Tom Wham, and stirring the pot

January 24, 2016

One game that has been getting some play of late if Feudality, by Tom Wham.  Tom Wham has several games to his credit, although most of them are now quite old.  I have owned a few of his games over the years.

Snit’s Revenge – started out as a free game in Dragon Magazine.  I guess it was a sequel to “Snit Smashing”, but I never played that one.  Snit’s Revenge was enetertaining, but I eventually let it go.

The Awful Green Things from Outer Space – another game which began in Dragon Magazine.  This one I have owned, and not owned for several years.  My current copy is on semi=permanent loan to a friend.  I also gave a copy to my niece a few years ago.  Funny game.  You don’t know what will help and what will hurt the awful green things until you try.  Makes for a humorous narrative.

The Great Khan Game – Rick owns this one, and we went through a spate of playing it way back when.  I just recently bought a copy, so I hope to introduce it to the Bistro Players soon.

Search for the Emperor’s Treasure – another Dragon magazine game.  I gave Gary a “Best of Dragon Magazine Games” collection years ago.  This was the best of the bunch.  I now own this collection of games for myself.

Mertwig’s Maze – Never played this.  But it showed all the usual Wham-ish elements I like in his games.  So I bought a copy.  I have boxed it, as the folio it cam in was inadequate to the task.

King of the Tabletop – Another Dragon magazine game.  I found a free print and play edition, with improved graphics on BGG.  So I have made up a set to play.

So I’ve had a nice jag of collecting.  It’s now time to get some of these Wham games played.

Also, I did some rearranging in the Bistro today.  I have moved several of the 2-player and war games back into the Bistro.  Last Tuesday Alex, Steve and I played Churchill.  It may be that attendance has permanently faltered for game night.  But if that is the case, I am going to advocate for more play of war games or slower hobby games from a few years ago.

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Caverna, DRCongo, and Churchill

December 1, 2015

So I played Caverna at Fandango with Rob, Rowan and Melissa.  I liked it a lot, and bought a copy.  I’ve played it last Tuesday with Alex, and this Tuesday with Amy and Sally.  I am impressed.  It has been fun to play with all of these folks.  I even tried the solitaire game, which was pretty good, although I doubt I do much more of that.

I note there are enough player board to handle up to 7 players…  Seems like a bad idea to me.  But so far I give Caverna a thumbs up for 2, 3, or 4 players.  And it is nice to see a game well received.

Poor Alex taught DRCongo to Steve and Zack tonight.  The game crashed and burned.  It is pretty much predictable that any new complex game around here fails.  Alex and I played DRCongo with Michael a few weeks ago, and had a great time.  So I am hopeful for more fun with this game in the future.  But based on the ratings, I will have to find games without Steve or Zack in the mix.

We chatted a bit about Churchill, which I tried for the first time over the weekend.  I quite enjoyed my play of Churchill, but sadly had to leave before we finished it.  Turns out I was too far ahead, and therefore lost.  Yes, a bit hard to understand, but them’s the rules!  After reflecting on the game, I realized the game is weird.  The outcome is foreordained, the allies will win the war.  It’s about who gets the most prestige (?), by winning by no more than a certain gap (I think about 20 points).  Oddly, in our game, the USA did not want to cause D-Day.  Instead he wanted to lay off, using his resources in the Pacific.  Alex felt Russia should force him (USA) to do D-Day, as this would divert troops from the Eastern Front.  And Alex is correct – that would have been a great move for Russia.

So the game works, but all the motivations are inside out.  The USA doesn’t want to cause D-Day so they can be active in the Pacific.  The Brits would prefer a Mediterranean strategy, as they get extra points if they occupy northern italy before D-Day happens.  Oddly its the Russians want to cause D-Day, so they divert German troops away from the Russian Front.  A similar confusing net of objectives occurs in the Pacific.  Somehow all the actors will do the right things, but they will have to be forced by others to do so.  This means the players have to really understand the game, and slip outside of their historical objectives to make the game work out the best for them.  Quite confusing.  But I want to play again.  I’m unclear if this game is brilliant, or deeply flawed.

Even more gaming!

November 27, 2015

This Sunday I am scheduled to play Churchill, but otherwise my scheduled gaming is complete for November.  All in all a good month of gaming.  Since the last round up, I have been playing:

Haspelknecht – I’ve played this twice now.  I am intrigued.  The game features some heavy thinking, you need to do more than you will ever accomplish during the game.  So it becomes a puzzle of what to do.  This is complicated by the competition for action discs, which are recruited by the players.  Even if you get the discs you want, you must make hard decisions around how to deploy them.  I’m looking forward to more plays of this.

The Grizzled & Room 25 – I am going to list these together.  They have nothing to do with each other.  But my enjoyment level of these games are not all that high.  The Grizzled is a pure cooperative game.  Room 25 is a cooperative game with a traitor.  Neither of these sorts of games are favorites.  The company was good, and I did have some fun.  But I won’t be seeking wither of these out again.

Auf Heller und Pfenig – Classic Knizia.  This isn’t a favorite, the game is pretty dry.  But I enjoy it a bit more on this early first edition.  Worth an occasional play.

Popular Front – I have a soft spot for Numbskull Games.  This is one I had for a while, and finally got a chance to try.  6 player game, divvied up into two teams.  It is a light wargame.  It exhibited the usual problem with multi-player wargames.  The best move is to pick on the weak.  I did enjoy the team concept.  Not sure if I will be keeping this one.

Big Boss – This has become a favorite.  It plays well with 6, and I really appreciate that feature.  It is a comprehensible economic game that doesn’t require a ton of calculations.  I am glad I own it, and expect to be requesting it for years to come.

Duckomenta Art – This game just keeps getting played.  The easy rules, fun play, and hilarious art really make this game shine.

Arbora – Finally got this on the table.  Beautiful game components.  But where is the game?  Mainly a pattern recognition exercise.  A couple of minor timing rules and a “gotcha” act if you spot a move that an opponent missed.  I don’t really need to keep this one, but doubt it will ever find a buyer.

Corsairs – After a rather embarrassing lack of understanding of the simple rules, we finally got this rolling.  I wish the game had lasted a bit longer.  It is a simple game with breezy combat events for claiming a prize.  I could play more of this.  But it is unlikely to happen, as I don’t see it ever being around, nor requested, often enough to get played.

Flick ’em Up! – This was cool.  Mainly a kid’s game, I suppose.  But I liked that there was a book of scenarios.  Carabande meets the old west…  Pretty inspired.

Cry Havoc – Finally played this again.  I like the older easier rules.  The rules in Guiscard were “more accurate” but made for slower turns.  I like the maps and counters a lot.  I am collecting more of this game as it is still being supported.  I can see playing this for years to come, as it is easy to play, configurable for simulating various battles, and covers a subject I like.

D-Day Dice – Man, we got destroyed.  I haven’t beat this game the last two attempts.  Might be time to go back to basic training.  While this is a cooperative game, I feel like I have several interesting decisions to make each turn.  In The Grizzled, I felt like I had one decision to make – often an uninteresting one.

Caverna – My second play, this time a 2-player game.  Still quite good.  I lost by one point.  I had not taught this game before.  That was a bit slow on my part.  I should be better at it in the future.  For a game I did not want to try, I am not glad to own it, and look forward to more plays.

Recent Gaming

November 13, 2015

DRCongo – This is the latest “big box” game from the Ragnars.  I have been exploring their game space lately.  The title is not “Dr. Congo”, but “Democratic Republic of Congo”.  The game is an economic game.  However, simulating reality, there are insurgents, who compromise or even prevent economic development.  So there are also Peacekeepers.  This makes for an interesting soup of factors to consider.  But there is more.  The government is almost a player faction.  However the economic development is handled by the “Interior Minister” while the peacekeeping efforts are handled by the “Defense Minister”.  There is also a “Finance Minister”, who can affect at what price commodities trade.  Cleverly, the ministers are auctioned off, so the government activities are fractured between three different players.

Our first play of DRCongo went pretty well.  I discovered a few mistakes made after re-reading the rules.  But we got the majority of the game correct, so I believe we got a good taste of what this game is about.  I am pretty high on this game, and will be keen to play more of it.  I just submitted a file to BGG which is a re-write of the rules.  The Ragnars wrote the rule book to cover four levels of game.  This means there are 4 different places to look for rules.  I removed all the introductory rules which were countermanded in the full game.  Steve Kendall gave me permission to post the file, which I think will be a big help to others trying to play the main game.

Steam Donkey – Another Ragnar Brothers game.  This is a small card game.  But it has a somewhat heavy feel.  I see a few folks on BGG have compared it to San Juan.  I can see that, as you send cards to build other cards.  The theme is about building a Victorian Seaside Resort, but with Steampunk trimmings.  I’m not sure if this really makes sense.  But the theme doesn’t really bother me – not does it really engage me.  Absent a strong connection with the theme, I need the game play itself to hold my attention.

The game play on our first look felt very mechanical.  Lots of card handling.  You play cards to build cards.  You need to attract cards to your resort locations, and then you can collect cards into your hand from your attractions.  Eventually someone triggers the end of the game by completing their resort.  Reading the forums on BGG I discovered we made a small mistake with the rules, which may help the game speed up.  I will likely keep this game.  I want to play more of it, but I suspect it falls into a “nice to own, and play occasionally” bucket.

De Vulgari Eloquentia – This is a game from Alex’s collection.  Quite heavy.  I have played twice in about a month’s span.  I am still unsure how to play well.  Both times I have gotten distracted from collecting lots of cubes.  Do not do this.  I have lost badly both times.  The theme is interesting, but you need to pause while you play and discuss what the events are to really experience the theme.  I suggested Alex add a roster of the events for easy reference.  For our game, Amy used her cellphone to explain the events as we played.

Duckomenta Art – This re-theme of Masters Gallery/Modern Art the Card Game continues to delight.  I am occasionally playing it both on Monday and Tuesday nights.

Um Reifenbreite – We finally got back to this game on a recent Monday night.  Chris ran away with the race.  In this case we really did have a runaway leader problem.  Oh well, the game is still a hoot to play.  I especially enjoy the team management aspect to this game.

Workshop of the World – An older Ragnar game.  I had this when it was new.  Played it once, and eventually traded it away.  I got it again while I was buying a few Ragnar games.  Alex hated it.  But I want to give it another chance.  It is more in their “Euro” design scope.  I still like Canalmania too.  But this “medium weight Euro” style isn’t for everyone.

Fresh Fish – Another older game.  I decided to try it again, after a decade.  I bought the lovely new edition.  This version has an easier to play version.  We gave it a try.  Zack figured it out right away.  Michael and I did much more poorly.  This is a clever game.  It plays fast, so I see this as a viable closer for when we have that odd hour left before shut down.

Game Day is tomorrow – I am excited for it!

And the “old” keeps rolling in…

October 22, 2015

I seem to be on a game buying tear:

Caverna – Now in the collection, along with a special sorting tray.

Fresh Fish – This is the 2014 reprint.

Kohle & Kolonie – Although they screwed me out of a rulebook.

Workshop of the World – older Ragnar Brothers

Steam Donkey – I guess this one isn’t all that old.

Blooming Gardens – a whim, got only because it is an old Ragnar game.

New England Rails – en route

20th Century – en route, sounded cool and the price was right

and the one bona fide new game:  DRCongo – the latest Ragnar game that inspired me to go ahead and buy a couple of others previously mentioned.

 

And how many of these have I played???   <crickets chirping>  Ah well, it’ll happen eventually, right?

Wir Sind das Volk

September 27, 2015

My wife and I just returned from a vacation in Ireland.  We vacationed with my gaming buddy, Chester, and his wife.  We mainly were busy touring, but found some time for a bit of gaming.

We ended up playing Wir sind das Volk three times over a two-week period.  With each play we discovered that we had made some basic errors with the rules.  Regardless, the game was resilient enough to be entertaining despite our misunderstandings with the rules.  So it was cool to get an e-mail from the International Gamers Association while on vacation, announcing that Wir sind das Volk was named their 2-player game of the year.

We also played as a foursome, Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective.  We played it three times.  Of the three sessions, I’d say we nailed one case, floundered through one case to a solution in a messy way, and totally crashed and burned with the final case.  I’d played once before, so that makes a total of 4 cases I’ve played.  On the bright side, this was a fun game for my wife, and a good group activity.  It isn’t my usual sort of game, but I did enjoy the game while on vacation.

280 out of 400

August 31, 2015

The other day I decided to split my collection.

I have noted on this blog that my games owned was steadily inflating.  I had maintained my collection to around 300 games for quite a while.  But I then decided to start listing all the games tucked away in drawers and found the game collection was really 350 or so.  Then I decided I wanted one game shelf inside the main house – a shelf I would store the games I might study, or perhaps play solitaire.

This additional shelf inspired me to buy a few games I wanted to study.  Voila!  The game collection was really 400 games.  More than I imagined I owned.  But some of the games I own are hardly for playing.  I have some purely decorative games, displayed as game art on high shelves.  I have others that are still mainly art, but could in theory be played.  But this almost never happens.  So my copy of Square Mile or Broadsides and Boarding Parties mainly serve as art, even if they are within reach.  Another case is my copy of Touring, which has the box top and the cards displayed in a frame – we’re not really going to play it.

Then there are the games that could be played, but likely need some prearrangement.  I’d love to try my 1961A version of D-Day, the very first hex and counter wargame commercially released by Charles S. Roberts.  But in reality, I don’t play it.  I set it up and study it, and idly think I may try it solitaire.  Or all those microgames – all 2-player games – which will never be requested by the club, and never thought of when I have a rare 2p game opportunity.

After considering these, and other cases where I want to own the game for non-playing purposes, I decided I was diluting the main purpose I keep my collection details on BGG – which is to keep track of the hobby games I own that are suitable for social gaming.  So recently I opened a second BGG account.  I am going to mark games I own, but don’t expect to figure into my social gaming, on this account.

And with that division, my collection size dropped from about 400 games down to 280 games.  This feels about right, as I am used to having roughly 300 games in the Bistro fro folks to choose from.  I like this size of a collection, as it has nice breadth, but not “too” many games to select from.

My collection does exhibit a lack of newer games, but that is the topic for another entry…

By the numbers

August 20, 2015

A friend of mine commented on his game blog that he has played every game in his collection at least 6 times.  He qualifies this by omitting games that he has for trade, and any games held as his children’s games.  Even so, I am no where in the same mode with my collection.  Here is my breakdown:

 

Never Played: 101

One Play:  43

Two Plays:  43

Three Plays:  24

Four Plays:  24

Five – Nine Plays:  67

Ten – Nineteen Plays:  35

Twenty – Forty Nine:  21

Fifty Plus:  4

Of course all of this inaccurate.  I have only tracked my games played since 1999.  Lots of games in the “unplayed” zone were played way back when.

But as a (slightly) larger point, I don’t always buy a game to play it.  For example, earlier this year I bought a copy of Rails through the Rockies, with no intention of playing it.  I just wanted to look it over.

Sometimes I buy games with a goal of eventually playing them.  But I don’t always feel an immediate need to get them on the table.  My collection of franckh games comes to mind.

Joe, my friend, ensures he plays every game he owns within a 2 year period.  This works for him.  But I enjoy having some strata to my collection.

Nations

August 17, 2015

I had a chance to play Alex’s latest new game, Nations, over the weekend.  Interesting game, and one I enjoyed more than I would have guessed.

After playing it, I did a bit of reading on BGG.  Quite a mixed bag of reactions to it.  Also, it seems that this game initially attempted to retail for $100.  But I saw folks selling their copies for <$30.  I was tempted to buy one myself.  But I decided I should play Alex’s copy a few more times before I spring.

So what did I like?  A number of things, actually.  I enjoyed how everyone recruits the cards most interesting to themselves.  A big array of cards are on display.  You can go for domestic improvements or a more powerful military.  Each card choice is distinct, there are no duplicates, so your culture will be unique as you craft it.  Player interaction is present – you affect other players with card selection priority and with the period war.

I enjoyed balancing my needs for building materials, food, gold and additional workers.  The game imposes a wide-ranging array of events.  Each epoch will have two events – but the deck they are drawn from is pretty thick – so each game will have different demands.  The theme is carried off nicely with lots of interesting cards.  You can recruit a leader, whose special ability will help in varying ways.  You can establish up to two colonies, and you can build wonders.

The game did take a while to play.  I’d guess it took 3+ hours with explanation.  This could speed up though, we were playing late at night, and we were all newbies.  The biggest pressure I noticed was the threat of war.  There is almost always going to be a war each round.  And there is always going to be at least one player who goes after a strong military force.  The war mechanism is abstracted – there is no board, so you never have to worry about invasion.  But as a weaker military force, you will be punished if the strongest player forces the war to happen.  Further, if you want to claim the best colonies, you will want a strong military.  So the game encourages a stout devotion to military strength.

Overall, there are lots of balls to keep in the air.  Yet each player’s turn is relatively brisk.  I was impressed.  I look forward to a second play of Nations.

California Gold

August 14, 2015

I received my latest new game recently.  It is California Gold, a game about orange ranching in southern California.  I took it over to Rick’s Monday night, and we eventually got around to playing it.

I’m pretty high on the game, although we did not finish.  But.  We chatted for 30 minutes, and then I explained the game for about 30 minutes.  We were close to finishing after 2 hours, but probably 30 minutes were yet to go.  So we saved it.  And we will finish up this coming Monday night.

This is not a gentle game.  Players can adversely affect each other, if sometimes taking it on their own chin as they do it.  Competition is brutal.  And the game is a bit hard to master – I felt like I was struggling mainly against the game system the entire evening.  Add in the adversity from the other players, and a fellow starts to feel pressed.

So of course, I really liked it, and the boys all exclaimed how much they liked it too.  We like picking on each other, so direct “puss” games often work on Monday night.  California Gold is not like a 4X game where you can just reach out and mess with someone.  It is more like Brass or Age of Steam, where you can upset someone else’s plans with a swift act.

A real highlight of the production are the numerous cards featuring artwork that was originally used by the various orange growers of the time period depicted. A low light is the uneven production values.  The cards are great.  But the use of plastic chips to depict ownership was ill-advised.  I have an order in with a game parts company, and will be upgrading my components as soon as possible – hopefully in time for Fandango.

I need to finish our first play.  But I am already anticipating my second play.  I see a few things to try differently.  I like demanding games, and this one feels like it might be a good one.  Fingers crossed.