Posted on August 15th, 2014

I don’t know if it is the brain sluggishness brought on by the heat, the increased summer workload at the shop, or my attempts to play outside as much as possible before the rains hit. But for some reason, I’ve been digging the lighter games lately. It could also be that we’ve had a few good ones hit our shelves in the past month. Here’s a quick run-down of some of the little guys I’ve been enjoying.

Friday the 13th: No, this is not a game about a troubled kid in a hockey mask terrorizing coeds. This is from the uber-brain of Reinier Knizia and it is a re-theme of his older card game, Poison. Friday the 13th has some large, attractively illustrated, and very hard to handle cards in 3 suits. The game feels like a trick-taking game, so card-counters will be in heaven. You will play cards to suited-piles, and if you tip the total over 13, you take the cards. Generally a bad thing, but great if you shoot the moon and have the most of a given suit. Simple and fun to watch those piles build to a point where one player is just outta luck.

Biblios: This is a re-release of a game that last sat on our shelves last year. Another example of a game that sold very well but the publisher decided to take a year to reprint it. Thankfully they did get some copies out, because it is a blast. You play 2 rounds, and much like the game For Sale, in the first round you collect cards, then use them in the auction during the second round. It all boils down to set-collecting, but you get to choose the cards that go in the auction and you get to adjust the final scoring for each suit. You won’t be able to play just one round of this one.

 

Lost Legacy: The Starship: This is another one of Seiji Kanai’s games with only 16 cards. Love Letter is his most famous, but Brave Rats is another one, and I’ve been forcing this one on everyone I can to fill tiny time gaps. In Lost Legacy, you simply draw a card, play a card, and try to deduce who has what cards. Ultimately you want to find the starship card to win. This is Love Letter with a teensy bit more choice and a theme that works. A perfect filler.

 

Seventh Hero: This is a borderline filler, as it is closer to 45 minutes in length. This game also got poo-pooed at the shop on the first try due to some rules arguments and just general lack of desire to have fun. I still enjoy it, largely because I like to watch the frustration in others when they realize they’ve been stuck in a no-win situation with the card I’ve passed around the table.

Now, my gaming time has not just been filled with these lighter games, although I’ve been playing more of them than usual. This past weekend though, I had the chance to attend the inaugural convention held by a long-time loyal customer whose interest is big, heavy wargames. I cannot say enough good things about this experience. Beyond the games, I had the chance to play with fantastic folks that I did not know at all before running the silliest game shop in Portland. This is why I opened the shop, to build a community of gamers, rather than just a group of nameless people playing games. Thanks to Ty for making this happen. As much as I’d like to do something like this at the shop, we are a business, and the shopping must go on, so I’m grateful I was able to get away to TyCon 2014. Here’s what I played:

Roads and Boats: It’s big, and sorta heavy, but it is not what you’d consider a wargame. That did not stop 1 of the players from trying to turn it into one. Roads and Boats feels like a civilization game, but with opportunity to send your donkeys and geese out to the fields to do some baby-making. Yeah, there are some interesting ideas in this nearly-impossible-to-find game, but it is really an industry-building and pick-up-and-deliver game with a malleable map and a whole host of paths to try.

 

Here I Stand: Holy Hand Grenade! This is a monster of a game. We’re talking 3 different games in one really. Here’s the tagline: ‘the first game in over 25 years to cover the political and religious conflicts of early 16th Century Europe’. Boy, why did it take them 25 years to make another one? Well, because there is so much going on in this game. I played as the Protestants, so for about 6 hours I did nothing but fight the Papacy for the hearts and minds of the good people of Germany and translate the bible into 3 different languages. During this time, on the other side of the table, France, England, and the Hapsburgs were battling for space as well as for treasures from the New World. Oh, and then the Ottomans were making pitiful pirating attempts along the Mediterranean coast. This is a game you need to play 6 times so that you can try each faction, because they are all very different. In the end, 10 hours later, God won, perhaps only due to exhaustion. Truly an epic game that belongs at every TyCon in the future.

Hope all of you have been playing some sweet games. Clear your tables and balance your checkbooks for next week, because the first of the GenCon beauties should be arriving. Rumor has it that Imperial Settlers will be in the shop by next Wednesday, and after playing its predecessor, 51st State, I cannot wait! We’ll see what other excitement arrives. Happy gaming folks!

 

Posted on August 1st, 2014

Before I explain the title of this week’s blog post, many thank you’s are in order. A few weeks ago the Mercury posted their reader’s choice awards and we were pretty amazed to find our silly little shop  ranked as the second favorite Game Store in PDX. Number 2 folks! I know, I know, its only the silver medal, but that is prerrt darn good considering that we’re the smallest and the hardest to get to. So thank you to anyone out there who voted. But heck, thank you if you did not vote too. I’m guessing that part of the reason we made it up the list is our community vibe, and that is all you loyal reader. I think all of you have more to do with our approval rating than we do, people return to our humble space for you as much as us.

We witnessed an example of this just this past Wednesday when a regular member of our game night community spent his final night with us before traveling east for professional pursuits. Cupcakes were baked (not by us) and shared, wine was gloriously spilled, and hugs and hearty goodbyes were dished out. This is why we made number 2, because that game night feeling permeates the store even in-between game nights. So thank you, no thank you, oh no its all you, oh stop it, its you, really.

Now while our shop was basking in the number 2 spot, I was grinding gears in last place, twice in a row, in GMT’s newest release, Thunder Alley. It’s a card-driven NASCAR-themed game with 4 beautifully huge tracks and lots of annoying little damage chits, annoying because they will be piling up on your cards and slowing you down unless you hit the pits. What really makes this game special is the prominent drafting mechanic. Nearly every move you make brings a whole group of cars with you, and since you are actually in control of multiple racers, drafting is the key to victory. Of course, your cars are rarely alone in a particular pack, so you need to be careful about who tags along with you.

Despite my poor back-to-back performances, this game was a blast, just pure fun. It is also the first GMT game that I could play with my family and non-gaming friends because it really isn’t that complicated and makes great thematic sense. We racked up a second game right after the first, and we would easily have played a third round if we had time. I highly recommend this game, but it is sadly now out of stock. Hopefully we’ll see a reprint soon, but I’m sure you’ll get a chance to over-fund it on Kickstarter first, yay for the world. By the way, Thunder Alley did not even reach half of its funding goal when it was initially proposed on Kickstarter, but some bloke collected a decent annual salary by Kickstarting his first attempt at Potato Salad. Ughh. Those are fine clothes you’re wearing emporer, interested in some shoes?

New games will be hitting our round table tomorrow, including Twin Tin Bots, Friday the 13th, and a Biblios reprint from Iello. We also now have a limited number of Betrayal at House on the Hill back in stock. Last week we received Madame Ching and Hotel Tycoon, and both of those should be available for rent later today.

Finally, with GenCon approaching we will soon be seeing a slew of new games, and if you are interested in any of these, definitely get us your preorders. Some of the most requested of the GenCon batch so far are Machi Koro, Imperial Settlers, the Star Realms reprint, Dead of Winter, and 7 Wonders: Babel.

Happy Gaming everyone!

Posted on July 20th, 2014

Happy end of the heat wave folks. We are back from our trip to the south, still sticky, but glad to be back in such a great town. While we were away, we had the chance to play quite a few games with family, including 9 and 11 year old nieces. Rummikub was the big hit, despite one game where I collected tiles for every single turn except the last, so many tiles that my rack overflowdeth.

Also popular were Rage and Phase 10. I whined a lot during Rage, since it is a trick-taking game in the style of Spades or Pinochle, and my brain just does not process that style of game very well. I definitely did not earn any points with the family when I won the game after all the whining, dumb luck I guess. Thankfully, my subsequent Phase 10 victory was executed with much more grace. Both of these card games make for great family tabletop time. Phase 10 can go a little long, but the ease of play allows everyone to gab and goof-off.

Our gaming fun came to a bit of a halt though after an insanely long round of Settlers of Catan. I was pretty excited to show my family perhaps the biggest phenomenon in the tabletop world since Dungeons & Dragons or Magic the Gathering. We’re talking about the game that woke up my slumbering video-game-numbed brain. When I first played this game I remember feeling saved, a long-closed door in my noggin creaked open. by the time Catan came stateside, millions of minds, including my own, were deeply atrophied from playing first-person shooters and farming Warcraft loot. The good old days of getting together with buddies and powering through an epic Avalon Hill game, or a round of Risk, had been replaced with twitchy digital repetition and online bad behavior.

Then here comes Settlers of Catan, a strategy game for the adult world, a world where binging on Game of Thrones episodes is preferable to a 6 hour game of Axis & Allies or Risk. But Catan only takes you away from the digital world for an episode and a half, or at least it is supposed to. Our visit to Catan took over three episodes, and ended with one player being completely unable to do anything for the last few rounds. Needless to say, my family did not have the same nirvanic experience I had upon first playing Catan. Fortunately, during the plane ride back, we received a text photo of our two nieces enjoying another round of the game, so the kids were hooked!

Upon returning to our wonderful city, I was itching for some gaming, so I rounded up the regular crew and brought some good ones to the table. First was Fresco, one we have not played in some time for no good reason. Fresco is a smooth and very competitive game with a pleasant look and feel, typical of games by the publisher, Queen. The game has some classic euro-style elements: choosing when to wake your workers up to get a leg up at the market and painting the Fresco, but at the expense of higher prices and unhappy workers; choosing paint resources in one turn in order to mix them for a future turn, and of course managing your finances.

Following Fresco we played a round of Splendor, a surprise loser of the coveted Game of the Year award in Germany. Splendor is a delightful game that let’s you think just the right amount and can be played by anyone. It is high on the shop’s recommended list for serious and casual gamers alike. Finally, we got in a round of the new Game of Thrones card game. with insanely simple rules and fast play, this $10 game is a perfect filler with more thinking than you expect up front.

There you have it folks, lots of lighter games have hit my table during the heat wave here and on the other side of the continent. Beyond the games though, just playing with family and friends is a blast, it sure beats plugging in. Cheers everyone,

Posted on May 16th, 2014

We have two ‘last Saturday’ events coming up, one we are very stoked about, and one that saddens us a bit. Let’s hit the bad news first: tomorrow night is our last official Strategy Saturday game night. Come party and game with us during the send off of this much-loved event.

Then, just two short weeks later, on the actual last Saturday of the month, join us for our first Star Realms tournament. If you have not played this game yet and you like tactical deck-building, ask for a demo, this is one heck of a card game for just $15. If you have played and enjoyed this game, then sign your fanny up for the tournament and try to win a Star Realms playmat and a full set of promo cards.

For new games this week, copies of Shinobi Wat-aah!!! arrive today. Not really sure what this game is about, but the opportunity to put a big Wat-aah!!! in your opponents’ faces sounds too good to pass up. The reviews are placing it in that sweet King of Tokyo zone, I hope they are right. We’ll definitely have a demo of this to try out, so come help us test kick it in the jaw.

A less strange words in your face game that I am very excited about will be for sale on Monday, Sail to India. The man who brought us the novel train game, String Railway, is now blessing us with what looks to be a euro-game bigger than its tiny box. With just some cards and cubes,  Hisashi Hayashi appears to have created a micro-worker placement game. If this is as interesting as I hope it is, possible micro-tournament in the future? By micro I mean we’ll fill the house with those child-sized chairs and tables.

For events beyond the last Saturdays I already mentioned, help Ben this Sunday at 1pm discover a way to fend off cat paws and cockroaches then un-become a mouse in Mice and Mystics. Next Sunday we’re trying to do a customer pick demo. I’m still working on getting that all set up on facebook and meetup, but for now if you are interested in showing off one of your favorites, just let us know. Finally, if you or anyone you know have middle-school age youths interested in Magic or Pathfinder roleplaying, we’ve got some great summer camps planned, check them out here and here.

Happy mid-may weekend everyone!

Posted on May 9th, 2014

The hotness for game stores this week is the new Pokemon set, Flashfire XY. Come catch them all, we’ve got theme decks and booster packs available now.

We’re also excited to start the new format for our Pokemon league on Saturday mornings. We had some short staffing issues during Pokemon league earlier this year and wild card trading started to dominate the league. It looked like a stock market run by 7 year olds, pretty scary. Now that we’ve got the staffing figured out, we’ve been able to get the kids to really want to play the game instead of throw cards around the room, and tomorrow we step it up even more. Check out this page for more info: Pokemon League.

With the new Magic set last week and the Pocket Monsters this week, we haven’t received any new board games of note. We have backed March of the Ants through Kickstarter, and anyone interested in backing this one can do so through us and get 20% in store credit! So for $35 you’ll get a copy of the game with all stretch goals when they ship it to backers and $7 in store credit to use immediately. Go check out their Kickstarter page for more info and for a quote from yours truly!

Speaking of insects, I’ve had a darn near perfect week so far. Played Mage Knight on Sunday, then on Monday and Tuesday I tossed some dry flies to trout keyed in on giant salmonflies, followed by another round of Mage Knight Wednesday. A trip to the happiest place on earth with my family would top it off nicely, sadly that won’t be happening.

Kirsten is still cranking on Star Realms, as are all the staff at Cloud Cap, and we’ve got a tournament planned for the end of this month with a chance to win sets of promo cards and a playmat for the game, we’ll see you May 31 at 6:30pm. Kirsten has also been hot on Safranito, a spice trading game that involves tossing bidding chips onto the board, and where they land determines the actions you get to take. One of her recent opponents, Miles, exclaimed that he was ‘on fire’ during the most recent game this Wednesday night. At first I was concerned, then calmed a bit when I realized that I was standing right next to the fire extinguisher. Eventually I figured out that he was talking about the game, I think he collected some peppers.

Finally, we’ll be playing Ben’s favorite game of all time this weekend, Caylus. I expect to get fully trounced by him so I may just cheat every time he walks away to get a drink or go the bathroom.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Posted on May 2nd, 2014

The pre-summer weather tease is upon us and things are starting to warm up, except the new board game release schedule. No worries though, we’ve got plenty to keep you busy.

First I wanted to mention that this past Wednesday I finally took the time to visit perhaps the largest board game gathering in the city: Dice and Drinks at the My Father’s Place pub. Ben (our new chief of staff in case you haven’t met him) has been attending for a while, and the host, Andy, has been a customer for a few years now, so we thought we’d pay them and some other folks a visit. It was pretty wild to walk into the pub and witness a literal sea of tables filled with folks rolling dice, pushing cubes, and playing cards; not at all a normal thing to see at your run-of-the-mill black-walled pub. Due to the lighting and layout, you can be in your own isolated world where you’re sitting, but the host does a great job of making the rounds and ‘connecting’ the many tables. It is fantastic to see this vibrant gaming scene and congrats to Andy for sustaining it. 5-10 years ago, an event like this would not have been possible, in fact you may have been beat up and thrown out of such a place if you were caught throwing a euro on the table. Oh, if you go, beware the cheap drinks!

We are finally ready to announce our summer camps for this year. Youth gaming coordinator extraordinaire, Tam (pronounced Tum) Stockton, will once again be deftly guiding young heroes through perilous dungeons during his Pathfinder Roleplaying Adventure Camps. New this year, Tam will be running some Magic the Gathering camps both for initiates and experienced players. For the most part, the camps are all-inclusive week-long affairs with a mix of indoor and outdoor activities so we won’t your young geek home crazy after a day of just sitting on the old tushy. Check out these links for more details: Pathfinder Camps, Magic Camps.

For the merry month of May, we’ve got a few events already planned. This weekend seems to be Richard Garfield appreciation days. Saturday we’re running a small Magic tournament to find a good home for an insanely huge playmat, I mean huge! Sunday we’re hosting a casual local Netrunner tournament, there’s a very cool bunch of regular players who attend these events, so do not be intimidated if you have any interest in competing.

During the rest of the month, we’ve actually got some board games happening during our Sunday Staff pick days. Kirsten will show you how to play Star Realms, if she hasn’t already, on May 11. And get ready, we are gearing up for a Star Realms tournament, just waiting for the sweet tournament kits to ship before we choose a date. On May 18, Ben will bring in his painted figurines for a round of Mice and Mystics. Finally, I’ll give you a dose of Rosenberg on May 25 with Caverna. Next month we hope to dedicate one Sunday as a customer’s choice day, so stay tuned on how to enter.

Finally, May 17 will be our last regular Saturday Strategy Game night. We’ll be serving up some champagne, toasting to what will come.

Stay cool and game on!