Category Archives: Musings from the Muskegon Misanthropes

A look at Clue

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


A Look at Clue


Clue (Cluedo) 1949

Muskegon loves a good mystery
Clue from Parker Brothers

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

A Look at Clue
Cast of suspects

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

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

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

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

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


Clue: Discover the Secrets (2008)

Clue: Discover the Secrets
Clue: Discover the Secrets

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

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

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

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

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


Clue: Master Detective (1988)

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

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

Clue Master Detective board
Clue Master Detective board

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

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

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


Clue Star Wars

Clue Star Wars
Clue Star Wars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Clue FX (2003)

Clue FX
Clue FX

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

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

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

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


Clue DVD Game (2006)

Clue DVD Game
Clue DVD Game

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

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

Clue DVD Game suspects
Clue DVD Game suspects

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

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

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


Clue: the Great Museum Caper (1991)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Get a Clue and join the Muskegon Area Gamers

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Hey publishers: please give us these expansions!

There’s a lot of games that I love. But I know I’d love them more if the game were expanded. There are also a few games out there that are great games…but they feel incomplete. I am not an expert in the area of publishing games. But I can say with certainty: if these games were to get expansions, I would buy it!


1. Star Trek Fleet Captains

Star Trek: Fleet Captains is Muskegon's favorite Star Trek game
Star Trek: Fleet Captains

Since I’m a gamer, it should go without saying that I’m a Trekkie. And the game that captures this theme perfectly is Star Trek Fleet Captains. You explore, you go on missions. You have a few ships at your disposal in order to score points.

Star Trek Fleet Captains: Romulans
Star Trek Fleet Captains: Romulans

When the Romulan expansion was announced, I was super excited. Not only was this great game getting an expansion, Wizkids made the right decision about which faction to make. I love Romulans. And this expansions forces you play like a Romulan.

A year later Wizkids announced the publication of the Dominion expansion. This is another welcome addition to the universe. The Dominion and their founders are a powerful force in the galaxy.

But now it’s two years later. And the game feels incomplete.


Borg from Heroclix
Borg from Heroclix

It’s not like Wizkids would have to buy new molds to make the game. Wizkids already has Borg ships for their dying Heroclix line. Churn these out and package them into a ST:FC expansion. And take my $50.

Star Trek Fleet Captains feels like an incomplete game without the Borg. Their absence can be felt. Help out a gamer, Wizkids.


2. Forbidden Stars

Forbidden Stars (play)
Forbidden Stars (play)

Forbidden Stars is a challenging game to play well. It’s a nice mix of tactics and strategy. You have to place your orders to set yourself up tactically. You have to build some infrastructure to set yourself up strategically.

The game takes place in the popular 40K universe. Four of the main races are present: Space marines, Orks, Chaos marines and Eldar. Each plays different because of their different powers and different decks of cards. The game feels complete as is.


If Fantasy Flight/Games Workshop were to release an expansion that included the Tyranid, I wouldn’t complain. I wouldn’t complain all the way to Out of the Box Games where I would buy a copy of the this expansion.

A faithful expansion of this game would probably have to include Tyranid, Necrons and the Tau. Maybe a few other races. This would breathe a lot of life into a game I already love.

Fantasy Flight: please take some (more) of my money.


3. Clash of Cultures

Clash of Cultures: Civiliation
Clash of Cultures: Civilization

Clash of Cultures is my favorite civ builder. And the more I play it, the better it gets.

I was very happy (and lucky) to pick up a copy of the now hard to find expansion:

Clash of Cultures: Civilizations
Clash of Cultures: Civilizations

Clash of Cultures: Civilizations. This expansion brings asymmetry to the game, something that was really needed. The combat system is tweaked too, allowing for more dynamic and more interesting fighting.

But an additional expansion would be well received. I would like to see two additional land units: siege weapons and a different type of settler or civilian.

While Clash of Cultures is great the way it is, wouldn’t it be better with more stuff?


4. Twilight Imperium

Eight player Twilight Imperium
Eight player Twilight Imperium

I love Twilight Imperium. I love it despite its flaws. And some of those flaws could be addressed in an expansion.

I’d like to see all the rules in one tome. And some errata for the things that need it. This is Fantasy Flight’s flagship game. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

Oh, and I want more stuff too. More races, systems, etc.


5. Runewars

Runewars from Fantasy Flight is a Muskegon favorite
Runewars from Fantasy Flight

Runewars has the makings of being a great fit for our group. Twilight Imperium in a fantasy realm? Yes, that will do.

But the game fell flat last year at CabinCon. This was probably due to the game being played later in the afternoon and dragging on well into the night. I think we should give Runewars the same attention as we do TI3. I think it will catch on.

FFG did release an expansion for Runewars a few years ago. The Banners of War expansion fleshes out the different factions a little more and fixes a few things from the base game. If you like Runewars I would recommend the expansion.

But another expansion, if done right, would bring this game to the table more often. We play so many different (and new) games, sometimes it takes an expansion to recall how much we loved a game.


6. Endeavor

Endeavor from Z-MAN Games
Endeavor from Z-MAN Games

Endeavor from Z-Man Games is a game where players take on the roles of European colonial powers, discovering and colonizing the world. Players gain points through spreading culture, improving their infrastructure and taking land

Endeavor session
Endeavor session

I’ve loved Endeavor since it was published in 2009. I’ve posted 35 game plays of it in that time. We still break it out occasionally. It’s a great game to introduce people to Euro style mechanics to.

The game is no longer in print. Copies of it go for over $120 for used copies. Z-Man could tap into that market and reprint this classic.

Because the game is out of print, it seems unlikely we will get an expansion. But an expansion could bring lots of life to Endeavor. Although I like the game as is, a few new building choices or even a new mechanic could be interesting. What would really sell an expansion would be variable player abilities. Instead every player being a vanilla colonial power, what if everyone had a special power? Maybe Spain could be a playable faction with some special abilities. And England would be a playable faction with some different abilities.

I put the probability of getting an expansion for Endeavor at about .000001%. But a guy can hope.


7. The place to play these (or any) tabletop games:




Musings from the Muskegon Misanthropes: Decadence in Board Gaming

noun: decadence
1. moral or cultural decline as characterized by excessive indulgence in pleasure or luxury; 2. luxurious self-indulgence.

I’ve been noticing (another) trend in board gaming: decadence. Board gaming is already a bit of an indulgence since it is strictly a hobby. But I am afraid some of my fellow hobbyists succumb to some of their baser instincts. Hell, I succumb to these instincts too from time to time. Let’s take a look at some of the more recent (and more flagrant) examples.


1. Small World: The Designer’s Edition

Small World Designer's Edition
Small World Designer’s Edition

I remember the first time I played Days of Wonder’s Small World. Jeremy Pyne brought it over and taught us how to play. Small World is a nifty little game. There are a few important decisions to make in the game, especially in deciding when to send your race into decline.

Coins from Small World Designer's Edition
Coins from Small World Designer’s Edition

Because the game was made by Days of Wonder, you can be sure the quality of components is good. The cardboard components are thick, the artwork is campy (but it works) and the storage solution is one of the best in the industry.

SW-designer-edition-2Having said that, Days of Wonder has created a “designer’s edition” of Small World.

Really, Days of Wonder? Really?

Small World is a nifty little game. Emphasis on the “little”. There are several expansions for Small World but they all cost about $5 to $10 each because they are just cardboard tokens.

But Days of Wonder decided to tap into the seamy decadent undercurrent of our hobby. They published this designer’s edition which goes for $900. (The regular version with all expansions costs <$100). What does your $900 get you? All the cardboard race tokens have been replaced with wooden tokens. The supplementary tokens are now plastic. The currency is real metal. And the storage solution is a cherrywood box. The contents are definitely worth $900.

But Small World is not worthy of a designer’s edition.


2. Mega Civilization

Mega Civilization from 999 Games
Mega Civilization from 999 Games

I cut my teeth on Avalon Hill’s Civilization back in the 90’s. It was a laboriously long, inelegant and dense.

And a lot of fun.

By today’s standard it is dated.

Stock Exchange floor
Stock Exchange floor

We played it twice at the Gaming Annex in the past year.  The trading in the game is the most fun. Dickering for the goods you need is fun (but time consuming). The reception was good overall. But we all thought it could use some streamlining.

Then along comes 999 Games with something they call “Mega Civilization”. It does NOT streamline Civilization. It doubles it. Now the game plays up to 18 people instead of 7. And it doubles the map to include India and parts of Central Asia. It adds another set of commodity cards: East and West. I can only imagine the trade phase of Mega Civilization being the floor of the New York Stock Exchange at opening bell.

And the game is doing quite well. Gamers here in the States are foaming at the mouth to get a copy. The game is $200 + shipping, weighs 22lbs and is only available in Europe. I would have to hire NASA to calculate the shipping cost.

3. Legacy: destroying your game as you play

Risk Legacy
Risk Legacy

Publishers are taking existing games and making them “legacy” editions. Risk Legacy and Pandemic Legacy are examples.

In Risk Legacy, you are basically playing Risk. But at the end of each session, the board and the cards go through changes that cannot be undone. Cards are permanently

Risk Legacy city
Risk Legacy city

destroyed, the board is permanently changed (written on, stickers added). New factions are added. And old factions are killed off.

This gives players a unique narrative. The campaign they played in will be different than any other campaign. And publishers like it because when the campaign is over, your game is destroyed, necessitating another purchase.

I cannot think of any other hobby where there is a legacy aspect. Do hunters and fishers purposefully destroy or alter their gear so their expeditions are more memorable?


4. Simple card games that inspired heirloom remakes

Hanabi Deluxe
Hanabi Deluxe

Take a simple card game. Give it a bit of a cult following. Then republish it with heirloom quality components. Then charge a king’s ransom for it.

This is the case with Hanabi. Hanabi is a clever little coop that is a play on Indian poker.

The game comes with a deck of 60 cards and 8 tokens. The deluxe edition replaces cards with dominoes. And replaces the $9.99 Hanabi with a $49.99 version.

But Hanabi isn’t the only example. Glory to Rome comes to mind. Glory to Rome is a clever card game. The original four versions of it came in a clamshell and would run you about $19.99. Then the big black edition came out. It added nothing to the game except a black box and new card art. It sold for $99.99.


5. Renting office space as a board game clubhouse

Musings from the Muskegon Misanthropes: August 2015 Edition

We haven’t had any posts of idle speculation, wild conjecture or unsubstantiated hearsay in a long while. There have been many rumors about gaming topics that need to be further speculated, conjectured and hearsayed. Here are my current musings about some of those topics.


1. Twilight Imperium

Muskegon's favorite board game is Twilight Imperium from Fantasy Flight Games
Twilight Imperium

The rumors about a 4th edition of my favorite game have been rife since the 3rd edition was launched in 2005. And the rumors have not ceased. It’s a friggin’ rumor mill if I have ever seen one.

In 2006, Fantasy Flight Games released the expansion for Twilight Imperium. Shattered Empire was well received. But it did not abate the rumors of an imminent 4th edition.

In 2011, FFG surprised everyone with the second expansion Shards of the Thrones. The rumors continued.

The rumors of a 4th edition hit a fever pitch during the days leading up to GenCon last week. Speculation of a surprise 4th edition being unveiled by FFG to GenCon goers was so rife even Mongo was pitching the rumor. Then FFG did release some Twilight Imperium news. They will be reprinting TI3 along with the expansions. TI3 is here to stay.

2. Star Trek: Fleet Captains

Star Trek Fleet Captains is one of Muskegon's favorite board games
Star Trek Fleet Captains from Wizkids

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Star Trek: Fleet Captains. The game is great. The components needed substantial patching.

Having said that, it IS my favorite three player game. And I own both expansions (Romulans and Dominion).

But the rumor mill is saying that Wizkids is done with this game. Or that Wizkids is going to release a Borg expansion. Or that Wizkids is going to release a Ferengi expansion.

Wizkids has not made a formal announcement one way or the other. But I would be bitterly disappointed if they chose to release no more material for this otherwise lovable/hateable

Star Trek Heroclix
Star Trek Heroclix

game. And I would be disappointed (albeit not bitterly) if the next expansion was a Ferengi expansion. I would love to see a Borg expansion. Is “love” the right word? Maybe “need” is apropos. I NEED a Borg expansion.

And it’s not like Wizkids would have any exorbitant capital investment. They already make Borg ships to scale. Star Trek Heroclix, also from Wizkids, have already been repurposed for Star Trek Fleet Captains. And the 3rd wave has the Borg ships. Just get off your lazy asses and give me an expansion.





3. Fury of Dracula reprint

Fury of Dracula is a Fantasy Flight reimplementation of The Fury of Dracula–an old Games Workshop game. It has been out of print for years. And copies go for up to $200 on eBay. The rumor mill has been going ape wild about how this game would never go back into print. How FFG, GW or any other game company was done with this franchise.

Then Fantasy Flight announced they are releasing a 3rd edition. This edition will change several core mechanisms, streamlining the game to today’s gamer’s needs.

Fury of Dracula has fallen out of favor with me. Letters from Whitechapel does everything Fury of Dracula does only better. But I do have to stipulate that every time FFG has reimplemented a game, it has been better. And by all accounts, this reimplementation looks fantastic!

Except for the cover art.


4. Letters from Whitechapel

Jack waits to kill in Letters from Whitechapel
Jack the Ripper stalks Muskegon in Letters from Whitechapel.

Speaking of Letters from Whitechapel, we played this last night. It was tima for Nick to win. And he did in fact win. It marked the first time Jack has won in some time.

Of course, Tasha was NOT at The Gaming Annex so that’s probably why Nick won.

We’ve had considerable success with Letters from Whitechapel on Thursdays. Our Thursday night crew is new to gaming. The co-op nature makes it a good fit. And Nick and Tasha go at it like cats and dogs.

When the designers said they were releasing an expansion, the idle speculation began. When would it be released? What would it include? And how can you expand upon the Jack the Ripper murders?

Then the designers released a promo for their facebook page. Seen here, the expansion promises minis for  your game. While this hardly seems like an expansion, the

Dear Boss expansion
Dear Boss expansion

designers suggested there would be a bona fide expansion released with these minis.

This turned the idle speculation into wild conjecture. Would the police get special powers? Would Jack get extra powers? Would there be a new scenario?

The rumors have grown cold in recent months however. It seems there is no news to report. The designers seem unable to launch this project. This seems rather odd since it was Fantasy Flight that acquired some of the printing licenses for this game, releasing the game a couple of years ago with a component upgrade.

I am mildly interested in obtaining miniatures for my game. But I am fully intrigued by an expanded game. Please release this!





5. Colosseum

Colosseum from Days of Wonder
Colosseum from Days of Wonder

I was lucky enough to get Colosseum when it was in print several years ago. The MSRP was $60. For a Days of Wonder game that is about right. The components were beautiful. And like most of DoW’s games, this was  very family friendly and quite fun. It has been well received by most people I have exposed to it.

But the game goes for $90 now because Days of Wonder has not reprinted it. I found a copy for $40 about a year ago and resold it almost immediately for $70.

There has been a rumor circulating that Tasty Minstrel Games is going to reprint Colosseum. And their edition is going to be “an emperor’s edition” with magnificent components. The price tag I heard was anywhere from $70 to $90 for this copy.

Now Tasty Minstrel Games is a very weak competitor of Days of Wonder. The material Days of Wonder releases is typically more fun that Tasty Minstrel Games’ releases;

Bottlecap Vikings from TMG
Bottlecap Vikings from TMG

and their material is always superior in component quality.

While the rumor mill is working itself into a frenzy about this upcoming reprint, I sit here skeptical of TMG’s ability to deliver. The game was put on kickstarter (not a sign that boosts my confidence). And the kickstarter page lacks pictures, videos or any other media that would pique my interest.

Rocky told me he was considering reserving a copy of TMG’s reprint. I told him the comic store in Lowell had a Days of Wonder copy for the low-low price of $50. Rather than wait for Tasty Minstrel’s November reprint, Rocky dropped everything and ran to Lowell. (And he ran too; he didn’t drive).



6. Further Musings

Have any ideas for my blog? Want to contribute? Or just rant? Here is the place to do it!




Hijinks at The Gaming Annex

When it comes to The Gaming Annex, the things I typically worry about are: will we have good attendance? And will this new game I bought suck? This weekend a strange series of events took place that had me worried about something quite different.

1. Saturday, May 30th; 5pm; 49509

Debbie's Castle
Debbie’s Castle

My wife and I had tickets to see Avenue Q, an irreverent take on Sesame Street. The show started at 7:30pm at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre–right down town. I was already prepared to go by 5pm. I was perusing my iPhone nonchalantly.

I got a text from Dusty, one of the members of the Muskegon Area Gamers. He said he was going to The Gaming Annex to borrow some games. He has houseguests, two of which are gamers. Dusty has his own keys to The Gaming Annex so I don’t need to be present to let him in. He texted me about which games to play with his houseguests. I gave him some ideas. He ended up taking Star Wars: Armada and Small World.


2. Saturday, May 30th; 7:30pm; 49503

Grand Rapids Civic Theatre
Grand Rapids Civic Theatre

Traffic downtown last night was not too bad considering we were going to a play and the Van Andel was hosting a New Kids on the Block reunion. We arrived in plenty of time to find good parking and find our seats.

Unfortunately it all went downhill from there. For the details about this travesty, please see my review here:





 3. Saturday, May 30th; 9:30pm; 49509

Debbie's Castle
Debbie’s Castle

After enduring the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, we retired back home. I was back on my iPhone–this time it was anything but nonchalant. This was very chalant iPhone usage.

Out of the blue, my brother called me. This is very odd. It had to be an emergency. He said the Annex was unlocked and the lights were on. This also was odd. Why would the lights be on and the door unlocked? I told him to lock it up. Was anything burglarized? Had anyone been rummaging around in there? Nick said it didn’t look like it.

I figured Dusty forgot to lock up when he came by to borrow some games. I will have to browbeat him the next time I see him.


4. Sunday, May 31; 9:00 am; 49441

Board games 1976 W. Sherman Blvd 49441
The Gaming Annex

Sunday games start at 10am typically. I get there about an hour early to set up and do some general housekeeping. I arrived at 9am this morning to get the place into tip-top shape. Well, maybe not tip-top; maybe just “I can tolerate this place” shape.

We had bought some new towels for the Annex. I went into the bathroom to drop them off. The door seemed a little off kilter. When I examined it closer, I noticed the door had been kicked in. That seemed odd. Did someone have to take a shit that badly?

Then I remembered what had happened the night before: Nick told me the door to The Gaming Annex had been left unlocked. Now the door to the bathroom had been kicked in. These two things hardly seemed unrelated. I was beginning to get nervous about what was in store for me and the Muskegon Area Gamers.


5. Friday, November 22, 12:30pm; 75202

Texas School Book Depository
Texas School Book Depository

Approximately 12:30 PM Central Time, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Was there a conspiracy? Probably. Did it have anything to do with the recent hijinks at The Gaming Annex? No.






6. Sunday, May 31; 9:55 am; 49441

Timeless Treasures Thrift Store is next to The Gaming Annex in Muskegon
Timeless Treasures Thrift Store

My dad is the landlord. He also runs Timeless Treasures Thrift Store–the store on the west end of the building housing The Gaming Annex. I wanted to talk to him about what had happened. Strange things were afoot.

“Someone kicked in the bathroom door. Furthermore, someone was inside the Annex last night…” I was getting anxious about what mischief might befall the Muskegon Area Gamers. While I love Scooby Doo and his capers, I don’t want to live in one.

My dad unmasked the proverbial villain. He said the bathroom door was not in fact kicked in. Nick simply bumped into when he was moving things to and fro. The door was broken open on accident. There was no impropriety.

“But someone left the door to the Annex open last night. And left the lights on!” I said.

My dad unmasked this proverbial villain too. “This Dusty guy must have left the door unlocked. He must be a real dumbass.” I cannot share my dad’s libelous opinion until I consult my attorney.

Who happens to be Dusty.




Musings about Twilight Imperium

As anyone who reads this blog knows, we (the Muskegon Area Gamers) play lots of Twilight Imperium. We play about 10 to 15 times a year. This may not seem like a lot, but games last 6 to 9 hours each so we are talking about a considerable amount of time. Our experiences with the game often conform to the consensus on Board Game Geek. But there are a few key areas where the consensus of highly experienced players on BGG differs from our group’s experience. After playing TI3 this past Sunday, it finally dawned on me why our experiences differ rather radically from the BGG community on these few, key issues: our game group size is 7 to 8 players whereas the typical BGG player can only muster 3 to 5 players! A game of Twilight Imperium plays substantially different if you are playing an eight player game than if you are playing a five player game. And some optional rules are much better or much worse depending upon the number of players. Below is what I’ve come to realize.


1. Imbalanced Races

Muskegon loves Twilight Imperium
Yssaril Tribes and Xxcha Kingdom

There are seventeen races in Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition. According to numerous polls and discussions, the Yssaril Tribes are the most powerful (ranked #1) and the Xxcha are at the bottom (ranked at #15, 16 or 17 depending upon the poll).

Certainly the Yssaril Tribes are powerful. And granted, the Xxcha Kingdom has some obvious flaws. The power differential between these two races is quite large…in a five player game.

However, in an eight player game, the power differential is much smaller. The power differential doesn’t go away completely but the Xxcha are quite competitive in an eight player game. Why is this, you ask?

In a five player game, there will be five strategy cards selected every round and three that will not be selected. This is written in stone. And the three strategy cards that are often unselected are the very strategy cards that the Xxcha needs someone (anyone) to take. These are often Trade, Diplomacy and Assembly. The Xxcha have nice trade agreeements, the Xxcha use the primary of Diplomacy when they activate the secondary, and the Xxcha can veto laws when someone takes Assembly. In a five player game, the Xxcha are greatly nerfed.

The Yssaril Tribes are still strong in an eight player game, but they are not nearly as strong as they are in a four or five player game. The Tribes can stall by using their racial ability of “skipping”. This allows them to act late in a round when everyone has passed. Outlasting three or four other opponents is easy enough. But outlasting seven other opponents is much more difficult. Also, the Yssaril Tribes might have enough influence to pass laws all by themselves in a four or five player games. Passing a law when there are eight players will almost always require the Tribes to form at least a small coalition.

Taken holistically, the races are much more balanced in an eight player game than in a four or five player game. The races are perfectly balanced, but the differential is well within the individual players’ skill levels.


2. Leaders

Twilight Imperium gets played in Muskegon, MI all the time.
Twilight Imperium Leaders

Using leaders is an optional rule in Twilight Imperium. It’s a rather popular option too if we are to believe the level of commentators on board game geek and the old TI3 wiki site.

The Muskegon Area Gamers have been using leaders off and on for the past year or two. And their reception has been fair to bad. Most find them fiddly. A few find them really annoying. And it’s not for lack of effort either. We’ve played approximately 15 games with leaders. And the leaders option is just not clicking with us.

Then it dawned on me why. We play 7 and 8 player games exclusively. This adds too many different powers to the game. In a 3 to 5 player game, the leaders would be fine. But if you have 8 players, there are going to be 3 to 4 more Agents (read: Sabotages) in the game. That is just too damn many. And you will have 2 to 4 more diplomats. Again: too damn many.

It’s really just the extra Agents and Diplomats that are problematic. You cannot pull of a cool action card combo in a 7 or 8 player game; you cannot pull of a cool attack from nowhere move in a 7 or 8 player game. This renders some of the most satisfying moments of TI3 toothless.


3. Representatives

Twilight Imperium Representatives are not very good in an 8 player game.
Twilight Imperium Representatives

Shards of the Throne added a new optional module called Political Intrigue. The use of representatives is included in this module. The goal was to make the voting aspect more interesting.

Players select one of their three representatives. There are three types of representatives (and not all types are available to all races). The three types are Councillor (who gives lots of extra votes), Spy (who kills Councillors or Spies) and Bodyguards (who are immune to Spies). This adds a rock-paper-scissors aspect to the political game. The RPS aspect is actually trite and annoying. But in an eight player game, the representatives are utterly boring and stupid.

Having thought about it some more, though, I’ve decided to revise my opinion of representatives a bit. In a 3 to 4 player game, representatives might actually be fun. There would be much less to keep track of in a 3 or 4 player game. The extra wrinkle of selecting representatives would be much more meaningful in a smaller game. The use of promissory notes (a mandatory addition if you are using representatives) would be much more meaningful too when selecting representatives.

I’m actually looking forward to playing with representatives now. We have a house rule that everyone gets to select the rules to a game of TI3 at least once. This means people have to play by others preferred rule sets. Kevin has stated he is going to use reps next game. I am not as apprehensive about it now as I once was. 😉


4. Political cards: Saving them, spending them, culling them

The political aspect of Twilight Imperium is lots of fun.
Twilight Imperium political card

When using the Assembly strategy card, players will start the game with two political cards. And players will accumulate more political cards throughout the game. These cards can be used in one of two ways: hold onto them until someone activates Assembly and selects you to read a political card aloud–then people vote on it; or discard the political card instead of spending 1 trade good.

In an eight player game, it is always advisable to spend political cards for trade goods. Always. We are talking 99.9% of the time. But in a 3 to 5 player game, the calculus changes to about 60% of the time. Let’s look at why.

In an eight player game, there are seven other players who have political cards in their hands. What are the odds that you will be selected to play on of YOUR political cards? Not very likely. And even if you are selected, your ability to swing the vote the way you want it swung is very limited. It’s more advisable to just discard the political card for one trade good.

In an three to five player game, the math changes quite a bit. The odds of someone selecting you to read a political card is much more likely. And your ability to swing the vote is more viable. Saving the right political card is actually warranted.

This brings us to our only house rule: culling the political deck. We remove the stupid-weak political cards and the stupid-powerful political cards. The culled deck means the political cards are typically meaningful and the decision to save them or spend them for a trade good is actually tough. Without a culled deck, you would see virtually all political cards discarded. You might ask “Why would someone discard a ‘stupid-powerful’ card if it’s so powerful?” The reason is: in an eight player game, a single player cannot swing the vote effectively and he must build a coalition. Instead of holding onto a stupid-powerful card in the hopes you can swing it in such a way to help you, you may actually find a coalition of players voting on it in such a way as to hurt you. You were better off just discarding it for one trade good.

In some spirited discussions on BGG, I’ve found that those who are critics of culling of the political deck are also fans of representatives. And these critic-fans only mustered three to five players for their TI3 games. I submit if they played eight player games more regularly they would have a very different view.

Musings from the Muskegon Misanthropes: November Edition

Fantasy Flight announced they will release a 2nd Edition of our favorite A Game of Thrones: LCG game.

The next cycle for the 1st edition will be the final cycle. After 12 years, FFG is putting the 1st edition out to pasture.

Furthermore, the 1st edition will be mostly incompatible with this new edition, requiring new purchases in order keep up with the competitive scene. The decision by FFG to do this was in part marketing: retailers cannot justify having 12 years worth of LCG stock on their shelves; that large of a card pool would intimidate new gamers anyway.

But FFG is also looking to streamline a bunch of the troublesome aspects of the game.

House Greyjoy comes to Muskegon
The Great Kraken of Greyjoy










What is changing?


  • Moribund. This causes so much frustration and confusion. I’m glad they are getting rid of it.
  • Influence was a carryover from when AGOT the LCG was AGOT the CCG. And the transition was not very good. Influence works almost the same as gold. Why have it?
  • Crests are going the way of the dodo.
  • Timing issues like save/cancels and passive effects are being retemplated so this won’t happen in the future.


Ned Stark, Tyrion Lannister and He-man
Ned Stark, Tyrion Lannister and He-man

The core elements that make A Game of Thrones LCG what it is are staying.

  • The plot deck.
  • The challenge phase
  • Unique characters must die!
  • Victory conditions are the same
  • Setup 

The plot deck is a nifty way to tell a narrative. The challenge phase is the core of the game. Having a setup where you get X gold to put cards into play is much better than the typical card game where you must find tricks to have a quick set up.

Plot cards will have an additional statistic: how many cards you can have in your hand during taxation. This will eliminate the draw cap. I always hated having to remember how many cards I drew. I also hated the fact that an effect might say, “Reveal a card…and add it to your hand” which isn’t the same thing as “draw a card…and add it to your hand”. These distinctions were stupid.

There will be 7 factions (maybe more) with the new edition. I wonder if Tyrell will get treatment.

I was really looking forward to the upcoming card releases, especially with the Prized keyword. But I’m also excited about this new streamline from Fantasy Flight. FFG really does make the best games.

The only problem is: what am I to do with all these extra cards now?






Logical inconsistencies in otherwise fine games

Borrowed from, this is one my all time favorite geeklists.

1. Monopoly

Muskegon doesn't like Monopoly from Parker Brothers










I own 14 houses and 3 hotels, but I think I’ll spend the night in that vacant lot owned by my arch-rival over on Ventnor.

…or you stay at your neighbor’s fancy hotel (down the street from yours) and have to mortgage some of your property and sell a couple houses just to afford one night’s rent!

“I own all these hotels and houses and money. I think I am going to travel around Atlantic City in a shoe

Its all about your prestige around town! Any fool can crash at his own crib but only the player who lives large can ride his terrier up to the other guy’s hotel and blow top coin for the night


2. Clue












You may be the killer, and not even be aware of it.

Prof. Plum, while searching the kitchen and examining a bent lead pipe, suddenly has an epiphany and looks to the others in excitement,
“Guys! GUYS!! I just figured it out! It was ME!! I killed Mr. Body! I was the killer all a-long!!! ME!!! Can you even believe it?!”

It might take me an hour to walk from the lounge to the ballroom, but if someone calls me for questioning I’m there in a second.

Also, a dead body has been found, riddled with bullet holes. The folks in the mansion are having a hard time determining if the victim may have been killed with a rope or possibly a candlestick.


 3. Betrayal at House on the Hill







I have a Lake upstairs in my house. Right next to the church. and the satanist altar.


What kind of creepy old haunted house has an elevator?
a dumbwaiter maybe, but an elevator?


4. Arkham Horror

Muskegon fired Arkham Horror when Eldritch Horror was released
Arkham Horror












As I stared up into the endless black gulf of the sky, the true horror of my situation finally dawned on me – for in it were contained alien constellations whose cold, feeble light no human eye had ever glimpsed! That eldritch portal through which I had stepped had flung me beyond the farthest reaches of space and time, and I could not help recalling those passages in the monstrous Pnakotic Manuscripts which hint at other, terrifying dimensions beyond our own. But I had no time for further reflection, for the mists before me began to waver and part as a hideously suggestive dark form approached. What blasphemous horror beyond human conception was I about to confront?…

“Hello, sir. My name is Smith and I’m with the Bank of Arkham.”

“Who… what did you… how..?

“Ye-essss… Sir, on August 18, you took out a loan from the Bank of Arkham for the sum of $10.00.”

“How did you even get here? We’re on an alien planet… in another time… in an mythical monster-haunted dimension which may exist only in someone’s dream!

“Sir, I’m not authorized to discuss internal bank procedures for these matters. You’ll have to speak to the manager. Now, your latest interest payment of… one dollar and zero cents is due immediately, and I have come here to collect it.”

“But… but I spent my last dollar buying this Elder Sign… which is our only hope of stopping the hideous alien forces which seek to destroy all makind!”

“Well, I’m afraid we’ll just have to confiscate that, then. Maybe this will teach you a lesson about responsibility, sir. Please sign here… and here…”


5. Pandemic

No one in Muskegon has won Pandemic (yet)


“I’m so close to a cure!””I have the information you need. Meet me in London, and I’ll give it to you.””But… can’t you tell me now?””NO! I can’t give you the information unless we meet in London.”

– Good news everyone! I have finally developed a cure for the fourth deadly disease!– Great news indeed! Let’s go quickly and administer it to everyone!– No need. Because, as I said, this is the fourth cure!– What do you mean? We’ve been howling our asses all over the world for the past few years, and now we should just.. stop?– Yes, because now we have the fourth cure!– But, people still are dying all over the world..come on, no time to waste..- Ahem..I said, FOURTH CURE!– But..but..oh, what the hell. I give up.. Let’s just get drunk. I’ll SMS the dispatcher to beam me up at your place.– Now you’re talking!

Ouch, four pandemics threaten human civilisation worldwide! And the CDC in Atlanta seems to be the only people anywhere who care. In fact, they’ve put FOUR operatives onto the problem, only one or two of whom have any medical knowledge. If they’re really lucky, they get a government grant large enough to rent and equip a single temporary lab somewhere!


 6. Dominion












Mediaeval Poltroon: What ho, shopkeep!
Shopkeep: Morning, sir. What can I get you?
MP: I’d like to buy some money, please.
SK: Certainly, sir. And how would you be paying for that?
MP: With money, of course.
SK: That’ll do nicely. Anything else?
MP: Well, yes, but I’m not allowed to buy anything more today. I’ll have to come back tommorrow! Until then… farewell! [Departs]
MP: Ah, shopkeep! I trust the morning finds you well?
SK: Very well sir. Will you be wanting some money sir? I’ve just got a fresh batch in.
MP: [patting pockets] Well, er, yes… but, rather embarrassingly, I seem to find myself bereft of either actions or money with which to pay.
SK: Never mind sir. Here – have back all the money you gave me over the last few weeks. Stick it in your pockets and jingle it about a bit. There now. Have you enough to buy some more money?
MP: Why yes, I have three coins, an action and a deed for some real estate. I could sell you the estate for cash.
SK: Sorry, sir. No-one in the Middle Ages is interested in real estate. I can give you gold for copper though.