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!
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.
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.
Grumpy Old Gamer reviews
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:
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.
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?
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!
Well I think we have hit the tail end of new releases coming from GenCon. We’ll have a few good ones hitting the shelves in the next few months, with Firefly being the one most people are waiting for. Others to watch for soon are the Kennerspiel des Jahres nominee, Palaces of Carrara, as well as reprints of Terra Mystica and Robinson Crusoe. For everything but Carrara, if you want a copy from us, get us your preorders (at 20% off as always) because quantities will be very limited and we will not see additional print runs before the end of the year.
Below are highlights of what is currently parked on the new release table. In addition to these games, we received restocks on both our Ravensburger and Pomegranate puzzles, and look for the awesome Eurographics puzzle line to hit our shelves soon (not sure where we’re gonna fit all those):
Bora Bora: Yes, another Stefan Feld game, and it looks like his last for some time. He’s a school teacher so I’m guessing he had a few very productive summers and that’s why we’re seeing two solid years of Feld releases. Bora Bora is a typical Feld game: insignificant theme, a mashup of mechanics, and thousands of ways to score victory points. Still, I think it stands out as one of the best of his mashup games, with huge replay value due to the many paths to victory and strong competition at all places on the board.
Spyrium: Shortly on the heels of the re-release of Caylus we have a new game by William Attia. This is a worker placement style game set in a steampunk version of England. Spyrium is a valuable resource, and processing it and selling it earns you victory points. Unlike other worker placement games, placing your workers does not necessarily let you perform an action, and each player decides independently when to switch from placing workers to activating theme. Sounds like a lot of game in a small box and at a great price.
Cardline, Animals: Timeline from Asmodee publishing is one of our best selling family games. Now Asmodee has taken the Timeline concept to the animal kingdom. In Cardline, you’ll be given a hand of cards, all depicting animals, and the back of each card, which you cannot peek at, lists the animal’s height, weight, and length. The goal is to get rid of all your cards first by correctly lining up your animal cards in the center of the table according to the chosen attribute. Great art and intuitive gameplay is guaranteed to give Asmodee another huge hit. I’m predicting that the Timeline and Cardline games are going to be the next hobby game lines to hit big box shelves.
Jungle Ascent: Nobody has heard of this game, but I could not resist bringing it in. It reminds a bit of Donkey Kong with many players racing to the top of the board, but those crushing barrels and critters are coming from other players! Sounds like a blast to play with litle geeks.
Happy gaming everyone!
Well GenCon is finished and the hot new titles are making their way to stores. Here’s a list of what we’ve received during the past few weeks:
Lords of Waterdeep, Scoundrels of Skullport expansion: The fast and fun Dungeons and Dragons themed european style worker placement game just got better with a box of expansion items. The best is the new corruption resource, which will count against you at the end of the game based on the total taken by all players. This adds an interesting wrinkle to the term resource management. The new lords, quests, buildings, and intrigue cards all add to the depth as well. This is one expansion we’ll be playing with every time now. If you have not tried the original game, do yourself a favor. The hardcore gamers stay away from this one, so you know its fun!
Yedo: This game is being described as Lords of Waterdeep in Japan. Just like Lords of Waterdeep, you’ll be gathering resources to complete missions and earn prestige points. You’ll also have the opportunity to do some trading, and of course, mess with other clan leader’s plans. Look for this on the rental shelf soon, and possible a demo session this Sunday, interested?.
Caylus: The classic worker placement and building game is back with a great new look. Again, comparisons have been made between this classic and Lords of Waterdeep. Where Waterdeep is a perfect for a more casual strategy experience, Caylus will push your tiny little neurons to their processing limits. Grab this new version and throw yourself a little Caylabration!
Trains: Love deckbuilding? Trains is for you. Take the variety of Dominion and add the ability to use your cards to build train routes on the board and you have Trains. Still light and fast like Dominion, but with more depth. Look for this one on the rental shelf as well.
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: The folks at Paizo, publishers of the ultimate fantasy roleplying system, have hit a home run with this card game. Experience the Rise of the Runelords campaign as a solo experience, or cooperatively with some buddies. Between each scenario, customize your hero’s deck with some of hte new loot you hopefully collected. Paizo has developed a solid game with very unique card play and interactivity. Working on getting this to the rental shelf as well.
Krosmaster Arena: I’ve talked about this wacky little Japanime game before. I shouldn’t love it but I do. It is a tactical miniatures game, but so much cuter and more colorful. It feels silly to like it as much as I do, but so be it. This one is now on the rental shelf, and it has perhaps the best rulebook we’ve ever seen with built in tutorials. Check this one out for a refreshing change!
Happy gaming everyone!
Our August vacations, both planned and unplanned, are now over, and we’re getting back into the swing of things, just in time because the new games are flooding us. I’m going to try and talk a bit more about those on friday.
Right now though, I want to discuss 2 things: the change in feeling toward Kickstarter and my unexpected love affair with Krosmaster Arena.
So when this whole Kickstarter thing got going for board games, everyone was excited, including me. Alien Frontiers and Eminent Domain were two games that sprang to life via crowdfunding, and I still thoroughly enjoy both of them. In fact, Alien Frontiers is absolutely my favorite Kickstarter game to date. Trouble is, those two games were released over 2 years ago.
Since those releases, we’ve seen a few years of, in my opinion, pretty lackluster games. As a retailer, the past few years of Kickstarter titles are largely no-sellers, but even worse, as a consumer I have found nothing of value to fund.
While I grew increasingly bitter about Kickstarter titles during the past few years, it seemed like everyone else was frantically spending more than their paycheck on every title that popped onto the site, especially anything with miniatures. Even worse, my favorite podcasts were overrun by announcements for new Kickstarter games, and the podcasters were slobbering over how awesome a game looked. I heard almost nothing about how the games played though, largely because none of them were produced yet.
I have felt strangely out of place. I felt guilty about my lack of interest in new Kickstarter projects (which, by the way, was nearly one per day last year). It felt a bit like being in a sci fi or zombie movie where most people turn into slaves to some corporation or infection, but some are able to resist, just to feel very out of place and vulnerable.
Presently, the mood is shifting though. The number of Kickstarter projects that go wrong is increasing, and backers may not receive a refund on their investment. Also, many kickstarter products are finally hitting gamer’s tables, and more and more I am hearing a sense of disappointment after playthroughs. Podcasters are actually now encouraging listeners to hesitate on purchases, or just not fund games. One of my favorite podcasters has now vowed to stop funding games entirely. Even the organizer of a list of top ten Kickstarter titles sounded a little sad when he posted this:
“I am no longer keeping up with this geeklist. I am not interested in Miniature games and since the top ten has been taken over by them this list no longer interests me.” (Despite his disappointment, Kickstarter has positively changed the landscape of the miniatures game market by broadening our choices).
This mood swing feels dramatic to me, it has almost happened overnight. I expected the current attitude to take shape much earlier, but now I realize that it could not because no one had actually played the games they funded. Thousands of dollars had been spent by backers but they had no idea of the true value of their investment. Now many are discovering that they overvalued the products. The games they received are not bad, just maybe not worth the hype, and not worth spending that $10-20 extra per game to get a few extra fancy bits for a game that won’t get played much.
Many Kickstarter games receive high ratings, but I feel they are being compared only to other kickstarter games. A game may get a 7, but in the grander scheme its really a 5, and that 7 rating often just helps with the sense of sadness we feel for funding something we don’t want to play more than once.
The new attitude is healthy. I am not against Kickstarter, but it needs to be viewed and treated accurately. Kickstarter is primarily a tool for people with no professional experience to produce products. Despite the awesome graphics, cool minis, and sometimes flashy videos, the game designs are generally coming from amateurs, people ust like you and me. How many people at your game night have told you that they are working on a game, nearly everyone right? Well that’s who we’re funding. This isn’t a terrible thing, but I am glad that the current mood is shifting towards more serious contemplation before funding a project.
I feel we have some responsibility as investors to weed out the flops. The recent dissapointments and failures are making us better at this. I hope that we can reach, or even surpass, the level of scrutiny that publishers apply.
Having said all this, I am now smitten with a game that by all accounts I should never have purchased for myself. The game is Krosmaster Arena. It is a Kickstarted game, a tactical miniatures game, and a Japanime game, all serious red flags for me. But after playing the tutorials with Mrs. Cloud Cap during our unplanned stay in crappy motels, I am in love, and I will be recklessly adding expansions to my copy of the game. The rulebook shows off deluxe versions of the terrain and special critters used in the game, completely uneccessary, but I want them all because I really think it will add to the already awesome gaming experience.
The game is definitely tactical, but with the luck of dice. In addition to the gameplay, the colors and characters are extremely appealing. I have not yet played a full game, and it will be a pretty long game, but I cannot wait to pull it out.
Whatever your gaming tastes, I recommend giving Krosmaster a try, which will be easier once we get our rental copy. together.
Happy Gaming everyone!