Posted on May 17th, 2012

El Grande

El Grande is a game I picked up many years ago after studying many geek lists and game reviews. In fact, it was one of the first modern strategy games I purchased for myself, and at the time I had no idea who I would get to play this possibly overwhelming game. Luckily, I found willing participants, the game was not so overwhelming, and I have enjoyed many plays of it, including a session just this week.

This game won the Spiel Des Jahres in 1996, just one year after Settlers of Catan, and for good reason: simples rules with interesting game play in 2 hours or less. As the dorky dudes on the front of the box imply, you play the role of a stuffy 15th century aristrocrat in a silly outfit, also known as a Grande. As a Grande, you seek to extend your influence across the whole of Spain, which at the time is a land divided by multiple ethnic groups and kingdoms. Through the cunning use of your power (in the form of numbered cards), you will decide when and how you want to employ your court of dapper aristocrats, called Caballeros. The largest point values come from controlling the most influential provinces, but seizing control of these areas generally means you are not able to send your Caballeros far and wide to influence a larger collection of provinces. The constant struggle between fighting for control of individual regions while trying to maintain a presence in many regions really guides nearly every decision you make as a Grande.

Despite the greatness of El Grande, the game has two features that can turn many off. First, the game is extremely dynamic. Wooden bits constantly shift around the board and control of any given region is eternally in fluxx. Every round has a new and randomly drawn set of actions, and players bid on who chooses actions first, so noodling out who wants what action and how badly they want it is how every round starts. For those who like to figure out a reliable winning strategy and pull it off nearly every time, El Grande is maddening. I, for one, really enjoy the dynamism of the game.

The second potentially frustrating feature of El Grande arises when one player gains a healthy points lead. This generally results in all other players trying their best to hobble that leader. I have heard an enormous amount of whining about this ‘get the leader’ aspect. Luckily, the whiners are just grumpy because they are getting picked on. In fact, I’ll bet that conspiring against a grande whose influence has grown too large happened regularly back in the day of ruffled shirt caballeros. So the metagame leader bashing that nearly always occurs helps enhance the theme of the game. A lot of games have rules that attempt to illustrate theme, El Grande goes beyond that by creating an unexpected form of interplayer interaction that helps players feel like they are actually wearing funny outfits.

Posted on May 11th, 2012

Happy Mother’s day weekend to all of you bearing the title, and for those not bearing the title, hopefully you get to spend some quality sunny time with mom this weekend. But if you are like me, and your mothers have fled to the opposite end of the country, a game or two may help with the separation anxiety.

Maybe a movie about the board game hobby will help too, or if you are one of the lucky ones, bring mom along. This saturday evening at 8pm we will be showing Going Cardboard: A Board Game Documentary on as big a screen as we can find or construct. We also highly recommend arriving early to play a game or two, perhaps even while you soak up some sun in our improved back yard.

Speaking of clear skies, the stars are shining at night and putting me in the mood for a good space game. So, this Wednesday at the game gathering, I invite any who are interested to join me in a space-themed game. I’ll have a few displayed on the counter and see who bites, including Eminent Domain, Ascending Empires, and Alien Frontiers.

Finally, before I get into the lists, I want to highlight a drastic change to our regular schedule: Starting on saturday, May 19, The Pokemon League will be move to Saturday mornings from 10am-Noon. This means we will be opening one hour earlier on saturdays. This also means that the Family Game Gathering will move to the Noon-3pm slot on Sunday.

Happy Gaming everyone!

New Arrivals:

Pokemon Black & White: Dark Explorers: The latest Pokemon set is finally here, and darkness abounds!

MicroMonsters: Remember Tiddlywinks? Micromonsters is like that but your chips are monsters, and each army has unique special abilities. Looks very fun.

Sanitarium: This strange on should arrive later today, so have not had my hands on it yet. It is a card game that has tile-laying and exploration elements that you find in dungeon crawlers, as well as scenarios for coop, competitive, and solo play. But essentially, you are trying to escape the sanitarium before time runs out and you go absolutely scary nuts.

Welcome to Walnut Grove: From the publishers who brought you all of Uwe Rosenberg’s fantastic games comes this nice game about establishing a homestead on the prairie. A very cool mix of worker placement, resource management, and tile laying.

Had a rep from Fred Distribution stop by and got a few not-so-new, but new to us games at great prices. Here they are:

Bridgetown Races: Did not pick this up when it first came out for multiple reasons, but we have it now. And guess what, the game is designed by a Portlander, and you’ll be racing around our fair city!

Blockers: A simple yet strategic abstract territory control family game with a puzzly feel. Ask us for a demo.

Charon, Inc: Mine the heck out of Plutos largest moon in order to build yourself a fat corporate empire. This is a simple-to-play strategy game looks like a lot of fun and has some very interesting mechanics going for it.

Upcoming Events

After School Magic: Bring your cards for trading and playing at 4pm. Bring some friends and $5 and we’ll get a tournament started.

Pokemon League: Still Sunday at noon for one more week.

Family Game Time: Sunday starting at 3pm we’ll get your whole family up and running on some great games.

Wednesday Game Gathering: Join us for some modern strategy games from 6-10pm.

Movie Screening: On Saturday, May12, at 8pm, we’ll be showing the film, Going Cardboard, in the shop.

Battlestar Galactica: Join Admiral Mike and crew for this excellent game on our meaty game day, May 26 at 4pm. All expansions will be used, so expect a 3-4 hour experience. Ages 16 and up, seating is limited.

New Rentals: Bridgetown Races, Pizza Theory

Used Games: 7 Wonders, Lascaux, Trollhalla, Monopoly Lord of the Rings, 221B Baker Street, Clue, Would You Rather

Posted on May 4th, 2012

We’re nearly halfway through the 2nd quarter and the new game release schedule is ramping up. We’re grabbing as many as we think are worthy, and they are summarized below, along with upcoming events you may be interested in. We also have a few current specials – Magic the Gathering: Dark Ascension theme decks are only $10, and all Thunderstone and Ascension products are 25% off. Happy gaming.

New Arrivals:

Mage Knight (Reprint): Most of you have already heard me rave about this game, so I’ll try to keep it brief. This game is simply wonderful, but it will hurt your brain and keep you up well past your bedtime.

Lords of Waterdeep: This actually came in a few weeks ago, but it is such a fantastic product that it deserves mentioning this week. This European style worker-placement game set in a Dungeons & Dragons universe should not be as fun as it truly is. The game plays quick with great pacing, has simple yet deep decision-making, and contains multiple levels of player interaction. Definitely give this a try, we’ve got a copy on the rental shelf.

Glen More (Reprint): Have not yet played a full game of this yet, but a kind customer ran me through the first third of a game. In this compact package you get a neat tile-laying, resource-management game with a true marketplace mechanic and an interesting scoring system that depends on differences between you and your opponents. Oh, and whiskey barrels can be straight up victory points, not too shabby.

Hive Pocket: All the fun of the popular chess-like, 2-player strategy game with bugs, now in a more manageable coffee-shop or pub playing size.

Summoner Wars (Starter Pack Reprints & New Faction Packs): In this immensely popular game, you populate the battlefield with cards from your hand, then take charge of the card units on the field to wallop your opponent in true fantasy style. Plaid Hat has finally re-released the original starter packs, as well as introduced new faction packs – The Filth and The Mercenaries.

Catan Junior: Finally, a great looking Catan game for kids as young as 6 years old! And honestly, I may rather play this than regular Catan just for the cool pirate theme alone. You and the younguns will be developing a treasure-filled island, trading wood, goats, molasses, and cutlasses to expand your network of pirate lairs and hunt for gold. The game uses one die instead of two and a pre-set 2-sided game board to help keep things simple for little swashbucklers.

Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Looks terrible, but at least 2 customers say very positive things about it, so I shouldn’t judge a game by its box, but yuck!

We also just received 2 great looking games from Stronghold Games, Revolver, a 2-player wild west action game, and Lost Temple, a revamp of the popular game, Citadels.

Oh, and I almost forgot, the new Magic: The Gathering set, Avacyn Restored, goes on sale today. We’ve got plenty of booster packs, theme decks, and fat packs.

Upcoming Events

After School Magic: Bring your cards for trading and playing at 4pm.

Pokemon League: Sunday at noon the Jet season starts, and we’ve got some shiny metal energy and Unfezant prize cards.

Family Game Time: Sunday starting at 3pm we’ll get your whole family up and running on some great games.

Wednesday Game Gathering: Join us for some modern strategy games from 6-10pm. I’ll be trying to rally players for Eminent Domain about 6:30pm.

Movie Screening: On Saturday, May12, at 8pm, we’ll be showing the film, Going Cardboard, in the shop.

Battlestar Galactica: Join Admiral Mike and crew for this excellent game. All expansions will be used, so expect a 3-4 hour experience. Ages 16 and up, seating is limited.

New Rentals: Lords of Waterdeep, Wiz-War, Agricola, Zong Shi

Posted on March 30th, 2012

Have a closet full of great games that you no longer play? We’ll help you turn those lonely titles into the latest and greatest. We offer one of the best trade deals in town, but we have limited space and are therefore very selective. We prefer modern strategy games and generally do not accept kids games or games you find for $2 at Goodwill. Unless you have something extremely rare and desirable, all games for trade must be in like new condition with no missing components.

Our trade policy is simple:

— We determine a price that we will sell your game for, typically 50-75% of normal MSRP for games currently in print, or for games not in print, we evaluate recent online prices and local demand.
— You receive 50% of our resale price as store credit only.

Please email us at with a list of games you are interested in trading and we can give you a quote before you bring the games in for counting.

So if our terms sound appealing, let us help you clear up some closet space, and help others get their hands on some great games at attractive prices.

Posted on March 2nd, 2012

Every month we publish a newsletter filled with descriptions of the upcoming events, new games, and anything else we want to share about the shop. Here is a list of the newsletters which we will update as new ones are published:

June, 2011
July, 2011
August, 2011
September, 2011
November, 2011
January, 2012
February, 2012
March, 2012
April, 2012

Posted on February 14th, 2012

wow, did I have a great week of gaming. so great in fact that my sleep really suffered, especially over the weekend. Hopefully none of you noticed reduced service at the shop as a result of my late night sessions.

At the game gathering on Wednesday, I was able to play a round of Quarriors with the Rise of the Demons expansion. Never did see any cursed dice enter my bag despite the fact that I was acquiring spells for passing them off to others. I definitely want to play this expansion again as I see some interesting cards in the set. I was able to fill my bag with some ghosts that respawned when my other critters died, which I had never really tried before. So you want to kill my Assistant, fine, his ghost will come back bigger and badder to haunt your sissy minions! I also want to try the ‘more strategic’ rules that will be published with the upcoming expansion, Quarmageddon ( If you are interested, the new rules are posted here:

Friday night saw the return of Mage Knight to the table after a bit of a hiatus. Up until last week I think I was playing Mage Knight every night for 2 weeks straight, either solo or with friends. Friday night I played an absolutely incredible 2-player game of the Conquer and Hold scenario that kept me up way past my bedtime. The game was neck and neck until I decided to abandon a keep at the very end in order to capture another of my buddy’s mage towers. Well, he decimated all 3 defenders at my keep, while I was only able to defeat 2 of the 3 at his tower, leaving him 3 points ahead for the final. What a fantastic game! My buddy actually gets nervous before every battle, just hoping that he’s calculated everything correctly. We were both just flabbergasted at how different the new scenario felt. I am so enthralled by this game that I’m beginning to really understand how Gollum felt about the one ring. It is not long before I will be a full fledged servant of Vlaada Chvatil, the game’s designer.

Saturday night, despite my fatigue, I played a grueling game of Le Havre by Uwe Rosenburg, famed designer of Agricola. Le Havre lets you live the exciting life of a harbor manager and tycoon. What better way to end a hard day’s work than with a game about work. Le Havre is actually a very good game with a vast puzzly array of choices every turn. While I was leading early on, my strategy broke down late game, and I wound up with a bunch of nearly starving dock workers practically walking off the job and hitting the pub early.

Sunday night, with 2 very late gaming nights behind me, I went for round 3 with a 7 player game of Robo Rally. If you have never experienced this game, 7 players is a great way to play. Robots were twisting and turning every which way while they tried to touch each of 4 flags spread across a dangerous factory floor. My Hulk x90 caused the demise of a few robots, died a few times, then wound up in second place. One robot got so confused that it spent the entire last half of the game performing laps in a corner. If you want to practice gracefully dealing with completely insane random, and generally non-vicious, attacks, give Robo Rally a try.

Monday, after a little floor painting at the shop, Mrs. Cloud Cap and I hit the local pub, Oaks Bottom, for some international totchos and a round of Jaipur, a great 2 player merchant themed game. Playing this game with the Mrs. drives me absolutely bat nuts, I always want to smear totcho oil all over the cards! I just can’t seem to win, she is always grabbing up the best products to sell while I’m scrambling to sell twice as much junky leather!

until next time . . . .