Tuesday, August 31, 2010

First plays: Chaos and Mosaix...

It was a great evening of fillers at the University of Waterloo games night last night.  Amongst the games played was a 3-player round of the simply lovely Parade as well as two new little winners, Chaos and Mosaix:

Chaos- I'd read the rules to this card game previously and dismissed it as soon as I saw the "pass your hands around in a circle" rule.  I think I was wrong.  This little brain-bender plays like Go Fish on crack.  One hand we played was over on the first turn, another went on for fifteen minutes.  The game was weird, very weird but quite interesting and surprisingly tactical.  There's no use in explaining it, one just needs to play it.  And for 7 bucks, it's definitely worth a try.

Mosaix- Another surprise.  I'd heard good things about this Take It Easy-like game of boxes.  You roll four dice with three symbols and arrange the dice in a Tetris shape.  Then everyone adds those to their board.  Each group of five or more on the board scores for you but you want a lot of groups for more points.  Very tricky little game.  Starts off easy then as the board fills you have to consider the possible points you're giving away to your opponents when you arrange the dice.  Headache-inducing but quite fun.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

First play: Parade

Managed to finally get a hold of this little card game which I heard some pretty good things about.  The game itself took very little time to explain (despite the horrendously overcomplicated rules page - thanks, Z-man!) and we got right into it.  It's pretty darn simple.  Each turn one plays a numbered card to the end of the "parade" which may cause them to take  cards already in the parade.  The number on the card played determines exactly what subset of cards in the parade one might have to take and, in an Uno-like way, which of those must be taken.  Any cards taken score their face-value against you at the end of the game.  Low score wins.

Sounds pretty simple and this would be a tedious game of luck if not for the scoring rules.  Having a majority in any colour at the end of the game let's you flip those cards so they only count one against you.  So now suddenly you WANT to take certain cards and things get a bit more complicated.  The decisions aren't heavy but they're definitely quite interesting.  All 6 of us liked the first game and definitely want to try it again.  Cool little filler, methinks...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Gaming at the spa...

Okay, so I have to admit...  I had my first pedicure last weekend.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  In fact, I could care less about what people thought of a me, a guy, getting a pedi.  I was more anxious about having someone putting there hands on my hairy, overused feet.  But it was a surprise gift and I was put on-the-spot so I really had no choice but to say, "Okay..."

And as my female companion and I relaxed and got our toenails buffed, the girls beside us were discussing a card game with their esthetician.  I, of course, had to listen as they chatted about, "how great this Dominion game was."  I HAD to join in the coversation.

So there we were 2 girls, a guy, and an esthetician talking about modern board games as we got our nails done.  Nice. 

And now that I think about it, my feet'll sure look nice the next time we play Twister...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Guest post: Ameritrash and Euros

Aha, the gauntlet has been taken up!  Here is my fellow gamer and buddy Rami, speaking in defense of Ameritrash games (see my previous post...):

Greetings everyone, I am the mysterious stranger that Eric has spoken of. You may call me Rami, or Excelcior the great, or maggot...I don't particularly care. I am a gamer. I almost want to say I am a "true" gamer yet no gamer can be more true than any other. I prefer to coin the term a 360° gamer. I will play anything at least once. Not just board games - anything. I am a continuing player of RPGs, computer games, and miniature games as well. I would even consider a LARP if I knew a group that was into it.

But enough about me. Lets talk about what Eric won't. Ameritrash! First of all let's establish that the name is not derogatory. It is just a name that stuck. Many people who enjoy the games speak the name with a level of respect, not to mention the term "Ameritrasher" sounds cool. For those not familiar, American games are generally ones with slightly more chaos and luck than the European (or German) games are known for. You have more fiddly bits, more dice, more player confrontation, and more chaos.

Let's start off by touching upon that last point since it often seems to be the largest complaint about many of these games. "This is too chaotic" people always say. While I have some similar sentiments to these groups, I personally find a majority of Euro games far too… well, orderly. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it seems that often in these games the conditions are far too ideal. This seems relatively strange considering how chaotic real life is. This is perhaps why we cling to the Euro games as the beacon of light. They are true order of a perfectly predictable world shaped only by our decisions. This is nice once in a while but also isn't it sometimes interesting to play in a slightly more realistic setting. Where you might not have full control of the situation but often each other person is in the same situation as you are. I guess what I'm trying to say is, chaotic is good as long as everyone is affected negatively equally.

I can go into more detail with the rest of the points but I can see this post is already getting long and rambling. Which means I have something to talk about in the next post at least.

So enjoy your gaming, and never be afraid of a little chaos.

Rami is apparently an occasional poster on Deathofmonopoly. If you have any topics to suggest, a score to settle, or wish to engage in a duel to the death you may reach him at rfinkelshtein@gmail.com.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Finally played Dixit....

...and it really is as good as they say.  What a marvelous, tricky little game.

So thrilling to rediscover my imagination.  I feel like a little kid again.

I'm not the only one...

Last week I had a conversation with a gaming buddy who reads this blog.  He told me from my posts it is quite evident what games I prefer (European over American) and that I sometimes make my disdain for chaotic luck-fests quite evident, which could possibly alienate some of my readership.  For this, I'm sorry.  I present only my opinions and I don't claim any of them to be right.  And whilst I would rather eat glass than play another game of Settlers, I do respect what it has done for the gaming hobby.

Kevin at Seize Your Turn actually posted a nice quote last week, one which I can't help but agree with.  As for the buddy who likes the American games, I keep asking you to throw some content on here.  You are still welcome...   ;)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Playing in the sand....

Thanks to Michaela for the pic...  Click to embiggen.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Out-of-print find and a new place to blow a pay cheque...

This weekend I was in Toronto for a conference (no, not a gaming conference, that's in two weeks) and I was wandering through the monstrously large underground mall below the downtown businesses on Bay Street.  This enormous path of stores connects the Eaton Centre all the way through to Union Station.  Well, let me tell you, nothing makes me happier in life than stumbling upon a new toy store - ESPECIALLY one with a table of German games on sale outside the door!  The great little store I found is called GameTrek and you can check them out here.  I've scoured BGG for stores in downtown Toronto and they never came up.

Upon scouring their shelves, I found a battered, open-but-unpunched copy of the out-of-print tile game Toscana.  Jackpot!  They even gave me 50% off as the box had been through the wringer.  Great service.  Definitely a store worth checking out if you're in town and they seem to be located directly underneath the Fairmont Royal York, if you happen to be in TO.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

On The Horizon: a sequel to Chicago Express...

A new train game seems to be released every few weeks, so many so that I don't play many.  I do love some great train-themed games, though, like Ticket To Ride and Age of Steam.  One particularly good train game from a few years ago is Chicago Express.  It is short, heavy, and totally luck-free.  I can't claim to have ever grasped the right way to play CE, trying to balance investing in successful companies whilst not diluting one's profits too much.  My friends weren't too fond of the heavy calculations but the math crowd I game with eat this one up.

A (sort-of) sequel has already been released by Winsome Games called Preu├čische Ostbahn but like most games from the very small Winsome Games, the print-run was limited and the quality is... er, lacklustre. Queen Games, released CE, is now releasing PO as German Railways so I expect the quality to be fantastic. The game bears many similarities to CE but differs greatly when it comes to the fascinating new turn mechanism. Turn order is determined before every round by drawing lots from a pool of cubes put together by all the players. The persons with the highest income/score puts only one cube in while the person with the least puts in cubes equal to the number of players. Since only a subset of these cubes is pulled out before scoring, it is entirely possible for a player to never get a turn. Interesting.

These players can, of course, still take part in the auctions and purchase stock but may never run the train track for their companies. This makes a huge strategic shift - dilution does not occur in German Railways so you basically want to buy into companies that are thriving and let the others do the work. One reviewer on BGG describes winning the game without ever playing a single turn. He just purchased the right portfolio of stocks. Crazy.

Sounds good, eh?
A picture of the PO board thanks to BGG user duartec

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Course material...

Quite often one finds deliciously nasty comments in movie and music reviews.  Not so much in game reviews.  Well, here is what the wonderful Dutch board game site GamePack said in imperfect English about Glen More last month:
'Glen More' lacks a heart, it lacks emotion. It goes like scoring a point here and scoring a point there, but it lacks the great gesture. The game might be suitable as course materials for autists, but to us, it just made us depressive...
Oh snap.

First Play: The Speicherstadt

I'm starting to realize that I like simplicity in my games.  Having explained the rules to my games, oh, you know, a few thousand times has made me appreciate the elegance of a nice clean German design.  And I think that's what we found last night in Stefan Feld's The Speicherstadt.  The majority of the game consists of an exceedingly simple auction that provides for some remarkably tough decisions.  The auction mechanic is so damn clever, in fact, that I think designers everywhere are shaking their heads thinking, "Why didn't I come up with that?"  (The rules are here if you're curious.)

The game actually has a whole deck of cards, each with varying details, but the symbology is very clear and it is easy enough to start playing the game and just explain the cards as they come up (which is what we did).  It is interesting to play this lighter, quicker design as opposed to Feld's much heavier Macao.  The main mechanism in Macao is also quite clever but I found the game itself to be bogged down terribly by too much choice and awful, awful design choices (see here). 

First impressions are that Speich is a fun and very interactive game that felt a bit like Stone Age.  Can't wait to try it again and see if there's more to it than just a clever auction.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dominion: Prosperity pics!

As is now my habit, here are the new cards from the upcoming Dominion expansion.  I have to admit we haven't played Dominion in months (mostly due to our Tichu obsession) but this expansion looks pretty wicked.  Check out the new Platinum and Colony cards...   AWESOME!

(Pics via BGG...)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

On The Horizon: Inca Empire

Add this one to the list of "must-buys"...  Inca Empire is Z-Man Games' reprint of a fantastic crayon train game from a small publisher years back called Tuhuantinsuyu (which I always wanna pronounce in a deep voice whilst Phillip Glass plays in the background - see Koyaanisqatsi).  The game was raved about by Bruno Faidutti in his Ideal Game Library and of course sold out quick due to it's small print run.

This new version is looking great, with wooden sticks instead of crayons and new symbology on the cards to make them easier to understand.  It has route and empire-building galore and an interesting element of left-right binding in the play of cards.  Even better, the game has been compared to Puerto Rico and Power Grid in terms of depth and that is more than enough for me.  Essen can't come any quicker...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Someone please pass me a Tichu...

I think we might need a little break from Tichu.  I'm starting to think it might not be so good for my relationship...