Saturday, June 03, 2006

Oh, the games I have played

These notes easily span two months or more of weekly boardgaming. Instead of presenting these session-by-session, I'll instead break it down and talk about the various games in turn. Kelly and Marc both occasionally talk about these game sessions, and the Austin Stink (a stink of gamers, get it?) has a new blog, so you can get any desired chronological data that way. I also know that I've talked about a number of these games here recently, so I'll try to stay fresh. Even so, some things may have slipped through the cracks.

10 Days in Africa (BGG, BUY ME!) - This again feels like a competitive puzzle as players strive to complete a valid travel agenda across Africa using cars, planes, and plain walking from country to country. This is almost identical to 10 Days in the USA, but with different geography. I don' think that the game suffers by attempting to be educational, but it feels somehow lacking as virtually all of the action hides behind each player- the board only exists to serve as a map, and no tokens move upon it. Strategically, this is a tactical game; can you deal moment-to-moment with what's presented to you? Very engrossing regardless, and though quick, games tend to be very close; Engaging but silent.

Badaboom (BGG, BUY ME!) - I had my eye on this for a while: blowing up goblins and mucking with fantasy bomb components so you could bribe your way to freedom sounded like it would be up my alley. I had picked it up and it had sat on the unopened games pile for a little too long, so I brought it out as part of my bargain with myself not to buy new games until I had played more of my unopened ones. The rules read like they were poorly translated into English by a native Swedish speaker (very likely true), and both Dan and I had a go at reading them. Playing it with five proved disastrous- it was far too chaotic and nobody knew exactly what they could or could not do at given moment. This went over like a lead balloon. I'm extremely unlikely to want to play it again, but I'd be willing to give it another go if it turns out that we missed something critical. The game components are of very high quality, however.

Bang (BGG, BUY ME!) - Always a good crowd-pleaser. Playing it with strangers does strain any new bridges of trust, so be advised. Rumor control has it that they will have a boardgame version in the near future. I usually only bring this to play when we have six or seven people to play- I think the four or five-player version isn't as exciting. Now that this group is starting to learn and enjoy it, I'll soon bring out the Dodge City expansion.

Bohnanza (BGG, BUY ME!) - There is a certain class of player that doesn't seem to get the "Trade or Die" notion inherent to this game. The deal-making and promises certainly force the players to cooperation even moreso than Settlers, and if you don't capitalize on the other player's resources, you simply can't win. Further, the game really speeds up with six players, and you can really zoom through the deck. I don't own any of the expansions for this game, but might soon.

Cape Horn (BGG, BUY ME!) - As much as I enjoy this game, I know that the Marketing team fell asleep at the wheel for this one. Why not call it "Around the Cape?" The second time I brought this out for five, it didn't fly as well as it had the previous time with three. I think the players were a little confused by my explanation. Still fun, but not as vicious when players don't grok how they can really screw each other over by playing wind tiles where their opponents need to go. I had also forgotten the sort of surprise victory that can occur when a player suddenly grabs a third nautical station token. I still didn't win, but I also didn't have as much fun as I had hoped. Maybe next time, with people who already know the game.

Carabande (BGG, OOP - GOOD LUCK) - Ah, the simple joy of racing. I've most recently learned that it's vital to make sure you have a good, solid, flat playing surface to play, or else frustration gets in the way of joy. I still want more track pieces. If you take a close look at this track, you'll notice how we have improvised two forks in the track- one right after the ramp, and one with the little loop in the corner. This was lots of fun, knocking pieces back and forth as players jostled for position along the same length of track but moving in different directions. I so wish that PitchCar track was compatible with Carabande track. Maybe I could craft come adapters out of MDF.

Carcassonne (BGG, BUY ME!) + The River (BGG, BUY ME!) + Inns and Cathedrals (BGG, BUY ME!) - I've only recently played this again. I hear there are about ninety million different ways to play and almost half as many expansions, and I'm pretty sure contemporary Carcassonne is different form how I played when first introduced. I like The River expansion- it adds a bit of random structure to the growing game field. Inns and Cathedrals add a little, but not too much, so I don't think that it overbalances. I also tried a strategy by not placing any farmers and therefore "losing" some of my followers as they stayed where placed. It worked all right- I came in a close third, though a single farmer proved the difference between first (Dan) and second (Kelly).

Cityscape (BGG, BUY ME!) - Dan had picked this up back during our voyage to Chimaeracon in San Antonio, but I hadn't played it before. This is a medium-light competitive/cooperative skyline building game done fairly handsomely in wood. Dan, Kelly, John, and myself played (I won) in about ten or fifteen minutes. Dan mentioned that he had this at work for a time, and I can see the value in a coffee-break-length game. More on the notion of designing games for particular constraints later.

Deflexion (BGG, BUY ME!) - Lasers. Strategy. Made in New Orleans at Tulane. An Egyptian theme. New pieces on the way. Why haven't you bought this yet?

Falling (BGG, BUY ME!) - This game has a few drawbacks, forcing me to game the play of this, and I mean that turn of phrase very specifically. Falling is a real-time card game where you're trying to hit the ground last. It requires a dealer to deal and adjudicate any in-game disputes. Nobody in my current crew has played it before, so I have to bring it out and engage folks in playing it, teaching and exciting them in play so that at some point in the future I can play. I'm getting there.

GOOTMU (BGG, BUY ME!) - Mazes and tiles and roll and move. A little strange to play an real live actual, honest to goodness, pick up a six-sided die then roll it to see how far you move your token game. I think the last time I played such a game was either Trivial Pursuit or Cranium, both before the 2006 New Year. Fie on you, Monopoly! This is a flawed, fiddly little game from Tom Jolly. Even though it was published nearly a decade before Wiz-War, there's definite influences apparent. It also oddly feels like a devolved version of Wiz-War due to roll-and-move and spaces with instructions printed on it. When I got this as a trade, I selected it because it looked like a game I would enjoy; when I opened it, I had sort of a sinking feeling that it would disappoint. I played a three-player game with Dan and Ryan, and I don't recall who won. Dan and I both thought about ways to improve the game, but nothing definite came of it. I think it's a crime that this is still in print, but Wiz-War is not.

In a Pickle (BGG, BUY ME!) - This light party game of "what's bigger than that" or "will that fit inside this" has survived several plays now. I think one of my favorite sessions was with a surprise visit from Scott and Jen, leading us to play with four couples teaming up. I have a feeling that this box will come with us to the Left Coast for the holidays and that Cat's family will get a huge kick out of it. Overall, a good light filler and a nice cheap find from Wal-Mart.

Kablamo! (BGG, BUY ME!) - This is a game of Russian Roulette without the mess. Interestingly, this is from the same company as Badaboom, but it's much better. The game has a more definite structure to the chaos as players rotate their guns, load their bullets (with actions on them that affect pretty much everything), act on the active bullet, and so forth. I've played with three, four, and five (the limit), and each time, people wanted to play again. This was a good buy, with just enough chaos to upset any needed memorization.

Let's Kill (BGG, BUY ME!) - I first bought this for the presumably humorous theme of stick figures morbidly killing each other. Sadly, this is one of those games where reading the cards is most of the fun. I can see where the right group of people would have hysterical fun with this game, but I think I've moved beyond gallows humor as the reason to play a game. I'll read Addams Family or the Gashlycrumb Tinies with the next gothpunk, but games are another kettle of fish entirely. What works thematically in the different Gloom fails here pretty heavily. Diverting, but I feel like I should've bought Lunch Money instead. Poor Atlas Games. If anyone out there is interested in taking this off my hands, let me know.

Loco! (BGG, BUY ME!) - Another Very Clever Reiner Knizia game of changing values. I'll need to play it again to give a better review.

No Thanks! (BGG, BUY ME!) - Light, elegant, and a high replay value. We also now know how to play and score properly- the first game we played, Dan missed three, count 'em, three rules. This leads one to wonder how to write rules for clarity and as a means to insure that obvious or important rules are not missed. I suspect that it requires professional editing and layout or massive amounts of observed blind playtesting to determine which rules are being missed. I'll probably pick this game up at some point, like a second- or third-tier purchase. After all, it's already on the collective game shelf.

Ricochet Robots (BGG, BUY ME!) - Still good, still awesome, still my most-often-requested game. I snatched this us as soon as I saw it on the discount table. I have no idea how it got there, but I'm glad I snagged it.

Sitting Duck Gallery (BGG, BUY ME!) - This Guillotine-esque game of duck shooting holds up well with three through six. Paring down actions to simply draw one, play one keeps things moving fast as you target and eliminate your opponents' ducks. Of course, there are cards to shuffle the duck line and move the targeting markers from duck to duck, adding a fair amount of uncertainty to play. I particularly like the fact that eliminated players keep playing in kingmaker roles. This game does have a goodly amount of "take that!" screw-your-neighbor, but it's at a light enough level that nothing really leaves the game table. I would still like it even if I had paid full price for it. As a downside, it's not a two-player game.

Sleuth (BGG, BUY ME!) - A classic Sid Sackson game from the late sixties. I got a chance to play this due to Dan's luck in thrift stores. This is unquestionably a competitive puzzle: Take thirty-six cards in four colors, showing one, two, or three Diamonds, Opals or Pearls. Remove one and hide it. The rest of the company must now deduce the missing gem by a series of search cards that direct the natures of the questions one may ask one other player. I think Ryan won our three-player session. This game deserves multiple plays with multiple players, and I should totally pick this up. (Aside: Sackson collected more than ten thousand board games in his life. Read about the auction here.)

Squint (BGG, BUY ME!) - I kick ass at this game. Maybe that's why my group doesn't like it as much as I do. This is basically Pictionary with tiles. A good party game that tests your visualization skills. Can you make someone say "Piggy Bank" or "Swimming" or "Abraham Lincoln" or "Sheep" using a few abstract shapes?

Times Square (BGG, BUY ME!) - Two-player tug-of-war by Knizia. Fast, taking perhaps ten or fifteen minutes. I'll have to remember to keep bringing this out so it can get some more light. I beat Dan twice and the reception was a little lukewarm. Maybe I should listen to Han Solo.

Villa Paletti (BGG, BUY ME!) - This dexterity game gets a lot of play with our crowd. Most excitingly, I found that the game comes in two versions. What's the difference with the $140 version? Size, baby. An instant, instinctively fun game. Buy this if you see it. (The cheaper one, obviously- unless you're buying the larger edition for me.)

Wallamoppi (BGG, BUY ME!) - Here's an interesting experiment. We got to playtest the demo copy of this at our Friendly Local Game Store. This went over like a lead balloon again, though maybe the players weren't 100% receptive to playing. (You know who you are.) The game instantly went to the discount table. I'd still like to give it a second shot before passing judgment. I like dexterity games, and the clever marble ramp timer has an added element of niftiness for me.

Wheedle (BGG, BUY ME!) - This remains well-received, though some of the random people who join don't care for it too much. This sort of chaos doesn't always appeal to some, though I find it endlessly entertaining to see the sorts of strategies people develop- only trading with the center and not with people, intentionally sabotaging other players' runs, or following right behind a trade and trying to beat someone at a needed color. Fast-paced and awesome. I'm very glad I own this.

Wings of War (BGG, BUY ME!) - Unquestionably the best dogfighting game I've played, truly capturing the sense of the back-and-forth, trying to anticipate maneuvers plus the thrill of making quick decisions and living (or not) with the consequences. I got a chance to play two on two and a three-for-all. This went over so well that two people in the extended gaming circle have purchased it. I really need to own a copy and not just mooch off open demos. Who needs miniatures?

Wiz-War (BGG, OOP - GOOD LUCK!) - I've introduced (pushed, some might say) Wiz-War enough now that people are actually starting to ask me to bring it. More (plus pictures) with Friday's game recap.

Whew! By the way, feel free to buy games via those BUY ME links- I get kickbacks. :)

1 comment:

Dan said...

Wow, what a backlog! Awesome picture of Villa Piletti.