Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What is with suggested play times?!?!

Okay, so last night we played Thurn and Taxis. Box says 60 minutes, we take 2.5 hours. This seems to happen all the time. I think part of it is the wine that flows while the cards get played. I dunno. But even Stone Age, a game that should take 45 minutes (supposedly), takes us at least two hours. Maybe it's just my game group...

Friday, April 24, 2009

First (and last) impressions of To Court The King...

Okay, I must admit that I was quite excited to play this after realizing it is a Tom Lehmann design (he invented Race For The Galaxy, amongst others...) A Yahtzee style dice game meets Magic The Gathering-style special powers? Sounds awesome! Boy, was I disappointed, partially because this game stays too true to Yahtzee and also because the endgame seems like such a joke.

I will be honest and say that I have only played two games, which for me is more than enough. After the first game I was bored and annoyed and ready to refuse the game ever again. But a little voice inside my head said, no, you should try at least one more game before forming an opinion. So I did.


Okay, so the cards are nice enough, good-quality and nice artwork. I must say, though, that the symbology at the bottom of the cards is VERY small and hard to read. If you have bad-lighting or bad eyesight, this game is very hard to play. It was not uncommon for us to have to pick up the cards to figure out what they do. Verdict: Poor. Pretty pictures but not very user-friendly.


Okay, so the rules are nicely laid out but way too complicated for a game this short. I watched this game being explained to a beginner and he was pretty swamped. It's not that the play of the game is all that complicated (especially if you have played Yahtzee), but it's that every card you capture has a special power so the combinations can be a bit dizzying. And the endgame seems like it comes out of left-field with a few too many exceptions that need to be mentioned. Verdict: Poor. Way too many rules for a game that feels like glorified Yahtzee.


I won't get in to too many details but the basic idea is you are trying to capture various character cards by scoring different Yahtzee-style cominations (seriously, it's like Yahtzee.) The different character cards can then be tapped to provide you with things like extra dice or the power to redistribute the pips on two or three dice. So Yahtzee is a good comparison but with added powers to rearrange and reroll your dice. I find Yahtzee to be the epitome of multiplayer solitaire and To Court The King feels exactly the same. Huge boring gaps between turns and absolutely no way to affect your opponent directly (besides maybe capturing a card that they may have rolled for on a later turn.)

More characters allows you to buy better cards until eventually someone rolls and captures the King. Then the game REALLY goes sideways... Players now have a roll-off to try and beat the roll that player with the King made. So it all really comes down to a final roll using the bonuses you may have captured along the way. In our first game, the player who was in the lead the whole way through and should have taken the game lost to a great die roll by another player in the final roll-off. Fine in a 20-minute game, totally lame when you've been playing for an hour. Verdict: Crap. Boring between turns and frustrating at the end.


Not much to say here. Of course there is strategy to which cards you might wanna capture but this is all relative to the dice you actually roll. Now I love luck in games. I think it adds uncertainty and more enjoyment. But I found every choice I made was completely determined by what I rolled at that time. Basically try and get the best card you can of what's left on the board (best almost always being highest on the display.)

In my second and final game, I had actually had four turns and captured four cards when the player beside me abruptly captured the King. Noone else had enough dice to challenge so he won immediately. Four turns. I was busy checking my email, turned around and he had won (and I wasn't the only distracted player at the table...) Wow. Not much time to develop any semblance of strategy. Verdict: Um, doesn't matter?


Well, as you can tell I did not like this game. It is a very luck-based derivative of Yahtzee. I know you're saying I'm taking it too seriously, that's it's a casual dice game. But then it should be easy to learn! The first game shouldn't take us an hour to play AFTER dragging ourselves through the rules. And the person rolling the best throughout should be the one who wins whereas this is not always the case. Most of all, though, I found this game to be way too boring. Waiting as people try to figure out the dice then examine the cards then figure out the dice again takes too long. I actually think the design of the hard-to-read cards adds to the slowness. On your turn you have to squint and scan to see what your different options are and it greatly increases the play time.

So now if I want a casual dice game, I'll choose something like Pickomino which has been a hit wherever we go. Simple dice game with simple rules. Easy to explain, easy to play. If I want depth and complexity, I'll stick with Race For The Galaxy or Puerto Rico.

Any idea if Airships suffers from these same issues?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Gathering of Friends

Okay, so the Gathering of Friends has been this event going on for the last almost 20 years. Alan R. Moon, the brilliant inventor of amazing games like Elfenland and the Ticket to Ride series, hosts a week long event of board gaming. It is attended by game inventors and well known friends around the world. So I expect I will NEVER get invited anytime soon but I can still dream...

The drool-inducing reports are out on the net and BoardgameNews has a great list of them here. Lots of great new upcoming releases are listed including Martin Wallace's new game Automobile and Moon's 2009 remake of Union Pacific, a great, great game that I have stored somewhere.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The old and the new...

Played my second game of 1960: The Making of a President. I've owned it for over 6 months but it is quite long and only for 2 players so I only played it the once right after I got it. Great, great game which I am looking forward to playing more. Definitely a gamer's game and the final score was 266-263. Ridiculously close...

Also picked up A Castle for All Seasons today. A bit disappointed with the 50 buck pricetag for a pretty empty box and only few components. Rio Grande is charging a lot more now for games sent across the border to Canada. Still, the cards and board artwork are quite nice and I'm really looking forward to playing the game. RFTG meets Stone Age... Fun. Expect more soon.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The new free(-ish) Dominion cards...

I should really change the title of this blog to but, oh well, here goes anyways....

The Black Market

Loads of fun and adds a nice injection of randomness to the choices in the game. Also nice as it helps differentiate the strategies of the different players during the round.

Basically, one copy of each of all the action cards not currently in the round are placed in a face-down pile, the Black Market. When someone plays the Black Market, they can draw the top three cards and immediately purchase one with two extra coins (on top of their usual buy).

Now this makes it interesting. Every card is now possibly available to play and add to your deck. The combinations can now possibly be ridiculous complex without the game spiraling out of control. If you don't like the three cards you draw, the Black market just gives you two extra coins for your regular buy.

Seriously fun to play with although it seems to increase the round length a bit. Can't wait for the sequel as I think this is a preview of how the new cards will behave....

The Envoy

An interesting card, somewhat like the Smithy meets the Library, maybe? You flip 5 cards from your deck and the player on your left makes you discard one. You get the rest in your hand.

Found it useful and useless depending on the point in the round. Definitely not as useful as something like the Adventurer but if you flip right you can get a whole mess of good cards (I saw a few provinces go this way...) When combined with a card giving you more actions this seems like it could be deadly.

Maybe not as interesting as the Black Market addition but it still adds some more interaction to the game and is yet another way to mix up the setup. And for the price, worth every penny...

Latest Dominion Strategy:
How about buying the Witch from the Black Market? That's right, getting the only Witch card in the game... DELICIOUS.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Okay, new puppy arrrives today and Vince and I are very excited. Question in my mind is: do puppies eat board games? Seriouly, cuz they're stored pretty close to the floor. I know they eat homework, right, so cardboard seems like it might be appealing. Couches: okay! socks: why not? Vince's artwork: chow down! My boardgames: bad dog!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

More Dominion cards!!!

In my never ending quest to obsess as much as possible about this game, I am happy to say that my two bonus cards, Envoy and Black Market, are now in the mail. Talk more about them when they arrive...

Also, an article on a french boardgame site describes three cards from the new Dominion: Intrigue coming out mid-year:

Ironworks lets you gain a card worth a value of up to four. As well, if you gain a action card, take another action. If you gain, a coin, add +1 for your buy. If you gain a victory point card, then you get to draw another card. Um, very cool and adds some more decisions to the play of the game.

Each Duke (much like the Gardens) is worth the same number of points as there are Duchys in your deck at the end of the game. Hmmmm... These could be worth more than provinces if played right. Interesting.

Ah yes, and the coolest/weirdest one so far, the Masquerade. The player of the card draws two cards then EVERYONE passes a card to the left. After that the player of the card may trash one card in their hand. Oh this will be fun with Curse cards from the Witch!!!

Okay, getting excited for the new set of cards. As you can see and so we have heard from the playtesters, the new set provides a lot more decisions with each action card and of course can be combined easily with the original. I think we'll be playing this game for years to come. The only thing I'm worried is the Romanian taking even longer with his turns. Oh well, it'll be worth it.

Monday, April 6, 2009

On the radar (i.e. soon to be bought...)

Not too much to mention at the moment so I'll just tell you what is currently on my wish-list...

Castle For All Seasons is a cross between Stone Age and a game like Race For The Galaxy. Except the roles interact like Cathedrals. Um, sounds REALLY good to me and this one is actually already available. I'm just waiting for a paycheque....

Excape (a reprint of Exxtra) is a push-your-luck game with dice. And it's invented by Reiner Knizia. Yeah, pretty much guaranteed to be really, really good. Also now available (MONEY! I NEED MONEY!!!)

Also, Days of Wonder has a new release this year, Small World, a remake of the game Vinci which I have never played. I have, however, thoroughly enjoyed History of The World which is a similar game. Unfortunately, HOTW takes 4-5 hours. Small World should give you the same feeling in about 60 minutes. And expect the amazing components that come in every Days of Wonder game (they are the publishers of Ticket to Ride.)

Oh yeah, and Dominion: Intrigue. 'Nuff said.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Streamlinin' the Dominion deck...

Ok, so back to that game Dominion that we just keep playing (seriously, if you don't own it, you should...) Two more games last night.

My current favourite approach whenever the Chapel card is up for grabs is to buy at least one ASAP. Trash all your estates and start trashing copper as soon as you get any silver and gold in your deck. Seriously. Prune the shit out of your deck so you got like eight or nine cards, 2 or 3 action cards and a whole buncha silver and gold. And then hit those provinces fast. Last night, it kept me in first and second for both games. If the Chapel ain't around, I'd say a Remodel and/or MoneyLender is almost as good....