All posts by halbower

Favorite Board Game Fillers Part II

The board game renaissance has been marching on relentlessly. Great new games are being published and released every week. The “fillers” genre has not been overlooked by the deluge. I blogged about great fillers once before. You will have to go back into great antiquity to see that post: all the way back to October 2014. The games listed there are still good fillers. But several newer games are challenging that earlier blog of mine. Let’s take a look at some of my…

Favorite Board Game Fillers Part II

Magic Maze

Magic Maze from Gyom
Magic Maze from Gyom

A game that Bruce, Dusty, Nick Sima, [name redacted] and I all enjoy has got to be special. And that game is Magic Maze. Magic Maze is truly magical. Players move a host of fantasy heroes around a shopping mall to find their respective gear. The shopping mall is a maze which must be successfully negotiated by the players in this 10 minute coop.

The shtick: you may not talk to your fellow players during the game.

Play through of Magic Maze
Play through of Magic Maze

Players are given a movement card. They can move any pawn the direction shown. The egg timer is flipped to start the game. The goal is to move the pawns to their individual exits.

The egg timer runs out after about 2-3 minutes. When a pawn is moved onto an hourglass space, the egg timer is flipped over–not necessarily reset. During this time, players may speak. But as soon as a pawn is moved, silence is again enforced.

The game comes with 17 increasingly difficult scenarios. The first scenario, you must get the pawns to their home base. In the second, you must get the pawns to their home base and then to the exit. And so on. This makes the game immediately accessible to non-gamers but also intriguing to hardcore gamers who want a challenge.

 

Nations: the Dice Game

Nations: the Dice Game
Nations: the Dice Game

In 2013, Lautapelit published Nations. It’s a civ building game for up to four players. Think Through the Ages without the soul–that’s Nations. Our group made the mistake of trudging through it a couple of times before falling back on our favorites: Clash of Cultures and the aforementioned Through the Ages.

When Lautapelit published their dice version of Nations in 2014, I was intrigued. I like dice games. And while Nations was a dumpster fire, the dice game proclaimed to last only 20 minutes. I can tolerate a 20 minute dumpster fire.

Nations: The Dice Game
Nations: The Dice Game

I was pleasantly surprised. Nations: the Dice Game boils down its bloated forebear into arguably one of the most strategic fillers out there.

Nations: the Dice Game somehow turned a dice game into a Euro. The whole game is about making the right tactical decision to scoop your opponent while also keeping your eye on the end game. You roll your dice. Then you may spend them to purchase one of the available tiles. These tiles will give you extra dice, victory points or other economic boons. You may only buy one thing and then the next player does the same. Players must be competitive in gathering food, swords and books–these are the primary ways to score points. But you need coins to buy more dice.

The expansion was just released as well. This should add lots of replayability. The base game is back in print so you don’t have an excuse to overlook this game anymore.

 

Werewords

Werewords from Bezier Games
Werewords from Bezier Games

Werewords is the best social deduction game bar none. It has dethroned Avalon. Werewords fixes many of the minor problems you might have with Avalon and while reducing play time to five minutes.

Players are dealt a secret role: seer, villager or werewolf or mayor. Then, one at a time, the mayor, werewolf and seer will see the secret word. Then the 4 minute timer starts. The players will ask the mayor yes/no questions about the secret word. The goal for the villagers is to successfully guess the secret word. The goal of the werewolf is to prevent this.

Should the villagers guess the secret word, the werewolf reveals himself and guesses who the seer is; should the villagers fail to guess the secret word, they must guess who the werewolf is. It’s a play on the One Night Werewolf games. But the 20 questions aspect makes this game so much more engaging than trite One Night series. This game has been such a hit, it’s already on my h-index.

This game is accessible to non-gamers. It’s a hit with hardcore gamers. Werewords belongs in any game collection.

 

10′ to Kill

10' to Kill
10′ to Kill

Are you looking for a deduction game that plays 3+ people in 15 minutes? Maybe one that is accessible to new gamers but will also be well regarded by hardcore gamers? Then La Boite de Jeu has the game for you. It’s 10′ to Kill.

Players get a secret character. Their goal is to use this character to surreptitiously assassinate other characters on the board. You score points for killing other assassins and for killing your secret targets. You lose points for killing bystanders.

Promotional for 10' to Kill
Promotional for 10′ to Kill

You may move any piece on the board. But only your piece may do your killing. When you decide to kill, you must announce all pieces on the board which could be your assassin. To assassinate, you must use a knife (and be in the same space), a revolver (and be alone and adjacent) or a sniper rifle (and be alone with a line of sight). You can use deduction to figure out which characters are your opponents so you can kill them and score points.

The theme of 10′ to Kill may not seem suitable to families. But the characters are all anthropomorphic animals. The cartoonish nature of the game makes the theme palatable to families. The deduction and bluffing make it fun. The 15 minute play time makes it a great filler.

 

Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers

Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers
Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers

The more I play games in the Eminent Domain universe, the more I like it. I’ve written a review of Eminent Domain and Terra Prime on here. Now it’s time to add a brief review of Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers.

This is the first Eminent Domain game not designed by Seth Jaffee. This one was designed by Phillip DuBarry, designer of Revolution!, a great blind bidding game.

Players will have a deck of 5 to 8 cards, depending on how many people are playing. Everyone’s deck is identical. Players then will take one card and simultaneously reveal it. One effect takes place if you were the only one to select this card title; but a different, worse effect takes place if others played the same card.

Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers sample cards
Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers sample cards

The genius of this game is two fold: each card has two effects and there are two ways to win the game. You must try to score 15VP or eliminate your opponents. But you must weigh the two possible effects of each card. Once you play a card, it goes into your discard pile. You will take it back into your hand when you play your next card. This gives you some information about what cards your opponents cannot play and thus make an informed decision.

A game of Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers takes only 15 minutes to play. But it feels like a heavier game. This is because each decision you make is tense. You will feel like the game could turn at any moment. And if that wasn’t a strong enough sales pitch, this game comes with a huge deck of cards but you only use a subset of them in any given game. So this game has a Dominion like replayability.

 

Love fillers? Or epic games? or anything in between? Join our group:

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Overlooked Gems: Eminent Domain

I’ve had the chance to play Eminent Domain a few times in November. I taught the base game along with the Escalation expansion to several new people. It really is a gem of a deck builder. I have an on-again-off-again column called Overlooked Gems where I review games that are quite good but one that was usually dismissed by the gaming community. Long time readers may recall my post about Terra Prime. Now I’m reviewing another overlooked gem from the same designer, Seth Jaffee. Let’s look at why this is such a good game.

Overlooked Gems: Eminent Domain

Oh no! Not another deck builder!?

Eminent Domain from Tasty Minstrel Games
Eminent Domain from Tasty Minstrel Games

The deck building mechanic can trace its origin to the 2008 publication of Dominion. In a deck building game, players will start with their own small deck of cards. They will add cards to it during the game–the goal being to improve their personal deck’s efficiency and point scoring ability.

Dominion is themed around building a medieval town. With its considerable popularity (7.68 on BGG), it was only a matter of time before others took the deck building idea and applied it to other themes.

This is what Seth Jaffee did with Eminent Domain. Sort of.

Research role from Eminent Domain
Research role from Eminent Domain

Everyone starts with the same cards in their respective decks. Players will acquire additional cards each turn called “role cards”. Players will play cards from their hand to take their turn, presumably to further their point scoring efforts. The game ends when two piles of role cards have been exhausted.

So far, this sounds a lot like Dominion. You add cards to your deck on your turn, presumably to score points. The game end is triggered when enough piles of cards are depleted.

But Eminent Domain has a few things going for it.

Lifting the best from Glory to Rome and Dominion

Fertile planet from Eminent Domain
Fertile planet from Eminent Domain

Eminent Domain took the deck building aspect of Dominion. This is singularly the best part mechanic of Dominion. But Dominion is largely a 4 player solitaire game. Yes, with some of the expansions you will have to pay attention to your opponent’s purchases. But largely Dominion will come down to your own efficiencies and not your timely responses to your opponent’s decisions.

Fertile Ground tech card
Fertile Ground tech card

Enter: Glory to Rome. In 2005, Carl Chudyk authored the unlikely game Glory to Rome. This is a card game but it isn’t a deck builder. Instead, you have a hand of cards and you play them, usually one at a time.

But the cards have several uses. If the card is in your vault, it’s worth victory points. If it’s in your clientele, it’s a client. If it’s in your stock pile, it’s a resource. And if it’s in your hand, it’s a role. Suffice it to say, the cards are very busy.

In addition, Glory to Rome doesn’t feel like four player solitaire. During your turn, you will either play a role card or “think”. If you think, you draw a card. If you play a role card, everyone else can follow your role or “think”. This idea was lifted by Eminent Domain. And it works well when laid atop the deck building.

In Eminent Domain, you will take a role card on your turn. Your opponents will either follow, playing the same role card or they will “dissent” and draw a card. The effect this has is players will stay engaged when it’s not their turn.

Plus Eminent Domain has multiple use cards. Every card has icons on its top left corner. The more icons you play of the corresponding type, the more powerful the role is. It’s possible your opponent could select a role, you follow the role and you get a bigger benefit from following because you have more icons. This interaction makes Glory to Rome (and Eminent Domain) more interesting than Dominion.

More than the sum of its parts

The roles of Eminent Domain
The roles of Eminent Domain

I don’t want it to sound like Eminent Domain is just a merger of Dominion and Glory to Rome. Eminent Domain adds an important mechanic missing from both of these: the action step. In Eminent Domain you are obligated to take a role. But before the role step you may take an optional action. The cards in your hand all have actions listed on them. You may take a single action during your turn. And the actions you take are what will make you good at the game.

Improved Warfare from Eminent Domain
Improved Warfare from Eminent Domain

When you take the Research role, you will be able to get upgraded cards like Improved Colonize, Improved Warfare, etc. And these cards are similar to their standard counterparts except they have better actions on them. Finding a way to get the improved actions that synergize with your strategy is a key element of the game.

And the action step is a nice, simple difference between Eminent Domain and its counterparts.

Based solely upon base game, Eminent Domain is a 6 on a BGG scale.

It’s the Escalation expansion that bumps this game up to a high 8, low 9.

Eminent Domain: Escalation kicks butt and takes names

Eminent Domain Escalation
Eminent Domain Escalation

I was always lukewarm on Eminent Domain before the Escalation expansion. The game seemed to be on the cusp of greatness but needed a nudge. Escalation gives it a shove.

Escalation does what most expansions do: more stuff. There are more advanced cards you can research, more planets you can colonize, etc. Escalation also does what many game expansions do: adds some new mechanics. But Escalation avoids the “more mechanics” pitfall which besets some game designers. The new mechanics in Escalation patch the weak areas of the base game or breath fresh life into underdeveloped areas of the game.

Destroyer technology
Destroyer technology

The base game came with three different ship miniatures. But the pieces were all equal. This seemed odd. Well the expansion differentiates between them. You can acquire fighters, cash them in for destroyers and then cash in destroyers for battlecruisers.

Some planets you may scout out will be bustling planets or pirate havens. These planets have lush resources for you to harvest but will require a destroyer instead of fighters. And if you have a battle cruiser, you can spend it in lieu of any conflict cost to acquire a planet.

Arms Dealer scenario
Arms Dealer scenario

But the best new addition to Eminent Domain, bar none, are the scenario cards. Players are randomly dealt a scenario card at game start. Each is unique. Each gives you a specific planet. Everyone starts with a level 2 research card. And everyone’s starting deck is different. This makes the game so much better.

While your opponent might start with some advanced surveying technology, you might start with weapons emporium. Your path to victory will be quite different than your opponents. And the interactions and role choices matter greatly.

The nice thing about the scenario cards is: you don’t need to be an expert at the game to understand them. You might not be the most efficient at playing each scenario but the additional rules for the scenarios are not complicated. But the best part is the asymmetry. I love asymmetrical games.

Epilogue

Eminent Domain: Oblivion
Eminent Domain: Oblivion

There was another expansion for Eminent Domain: Exotica. It adds exotic alien planets along with asteroid planets. I haven’t played this yet. After doing this review, I will do my best to get it to the table in December.

And if that was exciting enough, Seth has announced the release of another expansion: Oblivion. This will add another mechanic along with turning the Political action card into an action/role card. This should keep the Eminent Domain universe fresh for many  years to come.

And speaking of the Eminent Domain universe, you should try Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers. It’s a nifty take on games like Citadels or Libertalia.

And I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Seth will update his Terra Prime game into an Eminent Domain universe game…

 

 

 

Where you can play Eminent Domain in Muskegon

 

 

 

 

Around the world of board gaming November 2017

There’s been a lot going on in the world of board gaming. This month I’ll cover how Twitter now lets you tweet board games, a lawsuit over who owns the rights to The Game of Life and, of course, all the happenings close to home. Many exciting things have been happening locally. Read on…

Around the World of Board Gaming November 2017

NPR’s Market place does board games

NPR Marketplace
NPR Marketplace

NPR Marketplace had a spot about board games recently. Their November 22 broadcast had an interview with Mike Sellers, professor of game design at Indiana University.

Prof. Sellers tells his students, “Movies will make you famous, television will make you rich and theatre will make you good.” He compares board games to theatre because you have to be good to design a good board game. There is nothing hidden in theatre with special effects or editing just like there is nothing hidden in board games.

The good professor makes a few insightful comments in the brief (six minute) interview. He said designers are tasked with making board games for vary different experiences. Some people need games they can play with children who cannot read, others want highly interactive and complex games. And people who play board games often need several of these various categories.

Pokemon Go
Pokemon Go

New games will undoubtedly go the direction of augmented reality. Augmented reality is where you play in real life but your tablet/device will allow you to interact within a virtual environment. Think Pokémon Go. This was the first example but will not be the last.

Game designers are working on other games which will use this idea. Hopefully making a more compelling game than Pokémon. With board game sales reaching a fever pitch, this seems rather likely.

When Twitter increased its character limit to 280…they allowed you to play board games

On November 7th, Twitter doubled its character limits. The new limit allows you to tweet your unsupported political views in 280 characters instead of 140. While that is mildly interesting, what concerns us here is: can you play board games on Twitter now?

Twitter Connect 4
Twitter Connect 4

And the answer is yes.

People are able to play chess, Connect 4 and Go. I guess if you’re bored and have access to Twitter, you can find a game.

I imagine other games will follow these. And, God willing, more games will be possible when Twitter decides to bump their character limit to 560. Maybe then you can play Terra Mystica?

 

Lawsuit will decide who invented Milton Bradley’s The Game of Life

Game of Life 3D board
Game of Life 3D board

Followers of my blog know I like both board games and legal proceedings extending from them. Recently I blogged about who has the rights to Twixt? It’s only natural to bring up the same topic as it applies to a household name like The Game of Life.

A federal court is hearing arguments about who owns the rights to Milton Bradley’s The Game of Life. The Game of Life was first published in 1960 as a 100 year anniversary to Milton Bradley. And now the authorship of said game is being disputed.

In 1860, Milton Bradley himself created The Checkered Game of Life. He was inspired by European board games of the day. He applied what he learned and put a game on a checker board. When you moved onto a white space, something good happened to you. When you moved onto a black space, something bad happened. From this game was inspired the modern Game of Life.

Game of Life 2D
Game of Life 2D

The estate of Bill Markham is suing for lost royalties. The estate, led by his widow, Lorraine Markham, claim Markham made the game but was never given proper credit for it–not in 1960 nor anytime since.

Hasbro, the current owner of the entity, along with collaborator Reuben Klamer, argue otherwise. The defense argues Bill Markham was a hired gun. He was hired to make a prototype and paid for his work. The prototype underwent substantial revisions before it was released to the public.

The pre-trial hearings have begun the week before Thanksgiving. The judge is allowing a partial bench trial due to the age of the participants. I’ll keep you posted about any changes to this as they arise.

 

Closer to Home

Christmas time at The Gaming Annex
Christmas time at The Gaming Annex

Our staff* did some Christmas decorating. The Gaming Annex has its first ever Christmas tree. The walls are covered in holiday cheer. The place is actually looking respectable. The staff also did some rearranging. Our space utilization has improved markedly. So if you see our staff, be sure to give our gratitude.

Business cards for The Gaming Annex
Business cards for The Gaming Annex

We also got some new business cards. The old ones were, well, old. They had our old address on them. I opted for a new design altogether. First: we needed a logo. The logo was added to the front along with our pertinent contact information. I also wanted a catchy back side. I decided on a Catan and Magic: the Gathering design, not because we play these games often but because these games are so common, it could draw people to us. You can stop by and get some cards (and check out the Xmas decorations) anytime.

*Holly, Nick Sima, Brandi and Kevin.

Black Friday

Around the World of Board Gaming November 2017
Black Friday at Out of the Box

Out of the Box had their Black Friday sale last week. Like previous years, there was a line in front of the store before 6am. And like previous years, there was some great deals to be had. I picked up Legacy of Dragonholt because Nick Sima was yearning for it. Viticulture was on sale for 60% off. But the game I was most interested in was War of Kings. Long time readers may recall my excitement about this game’s upcoming release. Well, the release is finally here. Now I have to get this game into [name redacted]’s hands so [pronoun redacted] can read the rules.

Griffin's Rest play area
Griffin’s Rest play area                               (credit: Griffin’s Rest Facebook page)

Last, but definitely not least: Griffin’s Rest (finally) opened their doors. Their first day of operation was on Black Friday, a test by fire as Kiel put it. The store was well attended by the gaming community. Many in our little club were able to make it there for their inaugural day. All of us were impressed.

The store had a nice collection of gaming titles. But the full inventory build out has not yet happened. Kiel said the next wave of inventory was arriving imminently. They have many of the games our group would play like Star Wars Imperial Assault and Betrayal at House on the Hill. They also had some department store games at the front such as Operation and Monopoly.

But the most impressive part of the store was their upstairs play area. The upstairs has several public tables, several televisions, a separate restroom and one private game room. The televisions were playing Dice Tower reviews but could be turned to a gaming instruction video. The private room was available for rent. The public tables are free. Some people were playing X-Wing fighter. People at another table were playing Runebound.

I wish Griffin’s Rest all the luck in their new enterprise. And as a bonus: Kiel wants to work with us to do some joint events. I do believe this is the start of a beautiful relationship.

 

Want to know more about the Muskegon Area Gamers?

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
201 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

Ave Jon, our Counsel for Tuesday

Tuesday, Nov 28, 2017, 6:00 PM
6 Attending

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What I’m Grateful for this Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers! In between engorging myself with turkey and pumpkin pie, I think I should take some time to be thankful. The Muskegon Area Gamers has a lot to be thankful in 2017. Here a few of our blessings.

What I’m Grateful for this Thanksgiving

Our club, our new location and our continued success

851 W. Laketon Avenue 49441 The Gaming Annex
The (New) Gaming Annex

In June of this year we got a notice. The new owner of 1976-1996 W Sherman Blvd was evicting the thrift store at 1996. He said The Gaming Annex could stay. But the writing was on the wall. I had had my eye on 851 W Laketon for a while. With the recent takeover at Sherman, I decided to pursue the commercial property on Laketon.

The new space is much larger than The (old) Gaming Annex. That alone would make me thankful. But the outpouring of support from our group during the move was amazing. We had tons of support from our regulars. And for that I am truly grateful.

Our group also continues to thrive. Long time readers know I take attendance at all our club sanctioned events. I’ve been doing this since 2014. Our group saw a bump in attendance in 2016 over 2015. A noticeable bump. And 2017 has seen another bump over 2016! We are seeing a positive growth in our club of around 3% to 5%. This is excellent news because it means we will continue to have people to game with. I am thankful for our club’s success.

But enough of the mushy stuff–what I am really REALLY grateful for is board games. Let’s take a look at a few.

GMT’s Here I Stand

Here I Stand GMT Board gaming Thanksgiving
GMT’s Here I Stand

We had the opportunity to play GMT’s Here I Stand recently. I’ve played it four times now. And each time I play it, I bumped up my rating of it on boardgamegeek. I have finally rated it a perfect 10. It is on par with Twilight Imperium, Twilight Struggle and Clash of Cultures. Here I Stand is everything I want in board gaming.

There is asymmetry. King Henry VIII must marry through all his wives so he can get an heir. The French must stave off Hapsburg invasions and continue to control Milan to get points. The Pope must take Florence and Venice while beating back the Protestants. And the Ottomans? They raid the Hapsburgs and French while defeating Hungary.

Knights of St. John
Knights of St. John

You can play major powers that appeal to your play style. Or you can get out of your comfort zone and play a major power with strengths very different than what you are used to. You can pressure your opponents with military might. Or you can make an alliance with another player. You can play cards on their behalf or loan your ships to them. But in the end only one player can win.

Because of the myriad ways to win and to play, Here I Stand is intriguing. It is complex and deep. It’s also historical (based on the Protestant Reformation). I am thankful for getting to play this wonderful game.

Endeavor is getting a reprint

Endeavor 2nd Edition
Endeavor 2nd Edition

I love Endeavor. I bought it as soon as Out of the Box received a copy of it. I made Bruce, Jeremy (Scott) Pyne and [name redacted] play it with me as much as they could tolerate. It never got old (to me).

Endeavor is a Euro. It’s almost Puerto Rico-like in its low randomness. Like most Euros, Endeavor comes down to timing.  If you strike at the correct moment, you will win. That, and forcing your opponent to make a suboptimal move.

While a Euro, Endeavor has some theme. The European powers are conquering Europe and the Near East while exploring the rest of the world. The map is uniquely designed to recreate the explorations the European powers made. And the 2nd edition is going to take this a step further.

Endeavor the Spanish Main
Endeavor the Spanish Main

Among the changes, Endeavor 2nd Edition will have “exploits”. These will be objectives available to players for the whole game. Not only will they help you score points, they will help create a narrative for each game. I’m also looking forward to the new setups and new buildings.

ZMan only did one printing of Endeavor 1st edition. I was lucky enough to get a copy. But I’m thankful that a new generation of gamers will be exposed to this wonderful game with the new edition.

And speaking of new editions…

I am grateful for the 4th Edition of Twilight Imperium

Twilight Imperium 4th edition components
Twilight Imperium 4th edition components

The news was a shockwave from boardgamegeek all the way to Muskegon: Fantasy Flight was going to update Twilight Imperium with a 4th edition. And all we had to do was talk Dr. Steve into going to Indianapolis to buy us two copies.

Muskegon loves Twilight Imperium 4th Edition
Twilight Imperium 4th Edition from Fantasy Flight Games

I knew Fantasy Flight wasn’t done with their TI franchise since it was their flagship. But I thought they would make another expansion.

The new edition is a tour de force. It fixes many of the flaws in TI3. The tech tree is streamlined and much more interesting. Deal making and politicking are streamlined and are (also) much more interesting. They removed distant suns and a few other things. Odds are FFG will be adding expansions which will have streamlined distant suns.

And when they do, I’ll be thankful for that as well!

Whitehall Mystery

Whitehall Mysteries
Whitehall Mysteries

Whitehall Mystery is exceptional. It uses the magnificent movement mechanics of Letters from Whitechapel and turns it into something different. Both games are great. And to its credit, Whitehall Mystery does not scratch the same itch as Letters.

In Whitehall Mystery, one team is the constables who pick up clues. The other team is played by one player who moves his murderer secretly around the board. While this sounds similar to Letters from Whitechapel, it plays and feels different. Whitehall is almost all chasing with a little bit of deduction whereas Letters from Whitechapel is about equal portions of chase and deduction.

Where is our murderer going?
Where is our murderer going?

The heat is always nearby the antagonist. Every move he makes is within arm’s length of one of the constables. And when he reaches his first destination, the board does not fully reset; the constables stay in their location along with the murderer. Now he must get to his next destination. This continues until he’s made four “deliveries” or until he is captured.

If you haven’t played Whitehall Mystery, you owe it to yourself to come by The Gaming Annex and play. It’s quite good.

Learn more about us here

 

Extra Life Event 2017

The Muskegon Area Gamers held their first Extra Life Event. Well, that’s not exactly true. We supported Byte Club Gaming last year. But this year we held our own event at The Gaming Annex. Here is a rundown:

Extra Life 2017

1. Planning

Extra Life logo
Extra Life logo

I began planning this year’s Extra Life event in 2016 after last year’s event. There were several things about last year’s event that left me feeling unsatisfied. I was pretty sure I would support another event–I just wasn’t sure where the venue would be. We flirted with the idea of having the event at Griffin’s Rest. But they are as of yet still not open. The event would have to be at The Gaming Annex.

Out of the Box Games in Zeeland
Out of the Box Games in Zeeland

The event always takes place a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. That means it takes place a couple of weeks before Black Friday. And every Black Friday I wake up at 4am to stand in line at Out of the Box.

Jeff at Out of the Box is a huge supporter of Black Friday sales. He has great deals on Black Friday: special releases, deep discounts and hourly giveaways. I get there around 5am and there is already a line. The sale last year drew members of our group like Rocky and Jeremy (Scott) Pyne who were in also standing in line.

I was perusing the games in the deep discount area when I saw Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers. I thought this would be a nice addition to a goodybag. Wouldn’t it be nice if the goodybags at Extra Life had games in them? And thus preparation for Extra Life 2017 began on Black Friday 2016.

2. Brandi, our special events coordinator

851 W. Laketon Avenue 49441 The Gaming Annex
The (New) Gaming Annex

Brandi has been coming to The Gaming Annex since February 2016. She has been a steady member of our Thursday night crew ever since. She was a great help in supporting our special events like the Escape Rooms. When she was co-organizing our own murder mystery, Death Wears White, it was clear she needed to be given an official role: special events coordinator.

She, along with her cohort Holly, did a lot of decorating and preparing for the Kids’ Gala in October. Managing an event with 10 little ones was ambitious. But Extra Life would be a whole new challenge. And she was up for it!

3. Scope of the Event

Goodybag games!
Goodybag games!

I knew I wanted every goodybag to have a game in it. This would be a nice surprise, especially for all the 2016 attendees. I spent a lot of time accumulating games in our basement. It took lots of coaxing to get Debbie to believe all those shrink-wrapped games had been in our basement when we bought the house.

I dumped the whole lot of games off on Brandi and said, “Deal with it!”.  She bought bags to put the games into and made them look nice. (She actually did a fantastic job; I’m just being flippant).

The next aspect was how many people to have over. We have limited tables and parking. I thought 10-12 people. Brandi thought we could handle 14-16. She was right. We made enough goodybags for 14-16.

Muskegon appreciates Campaign Coins from King of the Castle Games
Campaign Coins from King of the Castle Games

Extra Life is a charitable event. So charging admission for the event was the main way to raise funds. I thought last year’s price point of $30-$35 was reasonable. This price would include your goodybag, three meals and 25 hours of games.

Greek Tony's Pizza
Greek Tony’s Pizza

Meal preparation for 14-16 people was a lot more painstaking then it is for a typical Twilight Imperium game. Brandi’s bestie, Abbey, was a great help. Abbey knows someone who knows someone who knows Greek Tony’s. She was able to get us Greek Tony’s pizza for dinner. It was delicious. I ate the pizza over a garbage can like a %$@# savage.

We had Crockpot Central for lunch and midnight snacks. I made Swedish meatballs. Tasha made her Annex-wide famous taco dip. And others were generous and brought lots of cookies, cakes and snacks.

4. Contests

Raffle time
Raffle time

Last year we had a raffle. We had modest success with it. I wanted to do another raffle this year, anticipating more hype this go around.

Last year we did a standard raffle. You buy tickets. The tickets go in a hat. We draw a ticket from a hat. And you win the game. Rinse and repeat. Brandi had the bright idea of doing a Chinese raffle. This is where you have not one hat but several hats. People put their tickets in the hat accompanying the prize they want to win. So we had five “hats”. People put their tickets into Sword & Sorcery, Dominion, etc.

It was a much bigger success than last year. This year we had five different winners (whereas last year, we kept pulling Joe Morse’s tickets). Jonathan won Tiny Epic Quest; Matt won The Lost Expedition; Rob won Dominion Intrigue; Brian made up for last year by winning Sword & Sorcery. And Ms. Brandi herself won Teenage Mutant Turtles: Shadows of the Past.

Toe of Satan lollipop
Toe of Satan lollipop

The final contest was at 9PM. It involved Nick Sima and a lollipop. Not just any lollipop. This was Satan’s toe: a lollipop with a 9,000,000 Scoville rating. People would bet on how long they thought Nick Sima could keep it in his mouth. And to our surprise, he did 10 minutes! Special thanks to all the folks at Longer Days for their support.

5. The Games of the Day

Muskegon loves Eminent Domain from Tasty Minstrel Games
Eminent Domain: Escalation

The real question on everyone’s mind is: what games did we play? Yes, we may have raised some money for a children’s hospital. But did we play some awesome games in the process?

And the answer is: yes, we did.

I broke out Eminent Domain. We played this with the Escalation expansion. It was a smashing success. I think we have a dark horse game here.

I thought a group how to play Endeavor. I love this game. And I’m glad we played this just in time for the launch of the 2nd edition.

Muskegon loves Twilight Imperium 4th Edition
Twilight Imperium 4th Edition from Fantasy Flight Games

Dusty and the crew played Twilight Imperium 4th edition. He wrangled Tasha into playing. Tasha liked it so much she has already RSVP’d for our next game in late November. Bill was on board too. He loved it. The rest of us who didn’t play got to enjoy the slapfest between Nick Sima and Dusty.

Brian brought The Captain is Dead. He played it with 6 or 7 people, almost the full complement. It went over well. Then the table broke out Dr. Steve’s Photosynthesis game and gave it a whirl.

After midnight, Ben and the crew thought it would be amazing to start playing Tales of the Arabian Nights. That game lasted until 4am. To wake ourselves up, we played several rounds of Happy Salmon.

We rounded off the event with a bunch of party games like Wavelength and Word on the Street.

6. Final Numbers and thoughts

Tiny Epic Galaxies
Tiny Epic Galaxies

We had 14 attendees at the event. We raised $817 at the event and another $50 after the event (thanks mom!)

The event was a smashing success. Everyone loved the games they played, the games they got in their goodybags and the games they won at the raffle. We really outdid 2016’s event.

Are we going to do this event again next year? More than likely. I have some ideas about how to do things better. And Brandi’s wheels are already turning too. We are going to get more food donated. We will be more proactive in this in 2018. The goodybags next year will be as good or better next year. And the price point will be about the same. We will definitely not being having a Scoville Challenge next year. But we will have some other contest that is both fun for the spectators and humiliating to Nick Sima.

On a related note: Out of the Box is having its Black Friday sale in a week or two from now…

7. Where the fun happens

You can watch all our videos and shenanigans here:

 

 

 

 

The Marriages of Games Workshop

The game world was shocked by the announcement of Games Workshop signing a multiyear deal with Wizkids Games. The news was shocking because it was only a year ago when Games Workshop cut ties with Fantasy Flight Games. The gaming world assumed Games Workshop was bringing game development in-house. But now we know that wasn’t the case. We will look at the partnerships Games Workshop has had historically. Then we will look at this new marriage with Wizkids and what we might expect from such a partnership.

The Marriages of Games Workshop

TSR proposes to Games Workshop

TSR logo
TSR logo

The first partnership was with Tactical Studies Rules (TSR). TSR made many games in the 70’s and 80’s. But they were known for one game franchise above all others: Dungeons & Dragons. Founder Gary Gygax was getting orders for his popular D&D games in Europe. Opening up a shop there was costly. And distributors of games in the 70’s were hard to come by. Gygax approached Games Workshop about a partnership.

Games Workshop was founded in 1975 as a manufacturer of games like Mancala and checkers. Gygax thought a UK company with some gaming chops would be a good collaborator for its European endeavors. Games Workshop was happy to add D&D to its line up. Due to shipping prices, Games Workshop acutally did some printing and publishing of D&D instead of just importing it.

TSR Games Workshop minis
TSR Games Workshop minis

TSR cut its teeth on making, as you could guess from its name, tactical rules for combat. TSR would publish miniatures to go with these rules. Some of these miniatures would be made at Games Workshop’s Citadel Miniatures. This would give GW some street cred in the world of miniature wargaming.

Gary Gygax filed for divorce from Games Workshop in the 80’s. Gygax tried to buy Games Workshop. Games Workshop declined. Gygax responded by opening up a TSR branch in the UK. With a new branch in Europe, D&D didn’t need Games Workshop.

 

Games Workshop and Tolkien live happily ever after (2001 – present)

Warg Riders from GW's LotR's Miniatures game
Warg Riders from GW’s LotR’s Miniatures game

Getting the rights to do a game in Middle Earth is difficult these days. The Tolkien estate is weary of doling out its heritage to just any company. Sure, in the 70’s and 80’s there were a slew of Lord of the Rings games. But now the estate of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien won’t give the typical publisher the time of day.

But then Games Workshop isn’t the typical publisher.

"You shall NOT PASS!"
“You shall NOT PASS!”

GW got the rights to make a full line of Lord of the Rings miniatures to accompany the release of Peter Jackson’s movies. Games Workshop had a strong reputation as a miniatures gaming company. They managed to survive for decades. This is probably why GW got the rights to make this game.

This marriage between Tolkien and Games Workshop is still ongoing. The game is still supported by GW even thought they will not be making any more movies (at least I hope they won’t).

 

Games Workshop’s messy divorce from Fantasy Flight (2008-2016)

Fantasy Flight Games logo
Fantasy Flight Games logo

The marriage between Fantasy Flight and Games Workshop seemed like the perfect arrangement. Games Workshop had lots of IP which needed to be put into board games; Fantasy Flight had lots of in-house design talent to make board games. Games Workshop’s pricing is opulent; Fantasy Flight makes high quality components, necessitating high prices.

Chaos in the Old World
Chaos in the Old World

Fantasy Flight made several new games with the blessing of GW. Chaos in the Old World, Horus Heresy and Blood Bowl Team Manager being a few of them. Fantasy Flight reimplemented several old titles of Games Workshop’s. This included Relic (an updated Talisman) and Fury of Dracula.

Mina Harker from Fury of Dracula
Mina Harker from Fury of Dracula

Games Workshop’s petition for divorce felt very sudden. I covered this in detail about a year ago. But here is an executive summary. Fantasy Flight got the rights to several Star Wars games. Fantasy Flight is making its own miniatures games in the Star Wars universe and the Runebound universe. Asmodee bought Fantasy Flight. Taken together, this was too much for even Games Workshop to handle.

The news took FFG by surprise. That’s how we know GW was the plaintiff in this divorce. What we didn’t know was some other publisher had caught the eye of Games Workshop.

 

Games Workshop Elopes with Wizkids: 2017

Wizkids Logo
Wizkids Logo

The news was shocking. Games Workshop decided to give Wizkids a multiyear deal to publish games in the Warhammer universe.

This dispelled the notion Games Workshop wanted to bring board game development in-house. When the news of FFG hit the board gaming world, that was among the most speculated conclusions people reached. We now know this is not true.

Marvel X-Men Dice Masters
Marvel X-Men Dice Masters

Wizkids is the publisher of one of my favorite miniatures games, Mage Knight. The game is now defunct but Wizkids still makes Heroclix which is derivative of Mage Knight. My favorite Star Trek game, Star Trek Fleet Captains, is published by Wizkids. And Wizkids is responsible for the Dice Master series, probably their biggest seller right now.

The press release from Wizkids says Games Workshop is interested in a Dice Masters-like game. The Dice Masters series is collectible and has lots of expansions. Both of these facts drive up sales if the game is supported by local stores.

Fury of Dracula 3rd Edition
Fury of Dracula 3rd Edition

The press release also says Wizkids will be republishing games like Fury of Dracula and Relic. Additionally, the press release says WK will be publishing “two new board games”.

BGG, Dice Tower and other sites are in a bit of a furor about the news. But little else is available on the subject outside the press release. So here we will speculate about what the fruit this marriage will bear.

Wizkids will publish all the strong sellers

Fury of Dracula and Relic were specifically mentioned because these were strong sellers. But Wizkids will publish any GW game that will make money. A reskin of Warhammer Conquest or Forbidden Stars is not out of the question.

Wizkids will publish a Warhammer Dice Masters

This was noted in the press release. The price point is low enough to get people hooked. The game play can easily be supported by stores. This will give GW an in-road for their Warhammer miniatures games.

Wizkids will probably reskin their existing games

Wizkids’ most critically acclaimed game is Mage Knight the board game (different from the miniatures game I mentioned earlier). Wizkids reskinned this a year ago in the form of a Star Trek game, Star Trek Frontiers. What’s to stop Wizkids from doing the same again? Remove the Star Trek figures and replace them with Space Marines.

Wizkids will probably not be able to support its Star Trek line of games

Star Trek Heroclix, Star Trek Attack Wing and Star Trek Fleet Captains may not get any more love from Wizkids. When FFG gave Star Wars too much love, Games Workshop noticed. Will GW do the same if Wizkids develops Star Trek games instead of Space Marine games? Probably.

Wizkids may not be able to support its Dungeons & Dragons games

Star Trek has always been a hit-or-miss IP when it comes to tabletop gaming. But not so with Dungeons & Dragons. And Wizkids makes some D&D games. And these are some big box games like Assault of the Giants and Temple of Elemental Evil. Will Games Workshop allow Wizkids to develop more D&D games when the Warhammer Fantasy universe could be further developed? We will see. I suspect not.

Wizkids will be making brand new games

This is the best news in the whole press release. What is it that Wizkids and Games Workshop wanted to do so darn bad? The games must be in early development. But there is no further news about them. When I know something, I’ll blog about it here.

 

Epilogue

Why Games Workshop sucks
Space Marine Terminator Squad

Only time will tell if my speculations are proven correct. I hope I am incorrect in some cases, especially about Star Trek Fleet Captains, a game that needs a Borg expansion desperately.

And of course, we never know if Asmodee will simply buy Wizkids. Wouldn’t that be ironic?

-Chris, on behalf of the Muskegon Area Gamers

 

Twilight Imperium Strategy Guide Preview

[Editor’s note: Dusty has been working on a complete strategy guide for Twilight Imperium 4. His thoughts on the game carry considerable weight since he is the winningest player of TI3 in our group. While he promises his full strategy guide is currently in development, we can get a taste of what’s coming from the following preview…]

Twilight Imperium Strategy Guide Preview

Preview 1: Should you score a public objective on round 1?

Muskegon loves Twilight Imperium 4th Edition
Twilight Imperium 4th Edition from Fantasy Flight Games

I believe most players agree that the best way to win Twilight Imperium is to heavily focus on scoring objectives, basically at all times.

On round 1, however, I believe you are better off focusing on military, expansion, or a race specific strategy. This is because by and large scoring a victory point on round 1 will stunt your growth in these fundamental areas.

Here are the 10 possible stage 1 objectives:

“Erect a Monument – Spend 8 resources”

This has to be the most difficult objective to justify scoring on the first turn. Scoring this objective means you wont be doing much else. Probably no technology and few, if any, additional units will be purchasd.

I’m hard-pressed to imagine a legitimate strategy that includes scoring this on round 1.

“Sway the council – Spend 8 influence”

About the only time I could see scoring this on turn 1 making sense is if you have a couple of influence heavy planets adjacent to your homeworld and you are able to use diplomacy effectively. Even then, my hunch is that you would be better off using diplomacy to access additional resources or using that influence to purchase command counters.

“Found research outposts – Control 3 planets that have technology specialties”

It probably makes sense to score this turn 1 if you can. That being said, it’s probably not practical.

First off, the chances that there are three tech specialty planets in range is extremely low.

Second, all 8 of the technology specialties are in different systems. That means that everyone but the XXcha will require 3 carriers to accomplish this on the first turn. That is a tall order.

Third, even if you could do this on turn 1, it likely would stunt your growth relative to other moves you could make. All of the technology specialty planets are low resource planets (all of them have a 0 or 1 resource value).

“Negociate Trade Routes – Spend 5 Trade Goods”

This is not too difficult for the person with the trade strategy card to score. However, it means you are spending 5 resources on turn 1 to score a victory point instead of using those resources to build your fleet or technology infrastructure.

“Intimidate the Council – Have 1 or more ships in 2 systems that are adjacent to Mexatol Rex’s system”

This is doable on turn 1 in the right circumstances. However, it probably stunts your growth to do so. I believe this requires you to have gravity drive and to spend a command counter on turn 1 that is not capturing planets or building. This means unless you have the leadership strategy card, its very unlikely you are going to expand to two systems and build in your home system (which is probably the most typical start).

Even with the potential stunt to growth, this is one of the first objectives where scoring it later could become significantly more difficult. If you can get this out of the way turn 1, it could save you the headache of having to jockey for position in later rounds.

“Expand borders – Control 6 planets in non-home systems”

If you can score this round 1, you should. The chances that you have 6 planets in range and have access to three carriers is practically zero though.

“Diversify Research – Own 2 technologies in each of 2 colors”

Scoring this turn 1 is a pain for everyone except the Jol-nar. There are 6 races that start with two technologies. Theoretically any of them score this turn 1 with the Technology strategy card. Should they? Probably not. The only way it might make sense is if those two technology purchases play into a specific strategy, otherwise spending 6 resources turn 1 is going to stunt your growth.

“Corner the Market – Control 4 planets that each have the same planet trait”

This has to be one of the best objectives to score on turn 1. Of course, most times it won’t be possible. This objective is one of the most important to pay attention to during galaxy setup. If you can make it so that this objective is scoreable on turn 1, it will be a big boost.

“Develop Weaponry – Own 2 unit upgrade technologies”

This is practically impossible for everyone but the Jol-nar to score turn 1. Frankly, most races will have difficulty scoring this on turn 2 as well.

“Lead from the front – Spend a total of 3 tokens from your tactic and or strategy pool.”

This is the easiest and worst objective to score round 1. If you do not have leadership and you choose to score this round 1 you are going to be handicapped during the entire early game. I have a hard time believing there is a coherent strategy that involves scoring this turn 1 – if you win after doing so, I think most of the time it will be despite scoring this turn 1, not because of it.

 

Arborec Early Game Strategy – Sarween Seed

Arborec (TI4)
Arborec (TI4)

Twilight Imperium early game strategies are difficult to develop because there are a lot of variables (galaxy setup, neighbor races, starting public objectives, trade metagame, strategy card, etc.). However, I believe they are useful because they can highlight how powerful a particular race can be in the right circumstances.

Here is my early game strategy for the Arborec, I call it the Sarween Seed.

Galaxy Setup

Galaxy setup is basic general strategy.

Strategy Card

Warfare.

This strategy starts with the Arborec selecting the Warfare strategy card. In my view, Warfare is the best strategy card for the Arborec generally because it allows them to expand quickly, either spreading out to take over a massive amount of territory, or amassing a huge ground force to take and hold Mecatol Rex.

It is essential for this particular strategy.

Turn 1
Move carrier, 4 infantry to adjacent system. Take control of planets. For this to work you need one of those planets to be worth 1 resource. Preferably you want high influence planets.

Exhaust home system to build second carrier in that system.

Diplomacy Secondary
You need the diplomacy secondary to trigger after turn 1 and before Technology. This shouldn’t be too out of the ordinary because most players with Diplomacy strategy card will take a system round 1 then use Diplomacy to refresh those planets turn 2 so they are available for them to use during a Warfare or Technology secondary.

Refresh your homeworld and a 1 resource planet.

Turn 2
Warfare Primary – pick up command counter from turn 1 unlocking your two carriers and 4 ground forces for additional expansion opportunities.

Technology Secondary
You need the technology secondary to trigger before turn 3 and after diplomacy.

During the technology secondary, purchase Sarween Tools.

Turn 3

Move one carrier and 2 ground forces to take over planets in an adjacent system. Use the one free resource from Sarween Tools to build 2 ground forces.

Turn 4

Move one carrier and 2 ground forces to take over planets in an adjacent system. Use the one free resource from Sarween Tools to build 2 ground forces.

At this point, your command counter configuration is 1/3/0 and you are ready to pass. This provides a great setup going into round 2. You will be in a good position to expand further and/or take over Mecatol Rex with a sizeable ground force (assuming you have the influence).

You could potentially increase the potency of this strategy with trade.

 

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Around the World of Board Gaming October 2017

One of our ongoing columns, Around the World of Board Gaming, is quickly becoming one of my favorites. In this month’s installment, we will be looking at the Magic: the Gathering class action suit, the upcoming Catan movie, and Toys R’ Us’ bankruptcy and how that will affect our hobby. We will wrap it up with our Closer to Home section. Enjoy!

Around the World of Board Gaming October 2017

 

Judge in California throws out class action suit regarding lost wages to M:TG judges

Around the World of Board Gaming October 2017
Magic: the Gathering

 

In October 2015,  a group of judges for Magic: the Gathering filed a class action suit against Wizards of the Coast. The judges claimed they were employees of Wizards of the Coast and thus should be paid for their services. A second class action suit was filed in April 2017.

Wizards of the Coast claims the judges are more or less volunteers who take on these roles because of their love of the hobby. Because the term “volunteer” has legal meaning, WotC doesn’t actually use it. A volunteer is someone who works for civic, charitable or humanitarian endeavors, and God knows Hasbro, Wizard’s parent company, is none of those things. But still, the judges agree to the terms of service which is a pittance of compensation.

Judge Edward Davila threw the case out. He said the terms are voluntary and no mention of compensation was ever made. He sympathized with the amount of time the M:tG judges had to undergo to become certified but said the plaintiffs could not adequately show how many “hours” they had worked, among other deficiencies in their case.

The second class action suit, which is likely to have a greater impact, is still working its way through the court system. I’ll keep you posted with any developments.

 

Sony is producing a Settlers of Catan movie

Settlers of Catan is a classic board game that Muskegon still enjoys.
Settlers of Catan

The Hollywood Reporter said Sony is making a Catan movie. Sony is hoping this will be a franchise starter. With all the flops coming out of Hollywood, maybe a movie adaptation about a board game will be successful.

Sony is lining up some decent talent behind the project. Gail Katz, who produced Air Force One and Dan Lin who produced The Lego Movie, are being tapped to produce the flick. Gail Katz currently owns the rights to the film (long time followers of this blog know Asmodee owns the board game rights). Sony is aggressively pursuing the rights.

Normally, board games use movies as inspiration for their themes. It’s unusual for a movie to use a board game as its inspiration. There are two notable examples: 1985’s Clue and 2012’s Battleship. This author hopes the move is more like Clue than Battleship.

 

Toys “R” Us files for bankruptcy protection

Toys "R" Us in Muskegon
Toys “R” Us in Muskegon

The largest toy retailer in the US, Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy protection under chapter 11. To read the story in CNBC versus the New York Times would make the casual reader think two different events were occurring. CNBC said the filing was good news for Toys “R” Us since it allowed them to leverage their debt and remain prosperous. The Times said Toys “R” Us was crippled by online competition.

But our focus here isn’t on bias in journalism. It’s how will this bankruptcy affect our hobby. The answer is: not much. Toys “R” Us will not be shuttering any stores. The company has said they will be working closely with Hasbro and Mattel to ensure a smooth holiday sales. With the new Star Wars movie coming out this Christmas along with strong consumer confidence in the economy, gamers shouldn’t fear this news.

 

Closer to home

The Griffin's Rest
The Griffin’s Rest

The folks at Griffin’s Rest Games are making progress. The upcoming store has turned the hull of its 3rd Street location into a beauty. The floors are getting worked on this week.

There is still no firm date of when the store will be opening. As soon as I know something, I’ll pass it on to all three of  my readers.

Because they haven’t been able to firm up the date of their grand opening, the Extra Life event  probably can’t be held there. We’ve reached the make-or-break point so The Gaming Annex will be hosting an Extra Life event on November 4th.

Extra Life logo
Extra Life logo

We will be having our 24 hour event starting at 8am. The event will cost $35 per person. All proceeds will go to Helen DeVos charity. Your $35 will include three meals, a goody bag and as much gaming as you can pack into that time period.

I think the goody bags alone will be worth the price of admission. But there will be a raffle too. There are five games up for grabs including Sword & Sorcery, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past and Tiny Epic Quest.

Sword & Sorcery
Sword & Sorcery

I couldn’t do this alone. Brandi has been a great help. So much so I gave her the honorific “Special Event Coordinator”. She’s taken the title to heart too. She went to extravagant lengths to help make our recent “Death Wears White” game work so well. And she’s planning our Kids’ Gala V which is this coming Saturday.

In other club news, Nick Sima is now one of the official key members of The Gaming Annex. What is a key member? It is literally a member who has a key to the door. He joins Dusty, [name redacted] and yours truly. Nick Sima will be in charge of maintaining the facility–a task he won’t know he’s been charged with unless he reads this blog.

If you want to keep up with us, follow us here…

 

Hits & Flops October 2017

I’ve been able to get several new games under my belt since our last installment of Hits & Flops. Dusty has been buying lots of games in 2017. In addition, Brian has been introducing us to lots of games. And of course I buy games like they are going out of style. Let’s have some fun with another installment of Hits & Flops.

Board Game Hits & Flops October 2017

 

Quartermaster General 1914

Quartermaster General 1914
Quartermaster General 1914

About a year ago, Bruce brought over a nifty little World War II game called Quartermaster General. Each player takes on one of the belligerents: three play the Axis and three play the Allies. On your turn, you play a card such as “Build Army” or “Sea Battle”. Once you play the card, it goes in your discard pile, never to return to play. You score points by owning victory cities at the end of each of your turns. Which every team has the most points at the end of the game is winner.

Quartermaster General 1914 in action
Quartermaster General 1914 in action

There are some cards that mill cards off your opponent’s deck. These cards are called Economic Warfare cards. It’s quite possible for someone to run out of cards before the end of the game. Some card are “Status Cards” and they stay in play, giving you a permanent bonus. And some cards are “Event Cards” that have a powerful one time effect.

Bruce’s WWII game went over quite well. Its simplicity was charming. The team interaction was fun. And all our games of it were intense. So when I saw they were releasing  WWI version I was understandably intrigued.

Rules reference QMG 1914
Rules reference QMG 1914

The new version, called Quartermaster General 1914, is largely the same as the aforementioned WWII game. The major differences are: theme (this one is WWI) and complexity. This new version cranks up the complexity by a fair margin. I thought our group might like this expert take on a game we love. I took a chance and bought it.

1914 is very asymmetrical. All of the QMG games are asymmetrical. But 1914 is particularly so. There are 5 powers in the game. The Central Powers have 2 players whereas the Triple Entente has 3 players. So the Triple Entente have to use their superior numbers to hammer Germany and Austria-Hungary into submission.

The British get a toehold on the continent
The British get a toehold on the continent

Some of the powers have more than one country at their command. Austria-Hungary command Austria-Hungary and the Ottomans. The British control the US. And France controls Italy. So your deck of cards may have some cards that refer to one power but not the other.

This version also allows players to prepare a card in addition to playing a card. Prepared cards use icons on them instead of the text. This gives all cards multi uses–one of my favorite game mechanics.

With all the extra complexity, I waited until a Tuesday to spring it on our regulars. The game went over very well. I loved it. It could become my favorite game in the growing QMG series (there is also a Peloponnesian War game).

Verdict: Hit!

 

Immortals

Immortals from Queen Games
Immortals from Queen Games

Wallenstein is a great game. It’s a Euro-war game with a cube tower instead of dice. Your armies are wooden cubes. When you fight, you drop your cubes and your opponent’s cubes into the cube tower. Some cubes will fall out and others will not. Your cubes that fall out are compared to your opponent’s that fall out. The difference are placed in the territory.

The novel combat system of Wallenstein has been adopted by other games. The combat system in End of the Triumvirate is similar. And the deduction mechanic of Mord im Arosa is not dissimilar. So when designers Mike Elliot and Dirk Henn announced a fantasy version, the gaming world took note.

Components of The Immortals
Components of The Immortals

Dusty was one of the gamers who took note. He taught Nick Sima and myself how to play a couple of Sundays ago.

And it went over like a lead balloon.

Unlike the added complexity Quartermaster General 1914 affords over its predecessors, the added complexity in The Immortals is unneeded and unwanted.

There are now two resources instead of just money. There is a divided game board: one for evil races and one for good races. And everyone controls exactly one of each. You can move between the two planes of existence if you build a portal.

Board for The Immortals
Board for The Immortals

The game board is busy. And the graphic design is less than ideal. The theme also does not shine through as much as it does in Wallenstein.

The Immortals isn’t a terrible game. It’s just an unneeded game. Wallenstein (or its Japanese themed counterpart, Shogun) are good enough.

Verdict: Flop.

 

Apocrypha

Apocrypha Adventure Game
Apocrypha Adventure Game

Apocrypha Adventure Card Game was made for people who like Pathfinder the Card Game. It’s a campaign style coop where players build a deck with certain advantages and disadvantages in an effort to defeat an AI.

Pathfinder was not my cup of tea. The idea of a campaign or legacy card game is interesting enough. But the mechanics in Pathfinder are not interesting. They are a convoluted version of Battle of Greyport–a game that is quite fun once in a while but not enough to play an entire campaign.

Dice and standees for Apocrypha
Dice and standees for Apocrypha

Our first play of Apocrypha was marred by our utter ignorance of the rules. The publisher has a how-to video. We thought we could slog our way through the game. We were wrong. After almost 2 hours, we decided to abandon our game.

Even if I knew the rules well and could play a complete game, Apocrypha just isn’t my type of game. The trick to Apocrypha isn’t trying to play  your whole hand of cards. It’s trying to use your one time use cards to maximum ability. So if you were thinking this was Dominion, you would be disappointed. But if you like Mage Knight, you might like this.

Verdict: Flop.

 

Magic Maze

Magic Maze from Gyom
Magic Maze from Gyom

Dusty introduce Jon and myself to Magic Maze a few weeks ago. Jon, who’s a theme junkie, was warned by Dusty this game would probably not be his cup of tea.

In Magic Maze, players do not control one of the adventurers. Instead, they control a certain movement direction. So anyone can move the barbarian but only one person can move him north. Players work together to move the elf, dwarf, wizard and barbarian through a shopping mall to get all the adventuring equipment they need. The game has an hourglass so players have only so long to do so.

Play through of Magic Maze
Play through of Magic Maze

Despite its weak theme, Jon liked the game. And so do I. Magic Maze could become my favorite filler. This little rascal plays in 15 minutes and offers 17 increasingly difficult scenarios.

We introduced this game to our Thursday night group as well. And it was roundly appreciated. Magic Maze is so good, it’s difficult to imagine a game collection without it. It’s good for hardcore gamers. It’s good for non-gamers. It’s fun with kids. Designer Kasper Lapp really struck gold with this one.

Verdict: HIT!

 

Century Road Spice

Century: Golem Edition
Century: Golem Edition

Steve and his wife had us over for games a few weeks ago. They taught us Century: Golem Edition. This is a reimplementation of Century: Spice Road. It’s not yet available for retail. Steve was able to get a copy at GenCon.

Players are competing to build golems in this fantasy card game. You first must acquire all the gems needed to build a golem. This is done by playing cards from your hand that either give you gems or that let you exchange gems for different gems.

Gems and cards from Century Golem
Gems and cards from Century Golem

Players have a hand of cards. They can either play a card from their hand, refresh their hand of cards, draft a card from the board or spend gems to buy a golem. You win the game by scoring points, mostly from building golems.

My wife adored the game. She said the game was very relaxing. Probably because we just played Magic Maze, a frenzied timed game. But she is right that Century is a good game. It is light enough to teach non-gamers. It could also be a good cool down game for hardcore gamers.

Verdict: HIT!

 

Stop Thief!

Stop Thief! from Restoration Games
Stop Thief! from Restoration Games

I’ve found a copy of the classic Parker Brother’s game, Stop Thief! recently. It was the second such copy that I’ve found at thrift stores in 2017. This is a nifty old game where you have an electronic device that makes sounds, giving you clues where the thief is at.

Rob Daviau has launched a company who’s goal is to make modern versions of these old games. This is one of the first games he’s restored. The electronic device is now your smartphone’s app. The artwork is updated. But the feel of the game is the same.

Game board and pawns in Stop Thief!
Game board and pawns in Stop Thief!

Because of the smartphone app, the sound quality is way better than it was in the 1979 version. When the thief moves to a door, you hear a creaky old door open. When the thief moves outside, you hear the hustle and bustle of a busy street.

The roll-and-move has been replaced with a hand of cards. This is a huge improvement. One of the cards gives you a private tip but it usually moves you only a few spaces. When you play a card, you do not get it back until you play your refresh hand card.

The dragnet tightens
The dragnet tightens

Despite its obvious improvements, Stop Thief! hasn’t been a hit. We’ve been playing it on “difficult” or “intermediate” settings. The difficult setting makes the private tip feature all but useless. And the intermediate game makes the private tip weak. We also played with the no cash option. This was objectively bad. In fact, the only good way to play Stop Thief! is to play the easy game, the way the game was originally design. It’s a simple deduction game with some press-your-luck. It doesn’t need dozens of add-ons.

Verdict: Undetermined.

 

Where every game night is a hit

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
196 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…

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September 2017 thrift store

It’s that time again. It’s time for our most followed column: my recent thrift store finds. I cast a wide net and rescue many endangered games. Below are the highlights from my recent endeavors. And as always, these games are available to any of our members.

 

Thrift Store Finds September 2017

 

Axis & Allies

Axis & Allies Guadalcanal
Axis & Allies Guadalcanal

Long time followers know about what Axis & Allies has meant to my gaming history. Axis & Allies is always an auto-buy when I find it at thrift stores. I can usually cobble together a full game from any thrift store find. And Axis & Allies is a great game to give to a local gamer who doesn’t know about our existence.

Axis & Allies D-Day
Axis & Allies D-Day

So you can imagine my excitement when I found not one, not two, not three but four copies of Axis & Allies! I was perusing the flea market and found Axis & Allies Guadalcanal and Axis & Allies D-Day. I found a copy of the revised edition at a local Goodwill. And I found Axis & Allies Pacific at another Goodwill.

Axis & Allies (revised)
Axis & Allies (revised)

Axis & Allies is the next step up from Risk. It’s a good gateway game to bring people into hobby. I would recommend it until your group graduates to 1754: Conquest or such.

 

Risk

Risk Legacy
Risk Legacy

Speaking of Risk, I find copies often at thrift stores. I usually just give them away to local gamers so they know about The Gaming Annex. But this past month was a marque month for finding Risk. I found not one but two copies of Risk: Legacy.

Risk Legacy city
Risk Legacy city

Risk: Legacy is the brainchild of Rob Daviau, the founder of Restoration Games. He is the architect of several legacy games with Risk: Legacy being the first.

The two copies I found had been played through, unfortunately. So I have lots of plastic army dudes!

Risk: Captain America Civil War
Risk: Captain America Civil War

Two different Risk games were available at Meijer: Star Wars and Captain America Civil War. Meijer struggled to sell these so they were put on clearance. Now the games are a bit harder to find.

I did manage to do just that. There was a $3 copy at a thrift store. It was opened but unplayed. I suppose someone was gifted this game and didn’t want it. I’m confident I can find a local person who wants this 🙂

Risk: Plants vs. Zombies
Risk: Plants vs. Zombies

Last but not least I found Risk: Plants vs. Zombies. Indeed I found two copies this month. One game was short on pieces. I thought since I found two copies I could cobble together a full game. I was able to. But there is an anomaly in publication. Some copies have gray zombies and others have purple zombies. I’m not sure why this happened. But if you need pieces to complete a copy, be warned about this!

Codenames

Codenames from Czech Games
Codenames from Czech Games

Codenames is a very popular game from a very esteemed designer. Codenames is ranked #1 on BGG for party games and #36 overall. It was designed by Vlaada Chvátil. He has four games on the Top 100 of BGG. No other designer is even close with the possible caveat of Uwe Rosenberg.

I found a neglected copy of Codenames at the Goodwill on Norton and Henry recently. The game was complete and appeared to be unplayed.

I found a home for this game recently so this game is no longer available. But don’t fret. You can get new copies for very cheap at Out of the Box or online.

 

Assassin’s Creed

Assassin's Creed
Assassin’s Creed

Board games that use video game IP’s, movie IP’s or TV show IP’s  usually are not good. This has not stopped Cryptozoic Games from trying, though. They have published Adventure Time, Archer, Attack on Titan and Batman: Arkham City.

Due to the IP’s draw, I usually pick up Cryptozoic Games from thrift stores. Their low BGG’s rating are often ignored by new gamers. And newer gamers are the ones I’m trying to reach. Even Assassin’s Creed holds a modest 5.7 on BGG.

 

Stop Thief!

Stop Thief! from MB
Stop Thief! from MB

I was flabbergasted when I found a copy of Parker Brother’s Stop Thief back in March/April. This game has been on my Holy Grail list for, well, all my life. The game is a detective/deduction game that is far superior to Clue.

Thrift Store Finds: March 2017
Stop Thief! board and detectives

This cute game comes with an electronic device that makes sounds. Based upon the sound, you can deduce where the thief is. If you figure out where he is at, you get paid. Collect enough money and you win.

I was flabbergasted for the second time this year when I found Stop Thief! again! So if you need a copy, hit me up!

 

Other Notable Games

Lionheart from Parker Brothers
Lionheart from Parker Brothers
Guillotine from Wizards of the Coast
Guillotine from Wizards of the Coast
Bandu from Milton Bradley
Bandu from Milton Bradley
Simpon's Chess Set
Simpon’s Chess Set

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where thrift store games are loved…

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
195 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…

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Dictator Make Up Day

Tuesday, Oct 3, 2017, 6:00 PM
5 Attending

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