Thursday, September 04, 2008


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 façade 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.