Archive for June, 2010

Challenge & Complexity

June 30, 2010

I love strategy games.  I also love other sorts of games too, but I seem to always come back towards somewhat over-complicated games that promise deep strategy.  I know some folks devote themselves to a single deep game (Go, Chess, Bridge, Poker), but I don’t have that sort of endurance.  I want a variety of games to choose from, and a few new unknown games to explore.

This year I have played several new games (see previous post), and many of them offer significant strategy.  After losing 5 times at Hansa Teutonica, I am beginning to accept the fact that I am not figuring it out.  Similarly, although I have not played anyone title frequently, I am coming to the same realization about 18xx games.  Other players seem more adept at gaining the proper insight about how to add to their position.  I routinely end up in the pack at these games.

Does this make them less fun?  Oh, I admit I would like to win occasionally.  My primary driver in strategy games is to play well.  Winning is fun, but not the break point on whether I have fun.  But I do want to be in the hunt, and be considered a worthy opponent. 

A new friend of mine got thrashed at Brass the other night.  He told me he doesn’t get the game, and I suspect he’d prefer not to play it again.  I respect that, but for me, when I get smashed I find myself impelled to have another go.  I have now been playing 18xx games somewhat actively for a couple of years, and I have a very poor winning percentage.  I don’t really track this, but my memory tells me I haven’t won in a long time.

Complicated games like 18xx, Brass, or Hansa Teutonica are demanding.  After these sorts of games, I find myself wondering what I could have done differently?  How did my opponents see the moves that allowed them to out perform me?  What can I do to become a better player?

This pursuit for better performance can be fatiguing, and certainly I want breaks from it.  A nice game of Bohnanza or The Three Musketeers is a welcome break.  But if gaming were solely those less strategic games, I wouldn’t be the game fan that I am.  I’ve noticed over on BGG, that many people espouse the idea that you need “gateway” games to “hook” newbies.  They may even be right.  But I think there is something to be said for throwing people in at the deep end of the pool.  Back in the early 60’s, Avalon Hill started selling games to the general public that were relatively demanding – requiring real thought, record keeping, etc.  It worked!

I’m really glad there are so many challenging and complex games to pick from.

New to me in 2010

June 24, 2010

We’re closing in on the mid-point of 2010, so I thought I might write about the new games I’ve actually played this year (as opposed to collected).

According to my records there are 23 new games I’ve played for the first time in 2010.

World Without End – Rob taught this to me in January.  With only one play, all I can say is that I enjoyed it, and generally thought it was better than Pillars of the Earth, which preceded it.  Now if we are speaking of the books, I will voice my preference for the original…

Rush ‘n Crush – Alex introduced me to this race game meets Car Wars experience.  I didn’t like it much.  It seemed to be neither a race game nor a combat game.  Some interesting ideas, but it didn’t draw me in.

Piece ‘O Cake – A filler, and a nice filler at that.  I would happily play some more of it.  But I doubt I buy a copy.

Neue Heimat – Provocative game, and one I have been playing quite a bit of.  One of these games where the game is more in your head than on the board.  With 5 plays now under my belt, my enthusiasm is slipping, but I still am very pleased to own and occasionally play this game.

Minos – Older game that Zack kindly taught me how to play.  Eh.  Cool theme and materials, but a bit plodding and nothing terribly original to draw me to further explore.

Stonghold – Just the sort of game I like and ought NOT to buy.  It’s really a 2p wargame.  I would be happy to play more of this, but 95% of my gaming is multi-player.

Shipyard – After four plays, I was done.  I sold my copy.  I would play again if asked – I did not hate the game.  But it annoyed me in a few minor ways. 

The Climbers – I’m 4 plays in, and still reasonably enthused.  It works well on my heavy-duty lazy Susan, it is a visually interesting game, and it has more substance in strategy than you might initially think.

Wars of the Roses – I played once, decided I would buy a copy, and have not played on my copy yet.  Euro game mechanics with a war theme.  I should store it by Wallenstein and Im Zeichen des Kreuz.  Fun games I almost never play due to the hybrid war/Euro status.

BasketBoss – Nice lighter Euro.  I like the sports-theme, and it plays quickly.  I’m hoping for a couple more plays this year.

1825 (unit 2) – Feels odd to list this one.  I’ve been playing other units of 1825 for a while now.  I am a fan, and have recently thrown all my 1825 stuff together into a common pool.  My intent is to do multi-unit games going forward attempting to get enough playing space for everyone to be quickly able to run a company.

Tobago – I’ve just played once, and had fun.  I’m unsure if it will hold up for me yet.

Vasco de Gama – I enjoyed my sole play, but it did seem a bit over wrought.  I’d be happy to give it another shot, but I won’t be buying this one.

Dixit – Very well done, beautiful game – in a genre I don’t care for.

The Three Musketeers – Probably a flawed game from a strategy point of view.  But boy-o has this game got theme!  I love it.  Polarizing game.  My strategy-minded gamer friends have not been too keen.  But my role-player friends have loved it.  I’ve played 7 games so far in 2010.

Primordial Soup – Older Euro that I finally tried this year.  I loved it!  Not sure if the second or more plays will be as fresh – so I will hold off buying until I play a couple more times.

Inotaizu – Clever, clever, clever.  I have not decided yet if I really love it. But I do think it is a good game with a brilliant theme.

Stuff Yer Face – Creepy Clown Fun…

Timber Tom – As Michael said, it is just wonderful for the folk art value.  Family level of game play, but I love that now and then.

Hansa Teutonica – Clever, Clever, Clever – and this one I do know that I love it.  I’m 4 plays in and still eager for more.

The Master of the Merchant of Sakai – I’m unsure if this one will be a hit.  First play was interesting, but I need more plays to solidify my opinion.

Kassen – Only played this 2-player.  It worked and was quick fun.  Reminded me a lot of Auf Heller und Pfenig by Knizia.  I suspect the chaos of additional players will both add interest and frustration to the game.

Biskle – Chester brought over his new generation flicking game.  There was nothing wrong with it, but since I own 2 sets of Carabande, I see no need to get it, and when I want to play a flicking race game, I’ll continue to play Carabande.  But of course the real king is Crokinole for a flicking game…

Oh – how could I forget… Kineti-Go – A game everyone seems to be enjoying for the novelty of playing with magnets.  I’m not entirely convinced, but I will likely hang on to it due to its novelty factor, and its large size.

So that’s what’s new with me – how about you?

Carcassonne

June 23, 2010

 

Carcassonne is a game that has enjoyed tremendous success.  It won the coveted German Game of the Year award for 2001.  We were fortunate enough to be able to play it as early as 2000, and for years it was played a lot by the Bistro Players.

But it is now 10 years old, and no longer fresh and new.  We hardly ever play it anymore.  But I recently bought the iPhone app Carcassonne game, and after a few plays on my phone, I was inspired to pull down my Carcassonne set.

I ended up throwing out a number of my expansions for Carcassonne.  I had collected a bunch.  I ditched the Count of Carcassonne, The “King”, from King and Scout,  The Princess and the Fairy, most materials from The Tower, the Rivers I & II, some special tiles from magazines, and a couple of expansions I never even tried:  Abbey and Mayor and also The Catapult.

My Carcassonne set is now composed of the original 60 tiles, the tiles from the first expansion (Simply named “The Expansion” on my set, although I think it was renamed “Inns and Cathedrals” later on) and the second expansion (Traders and Builders), and the four Cathar tiles.  That’s it!  I did keep the actual tile rack from the Tower expansion – easily the best part of that expansion.  So I tossed the box for The Tower, and it all fits nicely in the original box again.

One huge problem that Carcassonne gradually acquired was that with so many expansions available, the tile count became too great, and the overburden of new rules saddled what was once a brilliantly clear game down with too much chrome.

So now, I have a Carcassonne set that better suits my tastes.  The open question is if we actually play it again at the club – or if I just continue to play an ocassional game on my phone.

Some games leave, some others arrive

June 18, 2010

This month I did another game auction over on BGG.  Outgoing from the collection:

Union Pacific – A very nice game, but one I’ve consumed my interest in.

The Stock Car Championship Game – A somewhat hard game to find, so I had held on to it for years.  But I finally realized it is the sort of race game I don’t really like (card game, and no spatial positioning, no board to study).

Grand Prix – The older Ravensburger one.  I’ve played it a few times, but felt like it had some fatal flaws.  Once you get ahead, it is pretty much guaranteed you can arrange to stay ahead.

Pitstop – It was requested by my buyer for Grand Prix, and so I decided to let it go.  Never played it all that much.  The amount of set up and the ability to break the game by making the course too long lowered my enthusiasm for it.

Conflict of Heroes– A game I never played but for one episode.  In theory this is a fun game.  But in reality, I almost never play 2-player war games.  On the rare occasions I do, I tend to like the larger scale games – operational or grand strategy.

Hacienda – The rare 2-player Christmas Tree edition.  I never did play this copy.

Lieber Bairisch Sterben – A Karl-Heinz Schmiel game I never did play.  Looked cool, but the rules were just too much.

Box of Golf – A bit too simple to catch my interest.  This one is going to Zack, who has quite the collection of golf games.

Incoming/Recently Arrived Games:

McMulti – A grail game that I am very pleased with.  Fabulous production to a well-built, if older school game.  You can see how Settlers of Catan could have been influenced by this. 

Hansa Teutonica – The newest delight of the game club.  I am pleased to have a copy for the collection, and will enjoy playing more of this entertaining game.

1846 – We played this recently to mixed review.

Timber Tom – A big hit with everyone who has encountered it.

Kineti-Go – Giant wooden shuffleboard cousin that uses magnets.  Amusing, and good for 10 minutes of fun for everyone who tries it.

Moongha Invaders – A very silly looking monsters invade the Earth game, from Martin Wallace of all people.

1861 – Another 18xx game.  Not here yet.  I played this once last year.  I was of mixed emotions about it.  I initially enjoyed myself, but as the game went on I became impatient.  But this may have been more to do with some external circumstances.  Worth trying again.  It’s limited availability nudged me into getting a copy while I could.

Palermo – Coming soon from Germany.  If my bids hold,I will also get Odysseus and Big Deal.  So three obscure older German games to explore.

Panzergruppe Guderian – I blame Tim for this one.  When he was coming around for more 2p games he introduced me to this one, and I was enchanted.  Now I’ll own a copy.  The trick will be getting it played.

I’m now oficially sick of going to the post office to mail games.  So I predict a period of gradual addition to the collection.

1846

June 10, 2010

I’m scheduled to play 1846 Friday evening.

I enjoy these 18xx games, although I am often not the winner.  I love the theme, I like the pacing, I enjoy the dilemmas presented.  You need to lay track, maintain effective trains, and run find lucrative routes.  But on top of all that, you also need to watch which stocks are worth keeping and which ones you ought to dump – keeping an eye open for the “dirty trick” where a company can be gutted and then dumped onto another player.  (I am usually the one dumped on, not the one doing the dumping.)

It’s deliciously complex – not so much from the rules – but from the ramifications of your and your opponent’s decisions.  Okay, the rules are a bit complex too.

One aspect of 1846 I like is the 2-dimensional stock market.  Stock value can improve or decrease, but it is generally not affected by the actions of the other players.  In 1830, the seminal 18xx game, there is a 3-dimensional market where the stock marker can go left/right but also up/down on the chart.  This is basically brilliant, but also drives even more “dirty tricks” into the game.  I hold 1830 in very high regard, but 1846 (and 1825) allow for a different feel to the market, taking the intensity down a notch, which suits me fine.

Oil

June 2, 2010

McMulti just arrived!  I’m excited to give it a whirl.