Archive for January, 2010

2 new games

January 31, 2010

It took 6 weeks, but my order from Milan Spiele arrived this past week.  This was slightly annoying, not so much about the duration, but due to false expectations.

When I ordered the games from Milan Spiele, I saw they were to be shipped by DHL.  As it turned out Milan Spiele needed to wait on some stock, which was fine, and they handed off the parcel to DHL on Dec. 14th.  By the 16th, it appeared as if the parcel was ready to leave the country, and I began to get my hopes up that the games would be delivered before Christmas.

Of course they did not arrive, and I philosophically decided the process through DHL wasn’t as speedy as I had imagined.  Finally at the end of December the DHL web site was updated to show the parcel was departing Germany!  Ah-ha.  I was delayed by a Christmas holiday.  Oh well.

When the parcel had not arrived by mid January, I finally started seeking additional information.  This had to be the slowest delivery company service ever!  I chatted with a DHL rep, who then told me that although I had a DHL tracking number, he was unable to track it!  Turns out this is a service sold by DHL but executed by the German and USA post offices!

Once I learned this, I knew a 6-9 week delivery window was most likely.  Sure enough, about six weeks after Milan Spiele turned over the package for delivery, I received it.  I don’t really mind the longer wait.  But having DHL listed as the service company certainly threw me into a loop.  I will now regard DHL as a slow package processor just like the official post offices.

So the games…

 

I purchased 3 copies of Igel Ärgern/Tante Tarantel and 2 copies of a la carte.  I bought the extra copies as gifts, and foolishly promised one of them as a Christmas gift.  That didn’t work out so well!  But I am pleased to add these to my collection.  A la carte is a beautiful new edition, and will replace my 1st edition.  Igel/Tante is an upgrade for me, as I have never owned Tante.  But as it turns out I will still keep my 2nd edition of Igel as it has an extra different 5-column board.  At least that is the plan for now.

All of these games are very light.  I am seemingly needing a break from the heavier games.  My collecting of late is running more towards the lighter fare.  This month I have really enjoyed playing  Titan: The Arena, Snow Tails, Beowulf and Zapp Zerapp.  I have also added Maestro, Greyhounds,  And soon… Box of Golf and Dodge City to my collection.  Gaming at the Bistro has tended towards the heavy side in recent months.  But I think there are enough players who are happy to play these lighter games too.  I intend to find out!

For Haiti

January 30, 2010

As I have previously mentioned, I auctioned off 8 of my games on BGG, with the commitment that I would give any money received to charity, for the relief of Haiti’s earthquake victims.  I just wrote a check for $554 to my charity of choice.

So the following games have left my collection:

Automobile – a game I somewhat like, but not enough to continue owning.  Martin Wallace’s limited edition games are generally coveted by collectors, and I am pleased that this one sold for $150.

Tempus – Another Martin Wallace game that I sort of like, but won’t miss having in the collection.  Tempus sold for $50.

Eastfront – I was surprised by how little I enjoyed this game.  Tim and I tried it a couple times, but it never got a good flow going for us.  I remain a fan of Napoleon, and own and wish to play two other block games, Crusader Rex and Hammer of the Scots.  Eastfront sold for $60.

House of Whack – The designer of this game, André, played with our Game Bistro group for a year or so before moving away from Albuquerque.  When André published this game, I automatically purchased one.  Sadly it isn’t my sort of game, so auctioning it off for charity seemed a thoughtful way of having it leave my collection.  House of Whack sold for $27.

18EZ – Alex became very interested in this game while it was still in prototype.  He and I played a couple times, hopefully helping it become a better product.  When Drew finally published it, I was pleased to purchase a copy in support of any company releasing new 18xx type games.  But honestly, I will always prefer to play a few other 18xx games before this one, so auctioning it off for charity was a good plan for this game.  18EZ sold for $100.

History of the World – I have a lot of great memories from playing this game.  But the designers recently released a shortened version called A Brief History of the World, and I cannot see me going back to the older version.  If I do, I will be happy to play on someone else’s copy.  HotW sold for $37.

Troisdorf – This is a special limited edition of the game Alhambra.  Jay Tummelson gave it to me years ago, and we never did get around to playing it.  I was pleased to turn Jay’s gift into a $100 for Haitian relief.

Cleopatra – This is a game that I liked well enough, but no one ever requested to play it.  So it was destined to leave the collection.  Cleopatra sold for $30.

In the process of auctioning my 8 games, I had several other BGG members ask to, and then list, several other games to auction for charity.  The site admins agreed to give an incentive to the bidders, and posted the auction at the top of the news section for a few days.  When the dust had cleared, the entire auction list had raised $1,622.50.  Pretty cool!  In addition some of the donors mentioned they would be giving to charity programs where their employer would match their gift!

So this little effort probably resulted in $2000 of aid given to various Haitian relief charities.

All the games are en route to their new owners, and I am also awaiting a game I purchased from one of the other donors.  Box of Golf will be arriving sometime in the future.  I will write about it in a future post.

Gaming Charity & Recent Games Played

January 20, 2010

The heart-breaking misery of the poor people of Haiti has inspired some amazing generosity from the gamer-community.  As I write the members at Boardgamegeek have raised over $30,000 in donations to various charities.  I’m participating in my own way.  I created a sale list of 8 of my used games that I would donate all profits to a charity.  Turns out others also wanted to do this, and so several of us have thrown our games on the same list.  My eight games are going for a collective total of just over $400, with a few more days before the auction closes.  The entire list looks like it will generate over $1000 in donations.  I am gratified by the success of the effort.  Perhaps not as selfless, but one of my online game store suppliers, FunAgain Games had a sale last Friday, where all profits were also donated.  So I ordered 4 games from them, which ought to be arriving soon.

This past week had me playing Travel Ingenious (4 times), Endeavor, and God’s Playground.  Ingenious was a diversion while I kept a friend distracted in the waiting room of a hospital.  Great game that is easy to teach.  I bought this copy of the game when recently in NYC.  It was nice to get it into action so quickly, albeit due to a surgery upon a friend’s wife.  (She is recovering nicely, thank goodness.)  Endeavor continues to kick my butt.  I keep getting lost in the swirl of options.  As this is a low luck game, I need to make some basic decisions about what I am trying to accomplish and rigidly hold myself to that strategy.  In some ways Endeavor is starting to remind my of Prices of Florence, in that you need to adopt a strategy and apply it with discipline.

Last night was my first effort at teaching God’s Playground.  I am still impressed, and was very pleased that Chester and Chris both expressed pleasure with the game.  This is not an elegant game.  Tons of phases, lots of chrome, but a very fun romp through Poland’s history.  Since I know nothing about Poland’s history, it seems wonderfully immersive, and any gaps or errors do not trouble me.  It is a gamey game, and a few things are starting to emerge that bother me about the game.  I will tell you my complaints in just a moment.  But I first want to re-stress that this game is hitting a sweet spot.  Fun. Fun. Fun.  But only for serious gamers, who won’t rue spending three hours on a game with significant doses of luck leavened with heavy strategy.

I will not attempt to summarize the rules.  They are long and convoluted.  Fortunately game play is reasonably intuitive, and the rules generally make sense within the great theme.  But there are a couple points that seem too gamey.

1.  Why is the cube pool so tight?  Should a player actually be successful in retaining a good presence of noble cubes on the board, that same player will sometimes find it is impossible to record enough hits on the enemy he is attacking to vanquish them.  You only have 20 cubes per player.  If most cubes are on the board, that means you have, perhaps, such a small number of them to mark “hits” that you may not be able to record all of your hits.

2.  Why is King’s cube pool so tight?  In one of our turns, the King’s army was mighty.  We naturally used him to push back some of the bigger threats to Poland, having him campaign with our baronial forces.  We quickly ran out of King’s cubes, which meant the King’s army ceased to be helpful in our campaign phase.

3.  The Hapsburgs and Ottoman special rules are murky.  We believe we sorted our way through them.  But starting turn 4 with Hapsburg political influence markers on the board, with Hapsburg military forces coming behind them, left us wondering… If a Hapsburg military cube came in contact with a Hapsburg political pawn, would the political pawn depart, (as it would with any other enemy cube)?

4.  I cannot understand how you are supposed to hold on to Little Poland.  The Hapsburg political pawns murder the Polish noble cubes at a prodigious rate.  If you manage to fend them off your reward is either 9 Hapsburg military cubes or 8 Ottoman cubes on the final turn.  So far, both games I’ve played has had Little Poland burned to the ground.  I would hope building estates in any province would be a reasonable decision.

Some complain Martin Wallace games sometimes have needless complexity.  I don’t know.  The # of rules involved in God’s Playground does imbue a certain amount of overhead.  But as we played, I kept going “a- ha” as I constantly saw a move I should have made.  A better understanding of the ramifications of some of the previous game phases would have allowed for a much better decision – allowing a clever move in the later game phase.

This game probably does have a certain “sameness” from session to session.  So far I am loving it.  But I recognize it might be played out.  However, as it is a 3-hour game strictly for 3 players.  I cannot imagine this is a game that will ever get played often enough in such a short amount of time for this niggle to trouble me.

It was interesting to note that while three of us played God’s Playground on Tuesday night, the next table over had 5 gamer’s playing their first rendition of Rise of Empires.  Clearly a Martin Wallace game night at the Bistro.

2 Games Played, 4 Games Ordered

January 14, 2010

This past Tuesday night Alex brought a new game of his, Rush ‘n Crush.  I’d never heard of it, but since I like to try most every race game, I was happy to give it a whirl.  It has a lot of spaces and tactical positioning similar to Formula De, but it also has a variety of combat attributes:  machine guns, flamethrowers, mine layers, as well as ramming rules; all of which interact with vehicle hit points and heat gauges.  In addition there is a unique movement system, dice based, that gives you a predictable amount of forward movement, coupled with an unpredictable amount of lane changes. 

One big issue with the copy we played upon was the extreme warping of the otherwise nicely produced game boards.  A concern is that this is at its heart an elimination game.  Our 1-lap race took most of an hour, and one of the players was reduced to spectator for the last 30 minutes of the game.  All in all, I don’t think any of us really loved it, and I won’t especially angle for another play.

The other game I played on Tuesday night was Beowulf.  For some reason this game doesn’t get too many fans.  But as someone who has multiple translations of the poem, including John Gardner’s interesting variant story called Grendel, I am especially appreciative of the theme.  The game has a nice play-by-play of the various episodes named by the board.  I think they could have done a better effort at embellishing the commentary, and that is on my list of things to do someday.

The other players included Sally, Jason and Michael.  Beowulf was well received by the table, and Michael exclaimed that we really need to play this more often!  I felt like I was doing very well through most of the game, but I foolishly got involved in the earlier Dragon episode, draining my hand of valuable cards I needed for the heroic battle.  I ended up taking the double wound at the end, which pushed me into the zone where each wound costs you 5 points.  With that big deficit, I ended up trailing the leaders significantly.

A great game, where the theme really works for me.  But I will admit, it is my love for the story that carries the theme.  The actual game activities, flipping cards, playing cards do not especially feel heroic.  I am tempted to call the theme a motif.

Tonight I got a note from Funagain Games, announcing that all sales for Friday, Jan. 15th will have all net profit donated to the poor souls of Haiti.  With that push, I have just ordered four new games:

Little Amadeus Maestro – This is an update to Maestro, which I once owned, and have been sort of regretting letting go.  This will be a fun reëxamination of the game, but hopefully with prettier game components.

Zapp Zerapp – I played this last in 2000, and have wished I could play it again.  It is not a game that will ever inspire a lot of play, but I think it has enough merit to finally add to the collection.

Rise of Empires – I was dawdling on this one, but no one else around Albuquerque has gotten it yet, and while mixed, several reviewers are enthusiastic.

Greyhounds – This is a used copy of the old Hans im Glueck game.  This is another game I have previously owned.  My first reaction was not good.  But some comments from friends opened my eyes that the game might have more to explore than I first guessed.  Worth another look, in my opinion.

Rise of Empires and Greyhounds were marginal purchases for me, but padding the order to get to the free shipping from Funagain, along with the knowledge that the profits were going to the aid effort gave me the liberty to spend a little more freely than I would otherwise normally do.

Some unexpected 2-player gaming

January 11, 2010

This Monday night Rick called and cancelled games at his house.  Poor guy fell off a ladder and is hurting.  Chris was en route to pick me up, so when he arrived I informed him of the cancelled session.  So we retired to the Game Bistro and played a few games:

First up was Carcassonne: The City.  This is the fancy wooden box game of Carcassonne with wooden walls.  This is a game that I find quite wonderful, so when Chris suggested it, I was happy to oblige.  It opens up very similar to most any permutation of Carcassonne.  You lay city tiles, place meeples, and score point for having meeples on roads, or for standing in markets.  You can also place them in residential districts for end game scoring.  But in the middle of the game a whole new angle begins with the placement of walls, and guard meeples atop the walls.  Now you are looking at scoring opportunities by row and rank of what view the guard has.  Compounding this is the ability to score points for towers along long lengths of walls placed.  Finally the walls inhibit the growth of the city, forming a barrier of city growth.

In other words this is Carcassonne on steroids.  I can never understand how little love this game achieves.  I like the way the game opens up into a much more deep and strategic game, and I love the 3D aspect to the scoring, and I love the cool little walled city you build by the end of the game.

Next up we played a couple scenarios from Memoir ’44.  This is a game I have multiple copies of, almost 2 sets of every expansion, an immense amount of support materials for.  Yet I almost never play it.  We have an annual game of Overlord which I relish, but usually that is all.  So we played scenarios #2 and #3 from the original game.  Even so, we had to remind ourselves of the basic rules, and played slowly enough to ensure we got them right.  We had great fun, even if the two scenarios were blow outs.

With about an hour left, I suggested we give Manoeuvre another whirl.  Manoeuvre is a great 2-player game that received a handful of plays when I first got it, but almost no attention for the past year.  We got through most of a battle before I realized I had missed a key rule.  We decided to put it away, as time was running short, but armed with this experience we are both interested in playing more of this interesting system.  With 8 different armies and lots of terrain tiles, this game appears to have a number of facets to explore.

A fun evening, if not the one I expected.  I hope Rick is okay.

A visit to the Compleat Strategist

January 10, 2010

Business took me to NYC this past weekend.  I had not been in NYC since January of 2008.  But whenever I do find myself there, if I can find a bit of time I always enjoy visiting Manhattan’s wonderful game shop, The Compleat Strategist.  They are down on E 33rd, just off Fifth Ave., so they are easy to find and typically a modest hike from where I am staying.

It was a very cold and windy day in Manhattan, and it was so windy I began regretting wearing my brimmed hat.  But albeit a bit chilled, I and my hat did arrive safely at the store.  The Compleat Strategist is a typical NYC retail space, narrow but deep.  You climb a few steps once inside, and you are quickly made aware how densely packed the store is with inventory.  Stacks and stacks of games, an entire wall of collectible card games, and all sorts of miniatures.  Lots of RPG books, some Manga (sp?) and all those great guides to military history.  There are two aisles through the store, and I did a slow u-turn through their store, enjoying the heat and all the visual input.

I dawdled by the wall of wargames, (a whole lot of GMT games), but as I am not playing 2p games much anymore they were not a serious contender.  At the end of the aisle I found their clearance games.  I noted that Beowulf was 50% off, and recalled when I was last in the store in 2008, that was the title I purchased.  A nice display case at the end showed all sorts of cool miniatures.  If I’d seen some irresistable Doctor Who stuff, I might have gone for it.  But it was mostly StarWars stuff – which is fun to behold, but nothing I want to collect.

Coming down the second aisle I found their extensive array of eurogames.  If they have a filing system, I wasn’t able to discern it.  But this just makes the browsing even more fun.  I knew I wanted to come home with some treasure, so I dawdled a fair amount of time, reading the blurbs on games I had only heard of, or never heard of.  One joy of browsing a big selection like theirs, is the hope of finding some obscure game you know isn’t generally available elsewhere.

 

Neolithibum is a game I have only seen played – once – long ago.  But I recalled it was received well by Peggy, and I figured it may be the only new sealed copy of the game I was ever likely to see in this lifetime.  So I grabbed it with some pleasure.  I also decided to purchase the travel edition of Ingenious.

With that, and a brief chat with the sales clerk, I held on to my hat and wandered back uptown in Manhattan.  Another successful pilgrimage to The Complete Strategist!

Doctor Who Operation

January 7, 2010

 

So how could an up and coming Doctor Who fan who is a boardgame collector say no to OPERATION: Doctor Who?  Yep, its Operation, but this time the patient is a Dalek.  You remove interesting parts, parts I bet you never knew were part of a Dalek…

Doctor Who

January 6, 2010

Recently I have been sucked into the wonderful world of Doctor Who.  Oh sure, I recall Tom Baker with his long scarf and big hats.  But in the old days I could never really bond with the Doctor.  But now, this newest version is a fun entertaining show.  Currently I have just finished viewing in sequence the first season.  Christopher Eccleston did a great job as the Doctor, and I was kinda sad to see him depart so quickly.  But I have seen enough of David Tennant to know he is especially wonderful as the 10th Doctor.

I’ve had so much fun with this series that I succumbed to eBay on Christmas day and ordered a couple Doctor Who games.  Tonight I opened my parcel from England containing the Doctor Who Interactive Electronic Board Game.  Now as a gamer, I know that this game is mostly rubbish.  It is one step removed from Snakes and Ladders.  But you see it has an electronic TARDIS.  It flashes lights, plays snippets of dialog including the obligatory Dalek screeching “EXTERMINATE”.

I’m still waiting for the other Doctor Who game I ordered from England… But I’ll tell more about that one once it arrives.

Games Played

January 6, 2010

Monday night had the usual foursome back together.  Chris had left his copy of Endeavor at Rick’s house, who taught it to Gary during our absence.  So we played it with everyone having some prior experience.  I’m rather impressed with this game so far.  The development tree is interesting, but at the same time the board play demands attention.  Balancing how to manage all your needed attributes and board positions is so far eluding me – but it is fun trying!

We finished up Monday night’s session with the ever popular Bohnanza.  Great game that has endured extremely well over the years.

Tuesday night was a banner night for The Game Bistro.  At one point we had 14 people playing!  I played Snow Tails with Sally, Michael, Tiffany and Chris S.  At the same time five others were playing Princes of Florence, and another table of 5 were playing Endeavor.  Our game of Snow Tails was new to everyone but Michael and I.  After the first race, folks wanted to have another go, so we set up a more elaborate route that included saplings and snow drifts.  Great fun, and just my sort of racing game.

To round out the evening I played Titan: The Arena with Sally, Michael, Chester and Bob.  This is a game I had in my collection long ago, and eventually let it pass through my hands.  But last year I found a copy available cheap, and on a whim recollected it.  It was fun to revisit this old chestnut, and it was received fairly well by everyone at the table.

Other games I witnessed in play included Dominion, Tichu, and Tumblin’ Dice.  It was nice to see so many gamers out for the evening.  Some folks who hardly ever come were present, along with one new player who came with his brother.

Planet Steam – 2009 Bistro Game of the Year

January 3, 2010

We enjoy playing a variety of games on Tuesday nights.  Many games only get played once or twice during a given year.  A few favorites get played 3-5 times.  But Planet Steam, a game that takes 2 hours to play, was played 7 times in 2009.  Only Tichu and Call My Bluff were played as often, but both of those games are a much smaller investment in time.

So what makes Planet Steam so good?  First of all, let me tell you what is wrong with it.  The box is ridiculously large, with a creative fold, the box could easily be 1/2 the size.  While the components are eye-candy, they are fidley.  The silver-colored tanks are a fun idea, with slots cut into them to allow you to press attachments into the slots.  Too often the attachments are either too loose or too tight.  The compressor domes are small flat bottomed domes that are placed on top of the production tanks.  We routinely chase these across the game table as they constantly fall off.

Planet Steam is rated for 3-5 players, but don’t believe them.  It is best as a  4-player game.  It’s good as 3-p game.  But avoid adding a fifth player.  The game suffers with this extra player.

But if you do play, you will find a demanding economic game, and should you like the sort of challenge of building a factory and pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps this game gives you an interesting game space to explore.  Do you like Steam Punk?  Planet Steam hooks onto this theme well, the production tanks, the steam punk artwork, the idea of dropping shafts and harvesting ore, water, and quartz all give a nice hue to the proceedings.

There is no income for you, except that which you build for yourself.  The game limits how many production tanks come into the game, ensuring you must scrap against the other players to get the materials you need to build your factory.  The initial auction for specialists can be daunting, and this is a game that rewards experience.  You can put yourself in very tight straits as there are several areas of risk to manage.

This is a tough game!  Oh the rules are not tough – the challenge is.  And that is why we have played it 7 times at the club, and why I played it over 10 times through the year.