Saturday, December 26, 2009

Print 'N Play Games. - Half the fun is in the crafting of the game but now-a-days the games are pretty cool too!

Way back when...I couldn't really tell you how long ago, I discovered the idea of Print 'N Play board game. Even back then I knew about PnP RPG's and living rule books things along those line but the idea of a board or card game in this format didn't occur to me. Yet I found some, a precious few amongst the slew of online RPGs...mostly I found war games but a few games that actually interested me showed up.

Notice I say a few because it seemed to me that back then (we are talking about 5 or 6 years ago) sucked ass. Not all mind you but most at any rate. Seems like someone would spew out some half baked idea for a game throw together some shitty clip art they got on a free CDROM with their Gateway, spice it with a neato wing ding font and then try and sell if for 6 to 8 bucks. Yeah I too the bite a couple times then stopped when I found out the games, as I said sucked ass. I found a couple that were cool and the best ones were typically being offered as free.

So I decided to shy away from these as they just were not paying off at all. I focused instead on building my game collection with professionally made board games. I got a decent sized collection under my belt and the further focused on trading games...get rid of the riff raff that I don't play in favor of something I would enjoy. While I've still got quite a few games I don't play I've managed to move a lot of them along the road to happy homes where they live hopefully getting played.

Yet that's not what this post is about, as is evident by my ever so cleaver title to the post. (For those who expected my return to this blog to be something biting and creative I apologize I've been under a quite a bit of pressure lately and well my creative side feels tapped out.)

I guess it's been the past couple of year that I've began to really focus on PnP games though. They have certainly been brought to the light of day with enthusiasm than previously and that's largely to do with the fact that the games have really improved in quality. Both the playability and the look of the games themselves.

This past Christmas season I even joined the Print 'n Play Secret Santa list on BGG and it was a truly rewarding experience for me. You can really tell everyone involved put their best pair of scissors forward and tried their best to craft the best possible game for the SS target. I had so much fun both in crafting the games I sent my target and in getting my package and pouring over the goodies I got. It didn't end there either, no not at all. We've been reading all month long as each person gets their package and posts what games they received and posts pictures of them. Part of the charm in this was getting to see different methods of crafting the games first hand.

See that's part of the experience in PnP games...the crafting of the game. It's a good bit of fun to print 'em out and make 'em. Find unique ways to package them and make them feel as much of a real part of your game collection as anything else you may have from Rio Grande or Z-Man Games. There then becomes a new level of pride in these games as you break them out on game night and everyone's ohhhing and ahhhhning over a game they can't just go out and BUY a copy of...but could print for free.

Now I know what most of you who are reading this might be thinking. (...and that very probably is just you Tony!) You are thinking that you just don't have the skills and equipment to do PnP games even if they are good. "Well wrong buddy." (without hearing me imitate the voice of The Cat from the show Red Dwarf that quote just wouldn't make any sense as all unless I tell you it was a quote of a line delivered by The Cat from the show Red Dwarf. It actually comes from the episode "Legion" if you really wanted to know. So there.)

I personally own a Kodak ESP3 ink jet printer. It's a pretty cheap printer I got at Wal-Mart. The color cartridge is $15.99 and the B/W is $11.99 when I need to replace them or I could buy in bulk online and save but typically I'm a dork and don't. Now a long time I bought a page laminator at K-Mart (I'm a fan of the Marts...but my favorite is X-Mart...but that's t totally different blog entry.) Wait got side tracked. Anyway K-Mart has this laminator for about $35 that I bought some time back and now find it exceedingly useful for my PnP projects but it's NOT necessary. Hell one of the games I received was blued to the back of cereal boxes! Simple spray adhesive that can be purchased just about anywhere I'm finding will adhere boards to nearly all types of material.

Bottom line is you would be surprised how much you can get done with very little "extras" and craft yourself a pretty cool game. One of my games was a tile laying game and the tiles were stuck onto the back of those self adhesive floor tiles! This made them thick, chunky and super sturdy. I was really impressed with this idea. Others will buy crappy games at thrift stores and cannibalize the bits and even the boards to make their own games...I must admit I've been cannibalizing thrift store games for years now. The best are the really old copies of risk with the wooden cubes in 6 colors and even those funny oblong triangular pieces that represent the 10 units pieces.

Alright so I've said the bulk of what I wanted to say and firmly made my stance about how anyone can easily come into the fold of PnPer's. Now it's up to you dear reader. Get off your lazy ass and find a game. There's hundreds of them these days. Just search "Print and Play" on Board Game Geek (best done under geeklists and forums) and you'll be flooded with responses.

Have fun.

neil

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why I Like - Agricola Through the Seasons










"All good things are wild, and free." Henry David Thoreau

• As with my recent quick and dirty little review of Agricola X-Deck I'm going to start off by saying first and foremost that Through the Seasons is FREE and as you can see that's the criteria for being a "Good thing." Thank you Mr. Thoreau.

• As with my recent quick and dirty little review of Agricola X-Deck I'm going to also state that it's an expansion for Agricola! So what's not to like there right?

• As with my recent quick and dirty little review of Agricola X-Deck I'm going to also state that I've got over 100 games of face to face Agricola challenges in and it's nice to shake things up a bit.

• As with my recent quick and dirty little review of Agricola X-Deck I'm going to ask again...did I mention it's an Agricola expansion...and it's free?!?!

I admit that tactic I used there was a cheap shot (Or maybe it was a quick and dirty) as getting my review going but hey I also have to admit that I'm willing to take them sometimes! Hell if I were to be totally honest with you I'd be telling you right here and now that those bullet points were my intention from the get go I just didn't get around to writing this review as quickly as I suspected I would...but that's usually the case with me anyway.

Here we are half way done with the review and I've not really started talking about Through the Seasons yet. Maybe I should get to that. So the genesis of this thing was a post card job that got sent out to whoever or however, I don't really know or care as I wasn't one who got one of the post cards! No it's one of those frustrating deals where if you aren't "in" the right circle somewhere or signed up to the right there here you just aren't suppose to be graced with the presence of an addition to your favorite game. (Well one of my top favorites anyway.) Fortunately for the rest of poor schleps out there you can find high resolution images and files of said rarer and wondrous post card game board in the entry for the expansion. Woooooooooo Hoooooooooo. As I consider myself a print-n-play junkie anyway throwing this one down was a no brainer. I simply printed the sucker out on regular paper and ran it through the ole laminator and bam I'm now. I could have used card stock but didn't figure it was totally necessary as this was a board not a card set. I've had absolutely zero problems with this creation method so far.

Now you know what TtS is but what does it do? Well as I said it shakes the game up just a tad by adding variable board effects to the game each and every round as well as giving you 4 new action spaces to land on. Well not a total of 4 but a total of 4. Was that confusing? See there's 4 spaces but only 1 (the active season) is available every round. Probably the coolest part of the expansion is you are suppose to start in the season that it currently is for you. This means every 3 months you start off in a seasons. Now you might think that's not that big of a deal (and it's not) but it is cool.

The first thing TtS does is impact the resources. Each turn 2 of the 4 main resources (Wood, Clay, Reed and Stone) are either added to or subtracted from. This impacts only the resource locations that build from round to round. In other words let's take Spring for example. Spring is set to -1 Wood and +1 Stone. This would mean when loading the board any action spaced that would get wood (like the 3 wood space) would get 1 fewer wood pieces while the stone action spaces would receive one extra stone. It's fully balanced to all 4 resources gain one and lose one over the course of 4 rounds.

In addition to resource adjustment each season brings some universal impacts to the entire board/game as well. Winter is cold and the ground is hard so to plow a field costs 1 food during this time and you can no use the fishing location at all until after round 11 in winter. Spring is the time to get things done, so if you build fences during this time you get 2 free. Summer comes and things are goind well if you build rooms you get a free stable for each you build. Furthermore spring sees an extra food token on the fishing hole and a grain token added to day laborer. Fall makes all major improvements construction cost one resource less.

Finally this tiny little postcard expansion gives us 4 new action spaces with one available each turn. Winter acts almost like the lover. You can exchange 2 wood and 3 food to family grow without room. Spring gives an instant animal breeding phase and/or sow. Summer is time to take a holiday. When you place your family member here you recieve a bonus point for that member and all members played before it. Summer allows an instant field phase and/or take 1 veggie.

I simply love this little expansion and won't play Agricola anymore without it. It adds some serious goodness to the game and unlike X-Deck is well within the theme of the game. It's easy to understand and if you have people who are new to it, just remind them at the beginning of the turn what the effects of the current season are. I would highly suggest any owners of Agricola go print this out and throw it in you box. You will be happy you did.

Why I Like - Agricola X-Deck










• First off it's an Agricola expansion

• Next it's a FREE Acgricola expansion

• After over 100 games of Agricola face to face this really shakes things up.

• Did I mention it's an Agricola expansion...and it's free?

OK so seriously, there are lots of reasons I love this little deck of cards. I'd say that since printing it up it gets played 85-90% of the time Agricola comes out. It's a simple little addition that when played according to the rules adds flavor to the game without mixing things up too drastically.

What is the X Deck you ask? It simply put is the aliens having arrived and taken over the first stone quarry that comes out in Stage 2. Every time you take stone from this spot you pull an X Deck card and good, bad or ugly you have to do what the card demands. Alright I know in my disclaimer I said I'd not include how the game is played but it's my review so I figured I would with this one. Leave me alone.

The brilliance behind the X Deck is the fact that every card in the deck relates to something from Sci-Fi lore that we are all familiar with. Take the invasion of the Space Woozles which in the picture appear to be small fuzzy balls with eyes. As they are constantly breeding each harvest and needing to be fed you can feel the frustration Kirk had in the original Star Trek Episode "The Trouble With Tribbles." Several Star Wars reference appear including being Frozen in Carbonite and having a family member go off to fight for the Rebels, who is pictured with a couple of very familiar looking droids I might add. Need a free family growth? Try pulling the "Earth Girls Are Easy" card. Or maybe you want some bonus points? Try following around a little extra terrestrial creature who is dropping candy bits all over the board. The aliens are not all fun and games though and all at the table should beware of the terror of the Tripods, they just down right suck! Crop circles, and controlling the transporter for all the other players, from transmogrifiers to replicators, the power of alien poop to building your own home made space rocket the X Deck has all this and more.

I suppose for purist this kind of randomness is unacceptable in gaming. Alright so if that's your model of game play cool I can dig that. Though if you are like me and are willing to play a game, have some fun and take some chances which may help you win the game or may lose the game outwardly or even have little impact on the game simply because it's "all in the cards" then you need to do yourself a favor and get the X Deck.

Now you are asking yourself "Did he say free?" Yes I did. In the files section here on the geek there is a file called the X Deck player aid. Rschumucker made it and included small (typical euro sized) card scans of every card in the deck! BRILLIANT! Another reason I love the X deck. Honestly I'm not a fan of small cards in general. However let's face it when spread out with 4 or 5 players Agricola is a big game and takes up a bit of room. Last thing you need is another deck of full sized cards sitting there taking up room! So in comes the player aid cards. I even asked Rschumucker to do backs for the cards and he gladly did! So what I did was print the cards out on card stock, then print the backs, laminated them and cut them out. This made for a very sturdy deck of cards that sits nicely next to the board and as mentioned does not take up too much room either. The perfect combination for a silly little expansion that adds a ton of flavor to the game.

Bottom line this takes 2 sheets of crd stock and a little time. I'd suggest if you have the slightest interest in the X Deck after having read this little review then head over the files section and get to it. I say it's worth your while.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Why I Like - Himalaya










“I've been staying at their lodge in the Himalayas for years, ... They have this beautiful lodge. You look out and there's Ama Dablam. Oh man, it's like heaven.” --Pete Shelley of Buzzcocks

You know it's always funny to me that some games get released and whether great games or not they get a huge amount of recognition. People buy them up and a few months later or maybe a year or so the game is in over abundance of copies and they are selling for under 20 bucks or being traded away as sweetners. Then other games can be released with relative obscurity and not much fanfare so the game doesn't get republished and goes out of print. Once this happens the gaming community starts scrambling to gather up their copies because now it's out of print and so everyone has to have a copy of the 'rare' game. When I purchased my copy of Himalaya it was readily available and very affordable. I simply put in an order to my favorite (at that time) online retailer and got my copy and have never looked back. Now visiting the game's page it's $90-$100 US . . .Why? There are (again at the time of this writing) 209 people wanting a copy of this game and only 861 owners of which 11 are offering it for trade. Had the populace embraced this game with this sort of fervour upon release surely Tilsit would have been inclined to reprint it. SIGH OK I'm gonna get off my soapbox now because hey I got my copy!

So let's get to the "Why I like" it part of this review. First off it's one of the handful of games out there that I thoroughly enjoy teaching. I teach a LOT of games as most of us do I would assume and I really like to teach games but once in awhile it's just a sheer enjoyment to explain certain games and this game is one of them. I like talking about the beautiful people of the Himalayan mountains and how they so warmly welcome visitors to their villages and will gladly offer up their goods for free to those who ask (once per turn of course.) I further explain that these gentle spirited people are not to be taken advantage of though and therefore you are obliged to take only their lowest valued resource when they offer it. Letting people know that these recently acquired goods are desperately needed in villages elsewhere and that they can take their loaded yak to those villages and trade with them in exchange for favors is very satisfying...and so on. It's just a very enjoyable experience for me to explain this game and embrace it's theme so dramatically, I my approach also helps not only with an understanding of the game but also with immersing the new players in the theme which just adds to their enjoyment of the game.

I further like this game because it's a programming game. I really enjoy the programming mechanic in the few games that have it. This game however is a nice little euro game with programming and that (to me) seems highly unusual. Seems to me the typical programming game is one that has combat (Wings of War) or chaos (Robo Rally.) Being able to function in this manner in this type of pick up/deliver game is simply a lot of fun to me.

I had already ordered my copy of Himalaya but it had not yet arrived when one day I was in a flea market and for $0.25 I found a stand up figure of the abominable snowman from the Monsters Inc. movie. Knowing it was on it's way I snatched him up. At that time I had no idea the role the yeti played in the game but I figured worse case scenario I'd have him in the box and put him out simply as decoration and thematic purposes. Then when I saw that the "yeti" in the game was merely a small round chip with footprints on it that was suppose to deter travelers from taking said path...yeah right! Now my copy has a much more intimidating guy to put in the path! Sure if more than 1 person plays the yeti on the same turn only the first get's to use him but that actually is part of the fun too!



I love the elimination process of this game. It forces players to be aggressive about stupa placement and creates a lot of tension. Yes I talk the talk of a tranquil journey through the montains but it really does create a fantastic struggle for area control and yak collecting. All in a relatively quick game, something you don't find very often but is yet another thing I like about Himalaya.


Finally I like that this game transcends people. I've thrown this one down with hard core gamers and they enjoy themselves. I've brought it out with total nongamers and they've enjoyed themselves. Males and females alike seem to have an appreciation for the game as well as it appealing to both an young and older audience. I don't know what to attribute this to but there's something here that make this a very palatable to such a large cross section of people.

At this point I would normally be suggesting you go out there and get yourself a copy of this game but as mentioend earlier that's not so easily accomplished now-a-days. So maybe what you should do is to contact Tilsit and request they reprint this baby. It'd be well worth it for them if they did.

Why I Like - Fire & Axe, A Viking's Saga










VIKINGS ARE THE NEW PIRATES!

Well at least it seemed that about a year ago there was a strong influx of games themed around the maraudering exploits of sea going Scandinavians who were out there pillaging and plundering cities. The Vikings had arrived in gaming full force and the games were appearing to be aplenty. I assumed that trend would continue and the popularity of the pirate theme would wane. Though as it turns out the tide of these games ebbed and the pirate theme remained strong and popular amongst the gamer community. So perhaps I should rethink my battle cry above.

VIKINGS ARE THE UNDERDOGS OF THE PIRATES!

...and that's how we like it anyway! Leave those other pansy, Johnny Depp wanna-be's to their silly stumbling about's and let's get to the business of violence! Though as it turns out a lot of these games tend to (as so many games do) not have a lot of the violent tendencies that we know and love (cause it's human to romanticize the curelty once some centuries have passed) of these violent peoples. (Not to mention I'm a huge pirate game fan myself...so count me in those numbers I just ridiculed as well.)

Which brings me squarely to my favorite Viking game Fire and Axe!

So I know this a remake of an older game that I never got to play (though it was one that I had in my wants list for a long long time) and I'm good with that. I'm a real fan of Asmodee and was happy to see they of all game companies, had picked it up. Although I was highly curious about the game I have to admit I did have some reservations too. So I was hoping to play it before buying it but just seemed like no one I knew was willing to take the chance on it either. I finally found a gently used and in immaculate condition used copy at a gaming convention and the owner said he'd be more than willing to throw it down and teach me the game right then and there...SOLD! I should say it's never been even a small inkling of regret having purchased this game.

I like this game for several reason but the first and foremost is I see this as a game that marries the American and Euro games so very nicely. I've wanted a hybrid game for a long time and this game does just that. It's got the rip roaring theme and beautiful plastic ships and crewman of a American game. Then you start to teach the game. What's this? We are vying for victory points and attempting to complete the current saga cards that are on the table and there is no such thing as ship to ship combat? How Euro like is that? Wait a second our success however is based on dice rolling and saga's can come out that are already completed so they get discarded...man that feels very American. Yet someone can look like they are a strong contender for victory until the end game scoring comes along and snatches it away (Settlements do feel like farm scoring to me in Carcassonne) very Euro indeed. BUT there is no score track it's just the piles of treasure you amassed that wins you the game AMERICAN! Damn I love this game. It is if you ask me the perfect blend I've been looking for. I think perhaps that is why some people are so strongly against it though. They wanted either a stronger American game or a more precise Eruo focus and it didn't work for those types of gamers.

I love the detail put into the look of this game. The ships are beautiful resting on the waves of the oceans. The axe held in the crewman's hands is not raised but held at their waist readied for whatever may come. The board looks like a torn and tattered map unfolded onto the table. The rune cards depictions are all fantastic.

I like the core mechanics of the game. Simple to explain to new players and very quickly picked up. I love the ability to let someone work on a saga card for a turn or two and then sneak in behind them and finish it for them taking full credit with the nation for yourself. Granted they still get the points for the work they did but they card goes to you and that can be big...or not just depends on the particulars of the game at that time.

I actually like the run time on this one. Even with new players it doesn't drag as after a turn or two most players are able to know exactly what they want to accomplish on their turn and will take their actions quickly.

I love the rune cards. I'm a big action card fan in games and these cards are superbly developed for this game. Shakes things up and is well rounded...don't be fooled you must take rune cards even though it costs you actions. At the same time with the hand maximum of 3 no one can be so overly powerful to unbalance things.

Fire and Axe is simply put a great game. It's an honor to have it in my collection.

Been a long time

I never said I'd be consistent and consistency I've not had! I did promise that this would get old and I'd let it slide, a promise I certainly kept with more vigor than any Obama promise will ever be kept with...if at all but that's politics and we aren't talking politics because we are not liars, frauds and charlatans like all politicians are.

So anyway I've written some more "Why I Like" reviews and will put them up. I'm considering writing a "History of THoiA's Gaming Life" like anyone out there gives a donkey's pile of excrement about that but I'm thinking about it anyway.

That's the ideas anyway.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Why I like - TICKET TO RIDE











Yet America is a poem in our eyes; its ample geography dazzles the imagination, and it will not wait long for metres.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson,

“America's one of the finest countries anyone ever stole.” ~Bobcat Goldthwaite

Alright yes first and foremost I’m going to bullet point Ticket to Ride (the Original USA map) game in a light that will probably annoy some, confuse most and possibly piss off a few. I like Ticket to Ride because:

** Well the first edition of this amazing series was based in America!

** Once the 1910 USA expansion came out it solidified my love of this map and this instance of this game. Again making the best of the series (in my opinion) America!

** When you think of trains in the era of the original game you tend to think about those tracks crossing America which is probably why it’s based in America!

So I’m proud to be an American and TtR brought forth Euro game mechanics, from a British game designer who’s games I tend to like and based the whole thing in my beloved country. Without going into a long dissertation on this country I’ll just give you the quick synopsis. This country does have some serious problems and our current political system will not fix them, ever. That’s all you’ll get out of me so stop asking. Anyone who knows me in the gaming world knows that’s more than I’m use to saying. Hell when I started the gaming club here in Gainesville, FL the first (and only) rule was “No talking religion or politics or you go home.” So there, I’ve said my peace now let’s move on to the game.

As mentioned a moment ago, the game is designed by Alan R. Moon (look in the picture...he's playing the original Ticket To Ride!) who’s game mechanics I enjoy because of the limiting nature of his designs. Typically speaking in a Moon game you have about a thousand things to get done in the time it takes to get 20 things done in. Hard decisions must be made. Still TtR pushes on with a brilliant method of never making you feel like you are totally screwed out of a connection as there’s always another way around…it may not be the most direct route but hey that’s gaming isn’t it?

I enjoy the simple nature of the game. There are only ever 3 actions. Draw cards, play cards/lay trains, draw new tickets. That’s it. One action per turn, even though you want at least 2 actions almost every turn, you get one action and that is it! This design allows this game to be quickly taught to anyone. Literally anyone and I don’t care if they are hobby gamers or not, they WILL understand this game.

Having owned this game since it’s inception in 2004 I can say that I’ve taught this game to many a game player. I’ve run it at conventions and toted it around with me on holidays. I’ve broke the bits down to baggies and shoved board/cards/baggies into suitcase and very much like the theme of the game itself traveled this game around the United States. The game is always well received and as a result I can count a verified 9 copies of the game that I am responsible for selling. Granted I believe the number to a lot higher than that but there are 9 copies that I can be positive were sold due to me. (You’re welcome Days of Wonder.) The game got a good bit of main stream coverage with an article on board games mentioning it in Reader’s Digest and it was sold on the shelves of Toys-R-Us. By and afar this game has etched itself into gaming history stronger than many other games out there. Throw in the expansions and the other versions of the system and you’ve got a gaming dynasty . . .and that’s why I like Ticket To Ride.

Why I like - YS











First off you gotta like a game where before you even open the box you can have a debate about the game start up! “How do you pronounce that?” There’s several options:

Fir** Ee’s. Which is my preferred pronunciation and being as I usually play with my copy of the game the “Official” pronunciation when I’m playing.


**
Why’s. Like you are saying the name of the letter in multiples. Then again this just make is sound like you live in a trailer park, drink beer for breakfast, live through the week to watch NASCAR have a truck up on cinder blocks in the yard and like both types of music. Country and Western.

**
Iss. Sounds like Hiss or Kiss. No witty retort here on this but it’s still just wrong.

So now we have how that out of the way let’s move to the game itself. I first discovered this type of game in Aladdin’s Dragons and I loved that game quite a bit. The basic mechanic is picked up in Ys but some things are just handled better in Ys than they were in Aladdin’s.

What exactly am I talking about here? Boil it down it’s bidding. I like bidding games and this is a neat combination of open and blind bidding all in one package. The thing is, it’s bidding on so many things all at once while other players want the same things. On a very glossing view of it all consider that there are a total of 24 places on the board to bid for and you get to place a total of 8 bids each round. Not to mention that of 12 of them the three city sections will then have 3 sections in each of the 4 neighborhoods combine for an overall bid as well. WOW! Now that’s some keen thinking there.

Next throw in the “optional” (as the rules call it but I teach it as a firm part of the game) King’s Favor element and now you have to trade out one of your bidding brokers for a simple “2” value for the shot at some end game points.

Anyone who knows me knows that I enjoy action cards. I talk about them a lot and have even developed an action card deck for Crokinole. Despite my constant talk of action cards I do like them to be balanced. I have deck that overpowers a game but I don’t like a deck that doesn’t shake the game up a bit was added to give the game more perceived value by adding another component to the game. While I’m at it I’ll say that I loath a deck that was added to the game to “Fix” problems found in play testing and I’ve seen on several occasions that the action card deck is used for this. However the cards in Ys fit the bill (for me) to an exacting precision of enjoyment. There are very few cards in this deck to begin with and give that round 4 cards are all “white gems” you only have 12 cards ever to be possibly played! I’ve found a reason to use every card at least once in a positive manner. Some are very situational and well those just get passed over if the situation doesn’t arise but others become favorites of different players and are fought over with zeal. This is an excellent deck of action cards.

Hidden resources (gems) makes for a fun little twist on the game as you can never really be sure who is winning the game. Those end game points add up BIG TIME and if you come in 1st or 2nd in a couple of gems makes a huge difference. Sure you do see every gem every player takes and if you have a perfect memory can figure it all out but for the rest of us who consider ourselves normal humans we can’t keep track of that crap and find a thrill in waiting to see who has what for gems.

So I like Ys basically for all it’s mechanics put together. It’s a great game from start to finish and once everyone knows how to play the game it flows quickly and smoothly. If you haven’t played it yet check it out.

Why I Like - ACQUIRE









I picked up my 1st copy of this game (the 1995 version with the completely silly “power tiles” in it) many years back. A thrift store find I didn’t think much of at the time yet still had high hopes for. Once I started playing it I knew I had found a life long favorite game…but little did I know how completely I’d love this amazing classic of a game.

Once I started my gaming group back March of 2004 I started bringing my copy of Acquire out. Now at this point I was mainly introducing games to what we in the hobby gaming community like to call “non-gamers.” You know ‘em, and you’ve played with ‘em. Those people who love to game but their knowledge is limited to what can be bought at Toys-R-Us. This lead to every game I brought out to be given a comparison to a game they were familiar with. Mare Nostrum has battling units so it must be like Risk. Boomtown has cards so it must be like Rummy. Acquire was the KING of these comparison as:

** It has tiles in a bag so it must be JUST LIKE Scrabble

** It has hotels so it must be JUST LIKE Monopoly

It got to be a real joke and some of the originals of that early gaming club group will still throw those around when Acquire comes out…ahhhhh nostalgia. However that doesn’t help you the reader of this in the least now does it?

I’d say one of the main reasons I like Acquire is the same as one of the main reasons I like Carcassonne so much. Both on the surface look like such a nice little friendly game…yet lying just under the surface of that fa├žade lies a devious game filled with nasty nasty dickery at ever tile pull.

Next up for me in my favorite factor with this game is the metagame. WOW the metagame in Acquire is huge. Making subtle (and not so subtle) little (and not so little) comments about wishing for a certain tile while you can plainly see it’s sitting right there on your tray. Offhandedly (and not so offhandedly) wishing aloud that you’d like to see a chain merge knowing you won’t get a portion of the credit and then next turn after everyone has sold off their stake in the chain restarting the chain and being majority share holder.

The luck factor. Now I know this will rub a lot of people who are into designer board games the wrong way but I love the luck factor of pulling random tiles from a bag. Hell I do believe that having 6 tiles on a tray to choose from does indeed help mitigate the luck there still comes a point in every game where you are literally waiting on one frigging tile. Will you get it in time? Who the fuck knows but it’s tense waiting on it and I love that dread you feel when others are pulling from the bag and you just feel like you know they are getting your tile, bastards!

I also love that this incredible game is a Sid Sackson product. No he’s not my favorite designer and sure a lot of the games he did put together are…well a bit lame but here’s a game that stands heads and shoulders above lots of other games and it’s what? An American designed game! Yes that does add a bit of enjoyment to this game for me and this is called why I like Acquire so there it is!

Finally I like the idea that this game has stood the test of time. Having been originally published in 1962 it’s amazing to me that there is still so much demand for the game. To see some of the prices people are paying for various editions of this game amazes me! How many online or downloadable computer formats are there for this game? I suppose I could look it up but hey I’m writing a review and lazy so I won’t bother but suffice it say there’s a LOT! Now we have a new affordable version of the game out that with a low price point like it has will likely garner new fans, and maybe even people who are not typical gamers may discover it now. Will be interesting to see if some of these games we all raving about right now will still be as revered 46 years down the road.

Acquire! A rich, simple, sharp game that lives on to this day. Bravo Mr. Sackson, I salute you!

"Why I Like..." Reviews series

Quite sometime back I decided to write some pretty simple "reviews" of the games I like. These will all be games that I truly enjoy and the reviews will be simple, short and just highlight a few reasons I like said game.

As everything I do I started my good idea then my Gen X nature took over and it got shoved down and forgot about.

I did a game order the other day and low and behold I found the reviews I wrote and started stored in my e-mail. So for better or for worse I'm going to post them here. There are some completed and some that were started...I will post the completed ones and possibly finish/post the others. Who knows. If you are actually reading this stupid blog then you know I'm really not that consistent so don't hold your breath.

THoiA

Monday, May 19, 2008

Where The HELL Have You Been THoiA?

Where the hell have I been? Well Hell seems to be about right. I know you probably aren't interested in the gory details but life's been changing and it's been hard. I've made little effort to keep up with gaming in this time of transition for myself but once again I'm beginning to make the turn around and that started with the purchase of a few games. Check out those recently acquired games (which oddly enough includes a complete copy of the old AH version of Acquire I got at a thrift store for $1.25...even has all 6 of the value cards!)

I gotta start slow and go at my own pace though. I played some games this past weekend and think I got some buddies coming over during the week to game too so who knows. Dip the toe in the water and I'll be back soon enough.

By slow I guess I'm talking about a 3 day convention in Jacksonville...Rapier 2008. www.rapiercon.com if you want to check that out.

I have joined a monthly gaming group who are mostly non-gamers playing party game type of stuff. It was fun met some new people and plan on going back again next month. They were very receptive to Ticket to Ride and I'm sure they'll get into other gateway games as I bring them.

I recently made a large game order and purchased a few things off of eBay not to mention some pretty cool trips to some thrift stores around town which have paid off handsomely. I'm also currently listed in a math trade on Board Game Geek so all this stuff I see as distinct positive moves to getting back into gaming like I want to be...next thing you know I'll be writing on this stupid blog for no one to read again.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Everyone Likes A Little Action

Last time I said "All games deserve a theme." Now I'm going to throw out a mechanic that I think can be grossly over looked by some designers and yet wholly embraced by others. A part of a game that can shake things up, change player positions and keep everyone on their toes. An element that must be handled with care in design as it can prove to be totally pointless or over power a game if not implemented with care. That piece of gaming is. . .Action Cards. With precious few exceptions I'm here to claim today that All games should have action cards. I've jokingly said this to many people in our group. Now while jokingly said secretly it's always meant when you hear me say "This game needs action cards." Most of the time when I start pointing out how they could be used I'm agreed with.

Now before I get started on this one let me state I know a lot of you are going to claim me insane for some of my suggestions. I can already hear the cries of "That game works great like it is, perfect design doesn't need improving upon." Here's there thing though...had your favorite game been released with a deck of action cards chances are you'd love it just the same and argue that the game simply could not be played without that deck of cards. With that said when I get to the point where I'm talking about a game you dearly love and adore, remember that line, shut the fuck up and keep reading. Once you've read the whole post you can leave your thoughts in the "Unimportant Opinions" section if you really feel the need to 'call me out.' Otherwise go curl up in a dark corner of your closet, cradle yourself and you wipe the salty tears of rejection off your cheek, shaking and thinking over and over "the big scary man with a blog attacked my favorite little board game.

What was I talking about again?

Action cards! One of my favorite pieces in any game typically...when implemented correctly that is. You have no idea how excited I was when I first came across Nightmare Chess. Not only by one of my favorite game designers but it was an attempt to make chess a fun game to play!

I'm not so thick as to think that all games with action cards are designed well to include them. of course. Often times certain cards or even the entire deck itself seems to have been an afterthought or thrown into the game as a remedy to a fundamental problem with the game itself. As a guy who dreams of being a game designer myself and who has several games developed and play tested I can understand the heart ache of putting work into a game, play testing it only to have to giving a big sigh of disappointment and think "Damn, this was a good idea but it kind of doesn't work." At that point said game should be stripped down and be completely retooled like you'd do to a 2 dollar whore. Games like that can be saved but an action deck is not always the answer...yet then sometimes it is.

I bring to you my first suggestion and (as I like to do when I write these things I'll now point out that this is) the catalyst for this entry. Fagin's Gang. This game releases and I'm immediately intrigued by it simply because it's a board game based on a literary piece. NICE! So I read about it and well some comments are not as favorable as others but that happens and still I liked the idea of the game and the description of game play so here we go. The game absolutely works. The game is sort of fun. Ahhhhhhh now there's the problem innit? Only sort of fun. Where I felt the game fell down was what they call the "Market." Everyone goes to the market and then bails out when they can't or don't want to buy or sell. At times people would sell a commodity only to buy it right back the next round just to stay in the market for 2 extra turns. Combine this with several places that a good action card would just help out those "helpless" situations or make players be very careful about positioning due to the fear of an action card and this game would rock! What if a deck were included and when the market started cards equal to half the number of players rounded down are turned faced up. The first person to leave the market first takes a card and so on. Now there is even incentive to leave the market if you don't really have business there. (HINT This is fixing a little problem with theme.) As for the details of the cards...well I'm actually developing those and you'll have to check the Geek for variants to find them once I ever get them done. Flavor, tension and functionality all added to this game in a heavy dose via action cards.

Here's a new game that came out and took the gaming world by storm! I've played it a few times now and I love this game. It's greatness in cardboard form. A full on finance game with a bit of warfare and a smackling of screwage as far as the countries go. What's not to love? Not much actually but an action card deck is just that much more to love. I haven't quite figured out how to get cards into players hands. Perhaps if you have the option to invest (as in you hold the investor tile or do not hold any nation's flag due to not being majority stock holder in any of them) and choose to not invest you draw a card. This however might not put enough cards in play however and perchance too many in one single players hand. Another thought is if you control a nation and pass the investor spot on the rondel all players who have stock in the nation get to draw one card. That might work but we'd have to see. The cards here could represent all sorts of things from exceptional markets (discount for a nation who imports this turn or an extra unit can be imported) to espionage (remove a dollar figure from a nations available funds) to special defenses (cancel one battle.) There are so many ideas for cards in this game it's not funny. All would do the same as with Fagin's Gang, generate tension on what might get played or be a small helping boost when you need it most and as I pointed out would be very thematic as well. Cards here are a great idea.

Well I recently got to play a game that I have heard quite a few good things about. I was personally let down by it. Oh it looks great. Bits are nice chunky plastic pieces nicely molded. The game play however, while having more screw factor than expected, ended up being a bit...boring. There it is again! Dull game play. This game could easily benefit from...yes I'm saying it again Action Cards people! This time the game in question is Manhattan and yes I deliberately did not include a picture because I wanted to bury the title in the paragraph. Those who are familiar with this game can just imagine the beauty of it 12 to 15, maybe 18 cards shuffled right into the deck. For this game I'd implement goofiness in the cards. "All players pass their cards to the player on their left." "When a player plays a card for placement discard this card to immediately take that card then give them the top card from the deck as their new placement card." Yes of course I'd also have..."Godzilla attacks! Remove the top piece from every building in one city." Dammit people you know this is a good idea!

That right there are three perfectly reasonable examples of games that could have action cards and the game would only benefit from it. There are so many others though that I hereby choose to not go into detail with but I've thought about it. Some of those are; Puerto Rico, Ticket To Ride, Formula De', Hansa, China, California and honestly the list could go on and on. Tons of games...basically what I'm saying is the only games that instantly come to mind that do not need action cards are the ones what have them already built in.

I know what you are thinking. He's managed to name off and defend quite a few board games thus far is that all he's got? Hell no!


How about Liar's Dice? A pure die rolling, bluffing game right? A game that's been rethemed and licensed so many times it's stupid. From fancy board versions to the ghetto print out to just grab a cup and 5 six sided dice. (That's the Front Porch Classics version there to the left. Fancy schmancy I know. I picked it up for about 5 bucks at the annual Barnes & Noble's clearance sale...great box looks nice but still a dumb ass game.) Getting action cards into this would simple just give them out at the beginning of the game or maybe each time you lose a die you draw a card. Cards could be literally anything that felt like it would work in your group. From logical to sheer dickery. Steal a die from the leader. Change one die result after revealing dice. Making cards for this is so easy I could spew them out like the drunk bitch at a party spews half digested pizza after her 7th shot of tequila. This is the part where fans of this inane game spout off that action cards would ruin the perfect balance of the game as it is. WTF!?!? This is a pretty lame game people how the fuck could action cards screw it up any more? All I see action cards doing here is adding a nice new unexpected element to a relatively boring game perhaps creating the rift in time and space that would make me actually want to play this.

There is one other game but I'm hesitant to mention it here I think it would shock you more than any other game I have mentioned thus far. The truth is however that I am reluctant to mention said game as I have in the works already an action deck designed and am considering marketing it on it's own. So I'd tell you but intellectual property rights and all...and really you think I love you that much? After all that's been said in this blog? It's a cold world out there and I'm happy to bring a bit of the cruel coldness to you right here on. . .The Dice Hate Me. Until next time get out there get yourself a bit of action...and you dork I'm not talking about board gaming here. Seeya kiddies.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I Am a Theme Whore . . . Hey Buddy You Looking to Party?

My inspiration for this blog comes from a review I recently wrote for Board Game News. The game was Mad Scientist University (a very so-so game, don't bother seeking it out too hard but as a sweetener in a trade it might be a neat addition to your game collection) which is just a story telling game. Most of these story telling games are wide open but this one had a very cute theme. Taking over the world...Mad Scientist style! That addition of theme was my favorite part of the game and made me realize that I am a theme whore. In fact to quote myself I said that I was indeed "A full-fledged, street-walking, corner-working theme whore." I should throw out there that I'm my own whore though I don't have a pimp. Where my money at? It's in my pocket!

OK Well let's get back on track...if this entry even has a fucking track to get back on. I guess what I'm saying is design a game and give it a well rounded theme and I'm there! Design a game with great mechanics and make it abstract...I'll play it a few times then get bored with it. All games deserve a theme. It's as simple as that. Case in point, Reiner's (Yes I'm on a first name basis with him) little game Samurai. This game is certainly an abstract game. When you set out to giving this game a go you don't feel like you are doing the things that are typically associated with the bloody images generated by the word "Samurai." Still thematically the game works. There was a time when Feudal Japan was no longer a warring nation and what are honored Samurai to do when there is no war? Well they setup school, they furthered their educations, they became figures of business and in general reinforced their status with the locals of the land. Hey that kind of feels like exactly what you are doing in this game. This game is by far not a favorite of mine, and I rarely suggest it however, if there are others who want to play the game I never hesitate or try to dissuade them to another game. Someone wants to play Samurai? Alright let's get those beautiful little black resin pieces and that awesome die-cut board out and via for position across the island nation! I'm in! Call me whore for I am proud.

Contrast this to another of my pal Reiner's games that I feel has even better game mechanics than Samurai but no theme to it what-so-ever... Ingenious. Damn what a really cool game with very cool mechanics. Flavor? Totally lacking. This probably explains why I have yet to add this game to my collection. I get to play it now and again at con's and such and I get my fill. Still if I were able to think of myself as a character of some sort, attempting to fulfill some sort of goal I'm certain I'd have a copy of the game in my closet right now. (Half my games must be gay as they are in a closet. I have the other half in a cupboard...and some strewn around the house here and there as you can imagine.) No doubt about it you can feel that this game plays very similarly to some of Reiner's other designs but those have (as people like to pick on him for) a theme pasted on. ME I'm not going to pick I'm going to applaud the addition of theme to those games and fuck it I'll say flat out that I think this game would sell better over all (not just to me) to gamers, specifically American gamers who like designer board games, had it been included with a theme. I'd suggest Kingdom's as the proof to this. That game is certainly an abstract numbers game. Yet slap on a little theme and the game goes to FF's Silver Line and does pretty well, then get's reimplemented as Beowulf the Movie board game in a big box...hmmmmm wonder if that would have happened if this were themeless? Doubtful. This whore would buy the theme game.

Now I have to turn my attention to the GIPF Project games. WOW cool games. Much like Ingenious they have great mechanics. Given them theme-free abstract nature however I own..none of them and won't. I'd much rather pick up Ponte del Diavolo as there is evidence of even the slightest bit of theme slapped on with islands and bridges and neatness like that. Better yet than Ponte del Diavolo is Uberplay's much underrated game The Bridges of Shangri-La or as we have dubbed the game in our group "The War of Enlightenment." Given that we can so easily turn enlightenment into a warring aspect shows you just how loosely this theme is attached to a very abstract and number counting game. Still the game can be fun. Yes there is some down time and really be careful not to play with AP'ers as their turn can easily become 5 to 8 minutes every time. This game is not Colovini's (not on a first name basis with Leo but working on it) best game to date by far. I'm not going to try and convince you of that. Never the less it's a good game and it's got a neat little theme and let's you destroy bridges. When do I get to do that sort of thing in Zertz? Never...I AM WHORE.

I feel like I've made my point here. In addition to that I feel like there's a lot of gamers out there who will agree with me. You may not want to in your head but your heart screams "He's RIGHT, Give me theme I'm a whore too!" It's not the popular view point to get this hung up on a game having theme but fuck popularity. We play games to entertain our brains and challenge us not to be popular. I (and I believe a lot of you out there too) can derive that entertainment to a higher level with a theme. I do not think that is everyone...there are plenty of people who don't need a theme...but they freaks anyway who get off on statistics, probably watch anime porn,who's idea of a good book would never have a vampire or zombie in it and wears those extremely lame shirts sold by woot. ( http://shirt.woot.com ) So screw them anyway.

Stand with me, embrace your title and be proud...be a theme whore.