Friday, December 30, 2005

Happy New Year! 2006 is the Year of Gaming

As we head into the New Year's holiday weekend, I want to wish each of you and your families a very safe weekend and a happy New Year! I hope the coming year brings many blessings and tons of boardgaming to each of us.

2005 was a much richer year because of the gaming I was able to participate in with this group. I'm hopeful 2006 will bring even more gaming to us all and introduce more friendly folks to our group.

So, raising my virtual champagne glass, I propose a New Year's toast to the San Antonio Boardgaming Group! Cheers!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

One for the Gipper!

Our teams met on the icey tundra of the fields of Brooks City-Base for an epic gridiron slugfest. A merciless defensive chessmatch ensued with players carried off the field left and right! Fumbles, interceptions, goal line mishaps: we saw it all. Then awful effects of my school cafeteria's creamed chipped beef on toast took their toll on my young lads. Suddenly they couldn't stop the long pass; they fell down blocking the short pass; and just collapsed in the face of the run! Soon our fiercest rival was up 21-3 early in the 3rd Quarter! Desperation set in. I went for the bomb and came up big - a 54-yard play putting me in range for a quick touchdown to make it 21-10... Then the horror of horrors occured... the game had to be called due to flagrant spousal interference. Argh!

Pizza Box Football. With a game that combines football, boardgaming, and pizza-friendly components all contained in a pizza box, it was a must-buy for me. I had a great time playing Kendahl tonight, and I hope others in the group will express an interest. Just let me know if you'd like to play!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Clash of Arms!

Session Report, 28 Dec 2005

The sun glinted off the speartips of my noble phalanxes as they flawlessly assembled in perfect formation to face the onslaught of the rabble hordes of the dread barbarian Chieftan Kendahl. As the barbarian throng hurtled across the desert floor towards my disciplined legions, I knew Kendahl's berserker tribe, now in full blood rage, would be a worthy opponent, one which could only be defeated by skillfully controlling the Battle Line.

Sorry... I just couldn't resist getting in to the spirit of the game. Kendahl and I tried out Battle Line this afternoon. What a great game! We had a close fought battle where the apparent lead exchanged hands several times. Darius joined my side to nearly bring me victory, then cowardly fled the battle at the critical moment! Mud and fog then descended on the battle as the final troops were committed to the melee. Finally, as the dust settled, I barely managed a pyrrhic 5 to 4 victory. This one will definitely hit the table again sometime soon.

In a slightly related note, I just clued in to the upcoming Command and Colors: Ancients game about to be released. Its by Richard Borg of Memoir '44 fame, and its essentially Memoir '44 with spears, sandals, and elephants instead of rifles, boots, and tanks. Sign me up!

New Year's Eve

My wife agreed to us hosting a party, with just one caveat. It's a big one kids. Ouch. She said she is just not up to having a bunch of kids running around and feeling responsible for them. I suppose I can't blame her. The hard part is telling our friends with kids that they have to find a sitter if they want to come to our party. And really it won't be a "party" in the traditional sense - more of just a casual get-together. We are basically opening our home, we'll have lots of food and games and people can come and go as they please. There won't be any real structure, although I'll probably organize a game of Mafia (or Werewolf).

Please RSVP in this thread if you plan on attending so we can get a head count. Again, there won't be in alcohol, but plenty of food. Bring your favorite games and your favorite appetizer or snack to share.

Our address: 11211 Ranger Cavern, 78254. If you need directions, let me know. We'll start around 6 p.m. and go to whenever everyone gets tired.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

There and Back Again...

So I'm back...last night I had a quick fix by playing around of battle line with my brother. I won, but it was one of those unsatisfying victories where you win without having realized you did until the very end. I don't like winning by accident.

Anyway, my house is open for gaming on Thursday the 29th at 7pm. I think Ben could come. Anyone else? I'll email the address.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Me and My Shadow

This was a busy holiday week with little time for gaming, which forced me into my mode of playing games solo versus my alterego: Evil Ben.

Evil Ben and I have enjoyed epic struggles for world domination against each other since we were little kids. We're bitter rivals, yet the vast majority of my gaming experiences have been against Evil Ben. Evil Ben usually plays the Germans, Orcs, Forces of Chaos, Galactic Empire bent on snuffing out freedom in the universe; etc. I usually takes the underdog forces of goodness and light. Evil Ben somehow always seems to have the cooler tanks and weapons for some reason... oh, and Evil Ben absolutely despises cooperative games! On the positive side, he always likes the same kind of pizza I do, and he is always up for games when I want to play!

I have to admit, its hard to not root for Evil Ben sometimes, and I do have a hard time making sure we have a fair, impartial gaming experiences. Sometimes Evil Ben seems to know what cards I have in my hand just a little too well. I'm convinced he's a cheater! Still, our game win percentages are almost exactly 50/50.

Still, I'm thankful to have Evil Ben around when real life only gives me an hour or two to get a game in. Thanks to him I've learned rules enough to play with my real friends and been able to get a quick gaming fix when other gamers weren't around.

Thanks, Evil Ben!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Bridge Players

Say, does anyone else play tournament bridge? I haven't played much recently (a few hours a week online, until I moved), but I feel like going to the club (and possibly the sectional in January). By the club, I mean Marie Bailey's Bridge club (now out in Thousand Oaks).

I could be a reasonable intermediate, if I ever played. And learned how to count.

Boardgaming Podcasts Links

Just thought that this should be in a thread of its own... thanks for the idea Jonathan. If anyone knows of any other boardgaming podcast, just add it to the list. These will keep my mind busy on my way back to SA tomorrow. Hey, best way to kill 5 hrs.

Boardgames to go:

BG speak:

Have games will travel:

The Dice Tower:

Christmas Loot

Just thought I'd create an entry for everyone to post their Christmas loot! I didn't do so well in the games category -- Amun Re was my only board game. It looks like a fun auction game (Reiner Knizia). I am glad that I have at least one convert to the mechanic (Rob) and that most everyone else in the group likes auction games at least a little. I also got a personal multimedia player. It's like the video iPod as it plays MP3s and videos on a small screen. Of course, Ben turned me on this so I could listen to board game podcasts.

Hope everyone had a great Christmas! Once your my age and have kids, the joy is watching your kids light up when they come downstairs and see that Santa came. It's really a great feeling...

Friday, December 23, 2005

Dec 23rd Session Report

Jeff and Amy joined Jacqui & I (and our enthusiastic kibbitzer/daughter) for a few games. First up was Beowulf, which I'm growing quite fond of, if not good at. Jeff ran away with it, but I'm not sure how. Jacqui suggested her recent acquisition, Ubongo. This is actually a quick puzzle game, where each player has to fit several pieces onto a mat as fast as possible. Each player is using different pieces on a different mat (there are 36 double-sided mats in all, and you roll a die to determine which pieces you use). Whoever solves their puzzle first gets first pick of gems, and you are trying to make a big set. Jacqui and I got more gems, but Amy had the longest set.

Next up was the classic Ra. Let's just say I got greedy and did not win. Let's just say that....
Finally we played a new game, Parlay. I just recently got this (a gift from the publisher, actually) and was hoping to give it a spin. It's a poker/word game, which isn't a combination I've seen. And it's quite interesting. [Assuming you like poker or word games]. Sometimes you break up a word to make a better hand, sometimes you have a great word and terrible hand. A nice closer, and I eke'd out a win. I'll definitely be trying that again.

Happy Holidays to All

Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Boardgaming!

Just a quick note to say happy holidays and Merry Christmas to all my boardgaming friends. I wish for you all have very safe and happy holidays with your loved ones, and I hope the holiday season brings each of you piles of new games for us to play in the New Year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Sanctuary! Dec 23rd!

Well, while we wish Jeff and Amy well, the rest of us suffer. Jacqui and I are busy thursday, but we'll host a super-special game night this Friday. Why super special? It's a bonus game night! 7pm Friday night at Casa de Brian & Jacqui. Please RSVP.

Unclean! Unclean!

Amy has generously shared her head cold with me, so in the interest of public health, I think we need to withdraw our offer of hosting Thursday night since the apartment will still be a Hot Zone then. I hope we're able to take advantage of our time off to get in some gaming someway somehow somewhere. Is anyone available Monday the 26th? At worst, we'll play some two-player games. I need to find our unplayed Hera and Zeus set.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Session Report, 19 Dec 2005: The Dayna and Simon Show!

Behold younglings, an epic tale of Beowulf and his loyal Geatish warriors, led by the fair Dayna, Simon the brave, and two lowly shield bearers named Brian and Ben. Many a foul fiend and foe the warriors vanquished, collecting a mighty hoard of gold and magical "victory point" essence. Though brutal scratches and terrible wounds were had by all, in the end 'twas the indefagitable Simon who proved the mightiest of the Geats, nearly doubling the paltry sum collected by Ben the Chicken-Livered Hindmost.

Next, our fine party was transported to another world, awakening to the clash of arms; the terrible cries of strange and foul beasts; and the bloodthirsty cries of a stadium full of crazed spectators! Yes, we had arrived at the glorious world of Colossal Arena. Making the best of the situation, the party decided to place bets on the monsters fighting for their lives in the arena below. The most experienced members of the party in overseeing gladiatorial monster combat, Ben and Brian engaged in a heated rivalry, countering each other's moves, then pausing just a bit to slaughter the innocent Gorgon creature Sir Simon had placed two bets upon. While the slugfest drew to its bloody conclusion, Dayna quietly nursed her charges through to the final round. As the dust settled and vultures circled, she emerged the triumphant victor, edging out battle-scarred Ben by one paltry gold piece.

Once again a mysterious cloud descended upon our fine group, teleporting them to a world smelling of diesel oil and sounding of mighty steel machines hurtling through the countryside. Also, everyone seemed to be speaking strange languages, eating cheese and bread, wearing berets, and drinking lots of wine. Yes, we had landed in the land of Ticket to Ride: Europe. A tense, hard fought struggle for domination of European railways ensued, with our rail systems rapidly consuming the precious few routes. Dayna quickly pulled out to a commanding lead, with Ben almost catching her at the end by laying a single 21-point route. Brian played a high risk strategy of drawing tons of destination tickets in hopes of landing some easy scores. Alas, it was not to be! Dastardly Dayna ended the game, cleverly securing the longest route bonus and enabling her to edge out Ben in the final score by 8 points. Drat!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Rules of Acquisition

Now that I've played Caylus (not to be confused with Kayless, the Klingon saviour), I find that it's completely sold out. And, of course, Dragon's Lair doesn't seem to have ever heard of this game. [I tried on Tuesday, last sunday and this sunday]. I've tried several online stores, all gone.

The second printing will be out in two months, but still. It's times like this where I feel that I don't buy games quickly enough. The one time I don't take a chance and pre-order ...

So, did anyone manage to get a copy of this? [Austin, sadly, has four copies. Perhaps we should start a cultural exchange].

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Playing with history

One thing is playing in a fantasy setting. As I have stated before, it is a whole different ballpark when you play a game based on events that actually happened in the past. This applies mainly to wargames...not necessarily with Memoir 44 which is a lite-wargame, but with meatier games like Hammer of the Scotts or Crusader Rex (and I'm using these two as examples because I own them). These games inspire me to learn more about the story that influenced the games. I've read a bit more than the little history the manuals provide, and have considered getting some of the Osprey Military books to get even more background and images of the times.

When I see this in front of me.....

I want to see this in my head.....

Now the questions I pose to my fellow gaming buds...particularly to the grognards or even the wannabes (like me).

1. Am I the only one compelled to do this?

2. If you you do it for yourself...or do you also feel you have to have others "see" what your mind's eye is "seeing".... This is somewhat of a frustration to me because a part of me doesn't want to just limit myself to merely explaining the rules. I want to explain the history, so my opponent truly understands what's involved in the game. To make them understand that for the next couple of hours, you are my enemy and we are in medieval times. But the rational side of me knows that explaining rules and history may be a bit too much specially for the first time a game like HotS is played. So...

3. How do you reach a compromise where you are able to explain the rules, and explain the historical details to a level where it doesn't become overwhelming to the newbie, but it is good enough to make you feel like your opponent undestands what's at stake and really gets it. Is this even possible on a first game.... I wonder.

I guess this last point could lead me to a broader topic that I've thought about from time to time: we all have different tastes in games and gaming mechanics... and a big part of us would like for others to share the same passion for a particular game or mechanic.... but that is not always possible.... for example, I may be passionate about HotS and the history and see images like the second one above, while my brother may be happy with enjoying the raw game with no background seeing only territories and blocks he has to capture to win, when I would like for him to see it as I see it. That doesn't necessarily keep me from enjoying the game, but it would make for a better experience overall if he did.

I'm rambling. Haven't had a long one in a while. G night.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Its the Season for Gaming, 19 Dec 2005

Hubba hubba hubba! I wish I could attach Elvis Christmas music to the blog post... I'll have a bububublue Christmas without boardgaming (insert your favorite Elvis impression here). Thank you very much.

Who's up for some gaming on the evening of Monday, 19 December 2005? If there's only one or two, then perhaps Descent can hit the table. With more, perhaps Conquest of the Empire? Any interest? Of course, any gaming is good gaming...

Game Session - Part Deux

I will continue where Jeff left off, but first a few words about Junta. I really, really like this game. Yet, it isn't without it's problems. I completely agree with Jeff's comments, especially regarding the counters. They are crap. As for the game, it almost feels like two games -- a game of diplomacy, bribery, negotiation, back-stabbing, and assassination that's really awesome. Then there is a somewhat clunky wargame when there is a coup (the rules were pretty sketchy regarding a coup, which didn't help matters...)

I really like Jeff's suggestions with a goal being of somehow removing the coup aspect (at least the wargame aspect) without losing the flavor of kicking an incompetent fool out of office. A few other house rules that I am in favor of: giving each player one free assassination every time there is a new president. And since there will be a lot more assassinations, when you are assassinated, you lose your money and influence cards, but not the cards in your hand.

Overall, I rate this game a 9. That might be a little too generous, but it is the type of game I love. A lot of player interaction with negotiations and sneaky dealings, with some psychology and strategy to boot. Hopefully, further plays will cut the time down. Without modifications, the game is probably one that needs to be planned for in advance, rather than throwing it out at a regular game night.

After Jeff and Amy left, Patrick taught Hunting Party and we played a four-player game. We played with a variant where each player gets two random cards and one is face up. I went first and on my third turn, I went on a hunt and found the Shadow by accident. It kind of messes up the game a little when that happens. It was my first four-player game and I will reserve comments until I get a few more four-player games under my belt. One aspect that I can see as necessary but one I don't like is that you can't screw with the player across from you. It's to prevent three people from ganging up on one player, but I didn't like not being able to steal from Simon.

So we put it away, and played Fist of Dragonstones. This game is pretty repetitive and isn't great, but I liked it. How well you manage your resources determines your success. I think there is some strategy and second guessing. It got a few thumbs down, but I'd like to play again. Lastly, we played Mystery of the Abbey, and actually got Patrick's wife to join us. I'll let someone else comment on the game itself, since I stick by my previous comments. I will say though that the highlight of the game was when I realized that, after two wrong guesses, I had eliminated all 24 suspects. And then later everyone else started saying the same thing. It was pretty funny. No one was able to find the killer, so the game ended with no winner.(I did have fun, but that had everything to do with the people playing and little to do with the game itself).

December 14th Post-session

Thanks to Patrick for hosting another well-attended Wednesday session. Amy and I were treated to a demo of Hunting Party while we waited for everyone else to arrive. The quality of the cards was amazing and the demo left Amy and I both eager to play a full game. Lots of neat mechanics blended together with the fantasy theme which will always appeal to me.

Once everyone (Amy, Jeff, Patrick, Kendahl, Simon, and Jonathan) had assembled, we got down to the business of bleeding the treasury of a Central American country dry via a game of Junta. I was not impressed with the quality of the bits in this West End Games reprint. The counters were all of flimsy cardstock and got fairly banged up just by being separated. The cards and money were standard quality, and while the board was a bit garish, I did like the clearly marked boundaries and the easy-to-follow phase tracks. The coveted office of president was heavily competed for from the word go, and the game stuck to its theme of corrupt politics like gum to a sneaker sole. There were at least a dozen assassination attempts, while bribes were solicited and given. Alliances were forged and broken at the drop of a hat. We cut the game short after Patrick managed to steal all the money from Kendahl that Kendahl had stolen from Amy. That gave Patrick what seemed to be an insurmountable lead, even though the game was at best only halfway done. Overall, it's a solid game with tons of player interaction. I'd be willing to play it again, especially now that we understand the turn order and the strength of the various roles. After a single play, I give it a 7 out of 10. One final thought: Amy and I had a conversation during the drive home that was inspired by Patrick's insightful comment "You know, 90% of the game has absolutely nothing to with the board." We think the game could have been done entirely as a cardgame without losing any theme and with the bonus of trimming off all the coup 'wargame' rules. It could be replaced with something simple like: Each role has X units assigned to it. In the event of a coup, role one die for each unit that your role controls (you can get temporary bonus units from cards). Declare yourself to be part of the Junta or a loyalist. Add up all dice for each side, high total wins.

Amy and I had to call it an early night. Everyone else stuck around and played ....something. I'm sure the details of the rest of the evening will be filled in later.

Monday, December 12, 2005

December 14th Game Night

Howdy all,

Would anyone like to join Kendahl and I for some gaming on Wednesday. I'd like to break out some HP, but look forward to confirnming Kendahl's previous comments about Mystery of the Abby and trying out a full game of Succession.

I think we will start around 6pm and go until the wives call you home.

Also, if interested, we can order a pizza. Nothing helps a game along like some good greasy food.

Let me know.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Collecting Lost Gems

A good amount of the effort I devote to boardgaming is focused on recovering games I used to own and enjoy, but somehow disposed of in the past. Thank goodness for E-Bay!

A few of the games I seek remind me of happy times growing up and playing boardgames with my family. Most though are just flat out great games I wish I still had so I could play again. Every once in a while, I’ll purchase a game that just isn’t as good or as cool as I remember from 20 years ago, but most are still extremely entertaining.

My most recent acquisition is a copy of Milton Bradley’s Bermuda Triangle (1976). What a fun game! Players move their cargo ships between Caribbean ports, trying to be the first to collect $350,000. A sinister, dark cloud moves around the map sometime sweeping over the fragile ships, magnetically lifting them from the board, never to be seen again. Bermuda Triangle is without a doubt a low brain power game, but still suspenseful and enjoyable.

Now to check on my bids on Storm over Arnhem and B-17 Queen of the Skies....

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Abbey's real mystery

The real Mystery of the Abbey is why this game is rated so highly by so many people. With so many people rating it an 8 or higher, I had no reason to think that it would be so awful. In fact, we chose it for my games column based on the positive word-of-mouth. We made a poor choice, as this game fails to deliver on all accounts. Everyone agreed that it was the worst game we've playtested for my column. Ever.

For those unfamiliar with it, Mystery of the Abbey is basically a deduction game with a few twists to keep it fresh. It is set in the Templars’ Abbey – a monastery of 24 monks. One of the 24 monks is the murderer of Brother Adelmo and it is up to the players to use questioning and deduction skills to discover and accuse the culprit.

As in Clue, players navigate through different rooms on the game board. When a player lands in the same room as another player, he can ask that player a question about a monk’s personal attributes. (Each monk has three personal characteristics – fat or thin, bearded or clean shaven, and hooded or unhooded. In addition, the monks each have a title (Father, Brother or Novice) and come from one of three orders (Templar, Franciscan and Benedictine). The questioned player can take a vow of silence and refuse to answer, or he can answer the question and ask a question in return. Certain rooms also allow player actions, like drawing valuable cards or stealing monk cards from another player’s hand.

Overall, I enjoy deduction games. Although I haven’t played Clue in more than two decades, I have fond memories of playing the game with my family. I also really like Hunting Party, which has a deduction element. So I really had high hopes for Mystery of the Abbey and based on positive word-of-mouth, I was certain it would be a winner. It certainly was not.

My biggest gripe with the game was Mass. At the end of every fourth round of turns, mass is called. All player markers are returned to the chapel. Since a player can only move two spaces in a turn, the most one could move before being whisked back to the chapel is eight spaces. This really limits choices; there just aren’t a lot of places you can visit in one round.

Following mass, an event card is played. These cards introduce a new element into the game, with certain events increasing the game’s fun factor. For example, one card had us speaking in plainsong (Gregorian chant) for an entire round of turns, which was somewhat humorous. However, it was completely irrelevant to the game. It was almost as if the designers knew there game was lacking and threw in these cards to heighten the levity. But too few event cards are introduced for it to really matter (only three event cards took place in our game). And while some of the event cards have absolutely no effect on actual game play (like everyone singing a round of "Are You Sleeping?"), other cards have a major effect. There just isn’t a good balance, making event cards rather pointless.

I really thought questioning other players would be the best part of the game. While there is a challenge of coming up with creative ways to ask questions that help you without giving too much information to the rest of the players, the trading of cards virtually eliminates opportunities for strategic questioning. Throughout the game, players are constantly exchanging cards. And when mass is called, players are forced to pass monk cards to the player on their left, and with each mass, the amount of cards passed increases. This introduces such a random and chaotic element that it makes asking unique and clever questions nearly impossible. As a result, most questions asked help everyone equally and all players discover the identity of the murderer at the same time. The winner is then determined by who can get to the chapter hall the fastest to make the accusation.

Since deducing who committed the crime is at the heart of the game and is its best attribute, people who enjoy Clue or other deduction games might enjoy Mystery of the Abbey. But it doesn't explain why so many people rated it 8 or higher. (It even ranks 24th on Tom Vasel's top 100 list...) And despite my dislike, I feel that there might be a good game hiding inside somewhere. Some tweaks to the rules could create a more enjoyable playing experience. If nothing else, the game looks great. The game board and playing components are of the highest quality. The suspect sheets are fully color. The artwork is tremendous. Each monk is depicted as an actual character, which adds a lot of flavor to the game.

But overall, there was just too little planning, strategy and player interaction to make the game enjoyable. Mystery of the Abbey just wasn’t any fun and I won't mind if I never play again (actually, if I can't trade it off, I might make a few rules changes and play with my kids when they are a little older to help them develop their reasoning and deductive skills). It isn't as bad as H2olland, but it is one or my lowest rated games at 3 out of 10.

New Year's Eve games party

We are talking about hosting a New Year's Eve games party this year. We are undecided at this point since my wife isn't 100 percent yet, but we never do anything for New Year's and thought maybe we should this year. This is just a feeler to see who might be interested in coming. It will an alcohol-free party and pretty relaxed (probably games set up at 3-4 different tables and maybe a Werewolf game going on or something). We are hoping to hire a babysitter and have a room set up for kids, since most of Jen's friends have youngins. We'll probably ask everyone to help with snacks. Just post here yay or nay if you think you might be interested...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Ted, Jacqui and I got in a game of Beowulf tonight. [Inclement weather, sigh ...] It made a good first impression. Not great, but I think I'm going to fall into the "Don't mind the luck" camp. Despite having a similar feel (and mechanics) to Lord of the Rings, a very differen game. In LotR, players cooperate to handle the vicissitudes of events. [You know that you'll see the events, and the order ... but how long do you have?] Here you know the exact order of the events, but you have to manage your cards. Both games deal with managing risks, but in different ways. No full review, but I'm thinking about it.

Part of my thinking is that it was very gracious of me to let everyone else win. And I do mean everyone, since ties split the victory. Definitely want to play again; I'm interested to see how it plays with different numbers. Two players should be ... odd.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Stuffing Your Own Stocking This Year?

Christmas time is fast approaching and what with hundreds of dollars walking out of your bank account in the name of gift-giving, isn't it time you got yourself a lil' somethin'-somethin'?

Give into Mr. Smith's 'Invisible Hand' and tell us what all you've got ready to burn a hole through your pocket this month. I know I'm eager as hell to cash in on the new Fury of Dracula reprint (especially now that I know I'll have more than a meager two other people to play it with). I've also got the new Deluxe Version of LotR: Confrontation to look foward to since I've been holding out on getting the old one because of it. -Oh and I've been holding out for quite a while... Release dates for boardgames are as frivolous as Kanji stickers on Hondas (Sure they might be a good idea at first, but in the end they serve no purpose and kind of make the person who slapped 'em on look like a retard). Sid Meier's Pirates anyone?

There's also the new Doom expansion coming out. People seem to be a bit opinionated on this game, but I loves me some shotgun fun with zombies. I'm also looking foward to painting another 3 billion minatures to add to my already less than completed base set. That's the last time ever commit to a project like that again. But honestly I'd like to know what that meeting was like with the production plastic people; when they decided to go ahead and use eye-bleeding neon coloring for the sculpts. Brilliant.

Of course let's also not forget about PitchCar making it to the states once again with obligatory action pack. I'd also be bereft not to mention other December release goodies like Reef Encounter, World of Warcraft, a metric ton of Runebound expansions, the now infamous Caylus, and a possible Britannia reprint (although I won't be holding my breath).

So come on people, what's it gonna' be?

Happy Holidays, Simon W.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Battle Line... what a surprise.

So tonight my wife and I didn't feel like going out. I decided to take Battle Line for a spin for the first time. Of course, again, she is not much of a gamer, so I wasn't expecting the very least, it was going to be a chance to learn the rules.

The game took me by surprise. It is a light-looking and cheap, but oh-so-full- of-strategy-and-hard-desicions game that still had me thinking about optimal moves and strategies 1 hr after the game ended. It is definitively another Reiner hit. Yes, it basically is a poker/math game with a pasted theme, but the theme actually works better than in other "pasted theme" Knizia games like Lost Cities.

You basically have 9 red flags (the markers above) lined up side by side. You and your opponent play their troop and tactic cards on your respective side in front of the flags (max 3 cards per flag). Once you know you have a stronger 3-card formation on your side in front of a flag, you claim it. Tactic cards add an interesting twist providing all kinds of different "powers" (ie traitor card: take troop card from opponent's side and place it in one of your formations). Object of the game: be the first to claim 5 flags or 3 adjacent flags (harder to do).

First game score:
Me: 5 flags
Wife: 2 flags
I won easily. We used a lot of tactic cards to spice things up.

Second game:
Me: 4 flags
Wife?...... 5flags!!!!
It was an awesome game. I couldn't believe how it unfoiled. The score was 4 me, 2 wife, with 3 flags left. She ran out of places to play cards on, so basically I had three last rounds to finish placing 1 card in front of the last 3 flags. It took me a few second to realize that I couldn't beat what she had played in front of the last three flags. And....much to my surprise (because, again, she is not a gamer).... she was smiling. She knew what she had done. She beat me fair and square. I was shocked. She took the last 3 flags in one fell swoop. The coolest gaming moment with my wife.

December 7th and Beyond

For Weds the 7th, Jacqui and I offer up our house in a dastardly bid to avoid driving. The bonus is that you get access to The Closet. The closet has seen better days (like, right before my move), but it's currently making great leaps of acquisition. [Antike should be in the closet by then].

Incidentally, as we gain people, we can support more gaming! (Always nice). Personally, I'll have quite a bit of time in December (no business trips, several holidays), so open those holiday calendars! If there is interest, J & I could host on Monday the 26th or Tuesday the 27th for an all day game-a-thon. [I think].

Jonesing for Games

I realized at work today that the list of games I want to play in the near future has gotten a bit lengthy; it's at least five sessions long.

Shadows over Camelot
Puerto Rico
Hammer of the Scots
Conquest of the Empire
Age of Steam
Roads and Boats
Magic Realm
Magic:the Gathering
War of the Ring
Tigris and Euphrates

The bulk of these I don't own, and and I haven't read the rules for some of them, but I still itch to play.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Hammer Time!

Ach, Laddy! I be needin’ a hot pot of your best haggis and a bottle of your oldest single malt scotch! That scoundrel Lord Ted of the Highland Clans just ran bonny King Edward the brave and his noble knights from their rightful Scottish lands.

Although he had but a wee army of lassies from the northern clans, his trickery somehow outsmarted me, Lord Ben the Bold, the King’s trusted advisor. Shamefully, many of those northern dogs even lifted their kilts at us as we kept rolling fives and sixes with elite knights, nobles, and longbowmen. The horror… the horror…. Bring me that scotch, lad!!

A Questing We Will Go!

One of the many (too many) gaming interests I have is fantasy questing board games. My enjoyment of this type of game started back when I was about ten years old and received the 1st edition Magic Realm by Avalon Hill for Christmas. Fantasy questing, monster slaying, and dungeon crawling with the detail, refinement, and structure of a well-produced boardgame. Wow, what a concept!

Now if anyone is familiar with Magic Realm, you'll know that the 1st edition rulebook read like 50 pages of the State of Texas Criminal Code. It was a total unplayable mishmash. A few years later, a 2nd edition was released, but it didn't get much better. So, I never actually played the game, but, wow, the componets, board, and theme all just captured my imagination.

Now, 25 years later, boardgame developers are finally realizing the potential that was Magic Realm, and I can't wait to get these games on the table with fellow enthusiasts. Recent games I've purchased in this genre are: Runebound, Descent: Journeys in the Dark; and Return of the Heroes (with the Shadow of the Dragon expansion). If anyone else wants to schedule a night or nights to try one of these out, just let me know. I definitely hope to do so over the holidays.

Session Report: Last game night in November

The last session in November was a great success. Patrick was a gracious host, offering up his secret stash of candy and popcorn. We had a new player -- at least one that I had never met -- with Jonathan there. Also in attendance were Brian, Ben, and Jeff.

Power Grid

I was glad to finally learn the game. I own it and have slogged through the rules on several occasions, but never really understood it. Fortunately, I got to hear Brian explain the rules three times and after the third time I sort of had an idea of what I was supposed to do. Unfortunately, I did a horrible job of bidding. (Brian claims the 06 PowerPlant is worthless, but I argue that the 08 is even powers two cities with three coal, but early on coal is just too expensive to make this plant valuable.) I wasted a lot of money on useless power plants and kept having to upgrade and I found myself in the hole for pretty much the entire game. There were a lot of late surges, with Patrick being the eventual winner, with Jonathan and Jeff right on his heels and me in dead last. Funny, every plant Patrick bought I thought to myself "dude, you overpaid for that..." Shows how much I know.

I like the game. It's a real brain burner and my head hurt a little afterwards. It isn't one I could play all the time, unlike T&E which is equally deep (and equally dry), but it's still a very good game. Ben mentioned how he wasn't sure that he liked the fact that it was uncertain who would win until the very end. I think that with more playings this might not be an issue. I know that by the time I figured out I needed another plant to even have a chance to win, it was way too late. I am sure there is an optimum build strategy and I hope to learn it someday.

Hoity Toity
This was the second game on the table. My early strategy was to gain a little edge by confusing everyone with a horrible rules explanation. I was doing a damn fine job of it too, until Brian came in to clean up my butcher job. I think I was still a little successful though, as a few people said they didn't really "get it" until a third of the way through the game. That was the break I needed and I skated to victory, with Ben coming from nowhere to nab second place.

Overall, I thought this was a very fun game, although I really can't see playing it without at least five players. But I like the game...heck, even the name is fun to say. It probably wouldn't be one to hit the table too often, but it is one that I would keep at my cabin to break out with the family on occasion (if I had a cabin).

Kuhhandel (You're Bluffing)

The last game of the night was Kuhhandel. This is one of my favorite games for some reason. I made a few big blunders though that put me in dead last. First, I allowed Jonathan to steal my pig. I had paid a hefty price for it a few turns earlier and Jonathan made me a six-card offer. He had a few pigs already, so rather than try to outbid him, I took his offer, which turned out to be a measly $50. Later, Brian offered me all of his money for two horses. I still had a chance to win at that time, so I am not sure why I didn't bid higher. Even after we exchanged money, I thought I squeaked out a win, but upon further review, the play stood as called -- I had miscounted my bid. Oops. And crap. I could have kept my cow too but Jonathan won that from me as well, and I finished with just the cats. Jonathan, with his four multipliers, won handily.

I like the interaction in this game. I also think there is a lot more strategy than the light cards with goofy artwork would indicate. There is a lot of guessing, second guessing, and bluffing. The auction part is fun with tough decisions, since you really have no idea how much one card might be worth in the long run. I would like to play again sometime with remaining money being worth something at the end. I think this would change the strategy some. But overall, I really like this game. Brian made a funny comment about not telling anyone we played it, and it really is that kind of game. But I think it's a lot deeper than you'd think on first analysis. (The game does have the potential to drag, but everyone was playing fast and the auctions were resolved quickly. The game took less than an hour.)

All in all it was a great night of gaming after a hard day at work. I am excited about how much our group has grown, and I am envisioning playing some all-time favorites like Junta as well as learning some new games like Game of Thrones. Anyone own this one?

Stinkest, Thou?

Shadows of Camelot, art thou knight or knave? Dost thou truly stinketh? Art the disparagers of thy name mere traitors and cackling crones? Should I just cry, "Run away!" when someone suggests you? Or perhaps I should merely pull the pin on the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch and be done with you.

Days of Wonder, didst thou soil thy armor when making this one? Or perhaps thy creation is the very Holy Grail in disguise! Well, probably not, but I hope we get to play it sometime.