The Adventurers: Temple of Chac a game review

Ever since my dad took me to see Raiders of the Lost Ark, I’ve wanted to be an archeologist. Turns out engineers make more money so I followed my brain not my heart. Surely I can’t be alone in wanting to delve into a forgotten Maya temple, avoid its traps and plunder its wealth? What if I told you that a board game allows you to do this? Right down to the gigantic boulder that chases you out the door? That game is The Adventurers: the Temple of Chac. Here’s an overview of this gem.

The Adventurers: Temple of Chac a Game Review

 

Muskegon loves to adventure
The Adventurers: Temple of Chac by AEG

Players take on the role of, well, adventurers in The Adventurers: the Temple of Chac. You will compete for the most points. Points are gained by plundering the treasures inside a long abandoned Maya temple. But beware, the more you plunder, the more weighted down you will become. And if you dilly-dally, you could end up being stuck in the temple forever!

Temple of Chac comes to Muskegon
Back of adventurer’s card

The starting player rolls the dice. The game comes with five standard six-sided dice. You will get actions based upon the dice roll and the amount of treasures you are carrying. If you are carrying 0 to 3 treasures, for example, you will get 1 action for every die roll that is 2+. If you have 4 to 6 treasures, you will get actions for every die roll that is 3+. The information is on the back of your adventurer card.

The most actions you will have is five since there are five dice. You have a few options available to you for your action selection. You can move, look at glyphs, pick up treasure or unlock a compartment. Some actions are only available at certain positions of the board but moving is always an option.

The shifting walls of the Temple of Chac
The shifting walls of The Adventureres

Players start in the room with the shifting walls. There’s plenty of treasure in this room. Players can plunder this room like crazy. There is a danger, though. The walls may move inward. Any player who is in this room when the walls finally meet is killed.

There are also glyphs in this room. Players may spend an action to secretly flip it (for real) and look at the back side. On the secret side is a strange Maya hieroglyph.  You will have 30 seconds to commit it to memory. You will use this information in the next room: the Lava Room.

The boulder is headin' towards the Lava Room!
The boulder is headin’ towards the Lava Room!

You can safely walk along the main path after you leave the shifting walls room. But you can save precious time if you traipse across the lava tiles. Each time you walk onto one you will flip it (for real). If the icon matches one of the glyphs in the shifting walls room, it’s a trap and your adventurer dies. Otherwise, you safely move there and collect a treasure. The lava tiles allow you to cut across the room and save a few paces too.

That's not the Muskegon River in the Temple of Chac
Underground river in the Temple of Chac

The last room in the Temple of Chac is the underground river and waterfall. The river is laden with treasure. But can you escape the before being carried off the waterfall? You must chuck a bunch of dice, hoping to avoid a “1” to escape. You can jettison some treasure to make a reroll but if you roll another “1”, the river carries you away.

Rickety old bridge in the Temple of Chac
Rickety old bridge in the Temple of Chac

Players may opt to move across the bridge instead. The bridge comes with five removable planks. If you are too laden with treasure, the planks might break. You will fall to your doom if the last plank breaks.

The boulder in The Adventurers
The boulder in The Adventurers

After each player has taken a turn, the first player rolls the dice. On 3+, a boulder is moved from its starting point towards the exit. The boulder is deadly. Stand in its way and you will get squished.

 

The boulder is also a game clock. When the boulder reaches the exit, the game is over. Any hapless adventurers who did not make it out will be trapped forever.

Players who escaped reveal their treasure cards. While each card has the same weight for determining actions, the treasures have various victory point values. Players count their totals. The high score is the winner.

The Adventurers: the Temple of Chac has a lot going for it. It’s got cool minis. The 3D game board elements are also nice. The cards and cardboard are all good quality.

The game play is very good too. There are plenty of decisions to be made. The game is more or less one of press-your-luck. And that mechanic fits the theme here. Each time you narrowly avoid danger the excitement level goes up a notch.

The Adventurers: the Temple of Chac is a fantastic game. It plays quickly. The box says 45 minutes but you can get it in under 30 if you are assertive. The decisions are all meaningful. The theme is fun–who doesn’t like Indiana Jones? The artwork and theme are wholesome enough to make this a family game. The quickness of the game make it a good game for serious gamers. Not the night’s main course but this game makes a nice nightcap.

The Adventurers got a reprint from Fantasy Flight. The FFG edition is the same as the AEG edition with the exception of the insert (which is disposable in either case). The game also has a promo you can get: another character. A hard-to-find set of prepainted characters was also released by AEG. No other support for this game is forthcoming.

Pick up a copy and give it a try. Or come by here and play my copy…

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
186 Muskegon Area Gamers

This group is for anyone interested in playing board games, card games or any table top game. This group learns and teachs new games all the time. We welcome fresh players. We…

Next Meetup

Twilight Imperium in July

Sunday, Jul 23, 2017, 9:00 AM
6 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

Hits & Flops: July Edition

It’s time for everyone’s favorite column: Hits & Flops. For those new to this website, about once a month I do a drive by of the games we’ve played at The Gaming Annex. With a single play under my belt, I make sweeping judgments about said games. This month we will look at a few new releases that we got to the table like Gloom of Kilforth and Sidereal Confluence. Let’s dig in!

Hits & Flops July Edition

1. Unfair

Unfair from CMON Hits & Flops Muskegon Area Gamers
Unfair from CMON

The reviews on Kickstarter for Unfair were overwhelmingly positive. So much so that Cool Minis or Not picked up the rights to it and published it.

In a game of Unfair, players are competing with each other to make the best amusement park. Players draft attraction cards, hire crew and get paid. Players attempt to fulfill the requirements on blueprint cards in order to get additional points. Random events are pulled each round which may benefit or harm players. The game ends after a prescribed amount of rounds. Whoever has the most points is the winner.

The Groundskeeper and Security Guard
The Groundskeeper and Security Guard

The game has a very strong “take that” element. This might have been obvious given the name. The take that element was added because this would be a four player solitaire game otherwise. Maybe not solitaire, but there would be minimal interaction. The take that element is actually too strong. You can wipeout an opponent’s progress in the game with a single card. Think 7 Wonders. Imagine if there was a card that let you remove several of his cards. That’s how powerful the take that element in Unfair is.

You can play with little or now take that. The game has options that allow this. But then you are only playing 7 Wonders for 90 minutes. Unfair would then be a tableau builder with some weak drafting mechanics.

Unfair did not hit the mark with me. I have to give it a FLOP rating.

 

2. Sidereal Confluence

Sidereal Confluence from Wizkids
Sidereal Confluence from Wizkids

Sidereal Confluence is a no-holds-barred trading game…in space. It takes the best part of Advanced Civilization, the trading phase, and turns that into a game unto itself. Players must trade wisely to end up with the most points at the end of the game.

Players are dealt a faction at the beginning of the game. Each faction has unique strengths. Players start with some resources. Resources are wooden bits of various colors. Players also have some a starting assortment of converters. Converters are cards that allow you to turn your resources into more and different resources. Once set up, players can begin play.

Components of Sidereal Confluence
Components of Sidereal Confluence

There are several phases in each game round. But the most important is the trade phase. Here players will trade their resources for other resources so they have the right ingredients to run their converters. You can also trade planets. Planets are simply converters that do not bear the name “converter”.

Once the trade phase is concluded, players run their converters. They turn their colored cubes into more and/or different colored cubes. This builds their engine which in turn will allow them to run more converters on the next game round.

Trade for colored cubes. Then turn these cubes into more/different cubes. I’m getting bored just blogging about this. Sidereal Confluence was a surprising flop. Our group loves Advanced Civilization. And Sidereal Confluence is not in the same vein. It’s a 3 hour catastrophe. The designer somehow made a boring trade game. A typical trade phase might go something like this, “I have green. Does anyone need a green cube? I could use a red cube”.

It’s a shame too. Because the designer tried to make Advanced Civ in space but the game lasted way too long. So he paired it down to just a trading game. And a debacle at that.

Verdict: Unbelievable flop

 

Werewords

Werewords from Bezier Games
Werewords from Bezier Games

I’m not a fan of the Werewolf games. I don’t like Werewolf, One Night Werewolf, Ultimate Werewolf or One Night Ultimate Werewolf.

And I don’t like Ted Alspach, the designer either. I had a big disappointment with his game Perpetual Motion Machine which I felt defrauded by. So when Dusty brough out Werewords you can guess that my expectations were pretty low.

The roles in Werewords
The roles in Werewords

Werewords is like One Night Ultimate Werewolf meets 20 questions. Roles are dealt out like they are in Werewolf. One player is the werewolf and another is the seer. The rest are villagers. These roles are all secret. One player is the mayor who is both the mayor and one of the previously mentioned secret roles

The game requires an app. All players close their eyes. Then the mayor launches the app and picks a secret word from the few that app offers. Then seer opens his eyes and sees the secret word. And finally the werewolf does the same. Then the game begins.

The mayor's tokens
The mayor’s tokens

Over the next four minutes the mayor says nothing. He only doles out “Yes”, “No” or “Maybe” tokens to the players. The players ask yes or no questions in order to figure out the secret word. If they figure it out, the werewolf will get to guess who the seer is; if he is correct, the werewolf is the winner. If not, the villagers are the winner. If the players do not solve it, the villagers will get to try to figure out who the werewolf is.

The game is very much like One Night Werewolf. But it’s got none of the zany role switching. It’s all about finding a McGuffin but also trying to root out who the seer or werewolf is.

And it’s great.

It’s a fantastic game. It’s almost as good as Avalon. It’s about as perfect as a social deduction game there is. It plays quickly, it’s easy to learn and it’s not samey after several plays. Ted Alspach has fully redeemed himself in my eyes.

Verdict: it’s wonderful! A HIT!

 

Gloom of Kilforth

Gloom of Kilforth from Hall or Nothing Productions
Gloom of Kilforth from Hall or Nothing Productions

Gloom of Kilforth has the most beautiful components to any game. That’s no exaggeration. Each card is a unique panting. And the paintings are gorgeous. The game took years to produce because of the artwork.

Samples of Gloom of Kilforth's art
Samples of Gloom of Kilforth’s art

Gloom is a co-op in a fantasy world. Each player has a character they use to further the group’s goal, usually defeating a boss monster. Players use their resources and actions to move about the board. Monsters must be killed, new alliances are bonded and items are unearthed.

Gloom of Kilforth treads where many other games have already gone. It’s only redeeming quality is its artwork. And that quality wears thin after 6 hours, the amount of time of our debut game. Gloom was an amazingly bad experience. It was our first epic game of CabinCon IV and it was a dubious.

All of us thought the game was beautiful in components, pedestrian in mechanics and bloated in game length. I’m forced to give it a devastating a FLOP verdict.

 

Our new and improved location…where even flops are hilariously fun

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
186 Muskegon Area Gamers

This group is for anyone interested in playing board games, card games or any table top game. This group learns and teachs new games all the time. We welcome fresh players. We…

Next Meetup

Thursday night games

Thursday, Jul 20, 2017, 6:00 PM
6 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Gloom of Kilforth
  2. Viticulture

8. Merchants & Marauders: Broadsides

5. Keyflower

Bring out your DM’s!

[Editor’s note: it’s time for another installment of Just in Tima with Nick Sima]

Bring out your DM’s!

 

Gloomhaven, Descent, Star Wars Imperial Assault, Zombicide… What do all of these games have in common? They’re board game versions of a tabletop RPG that miss the mark slightly. I recently received a copy of Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition Starter set so that I could run a small campaign with some friends. While I was reading up on how to run the first dungeon they scope out, I noticed a couple of tips for Dungeon Masters that linked up perfectly with a discussion Chris and I had months ago.

Gloomhaven from Cephalofair Games
Gloomhaven from Cephalofair Games

The thing that Tabletop RPG board games like Gloomhaven and Zombicide is missing is a Dungeon Master. The thing that Star Wars: Imperial Assault and Descent is missing, oddly enough, is a Dungeon Master. Sure, you’ll say that Descent has a player acting as the bad guys, but that’s not what a Dungeon Master does entirely.

The missed point in Gloomhaven is so egregious that one of our intrepid members fired the game from just one room. A really simple AI works in theory, but sooner or later a room will be encountered where it’s a logistical nightmare just to figure out what enemy does what. Balancing the checkbook has never been fun, doing it for which zombie decides to punt you over the mountains is unbearable. Zombicide masks this by just choosing yes in all columns for where zombies go. It’s ridiculous, but it’s still more tedious than is ‘good’

Star Wars Imperial Assault will hit the gaming table a lot in Muskegon
Star Wars Imperial Assault

Let’s go back to Descent and Star Wars: Imperial Assault, they both have a player operating the bad dudes. That’s good, right? Well, not really. The player running the bad guys and the players playing their hero have diametrically opposed goals. I played as the overlord in Descent for a while. I won some long odds fights from good card play and luck. This made me stronger which made it easier for me to win against my friends more and more. I got stronger and stronger and they had less and less fun. Talking with our resident GM/DM Kevin, he shared a similar experience in Star Wars: Imperial Assault. The GM having an opposite goal and benefitting from winning leads to 3-4 players having a bad time more often than not.

Muskegon loves Dungeons & Dragons
Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition

So, what do these games need to be better? I think we need a GM that wins when the players win. Chris and I discussed some viable options where the two victory conditions could be met independently such as the GM needing only to save one bad guy from a fight while the heroes running around need to loot all the treasure. It could also just as easily be set up where every time the heroes level up, the GM also gets a couple new toys. Is it more a simulation or activity than a board game at that point? Yeah, probably. Would it be more fun? Hard telling, I’ll need a big named board game developer to make it so I can find out.

 

If you’d like to follow us on Facebook, click on the link below.

 

Around the World of Board Gaming June 2017

Here’s this month’s installment of Around the World of Board Games. For those that are new to the website, this is a monthly column where we look at news coverage of our hobby. Note: this is different than board game news where you learn about upcoming releases and such. Feel free to send me a link of your favorite news sites that cover topics related to board gaming.

Around the World of Board Gaming June 2017

 

A Weak British Pound Means Strong Profits for GW

Games Workshop
Games Workshop

I’ve blogged about Games Workshop several times here. Maybe not most recently but definitely most importantly was when I covered GW’s divorce with Fantasy Flight Games. The decision to do so was underpinned by Games Workshop’s long term desire to stay profitable. So how’s that workin’ out?

Turns out: pretty dog gone good. The UK pound is dropping in value compared to other currencies. This making Games Workshop’s exorbitantly priced games and accessories semi-affordable in the US and Canada. The publicly traded company is reporting revenue of £158 million. This is a massive amount of revenue for a company that only makes designer games. Maybe Hasbro can take note.

 

Hasbro launches a monthly game crate subscription service

Hasbro
Hasbro

Speaking of Hasbro. Hasbro wants to cash in on the board game craze. And their idea is to compete with Game Bento and Game Box Monthly, i.e., ship games to you for a $50 per month subscription.

The subscription service is slated for a fall 2017 release. Hasbro is offering two options: family games or party games.

The debut offering for the family subscription will be Mask of the Pharaoh, a release of the Mask of Anubis. This is going to be an app driven VR game fused with a board game. The party games will include some offerings in the vein of Cards Against Humanity.

While this author will not be partaking of Hasbro’s subscription (nor most of Hasbro’s game releases for that matter), I will stipulate that Hasbro is gaining on Mattel. Hasbro’s game division is growing, fueling Hasbro’s stock value increase over by 30% over the past 12 months. Over the same period, Mattel has dropped 35%. At this rate, Hasbro will surpass Mattel as the world’s largest toy manufacturer in a few years.

 

NPR does a write up about Cthulhu board games

Cthulhu Wars will fit in perfectly at The Gaming Annex.
Close up of Cthulhu Wars

Way back in February 2015, I wrote about the upcoming release of Cthulhu Wars from Green Eye Games. Well someone at NPR, probably Peter Sagal, was most certainly reading this blog for material for their recent article: H.P. Lovecraft’s Monster Is Wrapping Family Game Night Up In Tentacles.

The article is a decent background as to why Cthulhu games are so popular recently. Since all of HP Lovecraft’s works are now in the public domain, publishers and gamers are mining the mythos for inspiration. The article does make an insightful remark: the rise of Cthulhu games is due in part to the rise of cooperative games. This is probably true since fighting Cthulhu requires a team effort.

The article includes art from the game Cthulhu Wars, a game with the most obnoxious flair in modern board games.

Board game session ends with two players arrested and one hospitalized

Muskegon supports family board game groups.
Family Game Group

An dispute took place during a board game in Washington Parish, LA, about 70 miles north of New Orleans. The dispute was between a Venus Vanessa Camacho and her boyfriend’s mother. The boyfriend, one Kurtis Strong, intervened on behalf of his girlfriend, allegedly striking his mother with a frying pan and then choking her. The couple were arrested. The mother was hospitalized.

The local ABC affiliate in New Orleans didn’t say what game the family was playing.

 

Close to Home

The Burrow in Grand Haven
The Burrow in Grand Haven

The Burrow in Grand Haven has closed down. I’m not sure when they closed down (last week or  6 months ago…) I only recently found out about their closing. This is the second straight month I’ve had the unfortunate duty of reporting on a local establishment closing their doors.

The Muskegon Area Gamers had a crossover event with The Burrow. This was in February 2016 when we did A Game of Thrones demo for their regulars. This also marks another unfortunate pattern: another local establishment closed down after the Muskegon Area Gamers had an event there. The first two times were with the Brew House and Shoreline Minis.

Certainly the cause for these closures is not related to our beloved group (at least I hope not). Still, I’d like to hear from The Burrow’s owner, David, about what the reasons were for his closing and what his plans are for the future.

Board games 1976 W. Sherman Blvd 49441
The Gaming Annex

The Gaming Annex might be moving. I know, I know. You’ve heard this before. But the circumstances are again such that we may move. The owner of the building 1976-1996 W. Sherman Blvd has evicted everyone but us. He wants The Gaming Annex to stay because we are a long term tenant (going on 5 years) and thinks that will help him sell the building to a prospective buyer.

The uncertainty of the situation has caused me to look again at commercial property. Ideally I’d like to stay in the lakeside area of Muskegon. We will remain at our current location into July if not through July.

Muskegon Area Gamers love Into the Woods Retreat
Into the Woods Retreat

We had our fourth gaming retreat. Called CabinCon IV, this event was biggest yet. It was also our first coed CabinCon. The shindig was an unmitigated success. A shout out to Dusty for putting it together. And another shout out to all the Muskegon Area Gamers who attended. It’s been a great year!

SeaFall Session 2

SeaFall - Game 2WARNING: SPOILERS!!! BOX 1 REVILED

On December 22nd my group finally got back together to get our second game of SeaFall in. It has been a while and most of us had to go back to the rule book to refresh on how to play, mainly how to score.

We all had a good time, and I think (I really hope not), that the theory one of our players has (Chris) on what the underlying story of the game may be correct. If you pay attention to the various stories that you read while you are going along, it does have a slight H.P. Lovecraft feel to it. If it does end up being something like that, no matter how I like the game, it will get a 0 rating for it from me.


Game 2

SeaFall - Game 2This time I set the game up correctly, with all the milestones needed, so the game didn’t last that long. It took us just over an hour to play the fill game, with a new winner this game and taking the overall game by one point. I’m still 3rd, and Chris is still last.

Being that this is all of our first Legacy game, it still is a bit odd putting stickers on the board and ripping up cards, but it is starting to get easier to do.

I started the game out right away with going for an Explore action on a red 6, failing miserably and sinking my main ship. Tasha was at her old Raiding self again, but only going to 2 locations, and Brandi got in a few raids this time too. This game, I was the only one to sink a ship.


Outcome

Brian – 13

  • Buildings
    • Port
    • Market
    • Gun tower
  • Upgrades
  • Raids = 1
    • Failed Raids = 1
  • Explorations = 0
    • Failed Explorations = 0
  • Ships Sunk = 1
    • Total Damage taken = 3
  • Treasures = 0
  • Milestones
    • The Continent Awakens
Tasha – 21

  • Buildings
  • Upgrades
  • Raids = 2
    • Failed Raids = 0
  • Explorations = 0
    • Failed Explorations = 0
  • Ships Sunk = 0
    • Total Damage taken = 2
  • Treasures = 2
  • Milestones
    • An Island Revealed
    • The Finest Treasures
Chris – 7

  • Buildings
  • Upgrades = 1
  • Raids = 0
  • Explorations = 1
    • Failed Explorations = 0
  • Ships Sunk = 0
    • Total Damage taken = 0
  • Treasures = 0
  • Milestones
Brandi – 20

  • Buildings
  • Upgrades
  • Raids = 2
    • Failed Raids = 0
  • Explorations = 1
    • Failed Explorations = 0
  • Ships Sunk = 0
    • Total Damage taken = 2
  • Treasures = 0
  • Milestones
    • Darkness Stirs

First Box

SeaFall - Game 2With the milestone that Brandi opened, Darkness Stirs, we were finally able to open the first box to the game. This reviled a treasure trove of goodies for us, including more rules, islands, new advisers, upgrades, event cards, positions, two new sets of decks, and more!

This will really change our game going forward, especially since it finally seems to put us to war with each other!

SeaFall - Game 2 SeaFall - Game 2 SeaFall - Game 2
SeaFall - Game 2 SeaFall - Game 2 SeaFall - Game 2
SeaFall - Game 2 SeaFall - Game 2

Final Thoughts

SeaFall - Game 2I thought this game went very well, quick since we had so many easy milestones for us to hit and get points from, but more was reviled to us in the stories, and we finished exploring all the islands, nothing else left to explore.

With the opening of the new box, we can finally start to discover new islands, and war may be breaking out between us now. I upgraded the defense of my home port.

We are looking forward to the game 3 and finding new islands to explore, and dealing with the pirates and each other. I think my strategy needs to change in the game too, I need to get more points.


See more at iggygames.com or better yet, drop by and play some games with Iggy himself!

Tabletop Games in Pop Culture

Our hobby has been going more mainstream. Designer games are available at national department stores. Game manufacturers have considerable clout in the financial sector. But when pop culture begins to use board games, you know our hobby isn’t just about how and where we spend our money. Here’s a look at some examples of how board games have permeated into pop culture.

 

Tabletop Games in Pop Culture

 

The Handmaid’s Tale (Scrabble)

The Handmaiden's Tale Muskegon Area Gamers
The Handmaid’s Tale

Scrabble has been around forever. It was first published in 1938 as a multi-player crossword game. It would later be sold to the Long Island distributor Selchow-Righter who made the game a household name. Due to its near ubiquity, it seems obvious that Scrabble would break into the mainstream pop culture. Recently, the game made for a tense scene in the miniseries The Handmaid’s Tale.

Hulu’s original show The Handmaid’s Tale has been a critical success. It’s garnered a rating of 8.7 on IMDB and a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Not too shabby for the upstart competitor of cable TV and Netflix. The show is a gripping, dystopian tale with excellent performances–especially by the talented Elisabeth Moss. While I recommend the show, what we are more interested here is tabletop games.

The Commander, played by Joseph Fiennes, decides to break the ice with his handmaid Offred, played by Moss. The Commander breaks out a copy of Scrabble. The two play a game where Offred lets the Commander win, unbeknownst to him. Their game comes off as polite but also white-knuckled–a great feat for such a dry game.

The Handmaid's Tale Scrabble
The Handmaid’s Tale Scrabble

But It seems that Scrabble connoisseurs were not too keen on how the rules for Scrabble were not followed. Although they played Scrabble, it felt more like Words with Friends. The final score was a whopping 386 to 383. The Commander’s challenge fail but he did not lose a turn. And the two players spelled words like zygote and larynx.

 

Monopoly (Carol Burnett and The Sopranos)

Carol Burnett and Friends play Monopoly
Carol Burnett and Friends play Monopoly

Monopoly has been a part of pop culture for a couple of generations now. Classic television viewers will remember the Carol Burnett and Friends skits dealing with Mama’s Family. (It spawned a lengthy spinoff by the same name). Burnett played the tragic white trash Eunice, daughter of Mama (Vicki Lawrence) and Daddy (Harvey Korman). In one skit, Eunice’s exuberance in finally getting Boardwalk and Park Place is quickly and hysterically dashed when she lands on her mama’s hotel on St. Charles Place and her dad’s hotel on Kentucky Avenue on her next two moves.

The Sopranos play Monopoly
The Sopranos play Monopoly

The best pop culture reference of Monopoly is probably the Sopranos, however. Tony, Carmela, Bobby and Janice play a family game of the Parker Brothers’ classic. But the “family” in question is the Soprano clan. And any game with this family is liable to end in bloodshed.

What is interesting about The Sopranos’ Monopoly scene is the discussion about the rules. Bobby asks why Tony is putting cash in the center of the board instead of the bank. Carmela explains they play with the Free Parking rule: whoever lands on Free Parking gets all that money. Carmela offers the explanation, “It adds a whole level of excitement to the game”. Bobby is a rules purist. He grabs the rules and demands to be shown where this rule is located. Carmela says it’s not an official rule but is a widely accepted variant.

When Tony lands on Free Parking, Bobby laments that the Parker Brothers spent a lot of time making a strategy game only to have the Sopranos devolve it into a game of chance.

And then the bloodshed.

Tony Soprano with a Monopoly house
Tony Soprano with a Monopoly house

Tony quips at Janice’s expense. Tony makes cracks about her bouts with mental illness and her past promiscuity. Bobby suffers enough indignation about these comments at his wife’s expense and a brawl ensues. When the brawl is over, Tony is dripping with blood. Carmela has to pluck a Monopoly house out of his cheek. And you know the old adage: the only way to win Monopoly is to not play.

 

Risk (Seinfeld)

Kramer carrying Risk board
Kramer carrying Risk board

Given the chops that Risk has offered to wargamers over the years, one should expect Risk to be represented in pop culture. 90’s radio staple R.E.M. had a pop song called, “Man on the Moon” featuring the lyrics “let’s play Twister, let’s play Risk”.

One of the most memorable pop references of the  Parker Brothers classic would have to be Seinfeld. The Show about Nothing had an episode where Kramer and Newman played a days long game of Risk. To keep the game safe from each other, Kramer and Newman had to move the board to neutral territory–which means Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment.

Kramer and Newman struggle for global domination
Kramer and Newman struggle for global domination

Kramer and Newman later can be seen playing their game on the subway. Kramer goads Newman as Kramer’s grasp on world domination is at hand. “I have a stronghold in Greenland. I’ve driven you out of Western Europe”.
Newman retorts that he has a good hold of the Ukraine. Kramer dismisses this and says the Ukraine is weak. A Ukrainian man is riding on the subway next to them and overhears this part of their conversation. The Ukrainian stranger transforms into a charging Cossack and ransacks Kramer’s game, pieces flying all over the subway.

 

 

Strange Things (D&D)

Netflix's Stranger Things
Netflix’s Stranger Things

Netflix’s original series, “Stranger Things” was written with me in mind:

1. Its protagonists are kids from the 80’s

2. It’s science fiction/fantasy

3. The protagonists play Dungeons & Dragons.

Needless to say, I highly recommend the show. I’m waiting with bated breath for season two, slated for an October release.

Kids in Stranger Things playing D&D
Kids in Stranger Things playing D&D

What we will be looking at here is Dungeons & Dragons angle.  In the opening scene of the show, four kids are seen in a basement playing D&D. Mike is the DM. He has a screen up. He is flinging troglodytes at the wizard, knight and dwarf. The players (PC’s) are deftly cutting through the trogs,

Will the Wise Wizard faces off against Demogorgon
Will the Wise Wizard faces off against Demogorgon

The PC’s suspect Demogorgon is near. For the uninitiated, Demogorgon is a two-headed demon prince. He has impressive stats.  The episode doesn’t explain why the players would know this. But their intuition proves correct when the Prince of Demons sprouts from the darkness.

D&D Expert book
D&D Expert book

The scene works as foreshadowing for the series as a whole. But game purists will quibble over a few flaws. Mike has a copy of Dungeons & Dragons the Expert edition. But Demogorgon is only found in Advanced Dungeons & Dragon’s Monster Manual. Indeed, all the demons and devils are in AD&D and AD&D only. The basic edition was the more suitable for those sticking their toes into RPG’s. The reason for this discrepancy? I would guess this inconsistency was caused by someone in the show’s production team who was a non-gamer; someone who easily conflated “D&D Expert edition” with “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”.

 

A convocation of board games and pop culture…

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
179 Muskegon Area Gamers

This group is for anyone interested in playing board games, card games or any table top game. This group learns and teachs new games all the time. We welcome fresh players. We…

Next Meetup

Twilight Imperium

Sunday, Jun 11, 2017, 9:00 AM
4 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

 

 

 

Thrift store May 2017

Hi there folks! It’s time for another installment of Board Game Thrift Store Finds. Due to the nature of thrifting, I never really think I find anything all that impressive. An occasional Risk game here, a complete game of Monopoly there…But by the end of the month, I look at my list and realize I have a pretty good haul. This month I found an old Victory Games classic, a Knizia classic and scooped up a bunch of games during a clearance sale at a department store. Check it out!

Thrift Store Finds in May 2017

 

The Civil War (Victory Games)

Muskegon board game thrift store finds May 2017
The Civil War from Victory Games

If you’re an old wargamer, then you’ve played or at least heard of Victory Games. And if you’re an old wargamer, you probably played a game that covers the American Civil War. Victory Games made such an epic length game that covers the broad history aptly called, “The Civil War”.

The game holds a strong 7.7 rating on BGG. It’s probably the most ambitious game of its generation to cover the American Civil War. It has three theatres of operations, several scenarios and a campaign game for the truly ambitious.

I perusing a local thrift store when I spied a black box that was about the size of the typical vintage Avalon Hill game. For $2 I got a complete copy! The box showed wear typical for a 30+ year old game. The game had also been played a few times. Notes and other items were in the box where some local gamer waged a virtual recreation.

Lost Cities board game

Lost Cities from Kosmos
Lost Cities from Kosmos

There is a game series from the publisher Kosmos that you need to know about. It’s called Kosmos two-player series. These are a series of inexpensive (<$25) games that are designed for two players. The series includes Jambo, Dracula and Gone Fishing. Probably the best selling game in the series is Reiner Knizia’s Lost Cities.

On its surface, Lost Cities seems like a boring Rummy variant. But there is subtle genius in this game. There’s a press your luck mechanic to go with a strong card management element. The only criticism is it plays but two players.

Knizia took the main framework of Lost Cities and created his Lost Cities the Board Game. This game plays up to four players. And it captures the feel of its two player cousin perfectly. While most gamers won’t need both versions of this game in their library, it’s advisable to have at least one.

And I found a thrift store copy at the Goodwill on Harvey Street. The game is complete. The only issue is one of the cards is slightly marked. Put the cards into sleeves and the game will be fine.

 

Rumis

Rumis from Educational Insights
Rumis from Educational Insights

I’ve been a stronger believer that board games can be didactic. I love hearing from some of the teachers in the Muskegon Area Gamers that they use games in their classrooms or in their extracurricular activities. And I’m not the only one who sees the an educational angle in board games.

Educational Insights has numerous games under its belt. Blokus is their most ubiquitous game. Blokus has proven to be so popular that they made a 3D version. Some versions are called Blokus 3D. I found a copy of Rumis recently–Blokus 3D by a different name.

Players use spatial reasoning to place their three dimensional blocks onto the game board. There are several different boards to choose from to add replayability. The pieces are quite attractive. I also enjoyed the tactile quality of them.

I have found two copies of Rumis last month. And a copy of Blokus 3D the month before. If anyone in the Muskegon area needs a copy, you know where to find me.

Star Wars Chess

Star Wars chess
Star Wars chess

I’m not a chess blogger, but I play one on TV. When I’m not playing a television’s greatest chess blogger, you might find me blogging about Star Wars games. Needless to say, any iteration of game that merges Star Wars with chess will be an auto-buy.

I found a copy of the Saga Edition Star Wars chess set at one of the thrift stores on Sherman. The game is complete except for the cardboard insert. The pieces are in good order given the fact that the insert is missing.

I’m hoping to connect this game with a local gamer who hasn’t heard of The Gaming Annex. I’ll let you know how successful I am with that.

 

Clearance at Meijer’s

The Gaming Annex is a huge supporter of Meijer on Norton & Henry
Meijer on Norton & Henry

I as perusing Meijer as I am apt to do. I headed into the toys and games section. Although Meijer (and Target) have been stocking their shelves with more designers as of late, there is still the typical department store pulp one must wade through. All the designer games are at the far end of the aisle, relegating any serious gamers to the pariah section of Meijer’s toy department.

Risk: Star Wars Episode VI
Risk: Star Wars Episode VI

When I stopped to see what they had, I was flabbergasted! They had Star Wars Risk for $11. You can’t even get this on Amazon for that much. Then I saw Civil War Risk for the same price. And Magic: the Gathering Arena of the Planeswalker for $11 also. I figured I could use these to lure new gamers over to the Annex.

 

Other games

Risk (revised edition)
Risk (revised edition)
Monopoly Tropical Tycoon
Qwirkle
Qwirkle
Monopoly City
Monopoly City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where the board game thrifting is interrupted only by the board game playing…

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
177 Muskegon Area Gamers

This group is for anyone interested in playing board games, card games or any table top game. This group learns and teachs new games all the time. We welcome fresh players. We…

Next Meetup

Saturday games

Saturday, Jun 3, 2017, 11:00 AM
2 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

 

 

 

 

 

Game Review: X-COM

We had four over to The Gaming Annex about a week ago. After some hemming and hawing about what to play, Nick Sima pulled X-COM down from the shelf. It had been a while since we played. I’ve now logged 12 plays of this game. It’s about time I wrote a review of it.

Board Game Review: X-COM the Board Game

X-COM Terror from the Deep
X-COM Terror from the Deep

XCOM has enjoyed a successful run as a video game. It’s earliest iterations were DOS games in the mid 90’s from Microprose. It’s been updated, reimplemented and fleshed out many more times since then. The theme is always the same: extraterrestrials are threatening humanity’s existence. An elite force called X-COM has been developed to be mankind’s last, best hope for victory.

I’ve never actually played any of the X-COM video games. When the announcement was made that Fantasy Flight was going to release a board game version, I wasn’t terribly excited. Others in the group were, however. But the excitement was very cautious because board game adaptations of video games have been problematic. It was Dr. Steve who first taught us how to play…

X-COM the Board Game: the rules

XCOM The Board Game has created a lot of buzz in Muskegon
XCOM The Board Game

The rules for X-COM the Board Game are light. Like super light. Like the size of a restaurant menu. The rules are just four pages in all.

Despite this, the game was quite frustrating to learn. The lightness of the rules was an obstacle to learning the game. We had substantial questions and difficulties getting started the first few games. The rules, being so scant, were not much help.

X-COM: the components

X-COM dice and fighters
X-COM dice and fighters

Being a Fantasy Flight game, you should expect top notch components. And X-COM delivers. The game comes with nice sculpted minis like the squad members and the fighters. The artwork is good. The game board gives the feel of a war room where you and your teammates are strategizing your resources on a global scale.

The game requires an app. It’s free. And the game cannot be played without it. The app works fine. It’s sound effects add to the drama. And the user interface is easy enough. And the app will either make-or-break the game for most game groups. More on that below.

Game Play

X-COM board game review
X-COM game play

X-COM is a cooperative game where players must work together to stem an alien invasion of earth. Each player has a job they perform. And there are four jobs to be performed. Because of this, the game is ideal for four players. If you play with fewer players, you will have to double up on some of the roles.

Each game round has two phases. The first phase is the frenetic “timed phased”. In this phase, the app dictates with player/role is active and what they have to do. The player will have 8 seconds to perform the action. If you take longer than 8 seconds, more aliens will show up; if you take less time, you get bonus time at the end of the phase.

The second phase is the “resolution phase”. This is where all of the decisions made in the timed phase are resolved. You will roll dice, mitigate your dice rolls with various special abilities, make some tough decisions when the dice don’t go your way, etc.

X-COM app from FFG
X-COM app from FFG

I noted above that the app will make-or-break the game for most groups. This is because of the timed phase. If you don’t like the timed phase, you won’t like this game. And the timed phase really does require an app. Nobody could manage their own role and keep track of 8 seconds without an electronic device. If you are a tabletop purist, you will probably frown upon the inclusion of an app.

As I stated, there are four roles in the game. Each role has control over different functions. There is the Central Officer, the Commander, the Chief Scientist and the Squad Leaders.

The Central Officer assigns satellites
The Central Officer assigns satellites

The Central Officer runs the app. He reads (quickly) the messages coming from the app. The other players must be Johnny-on-the-spot if they are to make sound decisions in 8 seconds. The Central Officer is in control of the satellite defense. These satellites will protect earth’s resources so you will get more funding each round. The Central Officer has a lot of mitigation at his fingertips. He can allow other players to reroll dice and he can move pieces on the board once per game round.

The Commander in X-COM
The Commander in X-COM

The Commander is in control of the X-COM budget and the fighter defense. With only 8 seconds to make each decision, the players may accidentally go over budget. The Commander has to guard against this because the results will be disastrous. The Commander has to also place fighters on any continents to protect from aliens that made it past the satellites. Aliens cause the continents to panic. If the panic tracks get too high, the players lose.

Chief Scientist from X-COM
Chief Scientist from X-COM

The Chief Scientist uses whatever funding he can get to research new abilities for the players. He might find ways to augment the satellite defense for the Central Officer. Or find new fighter technology for the Commander. Maybe the Squad Leader needs new weaponry for his troops. The Chief Scientist must read his hand of cards quickly. The long term strategy of the game will be dictated by what technology cards are persued.

Heavy and assault
Heavy and assault

A game of X-COM is won or lost by the Squad Leader. The Squad Leader must complete enough missions for the app to say, “reveal the final mission”. Completing the final mission yields victory. The Squad Leader has four different troops he can deploy. These troops are suitable for different mission types. However, the Squad Leader must also defend the X-COM base from aliens. If the base takes enough damage, the players lose.

Thoughts

Squad leader mission
Squad leader mission

The game flow of X-COM the Board Game is unique. The app will direct one player to do a thing in 8 seconds. This could be assign troops to the mission, assign a technology to be researched, or maybe place satellites to defend the globe. But the app is random. You might be placing satellites to defend the globe before all the aliens show up. If so, you may place too many satellites (and waste money) or not place enough satellites.

The game fixes one big issue with cooperatives: each player is engaged. In many classical coops, an alpha player can dictate the activities of the other players. While that may be optimal, it is not fun. In X-COM, it’s difficult to assess what is optimal because you only have 8 seconds. Your teammates might shout their suggestions to you, but it’s difficult to communicate and analyze in the time given. This is a very good mechanic. If you don’t like this mechanic, you will not like X-COM.

X-COM is ideal with four players. If you play with fewer players, someone will have to play more than one role. This is too much, given the time crunch. I would recommend this game as a four player game only.

But if you are looking for a four player coop, X-COM offers a welcome departure from Pandemic and that ilk. The frenetic play is exhilarating. It’s not a brain burner like Pandemic but you still feel like your contribution matters. The rules are not explicit but the app is quite well designed. Once you have the rules down, X-COM will be a nice game to get your blood pumping.

 

SeaFall Session 1

Here is our 2nd installment from www.iggygames.com. This one is about our first full session of SeaFall. SPOILER ALERT!

 

SeaFall Session 1

 

 

Muskegon Area Gamers SeaFall
SeaFall game board

My SeaFall group gets together on Thursdays to play. With this Thursday being Thanksgiving, we got together on Wednesday to play the first game. It was a good game, in my opinion, however, I didn’t notice until after that I set the board up wrong, not adding all the millstone cards to the board, and thus we were not able to unlock the first box. While we wouldn’t have met that condition anyway, we may have played differently to unlock it. We also would have met other milestones and the game would have moved faster. As it was, it took us just under 2 1/2 hours to get game 1 played, this was also due to the times we had to look things up in the rule book. I’m sure by game 3 we won’t need to do this as often.


Ingrid Eld

We all needed to pick a new leader as at the end of the prolog you needed to rip up your SeaFall - Game 1leader. My new leader, Ingrid is keeping with the Norse theme, means Beautiful Goddess. My special ability is that for 2 coins, I can take all three merchant’s guild actions. Not once did this come in handy for me during the first game, it may help in later, but I may try and replace it as soon as I can. I’m not fully sure how I’m going to play Ingrid yet.

I played the first game mostly as a merchant. Bought and either traded the resources for cheaper buildings or sold them for gold. I tried one raid, and 1 explorer action, and failed on both. I think my notes may be messed up as I only sank once during this game, so I’m not sure how I failed both.


Outcome

Brian

  • Buildings
    • Port
    • Market
    • Gun tower
  • Upgrades
  • Raids = 1
    • Failed Raids = 1
  • Explorations = 1
    • Failed Explorations = 1
  • Ships Sunk = 1
    • Total Damage taken = 3
Tasha

  • Buildings
  • Upgrades
  • Raids = 4
    • Failed Raids = 1
  • Explorations = 1
    • Failed Explorations = 0
  • Ships Sunk = 1
    • Total Damage taken = 3

Chris

  • Buildings
    • Observatory
    • Gun tower
  • Upgrades
    • Intrepid
  • Raids = 0
    • Failed Raids = 0
  • Explorations = 2
    • Failed Explorations = 1
  • Ships Sunk = 1
    • Total Damage taken = 6
Brandi

  • Buildings
    • Port
  • Upgrades
  • Raids = 0
    • Failed Raids = 0
  • Explorations = 5
    • Failed Explorations = 1
  • Ships Sunk = 1
    • Total Damage taken = 10

Final Score

SeaFall - Game 1I didn’t keep track of how many treasures people bought, I know there were some 2 pointers bought in the game, and I know that helped Brandi win the game, again.

Brandi = 11pts
Tasha = 9pts
Brian = 7pts
Chris = 4pts

Brandi being the winner was able to upgrade her province, taking a new Appellation, then we were all able to upgrade 1 ship ability, and 1 of the advisers.


Final thoughts on Game 1

SeaFall - Game 1I really wish I would have set the board up correctly and had the milestones in, but it is what it is, and it didn’t mess us up too badly. I would have made the game much faster, however, and we may have been able to get in another game.

All in all, I think we all enjoyed the game. Chris and Tasha think they may know what the ‘mystery’ of the game is, and man do I hope they are wrong. If it does come out to that, I will probably give the overall game a rating of 1, no matter how much I enjoyed it.

Here is to the next game, and hopefully unlocking the first box this time!


Around the World of Board Games May 2017

I’m looking forward to making this a long running column. This month’s Around the World of Board Games will look at the recent United Airline debacle, legacy mechanics, a horrible break-in caught on camera and of course, news regarding the Muskegon Area gamers.

 

Around the World of Board Games May 2017

 

Legacy mechanics in the news

Risk Legacy
Risk Legacy

If you’ve been part of the gaming hobby for the past few years, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Rob Daviau or at least heard of his games. Rob Daviau is the creator of the legacy mechanic. He designed Risk Legacy, Pandemic Legacy and SeaFall. With all of these games having a high rating on BGG with Pandemic Legacy currently at #1, Daviau is ubiquitous to those of us in the hobby.

But he’s also gaining notoriety from the main stream press as well. A recent article in Slate had a write up about Daviau. The article explains the legacy mechanic for those in the main stream who are not board game geeks. The fact that Slate would touch the topic of board games is news in and of itself.

Muskegon Masonic Temple
Muskegon Masonic Temple

What I got out of the article was that there is a super secret cabal for game designers. Alan Moon hosts this yearly game convention for designers and publishers only. And the bash has the rather Spartan name of “Gathering of Friends”.

It was here that the Slate author met Daviau and tried out SeaFall.

The UK’s Guardian also had an article about Daviau as well. It covers much of the same ground as Slate’s article. Both articles are an interesting read from a designer’s note point of view. And both show that our hobby is getting some attention from at least the Tier 2 main stream media.

 

United Airlines debacle and game theory

On Sunday, April 9th, United Airlines forcibly removed a passenger from one of its connector planes. The removal was captured on several cell phone videos and uploaded to social media. The videos and story went viral. This debacle could only have been worse if United had actually conducted the removal while the plane was in flight. Luckily for the doctor who was victimized by the Chicago Aviation Police, the plane was still at the terminal.

Around the World of Board Games May 2017
Game Theory infographic

While this story has been reported on much more thoroughly and professionally than by me here, this story does have a board game angle. NPR did a write up about the incident and how game theory applies to it. Game Theory is the mathematical modeling of rational, intelligent decision makers in a given situation. Game Theory applies to board games at the meta level. And per NPR, it offers a solution to United Airlines to fix its PR problem.

All airlines overbook flights. They got to. They need to fill seats to make money. They overbook because often enough some passengers will back out at the last second. But what happens when this is not the case? If you treat the situation as a game, you could have a win-win situation.

Around the World of Board Games May 2017
Stryker! Stryker! Strike her!

First, you do not allow passengers onto the plane when you are overbooked. People become emotionally attached to things they believe they own. United could pay someone $400 to skip a flight if the passenger is at the gate but might have to pay $2,000 once the person is already on the plane.

Next, you use technology. Passengers get updates about late flights. Why not have updates about overbookings? Offer them $2,000 to sit out a flight. If you have more people taking the $2,000 than needed, reduce it to $1,500. Use this auction system to find the minimal cost it takes to reach equilibrium.

Once the airlines have done this several times, they can start to analyze their data and find trends. They can anticipate which passengers will be willing to take a voucher and which won’t. And they can accommodate all their customers better.

The NPR article is a read for the board game community. It shows how our approach to gaming strategy can be applied to real life situations. Give it a read and comment below with your thoughts.

 

A game store in Mansfield, Ohio has a break in

Sunday morning of April 23rd was not a good day for Brian and James Mann. The brothers own the game store in Mansfield, Ohio called The Realm. The store specializes in Magic: the Gathering, selling singles and boosters and also supporting tournaments locally. But on April 23rd, the brothers found their store was the site of a break-in.

Magic: the Gathering
Magic: the Gathering

The store sports numerous security cameras. The thieves can be clearly seen breaking into the store. The images are some of the crispest ones I’ve seen of security footage of a crime. The culprits’ faces and general appearance should be completely recognizable should the videos be watched by anyone familiar with the hoodlums.

Store owner Brian Mann said he lost about $8,000 in cards. Mann also said, curiously, that the thieves were probably not familiar with Magic as they took flashy cards instead of expensive cards. While I don’t doubt Mann’s expertise on the subject, one must wonder what would make two thieves strike a game store and take cards when they don’t know the value? Why wouldn’t they just knock over a liquor store or a jewelry store?

As of this blog, the culprits are at large. I will update you if there is a break in the case.

 

Close to home

Board games 1976 W. Sherman Blvd 49441
The Gaming Annex

Our group had its second foray into Twilight Imperium: the Long War. And like our first foray, Jon was the big winner. I’ve tapped Jon to do a write up about our session. Look for it on this blog later this week.

Muskegon Area Gamers love Into the Woods Retreat
Into the Woods Retreat

CabinCon IV is right around the corner. This will be our biggest event yet: 12 have signed up. Last minute details are still being ironed out. I’ll keep you posted as the date gets closer.

Scattershot Hobbies in Montague
Scattershot Hobbies in Montague

Scattershot Hobbies in Montague has closed their operations. And the closure seems a bit…abrupt. Customers were surprised to see the notice on the door that the locks were changed due to noncompliance.

The store was first noted to be closed for good in April although I cannot confirm this with the owner. The store opened last July amidst some fanfare from the local press. I’ve heard rumors as to why the store closed. When I get a few sources to go on the record, I’ll publish that information here. As of now, the Griffin’s Rest has only one competitor: Byte Club Gaming in North Muskegon.

The Griffin's Rest
The Griffin’s Rest

And speaking of the Griffin’s Rest, the store’s facebook page says it’s slated for an early June opening. The Muskegon Area Gamers are looking forward to working with Kiel and his crew. I’ve got a feeling our relationship with the Griffin’s Rest will be far more beneficial than our previous sorties with local game stores.

 

 

 

 

Who we are…

 

 

 

The Gaming Annex in Muskegon