Archive for March, 2010

Something old, something new

March 31, 2010

I finally played Tobago this past week.  I now understand why it is getting some support for the Spiel des Jahre (German prize for Game of the Year).  First off, it is a good game.  Secondly, it is a beautiful game.  And while it isn’t really a simple game, I’d not call it complex.  Considering Dominion won last year’s prize, I would think Tobago is reasonably accessible.  Since the Spiel des Jahre is aimed at the typical German family, they do not tend to select really complex games.

I also played Vasco de Gama for the first time ever earlier this week.  I enjoyed the game, but would not expect it to be a contender for Spiel des Jahre.  While some might call it a medium-weight game, there were enough interlocking mechanisms to make me work a bit to sort out what a viable plan might be.

Both of these games do a good job of making the players explore how the game system is designed.  You have to understand how amulets can affect the course of play in Tobago.  Cause if you don’t, you may suddenly be surprised by how busy your opponents will be once they have grabbed them.  Likewise, in Vasco de Gama, you must bid a indeterminate amount of resources to pick the sequence in which you will place your workers.  But even more – the game systems amplify the risks your opponents pose.  In Tobago, opponents may use amulets to gain more of a treasure that you thought was going to mostly your own.  In Vasco de Gama, opponents vie for the sequencing so they can get the limited resources available.

Which brings me to the “something old”.  We played Shark at the bistro Tuesday night.  Shark has a stark set of rules.  On your turn you can buy or sell, then you roll a couple of dice and place the 1 building you must, and then buy/sell.  There are a couple of details, but the rules are not convoluted.  But the game still offers lots of interesting decisions.  But rather than the complexity of the game system – Shark uses your greed and your opponent’s avarice to set up tricky situations.  Not everyone I game with likes this game, but several do.  I find it interesting that this game with very simple rules can make me think just as hard on what my best options are as a game such as Vasco de Gama which has a noticeable amount of rules.

Another game, Brass, is a game with even more of an overburden of rules.  Brass is in my top 25 games – but it is not a game I lightly suggest.  Many players will despair of understanding the game before the explanation is complete.  It’s of a class of games, I do not know how to effectively teach a new player how to be competitive in their first game.  In Brass there are enough complexities in the rules, that there are likely opportunities for clever play that I still have not yet discovered.  A rewarding game indeed.

But complexity does not necessarily = depth.  I tend to usually think it does.  But Shark reminded me this week, that simple rules can sometimes tease out situations that have more to consider than you would guess.  Another recent game added to the collection is The Climbers.  In the Climbers, there are few rules, but some real depth of decision.  Blokus also comes to mind – a game with 2 or 3 rules, yet lots of replay value.  Depth.


Greyhounds & 6p gaming

March 25, 2010

Attendance at the Bistro has been vibrant this year.  This week had 15 people playing games, the week before was 13.  Since I have three tables, we are running near capacity, and a few regulars have been missing lately.  I can add a fourth table, but lighting may be an issue.  One side effect of good attendance is we tend to get more 6p games.  Which is okay, there are enough to have a decent game selection.  But it also means roughly 2/3rds of my collection doesn’t apply.

Oh, I am thrilled to have a vibrant game night.  But I do occasionally get stymied on trying one of my games that I was hoping to play.  I’m much more concerned that everyone get in a game they want to play.  But I admit I sometimes wish I could get a different game out.

To whit, I reacquired Greyhounds earlier this year.  This is a game that I apparently traded away too quickly on its first tour through my library.  I found myself wanting to give it another try, so I bought a used copy from Funagain Games.


Upon re-examination, I am enticed to try the “advanced” game.  This is a betting game.  But the advanced game sets up an asymmetric playing field which sounds interesting.  One player is the Bookie, who gets $24,000 to start.  The other players only get $6,000.  Each race the bets are mandatory, and all wagers are given to the Bookie.  The Bookie then tries to jigger the race to avoid paying out too many winning bets.  The Bookie also has to pay finishing purses for the top 3 dogs.

I hope to play it sometime.  Of course, it only plays 4…

Spice Navigator

March 21, 2010

This week had one new game added to the collection…  Spice Navigator.  Which is really a roughly 10-year-old game, which I finally tracked a copy down.


I played this once, maybe 5 years ago?  I recalled it was a clever idea but wrapped in a game that had bungled some rules.  But nonetheless, a game which has you trying to identify spices by sniffing unmarked canisters seems to offer unique game possibilities.  So, this weekend I whipped up some variant rules for it, and I now will have to convince the Bistro players to give this one a whirl.

Saturday somehow cleared itself enough for me to schedule a game of 1825.


Unfortunately one of the players cancelled at the last moment, but three of us still played.  We played Unit 2 of 1825, the only unit in the set I had not yet played.  I found this to be a very interesting track-laying game.  I played with Alex, who is turning out to be our 18xx guru, and Kyle, who has played very little of this genre.  Alex suggested playing a handicapped game, where the experienced players docked their starting funds by some amount.  In our game, Kyle got the standard 800 pounds sterling amount.  I took only 700 pounds, and Alex took 600 pounds.  When the dust had settled, I won with a net worth of roughly 7,800, and Alex and Kyle were closer to 7,100.  So, I don’t know whether this really counts as a victory, but it made for a tightly fought game, with the outcome in real doubt until the final reckoning.

I am finding my taste in 18xx games is more towards what happens on the game board, and less on what is possible on the tally board.  I rather like that my net worth cannot be trashed by another player’s actions.  1830 is still a favorite of mine, but it may turn out not to be my all time favorite.  These 1825 games have the possibility of rising in my ratings – assuming I can continue to get them played.


Washington’s War and 2p gaming

March 14, 2010


Washington’s War arrived this past week.  I ordered it over a year ago, and now that it is here, I no longer have my regular 2-player opponent for wargames.  Nevertheless, I did rip it open, punched the counters, and read the rules.  Seems like a worthy game, and a nice refinement to the earlier We the People, (which I also own).  Along with Hannibal, I have some fine card-driven-wargames that I would enjoy playing more of.

In general, two-player gaming is a rarity for me.  I had a couple years where a friend was constantly coming by, wanting to play wargames and other 2p games.  But that ended about a year ago, and I now find almost my entire gaming time is devoted to multi-player gaming.

Some 2p wargames I would enjoy playing:

  • Crusader Rex
  • Hammer of the Scots
  • Napoleon (the first three are block games)
  • Washington’s War/We the People
  • Hannibal  (these three are card-driven games)
  • A House Divided

But I suspect this wing of my collection will mostly collect dust.

Basketboss & Tobago

March 7, 2010


2 new games up to bat!

BasketBoss is a Cwali game – which unfortunately means it is to be viewed with some suspicion.  I adore StreetSoccer from this publisher/game author, but no other games have ever worked out for me from Cwali.  BasketBoss looks cute, simple and speedy.  I’m hoping to break the streak of let downs.

Tobago – is a strategy game from Zoch.  I’ve really been having fun with the Chili Spiele games of late.  Chili Spiele has published 3 games so far – 2 of which I have tried – and both of which I liked a lot.  Why mention them?  Because Chili Spilele is the game arm of Zoch for games that are too complicated for his main game company.  Tobago is a Zoch game, but clearly not just one of his children’s games, nor a dexterity game.  When I heard it compared to Old Town, I knew I needed to try it.  Old Town was a game I tried in 2004, and while it was exploring some interesting game space (inductive reasoning) I never felt like I was able to apply much skill to the game.  Tobago is supposed to be a smoother implementation, so I wanted to give it a whirl.

I’m hoping to play these this week.

War of the Roses

March 5, 2010


Alex introduced me to his latest acquisition, War of the Roses, recently.  I have found myself thinking about it, which is an indication that I would probably like to buy a copy for myself.  But so far, I have been dragging my feet.

You can read about the game of BGG, so I won’t try to detail all of the features.  But broadly this is a game that updates Kingmaker.  Kingmaker is an older game about the war for the English throne between the House of York and the House of Lancaster.  I don’t know that it was really a great game, but it definitely was a great theme.  I actually played a lot more of Warrior Knights (Games Workshop, 1st edition) which took the concepts in Kingmaker and made them into a more playable game.  But neither Kingmaker or 1st edition Warrior Knights have enjoyed much attention in years.

So I have been considering if it is time to sell/trade my copies of these games, and go ahead and own a copy of War of the Roses instead.  But I paused in this thinking after Tuesday night, when Chester after playing War of the Roses for the first time, gave it a rather weak rating – and offered a remark that he didn’t like blind bidding games.  My concern is that with a military theme, and a 2-3 hour duration, my expected audience is rather limited.  So will this game really get played?

And I will admit, I had not really considered that War of the Roses is a blind bidding game.  Oh, sure, the competition for the Captain of Calais is – but is the rest?  I was somehow swept away by the theme, and hadn’t really felt like I was blind bidding.  Instead I felt like I was planning, like you do in a game of Wallenstein.  I want to play again, and put out my critical receptors…  Is this game more luck and less strategy?