Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Eighty-something plays of forty-odd games

Since I've last blogged a board/card game sessions, I've played quite a few games. That's forty-one different titles in forty-two days, and eighty-some games played. (Kudos to Ian for helping me start keeping track of my play data.)

I want to post my thoughts on these before I attend BGG.Con in Dallas tomorrow. I have no idea how many game I shall play over these next four days. I better get snapping with the old plays.

Here's the list, sorted by number of plays:

Category 5 (BGG, BUY ME!) Still fun, still awesome, well-recieved and high on my list of go-to games. Successfully playing it at work during tea time most days, but the best moment was when one of my coworkers asked me if I had brought it in for play. I still feel good about that. I can say for certain that it plays well with three, four, five, six, eight, and ten. I prefer five or six, though. My record-scoring 47 points has yet to be beat, though. (Points are bad in this game.)

Jungle Speed (BGG, BUY ME!) Still awesome. I'm going to need to buy extra copies to bring home to NOLA over the holidays as gifts. At Dragon*Con, we played this for six hours. I wonder how much table time it will see at BGG.Con? Introducing it with only four players is less fun, though.

Oh Hell! (BGG, GET A DECK OF CARDS) A new go-to game for me, very popular at the office, playing with four or five. I'll need to grab a second deck for six, I think. Not sure how that would play out- maybe I'll just limit the hand size. At work we play with "English Rules Consolation Points" where you still score if you don't make your bid. Clive alleges that this has to do with their socialized programs. (Interestingly, this does appear to be a legit variant depending on which side of the puddle you live on.)

Zendo (BGG, BOX SET OOP BUY TREEHOUSE STASHES AND RULE CARDS) An impromptu get-together by the Renegades found us playing with pyramids instead of roleplaying. Working out a way to play Zendo with not many stashes of pyramids ("don't use specific colors; use 'same or different') and scraps of paper for Buddha-nature or not prompted me to snap and buy Icehouse pieces. I now have a complete set. Wahoo! Zendo is nicely compelling, has a fascinating interplay between simple and complex, and exercises good brain muscles. I'm looking forward to this at BGG.Con.

Hey! That's My Fish! (BGG, BUY ME!) On my list to purchase for several weeks now. Cat actually wanted to play it when she saw it! (Cute wooden penguins can never hurt.) It's much deeper than it seems at first, and you can actually make your own copy using poker chips and spare pawns if you want to get a feel for how it plays. I've now played this with two, three, and four. All are equally satisfying for different reasons, but three is almost a sweet spot.

Mauer, die (BGG, BUY ME!) Still a go-to game for me, but one guy described it as "more complicated rock-paper-scissors." I've been losing quite a bit lately when playing with strangers, but my rules spiel is improving. It's coming to BGG.Con, too.

Castle (BGG, BUY ME!) Light, cheap, and fun. I think play over time would improve as you learn the character cards and their abilities. I got this as a trade, and it's definitely a trade up for me. After one play, the four of us enjoyed it enough to give it a second go with a fifth player. The game does become a bit too chaotic with more players; I'd really like to see it with three.

Chopstick Dexterity MegaChallenge 3000 (BGG, BUY ME!) I'm surprisingly bad at this one. Or maybe Marc's just a ninja. Eating with sticks isn't the same as nimbly grabbing things with them before someone else does. Either way, a huge fun factor! In the suitcase for BGG.Con.

Drakon (BGG, BUY ME!) Tiles and Tom Jolly, a good combination. Like RoboRally, this is a well-done release of an old classic dungeon crawl. The third edition is well worth playing. Only two plays so far, losing both, but a grand amount of screw-thy-neighbor and bash-the-leader. Hard to say if it's too "American."

Easter Island (BGG, BUY ME!) Another two-player game that will be hard to bring out, as it's not easy to find a singler parter at game days. It plays sort of like Deflexion/Khet in the sense that you have to keep reflections and bounces in mind, and your giant stone Moab statues (er, tiny plastic pieces) can readily be destroyed by a stray beam. This one is fun, and I've won once and conceded a draw the second time. Definitely worth playing if you like two-player more-or-less-abstract strategy games.

Havoc: the Hundred Years War (BGG, BUY ME!) Havoc is an interesting little card game that plays like poker for points with an 18-rank, six-suit deck. I don't know my history enough to tell you about the war, I'll leave that to the Wikipedia. I've only managed to play this as a two-player game. It went over well, considering I lost both times to New Dan. Upon reflection, it seems a little like Tichu (read below) in the sense of trying to lay down a hand higher than the opposition. I need to refamiliarize myself with the rules before it hits table again. I'll bring it to BGG.Con.

Jungle Speed L'extension (BGG, GET FROM FRANCE) Still awesomely brain-breaking, also coming to BGG.Con. Not the best when all 160 cards are shuffled and in play. The next time I bring it out, I'll want to pick and choose which symbol families are in play.

King Me! (BGG, BUY ME!) Serves well as a light filler while people are still showing up. In the last game I played, Beatrice was queen three times out of three. Conspiracy?

Metro (BGG, BUY ME!) This appears to be one of the go-to games for the Monday group I've started to irregularly see over at Dragon's Lair. I need more practice at this one, as I haven't yet learned to maximize all my plays. I like tile games, and it saddens me a little to know that Metro is superior to Streetcar ("The New Orleans Trolley Game"), but similar to Aqua Romana. I continue in my quest for a really fun rail game that doesn't take six hours to play.

Oceania (BGG, BUY ME!) I've played this a total of three or four times now, and it simply hasn't grabbed me. It's hard to find the strategy and in the games I've played, we keep sealing ourself off from the rest of the board, forcing an early end to the game. I've wanted to like this, as it's a tile-laying game by Klaus Teuber, the man who brought us Settlers, but it's jsut not clicked. Maybe I'll give the full game, Entdecker, a go at some point. I got this game as part of a trade and I traded it away already, so that shows you want I think of it. I might play it again with someone who really loves it, but I don't think I'll ever choose it.

Sanctuaries (BGG, OOP TRY THRIFTING) For dollar, I can't complain. I got to add a new game to the database. It plays like a dumber version of Blokus, which I really should own. There's a bit of strategy here, but it's not very satisfying.

Terra Nova (BGG, BUY ME!) I've played with three, and I've played with four. I definitely like this one. The tension of reduced decisions as the board steadily shrinks is a whole lot of fun. I don't need to own this yet- two people in the group have a copy and one of the stores has it as an open demo. One day, perhaps I'll analyze this with Hey! That's My Fish! as the two games have a similar play.

Vegas Showdown (BGG, BUY ME!) Great game, terribly marketed. The gameplay has nothing to do with gambling; it's instead a bidding and building game with some very clever interplay. For some reason, this wasn't moving at my FLGS and I picked it up for 1/3 off almost without thinking about it. At some point, I might replace the plastic poker chips with nicer ones and laminate the player aid sheets. How's that for a sign of a well-liked game?

Wiz-War (BGG, OOP MAKE YOUR OWN AND WRITE CHESSEX) Ah, Wiz-War. A favorite I'll never tire of. This month I've introduced four people to the game, with all of them enjoying it. Six-player game, here I come... This one's definitely coming to BGG.Con.

Bang! (BGG, BUY ME!) Surprisingly not seeing much play lately. One game played, the outlaws won! Go, team! I recently got (German) High Noon as part of a trade, so I'll need to make some paste-ups for play. Maybe I'll do an uber-bang with Dodge City, Fistful, and High Noon. But I hear they're putting together a "Deluxe" edition of the game, so we'll see.

Boggle (BGG, BUY ME!) Yes, for the first time ever, I played Boggle about two weeks ago. I liked it, saw it at a thrift store later- totally worth two bucks. Also a skill I need to improve, and very interesting to observe gameplay between two other players who knew the game (and each other's play styles) well- not a position I'm used to, and not one that's entirely welcome. An important and humbling lesson learned on how to treat new players.

Cheater (BGG, DON'T BUY ME!) Bleh. Better you just imagine a game based on the concept. Better yet, design one.

Chekit (BGG, OOP TRY THRIFTING) Welp, the lead player definitely does not always win. This one's basically hex dominoes with fewer things to match. Gotta love the bakelite pieces and the crazy joker, though. This was worth the three bucks at the thrift store, and I hope to play it again to determine what I'm missing. Anyone play dominoes?

Cloud 9 (BGG, BUY ME!) A lighter press-your-luck game themed around balloon races. Do you trust your fellow players to have the colors needed to score? We played a four-player game with a six- or seven-year old, and she was doing pretty well. Ultimately, I'd want to mashup the two versions of the game; the art and wooden guys from the older game, the board layout and balloon basket from the newer.

Dead Money (BGG, BUY ME!) The one time this hit the table, the shop had about a half-hour left before closing time. I pressed through rules and we had a typical unfamiliar game session, coupled with one slow player, a bunch of kibbitzers, and time pressure. Overall, not a good experience, but I can't say if that's the game or not. We'll see.

Exxtra (BGG, FIND OVERSEAS) Guess what? It's a press-your-luck game. Guess what else? It's Reiner Knizia. Guess what third? I like it and I won! There's not that much correlation, honestly. I think I like it better than Sid Sackson's Can't Stop, but I've only played each once.

Funny Friends (BGG, BUY ME!) Poorly written rules and a late start made this not optimal. I need to get more baggies for all of the tokens. Great stories come out of this game though: Andre married my baby momma who I was desperately in love with while New Dan slept with Dan, broke up with him, then converted Norman's wife to a life of lesbian love. I hope to play this again with people who know how to play and continue the oral learning tradition.

Hex Hex (BGG, BUY ME!) The new edition is very nicely produced; it's almost worth finding an old edition to compare what a relatively young game company has learned in a couple of short years. I'll need to keep this in the game suitcase for more frequent play. Nothing wrong with it except wanting to play new games.

Hex Hex Next (BGG, BUY ME!) Finally, I got to play the expansion as a standalone game. Enough people at games night now know Hex Hex itself such that we didn't need to go into the rules very much, just the few exceptions to normal game play. I tend to win at Hex Hex, and the fashion continues with Hex Hex Next. There's more vicious cards in HHN, and I wonder how they'd mix.

IceTowers (BGG, BOX SET OOP BUY TREEHOUSE STASHES) Brought this out for three in between Zendo sessions to demonstrate other games to play with Icehouse pieces. Fun, but a little too fast and unsatisfying with three. Of course, my first intro to this particular game was the giant cardboard pyramids and playing (losing) with five. I'll try it again later. De facto in the box with Zendo coming to BGG.Con.

Marvin Marvel’s Marvelous Marble Machine (BGG, BUY ME!) Say that three times fast, eh? This ultra-low production quality speaks to the conviction of the self-starter. The board is a bandanna, the bits are wooden hobby discs with stickers. It's a great little brain burner about programming moves and taking marbles. Amazingly, nobody made a "lost your marbles" joke the entire time. It was pretty crazy with three; six would be insano. Coming to BGG.con!

Mission : Planète Rouge (BGG, BUY ME!) Absolutely gorgeous board and theme. Steampunk? Mars? Bring it! I'm there! This has not gotten enough play in the group; I'm the only person who owns it and I simply haven't brought it out enough. Some have criticized this one for being a too-finely honed game engine, but I haven't played it enough to see it. I do see the influence of previous designs: the roles from Citadels, the area control of El Grande. I'm sure there's a few other bits in there I don't instantly recognize, but it doesn't bother me. I didn't bring it to BGG.Con as I figured others would have this relatively new release.

Monsters Menace America (BGG, BUY ME!) Dicefest! Monsters! Rrrragh! I was Crawfish-Man/Lobsterboy! Jeff was the Eye that could not Die! Got to give this a go with four, but I could see how it would drag.

Niagara (BGG, BUY ME!) Spiel des Jahres, colorful gems, nifty sliding plastic river discs. Needs to hit the table again, and I need to pick up the expansion. I get the feeling that we missed a rule or two, but it was lots of fun.

Ricochet Robot (BGG, BUY ME!) I got soundly beaten by someone who was very good at this in a one-on-one match. I know I'm a bit rusty, but Ben is very good at finding those cursed little paths. I'm actually considering bringing this into work as a possible gateway game.

RoboRally (BGG, BUY ME!) My official position is that the new edition is nicer (better produced, more refined rules, etc) than the original, but I miss the expansions and the pewter miniatures.

Scotland Yard (BGG, BUY ME!) Another thrift store find for me- I picked up an unpunched vintage copy of this for two bucks, and got it to the table with a full compliment of six players. We caught Mr. Norman X after around seven-eight moves, but it was a first play for all of us. Everyone said they'd play it again, but not that same night. I also used this to introduce a new-as-in-only-Monopoly-and-Scrabble player with great success. I think the cooperative nature is by definition unusual to the mainstream American player.

Take Stock (BGG, BUY ME!) We only played one four-player round of this, and it didn't click. I hear good things about it, so I'll definitely give it another go. The designer will probably be at BGG.Con, so we'll see how learning it from someone who knows it well changes things around.

The Settlers of Catan (BGG, BUY ME!) Yes, I actually played Settlers for the first time in at least a year and a half or more. Why? I've played a lot of Settlers, and I think I've mostly moved on. However; I saw that my FLGS had a copy of the Deck of Dice, (BGG, BUY ME!), a thirty-six card deck of all possible combinations of 2d6. Some people have suggested using such a deck with Settlers to lessen the randomness without removing it. With forty-five minutes left to play, we knocked out a three-player game of Settlers using the deck. (I won.) I rather liked the predictability and the speed of cards, but JP and Chad didn't- I think they enjoyed actually rolling the dice, and I don't blame them. Still, an interesting experiment.

Tichu (BGG, BUY ME!) I'm not going to say anything about this until I play it again. It didn't go over well with me.

Too Many Cooks (BGG, BUY ME!) Another trick-taking game, this time by the good doctor Knizia. I last played this pre-Katrina two Dragon*Cons ago, and I remember liking it a good deal. I got in on a four-player game after three of the players had played a single round, then dealt me in. Sadly, all of my skill has left me in the intervening years and I lost miserably. I don't own this one, but I likely will in the future- perhaps after a few plays to get better at it.

Treehouse (BGG, BUY ME!) Not such a good game, though there are many more games to be played with pyramids. The designer says this one is "kind of like Fluxx!" In my book, that's not really a good thing. Don't buy Treehouse for the Treehouse games; instead buy it for the 147 other games instead.

What's That On My Head (BGG, BUY ME!) Ostensibly a children's game, but pretty rigorously logical when it comes to deducing numbers you can't see. Not as silly as I'd like, though.

Wits and Wagers (BGG, BUY ME!) Not so much "do you know the answer?" so much as "who do you think actually knows the answer?" in a sort of The Price is Right manner of speaking. The green cloth and poker chips make for a good vibe, too. This is on my list for party, family, and non-gamer games.

I still haven't played Acquire.


Simon Dorfman said...

Re: Wiz-War

Great game. I was thinking of making a nice printable vector-based PDF version for people to download and printout. I figure out what font was used on the original version: Friz Quadrata Bold. I may actually get around to doing this... Cheerio.

Simon Dorfman said...

I started work on the PDF. I posted about it here: