Thoughts From The Gameroom

The ramblings of a Euro-gamer from South Dakota

Archive for the ‘Game Night’ Category

Food For Thought: Gaming With A 10-year-old Non-gamer

Posted by sodaklady on November 21, 2013

My daughter is dating a man with a 10-year-old son whose gaming experience, aside from video games, consists of Sequence. At least he has experience using his mind, and is learning gaming etiquette such as cheating is not allowed and how to be a graceful winner and loser.

Last weekend they were all to come over for the day but his dad unexpectedly had to work for a few hours so Cori brought Kaidan over and we showed him some games. I gazed with glazed eyes at all my gamer games, searching for some good choices for a youngster with no experience with such things. I finally grabbed Blokus Trigon and Tsuro, easy to teach, easy to understand.

Image by ealdrich


Image by merc007



These both turned out to be a good match and were played twice each.

The concept of Blokus tiles being placed only at points of the triangles caused no trouble once he saw it in action. We encouraged him to use his most “obnoxious” pieces (Cori’s term) early, and helped with finding spots towards the end.

Tsuro worried me at first since you’re given 3 tiles to choose from and I was afraid it would slow him down unbearably, but it didn’t. But I don’t think he was thinking ahead as we gamers are wont to do and that’s fine for a beginner. I chose to force him off the board earlier than I needed to, testing an important gaming skill–losing gracefully. He didn’t seem to mind and stayed engaged while Cori and I finished the game. He wanted to try again and this time, he and Cori tied, both facing the empty space once all the tiles were laid. Well done!

He wanted to see what else I had so back to the game shelf to find something else appropriate. Oh, yes, dice have not been rolled! I brought out Can’t Stop and Hey, That’s My Fish!  Can’t Stop is a game we’ve had since my kids were little so it was nice to see another generation pushing their luck. This game was also a hit and played twice, then again when his dad showed up. It is also the game that made me stop and realize the difference between a 10-year-old gamer and a 10-year-old non-gamer.

Image by Kirk Bauer

  It took Kaidan quite a while each time he rolled the dice to combine the four dice into two sets of two and come up with what numbers he could use that turn. At first I thought he just needed to work on his math skills but then it hit me: the pips are unfamiliar to a non-gamer. Whereas we look at the arrangement of little dots and immediately see “5”, he had to take the time to count them. How strange! You’d think they’d teach pips in school, wouldn’t you? 🙂


Hey, That’s My Fish! is a great family game, combining a spacial element with a simple movement system, and adding cute little penguins as well. Now if it would just set itself up!! It’s a simple game with enough depth to be a family game and a gamer’s filler game. No dice, no tricky corners to deal with, and no early elimination. We played twice and the second game was close.

Image by spearjr.

I hope he had a good enough time with these four games to be willing to play some more. This leads to me look at my game collection in a new light and since he isn’t experienced with these concepts, I can’t depend on the age suggestions on the boxes. Let me show you what I mean.

I chose two games from my collection, which seem like good candidates at first glance: Yspahan (ages 8+), and Aquaretto (a family friendly game) BTW, I don’t own Zooloretto which is why it isn’t up for consideration.

Yspahan sent up danger flags just from looking at the back of the box. Look at all the boards, each with choices to make and rules to remember.

There’s the main player board with special rules on where you can place your pieces. The Caravan track where you can score points, or give points to an opponent, so you have to balance the good with the bad. Under that is the main board used to decide which actions you will take. Lastly is the player’s personal board with buildings you can build for points and special abilities. Oh, and let’s not forget the cards you can acquire which also give you special abilities when used. This is just way too much for most 8-year-olds and even a lot for non-gaming adults. Heck, sometimes it makes MY head swim.

This is definitely out–not even on the list for the future.

Image by Gary James

Then there is Aquaretto, part of the Zooloretto family of family-friendly games but recommended for 10+ rather than the 8+ that Zooloretto states on the box.

On closer look at the rules, it seems like a game we could build up to, especially if we start with the parent card game, Coloretto, to acquire the skill to assess the loads on the trucks.

There are fewer areas to make choices in compared to Yspahan, but still plenty to keep track of for a new gamer, like managing your depot and watching other players’ zoos and depots. The hardest part, I think, would be seeing the best way to use your coins and where to place your workers. Thinking ahead to end-game scoring seems like something you acquire with experience so some of the workers won’t even make sense until he sees how they affect things a couple of times. I think 10+ is a fair recommendation provided the 10-year-old has had experience with such games.

For now, I hope the four games we’ve already played will see more play in the future. And I want to try Coloretto, Forbidden Island and Ticket To Ride as they seem the most likely next steps.


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Game Day: Doing it Old-Style (mostly)

Posted by sodaklady on May 21, 2012

Our tiny group has taken a bit of a turn lately. Dave has been plagued with various problems, including working 7 days a week! so Mike has brought his nieces (Sabrina, age 10 and Samantha, age 13) along with him. He has been honing their gaming skills for years and they enjoy a variety of games including Caylus and Power Grid.

Sunday Mike brought Talisman and Cosmic Encounter with him. These are two older games, Talisman being around since 1983 and Cosmic Encounter since 1977. Both of these games have been reprinted by various publishers to keep them available for the fans.

I brought out Cartagena (2000), Tsuro (2004) and Bohnanza (1997). Again, these games have been around for a fair number of years, Tsuro being the baby of the bunch at only 8 years old.  I also had to play my current favorite, Kingdom Builder, just today nominated for the 2012 Spiel des Jahres (German board game of the year award).

So what keeps some of these older games in the forefront of people’s imaginations? What makes them classics, worth reprinting years after they were first introduced even with the plethora of games coming out each year? Sometimes, I think, it may just be nostalgia. Talisman and Cosmic Encounter were many gamer’s introduction to board games; their Monopoly, as it were. And that seems an apt comparison to me because the amount of randomness and lack of control, not to mention the time it takes to play Talisman, is very similar.

As for Cartagena, its cleverness surprises me every time I pull it out. Play a card to move forward; move backwards to receive more cards. Simple. But managing your cards and where you leave your playing pieces at the end of your turn are the goals to succeeding in this game. People who figure out these two points will enjoy this game, people who can’t be bothered will never understand.

Bohnanza is a great game for a group of rowdy, extroverted people ready to haggle and trade. Again, a simple concept– you must not rearrange your cards in hand– results in a fun and memorable game unlike anything else. I can understand this being a classic; it’s great for families, serious gamers looking for something light, kids playing something without supervision, and drunks out for some laughs. Those last two are quite a bit alike, actually, aren’t they?

Personally, I’d rather play a lot of these older games in my collection than almost anything released in the last 3 or 4 years. How many games being released this year will become the new classics in 10-15 years? Will Kingdom Builder have a cult following, yearning for another expansion or a fancier version with better bits?

As far as game day went, we had a great time. Well, except for Cosmic Encounter, which I just do NOT get. I’d rather play The Farming Game!

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Game Day — Risk Legacy

Posted by sodaklady on December 20, 2011

Mike came by early on Sunday so he and I played one of my BGG Secret Santa games, Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. I had tried it a couple of times solo but having a partner to go questing with added a lot to the experience, as well as making some rules pertinent where they have no meaning when playing solo. We were doing pretty well, Mike taking the Leadership deck and me playing the Tactics deck; he added most of his characters to the quest and I had the big-hitters to take on the enemies… except the Encounter deck was too busy spitting out Locations to give us anything to fight!

With one location as our current quest and four sitting in queue, we were adding at least one Threat to our Threat Level each turn. The couple enemies we did encounter didn’t give us much trouble but then… dun-dun-duuunnn… OMG! Double whammy! Mike had put out a very large contingent of allies and sent them all questing with a total of about 31 Willpower. Whoa, I thought, do we really need all that? (There was about 9 threat in the staging area.) Then we drew our two cards: Driven By Shadow which adds 1 Threat to each enemy and each location! Whew, it’s a good thing he sent all of his guys questing then; we were safe. But wait! We also drew Ungoliant’s Spawn who subtracts 1 Willpower from each character committed to the quest. Oh, nooooo! That was our undoing.

And now for the main event of the day, Mike’s newest purchase, the reason you’ve all come here today: Risk Legacy! There should be no spoilers here since it was our first game and no new rules or rules changes were made, no hidden components were revealed.Risk Legacy

The box arrived at the table unopened, the seal stating, “NOTE: What’s been done can never be undone.”  Now if you’re like me, you’d want to try whatever you could to play the game but still leave it so you could start fresh, undoing what choices and changes you’ve made; not Mike. He was determined to have this be the one and only way it would be played. So… make your choices good ones!Risk sealed box

On opening the box, we found 4 packets stickered to the lid with instructions on when they could be opened. Lifting the board from the box revealed two rather large compartments also with instructions. On the back of the board is a form for the players to sign and date stating, “We, the undersigned, take responsibility for the wars we about to start, the decisions we will make, and the history we will write. Everything that is going to happen is going to happen because of us.”  Then at the bottom, “The wars started on the following date.” Fun! We all got that tingle of excitement–something cool has begun.

Risk Legacy future packets

The basic Risk rules apply but the set up is different; you only get one area from which to begin your takeover. The story is about humanity leaving all of the nastiness on Earth and landing on a pristine planet to start anew. Uh-huh, we can live in harmony. Sure. Anyway, everyone chooses one spot as their starting location as long as it isn’t adjacent to another player, and spreads out from there. Each player chooses a faction and customizes it using one of the two stickers provided for each.

I chose the Enclave of the Bear because one of my cats’ name is Bear. Oh, like none of you would do that!! I chose the attribute that lets me conquer a territory if I roll a natural 3 of a kind and defeat at least one defender. Cool but tough to do. The other choice was for the defender to subtract 1 from the lower defense die in the first territory I attack. Might have been more useful but not nearly as cool!

Balkania and Bear factions


Khan and Saharan factions

Richard took the Saharan Republic– I think he liked the hot chick with a gun! He chose the ability to maneuver to any territory you control even if it’s not connected. The other choice was to make the maneuver at any point during your turn. Oh, that might have been useful if you’re not sure which front someone is going to attack. Alas, tis done.

Dave liked the military outfits of the Imperial Balkania and chose to give them the ability to round up rather than down when dividing your territory and population for new recruits. His other option was to be able to draw a card even if you didn’t conquer a territory but you have to have expanded into 4 or more territories. That can be tough to do except at the beginning of the game when almost everything is empty so I think he made a good choice.


Mike was surprised that no one had taken Khan Industries so grabbed them for himself. He made a good choice, giving them the ability to add a troop at the beginning of his turn to each territory with a headquarters they they control. Nice. The other option seemed just as good though: add a troop to the territory you just drew a card for if you control it.

The final faction is the Die Machaniker. We group chose to let them have their starting base be fortified if they are defending it. The tossed ability is that your territory cannot be attacked again this turn if you defend it with two natural 6s.  I think we made the better choice and I would be happy to get them the next time we play.

Die Mechaniker faction

We rolled and Mike got to start. He chose to start in one of the southern territories of the US. I chose North Africa, Richard took Australia, and Dave settled for a spot in Europe. During the course of our 45 minute game, Dave was attacked from all three directions at one point or another. I came very close to winning when I took his base and then headed towards Mike’s all in one turn. If Mike hadn’t put up such a good fight in the one territory between me and his HQ, I would have made it. Instead, depleted, I watched as Richard took the win. He got to be the first person to sign the board and he created a major city and named it.

We have added a couple of “scars” to the board, two Ammo Shortages which makes the defender subtract 1 from his higher die, and a Bunker which lets the defender add 1 to his higher die. And Mike has added a minor city, naming it for one of his two sons. we really enjoyed this and all look forward to whatever changes we will see in the future. You noticed that the factions have spaces for 4 more large stickers and a smaller one just under the name– can’t wait to see what those will be! Unfortunately, that probably won’t be until after the new year.

Until then, Happy Christmas and a game-filled New Year to all!



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Game Day — Sept. 11, 2011

Posted by sodaklady on September 12, 2011

Mike arrived around noon but, unfortunately, Dave was sick so it was just the three of us. That didn’t stop us from having a great day. Especially me since I won all of the non-cooperative games we played. Unbelievable. As penance, Mike said I didn’t get to choose any of the games we play next time. 😉

We started with Mike’s new game. Is that a surprise, that Mike has a new game? No, not even a little bit.

Gears of War is a cooperative game based on a video game on the Xbox. Not having a ‘box, I can’t comment on how well it integrates the video game into a board game but as a board game, we had a blast with it. We started with the first scenario, slowly breaking us in to the rules and game play, and we managed to beat it without too much trouble. Since it was fun and all set up, I suggested we try the next scenario which Mike said sounded tough. Know what? He was right. About half way through, the Berserker babe laid two of us down and her cohorts gathered around the final member of our party for the kill. One thing I especially liked about the game play is that taking a wound means you discard a card from you hand. This hand management aspect neatly represents a lack of choices and control. The more wounded you are, the less you’re able to do. I won’t run out to add this game to my collection, but I’d be happy to play again.

Gears of War

Gears of War towards the end of the first scenario.

Next was a serious change of pace from the co-ops and deck-building games we’ve been playing recently:  Formula D. Mike introduced us to Formula De years ago when we first started gaming together and I enjoyed the push-your-luck style of this racing game enough to buy my own copy when it was reprinted. I love the personal cards that keep track of a player’s Wear Points and the gear they’re in, but I really, really wish the cars were of better quality like the original.

Formula D1

Mike's lead after making it through the street of potholes.

I wanted to try the city side of the map which adds some new features to the original. There’s a stretch of street that is badly in need of repair, possibly causing damage to cars racing over the rough spots; there’s an area with grumpy citizens who may shoot at the loud cars racing through their neighborhood; and there’s a police station where the racer with the fastest time past it is rewarded with Wear Points. The final touch to the street racing is the personalization of your car and driver, each with a special ability that may help them through the race.

We ran a one-lap race, Mike taking the pole position and Richard at the back of the pack. Mike started off with a substantial lead which lasted until he blew through a corner half way through the race and spun out, causing him to restart in first gear. The crowd went wild… well, at least I did. I caught up to him and passed him in the final corner. It was only after the hand-shaking and award ceremony were over that Richard mentioned that Mike could have thrown his radio at me as I passed him. That was his character’s special ability. Depending on the roll, that might have done me enough damage to take me out of the race!

Formula D-2

And the little red car is across the finish line! Richard's blue car crashed in the foreground.

Power Grid has become one of our staple games so I didn’t think anyone would complain when I suggested it, this time with the central Europe map. As we become more comfortable with this game, we also become more aggressive. Well, maybe that’s just me.

Richard became cornered early in the game which slowed him down and made Mike my main competition. When a power plant came up that used 3 garbage to power 6 cities, that fit me perfectly because I was already using garbage. With my fistful of money I fought Mike for it until it was mine– for a measly $85 when it started at 30. Towards the end of the game with the possibility for anyone to win, one of the last power plants to come up was another one that powered 6 cities. If I won it, I would be able to power 18 cities and keep Mike from being able to power 17. If Mike won it, he’d be able to power 17 and so would I but he had more money to build to the requisite cities. I kept upping his bid until we were around 80 again, Richard also in the bidding because he needed another big plant as well. Mike pointed out that he had over $200 and I told he he better bring it. Ooooo, scary, huh? And tense. Mike finally dropped out after Richard bid $110. And evil person that I am, I let him have it and kept my money for building to cities. This cut Richard too short of money to buy enough materials, giving me the win. It was glorious!

Power Grid

Final positions: I'm blue, Richard is red and Mike is black.

After a break for supper, veggie chili and banana cake, I wanted to see how a trick-taking game I’ve had for ages plays and said it would only take 5 minutes. Bargain Hunter, like many trick-taking games these days, has a theme to try to explain the twists in traditional card games. In this game there are 6 colors in numbers 1-9, and you are collecting bargains (a particular number card) which everyone knows. After taking a trick, you set aside any bargain card you took onto your Bargain pile and the rest go into your Junk pile. The Junk pile is sorted through at the end of the hand (Spring Cleaning) to look for possible new bargains which will be your new target for the next hand. I had a hard time even explaining this game since it feels so weird to me to paste a theme onto a traditional card game but we finally made it through a couple of hands with only a couple clarifications. We played a whole game, 6 hands, which took us a little more than the five minutes I’d asked for. We each had a fair pile of Junk to cancel out our Bargains sure that not a one of us had a positive score so we were surprised when Mike had a point and I had two! It’s an interesting game but it needs more play time to become comfortable with it. Richard remarked that he’d like to play it again so I know he liked it even though he came in last with -1.

The final game of the day was Eurorails, one of the crayon rail games. Richard and I have played our 3 versions more than any other game I own but we’ve never been able to play it with more than 2 people so this was a little different for us. And great fun. There’s just something about the planning and logistics of these games that touches some part of your brain that no other game can touch. Our game lasted about 2 hours which is pretty good for 3 players but we helped Mike find cities and goods on the map, and when visiting a city to pick up goods, you just say, “pick up such-and-such” and another player got the chip for you while you keep on counting your movement.  At a point when my train was next to Mike’s, Richard told Mike to throw his radio at me! I can see that this is going to be a running joke around here, throwing your radio to slow down your competition. I like it. 😉

It was a very good day of very good games. I’m only sad that Dave couldn’t join us.

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Game Day: Aug. 28th– Let’s Deck-build

Posted by sodaklady on August 29, 2011

“Look, I’m no longer uni-plegic,” Dave announced as he came through the door holding up his two hands. The splint and wrapping that had hindered him last game day was gone, replaced simply by a bandaid on two of his fingers. This was great, ‘cause he was gonna need two hands for rolling dice and holding cards.

My husband, Richard, had to work so it was just the three of us. We started with a neat little game called Tsuro. This simple, fun game is a good way to start since you can talk while you’re playing, catching up on what’s been happening, discussing games you’re looking at and what you’ve been playing. I was the first to force someone off of the board, unfortunately for Dave. Then it was just a matter of seeing who had the best, read luckiest, cards in hand. Turns out it was me!

Tsuro closeup

A closeup of a Tsuro piece and tiles. I love the pieces!

Then Mike was anxious to show me his newest game, Quarriors. This is a light deck-building game using dice rather than cards. The dice represent your minions and spells which are activated to destroy your opponents’ minions. For each of your minions who manage to survive the round, you score glory points at the beginning of your next turn. I usually don’t do well with dice but in this game, they hated Mike to such a degree that he rarely rolled a minion but rather had more than his share of quiddity (the currency of the game). Any minion he did roll was soon eliminated. Dave and I fought it out, almost neck-and-neck, until I finally reached the finish line first. This is a fun little game, the only decision of note being which spell/minion to buy each turn, but if you yearn to roll dice and trash talk your opponents, this is a good choice.

Keeping with the deck-building theme, I brought out my newest game, Nightfall. This is also a confrontational game but it is not light. In fact it’s not light in two ways:  it will make you think, and the theme is dark. Nightfall is set in a world gone dark which is now peopled with werewolves, vampires, ghouls, and the people who fight them.

What makes this different from the few other deck-building games I have been introduced to? Your participation is not limited to your turn, and how much or little you decide to do on other people’s turn can make a big difference. This twist is accomplished with a mechanism called “chaining”, which is very cool in my opinion.

Nightfall cards

A sample of chaining. Notice that the Kicker kicks in on Grim Siege.

Each card has a color, represented by the large moon in the upper left corner. A card whose color matches either of the smaller moons can be linked to it. In this way the active player can introduce new minions into his play area and cause various actions to take place. Once the active player has played all the cards he wishes, the next player to his left can continue the chain. This chaining continues around the table until everyone has had the chance to add to it, then the text on each card is resolved in reverse order. If the moon on the bottom of the card matches the main color of the previous card, the “Kicker” text is also applied.

Chaining keeps people involved during other players’ turns, influences what you decide to buy, and I think it can also be a help to someone new to the genre, allowing them to buy cards by colors rather than totally understanding how the text works. And it makes you stay on your toes because being resolved in reverse order can cause you painful problems if you’re not paying attention. And sometimes even if you are!

The game was a hit. We all three started slowly but got a pretty good feel for the flow of the game after a few rounds. Mike and Dave both like the deck-building genre and this one really hit the spot. For myself, I haven’t been really impressed with the other games I tried (Dominion and Puzzle Strike) but this was fun, vicious, meaty, and quirky. Did I win? No. Dave won; Mike and I tied for wounds with Mike having the most of one type.

As Dave had something else to do, we only had time for one more quick game. Mike wanted to show us Take Stock, a Z-man Games card game. It was quick and mostly painless. Nothing special and a little annoying since the luck of the cards can really beat you up. Or maybe it’s just not my type of game.

Richard came home shortly after Dave left, and Mike and I were dying to show him Quarriors and Nightfall. I was amazed to win Quarriors again, barely beating Richard! And again, Mike barely got on the scoreboard because he could NOT roll minions. Seems there’s actually a dice game that I’m good at! 😉

Nightfall was such a hit that we played it twice more. I still didn’t win but I just don’t care. It’s that kind of a game.

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Game Day: Aug. 14th, 2011

Posted by sodaklady on August 15, 2011

Mike and Dave showed up about 11:00, Mike with an armload of games and Dave with his left hand bandaged up and two fingers splinted. Seems he had a little disagreement with a power tool at work and just barely won.

Being one of the Sundays that Richard has off work, he joined us for a day full of games starting with Ra. We’ve been using Ra: The Dice Game as a closing game since it’s so quick and fun; we all really like it but I figured it was time to teach Dave how to play the father game. It wasn’t too hard to teach with the dice game as a reference and Dave did very well, coming in second to Richard.

Half way through the game Richard had to take a break for a trip into town to feed our daughter’s cat while she’s on vacation. During this forced intermission, I taught Dave and Mike Can’t Stop, a quick push-your-luck dice game that we’ve had since the kids were little–twenty years? I am the poster-child for push-your-luck, in this game particularly. I rarely get a marker on the board the first round and this time was no different. Dave stuck to the most popular numbers he could and conquered the first column (8). Mike was half way up several of the middle columns and I wasn’t too far behind when I decided to take 12 as one of my numbers, then stop. On Mike’s next turn, he also took a 12, followed immediately with rolling four 6s! There went my 12 column. A couple of turns later, with Dave within reach of winning, Mike had to make a serious push to steal a column from him. He rolled 7s until he took the column but he also managed to shove his way into my 2 column and take that as well! Fantastic win for Mike, impressed looks all around.

Can't Stop

This is the version of Can't Stop that I have. Image by BGG Admin

Richard still wasn’t back so Mike showed us the game he got for his kids: Carcassonne Kids. It’s a neat little game to get kids playing with you and teach them the basics of good sportsmanship, and it has wonderful artwork. It took us about 5 minutes to play by which time Richard had returned.

After Ra, I brought out an oldie but goodie: Carolus Magnus. This is an excellent game for two or three but I’ve never had the chance to play it with four in partnership. I partnered with Dave across from me, the only novice in the game, and we got our clocks cleaned quite nicely in almost no time at all. We decided to blame the dice rolls!   We talked our worthy opponents into a second game since the first one was over almost before it had begun. The second one lasted a little longer, was a bit more of a competition and we won, so it was a lot better the second time. *wink*

Carolus Magnus

Carolus Magnus in play. Image by Scott Alden

We next turned to a new game of Mike’s, Puzzle Strike. This is a deck-building game using poker-style chips instead of cards. I admit that I have trouble totally grasping these types of games on the first play mainly due to learning iconography and all the various powers available; it is a lot to internalize immediately, at least for me. And the whole “crash”ing and “trash”ing thing didn’t click for me right away so I struggled with what to do and which way to jump. I glanced at Richard and he probably had the same glazed look that I was wearing. Dave had played before with Mike so he was comfortable with it. In the end, I managed to win seemingly by default. I attacked Richard, the only choice of attack is to your left, who died and sent his extra pieces towards Dave who also died, sending his left over pieces to Mike to also died. I win as the “last man standing”. But somehow it didn’t feel very well earned.

Puzzle Strike

Image of Puzzle Strike from Sirlin Games website.

Looking at the pile of games that Mike had brought, Space Alert, Battlestar Galactica, Wealth of Nations and Stronghold, Dave spoke up with a request for Power Grid. I would never say no to Power Grid! I may say, “Mary, what the hell were you thinking starting right next to Mike to block him off?” but I would never say “no”.

See, here’s the thing: Mike is ‘the one’ in the group. You know, the one who always gets it faster, understands it better, thinks it through quicker, and conceives plans more easily. Thus, he gets picked on…a lot. THAT was the plan. Make life difficult for Mike. Unfortunately, it backfired when Dave proceeded to cut my avenues of escape down to one and it became too expensive to expand. I struggled through the whole game at the back of the pack but was finally gaining ground by the end of the game. I learned a lesson and still had a good time. In fact, my little bit of insanity was the cause of much laughter and hilarity so a good time was had by all. Richard and Dave tied for most cities powered but Dave took the trophy by having more money left.

While Richard went to feed the cat his supper, Mike, Dave and I had some excellent sausage-sweet potato stew from the crock pot and discussed life (you live, you die, and in between you try to find something you love), the universe (42, of course) and everything (we all agreed we hate Elise on Hell’s Kitchen).

By the time Richard came back, Dave’s hand was starting to hurt so we decided on just one more quick game, one that Dave was curious about, Ticket to Ride. I haven’t played  TtR much but when I do, I usually get stomped. I’m not sure why, maybe I try too hard not to fail a ticket, maybe I’m not brave enough to take more tickets, maybe it’s timing. Still, I’ve liked it well enough to get the 1910 expansion so we shuffled them all up and set out the two Bonus cards for longest track and most tickets completed. All three of my opponents started out on the east coast and left the west all to me; how nice! Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the blue cards I needed so kinda wandered around but did manage to finish the two tickets I had in the area plus one more I picked up and a couple of 6-track connections. Dave finished up in the east and joined me out west while Richard and Mike each took 3 more tickets and continued expanding their rails. In the end, those extra tickets were their downfall, both taking substantial penalties. Richard got the most tickets completed bonus, Dave connected his east and west routes to win the longest track, but I managed the win by 2 points with my 3 medium length routes and several longer sections. That’s my problem, I’ve never played in the west before! Those longer connections are a pain to get the cards for, but the points really add up.

What a great game day, I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe I could have done without the hail in the afternoon, but luckily it was just small stuff and the garden didn’t suffer.

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Game Days: June 19 and July 3, 2011

Posted by sodaklady on July 5, 2011

Although I haven’t posted anything for a while, I am still playing and occasionally buying board games. The latest news is that we have another member in our small group: Dave. He’s a local guy that Mike has known for a while and his only day off is Sunday so our game day has moved from Friday to Sunday.

We have been playing a mixed bag of Mike’s games, which generally lean more towards the Ameri-trash end of the spectrum, and mine, which are typically more Eurogame. Our first day together, a couple of weeks ago, we played Survive: Escape From Atlantis, Power Grid, Twilight Emperium and Ra: The Dice Game. We all had a great time and Dave fit into our group very well. He’d never played any of these games but he’s a quick study and, most importantly, he knows that it’s not the winning, it’s the fun that counts.

I had never played Survive before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s an interesting game, very cutthroat but that doesn’t bother me.  I enjoyed it even though I didn’t do very well. Twilight Emperium was also new to me and I could feel my eyes begin to glaze over as the rules explanation began. Dave and I both agreed: just get it going and we’ll see what’s what once we get there. That worked better than an in-depth explanation. It wasn’t necessarily a hit with me although I enjoyed the beginning as you’re growing your civilization.

Next came Power Grid. This has very quickly become a favorite of ours and I was happy to hear that Dave was totally under its spell as well. He did poorly but it was only his first time while Richard, Mike and I all had previous experience with it.  The popularity of Power Grid is well-deserved and actually scared me off of it for… well, until Mike bought it and introduced us to it. I kept thinking it would be a very complicated game if all those geeks made such a fuss over it. I was wrong; the rules and game play are very simple and straight-forward, it’s what you do with them that make this an extraordinary game.

We ended our first game session with a quick game of Ra: The Dice Game. I absolutely love this little filler and could play it over and over again back to back. It’s the perfect way to end a game day.


This Sunday we started with a new acquisition of mine from a trade: Samarkand: Routes to Riches. This is a tricky stock market game dressed up as a friendly camel game. I have to admit that just reading the rules did not lead me to understand the game totally. The rules are simple, really, and took me only 5 minutes to explain the 2 choices you have during your turn, and their implications. This lead to 10 minutes of questions and clarifications from all four of us! Even as we started to play and see for ourselves how this fits together, we were still having little lightbulb moments. By the end of the game we were all quite impressed with how simple but tough this little game is. I would have turned right around and played it again but we must move on…

Samarkand: Routes to Riches

Samarkand, near the end of the game.

Mike had brought 7 Wonders once before when it was only he and I playing and I was not overwhelmed with love for this oh-so-popular game. But I was willing to give it another shot now that we had four players. And I’m very glad I did! I can finally see why people are so enthusiastic about it and I’d join their ranks as owners of the game if it only played as well with 2 as it did with 4. I didn’t win; far from it. But I had a great time and can’t wait to give it another go.

Next up, something familiar and new at the same time: Power Grid but with the map of France. Dave did much better this time and kept right up with everyone else. In the end, though, it was between Mike and myself who would be able to acquire and power the most cities; who could buy the biggest power plant while also being able to afford the materiels to run all their power plants, and still be able to expand their city grid in this last turn. ME!  Yes, I had 19 cities and could power them all.  Happy dance around the table because it’s rare to beat Mike at a tough game.

Power Grid

End game. That's my blue house, on 19! Then Mike, Dave and Richard.

It was almost time for Dave to leave so we played a quick game of Ra dice again. Maybe next time we’ll get out its big brother and show Dave how much fun an auction game can be!

After Dave left, Mike wanted us to try out a new game he got in trade, Gunslinger. This is an old game published in 1982 by Avalon Hill. This is a game where each player pre-programs their moves using their own deck of cards. You can draw and cock your gun, aim, shoot, throw various punches, duck down or get up, etc. and each of these actions take a certain amount of time. When the counter that’s keeping track of time gets to that action, it occurs. In our simple scenario, we were three bad guys who had just robbed a bank and each decided that splitting 3 ways wasn’t as much fun as not splitting it at all!  After the gun smoke had cleared, the plain outside of town was the site of three dead bodies and a pile of money. But my dead body was lying on the pile of money, dadgumit!  This is a fun little game with a lot of thematic flavor and a good story to be told from it. I could see how the more envolved scenarios would be a real good time for everyone.

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Game Day – Feb. 10, 2011

Posted by sodaklady on February 11, 2011

It’s been a long time since I wrote about a game day, mainly because there have been so few of them in the last year or so. Mike’s schedule, holidays, sickness, etc. have interrupted our every-other week plan and reduced it to more like every-other month. Those few game days have been fairly ordinary with a few old favorites combined with a few new ones, mostly Mike’s, such as Small World (which I liked enough to buy my own copy), Innovation (which I totally did not like), and 7 Wonders (which left me with a “meh” impression). But yesterday Mike showed up with 2 new games that both impressed me: Forbidden Island and Power Grid.

I had ignored Forbidden Island with it’s description of being a lighter Pandemic. “Who needs Pandemic to be lighter”, I thought. Well, I was wrong *gulp*. It is not just lighter, it is less fiddly since there aren’t all those cubes to stack and keep track of, you don’t have to spend time to prepare the deck during set-up, and your choices during your turn are more obvious. Well, that last item is also a negative. It makes the game play faster but it can also make your turn feel like you have nothing important to do. There were several times when I didn’t even take all of my actions because it just didn’t matter where I went. But the game still gives you the feeling of being pushed for time, racing the island (rather than the disease) to see who can get to their goal faster. I enjoyed it very much for its simplicity, and beautiful art and components but if I had the time, I’d rather play Pandemic.

Next Mike and I played Attika, one of my favorite games to play with 2 players. I blocked Mike from connecting temples then got caught up in planning how to build my city the cheapest way so overlooked the fact that he could again connect the temples. Duh! Still a great game with lots of things to manage and pay attention to!

Then Richard came home so we set up Mike’s newest acquisition, the number 5 game on the Geek, a game no gamer worth his salt should say he hasn’t played, a modern classic: Power Grid!! Neither of us had ever played it before. Yep, that’s right, I’ve been a BoardGameGeek for over 7 years and haven’t played Power Grid. Well, it’s an auction game with a stock market element–why the heck would that interest ME? I suck at auction games and hate the math-y feel of a stock market game. I wasn’t even enthused about giving it a try but my husband knew Mike wanted to play so he said, “set it up.”

Again, I was *cough* wrong.

I thought this would be a hard game to understand but it is really very simple and elegant, the turns broken down into 4 easy to grasp phases. The auction part is not horrible since even a beginner can figure out how important something is to themselves and how much they can afford to pay. Luckily, it is not a once-around auction. That part is math-y but not terrible once you know how all the elements of the game fit together. The stock market part is not complicated, a simple supply and demand scale as goods are added or bought. Simple, but important to pay attention to. The map building element reminded me of the crayon rail games that Richard and I have been playing constantly for the last 2 months. The payout is dependent on how many cities you have the energy to power with your various power plants.

After the first couple of turns, I had a fair grasp of how it all fit together and since we were all new to the game, we were all in the same boat as far as figuring out what we wanted to do. Mike started in the Southwest, I started in the Midwest, and Richard started in Chicago. Since building toward Mike’s side of the board was too expensive, I started building to the south and east, eventually butting up against Richard’s  cities as he headed south. I had no problem building to cities, but had a hard time getting power stations that would power enough cities, while Richard managed to get plenty of power while keeping up his city building, and Mike had lots of money but was still a couple of cities behind for most of the game due to buying materials for his power plants.

In the end, I built to the 17th city, ending the game. Richard and Mike were at 15 cities. Since we were all able to power 15 cities, the tie breaker was needed and I had the most money! I couldn’t believe it. My win was mostly due to Richard and Mike having a pissing contest for one of the last power plants bought, but also I think I made some good choices along the way. We all had fun and enjoyed the game very much. We told Mike to bring it again next time. I may have to add a copy to my collection even if the two-player game isn’t recommended at the Geek.

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It’s a Small World

Posted by sodaklady on October 8, 2010

…but I wouldn’t want to paint it. –Stephen Wright

Mike dropped by yesterday and brought Small World and DungeonQuest.

Now the truth is I never considered buying Small World because I have Vinci, which I love but it doesn’t play with only 2 players.  I was curious, though, so I asked Mike to bring it over.

I’m in love. Yep, I had to place a game order after Mike left (although I’d been planning one anyway.) I always loved the seemingly endless combination of characteristics offered in Vinci and that thrill is still there in Small World. The other aspect that I love about Vinci is the timing of when to Decline your civilization and the thrill of starting a new one– still just as tense and fun in Small World.

2-player board. Image by LeandroPires.

What I don’t love, and I’m not alone in this, is the bright, busy, garish board. I would love if the board was in muted tones so that the civilization chits just POPPED off of the board. But… sigh… I will learn to adjust. 😉 BTW, I won the game thanks to my Ransacking Orcs which raked in the points right from the start.

Mike had stopped at the game store on the way over and couldn’t resist DungeonQuest. We punched and bagged it, he read the rules, and off we set to pillage the dragon’s gold and gems. This is a game that I’ve been interested in ever since I read a session report on I’d Rather Be Gaming, the blog by ozvortex. We both went into the game knowing and accepting the fact that it’s an experience rather than a game, that it’s designed to kill your character, and that one or both of us would die before we could escape the dragon’s lair. But guess what?

We both lived to see the light of day! Of course, Mike had 10 times the loot I did, but that’s not the point. The point is we had a good time and escaped with something to show for it! We each had to battle two creatures and have decided that we are ambivalent about the new battle system. On the one hand, it’s interesting and gives you the feeling of having choices; on the other hand, it’s more work than is necessary for a game that is built on randomness.

We also played Scarab Lords, a game that’s been on my Trade pile for some time.  I wanted to give it another chance and I did. It’s back on the Trade pile if anyone is interested!

We finished the day the way I’d like to finish every game day, with Ra: The Dice Game.  I am positively addicted to this game and would play it over and over again until my eyes grew dry from lack of sleep. We played the best 2 out of 3 and Mike beat me… soundly! He was rolling Civilizations all over the place and I couldn’t put together a good roll for love nor money. But I love trying!!

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Still Here!

Posted by sodaklady on August 27, 2010

And occasionally playing a game or two.

Isn't this gorgeous?

A couple of weeks ago another BGGer dropped by on her way from Washington state to Wisconsin. Lynette (meerkat) needed to get to a family reunion but funds were low so I volunteered a bed for the night. She arrived later than expected (around 9pm) because of roadwork but we still got in a lot of board game talk and a single play of Taluva. She had played it before but didn’t remember the rules which meant one of my infamous rules-teaching episodes. I did very well since it’s a fairly simple game. It was a relaxed game, hints coming easily and not too much back-stabbing. In the end, I made a bad tile play and saw that Lynette had the ability to win, which I pointed out to her. This is the type of game that, win or lose, it is just a joy to handle the pieces and the big, chunky tiles.

The next morning we spent an hour talking about other things besides board games and were having such a nice time that it was hard to call it good and send her on her way. I hope she comes back by the same route and will spend another night with us.

Last week my daughter, Cori, and I played a game of The Last Night On Earth: The Zombie Game and had a great time. I will write that up in a separate post since it’s pretty long.

Yesterday my friend, Mike, came over and he brought his newest acquisition to show me, Innovation. He had called me the day before to set up our game day and I mentioned that I was in the process of pre-ordering it, it was in the cart and I was a minute away from checking out. He casually says, “I have it.” Well, hell, why didn’t you say so sooner? So I put my checkout-clicking on hold until I could sample this newest offering from the creator of Glory To Rome. Good thing, too.

Innovation photo by EndersGame

I appreciated the new mechanic of “splaying” the cards to reveal more icons, the more the merrier in this game, but I did not have a very good first experience. In the beginning when I had four cards in my play area, three of them started with “If you return a card from your hand…” Well, that doesn’t give you a lot of inventive ways to go, does it? Every turn I drew and either played a card if it was good or turned it back in for points or something. The kicker is that Mike had more of almost all icons so he’d get to do the same thing, only he could do it first!

By the midway point, I had managed to take the second achievement but only because Mike had missed the fact that he could take it. By abilities were still pretty slim and not terribly useful since Mike still out-iconed me for all but one of them. Mike kept telling me how this game could turn right around in an instant and I was waiting…. patiently…. trying not to lose what little patience I possess. Then I got a card that let me play all my point cards to my play area. Well… hmmm.. then I have no points to acquire another achievement but then again there may be something in there that would save my sorry ass. O.k., I’ll do it!

Well, of course there wasn’t a miracle in there! Of course I’m now in worse shape than I was before. Errggghhh, I want to throw these cards on the table and say, “you win. What else have you got?” But I don’t. I grit my teeth, grumble, and proceed to lose horribly.

Which was pretty much the way the day went. I didn’t win one game the whole day. Ah, well. That’s the way it goes.

A sample of the "parade" and some cards to play.

I had recently gotten a couple of Z-man’s card games, Parade and Onirim, which I brought out as something a little lighter and hopefully, more fun!

Parade for some reason has an Alice in Wonderland theme, which is cute, and the colors and artwork are very nice. The parade starts at the deck, new additions to it stepping into line at the right side in the picture.

On your turn, you take one of the cards from your hand and add it to the parade. Then you count the cards to the left of it equal to the number on the card you played. Those cards are safe. The remainder are available for elimination from the parade. Of those available, the ones that will be eliminated (and taken into your points piles) are any cards of equal or lower value than the card you just played, and any cards of the same color as you just played. In the sample above, if you played the blue 1, you would take no cards. This is a good thing as you’re trying NOT to get points. The red three is also a safe play because the red 6 is the #1 card when you count down from the card just played. If you play the yellow 2, you will have to take the other yellow card. If you play the white 4, you will be taking the yellow 4 because it is the same number and the white 5 because it is the same color. The white 8 is not available for elimination so you don’t have to take it.

This game sounds so simple yet in reality give you quite a bit of maneuverability and lots of tough choices. It feels very much like a Michael Schacht card game:  Coloretto, Crazy Chicken (Drive), or Richelieu. Even the scoring feels familiar, you score negative the face value of the cards you took unless you have the majority in that color in which case those cards will each be worth -1.

I like this game very much for a quick, light diversion. It has interesting choices in card play and you can to some extent control the game-ending conditions. Of course if the draw pile runs out, the game ends but it also ends if one player gets all six colors. This is the part you can control a little, especially in a two-player game.

This was my closest loss all day, something like 67 to 75.

Labyrinth and Door cards, and a Nightmare card

The other Z-man game, Onirim, is a bit strange. No, it’s really strange. First off, it’s designed as a solo card game, which is an unusual creature in the game community. The second thing is that it’s a cooperative game if you play it with a friend. That’s really unusual in a simple card game.

The final point of strangeness is actually the rules. Even after playing twice I will have to check the rules on a couple of points just to make sure I get them right!

The basic idea is that you are trying to acquire all of the door cards to escape the labyrinth, there are 2 of each of the four colors. To do this you must either have a labyrinth card with a key icon in the corner in your hand when a door card is drawn or play the third labyrinth card of a color to the line of cards in your play area.

This sounds so simple. But those nightmares keep coming up, frightening you out of your sleep before you can get to the door. I guess. That’s my story anyway.

On your turn you play a card to your labyrinthine line in front of you, or discard a card from your hand. Then you draw a new card, the it’s possible you’ll have to shuffle the deck before your next turn if some cards have been place into Limbo.

The labyrinth cards each have one of three types of icon in the corner: a key, a moon or a sun. When you play a card to your line of cards, investigating the labyrinth, the card must not have the same icon as the last card played. That’s one difficulty to overcome but not too bad. But if you draw a card to refill your hand and draw a nightmare, you have several choices, none of which is appealing. You can choose to place one of your doors back in the draw pile, draw the top 5 cards from the draw pile and discard any labyrinth cards (Doors and Nightmares go into Limbo), discard your whole hand, or discard a key. None of this sounds too bad really until I tell you the final difficulty in winning this game: you lose when the draw pile is finished. Now discarding all those cards becomes a more important consideration to your plans.

This is a tough game to win, at least in my short 2-play experience. And if it’s not hard enough for you, it comes with 3 variations to make it harder! Mike and I lost by 1 door! We’ve decided that it’s important to try to save keys to overcome the nightmare cards. Next time, maybe.

The day ended with Ra: The Dice Game. I absolutely love this game and could play it again and again but I usually settle for the best 2 out of three. Well, today it was two up and two down, Mike taking them both by a loooooong way.

I spent the day losing but it was still fun, except for Innovation. I’d play it again to give it another shot but I’ve cleared my cart at the online game shop. I may put Invasion From Outer Space: The Martian Game in there instead!

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