Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Off-Topic: Best Non-Board Gaming Podcasts

Off-Topic Warning

Two non-gaming activities taking up a fair amount of my time each week are the daily epic journey to/from Brooks City-Base for work and running. To make both activities more entertaining for my greedy brain cells, I thankfully have an iPod loaded with podcasts. I’m sure everyone’s well aware of all the board gaming podcasts out there, but I thought I’d share a few recommendations for my favorite non-board gaming shows, all available through iTunes:

Channel Frederator: Very entertaining animation shorts; check out the best of 2005 episode for a good sample.

Military History Podcast: Short, capsule summaries of various aspects of military history

Ricky Gervais Podcast: British comedy for fans of The Office television show.

The Instance: A good podcast on World of Warcraft.... must resist...

EarthCore: A science fiction / action / suspense novel recorded in podcast format by the author… sort of like a serial radio drama. A sequel is out now as well.

If anyone has other shows to recommend, please let me know!

Ancients, Orcs, and Demons: Monday, 30 Jan 2006

The clash of arms resounded throughout the night, mixing with the howls of foul orcish battle cries and shotgun blasts! A good crowd assembled to do battle on the fair tables of Dragons Lair. Brian, Jon, Ted, Rob, Simon, and I all took our places behind the boards.

First, Brian and Ben tried out the variant version of Lord of the Rings: Confrontation. We spent the game figuring out the various special powers of the new characters, when Brian made a suprise move to land his third evil character, the Uruk-Hai in the Shire, just as Frodo had Mount Doom on the horizon. Unfortunately, we flubbed the rules a bit, but a fun game nonetheless.

Next, we had two games of Commands and Colors Ancients on the table simultaneously: Brian vs. Ted; and Jon vs. Me. I, playing the Carthaginian, was able to collapse Jon's entire left flank with a massive cavalry charge, sending Publius Scipio scurrying back to his center. I then pressed forward on the right with my heavy infantry, but Jon counterattacked with barbarian warriors who were soon seen dancing on my proud warriors remains with my General's head on a pike! My troops rallied, showering his disordered mob with sling bullets, arrows, and javelins, killing just enough to secure me the required 8 victory flags. What a fun game! On the other table, Ted carried the day against Brian with repeated, well-timed play of line advance cards.

Next up were Doom (Jon, Simon, me) on one table and War of the Ring (Brian, Rob) on another. I had to pinch myself at sight of so many great games coming out on a single night. Simon's well-crafted house rules and expertly painted miniatures really made the Doom board game come to life. Jon and I fought our way through the first three areas, making good headway and doing our best to carve our way through the evil hordes with shotguns and chainsaws. Alas, the witching hour struck for me, and I had to come back to reality. I hope my Marine made it through the carnage!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Hammer time...

Years of suffering under the ambitious eye of King Edward Simon of England led to this moment. The time was right for the long awaited scottish uprising led by the infallible Lord Moray Robert, and William Wallace in 1297.

The scots quickly gained the favor of most nobles in the north while the Edward Simon flawlesly brought the Nobles Bruce and Galloway in the south under his will. The scots took advantage of their survival skills and set a strong secure camp in the unforgiving mountains of the north, knowing that it would be brutal for the english to mount an attack in those altitudes. Alas, bad planning led to Wallace having to disband early in the war, having moved to a small castle too close to the winter season.

The english had a very hard year during 1300 trying to mount an offensive with very low number cards. This year Moray Robert waited to build up their units efficiently using the limited supplies provided by their small mountain castles. Meanwhile he attempted to bring back Wallace to no avail. Unfazed he moved on...

Around 1301, Moray Robert controlling the majority of nobles by 1, decided to move south on to the bottle neck at Mentieth, the site of many bloody feuds as history will later show, to have a secure hold on his victory. The tactic was fairly effective, but like Napoleon and Hitler with Russia, Moray's men were not prepared for the brutal winter ahead. Most of his men were left out on the field to freeze and starve due to poor planning for the upcoming Winter.

This left many many scottish nobles weak and weary with no supporting units. Wallace would come back at this point of the war only to be disgraced by finding his army in shambles. No motivational speech could save them at this point. This combined with 2 consecutive years of very good card draws by Edward Simon, led to the eventual victory of the English by controlling all nobles and showing them that no good ever comes out of revolting. Just Submit! So for tonight at least, there is no freedom for the poor scottish folks who laid their trust on the greedy and foolish Moray Roberts..... only crumpets and tea.

Ground Hog Boxing Day

Jacqui and I would be pleased to host on Friday Night (Feb 3rd). Everyone is welcome, but please drop a note in the comments!


Just doing a head count... anyone going tomorrow? at what time?

Friday, January 27, 2006

A Puzzling Confrontation

Anyone else solve the Fantasy Flight Games puzzle contest for Lord of the Rings Confrontation Deluxe Edition ($50 prize in FFG merchandise) yet? I had to set the game up and reason it out for a bit, but I do believe I have the solution. Let me know if you want to compare answers... after you've submitted of course!

ChimaeraCon Update

Here’s the latest update from ChimaeraCon. I may be out of town that weekend, but it looks like a good opportunity to potentially attract new members to our group as well as easily get free admission to the Con.

Dear Gamemaster,

Thanks for your events and feedback. ChimaeraCon is still on March 24-26. The site has change to Crossroads Convention Center. It is located downstairs south west section of Crossroad Mall in Balcones Heights.

The www.chimaeracon.com is being updated today with all necessary information about the convention. People will receive half of admission for 4 hour of volunteering or gamemastering and free admission for 8 hours of volunteering or gamemastering.

Gamemasters must pre-register by 1 week before convention for the discount.

There is now a general yahoo group, ChimaeraCon, for questions, event info and other announcements about the convention. Any attendees, GM, Staff, Volunteers and other ChimaeraCon related individuals can join the group.

Also, if you have any problems accessing/registering online please let me know.

April M. Bremner
ChimaeraCon Coordinator

Thursday, January 26, 2006

1/25 Gaming Marathon Session Report

Patrickado's dotanuki caught the first rays of the sun as they appeared over the mountains. The long sword gleamed in the new light and reflected the smear of smoke on the horizon that marked the place where Simononi and Jeffasabe made war around Edo. Patrickado had marshaled his forces on the south end of the island Honshu without resistance, but the war would eventually reach him. His blade was made of steel that had been folded over and over into one hundred layers and pounded razor sharp by the swordsmiths. It was six generations old. Would he live to pass it on to his son?

I'm blatently stealing a page from the Book of Ben here to lead in to a report of our Wednesday night meet-up.

Patrick graciously hosted Simon and I. We got things rolling with Samurai, a Reiner Knizia tile-laying game that has strong ties to Tigris and Euphrates in my opinion. The board shows a map of the Japanese islands with cities and villages which contain various figures. Players place tiles labeled with varying types and amounts of influence around the cities. When a city is surrounded, they player with the most adjacent tiles with influence matching the figure in the city takes it. There are three types of figures. If any player has a majority of two of the types at the end of the game, he wins. Otherwise, each player who has a majority of one type sets aside the ones in which he has the majority and the total number of their other figures are compared. The most figures wins. Jon completely thrashed us in the first game, and he won the second one handily. I really like Samurai. It plays very quickly; we played twice in 90 minutes. It's tense from start to finish, and scales seamlessly from two to four.

Next we played a couple of quick games of Fairy Tale, which seems to be the filler of choice for the SABG, judging from recent sesssion reports. I find the play a bit anticlimatic, but the drafting of cards and evaluating their relative value to you and the other players makes for interesting decisions. I expect we'll be seeing this one for a while. Jon won our first game, and Patrick and I tied the second.

Patrick then pulled out An Ideal Candidate. It's a neat card game about running for president. Each player is a major political figure running for the high office with his own special power. Simon was Hilary, I was Ralph Nader, and Patrick was W. The goal is to win the most votes by influencing the public with speeches, TV commercials, and mass mailings. Alternatively, you can cause your opponent to lose public favor through slander and mudslinging. It's a game of hand/resource management with a considerable bit of 'take that' player interaction. Nader and Hilary were neck and neck as the last issue was decided, and Hilary pulled it out using her amazing "shrew" ability. You couldn't imagine Nader would win even in a game, could you?

We finished the night off with Succession. Each player is a figure in the royal court who is vying to manuever their heir of choice into the position of king. Each turn you may play one Intrigue which all players will vote on. They can pay gold or Influence to help push the vote the way they want. If the Intrigue succeeds, the candidate(s) you chose gain or lose standing in the court. The player who spent the most on the Intrigue, regardless of whether the vote went the way they wanted, gets to assign credit and blame. If a candidate gains standing, getting the credit causes you to gain favor with them. If the candidate loses standing, taking the blame means you lose favor. Once one candidate gains enough standing, they become king and the player with the most favor from that candidate wins. Jon and I both had maximum favor with Galahad when he ascended to he throne, and Jon won on tie-breakers. Now that I have had a chance to think about it, there's a lot of similarity between An Ideal Candidate and Succession. Succession is also a hand/resource management game with 'take that' style player interaction.

We managed to cram six games into five hours, although by the end I was yawning every five minutes. I knew I should have picked up a super-size double-adrenaline intravenous espresso on the way over.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Et Tu, Choo Choo?

Today I whiled away the time on the running trail by pondering recent comparisons made between Railroad Tycoon and Conquest of the Empire 2. If I had to choose between them, which would it be? Chariots or choo choo trains? Here's my run-down of the head-to-head match-up between the games:
  • Lineage: Tie
    • Both are Martin Wallace / Glenn Drover designs by Eagle Games released in 2005.
  • Boards and Bits: Conquest of the Empire
    • The miniatures in CotE are incredibly richly detailed, including articulating catapults. Grabbing a huge fistful of legionnaires and dumping the bloodthirsty pile into your enemy's homeland: Priceless.
    • The board of CotE is every bit as big and beautiful as the RRT board with none of the warping problems.
    • Full color artwork on the CotE cards gives them the edge
    • Big Roman coins instead of paper dollars... okay, I'll give them a tie on this, but the coins are cool.
  • Elegance: Railroad Tycoon
    • I have admit, the mechanics of RRT are quite sublime and richly evocative of the railroad baron theme. Picking up little blocks and delivering them to needy cities while trying to keep the investors and the other tycoons off your back works ever so smoothly with minimal complexity. What a great game!
    • While I find the gameplay of CotE just a much fun as RRT, the mechanics are just a tad off-putting when you think of how they relate to campaigning with ancient armies. Airlifting your legions around Europe feels just a bit like you're managing a NATO rapid reaction task force rather than the Roman Army.
  • Interaction: Conquest of the Empires
    • RRT is so sublime it reminds me of listening to classical music, sipping tea, and politely negotiating under a lace umbrella on a finely manicured green. There's interaction, but its smooth, indirect, and pretty much everyone gets along.
    • CotE is all about aggressive backstabbing and in-your-face onslaught. You grab the weakest opponent by the throat and kick him in the bollocks, all the while keeping the other members of the pack from jumping on you. The cards are nasty. The alliance mechanic is brutal, and the combat is intensely bloody. The only way to survive long in this game is to attack! I really enjoy it!
  • Luck: Tie
    • If you don't like luck-driven games, then you have to give a slight nod to RRT. The cube and card distribution are really the only luck-based mechanics, and these really just serve to add the spice of variety to the game.
    • If you don't mind luck when its appropriate for the theme, then I'd say its a tie. CotE adds dice-based luck for combat, but to me this not unreasonable when you're depicting ancient battles.
  • Replay Value: Railroad Tycoon
    • By a nose... the tycoon ability mechanic of RRT would transfer so well to CotE 2! I wish Eagle would develop a Caesar ability deck. The cube distribution is a bit more interesting than the influence token distribution of CotE as well...
    • Still, CotE has strong replayability based on the cards, influence tokens, alliance voting, and other aspects of player interaction.
  • Overall Fun: Tie
    • I really couldn't bring myself to choose. I wouldn't want to be without either of them in my gaming closet. RRT is definitely the nicer, gentler, more sophisticated game, but CotE has more high drama, and "Gotcha!" factor. To me it's like choosing between pepperoni and sausage pizza. I really like them both, though some nights one sounds better than the other.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

2 Proposals...

I have 2 proposals:

1. Single out nights for group games, and nights for 2 player games. Group games seem to be our forte, but there are a lot of 2 player games I'd like to try and/or see. I've been itching for HotS for a while. And Ben and Jon seemed to have been into Command and Colors but were interrupted when we started a 6 player RRtycoon. There are many out there to be tried too.... Blue Moon, Memoir 44, Crusader Rex, and a bunch of other wargames as I've noticed recently. Heck, we could make a Wargame night. We could all meet and sit in separate tables and play these 2 player games. That way we all still get to hang out, play these gems ,and get to see what others are trying out.

2. Not talk about Thoughthammer while in DL. Heheheh! I felt bad about it and didn't even notice until it was too late. I think Kendahl pointed that out. It's the least we can do to the guys that provide the hang out spot. I'd go as far as suggesting we should buy from them at least the cheap ~$10 games every now and then as a way to say "thanks".

My 2 cents.

Gaming 1/27

Amy and I are gaming again on Friday night at our place. Everybody's welcome as usual. Let me know if you can make it and whether you need directions.

VCR/TiVO Alert!

Tonight from 8:00 until 9:00 KLRN is showing NOVA: Secrets of Lost Empires: Medieval Siege. Thought you guys might be interested. Those of you not in the San Antonio Texas area will need to check your local PBS listings.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Remember the Alamo!

Alas, I'm not doing a very good job of defending a little town I like to call San Antonio, France, (complete with a little stone church in the center of town) against the ravaging German hordes of my PBEM opponent, Mr. Steadman. However, one little squad (now down to four men) I've named Privates Crockett, Travis, Bowie, and Kindt have defended the rubble of one of the church buildings, killing about five times their number in German troops, disabling a halftrack, and driving off at least three desperate hand-to-hand combat assaults. Unfortunately, as seen above, my armored forces haven't fared too well against my enemy. Notice the Panzer IV on the right applying the coup de grace to my Sherman at point blank range. If you like squad-level WW2 games, I know you'd like this one: Combat Mission.

Gaming 1/25

I'll play anything, any time after 6. Last Wednesday, Scott Nicholson told us about Cas$ n Gun$. I'm pretty sure we can play with just the rules. I'd really like to give it a try. Especially since I heard its one of Alan Moon's favorites. Further, since I don't have to be at work until 12 on Thursday, I'd even play a really long game like Descent. Anyone? Anyone?

Their Finest Hour...

As the scattered paratroopers of the 505th, lead by Staff Sgt. Willems, hunkered down into their defensive positions within the town of St. Mere-Eglise, a strange uncertainty fell over their otherwise upbeat morale. Anything was better than the beaches of Normandy, but the ease in which Carentan was taken gave them doubts about the German war machine. Certainly, many feared what they felt was an almost compulsory counter initiative.


Artillery fire poured suddenly in from the south. The men pushed all the air out of their lungs and readied their M1919A4 machine gun nests. Their suspicions were right and now they were in for hell from an implacable German barrage. Obersturmfűrher Wengler had ominously arrived with a platoon of Wehrmact from the 91st Division, approaching through the concealed bocage of the countryside surrounding St. Mere-Eglise. The verisimilitude of the situation was that of an inevitable onslaught.

To make things worse, it appeared that a StuG IIIG and a Marder I armored transport had appeared on the road to the East as well. Fortunately enough for the Americans, Snipers had been set up in the wheat fields along the advancing enemy position as well as the town’s Church tower. As a glider squad, shot down by anti-aircraft fire, collided into hedgerows in the west of town miraculously unharmed, the Yanks felt the odds start to shift a bit in their favor.

Little would the Germans know how tenacious the red, white, and blue would be when cornered…

Well, Jon and I finally got in a game of LNL: BOH! The game is all that it says it is - the fun and excitement a wargame provides without the rules clutter and heavy time requirements. The hero system and impulse driven gameplay make both players constantly involved in the scenario. There’s also enough dice injected in to make the game less deterministic, like most Grognard games, and more chaotic like actual war (although Jon was doing his best to disprove statistics with his constantly horrid throws). I can’t speak highly enough about the genius and simplicity of the module. –And it’s pretty to boot, which is a sort of oxymoron for a wargame.

I can’t wait for the next clash of arms in the Western Front.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Hi all, and thanks for the welcome. I was delighted to receive Ben's kind invitation yesterday - it's been over a year I think since I last had a chance to play anything more demanding than Taboo... I've only been in Texas for a little over 2 years (moved here from England at the end of 2003), and for half that time I was working in San Angelo and commuting back here at weekends, so I haven't had much time to find compatible gamers.

As I mentioned to Ben, my main gaming background is in wargaming, which I've been playing on and off since my teens. But I've always liked all kinds of games, and am always happy to give almost anything a try. Though I have come to the conclusion that I don't much enjoy role playing games, straight or live action. I haven't actually played many of the euro type games, other than two-player ones (Lost Cities, Kahuna, Settlers, etc) with my wife - but most of the ones mentioned here on the blog I have at least heard of.

Anyway, I'd love to come and join one of your sessions soon. I may not be able to make this coming week, a combination of work and the last week in town of a couple of our best friends; but I'll certainly take advantage of your offer as soon as possible.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Commands and Colors Ancients: First Impressions

Whew... I just applied stickers to both sides of 345 wooden blocks for C&C Ancients... actually 344 as my copy from GMT was missing one. Grrrr!

First impressions:
  • Bits: Acceptable... I would have preferred miniatures, but much better than counters or stand-ups. I would imagine most people are not going to enjoy the experience of applying 700 stickers... Thank heavens for my iPod to keep my brain from exploding out of boredom. Then to finish and find I was missing one block... I had to laugh (to avoid crying)!
  • Board: The artwork, for a plain desert map isn't bad. However, it's unmounted cardstock, i.e., disappointing. For $50 you should get a mounted board.
  • Rules: Very well done with plenty of examples and illustrations. Just a little better organization could have been done, as the rules for leaders are in 3-4 different places, but overall very good. I'm really impressed with the leadership, close combat, support, and elephant rules. The game is going to play a lot differently than Memoir. A key point seems to be keeping your troops from breaking ranks and retreating (echoes of Battle Line). I think this game is going to be a lot of fun.
  • Dice: Poorly made hollow plastic boxes with stickers. This is just criminal for a game with so much dice rolling. I don't mind the stickers as much as the hollow plastic boxes.
  • Box: Solidly made. The box art is just okay in my opinion... not McGowan's best effort though.
  • Cards: They look and feel almost exactly like the cards from Battle Line. Thin with pretty basic art. Days of Wonder spoiled me. Having a Spartacus card in a game where its Rome vs. Carthage struck me as just wrong, but definitely a minor point.
  • Scenarios: Ten in the rules, and GMT gave three extras to those who pre-ordered. Personally I think this is pretty cheesy compared to how Days of Wonder just posts tons of official scenarios on their website. GMT promises more scenarios in their C3i magazine, which sells at $20/copy. Yikes! Just inspecting the scenarios, I'm a bit concerned that many of them are going to be unbalanced. Now this would be historically acturate as it wasn't unusual for ancient battles to be one-sided massacres, but it doesn't make for the best game play. Hopefully I'm wrong on this point. The battle of Zama looks totally awesome though!
  • Expandability: Huge. The game just covers Rome vs. Carthage. So there's a huge variety of other ancient battles which could easily be added to this game system.

1/20 Session Report

I thought Jeff was going to post the session report but I think he is a bit weary of someone from Malaysia correcting his Bohnanza planting methods or something like the same. Anyway, a good time was had by all in attendance (Me, Rob, and our two gracious hosts- Amy and Jeff).

Before Rob showed up I was drawn into a three player game of Puerto Rico. Now when I played Caylus, I had no trouble discerning strategies or seeing what I did wrong and where, etc. -But I must painfully profess that this game left me feeling really stupid, like the level of dumbfoundedness akin to taking a diagnostic math test after a long, wild summer and staring at a simple equation that for all practical purposes you SHOULD know...but you don't and you sit there feeling inadequate. I need a few more plays to get a grip on it. Maybe playing late on a Friday didn't help much...Or at least that is the excuse Amy supplied me with. Like Caylus, I think the game could benefit from a little more player interaction. Jeff lost by a single point to Amy at 61 (ouch) and I came in at 44...a rather paltry score.

We then moved on to a nice filler game of Bohnanza after Rob was forced to watch us play out the end of PR, being one his favorites (sorry). Again, I was a bit slow on the uptake but managed to slowly massage my dendrites into a working order. Bohnanza was well covered by Rob so I think all I need to say is that it is indeed a fun trading game. I actually feel it's more similar to Apples to Apples in play than anything else in the genre (light with pretty chaotic scoring as most will trade almost anything that will end up vaguely benefiting them). Rob won with a score of 21 with myself a few behind, and Jeff and Amy taking up the rear.

Next, we all sat around shooting sly glances at Railroad Tycoon until Jeff piped up and requested it. The game is fantastic in my opinion. The components are spectacular (with the board being an exception) and the gameplay is just strategic enough without the rules clutter and analysis paralysis that is usually involved. Having more players would seem to up the ante. Also, unlike Conquest of the Empire, the cards are not entirely too numerous and random (something Jeff conjectured might have been the reason for my distaste of it). The scoring track is brilliant as it seems to prevent runaway leader and keep a nice tight end game even with a versatile group of tactics taken by players. All in all, a very solid 9 for me as is. Jeff controlled the Northeast and beat me and Amy (we tied for 2nd) out by 5 points. I was pretty impressed that Amy was able to do so well in the dead lands of the South coupled with a considerable amount of debt from shares via investors. Rob tried to limit Jeff's score and ended up limiting his own as well, but his sacrifice only helped Amy and I do better. So thanks I guess. :)

Again, thanks to Jeff and Amy for hosting. Oh, and I hope you guys get to play that Heroscape Master Set you were able to procure for seven bucks at Goodwill. -Mother of all deals that was. Enjoy.

-Simon "The Euro-Whipping Boy" W.

Another New Member: Martin Mills

Everyone please join me in saying, "Howdy," to new member Martin Mills. Martin lives in NW San Antonio and may be joining one of our upcoming gaming sessions sometime soon...

Friday, January 20, 2006

Dragon's Lair, 24 Jan 2006

I just added a proposed event on Tuesday, 24 Jan 2006 to the group calendar. Jon and I are planning on trying out Command and Colors Ancients (1 hour game), and I'm also going to bring my shiny new copy of RR Tycoon. I hope others are able to join in the festivities as well!

As a consolation for my aborted giveaway a few weeks ago, I'm offering a mint, in-shrink copy of the Citadels Dark City expansion to any member of our fair group that needs it. I accidentally ordered it with the new Citadels, not realizing it comes-with in the new version. Just shoot me a note if you want it.

The posted picture isn't exactly a dragon's lair, but it is John Howe, which is just great to look at.

Board Games and Jigsaw Puzzles: Are They Interlocking Hobbies?

One thing I've been puzzled (!) by recently is the interesting connection between the hobbies of board gaming and jigsaw puzzles. Perhaps this is a sign of me having studied too much this week, but hear me out...

The similarities between the two are significant:
  • Both involve moving around colorful cardboard bits on a table, looking for patterns to emerge
  • Both frequently deal with interesting locations, historical eras, fantasy themes
  • At least in Europe, several of the top board game companies are also top jigsaw puzzle companies (e.g. Ravensburger)
  • Both can either be a family / social activity or can be done solo.
Anyway, don't worry... I haven't lost my mind and defected to jigsaw puzzling. I did just pick up a very cool jigsaw puzzle of the Alexander the Great's battle against the Persians at Issus (2,000 pieces), which is right in line with my ancients gaming theme... A picture of the puzzle is above.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

All Hail The King

I would just like to take a moment to thank Ben for all his work on our wonderful Blog. Its steadily been getting better and better, but after the addition of the Calendar(by popular demand) I felt it necessary to make a public statement.


Jeff Causes a Stir!

Board Games and Gaming Blog from Jerusalem, Israel - Yehuda: A Princely Exaggeration?

Jeff has apparently created some controversy on the internet with his recent Princes of Florence session report!

Sandals and Spears!

Strap on your sandals, grab your spear, tighten up that loin cloth, and be sure to pick up a fresh can of bronze polish! Oh, and please don't make those elephants angry. Its time for ancient wargaming!

If you are like me, your gaming interests periodically focus on one particular theme. In my case right now, its ancient history wargaming. Circus Maximus, Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage; Caesar: Epic Battle of Alesia; Battle Line, Conquest of the Empire, Commands and Colors Ancients (which should arrive any day now...), and my now pre-ordered copy of War Galley... there's some great games out there! Heck, I'd even throw Colossal Arena into this genre.

I hate to admit it, but I think part of the appeal of this genre is just how incredibly vicious and bloody the era was. Who doesn't enjoy controlling armored elephants on the battlefield? Ancient battles were pretty much organized slaughter, with slavery being the best the loser could hope for. The Romans, for instance, enjoyed marching their enemy's captured generals down Rome's main street in a victory parade, then having them strangled. Yikes! Vae victis, indeed!

Anyway, I'm hoping Richard Borg's Command and Color Ancients keeps all the good things from Memoir '44 and throws a healthy, heaping dose of ancient battle flavor into the mix. In the mean time, maybe I'll crack open my copy of Caesar's Conquest of Gaul...

Boardgames with Scott 1/18 Session report

Schedules aligned in a fortuitous way so that Amy and I could both head out to Patrick's for a Wednesday night game session. We picked up visiting gaming dignitary Scott Nicholson from his hotel on the way.

First up was Hunting Party. Amy and I had seen the demo, but it was a new experience for Scott. Patrick sat out to make it the optimum three players. Amy hired the Knight early and then proceeded to make good use of his 'females cost you one fewer share' ability. If you'd asked me before the game "How many hunters could you have in your party?" I'd have answered "If you've got three you're probably stretching yourself pretty thin. If you can get three and still have kept enough shares to yourself to earn some cash, you're doing very well." Amy had five hunters at her peak. The Spy, the Summoner, the Sorceress, the Enchantress, and the Knight all served her well and helped her divine the hiding place of the nefarious Shadow. Scott had amassed a decent stockpile of gold and placed in a respectable second, while I was sent to the poorhouse with barely two coins to rub together.

Next up was The Princes of Florence. I love PoF. It's an absolutely brutal resource management game where you have to start planning practically your entire game on the first turn. The idea is that you're a merchant prince who's trying to hire and pamper artisans to produce works of art that are more impressive than the ones the other princes have. It lasts seven rounds. In each round there's a series of auctions where each player will win exactly one item, and then each player gets two actions. With only fourteen actions allotted to you for the entire game, limited cash on hand, and not enough artisans to go around, you can never do everything you'd want. Things moved along fairly smoothly and by the fifth of the seven rounds I had managed to pull ahead of the pack by about ten or twelve points. Let me go off topic for just a second. You've all heard of the World Boardgaming Championships, right? Well, at the WBC last year in the championship round of The Princes of Florence there was a magnificently bearded fellow named Scott Nicholson. In rounds six and seven Scott showed us what world-class PoF play looked like. His plan that he'd been setting up for the whole game came together in a flurry of magnificent artworks. He didn't lap us on the scoring track once; he lapped us twice. I didn't think PoF scores that high were mathematically possible. The rest of us did quite well. We all had scores that would have won any other PoF game I've ever played in. We ended up within fifteen points of each other (Scott 189, Amy 98, Jeff 90, Patrick 87) and Patrick's performance was extremely impressive given that it was his first game - PoF is not kind to the inexperienced.

It was a great evening. I wish Scott could have met more of the SABGers and vice versa. We had a really good time chatting and gaming.

1/20/06 edit - Apparently, the scores for PoF listed above are wrong. That's what I get for not taking notes and writing the session report from memory the next morning. Discussion with Scott (read: he talked and I listened) has confirmed that he only lapped us once. The second lapping was an optical illusion - it only felt like we were getting beat that badly. In addition, we had all misremembered how to convert work value to gold and prestige points, so our scores are artifically inflated (like Dolly Parton!)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Father Time, Jerk or Big Jerk?

On a side note, I would like to see if it is possible to maybe attach a calendar to the blog, or something like the same, to track when people are available/not available for gaming. If it's too big a hassle then just forget about it. I know I'm going to have a hard time making it to sessions from here on out as I have class till 8:15 PM Monday and Wednesday, and till 9:45 PM Tuesday and Thursday. Fridays are completely free as are weekends, but not much gets scheduled around then. So if people could post their approximate schedules either way, it'd be nice for tracking and timing purposes.

The Day I OD'ed On Cardboard

I think Ben summed up Descent quite nicely so I will only touch upon it. Basically it is exactly like Doom with some minor differences. The biggest of these being you can now fully customize your character if you so choose. The dungeon is also preset-up, which I can understand for the wild time requirements (a full 2 hours over Doom's average play time of 3 hours) but it does lose a lot of flavor in exploration and adventuring because of it. As for our game, we pretty much ran around beating the organs out of hairy creatures and skeletons (a hard task when organ-less) for most of the game. In fact we were so full of ourselves that when we lost two of our party members to a giant flaming ogre (the fiery kind), we pretty much took it as a fluke and hurried on to end the game. With a fat stack of conquest tokens and egos overflowing with cleaving special abilities and a bug that, apparently, was Death's insectoid incarnation, we confidently strolled into the last room...Only to get beat the ever-loving crap down. Hard.

After a short visit to Wing Stop for some much needed sugar and calories, we returned for a nice filler game of Citadels. Myself along with Sir Ben of Broadway-Sunset, Count Jon of Northwest Military, Duke Bryant of...erm- some far off land, and Earle Chad of Fredericksburg (Hey, that's where we found him) all gathered to build spectacular cities in a contest to prove who was pretty much "the coolest" of them all. I must say I mopped up with a 31-point city that was a full 10 or so over the next highest. As much as I would like to claim superior intellect and cunning strategy, it really came down to the fact that I didn't get interfered with at all and was passed the Assassin way too many times (I told you guys, for shame).

Bryant then put us to task with the much hyped Caylus after Ben had to give in and go home. I must admit as a caveat that I don’t necessarily have a huge predilection toward Euro games, so take the rest of what I have to say with a grain of salt. While I certainly respect the design, which has numerous interlocking mechanisms and variables to be considered, I didn't find the game to be a terrible amount of fun. The only player interaction to speak of came merely from limiting other's choices. While moving little wooden cubes around in a certain way may be exciting for some, I was a bit bored by the dryness. It was almost like we were all just playing a solitaire game competitively. Again, I respect the design immensely since it was clearly well thought out, but I can't say it's the next best thing since toast was invented.

At this point, Bryant and Chad called it quits. Jon and I, in a fury of game-fueled insanity (all charged up on boards and bits like Scarface), decided to stay around and give another game a go. Tigris & Euphrates was decided upon once the poor, overworked Rob arrived to try and get in at least some gaming while he could during the week (I feel for you man). I must say I enjoyed it a lot more than I would have expected. There was tons of player interaction and interesting moves to consider. The whole time we played Caylus, I was wishing for some kind of peasant battle resolution and T&E came and delivered on some much-needed confrontation. Jon cleaned up on me and Rob, almost entirely because of the most incredible feats of luck I've ever seen. You might think "luck in T&E?" -But I swear to you in each conflict he became involved in; he had the magical number of support tiles every friggin' time. Oh well... I was a bit shocked by the game's simplicity though. I was always intimidated by games like these because of the category of "weight" I had seen them thrown into. I’m starting to feel weight is much more of a misnomer than I had originally concluded.

Anyway, it was real. It was fun. -And it was real fun. I went home and sat on the couch attempting not to think at all once I got home. I think I succeeded, but I have to say the day was worth it. So all I really have left to say is...when's the next mega game day? :)

-Simon W.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Overlord Triumphant

A hard fought, 5- hour Descent slugfest, with adventurers Jeff, Jon, Simon, newcomer Chad versus the poor, innocent creatures of the Evil Invincible Overlord Ben. The forces of light initially made short work of my unprepared spiders, skeletons, and beast men, but in the end the forces of darkness prevailed!

Despite their ever increasing arsenal of magical bazookas, enchanted plasma-powered armor, and ethereal targeting lasers, each room the adventurers busted in on became a little tougher. Though Jeff could merely wiggle his wizardly finger at one of my creatures to instantly blast the poor creature into its component atoms, my dark powers were quietly growing ever stronger as well. The heroes fired a couple magic bazooka rounds into the chest of Igor, my elite giant ogre, but it was their first big mistake. Igor, a huge flaming mountain of rage, did his dark lord proud by rushing forward and literally mopping the floor with Jeff and Simon. Sadly, Igor when down fighting with about twelve flame tokens on top of him....

The dastardly heroes armored up, met up with the resurrected Jeff and Simon, and confidently trotted down to take on the final boss room. I had nursed my pile of threat tokens to near maximum and cycled through a whole deck of bad guy cards to have just the right final mix. As the final door opened, I quickly launched an exploding door trap on Simon sending him reeling. Chad moved forward, and I dropped him in to a series of spiked trap pits, sending him to the graveyard.

Jon, the armored wrecking machine with the ability to cleave through a whole pile of monsters in a single turn, ran into my dragons lair, only to see the dragon, two giants, two sorcerers, two beatmen, and two skeletons all facing him. Unafraid, he waded through three of my weakest monsters and lopped off the head of an elite sorceror. Alas, invoking devlish incantations, the sorceror sprang back to life without a scratch, blocking Jon with a now fully awake horde about to pounce.

Jeff, with his death ray, fired two long range shots at my ancient dragon, hitting both times. Jeff scored wicked wounds on the beast, knocking it down to below half strength, but not killing it. Then it was my turn...

I cast a dark charm on Jeff and forced him to shoot the death ray directly at himself. Jeff hit himself pretty badly, but most of the damage was absorbed by his eldritch armor. Drat! Next my mob of sorcerors, beast men, and skeletons pounced on Jon, hacking him down to just a few health. Then it was the dragon's turn, who blasted both Jon and Simon, leaving nothing but a smoking pile of charcoal and molten mithril where Jon used to be. My elite Giant then moved forward to lay down a killing blow on Simon. Simon vainly tried to fight him off, scratching him slightly with a glancing blow. With a hearty laugh, the giant brought down his mighty hammer on top of Simon to end the game with a mighty, squishy, crunch! (Insert evil laughter here....)

We played from roughly 1030 to 1530 without a break, which made everyone pretty hungry and ready for the game to be over. However, I had a blast the entire time and was never bored. If better food and beverage provisions had been in stock, I don't think the time factor would have even been an issue. I totally thought I was getting beat down by the heroes until the last room, but the climax was just ugly enough to knock them back down to size. A very close game that literally came down to the last turn. I'd have to rate this game an 8.5, marking it down slightly for the length. With the expansions that are doubtlessly on the way, I'm sure it'll soon be in the solid 9 range.

Gaming 1/20

It's a gaming smorgasbord this week! If you couldn't make it out for Descent on MLK Day and can't make it to Patrick's on Wednesday or if you just haven't spent all the brownie points you've saved up with your wife this week and want a third day of gaming, then come on out to Jeff and Amy's on Friday! We'll order pizza around 6:00. Let me know if you're coming and if you need directions.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Gaming 1/18

Well, I hope you guys have fun at D-Lair tomorrow. I'm so sad I won't get in on that Descent. For those of you who need more gaming in your life, I would like to invite you to my place on Wednesday. Come one, come all.

Gaming on 1/16

So just to organize it better under one post.... who's coming to Dragon's Lair? At what time? What are you bringing?

I'll be there around 7pm (anyone coming in this late?). I'll bring fillers like Battle Line, and a meatier game like Hammer of the Scots for anyone who's left out of a big group game.

Oh and BTW, welcome Bryant! Per his post, we will have a copy of Caylus (!!!) to play with. And RR tycoon. Still it looks like most of you, he'll be there early. See y'all tomorrow.

Gaming Celebrity May Join Us This Week

I received a note from Scott Nicholson, host of the Board Games with Scott video podcast. Scott is in town this week and interested in joining us for some gaming.

It sounds like Scott is tied up on Monday during the day, but Monday night, Tuesday, or Wednesday may be possibilities. I asked him to monitor this blog for further possibilities beyond Monday. I'm going to be busy Tuesday and Wednesday, but if anyone is interested in setting something up with Scott, just give him a shout.

Scott: Great show! I'm looking forward to the upcoming Heroscape episode.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Chimaeracon, March 24-26, 2006

There's a Con coming up in San Antonio... Chimaeracon. I sent the organizers an e-mail asking:

1. Would they post a link to our group on their page? They agreed, but haven't done it yet.

2. Could we GM / host any board game sessions at their Con? They said they'd love for us to do this, but haven't sent any details (i.e., free admission for the GMs hopefully...).

Anyway, I'll let everyone know if I find out any more.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Gaming at D Lair

It was a fun night of light games for me. I got there late (sorry Jeff!....he was leaving as I got there.... maybe we should make sure we all have everyone's cell phones), so I only got a chance to play light games.

Ben and Brian looked busy with 2 games of Twilight Struggle. Looks very interesting, and more so given that it covers a period of time to covered by many games (I think).

Simon and Jonathan were at it with a game of War of the Ring. I think, from what I saw, ONCE AGAIN the Free People's had it their way by destroying the One Ring.

Since these two games were brewing when I got there, I pulled out Battle Line and played 1 game with my brother while the others finished the Big Games. He suprised me by winning by taking three adjacent flags (the hardest way to win in my opinion).

Once we all finished, we all got together in one single room and played Citadels followed by Fairy tale. I brought Railroad Tycoon, but it seemed like it would have taken a while to play and it was already like 8pm. So Citadels was very fun...partly because I wasn't particularly the target of the assassin, but once. Again had the same feeling of not having much control over my character abilities. Still, this time I found the fun in trying to find out who would play what. Playing Fairy Tale, only convinced me more to keep it high in my wishlist. It was all I thought it would be: a light fun strategy card game that plays well in under 15 minutes.

All-in-all a fun night. Even the manager last night was excited to see so many boardgamers together at the same time. He even offered to announce an official boardgaming night for us to be included in their calendars.

Patrick Famous Again!

Has anyone else listened to the January 2, 2006 episode (#46b) of the Board Games to Go podcast yet? The host goes on a five minute rant about how he didn't like the people in costume at BGG Con, specifically mentioning the guy in the court jester costume. Get a grip, buddy!

Monday, January 09, 2006

I Have a Dream: Gaming on Monday, 16 Jan 2006

Anyone else have the day off work and interested in playing Monday, 16 Jan 2006? Days like this are made for games like Descent or other non-weeknight games.

Gaming Weds the 11th

Just a quick note -- Jacqui and I are up for gaming (and hosting) the 11th, if anyone is interested. [I'll be at DL tomorrow, Tuesday the 10th, as well].

Hope to see you there! (And here!)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Bohnanza...spill your beans

So we played Bohnanza last night me, my non-gaming wife, my half-gaming brother, and my non-gamer friend from work. All I can say is that I can definitively see this being fun in our group. I have to admit; I prefer games like the ones Ben likes….Memoir 44, TI3, Conquest, etc. Basically true wargames or wargamey confrontational games. But still, I do enjoy good euro games both deep and light ones. Bohnanza is a light, but extremely fun trading/set collecting card game. I also have the expansion (which we didn’t play) that seems to make it even more fun and complex.

Players are basically farmers trying to earn gold by growing and harvesting bean farms. You have the ability to make 2 rows (farms) of same-type beans (there are over 10 types), and try to have as many bean cards per farm before harvesting them to make gold. You can also invest in a third farm for 3 gold Different bean types give you different amounts of gold; bean type rarity is what determines the gold you earn for a set number of cards harvested. The rarest is the Cocoa Bean with only 4 cards in the deck, and the most common the Coffee Bean of which there are 24. Where the game shines is when you have to trade around and negotiate in order to maximize these earnings.

There are some cool mechanics that make this game different from other trading games. First, you have to play the cards in your hand in the order that you get them…which is fine as long as that card is similar to any in your farms. But if the card is different, you are forced to harvest a farm to open space for that card. So there is some planning ahead to do. After playing the first card in your hand, you have to draw 2 cards and place them in front of you. You can play these immediately into your farms or trade them off. You can also offer to trade cards from your hand, but again they also need to be played immediately. If you can’t trade a card that you want to get rid of, you are forced to keep and play that card…and again harvest if you have to, to make room for that card. This “screw you” factor forces your opponents to harvest before they can maximize earnings. It also leads to more interesting offers from your opponents like “I’ll get rid of that card for you if you also give me (blank) bean card from your hand”.

Session Report: R (me), K (brother), C (wife), and CK (friend).
CK, even though he’s from Texarkana, is an inexperienced farmer. He was up to a slow start harvesting very small bean farms making very small but quick profits. He was a little overwhelmed by the beans he was being forced to plant, that were constantly forcing him to harvest before time. He didn’t realize that trading is key to compensate for the random beans dealt to him, until very late in the game. My wife, the true farm girl and investor that she is, quickly saw opportunity in the neglected cheap Blue and Wax Beans. It took longer to make a profit per farm, but everyone else would trade her these two beans b/c no one else was after them, filling up her farms fairly quickly. K and I are aggressive farmers immediately noticing the screw you factor mentioned above, and the potential to make money out of the more rare beans like Stink bean, the Chilli bean and Garden Bean. We were both head to head for a while, but then he went ahead and secured a win with 2 consecutive sales of huge farms of chilli and garden beans. This lead to me being an even more aggressive farmer, not wanting to trade at all with him, even when I needed his beans. I soon realized that this was bound to backfire and ended up screwing my score at the end of the game. I tried to recoup by playing the rarest bean in the game, the mighty addictive and aphrodisiac Cocoa bean, followed by all kinds of bribing and begging to CK who had another Cocoa Bean. This sadly wasn’t enough to win over K.

Final score: CK: 12, C: 15, R: 16, K: 17.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Board Games, Tuesday, 10 Jan 2006

It looks like Brian and I are meeting up at Dragons Lair on Tuesday around 5 PM to try out Twilight Struggle (a two player, 3 hour game).

Perhaps others would care to come, enjoy the commaraderie, and play some other games as well!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Veni, Vidi, Vici: Session Report, 5 Jan 2006

Four noble Caesars gathered to carve up the decaying Roman empire. Jefficus, Jonius , Simonius, and Benius Maximus assembled their legions and prepared to wage an epic struggle across the known world.

Jeff started off in good position with an insolated stronghold in Egypt. Simon had Sicily as an island fortress and Mesopotamia under his thumb as well. Jon, I think, had a majority of his holdings on the continent, while I had a solid base in Greece.

I made a major move East, capturing Turkey, booting Simon out of Mesopotamia, and cutting his army nicely down to size. At the same time, I built my navy to five galleys, where everyone else had just one, in order to make the Mediterranean my own personal pond.

Jon and Jeff slugged it out in mainland Europe with Jeff keeping Spain and Gaul, and Jon securing Italy. However, the battles decimated both of their armies, while mine was still sitting on the sidelines polishing its armor. Jeff was able to keep Egypt built up and fortified, discouraging any desert adventurism.

Simon made a jump from Sicily to southern Italy to challenge Jon for domination of Rome, but he was eventually booted off the continent. Taking advantage of the situation, I slid in behind him and took over Sicily.

At the same time, Jon and Simon were racking up serious chaos points, taxing their subjects into a frenzy. In this game, the people with the top two levels of chaos loose victory points each turn, which can add up to a serious penalty compounded throughout the game.

In the end, I was able to pull ahead, fueled by a profitable city nestled away far in the East with my powerful Navy and mint condition army ready to pounce. Jon did a great job securing his domination of Italy and even with my hordes I was loath to dislodge him. Simon made a painful run at my soft underbelly the last year, pillaging my homelands in Greece and Turkey, but it wasn't enough. Jeff ended up with a solid second place, with low chaos, and Egypt, Gaul, and Spain quite secure.

What a great game!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

1/04/06 Session or "How UT Was Vindicated"

The festivities were a bit on the meager side with the only gamers being me, Jon, and our benevolent host Patrick. We started off with a couple games of Hunting Party. Jon and I moved at a snail's pace turn-to-turn as we tried to tame the myriad of variables flying around the table. We were promptly handed our sorry rears by an unstoppable Patrick (no surprise really). So as comeuppance, Patrick placed a handicap character on himself and gave us a free powerhouse each in return. Sadly, he still had to pull a couple punches as we struggled to take our turns in any sort of recognizably effective manner. I managed to win the second game over Jon after having known the Shadow's traits for well over half the game (and not being able to do a thing about it).

Next, we moved into the living room to turn on the Rose Bowl Game. I busted out my rather weak collection that I carted along, and LotR was selected since Patrick had never played it. Halfway through explaining the rules he asked "So why is this fun?" At this point I knew it would be a hard journey on the Fellowship. Alas, the Rose Bowl drew our attention over the plight of the Hobbits and they fell to corruption in Shelob's lair quite harmlessly. I can definitely see why a lot of people dislike the game as it is in truth a supped up version of Go Fish with dice and events. To each his own, I guess.

The last game to be tabled was Roborally, complete with my sexy painted bots. Patrick got a good first few hands and pulled away as Jon and I mutually screwed each other over, succumbing to cold-steel death on multiple occasions. As our bots smoldered in heaps of junk, runaway leader kicked in and Patrick easily coasted to victory. Between Jon and I, we only managed to tag a grand total of one flag (in a 3 flag game). I still think Roborally is genius and I would die a happy man if I were its creator.

Around this point we finally gave into the Rose Bowl and watched the whole fourth quarter game-free. It was a nail-biter to the end and I couldn't be happier with the win or suspense. So thanks again to Patrick for everything, including the advance copy of Hunting Party. I was a bit short of cash and didn't even expect it, so that was a nice surprise. Until we meet again.

-Simon W.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Hunting Party

Just one more post...

I don't know if you all saw it, but there was a fairly positive review of a game we're all familiar with over at boardgamenews.com this past Sunday.


RR Tycoon as a Prize.... Probably

Since today is the day of a million blog posts, I'll add another.

If you haven't yet bought Railroad Tycoon and want to, you might want to hold off for another week or so. I'm probably getting a second free copy, in which case I'll offer my existing copy up as a prize at an upcoming game night / afternoon.

The only downside is the one I'd give away would have a slight ding on the outside of the box, which happened during shipment. Otherwise the game is fine. I requested an exchange from the vendor, and instead they're just sending me a whole new game for free.

The NEW BoardGameGeek

So as to add to the many threads that have popped up today, I've decided to add my own.

Has anyone seen the new layout for BGG?

I for one think the move is rather ill-implemented. I know Aldie quit his day job to bring us this but I think it shows by the now 50% of content belonging to ad banners and boxes. The site looks really cluttered and busy, mostly because there is no real color scheme to speak of. A little shading to the left and top bars would help a lot, making it a bit easier on the eyes. I fear new users might find the site a bit unintuitive and uninviting (as I do).

I went to my profile to keep my collection up to date and noticed there's a huge box of block ads right above the 'games' box, as well as all around it. I know I could pony up $25 to get rid of it but I have a hard time blowing money to make a website viewable. BGG was the only site I've ever donated to and I hope they fix a lot of the growing pains so I can do so again.

So what do all you guys think?

P.S. the picture is from Engrish. If you haven't visited there, trust me - you owe yourself to. Hilarity.

Thursday seems set, now how bout Wednesday?

Sadly, as Kendahl pointed out, I can't attend unless it is on Wednesday at my place. So I would like to put out a feeler for anyone interested. My place, Wednesday, anytime.


All the schedule-juggling for this week’s Conquest of the Empire session due in part to the fact that Dragon’s Lair closes at midnight some days and nine o’clock at others reminded me of a now-closed game store in Knoxville, TN, where I used to hang out.

It was called The Adventurer’s Inn. Technically, legally, it was a store. It had a rack of role-playing material, shelves of CCGs and card sleeves, a handful of miniatures for Battletech, dice, candy bars, and a fridge full of soda. As a store, it sucked. In reality, The Inn was a gaming club. As a gaming club, it rocked. Dues were ten bucks a month, and coupled with sales of soda and snacks, were the primary way The Inn paid the rent and electricity bill every month. The owners weren’t trying to make any money, they just wanted a place to hang out with their gaming buddies – and they had a lot of gaming buddies. Running the place as a club also let them kick out anyone they didn’t particularly care for, but it wasn’t a power they used often. If you were a gamer, you were welcome. At its peak, there were about fifty dues-paying members.

The Inn had an 8 x 8 felt-covered table for miniatures games, plus terrain. It had a pair of 4 x 4 felt-covered tables for boardgames. There was one of those long fold-out tables for role-playing games. On a shelf in one corner was a selection of boardgames for general use. It had nasty mis-matched carpet and smelled like a musty basement. The best feature The Inn had, however, was its schedule. It opened sometime in the late afternoon, and closed around at around four to six in the morning, depending on how long people kept playing. It was staffed by volunteers. More than once I left after a long night gaming and winced at the harsh light of the morning sun and the hard truth that I had class in two hours.

I played my first games of Settlers of Catan, Iron Dragon, Cosmic Encounter, and multiplayer Magic at The Inn. At one point, I was playing in three separate weekly D&D games. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to go back to gaming every single night and skipping sleep at least once a week. I’m not as young or as free as I was then. But part of me misses that grungy little hole-in–the-wall.

New Year's Eve gaming

Well, I am finally getting around to writing a session report of my New Year's Eve gathering. Unfortunately, not many from our group were able to attend. Jeff called and his wife was under the weather, so they bailed. Ted and his wife Meredith came and his wife brought the Cherry 7-Up, the traditional New Year's Eve drink for her family as it resembles champagne. Several friends from our church also showed up and with plenty of fatty treats in our stomach, it was time for some games.

With eight of us, the choices were limited game-wise. I decide to break out the classic Pit, mainly because it works best with eight. The game is all about trading, with everyone racing to get a set of nine of the same commodity. The trading is hidden however, so you don't know what you are getting until you get it. It is a very chaotic game with absolutely no opportunity to plan -- if you collect a set, then you are very lucky rather than very good. But it was fun ... we went once around the table and that was plenty. It was a good icebreaker.

Next we broke out Category 5. The idea was to play one more group game and then break up into separate tables. Just as I was explaining the rules, another couple showed up, bringing the total to 10. I really liked the game with 10 players, as all 104 cards are in play. Poor Meredith took a row nearly every turn, and the game was over in two rounds. I could have played more, but everyone was ready to move on. The argument was that the game was too chaotic, leaving no room for tactics. There is an element of chaos and randomness with 10 players, but I argue that there are plenty of tactical decisions every turn, especially if you can remember what cards have been played. Also, good card management is critical.

Next, we played two games of Mafia, with the townspeople winning both times. Unfortunately, there were two detectives, which is way too many in a 10-player game. (In the second game, I had a good chance of winning, until Ted, a detective, outed me as a mafia and the game was over.) I really like the game. I think you need a good moderator and outgoing players who really get into it in order for it to be fun. But as far as large group party games go, it's still a favorite.

Lastly, we broke into two groups. Meredith taught Puerto Rico at one table, while Ted taught Modern Art at another. I finally got to play the top-ranked game at bgg.com, so I was stoked. I think it goes without saying that whenever a game is ranked so high it's bound to disappoint slightly. Overall, I liked the game itself a lot. There are a lot of options each turn and a lot of strategizing and planning ahead, which I really like in a game. I expected a higher learning curve, but Meredith did a great job of explaining the rules. She really whipped everyone, though, so maybe there really is a high learning curve. My biggest complaint with the game is that you really can't affect or influence the other players. In fact, you don't interact with your opponents much at all. This might be more to do with our inexperience than reality (of the four players, three were first timers). Also, although I really liked the mechanic of selecting roles, it seemed that most times everyone benefitted equally from my choice. I could pick something that helped my strategy but helped everyone else equally so I didn't get ahead much. Overall, after just one play, I would rate this game at least a 7, because I like games heavy in strategy, but it might struggle to make my personal top 10 (I would definitely like to play it again though).

At the other table, Ted was involved in a heated art auction. He was also involved in a marathon game of Modern Art - the longest I've ever seen. I am not sure what was going on at his table, but it lasted longer than Puerto Rico (including set up and rules explanations). I don't know much about what happened, other than my friend Seth won.

Overall, I had a fun night. I hope everyone else did as well. I may have found a few recruits for our game nights. My friend Paul and his wife love games, but he is working full-time and taking 18 credits so I doubt we'll see him until May when he graduates. Seth also said he would like to join us on occasion. We'll see if either pan out.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Alea Iacta Est: Conquest of the Empire this week

Alrighty, Legionnaires! Let's get down to planning on actually playing this big mother of a game rather than just thinking about it.

Personnally, I'm pretty flexible this week other than Monday and Friday. I recommend we start as early as possible so as to be sure to finish the game.

To cast the initial die, I'll throw out Wednesday evening as a possibility...

Of course, if we can't get four or more brave souls together for this, I'm always willing to play whatever else...