Posted on August 29th, 2012

Hey everyone, those of you who read my latest weekly shop update may have noticed my somewhat negative reaction toward the Z-Man and AEG games that were recently released at GenCon. More specifically, I stated that the games from both publishers were “largely forgettable”. Well, after reviewing the expanded info that has made its way from GenCon attendees to the greater digital world, I need to backtrack on that statement a bit, at least for the Z-Man games.

My reaction to the Z-Man games releases was largely based on what I was discovering about their flashiest title, Atlantis Rising, and quite honestly, my initial reaction to this game still stands. Atlantis Rising is a slightly unique cooperative game that uses a worker placement mechanic, which is actually a favorite mechanic of mine, found in games like Lords of Waterdeep and Agricola. But at its core, Atlantis Rising is really a generic cooperative game, bad things continue to happen and the players need to communicate about how best to deal with them while accomplishing a single goal, in this case to construct a cosmic gate to get the heck off of Atlantis. Now there is nothing wrong with the standard cooperative formula, games like Pandemic, Forbidden Island, and Castle Panic use the formula very well. But unlike these games, Atlantis Rising has a $60 price tag, so you are getting more of the same for about twice the price! That makes this puppy largely forgettable in my book, which is not to be confused with it being a bad game though, so definitely give it a go if you are a fan of cooperatives.

OK, so Z-Man’s next game at Gencon was Alcatraz: The Scapegoat. Here is a game with a nice new twist. Everyone is trying to escape the famous prison by forming partnerships to complete tasks, such as digging tunnels or creating shivs. But every turn one person is voted the Scapegoat and that player does not get rewarded as the other players do. The scapegoat, however, can use blackmail cards to mess with the others. There is much more to the game, but the unusual aspect of voting every round for a scapegoat brings something fresh to the cooperative game realm. This game also has a more reasonable price tag of $40, and plays in about an hour. So this game may not be as forgettable as I originally surmised, though it may still lose table time due to the hurt feelings that can develop during scapegoat negotiations.

Finally, Z-Man presented Battle Beyond Space, a very fast tactical space combat game. Originally this game looked like just a miniatures battle game, but the information coming from GenCon suggests much more. Now I’m picturing something like Kingdom Builder with a real theme. At its heart, the game is a combat game, you earn points by destroying other players’ ships, as well as by collecting tokens from the board or occupying specific locations. What makes this game fascinating though is its very limited rule set. Like Kingdom Builder, a very small set of basic rules can lead to some interesting fleet maneuvering choices. Also like Kingdom Builder, the addition of just a few special actions, and the fact that those special actions will be different every game, makes the whole of the game so much more than the sum of its simple rules. I am now actually looking forward to this game, especially since the price is a standard $50, less than I originally thought.

So I apologize Z-Man for being so harsh last week, and I apologize to the Z-Man fans. We’ll know much more about these games in a few weeks when they hit the shelves.

Posted on August 24th, 2012

Howdy Gamers! The big American tabeletop game convention, GenCon, is over, and the new games will be hitting our shelves over the next few months. 7 Wonders Cities will be in our hands this afternoon, come give our demo copy a spin if you are interested. Dominion Dark Ages should be with us on Wednesday, just in time for some game night trial runs.

As for other games from the show, it looks like Fantasy Flight and Asmodee Editions owned Indianapolis. Soon we’ll have the Fantasy Flight re-releases of the fantastic Netrunner and Merchant of Venus games, as well as the X-Wing miniatures game and an interesting looking new coop game, Legend of Andor. I was secretly rooting for a new game from Asmodee Editions, Seasons, to be a hit, and it looks like all of the reviewers were very pleasantly surprised by it, so we’ll keep a strong eye out for that one. The innovative story-telling game, Of Mice and Mystics, by Plaid Hat Games, also received great response. (Notice, I have no links for these games on our website yet, I’m really tight on time today, so check out the publisher websites or boardgamegeek.com to find out more about these titles, or any others I mention but do not have a link for).

Sadly, the other major publishers had ho-hum or no news. AEG and Z-Man largely forgettable titles, but we’re really hoping they turn out better than first impressions suggest. Mayfair announced that Star Trek Catan will be a Target store exclusive for the first 18 months, so please send hate mail to them if you have spare time. Mayfair currently offers a reduced price Catan to Target and recently went exclusive with a single distributor, so it seems they are turning their back on the friendly local game stores that put them on the map to begin with, and they are not alone unfortunately. I guess that’s what you have to do when you are all out of great ideas (Ouch, did I just write that, I mean all of it as a challenge Mayfair!). Thankfully, while the big boys are sacrificing reputation for short term profit, the smaller publishers are rising to take down the comfy old dogs, so expect a slew of great innovative titles coming from publishers all over the country. There are too many games to list, but we’ll keep you posted on their arrivals, and thanks to a regular customer for coming to the shop and showing some photos of what he saw at the show.

We do have a few other new games not specifically related to GenCon releases. The new edition of Glory to Rome has arrived, and it sure looks sleek, come check out our demo of this well-regarded classic by the designer of Innovation. Another Asmodee Editions game that the reviewers have been praising will hit our shelves this afternoon, Libertalia. Again, we’ll have a demo because we love pirate games, and the press on this one is pretty darn good.

 

 

Now on to the upcoming events, starting with one of my favorites, Meaty Game Day, this Saturday starting at 4pm. Here are more:

Pokemon League (Saturday, 10am-Noon): Trade and play and earn some free cards.

Family Game Gathering (Sunday, Noon-6pm): Sunday is family game day, arrive when you want and test drive some games from our demo library. Do not be shy about asking us to teach you a new one.

Strategy Game Gathering (Wednesday, 6pm-11pm): The best darn game night in town, as evidenced by the amount of friendly smack talking and raucous laughter during last weeks game night. And much of that was over Power Grid and Le Havre,  games not typically associated with the word raucous!

Fresh Used Games: Carcassonne Base Set with the River, Settlers of Catan Traders and Barbarians

Posted on August 10th, 2012

Hello everyone and happy Friday. Thanks to everyone who visited last saturday and helped make the Passport event something special. Hope you enjoyed the sweet music in front of the shop, we have Kirsten to thank for getting all of that set up. As awesome as it was, its nice that she’s done with it so I can have my fishing partner back. Alrighty, on to the games.

For those who missed the facebook posts last week, we now have copies of D-Day Dice and Village in stock, as well as copies in the demo room:

D-Day Dice is a cooperative game where your dice rolls determine how well you advance along 1 of 8 different battle maps. I’ve enjoyed the first 2 training missions solo and am anxious for more. Despite the beautiful but unfriendly rulebook, D-Day Dice looks to be a great and somewhat meaty dice game.

Village was just awarded the Kennerspiel des Jahres award, which is given to games that are typically too complex for a casual player but still play in a 2 hours or less. Village definitely has a number of decisions to make every turn, but still offers a very swift experience. I like the reverse worker placement mechanic, where you remove a skill cube from a location to use that locations action, as well as the necessary death of your family members throughout the game. Well worth a try, and the rulebook makes learning the game a breeze.

That is about it for new releases, but we are very excited to have a few more demo games courtesy of our Ravensburger representative. We highly recommend trying Asara, which is now set up on the back demo table; It is beautiful, easy to learn, and hits that sweet spot of being thinky but not too much. One of the designers is Wolfgang Kramer, the designer of one of our all time favorites, El Grande. He’s pretty good at making conceptually easy games with lots of strategic depth. Another demo we are excited about but have not tried yet is Seeland. Again, it is beautiful, and Kramer was involved. Look for it in the demo room.

Upcoming Events:

Pokemon League: Every Saturday from 10am-Noon we host a very casual meeting of Pokemon players. Bring your cards, play, trade, and earn free goodies.

Magic Gathering: We have changed up the Saturday Magic the Gathering events. We’ll now be hosting a meeting time every Saturday from 5-7pm. Tournaments will be arranged if attendance permits, but the primary goal of the events is to foster a community of casual players. If you want hardcore, there’s about 5 other shops in town. We want to provide a time and place to just play the game with some good folks.

Family Game Day: Sunday is for families of all sizes and ages. Grab a game from our library or bring your own.

Wednesday Game Gathering: Good people and good games, mainly modern strategy. Ages 15 and up preferred.

Pathfinder Camp: The last week in August, Josh will run a final adventure for young heroes! We have lowered the price, so check out the page and let us know if you want a spot.

That’s about all for this week folks. I have added a big game called Giants to the rental shelf that looks very cool. Our used game section has been decimated by the laser beam focus of smart shoppers, so bring in those dusty closet fillers and we’ll work out a trade. Have a great weekend!

Posted on August 9th, 2012

A few months ago a rep from Gryphon games visited the shop to demo some of their lesser-known titles, and one of the games I ended up taking off his hands was a loosely space-themed game called Charon, Inc. After many plays, this unassuming little game has captivated the interest of my gaming group, so I thought I’d give it a little press to honor its elegeance.

In Charon, Inc you play as a corporate space mogul attempting to turn one half of Pluto’s largest moon into a massive complex of factories and offices. Each building is worth a different number of points, so the best mogul will be the player with the most points, not necessarily the player with the most buildings.

Each player has a hand of building cards, and to construct buildings, you need moon resources in the form of gems scattered across the planet. There are 6 gem colors, and every round you will randomly seed the different regions of the planet with fresh gems. Now the planet is divided into multiple sectors, each with its own color of gem, and to collect the gems from a given sector you need to have the most influence over that region, and this is where the game gets very, very interesting.

See everyone has 5 flag pieces on the board, one flag on each of five different action spaces. On your turn, you simply remove a flag from an action space to place it on the planet. This continues until everyone has placed 4 out of their 5 flags; the final flags remain on their action spaces and determine what special ability each player can perform. Thus, every time you place a flag on the planet, you are also deciding not to use the action associated with that flag. For fans of worker placement games, this is a very nice twist on the mechanism.

Where to place your flag on the planet is also very fascinating. As I mentioned, the planet is divided into sectors, and flags can be placed on the lines dividing those sectors or in the sector itself. When it is time to tally who has the most influence over a sector, you simply count the number of each player’s flags within or bordering a given sector. If their is a tie, flags within sectors are more powerful than flags flanking sectors. Essentially, with every flag placement, you need to decide whether you really want to firmly influence fewer sectors, or spread your influence thinly over a larger region to try and acquire more gems. When making this decision, everyone I have played the game with groans in both frustration and delight. What appears so simple at first becomes a pleasantly challenging spatial exercise.

My gaming group and I highly recommend this game for its unique and interesting challenges as well as its nice play length, about an hour. If the game sounds at all interesting, we do have a copy in our rental library, so take it home and give it a try. Your brain may burn a bit, but Charon is far enough away from the sun that you’ll just walk away with a nice space tan.

Posted on August 3rd, 2012

So the big news this week is the Sellwood/Westmoreland Passport event this Saturday, really a huge neighborhood street fair. We’ll have a music stage right in front of the shop with some great bands. We are also having a big sale all day saturday and some giveaways for the tots, so you’ll have plenty of reasons for hanging out at the Cloud. Definitely cruise the whole neighborhood though. Check out the acoustic music in front of Nectar, with a local 10-year old singing and playing, among other musicians. Also head over to the Wells Fargo where you’ll find some artisan booths. Make a day of it, and possibly a night of it because if we have any energy left and if anyone is interested we may stick around for some gaming.

As for game releases, the big deal this week is the Descent 2nd edition conversion kit. The main game was released a few weeks ago, and it is rapidly becoming the new standard for dungeon adventure games. The conversion kit allows owners of the 1st edition set and all expansions to convert their monsters and heroes to the new edition rules. I owned the first edition, hated it, sold it, and now I’m really regretting that decision. Luckily, there is enough in the second edition base set to keep me busy for many moons.

Speaking of dungeon questing, we want to encourage anyone with a youth interested in fantasy roleplaying to check out our second week-long Pathfinder camp page. The first camp was a hit, and Josh has graciously agreed to run a second week at the end of August. We know the price is high, but the gamemastering and youth management skills of Josh are worth it. The kids will also go home with about $50 worth of product so they can play with friends and family at home.

Other than that, we are still running our regular events this coming week: Pokemon League Saturday morning, a Magic draft tournament Saturday evening, and the Wednesday game gathering.

Oh, we also received a big batch of trade ins, so our used game shelf is stocked with great games in perfect condition, here’s a list of the new additions:
Ra, Tigris & Euphrates, Warhammer Invasion (with 20 expansions), Pandemic, Thurn & Taxis, Vegas Showdown, Save Doctor Lucky, dixit Odyssey, Take It Easy, The Golden City.

Finally rentals and demos. We have one new rental this week, K2, well worth a try. Our Ravensburger rep also just dropped off some cool demos: Asara, Seeland, FITS, & BITS.

Happy gaming!

Posted on July 27th, 2012

Hello gamers, summer keeps on trucking, and our air conditioning unit keeps on dripping, just water thankfully. And the poor thing has to work overtime on game nights, gaming brains can pump out some serious heat.

The first major announcement this week is a bit of a sad one. One of our fantastic loyal fans, Cameron, is leaving town next week to pursue some very sweet career opportunities for both his wife and himself. If you’ve met and gamed with Cameron, I’m sure you’ll agree that he is an outstanding guy, a tough competitor, and a joy to play games with. We will miss him. We have already missed his wife at game nights for many months now, but she has a good excuse. We wish Cameron, his wife, and their new family member the best as they embark upon a new strategic course.

The good news is that we will all have one more chance to face Cameron at the game table this Saturday at Meaty Game Day. Starting at 4pm, head over to the shop for some lengthy strategy games. Sure, you can always play the games with more reasonable play times, but the last Saturday of each month is a chance for those who like a nice heavy duty game to meet up and dive in. We’ll have the demo copy of Descent 2nd Edition for use, and we can pull a few of our somewhat meaty games out from the private cellar, such as Merchants & Marauders, Ascending Empires, Mage Knight, and Ora & Labora. We also have the new expansion for Alien Frontiers available for preview, and with the expansion, Alien Frontiers borders on a meaty game with a 3 hour play time.

Since there are no noteworthy new releases this week, I’ll just highlight some upcoming events next week. First off, we’ll be trying to run another Magic the Gathering draft tournament with the 2013 core set next Saturday at 5pm. Rally some friends for this, we’re trying to reach critical mass to kick these tournaments into high gear. And don’t be frightened, our Magic players are pretty awesome helpful humble folks.

Next Saturday is also the annual Sellwood/Westmoreland summer festival, formerly known as the Passport event. The whole event has been overhauled this year to be more like a street fair/party. We are going to have a live music stage right in front of our shop, and we will have a big sale on both new items and items we recently had to pull from our demo library to make room in there for new additions. Check out the event website for more details, and mark your calendars, this will be a great day to walk the entire area and check out all that is happening.

Finally, we want to give a huge full plate thank you to Josh for running our first ever Pathfinder Camp. He did a great job of leading a group of four 10-15 year-olds into a dangerous dungeon for four straight days, 4 hours a day. I am always amazed at how kids at that age can be intensely involved for 4+ hours with a roleplaying game. The kids all had a great time and went home with some sweet swag, including dice with dice pouches, a figurine, and either a hardbound book or a beginner box. Josh has agreed to run another camp in August if anyone is interested, so check the website for details. Thanks again Josh, and we hope all the players are now running adventures of their own at home!

What We’ve been playing: Lords of Waterdeep, Alien Frontiers, Descent 2nd Edition, Merchants & Marauders, Castles of Burgundy, Charon Inc., King of Tokyo, Friday.

A few used games came in yesterday: Stratego Star Wars and World Without End.

I will also be adding a bunch of new games to the rental shelf. I’ll be working at getting them rental ready today, so they may or may not be ready to go by the time you read this. This also means that some of the current rentals may need to get moved to the used area, so stop by the shop later today or tomorrow, or check the facebook page to see what got moved. Here’s a list of the new rentals:

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, A Few Acres of Snow, Flash Point Fire Rescue, Nightfall, Elder Sign, Tales of the Arabian Nights