Saturday, April 30, 2011

30 days later...

today marks then end of 30 games in 30 days.  so far i've only played the following 26 games:

beowulf:  the movie board game
cold war:  cia versus kgb
dominant species
fearsome floors
mystery of the abbey
neuroshima hex
power grid
race for the galaxy
the merchants of amsterdam
ticket to ride
death angel
7 wonders
el paso
mansions of madness
pick picknic
pirate's cove

not exactly a victory, but i think that it's been a damn good effort, and i've had a blast playing all these games and finding out how many game lovers are out there in my circle of friends.

sharp-eyed readers will notice that of these only about 17 of these 26 have been chronicled so far. i am a bit behind in posting the games, but I hope to have all of them done in the next couple of days!

and if i can get those last 4 games in today...

who's up for a game?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"we shall have to teach perfidious albion a lesson! - the scarlet pimpernel

albion is a game that i picked up during a tanga special back when tanga still ran daily game specials, and i'm pretty glad that i did.

created by klaus-jurgen wrede (the same game designer that created carcassonne) and distributed by rio grande games, albion is a game of territory building, area control and influence, and worker placement. the basic idea is that each player represents an emissary from the roman empire looking to conquer and settle the fair isle of albion (britain for those of you who may not be familiar with one of its proto-celtic names).

the trick to albion is to balance expansion of your settlements and fortresses with the build up and collection of existing and new resources. meanwhile each territory has native picts that may be friendly or hostile. expand too fast and you may find yourself surrounded on all sides by angry naked aboriginal brits painted blue.

starting in southeast britain, each player automatically starts with two resources (fish and lumber). as you progress north, there's opportunity to begin quarrying stone and mining gold. both of which will be needed to improve your existing settlements and fortresses. settlements allow you to recruit legionnaires (to protect your territories from hostile picts) or settlers which allow you to build multiple times a turn. fortresses increase the speed at which your legionnaires and settlers can advance.

each turn, a player can either move and build, or collect resources. so once the rules are learned the game moves pretty quickly. 

i felt pretty confident about my expansion and conquest, but in the end, alan was the winner of the game with some savvy movement, a clever fortress placement (for some speed at the end of the game), and the fact that he managed his resources better than i did.

i like albion a lot, though i feel that the hostile native/angry pict mechanic doesn't pose enough of a threat.  though to be completely honest, they are more of a spoiler for the players rather than an objective all their own. what really surprises me is that albion is rated pretty low on boardgamegeek. the rules are pretty tight, simple, yet elegant. the components are all of good quality, and everyone i've ever played it with like it and would consider owning it. it's just one of those games that fell through the cracks.

if you get the opportunity, give it a try. i bet you like it too.

mystery of the abi

days of wonder is a great little game company that regulary puts out clever games full of bright colors and great themes. one such game is mystery of the abbey

a la umberto eco's the name of the rose, a murder has been committed. you and your companions arrived during the previous evening, looking to take advantage of templar abbey's hospitality.  this morning brother adelmo's lifeless body has been found at the bottom of the monastery cliffs. did he fall, or was he pushed? the abbot has asked you and your companions to investigate!

helping me solve the murder this time are dave, abi, jacob, and addam.

mystery of the abbey is a deduction game that combines area movement, card management, and set collection to determine which of the monks at the abbey committed murder most foul.  there's no need to determine where the murder was committed or how; your time will be spent determining who did it.  after all, there are 24 different suspects of three different ranks in three different orders! to further complicate matters, some of the monks are fat while others are skinny. some wear their hood up. others wear their hood down. finally, some are bearded while others are clean shaven. 

each turn you can move your monk around the abbey and search for clues. some rooms (like the scriptorium and crypta) can provide assistance. if you're feeling really bold you can search the rooms of your fellow players to take cards from their hand; just don't get caught! you'll be sent to the chapel for penance. 

our game was of moderate length (new players and all), but as it came down to the wire, it was pretty much a race to see who could get to capitulium and make an accusation. as you can see from the picture above abi (the green monk) got there just before i did (i was playing yellow). her accusation was correct, it was, indeed, brother jacques who pushed brother adelmo to his death.

so congrats abi on your victory at mystery of the abbey!

all images property of little mens, save for the box image. that one belongs to days of wonder!


the really interesting thing about trying to do something like 30 games in 30 days is the amount of excitement it's generated among my friends who i had no idea liked board games. so for everyone that's helped out this month:  thank you from the depths of my geek-driven heart!

now onto the next game!

this one is a classic from way back in 2000! carcassonne!

playing this one with me are jacob and addam!

for those who are unfamiliar with carcassonne, it is a tile-laying and area control game inspired by the roman and medieval influenced city/fortresses of carcassonne in the french region of languedoc-roussillon. each player takes a turn selecting a random face down tile and putting it into play. the only limitations are that it must be placed so that features remain contiguous (i.e. a road can't just run into a wall, field or city section, nor can an internal city section be played next to a field). my copy of carcassonne has "the river" expansion which is used to begin the game.

above you can see the first tile played off the river is a road tile that matches up with the bridge crossing the river. as the game progresses, the cities and fields begin to take shape, and players vie for points by placing their meeples.

here i've claimed 2 road sections and a monastery (i'm playing yellow). jacob (green) has a farmer in a field and a knight in a city, and addam (black) has a robber claiming a road and a farmer as well.

each player scores points during the game for completing a city, a road section on which they have a robber, or place 8 legal tiles around a monastery. here is the scoring track about mid-game:

addam is in the lead, with jacob and i hot on his heels!

eventually, we completed the game and here's what the end board looked like:

thanks to several farmers and completing a monastery, I was able to leapfrong past jacob and addam (who were tied for second place) and claim victory.

with its simple tile laying mechanic and scoring, carcassonne is another great eurogame that can be used to introduce folks to truly intelligent and skill based boardgames. thanks to jacob and addam for playing!

*original meeple

box photo property of rio grande games.  all other photos property of little mens!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"for what we are about to see next, we must enter quietly into the realm of genius."

one of my favorite lighthearted "beer & pretzel" sort of games is freidemann friese's fearsome floors:

helping me out with this one was chris, jeff, jacob, addam, and abi dubs! 

fearsome floors is a racing game where the goal is to get out of the dungeon.  each player has several tokens that they move each turn in an effort to escape clutches of the monster furunkulus.  sounds easy right?  just wait until he shows up!

oh, there he is!

unlike the players tokens who can move a set number of space but in any direction (except diagonal), the monster has restrictions on his movement, and will always pursue the closest token it can see.  the scary part is that sometimes the monster moves only a few spaces.  other times furunkulus will chase the interlopers until he has killed one or two of them!  it's all down to chance!

as the game progresses the players scurry to the exit tile on the opposite side of the board with the monster in hot pursuit.

above is the near the end of the game.  if you look in the far corner you can see that addam (playing the black tokens) is the first to make it out, while my  purple token was second.  as you can see below addam is about to move his second black token off the board ensuring victory, and dooming the rest of us to the monster's gut as snacks.

so thanks to all my players: chris, jeff, jacob, abi dubs, and addam, and congrats to addam as the victor!

all images property of little mens save the box image.  that one belongs to rio grand games!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

it's zee germans!

die kaufleute von amsterdam (the merchants of amsterdam) is a game that i had never heard of before i came up the idea of 30 games in 30 days.  originally a german game made by jumbo games, it was imported by rio grande games, but is currently out of print.  so if you find copy snatch it up!   

the basic premise is that you are one of amsterdam's many merchant princes during the explosive exploration of the new world and the subsequent explosion in trade that followed (1579 to 1666)

each player takes a turn choosing three cards from the play deck.  one card will be discarded, one card will be auctioned, and one card will be kept by the player.  each card does one of several actions.  they advance the timeline, provide an expansion your trading houses, and develop colonies around the world.  as each player builds their merchant empire, the resources of sugar, spices, gems, and silks increase. 

here melisssa is trying to decide what to keep, what to throw away and what to auction off.

spaced regularly around the board are opportunities to gain more florins to use in the auctions.  the auctions are interesting in and of themselves as it is a timed affair using dutch rules; as the timer counts down the cost of the item for sale gets cheaper, and with the ability to stop the auction at the beginning and double the cost of the auction item, means that savvy players can drive up the cost of things for their opponents.  

amsterdam is a clever little game that is easy to learn and with the right crowd, nice and cutthroat.

all images property of little mens


this one is an interesting little card management, tile-laying game based on the andalusian moorish castle, the calat alhambra. each player is building one of the may palaces that makes up the alhambra by managing placement of tiles, each worth a certain number of victory points during the game and at the end.

to acquire more tiles each player has to pay a cost for them in one of four denominations (depicted by 4 different colors, orange, green, blue, and yellow).

each turn, a player can take one of three different actions:
  •  draw a currency card. a player can take one card of a denomination above 5 and any combination of cards so long as the total denomination doesn’t exceed 5.
  • purchase a building tile. if a tile is purchased for the exact amount, the player then gets another chance to take an action. no change is given for tile purchases, so if a tile cost 5 yellow coins, and all you have is an 8 yellow coin card, then you pay 8.
  • rearrange or exchange a tile. players can move a tile from their reserve or to their reserve, or they can swap a tile between their alhambra and the reserve. the only constraint is that the new tile has to legally fit into the space of the tile sent to the reserve.
playing this game with me are jacob, jeff, and dave.

here is jeff looking dapper and debating the cost and placement of a tile...

..and here is dave contemplating his next action.

i like alhambra. It’s pretty easy to learn, game play is pretty straightforward, and it’s much easier to score than other tile-laying games like carcassone. i would recommend alhambra as a way to get new eurogamers to take the next step to something a bit more complex, but not overly so.

box image is property of queen games.  all other images property of little mens.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

neuroshima hex

another board game that wasn't originally on my list for 30 games in 30 days.  xenite from "little green monsters" introduced this one to me. 

based on the polish role playing game neuroshima, in neuroshima hex, you control one of several factions battling for survival in the post-apocalyptic ruins of north america.  in the simple one-on-one battle games, the action takes place within the black outlined area in the middle of the board.   

between your specialist actions and your troops' abilities, the middle board area is just big enough for a battle or two in the space of an hour.  here is the board at the start of the game: 

xenite (who is playing the moloch, a vicious machine intelligence that specializes in armor and ranged combat) has placed his hq on the board edge and i've place mine smack dab in the middle.  the reason for this is that my troops (the mutated borgos) are more deadly in close combat and my hq can improve their speed in melee, which is the reason for this deployment only a few turns later. 

as you can see the number of forces on the board wax and wane as infrequent combat begins taking it's toll on our troops.  

for most of the game, xenite controlled a good portion of the board and kept my forces contained with his shooting.  if not for one of my troops allowing me to negate the power of his hq, xenite would have completely wiped me from the board.

but some clever deployment and sacrifice on my part in the late game meant that the battle was a draw, and my borgos would live to fight another day. 

take that you moloch bastards! 

even though our battle took place in just a small part of the board, the game designers actually encourage you to create your own scenarios to take advantage of the rest of the board, and with the variety of images beneath each hex, you're only limited by your imagination as to what sort of scenario you could create!

i liked neuroshima hex quite a bit, and i don't think i'd pass up an opportunity to play.  

box image of neuroshima hex is property of portal games, all other image property of little mens

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

it's pretty much an homage to the entire sci fi ourve.

before last night’s game, i had only played race for the galaxy once before, and while i enjoyed the game, i didn’t really grasp the way that the rules and the cards worked together.  that point of view changed last night. 

at its core, race’s game mechanic balances card management and action choice, but there is a synergy between the various cards that a player can have in their tableau and the actions chosen by all players at the beginning of a round that rewards smart choices and flexible planning. 

playing are aaron, jacob, and i.  here you can see aaron explaining the various actions to jacob.

as we started and the game progressed, i continued to get more and more development opportunities…

… while jacob made a run collecting alien-centric worlds and developments…

…and aaron pulled some military, but seemed to miss out on the cards he really wanted. 

at the end of the game, jacob was the winner with a massive 54 victory points.  i was in second place with 34 victory points and aaron had 32. 

now that i’ve got a better grasp on how race for the galaxy is played and the various interactions possible, i think that this one will be a game that i play a heck of a lot more.

race for the galaxy is property of rio grande games.  all other images property of little mens.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

well, that was weirdly prescient...

last night, i got in a game of cold war:  cia vs kgb with dave p. 

produced by ffg as one of their silverline games, cold war allows play as one of the two major intelligence agencies from the 60’s through the 80’s, the komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti and the central intelligence agency.  

the game is pretty straightforward:  a particular objective is revealed.  both intelligence agencies choose an operative who works to recruit groups to claim the objective.  each group has a point value and a special action that can be used as your agent tries to bring the objective into their sphere of influence.  the winner of the round then gets to add the objective score to their running total.  first player to 100 points is the winner.  

here the kremlin has claimed the objective.  which was a recurring theme for the entire game.  another point in favor of the game is that savvy play can stop a runaway victory by one player.  unfortunately, my play as the cia just wasn't good enough, and dave's kremlin took the victory.

while playing the game i kept getting a strong sense of déjà vu.  over a third of the objectives being fought over during the game are still global hotspots today:  libya, korea, egypt, et al.   kinda makes you wonder, how much longer those particular places will continue to have such a strong influence on global politics. 

like many of ffg’s silverline games, cold war is a a lot of fun, and the fact that it’s portable, has a neat game mechanic, and is quick to play means that cold war is definitely worth adding to your collection.

Monday, April 11, 2011

what a weekend!

you may have noticed a dearth of posting this past weekend.  fear not, fellow gamers!  i was playing games, and i will be posting them in the next day or so. 

but do you really blame me for being distracted by this:

or this?

yeah, that's right, i was at this:

and you bitches were not. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

i am not beowulf!

i’m lucky in that i have so many awesome gaming friends, and that every thursday night there’s a big get together at winston’s (a local café) to play all sorts of games.

last night was a good get together.  i was able to get a couple of games in, one of which was beowulf the movie board game.

obviously, this game was designed to take advantage of the excitement of the 2007 film starring ray winstone, crispin glover, angelina jolie, sir anthony hopkins, robin wright penn, brandon gleeson, and john malkovich.

beowulf is an FFG game with a play style based on reiner knizia's kingdoms game structure with some tweaks to the board and the tiles.

The basic premise is that each player is a skald telling the saga of Beowulf. There are 3 acts, each represented by a different game board, where players place figures and tiles to take advantage of boons and avoid perils.  

here we are early in the first act.  of course, as the act progresses the board fills up:

once the first act is over, the tiles and figures are removed and the second act begins:

the second act has fewer spaces and some of the special actions the tiles allow you to take a much more cutthroat.  once the second act is over the tiles and figures are removed yet again, and the third act begins:

as you can see, this act has nearly double the play area, which meant some contemplation on tile and figure placement.

as you can see some of the players (melissa and chris) took the third act a bit more seriously than others (i'm lookin' @ you jacob)...

when the game was over, chris was the victorious skald having told the best tale of beowulf, and collecting the most saga points for it.  jacob was in second place, melissa in third, and i came in dead last.  so much for my career as a wandering poet/bard reciting epic verse and norse eddas.   

other games were played (like die kaufleute von amsterdam), so stay tuned for those posts!