Thursday, August 28, 2014

FanExpo 2014...

If you're in the Toronto area this weekend and find yourself attending the massive FanExpo convention downtown, make sure you stop in and say hello.  On Friday, my co-blogger Daryl and I will be volunteering at the Z-Man Games section in the board game room 718.  I'll be helping to teach Pandemic and the adorable and violent Krosmaster Arena.

And if you're around Friday night or Saturday afternoon, you should definitely sign up for the Pandemic: Survival competition.  Multiple players playing the exact same game - card order, etc.  Basically Pandemic played like Duplicate Bridge.  What an awesome idea.

The rest of the weekend I'll be manning the My Pet Skeleton booth in artist alley so come say hello and check out some of my hubby's amazing artwork.

Or even sign your butts up for the Great Canadian Board Game Blitz with my friend Ray on Sunday afternoon if you're looking for something to do.  It's running across the street from the convention centre at the Royal York Hotel.  So many options!!!!!

Friday, August 22, 2014

First Play: Caverna (or Agricola: The Dwarf Edition)....

Agricola is definitely an obsession forming game, deep, complex, but utterly thematic with tons of variety.  It was sort of the start of Uwe Rosenberg's nose dive into complexity.  I mean, to think this guy designed great the great card games Bohnanza and Bargain Hunter and now he churns out crazily involved titles like Le Havre and At The Gates of Loyang!  Caverna definitely feels most similar to Agricola and much of the game is nearly the same.  But after muddling through one game, this definitely feels like a tribute to the Uwe fans - tons of rules exceptions, a million things to have to read at all times, and way, way too many choices.  In fact, I think teaching this to someone who hasn't played Agricola probably isn't the best idea.

So.  Many.  Action spaces!
Having said that, I enjoyed my first play but did terribly in the final scoring, despite thinking I was handling my own.  Turns out the "fingers in every pie" strategy that Agricola is known for doesn't actually work that well in Caverna.  This game actually favours some specialization.  And there are some interesting new elements - dwarf characters who go on expeditions and return with tons of loot.  But even there, near the end of the game with a high valued dwarf it's possible to have to pick 4 different rewards (resources, land, animals, etc.) from a possible 16.  And then if you pick a room for your home, you are looking at 40+ choices depending on what you have.

So.  Many.  Rewards and ruby uses!
 Honestly, I found myself just building things I could afford because the choices were too numerous.  Instead of planning ahead, I'd instead take actions and build rooms with the mindset that things fit with the direction I was going.  I find the same issue arises in Glass Road, another recent and very enjoyable Uwe game.  There are just too many options in one turn that you just end up doing what's easiest.  It seems to foster less strategy.  At least with Agricola you have one hand of cards.  That's it.  Deal with those.  Imagine having the whole deck face up and at your disposal every turn....

So.  Many.  ROOMS!!!!!
Despite the criticisms, I'd like to play it again.  The game feels more like a sandbox than any of his other games, building and playing in any direction your heart desires.  Choices piled upon choices.

But after a 2-hour game with 3 people, I will never, ever play with the maximum of 7.  Ridiculous.

Home Sweet Home.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Seen at Canada's Wonderland this past weekend......

Okay, Daryl may have spent this past weekend at GenCon playing brand new swanky titles.  But at least I saw a gigantic arcade Operation.....

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Before Gen Con - Top10's

This will be my first year attending Gen Con, "the best 4 days in gaming." The convention takes place this week, from August 14-17, in Indianapolis. Gen Con is the original, longest-running, best-attended, gaming convention in the world. Last year, the 46th event, the attendance record was set at 49,000. However, all indications point to this year breaking the attendance record again. 

I will be arriving in Indianapolis on Tuesday evening. I will do my best to take lots of pictures and share some tweets. You can follow me on twitter at: @darylmandrews
Meanwhile, I can't help but think ahead to all the amazing games I will get to see, demo, and maybe even purchase. Really I have been thinking about this for weeks. Reading reviews, watching videos, and chatting online with friends. After doing so much research, it just makes sense to share my TOP 10 list. I have decided to include two lists. The first list is my Top 10 games I am considering to purchase. The other Top 10 list will be games that are not for sale, but I want to see/demo.

TOP 10 Games (for sale) at GEN CON:

10) Diamonds (Love trick taking games - anything designed by Mike Fitgerald has my attention)

9)  Consequential (Sounds really innovative. I love the app integration and legacy mechanic)

8) Abyss (Love any game designed by Bruno. Plus the box cover is awesome!)

7) Lords of Xidit (Loved Himalaya. I enjoyed the play test when I saw it in April)

6) Imperial Settlers (Ignacy Trzewiczek is a brillant designer. Rules look solid)

5) Hyperborea (I wish I could afford this game. From the designer of Kingsburg. Looks great)

4) Five Tribes (Again, anything designed by Bruno I usually enjoy. Played in April and I loved it)

3) Sheriff of Nottingham (Been on the search for original Brazilian game, Robin Hood. Must have)

2) King of New York (I love the idea of smashing around a map of NYC. Cant miss with this)

1) Panamax (Not many great med-heavy euro games coming out. This looks like my kind of game)

Next10 Honorable mention:
City Hall (on the bubble)
Subdivision (on the bubble)
The Battle of Kemble's cascade (on the bubble)
Argent: The Consortium (on the bubble)
Chimera (came down to this or Diamonds)
Fief: France 1429 (Im not a war game guy)
Battle of the Five Armies (Im not a war guy)
Epic Resort (Love the art but need to try the game first)
Tortuga (already out)
Dead of Winter (already out. Kickstarters delivered)

TOP 10 Games (for demo only) at GEN CON:
10) Bomb Squad (Im interested in trying this game due to the timer aspect of the game)

9) Scoville (Im a sucker for all games featuring Josh Cappel's art)

8) Gold West (I don't know much about this game - but I am interested. 

7) Steam Works (Wow - I guess I love TMG. I will be in room #137 a lot at Gen Con)

6) Aqua Sphere (Im a sucker for Feld games. And yes the first 5 games on this list are TMG.)

5) Colt Express (You had me at 3D train)

4) X-Com (Designed by friend Eric Lang. Hopeful App integration game will be awesome!)

3) Pay Dirt (Designer of Alien Frontiers. Great designer + Great Art = I want)

2) Castles of Mad King Ludwig (Really fun game. I love the spatial building of the castles)

1) Kanban: Automotive Revolution (Next to Panamax, this is my most wanted game

Honorable mention:

The Walled City (Im bias. I like it. Im really excited for people to experience the game)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Pack O Games

Daryl (me) just recently was hired as a game experts at Games On Tap board game cafe in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. So it only seemed appropriate to bring the Pack O Games to work with me.

"Little Game. Lotta Fun!" These Juicy Fruit stick-gum sized games, pack a great punch. From Perplext Games, we find some wonderful micro packaged games designed by Chris Handy. That name might sound familiar because Chris is responsible for designing Cinque Terre and Long Shot.

Currently, Pack O Games is on Kickstarter. Please be sure to check out the Kickstarter campaign, and consider supporting this great game. Games like this are only possible when people support them. But if you are unsure if you want to purchase the games, maybe read on to see why we think they are worth your support!

Game Overview:
The Pack O Games are actually a variety of different games. The Kickstarter pledge comes with4 base games included (HUE, TKO, GEM, & FLY). However, Im hopeful the game can reach many of their stretch goals so we can discover more games in the line like: TAJ, LIE, SHH, BUS, and maybe even more! Its actually pretty amazing how different each game is, while constraint to a tiny package. And not only does each game feature a very different theme, and very different game mechanic, but each game also feature 1 of 3 levels of play, so you can pick the best game for the type of player(s).

It might be hard to believe, but these are not all casual light games. Do not be deceived by the small package. Some games offer very rewarding strategy and challenge. For the purposes of this blog, I will review each of the base games: HUE, TKO, GEM, FLY.

All the staff I showed the Pack O Game to at Games On Tap were excited to see these mini sized games. Hopefully in the near future, Ray, another game expert at Games On Tap, will post her review of each of the games. So stayed tuned to this blog to read that.

I will start off by confessing some bias. I have had the privilege of hanging out with Chris Handy, the designer of the games, and I would consider Chris a friend. He is really a great guy, and if you have the chance to hang out with him and play a game, I highly recommend you do.

However, anyone who knows me, would also let you know, I don't beat around the bush. I say what I think. Initially when I saw these cute little packaged games, I was sceptical. Sure they look good. And I get the new wave of micro games. However, I was worried they wouldn't feature much game play. I was scared they would all be casual light games I would play once or twice and move on.

I was wrong! These games might be small in size but massive on fun. Each game is unique and full of flavour.

I am a big fan of this game. I was really shocked how a game with only 5 turns per player (or 4 turns with 5 players), can feel so satisfying. It just works. Each turn feels interesting and meaningful. It really has a tile laying/tactical feel to the game. Its really fun seeing this game all splayed out on the table, and then looking back at the little card box. How did all this game fit in that tiny box?!

"Its the eye of the tiger, the thrill of the fight." This game is a knockout! Each play features great head games. Will my opponent go for the massive uppercut, or block my punch?! I really appreciate that TKO is an easy to learn 2 player free swinging boxing game. I plan on carrying TKO around in my pocket anytime I plan on watching a sporting event at the bar, and pulling this out during the intermission. "Rising up the the challenge of my rival!"

This game caught me by surprise. There is a deep auction game going on here. The game seems challenging to master, but was simple to learn. Treasure this tiny game, because GEM alone is worth the purchase of Pack O Games. The card quality is top notch, and because of the unique size of the cards, its handy and doesn't take up too much table space. But I found this game took a solid 20-30 minutes to play.

Personally, my favourite game was FLY. Such good laughter around the table. We started bragging and trying to drop the fly swatter higher and higher with each attempt. FLY, which only takes a minute to explain, and less than 10 minutes to play. But the theme is hilarious.

Following in the tradition of 3 letter names, I most confess I LUV these games. They are portable, affordable, & jam packed with FUN!