All posts by halbower

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…

 

 

 

SeaFall Game 0 {Spoiler Free}

[Editor’s Note: We have a guest blogger today. Brian runs www.iggygames.com. Brian (or Iggy as his friends call him) has been a great asset to our Thursday night group. Not only is he an avid gamer, but he has a host of games that he brings to The Gaming Annex. He’s also been the impetus for our recent foray into podcasts–more on this later. Brian has been writing session reports of our SeaFall games. Here is his first installment.]

SeaFall Session 0 {Spoiler Free}

 

I’ve had SeaFall for a while now. I had done a pre-order from Plaid Hat Games, and thus I was able to get the metal coins for the game. (I LOVE THESE). The game group (The Gaming Annex) I frequent on Thursday nights in Muskegon MI was finally able to get a game in.

One of the people involved got held up at work so we were only able to get in a prolog, unlike the Tuesday night group, but we got started, that is all that counts.


Legacy Games

SeaFall - Game 0For those that are not aware, SeaFall is what is known as a Legacy game. A Legacy game is where you write on the board and cards, rip cards up, and place stickers around the board. SeaFall is the first where you are supposed to play with the people you started with every time you play the game. Pandemic Legacy was close, but you could play with others.

For most of the people in my game, if not all, this is the first legacy game that we have played. I know Chris played 2 games of Risk Legacy, but being that he wasn’t involved in the full campaign, we won’t count it.

It was a bit strange / hard for some of us to be writing on the boards, our cards, and especially to rip up the cards, but we were able to do it anyway.


Game 0

We got off to a rocky start, it took me a bit to get the game set up, but as time goes on, I’m sure it will get easier. Everyone picked their color and provenance, we handed out the roles to determine play order and jumped in.

SeaFall - Game 0Some of us had seen the Watch it Played video on How to play SeaFall, some had not, so I went over the basics. We had a few rules questions, mainly regarding Raid vs Explore, and buying goods and messed that up a bit on the first turn, and missed the first event card, but quickly got the hang of it and made it past our first year in the game.

Each ‘year’ in the game lasts 6 turns, so each turn is equal to 2 months time. Every winter you have special things you need to do, like refresh any used advisors, add new advisors, get money, have the islands produce, etc… We finished the game in the middle of the 6th turn, thus, right before winter (I hate winter anyway).


Story

Most of us found the game interesting. The story was decent (didn’t fully draw us in, but it isn’t bad), and the downtime after we got the hang of it was pretty short.

SeaFall - Game 0Thinking about the names of things, I started working with the Norse mythology. Probably due to the book I’m currently reading, but it helped me get my names. My leader’s name Asmund Folke means Divine Protection From the People, and my ships, Nahuel and Parviz mean Tiger and Lucky. My provenance I named Asgard, being that it is the world of the gods, I figured it was fitting, here I am, a ‘world’ traveler with technology these natives haven’t seen before, I’m like a god to them! Each one of us was able to name an island, and I named mine Niflheim, the world of ice. I should have saved that one for later, but I used it.

Brandi is the only other player in my group to have started naming things on her sheet, hopefully, the other two will in the next game.


End Game and Final Thoughts

SeaFall - Game 0It took us about 2 hours total to play the game with going over basic rules and checking the rule book. I know the Tuesday night game took about 45 minutes, with a good hour before of just the rules, so I don’t think we were too far behind.

I think everyone liked the game, two of the players left fairly quickly after the game due to the time, but from the comments everyone made, I think they all enjoyed it, and are looking forward to the next session.

Nobody liked what occurred at the end of the prolog, but it is what it is and I’m sure there was a reason for it, time will tell, (well, Chris may have, he is kind of sadistic like that).

Player Tasha Chris Brandi Brian
Score 3 3 5 3

For the rest of the games, I’ll try and keep better records of what goes in in the game, but those will include spoilers.


 

A look at Clue


We recently got Mystery of the Abbey to the table. This was my second play of this game, the first being several years ago at Club Sternberg. The game felt the same to me as it did the first time I played: a bit of a let down. It’s close. It’s close to being a strong deduction/mystery game. But if falls a bit short. The amount of card swapping that takes place reduces the deduction to intuition. It did spark some conversations between me and Rick Slima though. We got to talking about what works in the classic Clue game and what doesn’t work. I thought I’d dig a bit deeper and blog about the various Clue entities and what they have to offer.

 

A Look at Clue

 

Clue (Cluedo) 1949

Muskegon loves a good mystery
Clue from Parker Brothers

The original Clue game was published by Parker Brothers in 1949. The game has never gone out of print since. The artwork has changed. The box models are no longer washed up B actors. But the game play is identical.

A Look at Clue
Cast of suspects

Players move about a creepy old mansion looking for clues. The first to obtain enough clues to solve the mystery is the winner. There are three suits of cards: suspect, weapon and location. A card from each suit is randomly and secretly put into a dossier. This is the solution. The rest of the cards are shuffled and dealt face down to each player. Players ask questions about the contents of the other players’ hands. Using their powers of deduction and the process of elimination, players can find the solution.

There are opportunities in Clue (or Cluedo in the European editions) for clever play. You can learn things from the questions of the other players. You are allowed and indeed encouraged to take notes. The player who takes the best notes and plays the most efficiently should win.

Clue with plastic minis A Look at Clue
Clue with plastic minis

But Clue has plenty of problems. As I said above: “should win”. Clue is a roll-and-move game. If you roll high enough, you will get to ask more questions. This will yield victory more readily than someone who rolls poorly but plays very efficiently. Also, in Clue you are both a detective an a suspect. You could be the murderer and not even know it. And the theme of Clue is often wonky. “There’s a dead body here, riddled with bullet holes. Can someone please prove to me the murder weapon is not a wrench?”

If you are looking for a Clue game, the basic edition can still be good for children and non-gamers. I would suggest you get the edition with the plastic suspects because it adds to the theme. You can find copies of this at thrift stores. I often do.

 

Clue: Discover the Secrets (2008)

Clue: Discover the Secrets
Clue: Discover the Secrets

But what if you want more than a non-gamer game? The next step up would be 2008’s Clue: Discover the Secrets. This game fixes a few of the issues of the original edition.

This version has basically the same rules. The most important addition is the second die. This mitigates the roll-and-move since you will likely go 7 or more spaces in a turn. This moves the game along at a nice pace.

Dice from Clue: Discover the Secrets
Dice from Clue: Discover the Secrets

One of the dice has a “?” icon instead of a “1”.  The game board also has spaces with”?” on them. If you land on one of these spaces or roll a “?” you draw an intrigue card. There are 24 in the deck. Sixteen give the player a one time power. The other eight are clock cards and are discarded immediately. However, if the last clock card is drawn, that player is eliminated. So players cannot dilly-dally. They must be assertive in trying to win the game.

Clue: Discover the Secrets is a step up form basic Clue. Players have more opportunities for clever maneuvering and the game rewards assertive, efficient play. This edition, however, does NOT come with the cool plastic miniatures. I would recommend you cannibalize a previous edition’s minis and use them with this edition.

 

Clue: Master Detective (1988)

Muskegon loves deduction games like Clue Master Detective
Parker Brother’s Clue Master Detective

If you like Clue, I mean REALLY like Clue, then you owe it to yourself to get Clue Master Detective. This 1988 release from Parker Brothers gives you as much Clue as you can possibly stand.

Clue Master Detective board
Clue Master Detective board

In basic clue, there are six suspects, six weapons and nine rooms. Once you’ve eliminated all but one in every category, you have solved the riddle. But in Clue Master Detective: there are ten suspects, eight weapons and twelve rooms.

The nice thing about Clue Master Detective is it fixes the somewhat common problem of the previous two Clue games we just discussed: the lucky question. There is a fair chance that a player could solve a large portion of the mystery with their first question. In Clue Master Detective this possibility still exists but is much more remote.

I would recommend Clue Master Detective to anyone who wants an epic version of Clue. Be warned: it can be pricy since it’s out of print.

 

Clue Star Wars

Clue Star Wars
Clue Star Wars

Next to Monopoly, Clue has produces more Hasbro spin-offs than any other game. Hasbro bought the rights to Clue when they acquired Parker Brothers in 1991. Since then, they’ve spawned every imaginable Clue iteration: The Office, Family Guy, the Simpsons or Scooby Doo.

Virtually all of these are simple reskins of the base game. They updated the artwork but the game is the same as the 1949 game. One notable exception is last year’s Clue Star Wars.

Clue Star Wars 3D board
Clue Star Wars 3D board

The most obvious difference is this edition has a 3D board of the Death Star. Players have a mini of one of the iconic characters. Players roll-and-move about the death star looking for the solution: where are the Death Star plans hidden, which planet is Darth Vader going to blow up next and which vehicle will we use to escape the Death Star?

Around every corner there are stormtroopers. If you get caught in a corridor, you have to draw a corridor card. This may end up forcing you to go to the detention block or the trash compactor.

The game is an interesting take on the old Clue franchise. However, it has a glaring flaw: once you are in the detention block, you cannot get out until someone else goes there to rescue you. But their incentive to do so is minimal.

Clue Star Wars is a novelty. It’s for either Clue aficionados or Star Wars aficionados. But it is not for serious board gamers.

 

Clue FX (2003)

Clue FX
Clue FX

In 2003, Hasbro decided to make a Clue board game for young millennials. And what did millennials like in 2003? Board games with apps. Or in this case: an electronic board game.

In Clue FX, players interact with the game board by placing their figure onto a location. The electronic butler will give you some information. Unlike other Clue games, the players do not collectively have all the answers. In Clue FX, you must find a suspect (NPC’s in this version of the game) by correctly guessing a location on the board. And then the player may look at that suspect’s information.

After that, the player takes an additional action. This could be another search or it could be to ask questions to the other players. Players must listen to the butler when a search action is selected because he gives clues as to the suspects whereabouts.

Unlike other editions of Clue, this version is a decent two player game. It also plays quickly, almost qualifying as a filler. But the novelty of the non-app electronic butler wears thin. I would recommend you try the following game in this list instead. It scratches the same itch as Clue FX, but is superior.

 

Clue DVD Game (2006)

Clue DVD Game
Clue DVD Game

What happens when Rob Daviau, the designer of Pandemic: Legacy, Risk: Legacy and SeaFall, is asked to remake Clue? You get Clue: Legacy. Or in this case, you get Clue DVD Game.

In this edition, there are two modes of play: random game which is basically the same as other Clue games; and the legacy version. The “legacy” version has 10 cases. You pop in the DVD and select which case you want to play.

Clue DVD Game suspects
Clue DVD Game suspects

This edition has all the randomness controlled by the DVD so there are no dice. When you take your turn, you can ask another player for clues. Or you can ask the butler or the cop for help. If you ask them for help, you click on their icon on the DVD. But everyone gets to listen in.

The DVD game allows you to be more strategic in your questioning. Players must determine the time of the crime in addition to the other details. But when asking a question, they may only choose three categories. This gives players a lot of decision making power that is denied in other versions of Clue.

You can pick up a copy of this classic at your local thrift store for a few bucks.The 10 cases that come in the DVD game are worth the price.

 

Clue: the Great Museum Caper (1991)

Clue: the Great Museum Caper
Clue: the Great Museum Caper

The last game in this list is also the best game. It’s Clue: the Great Museum Caper. Instead of a murder mystery, this one is a museum heist. And instead of a free-for-all, it’s a one-versus-many.

Clue: the Great Museum Caper board
Clue: the Great Museum Caper board

One player is the thief. He moves in secret, recording his moves on a pad of paper. He must steal several paintings and make an escape.

The other players are the detectives. They work together to stop the thief from stealing the priceless treasures. To counter the thief’s hidden movement, the detectives have locked doors, locked windows, video cameras and their sheer numbers. The detectives can deduce the location of the thief when a painting comes up missing or when motion detectors are deactivated.

Clue: the Great Museum Caper draws obvious comparisons with Scotland Yard and Letters from Whitechapel. All of these games have one player take on the role of the bad guy while the rest work together to capture the bad guy. Clue: the Great Museum Caper is a better game than Scotland Yard. That is saying a lot since Scotland Yard won Spiel des Jahres 1983.

Due to it’s one-vs.-many nature, this version of Clue is perfect for non-gamers or children. Due to it being better than Scotland Yard, it’s a good fit for serious gamers as well. If you see a copy of this for cheap, I encourage you to pick up a copy.

 

Get a Clue and join the Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
173 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 Chris

Tuesday, Apr 25, 2017, 6:00 PM
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Check out this Meetup Group →

 

Hits & Flops April 2017

It’s time for everyone’s favorite column: Hits & Flops! This is where I pass sweeping judgments on board games after a single play. Of particular note in this post is the fact that several of these games were brought to me by other members of the Muskegon Area Gamers. Indeed, all of these are games that I was taught instead of having to read the rules myself. This is rather new to me. And I really appreciate the others who did the heavy lifting! Now let’s see if I liked the games or not.

 

Board Game Hits & Flops April 2017

 

Burgle Brothers

Tim Fowers' Burgle Brothers
Tim Fowers’ Burgle Brothers

After watching Tom Vasel give a strong recommendation for it, I added Burgle Brothers to my want list. The game was self-published and was going for $200 on eBay. If I wanted to drop that kind of money on a game, I’d pick up one of my grails . When the game came available at Out of the Box for MSRP, I picked it up.

Accessory floors for Burgle Brothers
Accessory floors for Burgle Brothers

In a game of Burgle Brothers, players work cooperatively to crack all the safes in a high security building. There is one safe on each floor of the game board and there are three floors total. After cracking each safe, the players must exit the building to win.

There’s only two things preventing the players from accomplishing this: several rooms have alarms or locks–and each floor has a security guard.

Players enter the building on floor one. They must find the safe, crack it and then find the stairs to floor two before the guard finds them. If a guard enters the room you are in, you must cough up a “hide” token (think of these as hit points). If you cannot discard a hide token, then the guard has found you and you (and everyone else) has lost.

The rooms and guard of Burgle Brothers
The rooms and guard of Burgle Brothers

Each room has different characteristics. Some have alarms. And there are several different alarms. Some alarms are motion detectors: if you move through the room by spending only 1 action point,  you trigger it. Some alarms are thermo-alarms: if you end your turn in it, you trigger it. If you trigger an alarm, the guard moves 1 space faster and he moves towards the alarm instead of making his normal rounds.

Tools and loot cards for Burgle Brothers
Tools and loot cards for Burgle Brothers

Once you find the safe room, you must crack the combination. Once cracked, you draw some loot cards. The loot cards can sometimes be beneficial or detrimental. You can’t drop the detrimental loot because the goal is to loot the treasure and escape! You may also pick up some tools along the way. These are usually use-it-once-and-done. A stethoscope will help you crack the safe and the blueprints will give you information about the rooms.

Burgle Brothers is a good game. It’s a good for a lark. Or it’s good as a gateway game. The coop nature makes it a good game for couples as well. Each player gets a different character to play: the rook, the raven, the rigger, etc. And each character has a basic and an advanced ability so there is lots of replayability. Burgle Brothers is the type of game that will hit the table about three times a year and everyone will enjoy it.

Verdict: HIT!

 

Terraforming Mars

Terraforming Mars from Stronghold Games
Terraforming Mars from Stronghold Games

Brian has been coming to The Gaming Annex for about a year now. Every Thursday it seems he has new games in tote. Recently he brought over Terraforming Mars.

I was aware of Terraforming Mars from the “hotness” on BGG. The game did NOT look interesting to me. It looked like a heavy Euro with a pasted on theme. After our monthly SeaFall game, we decided to try Brian’s copy of Terraforming Mars.

Player board for Terraforming Mars
Player board for Terraforming Mars

In Terraforming Mars, players take on the role of corporations that are seeking to terraform Mars. Players score points for increasing the temperature of Mars, developing water sources on mars or by creating forests. Each player is given a player board as seen here. Players track six different resources. My first thoughts when I saw this was, “Uh-oh! This looks like a heavy Euro! I’m going to hate this!”

Some patents in Terraforming Mars
Some patents in Terraforming Mars

Players have a hand of cards. These cards are called, “patents”. It was the card designs on BGG that really intimidated me about this game. They are super-busy with tons of information on them. I thought I would get a headache trying to managed six resources and then manage all the cards. But it turned out the iconography on the cards was far more intuitive once the rules explanation was complete. And the card title was thematic to what the card effect was which made the card (or “patent”) management much easier.

At the beginning of each round players draw patents into their hand. They may purchase the rights to these patents, discarding the ones they do not want. Each patent is unique and there are tons of them. You will use these cards to steer you strategy in the coming game rounds.

Page 14 of the rules
Page 14 of the rules

Each game round you will produce resources based upon your player board. You can spend these resources to further your score. You spend money to play the patent cards. The heat is spent to increase the temperature of Mars. Plants are spent to make forests. Energy is used to create heat. And the other two resources are discounts to playing patents that have those icons: either steel or titanium.

Terraforming Mars has a interesting turn structure: you can either take 1 action, 2 actions or pass. If you pass, you can take more actions next time your turn comes up unless all players pass in sequence. This confused me at first: why wouldn’t you take two actions every time? But this sequence actually works well for this game.

After playing Terraforming Mars, I was really surprised at how much I liked it. The different resources were easy to manage because the components were helpful not hindering. The iconography and text on the cards was easy enough to understand but allows for lots or replayability and depth.

Verdict: HIT!

 

New Angeles

NBN and Weylund Corps
NBN and Weyland Corps

New Angeles is a semi-cooperative game of negotiation and backstabbing set in FFG’s Android universe. I’ve played two other games set in this universe: Android and Netrunner; I disliked both. But New Angeles seems like it would break this trend.

Players are given control of a futuristic corporation. Each corporation gets money (victory points) in a different way. Players are given a secret objective at the beginning of the game. This tells players what they must do to win. All but one of the objectives say, “you must have a higher score than the Corporation ‘X'”; if you control “Corporation X” then you must have a higher score than three other players.

The other secret objective is the federalist. This player needs to get 25 points AND have New Angeles’ threat reach 25.

The nature of the objectives is quite interesting. Several people can win but at least one person must lose. If the federalist wins, he wins alone. As such, all players except the federalist are working to save New Angeles from a rising threat. And everything seems to make threat rise.

"Skill

The active player draws cards from the decks per his corporation sheet. Those familiar with Battlestar Galactica will recognize this mechanic. Then the active player must play one as “an offer”. Other players may make a second offer, playing cards out of their hands. Then players may spend cards out of their hand to “vote” for one of the two offers. Whoever wins the offer gets a powerful asset card to be used throughout the game. And the winner gets to do what the offer says. Most of the skill cards will allow players to mitigate threat by moving tokens or pieces. A few of the skill cards are just flat out money grabs where one or two players get victory points.

Players may negotiate with each other. The trading can be votes, promises or outright gifting of victory points. Players may NOT trade skill cards nor may they make mention of their secret objective. The last part about not being able to mention your secret objective has thrown some for a loop. It doesn’t bother me. I can infer from others what their intentions are without them explicitly saying their objectives.

Game board with chrome minis
Game board with chrome minis

I typically like strategy games that have negotiation in them. Think Diplomacy or Twilight Imperium. But there are also negotiation games that I don’t like such as Republic of Rome. And New Angeles, unfortunately, falls in the latter category. New Angeles works as a game. But it’s not the type of game that I like. It’s an experience more than it is a strategy game. And since it is not a simulation like Junta or Battlestar Galactica, I must reluctantly call it a flop.

Verdict: FLOP!

 

Camel Up: Supercup

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Camel Up is a light family game of hedging your bets. It was critically acclaimed, winning Spiel des Jahres in 2014. The game is mildly fun for a lark and it is definitely family friendly.

Dusty broke out the expansion, Supercup, a couple of Thursdays ago. This was our group’s first play of the expansion. Everyone had played the base game already so we were interested in what the expansion offered.

Add-on board and extra dice
Add-on board and extra dice

Supercup comes with four modules which can be added a la carte to the base game. Seen here is the extended track and support dice. The track can be longer, seemingly making the game last longer needlessly. But the support dice fix this. Normally you will roll camel’s dice once. But the support dice let you roll more times. This is an additional action afforded to players. Due to the sudden death nature of the round, it’s possible you could throw the extra blue die into the pyramid but the round will end. This module is almost a “must” if you want to raise Camel Up to a stronger strategy game.

Photographer from Super Cup
Photographer from Super Cup

The next module is the photographer. The photographer can be placed on a space on the board. If one or more camels land there, the player who played the photographer gets some money. This is the worst add-on for Supercup. I would not recommend using it because it adds little in the way of player choice or agency.

The next two modules modify the way in which bets are taken. Players may bet on position instead of just 1st place. And players may take a “partnership” with another player, essentially getting the same benefit as them. Both of these modules add depth to the game without adding much complexity.

I was very impressed by Camel Up: Supercup. I didn’t think an expansion would do much for a light family game. But they managed to make a light family game in a slightly meatier family game. They added depth without adding much complexity. And for that, I will call this a “HIT”!

 

Where Hits & Flops occur with some regularity