I like the concept (although I'm not sure that Hasbro will not attempt to stomp the game on the grounds that it infringes their copyright, despite satire fair-use) of an anti-Monopoly. But I definitely love the playing pieces. Unfortunately US$125 for the game is a wee bit expensive for them...
Fans of the old Chinese ghost story and similar monster movies might enjoy the Ghost Stories boardgame. It's a cooperative game for up to 4 players, where a bunch of Taoist scholar-priests must defeat a horde of ghosts and other unfriendly spirits. Each player has a different elemental affinity that both determines the types of ghost that specifically drains their chi, and the nature of their powers. [They did get the colours slightly wrong though.*}
As with most such games it's "nice day for getting rid of a pesky isolated ghost, everything's fine, we're winning, no worries ... oh Buddha, we are all going to the Hell of Incompetent Scholar-Priests, help, help, help..." sort of game.
That being said, we won, but it was the most fortuitous of happenstance and one must devoutly honour one's ancestors that it happened. The Big Bad (or Boss for those less into Buffyisms - one of the people I played with had never seen Buffy but liked Big Bad better than Boss**) was the one Big Bad that had to be spiked by a Buddha before being eliminated, and we had fortuitously placed a Buddha there (which was fortunate because the ability to move the Big Bad onto a Buddha had been lost to a haunting, and the ability to unhaunt an area had been lost to a haunting). Any other Big Bad would have crushed the Buddha without noticing. This allowed your humble correspondent to step in and send the Big Bad back to the Hell it came from, on the round before everyone was going to die from an excess of spirits swallowing our essential chi.
The players powers are well-balanced and different (and they actually get a choice of two ways they may use them, but they are then stuck with that choice the whole game). No player has an advantage over any other, although the Fate die is really nasty, so the player immune to it is advantageous in dealing with those. Admittedly the worst result was rolled for the two players that were affected most by it - loss of all Taoist tokens - which definitely contributed to the "oh no" edge to the game, and resulted in me head-butting most of the powerful demons (effective, but it hurts). It really is a game where you have to trust the other players will deal with your mess while you are dealing with theirs. Theoretically there is one winner of the game (if everybody doesn't lose), but I feel it's better if that part of the rules is never looked at. All the standard types of Chinese ghost and demons are there, most with their own specialities and powers.
Another interesting boardgame which I didn't get to play was Niagara. I found it interesting because it uses a slotted board, in which large plastic disks are slide into on one end. These are the movement spaces. More disks are fed into one end of the board as the rainfall increases. Naturally this carries the canoes on each plastic disk further down the river, until the exit the far edge (over the falls). It's designed to be played on the game box too, so naturally the falls occupy the far edge of the game board. A nicely designed fork in the river separates the disks into two streams just before the end, to tempt people to go for the jewels near the waterfalls.
[* I was blue, and my ghosts were water and ooze ghosts. Technically I should have been black. The bad guys were black instead, when really they should have been white. But I suppose that might have been rather more confusing to westerners. Wood was green; fire was red; and earth was yellow. The blue Tao token was a Bagua mirror for reflecting bad chi, the red token was incense, the yellow token was sticky rice, the wood token was a golden bell, and the black token was grave money.]
[** And none of them had seen any of the films that this game had been based on. Or in fact, any Chinese, Japanese or Korean film. =80]
Finally got to play Dominant Species today as the Arachnids. Despite going to war with the monkeys (Intelligent Mammals) over their catastrophic approach to land management and eradication of our favourite food group (squishy juicy bugs), managed to have a presence in most of the non-tundra biomes and in fact dominated many of them. Admittedly helped by the fact that after the monkeys wiped out a major part of my preferred food supply, I discovered that monkeys were just as juicy as bugs (but I couldn't eat a whole one) as my spiders developed distinct carnivorous tendencies. The final result was 205 points. The fact that I lapped the Insects is only to be expected, but I did manage to lap the Birds twice as well on the score track. Amphibians came second, having successfully colonised the tundra. Admittedly they probably do spend most of the year in frozen hibernation.
Had another game of Imperial 2038 earlier in the week. Unfortunately it's a game which assumes players have roughly equal ability, and this wasn't the case. The Brazilian Federation had no checks on it's expansion and ruled the world. Although why the Russian player (who was the second major stakeholder in China) kept attacking China was a mystery to me. I do prefer the original game in the series. There it is a lot more clear that you are not the people running the nation but the armament merchants selling your goods to the various nations and hoping to make a massive profit. Too many people get control of a country and forget that they should be raping the economy to maximise their own profits. End result was two of the players ended up at 150 and 170 odd points, whilst the third ended up with 40.
Given this, I don't think I'll grab Outpost at the Milsims sale. It's a bit too long and heavy duty for anyone I'm likely to play with these days, and just settled for Core Worlds (an SF deck-building game).
<sigh> Want pretty pieces of cardboard (despite the fact that I'm extremely unlikely to play any of them these days. Then again, it's unlikely I'll be running any of the RPGs I keep getting, all things considered.
Another Milsims sale. And I still haven't played the last two boardgames I bought. Must resist Space Alert, Small World*, or any of the other games I'll now never get to play.
ETA: maybe one new game wouldn't hurt...
ETA2: Greg Costiykan has a new game out...
* Because I can probably convince non-gamers to have fun playing this one.
London is an interesting and quite fun game. You are building a pre-1900 London, installing all the appropriate landmarks, and scoring victory points. You can buy land on the board (which gives you cards, victory points, a geographic position that may be valuable for the play of certain cards, and will reduce poverty you acquire), draw cards from the deck or a display, play the cards face up in front of you (building the city), or run the city (perform the run actions on each of the cards to earn money, victory points, or reduce the poverty in your part of the city). Nicely dynamic, although if a player gets both "Omnibus" cards in play they've probably won, even if they don't abuse the privilege. [Although I got my revenge by singing Doing The Lambeth Walk, so all's fair.] Usually when you run a city you flip the cards and have to rebuild. Poverty is an interesting mechanic, since you earn poverty for each stack of cards in play, and for each card in hand. Certain cards can reduce your poverty (but not the poverty you earn in that turn as I discovered in my ignorance of the game). However poverty is only measured in excess of the least poverty-stricken player when scoring victory points. To build the city you generally have to discard a card of the same colour from your hand. Discards are on display and my be drawn from, but they tend to leave the game fast (players are also forced to discard if their hand size exceeds 9). A nicely competitive little game, with enough player interaction to keep it interesting, but constructive rather than adversarial. Now that I know the cards and the important rules that I didn't know until I tripped over them, I look forward to another game sometime.
Brain went vague playing Thebes tonight. Kept mixing up the colours at the end of the game session. Worrisome, especially since I wasn't hypo. Must remember not to try to do stuff where I am required to use my brain two times in a row.
Thebes was an interesting game. You are turn of the last century archaeologists from Warsaw digging up the treasures of Crete, Egypt, Palestine, Greece, and Mesopotamia. To do so you have to do research in the libraries of Europe. The more research you do, the more treasure chits you can take out of the appropriate bag. Of course, many of these treasure chits are just dirt - and they go back in the bag. Actions are measured in weeks to obtain gossip, knowledge, or fellow experts, and you decide how many weeks you want to spend digging at a site (which results in drawing more chips). But you can only dig at any one site once a year.
10 days In Africa is a game where you draw chits/cards and place them in an ordered rack. You have to construct a continuous journey lasting 10 days through connecting countries. Special car cards count as wildcards whilst plane cards allow you to jump be identically coloured countries. The main problem with the game was that I had forgotten most of my African geography (it was out of date anyway), especially looking at the board orientated in a W->E axis. Plus it wasn't explained all that well and so my initial set up was atrocious. Would be interesting to play without a map and with a judge who judged you journey as correct or not. There are also 10 Days in America and 10 days in Asia sets with similar style. Could make a possible party game, but lacks a lot of the fun quotient methinks.
Lost Ticket To Ride Europe because I forgot to keep my long distance journey. Must remember to keep it, but somehow I've gotten in my habit of not doing so, and thereby losing. And I even set out as if it were still my journey, so was trapped in the Alps (all those tunnels are expensive).
And I can't even remember the games I played yesterday, although one was quite fun. Brain fog. I do remember someone else played Space Trucker and actually survived. I suspect the expansion (which I got in order to have 5 players), contains the difficult pirate attack cards that tends to trash your ships and upset my old gaming group. And telling someone where to find the information he needs to set up his new router, but the actual game I played - completely and utterly blank. Then again I was so exhausted after Sunday I slept most of Monday away. Definitely need more than 48 hours warning about Things Happening, methinks.
Sadly the new game smell isn't as fun as I remember it when there is little immediate opportunity of trying out the boardgame. Oh well.
Factory Fun is probably going to be rather difficult to play, although in a trial solo game (without competition but limited tile selection), I did manage to place all ten possible machines in my factory without going broke. However the bonus points are probably what will decide the game. I'm not sure whether I want my variant to add the points immediately (and lose them if they lose the bonus token), or to run the game properly and add the bonuses at the end. The former allows you to build machines that are really too expensive for your factory, although this can be useful when setting up for future machines (remember that it is a game where you want machines to feed other machines), and give a truer picture of the actual scores. With the second it means that if you can't afford to build a machine then you don't, and if you don't place a machine your losses are limited if you can't afford them.
And instead of the dexterity grab free-for-all when revealing new machines, I'm thinking of dealing out the first machine randomly to each player, and then players may choose their subsequent machines in reverse turn order (with lowest token on the scoring track [both in terms of position on the scoring track and position on a specific number of the scoring track] going first). Although this may require the addition of an egg-timer (preferably electronic so it easy to reset) to limit the time available for people to choose.
On the other hand the FFG edition of Cosmic Encounter is rather nice. This is the [Eon, Mayfair, Hasbro, FFG] fourth version of the game. I had the original Eon edition with about six of the expansions (plus an extra set of cards), but that was stolen by "friends," and while I still think that was the best edition of the game [nostalgia?], the FFG edition is probably the next best thing. The tokens are particularly cute, being flying-saucer type spaceships, that have the advantage of stacking very well. The powers are nicely illustrated and many of the standards are still there, although some have gone through a name change. The lack of an actual map board is an advantage, since it means that the game is not limited to just 6 players. In fact if the two expansion packs are added, it can currently cope with 7 players. The powers are nicely defined, along with specific timing instructions, but that is only to be expected for a fourth generation game. The cards are less random, with the absence of negative numbers in the attack cards, but they maintain the idea reinforcements that entered later editions.* "Edicts" have become "Artifacts," which I think is a terrible name change, especially since the game adds "Tech" (which must be researched). "Negotiate" is also the new game for "Compromise" which is probably a good name change since a compromise may not actually be achieved. [Although the tradition of saying "baseforabase" as fast as possible will probably still be upheld as an important ritual of the game]. Flares are still there, but no moons, suns,** or lucre as yet. All in all, an excellent game in a great new format. Bring on the triple hidden powers game and feel the awesomeness that is the Amoebic Macron Virus!
Of course, one of the possible fun things with Cosmic Encounter would be to run a Slipstream style campaign (cf Savage Worlds retro-50's space game trapped in some sort of black hole] using the races of cosmic encounter.
Meanwhile a friend's recent comments about Space Alert are now wanting me to have my own copy of the game, although it is a game that is really designed for a full roster of 5 players, so I'll never end up playing it myself, methinks. It's also a difficult game that requires the players to act cohesively under a good deal of time pressure.
And I picked up a set of commercial "Zocchi" dice. These are the more exotic polyhedrals (d3, d5, d14, d16, d24). The d3 and d5 are a bit of a waste but it will be good to have a d14 and a d16 that either (a) won't damage the furniture or players (as my self-machined metal one will do), or (b) shatter, as my resin cast one's have done. No more of the later as the moulds are dead and the prototypes too fragile (and too expensive to replace now that I don't have access to a fabber).a d14 is very useful. Of course, there is always my electronic dice versions, but it's always more satisfying to physically roll dice than press a button.
[* The expansions do add some of the variations introduced in later editions (such as negative attack cards).]
[** This will probably be the method they will use to introduce the old idea of systems to the game. At least this approach will work better than just having six systems, particularly if they put some thought into defining the stars.]
For those who want to make an informed decision, The Adventurers... is a boardgame of an attempt to get as much treasure out of an ancient Mayan pyramid as possible before the exit is blocked. Features the "normal" Mayan architecture features of sliding walls, giant rolling stone balls, lava death traps, and perilous bridges over doom-laden waterfalls. Possibly a bit too instant deathy for my taste, but possibly a good mix between a serious strategy game and a leisure game. Dungeon Lord is basically the computer game Dungeon Keeper on the tabletop. Design and build a dungeon capable of trapping and killing the adventurers, whilst watching out for the fearsome paladin (although if you can kill her...).</td></tr></table>
There was an old BTRC game called Black Death which my noardgaming group has always enjoyed (although we haven't played it for ages), where one takes the role of a disease trying to "service" the most people in medieval Europe. Which can get rather hectic around eastern Europe, as each disease competes to find living people to infect. Of course, a major attraction of the game was the ability to name and define the characteristics of your disease, hence my favourite disease: pox voculi (which sadly doesn't kill as well as it spreads).
In Pandemic, which we played this evening, the roles are reversed. The players are members of the CDC* in Atlanta trying to stop the spread of four (or more diseases). It is a cooperative game, which is a good change of pace for us. And we lost; we managed to find cures for three of the four major diseases, but the cure for the middle-eastern Black death managed to escape us before we ran out of time. Given that it was getting ready to break out of the near east, in a surge of outbreaks, this was probably just as well. And that was on the easiest setting. The game looks deceptively simple to begin with, but the epidemic cards nicely escalate the complexity of attempting to cope with the disease, until players are hanging on by their fingertips. Someday we may actually win a game. Someday.
This was followed by a game of Le Havre, where players are conglomerates in the port city of Le Havre trying to feed their workers and make the best profit possible. I like to think of it as "Agricola Light," and thought I'd try it out on them before I tried them out on Agricola. However the 5 player game is very vicious, as you don't really have time to perform multiple activities before it is necessary to feed your people. [Each round consists of exactly 7 player turns, so some rounds in a 5 player game a player gets 1 action, in a few others he will get 2 actions). I unfortunately caught myself in a loop of having to buy food for my people (something that required 2 actions), which means that by three-quarters through the game (when it got called on account of the lateness of the hour), I was struggling. Still everybody had fun with the game, and it flowed smoothly as a friendly game, which gives me hope that they will enjoy Agricola.
* I do want to try a ReGenesis variant where we are researchers from NorBAC in Toronto. Easy enough to do, and I'm thinking of making it a default house rule for our games. And maybe I'll construct new role cards based on the characters in the show. I think that would work nicely.
Timbuktu is an interesting game. Your objective is to send your caravan across the desert to Timbuktu whilst carrying the most valuable cargoes. There are five different paths, each of which is plagued by a bandit group that steals two types of goods from two caravans. You know the nature of one bandit group, and as play continues, you'll learn the nature of two other groups. As such it's a memory game (although you could play it with paper if you wanted to wimp out). The trick is to avoid occupying a position where bandits will not steal your cargo whilst forcing your opponents into the bandit's traps. The value of each cargo in Timbuktu (there are five kinds, and your caravans will carry a semi-random four units), is equal to the number of units stolen by the bandits.
Dominion is an interesting (non-collectable) card game where the objective is to build a usable deck from ten different sets of cards (there are 50 different types to choose from if you have the expansion), and then use the deck to purchase more cards and victory points. Whilst enjoyable, the game is a bit too predictable for my taste. There are definitely optimal strategies with the suggested set ups, which, if you don't follow them, means you won't win. And following these strategies is less interesting. Definitely a "Jim" game.
That reminds me, I must get my copy of Knightmare Chess back sometime.
Tried Battlestar Galactica the board game last night. This is another of those "one of us is a traitor" cooperative games like Shadows Over Camelot. The human players win if they manage to get to Kobol and then jump to Earth, the Cylon players win if the humans run out of food, fuel, morale, or humans before they do. An interesting twist on this idea is that half the loyalty cards (which determine whether you are a Cylon) are handed out at the beginning of the game, and the other half, halfway through the game, so that you may very well be a Cylon sleeper agent. This means that it may not be in your best interests to work too hard toward a human victory in the beginning of the game, because you might not be human at the end of the game.
Worked fairly well, although like many FFG games it is extremely reactive rather than proactive, which limits the amount of strategising you can do outside of your turn (this can lead to players being bored when it is not their turn). At least it was accepted with much more grace than last week's contribution (Galaxy Truckers), which seemed to have irritated people immensely.
In our game one Cylon realised the gig was up when he played a negative card in a skill challenge that nobody else had access to, but unfortunately before anyone could imprison him in the brig (where he couldn't do much harm), he revealed himself. The other Cylon, a sleeper agent, went undiscovered, because he was careful to play small bonus cards in the crises, so remained helpful, but highly ineffectual. It didn't help that both Cylons were our political leaders in the game. We remaining humans, who were then rather top-heavy with pilots, mananged to make it to Kobol, and were nearly to the point of making our final jump away from the toasters (who had appeared in enormous numbers outside of the ship), when we either ran out of fuel or morale (the choice of which was moot, since we were down to our last lot of both). A very close game.
As a helpful hint to anyone playing the game in the future, if the President isn't drawing and using Quorum cards, then he/she is a Cylon. The Admiral can get away with not using nukes and still not automatically be a Cylon. And whilst the hoards of basestars and raiders outside the ship look quite dangerous, you only really need one pilot in most games (we had two), as you will eventually be able to jump away from them (FTL Jump Control is your friend, even if it does mean leaving people behind). And many of the crises are political in nature, meaning that characters with the Politics skill are very useful (especially for getting out of the brig, a place a number of us humans ended up being familiar with, often due to being in the wrong spot at the wrong time).
Just played a game of Galaxy Trucker. The others didn't like it. I don't think they realised that the cargo the were delivering was essentially the ship itself, rather than the stuff you could pick up along the way. And Round 2 had the worst possible draw I've ever seen (every really bad card possible except for two and no good cards), which smashed every ship and demoralised people so much the game is permanently scarred to their minds. Oh well. Sic transit gloria mundi.
My copy of Battlestar Galactica (the boardgame) should be here sometime this week. Looks interesting it's another traitor game like Shadows Over Camelot (with the added twist that characters may not realise they are traitors). Hopefully this will find better acceptance. It's probably my last boardgame purchase for quite some time, unless, of course, Agricola goes on sale somewhere (and even then one player in my boardgame group is already intensely biased against the game, and he hasn't played it yet).
[Sigh. The complex games are too complex; the simple games are lacking in complexity. Can't win, can't break even, can't quit the game.]
On the good news front, Small World is an excellent game, and highly reccomended. The gimick in this game is that your troops get a racial identity and a qualifier, so you might get "Hill Dwarves," Diplomatic Ratmen," and "Swamp Wizards" one game, and "Diplomatic Dwarves," "Swamp Ratmen," and "Hill Wizards" the next. Each half has different abilities. Although I do think that the player that goes last in the turn is disadvantaged (at least in 5 player play) by entering on a crowded board. [Perhaps if points were evaluated at the end of the round, rather than after each player's turn, the effect would be vastly diminished at both the start and end of the game. Although that could get really really messy and vindicitive.]
Tribune is fairly reasonable, although player vs player interaction is fairly limited and the strategic approaches simple to the point of idiocy. It compensates for this by having many paths for potential victory, and then realises that is two loose by reintroducing roadblocks.
I suspect my boardgame group is happiest with games that allow them to attack each other, methinks. At least it gets the pent up aggression of the previous week out of them, although it is a bit draining. Must find a new roleplaying group and do something more creative/constructive. Such as slaying those orcs!
This would have to be one of my favourite rules in a boardgame, probably surpassing the game rules for strategic nuclear war in SPI's WWIII*. This little gem comes from Pandemic [a game where players (mostly) play agents of the CDC trying to stop the spread of diseases across the world].
And the rule: "The Bio-Terrorist may taunt the other players on his turn..."
* [23.411] Soak map in lighter fluid.
Played FFG's boardgame Android last night. The name has nothing really to do with the game, although there is a "bioroid" as one of the characters in the game. It is a noir detective game set in the near future (assuming that New Angeles has it's own beanstalk and the moon is in an extremely low orbit).
Hmmmm. Persephone are apparently re-releasing their first album, Home, at the end of October, and celebrating the release with a mini tour of Austria and surroundings. I have to admit I'm tempted. It's my favourite from amongst of their albums.
I really don't like the boardgame Oasis. A wildly unbalanced game that relies on blind luck with little opportunity to plan or strategise. Very unsatisfactory and depressing to play.
I'm glad I blew up his spaceship, now.
Ended today very weak. Not in pain though, just unable to move. I think I overdid it. Back to only one thing a day, if that, for the moment.
I think my friends are willing to award the Rail Baron Award For Unplayable Games to Reiner Knizia's Beowulf.
Admittedly we tended to get into extremely expensive competition early in the game by being unwilling to abandon the pot we had already heavily invested in, but what really broke the game for them was my entering the penultimate challenge with absolutely no cards (I had discarded my hand for 5 Fame because I had exactly 1 of every type of card, which was of little use of use in the conventional bidding, especially at the levels we were raising it to). In doing so I was forced to use the Risk mechanic and draw cards directly from the deck (after all, the worst that could happen was I gain a scratch [which would have had negligible effect at this time]). So after a wee run of luck (about 10 rounds of successfully drawing cards from the deck), I ended up winning that contest, gaining the dragon hoard and using that to finance the killing of the Dragon (because all the other players were bankrupted by my previous run of luck).
The odds of this strategy being successful were less than 1 in 3000 (actually a lot less, since it had to be predicated on the ability to draw the double value cards when needed early on), but as far as they are concerned, the game is totally broken.
Also, after only managing modest success early in the game, I switched to gaining as much fame as possible through sources other than direct competition with the other players, whilst they kept focusing on the ability to place well in future contests. The result of this was that I probably would have won even if the outrageous run of luck hadn't happened. But that isn't an excuse our local luck martyr is willing to accept (and good luck he suffers is ignored; and bad luck is complained about endlessly).
We also had a trial run of Khronos, getting used to the time-rippling rules. And yes, it is a poor man's version of Tigris & Euphrates (a good game in and of itself), except in three dimensions rather than two. I'm not really impressed with this game, as the game length seems too short and the options available each turn are both too simple and too complicated (in that you have a limited ability to implement any action and you need to consider future consequences to enact them appropriately). Then again, in this game I was the Luck Martyr (in that I never really had the cards to do anything really useful), and this may be tainting my enjoyment of the game.
On the good news front, they really enjoyed Struggle For Rome, thinking it was a well-done variant on the basic Catan concept, although the early game restrictions on the ability to gain resources was a might tricky, and it is important to realise that occupied cities, unlike barbarian hordes, are treated exactly like normal villages in Settlers of Catan. Unfortuneately it is only a 4 player game, so I lent it to them to try out without me (as I was busy the last time they met), and am therefore unlikely to be able to play it. So once again I ask myself, why am I buying these games?