Category Archives: Hits & Flops

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

 

 

Hits & Flops

You know what we haven’t done in a long while? An installment of “hits & flops”. We have played many new games at The Gaming Annex in the past couple of months. There have been several letdowns. But there have also been a few surprises. Let’s take a look.

Recent Board Game Hits & Flops

1. Crimson Creek

Recent Board Game Hits & Flops
Crimson Creek from Toystorian Enterprises

Crimson Creek is quite bad. The game is supposed to evoke the dread and horror of an 80’s slasher film. Instead, it evokes the dread and horror of a poorly designed and implemented game.

Players take on the role of a classic horror trope such as geek or jock. Then players must determine which location is the AI’s hideout. Players move about a chintzy game board. Taking certain actions causes cards to be drawn from a deck. If enough axes are drawn, a random location is drawn and all players there are eliminated. Otherwise, players must trudge onward. If you figure it out which location is the AI’s hideout, you will survive until the 2nd phase of the game–otherwise you are eliminated and can instead play a better game like Camp Grizzly.

The deduction aspect of Crimson Creek is not really all that deductive. It’s like calling Battleship a game of deduction. You have to eliminate everything in order to get the solution.

The artwork was pretty good. It did help sell the the theme a bit. But there was no real sense of suspense or doom. You have to get lucky to win the game or you have to work together with the other players. But if you work together with the other players, there is no more decision making–the strategy is completely rote.

Verdict: FLOP!

 

Red Dragon Inn: Battle For Greyport

The Gaming Annex in Muskegon Hits & Flops
Red Dragon Inn: Battle for Greyport

Red Dragon Inn: Battle for Greyport is surprisingly good. I’m not a huge fan of cooperative games. But Battle for Greyport would be a rare exception, all the more surprising given that I’ve never played any of the Red Dragon Inn games.

Each player has a unique, specialized deck. Players work together, using their respective decks, to apply damage to bad guys. Each player takes a turn where they hire retainers, adding them to their deck. But when it’s another player’s turn, you are still engaged. The monsters attack every game round. So it’s advisable to play some of your cards to help crush the rampaging monsters.

Battle for Greyport is not a deep game from what I gather. But it does fill several areas in a player’s game collection. It’s Dungeons & Dragons friendly. If you have a few friends who play D&D, you could easily get them to play Battle for Greyport. Battle for Greyport introduces people to deckbuilding. And Battle for Greyport introduces people to coops. If any of these things apply to you, this game is a good fit.

Verdict: Hit!

 

Food Chain Magnate

Board game hits & flops
Food Chain Magnate from Splotter Spellen

Food Chain Magnate has taken boardgamegeek.com by storm. It’s now rated at #30 overall with a 8.2 rating. It’s artwork is highly stylized from the 1940’s and 1950’s ad campaigns. The components are mostly wooden, with bits for your cola, hamburgers and pizzas.

Food Chain Magnate is a heavy Euro. It’s rated 4.2 in weight at bgg. The game has lots of moving parts, tons of cards to choose from and lots of decisions to make. But it is a Euro. Thus it is low luck. In fact, the only randomness in the game determining the start player. After that, there is no randomness.

Food Chain Magnate is a procedural. This adds to the game’s length and heaviness. It’s what allows for the game’s lack of randomness. It’s also adds to the game’s learning curve.

I’ve had the chance to play it just once. And once is not enough to determine if it is a hit or a flop–especially given that Dusty blew us out of the water in that one play.

Verdict: Undetermined.

 

Sanssouci

Sanssouci from Ravensburger
Sanssouci from Ravensburger

Sanssouci is your standard issue Euro. It’s a game with nice artwork, decent components and a tacked-on theme. It’s a drafting game that rewards efficiency.

All of these things make it a bad fit for my collection. Too many other games do these things already. Further, Sanssouci over stays its welcome, weighing in at 45 to 60 minutes.

Verdict: Flop

 

Eminent Domain: Escalation

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

You may recall a recent blog post where I lamented getting rid of some games which I later decided to obtain again. One of those games was Tasty Minstrel Games’ Eminent Domain. I picked up the expansion: Escalation. I had the chance to give it a play with Jeremy (Scott) Pyne.

The game play for Eminent Domain sans the expansion is decent. It’s a cross between Dominion and Glory to Rome but with a new theme. It’s the deckbuilding of Dominion but the role following or dissenting of Glory to Rome. In space.

The expansion adds scenario cards. This allows players to have unique (asymmetrical) starting decks and technologies. There is also unique abilities for all the plastic ships in the game. These changes make the game fresh.

If you’ve played Eminent Domain and either liked it or were on the fence, you owe it to yourself to try Escalation. It also will set the stage for the newest expansion: Exotica!

Verdict: Hit!

 

Mechs Vs. Minions

Muskegon loves Mechs vs. Minions from Riot Games
Mechs vs. Minions from Riot Games

Mechs vs. Minions has set the standard for successful kickstarters. Maybe not so much in total amount funded (which was impressive) but in actual value to the consumer. You get magnificently painted 50mm figurines–tons of them. You get heirloom quality components like an hour glass and modular game board. The game has storage space for all of these pieces: individual vacuum formed spaces for each figure. And the price was less than $100.

The game play is also excellent. It’s like Robo Rally but better. And that’s saying something! Players use programmed movement on their mechs, moving and shooting the minions while trying to complete the mission.

The rules are easy enough to learn but there is a lot scenarios that add depth to the game. Mechs vs. Minions is a must buy if you love miniature war games or if you like cooperative games.

Verdict: Hit!

 

Betrayal at House on the Hill: Widow’s Walk

Betrayal at House on the Hill: Widow's Walk
Betrayal at House on the Hill: Widow’s Walk

I was so looking forward to the expansion to Betrayal at House on the Hill. Betrayal is a perennial classic at The Gaming Annex. It’s a goofy team game where players search a haunted house.

The expansion, Widow’s Walk, was an unexpected announcement from Hasbro, being released just before Halloween of 2016. I had the chance to play it during our Halloween Week at The Annex.

And it fell flat for me.

The expansion is just extra rooms and extra haunts. If this is what you are looking for, then the $20 is well spent. I was hoping for more. I was hoping for extra game mechanics. Something that would add depth to the game instead of adding more of the same.

Oh well.

Verdict: flop!

 

King & Assassins

King & Assassins from Galakta
King & Assassins from Galakta

King & Assassins is a delightfully devilish two player game. One player is the king and his knightly escorts. The other is the townspeople who have three secret assassins in their midst. The king must move from one area of the board to the castle before the assassins kill him or before time runs out.

A card is flipped over. The king and the knights get so many action points based on what the card says. The king can move, the knights can move or push townsfolk. The knights can arrest people or even kill a revealed assassin. The assassin player then takes his turn. He moves the townspeople. He can reveal one of them to be an assassin. The assassins can kill knights or wound the king.

Kings & Assassins plays in 30 minutes. You can learn the game in about 10 minutes. If you need a two player game, this one will probably fit the bill.

Verdict: Hit!

 

Dice City

Dice City from AEG
Dice City from AEG

When Steve brought Dice City over to The Gaming Annex a couple of months ago, I was eager to give it a go. I loved the cartoonish artwork and I love dice games.

Dice City is a very good game for anyone who likes Imperial Settlers. It’s a tableau building game of rolling dice to get resources. Resources are used to buy additional cards which will give you victory points or even more resources.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like Imperial Settlers. Both Imperial Settlers and Dice City overstay their welcome. They are fun for the first 20 minutes but then drag on for 30 more minutes. There isn’t enough meat on the bone to make Dice City fun for almost an hour. As such, I cannot justify adding it to the ol’ library

Verdict: Flop!

 

Star Wars: Destiny

Star Wars Destiny from Fantasy Flight Games
Star Wars Destiny from Fantasy Flight Games

I don’t have a love/hate relationship with Star Wars collectible games; I have a hate/hate relationship. I played Star Wars CCG from Decipher. (I  will devote a blog post to this in the coming weeks). When I heard Fantasy Flight was releasing a Star Wars collectible dice/card game, I grimaced like Professor Mike when he hears us make crude jokes.

Dusty got a few copies of Star Wars Destiny recently. He taught me how to play.

And I was pleasantly surprised.

Very surprised indeed. Star Wars Destiny is everything I like in a dice game. It’s fast paced (about 20 minutes long). It’s a tactical game and a strategic game. There’s plenty of decisions to make but there isn’t any analysis paralysis.

Players take one action on their turn: either rolling dice, using dice or playing cards from their hands. Then their opponent takes a turn. This continues until all actions are spent and both players pass. Then a new round begins. When one player has run out of cards or has both of their characters killed, the game ends.

Star Wars Destiny is set in the Star Wars universe but doesn’t feel all that Star Wars like. But players will forgive this slight because the game play is quick and fun.

Verdict: a very surprising HIT!

 

Where these verdicts are handed down like social policy

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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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Hits & Flops

It’s that time. Another installment of Hits & Flops. We take a look and take aim at the latest games to hit the tables at The Gaming Annex. With even a single play, we either accept or reject games on Board Game Geek’s hotness. This month we will be looking at Scythe, Star Trek Ascendancy, Vast: the Crystal Caverns along with a few other games. Sit back and have a read. Don’t take this too seriously.

 

1. Scythe

Scythe from Stonemaier Games
Scythe from Stonemaier Games

If you had asked me earlier this week about Scythe, I would have told you how good it was. It has lots of opportunities for attacking your opponents while also trying to be as efficient as possible.

Scythe player mat
Scythe player mat

All actions are controlled by the player mats. There is a top half and a bottom half. The bottom actions require numerous resources so players will only occasionally perform them. But players will always perform the top actions. When choosing an action, players may do either or both actions.

Actions include: collecting resources, collect different resources, move units or collect yet another set of different resources. The bottom actions are: build a building, build a mech, improve the cost/benefit of these actions when you or your opponents take this action or improve the cost/benefit of these actions in a different way. Sounds Euro? Yep.

But if you had asked me earlier this week, I would have said this is a good game. Then we played last night. It was my third game. And it played very samey. I’ve now realized this is only a mediocre game. While Scythe currently holds the #13 position on BGG and has a rabid following, watch for its precipitous fall in coming years. There is no emergent game play in Scythe. It is a pure efficency/static game state game. Think Caylus with plastic mechs.

Verdict: Flop!

 

2. Vast: the Crystal Caverns

Vast: the Crystal Caverns from Leder Games
Vast: the Crystal Caverns from Leder Games

Vast: the Crystal Caverns is a wonderful, completely asymmetrical game. The game is so asymmetrical, that you have to play it five times to see all the different ways to play it.

One player takes on the role of the daring knight. She must defeat the dragon to win. One player is the goblin chieftain who must vanquish the fair knight. One player is the dragon who must wake from its slumber and escape the cavern. The thief tries to gather crystals and treasures. And the last player is the cave itself who must cause the cave to collapse before anyone else can win.

The Knight from Vast: the Crystal Caverns
The Knight from Vast: the Crystal Caverns

How the knight moves, levels up and performs actions is completely different than the goblins–which is completely different than the dragon. It’s like five mini-games merged under one undeniably charming theme that really works well.

The knight has action cubes that can be assigned to do different tasks. These tasks include buffing her strength, using the ancient map, moving, girding the shield or attacking the goblins. The goblins must increase their strength to damage the knight, acquire secret cards to lay traps for the knight or the dragon or acquire powerful monsters to aid in their quest to kill the knight.

The dragon has a hand of cards. And the dragon can level up to increase its hand size. These cards are spent to do different actions like firewall, feeding on the goblins or ultimately waking up completely from its slumber so as to leave the cavern. The cavern is the game clock. New tiles are laid and new event cards are drawn. The cave player decides which treasures to give the knight–to either slow down the goblins or the dragon player. But the cave can also spin walls around, confounding the knight, giving the cave enough time to begin the collapse.

Every player has a way to interact with each other. And the asymmetry is a work of pure brilliance. This game is my favorite new game of 2016. As such, the verdict is obvious.

Verdict: Hit!

 

3. Star Trek Ascendancy

Star Trek Ascendancy
Star Trek Ascendancy

Long time followers of this blog will recall our posts about Star Trek’s impact on board gaming: see here and here. Due to the sheer scope of the subject, I had to break it into two parts. The post ends with an exciting announcement from Gale Force Nine games about an upcoming game called Star Trek Ascendancy. That upcoming game hit the table at The Gaming Annex recently.

In Star Trek Ascendancy, players control the governments of the Federation, the Klingon Empire or the Romulans. The goal is to get 5 Ascendancy. Players buy Ascendancy with 5 culture tokens. The first to get to 5 Ascendancy is declared the winner.

Components of Star Trek Ascendancy
Components of Star Trek Ascendancy

Players build the map as they go. There are circular systems connected by space lane straightaways. The board is built in a bit of a miniature wargaming fashion with a tape measure used to ensure the board is the right size.

Players spend their command tokens to take actions like move ships or attack their opponents. Other actions include conquering planets or building nodes (resource producing elements) on planets. Players will take their three resource types to either build stuff (with production tokens), buy tech (with research tokens) or buy Ascendancy (with culture tokens).

Fleet tokens from Star Trek Ascendancy
Fleet tokens from Star Trek Ascendancy

The game play is similar to Eclipse except it’s much worse than Eclipse. The combat system is a lifting of Eclipse’s weapons +1 and shields -1 system. But Star Trek Ascendancy does not have any way of tweaking the ships like the ship blueprints in Eclipse. A Federation ship is identical to a Romulan ship. Both roll one die in combat and both require the same hit roll.

The galaxy building and discovery aspect of the game is also like Eclipse but much worse. Players have a say in where they place a system but first must roll the die to see how big the space lane is. Then they draw a card that tries and fails to evoke the theme of Star Trek.

In my one and only game of this, the game lasted 9 hours. Which is about 7.5 hours too long. And the only reason it ended was because of a few tactical mistakes that Nick Sima and I would not make if we would play this a second time–which we won’t.

In the long, proud history of Star Trek board games, this game falls woefully short. But what did you expect from Gale Force Nine? These guys published dreck like Homeland: the Board Game and Firefly: the Board game.

Verdict: Sadly, a flop.

 

4. Camp Grizzly

Camp Grizzly from Ameritrash Games
Camp Grizzly from Ameritrash Games

In recent weeks, I’ve been on a game trading kick. I’m getting rid of games we just don’t play. And I’m much better now at gauging what will be well received by the Muskegon Area Gamers. I recently traded Tiny Epic Kingdoms and Tiny Epic Galaxies (both owned by other members of our group) for Camp Grizzly.

Kevin from Camp Grizzly
Kevin from Camp Grizzly

Camp Grizzly lifts the theme of 80’s slasher movies and turns it into a semi-cooperative board game. Players take on the role of a camp counselor. I got Kevin, the lifeguard, who bore more than a passing resemblance to 70’s hunk Parker Stevenson. Each counselor has individual stats and special abilities.

Parker Stevenson
Parker Stevenson

Players move their counselors around the game board which is an aerial view of the fictional Camp Grizzly. Along the way, players may acquire important items, find lost campers (the children under our care) or may even encounter the dreaded Otis.

Otis is the antagonist who, like Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, wears a terrifying mask. Otis’s shtick is a bear mask, a nod to the eponymous Camp Grizzly–itself a play on words for grisly. When Otis strikes, the campers die and the counselors take damage. If you die, you are eliminated from the game, so be careful.

Players must work together to get all the items needed to unlock the Finale. Then players move to the Finale and roll dice to see if they escape. This game is a semi-coop. That means some players can win while others lose. Players may work together but if C.J. is lagging behind at docks, you and the rest of the counselors may need to radio for help without him!

The artwork in Camp Grizzly really evokes the horror theme. Which may seem strange given that it’s comic book art. But it really works for this game. You get the sense of gore without the gratuitous scene. Indeed, the artwork is what ultimately drew me to make this trade. And new artwork for the upcoming five expansions(!) is what is delaying Ameritrash Game’s release dates.

We played this with a captive audience a couple of Thursdays ago. And it was very well received. Ben said it was very cinematic and evocative of the theme. And I agree. It’s light but you need an occasional light game to end the night.

Verdict: Hit!

 

5. Escape the Room: Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor

Escape the Room: Mystery at the Stargazer's Manor
Escape the Room: Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor

There is a new genre of game: the one-and-done adventure. We discussed an example several months ago when T.I.M.E Stories hit the shelves and hit our table. Escape the Room is another example. Escape the Room is a new series of games from Think Fun. Players work together to solve the puzzles in order to eventually “escape the room”.

We made our first foray recently. After a brief rules explanation–which is very brief because there are virtually no rules–we delved into the mystery. The mystery is wrapped up in different envelops which you are not allowed to open unless you solve the required puzzle. The envelops then are opened, revealing another puzzle, which when solved, opens another envelop.

These puzzle games can be entertaining. But Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor was a bit too easy. Brandi, Tasha, Ben and I solved it in 30 minutes. A week later, Dusty, Jon, Kevin and Old Ben solved it in 35 minutes. This is way too easy for a $30 game.

The next game in the series, Secrets of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat, is supposed to be more challenging. That would fix my issue with the anticlimactic Stargazer Manor.

Verdict: Meh

 

6. 27th Passenger

27th Passenger from Purple Games
27th Passenger from Purple Games

I’ve been on the hunt for a good deduction game. A good deduction game requires logic, has good player interaction and plays quickly. And 27th Passenger fits the bill.

Players are dealt one of 27 different secret roles. Each round players secretly select an action to take. These actions are used to learn about the other player’s roles, gain valuable defense cards or learn about the other NPC roles (the balance of the 27 roles not taken by players). Players will narrow down which roles their opponents are in order to kill them, thus eliminating them from the game. The last player standing is the winner.

Each role has three separate characteristics. The three characteristics are appearance, their voice and their scent. There are three of each of these types of characteristics. And each role has a unique combination of them (3X3X3 =27 passengers). Using simultaneous order selection, clever play and a little intuition, you will figure out who your opponents are first.

We’ve played 27th passenger twice now. It’s grown on me. And I think I was the only curmudgeon at the table.

Verdict: Hit

 

Where the Hits keeping on coming

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Hits & Flops

Strap yourself in. It’s time for another installment of Hits & Flops. Hits & Flops is one of this blog’s many examples of journalistic malpractice. We play a game once or a just a few times. We make a snap judgement about the game. Then I blog about it here. This month’s installment will include many newer releases such as Through the Ages, Raptor and 7 Wonders Duel.

 

1. Star Wars: Rebellion

Star Wars Rebellion from FFG
Star Wars Rebellion from FFG

This one should not surprise those of you who read my last blog post where I reviewed Star Wars: Rebellion. Those who read that post were surprised however.

I played Star Wars: Rebellion eight times now. So it’s not really a case of hit-and-run journalism. I gave Star Wars: Rebellion an ample amount of chances. In the last game of it, I lost. In the second round. After playing almost perfectly.

It’ll be a while before I salve that wound. Until then: FLOP!

 

2. 7 Wonders: Duel

7 Wonders: Duel
7 Wonders: Duel

The Muskegon Area Gamers were introduced to 7 Wonders at a gaming event in GR several years ago. Despite having diverse gaming tastes, 7 Wonders has been one of the few games almost everyone liked.

7 Wonders: Duel what's in the box
7 Wonders: Duel what’s in the box

 

7 Wonders is a simple card drafting game. All you do is draft cards. Card drafting is a cool mechanic that works for 3+ player games. When I heard about 7 Wonders: Duel, a new two player game, I was very skeptical.

And yet, the authors ( Antoine Bauza and Bruno Cathala) managed to capture the card drafting and the feel of 7 Wonders and somehow put it into a two player game. Cards are placed in a pyramid shape with some face down and others face up. You “draft” them  by selecting from the available cards, i.e. no other cards on top of it. This simple mechanic gives you the feel of drafting that the regular game has.

And the scoring mechanics are roughly the same. You collect resources, sets of cards, etc. and score them. But the game has two other ways of winning. You can win with science or by military. So you might be racking up big points but your opponent can get an auto-win if he gets too far ahead of you in science or war.

7 Wonders: Duel: a hit!

 

3. Raptor

Raptor from Matagot
Raptor from Matagot

Bruno Cathala also designed Raptor. Raptor is a new game from Matagot Games. Players take on the role of either a mama raptor trying to protect her babies or a team of scientists trying to capture the mama.

Players play a card. Cards are numbered from 1 to 9. Each player has their own such deck. If you played the lower card, you will take the special action on the card. If you played the larger card, you can take actions such as attack or move.

The raptors win if they kill all the  scientists or if three babies escape. The scientists win if they kill the mama or if they capture three babies.

The game plays in about 30 minutes. Set up is quick. And the game has surprising depth. I’ve played with my doting wife several times. She’s a big Jurassic Park fan so this game is up her alley. Plus the regulars at The Gaming Annex also are fans. It’s been a big HIT!

 

4. Through the Ages (new edition)

Through the Ages
Through the Ages

Dusty has been the champion of Through the Ages. This game is right up his alley: card drafting, heavy economics and several micro decisions instead of one or two macro decisions on your turn.

He tried to get us to play the original version several times with varying degrees of success. The game didn’t click. Other games like Clash of Cultures which is a plasticky civ builder overshadowed it. Dusty picked up the new version, hoping this one would resonate with us.

And it does. At least with me. I can see the brilliance of this game design. You have several action points to spend on your turn. You can spend  them drafting cards, playing cards, turning your population into a worker or assigning a worker to a task. There’s a lot of heaviness. But once you get past it, it’s a solid game. I’m not good at it. But I admit it’s a good game.

Verdict: HIT!

 

5. Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu from Matagot Games
Sun Tzu from Matagot Games

Matagot Games reprinted Dynasties. It’s new name is Sun Tzu. The theme is the same. You and your opponent places soldiers onto a board and try to score different regioins of China.

Players have their own decks of cards. You place your cards, numbered from 1 to 6, onto a region. Then you resolve them. The player who played the highest value places soldiers in that region equal to the difference in the values.

Soldiers in Sun Tzu
Soldiers in Sun Tzu

As with most Matagot Games, the components are nice. The game comes with several plastic armies. The cardboard tiles are thick and sturdy.

But the  game play left something to be desired. We felt like you were more or less randomly playing cards. It’s like playing War. Whoever played the highest card wins the trick. But here whoever plays the highest card places influence (soldiers) in that region. Regions score every three game rounds.

There must be some strategy here that I am missing. But as of this writing, this game was a swing-and-a-miss.

Verdict: FLOP!

 

6. Empires: Age of Discovery

Empires: Age of Discovery
Empires: Age of Discovery

I saw the upgraded version of Age of Empires III on boardgamegeek. I new I had to own it. The components were awesome. And the theme is great: the Age of Imperialism.

Empires: Age of Discovery
Empires: Age of Discovery

As I stated in a different post, the Muskegon Area Gamers had tried Glenn Drover’s Age of Empires III several years ago. I thought it was mediocre. But Jon hated it. So much.

So the game never got played again.

I decided to try the game out again. I picked up a  copy with my Speedy reward points. I handed the game to John Sima’s boy. I sure as hell wasn’t going to read the rules. About a week later, the game hit the table.

I don’t remember much about the original edition. But this new edition has hit its stride with our group. It’s got a good mix of tactics and strategy. The tactics: the top area of the game board where you get stuff now. This includes placing colonists in the New World or gaining a trade good. The strategy: setting yourself up for next turn by gaining a specialist, or waging war.

The rules are very straight forward. I almost didn’t need John’s son to read them. And yet the game has a unique feel every time I play it. Plus the game scales decently . With three players, four or up to six–the game plays fine. It’s longer with more players, but it still plays good with that many.

Empires: Age of Discovery has been a big HIT!

 

 

7. Tides of Time

Tides of Time
Tides of Time

Tides of Time is a clever two player game. It’s a card drafting game that is played over three game rounds. You score points by collecting sets of cards. Cards come in several suits. And each card has a scoring bonus listed on it.

Your goal is to collect cards that will score you more points than your opponent. After the first round of the game (after you play five cards), you can keep one of your cards, remove another from the game and then you reshuffle the rest of the cards. This happens three times.

The reset that happens between game round 1 and two and the one between game round 2 and 3 is innovative. You have some strategic considerations to make along with the tactical card drafting. And the game can be played in a mere 15 minutes.

But the game didn’t click with me.  I didn’t hate it. I just didn’t think it was great fun like Raptor or 7 Wonders: Duel. The theme is totally pasted on. And the decisions didn’t feel compelling like they did in Raptor or 7 Wonders: Duel. I’ll play Tides of Time again I am sure. But my verdict for now is UNDECIDED.

 

8. Where the Hits & Flops get played

Muskegon Area Gamers

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Hits & Flops

Alright. It’s been a month since we did our last hit piece. We’ve played many new games in that time. This list only comprises the games I ‘ve played. We tried out many uber popular games like T.I.M.E. Stories, Marco Polo and the expansion to Istanbul. Let’s find out if I loved them or panned them.

 

1.  T.I.M.E Stories

T.I.M.E. Stories from Space Cowboy
T.I.M.E. Stories from Space Cowboys

T.I.M.E Stories was published just last year. And it’s already #40 All Time on boardgamegeek. This game has all the elements that board gamers like nowadays.

T.I.M.E Stories is a

Panarama from T.I.M.E Stories
Panorama from T.I.M.E Stories

one and done game. There is no replayability. The game is a cooperative. Players take on the roles of time cops, working together to investigate strange happenings. T.I.M.E Stories is an adventure more than it is a strategy game. You experience it rather than concentrate on it.

T.I.M.E Stories is a good game system. The mechanics are solid. The expansions are reasonably priced, giving players new missions to investigate. And the game sessions last for an entire game night. This gives you value for your purchase.

Verdict: HIT!

 

2. Istanbul: Mocha & Baksheesh

Istanbul: Mocha & Baksheesh
Istanbul: Mocha & Baksheesh

Istanbul was surprisingly good. At least to me. The users on BGG, of course, loved it. It’s a medium weight Euro that plays in a small to moderate amount of time.

Designer Rudiger Dorn lifted mechanics from his other games like Jambo and Genoa and honed them for Istanbul. That’s why it’s rated 98 on BGG.

New board pieces for Istanbul: Mocha & Baksheesh
New board pieces for Istanbul: Mocha & Baksheesh

 

The much anticipated expansion, Mocha & Baksheesh, has been a huge success. The expansion adds new board pieces, a new resource (coffee) and a few new mechanics.

Sick Nima has been ahead of the curve on strategy in Istabul, besting our Thursday night group somewhat regularly. He read the rules to the expansion and taught it to us last week.

The expansion adds new interactions on the game board, interactions that we could not possibly scratch the surface of in one play through. And some of the new mechanics like power tiles from the Tavern were largely ignored by the group until late game. The expansion will undoubtedly add tons of replayability to avid fans of the base game.

And despite this, I cannot call it a hit. Not yet. It felt a bit of a distraction from Istanbul. Not bad. Just not good. Oh, I’ll play it a few more times to come to a more reasoned conclusion. But in a blog post about “hits & flops” and I cannot call it a hit.

Verdict: undetermined.

 

3. The Voyages of Marco Polo

Voyages of Marco Polo from Z-Man
Voyages of Marco Polo from Z-Man

Marco Polo, published by Z-Man Games in 2015, shot up the ranks on BGG. It is currently sitting at a strong #39 on the all time list with a staggering 8.03 user rating.

Marco Polo is like Kingsburg or Alien Frontiers but supercharged with bells and whistles. Players chuck dice and then place the dice onto areas of the board, collecting resources, more dice, cards or victory points. There are a myriad of ways to mitigate the values you

Board from Marco Polo
Board from Marco Polo

roll.

Did I say this game was like Kingsburg? Nah, it’s more like Troyes. It’s a brain-burning version of Kingsburg. Tons of strategy but no soul.

Sick Nima often mocks me for calling a game a soulless Euro. But that is how I feel about Marco Polo. It’s the type of game that Rocky or Dr. Steve love but it’s the type of game that makes me long for Clash of Cultures of Battlelore.

Verdict: Flop 🙁

 

4. Junta (the 2nd printing)

Junta from AEG
Junta from AEG

For me, Junta fires Republic of Rome. I am not a fan of Republic of Rome. Lots of downtown, tedious voting over petty scraps and virtual player elimination (but not actual player elimination) punctuate your standard six hour game of Republic of Rome.

Junta's game board
Junta’s game board

Junta offers the same feeling of working together but also betraying your buddies. It has some voting but not over the petty stuff of Republic of Rome. Junta is also less complex. While Republic of Rome is far more complicated than Junta, it’s not deeper. Junta offers the same depth.

Jon picked up the 2nd printing of Junta. AEG changed a few things. We decided to give the game a play through even though I rage quit during our previous play of the 1st printing–witnessed by a bemused Sick Nima who still comments about it.

Junta is a good adventure + political game. It scratches the itch of Republic of Rome and possibly Diplomacy. And if you disliked Republic of Rome or Diplomacy, you may want to try Junta out anyway. It’s a tactical combat sub-game that these other games lack.

Verdict: HIT!

 

5. Space Empires 4X: Close Encounters

Space Empires 4X Close Encounters
Space Empires 4X Close Encounters

Space Empires 4X is a wargame in space where you manage your ships and colonies with an IRS ledger. You carryover dollars from each year and add them to your next year’s income, pay for upkeep on your empire then purchase new equipment. This process repeats until someone’s homeworld (probably Dusty’s) gets conquered.

Our first game of Space Empires 4X was inauspicious. Jon’s passion for the game and his superb teaching skills could not raise the game out of the mire of mediocrity. When he bought the expansion, I felt I had to give the game another shot.

Close Encounters adds tremendous material to the game. Most of it good. Players have faction powers. There are now reasons to attack the NPC aliens. There are several new ship classes, changing the meta of the game. We gave the game plus expansion a play through last month.

After 10 hours, Kevin and Sick Nima managed to defeat Jon and me. The game ending was thrilling. Had they not won, we would have won on the following on our next turn.

The expansion is quite good if you like the base game. In fact, the expansion is a no-brainer. If you like the base game. I just cannot see myself playing 10 hours of this game very often. The arithmetic is  excruciating after that length of time.

It pains me to give this a flop so I’m adding an asterisk.

Verdict: Flop*

6. Tiny Epic Games

Tiny Epic Galaxies
Tiny Epic Galaxies

I had the joy of playing Scott Almes’ Tiny Epic Galaxies recently. This slightly larger than pocket sized game packs a lot of fun in a small package.

Planet card from TEG
Planet card from TEG

 

A player rolls some dice on their turn, taking actions with the icons that are rolled. Other players may follow the same action by spending Culture. Players move ships around the galaxy, colonizing planets with unique powers.

The interaction of the planets makes the game have lots of replayability.  And  there must be 100 unique planets in the game.

My one complaint about the game is that it takes a bit too long with five players. The game would be about right for two or three players. Too much analysis paralysis and downtime with four or five players.

Verdict: HIT!

 

7. Star Realms

Star Realms
Star Realms

I had heard that Star Realms was very similar as Ascension. Maybe so similar that it could be described as a reimplementation of Ascension. I’ve played Ascension a few times. I didn’t care for it. I played Star Realms a couple of weeks ago.

And I loved it. It’s soooo much better than Ascension. The theme is better: sci fi spacefaring versus fantasy combat tripe. The artwork is better. Star Realms sports professional artwork that is beautiful. Ascension’s artwork is amateurish–and why did they choose such a muddy palate?

Star Realms is a deck building game where your goal is to inflict damage on your opponent to bring his influence to zero. You purchase ships with unique powers and bases and outposts to defend yourself. The mechanics are simple. But the game is quick and fun. A definite hit.

Verdict: HIT!

8. Lanterns: the Harvest Festival

Lanterns: the Harvest Festival
Lanterns: the Harvest Festival

Jeremy brought over Lanterns: the Harvest Festival to the Brew House last month. I had followed it obliquely on BGG. I like trying new games so I sat down and played with him.

Lanterns is a tile laying game.

Yep.

That’s the long and short of it. Do you like Carcassonne? Then Lanterns is up your alley. Me? I was a bit bored.

Poor Jeremy. It seems every time he brings over a new game, I pan it. I believe in you, Jeremy! You can buy and teach me games I will love.

Verdict: Flop :/

 

 

 

Hits & Flops: January 2016 edition

It’s time for another installment of Hits & Flops. For those of you new to this blog, every month or so I do a hit piece on the games the Muskegon Area Gamers have played. Games are played once, considered briefly and then judged (sometimes harshly). We’ve had several new games played in the past five weeks or so. Here’s a look at what was on the docket.

 

1. Battlelore 2nd Edition

Battlelore 2nd Edition
Battlelore 2nd Edition

Battlelore 2nd Edition is a great game. It fires on all cylinders, even a few cylinders I didn’t know it had. Now I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to pick it up.

I wrote a brief review of Battlelore recently. But since that time, many others have played it with me. And the responses have all been positive. Darrin was impressed with it. Kevin thinks it’s a great game. Nick Sima offered an opinion, probably positive. This game has been a hit.

Battlelore 2nd edition: HIT!

 

2. Dune

Classics like Dune from Avalon Hill are favorites in Muskegon
Dune from Avalon Hill

Dune was a welcome surprise. The bad taste of Rex: Last Days of an Empire had finally subsided. John S. loaned The Gaming Annex a copy. We’ve played it a few times now. And each time it gets better and better.

This game is a classic for a reason. I wrote a recent review about this game too. But for the purpose of this blog post, I’ll simply say:

Dune: HIT!

 

3. Fury of Dracula 3rd Edition

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

Fury of Dracula was revamped by Fantasy Flight. The third edition streamlines many of the flaws of the second edition.

One is the dice used in combat: they’ve been eliminated. Combat is 100% card driven. This is a move in the right direction.

Another is the way Dracula scores points. The new system is more interesting than the previous. The Dark Prince must still poop out vampires. And he must survive long enough to score points. But the point system isn’t a bore two points for everything like it was in the 2nd edition.

And despite this, I cannot fully endorse Fury of Dracula. It’s a good enough game…but Letters from Whitechapel is better is almost every way. Of course, our group still hasn’t delved into the strategy of Fury of Dracula yet (Dracula has won all the games thus far). So it’s possible a good game is still there waiting for us to bring it forth.

But until then: Fury of Dracula: Flop

 

4. A Study in Emerald

A Study in Emerald 2nd Edition
A Study in Emerald 2nd Edition

Kevin was happy to get a copy of A Study in Emerald. He’s a fan of the literature and he’s a fan of Martin Wallace. But he wasn’t a fan of paying $200 for the first printing.

When the second printing came out with a <$60 price tag, picking up a copy was a no brainer

Martin Wallace's A Study in Emerald
Martin Wallace’s A Study in Emerald

He taught Tasha, Nick Sima and myself how to play. I’ve never read the book so I cannot say if the theme is fully represented.

But I do have to give credit to Wallace. He makes mechanistically profound games. A Study in Emerald is like a multi-player version of A Few Acres of Snow. With a blurb like that, you know I’ll be calling this one a hit.

A Study in Emerald: HIT!

 

 

5. Star Wars: Imperial Assault

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

Well I finally managed to log my first play of Star Wars Imperial Assault. This reskin of Descent 2.0 is everything it’s cracked up to be. I’m really looking forward to playing a campaign of this.

Star Wars Imperial Assault fixes a few things with Descent 2.0. And Descent didn’t need that much fixed to begin with. This game even made a Jon do a 180. He disliked Descent but admired SW:IA.

Now, if we can get Mongo to show up half the time, I might be able to play this HIT! a little bit more often.

 

6. Dungeon Boss

Dungeon Boss
Dungeon Boss

I’ve owned Boss Monster for some time but hadn’t played it. About a week, I coaxed Nick Sima into teaching me how to play. He warned me that it wasn’t a deep game. But that alone does not bother me–I need a large library of games to meet numerous situations.

Boss Monster uses a similar mechanic as in Restaurant Row and Dungeon Lords. In all of these games, you compete for “customers” with your opponents. Then you score points for those customers who come to your “venue”.

Boss Monster is like the super-light version of Dungeon Lords both in theme and in mechanics. While Dungeon Lords is a very highly rated game, I rather despise it. Too much upkeep, not enough payoff.

But Dungeon Boss does not have the upkeep hang ups that Dungeon Lords does. But Dungeon Boss is so light, that there isn’t too much decision making taking place. It’s not a bad game. It’s just not a good game. I’ll keep it around for now to see if it grows on me.

Dungeon Boss: Undetermined.

 

7. Tiny Epic Kingdoms

Muskegon is a Tiny Epic Kingdom
Tiny Epic Kingdoms

New Jeremy has been a fairly new member of our group. New Jeremy, you may recall, replaced Jeremy Scott Pyne when Mr. Pyne moved away.

New Jeremy is an avid follower of Kickstarter, something I still haven’t committed to. Jeremy taught four of us how to play Tiny Epic Kingdoms, one of the more successful franchises from Kickstarter.

Tiny Epic Kingdoms works mechanically. You have to make tough decisions each turn. The decisions you make and the planning you do will affect your outcome. But that’s about it. There was not flair. No spark. It’s just a game that works but not a game that’s fun. I’m hoping Tiny Epic Galaxies works better.

Tiny Epic Kingdoms: Flop.

 

8. Junta

Junta from AEG
Junta from AEG

Several years ago, I brokered a deal between Jon and someone on boardgamegeek. It involved Jon coughing up his copy of StarCraft. In exchange, Jon got Perikles (out of print) El Grande and Junta (then out of print).

One by one, Jon played and dismissed all of those games.

He’s finally forgiven me for helping arrange that deal. The bad taste left from our first play of Junta subsided and we gave the game another go. And it’s not half bad. In fact, with the reprint from AEG, the game actually scratches the same itch as Republic of Rome. But better.

Junta is a game of tactics, negotiation and timing. It doesn’t have the failings of Republic of Rome (which makes RoR all but unplayable to me). Junta has failings but I am really enjoying it so far.

I checked out the entry on BGG. AEG has announced an expansion for Junta. This seals the deal. Junta is a HIT!

 

9. Where the Hits & Flops get played

 

 

 

 

Hits & Flops: December 2015

It’s been a while since I did a Hits & Flops post. I’m sure everyone is wondering what new games we’ve played, what new games we’ve accepted and which games we have relegated to the trade heap. I’ve managed to get quite a few games in since the last H&F post including Terra Mystica and some of the Eclipse add-ons. Let’s take a look at how dismissive I can be.

 

1. Terra Mystica

Terra Mystica
Terra Mystica

Terra Mystica is a heavy duty Euro. It’s heavy duty in the sense that its heaviness is rated “3.9” on boardgamegeek.com. Heaviness is a function of how many rules a game has, how long it takes to play and how much brain burn it causes. 5 is the highest rating whereas 1 is the lowest. A heaviness of 3.9 is pretty darn heavy.

And I agree with the rating on BGG. I would say it’s a solid 4. Lots of moving parts. Lots of decisions. Tons of different races that play a little different than each other.

Terra Mystica is also a Euro. Streamlined rules. Little to no player interaction. Pasted on theme.

And this is why I rate it a flop. The bulk of the Muskegon Area Gamers would dismiss this game. The time investment and brain burn are not worth a game that is more or less a heavy version of Mancala. Lots of tedious moving of marbles from one pit to the next to gain a slight advantage over your opponents. This is the heart of any Euro. And it is why I usually stick to Ameritrash and wargames.

Rating: Flop

 

2. Risk: Star Wars

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

I’ve been able to play Risk: Star Wars three times now. All three times, the Rebels won. According to BGG, this is typical. It takes the Empire about 5 plays or so to get a handle on the game.

Despite this, Risk: Star Wars is quite good. It’s like Star Wars Queens Gambit light. It plays in 30 to 40 minutes which is ideal for its lightness. It offers a few different ways to approach the game so there is replayability. And the asymmetry between the Empire and the Rebels is interesting. This is by far the best game to come from Hasbro’s Star Wars Friday extravaganza a few months ago.

Rating: Hit

 

3. Nations: The Dice Game

Nations: The Dice Game
Nations: The Dice Game

Nations: the Dice Game is the latest attempt to dissolve a heavier board game into a simpler dice version. Normally this is a problem. Gamers like heavier experiences (as seen by my explanation under Terra Mystica).

However, I liked the dice game of Nations much more than the board game. The board game is like a worse version of Through the Ages. It’s long, tedious and boring. Nations: the Dice game is a 20 to 30 minute version of the board game. It captures the fun of the board game without the down time or the tedium.

If you are looking for a filler, check out Nations: the Dice game.

Rating: Hit

 

4. Eclipse Add-ons

Eclipse Nebula
Eclipse Nebula

Playing Eclipse with the Rise of the Ancients expansion is a no-brainer. It turns a good game into a great game. But what about the add-ons?

There are tons of promos for Eclipse like the Supernova, Nebula, etc.  Also there are faction specific ships which includes plastic starbases.

We played a 6 player game of Eclipse last Tuesday. We used the Supernova, Pulsar and the Nebula. We decided against using the ships for this game.

The Supernova was a bit of a bummer. It adds rules and randomness. But nothing much more. You roll some dice each round to see if it explodes. But it’s not worth any points so on the last turn it doesn’t matter.

The Pulsar adds a little something. It allows you a free gimped action. You can build, move or upgrade once each round. This is a cool ability but it’s not an amazing addition to the game or anything.

The Nebula is partitioned into three sections. This means moving through a nebula will take lots of time. This, like the Pulsar and the Supernova, don’t really add a lot to the game. Maybe a little replayability but that’s about it.

Rating: Indifferent

5. Panic on Wall Street

Panic on Wall Street
Panic on Wall Street

We were told by Rocky that Panic on Wall Street was a terrible game. He played it once and had a terrible experience. Before relegating it to the trade heap, I wanted to try it at least once. But I couldn’t be bothered to read the rules so I made Nick Sima* read them.

We had eight over a couple of Saturdays ago. We broke out Panic on Wall Street. After a rules explanation, we began. Kevin, Nick Sima*, Tasha and myself were the landlords. We rented properties to my brother Nick, Mike, Joann and Eric.

And we had a rousing time!

When the dust cleared, Kevin and Mike had won. But all of us were delighted by this game. What’s more, we couldn’t understand Rocky’s hatred for it. The game is in his wheelhouse. :/

*not his real name

Rating: Hit

 

6. Space Alert

Space Alert
Space Alert

Eric brought over Space Alert a couple of weeks ago. This is a Vlaada Chvatil game. Like Mage Knight and Through the Ages, you can expect Space Alert to be heavy on the brain burn. It’s a challenging co-op with tons of decisions to make.

Space Alert has programmed movement in it kinda like Robo Rally. You have a few seconds to make your programmed movements kinda like XCOM. Then you have to destroy the incoming aliens kinda like XCOM.

I enjoyed Space Alert the one time I played it. But I think XCOM has officially fired it. I will play Space Alert again if someone brings it over. But I would at least recommend XCOM first. XCOM simply does Space Alert better.

Rating: Fired

 

7. Swords and Bagpipes

Swords and Bagpipes
Swords and Bagpipes

Nick Sima* kickstarted Swords and Bagpipes. He’s been talking about it incessantly for months. It was supposed to be delivered to him a few weeks ago. Slow mail service from Europe delayed its delivery.

He managed to get it on the table today. We played a four player game of it. Players attempt to solve a “prisoner’s dilemma” situation. Help Scotland and get a little bit of money. Help England and get lots of money. But if you help England, you get a treachery card. If England wins four times, the player with the least treachery wins. If England does not defeat Scotland four times, the player with the most money wins. Should you help Scotland or should you help England?

When I first heard Nick Sima* describe this game, I was bored. It didn’t sound fun. But I was wrong. Dead wrong. It’s quite the nifty little game. The prisoner’s dilemma is done extremely well in Swords and Bagpipes. I think this game is as good as UN Article 27 and considerably better than Sheriff of Nottingham. If you are looking for a backstabbing, out think your opponent game, then Swords and Bagpipes may be for you.

Rating: hit

 

8. Where Hits and Flops happen

 

 

 

Board game hits and flops: October edition

We’ve managed to get a few new games to the table in the past month or so. A drive by of my impressions of these games is not only acceptable it is expected. Here is the latest installment of Board Game Hits and Flops from the crew at The Gaming Annex.

 

1. Inkognito

Inkognito from Ares Games
Inkognito from Ares Games

I managed to get Ares’ Games retake of Inkognito to the table not once but twice. And I am a bit disappointed. I was hoping for a game to scratch the much needed deduction niche. And Inkognito might not be it.

There is a logistical aspect to Inkognito like there is in Clue. The novelty in Inkognito isn’t roll and move. It’s “shake the Phantom of Prophecy” and move. And the novelty gets old.

Aside from the Phantom of Prophecy novelty, the game does have deduction at its core. And there is room for clever play. But there is also room for incorrect play. And like in Clue, if you accidently give someone the wrong information, it totally screws them. And in Inkognito, the chances of giving the wrong information is more likely than it is in Clue.

I’m hoping another play of Inkognito will resolve some of my doubts about this game. Until then…

Flop

 

2. Among the Stars

Among the Stars
Among the Stars

Rocky brought Among the Stars to the Annex a few weeks back. It was my first face to face exposure to the game. I had seen the game on BGG. I liked the artwork but the iconography made me think it was a soulless Euro.

Among the Stars was better than I thought it would be. It is a space themed version of 7 Wonders. If you like 7 Wonders, Among the Stars is a nice departure.

Among the Stars is really just a quick drafting game that can almost be a filler. You have a hand of cards, you keep one and pass the rest to the next player. This one simple mechanic is nicely distilled in Among the Stars. And the rules are easy enough to make it approachable for non-gamers.

Verdict: Hit.

 

3. Ca$h ‘n Guns (2nd Edition)

Ca$h & Guns (2nd Edition)
Ca$h ‘n Guns (2nd Edition)

My dictator night was this past Tuesday. It was an opportunity to get Ca$h ‘n Guns to the table. I’ve played the 2nd edition three times in recent weeks now. And the game is outrageously fun!

I liked the 1st edition as well. But the 1st edition was a flop amongst many other members of the group. But the group was very receptive to this new edition. And for good reason.

The new edition of Ca$h ‘n Guns fixes a few of the problems in the first edition. There are different treasure types available, giving players long term strategies. There is a Godfather mechanic. This allows a player to force another player to point their gun at someone else. And the special powers are really well streamlined. I was happy that The Muskegon Area Gamers were warmed up to Ca$h ‘n Guns. I think this game will be hitting the table on Tuesdays a few more times 🙂

Verdict: Hit

 

4. Sewer Pirats

Sewer Pirats
Sewer Pirats

Nick Sima is really trying to contribute to the group. I’ve assigned him some rules to read. He read the rules to IELLO’s Sewer Pirats. We managed to get the game to the table on Thursday.

Sewer Pirats is kinda like Ticket to Ride but with more bells and whistles. You have a hand of cards. You play cards to move one of your sewer pirates onto one of the available boats. When the ship sets sail, players collect refuse from the sewers. Players win based upon how many points they scored from their refuse.

One of the mechanics in the game was counterintuitive, at least to us. How you move one of your figures onto the captain spot kept throwing us for a loop. But we soldiered on. The game lasted about 1 hour including rules explanation.

Overall, my impressions of Sewer Pirats was very favorable. It has enough depth with the different figures and with the optional drafting mechanic to keep hardcore gamers coming back. The rules are easy enough (except for the counterintuitive one mentioned above) that the game can be a good warm up game for an evening. All of us at games last night enjoyed Sewer Pirats.

Verdict: Hit.

 

5. Give Me the Brain!

Give me the Brain!
Give me the Brain!

It is unusual for a Steve Jackson game to be good. When I saw Dusty pull out a fuchsia colored box with the title “Give me the Brain!” from Steve Jackson Games, I wasn’t expecting much.

In Give me the Brain! players try to rid themselves of their entire hand like in Uno. Each card has some special text on it that allows the player to take some action. Some cards have actions available to the player only if he has the Brain. To get the brain, you must win an auction using the point values of your cards.

Give me the Brain! was mostly mindless*. The game could conceivable go on for long stretches of time. This is because, like in Uno, there are so many ways to draw more cards. The actions on the cards seem like a neat idea. But their implementation was largely brainless*. We were left with the feeling that the game was silly, overly long and campy. And those three qualities spell doom.

Or in this case, it spells “Flop”

*zombie jokes are the best.

6. Kingsport Festival

Kingsport Festival
Kingsport Festival

Jeremy Pyne came by a few times in recent weeks. He brought over Kingsport Festival. I had heard this game was a lot like Kingsburg, one of my favorite intro games. I was excited to give it a try.

Kingsport Festival takes place in HP Lovecraft’s universe. All players play cultists who are trying to summon a Great Old One to devour the world. Like in Kingsburg, you chuck three dice.  You move your dice to areas around the board to take gain resources. There are three types of resources in the game. Then you can spend resources to build structures around Kingsport.

I have to admit that Kingsport does share a lot in common with Kingsburg. Even their titles are similar. I really liked the spell mechanic in Kingsport too. But the theme was not nearly as intuitive as that of Kingsburg. In Kingsburg, you collect wood, gold and stone. And then use these to build Guard Towers, Saw Mills and Markets. In Kingsport Festival, you collect Death, Evil and Destruction and use these to build things. The theme just doesn’t work. In Kingsburg, I could teach non-gamers about gaming in general. That would prove difficult with Kingsport Festival.

Kingsport Festival is not a bad game. It is simply a game that doesn’t fill a niche for me. I would like to try it again just to make sure.

Verdict: Undetermined.

 

7. The place were hits and flops take place

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
89 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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Sunday, Oct 11, 2015, 10:00 AM
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Board Game Hits and Flops: August 2015 edition

We’ve played several newer games recently. I was party to many but not all of them. Overall I was not terribly impressed. We will probably see more flops in this column than hits unfortunately. Let’s take a look.

 

1. Tokaido

Tokaido from Fun Forge
Tokaido from Fun Forge

In Tokaido, you play a hitchhiker who is traveling the East sea road in Japan. Evidently this is a very scenic route that caters to travelers and hitchhikers. Along the way, you will see sites, eat local cuisine and collect mementos of your journey. The theme is kind of interesting.

The game is not.

The game uses the ol’ Thebes mechanic of last place goes first but with the added twist of worker placement. Now this Thebes mechanic is quite good. But it’s getting tiresome to see it in other games. Work placement in Tokaido is not tiresome–it works okay. But the scoring mechanics are ho-hum.

When you “see sites” you are actually set collecting. When you “collect mementos” you are actually set collecting. And so. It’s a worker placement game with set collecting. I think we can do better than this in 2015.

Verdict: Flop

 

2. Tesla vs. Edison: War of Currents

Tesla vs. Edison from Artana Games
Tesla vs. Edison from Artana Games

In Tesla vs. Edison, players acquire the great engineers of the early 20th Century in order to spread their technological wares throughout the U.S. These engineers have stats such as invention, engineering, finance and public relations. Using these famous figures, players will complete residential, commercial or technological projects, edging out their opponents.

New inventors are added to the game at the beginning of each round. Players bid on them. The strategy here is to either specialize in one area or to address weaknesses your existing inventors have. Players use these inventor cards each game turn by flipping them over to exhaust them temporarily, and then completing a project, drawing an action card or to improve your technology.

Given that I am an engineer and that this period of history is fascinating to me, it’s odd that the game was not a hit. There were a few rules ambiguities due to weird choices in iconography. Our only play of the game was with three players–not a good number for a bidding game. We decided the game needs to be played with 4+ players next time. That will really determine if this was a hit or flop

Verdict: Indeterminate

 

3. Splendor

Splendor from Asmodee Games
Splendor from Asmodee Games

Splendor from Asmodee Games has received 13 honors, winning 5 of them. This incudes being a 2014 Spiel des Jahres nominee.

As with most Asmodee offerings, Splendor has excellent components. The art work is gorgeous. The money is heavy-duty poker chips with great art work.

Mechanically, Splendor is a simple engine builder. You either collect some income (poker chips) or you buy a card (spend some poker chips). Each card has an easy to recognize icon on it that gives you a permanent discount (a phantom poker chip if you will). Players who cleverly manage their actions of collecting income versus buying cards will be successful in this game. The game also has a “layaway” action as Kate calls it. This layaway mechanic makes Splendor much more akin to Traders of Carthage than one might think. If you like Traders of Carthage, Splendor might be up your alley too.

Despite its simplicity (or maybe because of it), I found Splendor to be quite good. It’s got an average weight of 1.8 on BGG making it an ideal family game. The game would be a light/filler game for the hardcore group.

Verdict: Hit

 

4. Codenames

Codenames from Czech Games
Codenames from Czech Games

Vlaada Chvatil cannot do wrong. At least not on boardgamegeek. He has the strongest presence of game designer in the Top 200 with the possible exception of Uwe Rosenberg. His design credits include Mage Knight, Dungeon Lords and the much anticipated Star Trek Frontiers (yay!).

It’s no wonder that his party game Codenames has been so well received. It currently sits at 829 on BGG’s all time rank–definitely on the upward swing given it’s geek rating of 8.13. Look for this game to crack the Top 300 this year.

Two captains compete against one another in Codenames. They have a team of players who they give clues to. The team members try to guess the correct codenames from these clues. The first team to get correctly guess all of their codenames correctly is the winner.

At set up, 25 different cards, each with a codename, are placed onto the table. The codenames might be “bomb” or “giraffe”. The captains have a secret map that shows which codenames belong to which team (blue or red). The captains, when giving a clue, state a single word along with a number. The word is the clue to figure out the codename; the number is how many codenames that clue refers to.

Sample play of Codenames
Sample play of Codenames

For example, the blue team’s codenames might include “giraffe” and “eagle”. The blue captain might say, “Animal, two”. Then the blue team (not the captain) would have to correctly select the codenames that “animal, two” refers to. If they select a blue codename, they score it. If they select a red code name, the other team scores it. Some of the codenames do not belong to either team. They do not score for either team–they are just a deterrent. Also, there is a black codename. If a team selects the black codename, they immediately lose.

The game has some press your luck to it. I like press your luck in most games. The game also has team v. team play–another feature I typically like.

Unfortunately, I do not like Codenames.

Codenames is simply the old gameshow “Password” reinvented by snazzy board game designer. It’s a word game, not a social deduction game. I don’t find word games to have much strategy. Sure, you can get good at word games by having a strong vocabulary–but you can’t get good at them by out strategizing your opponents.

Verdict: Flop

 

5. Broom Service

Broom Service from Ravensburger
Broom Service from Ravensburger

Witch’s Brew is a neat trick taking game. Players select from a handful of actions. Then players decide to either take a weak version of the actions or to “take the trick” and take the strong version. Players access the likelihood of someone else taking the trick and make their decisions accordingly. The risk/reward in Witch’s Brew is nicely balanced.

Witch’s Brew has been out of print for many years. And copies were going for $90 used for a game that was published at $30 MSRP. Gamers have been begging the publisher, Ravensburger, to rectify this condition. Instead, they published a reimplementation of the game called Broom Service.

Rocky brought Broom Service over a couple of weeks. The game is very similar to its predecessor Witch’s Brew. The biggest difference is the addition of a game board. The game board adds a logistical element to the game. This adds some depth to an already cool game. The other changes to the game do not add or take away much. It’s really about the board.

This game was well received by everyone playing. I admitted that Broom Service was at least as good as Witch’s Brew. And I like Witch’s Brew.

Verdict: Hit

 

6.  Bring your Hits or Flops here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Board Game Hits and Flops: The Gaming Annex’s Verdicts for June 2015

I think this is going to be an ongoing monthly column for this blog. Most people loves to hear about cool new games. And everyone loves watching me make a public spectacle of a board game I despise. So here is our second installment of Hits and Flops.

 

1. Witness

Witness from Ystari Games
Witness from Ystari Games

There was a Cold War era comic called Blake and Mortimer. I had never heard of it until I heard of the game Witness. Evidently the comic is a sci-fi/detective themed serial.

The board game Witness is set in this comic world. The game is essentially a structured version of the telephone game with a narrative. Players read a case aloud. Then players silently read their own clue book. Then they follow a rubric that says to whom they whisper their clue. The thing is, the clue is usually a picture not a word or sentence. As such, what I see in a picture and what will later be important are not necessarily aligned. After the rubric if followed four times, players are asked three questions. Players score their answers individually but are working together to get a high team score.

The game should NOT work. But it does. It works very well in fact. The game has been well received by the Muskegon Area Gamers.

The game comes with 64 cases so you get your money’s worth. And the game has a strong following, suggesting a series of expansions modules will follow.

The Gaming Annex’s Verdict: Hit.

 

2. Penny Press from Asmadi Games

Penny Press from Asmadi Games
Penny Press from Asmadi Games

Penny Press harkens us back to the turn of the century when Hearst and Pulitzer were twisting the news into yellow journalism. The US went to war with Spain, McKinley was assassinated and New York surpassed Chicago to be America’s largest city. It’s one of my favorite periods in history. And it plays in 45 minutes. This game should have been a hit.

It wasn’t.

It was mediocre to bad. It works mechanically to a point. There is a potential of a stagnating game if people do not progress. It might be in people’s best interest to stagnate to force someone else to make a bad move.

But thematically the game is weak. The news stories are not nicely implemented with the mechanics. Teddy Roosevelt charged up San Juan Hill? That makes the Spanish America War worth more points. How is that fun?

The Gaming Annex verdict: Flop.

 

3. Colt Express

Muskegon loves Colt Express from Ludonaute Games
Colt Express from Ludonaute Games

We played Colt Express during my recent dictator night. I had grave concerns about the game’s fit for our group because of how light it was.

I love the bits. The game looks cool with its 3D train cars. And the box does an excellent job storing the pieces.

We played Colt Express as our last game of the night when everyone was wore out. As you may know from a previous post, the timing of game based upon its heaviness is of prime importance. And I think this is why Colt Express was a hit.

Everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves as they moved their cowboys from car to car. Bruce and I emptied our chambers on each other. And Jon picked our pockets while we did so. The game looks and feels cinematic. And that’s all I can ask of a lark.

The Gaming Annex Verdict: Hit

 

4. One Night Werewolf

One Night Ultimate Werewolf from Bezier Games
One Night Ultimate Werewolf from Bezier Games

We played Ultimate Werewolf at Dusty’s about two or three years ago. It went over like a lead balloon. I had little hope for One Night Ultimate Werewolf.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf works much better than its needlessly longer sister game. But that’s not saying much. ONUW has substantial problems. There seems to be no algorithm for how to play the different roles. On the surface this would seem to be a positive. But for the life of me I do not know HOW to play this game despite being very familiar with the rules and having played it about 15 times.

The game feels like it should be a social deduction game but is really an instinct game. A game where you read people and maybe you get it right and then the game is over five minutes later. Since a game only lasts for 5 minutes, maybe I am asking to much but ONUW just doesn’t give me the meal I am after in a game. Mongo has been having lots of frustrations with this game too.

The Gaming Annex’s Verdict: Flop.

 

5. Forbidden Stars

Forbidden Stars from Fantasy Flight Games
Forbidden Stars from Fantasy Flight Games

It didn’t take for Dusty to read the rules and to Forbidden Stars. And once read, it didn’t take long for four of us to agree to play it.

I had played the game this was based upon: StarCraft the Board Game. We played it at Club Sternberg several years ago. I was not impressed.

But Forbidden Stars blew me away. It is far and away my favorite game of 2015. It is absolutely amazing.

The order system is interesting. The combat is fantastic. The card mechanics are great. And the synthesis of these mechanics is a sublime (a word my niece seems to use a little too much for a 6 year old).

Forbidden Stars is a game that will scratch the same itch as A Game of Thrones: The Board Game. But this game is way better. Forbidden Stars will also scratch your TI3 itch when you only have 3 or 4 players. Yes, I am comparing Forbidden Stars to Twilight Imperium already.

The Gaming Annex’s Verdict: HIT!!!!