Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Little Rally for the Valley

An observation of mine is that people in general, just aren't happy, can't be made to be happy and quite possibly don't want to be happy. Perhaps the only happiness a lot of people feel they can even begin to revel in is their ability to piss and moan about the things that make them unhappy. Then when they get to a point in life where things are relatively good for them they realize they don't have any unhappy things to piss and moan about so they are truly unhappy. This gives them the go ahead to begin pissing and moaning about the stupidest of shit in an effort to restore their glory days of piss/moan happiness. Stupid shit that really doesn't matter yet somehow through their departing of wisdom upon us...their eager to listen masses...elevates them to some knowledgeable level of being and they can then look down upon as royalty in their realm as they reign king....of nothing.

OK so I'm in a bit of spiteful piss/moan mood of my own tonight, bite me.

"What the hell is this all about" I can hear you asking from behind your compy screens. Suppose I should get into then and at least clue you in to what the catalyst of this entry was. See there's this website all about board games. It's a site that I never mention (I'm lying) here in this blog. It's a site that I never (still lying) reference or refer people to and I certainly don't (yep, another lie) have their widgets embedded into my blog on the left over there showing you bits of my collection, etc. On said website they occasionally have a little podcast by the dude who runs it and the dude who use to run but it and helped set it up and then moved away so he only shows up every now and then. I'm going to be kind and not say that I'm talking about Derk here. While at it I'll also not say that I do like Derk and feel we have a good bit in common taste wise in games. I'll further say that I even think a bit of personality matches between us as well, at least judging by his posts and comments.

So recently the unnamed Derk joined Aldie on a podcast and the topic was brought up about Valley Games and all their reprints. Derk made a couple of comments that I feel were...well wrong. His comments were basically that he didn't think Valley chose wisely in their target market as the fans of the games were going to be the rabid crazed fans of the game and nit pick everything. He furthermore said that he felt reprinting some of these games was not a good idea as all the people who needed these games already had them.

To be fair to the unnamed Derk, he was as I said just the catalyst to this posting. In addition to his comments this fire has been fueled for awhile now in the comments and thoughts of gamers who post their dislike for minor...MINOR things that they blow way out or proportion in respect to Valley Games' reprints. (See my opening paragraph.)

Bottom line is that it's my personal opinion that Valley Games has done very well for themselves in almost all areas of their business model. As a young company and one new to the world of game publishing they have had a couple of hurdles to get over but they got over them and did so magnificently. So their pre-orders were what that happens. People get a grip for fuck's sake already. Valley Games went on to make it up to the pre-orderers by giving them extra sculptures (which I know also haven't arrived yet) than they previously promised. On top of that what you really did by pre-ordering your games from Valley Games was to ensure the game itself would get printed. Young companies need this kind of cash in hand and pre-orders do that for them. The sculps are just bonuses. It's like the crap the give you for pledging to your local public television station or the t-shirt you get for giving blood. You do what you do for the fact of doing it and it's not suppose to be about the bonuses. In this case what you are doing is specifically putting money up front to get the game you sit back and be patient and low and behold your game did in fact arrive. Congratulations due to your direct contribution your helped birth the game. Smile, be happy, stop all your pissing and moaning about the delays. Shit happens people. Deal with it.

Then there are those who complain about the little nuances of the production. Maybe the art is this or that. Maybe the chits are circle and should be squares. Fucking mother douche bags! Isn't it possible that the original artwork was flawed? Hell maybe a dye lot got screwed up between proof and print. That's been known to happen, so what should be done then? Should the entire shipment be sent back to be reprinted meaning another 6 months wait time? Yeah that's all Valley Games would need!

As for their selection well for me I say it's been so-so. At any rate the big price tags that these games have been fetching on eBay means there are people interested in it. If it were only a handful of people the bids wouldn't get so high. So from a market stand point I think they did very well. Will sell games to new people who are curious, people who loved it but don't have it now and sure some completeist will buy it to have all versions of their beloved game. Good call. I do wonder about the MSRPs though. Perhaps some of their game choices which have higher prices might not move as many units just due to the cost of the game. I know I have actively avoided certain games because it's hard for me swallow shelling out more than $50 for a stupid board game.

To wrap things up this is a heart and supportive shout to Valley Games and a furrowed brow and scornful "Back off" to their detractors. Don't like Valley Games fine don't buy their products. Me I'm probably gonna own some of their games. Some I won't. Simple as that. The quality of their releases has been fantastic and the games have been a blast to play so far. Hey Ho! Let's go! Bring the games Valley some of us out there really appreciate what you've done for us so far.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Value of a Box of Bits...Hey Look It's a Bandwagon, I Better Jump On!

All good and worthy news sources out there report on the "hot topics" of the moment. Granted there is no way of mistaking TDHM for anything good or worthy much less a source for news but screw that as I said in the title I'm jumping on the bandwagon here and gonna talk about the infamous Mayfair deal of limiting how much a retailer can discount their product. Am I late on the topic? Yeah probably but I don't really care. Don't like it you can skip your happy ass right along to the next blog and ready about Susy Whitler's newest quilting session.

Hold on to your balls boys because as cheap as I am and as many times as I have ordered from online retailers I'm going to give a big 'ole "BRAVO" to Mayfair Games for being proactive in taking the first step to save our hobby. That's right I said Mayfair is trying to save our hobby! No I'm not one of those people who think that the internet is going to kill off this or put that out of business (see my previous post about Rays of F'ing Light and you'll see that my thought process is pretty much still the same here. That thought process is simply that online retailers are now feeling a bit of the crunch that the FLGS have been feeling for awhile and maybe they will need to rethink/rework their business model. Just like the FLGS also still need to rethink/rework their business model the only difference is now one of their product manufacturers is stepping up in support of them.

The only way for our hobby and that being the hobby of designer board gaming, to grow is for new people to find these games and play them. So the question then is how is that likely to happen? By some schlep sitting on the net surfing porn and jerking off who accidentally clicks over onto a site about board gaming (probability factor less than 1%). What about some schlep who happens to be taking his kid in to some new store that opened up in town to buy him some of the new Magic the Gathering expansion and he happens to see some board game that is themed around one of his favorite hobbies or something else that intrigues him? Which of these situations seems more plausible to you for creating a new fan of board games? (and YES I'm quite certain you were hoping for a nice porn image instead of me visualizing the MtG example but I do have scruples. Wait no I don't have scruples but there are rules for blogging that I was forced to agree to in order to have this blog in the first place. So blame "the man" for keeping you oppressed and absent of porn here at TDHM...or maybe check out )

Now I'm not a rich man. If I were I wouldn't be able to be bothered with writing bullshit for gamer geeks like you anyway. If I were rich I'd be far too busy entertaining all the hot ladies on my yatch all along the Spanish Rivera leaving me precious little time to play, think about and as mentioned write about a silly thing like board games. (Again no porn or hot chicks...that link for you one more time was ) My point here is that I understand the need to be frugal in shopping for games. No doubt about that. Hell for a long time I was the only person brining games to our group's gaming session as no one even owned any. [One of the negatives of living in a college town is that it's filled with poor students, of course one of the positives is all the hot young female students who walk around in next to nothing....sigh ( ) ] So there's some sort of balancing act that you as a fan of these games, as a hobbist, as someone who (should) give a shit about the future of gaming must work with.

Now who should be the responsible ones? On the one hand you have those who are more affluent than others...should they be the ones to only buy from FLGS? Well given that they are going to buy a large number of games if they did these few gamers could effectively fuel these stores almost by themselves. The truth is quite often these are also the ones who bring a large number of new titles out to be played. So then think how many more titles they can obtain and bring out if they were getting 30%-35%!

Then again let's say you are one who doesn't buy nearly that kind of numbers. What of you? Should you save up to buy a game or two here and there? Paying an extra 30%-35% would certainly slow your acquisition of games and that sucks ass too.

Mostly I think people will fall in between those marks. Regardless of this fact however I think that ALL of us are responsible parties. If you are gamer and you purchase games despite the quantity you purchase you need to be mindful of your purchases and spread them out. Buy some from online retailers and hell, I suggest you buy from those who offer free shipping at certain price points...if you are not going to buy enough to fulfill said minimum amount for free shipping get a group together and all go in. This way 4 or 5 of you will get a cheap game and no one pays shipping. This will also pressure those who don't offer free shipping price points to get off their asses and step up!

Still there are times you need to carry your sorry carcass into your local FLGS hang out and pick up that one game you really have been drooling over but for whatever reason haven't picked it! It's right there dammit, be an American and satisfy that instant gratification bullshit drive we all have in us.

Me personally well I can say that I very rarely purchase a $50-$55 game that I can easily buy online for $30-$35. Smaller games however I buy frequently locally. I mean when the difference is paying $20 for a game that is $15 online...well. I also tend to buy expansions locally because they fall into those price ranges as well as those lovely small box Fantasy Flight games and a few tuck box games. The profit margin is percentage wise still the same for the FLGS so when they look at their numbers they are going to see that they sold units in their board game inventory and encourage them to carry more and different titles. There will be plenty of people who walk in and pick up the bigger price tag titles too. Most of the places that sell games these days are not solely targeting us. Again they are going to carry the MtG expansions and probably some comics as well so again those dads bringing their kids in have a chance to browse these new shiny boxes of goodness.

Again I say bravo to Mayfair for stepping up and putting their neck out there. Days of Wonder! Where are you? Why aren't you next on this? DoW has a great line of products, great marketing and could easily jump into this as well and know that their product is still going to get stocked. Rio Grande? All their games are SDJ winners or nominees that alone is going to sell units no matter what the cheap ass gamers gotta pay for them! Enough buzz on BGG and there's gonna be a package sold and shipped right there.

Alright bitches that's my take on the situation like it or not. (As per usual with me.) Now for your horn dogs who've been waiting I'll throw up an image for you that relates to this paragraph specifically. Gotta love the internet, check out those hot little pink panties...damn you are pathetic.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Games That Make You Go FUCK! Part 2: "Six Stress Stimulators"

In my first column by the similar name I explained the thought process behind Games That Make You Go Fuck! Granted that first one was written from a negative slant but this one will be games that I do thoroughly enjoy but never the less make you go...Fuck!

Six Stress Stimulators are those games that even during the damnable setup of the game you are thinking to yourself "Dear God what have I got myself into?" or "Damn I hope I can manage to achieve X scenario before Joe-Bob" or even "Wasn't that colonoscopy I had done the other day less painful than this game?"

Yes these are games that I do adore and for some bizarre reason want to play again and again even though I'm pretty certain that either before or during the early rounds of these games I've been known to grumble "I hate this fucking game." Isn't that the mark of a good game though? Make those brain cells burn! Those gut wrenching decisions that you are not sure will pan out exactly like you wanted them to. Ahhhhhh yes sit down, play the game and go FUCK!

Die Macher. Certainly the inspiration for this list. The legend itself. The fabled game entry #1 on BGG and for a long time in the top 10 games on BGG. Yes a serious four hour tromp through the world of Germanic Politics at it's finest. What can I say about this game that has not already been said somewhere? I suppose I could say that playing Die Macher can be compared to taking a fine ground pesto paste, adding Tabasco sauce to it, smearing it on your gentiles and letting a goat lick it clean. In that I mean it's a bit scary to even to begin with, is a bit painful in the execution but somewhere along the line has a strong element of excitement and if the goat works it just right has a big pay off at the end. I could say and feel pretty good that nothing like that has ever been said in reference to this game to date. Yes I could say that but as I don't own a goat I have no real point of reference for that statement.

Die Macher is one of the few games that I've played that managed to squirm it's weasley ass into the coveted "Rank 10" spot on my BGG profile. Yes the game is that engaging. You get so sucked into this game that you do not feel the 4 hours slip past you like 4 hours of watching bum fights. You can't just say you have a tough decision to make right have to consider how this decision is going to impact what you have decided to already decide in the next 3 or 4 phases of this turn not to mention the entire next turn of the fucking game. Damn I'm tired just thinking about a game turn...but I do want to play it.

Diplomacy. Ahhhhhh the grand daddy of the of the "Who's the biggest asshole" games. I mean really people. There is nothing quite like spending 5-6 hours of your pitiful life huddled around a table, getting up to go talk to this backstabber that wants you to screw that guy, come back and that guy wants to talk to you about backstabbing the original backstabber meanwhile 4 other people keep getting and going off to talk and you know it's about them all backstabbing you when you finally come to a conclusion as to what you are going to do and deals are made and you think everything is equitable the turn starts and that guy and the original backstabber both plunge their knives deep into your spine. NOW that's gaming. NOW that's stress filled gaming.

Yes a World War II game with no real battles. I invade, but we bounce, the game is after all called Diplomacy. So it's all about your ability to negotiate with irrational son's of bitches and try your damndest to not get ass raped by someone who last turn was your bestest buddy in the whole wide world. FUCK! Oh yes this is a good game and to think people play this online...why for all that is sweet and innocent...why would you ever play this online. This is a face to face game if ever one was crafted.

Crokinole. The Ultimate is top notch Canadian know how all wrapped up into a simple on the table top piece of furniture...uhhh I mean game. Who else could have brought us the imbecilic "One ass cheek on the chair at all times" rule other than those wacky Canadians? "SO! I'm gonna pick up one of my pucks eh, and i'mma gonna hafta knock one of your pucks the heck outta there eh." Yes a game that truly does feel it was invited on the floor of some isolated cabin during a 38 day blizzard when the fun of group masturbation had wore off (along with certain anatomy skin) and dinner was currently consisting of the group's 2nd pet dog.

I do like some dexterity games! No doubt about that and Crokinole is my favorite of the bunch. Think flicking those cursed little wooden pucks around isn't stressful? Try creating a league. Put together 8 to 10 teams of 2 people. Play a season of games where each team plays the other twice a season for point. Whittle the field down to half teams and start the playoffs...maybe single game elimination or if you are feeling really saucy make it best of 3. Then play the finals. The smack talk, the eyes upon you and the pressure of needing to get this one puck in the 20 know what's coming by now don't you?.....FUCK!

Voc. Do you even know what game this is? Voc! is Splotter Spielen's game about the found of the Dutch Indies company. Now doesn't that just sound ever bit as thrilling as a game about running for a chair in German politics? Well at least this one isn't 4 hours of endurance. No instead here the big deal mechanic is using a dry erase marker you must navigate your ship....with your eyes closed. So this leaves you wonder where to draw the line so you don’t crash into continents. No worries you faithful shipmates will help you navigate. Trick is they can only speak one word and usually the get to speak one word 2 maybe 3 times per sail. Throw in that chances are good you’ll end up on a boat with someone who doesn’t get which direction North/South/East/West is or better doesn’t know LEFT from RIGHT and gives you the wrong command plunging your boat into the murky depths of the ocean.

For those who haven’t played Voc yet it’s surprising how fast and hard your heart beats when you close those eyes and are hoping you are making a turn at just the right time. What happens when the idiots…I mean shipmates run out of words? Well you are still sailing they just can’t help you anymore…do you press on and hope for the best or stop and pick up next turn from this place? Why the for shits sake he is starting to laugh? Am I doing something good or bad? Am I still on target or did I drag the pen too far to the left wait is that my left or right? Ahhhhhhhhhh FUCK!

Antiquity. Another game by Splotter and so why not lump both these douche bag games right here together then? Here’s a game that let’s you build your civilization, pollute the world, kill off your people all in the name of furthering yourself. Awesome! Now if you are really working it you can even manage to get to a point where you start polluting in other players areas via the water ways so yes you get to destroy the natural habitat that way too. This game kicks so much ass in that sense it’s frigging amazing.

But that does leave you sitting there wondering…who’s gonna be polluting in your back yard and when? Did he manage to man his dump this turn? Cause I really need to dump my pollution in his area cause I don’t have the ability to anywhere around me I’m so damned full up from last turn. Oh but building is done secret so who knows what people have manned. Not to mention other players are not the biggest threat to your existence in this game…YOU are. That’s right Antiquity has built in self kill mechanism so each and every turn is based around calculating if you’ll be able to manage to keep your in the game. Forget playing for victory conditions dammit I’m playing to stay alive. Have I even thought about victory conditions yet? Well I don’t have a cathedral built yet to tell me what my conditions will be. Maybe I should look into…wait a second he just filled in those last two areas of my open space next to my 2nd city! I needed that for my pollution…FUCK!

Well there you go. Those are my picks of damned good games, game that I love to play and want to play again right now but none the less make you go “FUCK.”

What’s that? It’s only five games and I said six in the title? Well yeah that’s right but back off jack off. I was just using a bit of ultra cool alliteration and couldn’t make FIVE work. Does it really make sense to have a list of 6 some things when it’s common to use 5 as a mid/stopping point? Yeah, I don’t think so either. So that’s my reasoning anyway.

Could there be a sixth for me? Hell yeah and it seems to me if I were to extend a few brain cells to think on it the ones that now quickly pop into mind are the card driven two player games like; Twilight Struggle, Hammer of the Scots, Crusader Rex, and of course Hannibal: Rome Vs. Carthage. Still I’m not going to talk about those here and now cause I’m pretty damn sick of this entry already so thanks for sticking with it and getting this far.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Board games? You've got to be kidding right? I mean haven't we all grown up by now? What's the deal here?

In a very careful attempt (and I do mean attempt in the sense that I expect to fail this attempt) to reduce my level of smarminess I write this blog entry with the lofty goal of creating an article that has been created many times before by many other people such as myself who feel they've got a grasp on what gaming is today. This entry is therefore mostly meant for those out there who think board gaming relates to things like Clue, Sorry, Life and yes Monopoly. The same people who consider war gaming can be considered to be Stratego, Risk, Battleship and if you are very well seasoned maybe you know some game called Axis & Allies. The people who think card games all come in two colors and 4 suits. Who believe role playing is something that you do only in bed with you significant other or with your therapist (however chances are good you are doing the same thing with your therapist as with your significant other....damn I think I just failed my attempt already!)

So if you happen to be a reader who is in the know about board gaming that I've written about already then you can skip this entry and move right along to something you've probably already read and therefore just leave my little spot on the web vacant and cold like you found it.

This is for those who stayed and will continue to read on. (There might be a prize nestled somewhere in this post too...of course there probably won't be but you never know.) Yes gentle reader I am here to enlighten you and bring to your base of knowledge the world of designer board games. First however. . .some history.

For pure history buffs the oldest Backgammon board was found in Iran on Jan. 11th, 2007 but that's really going a bit too far back in time for what this article is. So let's skip ahead a bit shall we?

It's given we all know the games I mentioned in the opening of this entry and know that they had their place in time with most kids growing up. Hell occasionally at holidays and what-not one of these will get dragged out and family will sit around the table spending useless hours arguing over little rules that make the game play differently each swearing that their rule book says their way is the official ruling. When in truth no one at the table truly knows the rules (does Free Parking really get you money or just a safe stopping spot?) but somehow the game finally is put under way and someone wins and everyone quietly sings praises that the fucking game is over. FUN TIMES!

Well back in the 1970's and 1980's gaming in the underground (read geeky) circles thrived in America with the advent some cleaver game companies making new games that played much differently than those tired old roll and move games. Avalon Hill simply OWNED the war gaming market but their games were complex and had huge dry rule books that took scholars to get through. Steve Jackson Games began creating lines of small cheap games with little to no components but core rules that played well and offered new gaming experiences to those who wanted more than D&D style role playing. These two however after many expansions found that they would get overly rules heavy and the game would fizzle out. Thus gaming still remained an underground (still read geeky) subculture.

The only real exception in this time period as far as I'm concerned (and in my blog that's ALL that's concerned) was some of the works of Sid Sackson who crafted some classic games that stand up tall against games of all time including the new designer games of today that I'm getting to. Included in this list would be Sleuth, Can't Stop, and one of my top games of all time Acquire.

Never the less the gaming world remained sluggish and dull for many years. Then in 1995 the face of gaming would change as we (and when I say we I mean us gamers) know it forever. Settlers of Catan was created and released. This was a German game that thrived and took a strong foothold in European countries. What made this game so different? Well it stripped away the idea of what a board game was in that the conventional board became modular board made of hexes that could be varied so that the dynamics of each game were different. It brought out a need to make strategic decisions and play in a state of thought provoking moves that would have you trying to benefit yourself but at the same time you had to benefit your opponents too. This game had a rule book that was small and easily understood by those who were not use to the forward thinking of what a "board game" was. Yes simple rules that allowed for so many options each turn, and gaming breathed it's first breath in many years.

So that's what we are talking about here. Designer board games. Games that engage the brain but don't take 7+ hours to play. Games that offer challenge and tough decisions that have to be made but don't bog you down with a rule book that is so thick it could be used as a weapon. Now that we know a bit about that I'm going to take some time here and give you some of the categories of games we play these days and maybe some suggestions as only I can (again it's my blog, if you don't like it shove off!)

Gateway games. This is terminology used by many "seasoned" gamers to describe a game that can be used to expose a non-gamer into the world of designer games. A lot of the "upper crust" gamers don't like these games as they call them too simple or maybe they've got too much luck in them, but I tend to think those people are pretentious pricks anyway. All the games I list here are more easily digested than other games but I'm not going to recommend a game I don't like.

To start off with I'm going to say nearly the entire line of games by Days of Wonder. This company does a fantastic job with their production, rule books are clear and simply with many examples in pictures and even show you a completed setup so you know you are doing things right from the start. The games all have great themes and play quickly. My suggestions from their line for new gamers; Ticket to Ride (with 1910 Expansion), Shadows Over Camelot, Pirate's Cove, and Memoir '44.

In addition to games by DoW other gateway games that are worth looking into given the theme you are looking for are; Mall of Horrors by Asmodee, Carcassonne (another personal favorite), Boomtown (great intro to bidding games) and yes Settlers of Catan.

Now that you've done some research into these games and have an idea of what we are talking about when we say designer board games, let's go into a little more detail and talk about some games types. I will be attempting to keep the examples of games all light to medium weight games that would be good for new gamers.

Tile Laying games. These are games who main mechanic involves usually drawing a tile from some sort of general supply and placing it either on the game board or even to use the drawn tile to create the board.

The above mentioned game Carcassonne is a tile laying game along with Aqcuire. These are radically different games so when thinking of games in the form of "tile laying" understand it's simply a mechanic and the style of game outside the theme will play differently and feel differently. Other examples of some great tile laying games are; Alhambra, Arkadia, Vegas Showdown, Tantrix, Pompei, Oasis, California, Tsuro, Dungeoneer, Drakon, Gheos, Tavula, Squint, Gheos, Cape Horn, Ingenious, Zombies!!!, Mid Evil as well as a slew of railroad themed games that you can easily find.

Auction/Bidding games. Possibly one of my favorite game mechanics but it's true that some people don't like auctions in games. Of course these people are inferior and should be ignored. Auction/bidding games force players to use their resources carefully in gathering the items they need to win the game. Some even throw in the fact that the money one play spends goes to other players so while helping yourself out you are then forced to help your opponents.

Some of my favorite auction/bidding games are; Aladdin's Dragons, Ra, Boomtown, Hollywood Blockbuster, Masterpiece, Vegas Showdown, High Society, Manila, New England, Amun-Re and Ys.

Area Control games. Simply put you win these games by having control of areas of the board. Usually that means majority rule in an area for "control" and the method of getting your pieces to in those areas will vary from game to game and even might be a combination of the other styles mentioned here. To give you an idea of some of these games look up; Mission Red Planet, San Marco, Age of Empires III, Himalaya, Capitol, Tikal, Louis XIV, China, Ys, Tempus, Kahuna and yes I'd even suggest the new takes on Risk which are Risk 2210 and Risk Godstorm...although I prefer Godstorm.

Take That games. These games involved a lot of player interaction. The goal of these games is part to win yourself but also part to beat your opponents down in the getting there. These tend to be VERY light, quick to play, easy to teach, full of yummy randomness and lots of time are card games in fact. Can be great fun just make sure everyone knows it's all just that FUN and feelings won't get hurt. Try out; Hex Hex, Run For Your Life Candyman, Munchkin, Ninja Burger, Family Business, Lunch Money, Mag Blast, Guillotine, Lunch Money, Bang!, Kung Fu Fighting, Brawl, Fightball and the list of these could go on and on and on.

Dexterity games. The main mechanic behind a dexterity game is physical input. That's right these games require you to have some sort of physical action to play the game. Can be loads of fun if you ask me and it's amazing to me how these games scale from kids to adults...everyone wants to play these. Some of my favorites include; Bausack, Crokinole, Hamster Role, Nache Der Magier, Pitch Car, Loopin' Louie, Polarity, and you know what...JENGA!

So there you go, a nice sampling and explanation of what the hell we got going here. There are plenty of other styles of games I could include but that'll get you started. Maybe I'll add more later...maybe not but can't hurt you to can however take up some moments of your life that you will never get back but if you've read this far already WTF right?

Anyway now you know so get out the play some games.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

How the West was gamed. Analyzing the field of Western Themed games...I just wanted to use ANAL in the title of a post.

Awhile back I wrote a post about pirate games. I started off by trying to shatter the facade that has been generated (mostly thanks to Disney and Johnny Depp) that pirates are good guys. I listed some of their vile and evil deeds that never gets represented in games and movies to show what a real pirate's life is...then basically said that I would like to see a game like that. The rest of the post went on about how there are precious few good (and I stress the word good here because there's a basically a fuck ton of pirate games made) pirate games out there and my lamenting over this issue.

So today we look at The Wild West and see what the world of gaming has to offer us (in association with a recent geek list I made) with this theme. The first question I ask (as I did in the pirate post) is simply do board games offer a true to life cowboy/western experience? The answer is no. No we don't get to enjoy the hours on end of putting up, riding and maintaining miles of fences on a ranch so the cattle can't get away. I've never had to reshoe my horse in a game. There are a lot of other mundane tasks that people who lived their daily lives in the west faced and none of these are in any of our board games. Thank God for that! Whereas I would like to see a game encompass some of the wilder side of pirates life a good western game should strive hard to steer clear of these daily dull tasks. Instead focusing on the rarer occasions when violence would rear it's ugly head. For the most part that's exactly what's taken place in gaming. In fact I can only think of 1 game that I've played personally that even touches on some of slightly duller moments and that's Way Out West which gives points for having cattle herds...but then again you get to kill off other players herds if they don't have enough cowboys present to protect them. So that theory is only sound for so long.

With this entry to my lovely little blog (you love my blog you know you do...don't lie to yourself anymore) is not going to focus on the idea of "where is the good game" as I fully acknowledge that there are good western games out there but rather just take a gander at the games that are available out there and see what's what.

What games then are we looking at? Not just cowboy games but games that have a western theme of any sort. That being western America in the given time frame that we typically think of when we flash images of Clint Eastwood, Sam Elliot and John Wayne through our minds. This does not have to have anything to do with fact I plan on covering a game that is about the Indians of this era as well. Let me stress that this is not a review of any of these games but rather a quick analysis of the game and my "Guns Up" or "Gun Down" on the game...guess I need a holstered gun cause some of them I've not played yet but deal with it.

Much like my pirate entry this will not be an exhaustive coverage on all games wester/cowboy theme but rather be games that I; know, own, played or are interested in. So your piss ant little "You didn't talk about Blah Blah game" comments are far from welcomed. Other piss ant comments however are fully welcomed.

The ispiration of this post comes from the recent released product by Worthington Games called simply "Cowboys: The Way of the Gun". This game is designed to recreate nothing more than the terror's of the west tromping through town and needing nothing more than to be gunned down by the "good guys." That's right Cowboys recreates just the gun fights of the old west and does so simply, cleanly and without all the mucking about that some of the miniatures games out there likes to throw in that bogs an otherwise good game down. The game has enough detail to it to make it fun. Facing, turn and shoot, fan fire, mounting, killing a mount while cowboy is mounted, angry town folk, line of sight, reload rules action card deck just to shake things up. Well done game worthy of a guns up status by me.

Seems like I'd be remiss to not go ahead and knock out this one. Bang! is a biggie in the world of western games despite it's small physical size. (See size does not matter....grumble grumble.) A great little game with characters and roles and lots of action cards. I think the Dodge City expansion is a necessary component to the game as it adds the green border cards that have to be played a full round before they are active...if they are still there. High Noon and Fist Full of Cards are highly optional I hate the actual Fist Full of Cards cards as it is nothing but a Sheriff loses card and that's just not right. If a person gets resurrected just a round or two before that card (the last card in the deck but shuffling cards can make this happen) then the sheriff has no chance at all. My only major complaint with the game is I don't think I've ever been fortunate enough to play the game where there are all veteran players and new players take quite some time figuring out what they want to do each turn. This can bog the game down quite a bit and your best bet is to kill off the new players quickly so they learn how to the play the game and it moves nicely. Ahhhh the way of the asshole...that means guns up from me.

Which brings me to Bounty Hunger: Shootout at the Saloon.

For those that don’t know this is the western version of Ace of Aces. Seems like these games should have a catch phrase to describe them like “Flip-Book-Game” or something but the creators just never got around to working that up. It’s a very unique gaming system where you roam around the square and inside buildings looking for people to shoot. The genius is that with no board and the game only being played within these books you can only use deductive reasoning to find your opponents. Once you get the system down it’s quick and you can add/remove various amounts of rules and additional elements to craft the game that best suits you and your group. Ace of Aces had a bunch of released (I found one page that chronicles 20 editions of that game alone) and Bounty Hunter was meant to have at least 2 other expansions but it appears they were never printed. So the down fall to this game is that you are limited in your roaming ability. Still a nice fun kill the other guy game. Definitely guns up here.

Bidding, bluffing and screwing over your friends with hot little Indian girls throwing sticks of dynamite. Man what more do you really need in a game? Boomtown brings all this and more to the table. A card game in which the goal is to…well basically just get points and have more of ‘em than anyone else at the end of the game. Not really a unique idea you know…point collecting but it’s a helluva lot of fun and the theme works if you ask me. It could have been theme something different but it wasn’t and it’s included here. Bruno Faidutti is one of my favorite designers and you can feel his signature chaos elements throughout this game. Again it’s a fast game so even if you decide to play it twice you still a probably haven’t lost more than an hour and half at best and that’s if you had to teach the game. I guess it can drag a mite bit if you have some fucking AP player who ever single round of every single auction has to think diligently whether or not to bid up the price one more time when everyone else at the damned table knows for certain he’s going to. You know that guy. Guns up greatness!

I know very little about this game other than it's a card game, based in drafting and set collecting which I like. By Bruno Cathala who was co-designer of the above Boomtown and other games I've enjoyed greatly. It's by Blue Games which is known for crafting (in my mind anyway and where else does it matter really?) short, light fun little card games that have some depth to them. The theme is basically living the real cowboy life as it get riddled with encounters from various events that will take place through the day of trying to get your ranch to a level of success and ultimately bringing you victory. I'm not sure the jury is still out although it's pretty cheap and could easily be tagged onto a game order if I were to do another big one...would really like to score it in a multi-game trade. Obviously holstered guns here.

This game takes a real beating in the general “Designer Game” world but those uber-gamers typically don’t like things like chaos and randomness in a game. This one is full of both and I love it. Chaos from the cards as you never know what’s going to come flying at you from who and randomness from the massive dice pools you put together. You can end up rolling 12-14 D6’s as an attack and have that many rolled back as defense! Further with the damage system as it is you end up rolling quite a hell of a lot of dice and everyone’s only got a maximum of 3 health. You do only 1 point of damage per every multiple of 5 you rolled minus defense. (Example you roll 28 points on damage opponent rolls 14 in defense leaving 14 left over…he takes 2 points of damage unless he can avoid it via a card.) It’s a mini’s game stripped down to the basic move, shoot, power up shoot again…except being as it’s based on a computer game you are never eliminated….you just respawn and have to collect weapons. A really good game, let's see those guns up on this one then.

Way Out West brings the look and feel of euro-gaming to the world of the western front via the mechanics of Martin Wallace. This is a pretty good little game with some interesting rules giving the game it’s own distinct personality. Does it feel all that cowboy like? Only to a minor extent I would say but it does some so that’s something right? The game has effects like raising cattle, buying up stores, holding up the bank, and all kinds of attacks. I like it fair enough but it can drag if you don’t keep on top of the players and make sure they know it’s their turn. 15 minutes after doing nothing someone says “Is it my turn?” and the table responds “FUCK! Yes it’s your turn.” The game itself is made by Warfrog which means fair enough production value and a bunch of little chits to spill all over the board, yep guns up on this one too.

Ace Murder Mysteries is the maker of A Backful of Bullets and it’s as you can deduct…and if you can’t manage to deduct that you don’t need to be playing this game…is a murder mystery. Think of it as one of those “How To Host A Murder” dinner party game type things. I’ve never actually done any of those but this one with it’s western theme is certainly interesting to me and making me wonder about it. I like food, I like party games, I like mur…uhhhh I like food. Yeah that's it I like food and eating food. Interesting take though in that you are trying to solve who shot (and killed) Jesse James in the back. I’d like to see this one unfold but I have heard these games don’t have much replay value even with the changing endings. Keeping 'em holstered here. Have to wait and see.

Just like I would have been amiss for leaving Blackbeard off of the Priatey list so I would be also for leaving Gun Slinger off of this compilation. This game from 1982 by Avalon Hill fits the bill for exactly what AH was delivering game wise ‘back in tha day.’ Tons of details, tons of flavor, tons of rules, tons of sub-rules, and tons of sub-sub-rules. “You can see clearly here in section where the rule book talks about getting a shave from the local barber that if I have the barber start shaving on the left check and not the right I’ll be able to see out of the window for the 2 players turns and therefore have opportunity fire as you pass by. Now if you were coming from the west and it were 3 o’clock the sun would be shining in the window and I’d have no shot at all but it’s obviously only 2:47 at this point in the game and the sun’s too high for that. Whereas if you were coming from the north and kicked the door in you we both would have a shot and you easily would shoot first however I still get to use the barber himself as cover.” A good game? You can say it’s well designed and thought out but don’t be surprised if a conversation like that takes place. Dammit! I just want to play a game, move around and kill people. Guns down baby, sad to say.

Ahhhhhhhhh at last an American Indian themed game in my pile. I own this one and after reading the very unclear rules several times I knew part of the game would be a HUGE bog down. So I check some sources and found where people were playing a seems like this variant is just what a lot of people are asking for too. Instead of letting players freely choose what cards will be played each hunt have them shuffle the whole damned deck! It's faster (thank God because this game does NOT play in 30 mins.) and mixes the Euro/American game style nicely. WTF? A hybrid game? Yeah that works. Still the game kind of...well let's be nice and say sucks but not horribly so. I think I would hate the game with the original rules as some people do and well am not really sure I'm ever going to play this one again really. It's a remake and the quality is top notch, great art blah blah blah if that gets your rocks off and that's all you need go for it. The game play itself is monotonous and boring. Guns way down on this one.

While the list of games available for this entry can go on and on...I can't, well I could but I don't feel like it. I'll probably add to and fluff up this entry as time goes on but here's what I got's so far. Dig people play 'dem western games.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Like I've got the time/energy/motivation to write more?

What was I thinking? Just because I like party games and just because some site wanted to find some writers for the genre of gaming does that mean I should be the one to volunteer for it? Probably not but I did anyway. I think I've called myself a dork before on this blog and much worse in all honesty but in case I haven't I'll take care of that one right now. I'm a fucking dork.

I like writing in this blog and I'm suppose to be writing a little bit in another person's blog (that has everything to do with playing and nothing to do with gaming...there's only a select few of you who will get that reference!) That blog I write under a different name and it'd be pretty hard to find it and even harder to prove it was me! THoiA is easy to figure out though if you really wanted to.

Anyway I'm rambling, still I wonder if that's not what a blog is for...wait rambling again.

The point here is that I'm now writing for Board Game News now as you guessed it reviewer of party games. I will say that when I submitted material for consideration I showed the Eric my blog (one of the precious few I've ever SHOWN my blog to) and told him I write from a kind of hard edge. He was cool with it as long as I could write objectively. Well if a game sucks I feel I can objectively show people how and why but at the same time the 2 reviews I've posted here have been based on games I love. (JVT and Combat Soldiers.)

Keep in mind though I will be "toning it down" a bit for the readers of BGN as they aren't exactly use to a lot of harsh language and statements like the ones I throw around this blog. So don't go over there reading those reviews and think you will be finding my typical fare because you won't. I am considering however after writing a review for BGN taking the review and retooling it for TDHM. That way you can get the full brunt of my thoughts on a game. :) After all that's how I like it anyway.

In closing let me be a little serious for a moment. I did actually choose to do this because 1. he only wants me to write once a month...I can do that. Mostly it's because 2. BGN is a great gaming website. I highly suggest you guys click the link above and check them out. This site's been around for awhile and is produced by through a labor of love. It's got great material and is an excellent gaming resource.

Until next time, save the pink bits for me.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Games That Make You Go FUCK! Part 1: "An Assemblage of Asinine"

Welcome back anyone's reading this.

Alright so I'm going to "start a new series" or if I were doing the whole Pod Cast thing (see the post about "To Cast or Not To Cast" for details) this would be a new segment...I come up with stupid, inane shit all the time and if you read my blog the you are the one who has to deal with it, not me. I suppose I could leave these strange mind numbing pieces of cranial methane alone and hide them away so no one would ever be harmed by them. No, instead I'm just going to purge myself of this need to write for my own masochistic reasons and leave my spewings here on this page for you to gobble up. Yum yum.

Still with me? heheheh

Games That Make You Go FUCK! Will be a series that I write up whenever I damn well feel like it. The goal will be to pick a subject matter and then lump a bunch of games into that little box as I damn well feel like it. Today's writing is "An Assemblage of Asinine" where I pick out some "games", and that's a term I'll use very loosely, that someone out there should be incarcerated to creating, someone else should be flogged for producing, someone else should be emasculated publicly by having their balls painted yellow dipped in honey and dangled over an ant hill for having decided to carry this product. In other words atrocities of the gaming world, laid out right here for you to see and read about...because I damn well feel like doing it.

(A note before continuing...Games That Make You Go FUCK! will not always be negative as I don't see fucking as negative. In fact mostly I see fucking as very positive and future editions of this series will showcase games where you use FUCK! as a method of praise for the games in that group.)

{Sponsor begin}
Games That Make You Go FUCK! Part 1: "An Assemblage of Asinine" is brought to you by:

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Corx is our first piece of shit on the chopping block. The concept here is...get pick up two corx (which is a cool spelling of the word Corks) and drop them. How they land is how you score. Ewwwwwww if they both land on one end you get big points. Hey now that's fun. Then your opponent does the same. Next it's your turn, pick those Corx back up and do it again. WOW! This rocks! Yeah well no it's really a bullshit method of trying to peddle off some useless piece of crap to kids. Hell the website for this product has even started up their own "lingo" for the game in an attempt to make it seem like it's got it's own cool subculture. So they thought they could play on the kiddies sense or need to belong...problem is there's no other kiddies out there that are in this new clique to belong with. What crap.

OK so next up is Monday Night Football Interactive TV Card Game. Well with that many words in the title it, you know it's got to be a fun game right? Alright so here's the gist. Tune in to the Monday Night Football game....there's the first problem with this game! It makes you watch football. Now, deal out a hand of cards. Plays and things appear on them. When that play happens play your card for points. So yeah what you got here is a game that gives you no control over whether you win or lose. Just play friggin' cards from you hand when/if you can then add up points when you are done. Hmmmmmmm Ok. I think you can figure out how absolutely ridiculous this is all by yourself and I'm not going to say anything further. Moving right along. . .

So next up is Fishing for Terrorists. Not as many words in the title of this game as we had in the Monday Night Football Interactive TV Card Game but then again there's not as many mechanics either. While Monday Night Football Interactive TV Card Game was a terrible game given it's mechanics Fishing for Terrorists is equally as bad with less. Playing on a poignant time frame this game was released in hopes of selling a few units based on the humorous theme. Still you can't get past the fact that you are playing WAR! That's right "good" ole war that you can just as easily play with any one of the 3 decks of cards you can get for $1.00 at the cheap ass store instead you can now shell out $20 for and give it a go with "humorous" artwork.

So if you are here reading my blog chances are you are a "hardcore" gamer. You aren't the type who gets juiced up thinking about playing a rip roaring game of Monopoly. Sure someone reading this may have accidentally stumbled onto my blog and like a train wreck can't seem to pull their vision from the atrocity of it but for the most part if I have readers they are going to be gamers. As such this "game" titled simply LCR probably defies all logic to you as it does to me. Pick up the dice throw them and get rid of your chips as per what the dice tell you to do with them. OK. Now pass the dice and let someone else do the same. When the dice come back to you repeat. huh? Alright well I don't even know how to rip this game a new one it's so completely ridiculous. So I'm going to move on. Still you hear time and time again what a good seller this is for the game stores. WOW Way to go whoever...rake in the cash of the gullible idiots out there who insist on throwing it at you.

My last little entry here is a hodgepodge if you will. First off is going to be all the licensed rethemes of "classic" board games. Not every movie out there needs it's own version of; Monopoly, Clue, Risk, Stratego and Life. The only one that seemed to make any sense to me at all was the Scooby Doo Clue...they were after all detectives. I did actually see Monsters, Inc., Life in Monstropolis game in action. Because it was a Disney movie it was retooled as well as rethemed and you don't have babies anymore...guess that's too close to having sex and can't let the kiddies know about that now can we?

CCG's and TCG's. Whatever you want to call them. Like above every theme that can be imagined is conceived into printed form for this medium of money sucking filth. Did you know there was an American Idol CCG? How about a Tomb Raider CCG? WHY!?!?!? They all tend to suck. Throw in my utter stomach turning disdain for any "collectible" game and you have a category here that I despise wholly. This is the utter putrid, vile butt droppings of the gaming world.

Alright well it's obvious that there could be more things in this list. I'm done here for today but I hope, like me you were able to look at the games and think to yourself "Fuck that's bad" and if so I further hope that it rekindled a new level of love for your current game collection. You may not have the biggest or best collection out there but be proud of what you have and be proud that these are not part of it.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

HEIL ROOSEVELT!!! Combat Soldiers has you playing both sides of WWII ***A TDHM Review***

Alright on deck today for examination is Combat Soldiers: Battle of the Bulge. "This is not a wargame" the die hard grognards will cry. "This is too much of a wargame" the non-wargamers will whine back in response. "It's just a card game" comes the complaints of the boards gamers who don’t understand how a game can be played without a folded piece of cardboard. Followed closely by the "There's too much to it" as the card gamers sift through the chits. It’s not that hard to figure out people but this game is all of that and that's what makes it such a unique game, deal with it.

A wargame? Certainly but not in the typical you play this side I'll play that style. Is it an American style game? Yes but you can see the attempt to give the game some diversity in it's approach as well. See the game is about getting VPs and not winning the war…hell or even winning the battle. It's more like "taking bets" on parts of the battle. No player plays the Axis or the Allies…everyone plays BOTH the Axis and the Allies. That's right you can setup an army of German soldiers with on turn and have your already existing American troops move into a held area to contend for it. (Ahhhh the true nature of politicians running a war almost seemed fully embraced in that idea now doesn’t it?) The goal of the game is still intact with this maneuver as you are really only looking to gain VPs. In fact the individual unit cards have different units and are played with one unit in the upright position indicating what unit you want that card to represent. So I can easily see the wargamers thinking this just isn't right but then again they are still scrambling for their copies of Ogre and ASL and clinging tightly to rule sets that are 20 years or more old and not willing to pry their brains open to much new.

The game is pretty involved for a card game (and let's face it people, the main components are the cards) and there are a lot of little rules that are easily to forget or not be able to find again in the rule book after reading it once or twice. The rules literally house a sub-section about half way through the book called This makes the rulebook itself stretch out to a full 37 solid pages of rules. That can really the freak the living shit out of those who are not use to it yet for those who are these rules are going to be simple and common place. Some of the verbage in the rules too gets a little inundating as your units can group, refit, reorganize or rearrange all of which means something different. In addition units can surround, pin, isolate or be entrenched within a garrison. All of these little rules will easily be classified as fiddly to someone not use to wargames and those bullheaded grognards will be more than comfortable with and use to.

Now I'm not going to go into detail on how the game is played as I said it's a 37 page rule book and that's just not my reviewing style. What I am going to say now is that if you are still reading this review then you have more than a casual interest in the game. I haven't run you off with the talk it not being your typical wargame when you wanted another Europe Engulfed. I've also managed to keep your attention in the face of the game being fiddly yet you are use to games with only a couple options on a turn ala Alan R. Moon games. That's a good thing because by virtue of you still being here reading this you are about to discover a pretty damned cool little game.

Yes a turn in Combat Soldiers takes some time to get through as they are detailed turns. The sequence of an turn is as follows:

A – Reorganize/Withdraw

The turn however flows smoothly and there is plenty of player interaction within the turn as attacks happen frequently and preparation for the attack that an opponent is obviously building is fundamental. There's no map (it's a card game remember) so there is no messing about with movement, opportunity fire, or terrain effects which is kind of nice. This allows players to keep in the action and heat of battle which is what this game is really about…I mean don’t we play games with a war theme to feel the fury of unloading our machine gun into the belly of an enemy…or is that just me? Further the game is about your foot units (the fucking game is called Combat SOLDIERS remember) and the few armor units in the game while being tough as hell when they attack can be taken out of play relatively easily if you have some anti-tank units out there. Of course if the deck screws you and you don’t get the anti-tanks and another opponent or two manages to put armor in play then you might want to put both your handsin front of you in a nice little bowl format as you ass I most definitely about to be handed to you. The game is also fit with event cards that can be triggered to keep things surprising and put players on the edge as you never know when someone who is nearly out of the game is going to play that ultimate “fuck somebody over” card and swing the tide of the war.

The game itself is made by Lost Battalion Games who self publishes all their titles. The cards and chits look fantastic and have a nice high gloss feel to them. You start the game by setting secret goals for yourself that you try and make happen regardless of how unusual the combination of those goals are. These goals if accomplished award more VPs come game end and hopefully a victory.

The big problem with this game is what group of people you end up playing it with. Convincing those pansy euro only gamers to give it a shot could be a challenge and even assish wargamers might feel the need to shy away from it due to it’s simplicity and manageable playing time. Choosing what players to put this in front of is paramount. You need to find the players who are open to a game with more meat to it than Memoir '44 and yet is not a board game. A game that has a lot of detail to it but doesn't cover every slight detail of a war. If you think you've got the group that can embrace this mindset then Combat Soldiers is a highly recommended game. I like the game but due to the play group really don't get to play it much. Then when the rare occasion comes that I do I find I'm referring to the rule book a lot as I'm so unfamiliar with it. Bottom line this is a good game, well thought out, with a unique approach and very nice pieces that is simply put not for everyone and that’s alright I don’t personally like everyone anyway. Those who do like it are going to have hours of fun playing it though.

ADDENDUM (11/28/2007):
Queen's Games version is long out called simply Thebes and it's every bit as good as the 2nd version in my opinion. I will say that I think each dig site SHOULD have a set number of discs randomly discarded at the beginning of the game. Without it people just calculate which bag has artifacts left and how many instead of digging where their' knowledge best lies. That seems thematically broken to me. Simply start the game and pull out 4-7 discs from each bag (as you did in 2nd Ed.) and this is fixed.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Don't just want to be Indiana Jones, BE Indiana Jones..but without all that excitement, action and screwing of hot blonde nazi chicks. *A TDHM REVIEW*

Ever dreamed of being an archaeologist living in the early 1900's? The fame, the fortune, the geekerie? Yeah me either but yes I do love the Indiana Jones movies and well it should be obvious that I like board games. SO a game about archaeology? Alright I'm on board with this.

The game is called Jenseits von Theben and the bottom line if you are already tired of reading my review is this game rocks. If however you want a little more about the game I think I can drone on some for you.

I've had this game in my "want" list (on BGG) which I use as pretty much a catch all for games I have interest in for quite a little while now. The game looked pretty keen and the ratings were high but sometimes ratings get a little over inflated on games like this that are limited run because those who have played them want to be 'cool' and have played an awesome game that you haven't played. (a big fuck you to those folks BTW) So I took a big ole grain of salt and want listed it hoping I might get to play it one day at a con or something.

Low and behold a friend of mine scored a copy of this hand made (only 300 of 'em made at that) game on eBay for a stupidly low price of $28 which included the freaking shipping! YES I hate him too but that not the point. The point my dear children is that I was able to finally play the game us (as in our play group) silly Americans now endearingly refer to as simply JVT. Ohhhhh let me tell you, I'm not just trying to be 'cool' when I tell you this game is now one of my favorites.

Alright so the game is played in weeks. Basically think of them as your action points but being as they are weeks it's a really keen little mechanic so that if you spend a lot of weeks to do something BIG it will put you way out in the future. Now the other players may get to play several turns as they "catch up" in time to where you are spending their weeks only a couple at a time. WOW! That's pretty cool, and I personally haven't seen this before but that's not to say it hasn't been done before...just I haven't seen it happy now, I called myself out on that one so STFU.

So what can you do with your weeks? Well you can travel from city to city. Each city will cost you 1 week time. Once you get the various cities there are items you can pick up that will help you in your excavations, or learn about the different areas to make your digs go easier. There are 5 different dig sites (Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Crete and Palestine) so you need to be knowledgeable in that area to get the most bang for your digging buck and we all like to bang right?

So after you've spent some time researching the great libraries of Europe picking up knowledge (and probably vandalizing them as well if not fully burning them to the ground) it's time to get your hands dirty. So you travel to the dig site (at 1 week per point so this could be like a 4 or 5 week journey if you are in London or Paris and heading out to Mesopotamia) and then dig for a set number of weeks. The longer you spend the better your chances of pulling a rare artifact...for a large number of VPs. There is also the chance (as you are flipping cards from a deck, but in the Queen edition I understand it will be pulling tiles from a bag) that you get blanks and all you found while digging was dirt! I'm sure you'll have some "hired" laborers you can whip in your frustration it is after all the early 1900's and why should you take the blame for your own errors when you can make the foreman whip someone.

That's the basic core of the game right there with some other nice little things thrown in for funnities. (I know that's not a word I just fucking made it up, if I made it up obviously I know it's not a real word.) Congress cards that give exponential VPs based on how many you have, Exhibits that you need the right type of artifact for and then have to be in the right city on the exact week of the exhibit in order to be eligible for (what a pain in the ass but a necessary one), bonuses for most knowledge in different areas and oh I could go on but I'm not that kind of reviewer. You gotta buy me dinner first.

I've played the game now in 2, 3 and 4 player versions and I like 3 the best personally. This game definitely works 2 player but tension and pressure to get to the dig sites really comes on strong with each additional player. With 4 it seems like the dig sites get literally dug out and then it becomes this race around Europe to get knowledge cards for bonus VPs at game end.

Still I have rated this one a solid 9 out of 10 on BGG and don't see myself getting tired of it at all. It's got a great feel, plays quickly and solidly and gives you some tough choices to make. All things I like in what I call a great game and my beloved JVT is indeed a GREAT game.


Monday, March 19, 2007

The box lies in the name of making another wait that's the marketing deparment.

How many players do we have? What games support that number? Oh, here's one that says it goes up to that number...let's give this one a try.


Then you find out the game that says it can support 6 players was specifically designed to be played with 4 and adding in the extra players really bogs the game down. Or maybe even worse it's a game that technically should be a 2 player game by all rights and well the box says it can be played 2 player but also with more. What about the worst of them all...the game that plays great with 5 players but the box says it can scale down to 2 players and while you are indeed going through all the motions of the sucks ass with 2 players.

Dammit! Game publishers need to not be so freaking greedy when they put the number of players on the box. Be honest with gamers and tell us exactly how many the game should be played with. Granted I feel certain the aim here is to capture that one more sale that might not have been made if the game didn't say that it scaled down to 2 player or up to 5 or 6 and I do understand in this niche market publishers need every sale possible. Still in the long run they hurt themselves. A game that plays poorly with a certain number of players will get generate negative reputation based on that playing alone. Have one particularly bad gaming experience in a game and chances of you wanting to come back and play it again in the future are slim at best...not when there are so many other great games out there. Then in this age of the the inner-web people with spewing their every thoughts out on blogs, forums, and community websites that can be a down right damning thing for a struggling game.

I've seen plenty of times where a game was bought specifically to be played with a number of players in mind, usually 2. The game clearly states that it can scale down to 2 players but let's face it, shouldn't! Then the person who bought said game is disappointed and lets pretty much everyone at the gaming group know...oh sure the caveat is thrown out there "but it probably plays much better with more players" but that little bit of taint has already been smeared on the game.

Let's take a recent example. Iliad is a brand new small box game by Asmodee Editions. Bravo to Asmodee on several fronts with this game. 1. it's a small box game and is just a card game but rather than stick some giant insert in a giant box with only a handful of components to give a perceived value they put it in a slim, thin box and everything fits nicely. The decks (there are I think 4 seperate decks in this game) as well as the rules and these three keen looking god icons. 2. The game looks great, fabulous artwork. 3. The game itself plays wonderfully....for 4 or 5 players. The game box however says it's playable at 2 to 6 players. First off play as teams. That's ummmm ok I your group but my group is a pretty aggressive group and we are to fucking win the game dammit! Now let's talk about 2 players. This is fucking stupid. You have to discard one of the decks and the god icons...essentially taking out a key mechanic of the game that makes each siege fun. Why?!?!? This game just shouldn't be played 2 player if you have to gut the system to make it work. 3 works and I'm not going to argue that but it's really kind of clunky just because there's not enough other objects to attack. With 4 or players the pain tends to get split up nicely amongst the players instead of "pound on the leader" mentality that the 3 player creates.

Alright so where is the other end of the spectrum? Where is the 2 player game that shouldn't allow more? Well this is truly out there but I'll agree it's more of a rarity. The easiest example for me to throw out is a personal sticky point for sure. I do believe that the game is listed as a 2 player game on the box but the designer and the publisher both will tout that it can be up to 6 players. The said game is Memoir '44. The nature of the game is player on player yet I've heard time and again that it plays well as 6 (and even 8) players if each player commands one section of the board...which is divided into three sections! WHAT?!?! Why the fuck am I going to sit there and wait to play 2 maybe 3 cards all game! That's just stupid. Being as this is just one game in the Command & Colors line by Richard Borg I'm sure at con's when he's showing his games he touts this wonderful feature about all of the game. Now I like Richard a lot and have sat at his tables and played the games. Very friendly and fun guy but this system is not for more than 2 players.

However one specific offender of this thought process is the Reiner Knizia game Knights of Charlemange. The game simply put had to be designed as a 2 player game then the thought popped up, hey if we opened up the row in between the tiles we could squeeze in a third players. Alright I'm actually ok with that except that the cards will run out sooner and create less options and less tension. Still printing on the box "a game for 2-3 players" just wasn't enough! That's right...4 players and now it's team action! Oh you've got to be cranking my cock. That's just simply put bullshit. A great little 2 player game but don't push it to something it's not.

The real crime of this through process I haven't even mentioned as of yet. What about the games that made it through the play testing process and have been approved by the publishers and released to the public. The game clearly states for 3-4 players...then almost on the heels of the release of the game comes the 5-6 player expansion. Oh just fuck me in the ass sideways why don't you! If this isn't a blatant disrespect to the end gamers. Several of these games just simply put don't need and cramp up the board with more players. All I'm asking here is that these publishers lay off. Expansions can be good, add new cards, give me new things to change the game up a little but more players being the main part of the expansion is just being greedy. Greed will hurt this fledgling hobby of ours. Embrace your games as the designers intended, put forth a decent marketing campaign for it and live with the results. If the game is good as a 4 player game it will sell. If you game sucks ass, it doesn't matter how many players you make it applicable to it's still going to tank.

Weird insertions and asshole designers.

Thank you Avalon Hill. Here is a game company that had the foresight enough to look at their newer games and say "That's just too much junk to have an insert. Why oh why don't more game companies make this crucial decision? The big open boxes of their newer large box games with a simple compartmentalized grid stuck in the bottom of the box is excellent. There's a big open box for you to bag all your pieces and store them in. Ahhhhhh that's how it was meant to be! Well done AH too bad you aren't still out there producing games these days.

Then you got Mayfare Games who insists on using the same insert for every game...of course that means their insert makes no fucking sense what-so-ever. What is that amorphis piece of black plastic that we see inside those smaller boxed games? Speaking of it...why the hell do we even have one in Catan the Card Game? I mean the whole frigging game is just a few square cards...does this really require an insert?

What about Phalanx...oh now here is a company who thinks everything has a place...damned right in a ziploc bag and thrown in the box dammit! Not according to Phalanx though. Take a peek inside Mesopotamia and you'll see the true example of a good idea gone hideously bad. A little spot for every little item. The biggest reason this is a problem is that there isn't a big BOARD to hold everything in place when the game is tipped or carried on it's side. As a tile laying game a board just doesn't exist. So sure enough components everywhere nearly every time you pick up the game. Some of their other games do have these highly defined and specific inserts too but the boards at least make an effort to hold all the bits in their rightful places...however if memory serves me correctly Maharaja, Revolution and Nero all use the same insert but that's got nothing to do with functionality just me taking a mental tangent for a moment.

Now I'm not usually one to make a big fuss over an issue like this because to me it's not an issue at all. If the given plastic insert of a game doesn't work then I simply remove it and throw the damnable thing away. I'll bag my components and toss them in the box. I have however heard time and time again that people don't want to do this because they feel they are throwing away a part of the game. You've got to be kidding me? This just annoys me. The mentality that you will keep something that causes aggravation, that's absurd.

Take the new Mission Red of the worst designed inserts ever...NO one should keep that atrocity. That was just about the first thing I did when I opened the box. Certainly as this picture shows you can get those rockets into the box but why in fuck's name would you want to spend the time it takes to put all those rockets in there in that kind of order when you can be...oh I don't know playing another game? Now everything is very neatly packed in plastic bags and I can hand the players all their colored astronauts and their deck of cards quickly and efficiently. I actually believe when the insert was designed they forgot about the rockets. Think about it they knew they were going to sit nicely on top in the sprus just no one considered what would happen with them once you punched them out! Mall of Horrors which is also by Asmodee has a very nice insert and everything is neatly stored, so the company knows they can do it right. Iliad has a very small insert (as it's a very small box game) but is just fine for what it does.

Seems to me every company out there goes back and forth on good/bad insert design. Uberplay did a great job with Motley Fool's Buy Low Sell High. You don't even have to back the individual stock pieces or worry about the cards. The board fits so snugly into the box everything stays in it's given compartment. WOW! Sunken City also seems to be very well put together and no issues there. Oasis on the other hand is the game you toss the plastic monstrosity and bag the bits. Right down the middle of the road comes New England....almost the same approach as AH with their new Risk rethemes but it has a lovely fall leaves printed OPEN area so you are forced to bag the stuff and throw them in the box. This is the way to go if you have a game that has a bunch of small parts like this. Well done over all Uberplay.

So see I'm not hard to please (got a few women who can attest to that) I just want functionality. When done right a larger insert I can appreciate the work put into it and will happily use said insert for the life of my game. Just don't be artsy for artsy sake. Make it work nicely and do what it's suppose to do hold the fucking pieces in the box, nice and neat. Alright I'm done with this topic.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Game's the thing....I don't give a fuck what you want to label it as!

Good God almighty! It seems like everything in the fucking world comes down to people choosing sides and never seeing any middle ground. No one it seems can just play games anymore they've got to play their "style" of game. Ameritrash/Ameritype Vs. Eurosnob/Eurostyle games. WTF is up with this now? Games are simply diversions from the bullshit we have to put up with through out each and every day. A moment in time where we can sit down with some friends (maybe not all friends but hopefully at least a friend is in the mix of gamers) and push around some bits of wood or plastic on a cardboard board, talk a little smack talk and enjoy yourselves. People can't seem to leave good enough alone though.

So these divisions have been brewing and members of the "community" have been taking sides, battle lines have been drawn and it was only a matter of time until the various little skirmishes blossomed into a full fledge firefight.

Ahhhhhhh and so it came with all the fury of...well a bunch of geeks posting flame comments on their beloved BGG and the outcast scrambling to setup their own Blog so they can find the support they needed to make them feel ever so loved.

Now I'm not taking sides here...mainly because I think both sides were stupid equally and therefore it'd be a slew of ridicule to both. I will say simply that I enjoy the website BGG. I find a lot useful things about it but long ago I decided to cut down the amount I actually post there. Still it's unarguably the best database of board games you can find. It's hugely flexible in your search abilities and well it's become WAY too important to WAY too many people. I've seen plenty of games I that enjoy get the shit beaten out of them by BGG populace just because it wasn't "Euro" enough or had dice and that made it all luck driven. Likewise I've seen games that I can't stand be heralded as the King's Condom. (That's my own distorted version of the "Bee's Knees" but you are going to have to figure out why that's a good thing on your own little piggy.)

People seem to take things way too personally when someone says they don't like their favorite game. Like they slapped their grandmother or something. Shit people do you know how many different styles of music there is out there? Well that's because so many people like so many different things in music. The same can be said for; books, movies, TV shows, and for crying out loud board games. Get a grip! Play the damned games for the game that it is trying to be. If you find you don't enjoy after playing it then that is fine, rate it properly, give your thoughts and don't play the damned game again. If you can't handle someone doing the same thing to a game you do like, I suggest the following and pay attention this is a very strict method of dealing but should help you greatly.

1. Stare blankly at your monitor in awe at the words you are reading that are causing you such tortured emotional pangs.

2. Close your eyes, rub them vigorously so that you see those funny shapes blurring around, then reopen them...hope against all hope that what you just read will now be completely different and will read exactly as your entry on said game's comments area.

3. When you realize the person is indeed still staunchly against your game slam your mouse against the wall next to your computer so it smashes into pieces, stomp around your room kicking whatever fur covered pet's might be in your way. Can't hurt to punch a wall or door, the goal here obviously is to damage the wall/door and not actually break knuckles in your hand but take what you can get.

4. Next filled with shame of your previous action curl up in a dark corner of a closet somewhere and let yourself indulge in a good cry. Be sure to be locked into the fetal position so you can feel your hands on your back and you can pretend someone who cares (like that exists!) is comforting you.

5. When you've got to take a piss after a few hours come back here and re-read this article. Now realize what a complete dick you are being. Smirk it off and go buy yourself a new mouse.

(For those who didn't follow was the 5 major stages of grief; Shock, Denial, Anger, Depression, Acceptance.)

Alright really, so now you are wondering where I was going? The point of this post is simply the point of gaming in general. To have fun. To not take things so stupidly personal. To be able to embrace gaming and games in general. Your opinion, review, rating of a game is not going to make me buy or not buy a game I want or don't want and mine shouldn't impact you either. Use my thoughts and comments (as I'll use yours) to gain maybe some perspective but that's about it. My point is that we don't have room for divisions in this niche market. If we want to see our hobby grow and expand we need to be at least accepting of all games. Otherwise outsiders who are looking to find a new hobby will see the stupidity (and trust me that's exactly what it looks like to them) and they will want no part of it. Let's all grow up, agree to disagree and play a fucking game already...although you might not want to play with me...I'm just going to beat. :)