Thoughts From The Gameroom

The ramblings of a Euro-gamer from South Dakota

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My Newest Fascination

Posted by sodaklady on September 18, 2015

I know I’ve been gone from here for a long time but I’m still playing games–it’s just that nothing has wowed me enough to trouble writing about it. Until now.

Fretwork owl No, not my new fascination with the scroll saw. This is a BOARD GAME blog!

I’m talking about Kickstarter, the crowdfunding site where many new and innovative board games can be found. For the last couple of years, I was feeling that I had seen all I needed to in the board game community, either because it felt too much like the same old thing or it didn’t interest me more than games I already own. Then I found the fun in being part of a Kickstarter campaign, trying out a homemade Print & Play version, commenting on the rules, waiting and watching to see if and when the goal(s) would be met. It’s all very exciting and a little bit addictive.

I’ve seen some new ideas (and clever twists on old ones) come out of the minds of dedicated board gamers who would otherwise not have their games see the light of day. I like supporting these young visionaries even though I know it will be months before I have a game in hand to play–and in some cases, never, because it can be a bit of a gamble. Disappointment is part of the package deal sometimes.

My most recent backing is for Masamune: Shining Forge Academy.  This is a deck-builder where the deck you’re building will be used to fend off attacks in a tower-defense form of play. The art style of the game is Anime and it’s fabulous–beautiful with a dash of cute. Here’s part of the description to whet your appetite:

Masamune is a game for two to four players, and takes place over the course of an academic year at Masamune Shining Forge Academy. As a pupil at Masamune Shining Forge Academy, you and your opponents will start the game with identical 12-card decks. Over the course of the game, you will forge sentient weapons called Chibis and teach them powerful special techniques to defend the Academy from attacking monsters. Alternatively, you can use Chibis to gain more powerful cards and bolster your deck.

If you have chosen to ignore the crowdfunding bandwagon, I understand–it involves risk and patience. Funny, I don’t think of myself as a risk-taker and I definitely don’t qualify as a patient person, but there you have it: sometimes you jump feet first into something because it touches you in a way nothing else does. I’m presently waiting for my copy of Tiny Epic Galaxies to arrive and it’s like Christmas a couple of months early.

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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 — 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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The Saga of a Game Trade

Posted by sodaklady on March 10, 2011

After three months of playing the various crayon rail games (British Rails, Eurorails, and Martian Rails), I decided Richard and I need another game, something to offer variety to our deep 2-player gaming sessions. I decided it was time to revisit the rules to Twilight Struggle.

When I first read the rules to Twilight Struggle, back when it was new, I was intimidated by the long play time, and also how several plays were needed to become familiar with all of the cards. It seemed like more of a time investment than my husband would be willing to put into a game. The crayon rail games have changed that presumption; our first game took 4+ hours and we both enjoyed every minute of it. Even now, after playing nearly every day for 3 1/2 months, it takes 2- 2 1/2 hours to play. So I have to ask myself, “why are they such a hit?”

I’ve come up with three basic reasons:  1) simple rules, 2) the organizational/planning mindset needed to optimize the cards in hand, and 3) the total immersion in the game at all times. I think Twilight Struggle fulfills these qualifications so off I go to find a trade partner!

I was amazed to find over 30 users who were compatible to trade with and decided to narrow my search to the new, Deluxe Third Edition, of which there were a handful available. The first person I sent a trade proposal to responded quickly with a question, which I answered quickly. Then I waited. And waited. And waited. On the third day, an hour before the trade offer would expire, I heard back: a simple no thanks. I have no idea why my offer was refused. I had four games to trade that this person supposedly wanted in trade!

Alright, there are others. So I send off a trade proposal to the next person in line… who also didn’t think my time was worth anything. Three days later the offer died a natural death without one damned word. Yes, they had been on the Geek during that time, and it wouldn’t have taken any time at all to click the “refuse offer” link so I could go on to the next person. See, I don’t think it’s right to put out a bunch of offers, wait for someone to respond favorably, then send a “oops, you’re too late” message to anyone else who accepts the offer. I’ve heard that some people do that and it’s just plain rude.

Next! In my third offer I wrote a note asking that they respond one way or the other rather than let the offer die in its own good time. And I heard back a short time later letting me know that they would indeed let me know as soon as they’d had time to think about it. How nice! Woo hoo! Unfortunately, the answer turned out to be “no” because I didn’t have the version of the game they were looking for. Well, at least I didn’t waste another three days!

So now I decided to just write a geekmail to people asking if they’d be interested. If they didn’t respond in a day and a half or so, even though they’d been on the geek, I could move on to someone else. I sent out two messages and waited. Nothing. Damn, now I’m down to the 2nd editions and ones that are not marked with a version in the trade matching list. And some of them show matches that are nowhere equivalent to TS.

I spent some time looking through peoples’ “want in trade” and “wish” lists and found some games that I wouldn’t mind trading even though they weren’t on my “trade” list. In this way I found one person that had a Deluxe version that hadn’t shown up on the trade match list. Great! I sent a note to him and two other people.

That night I heard from one of the two who had a 2nd Edition copy, asking a question about one of my games for trade. I answered and kept my fingers crossed.

The next morning they answered in the affirmative. Hooray! I then sent off an official trade proposal. Whew, I’m finally going to get a copy of this game before the next printing, which could be as little as a month or two, but could possibly be much longer.

An hour later I received another geekmail, this one from the person with the Deluxe version. Well, of course I did. What’s the old saying: it never rain but it pours? Yep. But I had already thought of this, and decided I would complete this trade as well for two reasons. 1) I would really like the Deluxe version, of course I would, and 2) I just can’t be the jerk that says “oops, you’re too late.”

So I’m waiting for my two copies of Twilight Struggle to arrive. I truly hope that Richard and I enjoy it, and that I can find someone who wants a nice 2nd Edition copy.  😉

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Wealth of Nations

Posted by sodaklady on June 10, 2010

Mike came over on Monday and after a little X-box and a quick hand of my homemade Scripts & Scribes (stamp re-theme), we talked my husband into joining us for the first play of Wealth of Nations.

Back of the box showing the game in play. (Image by Rokkr.)

I admit that I went into it with no confidence that I would enjoy myself since 1) Mike described it as an economic game and I suck at those, and 2) it’s what I think of as a pyramid-style building game. By this I mean that you want to build something but first you need to acquire A and B, but in order to acquire those two items or materials you first need C and D and possibly even E, but before you can get/make those things… aarrrggghhh!! My brain melts, I don’t have a good time and I lose big time.

So Mike explained the rules, reading parts straight out of the rule book, but much of it made no sense to me in the context of “what do I need in order to get where I want to go?” In fact, I had so little idea of what I was doing that even the cheat sheets made no sense to me! I was the third player and when it was my turn to choose one of the starting combination of items/money all I could do was admit that I had no clue what I needed since the farms were already taken. I know enough after Agricola and Le Havre that, if nothing else, you’re going to need to feed someone sometime.

The wonderfully helpful cheat sheet. (Image by Rokkr)

To my surprise, Richard explained the cheat sheet to me… he had actually understood what it was showing and did a very good job of making me see what it all meant. O.k., now we’re ready to go and I began the game with blue and black industries on the board and enough food to get me through the first year.

This is not a review since I don’t remember all of the rules well enough to even try; this is a lesson in never judging a game by its theme, mechanics, graphics, material qualities or any other criteria you choose. I had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed the game. The cheat sheet was actually very helpful, allowing players to place cubes on it in order to plan their strategy for the round; the pyramid building wasn’t nearly as bad as I had originally envisioned from watching Mike lay out all of the pieces; and I even made a couple of very good moves such as blocking Mike’s Bank.

Would you believe that in the final tally, I came out ahead by 2 points? Yep, ol’ cranky, complaining, pessimistic Mary won the game. I tole Mike I liked it and he said, “Really?”  “Yes, really. If I didn’t like it, I’d tell you… like Agricola, which you kept bringing anyway.” 😀

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How Memoir ’44 became my Hot Game

Posted by sodaklady on February 21, 2009

Playing board games around here had slowed to a drizzle and then a total drought. But then we got rid of the pool table which took up a huge part of the family room and set up a folding table in its place.  Five days ago I set up the board and terrain tiles for one of the original scenarios from Memoir ’44, covered it with a piece of Plexiglass, and waited for my opportunity.

 

Board and terrain tiles set up and waiting for 2 players with a little time.

Board and terrain tiles set up and waiting for 2 players with a little time.

 This has worked amazingly well.  Since half of the set-up is already done, it doesn’t take much time to finish the set up and be ready to play. The Plexiglass keeps the cats from playing with the game before we do, and it’s nice to be able to move the figures without worrying about disarranging the terrain. My husband noted that the Plexiglass also keeps the dice from interfering with the setup, unless you throw hard, of course.

So far, we’ve played almost every day since I set it up–sometimes twice. I’ve had Memoir for… what, 4 years, and haven’t  even played all of the original scenarios. I have the Pacific, Air Pack, and recently, the Mediterranean expansions but have only tried the Air pack a couple of times. I would really like to play all of the scenarios and try the rules tweaks that they offer. Hopefully, having the board set up ahead of time and waiting will help me get to them in the foreseeable future. Then I won’t feel so badly about buying the Eastern Front expansion!  And if we ever get through all of that, this will work just as beautifully with Ancients and the three expansions I have for that!!

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Race Games: Powerboats vs. Snow Tails

Posted by sodaklady on December 21, 2008

I recently bought two new racing games, Powerboats by Cwali and Snow Tails by the Lamont Brothers. I’ve had a chance to play both games twice, Powerboats with 2 and 3 players; Snow Tails with only 2 players. They’ve both left me with a good first impression but which one leaves me wanting more?

Powerboats is, obviously, a game about racing boats around a lake. The board is modular, made up of 6 double-sided pieces that can be combined in a variety of ways, and shows land and water overlaid with a hex grid. This variety is a huge plus, offering so many different race courses that it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever play the same game twice. The board shows recommended spots (marked A, B, and C) to use as the starting/finish line, and  the 3 course buoys but I see no reason you can’t just lay out a course in any manner you wish. In fact, I was a little disappointed in the placement of these and would rather choose my own course marker spots.

Movement is determined by special 3-sided dice. These are cool looking and unique but if you enjoy the dance of the dice when you roll them, you’ll be disappointed. This is more like dropping the dice rather than rolling them, but they do offer a method for randomization. On your turn you can add or remove a die from your “speed” track, then choose to roll as many of your dice as you wish. This is a clever way to speed up or slow down and ensures that you can’t slow down too quickly; you can’t step on the gas for a long, straight stretch and then go to a super slow speed to make a corner. Very nice.

This is a quick, light, fun game offering no real tough choices and between the dice and the many small islands you need to maneuver around, it can cause frustration. It’s very likely that you have 3 dice and want to really step on the gas to catch up but instead find yourself putting along at 4 or 5 hexes on your turn. Or you re-roll a 3, hoping for a 2 or a 1  to turn around a spit of land and get…a three. If moving three causes you to crash into land, you take a damage token and lose all of your speed (lose all of your dice). When you get your fourth damage token, your boat is too beat up to continue and you’re out of the current race.

Snow Tails takes you to snowy climes, racing sled dogs. Your weapon of choice this time is cards–a deck for each player with numbers 1-5. On your turn you can play 1, 2, or 3 cards but they must all be the same denomination. These are played on either or both of your dogs or discarded to determine the strength of your braking. Movement is determined by adding together the numbers on your dogs then subtracting the brake number to get your speed, then, if the dogs’ numbers are different, drift the number of lanes that the numbers are different. So… your left dog is pulling at 5, your left dog is pulling at 3 and your brake is set at 2. Your speed is 6 (5 + 3 – 2) and you drift 2 lanes to the left. It’s fairly simple, logical and thematic but it does take time. And you don’t always get to go exactly where you’d like to go because you’re limited by the cards in your hand. If you try to plan this turn and still take into account the cards left in your hand that you’ll have to deal with in the next turn, your brain is likely to ice up.

If you’ve misjudged your speed or drift, you could collide with another sled, which means you don’t get to refill your hand to 5 at the end of your turn, or run off the track, which gives you a “ding” card. The “ding” card counts towards the 5 card hand limit so avoiding them is paramount if you wish to retain control over your sled. If you should have to draw your 5th ding card, you are out of the race, of course, since you have no number cards to play.

The game comes with many double-sided track pieces, some straight, some curved, and two u-turns. If you’ve become proficient at handling your sled, you can throw in a piece of track that narrows down to a single lane or one that you set up trees on so that the first player who hits one takes out the tree and damages his sled. 

Snow Tails is different from other race games because the card management is more complex, taking into account several aspects of movement at once. It requires more thinking and planning than Powerboats which means it isn’t as fast a game, but that is precisely the thing that keeps me wanting more. The challenge to manage the cards, to find the right combination of speed and drift, is addictive. And even with a damaged sled, you can still have enough control to win, as evidenced by the second game we played when I had 3 ding cards by the half-way point but still came in first.

I enjoy both games and am glad to have them in my collection but I consider Powerboats to be a lighter game, more likely to be put in the “family game” category. Given a choice, I would rather play the tougher but more interesting Snow Tails.

Posted in Game-related Thoughts, New Game, Reviews | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Two New Games

Posted by sodaklady on November 16, 2008

When Mike arrived this afternoon, he brought with him his two newest games: Prophecy, which he’d played a couple of times with his wife, and Battlestar Galactica, which he was itching to launch on its maiden voyage.

Prophecy is an rpg-adventure style game like Runebound or Return of the Heroes, both of which I’ve played with him. The board, compared to Runebound, is very simple which keeps you from having to over-analyze your next move. It also offers several ways to move more quickly from space to space so it doesn’t bog down while you slog your way from one end of the “kingdom” to the other like Return of the Heroes.

Prophecys board, image by Werner Baer

Prophecy's board, image by Werner Baer

I found Prophecy to play quickly, not necessarily in the total play time, but in how the time flies while you’re playing. I’m not sure how long it took us to finish the 2-player game (with the game-ending conditions modified to whoever got two treasures from the Astral plane), but it never left me feeling like I wish it would hurry up and be over. There are enough choices to give you a feeling of control but not so many that your mind starts to overload and smoke begins to curl lazily from your ears.

Rpgs are not my forte but in the other two that I’ve played, I would watch Mike as his character’s stats increased so quickly that my mind began to boggle with wondering, “HOW did he do that?” while my poor soul either couldn’t find anyone to fight or lost most of the fights. In Prophecy, I still lagged behind in strength and magic but I made up for it with better equipment and skills and managed to collect the two treasures needed before Mike had managed to win one.

Prophecy is definitely a game I am willing to play again, and not just because I won. I like how smoothly and quickly it plays, and the many ways you can improve your character’s overall strength. There are plenty of bad guys to fight, lots of weapons and spells and skills to acquire, the board was always full of choices but it never felt overwhelming.

Richard joined us for the semi-cooperative game of Battlestar Galactica. I’ve never watched the show but have a general idea of its premise, which I think is helpful to immerse yourself in the world of the game. The humans are trying to get their space ship home while their enemies, the Cylons, are trying to prevent them—a simple and timeless story, no?

Each player chooses a character which has both good qualities that benefit your team and a bad quality which hampers you. For instance, my character could choose between two of the Crisis cards drawn at the end of your turn (these are bad things that happen to make your humans miserable) but it cost her two hand cards to take any action related to the room she was in. I think this was a neat addition to the characters, giving them each a weakness to deal with.

My characters card, image by C. Hahn

My character's card, image by C. Hahn

On your turn you first draw cards corresponding to your characters specialization, such as a pilot, a military leader, political leader, or support. Next you may choose to move to another room in the ship, then you can take 1 action. Finally you draw a dreaded Crisis card. Many of these cards are “Skill Checks” that require your team to pick cards from their hand to put into a pool blindly in hopes of coming up with enough points to pass the skill check. This is where the unknown Cylon can mess with your plans.

You see, as in Shadows Over Camelot, there can be a traitor among you without your knowing it. At the beginning of the game, a card is dealt to everyone which identifies you as either a Cylon or not a Cylon. As if that isn’t bad enough, half way through the game, a second round of cards are dealt. Now you KNOW there is a traitor, you just have to figure out who it is and try to through them in the Brig and keep them there.

We had a very good time with this game even through there were only three of us, partly, I think, because it was so easy to get into the atmosphere of the game. I enjoy Shadows Over Camelot but more as a family game since it feels like you’re just collecting poker hands, running to the right spot and playing them one at a time. The theme in Galactica is so easy to fall into even if you are not a die-hard fan of the show.

Richard turned out to be our Cylon after the half-way point. We threw him in the brig but couldn’t keep him there. He came dangerously close to spoiling our trip home but in the end, the humans won. We were nearly out of food and fuel, our morale was low and we’d lost a lot of our population but we made it.

This turned out to be a hit with all of us, even my non-gamer husband. It moves along very nicely with no real down time since you have to watch the other players for signs of traitorous behavior, and the many Skill Checks keep you in the action a lot of the time even when its not your turn.

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Game Day Where I Lost Every Game

Posted by sodaklady on September 4, 2008

Mike came over this morning and the first thing I brought out was my favorite, Magna Grecia. We hadn’t played in way too long and it was good to enter that world again. We each started in a different area of the board and met in the middle to fight over who could make the most impressive city. Mike managed to get the attention of many more Oracles than I so won handily.

The time seemed to fly and the game was over way too soon so I begged for a second. Mike, being a gentleman, agreed. This time the Oracles were all around the edges, leaving a large vacant area in the center of the board. I began on an edge with 2 Oracles in villages adjacent to my city. Then I made my first mistake; I forgot to buy a market in the next village over in anticipation of Mike building there, which he did. I built a road to cut him off from one of the Oracles and the fight was on. This game was very different from the first with a lot of nasty plays. It was great! I made a second mistake in my last move as I was going to build a city and connect it to a city where I’d already sold my market so that I could score those roads a second time, but I forgot. This cost me another 4 points and, between the 2 mistakes, the game. I don’t mind, this game is a joy for me to play no matter who wins. But I must remember: your turn doesn’t end when you place a tile. Buy or sell Markets is the final decision! 

Another game which I love and don’t play enough is Taluva, which I brought out next. As usual, this was a very close game with only 2 players. It came down to who could play a building first, completing 2 of their 3 types of buildings. On Mike’s turn he was sure he’d messed up since he only had 2 villages and all of his huts were gone. I showed him how he could place his tile where it would cut one of his villages in two and let him play his final Tower piece. So even though I lost the game, I made the winning move. That has to count for something, right?

For the final game we played Metro. This is a game I’d got in trade a while ago and never played but Mike had played a computer version before. I was consistently behind by 15-20 points through the first half of the game drawing tiles that would only turn me around and head right off the board with only 5-6 points. My best moves were ones where I messed up one of Mike’s lines, giving him 2-4 points rather than the 8-16 points he seemed to get so often (he got double points for reaching the center 2 or 3 times). I finally got a tile that let me make a very good move (20 points) and caught me up. Unfortunately, the last half of the game went much like the first with me trying to find a tile that would let me keep my lines going. The last plays gave me only a handful of points while Mike managed to get to the center again for another 20 points or so. We agreed that following the lines on this game is tough on the eyes as well as the brain and would rather play Tsuro which is faster, easier on the eyes, and (with 2 players) more tense and fun.

I lost all four games today. As my psychiatrist friend, Dr. Meepolous, would say, “How do you feel about that?” I feel great. I played 2 of my favorite games and had a great time doing it. I gave it my best and enjoyed the company. What else does a real gamer need?

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