Friday, December 30, 2011

Guest post: a review of Sorry Sliders...

Sorry Sliders is a game marketed to children, ages 6 and up. I just played it with my three year old and she had the hang of it after the first slide. In fact, she beat me.

Sorry Sliders really doesn't resemble its predecessor at all, with the exception of the logo and the little game pieces. The best way to describe it is that it's basically a board game version of curling; without the sweeping and the obnoxious shirts. Kind of like a poor man's Crokinole. Set-up is really simple and if you pay attention to the diagram, which I didn't, you can have all the pieces punched out and attached in less then five minutes. If, like me, you choose to wing it... well, you're looking at about 8 minutes once you realize you put the edges on each piece upside down and you have to pull them all off and re-attach.

The nice thing about this board game is that it comes in 2, 3, and 4 player options. You just attach the coordinating number of sides and fill in the other edges with walls. That's it. Easy as pie. There are also four variations of the game so when you get bored of the first one, you can add a little challenge into the play.

We played cooperatively, as I feel badly beating my three-year-old at board games. So neither of us had to say "Sorry" at any time during our game. And neither of us had to send our pieces back to home. I suspect that when I play this with my sons, there's going to be a lot more gleeful "Sorry"-ing going around as they aim to send my pieces flying of the table. Game play is super simple. Basically, you take turns sliding your tokens down the board trying to get as close as possible to the middle ring, which is worth the most points. If you managed to send an opponents piece to the edge of the tabe in the process, well, that's where the apologizing starts. The further from the ring, the lower the point count. We playing 3 rounds (12 slides each) and finished the game. Because I let my daughter score first, she won, but in reality, it's was probably at least a draw.

So, from the perspective of a young child, Sorry Sliders is a great game. My daughter said, and I quote, "I like getting my pieces home best." The least "I don't like when you lose." Awww...

From my perspective, it's a fun, quick little game. It's certainly not as frustrating as I remember the Sorry from our childhood to be. Don't expect to utilise any strategy as this is definitely a no-brainer. And don't bring it out to your university game night... they're just not the target audience!

Pros: Easy to set up, colourful, easily grasped by young children (and if you're like me, easy to let them experience winning)

Cons: The four-player version might take up a bit more table room than you expect. This might be a floor game when fully set up. Of course, when you have kids, empty floor space is hard to come by, too...

- Laura Freeman resides in Vanderhoof, B.C, where she is a social worker, mother of three amazing kids, soon-to-be published novelist, and all-around amazing sister!  She also scrapbooks avidly and you can check out her scrappy antics at her blog Scrapbooking Beats Housework.

(Editor: Hmmmm, wonder who gave them them that game for Christmas....)

UPDATE:  04-Jan-2012 - I may have been premature when I wrote my comments about Sorry Sliders after playing it with my daughter the other day.  We pulled it out again yesterday at my five-year old’s birthday party.  It scored some decent table time as each of the guests in attendance wanted to have a go at it.  So, to update my opinion of the game, I thought I’d add that Sorry Sliders is much more competitive and much more fun when played as a four-player game.  And tilted on an angle, it actually will fit on my kitchen table. We only used the basic board, and have yet to try any of the three variations, but despite the simple instructions, it was a ‘hoot’.  Adults, unlike three-year olds, can strategize. Instead of just aiming to land their sliders as close to the bulls-eye as possible, adults will aim to knock each others’ sliders out of play; Or even more cut-throat, knock them into higher scoring rings when, towards the end of the game, opponents are looking to score ones and twos to land their tokens in the home square.   To my surprise, and delight, everyone enjoyed the game and got into the action.  So, I guess I just want to add that this is an excellent family game as everyone will enjoy the action regardless of age or skill level.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Great gifting...

Gonna be a fun week leading up to New Year's!

Risk: Legacy, a dice rolling tray for said Risk game, a lovely Dirk Henn game from Queen, and some awesome beginner's Bridge books!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

First play: Dominant Species...

I finally got a chance to play Dominant Species, a game that seems to be at the top of a lot of 'Best Of' lists this year.  And I think I can see why.  It's a rather complex worker placement game with an interesting majority placement/war gamey kind of feel.  It wasn't half as complicated to learn as people make it out to be and it's actually quite enjoyable to watch your class of animals grow and adapt.

However, for an almost 3 hour game, it's rather chaotic and in our game the winner seemed to be completely determined in the final round.  As well, the worker placement choices seem a tad clunky.  Every single round started with players filling up first the limited spaces on the Dominance (scoring) row, allowing them to choose which tile to score and which special power card to use.  It seemed pretty much programmed and in a 5 or 6-player game I imagine it would be rather frustrating.  Still, for a strategy game this long to hold my attention so completely despite the randomness, there's definitely something working.  I won't be buying it but I'll definitely play it again.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

First plays: Airlines Europe expansion and Yspahan....

This month has been WAY too busy (hence the almost total lack of posts in December).  But some gaming did happen and some pics were taken.  Hopefully I'll add some more words during the Christmas holiday...

Airlines: Europe - Flight Ban expansion

I have been aching to try the Flight Ban rules and they finally got posted on BoardGameGeek (if you haven't played the delightfully tense A:E, you can check out my description here).  One major problem with Airlines: Europe (and Union Pacific before it) was the fact that none of the airlines actually ever seem to clash on the board, it was just too open and they could all be expanded quite easily.  The addition of flight bans, which anyone can play with just 12 dark chips, tightens the board up nicely.  After each of the first couple scoring rounds certain routes can be closed up, making it harder for airlines to reach their destinations.  Very simple addition but definitely adds some complexity and interaction.  Well worth it and we will not be playing this game without it again.


Okay, so this wasn't actually my first play of Yspahan. But the first game was about 2 years ago and what the hell have I been doing since?!?!?  This game is amazing!  Elegant, quick, and multiple strategies to follow.  And the clever action selection using the dice makes the game extremely fun.  I think I remembered the game being complicated to explain but everyone caught on very quickly and the turns flew by.  Fun dice-rolling, tough choices, and beautifully designed production.  What an excellent little gem.  I love Ystari Games...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

You tell me: favourite game designers...

Managed to play a game of the new Ticket To Ride: Asia team expansion last night and loved it.  My favourite series of games now has an option for clever partnership play and it felt quite rewarding when you worked together with someone to complete a ticket.  I am reminded again and again of how much I enjoy Alan R. Moon games, whether it be a game in the TTR series, the lovely Elfenland, the interactive and nasty Oasis, or the brilliant and under-rated card game Gloria Picktoria.  He is the tops for me right now with Knizia, Sackson, Friese, Kramer, and Wallace following not far behind.

Who is your favourite game designer and why?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pics from games night at the Uni...

Another couple Monday nights at the University of Waterloo and a whole bunch of board gaming....

Asara - God, what a great game!  Why don't we play this more...
Worms Up! - A rather silly game that I quite enjoy.  Not so much for the others.
EmDo (Eminent Domain) - The latest deck-building craze which I have yet to play.
Black Friday, Friday, market's gonna crash on Friday, Fun, Fun, Fun, Fun....
Lost Cities: The Board Game - This version sucks compared to the addictive Keltis. Fail.
At the Gates of Loyang - Epic harvesting.  Thoughtful, enjoyable, but a commitment.
In The Year of The Dragon - Such sweet pain.
Wizard Extreme - Wizard!  But extreme!  (Minus the wizards yet surprisingly MORE nasty...)
Zertz - Favourite new abstract due to the clever built-in endgame timer.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pocket train gaming...

I spent the previous weekend playing the new Iphone/Ipod Touch-only Ticket to Ride app.  I actually think it's better than the online implementation despite not being connected to the TTR network.  The AI is stronger and the touch screen controls are super-slick.  It's totally tiding me over till I get the new Asia maps.

If you have an Ipod/Iphone/Ithingy I would also recommend checking out this article at the blog /(p[eu]rls of wisdom)?/ about useful apps for gaming.  I'm about to download the Tichu score app for the long night of gaming ahead....

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Game design camp!

If you're in the Toronto area this coming weekend, you should probably try to check out Gamercamp Lv. 3.  Although it looks catered more to video game design, there is a board game jam session on the Friday where a bunch of people get together and create board games on the fly.  Awesome.

Man, I wish I had this Friday off work!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Crappy birthday to you! Crappy birthday to you! Crappy birthday dear......

....Robert Cannon!!!  Looks like he's receiving a new copy of Crappy Birthday!  (Sorry all that the draw took so long - my life has been on fast-forward for the last month.)

The worst gift Robert received was what he states to be a truly awful trivia board game, The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Game.  Sounds thrilling.  Some of the other crappy birthday gifts sent in included Reese's Peanut Butter Cups to someone who is deathly allergic, Dallas Cowboys Monopoly (oh my god, kill me), and a particularly obscene homemade statue whose picture I won't post here combining an elf and the baby Jesus (thanks, Maurizio, for that little gem).

Thanks to the ever-useful for choosing a winner once again.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A review of Fauna...

Okay, everyone, who wants to play a trivia game about guessing the weight, height, length, and natural habitats of various wildly obscure species of animals? Oh. No one? Right. Well, what if I said this animal trivia game was invented by Friedemann Friesse, the brilliant man behind Power Grid, Black Friday, and other modern classics of Euro-gaming. And maybe I should also mention the gameplay bears some similarities to that other great trivia game Wits and Wagers. Would that convince you? Still no? Perhaps you should read on and learn more about what I think is one of the most enjoyable trivia games to ever be published.  And it just happens to learn you tons about animals while you play it.

The version of Fauna we have been lucky enough to play is the latest from Montreal game company FoxMind and is the English-language version of the original German game from 2 years ago. The components are simple, excellently produced, and do exactly what they need to do. The board and cards are well-illustrated and I really can't complain about anything. This is a high-quality production of the kind you'd expect from Days of Wonder or Queen. The rules booklet, too, is quite well-done and covers a lot considering how simple the game really is.

This is an easy card?!?!?
So how does it work? Well, players have six betting cubes and play a series of rounds until someone reaches a pre-determined amount of points dependent on the number of players. Every round starts with a new player and an animal card is revealed by that player. Well, really only partially revealed as the top half of the card shows a picture of the animal and states how many areas on the board are the natural habitat for the animal and whether you can bet on it's weight, height, length, and/or tail length. The bottom half contains all the answers to these questions and so stays hidden until the end of the round. Once players know what they're betting on, each person in turn places a cube either on the map where they think the animal resides or on one of the squares corresponding to wight, height/length, or tail length. This goes on until all players do not want to play any more betting cubes and have passed. And then the answers are revealed and this is where the real cleverness begins. 

Every player who placed a cube in the correct natural habitats of the animal score points (more or less depending on how rare the animals habitats are) and the players who are in a region adjacent to one of the natural habitats almost always score points as well.  Similarly, players who guessed the right characteristics score big points and those adjacent to the correct answers on the scales also score some points.  So it seems like you should just throw down all 6 of your cubes in as many spots as possible, right?  But here's the tricky part - any cubes which don't score (on or next to a correct answer) get taken away temporarily and you only get one back at the beginning of every round, given that you'll always have a minimum of 3 to bet with.  Oh, nasty.  So now one wants to be a bit more careful with their betting cubes as they could lose half their cubes on a rather obscure animal on one turn and then not have the cubes to bet when they know all the correct habitats of the animal in the next round. 

So what seems like a rather childish game of animal trivia ends up turning into a tight little game of pushing-your-luck, betting wisely, and still knowing a bit about animal biology.  It's not deep but with 4 or 5 players (the sweet spot, in my mind) a player has to decide the most important places to bet before the spots get taken by other players.  The tension in choice can almost feel a bit like during the worker placement phase in Caylus, although much, much less painful.  So there is some strategy to the placing of the bets but knowledge plays a factor as well.  The game has the same lovely feeling that Wits and Wagers gives, of not needing to know every answer to be able to play well.  In fact, you can often bet cubes close to the "smart" player and score at least for adjacency points.  Of course this backfired in our last game when the world traveller amongst us had us all convinced that jaguars roam the savannahs of Africa and we all ended up losing our cubes (they reside mainly in South America, dontcha know!)  She was thinking of cheetahs.

Honey badger don't give a #@%$!
I can't say enough about this game.  I've played it a few times now and every game has been a lot of fun.  The rules are simple, the betting and revealing of answers is suspenseful, and you end up learning more then you ever needed to about the common garden snake.  There are two levels of difficulty (obscure vs. RIDICULOUSLY obscure animals) although we haven't bothered with the tough ones yet nor will we anytime soon.  I have had one or two people not so impressed with the game due to the trivia aspect so this may not be a hit for everyone.  But if you like Wits & Wagers or random trivia or even just the occasional episode of Planet Earth, I think you will love this game.  It only takes about 45 minutes, plays great with up to 6 players, and it's a total joy and if I had my way, it would be in every classroom across the country.  It's the type of game with major mass-market appeal that actually deserves to be flying off the shelves of every department store because it's so good.  And it's definitely one of my top games so far this year.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

New Dominion: Hinterland cards...

I'd say that this expansion is shaping up to look as good as Prosperity.  Thanks to Prosperity, getting into and expanding your deck very quickly makes for a dynamic game and has revived of our enjoyment of Dominion.

You can see the rest of the new cards in the ruleset here.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Crappy birthday to me, crappy birthday to me.... (a review and a giveaway!)

One-sentence review:  "Well, that was a helluva lot funnier than I expected..."

The full-length review:  One of my favourite party games is a lovely little trivia game called Wits & Wagers which manages to make random trivia fun by allowing a player to gamble and win without necessarily knowing the answers.  When North Star Games offered copies of their newest game, Crappy Birthday, I took a look at the rules and thought, "yeah, this one's not for me."  It beared a striking resemblance to Apples to Apples, another great party game that can sometimes end up remarkably boring when played with the wrong group of people.  But Luke of North Star described it to me as more of an "icebreaker" than most games and if taken lightly enough, it can be really funny (he must follow my blog and knew to warn me).

So with that in mind, we dove into this game over the past weekend with a group of friends of mine who didn't really know each other that well.  The rules are extraordinarily simple.  (In fact one might even argue that there is barely even a game here...)  Everyone has a hand of cards with images and descriptions of some really crappy gifts.  Each player takes a turn as the 'gift receiver' and gets a card face down from every other player.  The cards are mixed up and then revealed and the gift receiver picks the gift they think would be the worstest, awfulest, baddest present to ever, ever get.  The player who gave that gift gets a point, everyone draws a card, and the next player gets a turn getting a bunch of junk.  First player to give three of the stankiest gifts wins.  Pretty simple.

Embiggen to see some of the awful gifts
And I have to admit we had a rather awesome time playing it!  We discussed the reasons people wouldn't want things and we laughed at the hilarious photos on some of the cards.  As an icebreaker, it fit the bill perfectly and made for an excellent way to start the night out. Now a caveat:  this game is VERY casual.  If I hadn't been warned beforehand that it was more of an icebreaker, I might have found it a bit bland.  But if you go in with the right attitude and some witty friends, I gotta tell you it makes for quite an entertaining half-hour.  Kudos to North Star for finding yet another great way to bring people together.  Highly recommended.

The giveaway:  When North Star had first offered a review copy, I mentioned perhaps a giveaway to celebrate my 300th blog post and they were all for it.  Unfortunately, due to them being busy and me also being just busy that post came and went.  (This particular post is #318, methinks.)  HOWEVER, today may just happen to be my birthday and I tend to be rather miserable for most of my birthdays.  So what better reason to do a giveaway of their game, Crappy Birthday, then to celebrate my own crappy birthday.  If you're interested in a copy, shoot me an email at with your name and a description of the crappiest gift you ever received and I'll do a draw on Nov. 10th for a brand new copy of the game!  I'll probably post some of your crappy gifts, too, if I get some real winners!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Essen, Essen, Essen....

Every year I wish I was there....  Sigh.  But I got to Origins this May so definitely not as bitter. 

I'm even kinda enjoying the constant updates from the Opinionated Gamers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

First Plays: At The Gates of Loyang and Rattus...

Got a 3-player game of ATGOL in last Friday and I must admit I enjoyed it more than I expected.  If you haven't heard of it, it's Uwe Rosenberg's third 'BIG' game following the footsteps of the brilliant agony of Agricola and the resource/engine-building of Le Havre.  Agricola may be the pinnacle of game design and I thoroughly enjoy it so I'll try any Rosenberg game once.  Le Havre is a great design, too, but just way too long for my tastes.  Now, the player interaction in those two games is subtle but definitely there.  Loyang on the other hand has been described by many as a multi-player solitaire/puzzle game where each player has to wait while the others take their rather long turns.  Happily, this wasn't my experience although I can definitely see the possibility of it happening.  It was a churning, thoughtful game with lots of pretty bits.  I would definitely play it again.

Also got some new gaming in yesterday evening at UW games night.  Played Rattus for the second time with the full complement of 4 players.  It's an interesting subtle game of positioning and not entirely what I expected.  It's kind of like the opposite of Pandemic.  I think I like it....

Rattus - Nothing like a good plague to bring people together
Also finally got a play in of Lost Cities: the Board Game.  I've played the original excellent 2-player card game an uncountable number of times now and the board version was exactly what I expected.  Except even more chaotic with 4 people.  Still thoroughly enjoyable.

Hunting for artifacts in Lost Cities
Other games that got played that night included Poison and Hollywood Blockbuster.  Quite the night for Reiner Knizia...

Knitting and Knizia....

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Greed and gaming....

Check out this great little article Occupy Boardwalk: How Greed Changed Games in Collectors Weekly, and antiques and vintage blog.  In the latest post, Lisa Hix uses the current Occupy Wall Street protests as impetus to trace the moral degradation of gaming in early 20th century - leading, of course, to the greediest game of all, Monopoly:
And board games promoting virtue all but disappeared. Being calculating and ruthless was now the way to reach a game’s end goal—be that money, property, or a big promotion to the office on the corner.
My, how timely.   (Thanks to Mr. Brown for the great link.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Games NOT to play with the family after Thanksgiving dinner....

Here's a interesting list of board games with some rather off-colour subject matter, including the wildly offensive Darkies in the Melon Patch which I've mentioned previously.  My favourite line:
"It takes you from conception all the way through 40 long weeks of pregnancy, and the first person to dilate to 10 centimeters wins the game."

Good-hearted family fun.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New board game documentary....

...and it even has appearances by the other Eric Martin.  Ha. 

I love documentaries.  And I love board games.  I may actually have to check this one out.

(Via the other Eric at BGG News)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

On The Horizon: Quebec...

My first foray into board gaming conventions this year, Origins 2011, was a moderate success I'd say.  I didn't know anyone (besides my partner) so I didn't spend too much time actually gaming.  But I made some great purchases and saw some interesting previews of upcoming titles.  One of the highlights was having the game Quebec from Montreal's Le Scorpion Masque explained to me by one of the designers Philippe Beaudoin.  Only a prototype was available at the time but he was able to give me a decent overview of play and describe the fascinating scoring mechanic.

In short, Quebec is a strategy game about helping to build Quebec city over a few centuries by contributing workers to the various different buildings that players choose to build.  The players need to work together to complete these buildings for points but at the same time they are also competing directly for majorities in the 5 spheres of influence.  What looks really fun is that during scoring a player with a majority can cascade half their pieces to the next sphere of influence causing perhaps a ripple effect of points for someone who plays things right.  It looks to be quite a deep but dynamic experience without too much chaos.

The ruleset is actually simpler than I expected and offers 3 levels of play to ease players into the full game with the historically accurate events which really bring Quebec City to life.  It doesn't hurt that the graphics are gorgeous, too.

Who am I kidding?  I can't resist a well-designed board game that presents a big old well-researched slice of Canadiana.  Looking forward to it.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

On The Horizon: Fauna (in English!)

Friedemann Friese has become one of the most prolific (and eccentric) game designers alive today.  Luckily for us, his games, whose German titles always start with the letter 'F', tend to be extremely good designs and have become some of my favourites - Power Grid (Funkenschlag), Black Friday (Freitag), and Famiglia are just a few. 

Well, a couple years ago Friese made a trivia game Fauna about betting on facts about animals, specifically on where they live and how big they are.  Like Wits & Wagers before, in Fauna you can win without knowing the exact answers but scoring for playing strategically and guessing close to the answer.  Fauna has been quite well-received but suffered from a bit of a translation issue (who wants to play a trivia game in a language they don't know?)  The great news is that FoxMind, a Canadian game company based out of Montreal, is bringing the English version to us.  Looking forward to it.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gaming back home....

Two things:

- Small World for Ipad is about the best travel game ever, you know, Small World without the accounting.  One caveat:  it only plays 2 people.  But if there's 2 of ya, it's about the perfect pastime....

- My mother and the rest of the family are now in love with Dominion.  I need to visit more often.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Haven't posted in awhile..

Sorry, been off the radar for awhile.  Life has been quite busy and the gaming quite minimal.  But I'm heading back to BC for a week with the family so I can hopefully get some time and pics in then.  Word has it that my mother is obsessed with Dominion now.  Should be a good trip.

Happy fall...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First plays: Asara and Uluru...

I've played some excellent Euros so far this year that have all felt pretty fresh and original - the fantastic Mammut, for example, or the hilarious Mord Im Arosa.  Now I think I can add two more to the list: Asara, a gorgeously produced game from the team of Kramer and Kiesling who brought us the great Spiel des Jahres winner Torres, and Uluru, a quick and clever puzzler from the previously unknown Lauge Rosendahl.

Gorgeous, gorgeous board requiring a large table

Asara is an exceptionally fun game about building towers.  Big towers.  The largest, in fact, in each of the five colours available.  Asara is also a game that when described in detail sounds rather dated and unoriginal.  I mean, if I were to try to categorize it, I'd have to to say it's kinda like a worker-placement game but with majority scoring similar to older games like El Grande or even Manhattan.  Yeah, sounds like every other German game from the past ten years.  But that really doesn't do it justice as it is actually a very tight, easy-to-learn design, combining hand and money management, turn order, and set collection in such a balanced way that it feels exactly like it was created by master designers (and it was).  Asara strikes such a fine balance between tension and fun in about the perfect length of time that it seems to me to be an excellent choice for both families and gamers.  Oh, and add to that production values from Ravensburger that are out of this world and it's no wonder Asara was nominated for the 2011 Spiel des Jahres.

Uluru is a different beast altogether:  a fast thinky game about birds sitting around a table who have very specific wishes about exactly where they want to be placed.  Seriously.  You remember those logic puzzles with the grids where you suppposed to determine the placement of each character according to a rather opaque set of clues?  Yeah, well, this is the board game version with a timer.  Players flip a card for each the eight coloured birds determining what each bird wishes - you know, things like sitting right beside the blue bird or at the opposite side of the table as the black bird or to even just sit at the table altoegther.  The sand timer is flipped and everyone has a very short amount of time to make all their birds' wishes come true.  Stones are handed out for wishes unfulfilled and at the end of the round, the player with the least stones wins.  In theory, it all sounds very dry and logical, but in practice the pieces are so pretty and the rounds so quick that the game is quite light and enjoyable.

And I'm awful at it. Just awful. But I'd play it again in a second.

Click on the picture to see that the left player has fulfilled every bird's wish.  The player on the right, however...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Gaming at FanExpo 2011...

So I spent last weekend at Canada's biggest comics, horror, fantasy, film, media, (insert obsession), and gaming convention.  Almost every year my very talented partner sells his beautifully spooky artwork there and I usually stand behind the table all weekend and help him out.

It was nice to see a bigger and much more organized board gaming section this year and what looked like organized game tourneys all weekend.  Steve Jackson Games even had a booth set up in the games room!

The games library provided by Snakes and Lattes
Epic connect four.....   Still totally solved.
The games room.  Packed.

Gifts for the dog-sitter and extended family.  (Laura, don't show the kids!)

Vince and his booth of artwork where I spent most of the weekend

Seems like FanExpo is quickly becoming one of the top Con's in North America.  Hopefully the hobby gaming section will continue to grow as fast as the convention!