Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top games of the year...

I can't say that I've played all the games released this year (or even a tenth of them) so these are very much a personal thing dependent completely on my own collection of games.

Most Played Game of 2009: Dominion

This one was easy. We played nothing else from January to April. Too much fun and far too addictive. Intrigue was hit or miss but we are enjoying exploring Seaside.

Honorable Mentions: Alhambra and Acquire

These classics saw a lot of table time in our group this year.

Favourite New Game of 2009: Endeavor

This one was tough. I acquired a lot of great games this year but many didn't come out in 2009. Sometimes games take a few years to catch on. But Endeavor is fantastic. Relatively easy to learn, lightning fast to play, and loaded with tons of depth and strategy. Great fun and a near-perfect heavyweight Eurogame.

Honorable Mention: Tobago

This lovely family game provided us with the most unique gaming experience in years. It's fun, beautiful, and really makes you feel like you're exploring an island for hidden treasures. And it's surprisingly tactical, too!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

They REALLY love their games...

Someone on BGG has posted a list of the best homemade versions of games of this decade. You gotta check it out... I posted a few pics of favourites below. I wonder if these people take orders?



Race For The Galaxy

Caylus (drool!)

Dominion (with chips!)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

You tell me: Christmas

What games are you giving out for Christmas (if you celebrate) and why?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Quick thoughts on Atlantis strategy...

Seriously, this great new game has gotten tons of plays in the last couple weeks as it is quick, fun, and has a surprising amount of depth despite the chaos. Some thoughts:

- Rush one marker to the end to draw more cards earlier in the game. But don't rush in the last half of the board, maybe slow down and grab some of the big tiles.

- Grab some small tiles early so you don't have to use cards to pay for water crossings. Paying in cards is 1-1 with points but cripples your choices horribly until one of your men gets to the mainland.

- Leapfrog off your opponents to get to the good tiles of the same colour as tiles that are closer.

- In a 4-player game, get your guys off Atlantis ASAP. In a 3-player game, you have a bit more breathing room.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Super quick review of Atlantis

Great little game! The goal is to move your dudes to the mainland and gather as much treasure as you can along the way. But the path sinks behind you and the more water you have to cross the more treasures you may have to leave behind. The rules are posted here. All I can say is that this is a big hit with us. Simple clear rules but tons of room for clever tactical play. Relatively short (30-45 minutes) but lots of room for some small long-term thinking (rush my guys to the end or leave a few behind to gather treasures... Hmmmm.....). And most of all - TONS of nasty interaction. Oh, and it's quite pretty, especially when everything really starts to sink....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Games Workshop makes a misstep...

Sounds like Games Workshop, the makers of Warhammer 40,000 and other bank account-draining miniatures games, is getting a little uppity with BGG. According to Scott Alden, the head honcho behind BGG, they've been served with a cease and desist order to remove most user-generated files corresponding to their games including things like FAQs and errata . Copyright infringement or something lame like that. Sounds like a clearcut case of douchebaggery to me....

I think GW is shooting themselves in the foot with this one by alienating us users of BGG. You know, I always felt awkward walking into those GW stores that claimed to be "games and hobbies" stores but only ever contained Warhammer miniatures. I guess I have all the more reason to avoid.

Ted Alspach posts his own humorous comment here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's not December yet, is it?

So I can still buy Leo Colovini's Atlantis for myself, right, without feeling too guilty? Especially since it was less than 30 bucks, right?

My guilt is assuaged a little by the fact that the game is actually quite beautiful, a lot of fun, and has a surprising amount of depth.

Okay, no more gifts for me...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Review of Tobago...

Although I didn't make it to Essen this year (yet again...), in the past couple months I have been browsing the rules of the many new releases. It seems to me that a lot of the most well-received games this season have REALLY complicated rules (see the rules for Shipyard or the various strata of rules for Dungeon Lords). They may be quite good but they'll probably never get played by my group. Sigh.

Two games, Tobago and Gonzaga, however, are recent releases whose rules actually seem relatively reasonable and look like they could be a lot of fun. Thanks to a lovely birthday gift from my brother, Tobago is now in my possession and has been played a couple times now. So is it good? Oh, yeah. It's great (you can see some pictures of Tobago here).


This may well be the highlight of the game. The components are beautiful! The game comes with wooden huts and palm trees and little stone Easter Island statues. Everything looks and feels authentic and it really adds to the experience. The board is beautiful and extremely well thought out. It comes in three pieces which can be arranged in 32 possible configurations, making a different spread for every game. The most interesting thing is that no matter how you arrange the board there will always be a largest area of each type of land mass. Very cool. Verdict: Beautiful and highly functional. Just great.


As I mentioned earlier, one of the main draws of this game came from reading the rules early on. They seemed relatively simple and intuitive. And they are. The rulebook clearly explains everything and because many of the ideas in this game are so thematic and unique, they seem easier to pick up and remember. The rulebook also has lots of pictures and examples, making the game a breeze to learn. Verdict: Excellent.


In the game you play an explorer on the island of Tobago, searching for one of four buried treasures. There are a few really clever interrelated game mechanics going on. First, you play cards on the columns corresponding to the four different treasures. Each card narrows down the area where the treasure could be (i.e. NOT in the largest lake, on the beach, beside one of the palm trees, etc.) As the possible locations are narrowed down, the cubes representing that treasure are removed from the board until there is eventually only one space left.

And here's where the next major gameplay mechanic comes in. Instead of narrowing down one of the treasure locations, you can choose to drive your little wooden jeep (jeeple!) and grab the treasure if there is only one cube left. There are a few rules to moving the jeep and how far it can go, but they aren't complicated and add just enough choice to make things interesting. Once a treasure is captured, the players who contributed cards to that column get to share in the spoils.

And this is where things get even more interesting. Each player has marked the cards they added to that treasure column with the player capturing the cube adding one extra marker. A set of treasure cards of varying value is made up, with each contributing player being able to look at a few. The first gets flipped and the players, in order of discovery, get to claim one with each marker they played. Tricky, and quite fun. And just to throw a wrench in the gears, there are two nasty cards that cause each player to lose their best treasure if they have not yet claimed one. You really need to see the treasure drawing in action to have it make sense but it adds a ton of tension, interaction, and laughs to an already fun game.

Once treasures are given out, one more wrench is thrown in the gears. The three giant stone statues shoot laser eyes at the coast and where their gaze hits the shore, magic amulets arise from the depths of the ocean. Seriously. Okay, so it may not be that dramatic but every time this happens the board is seeded with three amulets that the players can pick up with their jeeples. These amulets offer many powers including free turns and removing location cubes. Great stuff and quite fun to make noises as the statues slowly turn 60 degrees. Ka-chunka-chunk. Verdict: Varied and fun but not too complicated.


Okay, so I always like a bit of strategy in all my games (a lot if a game is particularly long). Tobago is more about tactics than long-term strategy and throws in a big old dose of luck during the treasure draws. But it always offers you tons of choices. Should I narrow down a treasure and get in on the rewards or should I go and pick up that amulet that will help me out? Can I narrow down the treasure so it is closer to the location of my jeep? There's tons of choice every turn but the game plays really fast and tends to keep everyone involved. If I were to compare it to something, I'd say it's about as deep as Blue Moon City. But given the short play time (less than an hour) this one hits a home run on balance between fun and strategy. Verdict: Not a brain-burner but something you'll wanna replay again to figure out the best moves.


What can I say? I really love this game. It plays unlike anything else in my collection, it's easy to explain, the components are gorgeous, and it's just a whole lot of fun. I predicted previously that Eine Frage Der Ahre might be a Spiel des Jahres contender next year. This one is a guarantee. Pick it up, you won't regret it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The promised land...

My friend took a picture for me while she was in Germany of a traveling Settlers of Catan bus (click on it to embiggen the pic). The side of the bus opens to allow people to come in and sit at tables and play hundreds of different games. I really gotta visit this country!

Monday, November 9, 2009

First plays of Jet Set and Tobago...

Our hellish move is done and I finally got a chance to play my birthday gifts from over two weeks ago. Just a quick note about each and some pics for now. Reviews later if things ever slow down...

Jet Set

Okay, so this is like the route-building of Ticket To Ride combined with the tight money management of Acquire. Sounds like an awesome combo, right? Well, I think so. It was pretty fun and the game went over fairly well with the four of us. I'm just not sure about the depth of strategy. Will need a few games to decide.

Having said that, this puppy was only 24 bucks which is less than half the price of TTR lately. And the component quality is great. For that amount, it is worth it either way!


This is the coolest game I've played in awhile and it feels totally different than anything in my collection right now. A game of treasure hunting which is sort of like a deduction game but not really. You cleverly play clue cards to narrow down the location of treasures on the board and then drive your jeeples over to scoop them up (jeep + meeple = jeeple!) Lots of fun and surprisingly tactical, I am very anxious to play this game. Lots of room for clever moves and a gorgeous board and pieces - check out the easter island statues in the picture!

Definite Spiel des Jahres contender for 2010 (along with Eine Frage Der Ahre, of course). Can't wait for my next game....

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Oh, the joys of Photoshop...

Thanks to my sister for pointing out this awesome post. My personal favourites: the Settlers remake and the Diplomacy remake at the bottom of the list. Both very appropriate.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Moving sucks....

Sorry for the lack of meaningful posts lately (if my posts ever were meaningful...) In the middle of a move to a new home amongst many other things and haven't had time for much typing.

On Friday I picked up Jet Set and Dominion: Seaside and received Tobago as a borthday gift from my bro who is visiting. And I haven't played any of them yet due to time. But oh when I do, expect many a comment. ESPECIALLY about Tobago which excites me to no end!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yeah, yeah, yeah.... Have fun in Essen...

I'm getting tired of reading all these board game blog reports (especially on BGN) gloating about their upcoming trips to Essen, arriving in Essen, and all the great games they'll buy while they are there. Whatever. *insert jealous, annoyed face here*

Monday, October 19, 2009

Complete set of Dominion: Seaside cards available!

Rio Grande Games has posted the complete set of rules for Dominion: Seaside here. On page 3, there are images of all 26 of the new Kingdom cards. Exciting.

The kingdom cards from Intrigue have not had as much play by us as it seems to increase play time in our group. These ones look like they will not have that issue.

My copy is on reserve and I pick it up Friday. Can't wait!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Middle Earth Quest FAIL....

So my brother's in town for a visit and I gave him his birthday gift: Middle Earth Quest from Fantasy Flight Games. Last night we cracked 'er open for a try. The board is so massive that it didn't fit completely on our table but we set it up somehow anyways and my bro started plodding through the 40 pages of rules. About 2 hours into gameplay (plus an hour of setup), I was still only about one space away from my starting space and not even close to finishing my starting quest. I was swearing to him that the game was broken. So we go back to the rulesbook. Oh. Moving from location to location only costs ONE card of that symbol type, NOT the printed number on that symbol. The printed number indicates the number of ANY cards you can play to use that path. Sigh. So we aborted the game 3.5 hours in. Try again tomorrow....

Glad I'm not the only one who messes up explaining fundamental rules (yeah, I'm talking about you, Chicago Express!)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dominion: Seaside cards!

The first two have been posted.....
The Island

Cost: 4, Action-Victory

Set aside this and another card from your hand. Return them to your deck at the end of the game.

Offshore havens for your victory points? Love it...

The Ambassador
Cost: 3, Action-Attack

Reveal a card from your hand. Return up to 2 copies of it from your hand to the supply. Then each other player gains a copy of it.

Hmmm... I don't like these curse cards. Maybe I'll just put them back and YOU can have them.

Of course the geek is alive with comments here and here.......

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Games Magazine Game of The Year.....

I remember as a teenager looking forward to the December issue of Games Magazine every year. They'd publish their list of the 'Top 100 Board Games of The Year' and I'd drool over all the games that seemed unavailable in northern BC. I don't have a subscription anymore (although I really should get one again) mostly because of my broke student status for the last 3 years.

Well, according to BGN this year's list is up and I'm looking forward to picking up the December issue at the local magazine rack. The winner: Small World by Phillipe Keyaert, published by Days of Wonder. This remake of Vinci is supposed to play like a shorter version of History of The World, a personal fave. Add another one to the wish-list...

(My birthday is Oct. 27th, by the way.... ) ;)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Great article on teaching games...

Chris Norwood at GamerChris just posted a great article on how to teach games. Really worth checking out if you're the one who always seems to be doing the rules explanations.

Dominion: Seaside kept under wraps...

Before Intrigue came out, there was pictures of the complete images of all the action cards available. But according to the OTHER Eric Martin, Rio Grande is keeping this one a big surprise until it's international release on Oct. 19th. Sigh. I guess no early drool-worthy previews. But I suppose I'll be buying it either way....

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Deck-building - the new worker-placement!

You remember when Caylus came out? And it was such a new and exciting idea, the whole worker placement thing. It combined resource management, planning, and timing into one simple and elegant mechanic. Next thing you know Pillars of the Earth shows up, then Stone Age and Cuba and Tribune and so on and so on....

Well, skip ahead a few years and Dominion has now swept the gaming world. Now the idea of deck-building isn't original - that credit goes to Magic: The Gathering from way back when. However, building the deck as the game progresses is wholly original and has changed game play altogether. Well, guess what? There's some card games on the way which have started to incorporate this very mechanism. Here's a few, all of which I have yet to play:

Arctic Scavengers
This one came out last year and has been getting some really good press. You start with a small "tribe" of cards and slowly add tools and resources. One of the main differences compared to Dominion is that you have skirmishes at the end of each round with the cards in your deck and rare resources are won in this way. Sounds like it will play quite differently and, much like Dominion, there are already two expansions in the works...

This game from Alderac Entertainment Group seems to be a combination of Dungeons and Dragons meets Dominion. There are over 500 cards which make up the characters you can hire and the monsters you fight with. Like Dominion a random subset of characters and baddies is available each game, making replayability quite high (hopefully). The website says:
Thunderstone is a new and exciting fantasy deck-building game from Alderac Entertainment Group. Fight the evils of the dungeon to prove your worth. Gain powerful weaponry and level into new and mighty hero classes. Claim the best cards and survive to take the Thunderstone.
It'll be interesting to see if this one is a hit or a miss. The babble online is saying it's a lotta fun...

This game is also from AEG which makes one wonder if they are just trying to cash in on a trend or if they are actually putting out some decent gaming. The description from the website:
As the game is played, various stacks of “Stake” cards are revealed. Using the cards in your hand from your Main Deck, you will play agents to the various Stake cards, and you will use other cards to augment your agents. The player whose agent wins the Stake will claim it, placing it in his Resource Deck. Any card from your main deck that has been played also goes to the resource deck. When the main deck runs out, you reshuffle your resource deck into a new main deck. The more powerful the Stake card you win, the better it will make your deck as the game progresses. However, should you win a stake for a card that does not directly help your strategies, you can put the card under your Guild card, and still score at the end though not have to reshuffle that card into your deck, maintaining focus. Every card has a point value and at the end of the game the total point value of all the cards in your possession determines the winner.
Sounds like Dominion, although there are some other bells and whistles not mentioned here. I think the big difference here is that the deck-building isn't the main function. You have to fight for the cards to add your deck and certain cards will be worth more thanks to some secret objectives handed out at the beginning. I think this will be the lighter of the two from AEG but definitely something to look out for...

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Mysterious Creator of "Dominion"...

In my excitement at the upcoming release of Dominion: Seaside, I thought I'd mention a little Dominion trivia floating around the geek....

Officially, the creator of Dominion is a guy by the name of Donald X. Vaccarino. Yet only a small picture has ever surfaced of the man and he hasn't really been seen at a lot of conventions (so I've heard). He didn't even show for the Spiel des Jahres award ceremony this year which was quite the big deal. In fact, his BGG Designer profile states:

"Donald X. was born in 1969, after years of not existing. Of his life, little is known. Donald X. is like something you've forgotten that no-one wants you to remember. He's everything and nothing, but not at the same time. If you rotate Donald X. 360 degrees, he'll only be standing upside down. You have to rotate him 720 degrees to get him back where he started. You know how if you hook tons and tons of computers together, maybe they'll develop some kind of bizarre mass sentience? That's Donald X. in a nutshell. In fact Donald X. is nothing more than a corrupt, profane monument to a slightly earlier version of himself."

Weird. Some still say Valerie Putman and Dale Yu, the main developers of Dominion, are really the people behind the curtain and that Vaccarino doesn't really exist (although Rio Grande's Jay Tummelson convincingly denies it).

Dominion intrigue, indeed!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Mom, I think she broke Ticket To Ride...."

At least the online version of the Mega Game, anyways. My sister sent me the scores from a couple of her two player games below and all I have to say is "holy %&$#!!!"

Game 1: Final score: 356, 21 tickets made

Game 2: Final Score: 362, 25 tickets made

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Oh, Chicago Express....

Played a couple of games of Chicago Express last night with some newbies at games night. Very fun but in neither game did any one train company get even remotely close to Chicago. It was weird since in my other games Chicago was reached repeatedly, the Wabash opened, and in one of the games it was even particularly successful. I feel like we were burning through the stocks as an offensive maneuver most of the time. Hmmm. Love the game but I sure haven't come remotely close to figuring it out....

Anyone else had weird experiences with this one?

UPDATE (Oct.2, 09): How about next time I read the rules CAREFULLY... Each time an expansion action is taken, up to three hexes can be played NOT just one. Stupid me.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ticket to Ride World Championship!

Check out the details here. I'm kind of annoyed because the only Canadian tournament is in Victoria, BC. Great little city, but Victoria?!?!? How about Toronto or Vancouver? Would probably make more sense....

I'm curious as to how these games will play out. 2-player? 5-player? Viciously competitive? Probably.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

SDJ 2010 nominee?

Okay, maybe it's a bit early to speculate about next year's Spiel des Jahres nominees (this year's happened two months ago) but I sure think we played one last night. After reading a positive review on Gamepack about Eine Frage Der Ahre, I decided to grab a copy. The game is a tile-laying Euro about farming and it feels a bit like Ingenious meets Ticket to Ride meets I don't know (some say it is similar to Taluva, which I have yet to play). It's extraordinarily well-balanced, the rules are simple, and in our first game last night the top two players took very different strategies and we still ended up having to determine the winner on a tie-breaker. Everyone agreed it was great fun and was looking forward to playing this beautifully produced game again.

I would definitely check this one out on BGG as I think it's gonna be really big. Or you can wait until I get a couple more plays in as I will be posting a review of it here very soon....

Friday, September 18, 2009

"Are you THAT Eric Martin?!?!?"

I finally signed up for a full membership at Boardgame News. I've been waiting for my first real paycheque before I spent the $25 bucks. But it's worth it. BGN is probably the best English-language boardgame site on the web besides Boardgamegeek. They offer detailed previews and reviews of the big game conventions in Essen and Nuremberg, amongst many other things. It's really worth checking out.

Oddly enough, the guy who runs the website goes by the name W. Eric Martin. He is well-known in the boardgaming world and has written many articles for Games Magazine, a magazine I happen to be very fond of (go figure...) Just last month at one of our game nights at the university, someone asked me, "Are you THAT Eric Martin?!?!?" No. No, I'm not.

This may get confusing....

Thursday, September 17, 2009


One company I just love is Queen Games in Germany. Great games with components that are deliciously well-produced. The latest thing which I would kill to get my hands on arrives at Spiel '09 in Essen. It is a Queen big-box called Colonia and it is created by Dirk Henn, the guy who made great games like Atlantic Star and Alhambra. Embiggen the pic to look at all the bits...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Required reading....

There are many books on the market that contain games but most just have the standards: card games, chess, checkers, etc. However, in the late 60's, prolific game designer Sid Sackson put out a book called 'A Gamut of Games'. Sackson is the inventor of, amongst others, the brilliant Acquire and is the father of modern boardgaming in my mind.

'Gamut' is a treasure trove, let me tell you. 38 original and fascinating games selected from his various gaming groups, 22 of which he invented himself. The book includes his classic abstract Focus before it was published and Soucie's brilliant Lines of Action (a personal favourite). As well, there is a precursor to Das Super-Blatt playable with a deck of cards and a game which is a bit like Monopoly and Acquire's love-child.

Added to all this is a fascinating amount of game lore and some discussion as to how the games were developed. This is gold for someone like myself who is interested in one day producing and publishing his own game. Check it out if you can find it, if only because you'll get at least 20 great games for under $15. Sid, you are missed...

(Oh yeah, and some say Sid owned over 18,000 different board games. Awesome.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

First impressions of Endeavor...

In the past two weeks I've had the chance to play two full games (and one aborted attempt) of Z-Man's new offering, Endeavor, by Carl de Visser and Jarratt Gray. I was quite excited when I picked this game up at FanExpo as I'd heard great things. So does it look like it was a worthy endeavor? (sigh...)

Opening up the Dominion/Ticket to Ride-sized box yields a small deck of cards, a bag of wooden pieces, and a whole lotta cardboard. The wooden pieces are of the usual great quality and the cards are of fine stock. Then there's the cardboard: lotsa little chits with symbols on them and a big main board and player boards. I must say the art is very nice but not very evocative of world conquest. In fact, all of the art is VERY abstract. The main board consists of square sections which represent the different continents with rectangles representing the cities. It all looks very nice but nothing like a world map (except for the faint background pictures of the actual continents, something most players would barely notice). All of this is a complete non-issue for me but is indicative of a bigger problem others may have with this game. But overall, very well-produced and highly functional. Verdict: Very pretty but very abstracted.


Not too much to say bad here. The rulebook is beautiful and has lots of great examples. We only missed one rule as it was in the margins, you know Alea-style. My bad for not reading it thoroughly. However, after one play through the rules of this game just click. The choices are simple and the game really makes sense so explaining it a second time is a snap (as long as your participants are willing...) Verdict: Beautiful, clear rulebook and simple, elegant rules.

So how do you play? Well, each player starts with a player board with four rows of symbols. These symbols all have meanings (like technology and government or something like that) but they really don't matter that much. This game is so abstracted that you won't pay that much attention anyways. However, the major way one gets points in the game is from moving along these rows and the farther you move along them the more actions you will be able to perform. So, if nothing else, one wants to move along the rows on the player board and in some sense advance their civilization. But there is much more.

In the game, there are seven rounds in total consisting of four phases each. In the first phase, everyone takes a building. No payment, just grab a building. However, you are limited on the building choices by where you are in your brick (technology?) row. Each building offers different but useful choices, many of which must be activated later. Some even allow you to increase a row on your player board or victory points at the end. An important note, though, is that unlike Puerto Rico these buildings are dead-simple to understand and consist of only a symbol or two. Consequently, building choices are usually quite fast. The second and third phases which usually occur at the same time are mere bookkeeping. A player gets a certain number of their pieces from the general supply to place in their harbor and they can also remove a certain number of pieces from their buildings back to their harbor (both determined by how far along the player is on the corresponding rows of their player board).

And then the real action begins. In the fourth phase players can begin to take actions with the counters in their harbor, usually by placing a counter on a building to activate it. There are only four actions that players can take, all of which are relatively simple. One can 'ship' by adding a counter to a shipping line leading into a continent. Shipping is important for when a shipping line completes, a continent is then considered open and other actions can be taken there. One can 'occupy' by placing a counter on an empty city in an open continent. At the beginning, only Europe and the Mediterranean is open. An 'attack' is also an option by tossing one counter into the general supply and then replacing an opponent's on the board. And finally one can pillage an open continent by drawing the top cards of the corresponding deck or decks as long as they have enough representation in the continent. These cards have nothing more than one of the four row symbols, allowing you to increase your player board rows, and the occasional victory point or two.

Repeat seven times and you are complete. It's all very abstract and would make for a tedious game if not for the great little details added to the gameplay. When a continent opens, the person with the most counters on that shipping line gains a 'Governor' card, granting them quite the bonus. As well, each city is worth a point and so are connections between pairs of cities so suddenly getting adjoining cities becomes a lot more meaningful. As well each city and connection has a token on it, most of which let you AGAIN increase your rows and hence your capabilities. Other tokens can be played for an extra action of a certain type which is very useful as your actions are often limited by the number of your buildings. Even more interesting than that, one can choose to draw from a 'Slavery' deck but with possibly dire consequences. If a certain card is reached in another deck, slavery is abolished and those players who resorted to such unethical tactics lose points and all advantages given by the cards.
All these little additions to a relatively simple set of rules make for one hell of a fun game. And because the symbology is so clear and the actions are so simple, turns end up being lightning quick. Much like Puerto Rico, one has longer-term goals in the back of their mind but in the short-term, play is quite tactical. Verdict: Brilliant, simple, and really quick.

Having only played two games, I will admit I haven't plumbed the depths of this puppy. The major decisions stem from how one decides to increase their rows on the player boards and what buildings one takes during the first phase of each round. And, like any great Eurogame, each of these decisions are usually made from a small set of simple but valuable choices. Like Puerto Rico, each of these small decisions throughout adds up to make an overarching strategy.
This brilliance follows through to the action phase, where the choices start small and expand as the game progresses. As players gain more buildings and hence more actions to choose from, certain areas of the board fill up. What happens then is that only two or three regions at a time seem open to occupation and pillaging and despite the large board the action remains very centralized at any one moment. But that doesn't mean the choices aren't tough - because they are - they just seem to resolve very quickly, making the game quick and very fun.

As well, despite the simple rules, there are many chances for exceedingly clever moves and takeovers. At more than one point in our two games, a player was heard to say, "Damn!" or "Ouch. Well done..." Oh yeah, and once the chips are laid out at the beginning this is a game of perfect information. Nice. Verdict: Long-term strategy a beginner can grasp with continuous tactical decision making throughout. Perfect information. So great.


As you can tell, I'm loving this game. The rules make sense and are fairly easy to understand and explain (although, it's NOT Ticket to Ride). In sense of complexity, I'd put the strategy one notch lower than Puerto Rico... but not much lower. In terms of feel of play, I can't think of any other game that this reminds me of. It's original, highly interactive, and loads of fun. A thing to note, though: I LOVE Eurogames and don't mind abstraction. But the theme of Endeavor feels more abstracted than even Tigris & Euphrates or Acquire. This would be a negative if the game didn't play so well.

One other concern brought up by a player in our first game is whether this game offers much replayability. Having only played two full games, one 3-player and one 5-player, I can't say for certain. But the games were both quite different and both quite successful and I think the random layout of the chips will add quite a lot of variety in the long-term. I see this one being played for a long time to come and I'll let you know if the love affair lasts....

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Boardgame T-shirts....

Check out the T-shirts at www.gameink.net for the ultimate geek gifts. Some of these are pretty obscure like my favourite, "They call me... El Grande!"

Monday, September 7, 2009

Gaming Mecca...

So when I think of all the gaming-related things I would do if I had greater amounts of burnable money, one of the things I would love to do (besides owning more games) would be to hit Essen every year in October. As I have mentioned before, Germany has been the cradle of modern boardgaming for the last 30 or so years and every Fall in Essen they have an enormous gaming convention. And it is simply referred to as Spiel (Game). Most publishers and designers around the world releasing games in the last half of the year try and wait until the 3rd quarter Essen event.
This year its from Oct. 22nd to Oct. 25th and will probably garner around 150,000 visitors. Games released this year include Funckenschlag - Fabrikmanager by the guy who made Power Grid, Assyria from Ystari Games, a new Alea game called Macao, and of course Dominion: Seaside. Sigh... Some people want adventure vacations, some people want tropical vacations, I want a gaming vacation.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Thesis revisions done! Bring on the gaming...

Just finished the last revisions of my master's thesis. Done with school for good. Heading to the cottage to drink, play board games, drink, relax, and maybe drink some more. Can't wait to play Endeavor again....

Have a great long weekend!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Quick games night recap...

Had a blast last night at UW's board games night. Played some great old Euros and a new one while in the other corner half the guys spent 6 hours playing Space Alert. They made it to the 7th tutorial but never got to the full game! Weird game which I'm not sure I want to try. In order, we played:

Great, simple little game that managaes up to six people. Move stones, collect different types of fossil pieces, and score big when all of that type is taken. Easy rules, but more than meets the eye. Lags a little at the end but still fun and so easy to teach.

Okay, the hype is worth it. A wonderful, complex game with relatively simple rules. This has been getting great press and it deserves it. The theme is about world conquest but the play is surprisingly abstracted. And yet, this game is a ton of fun and the interaction is fierce! It has been compared to Puerto Rico but after having played it, the resemblance is pretty minimal. Pick up chits with symbols, move corresponding rows, and place markers on cities on the board. This is the game Knizia never made in the last 10 years. If you loved the depth of a game like Tigris & Euphrates and didn't mind at all the utter abstraction of the theme, then this one will be a hit with you. Can't wait to play again so I can write up a review.

A game I brought back from BC this month. And boy was it missed. This strange mish-mash of bartering, majority, and second-guessing is an absolute blast. I would say it is like Adel Verpflichtet's younger, cooler brother. It's so easy, fun, and quick that you forget how god-awful the artwork is. It even has dice-rolling! I think this one is out of print since Edel, Stein, & Reich came out which is sad because it is a classic, classic Euro.

I finally got people to play this game from Uwe Rosenberg, the designer of Bohnanza, and they were all happy I did. Best memory game out there, in mind. Basically a game of making pizzas but one must remember the order of ingredients in the pile and throw their recipes in at just the right time to claim those ingredients. I'm awful at this due to my awful memory and attention span. And yet I still find it thrilling when the ingredients get laid out at the end of the round. Way more fun than it sounds and an extremely clever design.

We ended the night with this 8-player deduction game. And boy, was it weird! Everyone is given a card from one of two secret factions and you want your faction to gain control of three items. Unfotunately, you don't know who is in which faction and you can't tell who has what items until you attack or trade with them. This little card game was VERY complex due to each item having some weird power to warp a game rule. In addition each player also has a unique occupation that can screw things up as well. I think if the English translations were better written on the cards, this would have made more sense but the first 30 minutes for me were utter confusion. It doesn't help that I dislike deduction games - they always feel like puzzles to me more than games, this one included. But I'd like to give it another try, definitely wouldn't buy it, though.

As you can see, it was a GREAT night of games. Can't wait for the next week....

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Games at FanExpo...

Spent the last weekend in Toronto surrounded by superheroes, anime characters, and serial killers. I must say it was pretty surreal working a booth at FanExpo. It was a crazy busy weekend but I did a chance to take a couple pictures and check out the gaming section.

Our booth selling Vince's artwork in the Festival of Fear section.

Board games piled upon board games in the gaming section.

More games sponsored by the Toronto Area Boardgaming Society.

Looked to me like the board games section was also sponsored by Fun Games Cafe out of Mississauga, Ontario. I sadly was so busy at our booth that I didn't get a chance to actually play any games this weekend. I did, however, pick up a copy of Z-Man Games' Endeavour at quite the cheap price from the Fun Games Cafe booth. This game has been a huge hit at the latest conventions including GenCon and has been likened to Puerto Rico and Goa. I am very excited to play and review this one for you very soon...

Friday, August 28, 2009

FanExpo in Toronto...

This weekend I will be working at FanExpo at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in downtown Toronto. It is an enormous sci-fi, fantasy, horror, comic, and video gaming convention. Total geekfest. My partner is a graphic artist so we will be selling shirts and prints in the Festival of Fear section. If you're curious, you can check out his blog here and artwork here.

Why am I writing this in my "gaming" blog? Well, there is a HUGE board gaming section! Lots of game retailers everywhere to find obsure copies of things and an open game section run by the Toronto Gamers, I think, where you can play to your heart's content. I'm hoping I can sneak away from the booth for a game or two....

If you're at the convention, stop by and say hello!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dominion: Seaside preview....

New details on the Rio Grande website about Dominion: Seaside. Turns out the new mechanic introduced involves setting up following turns with cards from the current turn:
Its central theme is your next turn; there are cards that do something this turn and next, cards that set up your next turn, and other ways to step outside of the bounds of a normal turn.

Happy 60th, Candy Land....

This was brought to my attention from one of my favourite gay bloggers, Joe My God...
The enormous Candy Land game was set up on Lombard Street, a twisty street in San Francisco. So cool! More photos and info can be seen here.

Mississippi confusion...

Just had a game of Mississippi Queen, the Game of the Year from 1997. In the game, turn order is determined by the player "furthest ahead". In most cases this is easy enough to determine. However, there are moments where the river snakes in a semi-circle and then it is really hard to determine. One player can be farther back by a number of spaces but still be ahead according to the rules and vice-versa. The rules translation doesn't help much at all. Anyone have the same problem? Any suggestions?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Ticket to Ride family of games...

I spent the last couple weeks with my family playing endless games of many different versions of Ticket to Ride. It is a combination of graph connection, racing, and good old-fashioned rummy and, in my opinion, it is the best game that has been released in the last two decades. It has tons of strategy, endless suspense, and a big old hefty dose of luck. It is very nearly perfect, in my mind. It also has 9 different editions available so I thought I'd give a little opinion on the 7 that I have played in honour of the Europa 1912 edition arriving later this year....

Ticket To Ride (Original USA edition)

The first TTR is also the simplest and best introduction for people new to the game. In short, you collect sets of coloured cards which you use to claim coloured routes between different cities. What makes the game interesting are the tickets you take which you must try and fulfill. Each ticket has a point value and gives two cities which you must try and connect with an unbroken chain of trains. Here's the thing: if you don't make the ticket, you LOSE the number of points you could have made. And this is what makes the game so deliciously fun. Should I try to take more tickets? What if I don't get one that I can make.

This version is enormously enjoyable and I still play it, although I have practically memorized the tickets. But that's where the next expansion comes in....

USA 1910 Expansion

So once you get tired of the original USA map or feel like you've memorized all the tickets, this is your solution. This is a whole new set of tickets (and another set of train cards in case yours are worn out). Two more variants can be played, Big Cities, which has tickets each of which connects to one of only 6 cities on the board. Fiercely competitive and a bit much for me. The Mega Game combines all the old and new tickets to breathe new life into the original. And it works. Although, the map is the same the routes feel totally different. I love this one and play it online all the time.

Ticket to Ride: The Mystery Train Expansion

An afterthought, really. Some new tickets and some special cards but not worth the investment. Adds some more randomness to the game but doesn't really change much. Meh.

Ticket to Ride: Europe

I must admit my first impression of this wasn't very good. It felt a little too different from the original for my tastes. I now own it and play it regularly. The major changes introduced here are the tunnels which add an element of uncertainty as to whether you actually can claim a route at all and the stations which let you borrow other people's routes to complete your own tickets. This is a great one if you're a fan of the series and wanna try something a little different.

Ticket to Ride: Marklin Edition

My absolute favourite in the series and also the most derided by many of the fans. The map is in Germany and the gameplay is pretty similar to the original except for one thing: passengers. Each player has three passengers which can one trip around the board on that player and sometimes other player's routes. At each city, the passenger picks up point tokens of strictly decreasing value. This adds much more to the decision-making and a delightfully agonizing element of timing. It also adds to the play-time but I could care less since this version feels like a true gamer's game that I can still play with Mom. Great, great, great.

Ticket to Ride: Switzerland Expansion

Probably my least favourite game of the series but still fun. It requires the original set as it is only a map and tickets. This one is only for 2-3 players and includes ferries, tunnels, and countries to connect to. Less interaction, though, but since you only play with 40 trains it is a bit quicker.

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries

If it didn't just play for 2-3 players, this complete game would easily be my favourite in the series. With ferries, tunnels, and special rules for the locomotives, this map is challenging. Add to this the nasty interaction between the players produced in this one, and you have a great, very tense game. And the artwork and colour choices are easily the best in the series which is an added bonus!

Ticket to Ride: The Card Game

I have yet to pick this one up, although I imagine it is fun (I trust Alan Moon). Part of the reason is that it seems similar to two games I already have and don't play enough of: Mamma Mia and Union Pacific. The memory element seems similar to Mamma Mia and the rules for the laying down of cards is reflective of some older Moon games like Get The Goods or Union Pacific. I'm sure I'll own this eventually but with my game budget, there are higher priorities right now. Any opinions?

Ticket to Ride: The Dice Expansion

Blasphemy, some might say. Take any complete TTR game and remove all the train cards. From here on in, route colours don't matter. Instead you roll special train dice Yahtzee-style to try and claim routes, tunnels, and ferries. I have not tried this as the idea makes me kinda nervous. The appeal of TTR for my family is the rummy-style card gathering. Not sure if this would go over very well but some of the reviews are positive. Not on my wish-list yet...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Family gaming across the country...

So I've been playing Ticket To Ride Online for a few months now. Since I've been back visiting Mom, we 've probably played 10-12 real live games. I expect at least two more live games before I leave tomorrow. My sister actually decided to install the game on her computer and that prompted me to install it on my mother's, as well. Two nights ago they played against each other in different towns and my family was hooked.

Next step: get my brother to download it in Victoria so the four of us can play against each other. I imagine some late nights as I'll be three hours ahead but it'll be worth it just for us to play TTR again in four different cities in two different provinces. Very cool.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The ones left behind....

When I moved from BC to Ontario three years ago, I had to say goodbye to a LOT of games. I gave some away that I never played and stored the rest at a dear friend's place where they have stayed. So every visit home is a bit of a gaming pilgrimage. I bring one big suitcase with me and leave with two. This trip I grabbed a few favourites like Mississippi Queen, Union Pacific, San Marco, Through the Desert, and the fantastic Tonga Bonga.

However, this barely made a dent in what is left. I still had to leave such great games as Star Wars: Queen's Gambit (which is worth a ton now!), Tyranno Ex, New England, Medieval Merchant, and the great Civilization. I'll just have to leave these ones till next time....