All posts by halbower

Around the World of Board Gaming April 2018

Welcome to one of my favorite blog columns. Not “board game news” so much as “board games IN the news”. Today’s topics include lots of stuff. You can print and play games the CIA uses to train its agents. Board games help children with autism. Out of the Box in Muskegon has closed its doors. And of course, we talk about the latest happenings at The Gaming Annex.

 

Around the World of Board Gaming April 2018

 

Print & Play CIA Board Games

El Chapo from the C.I.A.
El Chapo from the C.I.A.

The CIA has used board games to train the next generation of agents. Long time readers of this blog already know this. But what you probably didn’t know is that these games are now available for gamers who like to print and play their games.  Two games were unredacted from a recent FOIA (freedom of information act) request.

Rulebook cover for Kingpin
Rulebook cover for Kingpin

The folks at Ars Technica have a lot of the details concerning this. Enough was unredacted to both give you the rules and the necessary information to make the components to play them. The more intriguing of the two games “released” is Kingpin: the Hunt for El Chapo. Two teams spar off in this tense cat and mouse simulation. One team is the cartel which must protect and elude the agency. The other is the agency which hunts the cartel’s leadership across the world.

Collection: a CIA training game
Collection: a CIA training game

The lesser of the two games (at least to me) is Collection! Players must collect cards which have different resources on them. Players must correctly marshal resources in order to put out fires all You cover the world.

The rules were analyzed by famed game designers Jason Matthews and Dominic Crapuchettes. Both designers said these CIA games showed worthy game design elements. Both also said these games seemed to be more focused on training than on fun. The mechanical strength should go without saying. The CIA tapped famed designer Volko Ruhnke, designer of such games as Labyrinth: the War on Terror.

You can download the information here. It’s quite large so be prepared.

 

Board games and autism

Autism Speaks logo
Autism Speaks logo

It’s always heartening to hear news that your favorite hobby has great side effects. I would still play board games even if there wasn’t any unexpected discoveries such as this. But I’m glad news like this involves tabletop gaming!

A recent article at eMax health lists some bullet points regarding board games and autism. Board games can encourage children with autism to be more social, to learn from the visual nature of board games and to follow directions.

 

Hasbro vs. Mattel in the news

  • Vast Salary Differences: $74,000 per year versus $6,300
Mattel
Mattel

The Wall Street Journal had a fascinating piece about the pay gap. And the pay gap in question was not between men and women–it was between Mattel and Hasbro.

Hasbro’s median yearly salary is a handsome $74,000. Mattel’s is a not-so-handsome $6,300. It would be misleading to end the conversation there. Thankfully, the WSJ explains what is probably obvious: Mattel employs 75% of its workforce in China and Malaysia.

One would think Hasbro, the world’s number two toy manufacturer, would also need a hefty Asian workforce too. Not so. Hasbro does not own the manufacturing of its toys–only the design.

Mattel has made the conscience decision to own large portions of its supply base. Executive leadership at Mattel believes this affords them better quality control. Also, the amount of employees varies considerably between the two toy giants: 35,000+ at Mattel versus just over 5,000 at Hasbro. So salary comparisons are really apples to oranges.

It must be the engineer in me that finds technical details like this fascinating. Two companies in the same industry, bitter rivals for years…and their approach to supply chain management and employee compensation vary so drastically.

  • Fallout from Toys ‘R Us is still under way
Hasbro
Hasbro

Both Hasbro and Mattel’s biggest customer is going out of business. This customer, for those who’ve been under a rock for the last six months, is Toys ‘R Us. This will cause lots of ripples in the toy manufacturing world. It will affect Mattel more than Hasbro, however.

Hasbro has better retailer diversification than Mattel. That’s a fancy way of saying Mattel depends on Toys ‘R Us more than Hasbro.

Also, while Mattel is a larger manufacturer, Mattel is lagging behind Hasbro is some key areas. Think board games. When was the last time you bought a Mattel board game? Probably in the 70’s or the 80’s.

Also, Mattel is owed a heap of cash from Toys ‘R Us. $135 Million all told. That’s more than double what Hasbro is owed.

What can the board game hobby expect from this? Not much. Unless the rumors that Hasbro is going to buy Mattel are true, don’t expect any good or bad news from Mattel or Hasbro on the board game front. I do think Mattel is missing the boat on the resurgence of board games as a hobby. Maybe a intrepid marketing person there will stumble upon my humble little blog and steer Mattel in the right direction. Failing that, our hobby will be unscathed from the Toy’s ‘R Us/Mattel/Hasbro woes.

 

Closer to Home

Century Club in Muskegon
Century Club

Out of the Box has officially closed their Muskegon operations. Jeff, the owner, told me he was making a profit at this store. However, the time it took to spruce up the store due to driving to and fro was not worth it. He could better use this time and energy making this Kentwood store better. Maybe in time, a full Out of the Box, not just a satellite store like the one in the Century Club, would be feasible.

Jeff does have some competition in greater GR. The Kentwood Out of the Box is my favorite store in the metro Grand Rapids area. But it is certainly not the only store in metro GR. Jeff, in my estimation, wants to make Kentwood his flagship store. When the time is right, maybe expand. Maybe Muskegon again. We will see.

MuskeCon
MuskeCon

The second annual Muskegon Toy and Comic Convention (MuskeCon for short) was a few weeks ago. I was planning on attending. Due to a last minute cancellation, I was actually given a booth! Kiel over at the Griffin’s Rest gave me a vendor’s badge. I was given a table to demo some games. So I taught passers by how to play King of New York, Codenames and Karuba. After which, I sent these passers by back to Kiel so he could sell them some games.

I had wanted a booth at MuskeCon for The Gaming Annex. But all the booths were already taken. The convention leadership got almost 100% of their vendors from 2017 to return. And the remainders they filled from a long wait list. The last minute cancellation was a godsend for Kiel and us.

The convention leadership has secured a much needed bigger venue for next year. And in 2020, an even bigger venue will host the convention. The exact whereabouts have not been disclosed. As I learn more, I will report this back to you.

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

We have ended the “dictator cycle”. On Tuesdays, we had a formal way of selecting which games to play. We went in alphabetical order by player’s name. That player got to pick the games for the evening. This was used in order to put the kibosh on the endlessly hemming and hawing. Unfortunately, it was not successful.

The need for a formal way of selecting games was too officious. People wouldn’t or didn’t respond to it as well as was needed. We have instituted an informal system. It doesn’t have a name yet. But it involves some dry erase boards that Dick Dima installed. We will be using these on Thursdays as well. I’m hoping we will have the bugs worked out of this very soon.

We are also changing the Sunday paradigm. For the longest time, we have been playing games on Sundays. However, our Sunday group is by far the weakest in terms of attendance. We have a few ideas to improve this.

  1. Play games on Sundays at noon instead of 9AM. We will do this about once per month. Many of our attendees are church goers so a 9AM start is, well, a nonstarter.
  2. Play games on Saturdays. We will do this once a month also. This should help build the weekend gamer group.
  3. Start a RPG campaign. We have been ignoring the RPG community for far too long. Why not play RPG’s on Saturdays or Sundays? That would build the community fo sho!

 

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Hits & Flops April 2018

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog. I apologize for that. I’m going to renew my commitment to adding good content to this blog. While I’m at it, I’m going to go over my recent hits and flops. There’s been some doozies! Let’s have a look…

Hits & Flops April 2018

Welcome to Centerville

Welcome to Centerville from GMT Games
Welcome to Centerville from GMT Games

Welcome to Centerville is a bit of a departure from GMT’s normal offerings. You would expect some white-knuckled card-driven game about the Roman Empire or World War I. However, you would be mistaken.

Welcome to Centerville is a city building game from Chad Jensen. Jensen is the designer of two other GMT games: Urban Sprawl and Dominant Species. Both are heavy. So when GMT agreed to publish his next game, no one was surprised.

Welcome to Centerville is a dice game. You roll custom six siders. Keep the ones you want and reroll the rest. Then reroll again. Then spend your dice performing one or more actions. As Nick Sima says, it’s like King of New York on crack. This is mostly true. It’s actually Roll through the Ages on crack. Or some other narcotic.

Game board for Welcome to Centerville
Game board for Welcome to Centerville

You can spend your dice to place your cubes on the board. This represents urban development. You can spend your dice to claim vocation tiles. The more of the same type or the more of different types you collect, the more points you earn. Or you can spend dice to obtain public office which gives you a benefit.

The game is heavier than King of New York or Roll through the Ages. But the game is also longer. It has the same failings of these games without the virtues. This game lacks any player interaction which is problematic in a 1.5 to 2 hour long game. When it’s not your turn, there is nothing but downtime. I thought the game was mediocre with 3 players. It was interminable with 4. As such, it’s a flop.

Verdict: flop.

 

Gaia Project

Gaia Project
Gaia Project

Gaia Project is a par excellent example of a Dr. Steve game. It’s a heavy, math crunchy Euro. It’s a reimplementation of the insanely popular Terra Mystica (currently sitting at 8 on BGG).  Gaia Project tweaks some stuff from its predecessor. But overall, if you like or dislike one, your opinion of the other will follow.

In Gaia Project, players will marshal several different resource types in order to build or upgrade their structures. To build the basic structure will require you to terraform the planet. But after that, you will only have to upgrade your structures to better ones. The different structures give you more resources, better technologies or more points.

Special buildings in Gaia Project
Special buildings in Gaia Project

Gaia Project, like most Euros, is all about timing. You take one action on your turn. Then your opponent takes an action. And so on until no one has any actions left to take. There are times when you want to wait to take an action. And other times when you want to seize the moment and take the action now.

This works very well for Gaia Project. You have tons of different ways you can affect the game slightly. But which slight effect will give you an advantage over your foes? This is the tension Gaia Project creates. In addition, the components are cool. Cute little structures that you place on your planets is alright in my book. And the theme works way better in Gaia Project than in Terra Mystica.

Gaia Project is a definite hit for me. I had Griffin’s Rest order me a copy 😀

Verdict: HIT!

 

Cosmocracy

Cosmocracy from Red Shift Games
Cosmocracy from Red Shift Games

When I learned what Cosmocracy was all about, I was not impressed. A party game with play acting? Count me out. I picked the game up last year for our Extra Life event. It was a leftover prize from our swag bags. I relegated it to the Shelf of Misfit Games.

The game kept catching Nick Sima’s eye. He harangued me to let him open it and read the rules. I acquiesced after months of badgering. Then he scrounged a group to play it. I played at the other table so as to not be subjected to a Cosmocracy debacle.

But the other table did not hate Cosmocracy. And Nick Sima kept mentioning Cosmocracy as a filler option over the next few weeks. I acquiesced again, agreeing to at least try it.

Issues & Matters
Issues & Matters

In Cosmocracy, everyone is dealt an alien race. The race has a few characteristics which you are supposed to role play. Then an issue card is flipped over. Two players debate the issue: one is PRO and the other is CON. The issues are always hilarious parodies of common contemporary political tropes. Both players have 30 seconds to state their case. Then there is a brief Q & A for the rest of the players. Then players vote on which person made their case best. Think Apples to Apples meets Twilight Imperium.

And it works. I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed it a fair amount. It moved me out of my comfort zone and forced me to play a role and do improv. It’s a game that can be a filler to cap off the night when you want share a laugh. It could also be a decent tool for theater students to practice their improv. The game had its critics in our group (Bruce and myself, namely). But both us liked it more than we should have.

Verdict: HIT!

 

13 Clues

13 Clues from CMON
13 Clues from CMON

I saw 13 Clues at Out of the Box recently. I was intrigued. A deduction game? Check. Plays quickly? Check. Accommodates up to six people? Check. I decided against buying, however. I have some reservations about quick deduction games. I’ve been burned in the past.

A couple of Saturdays ago our group had an outing at Out of the Box for their Conspiracy Room. We perused the game shelves after our escape room ended. Nick Sima bought the new game 13 Clues from Cool Minis or Not.

Everyone is dealt some cards. You place some on the front of your shield without looking at them. This is the solution to your mystery. You will also have two additional cards which you store behind your shield. You can thus see all the cards on the outside of everyone’s shield along with the cards on the inside of yours. Now you must use this information to ask questions to figure out your solution.

Cards from 13 Clues
Cards from 13 Clues

The cards have different suits and different types. You can ask someone a question about how many of suit or type they see. Everyone gets to hear the response. This could be very useful to someone, hopefully to you.

If it’s your turn, you may ask a question or make an accusation. If you make a successful accusation, you win. Otherwise, play continues. Unlike Clue, where you are eliminated if you make a wrong accusation, in 13 Clues you are not eliminated. Since everyone knows your solution, it doesn’t matter if you are wrong.

Despite the game checking several of my boxes, this game was a flop. My reservations about buying this were warranted. We played this twice now. Once with a full six players and once with five players. The rules a little bit different for 5 or 6 players. Since I played the game with different players and different amounts of players, my verdict will likely go unchanged. So why did I dislike it?

13 Clues isn’t much of a game. There are a few decision points in the game. The rest of the game is downtime. Maybe on your opponents’ turns they will ask a question that has significance to you. Otherwise it’s just downtime. It’s odd that a filler (13 Clues takes 30 minutes to play) could have downtime but here we are.

In addition to the high downtime to decision points in the game, 13 Clues often boils down to pure chance. Who happened to ask the right questions will win. But you cannot really improve upon your question asking skills because the questions you are allowed to ask are rote. Indeed, the questions you should ask on your turn are largely obvious. It’s just a question of whether the answer to your question will be useful. And since you have not control over whether the answers to your question are useful, 13 Clues is not much of a game.

Verdict: flop.

 

If you are interested in learning more about us, visit our meetup group.

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
211 Muskegon Area Gamers

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

Next Meetup

Thursday night games

Thursday, Apr 12, 2018, 6:00 PM
7 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

 

Overlooked Gems: Perry Rhodan and the Cosmic League

I recently wrote about Hellas, a nifty two player game set in classical Greece. It’s part of the Kosmos two player game set. Since then, I introduced Tasha to a couple of Kosmos two player games. The first was Dracula. The second was Perry Rhodan and the Cosmic League. Perry Rhodan is a delightful game which is altogether too often overlooked. It’s also the subject of our blog today.

Overlooked Gems: Perry Rhodan and the Cosmic League

Goal and Overview

Overlooked Gems
Perry Rhodan from Kosmos/Z-Man games

The goal of Perry Rhodan is to be the first player to reach 70 megagalax (victory points). You score points for delivering goods and passengers. These deliveries take place on a series of planets in a single solar system. You and your opponent will move from planet to planet, landing and taking off, in an effort to pick up goods and deliver them to the necessary planets.

Goods cards from Perry Rhodan
Goods cards from Perry Rhodan

Each goods card has to be delivered to a specific planet. Each is worth two or three VP. When delivered, the cards are flipped to their other side which has a different planet depicted on it. If any of these flipped cards have the same planet on them when flipped, they are removed from the game. Because of this, goods become ever more scarce.

Players also have a hand of cards. Some are passengers looking for passage to these planets. You score 3VP for taking them to their destinations.

Play ends when one player has reached 70.

Game Play

Score track in Perry Rhodan
Score track in Perry Rhodan

On his turn, a player gets two actions. There are three types of actions from which to choose: load cargo, unload cargo and purchase technology. All three require a player to be on a planet.

Players start the game with a container. They may place cargo on this, spending an action to do so. A container can only hold cargo for one planet and once there is cargo on the container, it can only be unloaded.

Players will take their cargo to the planets depicted on the cargo cards. By spending an action, a player can score points for selling all of the cargo in one of his containers.

Technology cards from Perry Rhodan
Technology cards from Perry Rhodan

The last action type a player can take is buying a technology. Players start with a technology card in play: Container/Replenishment. Each additional technology a player wants will cost him both an action and victory points. The cost in VP is equal to how many technologies he already owns.

The technology cards will give a player a lot flexibility in his strategy. Some cards will allow you to move farther, gain an additional container, give you the ability to perform one of your actions in space so you don’t have to land or to draw more cards.

Because of the VP cost, players will have a tough decision about which techs to buy. If you buy too many, you will lose too much VP ground to your opponent. Don’t buy the correct ones, and you won’t keep pace with your opponent.

Intervention card from Perry Rhodan
Intervention card from Perry Rhodan

In addition to taking two actions, a player may take two interventions. Each card in a player’s hand is either a technology card or an intervention card. The intervention cards give a player a one time bonus such as an extra action, or the ability to load cargo from a remote planet.

Your opponent can cancel your intervention if he plays the same card as you. Since you only get two interventions, you will have to use them correctly to get the edge on a savvy opponent.

To get from planet to planet, a player will have to execute a flight. This is done by rolling a die. If you roll a 1, you may reroll, adding 1 to the result. Thus, the minimum distance you will move is 2 with 7 or more being a possibility.

Players will move from planet to orbit for 1 movement point. To move from one planet’s orbit to another planet’s orbit will cost 1 movement point if you are moving towards the sun but 2 movement points if you are moving away. Some technologies will give you bonus movement. Players are free to execute their actions, interventions and flight in any order.

Why is Perry Rhodan good?

Perry Rhodan game in progress
Perry Rhodan game in progress

Perry Rhodan has four things going for it. One: it’s a short game. Counting set up and tear down, you are looking at 30 minutes to play a game.

Two: exploding 1’s. Several games have exploding dice. But usually these are exploding 6’s like in Firefly. But exploding 1’s are so much better. You are always going to get at least a 2. And if you get really lucky, you might end up with a 7 or 8. This narrows the luck factor considerably and allows for better planning.

Three: lots of interaction. This is not a two player solitaire game. You will be scooping the cargo goods from a planet before your opponent gets them. You will play intervention cards to cancel his cards. You will want to pay attention to his technology purchases so you can respond properly. The interaction is about what you would want in both a 30 minute game and a pick up and delivery game.

Four: players get two actions per turn. I can’t tell you how much I like games where this is the case. Games where you only get one action are fine and all; but they are easy to predict your opponent’s decisions, allowing for analysis paralysis. Some games give players 3 actions such as Clash of Cultures or Merchants & Marauders. This can be difficult to remember how many actions you’ve taken. But two actions in a turn? That really hits a sweet spot. You can’t game out which actions you’re opponent is going to take so you eliminate analysis paralysis. Plus you can pull off some cool combos on your turn. An example would be the classic A Few Acres of Snow. When you can compare a 30 minute game to A Few Acres of Snow, you know you have a gem on your hands.

Who will like Perry Rhodan?

Merchant of Venus
Merchant of Venus

Perry Rhodan and the Cosmic League is a good fit for most people looking for a two player game. But it also scratches a few other itches as well.

I’ve mentioned Firefly earlier. Perry Rhodan is like a two player version of Firefly. You fly around space, picking up cargo and delivering it. But it takes 30 minutes instead of 4 hours.

But Perry Rhodan is probably the spiritual successor to Merchant of Venus. The classic roll-and-move space faring pick up and deliver game probably inspired designer Heinrich Glumpler to make a two player version. For me, Perry Rhodan is the superior execution of this theme compared to the bloated Merchant of Venus.

Give it a try. Let me know if you agree.

And as always, you can come by The Gaming Annex to check it out too!

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Around the World of Board Gaming: March 2018

Lots going on in our hobby. Toys ‘R Us may close their stores this week. Games Workshop seems to have the Midas touch. A new store opened in Grand Haven. All of this and more. I hope you enjoy…

Around the World of Board Gaming March 2018

 

Toys ‘R Us closure seems imminent

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

It was back in October 2017 when I first blogged about Toys ‘R Us’s imminent bankruptcy. Even back then, the consequences of this bankruptcy seemed unpredictable. Now the consequences are bit more in focus: Toys ‘R Us is in deep trouble.

The toy megastore could close its doors this week. The way has been paved for the closure of their European stores. And the closure of the North American stores seems hot on their trails.

The closing of Toys ‘R Us will have a huge impact on the toy industry. Toys ‘R Us is the last toy megastore. They account for 10% of Hasbro and Mattel’s sales. Without Toys ‘R Us, Mattel and Hasbro will lose some of their ability to sell off brand toys.

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

But what concerns us here is: how will this affect our hobby? The answer is: probably not much. The closing will cause ripples for Lego, Hasbro and Mattel. It will stifle these companies short term innovation. But it will have a minimal impact on our hobby. Our hobby wasn’t really predicated on Toys ‘R Us. The occasional Toys ‘R Us exclusive like the Clue Star Wars game will still be developed. But it will probably be a Target exclusive instead.

The restructuring of Toys ‘R Us will have a huge indirect impact on our hobby however. It will slow down the merger between Mattel and Hasbro. Rumors have been swirling that the Hasbro wants to add Mattel to their already huge studio. Such a joint venture would be quite impactful to the tabletop hobby. But this merger is still just a rumor. And the Toys ‘R Us news will only slow down such a merger if it is to happen at all.

When I know more about this, I’ll blog more about it then.

 

…but Games Workshop is making bank

Games Workshop
Games Workshop

The news about Toys ‘R Us does not portend ill for the tabletop gaming hobby. Indeed, Games Workshop is doing amazing. The Nottingham, UK based manufacturer boasts a 160% increase in stock value in just 12 months. Their decisions to divorce Fantasy Flight and then marry WizKids has them seeing black.

GW Stock prices
GW Stock prices

I’ve blogged about Games Workshop’s divorce and remarriage. At each juncture I’ve tried to cover the subject fairly. It may not be completely apparent from my blogging, but while I’m a huge fan of Games Workshop’s games, I am a huge opponent of their business practices.

While I’m not a fan of their business practices, there is no denying GW is more knowledgeable about how to stay successful in this business than I. They also will still have 460 stores worldwide by the end of 2018–a feat that Toys ‘R Us sadly will not be able to boast. I’ll give them props about staying profitable. Now if we can just get them to rescind their lawyers from attacking every BGG user I’d be tickled pink.

Magnus Carlsen will defend his chess title

Muskegon loves chess Magnus Carlsen
Magnus Carlsen
Credit Morten Rakke/FilmRise

The World Chess Federation (FIDE) organizes the Candidate Tournament each March. That tournament, which decides who will be the contender for the world championship, is happening now. The current champion, Magnus Carlsen, will undoubtedly be watching the white knuckled matches to find out who his competition will be.

I’ve blogged about Magnus over a year ago. The Norwegian prodigy is a master at the standard timed game but he is damn near unbeatable in the blitz matches. He will have his work cut out for him this year. The field is very competitive.

The Guardian has reported Levon Aronian is their favorite for this Candidate Tournament. Aronian, an Armenian grand master, defeated Carlsen in 2017 in the Altibox, Norway tournament. While this wasn’t for the World Championship, it does prove Aronian can stand toe-to-toe to Carlsen.

The actual championship matches will be in November. I will keep you informed about it as the time approaches.

Closer to Home

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

There’s been some developments at the ol’ Gaming Annex. We recently promoted Jonathan to full member. Jonathan has been coming to The Gaming Annex for over a year now. He’s a fixture on Thursday nights. We’ve been proud to add him to our ranks.

Next up is the dictator cycle. On Tuesdays, we take turns picking the games. Each person gets to pick the games on his night, that is, he’s the dictator. This has been a mixed bag. It helps with some of the hemming and hawing about which games to play. But some of the crew are not that proactive in picking games. We will need a new solution.

I’m thinking about adding some dry erase calendars to the walls. Our Tuesday night crew can write down on the boards what games they want to play when they are at the Annex. We discuss these things on Tuesdays. Why not jot them down on a calendar right then and there?

Quartermaster General 1914 in action
Quartermaster General 1914 in action

I may also give Dusty admin rights on the meetup group to accompany this new paradigm. The idea is: there will be two meetups on Tuesdays. One will be for table 1 and the other meetup event will be for table 2. When you RSVP, you will be RSVP’ing for a specific game. This will cut down on the hemming and hawing as well.

Griffins Rest logo
Griffins Rest logo

Our next event with the Griffin’s Rest is set in stone. We will meet there on Thursday, March 22nd. This will be our second joint venture with them. I’m anticipating a stronger turnout this go around. The doors open at 2PM. Our crew will be there around 4 or 5PM. Hope to see you all there.

Dragon's Den in Grand Haven
Dragon’s Den in Grand Haven

There’s a new game store in Grand Haven. The Dragon’s Den, located at 1119 Washington Street, has the same location as the Burrow. And their business focus is on the same games: Warhammer, D&D and other miniature wargames. But these are new owners and have not other connection to the Burrow.

The Dragon’s Den had their grand opening on Saturday. I convinced my doting wife to come with me to check it out. Their inventory was light. Lighter than the Griffin’s Rest’s initial inventory. But Aaron, one of our Twilight Imperium regulars, said he’s optimistic. The owners of the Dragon’s Den seem to have more financial backing than the Burrow. And the Dragon’s Den is going to be open 7 days a week–solving some complaints people had about the Burrow which wasn’t opened at convenient times.

I’m hoping the Dragon’s Den has an interest in doing some joint ventures with our group. I’ll have my staff look into it. Check the meet up for more details.

 

Speaking of our meetup: you can join here. Jonathan did.

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
207 Muskegon Area Gamers

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

Next Meetup

Thursday night games

Thursday, Mar 15, 2018, 6:00 PM
3 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

Overlooked Gems: Hellas

I recently had the chance to acquaint Iggy to a little two player game called Hellas. Hellas was published in 2002 by Kosmos, the company that made all the famous two player games. Hellas is part of that line of games. Hellas was created by Franz-Benno Delonge, the creator of such games as Big City, Manila and Trans Europa. This overlooked game comes from this oft overlooked designer. Let’s give them the consideration they are due. Because Hellas is a helluva game.

Overlooked Gems: Hellas from Kosmos

Overview and objective

Hellas from Kosmos
Hellas from Kosmos

In a game of Hellas, you and your opponent will vie for control of the city states of ancient Greece. You can conquer cities from your opponent, explore the seas in order to find new lands to settle cities upon, levy new ships and soldiers or petition the help of the gods. The first player to control 10 cities is the winner. At your disposal are Greek armies, ships and the fickle power of the ancient Greek gods.

Hellas game board
Hellas game board

The game board is made up of modular hexagon tiles. Each tile has a city on it. Each tile has various land and water features. Some are islands, some have land on one or two hexsides, and some have land on 3 or 4 hexsides. This will constrain where you will be able to place them when you take a Voyage action. Additionally, some tiles have temples. These are useful when taking a Burst of Strength action.

Game Play

Players take turns resolving an action until one player has reached 10 cities. The actions players can take are: Burst of Strength, Voyage and Attack. Each action is important as you cannot win the game by ignoring any of them.

God Cards from Hellas
God Cards from Hellas

Players take Burst of Strength actions in order to gain armies, ships and god cards. You get a total of 3 of these items unless you have more temples than your opponent–in which case you get 4. You need armies to take cities from your opponent. You need ships to explore. And you need god cards to surprise your opponent and to mitigate some luck.

Exploring in Hellas
Exploring in Hellas

You and your opponent each start the game with 4 cities. Since you need 10 cities to win, you cannot win by simply taking all the starting cities. You will need to take a Voyage action. In order to Voyage, you will need ships. You draw a hex tile. You can place the tile if you meet to criteria: the tile’s land and water matches the game board’s land and water; you have more ships adjacent to the space where you are placing the tile than your opponent. If successful, you spend one ship and gain one army on the new city. Do this enough and you will reach 10 cities.

Poseidon cards
Poseidon cards

You may want some Poseidon cards to help you. The god of the sea can let you voyage twice. Or maybe he can let you draw a second tile from the deck.  Maybe Poseidon has new Greek armies on the island waiting to join your cause. The god of the sea offers several ways to help you when you take a voyage action.

Which way to Sparta?
Which way to Sparta?

You will need to make some attacks along the way. You may do this to slow down your opponent or to grab your last few cities. You can move your armies to adjacent cities in order to attack them. If you bring more troops than your opponent, you beat him.

But Ares, god of war, may be on hand. Many of the Ares cards allow you defeat your opponent when you are tied in power. Or maybe attack across the board instead of adjacent.

The last type of card is the Zeus card. Zeus gives players lots of flexibility such as cancelling your opponent’s card, doing extra things during a Burst of Strength action, or taking an extra extra action.

My final thoughts

Equipment
Equipment

I’m a fan of Hellas. I think all the card decks and all the actions fit together nicely into a nifty two player game. The game does have some flaws however. The cards have interactions which never received an FAQ. Keep this in mind if you pick up a cheap copy on eBay. Otherwise, I recommend it. The plastic pieces are cute. The tiles are beautiful. The card artwork is minimalist but still feels Greek.

My rating: 8.

 

Afterword

I think I will be doing my “Overlooked Gems” on a monthly basis. I’ll add this to my “Hits & Flops” and “Around the World of Board Gaming” columns. Let me know if you like this column as much as the others. Also, let me know if you want to play Hellas. I think I can muster up a copy 😉

 

 

 

 

 

Board Game News

An ancient board game was unearthed in Slovakia. The Peter Principle can be applied to the game of poker. An extravagant airbnb caters to gamers. All of these topics and more will be discussed in this month’s installments of…

Around the World of Board Gaming: February 2018

1. Mainstream media is still catching up

Wall Street Journal logo
Wall Street Journal logo

Newsflash: board games are popular! This may not be the lede for long time members of the Muskegon Area Gamers. But we are on the cutting edge. Some mainstream media are still catching up. I’ll give them a pass because they are covering our beloved hobby.

A couple of recent articles drew my attention. The first is from the Wall Street Journal. The Daily Diary of the American Dream wrote about five games which you should seriously consider as alternatives to Monopoly. The list includes 13 Minutes. This is a slimmed down version of 13 Days which is a slimmed down version of Twilight Struggle. They also mentioned Memoir ’44, 1960: the Making of the President and Freedom: the Underground Railroad. That’s a nice cache of games!

Not to be outdone, The Atlantic also covered board games in their business section. This article is a good history of modern board games. The 1,700 word article discusses several themes: Eurogames, Ameritrash, and Spiel des Jahres. The article also drops many names: El Grande, Power Grid, Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan. This is a very good (and thorough) article for the uninitiated. It’s satisfying to see our hobby get the positive news coverage it deserves.

2. Ancient board game fascinates archeologists

Ancient Roman board game
Ancient Roman board game

An excavation of a 4th Century tomb in Slovakia has yielded an incomplete board game. And it’s the subject of an actual archaeology review.  In order to better understand the subject, archaeologists turned to a board game expert from Switzerland.

Ulrich Schädler is a curator of a board game museum and an editor of Board Game Studies, a peer reviewed journal. He was tapped by the archaeology community to reveal the game’s secrets. Figuring out how to play a game when you have the English rules in hand is often a struggle. Imagine how difficult it is to piece the rules together when there are no rules, no mention of the game in the historic record and the game is missing pieces. Mr. Schädler is the best person for this Herculean task. As his research is published, I’ll post about here in this blog.

3. Bed & Breakfast & Board Games

Great Escape Lakeside AirBnB
Great Escape Lakeside AirBnB

The Gaming Annex crew rents a cabin once a year and has a mini game convention. Dubbed “CabinCon”, our budding group is boasting almost a dozen gamers for this 4 day extravaganza.

It seems our idea has been stolen by some industrious folks in Clermont, Florida. Named the Great Escape Lakeside, this mansion could house several of our CabinCons. It’s 13 bedrooms in size, sleeps a staggering 43 people and has a different board game theme in each room.

Monopoly room
Monopoly room

The amenities include 10 acres of gaming fun. Video games, billiards, foosball and as many board games as you imagine. The price is as exorbitant as the amenities: $1,400 a night.

The likelihood our crew will make it to this gaming Mecca is quite small. But I’m going to add it to my Holy Grail list.

4. Interesting article about Poker

Muskegon loves itself some Poker, especially Texas Hold 'em tourneys.
Poker

Poker got a huge boon in the early 2000’s. With the advent of the internet and the broadcasting of the World Series of Poker, suddenly everyone and their brother thought he could play poker. The fad has died down a bit because it takes some serious chops to play poker professionally.

There are echelons of poker playing. The low limit or small blind games. And from there you can go to $100 or even $1,000 blind games. A recent article looked at these echelons as “work place promotions”. You start at one level, an entry level poker player. Then move up from there. And if you look at it from this point of view, the Peter Principle applies.

The Peter Principle states that employees will be promoted until they have reached a level of incompetence–and then they will stay at that incompetent level. Stated another way, employees are evaluated based upon their current position instead of the promoted position. And based on this criteria, the Peter Principle applies to poker.

Many poker players would win at a low level and then promote themselves to the next level. As the stakes increased, the competition improved from amateur to professional and eventually to world class. If you are good at the amateur level, you might believe you can compete at a professional level. If you cannot, human psychology might make you dig in your heels and stick it out instead of demoting yourself to your actual level of competence.

The author’s epilogue is cautionary:

Poker isn’t a lot of fun for any of us when the Peter Principle kicks in. We’re taking our licks and losing our money — neither of which is very much fun. So keep a good log of your wins and losses so you can find that sweet spot that’s just right for you.

Closer to Home

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

Out of the Box is starting their 2018 membership drive. You buy $150 worth of games and you get your full discount on the purchase and you get your $25/year membership fee waived. The drive will be continuing for several weeks so you still have time to make a trip. I know I’ll be making the Out of the Box hajj soon.

Scythe from Ghenos Games
Scythe from Ghenos Games

Our Nick Sima went to Griffin’s Rest recently to hold a Scythe Demo. This was our 2nd joint event with the cool new store on 3rd Street. To his amazement, Nick Sima discovered someone other than he owned a copy of the game! On a related note, our next joint venture will be in late February, probably on a Thursday. Check local listings for dates and times.

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

Meanwhile, back at The Gaming Annex
Our advisory board* is working on a few long term policy projects. We need a better way to evaluate candidates. Our current method leaves a lot to be desired. We’ve been using a “30 game gauntlet” along with an arbitrary attendance record. But a better codified system would remove much of the current subjectivity. Newbie Abby was a bit critical of a new system but maybe we’ll grandfather her in with our old system 😉

The other topic is how to better plan our Tuesday and Thursday game nights. We often have late comers and we are overbooked for one table. There isn’t enough communication ahead of time so we often hem and haw over how to handle this problem. Normally, everyone is amenable to a solution. But there have been a couple of times where feelings were hurt because we couldn’t accommodate everyone. This may seem like a easy problem to solve. It hasn’t proven to be.

*We are still looking for a better name. 

 

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Happy Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl LII is upon us. Tom Brady is going for his 6th Super Bowl win. The Philadelphia Eagles are going for their club’s first. Between bruising hits and dazzling catches punctuated by $5 million commercial spots, you may wonder how your gaming table could ever simulate tonight’s excitement. Wonder know more. Here is a list of some of the more popular football board games.

Super Bowl Sunday Special

 

1st & Goal

1st & Goal from R&R Games
1st & Goal from R&R Games

Want to pick a play and then chuck some dice? Want to outguess your opponent’s plays? Then 1st & Goal is the game for you!

There is a deck of cards. When the deck is exhausted, the quarter is over. You have a hand of cards which have plays on them. You and your opponent play a card simultaneously. Your play and his play match up to state which dice you roll. The more dice, generally the better for the offense.

Halfback Dive play card
Halfback Dive play card

The dice are color coded. The black dice are rolled by the defender. The other dice are rolled by the offense. The outcome is how many yards are gained or lost.

When you take a timeout, you can go into the discard pile and take a card, thus extending the quarter by one card or play. It also gives you a card that you may need want to play.

What about expansions and replayability? There are several team expansions. Each expansion has teams with specific strengths and weaknesses because they have their own dice.

You can pick up the base game cheap. The game was strongly supported by the publisher. And if you want a beer and pretzel football game, 1st & Goal is a strong challenger.

Techno Bowl

Technobowl from Bombshell Games
Technobowl from Bombshell Games

Are you a fan of the 1990’s Nintendo game Techno Bowl? Then you may be a fan of the board game adaptation. The design intent was to make a faithful interpretation of the video game classic.

Pixel block players
Pixel block players

Techno Bowl is a game of programmed movement. You play five cards face down. Then you and your opponent will activate the cards. The cards activate a specific player who can block, move or run with the ball.

The programmed movement of the board game is a nice way to mimic the original. In the original game, your success was largely dictated by guessing a play that matched well against your opponent’s play selection. The board game version, unfortunately, takes over an hour to play. If you can tolerate the game length and you were a fan of the video game, then Techno Bowl might be the right choice for you.

Pizza Box Football

Pizza Box Football from On the Line Games
Pizza Box Football from On the Line Games

Pizza Box Football offers you a football experience in an eponymous pizza box. This gimmick should appeal to many football fans who eat Domino’s while watching their favorite teams play.

In Pizza Box Football, players will secretly choose a play. In the case of the defender, he chooses run, short pass or long pass. If he guesses correctly, that is, if his guess matches the offense player’s play choice, the offense will likely not get many yards. Otherwise, the offense will more likely make a good gain.

Pizza Box Football comes with spreadsheets for you to compare yours and your opponent’s choices. This amounts to convoluted rock-paper-scissors. This may appeal to some gamers. The price should definitely appeal to gamers on a budget.

Card Football

Card Football
Card Football

What happens when you combine War with Poker? You get football! Well, not really. But you do get Card Football. And that is the gist of this cute little card game. You and your opponent play one or more cards. Whoever plays the better poker hand may execute the power on their cards.

Do you play your best cards now? Or do you wait to force a turnover? This simple mechanic makes this a fast paced game. It mimics football a bit. But is a nice addition to a game collection where you want to get a new player acclimated to the world of gaming.

Where the tabletop excitement never ends…

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
206 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

Dictator Make Up night

Tuesday, Feb 6, 2018, 6:00 PM
2 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

Board Game Documentary Review: Under the Boardwalk

We really are living in a board game renaissance. Even documentaries are treating board games as their subject. I recently watched a documentary about Monopoly called Under the Boardwalk. Here’s the scoop.

Board Game Documentary Review Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story

 

Under the Boardwalk documentary
Under the Boardwalk documentary

Released in 2010, Under the Boardwalk tells the history of the world’s most famous board game while also following the 2009 Monopoly world championship. The documentary was created by relatively unknown Kevin Tostado who weaves his narrative between the history and culture of Monopoly and back to scenes of the 2009 championship. The documentary is like a dream come true for any Monopoly fanboy. Those who love the game will love this documentary. Those who don’t love Monopoly will still find it entertaining enough.

The History of Monopoly

Muskegon doesn't play Monopoly
Monopoly?!

The documentary does a very good job describing the history of Monopoly. The game began in the early 1900’s as a critique of landowners. It took 30 years for it to become published by Parker Brothers.

The original game did not come with game tokens. Charles Darrow wrote in his rules that people should take household objects such as thimbles and pennies and use them as your tokens.

Monopoly cat replaces iron

When Parker Brothers bought the rights to the game, they asked Darrow what he would suggest be used in their game as tokens for the “official” game. Darrow recommended using charms. That’s why there are metal charms and thimbles in the game.

I won’t go into all the details the documentary does. But after watching it, I know more about the history of Monopoly than I ever thought I would.

The 2009 Championship

Waddingtons' Monopoly
Waddingtons’ Monopoly

There are several interludes in the movie about the world championship game in 2009. Like chess, Monopoly has a worldwide following with large cash purses. The cash prizes are $20,580. Why such an odd amount? Because a standard game of Monopoly has this much play money in it.

The cast of characters in the championship are interviewed throughout the documentary. Among them is Ken Koury–the guy who wrote the book on Monopoly strategy. I was intrigued by Koury. I found him to be a bit like Billy Mitchell from the Donkey Kong documentary: fierce, almost villainous.

An elementary school teacher was also headed to the championship. Tim Vandenberg teaches 6th grade. He introduces his students to Monopoly. He uses it to teach probabilities, money management and expected values. He won an online tournament which allowed him to go to the national championships in DC.

Monopoly was a gaming linchpin for Muskegon
Monopoly from Parker Brothers

The rest of the movie shows the US championships in Washington DC and then the world championships in Las Vegas. This part of the documentary was a bit of a drag. The cast of characters, other than the ones I mentioned above, were a bit boring or bland. Watching them play Monopoly was like watching a worse version of the World Series of Poker: there is no bluffing and the dice rolls feel very arbitrary.

Conclusion

New Monopoly pieces
New Monopoly pieces

Under the Boardwalk does a good job at telling Monopoly’s history. It shows what the tournament scene is like for Monopoly. Technical aspects such as sound and film editing were also well done.

My main gripe is: the documentary was not as interesting as it could have been. There was no humor in it despite several opportunities. The cast of players seemed to be interesting but that did not always get captured by the documentarian. This could be due to the subject matter. Maybe Monopoly is not that interesting of a topic. But I doubt it.

As I mentioned, the creator of the documentary is relatively unknown. The director is still feeling out his style. I suspect if he were to do more documentaries, we would see him hone his craft. Kevin Tostado did the subject justice. But some portions were considerably better than others.

The movie is available on Amazon prime and Netflix. The movies is 98 minutes long–and it should entertain you for about 75 of those minutes.

 

 

Thrift Store Finds

I haven’t done a thrift store report in some time. And not because I’ve been avoiding thrift stores either. The past several weeks leading up to Christmas have been particularly fruitful. I’ll get the good stuff in a minute. First I’d like to remind everyone that The Gaming Annex has a presence at Timeless Treasures (1447 W. Sherman Blvd). This “presence” is kind of a mini “Gaming Annex II” where I make these games (and other games) available to the public. Our presence isn’t huge (less than 50 games). But it will continue to grow. As always, if you want any of these games, just ask. Some are at The Gaming Annex and some are at Timeless Treasures. And now for the list…

Thrift Store Finds January 2018

Sheriff of Nottingham

Sheriff of Nottingham from Arcane Wonders
Sheriff of Nottingham from Arcane Wonders

Sheriff of Nottingham is a family bluffing and deal making game. The goal is to accumulate the most wealth. You will have to be a savvy sheriff and a savvy bluffer to win this game. Each player will get a turn as the sheriff. As the sheriff of Nottingham, you will get to decide which players will be allowed free passage and which players will have their luggage searched and seized.

Legal items in Sheriff of Nottingham
Legal items in Sheriff of Nottingham

Players are free to bribe the sheriff so he will allow you free passage. The sheriff is allowed to look at search the luggage of one player. If he finds illegal items, you must pay a penalty. Otherwise, the sheriff just wasted his time.

I found a copy at the Goodwill on Harvey Street. I often post pictures of my conquests on our Facebook page.  Darrin, part of our extended group, came over and grabbed this game before I could even inventory it. It turned out to be complete save for the bag. Darrin was happy to get a copy of this game–reason enough to go on living.

 

Camel Up

Camel Up from Z-Man Games
Camel Up from Z-Man Games

Camel Up is a great family game of betting and speculation. It centers around a camel race in Egypt near the turn of the century. Players do not control a specific camel; instead they make bets about which camels they think will win.Then try to make that outcome a reality.

Camel Up won the Spiel des Jahres in 2014. And deservedly so. It’s a solid entry. Camel Up can almost fire Long Shot, another racing/betting/speculation game. Camel Up has better components, a bit friendly theme and more player agency than Long Shot.

I found a complete copy at the Goodwill in Rockford. Like Sheriff of Nottingham, I didn’t have it long before Jonathan pleaded with me to let him have it.

 

Sushi Go

Sushi Go Party from Game Wright
Sushi Go Party from Game Wright

Game Wright is trying to make crossover games. They want to continue to make cute family/children’s games while also making good strategy games. Sushi Go is the par excellent example of this.

Sushi Go (and Sushi Go Party) is like a dumbed down version of 7 Wonders. It’s a drafting game but with simpler scoring than 7 Wonders. You play a few rounds. Add up your points. Then call it a day.

Sushi Go Party is like a cross between 7 Wonders and Dominion. You play 7 Wonders (an all drafting game) but you can select which decks to use (like in Dominion). Sushi Go Party is definitely the way to go if you are looking for a family version of 7 Wonder.

I found a complete copy recently. The tin was still in pristine condition. And the cards do not appear to be played. I still have it at The Annex for any members who need a copy.

 

Epic Resort

Epic Resort from Floodgate Games
Epic Resort from Floodgate Games

Have you ever wanted to own a resort? Have you ever wanted to own one in a medieval fantasy setting? Well, you’re in luck. Floodgate Games published Epic Resort in 2014.

Epic Resort is a worker placement and deck building game. These two mechanics do not often overlap. But if they did overlap, I could see how they might do so in a monster laden tourist trap like Epic Resort.

Players will attract tourists to their resorts. Players will also try to attract heroes who can stave off monsters. You will have a deck of workers. You will use these workers to build attractions and to attract more tourists.

I stumbled across a complete copy recently. This is currently at The Annex also 🙂

 

A collection of Munchkin games

Steve Jackson's Munchkin
Steve Jackson’s Munchkin

Munchkin is the perfect example of the type of game I like to find when thrifting. I don’t care for the game per se. But there is no denying it’s appeal to the general public. If I can find a cheap copy, I will usually re-thrift it to some local person who will have to make their first visit to The Gaming Annex in order to pick it up.

I found a collection of 4 Munchkin games: Nightmare before Christmas, Axe Cop, Adventure Time and Zombies. All complete and in good condition. These are available at Timeless Treasures.

 

Risk, Risk and more Risk

Muskegon and classic board games like Risk & Castle Risk
Parker Brothers’ Risk & Castle Risk

Risk, like Munchkin, is a game I will typically pick up at a thrift store. I have so many different copies, I can usually cobble pieces together to complete any incomplete specimen.

Risk is a mainstay at thrift stores. If you don’t found a copy at a thrift store, you didn’t try hard enough. Of course, finding special copies of Risk requires more dedication; but your standard run-of-the-mill copies are everywhere.

I found an incomplete copy of Risk & Castle Risk recently. Luckily, I have spare pieces to complete it. It is now available at Timeless Treasures. I also found several copies of normal Risk.

I also found a copy of Risk: Lord of the Rings edition–with the One Ring. Primo!

Other Notable Finds

DC Rival Card Game
DC Rival Card Game
Trump: the Game (2nd Edition)
Trump: the Game (2nd Edition)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dice Masters X-Men Vs. Avengers
Dice Masters X-Men Vs. Avengers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out our partners at Michigan Gamers…

Michigan Gamers
Michigan Gamers

Hits & Flops

It’s always fun doing the Hits & Flops column. This is where I pan games after a single play or, less commonly, heap mounds of praise on them. This month we will look at Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition, Legacy of Dragonholt and a Stockpile. Hope you enjoy!

Hits & Flops December 2017

Crossfire

Crossfire from Plaid Hat Games
Crossfire from Plaid Hat Games

Dusty loves social deduction games. They are his favorite genre. The typical attendees at The Gaming Annex, however, are lukewarm on the genre. To be sure, there are a few very good social deduction games: Werewords and Avalon for example. But there are some that fall flat.

The reason why I don’t care for games like Werewolf, One Night Werewolf or One Night Revolution is because I don’t know what team I am on. Typically in these games, you will get a role. Then someone could swap your role. And then you do not know what team you are on. So you could play the game thinking your are a good guy only to be surprised at the end that you are a bad guy.

Games where you have your role switched like this are problematic. Think Battlestar Galactica where you could become a cylon at the half way point. It’s rather annoying.

And there is role swapping in Crossfire. Uh-oh!

But the role swapping in Crossfire isn’t terrible. You get to see your initial role card. Then you pass it to the left. And then it gets shuffled and dealt to one of the players to your left. And then you get to see your new role. This fixes a lot. Players know what role they are. Players have some information about the other players but it’s scrambled. And the game only lasts 5 minutes.

We played it a couple of times. The game wasn’t terrible. But I’m not ready to say it’s a hit yet. There is a journeyman quality to social deduction games. And our group hasn’t made the journey yet.

Verdict: Undecided

 

2. Mansions of Madness 2

Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition
Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition

I’ve written about Mansions of Madness (1st edition) a few times on this blog. I was not a fan. I tried it three times and hated it each time. The game was dismissed by most of the people in our group in fact.

Our partner at Iggy Games owns the new edition of Mansions of Madness. He brought it over for us to try. And it was amazing. I rated the 1st edition a measly “3” on boardgamegeek. But I give the 2nd edition a solid “7”. Here’s why.

The 2nd edition is app driven instead of requiring a game master. This means there is no tedious set up where Jeremy (Scott) Pyne spends 30 minutes poring over which components to include or exclude.

Mansions of Madness 2nd edition contents
Mansions of Madness 2nd edition contents

Because there is an app, there is much less set up time, the game is fully cooperative and there is less upkeep. All of this helps make the game a bit better. But the app also has a sound track. And this is the real charm of the game. The soundtrack, when paired with a Bluetooth device, adds ambiance to the game. Every creaking door, every foreboding exploration and every lurking monster. Players will be fully immersed in the game.

The game play is so much better than the 1st edition, I should write another blog about “games that fired other games” Not only does Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition fire its first edition forebear, it fires Betrayal at House on the Hill as well.

Verdict: Unequivocal hit!

 

3. Legacy of Dragonholt

Legacy of Dragonholt box
Legacy of Dragonholt box

Fantasy Flight released Legacy of Dragonholt in Q4 of 2017. This is an immersion into their Runewars universe, a milieu they are fleshing out since losing their Games Workshop licenses.

Legacy of Dragonholt is an RPG/board game fusion. Players make characters. Then they read paragraphs from the book. They make decisions about what to do as a party based upon their characters’ quirks and the game’s narrative. The game encourages players to make character decisions more so than optimal game decisions. This will appeal to some players.

But not to me.

Legacy of Dragonholt contents
Legacy of Dragonholt contents

I prefer my games to have hard-and-fast objectives. I don’t find games like this or Tales of the Arabian Nights particularly good. I do enjoy Tales of the Arabian Nights because it is a game filled with so many laughs. But Legacy of Dragonholt is not filled with laughs. It’s a slog.

To be sure, this game is perfect for the right players. To the right group who wants to explore and create, Legacy of Dragonholt will be a great fit. To a player who wants a story experience more than a game experience, Legacy will find a place on the shelf. And FFG will undoubtedly support it with expansions.

But for me, the game was a flop. A rather loud one at that.

Verdict: Flop

 

5. Stockpile

Stockpile from Nauvoo Games
Stockpile from Nauvoo Games

Making a good stock market game is tough. How do you capture the idea of wheelin’ and dealin’ on a stock exchange, make it simple enough to learn while also making it fun to play? That’s a tall order.

But that is exactly what Seth Van Orden and Brett Sobol have done. They have made what will probably end up being my favorite stock game.

Stockpile contents
Stockpile contents

Players will get a handful of cards. They can look at them. Then they place them either face up or face down in the auction offering areas.

The “wheelin and dealin'” part of Stockpile has been replaced with a rigid auction mechanic like in Vegas Showdown. This works nicely in Stockpile.

Players will bid on an auction offering. Because some cards are face down, you will not know what cards your opponent put there. Most cards are good: additional stocks, the ability to move stock prices up or down, etc. But some cards are “broker fees” where you must pay $1 to $3. Since the object is to have the most money, these cards should be avoided.

Players also are given an incomplete forecast of the stocks. Each player will secretly know how one stock will perform. Plus another stock’s information is public to all players. And some stocks are hidden from players until the end of the round. This makes for speculation–just like in the real stock exchange.

Stockpile isn’t just a good stock market game; it’s a good strategy game and a good family game. Stockpile should find its way into most player’s collection. If you haven’t tried it, you should. And if you have tried it, you will likely buy it.

Verdict: it’s a hit!

 

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