Where last week was a new release void, this week is a small downpour. It has been quite a chore getting all these puppies by the weekend. One thing I think every board game store will gripe about is the absolutely haphazard fashion in which games are released. Most games arrive in East coast warehouses first, which means that online retailers generally announce that they have copies in stock, which drives customers into stores across the nation.
Out West, it is not always a guarantee that we’ll have copies on the shelves even the week it is released since we have to wait for distributor shipments to work their way across the country. Our normal ship time is 2 days, so if a product hits a supplier on a Thursday, we have no chance at receiving it by the weekend without spending all of our profit on rapid shipping. Not all publishers are smart about this and send product to distributors on fridays, which leads to lots of customers over a weekend who think we are a jenky game store because the game has been officially released and we do not have it.
I also work now with 3 major distributors, all of whom receive their products at different warehouses at different times. Mice and Mystics, for example, arrived at one supplier on Monday, while it is just now arriving at the other 2. I had my preorders with those other 2 guys, which I will now have to cancel because I grabbed copies from the other guy to get them earlier.
I know, it sounds like I’m whining, sorry. I still love my job and love helping y’all with your games. Playing them is still far better than ordering them. So on to the new ones, and in honor of the fellow who introduced me to this fine game, we’ll start with a reprint of a hidden gem. Cheers everyone and happy gaming.
Maria: A not so complex but lengthy war game played with a deck of cards. Combat consists of playing cards suited to match the region of the battle, which sets up some interesting tactics, for example staging a smaller attack in a minor region to drain your opponent of particular suits. There is a lot of history behind this game that I know very little about, but play this puppy with Tye and you can learn all about it. Thanks Tye for lassoing me into this game.
Suburbia: Finally, a competitive SimCity style board game. While I was initially displeased with the fact that each player is developing their own city, my smile turned upside down when I discovered that you can build your city to profit from the strategy of others. This game looks to have lots of variety, and even has a solo option.
Netrunner, Cyber Exodus: Data Pack 3 is here, and for those who know and love the Netrunner Living Card Game, this pack needs no explanation. Grab ’em while we got ’em.
Tokaido: I’ve been on the lookout for the release of a lot of new games since the big European game show in Essen, but Tokaido completely fell under my radar until I noticed that my supplier numbers were declining rapidly. I was able to grab some copies at the last minute, but know very little about the game. It looks pretty and has a very Zen atmosphere, its also designed by Antoine Bauza, of 7 Wonders fame.
Tammany Hall: A reprint of an older game that was funded on Kickstarter, so if you wanted it you probably have it already. This game does sound awesome though if you love negotiating and backstabbing.
Mice and Mystics: This now popular storytelling adventure board game is finally back. Great for families with simple rules and well written story elements. Get these while they are here as well, they’ll be gone until Christmas most likely.
Well we’ve got a lull in the new game releases thank goodness. Way too many good games have been released lately and publishers need to give us all some time to play them. So with no new games to highlight, I thought I would just mention some of my game group’s favorites from 2012. These are games frequently hit our table this past year, and will continue to do so in 2013, these are the keepers.
But, before I get to the games, I want to mention a few upcoming events. First is our big Lords of Waterdeep Tournament this Sunday at 1pm. The tournament is now full with 20 people, and the grand prize is a $100 gift certificate. The place should get pretty hot with all the burning minds. The other event we are excited about is the Hot Cocoa PJ Party on Sunday, February 24. We and Blue Kangaroo are sponsoring this fundraiser to send the Llewellyn 4th grade class into the woods for an overnighter on the Oregon Trail. Sounds awesome, anyone want to sponsor me going with them?
Alrighty, here are the keepers, in no particular order:
Descent 2nd edition: Irrefutably the best tactical dungeon crawl on the market with an endless amount of replay. Now for rent too. I have not been able to play this one nearly as much as I would like.
Edo: We dove into this one late in the year and are thoroughly enjoying the mix of worker placement and spatial elements. Highly recommended for a rich 90 minute euro.
Escape from the Temple Curse: This timed cooperative dice-roll temple exploration game is such a refresher, a perfect start to a gaming evening.
7 Wonders Cities: Though I can no longer do well at this game, I still love it, and we play it a lot! We always play with both the Leaders and Cities expansions for a richer experience. Hard to argue with this game winning the Spiel des Jahres award.
Lords of Waterdeep: By far the best game actually released in 2012. This is an efficient euro-style worker placement game that nearly anyone can play and enjoy, over and over.
CO2: This game claims to be a 2012 release, for those 12 people who received it I guess it was. We have only played it once, and we messed up some rules, but we cannot get this beauty out of our heads.
Those are our 2012 favorites. Far more games actually hit our table from prior years though, here are some our our frequent plays:
Last Will: While we did not pick this one up until 2012, it’s listed release was 2011. Anyway, a fun and light experience with a great theme, lose all your money. If you aren’t too much of a euro-snob this game is well worth multiple plays to explore different paths.
Merchants & Marauders: A bit fiddly at times, but still one of the most satisfying piratey experiences.
Le Havre: In our opinion, this is Uwe Rosenberg’s masterpiece, and perhaps our group’s favorite overall game. Ridiculously tight and brain-burning, Uwe will have a hard time topping this baby. He tried with Ora & Labora, but between the tiny cards and impossibility of knowing where you stand in relation to other players until the game is over, we cried through a few plays before dumping it. Ora & Labora is still a great game, but a bit of a mess when compared to le Havre.
And so the second month of the new year begins, and the gaming hobby continues to thrive. One of the new games this month, Copycat, got me thinking about the hobby as a whole, and how wonderful it is. There was a time when folks had to pay military personnel to bring copies of Settlers of Catan back to the states from overseas. But now look at us, last month alone we had about 10 great new games hit the shelves, and this week I have 2 new games and a few expansions taunting me on our new release table. The hobby is healthy folks. We honestly have too many good games now, I want to play them all and just can’t. Part of me wants it all to slow down but most of me loves the newness and the variety.
I’m honestly very grateful for way the gaming hobby allows me to satisfy my desire for both social interaction and mental challenge. Those $50 copies of Lords of Waterdeep and Last Will have yielded so many hours of pure awesome, thankfully saving from numbing my skull while staring at a movie screen or bla-bla-ing at a bar or restaurant until my ears hurt. I hope all of you are enjoying your games as much as I am.
For some though, the gaming hobby is rather frustrating. Because of our game nights, I have a relatively stable group of gamers to play with. But without a group to play with, a love of games can practically drive you mad. I know, I was once there. Now I’m seeing many who were like myself: guys mostly, who love modern board games far more than there loving partners or friends ever will and go a bit nuts because they cannot find people to play with. This is where movies and bla-bla-ing at a bar are far less frustrating hobbies, you can always find folks to do these with. So if you are one of the lost souls in love with games but without an outlet, have hope, and join us at a game night. Our hobby is great and growing; You are definitely not alone!
CO2: Boy have I been hearing enticing things about this game involving managing an energy company that is responding to the government’s requests for green power plants to stop the potentially fatal increase in greenhouse gases. Sure, its a contentious political theme, and we all have our opinions on it, but I could care less because it sounds like such a great game. While it is an economic game at heart, 2 elements intrigue me. First, everyone can lose if the global CO2 levels rise too high. Second, power plant projects are not privately owned but are group efforts. Both of these elements create interactive tensions not typically found in European style games. Looking forward to trying this one, just have to get through the rules first. Oh, almost forgot to mention that the artwork is rather captivating.
Copycat: Designer Friedeman Friese, of Power Grid fame (which is now on the rental shelf by the way), has given us a game that pays homage to our wonderful hobby by combining elements from many of our most cherished games. So what we’ve got here is a deck-building, worker-placement, drafting race game with obvious nods to games like Agricola, Dominion, and Puerto Rico. Looking forward to playing this one.
Innovation, Figures in the Sand Expansion: Innovation is a wonderful card game by the designer of the now classic Glory to Rome. Innovation is a challenging game to describe. You are essentially playing out cards in front of you and trying to execute their effects to score points and game-winning achievements. Of course, every card is unique, and the joy of the game comes from tactical decisions that create incredible card combinations to drive your opponents mad as they attempt to break your point-amassing engine. Figures in the Sand, the second expansion to Innovation, includes figures cards that represent famous historical characters who change the rules but get sent to your score pile as other figures take their place in history. Look for it in the snazzy green box.
Mansions of Madness, Call of the Wild expansion: This is a huge expansion for the great one versus many horror game, Mansions of Madness. Customer Randal ran an impressive game of this last saturday, complete with aged and burned dossier papers for the investigators. That’s how this game was meant to be played. This expansion is a serious reboot, with new scenarios focused on the hideous woods behind the mansion, new allies that can help you or be driven insane and turned against you, and new ways for the mansion keeper to thwart the plans of the investigators.
Oh yeah, the new Magic set goes on sale today, but if you are in to Magic, I don’t think I needed to tell you that.
Finally, a week without any major new releases! There were a few minor ones, such as the expansion for the 2-player Agricola game and an expansion for Innovation (which I won’t have until next week unfortunately). But the major new release calendar is a bit dry until spring, so it is time to finally play all the great ones that were released in the past month.
This week I had the opportunity to play a few of those recent releases. I already praised Tzolk’in here. I should mention though that the game can cause some serious analysis paralysis, so beware. This means I will not be playing it with my game group, one of our members can get seriously locked up with too many choices available. We would love to rent this game, but the fragility of the components makes it tricky, perhaps it is one for the top shelf when we get that going. I also played a game of Myrmes, which I thoroughly enjoyed despite making a fatal early game flaw and getting trounced by the red ants. And then there is Space Cadets, a refreshing cooperative experience, but not a game to start at 10:30pm, it is a long one.
One thing I did finally get to this week was setting up a meetup group for you, the Cloud Cap Gamers. The boardgamegeek guild worked OK, but the inability for members to get email reminders or even emails about new announcements makes it nearly useless. With the meetup group, anyone can post an announcement and emails will get sent to all members. This will allow all of you who want to schedule any type of game during normal shop hours to do so with a great chance at filling a table. If you have not done so already, and you are looking to find players for your games, I encourage you to sign up for this group.
For all of you used game shoppers, we have had a small flood of games come in recently, here’s the list of what is currently new on the shelf: Runebound, Legends of Andor, Castle Ravenloft, Lord of the Rings Living Card Game, Carcassonne, Carcassonne the Discovery, Forbidden Island (new but dented copies), Catan Traders and Barbarians, Catan Seafarers, Settlers of Catan, Star Wars X-Wing, Classic Risk.
That’s about it, time to get back to work. Remember that it is Meaty Game Day tomorrow, and it sounds like we may also be getting a good Netrunner turnout. Should be a packed house, so expect some sweaty windows!
Well I finally got a chance to play Tzolk’in last night, one the new hot games from the world’s largest tabletop game convention in Essen, Germany. When I first heard about this game I quickly forgot about it because the board was covered in gears that looked to be a gimmicky trick to disguise a crappy game. When the game hit the demo tables in Essen, folks went crazy, not just for the gears, but for the honest to goodness great game that the gears brought to life.
Tzolk’in is a fairly typical euro-style worker placement board game in the sense that you are sending workers out to gather resources, construct buildings, or perform other actions with the ultimate goal of acquiring heaps of victory points. What sets Tzolk’in apart is of course the gear mechanism, which forces you to plan ahead as your worker rides around the gear, and it can take several turns before it is at the right spot to remove it and perform the desired action. This requires a fair bit of planning to get the timing right when your workers are moving along different gears, and the actions on some gears are necessary before you can perform actions on others. While this planning is challenging, it is also a ton of fun, and the execution of it all is so simple that you can focus on the strategy rather than the rules.
As with any great euro, Tzolk’in also offers a variety of paths to victory. Points can be earned by constructing buildings or monuments, advancing along different technology tracks, working on 3 different temples, converting resources, and making sacrifices to different gods. As for buildings and monuments, no two games will have identical sets on offer, providing variety to replays. Each player also starts with a unique and somewhat randomly determined set of resources, adding even more replay value.
While I am a fan of both euro-style and Amerifun games, I am not a fan of blandness in theme and presentation (Dominion and Kingdom Builder are exceptions there). Caylus, for example, is heralded as a masterpiece, but lordy what a drab bit of work that game is. I feel that Tzolk’in is a tight and well-built euro with flavorful theme and artwork. The unique mechanisms and strategic variety leave me hungry for more play. If you like your mid-weight euros, I can highly recommend Tzolk’in.
Is everyone gearing up to watch the Sellwood bridge move to a new home tomorrow? Actually, I don’t think it will happen that fast, sounds like it will take about the same time as an Axis & Allies game.
Meanwhile, we will be sitting here surrounded by games and a ghost town neighborhood. This means I will have plenty of time to play some games with customers tomorrow. I’m already planning on a demo of Myrmes at 2pm, and how about Tzolk’in at 4pm? Come on by if you are interested. I would also love to get a game of Mage Knight in with the expansion on Sunday, any takers?
The other big news is our upcoming Lords of Waterdeep tournament on Sunday, February 10 at 1pm. We already have 12 people signed up and we will be topping out at 16 people, this is without any real promotion outside of this newsletter and facebook. So with 4 spots left you had best sign up fast if you want a seat.
We have one new game this week, Tzolk’in, one of the huge hits of the big board game convention in Essen, Germany. I was getting a zillion requests for the game 2 months ago but am seeing no interest currently, so either the game blows or everyone pulled the trigger online and received their copies on Wednesday already. Regardless, we have big beautiful copies of the game and should have a demo copy this weekend. The trick with this worker placement game is the big set of gears on the board and the idea that your worker will travel around with the turning of the gears, changing the actions it can perform as it goes.
Alright, time to get off my fanny and dust off some shelves. Have a great weekend whichever side of the bridge you are on!