Posted on November 22nd, 2013

This past Monday, Facebook sent me a friendly reminder that a friend, who was once just a customer, was getting one year older. Having some time off, I game him a call and he finagled the afternoon off work so we could get together and play one of his new favorite games, Eldritch Horror, Fantasy Flight’s new game based on the ficiton of H.P. Lovecraft. Now I’m not a Lovecraft fan, and Fantasy Flight’s most popular Lovecraft game, Arkham Horror, remedies my insomnia. So I had my doubts about playing Eldritch Horror, but not with this friend. I’ll play nearly anything with this guy.

See, I love gaming for two main reasons. First, I crave the unique mental challenge and stimulation that board games provide. But second, and just as important, I crave the social interaction that board games foster. Driving up to Washington this Monday to play with a friend who was once a customer reminded me of just how important the social aspect of our hobby is.

In the 3 years that the shop has been open, I’ve played games with more strangers than ever before, and now many of those people are more than strangers. Some are now friends and some have become employees. Some have become co-designers and perhaps future business partners.

So here’s a big thank you to our great regular customers and game night crew. I’ve honestly never attended better game nights and love playing games with you guys. See you Saturday gang!

Now for new games this week, none. Just save your money for Eldritch Horror next week and Caverna in a few weeks. By the way, Eldritch Horror is a blast, even if Arkham Horror frightens you. And when Caverna arrives I want to have a Caverna-only game night because our preorders are through the roof!

Finally, don’t forget about the shopping deals next weekend. Little Boxes is going to get you into a great raffle and give you discounts at tons of great Portland shops. Supportland is offering triple points! That means you’ll get 15 points for a purchase, and considering that there are a ton of sweet rewards for 50-100 points, it won’t take much shopping to get free stuff. Most of the Little Boxes shops are also Supportland members, so if you need to do some shopping, pound some pavement next weekend and get some goodies. Or, go get trampled on 82nd avenue.

Happy Gaming folks!

Posted on November 14th, 2013

In this episode: games from Essen (and a way to receive 20% off your favorites) and early holiday shopping events (with even more ways to save money on games).

The big game convention in Essen, Germany, called the Spiel, is all the buzz right now in the board gaming world. For those not entrenched in the hobby, the show in Essen is where some of the best strategy board games ever made are released every year. Unlike our big stateside game show, GenCon, the Spiel in Essen sees very little Cosplay (wearing costumes of your favorite geek characters), and the show in Essen attracts a much wider audience due to the mainstream nature of board gaming overseas. Serious game enthusiasts and casual, family game players all come together for the event, and gamers from ages 5-85 are found parked on the convention floor trying out new games, together! Simply awesome.

What Essen means for board gamers is a tsumani of new and great board games, with absolutely no idea when that tsunami will hit the American shoreline. Quite often, the tsumani is more of a small series of big waves that strike our shores from the very end of the 4th quarter through the second quarter of next year.

For the past few years following the Spiel, a local gamer has organized an invite-only event, called the Sasquatch Board Games Festival, where over 100 of the games from Essen are available to play. Below I’ve reprinted the top ten games from the Sasquatch festival to give you an idea of what we gringos are perhaps most interested in. All the games on the list are slated to be released in the states. Sadly, only a tiny fraction of the games shown at Essen will make it stateside. Note:  nearly 100% of Kickstarter games get published in the states, while maybe 10% of the amazing Essen games make it over here every year, try to get some sleep after seeing that scary statistic!

Top 10 Games of those Played at the Sasquatch Games Festival

1. Glass Road
2. Amerigo
3. Concordia
4. Caverna
5. Bruxelles 1893
6. Nations
7. Buccaneer Bones
8. Lewis & Clark
9. Rampage
10. Snake Oil!

Take a good look at this list and see if there is anything on there that you would be interested in. Copies of these games are going to be limited, and we will be ordering only a few copies to have on hand. If you really want one of these games, give our preorder system a try, which gets you a 20% discount and a guaranteed copy of the game in all but the rarest of cases. And tell your friends about this deal, there is a perception that we are the most expensive game store in town when quite the opposite is actually true when you learn about all of our deals. In fact our new arrivals table has a serious deal or two every week now!

Speaking of ways to save money, we have 2 great community shopping events coming up soon. The first is called Little Boxes on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday (November 29 & 30). It is a sweet event organized by local folks to encourage shopping at local stores rather than online and big box. Not only will you enjoy 10% off at nearly every store you visit, you can enter a raffle to win some amazing prizes every time you visit a store, purchase or not. We participated last year and saw how this event was able to make holiday shopping fun and relaxing. Check out more details here. The second event is our homegrown Sellwood/Moreland Decemberville Holiday Shopping day on Saturday December 7.  Again, you’ll be saving some dough and be able to enter a great raffle. I’ll be saying more about these events soon, but mark your calendars now!

Happy gaming everyone!

 

Posted on October 29th, 2013

That’s right folks, we’ve made it through three gaming years, and we’re throwing a thank you party! Join us this Saturday (November 2) for a store-wide sale, some markdown tables with crazy deals, giveaways, and of course gaming. At night, we’ll be throwing a celebration for our game night punch-card holders, there are over 50 of you now and we’re gonna say thank you with some homemade chili, beer, a raffle, and gaming!

Our goal was to provide a retail and play environment different from that already on offer. We feel we’ve done that and we are pleased with the community that has developed over the years. We’ve been called silly as a slight, but we now wear that title with pride, because what it really means is that we are unconventional, as far as game stores go. Most gamers prefer conventional and online, but our growth over the past 3 years demonstrates there are enough of you out there who want something different.

Thanks to all of you, we’ll keep working hard to stay silly. Come celebrate with us this Saturday!

Oh yeah, Happy Halloween too. We wanted to get a Halloween party game night going but  anniversary party planning has dominated our schedule. Please do come in costume and bust out the horror games this Wednesday night if you feel so inclined.

PS: Clash of Cultures, I love you

Posted on October 18th, 2013

Well the big news this week, at least for many, is the release of the Firefly Board Game. This puppy was hot at GenCon, but not all GenCon darlings maintain their temperature once outside the convention hall (hi there Quarriors). I’ll give you more of my thoughts about this game below, as well as thoughts on a few other games. Despite the fantastic weather lately, I’ve been choosing games over fish, so I’ve played a bunch and thought I’d give you my thoughts on them, starting with the gorram Alliance elephant in the room. Don’t expect the same next week as the upcoming weather looks too amazing to pass up.

 

Also, don’t miss our big anniversary party on Saturday, November 2. Big sale all day, party all night!

 

Mini-Reviews (with some snark, and links to the boardgamegeek page for more information. Just add shipping to the cost when you click on those cheap prices, or buy a few more games you’ll never play to get free shipping!).

Firefly, the Game: First off, if you don’t like or know the show, don’t even touch this game. Firefly is a fully American adventure style game, reminiscent of classics in the genre like Talisman and Betrayal at House on the Hill. At its core, it is a pick up and deliver game: go to a planet, pick up goods, deliver them for a reward. Along the way though you will risk encounters with either the Alliance, the Reavers, or both. You’ll also be forced to repair your ship, have the opportunity to salvage abandoned ships, or shop at various supply planets to pimp out your ship and crew. Very American, but strangely, with very little player interaction. I can’t honestly praise this game for its design, yet I still really want to play it again. Creating an awesome cast of characters with sweet equipment is fun, and mapping a safe route across the board with a load of goods is satisfying. But strategy game it is not. This is Talisman in space, so you’ll have very little control over your fate, which means you’ll absolutely feel like you’re getting by on the seat of your pants. Also, if you pick up this game, head straight to Ikea for an extra table, you’re gonna need it.

Dungeon Roll: Dungeon Roll is a sweet little treasure chest full of lovely dice and fantasy characters. Like Firefly, this is a box full of Americana. It’s a push-your-luck dice game, which usually implies that you’ll have only two choices to make each turn, keep rolling or stop, and the only way you screw up is by rolling up some bad luck. In Dungeon Roll though, you’ll have character abilities and various treasures that expand your choices each turn and actually create the possibility of playing poorly beyond just pushing too far. Great Fun, and the perfect way to pass the time while you wait for your roleplaying buddies to show up.

Strut: A dice and cards game that took about 10 tries to play correctly. Now, its a great game. You’ll have a hand of cards showing dice combinations, and your goal is to quickly call Strut! when you think the dice on the table match your card. With a mix of speed and tactics, you will not be sitting around waiting. Plus, we’ve found that it appeals to both casual gamers and hardcore hobbyists, well, not the hobbyists who don’t like a little noise.

Lost Legends: Designer Mike Elliot is back with another fantasy twist on a popular card game. Shortly after the release of the now famous Dominion, Mike Elliot’s Thunderstone hit the shelves with a dungeon crawl take on Dominion. Thunderstone was far from the elegant perfection of Dominion, but it was still a blast to play. Elliot’s latest game, Lost Legends, is a dungeon crawl version of 7 wonders, with card drafting to build your character followed by a battle phase to achieve experience points. Again, the game is a bit mathy and completely unbalanced, but still very fun as a dungeon crawly experience. Absolutely want to play this more.

Bruges: Stephan Feld has been a very productive designer of late, with at least 3 games released this year. Bruges is one of his latest releases and it is a unique and swift card game with some board elements. A set of dice will strongly influence your choices each round, and each card in your hand belongs to one of 5 suits and can be played in 6 different ways. One way to play your cards is add them to a cast of characters in your little piece of the city, who will then benefit you in various ways. Sounds a bit mind-boggling up front, but after a few rounds a rhythm develops and the game hums along. For an hour-long game, Bruges is an immensely rich and satisfying experience.

Clash of Cultures: Now that this game is back in print, I’ve had the opportunity to play it a few more times. Like all other civilization building games, you will start with a piddly settlement and try to become a full blown nation. Also like other civ games, you can focus on becoming a military powerhouse, a spiritual leader, an economic mastermind, a learned society, or any combination thereof. The rules are streamlined for a civ game, yet the replay depth remains. The technology advancement tree provides numerous possible combinations, and often your opponent’s decisions can strongly influence your choice of advancements. The map, which will be randomly assembled each game, has a major impact on strategy since the terrain will limit movement and resource collection. On top of all this, you have objective cards that encourage you to follow specific paths to grab some victory points, paths that often seem odd to your opponent. Then we have the action cards and event cards, all of which can hurt or help you or your opponents. Despite its long playtime, about 90 minutes per player, I’m always sad to see the game end because it does feel like you just got your civilization to a sweet spot and you want to watch it grow.

Through the Ages: Oh Vlaada, you are lucky you live so far away, because I would stalk you, I love you that much. Through the Ages is another amazing civ game that feels so much different than any other game in the genre. The biggest difference is apparent right out of the box: no map tiles. This game is all cards; every advancement, leader, and military unit is represented by cards and annoying little wooden cylinders placed on the cards (or rolling off the cards and onto the floor). Acquiring new advancements for your civ involves grabbing cards from an ever changing offer, and each age, the offer gets better. Now I’ve only played an abbreviated version of this game, 2 ages and no war, and even the short version provides an insane amount of variety across plays. With this game and Clash of Cultures, I may not need to play any other games in my lifetime, until another civ game gets released.

Cheers and happy gaming everyone!

Posted on October 5th, 2013

We’ve only got a few new arrivals to mention this week, and I’ll bet that none of them were eagerly anticipated, but there could just be a few sleeper hits here. A few notable reprints arrived as well, Clash of Cultures and le Havre, both hefty and excellent games.

Flying Kung Fu Frogs: Most of you have probably played with the little plastic frogs that hop when you press on their back ends. With Kung Fu Flying Frogs, you get a box of those critters and a motorized bamboo tree training center to launch them at. Nothing high brow here, just good old fun with plastics.

Jenga Space Invaders: Like Flying Kung Fu Frogs and the original Jenga, Jenga Space Invaders will pleasantly accompany any gathering in need of some mayhem. Space Invaders Jenga is just like the original, but with great graphics and thematic instructions on the blocks you successfully remove. A fine coffee table centerpiece for the 8-bit fans.

Munchkin Tricky Treats: More Munchkin for Halloween. What’s in the little foil pack? It really doesn’t matter, its more Munchkin, it won’t let you down.

Now, a rant.

Warning: if you tend to take everything literally and generally lack a good sense of humor, absolutely do not read on.

Now, last Saturday was meaty game day, an event we created to allow people to get a head start on game night and play long, deep, possibly epic games. Meaty games take up tons of table space and require serious stamina. A meaty game should leave the players weary and exhausted, but immensely satisfied, you know, like a great Thanksgiving dinner. On Meaty Game Day, I was hoping to see heads bowed over massive game boards with tons of bits. I wanted to hear hours of anguish and joy, as if everyone  just ate 10 times more than they should have of the best darn ham on the planet.

Instead, Meaty Game Day has become an opportunity to play one more appetizer game. Now Duple and Strut and Bruges and Las Vegas and many other similar games are all excellent games, but they should not be the main course of a Meaty Game meal. I’m not seeing thick pork shoulders on the tables, just a bunch of neatly cut veggies with some hummus to dip them in.

With only a few exceptions, Meaty Game Day has always been on the brink of becoming entirely vegetarian.  We’ve had at least one customer working hard to get some more meat in the shop, with some success. I know for sure we’ve actually lost a few customers because of the lighter fare generally offered on Meaty Game Days.

But really, no one is to blame for this except ourselves. We designed a store that appeals largely to casual gamers, or folks just getting into the hobby. Our ambiance definitely does not say “these guys game hard!”. Well, at least once a month we’d like to.

I get it, it is difficult to sit down and commit to a single game that will take all night when surrounded by a sea of gaming options. What if you don’t like the game? What if the table next to you is playing something you’d like to try? What if you lose after all that time? It is much easier to swallow a terrible game or a horrible loss if it only lasts a few hours. Commitment and stepping outside of your comfort zone is just part of the Meaty Game Day experience, open yourself up to it.

So I challenge everyone to eat a massive gaming meal on the last Saturday of every month. I’m talking games that are longer than 3 hours, the shorter ones can be played on any regular game night, that’s right the other 7 times a month. And while games with tiny chits and a pre-1990 publication date work just fine, there are plenty of modern slabs of meat, and I know many of our regulars own them. Nearly everything Fantasy Flight makes could be considered meaty.

We’ve got two large tables for the big games, the round table could work for some. We’ll set up extra tables if needed at 4pm for other meaty games, the veggies will have to wait until 6pm. So If you show up at 4pm on the last Saturday of the month be prepared, we may just sit you down and force you to play a protein-rich meal.

Posted on September 26th, 2013

Hey there gamers, sit back and enjoy the first of hopefully many guest contributions to our blog. Don’t be fooled though, he really isn’t all that grumpy. Check out the rest of his family blog at C. Jane Reid.

For those interested in new games arriving this week, we’ll have the new Netrunner data pack and the fantasy card drafting game, Lost Legends. Enjoy!

Grumpy Old Gamer Reviews: 1775: Rebellion and 1812:The Invasion of Canada (and a micro Edo review)

 
1775: Rebellion

Grumpy Old Gamer reviews

1812: The Invasion of Canada

and

1775 Rebellion

-or-

War Games for Gamers Who Hate War Gaming

It’s time to be a bit honest.  And a bit (more) grumpy.

I have a love/hate relationship with war games.  I want to be a old, grumpy war gamer, but I can’t. And it isn’t for a lack of trying or investment. It just that most traditional war games are too long and complicated for me.

Case in point:

One year for my wife’s birthday, I wanted to surprise her with a board game that reflected her personal interests and would be a game she would want to play with me.  She always had a great deal of interest in World War I and wrote her thesis on poets from that time period. It was also the year the movie “Warhorse” came out, so I figured a board game based on World War I would be a perfect gift we could both enjoy. Thus, after much researching, I bought Paths of Glory.

It was a great game.

And we only played once with the introductory set up.

Now, don’t get me wrong here.  Paths of Glory is a fantastic simulation of the Great War, complete with starting the Russian Revolution, and all the historical flavor and events that transpired. But the game takes almost an entire day to play.

And the rules… Oh sweet mercy…

If I am going to play a game that takes all day, I would rather play Twilight Imperium 3rd ed., with a group of 8 players.  We still have yet to play Path of Glory all the way through.  It’s on my bucket list and I will do it some day, but finding time to play that long of a game with my wife is not going to happen anytime soon.

Thus began my quest for a fast, fun, and quick war game. I searched for years, found some really cool war games along the way (like Rex and A Game of Thrones), but it wasn’t until I found a copy of 1812: The Invasion of Canada sitting alone in a corner of a board game store that my quest came to an end.

1812: The Invasion of Canada

And I can tell you that 1812, and its sequel 1775: Rebellion are the best introductory war games I have had the pleasure of playing.

There are several reasons why. First is that they are fun.  Both games are designed to be played as teams with over 2 players.  This insures that there is little to no downtime between turns as you are engaged by strategizing and rolling your armies dice between turns in a round. The teamwork these games produce is amazing.

1775 pieces and board. Looks like America is holding on to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, but the British have New Jersey (the mind boggles).

1812 pieces and board. The British are coming!

Second is the simplicity of the rules.  Battles are brilliantly abstracted to dice rolls that accommodate retreating, fleeing, and hitting. There are no charts to consult on dice rolls as in most war games. Play a movement card, move an army in, and let the massacre begin. You win the game by controlling the most areas/colonies, which is triggered by treaty cards.  And finally, both games are surprisingly educational. Each faction has special cards that contains some historical facts and flavor.

I have played both games with a different number of players and a wide range of ages, and each game has been a rousing success.  My daughter and her cousin both destroyed me as the a British in 1812.  One game of 1775 came down one die roll to who would win the game. Personally, I can’t wait for my daughter to study American history in school when we play again.

Here is what some of my fellow board gamers have said during the game.

‘This is a much better version of Risk’

‘This game is really fun’

‘I like making super armies’

‘Let’s take down these ungrateful colonists’

‘Time for a tea party.’

‘Run away! Run away!’

“If we move here we won’t entirely lose the game.” 1775 Gameplay
 
“Warships. We need warships.” 1812 Gameplay

So here is the bottom line from a grumpy gamer: If you enjoy marching armies to their doom, like rolling dice, and want a game that could get pretty rowdy as you watch your opponent’s plan fall apart because your army rolls hits while the opposing army rolls flees, these are the games for you. If I had to decide between the two, I think 1775 is a slightly more refined game, but 1812 handles five players really well.

~*~

A Note from the Blogmistress:

I love games with strategy, so naturally war board games are some of my favorite. But I must agree, most of them require more time then we can pull together. So it is nice to have a couple of lighter war games to get a bit of a strategy fix and still manage to pull together dinner before heading off to work.

1812 and 1775 are fun. The event cards are interesting, the boards are gorgeous, and the themes are decently represented given the basic game play. My daughter is quite invested in whoever is playing the Native Americans, so she likes to watch us play. She also demands the super armies, which look neat all in a group swooping in to try to take over an area, but in reality, you only roll as many dice as you have, so super armies are more like a handful of soldiers with a whole bunch in reserve. Which works in your favor, usually, but that’s quite a commitment of resources in one area.

But she’s nine and she just likes to see all the cubes ganging up together. The finer strategies will come later.

I also agree that of the two, 1775 is the more refined. And I’d like to add that the game coming down to a die roll . . . yeah, that was me and yeah, I won.

~*~
Bonus mini grumpy review:

Edo

This is a pretty cool worker placement/area control game.  It has a really neat planning phase with tiles that are hidden from your opponents, and the artwork on the board is gorgeous.

HOWEVER….

If I have a samurai on the board that I am feeding with rice, and I am paying money to move, that damn thing better be able to go across the board and kick some major ass and wreak some havoc for me.  All this jerk does is supervise erecting buildings in a city and gather wood and stones and more rice? This is what my bad ass warrior does? Harvest wood?  Seriously?  WOOD?

Sigh….

Maybe an expansion will let me use all that wood to make spears that will rain death and destruction upon my foes instead of making a trading post.

I am going to have to play this one again sometime.  I never let a first play taint my opinion of a game, and I am intrigued with the scoring mechanic.

I just had to rant about my useless samurai.

Oh yea… A big thank you to Cloud Cap Games! Great store, great gamers, great fun!  If you are ever curious about any game I review, go check them out. They can demo almost any game for you, and there are weekly game nights that have some of the best people to board game with in the Portland, OR/SW Washington area. Go check em out!