Tuesday, February 05, 2008

January Games Recap

What kinds of dickens did I get up to in the first month of this new year?

Ricochet Robots (BGG, BUY ME!) has enjoyed a new resurgence of popularity with my group. Some of the gang have started to request it specifically, or pull it out and play it when I'm not pushing for it. I've taught the game with the actual rule for tiebreakers, which definitely gives an advantage to a weaker player; Now that the collective skill level has gone up, I wonder if we don't want to remove the tiebreaker rule or add in some of the fifty-odd variants with the silver or the black robot. Maybe we need to master the diagonal walls first. I do want to pick up the original edition so we can mix and match the boards, too. Five plays.

I need to find my Zendo (BGG, OOP BUY RULE CARDS!) set. I know that you can play the same game with different bits: Legos, say, or coins. I know that some people have played with physical beer bottles or images online, and others have even rendered the standard Icehouse pyramids. Once again, I've got the interesting position of introducing this game enough so that I can play! Four plays.

Carrousel (BGG, IMPORT FROM FRANCE OR CANADA) remains a quick filler that is often well received. You can stretch it to five in a pinch, but it plays so fast that one person could sit out. I am a little rusty, but that's fine for introducing it. The learning curve generally isn't as steep as that for Ricochet Robots. Three plays.

Hey! That's My Fish! (BUY ME!) has cute wooden penguins, so you know you want to play it. If you're cheap, poor, or unsure, you can make your own set with about fifty or sixty poker chips and a small handful of pawns. I don't know the distribution, though. We play a little more "friendly" than we should; it helps to check the FAQs with respect to some specific situations about isolation. All things considered, HTMF is a deceptively deep abstract strategy game. Three plays.

Someone else owns Rumis (BGG, BUY ME!)! Dylan works as a substitute teacher; one of the math teachers has Rumis as a in-class game. He borrowed it, since I have no idea where my copy hides right now, and the loaner hit the table a few times. I have really decent visualization skills, so this sort of three-dimensional building is right up my alley. It doesn't hurt that the game is visually attractive, brightly colored blocks on a turntable. Maybe I need to play more striking games in the hope of attracting assersby. Three plays.

I still don't own Set (BGG, BUY ME!), but Simon does. The competitive nature of the group tends to comes out with this one, but there are those of us who are colorblind and can't play. It fascinates me that sometimes, my brain is "on" with this game, and the feedback from a success keeps me playing and doing well. If I start off poorly, I tend to stay on the bottom and my brain just doesn't kick start in time to keep up. Simon and I wound up playing a bit of practice Set, made up on the fly: flip over two cards, and name what third card would complete the set. Mix it up by having one person deal two cards, then ask the other person to name the right value for a given quality. Want some solo action? Check out the daily New York Times Set puzzle. Three plays.

Qwitch (BGG, BUY ME!) is another game I don't own. It's sort of like Uno on crack- each card has a number and a letter on it. You've got to play a card on the stack in the center, either one up, one down, or equal, as dictated by another card. So, if it's "down" and the card is a 4 C, then you can play a 3 anything or an anything B. You've got to state what you play, too, which adds an extra gear to engage between brain, eyes, and mouth. Three very fast plays where I got schooled.

Ah, Chase (BGG, OOP TRY EBAY). Simon requested, and I obliged. The punk's starting to learn something. Two face-to-face plays and several more online.

Bennett and Leslie bought me Luck of the Draw (BGG, BUY ME!) as a present. It's a pretty silly party game that doesn't require any particular talent, as the judging factor is unknown until after you finish. Quick, you have forty-five seconds to draw "Inside the Oval Office." Now that you're done, would you say that it wins in the category "Used the most graphite?" Much laughter, here. Two plays.

Bringing Manhattan (BGG, BUY ME!) out usually results in it hitting the table. It only plays four, and sometimes you have five. It still remains one of my top favorite games, with a goodly amount of tension between what you want to do and what you can do. Plus, it's back in print! I need to try one of the monster variants. Two plays.

We still kill Steven Seagal — er, I mean play Sieben Siegel, die (BGG, BUY ME!) fairly regularly, and it's not uncommon for people to request it, snag it when I'm not looking, then play it without me there to teach or push it. Times like that, I know I'm being a good gaming evangelist. Two plays.

Yes, I actually played Zombie Fluxx (BGG, BUY ME!) and didn't stab my eyes out after the fact. It's Fluxx with Zombies, and there's not much else to say about it. The art is better for the zombie theme, there's a card that will definitively end the game, and you get to think about zombie movies. Andy Looney does a good job of pitching it in this video. Two plays.

Gaming-wise, I'm pretty lucky. I don't often play games I don't enjoy on some level. Alhambra: the Dice Game (BGG, BUY ME!), however, does not cut the mustard. The original Alhambra is a fine game, well worth checking out, and rules exist to merge the two, but I only played the standalone version of the dice game. Granted, we played with six players and we cut the game to about half its length, but even so: everyone felt that it went on for far too long. It's fundamentally a cute press-your-luck game with a bit of area control and powers, but there's not enough there to merit the time investment. Zounds, the downtime! One play with six.

Dan introduced me to Barbarossa (BGG, BUY ME!) back in Austin, and I snagged my own six-player version at the BGG.Con marketplace. This one's an interesting little guessing game with clay. You make two little sculptures, gaining points for guessing correctly. But the twist is that you also get points for being guessed at the right time of the game- if yours is too easy or too difficult, you'll lose points. I liked it enough to acquire it, but there's an emphasis on guessing instead of making that might be a turn-off for some. One play.

Blokus (BGG, BUY ME!) is finally turning mainstream. I've seen it at regular shops, not just the crazy out-of-the-way ones. One play.

Good old Bohnanza (BGG, BUY ME!), the best game about trading beans. I know how that sounds, but it's true. I've seen this go down once or twice with people who don't understand the essential coopetition involved, and the session can really crash and burn if you're too selfish. One play.

California (BGG, BUY ME!) is a new acquisition for me. It had shown up on Tanga as one of its deals-of-the-day, and the BGG trade market had a surplus. Yes, people game the trade system, picking up surplus to meet demand. Does it really surprise you that people can play games with real goods? But California is by the same designer as Zooloretto and Coloretto, but this is a game about remodeling houses and getting guests to show up to bring you presents. Like *Retto, you've got limited decisions on your turn, so things move pretty quickly. The house theme definitely appeals to your non-stereotypical gamer person. One play with three, learning as we went.

Carcassonne? Not a fan. Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers (BGG, BUY ME!), the not-expansion? It doesn't grab me. The scoring is a bit simpler, the special tiles add some zing in your decision-making, the art is more kid-friendly. I can't see myself ever waking up with a mad desire to play this, or really any of the Carc series, but I know that a lot of people really enjoy it. The downtime and the inherent passive-aggression doesn't really pull my chain. I'll be aggressive in your face, thank you. One play.

Judson came through and returned Die Kutschfahrt zur Teufelsburg (BGG, BUY ME!) to my shelf! There's a few tweaks needed to help out new players, but soon we'll be ready to play with the advanced items. I plan to throw them in the first chance I don't need to teach the game. One play.

Doodle Dice (BGG, BUY ME!) reminds me of an uncomfortable cross between Yahtzee and Squint, rolling dice and trying to match a given pattern on a card. You can steal cards from other players, which is satisfying, but I did feel my decisions lean toward ending the game rather than winning it. My gut tells me that better games to fit this niche exist. One play.

Ingenious (BGG, BUY ME!), another gifted game. So far, there's not much gender bias with this abstract when it comes to ability, which is refreshing. I like this plenty, but need more practice. One play.

I found Jitters (BGG, OOP) at the thrift store. For a buck, it's hard to pass up a word dice game that Cat might really love. Critically, this game is a little lacking and really shows its age down to the eighties spectacular outfits in the photographs. I hate to throw down jargon, but this is really multi-player solitaire, giving you nothing to do when it's not your turn beyond try to affect the evil eye on the timer. It has a few cute rules when it comes down to it, and the noisy timer unquestionably contributes buckets of tension. One play.

Then there's Metro (BGG, BUY ME!), which makes me reevaluate my assumption that I like tile-laying games. Again with the downtime for six players! One play.

No Thanks! (BGG, BUY ME!) is a great little filler with a bit of strategy, which I evidently need to rethink. One play.

I barely can score when playing Pit (BGG, BUY ME!). It is pretty frantic fun, and monochromatic for those who need. One play.

Can you believe I won a game of Power Grid (BGG, BUY ME!)? Like most economic games, it really helps me if someone really knows the game to make quick calculations or assist with doling out the right amount of money so I don't shoot myself in the foot. I don't remember my exact strategy, but I remember someone telling me that you have to make sure you can power at least X number of cities to even have a hope of winning. So I pushed hard to make sure I had the power plants, paying a bit too much perhaps, and my initial placement in the northeast of the USA made sure that I had lots of nearby and cheap connections. I later found out that the X I remembered was the wrong number for the number of players we had. One play.

The game still likes Qwirkle (BGG, BUY ME!), and it's less common now for someone to have a huge lead. I should get a draw bag for the game, since my box has four split corners. We usually play four or occasionally three. One play.

I like Sheepshead (BGG, DECK OF CARDS), but I feel that it's almost outliving its welcome. I plan to pick up a few more new trick-taking games soon, and several play with five. One play.

Struggle of Empires (BGG, BUY ME!) looks like a game I wouldn't like, but instead I was pleasantly surprised. I don't think I've played a Martin Wallace game before, so I didn't know what I was in for. You've got auctions for allies, dice-based combat that's not too random, exploration, special powers, and the imperial conquest theme that goes over so well. It reminded me of Vinci and the Age of Empires board game, but more fiddly in a good way. This is definitely a heavier game for those who want a nice chuck of meat on their game. Arguably, the auction to set allies is the most interesting mechanic, but the sheer quantity of special tiles will keep things fresh. One play.

I did recently acquire Ta Yü (BGG, BUY ME!), a rare partnership abstract that has a grand aesthetic when it comes to the look and feel of the game. Allegedly, a new and cheaper version will come back into print soon, but it's rare that the elegance comes through for a game in the mechanics as well at the production value. One play.

You still want me on your team in Time's Up! (BGG, BUY ME!), even though I have a severe weakness with the sports figures. I'm going to get the expansions (and some blanks) soon. One play.

TransAmerica (BGG, BUY ME!) is barely a "rail game," since it's more of a connection game. I like it, Cat doesn't, and I don't own it. I'll play it when I can, and I think I prefer TransEuropa. One play.

Und Tschüss! (BGG, OOP) is a clever little blind-bluffing card game about collecting points. The German phrase means something like "So long" or "You're outta here," referring to the fact that players are slowly eliminated from the round in their effort to score points. Turns out this is also a Martin Wallace game. Since the deck is just the numbers 1 to 15, -5, and -10, it's pretty easy to make this if you had to. One play.

Another Cheapass game, Unexploded Cow (BGG, BUY ME!) proves that it's important to have someone know the rules before trying to teach it. I have no opinion on this one, since we didn't really finish the game before others showed up. One play.

I really like Vegas Showdown (BGG, BUY ME!), but I like bidding games. This one suffers from really poor marketing, but it's worth checking out. To steal someone else's line: It's refreshing to have a Vegas-themed game that doesn't revolve around gambling, and that may be why it's done so poorly in the market. Regardless, I do need to get some real poker chips instead of the plastic ones. Also, I've just discovered that I missed a rule all this time, but it's only applicable for the three player game. One play.

Vinci (BGG, SADLY OOP) is a grand game, something like the elegance of Diplomacy mixed with the random powers of Cosmic Encounter. I don't want to have to make my own copy, but I might: A map, some chits, a few cheat sheets, and some colored tokens. The flow of the game also reminded me of Gheos, where the trick is knowing when to abandon a civilization and let it decline. I'll talk this one up some more once it hits the table again, or if I ever acquire my own. One play.

Wheedle (BGG, BUY ME!), the old standby. One play only- they're learning.

Wizard (BGG, BUY ME!) is slowly taking over the hearts and minds of the Oh Hell crowd, and since Jodi has the D-Luxe bidding wheels, there is a tactile appeal. I think you need to cut the game in half for three players, though. It's less fun to manage a twenty-card hand. One play so far.

I need to not slack on some of these recaps. I have some drafts that I can rework for your edification.

I'm going to place an order soon, so feel free to buy something through those affiliate links- I could always use the store credit.


Jenny said...

Whoa, whoa.

3-player Vegas Showdown rule? I must know. We play that quite a bit though it's gotten less popular as Santiago is currently the bidding game of choice.

Miss you. Come back and visit! :)

SquishArt said...

Oh... I really want Zombie Fluxx... Also.. i heart Hunters and Gatherers! hurra!