eh? Eh?
I’m finding it interesting to go back over what I’ve been playing every few months and write a longish post about them generally and hope to continue that throughout this year. I’ve not really expanded my horizons into many new areas of gaming at all actually. It’s been more a case of rediscovering games that I’d previously enjoyed but hadn’t got to play enough due to the constant need, the pressure (put upon myself) to be playing and writing about different things. And it’s a total liberation to be honest. Playing through the Memoir '44: Mediterranean Theater with Charlie has been great fun with lots of tank battles and quick and brutal resolutions. Rediscovering Terraforming Mars after a year of “rest” has also been fun. A solo game to refamiliarise myself with the rules enticed Mrs B into playing a couple of games with me and, despite her previous insistence that it wouldn’t be her kind of thing she enjoyed the escalating card combination play and had fun. The game is a delight. One of the few “new to me” games that I can say I’ve played and enjoyed was Nusfjord (with Tony Boydell, naturally, the official Norwegian Fishing Industry cheerleader*) The game is excellent, with good decisions and escalation and tightness of actions and opportunities. I’ve thought about buying it on a few occasions and nearly did so a couple of weeks ago when it was in my hands in my FLGS. The reason that I didn’t ultimately was that we have Glass Road and love that, and this falls into the same niche (although I love the card role selecting/ piggybacking mechanism in GR) and I really don’t play that enough as it is. Mrs B is also a bit reluctant to keep learning new games (unless they are small and easy to pick up) and there’s such an abundance of games available in my regular games group that I don’t see the need to add something else to it for an occasional play only. But it is very good.
*imagine him, shirtless, dancing with fish in hand instead of pom-poms, and that’s what it’s like when he’s demanding that you play this game.
Where our gaming horizons have expanded however has been with, er, expansions. So I’ve been investing/ sinking my gaming money into titles that we already own and enjoy. Expansions for Orléans, The Voyages of Marco Polo, Troyes, Pandemic: The Cure, Roll for the Galaxy...all of these add ons can seem a little overpriced but they are the way our gaming (collection) has grown this year. In some cases I’ve sold titles that we don’t play to buy expansions for games that we do, and I used money that was given as gifts “to get a game” for my birthday to purchase the more egregiously priced ones (Roll for the Galaxy: Ambition, Pandemic: The Cure – Experimental Meds). I’ve also hoovered up (finally) all of the Memoir '44 expansions (outside of the really stupidly priced rare ones) and have months, years of play of it to look forward to. It was one of our first games when we got into the hobby and it’s marvellous to be going deeper and deeper into it.
And it’s all been money well spent in my estimation. It’s breathed new life into our games and we’re really having fun rediscovering why we liked these games in the first place. Troyes is an absolute delight at any player count and having all the extra event cards from Troyes: The Ladies of Troyes gives so many potential ways to alter the game each time you play that it’s always a new challenge. In fact as well as expansions being the theme of the year it would appear that dice games in general are making up the bulk of our gaming.
Roll for the Galaxy is vastly improved in much a similar fashion with it’s expansion, with the pile of new home worlds and starting tiles making for huge variety in play. The new dice are nice and give more interesting tactical choices to make but it’s the different directions that you are encouraged to explore with those starting tiles that really makes it for me.
Pandemic: The Cure has always been one of Mrs B’s favourites and the expansion offers a great new challenge (multiple challenges specifically!) and even more roles than were included in the base game. It’s fantastic. It’s very pricey for what it is, but if you love the game like we do then it’s probably money well spent. A stressful joy to play every time!
My gaming so far this year has been very much lighter than in last years, in terms of the types of games I’ve been playing (I wrote about this a couple of months ago and this quarter is continuing in similar fashion). What’s funny to me is that in the past I’d tried to commit to a 10x10 challenge and failed each time, whereas this year I’m going to easily do it and then some without ever having thought about it, let alone committed to it. I’ve just played whatever I’ve felt like playing. I’ve found that expanding my gaming horizons into competive online games has also helped with things like Race for the Galaxy easily racking up half a dozen games at a time of a quiet evening. Ganz schön clever (oh, who wrote about that before it got its KSDJ nomination eh? Hmmmmm? Hmmmm...?) is also always being played on Brettspielwelt, and there’s a fantastic and addictive solo frame up there as well, which is perfect for a toilet trip (put that on the box cover!) Doing something like that is a smart move from a publisher I think and is really helping people to be able to discover a game that has popped onto the gaming scene at the apogee of the Roll and Write zeitgeist. I think it may well win the award which has tended to go to the lightest of the games on that particular list. That’d be a pretty impressive 1-2 for the designer as The Mind is surely going to pick up the big red SDJ popple and delight families and set lots of miserable teeth gnashing “proper” gamers into a fit of keyboard pounding rage!
And speaking of impressive (dusts shoulders) here’s my current best score in the solo mode of GSC.
Thanks for reading and go forth and expand your gaming horizons. And buy some bondage tape as well!
Whilst perusing the shelves of a Basingstoke game store recently Mrs B (she was with me as we were having “a night away” - not in Basingstoke I hasten to add, but I’d taken a cunning detour that just happened to pass by this establishment...) was quite enamoured with the box of Riverboat; she loves Klemens Franz’s artwork even more than I do and something about the jaunty stance and big smiles of the characters depicted in the scene had her smitten.
I didn’t buy it though.
A few weeks later whilst perusing the shelves of a games addict’s study I spotted a copy and mentioned that Mrs B had shown a healthy interest in this one, whereupon it was thrust into my hands and I was sent on my way with it to borrow on the promise that I wrote a bit about it sometime.
“What do you mean it’s bloody vegetable farming!” exclaimed an exasperated Mrs B as I unpacked the tiles and explained how to play, “I thought this was going to be sailing down the Mississippi with endearing rogues and fancy ladies or something. I don’t suppose there’s any vampires* either?” (*This is a George R R Martin reference, about his pre Game of Thrones novel, Fevre Dream, that she enjoyed.)
Yeah, it’s a bit of an odd choice of setting for this particular game, I’ll grant.
The game is indeed all about acquiring hexes with vegetables on, planting them and then later harvesting them to get, erm, boats(?) to get you bonus abilities and possibly points. You’ll also need to get hold of some appropriate cards to score handsomely from, some green meeples to allow that to occur, and also manage to send some of your workforce off down the river (with the vegetables perhaps?) to Norwlins for some endgame majority score shenanigans. The game is of fixed length, four rounds with five phases in each. At the start of each round players select the phase tiles to determine player order in those phases (with the owner of the tile being first and getting a small but important bonus). They are, essentially, 1) place workers in your fields according to card draws from a communal deck, 2) draft single/double/triple hex pieces to place under your workers, 3) pull off your workers (Mrs B delighted in being rude here) to get two boats equal to the number of workers removed, 4) draft a single scoring card, 5) scoring, for some in-game points and up to two scoring cards and/ or features.
Riverboat is an interesting puzzle and there is quite a bit of fun in trying to navigate the restrictions that the game puts on you, but ultimately we were both left a bit nonplussed by it. There is enjoyment (and I can see that it would be more interesting with three or four players) but there was also frustration and a bit of disappointment for us. As you can only acquire four scoring cards in total, and as you are restricted in both being able to actually score them and the timing of when you score them (so you need to balance having the green workers available, and they are very limited plus you can only score two things each round (three in the final round)) you have to really agonise over scoring now for, say, 8 points or potentially 15 later, but then risk having a worker you can’t use to score or perhaps a choice between only scoring two cards instead of three. That reads a little convoluted but it’s an accurate representation of what goes through your mind during play and is, probably, the best part.
There were plenty of annoying niggles for us though.
It gave me the impression of a game that was finished off in a hurry to make its Essen release. There are some inelegant touches that, to me, seemed out of place in a game by such a good designer (Kiesling) and a respected publisher (Lookout/ Mayfair). Firstly there’s the fiddling about with marking your fields with workers in one round and then having to lift them up and place tiles under them in the next. Things like that are annoying enough in themselves but with Mrs B’s hands being as they are it was an extra level of unnecessary fiddling that was not appreciated. Having to have piles of hexes and boats that need to be sorted and refilled each round was also unwelcome from our perspective. Then we have the player boards. All the fields are shades of yellows and browns and greys, which might make sense in terms of an approximation of soils but it is a bugger to say “the lightish brownish one” when the card is revealed from the deck (you do this 8 times per round). The publisher knows this and has put symbols on the cards and the fields (diamonds, spades, stars etc) and this is what you end up calling out. Why not just have actual distinct colours, it’s not like they’re in short supply after all, we were left wondering? .
Then there are the details. Zoom into the player board picture and look at that awkward space on the jetty track as you round the corner with your large yellow dobber - was I on space 6 or 7? Whilst you’re there take a look at how the boat tiles you acquire don’t line up nicely. Now look at the main picture where the offer board has the 1/2/3 size hex crop pieces and see how it’s an unintuitive arrangement of those pieces when you’re looking across the table at what’s available as the singles wrap around and split. In the bottom left there’s a double hex of wheat and pumpkin and next to it a single hex of each- from across the table you might easily think that there are 2 doubles or 4 singles. All of these, and a couple of other bits (such as scoring reminders being scattered over player/communal boards and the round tiles) are just not what I normally expect and experience with this publisher.
Finally there are the two biggest annoyances for me personally. During the game the players can acquire coins which are worth some end game points but are very powerful ingame as they can be used to break the rules during each phase. No corn hex tile that you need to link those areas on your board? Pay a coin and dig through the ones not in the game and get the exact one you want. Been left with a bad or no choice of scoring card in that phase? Pay a coin and go through the deck to get the exact one that you want. Someone taken the boat tile that you were needing for a particular bonus. Never mind, pay a coin and get the....do I need to go on? That smacks of the game being too potentially mean if players choose to be/ swingy if the perfect card or hex comes up (or doesn’t) for a player and instead of having to diversify and mitigate and deal with it a player can always just pay a single coin to get whatever they want. I strongly disliked that. And, petty as it seems, the game has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with its setting and it could have, and should have, been something else entirely (maybe that’s where, *cough*cough*, the similar and from another publisher Heaven & Ale comes in?)
All in all it’s not an ostensibly bad game. There is enjoyment to be had. But it all feels a little unrefined to me and not what I expected from such a pairing of designer and publisher. This game will cost you around £45 in the UK. I dare say that there are much better games to be had for that money.
So disappointed was Mrs B with our Riverboat play that she was moved to suggest another game from the same publisher that does actually feature boats (and incorporates them thematically and mechanically), Murano. Maybe I’ve been harsh on Riverboat and that could be because we’re less inclined to seek out brand new titles these days, preferring the comfort of the familiar instead of the thrill of the new. This game does compare favourably though. It also features cards that you must get hold of and meet criteria to score and has the tension of being able to actually score them and the delicious potential of other players being able to (unwittingly) scupper your ability to do so. It’s also, in our opinion, better looking, better playing, and in a similar amount of time. It might be a better game overall or that might just be our feelings because we’ve had this for a few years. Is it a better game or even a “good” game? I don’t know, but we like it and are always happy to play it. I dare say you could get a copy for a darn sight less than £45 if you look around as well...
The Castles of Burgundy, the Feldian tipping point, before it was lots of penalties and tight decisions, and since it has been all sorts of point explosions and multiplayer solitaire. Clearly there are a great many who adore BIGCOB, residing at no.11 in the BGG ranking at the time of writing, despite it being 7 years old, plain looking, not containing oodles of fancy components nor being a Kickstarter game that cost the purchaser £100 and the recipient of “campaign” (marketing manipulation) urges to “make sure you rate this a 10 on BGG to help with the hotness rating and push us towards those stretch goal unlocks” (I don’t doubt that Gloomhaven is a good game but it, and all others that have encouraged such an approach and all who have themselves rated something before even playing it once, should be fucking ashamed for helping to turn a pretty democratic way of ranking games into a free for all cash generating aid. Pardon me, I digress)
I enjoy BIGCOB. I like the quiet puzzle and the gentle competition for tiles, the challenge of making the best of the dice rolls and I find the absence of direct conflict to be very agreeable in this. It makes it a good game to play in an evening and is, I find, an ideal game for two. This is probably why it has become such a favourite couples game for many and why it is thought of and rated so fondly. So why don’t I play it more often?
I attempted to address that the other evening, upon noticing that it hadn’t been played for about a year and wondering if I should just sell it on (answer; no, with it being available for £20 new it’s not worth getting rid of to make about half that) I sat down at the kitchen table on a warm evening with Mrs B, the dog lying just outside the open patio doors catching the last of the day’s sun - an ideal way to pass 90 minutes or so (yeah, Mrs B likes to “think”...) I think I needn’t go into how the game plays for any reading this but I wound up winning fairly comfortably after denying Mrs B the tiles she needed to complete the large 8 space city on her board. And as I began packing the thing away into the little coloured bags that I bought (cheap ones on EBay rather than pricey “official” ones on BGG) Mrs B politely but pointedly asked; “why did you just make me play a game that I can’t stand?”
Ah. It seems that around 12 months is the length of time that it takes me to forget that she doesn’t enjoy the game. That’s a shame. Being a good gamer/ consumer and all that I naturally immediately turned my thoughts to how I could potentially overcome this issue by buying another game. Say hello to littlecob.
The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game is another entry in the (wonderful) Roll & Write style of games. As you have probably read before we love these type of games, particularly the “pure” number category ones, but it’s always interesting to see one where a big box game has been shrunk and adapted to a sheet of paper and a few dice. (I’ve recently laminated sheets from all of our R&W games and purchased some dry wipe markers, makes everything much better).
littlecob does a very good job of feeling similar to it’s parent game. The scoring is mostly through completing areas of hexes, with a little bit to be gained from shipping and being the first to finish the entirety of one type of land. There are no end game scoring tiles (the yellows in BIGCOB) and this is a much more straightforward affair than La Granja: No Siesta (an excellent R&W distillation of a big farming Euro). I actually find it very satisfying that in contrast to many in the genre there is no “active player” who chooses their dice first and then all others get a free choice from the remainder, in this all dice are available to all players, an elegant way of retaining the open and gentle feel of BIGCOB.
This “feel factor” is also present in the way that the hexes are marked off. There are six types of land and each has a colour that relates to one of the sides of the colour dice (well who’da thunk it?) and there are restrictions to marking off in each. Three types are grouped by specific numbers (wanting 1s & 2s/ 3s & 4s/ 5s & 6s), the cities want all different numbers (nice echoing), the animals want all the same numbers (nice echoing) and the castles want the same number as one that is in an adjacent hex. Completing a region gains a bonus (change a number, change a colour, take another turn, gain a good, ship a good for points/silver, double your points for the region) in addition to the points earned for the size of the region. The game length is varied by the hourglass die, which means that the game lasts between 15 and 30 rolls (average is around 23) and this die also triggers shipping when the double hourglass appears. There are four different “boards” included on the paper sheets and the whole package “feels” very faithful to BIGCOB.
I’ve played it 10 times (it only takes 15-20 minutes) in the past week or so, about half with Mrs B and the rest using the neat solo rules, and am really enjoying it. There’s a bit more there to give it something over the straightforward number category R&W titles but it is still very much in that vein. You simply roll some dice and check off some numbers, nothing extra nor extraneous, and that is perfect for the type of title. Well worth the admission (about £10 plus postage from Germany/ France). Mrs B “quite likes” it. Some progress then...
As we’re playing so many little dice games these days I took it upon myself to make the nice tray pictured above, using a deep picture frame from Hobbycraft (£3) and a sheet of sticky backed felt (£1, same shop) in about 20 minutes. I’m quite pleased with it!
So, what to do about BIGCOB then? Well, last night Billy mentioned that he really likes the game and so me and him sat at the kitchen table on a cold evening, the dog looking mournfully through the closed patio doors at the last of the day’s rain as (not so) young Bill squeaked out a narrow victory, an ideal way to spend 45 minutes whilst dinner was cooking (yeah, Billy likes to “get on with it”...)
Room for both BIGCOB and littlecob then. I just need to remember who likes what!
You might be reading this and be well aware that Mrs B and me are big fans of Roll & Write games. If you're not then let me be clear; Mrs B and me are big fans of Roll & Write games. These are typically simple affairs that can be played without too much effort and are, as such, ideal for us of an evening on the coffee table. Many of them give you a very limited number of choices on a turn (that is not to say that they lack any strategy though), but this newer title, Ganz schön clever is a little bit more involved than the average R&W. In fact, it's a full on Euro Dice game on a tiny sheet of paper.
In a nutshell you have five areas on your sheet, each relating to one of the six dice (there is a wild white). On a turn the active player rolls all the (remaining) dice and then chooses one and marks off a relevant box in that colour. All dice that are lower in number than the one chosen are removed and put on the silver platter (printed in the box). Repeat a second and third time. The inactive player(s) then get to choose a single die from the platter to do an action. A round lasts until each player has been the active player once. Total number of rounds is player count dependent.
So far it all seems much like any other in the genre. The biggest difference is the interaction between the scoring areas. There are many opportunities to bounce a placement in one into another, combos are available all over the place. Each of the areas offers its own placement restrictions and bonus move rewards. On every roll the active player will need to balance the decision to take an ideally numbered die from the poll to set off a chain on the pad with what dice that will remove from the pool for their next roll. Scoring adds a further layer to this, as there are much greater rewards for investing heavily into one area but one of the end game scoring sections is based on the value of your lowest of the five areas multiplied by the number of bonuses (red fox faces) that you've unlocked. Specialisation is rewarded but so is diversity. Can you achieve both for a really big score or is that risking spreading yourself too thin?
There are further layers with one of the dice (blue) being the sum of itself and the wild (white) at any one time, so maybe it's a good idea to take (or remove) the white early so that it stays locked on a number for the rest of your turn, allowing you to play the odds or mitigate to aim for that awkward spot in the blue section. There are reroll and take an extra die bonuses that get unlocked. There are areas where each die must be higher than the previous (until you place a six and reset it). There is so much to consider on every turn.
This game is the skeleton, the framework, of a full size Euro dice placement game. Add a board and some relevant artwork, plus a few goal cards or tiles and you're not just looking at La Granja: No Siesta but you're actually not too far away from having a The Castles of Burgundy or a The Voyages of Marco Polo on your hands with all the interlocking sections and branching decision trees. This is not a lightweight R&W like Qwixx and it does make your head hurt a little. It is well worth a look though, and provides some very satisfying moments as you chain together a sequence for a large number of points. Plus, you can take it anywhere and you need very little table space to have a stripped down big box dice game experience. It is, as the title translates, Pretty Clever.
Back in the days when I spent as much time thinking about, and as much money acquiring, video games as I now do board games, there was a piece of software that I was in thrall to. I specifically use the term "piece of software" because many didn't class it as an actual game, but as an activity or an experience. That "piece of software" was one of my very favourite "games." Ever. It was called Rez. Ostensibly it was an on rails shoot em up. Except that you didn't move your avatar (it wasn't a spaceship or a helicopter or a car etc) on screen, you simply held down a button and moved the cursor over the "enemies" whereby the game automatically locked to them. You could target up to eight on screen items in this manner, and when you released the button they would be "fired" upon and destroyed. Because this was so very basic, although not without challenge, it was dismissed by the general public (although was quite feted by the press) and sold poorly, but achieved something of a cult status.
What many people missed was that this was not a "game" in the traditional sense but was an exercise by the designer in trying to create a state of synesthesia. The music was central to this, specifically the beat, and if you could become synchronous with it you would find that the game would respond, the enemies being locked onto and shot down would reward you with flashes of light and notes of sound and an intensifying of the beat until the game became a pulsating, natural, extension of the player.
One of *the* most iconic levels of any video "game" ever
And now there is a tabletop game that, to my mind, operates in on a similar plain. It is simply a big deck of cards numbered 1 to 100 and all you have to do is play them in ascending order through each of its levels. It is called The Mind, and it has generated quite a bit of buzz recently.
Two to Four players will attempt this challenge and will hold a number of cards equal to the number of the round (ranging from one through to eight/ ten/ twelve depending on player count). As a round begins any player can play a card (their lowest) at any time. However, no player can talk to another or signal to another. At all. The team will begin with a number of lives and should a card be played incorrectly (ie, not be the lowest that the team collectively holds) then a life will be lost. Lose all lives, lose the game.
There are some wrinkles. When a "foul" is made, all players will discard, face up, their lowest card. Information is thusly gathered. There are also throwing star tokens that can be used to the same effect (without the loss of a life) if the team collectively agrees (this is achieved by all players having raised their hand). A player may also say the word "Stop" and place their hand on the table to "pause" the game, restarting it when they lift it back off. Bonuses in the form of an extra life or extra throwing star are awarded at the end of some levels.
Make it through the required number of rounds and the team has won the "game."
As the quotation marks have suggested there are many who do not consider this to be worthy of being called a game. You can find plenty of comment to that effect around BGG. But, I am telling you, this is absolute genius. This is, quite possibly, this years SDJ. It is a unique experience that will not be to the taste of many gamers, but is absolutely transfixing and revelatory to a more casual crowd.
Of course there is a "trick" to the game, indeed the rulebook explicitly points it out (although mildly spoiler protected by printing it upside down), but knowing it and knowing it are two entirely different things. And when introduced to a new player or group of players the effect is simply beautiful. I played it with some at my regular (euro-centric) game group in the week. Comments went from "bullshit" then "not a game" to "totally breakable if you just [redacted]" then "we're acing this" to "bollocks, you cocked it up" and finally "this is insane, incredible, let's go again" over the rounds of the, yes, game.
You're not daft, you probably think you have "solved" it already, but I am telling you, there is real skill, tension and delight here, if you're open minded enough. This game draws a crowd and, nothing, but nothing, that has come before has had the ability to leave onlookers open-mouthed as four people, in silence, and in synchronicity, correctly play 24(+!) cards between them and then exhale and high five and whoop and cheer. It's totally unique and I'm delighted that it exists.
How is it the end of March already? It just seems to have been one thing after another after another and, before you know it, a quarter of the year has gone! With that in mind, and with me having a few days off work, it seems an appropriate sort of stage to take stock of the games I've played so far this year.
As the title implies it's been a bit (but only a bit) tougher recently and that has had an interesting effect on my gaming. I've found myself not able or even interested in playing anything above 'medium-light' complexity and that has, actually, been really enjoyable rather than a source of frustration.
Azul has been played quite a lot, and with a variety of players. Interestingly, given that it's such a light and straightforward game, I've found myself having to correct players who've made rules errors initially and have continued to play "wrong". There've been those who've ended the round after all tiles have been taken from the discs (leaving any left in the centre!) and then those who've allowed tiles taken to be split across multiple rows on your board, and some who've disobeyed the "only one tile of each type per row/ column" when playing on the reverse of the board! Tut, tut, people! Needless to say all who've been re-educated have discovered that the game has a bit more bite than they initially thought... It's superb and I love it. I imagine that it'll get 30+ plays before the year is out as it's an ideal evening game and also (despite the above evidence to the contrary) simple for new players to learn in the groups that I frequent.
I've been rounding up Memoir '44 expansions (just the Overlord and a couple of Battle Maps left, although I'm only interested at "sensible" prices, I'm not a completionist) and have played several games with sons Charlie and Billy. I'm toying with the idea of some annotated and illustrated battle reports for the game. If and when I get around to that I'll post a link here. Suffice to say we love the system and it's such a delight when I get home from work occasionally and find that Charlie has set up a scenario ready for us to play after dinner. We've kind of flitted between the various theatres so far because it's such a treat to have access to all these different units and extra rules but we're hoping to settle down into a campaign soon (a PDF of the first campaign book professionally printed by Mrs B at her work is just begging to be started).
Ah, Viticulture Essential Edition, a game I bought, enjoyed, but sold on after Mrs B had one play and said she didn't like it. Last year I played it again with a friend and found myself being won over again. And it has made into that rarest of categories in a collection "games you sold and then repurchased". This time round it's been joined by Tuscany Essential Edition and Viticulture: Moor Visitors Expansion. I've enjoyed it at 2 with Mrs B, I've loved it at 4 in games groups and I've even enjoyed (and won!) playing it solo. It is a light and straightforward worker placement game and it does have a little too much "luck of the draw" with the visitor cards for some people's taste but, at the moment, this is *exactly* the type of game I'm looking for.
(This past week at Games for a Laugh I played and loved (and subsequently ordered) Raiders of the North Sea, which also fits perfectly into this strata of gaming.)
Caverna: The Cave Farmers was a Sunday afternoon affair for Mrs B and me a while ago, and this illustrates perfectly where my gaming head is at the moment; I haven't played a single game of Agricola (possibly my favourite game) this year, not even on my iPad, I've just not felt like that much of a challenge. I know that 'Gric is far from the heaviest of games and I know the game pretty darn well, but it's just not what I'm craving at the moment. Nevertheless, there was a little itch and so we played it's slightly simpler, stupider, younger brother. And it was a little bit too much, you know? A little bit too long, a little too much to consider, not enough reward for the effort in all honesty. But we still like the game a lot, it's just not where we want to game at the moment, let alone climb a few more rungs up the complexity ladder!
I picked up (via an auction on this site) a copy of Jambo, which is one of those 2 player only Kosmos titles that, whilst not being what people term a "grail game" for me, has certainly been something that I've had a little candle lit for. And....it's fun. Nothing amazing, but we liked it, certainly enough to keep it and say "oooh, let's play that again" (we haven't, yet!) every now and then. Two player games, or games that are fun at two, that are 30-45 minutes long are absolutely ideal for the meat of our gaming fare at the moment.
Given all the Azul love we've had I went and pulled an older Kiesling title out from the loft, Sanssouci, which does feel very much a forerunner of the flavour du jour. It has a couple of steps too many for it to be as brilliant as Azul (the card and tile draws which, whilst adding some desired restrictions, can be frustrating) but it is quite a tight and fun little game. We've only ever played this as a couple but I'd been keen to try it with a full table and see how it goes.
There's also been a few games of Ticket to Ride which is, genuinely, one of my all time favourites. An especially pleasing play was one where Charlie's girlfriend joined us for her first go at a "modern" game and a full table of five on the original USA map was an absolute delight. I came spectacularly last, but it was probably the most fun I've ever had in my many plays of the game!
The biggest surprise of the year so far has been T.I.M.E Stories. I thought I might not enjoy it, Mrs B thought it looked "sterile" and Billy has been thoroughly "teenage" of late, so it was with not a little trepidation that we embarked on the first mission a few weeks ago. And we all loved it. L.O.V.E.D.it! We made two "runs" that first afternoon and then had to wait until the following weekend to go again (successfully as it turned out) but it was deliciously agonising trying to remember what we'd learned the previous week (we had decided against taking notes).
I'd wondered about playing this with just Mrs B but having played with three (and there's no way Bill isn't getting in on the action again) I've zero interest in doing so and, in fact, I think it's probably even better with a full four at the table. The key to the entire experience is the telling of what you see at your location (card) - you are not supposed to read the text verbatim but it is vital that you describe what you "see" as there are a lot of visual clues. I can totally understand that this would be a source of major frustration for some, as the person who "sees" the card might not understand that something could be important or link to something "seen" elsewhere but, for us at least, this was the best part of the game. And when we'd completed the mission, going back through the deck and looking at the cards we hadn't seen (individually, I think we went everywhere) was a brilliant, revelatory, debriefing session that was as much fun as the game itself. An absolute treat, and it's just as well that I'd snaffled up most of the expansions over the last year when I'd seen them pop up for £10 here and there!
Aside from all the above there's been, naturally, plenty of others but I didn't take pictures and I may (no promises!) write about some of them soon. Hope you're doing well and that, hemisphere permitting, you're looking forward to some warmer, milder weather coming as much as I am! See you around.