Archive for July, 2015

Recent Gaming

July 30, 2015

Last week Jay Tummelson visited the Game Bistro.  Jay is an old friend, operator of Rio Grande Games, and it was great to see him again.  He used to come to game night much more often, but in recent years he only appears once in a while.  Jay always has a new game under his arm when he comes.

The most recent one is 20th Century, Ltd.  This is a game by Jeff and Carla Horger.  This husband/wife duo authored Thunder Alley, a race game that has proven popular around here.  I also own Manoeuvre, a game by Jeff which I have found worthy.  Jay taught us how to play 20th Century, Ltd.  My initial reaction was that this looked a lot like TransAmerica.  There is a map of North America, divided by a triangle overlay of black lines connecting cities.

I seem to be a bit train-crazy.  As time has gone by I continually find train games of interest.  So this theme immediately interested me.  Players get two regional cards and 4 “normal” business cards.  On your turn you lay 3 sections of track to the board – this was very much like TransAmerica.  You try to establish service between all the cards listed on one of your cards.

Once you complete service you can turn in your card.  Or, if an opponent has an adjacent link, you can pay them a cube to use their link to complete the needed services.  If you complete a regional railroad, the track endures.  But if you complete a normal railroad all of your track (not opponent’s links) used to provide service is removed from the board.  I have no idea what this may be simulating in real life.  But it made for a lively game.  You might be one turn away from completing service on a card, when your opponent removes some track you were planning to link through.

The scoring is conducted through completion of both regional and normal railroad cards completed.  In the case of the regional railroads, once you complete a region, you draw a new region card.  There are 8 different regions on the board, and you only establish a single RR in each region.  If you complete all 8 regions, the game ends, and you get 100 pts.  There is a sliding scale down for completing fewer than 8 regions.  For the normal railroads, they can cross into several regions, and state how many points they are worth.  Once you complete a normal RR card, you can draw a new one from the 4 on display, or a blind draw from the top of the deck.

For our first play, with Jay, Zack and Alex were unimpressed.  But I had enjoyed it a fair bit.  So the next week I asked two other players to give it a whirl.  In this play, everyone enjoyed the game more – including me.  I am quite pleased with both plays of this game, and find my enthusiasm for further plays is still intact.

Roll for the Galaxy – This is another game that Jay brought.  He brought it last year, and it has seen a fair bit of play.  I played it again recently (right after the second play of 20th Century, Ltd.) and with this last play the game gained some stature for me.  I think the difference might have been that we played it 3 player.  I am not certain, but I suspect all of my prior plays were at least 4 player, if not 5 player.  With a 3-player game, the number of active phases are fewer.  This somehow made the game better for me.  We had a very entertaining game, and Amy and I tied for the victory – the best result either of us had ever had.  Our third opponent declared he loved this new game and was going to rush right out and buy a copy for himself!

Formula De – We recently finished our latest linked series of races on Monday night gaming.  We are not playing this as often as we once did, but we have continued to occasionally get sessions in.  Gary had a nice lead going into the final race.  But Chris came roaring through for a very strong victory, and nosed himself into a season points tie with Gary.  In case of a tie, we check for the most victories (still tied), then most 2nd places (still tied), and then 3rd places (Chris wins).  So based on a triple tie-breaker rule, Chris won the season competition.

Drunter & Drueber – One thing I really appreciate about the Monday night gamers is their willingness to try just about anything I bring over.  I played Drunter & Drueber a couple of times roughly a decade ago.  I eventually traded/sold it off after years of neglect.  But in the past year I got the desire to revisit it.  So I reacquired it.  And I was reminded, there are really two games in the box.  The standard game, the one most everyone usually plays, involves voting with special YAAA/NEEE cards about whether to build over an outhouse, or not.  But the second game eliminates the voting, and injects two secret objectives for each player to try to work towards.  So I asked if the boys on Monday night might be willing to play the game twice, back to back.  We would start with the voting game, and then move on to the variant.  This was entertaining.  While we found the voting game somewhat charming, everyone seemed to feel the variant was a stronger game.  Rick liked it so much I agreed to leave it with him so he could show it to other folks he games with.

Other games I have been playing recently include:

Siesta

Hansa Teutonica

7 Wonders

Pony Express

Daytona 500

Battle Beyond Space

Rallyman

1895: Namibia

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Analyzing the collection… zzzz

July 29, 2015

According to BGG, I now own 397 games.  This is a fair amount of inflation, from the days when I was more actively chasing games out of the collection to keep the count down to 300 or so.

So why own so many games?  To play them?  Well, yes, that is usually the motivation.  But sometimes not.  This article will attempt to list some of the broader categories of complementary reasons for owning a game (besides playing it).

Historic Artifacts – Sometimes I like to own a game because the game itself is a piece of history.  A few examples:

Swastika – a game from 1907 that I found in a family cabin.  It has nothing to do with Nazism, but is used as an Indian symbol.  I just like having a game from the 1900’s, and I like that it shows the swastika was a valued symbol before the Nazi’s twisted it meaning.

Civil War by Avalon Hill – it gives me a window of how that historic company got started and what they thought might appeal to the adult game buying public of circa 1961.  This particular game pairs the use of simple plastic pawns with the famous Avalon Hill CRT chart.  It represents an evolutionary stub in conflict-simulation game development history.  As a bonus, the game is actually fun to play, if unbalanced.

Touring – I love the illustrations showing the cars of the 1920’s on my edition.  I also recall playing with these cards at my grandparents home.  So some good nostalgia value here.

 

Collectorism – I fall into this trap over and over.  Some examples:

Francis Tresham – I am a fan boy.  I like collecting his games.  I really do like playing his games.  But most of his games do not get played often.

franckh – I bought an entire collection of these pre-Kosmos games just because I wanted to explore a wing of eurogaming I had missed.  I then went on to scour the world to collect the few I didn’t initially get in the big purchase.  Years later and I still haven’t played many of these.  Collecting the set just to have the set seems to have been my main motivation.

Jean du Poel – I cannot seem to stop myself from buying any Historien Spiel Galerie game I find that is not in my collection.  I just love the handmade art he puts into his games.  We do play a few of them occasionally.  But owning a bunch of these games and being on the hunt for more is its own pursuit.

Microgames – I have every Metagaming microgame ever released.  I did enjoy playing some of these years ago.  But mostly they just are here as a memento of gaming done in the past.

 

Games that need some love – I am a contrarian.  When I see a game that I think has some merit, but others fail to see its value, I am sometimes even more inspired to own it, so I can advocate for it.  A couple of examples:

franckh – I got into collecting the set.  But I got into it largely because these games seemed largely reviled, yet quite a number were by Reinhold Wittig, who I am a fan of.  So I wanted to make my own assessment of this group of games.

Backpacks & Blisters – Alex brought this over recently, and it flat as a pancake.  yet I enjoyed the style of game play, and found myself thinking this game is misunderstood/under-appreciated.  Alex was kind enough to give a copy of the sequel game “More Backpacks and Blisters”.  I will proudly have it available on the game shelf.

Old “Grail” Games – I was so happy to lay hands on certain games in the past that were darn hard to track down.  To be sure (some of) these games have been played.  But the owning of them was its own reward.  A few examples:

  • 1829
  • 1853 (1st edition)
  • 6 Tage Rennen
  • Auf Fotosafari in Ombagassa
  • Ave Caesar (Ravensburger edition)
  • Big Boss
  • Broadsides & Boarding Parties
  • Extrablatt
  • Full Metal Planete
  • Global Air Race (the game you play on a Replogle globe)
  • McMulti
  • Supergang
  • Tante Tarantel

There are others.

If a fella isn’t careful he can fill his shelves with games that are there for reasons other than getting them played frequently.  My friend Joe, prides himself on playing every game in his collection within a 2-year period.  That is not me – I have games I have never played, and have never considered getting rid of.

I do see the merit in having a collection that is actively enjoyed on the game table.  But I am not prepared to cut away games that I value for reasons other than their viability as entertainment.

So if you are ever find yourself staring at my collection of nearly 400 games, and find yourself wondering why you don’t see a game you want to play… this blog may explain why I own the “wrong” games.

 

 

 

Casual Gaming

July 17, 2015

The other night Alex brought over an old Ragnar Brothers game to our Tuesday evening game night.  I had played it once before with him about 8 years ago.  The game was Backpacks and Blisters.  This is a mild game of strategy where you need to manage a hand of cards and count spaces on the map.

This is not a heavy thinky sort of game.  Instead it is a game I envision you could play with most anyone.  A game you could enjoy a beer over, and chat with your neighbor when others are taking their turns.  The theme is charming, about hiking in England.  The cards include various movement cards, but also the heavy rucksack and a few blister cards.  The heavy rucksack is a penalty card, causing the holder to have an inhibited movement allowance.  Both it and the blister cards give the holders the excuse to bitterly complain.  I took full advantage of this, and while it hurt my score at the end, it enhanced my enjoyment of the game.  “Oh my feet hurt!”  “God, this rucksack is sooo heavy!”  I hammed it up, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

However at least half of the participants panned the game.  Zack was actively telling the table what a lousy game this was.  And at least a couple of players were disturbed by how uneven the various ways to score were.  Why would you ever take tea instead of taking the ferry, as the ferry is much better?  And they are right – the game is uneven, and perhaps even unfair.  If a player gets to a site just before you, you can’t go there until they leave.  I can agree that as a strategy game there are numerous flaws.  But it didn’t matter to me.  The theme is fun.  The game plays just fine.  And I had fun playing.  I’m just sorry it isn’t a game the club can enjoy.

Earlier in the evening I had asked folks to play String Railroad.  Here’s another game with serious strategy flaws.  But I am amused by the idea that a game can consist of a few cards and a few lengths of string.  Sadly this quirky idea failed to amuse some of the players.

Some of my recent enticement with Silverton comes from the heavy theme.  To be sure Silverton does have some strategy to it.  But much of the fun is being swept along with the (a)historical narrative.  Silverton is likely too long of a game for a single game night, so I wouldn’t generally offer it for consideration.  But my recent experiences has me questioning how much of my collection is really of interest to the game club.

I enjoy having a wide range of games.  I really like strategy games.  But I also like these more casual games I am discussing above.  I have collected quite a few Jean du Poel and Reinhold Wittig games because they were handmade – a joy to behold for the artisanal work embedded in them.  I have older family games from the 50’s and 60’s which are fun to see because they exhibit stepping-stones to modern designs.

If I were to try to classify my games into various buckets, I wonder how many categories I would come up with?  Hmmm… perhaps this will be the next entry for this blog!

Colorado Gaming

July 8, 2015

Peggy and I just returned from a nice jaunt to Pagosa Springs, where a number of friends gathered to hang out over the holiday weekend.

Mostly, gaming was not an activity.  But I dutifully brought a number of games.  My collection of Buster Keaton films ended up providing more entertainment.   But we did actually play a couple of games:

Eggs of Ostrich – good for two plays.  This was an impulse buy for me, adding it to a game order at the last minute.  As a 3-player game (only) I was pleased to have it hit the table.  We played twice, and both of my opponents enjoyed them selves.

Splendor – I also played this twice, both times as a 2p game against the same opponent.  We split the match 1-1, and my opponent was very taken by this game.

Das Zehn Vasen Spiel (Ten Amphoras) – Peggy played this with me.  She enjoyed it, and I enjoyed seeing how the 2nd edition of Amphorae worked so much better than our recent attempt at the 1st edition.  Really the 2nd edition is quite different than the 1st edition, or I really botched the rules translation…  Anyways, the 2nd edition is certainly playable, but I will hope to play it with 3-4 people in the future.

June Gaming

July 1, 2015

I was (mostly) back in town in June, enabling more game playing:

18FR – Two more sessions, and we finally finished up this 18xx title.  I played at Rick’s house, with Chris as our third player.  During the second session (mid-game) I really despaired.  I was forced to retain too often, and I felt I had put myself out of contention.  But during our last night of the game, I came roaring back, dumped a company, and got the permanent train I needed for both of my remaining companies.  This allowed me to surge up, but I still fell short by about $800 of the victory.  Rick had about $12,000 of worth, I had roughly $11,200, and Chris had about $10, 400 or so.  18FR is largely 1830 on a map of France.  Ultimately I think I’d prefer to play 1830 – but Rick was pleased to get some use out of his homemade production copy.

Astron – This is an old 1950’s game about air travel.  The game board has a rolled map of the USA, and you advance the map by rolling it from one roller to the other.  Meanwhile the players move their airplanes about on the grid system, attempting to land at airports and avoid hazards.  The rollers are an unexpected innovation – and they added some fun to the event.  I’d play again, but this is simple fun, not a strategy game.

Amphorae – I played the reprint “Das Zehn Vasen Spiel” years ago.  But I finally got a copy of this Jean du Poel game in the tube, so we gave it a go.  As usual, we wondered about the rules.  I am going to reexamine the reprint and see if I can port over some decent rules for future plays.

Ogre – We played my super special Kwanchai edition of this game.  Despite all the effort of getting my own custom version of the SJG edition, I seem to mainly be using the Kwanchai edition.  Too bad he never got to do the GEV set.

Football Fever – Only a partial game, but I love these very cool dice.

Auf Fotosafari in Ombagassa – Played this with the Andersons and Peggy.  This was fun, and Geneva asked that I bring it to Fandango.

Silverton – Rick, Gary and I played a short game of Silverton.  This was well received, and everyone agreed we would like to play a longer game to see how the passenger strategy can hold up against the mining deliveries.

Axis & Allies: WW I – Alex and I played a partial game of this.  I enjoyed myself quite a bit.  If we get back to this soon, I have hopes we can pick up the pace.  We had a lot of rule questions during our first round of play.

Agricola – I am a bit tired of this title, but it was the group choice.  I had some fun with it.  But the more I play this game the less often I win.  I’m not sure how I always manage to pick the sub-optimal paths…

Great War at Sea: Mediterranean – I took a day to visit Tim up in White Rock.  We had been planning this for quite a while.  He led me through an operational scenario that eventually led to a battle showdown.  This was fun.  But I was glad Tim could direct the operations.  I am still getting my arms around the rules.  It may happen that this is just a game I play with Tim.

Star Trek: Fleet Captains – Alex taught me this game.  My luck was spectacularly bad.  I will crib from my entry on BGG:

“My bad luck in this game was rather comical. I was the first player. I found a supernova right next to my base. One ship was destroyed, another damaged, and the systems I had explored were wiped out. I suppose I should have scanned before going in…

“My opponent did no scanning and spread control markers over 4 sectors.

“I decided to send my remaining fleet to the same sector, (still no scan), and while safe, I didn’t get much done.

“My opponent cruised all around and uncovered much more of the board, spreading control markers freely.

“I decided I needed to spread out, like my opponent, and promptly got my 6pt Klingon battleship stuck in a black hole.

“By then my opponent was winning 6-0. I conceded the game.”
So the game is flavorsome. I like Star Trek, so I should enjoy this universe. But the game play didn’t evoke the theme as much as I thought it would.  The multitude of cards to pick from is a two-edged sword. I can see how it will extend replayability. But as a newbie, needing to evaluate the several decks was daunting.

I’d play again. But my enthusiasm is muted. It is a lucky game – flip the right tiles, random encounters, roll the right dice results. Nothing wrong here, but there are plenty of random elements working.  I suspect that if I played it more, it would become easier to play, and more fun. My first session was a blow out, and that is just going to sometimes happen on games with this many random elements.

Rallyman – Alex and I did a little 3 race scenario.  Man, I really like this game!  I’m now hoping to entice a linked series play at Fandango.