Archive for the ‘Games Played’ Category

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.

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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!

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.

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.

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

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.