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.
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.
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.
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
Well, I am recovering from an awesome 9 hours of Dark Knight fantasticness. That’s right, Thursday night I acted like I wasback in college with little responsibility, and I went to watch the Dark Knight movies on the big screen, back to back, with a midnight showing of the new film. I was excited and scared at the same time, but I survived, and I could easily do it all again because those movies are soooo great. But, if you stop by at all on friday, be gentle.
Alrighty, on to the new games and events highlights . . . . .
Descent, 2nd Edition: Oh yes, it is finally here, and I have yet to find anyone who has been disappointed with the experience. As I’ve ranted about before, this is epic fantasy adventuring at its finest, outside of true roleplaying that is. The new edition cleans up just about every fiddly part of the original, and throws a full campaign guide in the base set. The battle between the adventurers and the evil overlord is extremely tactical and feels epic despite the fact that each stand-alone encounter takes only about an 60-90 minutes to play. I am sure my friends and I will test the longevity of the components on this baby. Come check out our demo copy. Better yet, come next saturday (see below) and start a campaign to really experience this great game.
Dominant Species Card Game: Here’s an interesting one. Dominant Species is a very lengthy fiddly game about spreading your crittery goodness over an expanding map. The card game, however, is a short experience with no fiddly bits. Despite the similarity in name, I wonder if the two games will appeal to the same crowd. I know my parents would not play the board game with me, but I get the sense they may enjoy the card game. From the reviews, it sounds like a game that takes a few plays to see the depth, always a nice quality for a game to have.
Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small: Unlike the Dominant Species Card Game, here is one shrunken version of a game that sounds like it will definitely appeal to fans of the full game. Agricola is also a lengthy fiddly game where you struggle to work and expand your farm. All Creatures Big and Small takes only a few elements of the full game and shrinks them into a two player experience. This little game is not cheap, typical for an Uwe Rosenburg experience, but I’m sure the game is solid, and the wooden animal meeples are so darn cute.
Pokemon League (Every Saturday 10-noon): Bring your cards and throw some pocket monsters into the ring. There’s playing, trading, and some free cards. We can also teach the game to new players, so don’t be shy.
Magic Draft Tournament (1st and 3rd Saturdays 5-9pm): This saturday is the first chance to draft with the new 2013 core set at Cloud Cap. Our tournaments are very casual and a mix of ages. While you don’t need to be a pro, working knowledge of the game is necessary, as well as $15 for the booster packs and some prize support.
Meaty Game Day (Every last Saturday 4-11pm): We still have a week to go for this event, but it is worth marking your calendars. This is the day to play some seriously long and heavy duty games, and because space can be limiting, table priority will be given to truly meaty games. Sometimes we end with a stalemate over which game to play since everyone shows up with their favorite puppies. If this happens, we’ll play a nice game of Candyland to end the lockdown!
Recent Additions to the used game shelf: Dominion Base Set (with sleeves), Dominion Intrigue, Small World, Battlelore base set, Heroscape Master Set 2: Swarm of the Marrow, Apples to Apples Party Box.
Yikes, Friday the 13th! Be careful out there, maybe its a good day to come stay safe in the shop and play a game with no sharp pieces.
And appropriately, the big new release this week is the 2013 core set for Magic: The Gathering, in fact, most shops have been running tournaments since 12am this morning. We won’t have our products until this afternoon, so get some sleep then come check us out. We will be getting some new Deckbuilders Toolkits, which is a fantastic product for those just starting to explore the world of Magic or those who want a jump start on the new set. We will not be having any tournaments this week to celebrate the release, no reason to compete with the hardcore card shops, but next Saturday evening we will hold our first M13 draft tournament.
Sadly, we have no new board game releases, and I’m guessing that the Magic release has something to do with that. Luckily, the German Game of the Year committee did not let the Magic juggernaut overshadow board games, and they announced their choice for both the game of the year (Spiel des Jahres) and the advanced game of the year (Kennerspiel des Jahres). For game of the year, Kingdom Builder gets the badge, and while I have not played the other nominees, I am very pleased with the jury’s choice, as I have explained previously. This is the second time that the American designer Donald X. Vaccarino has won this award, his first being for Dominion, so congrats Donald, keep pumping out the good ones (Infiltration and Nefarious are two of his recent good ones, probably not award winners though!). As for the advanced game of the year, A game called Village won the award, which is awesome because now it will see wider distribution in the US. The only advanced game of the year nominee that I had played was K2, which I really, really enjoy (ask for a demo if you are interested), unfortunately its price makes it completely unmarketable.
Events this upcoming week are limited to our Pokemon league this Saturday morning and our regular Game Gathering this Wednesday evening. Pathfinder camp begins next week and we are all full, but if you are still interested let us know and perhaps we’ll run another in late August. We’ve also still got the Descent 2nd edition preview copy in the shop, so ask at the counter if you want to fondle and play that beauty.
Have a great summer weekend everyone!
Many years ago I saved a few bucks and scraped the bottom of change cups whenever a friend gave me a ride, all to purchase a coffin sized box covered in bright fantasy artwork and filled with heaps of fantasy dungeon creation goodness. Because the price tag at that time was a smooth $100, I did wait until a year-end blow out sale at a local store (sure, I could have bought online, but friendly local game stores are too important and enjoyable to visit).
The game I finally purchased was Descent 1st edition, a pure dungeon crawl adventure game in the style of Dungeons & Dragons, with one person playing the evil overlord opposed by the other players acting as heros. I was so thrilled, and a bit overwhelmed, when I brought the box home and tore into it. It had so many tiles, chits, and handfuls of plastic miniatures that as I sorted the pieces I knew the game just had to be awesome, and I quickly got a group together to play it, including my wife.
Well, I, and everyone present, despised the game after the first playthrough, and 2 more attempts did not improve my feelings towards it. I really wanted to like it, but after 30+ minutes of setting up a game, then 3 hours of arduous fiddly play, the fantasy dungeon crawl experience just got lost for me amongst all the bits, line-of-sight calculations, and endless number of special items that you barely remembered you had.
Flash forward to this past weekend, where I had the chance to preview the 2nd edition of Descent: Journeys in the Dark at Cloud Cap Games (thank you Fantasy Flight for the opportunity). The first change I noticed with the 2nd edition was the box size, about half of the original, very nice. Once I opened the box, I was sooooo pleased to find only about half of the fiddly bits from the original, and more efficient and beautifully illustrated map tiles. Sure, there are fewer plastic minis, but they are still just as cool. The other fantastic item you receive in the new edition that cost an extra $60 to get for the original is a campaign guide, with rules and quests for creating a continuing story where both the heros and the overlord become more powerful and specialized.
I’ve played the 2nd edition numerous times now and I really enjoy it as the game I wanted when I first brought that coffin box home many years ago. Overall, the game is just more streamlined, all the fiddly parts take far less time than they used to, and the focus is now on playing. Every single encounter I’ve played has taken about an hour, and that includes set-up time and rules explanation for new players. Though the games play quick, they are incredibly engrossing, every move and roll of the dice is important for both the heros and the overlord, and all of your items and special abilities come into play. The individual quests are well made, and every one feels unique. Last night we played a quest where the overlord was trying to roll boulders into a canyon to stop the adventurers from reaching a bridge, so fighting the monsters was not the only concern the heros had. Even the decision to grab loot before fleeing the canyon was a difficult one, and had to be timed correctly.
Descent 2nd edition is simply awesome if you are looking for a dungeon crawl experience. The campaign rules and quest book will provide, reportedly, 20 hours for a single campaign. Adding new skills and items in between quests is very controlled so that each choice matters, and your character near the end of the campaign will perform very differently than they did at the beginning. Playing as the overlord is extremely challenging, so a single play through the campaign will not suffice for those who want to try and master each scenario.
The game won’t officially hit the shelves for at least another few weeks, but the preview demo copy is in the shop for any who want to try it out, and of course we are taking pre-orders. If you give it a try, I highly recommend running through the introductory quest, then leveling up and playing another quest to get the full experience. Hats off to you Fantasy Flight for a fantastic revision, and for bringing out my inner giggly geek dungeon-loving boy!