Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Taking a Break for the Holidays

Hey everybody.  There's no updates this week or next.  I'm going to be taking until January off to spend time with friends and family, and hopefully get lots of games played.

I'm hoping to get a few more plays of Sekigahara in, so I can finalize my review of that.  I'm also expecting a few Kickstarters, including Star Realms and The Agents.  With any luck they'll show up soon.  I especially want to play Star Realms, and hopefully start a review for that as well.

2013 was a good year for this blog I think.  It was my New Years Resolution for 2013 to begin blogging about games, and I think it's gone well.  The positive feedback I've gotten has let me know I'm on the right track.  But over the break, I'm going to be thinking a lot about what my goals will be for 2014.

I definitely want to get into a better rhythm of having reviews twice a month.  Weekly reviews just aren't realistic for me.  I just don't have enough time in a week to satisfy the level of familiarity I want with games when I write a review.

So I'm going to be looking at different types of content.  More play sessions of solo games.  More first impressions or what I've been playing type articles.  I'm tempted to stray into strategy articles for games I'm extremely familiar with.  Or perhaps just Commands & Colors: Ancients.  But if there are any types of content I've done before that you'd like to see more of, let me know.

So Happy Holidays everybody.  And try to get some games in if you can.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Best and Worst of 2013

With 2013 coming to a close, it's as good a time as ever to look back over the games I've played, and decide on the ones I loved the most.  These won't necessarily be games that came out in 2013.  Just games that occupied the greatest mindshare over the year.  The games I was most excited about getting to play, or puzzling out new strategies for.

Of course, there are also the games that were most of a let down.  Games I got extremely excited for, that almost immediately flopped.  I've played them once or twice, and they've since sat in a drawer, unlikely to ever emerge again.  Or I was very excited to try them at a convention, and immediately hated them.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Forbidden Desert Review

I had just gotten Forbidden Island right when Forbidden Desert came out.  So despite the fact that Forbidden Desert was the new hotness, I knew I couldn't justify getting it for a while.  Well a while passed, and a friend of mine gifted it to me for my birthday.  Man did I get a lot of games played that day.

Now I love Forbidden Island, but it is not without it's problems.  It was a slimmed down, streamlined version of Pandemic.  But in the process of shedding excess rules and mechanics, it's quarterbacking problem became more pronounced.  Quarterbacking referring of course to one player instructing all the others what to do with their cold, ruthlessly correct logic.

So Forbidden Desert is Matt Leacock's third cooperative game, published by Gamewright in 2013.  It's another iteration of the same fundamental design he's been molding since Pandemic.  After escaping from the Forbidden Island by helicopter, you crashed straight into the Forbidden Desert.  You must reassemble an ancient Flying Machine who's parts are scattered, buried in the sands.  Only once you've done this can you escape before you die of thirst, or are buried in the sands yourself.  Today I'm going to look at how it's changed from previous iterations, and how well it handles the quarterbacking problem.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Getting the most out of eBay

One of the hardest parts of historical wargaming, is that so many good games are out of print.  Sometimes as soon as you hear that a game is truly worth owning, or is a breakout hit, it's already sold out.  Many times it can be years and years between printings.  Paths of Glory went from 2004 to 2010 before being printed again, and the 2010 printing sold out in around 2 years.  This is a game considered one of the greatest wargames of all time.  The number 2 ranked wargame on BoardGameGeek, behind only Twilight Struggle!

All this necessitates a strong secondary market for wargames.  BGG's trades and sales areas are ok.  But eBay is where I find most of my games.  Over the years, I've learned a few good tricks to avoid overpaying.  So here they are.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

What do you get for the gamer who has everything?

With the holiday season rolling around, everyone is trying to come up with gift ideas.  But gamers can be hard to shop for.  We tend to get so excited about games we preorder them, or buy them ourselves the moment they come out.  Plus our tastes can be so specific, it's extremely difficult to confidently buy a game you know we'll like.

So I would strongly encourage people to look into gaming accessories.  Well chosen accessories can greatly enhance a gaming experience.  They can make a game easier to set up, improve it's aesthetics, or just satisfy the needs of an especially OCD collector.  So with that in mind, here's a list of accessories for games I've greatly appreciated over the year.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Stickering the Austrian Army for Commands & Colors: Napoleonics


Such a cathartic evening. Nothing beats applying a few hundred stickers to wooden blocks for an hour or so.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Guildhall Review

I first played Guildhall at my FLGS.  It was a game I'd heard about for a while.  I have a friend a few states away who consistently speaks highly of it.  The Dice Tower would sporadically heap praise on it as well.  But the look and feel of the game just didn't grab me.  Plus, I own a lot of card games already.  Seriously, I own a lot of card games.  But my FLGS had a demo copy, and I had an hour to kill one evening, so I figured why not?  I'm glad I did, because Guildhall lives up to all the fond things said of it.

Guildhall was published in 2012 by AEG, and was designed by Hope S. Hwang.  It's primarily a set collection game, except each set has a special ability you can invoke.  There are only 6 sets in the game, and their abilities delicately play off one another.  The first player who completes enough sets to earn 20 points is the winner.  But for more detail, lets get into the rules summary.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Escape: Curse of the Temple Review

Escape: Curse of the Temple is one of an increasing number of what I call "experience" games.  These are games that usually involve a soundtrack, and are played in real time.  Their hook is mostly altering your perception of the game through their music and sound effects.  As well as some time dilation caused by the stress they put you under.  Escape in particular was published by Queen Games in 2012, and was designed by Kristian Amundsen Østby.

Escape primarily came to my attention thanks to Shut Up & Sit Down.  I bided my time, waited until I got a gift card and then grabbed it.  I just wasn't sure if the people I play with would enjoy it.  $40-50 also felt like a steep price for a game that lasts only 10 minutes.  So using a gift card definitely alleviated my fears of potential buyers remorse.  Of course, I also had fears about teaching the game properly, and successfully getting everybody through a game where I don't have the luxury of time to keep people honest about the rules.  So lets see how Escape did in those regards.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ottoman Sunset Review

Since getting Soviet Dawn, I've continued to explore the States of Siege series.  It's been extremely interesting to look over the broad range of titles available.  But I eventually settled on the one most like Soviet Dawn, Ottoman Sunset.  It shares probably the most design elements with Soviet Dawn, as it should since it has the same designer.  Although Ottoman Sunset displays more cohesion between the parts, as well as better overall balance.  But I'm getting ahead of myself!

So today I'm reviewing Ottoman Sunset, another game in the States of Siege series by Victory Point Games.  It was designed by Darin A. Leviloff, and was published in 2010.  It takes place in the Ottoman Empire during World War 1.  Your job is to see the nation survive a war it historically collapsed during.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Slew of First Impressions

So this week I got older.  Apparently that entitles me to lots of free things from people.  And as luck would have it, I have a lot of great people in my life who knew just what I wanted.  Board games!  I was even lucky enough to have them around me to try out all the new games.  So to make up for not having a full review of anything, here are a bunch of first impressions.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Rambling about single player games

As it gets harder and harder to play games as often as I'd like with people, I find myself more and more attracted to solitaire games.  Especially games that are specifically designed as solitaire games, as opposed to multiplayer games with a solitaire scenario.  At first I was incredibly resistant to the idea of playing a board game alone.  It seemed like it crossed a very shameful line.  Plus, why play a solitaire boardgame when you have video games?

Well, it's been a few months now that I've explored various single player games, mostly the Field Commander series, and the States of Siege series.  And this is what I've learned about the solitaire boardgame experience.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Innovation Review

I first played Innovation at Gencon in 2011.  A guy I had met at the previous Gencon, I was lucky enough to run into again, and he taught us how to play.  I won't lie, that first 3 player game of Innovation was miserable:  the noise of the hall, the analysis paralysis of one player, the open collusion of both my opponents.  After 2 hours I just wanted the game to be over, and I didn't care how.  Meanwhile, out of spite, one of the players was trying to use Fission to reset the board, and just agitate me further.

Despite the fact that we very nearly wanted nothing to do with each other after that first game, we couldn't help but recognize that Innovation was pretty amazing.  So despite that miserable first experience, we both ended up getting our own copies once we got home from Gencon.  We've just never actually played it with each other since.

Innovation is a civilization themed tableau building game.  It was published in 2010 by Asmadi, and was designed by Carl Chudyk.  There is also an Iello edition in the US now, which has better artwork than the Asmadi edition.  I'm not 100% sure how two publishers can be releasing the same game in the same region.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Commands & Colors: Ancients - Greece & Eastern Kingdoms Review

I'm wrapping up my second play through of all the scenarios for the first expansion to Commands & Colors: Ancients.  There is also a reprint of this expansion due any day now!  So I figured it would be a great time for a review.  I won't lie, I may have some rose tinted glasses for this game.  I'm quite open that Commands & Colors: Ancients is nothing short of my favorite game ever.  From the moment I first played it, I absolutely fell in love with it, and every game I play just brings me new appreciation for the system.

Greece & Eastern Kingdoms is published by GMT Games, and was originally released in 2006.  It adds 2 new armies, the titular Greece and the Eastern Kingdoms.  It also includes 21 scenarios, covering a span of time from roughly 500 BC to 200 BC.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Love Letter Review

Love Letter did not initially appeal to me.  The sappy title and the romantic theme were both turn offs.  Plus I had already backed a game called Coup on Kickstarter, and they seemed like similar games.  But one day I was placing an order, and I needed to spend $10 more for free shipping.  We've all been there, right?  So now I own Love Letter, and boy am I glad that I do!

Love Letter was released in 2012 by AEG, and is actually a retheming of a Japanese game designed by Seiji Kanai.  With it's new theme, it now takes place in AEG's Tempest setting, along with Courtier and Dominare.  The Queen has been arrested, and various people of interest are trying to sneak love letters to the forlorn Princess for a shot at the throne.  If that theme doesn't sound like your thing, don't worry about it.  The game is an absolute blast.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Soviet Dawn Review

In my continued exploration of solo games, I've finally discovered the States of Siege series.  It has a long list of games, covering conflicts of numerous scales and time periods.  I decided to start with the first game in the series, Soviet Dawn.  It may not look like much, but let me assure you, it has it where it counts.

In Soviet Dawn, you are attempting to safeguard the formation of the fledgling Soviet state.  It was published in 2009 by Victory Point Games, and was designed by Darin A. Leviloff.  It's core mechanic revolves around a deck of events with associated action points, similar to what you would find in Twilight Struggle.  It definitely bares closest resemblance to a Card Driven Wargame, just tailored to solitaire design sensibilities.  It's a winning approach to a solitaire game, and at the moment stands as my favorite.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Soviet Dawn Session

So this is my best attempt at a session of Soviet Dawn, a game I've been utterly enthralled by, and plan on having reviewed by Monday.  This is going to be a bit higher level than other sessions I've done.  Partially because the gameplay of Soviet Dawn really isn't conducive to recording every action taken, and every die roll made.  But hopefully I can capture the key decisions that make this game fun.

So my strategy in the beginning is going to be to keep the Eastern Front back.  The worst event you can possibly get, is the Eastern Front rescuing the Czar!  I'm also going to try to improve my Political Level track, and hopefully get the Allied Front to go indecisive before they even become active.  I've been attempting to Reorganize the Red Army aggressively in the beginning, but all in all it feels like a losing strategy.  The only way to succeed is to roll a 6 on a 1d6.  I've wasted dozens of valuable actions attempting it to meager results.  So this game, I'm only going to attempt to Reorganize when I have a bonus to the die roll.

So the game is set up, now lets see how it plays out!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lords of Waterdeep Review

Lords of Waterdeep is a game I picked up on short notice before a beach trip with a bunch of friends.  It was getting a lot of hype on the message boards I frequent, and there was a fantastic sale on Amazon for it.  So I figured why not!  I took a ton of games with me to the beach that year, and Lords of Waterdeep saw a good amount of play.  But less now, over a year later.

Lords of Waterdeep is a worker placement game that takes place in the Dungeons & Dragons setting of the Forgotten Realms.  It was published by Wizards of the Coast in 2012, and was designed by Peter Lee and Rodney Thompson.  It supports 2 to 5 players, and plays in about 60 to 90 minutes.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Field Commander Napoleon in Italy, 1796

Today I decided to play Field Commander Napoleon.  It's a game I just haven't had the time to really indulge in lately, so hopefully I don't make too many rule mistakes.  I've decided to start over again with the very first campaign, 1796 in Italy.  I start in Nice, in the Southwest, and must conquer my way all the way to Klagenfurt.  I need to take every city except Genoa, and if I ever control less than 2 objectives at the end of my turn, I automatically lose.  Also, once I move past Genoa, enemy reinforcements will sweep down from the Northeast to dislodge me.

Field Commander Napoleon is a significant step up from Alexander, both in terms of rules complexity, and difficulty.  The battles are far more strategic, as you will see, and the enemy won't sit around waiting for you to come to them.  Well, the game is set up, so lets play.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Field Commander Alexander at Tyre

Today I'm going to record my playthrough of the Tyre scenario for Field Commander Alexander (review), which takes place after Alexander conquered his way through Asia Minor.  This one is a bit unorthodox, as it contains a host of special rules concerning the extended siege of Tyre.  It's a welcome change of pace from the usual scenarios Field Commander Alexander has to offer.  To make things interesting, I've decided to play with the Raiders rule, which adds one warship to Tyre for the entire game.  I've also decided to play with Gaza's Defenses which subtracts one from my Siege Engine strength in Gaza.  I start with Antipater, who allows me to purchase different types of resupply options.  I also had the option of 2 Advisors, so I picked my favorites.  Parmenion, who reduces the Battle Plans of the enemy by 3, and Hephaestion, who gives Alexander +1 to his strength.  The game is set up, so lets play!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Lord of the Rings The Card Game Review

When Lord of the Rings: The Card Game came out, I wasn't too interested.  I already owned Warhammer: Invasion, and I was already having enough trouble getting anyone to play that with me.  So I passed on it.  However, years later, a friend of mine was completely geeking out over Lord of the Rings.  When I mentioned there was a card game, she bought it on impulse at PAX East 2013.  It took us a few months to get around to digging it out and learning how to play, but once we did, we immediately loved it.

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a cooperative Living Card Game released by Fantasy Flight Games in 2011.  It was designed by Nate French and Caleb Grace.  For those unfamiliar with the Living Card Game format, small booster packs are released roughly monthly.  They contain a set roster of cards.  There is no randomness, as you would find in a Collectible Card Game.  This is highly appealing to a lot of people, myself included.  But Living Card Games also try to bill themselves as complete games right out of the core box, using only the starter decks.  So how well does Lord of the Rings hold up?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Lord of the Rings, a Passage Through Mirkwood

This week I'm reviewing Lord of the Rings: The Card Game since my friend was kind enough to loan it to me.  But I figured while I'm working on that, I can record a solo play session.  The last time we played, I threw together a combined Leadership and Spirit deck, using Aragorn, Theodred and Eowyn as my heroes, and a ton of Ally cards.  She played a straight Tactics deck to complement it.  But tonight I'm curious how well my Spirit/Leadership deck holds up on its own, so I'm trying the first adventure, Passage Through Mirkwood, by my lonesome.  The game is all set up, so lets play!

Beginning of Turn 1

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Field Commander Alexander at Issus

Today I decided to play Field Commander: Alexander.  For some reason every time I go to meticulously document my play, my luck ends up atrocious and I die within 3 turns.  If I'm not recording for posterity I do fine.  So with that warning being given, lets begin.

I've chosen to play the Issus campaign, and I'm going to select the Treasurer Harpalus difficulty modifier, which reduces my income by one each turn.  I'm also choosing the Wide Plain modifier which adds 2 random units to the Issus location.  I have discretion as to my advisors, so I picked Callisthenes who gives you extra glory, and Parmenion who reduces the Battleplans of the enemy by 3 guy.

My play area at the start.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dominion Intrigue Review

Dominion Intrigue was the second boardgame I purchased for myself.  It and Carcassonne I purchased before a large blizzard in 2010.  We had a week with nothing else to do but get to know those two games.  We got good at them, then we got competitive, then things turned ugly.

But back to Dominion Intrigue.  It was designed by Donald X Vaccarino.  It was published in 2009 by Rio Grande Games and was the first expansion of many to Dominion.  It retailed for the same amount as the base game, and came with just as many cards.  If you were new to Dominion, it fully doubled the amount of Kingdom cards you had to work with.  Which was pretty incredible in an expansion.  But aside from variety, what else did it do to the game?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dungeon Roll Review

Dungeon Roll is a push your luck dungeon crawling dice game.  It got it's start as a Kickstarter back in February, and was probably one of the best run Kickstarters I've seen.  The people running the campaign were incredibly open and honest.  The stretch goals were interesting and fun.  The entire campaign just nailed this feeling of helping make something big.  Plus at a $15 price point it was a great impulse buy.

Best of all, Dungeon Roll released with no delays, and no major quality issues.  Two things that Kickstarters tend to be known for.

Dungeon Roll was designed by Chris Darden and was published by Tasty Minstrel Games in 2013.  It supports 1 to 4 players, and plays in about 15 to 30 minutes depending on the number of players.  Players will roll up a party of Companions, then delve into a dungeon generated level by level using dice.  Whoever earned the most Experience Points after 3 delves is the winner.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Field Commander Alexander Review

It's been hard for me to have game nights this summer.  So I decided now might be a good time to get over my hang ups with solo board games.  Two of the games that really came to the top of my list after a little research are Field Command Alexander and Field Commander Napoleon.  Today I'll be reviewing Alexander.

Field Commander Alexander was published and designed by Dan Verssen, and was released in 2009.  In it you take control of Alexander the Great and his army as you conquer your way through the known world.  It's designed as a purely solitary game, where you compete against an loosely directed AI.

It includes 4 scenarios, Granicus, Issus, Tyre and Gaugamela.  You can play them individually or as a linked campaign, and they even have additional challenges you can include for some extra difficulty, and a chance at higher scores.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

I'm Going on Vacation.

Bad news readers.  This week I'm going on vacation.  That means no reviews this Monday or next as I've been running around getting ready to go out of town instead of playing games.  I know, where are my priorities.  I'll be back with weekly reviews starting on the first Monday of August.  But hopefully between now and then I can post a few more session reports of some games.

I keep trying my hand at Field Commander Alexander, but after having effortlessly gone through all 4 scenarios, now that I'm trying to document my conquest for posterity, the dice are refusing to play nice.  Somehow I don't think anyone wants to read several pages of me rolling a 1 for every scouting roll, and missing every combat roll as well.  Why just last night, I spent 5 turns outside Halicarnassus, attempting to intimidate it into submission.  The first time I only needed a 4, 5 or 6 to succeed, and I failed.  The second time I only needed a 3, 4, 5 or 6 to succeed and I failed.  The third time I only needed a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 to succeed...and I failed.  And so ended Alexander's conquest, and my patience with dice for the weekend.

But I digress.  I'll be enjoying my vacation, and I hope everyone else is enjoying there Summer as well.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Many Ways to Store Dominion

So storing all the expansions for Dominion became quite a problem.  At one point I'd managed to fit all the expansions up through Prosperity into the base box.  However every time I picked it up, I felt like the bottom was going to fall out of it.  Also in the meantime, I'd acquired Hinterlands, Dark Ages and Cornucopia.  So clearly it was time to upgrade.

What I found was this case from Hobby Lobby.  I then used some 3 inch wide balsa wood planks I found at a craft store for the dividers.  Some Elmer's wood glue later, and the planks were in.  I then used some packing tape at the edges to protect the cards a little bit more from the edges.  Call me paranoid.

I made this for about $30

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Field Commander Alexander at Granicus

Lately I've been feeling like Field Commander Alexander is too easy.  Playing it normally, I can usually conquer every scenario inside of 3 turns.  Especially if I go nuts, and raze my conquests every chance I get.  So today I decided I'd try Granicus with all the difficulty modifiers.  They are:
  • Memnon's Scorched Earth - Subtract 2 from Scouting die rolls
  • Memnon's Raiding Fleet - If Scouting roll < Forces, pay 2 Gold per point, instead of 1
  • Memnon's Diversionary Attack into Greece - From the Fall of 335 BC and after, your Forces cost +2 Gold each
  • Treasurer Harpalus - Gain 1 less Gold during Resupply
I may come to quickly regret this.

All set up and ready to play.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Forbidden Island Review

Forbidden Island is a cooperative game developed by Matt Leacock and published by Gamewright in 2010.  In Forbidden Island you are attempting to retrieve 4 treasures off a sinking island.  As with most cooperative games, there are many ways to lose, and only one way to win.

I had been aware of Forbidden Island since shortly after I got Pandemic.  But it seemed clear it was the lesser game.  It had few bits, no real board, and less mechanics.  Why would I bother with it?  Then I traded Pandemic for Defenders of the Realm, and was awoken to the fact that in board games, sometimes less is more.  Defenders of the Realm was a bloated, lumbering, boring game.

With my new "less is more" mentality, I gave Forbidden Island another try.  My FLGS had a copy in their demo library, and we immediately loved it.  We found it had all the tense decision making of Pandemic, in a more streamlined package.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Space Empires 4X Doomsday Machine Session

I've had a vicious desire to play Space Empires 4X lately.  Sadly, it's a complicated and lengthy game, and that means finding room in everyone's schedule for it.  So this week I decided I wanted to try the Doomsday Machine scenario again.  It's a solo scenario where several Doomsday Machines will be sent against your empire over the course of the game.  They'll devour planets along their way, healing damage in the process.  I had tried it before on the easiest difficulty level, and on a small map.  So this time I thought I'd try it on normal, but still on a small map.  That way it plays in about 60 to 90 minutes.

All ready to play!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Star Wars The Card Game Review

When I purchased X-Wing, it reignited my endless love of Star Wars.  So hot on the heals of playing that to death, I also purchased Star Wars The Card Game.  I was initially very hesitant about it.  The box cover artwork makes it look like they just reused movie stills.  Plus I heard strange rumblings on BoardGameGeek about it being a cooperative game?  Turns out the game used to be cooperative, and underwent a complete redesign.  And I'm quite glad it did!

Star Wars The Card Game is a Living Card Game published by Fantasy Flight Games and designed by Eric M Lang.  There is very little Eric M Lang has designed that I haven't loved.  Including Chaos in the Old World, Quarriors and Warhammer: Invasion.

If you aren't familiar with Living Card Games, they are similar to Collectible Card Games.  Only instead of randomized booster packs, every month or so a non randomized booster pack is released.  They are usually released in cycles of 6 boosters which have thematic and mechanical links.  Every now and again a deluxe booster is also released, adding new factions or mechanics.  It's a system I've enjoyed previously, although I've always felt it fell short of it's potential.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Timeline Diversity Review

Timeline is a trivia game where you are attempting to place events in their proper order.  It has numerous sets, covering different types of events.  The sets are Inventions, Discoveries, Historical Events, and one set even has a mix of all of the above.  Diversity is the set I'm reviewing specifically, which is the set with a mix of all the different types of events.

Timeline was published by Asmodee in 2010 and was designed by Frédéric Henry.  I had heard about it for a while, and it looked interesting.  I'd take an active interest in it off and on, watching the various sets go in and out of stock on my wishlist.  Finally one night at my FLGS with my girlfriend, I decided to pick it up, thinking it would be a good quick game for us.  We went home and immediately played it, and I think it's the only game she's ever asked to play again right away.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Down in Flames: Guns Blazing Review

Down in Flames: Guns Blazing is a World War II air combat game designed and published by Dan Verssen in 2010.  It's half of the current printing of a series that has its root back at GMT Games 20 years ago.  The other half of the current printing is Down in Flames: Aces High, which I have not played, but which has identical rules.

I discovered Down in Flames one evening when I wandered into my local gaming shop.  These two older grognards were playing the original GMT version and appeared to be having a great time.  They were also the only people not playing Magic, so I asked them if I could watch.  They took the time to introduce me to the game, and answer a few of my questions. It looked like a lot of fun, so I went home and looked to see what the current availability of it was.

I have no clue what happened, but some poor guy must have messed up their order to a distributor.  Because one retailer was selling copies of Down in Flames: Guns Blazing for $4 on Amazon.  Turns out that retailer was sitting on over 100 copies of it, where as most retailers might stock 2 or 3.  Sure, it wasn't the GMT version I saw being played, but for $4 who was I to say no?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Alhambra Review

Alhambra was released in 2003 by Queen Games and was designed by Dirk Henn.  It's a tile laying/set collection game, and one of the most often mentioned gateway games.  I discovered the game shortly after getting into board games.  A very sweet middle aged woman who worked at a local gaming store recommended it.  She said she played it nearly every week with her husband and another couple.  She especially recommended the Big Box.

Alhambra sat on my wish list for a while before I followed up on her suggestion.  I played it a few times, and didn't really see what the big deal was.  I had tunnel vision at the time towards bigger and "better" games.  Alhambra even almost got traded away numerous times.  But I kept it, and decided to revisit it from time to time.  I'm actually glad I did, and here is my review.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

San Juan Review

San Juan was released in 2004 by Rio Grande Games, and was designed by Andreas Seyfarth.  It is the card version of Puerto Rico, and in my personal opinion, superior to it's parent game.  It also bares a striking resemblance to Race for the Galaxy.

For years San Juan would come up every time Race for the Galaxy was mentioned.  But being such similar games, I always ignored San Juan because I already owned Race for the Galaxy.  However, a few weeks ago San Juan was on sale for iOS.  So I figured why not, lets give it a spin.  What I found really shocked me, and I quickly purchased a physical copy to share with my friends.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dominion Review

Dominion was released in 2008 by Rio Grande Games, and was designed by Donald X Vaccarino.  It proceeded to take the world by storm.  Dominion introduced board gamers to the concept of a deck building game.  Since then it's had 7 expansions, with a 8th on the way, and I, like many others, have purchased every single one.

Dominion was the 2nd board game I ever purchased.  Before a blizzard in 2010, I purchased Dominion: Intrigue.  I was hoping to explore it and other games I had just purchased, during a week being snowed in.  I remember reading the rules completely bewildered as to how you actually play this strange game.  At this point I had only played Carcassonne.

Finally I set it up, and a few turns into the game, the first time I shuffled my discards to form a new draw deck, I got it!  I honestly can't count how many times we played Dominion that week.  For the next year though, at least once a week I'd play Dominion during my lunch break.  Dominion got played regularly at night.  Every time people came over, they asked to play Dominion.

It's been years since Dominion came out.  A lot has been said about it, and many games have aped it.  But I'm going to take a look back at just the base game, without any expansions, and see how it holds up.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Interview with Xia's designer, Cody Miller

Xia: Legends of a Drift System is a Kickstarter that immediately grabbed my attention.  The modular board immediately appealed to me because I love games with some variable setup.  Then the ship models jumped out at me as being immaculately produced.  As a whole, the prototype is one of the most impressive I've seen.  Then I saw the complete rules were already available.  Reading them over gave me a fantastic sense of how to play the game, without even having the components in front of me!  It wasn't long before I desperately wanted a copy of Xia.

I was also fascinated by the story behind Xia.  So I decided to ask the designer of Xia, Cody Miller, a few questions about himself, and his game.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

X-Wing Review

X-Wing was released at Gencon in 2012, and was designed by a whole load of people at Fantasy Flight Games.  I was there for it's release, but I actually went out of my way to avoid it.  Walking into the dealers hall, the line around the Fantasy Flight Games booth went on for as far as the eye could see.  Then if you followed it, it went around a corner, and off into the horizon.  I knew two things seeing this game.  First, "I don't like miniature games", which is a thing I've told myself since childhood for the sake of my wallet.  Second, that if this game ever got it's hooks in me, it would be agony attempting to find the models I wanted in stock.

I successfully avoided X-Wing for 6 months, until PAX East 2013.  There I was looking for a game to join, and happened across a guy at a table with a mountain of X-Wing stuff.  He was alone, and looking to play with someone.  Then we made eye contact, and I knew right then, my wallet was forfeit.

I'm going to structure this review on a few assumptions.  I'm going to assume you will be playing the 100 pt squad building game.  I'm aware the core set has all sorts of scenarios and rules about 31 point squads.  But who are we kidding?  Once you get ahold of this game, your imagination will run wild.  You'll fantasize about what it's like to have Boba Fett chase down the Millennium Falcon.  Or what would you do with a full squad of 4 X-Wings?  Then the rest will be history.  On your credit card statement.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Quarriors Review

Quarriors was released in 2011 by Wizkids, and was designed by Eric M Lang and Mike Elliot.  Mike Elliot may be chiefly known because of Thunderstone, and Eric M Lang has designed numerous of my favorite games.  Namely Chaos in the Old World, Warhammer Invasion and Star Wars: The Card Game.

I discovered Quarriors at Gencon in 2011.  It was absolutely dominating the show.  Everywhere you looked there was Quarriors.  A friend I traveled with who is an aspiring game designer silently cursed when I told him someone had done a deck building game but with dice.  He'd been slowly cooking up a similar idea and didn't appreciate that someone beat him to the punch.

Whatever resentment he may have harbored didn't stick around long as I, and nearly every person I met, played complete games of Quarriors at the demo booth, and then quickly purchased our own copies.  For the rest of the show, it was a constant question of "Your copy or mine?" whenever there was downtime to play a game.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Runewars Organization

My article about long setup times a few weeks ago was really a wake up call.  Setting up Runewars to take the pictures for that article took forever.  It was really important to me to have the before and after of a messy box being transformed into a beautiful play area.  But true to the theme of the article, it took forever.  And once I had Runewars set up, I wanted so badly to play it.  Sadly it was 1 am around that time.  But I decided at that moment that I was going to tame the chaos that exists inside the Runewars coffin.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Roll Through the Ages Review

Roll Through the Ages was designed by Matt Leacock.  It came out in 2008, and is currently published by Gryphon Games.  I'd heard about it for years, but always dismissed it as looking too boring.  The game looked like little more than a wooden pegboard and a spreadsheet.  But still, everything I'd heard had been positive.  So when I saw a copy in the library at PAX East 2013, I decided to give it a go.  Boy was I surprised by what I found!

Roll Through the Ages is a dice game where you will be building up your civilization over about 5 to 10 turns.  It contains elements of push your luck, as well as some cleverly abstracted civilization building and economic mechanics.  One thing that shocked me, is that being a fan of Pandemic, I had no idea the same designer also worked on Roll Through the Ages.  They couldn't be more different games.  I can't think of a single similarity among them.  Between Pandemic and Forbidden Island, I wasn't aware that Matt Leacock had that sort of range.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Commands & Colors: Napoleonics Review

Commands & Colors: Napoleonics was released in 2010 by GMT Games and was designed by Richard Borg.  It was the 4th game in the Commands & Colors series I've played, if you count Battles of Westeros.  I snatched it up in 2012 because I was worried about it going out of print like so many of the Commands & Colors: Ancients releases have.  I wasn't intending to play it immediately, nor did I have much interest in the Napoleonic era.  I just craved more GMT based Commands & Colors.

But still, I stickered the blocks, I read the rules, and then I was dying to play it.  Then I started reading up on some Napoleonic history.  Before I knew it I had completely shelved Ancients (for the time being), so I could play through all the scenarios in this game.  It is remarkable to me how relatively minor rule changes, over top a strong set of core mechanics, can completely alter the character of a game.  Napoleonics plays almost identically to Ancients, but with enough chrome tweaked to reflect an entirely different epoch.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Importance of Setup Time

In my group, there are two leading factors that determine whether a game gets played.  How long does it take to set up, and how hard is it to learn?  I can't really say which one takes precedence over the other.  But today I'm going to talk about set up time.

I want to play it, but not that badly.

Many games in my group have fallen into the trap of being fun, but not quite fun enough to justify how much work goes into setting them up.

I'm supposed to turn this...into this?!

Runewars has fallen into this trap.  As much as I long to play it, the extended setup time just kills our enthusiasm for the game.  Battles of Westeros suffered the same fate.  I was teaching a friend of mine to play it one night, and she was watching Hockey as I was setting it up.  Two periods later she was wondering if I was done yet.  I ended up trading away Battles of Westeros when I got the much easier to set up Commands & Colors: Ancients.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Core Worlds Review

Core Worlds was released in 2011 by Stronghold Games, and was designed by Andrew Parks.  The buzz around the game sounded promising, and I quickly ordered a copy soon after it came out.  I was immediately impressed with it's tight gameplay, and strong core mechanics.  Then it sat on my shelf for months because everyone was burnt out after one play.  They enjoyed it.  But it was intense.  It's a gamer's game, and sadly, it's not often I get a group of nothing but gamer's together.

Core Worlds is a sort of deck building, sort of drafting, sort of tableau building game.  The Galactic Empire is collapsing, like Rome of old.  And not unlike Rome of old, the barbarian kingdoms around it's borders are now invading for their piece of the old empire.  Except now they are space barbarians!  That would be you.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cognitive Bias and Games

Sometimes I wonder how well suited our monkey brains are for playing games.  The list of cognitive biases we innately possess is long.  Their relevance to how we interact with games shouldn't be underestimated.  And even when you know about them, there seems to be little you can do to stop them from happening to you in the moment.  Different ones seem to afflict different people.  Plus some games just seem to fall prey to them more than others.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sutakku Review

Sutakku came out in 2011 from Smirk & Dagger Games.  It was designed by Curt Covet according to BoardGameGeek, however the manual tells this charming story about how it's an old Japanese game that evolved over time, supposedly to teach lessons about risk versus reward.  It's a push your luck dice game with an interesting aesthetic and a very fun "take that" variant.

I discovered Sutakku at PAX East this year.  Smirk & Dagger were there at a booth, which had the game on display.  I'd spotted the dice from across the crowded hall, and they looked gorgeous.  Then later that night around midnight we lucked out and found a copy we could check out of the game library.  I'd been looking for a light, cheap and small game to get at PAX as a memento.  Sutakku was perfect.  We played it 4 times in a row and only stopped because we wanted to immediately try to purchase it.  Luckily for us, we went over to the Smirk & Dagger booth and sure enough someone was still there, even past Midnight.  Me and a friend happily bought copies around 1 am.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Carcassonne Review

Carcassonne was released in 2000 and was designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede. These days it's being published by Z-Man games in America.  I discovered it in 2010, and it was the very first boardgame I bought, right before I got snowed in during a blizzard.  Needless to say, with the power being out and nowhere to go, we got to know this game very well that week.

There are two Carcassonnes.  There is the nice, light, fun, family friend game you can get out from time to time.  It can be a pleasant evening with your significant other.  You could take it to a family get together and a few people might walk away thinking they should look into these new games that are out.  All in all it's a pleasant experience.

Then there is the brutal, no holds barred, cut throat Carcassonne.  The one where every move is challenged. Every feature fought over.  A version of Carcassonne where you will howl with displeasure when your opponent snatches that 30 point city from you.  Farms will be turned into no man's land.  There may be blood.  Correction.  There most certainly will be blood.

The best part is, both versions of Carcassonne come in the same box.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Memoir 44 Review

Memoir 44 was one of the earliest games in the Commands & Colors series by Richard Borg.  The base game is set on the western front of World War II.  It was released in 2004 by Days of Wonder, and was chiefly aimed at new gamers unfamiliar with wargames.

I came to it significantly later, in 2012, when I told a friend of mine Commands & Colors: Ancients had a World War II version.  She purchased it quickly and we went on to play it regularly.  At first I didn't care for it much.  It appeared to lack the probing, almost dancing gameplay I had come to love in later entries to the Commands & Colors series.  However as we made our way through the scenarios included in the game, I grew to appreciate it more and more for it's own unique flavor.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

X-Wing Tray

Updated 4/19/2013

Today I was industrious.  I've fallen hardcore in love with X-Wing and went on a bit of a spending spree, against the better judgement of both myself, and those around me.  But how can you not fall in love with Star Wars?  Especially the unmolested original trilogy!  So I spent the evening being crafty and managed to create these fine cases for my figures and accessories.  I got the idea from this reddit post, and just went to town.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Chaos in the Old World Review

Today I am looking at Chaos in the Old World.  It's a fantastic marriage of American and European style gameplay principles.  It also has a fantastic theme if you are into the darker side of things.  It was published in  2009 by Fantasy Flight Games, and designed by Eric M Lang.  Eric M Lang has also designed many of my other favorite games, including Warhammer: Invasion and Quarriors.  But without further delay, lets get started.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Eminent Domain Review

It was released in 2011 by Tasty Minstrel Games, and was designed by Seth Jaffee.  I was actually able to get a copy shortly after it came out at Gencon in 2011.  I got lucky and played a round in the game library and immediately went to go purchase my own copy.

Eminent Domain cooled on me, and was a game that like 7 Wonders, I got bored with early.  I almost passed it over completely after a handful of plays, but decided to go back to it, this time really looking for depth, as opposed to hoping the game would show it to me.  I was pleasantly surprised with what I found.

Monday, March 25, 2013

PAX East 2013

So I made it to Boston this weekend for PAX East 2013. I had a fantastic time, and I spent most of it in the game room. So here is everything I played, and what I thought of it.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Zombie Dice Review

Rule Summary

The game comes with a cup full of dice.  On your turn you will draw three of them and roll them.  You keep the brains, which are points.  You also keep the shotgun blasts.  The footprints, which are "runners" you reroll once you've drawn back up to three dice from the cup.  If you ever have three shotgun blasts, your turn is over and you lose the points you earned this turn.  You can choose to stop whenever you want and bank your points.  Once a player gets 13 brains, every other player gets an equal number of turns, and then the game ends.  The player with the most brains wins.  That was easy.

Timelapse of play

Thursday, March 14, 2013

How Should You Reward Success?

Rewarding success in board games is a tricky proposition.  Reward players too much and the game can cease to be competitive past a certain point.  Lagging players can be easily alienated and become bored.  Fail to reward successful play enough and the game takes on a feeling of being too artificially balanced.  It feels like no matter what you do, you do about as well as everyone else, and the winner comes down to whatever random variance is built into the game.  Today I'd like to look at numerous games, what they do well, what they don't do well, and try to come to some sort of conclusion about what makes a good reward system.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Dice Post

Balance is a tricky issue.  If you start both players off with the exact same starting position and capabilities, it is likely true that your game rewards skill and experience.  Even in the best of games of this type, it results in a somewhat dry game.  Incredibly deep and fun games, but typically quite dry.  Sadly, many games also fall far short of their depth mark.  Depth in a purely deterministic game is hard to pull off.  It typically requires there to be some sort of emergent quality to the rules.  And emergence is difficult to purposely accomplish.

So most games take a different path, and introduce a variety of mechanics to liven up gameplay, but maintain balance.  Randomness, asymmetry, variable set ups, and so on.  So today I'm going to be taking a long hard look at dice.  How dice effect the gameplay, the depth of the dilemmas in the game, and the nature of the player interaction.

7 Wonders Review

7 Wonders was released in 2010 by Asmodee Games, and was designed by Antoine Bauza.  It is a game I've frequently been rather hot or cold about.  I'll go through periods where I desperately want to play it more.  Then I'll get bored of it rather quickly again.  A part of me wonders if this is because the game doesn't have enough meat on it's bones for me, or because I haven't delved deeply enough into it?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ingenious Review

Ingenious is probably one of Reiner Knizia's more accessible games.  Published in 2004, it was an immediate hit.  On a personal level, it was one of the few abstract games I enjoyed at the time.  Many abstract games seemed overly complicated and obtuse at the time I was first getting into board gaming as a more serious hobby.  So, years later, here are my thoughts on it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Battle Line Review

Battle Line was released in 2000 by the ever fantastic GMT Games.  It was designed by the illustrious Reiner Knizia, although it was a retheming of a game called Schotten-Totten.

Battle Line is a very quick two player card game.  It falls in the same category as Lost Cities and Dragonheart among others.  In theory it is set during Alexander the Great's conquest of the Persian Empire, but you'd only know it because two of the special cards in the game are Alexander and Darius, and they cannot be played by the same person.  So here is what I think of it.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Kingdom Builder Review

Kingdom Builder was released in 2011 and was designed by Donald X Vaccarino of Dominion fame.  It won a few awards, and has been received by people either quite well, or quite poorly.  Since it came from the same wellspring as Dominion, expectations may have been running a bit high.  That said, I've found it to be a very enjoyable light to medium abstract game.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Player Elimination? Is it ever appropriate?

First the Bad.

On the extreme end of purely adversarial games, is a mechanic that many people dread.  Player elimination.  Losing is one thing.  But being eliminated?!  And then everyone just plays on without you!  About the most pure example of a mechanic which is fun so long as it never happens to you.  And especially not if you are first.  Of all the stories of rage quitting that I've heard, an early player elimination is the most common theme.  Especially when the average length of the game in question is basically an entire day.  Nobody wants to be kicked out of the game, with the prospect of having to wait hours, all alone, for a chance to play with people again.

Some games are awful because they were designed around player elimination concepts, but don't have player elimination.  Instead of players being eliminated and the game ending, players are forced to continue on, in some sort of zombie state, until the end of the game.  They get to do a single default action, over and over, every turn.  Like taking 2 resources.  Or placing a single combat unit in a single area of the map.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Commands & Colors: Ancients, Part 2

Long term strategy, short term strategy, both or neither?

In terms of trying to concretely plan ahead, I'd have to say this game rewards thinking ahead about two or three turns.  Three turns is just the most you can really count on.  One turn to prepare.  One turn to launch the attack.  Then one more turn to try to follow up with that attack if they aren't destroyed or driven off in a counter attack.

Longer term planning can be helpful.  Getting all your troops into a mutually supporting formation or good terrain for the assault you know must be coming never hurts.  And it always helps to have a vague awareness of how many troops you want in each section, and trying to maintain cards in your hand to command them.  But that comes down to more of an intuitive feel for the game than anything you can discretely logic out.

In the short term, the positioning of your troops and the order in which you attack can have profound implications.  I'd say the bulk of the strategy is in the short term pairing up of troops to assault one another, the order you choose to execute their attacks.  I've seen even the best laid plans fall apart because someone allowed the enemy to escape before their strongest attacks could be brought to bare.  Which often results in a crushing counter attack.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Commands & Colors: Ancients, Part 1

Commands & Colors: Ancients came out in 2006 from GMT Games, and was designed by Richard Borg as part of his ever growing Commands & Colors series.  It is one of my favorite games.  I suppose I shouldn't qualify that.  It is my favorite game.  No exceptions.  I've logged over 50 plays, and I can perceive of no point in time where I will have gotten board with it.  But that does not spare it from my critical eye.