Monday, September 30, 2013

Via Appia....

I have been accused on more than one occasion of purchasing and loving games purely for their quirky features (I'm looking at you, Mord Im Arosa and Master Thieves!)  And I can't really deny it. I'm a sucker for a gimmick.  So when I heard about the stone pushing mechanism of Via Appia released from Queen Games this year, my little heart skipped a beat.

You remember that game in the carnivals, where you dropped the coins in and they landed on a moving platform and if they landed just right they'd push other coins off the edge and you'd get to keep those ones?  Well someone's distilled that into a fun, albeit VERY light, euro strategy game.

Best just to watch the clip below from our first game (sorry for the weird angle).....

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Today in awesome....

I stopped playing Settlers years and years ago.  But these socks at one my favourite online retailers are so awesome I just had to order a pair.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

First plays: Targi....

I love a good strategic 2-player game that I can carry with me wherever I go - Lost Cities and Roma being prime examples of these.  One particular week in Cuba with my partner a couple years ago was filled with games beside the pool and ocean.  Ah, magic.   So I was definitely open to playing Targi at Origins this year after the buzz I'd heard about this game from the Kosmos 2-player line.  Unfortunately I was extraordinarily hung over when I tried it so maybe not the best first impression.  Fast forward to 2 nights ago and Vince and I sat down for a game.  And what a game! Quick-moving but meaty, this game takes a good hour to play and seems to have quite some interesting strategies.

The actions
It really is a worker-placement game but with a positional twist:  the first 3 workers you place determine where in the grid your last 2 workers will land.  It's a simple interesting mechanic that really elevates this game to something new.  As well, as you build your grid of tribe cards, many of them allow you to break certain rules in the game or provide end-game points.  The strategies and combinations from these seem endless given the number of tribe cards that will show up in any one game.

Tribe cards
Definitely looking forward to exploring this little gem more.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

FanExpo 2013....

Oh, the humanity!!!!!
For probably the 5th year in a row, I attended FanExpo this August at the enormous Toronto Metro Convention Centre.  In case you don't know, FanExpo is Canada's largest fan convention for comic book fanatics, trekkies, gamers, writers, sports fanatics (this year!), and almost every other nerd grouping you can think of.  And this year, it seems to have been the biggest one yet.  My partner is an artist and he sells his creepy, beautiful poster prints like hotcakes at these shows.  So for a couple of days of hard work at our booth I get a full exhibitor pass for the whole weekend and I get to skip all the lines!  This year was our best year yet as the show keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Vincent's booth this year
I was even able to take the Saturday off from selling to attend the Great Canadian Board Game Blitz which is always hectic fun.  If you haven't heard of it before (like, say in my previous posts), it's a very friendly competition where everyone plays a bunch of games and gets a score according to their ranking in each game.  At the end of the day there are prizes for highest scores as well as some random draws, too.  What's really nice is that after the first couple of rounds the players with the lowest scores get to pick which games they play first which is kind of a natural catch-up mechanism in the greater meta-game being played over the day.

First time playing San Juan at the Blitz, GREAT little game!
I played lots of great games that day including the heavy (Goa) and the light (Tsuro).  I was quite excited to play and also win one particular game, Trains & Stations, by Eric M. Lang of Quarriors fame.  Eric, who has a great first name and also resides in Southern Ontario, was kind enough to explain to us how to play the game.  T&S is mainly a dice game but there is a lot more going on than just that.  There is route and station-building, set-collection, tickets to complete straight outta Ticket To Ride, and even a bit of a stock market element.  It's quite a dense little game considering how quickly it plays and how light the dice make it feel.

Trains & Stations board with dice (trains) played and resource cards
In general, players are rolling their dice to try and get train symbols to place on the board or to build stations.  When rolled as train symbols, the dice themselves are placed on the board to try and build routes between cities.  These routes can be left unfinished and other players can add their own dice to finish them, yielding points to all players involved.  An interesting strategy, of course, is to piggy back on as many routes as possible to score on each completion.  Stations attached to completed routes generate resource cards for their owners and there are bonuses at game end for the player with the most in each resource.  In a very "Acquire"-y twist, once a resource runs out a better resource replaces it and players have the option to trade-up 2 for 1 for the newer more valuable resource.

"All the pretty dices......."
All this is quite fascinating and an interesting mix of mechanics that I REALLY like.  But it's a very short game - 30-45 minutes - and the dice and cards inject a hefty dose of luck.  On the last round of turns, the player before me completely crapped out on her roll and was unable to do anything and then on my turn I managed to roll well enough to complete some excellent routes which let me draw more cards.  These cards just happened to give me the majority in a couple of resources allowing me to secure the win.  So I'm not entirely sure what I think of the game yet - it's lots of fun with many strategies for play, but the ruleset is a bit long for such a short game and the swings of luck seemed to often dictate the strategy you take.  Still, I really want to play this again and that's a good sign.

Completed route tickets
Overall, it was an awesome day packing 6 games into 7 hours and meeting lots of new people.  And I was lucky enough to win a random draw and snatch a copy of Tsuro which I had already been considering buying after playing it that day.  Thanks again to the online game store Fun Games Cafe out of Mississauga for providing some of the prizes, including the one I took home.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Alan Moon Interview

Last April I had the joy of finally meeting one of my board game design hero's. The real treat was finding out he is also a great person. Alan Moon (designer of Ticket to Ride) really left an impression on me. He was always smiling. He was not only hospitable, but seemed to really take an interest in everyone attending the Gathering of Friends. The interview you find below was captured during my time at the Gathering of Friends. It was filmed by Douglas Morse, as part of his documentary "Adventures On The Tabletop". Im not sure if it will be included as an extra feature, but I recommend if you enjoy the videoclip, be sure to purchase the movie when it is released.