Sunday, June 28, 2009

K-W gaming group....

Not sure who and where you are from, but if you are in the Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario area and are looking for a gaming group, let me know. We have started a regular Wednesday evening happening at the University of Waterloo. It's mostly graduate students like myself so it can get a bit geeky, but hey, you're reading a board game blog so you aren't in any position to judge.....
Leave a comment with your email or just email me at if you want any more info.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Agricola: hated the first half, loved the second....

FINALLY got a chance to play a game of Agricola last night (which I choose to pronounce like Pensacola, btw). The first rules explanation was absolutely overwhelming, I must say. It was complex to the point of ridiculousness and were about ready to give up before we even started playing. And I've read the rules before! And we were playing the Family version!!! In fact, the rules explanation and game setup took about as long as the actual game (see picture above for all the friggin' pieces....). Suffice to say, my first impressions were not good.

That confused fog followed us through about the first half of the game and then, like magic, things just started to click. The wheels started turning and all of sudden I was having quite a good time making some very painful decisions. By the end, I was enthralled, trying to make room for some cattle by building fences and trying to gather enough stone to upgrade my house for some big points. Neither happened but I happily placed second by 1 point thanks to my, er, overly "active" parents making lots of babies (see my completed happy farm below).

I like this game. A lot. I'd love to play it again, and then again, and then maybe the expert version with the cards. Will I buy it? Probably not. I really don't think my group will have the patience to learn it. I'd love it if we could get into it but I just don't see it happening. This made the rules of Age of Steam seem like kid's play and my group would barely sit through that. I think I need to find more patient friends....

Friday, June 19, 2009

Take one for the team....

Played and won a couple of games this past week, Taj Mahal and Oasis, and I seem to have won for the same reason. Now bear in mind, these are two very great but very different games. However, each game has a surefire winning strategy if no one steps up to stop you. It is also fairly obvious in both games when someone has taken the lead.

In Taj Mahal, the elephant/province tile strategy seems a sure thing as does holding on to the +2 card as long as possible. I actually try to mention both of these approaches to beginners upon their first play. In my game this week, one player took the lead quickly with province tile after province tile until finally the players caught on and messed them up. Unfortunately for them, I was holding the +2 card for most of the game and ended up winning by a fair amount. As the scoring is open for the game, it is fairly easy to see who is winning. But to stop someone, one must make a concerted effort to ignore their own strategy for a turn to take away from their opponent.

In Oasis, same thing happened. Every turn you take an offer of certain items and I kept taking the camels. No one else was collecting them and so they didn't really want to take the camel offers. So I got most of them and had a clear win. Again, fairly obvious what I was trying to do and that it was winning but noone stepped up to waste a turn to stop me.

The 'take down the leader' problem is common in most competitive games but is more pronounced in these two because you really have to forego your own strategy to stop the player in the lead. And that means it's up to someone to actually step up and waste their turn. And usually everyone waits for another player to do it and, well, they all lose. It can be a little frustrating but I don't think it makes these games broken. It's just something that needs to be mentioned very early on.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

People must be excited....

Looks my blog numbers have taken an upturn and I've tried to figure out why. Looks like the last post with pictures of the new Dominion: Intrigue cards is getting all the hits. Glad I'm not the only one obsessively waiting for this. Sadly, you can probably expect even more posts/session reports/etc. about it when the game arrives on our doorstep.... Less than a month!!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

All the new Dominion: Intrigue cards are out!

Alright, Rio Grande Games just posted all the rules for Dominion: Intrigue and you can see them here. But you're most interested in, I'm sure, are the new action cards. Well, here they are...

Gotta say, I'm excited about the victory cards that also provide actions with them (Harem, Nobles, Great Hall). Should add a ton to the game....

Magda, expect to play a lot of this when you arrive!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Farming, farming, farming...

So I've been eyeing Uwe Rosenberg's highly rated farming game Agricola for awhile now but it just seemed too complicated to teach to my group of friends (we play a lot of Alhambra and Ticket to Ride...) That and I own Caylus and Stone Age so I'm not sure if it was necessary. Now I've been reading up on Rosenberg's Le Havre which sounds like a simpler and some say better Agricola version 2.0. Maybe I'll just go with with that one. Tom Vasel claims it is the best game of the past year. Any thoughts?

Or I suppose I could just wait for the third in Rosenberg's farming series - At the Gates of Loyang. Oh, if only money grew on trees (or in fields and pastures...)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Review of Aquaretto...

As it is Spiel des Jahres season, I decided to add a remake of a previous winner to my collection. The winners are almost always guarantees of fun, intelligent games with relatively easy rule sets. Michael Schacht's Aquaretto is no different and has actually turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise. It is based on the system from Zooloretto, which I have not played, which is based on the card game, Coloretto, which I quite like. Here's why I love Aquaretto...


This game is completely made up of cardboard bits and some wooden markers. Every player gets their own enclosure to build their Sea World-like park and a few small expansions to possibly add later. There are wooden coins, some little wooden meeple workers (think Carcassonne), and a set of simple wooden trucks which are really just tile trays. And then there are the tiles. Lots of tiles. Eight different types of animals, eleven each, and two babies. Everything is of a great quality and the animal pictures are nice. My only complaint is that differentiating between the tiles takes a little getting used to. But after a couple rounds and some good lighting, we had no issues. All in all, totally functional and very cute. Verdict: Very good.


Anyone familiar with Coloretto will pick up the main mechanism of this game fairly quickly. The majority of turns you take will involve picking up a tile and placing it on an empty space on a truck or taking a truck with at least one tile, playing all the tiles on it, and then sitting out the rest of the round. There is one truck per player so every player gets a truck and the next round starts. Most of the tiles are animals which you must play in your enclosure immediately, if you can. AT the end of the game you get a point for each animal tile in your enclosure. You can have three different types of animals at the beginning and you have to group them together on your board whilst keeping the different groups of animals from touching. I guess you don't want alligators and polar bears in the same pen as penguins. Go figure. If you can't place an animal right away then it goes at the top of your depot pile. At the end of the game you lose points for each type of animal left in your depot. Nasty.

So if that were it this would make for a fun, light little game very similar to the original Coloretto. What takes this game to another level of depth are the coins and workers. Every third animal in a group gives you a coin (as do the trucks sometimes). Coins let you do many things - build expansions to your park sometimes allowing more types of animals, move animals out of your depot, buy animals from other player's depots (very interesting...), and even move the workers. How do you get workers? Every fifth animal in a group yields a worker which you must employ immediately. Workers give various bonuses at the end like for having certain types of animals or for having coins at the end. They can even halve the points lost from your depot or train certain breeds of animal. Aha! So now we've suddenly got a real Eurogame with tricky decisions and endgame bonuses and this game really starts to shine.

All of this is presented in a fairly easy to follow rulebook. Having taught this a few times now, I can say learning the game is fairly intuitive for most players. Verdict: Intuitive. Easy-to-learn. Lots of choices.


So there's a mish-mash of different mechanics going on here but they all seem to come together brilliantly. The majority of the time you will be drawing tiles and placing them on trucks. And this is where the trickiest decisions usually are. Should you place the dolphin with the turtle? The next player is collecting both and might just take the truck and sit out the rest of the round. But if you put the dolphin with the polar bear, you might get stuck with it later and have to store it in your depot for minus points. This Coloretto mechanic is now classic and so much fun. You can be vicious and nasty with your truck choices and it can often come back around and bite you in the ass. But this game doesn't feel too nasty for some reason, probably because you usually get a couple good tiles with the bad.

Tacked onto this, you've got some fun tile-laying as you watch your families of animals begin to grow. In fact, every type of animal has a male and female and if you get them both you are rewarded with a baby. Very satisfying as it is an extra point at the end and the babies are just so damned cute. So your animals grow and you eventually expand to fit more and new types of animals. It is all quite satisfying and a whole lot of fun and you really do feel like you are creating a sea animal park. Verdict: Quite amusing and surprisingly addictive.


This game strikes just the right level of depth for our gaming group whilst playing for just the right amount of time. The truck loading choices are challenging as are the choices of when to take a truck and when to wait. Combine this with the tile laying aspect on a board that's far too small and you are constantly making small but important decisions. Adding the workers into the mix yields some long-term decision making to the tile collection and tile play. And all in under an hour! It's not brain-burning but I'd definitely put it around the level of complexity of games like Thurn and Taxis and Alhambra, both other game of the year winners. Verdict: Lots of interesting and meaningful decisions packed into a relatively short playing time.


I must say, I am not a person who buys a game because of theme. I'm a big Reiner Knizia fanatic and I think good mechanisms in a board game trump everything. Having said that, I think with this game the theme is what makes it so great. It is thoroughly integrated in the mechanics and feel of play and is what makes the learning of the game so intuitive. The ideas that animals can't share the same water basins and you lose points for storing animals you can't use both make sense. Even more, you earn money (coins) and have to hire workers when you get more animals and this makes sense to people playing the game. Even breeding a boy and a girl animal to get a baby seems reasonable. And this is one of the main reasons this game is so much fun as it makes you feel like you are actually building a sea park. Verdict: Excellent. The highlight of the game and the reason it all comes together so well.


As you can see, I quite enjoy this game. It is fun, full of interesting decisions, and even a bit nasty. And it's short enough to play a couple games in a row. The biggest bonus it actually feels like you're creating an attraction for people to visit. This one is definitely worth the purchase and I'm already reading up on the expansions....

Thursday, June 4, 2009

New Dominion: Intrigue info...

The geeks are talking. Supposedly some images of the box covers have come out and people are already translating the images. Check out the discussions here and here.

New cards include the Harem, Henchmen, and Great Hall. Judging by the excitement online, this game is gonna sell out very fast. Haven't played the original Dominion in over a month. I dunno, we just seemed to find other things to do (including playing the shit out of Boom Blox 2 - so awesome.) Maybe this weekend we'll get a chance to pull the old cards out and deal a round....