Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A particularly mathy way to determine first player....

At games night at UW, the mathematician friends of mine have a particularly quick and clever way to determine who starts each game which they call "Shoots" (don't ask me why...) Anyone who has done any studies with modular arithmetic or group theory should be quite comfortable with it.

Okay, so here's how it goes: one player calls "Shoots!" and on three, everyone reveals a random number of fingers, rock-papers-scissors style. Now add up all the fingers and count that many around the circle of players clockwise starting with the player who called for "Shoots". Ta-da. Whoever you finish with is the start player.

Of course, in math terms, if x is the total number of fingers and the players are numbered clockwise as 1,...,n where 1 is the caller of "Shoots" then the start player is simply x modulo n. See, easy!

Or I suppose you could just grab Ted Alspach's cute Start Player deck of cards. But I think math is WWWAAAAYYYYY more fun.....

Monday, January 30, 2012

Daily dose of awesomeness....

Big Bang Theory catches on to the age-old "Wood For Sheep" joke from Settlers.... Only for the highly immature and severely dorky.  Um.  Like me.

(Link thanks to the other Eric at BGGNews...)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

On The Horizon (next week): German Railways and Welcome to Walnut Grove...

I am currently in Florida for the rest of the weekend, enjoying a family trip with the in-laws. It's quite the lovely albeit busy state and I can see why older wealthy Americans and Canadians come here to spend their last days playing Bridge and turning their skin to leather. Boy, I can't wait to retire - I'll probably end up here with all my board games in tow and enough free time to finally play them....

When we return Monday (sadly) I look forward to playing German Railways, Queen's lovely new production of a very well-received Winsome title, which could be considered the unofficial sequel to Chicago Express. I talked about it a bit last year and it has finally been released in North America. Also looking forward to Welcome to Walnut Grove, described as a lightcross between Carcassonne and Agricola. Um, okay, sold.
It'll be sad to return to work in the frozen north but returning to some new gaming Monday night should ease some of the pain.

Friday, January 20, 2012

You tell me: time for some sun....

Off to Florida tonight for a week of warmth (thank goodness!)  And of course the toughest choice is what games to subject my in-laws to.  Any suggestions?  I picked up Jambo to play with the hubby in the airport while we're waiting and I'm definitely bringing Tichu and Liar's Dice.  Hmmm....  How big is that suitcase again?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Games night...

Two new ones played last night at the University of Waterloo...

Quebec, Ystari Games

The gorgeous colours of Quebec
I finally got a copy of Quebec, designed by Philippe Beaudoin and Pierre Poissant-Marquis, which was first described to me by one of the designers at Origins last year. And it's good. Really good. Really, REALLY good. Smart, fast-moving, dynamic, tricky, original, so many words I could use. Definitely on the heavier side but very fast-paced and the decisions are limited so it trucks along fairly quickly. I can't wait to play this again and if I'd bought it last year, it would definitely be in my top 5 of 2011. Ah well. Great start to the new year....

Leaders and workers

Zones of power...  White is about cascade like crazy!

In the Shadow of the Emperor, Rio Grande Games

Wasn't playing this one but it's on my list of must-try's.  The other table was VERY quiet throughout which goes with what I've heard - a very dry, calculational experience.

Monday, January 16, 2012

First plays: Risk: Legacy...

Okay, so if you haven't heard of the latest incarnation of Risk, you may want to get your head out from under a rock.  And buy it.  As soon as possible.  And this is coming from someone who REALLY does not like the original game of Risk (it's divisive, eliminates players early on, and way, WAY too long.)

The magic of this game may change the board game industry as much as Dominion did and Magic: The Gathering before that.  If you don't know yet, in Risk: Legacy, players get to change the board and their factions permanently as the games progress.  Players can name continents, found cities, permanently scar the board to give regions advantages and disadvantages, and basically create the experience as they go.  It's a stunning coup by Hasbro as takes a relatively simple board game and gives the players a level of investment in replay that I've never seen.

And it's a riot, it really is.  Each game plays in 60-90 minutes due to the different game-winning conditions and we are excited every time to see how our world will change and develop.  There are envelopes that only get opened once certain events happen (like last night when someone was eliminated for the first time) and they add new rules and variation to the game.  What's so clever is that last night the player whose faction got eliminated was given a power to make that faction stronger in future games.  Permanently.  And that player got to choose the power which means he ended up getting rewarded even though he was permanently out of the game.   The whole thing was extremely satisfying and the eliminated player was surprisingly happy about it. 

The only thing I worry about is that the Risk board has it usual issues - the Australian subcontinent is impenetrable and you are prone to a million bad dice rolls - which makes me think that after the first 15 games, once the board is fixed, we may quickly lose interest.  But so far it's been an absolute blast!  Where else can I at the end of a game, MUCH to my partner Vincent's dismay, found a minor city in the Middle East called "Fagdad".  Ha.

The Australian subcontinent is now "Vincent is your GOD-Land" with the minor city "Vincopolis".  Oh give me a break.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A little experiment....

My partner threw an idea at me one day about maybe doing time-lapse photography of board games as they progress.  Seemed kinda cool so I finally figured out our new camera and I-Movie and tried it.  I figured Dominant Species might be kind of appropriate, you know migrating species, approaching tundra, and all that.

Unfortunately, you can only whittle a 3 hour game down so much so here's 5 minutes of cube and tile pushing, put to some nice classical music (I've always thought inter-species violence, and violence in general, makes more of a splash to classical...)

This may only interest two other people - the ones who played the game with me.  Ha.

Next time I think I'll try Tigris and Euphrates.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Best of 2011...

As always, I definitely did not play even a tenth of the multitude of games that those lucky people over at Opinionated Gamers get to play so my choices are totally coloured by that.  As well, due to living in Canada, many a game that I finally played this year may have been a 2010 release.  Deal with it.  Maybe just consider these the favourites of the games that were new to me this year. 

So without further ado...

Best New Game of 2011 - Mammut, by Kristian Amundsen Ostby (Queen)

My favourite game this year earns its status for playing so completely and wonderfully different than any game I own.  In Mammut, players are cavemen determining how to share the spoils of a hunt.  The hunt is composed of 31 tiles, of varying values and importance, and each player in turn can take as many of them as they want from the spoils in the middle or all the tiles from one other player.  The key is that if you take the tiles away from someone else, you have to return at least one back to the center (they were being "too greedy!").  This back and forth of stealing and returning continues until everyone has tiles.  The round then ends and a scoring occurs similar to Knizia's classic Ra.  4 or 5 rounds and the game is finished.

This game is brilliant, loaded with strategy, and helluva lot of "take that" nastiness.  No other family game this year has made me think so differently about how to play well.  For more details, see my full review here.  Or just go out and buy the damn game.  It's wicked, tense, strategic fun.

Second Place Favourite - Asara, by Michael Kiesling and Wolfgang Kramer (Ravensburger)

This one may come as a surprise to you (it sure did to me).  It also may be from 2010 but I don't care.  When I first read the rules to this, it seemed like there wasn't a single original mechanic.  And maybe there isn't.  But after playing it I found the game so well-balanced, so interesting, and so easy to explain, it's worth every second.  On paper, it's just a worker-placement game about building the tallest towers in five different colours.  But it's gorgeously produced and the worker-placement is cleverly handled with cards where players must follow suit to take certain actions after others.  It's an extremely fun family strategy game that is super-tense right through to the finish.  Kramer invented Princes of Florence, one of my all-time greats, and his masterful touch is quite evident here, although Asara is a slightly more relaxed affair.  But only slightly.  A very, very pleasant surprise.

Runners-up -

Airlines Europe, by Alan R. Moon - It's a quicker, slicker version of Moon's Union Pacific/Airlines system and the tension in the game sneaks up on you.  Imagine Acquire meets Ticket To Ride and you're starting to get the idea.  But you gotta play it with the flight ban rules which can be found here.  It adds some nastiness and clogs the board up quite nicely.

Fauna, by Friedemann Friese - Definitely my favourite party game this year and it was republished in English this year by FoxMind Games.  This is a trivia game about animals - where they live, what they weigh, how tall they are - where you can win points by still being close to the answer and not exactly on it.  Sounds dry but it's actually shockingly fun.
Black Friday, also by Friedemann Friese - Once you get past the god-awful ruleset and make sense of how to play, you'll find yourself immersed in one of the cleverest stock market simulations ever put to board.  It's tense and strategic but still chaotic and a bit number-crunchy.  Maybe not for everyone but my math friends and I love it.

Mord Im Arosa, by Alessandro Zucchini - I love this game of dropping cubes in a tower and listening to which floor they fall to.  It's simple, hilarious, and nasty.  This is the most enjoyable game I've played all year and also one of the cleverest.

Water Lily, by Dominique Ehrhard - This little race game was brought to my attention at Origins this past year and I'm glad we picked it up.  It's a very simple race game that's made quite tricky by the memory element of the scoring.  Excellent, suspenseful, and so quick.  It's also one of the nicest productions I've seen in years where the box becomes the board.  Just lovely.

(Aside:  I haven't played my copy of A Few Acres of Snow yet but it may jump on this list pretty quickly.  Deck-building, Canadian history, and Martin Wallace - sounds like an amazing combo.)