Posted on August 21st, 2015

The Machi Koro: Millionaire’s Row expansion is here! Machi Koro has been one of our best sellers since its release last fall, and for good reason: It’s light, fast, adorable, and it can be enjoyed by a very wide audience (hardcore grumpy frowny gamers excluded). The young ones can even join in because everything is face up on the table, nothing is hidden, and the math and text in the game are simple, (warning: possible education factor). Playing the game is easy, roll some dice, collect money if your buildings pay out based on the dice result, then buy more buildings to expand your neighborhood and your revenue stream. The Millionaire’s Row expansion will add an element to the game that I have been waiting for, the ability to shut down someone else’s building. Oh what money does to people, even in the cute little town of Machi Koro.

We’ve got a few other notable new releases arriving today, including Car Wars the Card Game and Firefly Shiny Dice. The Firefly dice game does look interesting, but it is yet another competitive game with the Firefly license. I’m going on the record here: the heart of the Firefly shows and graphic novels is the camaraderie of the crew, so Firefly games should not be competitive! Maybe the roleplaying game is the way to go, but I’m still waiting for the definitive Firefly board game, a cooperative adventure game! Perhaps the Mage Knight system should be used, like it is for the newly announced Star Trek game. Speaking of reskins, we are also receiving a very limited number of copies of Cthulhu Realms, a cartoony Lovecraftian version of Star Realms. No comment.

Did you click on any of the game links above? If you did you should have noticed that we now have a webstore! We’ve had it for some time, we’re just actually starting to use it. It’s nothing fancy, and it is not complete, but we wanted a way for our more distant fans to buy from us without necessarily driving down to the deep south. Coming soon to the store will also be the ability to preorder with us as well as establish wish lists that others can view to help with gift buying. We’re also working on offering gift wrapping for those who want to save some gas and time but still shop local and have a gift in time for the party.

OK, pull out your calendars and clear your schedules, I mean it, do it now, you don’t want to feel crushing regret when it’s too late:

Imperial Settlers Night (Saturday August 22, 7pm, $5 cover that can be used as store credit during the evening): Alas, the new Atlanteans expansion has not arrived, but we’re going to gather and play Imperial Settlers anyway. Despite having Settlers in the name, this game is nothing like the Settlers of Catan. Don’t let the simple rules and cute Farmville artwork fool you, many moments in this game can cause serious brain freeze, but it oh so fun. This Saturday we’re going to focus on playing 2-player games only, but feel free to play with more if you’d like. And beginners are absolutely welcome, I and others will be available to teach the game.

Passport Sale (Saturday, August 29, 11am-7pm): BIG, BIG, BIG sale folks! And not just us, the whole neighborhood is throwing a crazy discount, raffling, snacking party! We will be running a massive sidewalk sale with 30-50% tons of items. You can also toss your name in our raffle to win a copy of the new Risk: Game of Thrones game, or any themed Monopoly game of your choice. Other shops throughout the Sellwood/Moreland neighborhood are going just as crazy. Whether you want some goodies for yourself, want to get some early Christmas shopping done, or just want to enjoy the party vibe, get yourself to the neighborhood on August 29!

Cheers all and Happy Gaming.

Posted on August 10th, 2015

Whew, quite a busy summer so far. Lots of people think the game business would slow down in the summer, not true. We’ve got kids running around everywhere and the whole Sellwood neighborhood becomes a shopping destination when the sun is shining. We’re seeing a lot of new faces, many from out of town. Game enthusiasts always seek out cool shops wherever they vacation, and we’re glad that some of them found our little hideout, and we love the kind words they leave us with.

About 5 years ago we set out to create a different kind of game store. We’ve made some blunders and barely cleared a few hurdles to get where we are now. While we’re definitely not the top choice for hardcore gamers, many who are finding us this summer like what we have to offer. Thanks to all of you who support us. We see a lot of great folks who we feel are amazing ambassadors for the hobby, and we’re glad to have them return to our humble game parlour. Thanks also to everyone who made the July Star Realms tournament and the GenCan’t events a blast. If you want to hear some post-event reports, check out the podcasts recorded at the shop by our friends at the Tattered Board.

Now in an effort to keep improving what we offer, we’ve hired on a few new cloud busters, Alex and Eli. Alex is a great guy that we met at our Magic prereleases. Of course he’ll be working on expanding our Magic calendar, but he’ll also be helping me with some game events aimed at younger audiences, as well as helping us run more Saturday night events. Eli is a multi-talented local character who’s been hanging out at the shop for many years now. He is finally old enough to put on the payroll, and you’ll see him mainly on weekends helping out with Pokemon, Magic, and anything else we can rope him into (apparently he’s going to school during the weekdays, and participating in some sort of thing called sports after school).

As for events this month, we’re a bit light. Ben’s been out of town for a good stretch, so we’re working overtime and have little energy to run special events. You can always find our list of regular events on our website, but we do have one special event coming up:

Imperial Settlers Night: Saturday, August 22, 7pm, $5 cover (which can be used for store credit during the evening). Imperial Settlers is one of my favorites, but I do not play it enough. It shines as a 2-player game, so we’re dedicating an evening for playing Imperial Settlers as such. If we get enough players, we can run a small round-robin tournament. Bring your set if you have one.

Speaking of Imperial Settlers, we’ll be running a release event for the Atlanteans expansion when it arrives, hopefully in September.

September should be a busy month in general, at least once we’re back from our vacation. Keep your eyes peeled for a Tides of Time release event, and Epic card game event, and more!

Now for a few highlights from GenCon. For a complete list of what board game geeks liked at the largest game convention in North America, head here. If you see anything on that list that you know you want, let us know, we always offer 20% off on preorders!

On with a few highlights.

2-Player drafting games: My most anticipated games of the convention all fall within a 2-player drafting category, and they will all instantly go into my personal library. 7 Wonders Duel is the only one I have not yet played, so I am super excited to try it out. Ben and I got a sneak play of Tides of Time in Vegas earlier this year, and this is gonna be sweet. Eighteen beautifully illustrated cards comprise a surprisingly rich games. Finally, the Epic card game by the creators of Star Realms will have a draft variant. Epic is going to be Magic the Gathering for board gamers, less broad appeal than Star Realms, but awesome for old guys like me who enjoy Magic but can’t dedicate our lives to it. Expect us to be running release events for all of these games sometime within the next few months.

Codenames: This was the most popular game of the convention with board game geeks, which is not too surprising considering that the convention is a very social event, and this is a very social game. This game is the next big hit in what I like to call the ‘party games for gamers’ genre. If Wil Wheaton hasn’t made everyone angry and the Tabletop show continues with its popularity, Codenames will be on that show. And, at $20, it will not be on shelves for very long, so if you want a copy, let us know soon.

T.I.M.E. Stories: Finally, something extremely unique. This is a fascinating cooperative crime-solving game where players travel back in time, becoming different characters with different abilities, in attempt to solve a set of puzzles and crimes. Apparently the scenario included in the box can be spoiled by watching review videos, so I’m avoiding learning much more about it. But like the previously released Tragedy Looper, this will be one wild and interesting ride, with a richness similar to a game of Arkham Horror. Despite this richness, there are concerns about replayability and price, but I hear the publisher may be throwing in some exploding kitten cards and a few plastic miniatures, so you know you’ll get your money’s worth now.

Happy Summer Gaming!

Posted on June 28th, 2015

I’ve got some cool stuff to talk about, but first we want to give a huge shout-out to all of the great guests at our Splendid evening, and to publisher Asmodee for pushing against the tide and helping brick and mortar stores create splendid events with exclusive items. Keep an eye on our calendar for the next catered Cloud Cap Presents evening where we’ll be playing the amazing game, 7 Wonders, and again getting our hands on some exclusive swag.

Here are some other upcoming events you may be interested in:

Dames and Games, a ladies only game evening every first Friday, July 3, 7pm, $3.

Magic the Gathering Origins prerelease, Saturday, July 11, 1pm, $25. Space is limited so RSVP.

Star Realms Showdown, Saturday, July 25, 7pm, $10. Space is limited, so RSVP.

Now I want to tell you about a strange little Eastern European card game called Spyfall that has finally hit retail shelves thanks to the publisher Cryptozoic. When this puppy shot to the hotness last year I literally snorted at it because by all accounts I should not like this game. Why? Well, for one thing, it requires a large group, and I’m just not normally a large group kinda guy, unless there are lots of corners. Also, there is very little strategy in Spyfall. OK, maybe there is, but it sure isn’t any kind of strategy that I’m accustomed to.

Spyfall is a social deduction game where one player is a spy, and all other players are upstanding secret agents, but nobody knows who is who. All players except the spy have a card telling them the location of a secret meeting, while the spy is trying to fit in with the agents and uncover the meeting location. On your turn you simply ask any other player one question about the meeting location. Agents are trying to find the spy by asking them a question and having them trip up on the answer, the spy is trying to use the questions and answers of other players to identify the meeting location. So questions and answers all have to be a bit vague, yet informative.

While Spyfall is a social deduction game, it is not the drunken screaming contest known as the Resistance. Spyfall is more like Dixit in that it forces blood into the shriveled capillaries buried within the dark recesses of my abstract verbal brain. Whether I’m the spy or an agent, I agonize over questions and answers. It’s very uncomfortable because my brain is much more accustomed to staring at an insanely busy game board while working through complex equations about how best to move hundreds of cubes and cardboard. Sometimes I feel like a grumpy old man playing those games, but every time I play Spyfall I feel like I’m getting younger, like my mind is reverting back to the more flexible days of youth. That, my friends, is rarely a bad thing, so I highly recommend Spyfall, just be prepared for a difficult and seemingly broken challenge, oh, and lots and lots of baggies.

Speaking of baggies, how about a way to get rid of them? The answer lies with a line of game pimping devices from the unaptly named company, Broken Token, that will free you from ziplock burping forever. Broken Token makes custom laser-cut wooden game box inserts. While I’d heard of their products many times, it was not until I saw demos at the trade show in March that I became wholeheartedly convinced that spending an extra $25-$30 on a cherished game was well worth it. My number one game of all time, Mage Knight, is now more beautiful than I thought possible, and a tad heavier. Our 7 Wonders game with all expansions is pristine, and Lords of Waterdeep with the expansion fits snugly now. The Broken Token box inserts are about more than just storage though, they are rapidly accelerate game setup and tear down. 7 Wonders with all of the expansions can be a nightmare to setup, especially if you have to open and close 20 different baggies. Now, the cards are neatly organized and all the bits come onto the table in the same trays used to store them. We’ve gone from 20 steps to 5 steps for set up. Furthermore, when the games are all packed away, I can take them with on a neck-breaking rollercoaster ride and all the pieces stay in their happy homes. If there is a game you love, a game you want forever and will play many, many times, do it a favor and give it the Broken Token treatment and watch a huge smile spread across it’s face and yours.

What I’ve been playing: My game group is still sticking mainly to older games, too many new ones has us a bit jaded when so many great ones just collect dust on the shelf. The newest game we’ve played is Murano by designers Inka and Markus Brand. We also recently played one of their older out of print games, Guatemala Cafe. This married design couple is best known for their highly praised game, Village. Every time I play one of their games, they inch further up my list of favorite designers. Elegant rulesets, reasonable playtimes, and good strategic depth and player interaction. Charon Inc. is another of their hidden gems. Other games we recently played were multiple rounds of the fantastic dicey Space game, Quantum, an epic 5-player game of Spartacus, and a completely imbalanced game of Age of Steam.

On the horizon: GenCon 2015! Too many games to talk about, so I’ll write a separate post soon!

Happy Gaming everyone!

 

Posted on June 5th, 2015

Spring is award season in the game trade. New releases are slim, so with the awards we get to look back at some of the best titles from the year before. Let’s jump right in and take a look at some of the highlights.

The Academy awards of gaming are the Spiel des Jahr and the associated Kinderspiel des Jahr and Kennerspiel des Jahres. As you may have guessed by the German spellings, these awards are judged by a jury of professional German game journalists. That’s right folks, the jurors are professional journalists writing about games. While we’re seeing more and more of this develop stateside, not many people are quitting their day jobs to go full time at it.

Anyway, here are the nominees for the Spiel des Jahres, which highlights games for more casual players and families. The jury went with Machi Koro, Colt Express, and the game called The Game. Now The Game (such a bad title) is not yet available in the states, so I cannot comment on that one. But we have played and enjoyed both Machi Koro and Colt Express, and the feedback we receive from customers on these titles is overwhelmingly positive. In fact, Machi Koro was in our top seller list for nearly 5 straight months.

Now there is a lot of hubbub over the Spiel choices, as there is every year. Many gamers who have been in the hobby for some time think the jury made some very poor choices. Ignore those naysayers, they are simply trying to get on the gamer football team or cheerleading squad and are far more concerned about how they look playing games than the enjoyment they get from them. The fact is, the Spiel award is now much more focused on casual and family games than ever before, so hardcore hobbyists should move right along to the next award category, the Kennerspiel des Jahrs.

The Kennerspiel des Jahr award was created to highlight exceptional games for people who are looking for a greater intellectual challenge. The nominees are Elysium, Orleans, and Broom Service. Again, Broom Service is not available stateside, so no comment. Elysium just hit the shelves a few weeks ago, and I love it. It is a card drafting and combo-creating game with far more direct interaction among players than you find in a typical Euro-style game. Because it is a card-combo game, it is not for everyone, but do give it a shot, we have one on the rental shelf. You can also give the Tattered Board a listen to, we were on their podcast the evening of our Elysium prerelease party.

I have not played Orleans and it is not readily available, but I’m guessing it is the top choice for the award in the US market because it did make an appearance on Kickstarter last year. From all accounts, it does sound like a very interesting take on the worker placement style game. For those of you trying out for the football team, I expect to see highly expensive imported copies of both Orleans and Broom Service in your game bags ASAP! I want to play them, and I’m just the uncool nerd stuck with regular retail games (it lets me save my money for highly expensive fly tying materials though).

I would discuss the Kinderspiel des Jahr nominees, but absolutely none of them are available in the states, and likely never will be. There is no denying that the US and European kids game market is worlds apart, and most publishers are aware enough to not bother porting the games stateside. I expect this may change with the next generation as kids growing up now playing games with their families will seek out kids games for their own chitlins. But we have a very long way to go. If you are looking for more European style kids games, the publisher HABA is your best bet right now, though we do have some great ones from Schmidt Spiel and Mayfair. I just played a great one last night with a few young ones called Enchanted Tower. Simple, but evocative enough to keep the young imaginative mind enthralled.

So besides the granddaddy of awards in Germany, we also heard from Mensa and the Parent’s Choice committees. I’ll just highlight some of the games that are currently available on our shelves, and we’ll be working to get some of the others. My favorite is the Mensa award for the Castles of Mad King Ludwig. This was absolutely my top pick from last year, maybe I should apply for Mensa? Some of the other Mensa nominees look interesting, but until we get our hands on them we cannot comment. For Parent’s Choice awards,the list is large, and we have a bunch of them worth checking out if you want to gather with the family. Color Clash, Wink, Ubongo, and Cauldron Quest are some of the highlights, come on in and try a demo at the shop with the kids.

Ok gang, time to work through a stack of paperwork before a sweet, sweet gaming and BBQ day. Happy gaming!

Posted on April 15th, 2015

It’s that time of year again, the time of no new releases. For the next few months we’ll hear about all the wonderful goodies that will pop up at GenCon in August and the Spiel in October. But right now, that is all we do, hear about the games, we don’t get to play them.

Lucky for us, the new Merchants and Marauders expansion dropped just before no-new-release 2nd quarter officially got under way. A customer recently asked what single game I would want with me on a desert isle, Merchants was 2nd on that list. It may be a bit much for most folks, but what a rewarding experience. No other game really captures the feeling of being a 16th century Caribbean sailor like Merchants does, and the expansion adds so much more theme with only small additions to the rules. So I’m not too bummed about the lack of new releases, I’ll be sailing through the second quarter with contraband and rum in the cargo hold.

Speaking of good games, a true Amerifun classic hit the table this weekend for a birthday celebration, Twilight Imperium 3rd edition. The game was supposed to start around 6pm but we took our first turn at 9:45pm after a long TableTop Day celebration. A group of 8 great guys were gathered until about 2am for just a fraction of the full game. But man, what a good time. Despite the fact that I was being a complete jerk to my neighbors due to my warlike race, the laughing and camaraderie dominated.

That night was a prime example of why I love tabletop games. We decided to end the game early but none of us really cared because we had such a great time. The game was a blast, but it really just served as a catalyst. Winning, losing, or evaluating the game in relation to others did not matter one bit. OK, winning was probably important, but still secondary.

Selling games is my job, and it’s a lot of work trying to keep our silly little shop’s head above water. It is often easy to forget why I chose to get into the business in the first place. Well, that game of Twilight Imperium, and the game of Merchants & Marauders the night before, oh yeah, and the game of Thunder Alley two nights earlier, that’s why I’m in the biz. Beyond the race to the bottom discounting, Kickstarter, good/bad game/game store nonsense, I want to see others enjoying the unique experience of playing great tabletop games with great people. The gaming nights I shared last week will serve as reminders for weeks to come. Thanks Dan for having a birthday, sorta felt like I got one too.

Happy Sailing gang!

Posted on March 27th, 2015

We made it back safe and sound after a very awesome trip. Vegas got old fast, but the games did not. I think all of us agree that we did not get to play nearly as many games as we would have liked, but that is really just a day-to-day problem.

The GAMA show is a business show: talking to vendors, analyzing products, taking advantage of special offers, listening to talks by more experienced retailers, and chatting with others in the industry. I was hunting games that I not only liked, but games that had appeal for a wider audience, our audience. See, ordering the strategy games is pretty easy, gamers are vocal about what they are interested in, and there are lots of podcasts and news sites to go to for the buzz. It’s finding the games for everyone else that is tricky, but it’s what sets us apart from the other guys. Nearly all of the other retailers at the show see 60% or more of their profit from Magic, we rely on setting all kinds of folks up with game experiences that they will enjoy.

Speaking of enjoyable gaming experiences, here are some of our highlights from the show:

  • The first few days were spent listening to talks. Day one talks were about professional development, day two talks were publisher announcements. Some lessons learned, no game playing, and constant hunting for affordable food. One lesson learned: Tom Vasel of the Dice Tower is a giant!
  • When the exhibition hall opened on day 3, we bee-lined to the Star Realms booth to test out their upcoming game, Epic. This is not a deck-builder. It is based on Magic but is non-collectible, it has a fantasy theme and allows for draft, sealed, and constructed play variants out of a single $15 box. We only played partial games, and I desperately want to play more. This game is going to be awesome.
  • Shortly after that we talked with Ignacy Trzewiczek, designer and owner of Portal games. We gushed over Imperial Settlers, so he invited us to playtest the new faction the following morning. Ben and I were far too excited to function well for the whole rest of the day.
  • Wednesday night we attended an awesome game night, hundreds of retailers, designers, and publishers doing what they loved most, playing games. Well, some of the stalwarts of the industry just stood around talking about their immense success. We were not with them, we played games.
  • Our first game night game: One Night Ultimate Werewolf with the designer himself, Ted Alspach. None of us had ever played this game and after two rounds we were sold. It is a great 10 minutes. And Ted Alspach is an incredibly towering and jolly guy.
  • Next game: Elysium. Ben has been looking at this for a while, I knew very little about it. It was great. Sort of like a Splendor for big kids. We’ll be participating in the Asmodee prerelease offer (we get to demo it and sell it two weeks prior to online retailers. This is representative of a big them of the show: Brick and Mortar stores actually do matter!), so keep your eyes open for an Elysium night.
  • We spent the rest of night at the Iello table learning a slew of small casual games. We were not so excited about the Iello talk the day before, but some of the games we played were awesome, and the reps playing with us were even better. Good stuff on the way.
  • Thursday morning (earlier than we would have liked after a late night of Vegas): Gaming with Ignacy. HOLY CRAP! Ignacy is super cool and very passionate. We spent 3 hours in his hotel room with him as a patient father walking us through the amazing new Imperial Settlers faction, a round of Neuroshima Hex, and a prototype that we mentioned would be a huge hit, especially for one of our largest groups of customers, couples. Couples you say? Ignacy said we should try Legacy, the Testament of Duke de Crecy, so come back to his room the next morning. Great, now Ben and I can’t function for another whole day.
  • Thursday night was the Star Realms tournament. The Star Realms guys are amazing, the tournament was a casual thing, and everyone (even the losers like me) walked away with tons of swag. Losing did not matter too much to me, I got to chat it up with a number of cool retailers, swapping shop stats and strategies. Did I mention that I cannot wait for the Epic game by the Star Realms guys?
  •  Friday morning (again way too early), Kirsten joins us in Ignacy’s room for a round of Legacy. Very cool game, and Ignacy again patiently sits with us the entire time. We walk away with smiles, a copy of the game, and a signed copy of his book.
We flew back to a busy weekend and serious exhaustion. I’ve been grumpy all week with all the work I have to do. I learned some valuable lessons that I may share in a future post. For now, I still have a ton of work to do and I’m not playing enough games. See you soon!