Now I’ve never been much of a card player folks. In fact, I’m the sucker you invite to a poker game if you want some easy money, I never fold. I also had to cut my relationship with Magic the Gathering short when I did some basic arithmetic and realized that I would lose just as much money at Magic as I did at poker. Even relatively straightforward card games like Cribbage, Pinochle, and Tichu confound me because I just can’t seem to motivate my self to count cards.
Well, I just realized the other day that I have been playing far more card games during the last few months than board games, almost exclusively in fact. I think it started with Friday the 13th at the pub one night. I fell in love with that little trick-taking style game, so I decided to give Biblios a try. Loved that one too. Then Imperial Settlers dropped out of the funky air of GenCon and I was deep into the cards. I was so hooked on Imperial Settlers that I actually forgot it was really just a card game. A month or so later, I was introduced to Doomtown: Reloaded, and oh my wild west heavens was I hooked. The other night, I played a round of At the Gates of Loyang, another card game with a similar feel to Imperial Settlers, with equally cute wooden pieces.
Then, Friday night, Ben had to go and introduce me to the new Fantasy Flight Living Card Game, Warhammer 40K Conquest. I’m going to quote every one of Rahdo’s final thoughts videos here: OK, let me cut to the chase, this game is fantastic.” Conquest is stupidly simple to learn, serioulsy, it is ridiculous how easy the rules are. But that is where the simplicity stops. Conquest is largely a tactical card game with area control aspects, with some opportunities to develop strategies that span multiple rounds. But for the most part you will be attempting to control planets each round to gain income, destroy your opponent’s troops, and win the game. With 7 factions out of the base set, there are lots of awesome tactics to explore. Like any constructible card game, you’ve got tactics that allow you to manipulate your resources, deck and discard piles, and alter units in play. But you also get a whole host of tactics that affet unit mobility and area control. Fantasy Flight has produced a fine game here, it is unfortunate that their other fine game, Netrunner, may drive this game into obscurity in a few years. If you have any interest in tactical card games, give this a try. It is far easier to learn than Netrunner, and should have comparable depth once add-on packs pile up.
Now I did finally sit down to play an actual board game last night, Dead of Winter. This puppy has been hyped to mars and back, so naturally I expected it to be just another horror game where you have few choices to make and lots of random cards to read. I was wrong. Dead of Winter has plenty of interesting and enjoyable choices to make. Each person is in charge of a group of characters trying to survive a Zombie apocalypse. Each character has unique abilities and stats, yeah, so does every Cthulhu game on the market. But in Dead of Winter you have to smartly use a dice pool to activate your character abilities to control zombie hordes, deal with short-term crises, and work towards objectives. I only played it 2-player, so it was a fully cooperative game. Super fun, but the game will really shine with 3 or more players, each with secret objectives, and the possibility that one player is a traitor working against the team. Dead of Winter is not normally the kind of game I try to bring to the table, but I just might. The replay value is immense, with 30 unique characters and tons of objective cards. It also has the crossroad mechanic, which was sorta blah in the 2-player game but should be amazing with larger groups. We now have a rental so give it a whirl.
Game on gang!
Hello Cloud Heads, and welcome to the beginning of amazing gaming weather! The fishing is still great, but gaming season starts now. Bystanders, put on your orange or you may just get shotgunned by my gaming fervor!
But business first. As you walk into our silly little shop this week, you are going to be near blinded by a bright yellow sign on the window. This sign kindly says “These guys want to serve alcohol, do you trust them?” Definitely don’t trust me when my game craze is full throttle.
But what does this obnoxious sign mean for our shop, besides me visiting downtown more times this next month than all of last year? Well, we really want to create amazing events at the shop, but since our money comes from inventory sales, we obviously need a way to help cover the costs of running awesome events. You guys are all great, and we absolutely appreciate that you buy as many games as you can from us, but there are just physical limits to your collections. So relying on inventory sales to fund events only goes so far. And nobody is going to pay $5-$10 just to come play at a game store, especially one that is harder to get to than the moon. Heck, when we started the punch card last year ($1/person by the way), at least one person not-so-kindly informed us that playing at game stores after hours should be free. Some nut job started the whole play-for-free nonsense at their game store years ago and has doomed all future shops to running massive Magic tournaments just to pay for their play space.
Crud, I digress, the point here is that we really, really want to run awesome events and help create amazing communities, and stay in business at the same time. Now what is holding us back from hosting the most awesome events in Portland, besides our outpost location and limited play space of course? Food and alcohol. So we’re working on one of those right now. Don’t expect any massive changes at Cloud Cap because of this, except perhaps more awesome events.
Now for some games. The super incredibly hyped horror survival game, Dead of Winter, arrived this week, and somehow we still have copies. We’re your first choice, last stop game store, so the other guys must still have stock. And our price is cheaper than the online guys thanks to the extremely limited supply. Next week I expect a flood of people looking to buy 12 copies just to turn (won’t they be mad when we won’t let them). Anyway, I have not played the game yet, so let’s move on to a few games that won’t be flying off the shelves but maybe should be.
Five Tribes: Yes, there are lots of slavery cards in the game, and you will be playing these cards to help you. Days of Wonder tried to maintain the Arabian Nights theme of the game with the slavery mechanic, they made a terrible decision. But the game is fantastic, one that I kept craving well after each play through. The core mechanic is simple, pick up all workers from one tile in a 5×6 grid, then move them, dropping them off one at a time, until you drop your last worker on a tile with another matching color worker. Now do the tile action and the worker action. So simple, but in the early game when the workers from each tile can potentially end up in more than 6 different locations, the options can be hard to process. The key is to just make a play, possibly lose, then play again and again until you can truly be one with the matrix.
Doomtown Reloaded: I never played the original incarnation of this wacky constructible card game, but I have fallen in love with the reboot. See, I love a good meaty card game. I got hooked on the Lord of the Rings LCG by Fantasy FLight, but without anyone to consistently play with I lost interest. Now I’m hooked on Doomtown, and I spent all last night creating a deck that I’m sure will crash and burn, but it does have character. What is it about this game that gets me excited to build crappy decks? First is the theme, wild west steam punk, just crazy cool. Second is the area control aspect of the game. You move guys around multiple zones, and a single move can really mess with your opponent’s head. Finally, the shootouts rely on poker hands, so some randomness, but very fun. I’ve decided to start a regular gathering for Doomtown on Sundays, the first will be next Sunday at 1pm, so please come check it out.
Imperial Settlers: Still playing it, still loving it, still a bit imbalanced at times, I don’t care, I’ll play it again.
Alright, signing off, got some bookeeping to do before a long gaming session. We’ll hopefully see all of you this saturday night for our inaugural Metagaming night with an Italian theme. And please head over to the shop Sunday at 3pm to meet an adorable young lady who has written an entire fantasy novel, Magic the Crest, and will be demonstrating a board game based on her work.
Many of you may have noticed that I was absent this past Saturday for one of our biggest sales of the year. This was not me playing a cruel joke on Ben and Kirsten. I was lucky enough to be invited as a speaker on a panel about 3D printing and tabletop gaming. “What in the world are you doing on such a panel?” was the question I received from more than a few friends and customers. I wasn’t quite sure at first, but Sara, the panel moderator, wanted to get a retailer’s perspective.
Well, the panel was amazing. Sara did a fantastic job of moderating, and I recommend you check out her blog (PvE Portland) for more of her great work. On the panel with me were David Perry, the creator of a 3D-printed electronic fiddle (check it in action here), Alex Dick, the designer of innovative 3D printing filaments (Proto Pasta), Arian Croft, a 3D printing enthusiast and game designer (Ill Gotten Games), and Jessica Goldsmith, the designer of a set of dice for the visually impaired (project here). The audience was massive, a few hundred people filled the seats. I had no idea how hot this burgeoning technology was, but gamers are into it. I got to sit next to one of Alex’s machines printing away at a bust of Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy as we talked.
I feel like we all learned a lot through our discussion with each other and with the audience. I think everyone expected me to poo-poo the tech and talk about how bad it would be for retailer and publisher profit. But, in fact, I fought to stop using the term disruptive technology to describe 3D printing’s influence on the industry, and we came up with the term complementary technology instead. We’ll see a lot more use of the tech with gaming in the future, but the ability to customize or personalize your games will only help generate excitement for the gaming industry as a whole. Despite what Games Workshop thinks, the tech will probably not hurt their business anytime in the near future, unless folks want to wait weeks to produce inferior miniatures.
We’re going to try and schedule a 3D printing night at the shop, with Alex bringing a machine or two and printing some quick goodies while discussing the tech. We’ll also try and get David to talk with us and do some fiddling. And, of course, we’ll get them both into some games. Should be a unique evening. We’ll get Sara there as well to document the shindig and help up the geek factor! Oh, check out her sweet video of our silly little shop, you may just see someone you know.
As for new games, we’ve got two notable ones, Tragedy Looper, a cooperative time travelling crime-solving game brought over by Z-Man, and Doomtown Reloaded, a revised edition of a classic western meets magic tech card game. Technically, we can’t sell you Doomtown until Monday, but you can definitely come admire it. We won’t have the incredible premium set until next week though. There are a few other new games arriving, but they’ll actually be going straight to the sale table, so give that a gander if you swing by this weekend.
Finally, a few upcoming events of note. We’ll be hosting a puzzle swap on the evening of October 11, so grab a good quality puzzle that you’re done with and come trade it for another. There will also be mini-puzzle competitions and lots of swag provided by Pomegranate Puzzles. a few weeks after that will be our 4-year anniversary party on October 25. We’re still working on details, but 4 years is a big deal, so it will be a party. And, drum roll please, stay tuned for Last Saturday Metagaming at Cloud Cap. We’re going to bring back one Saturday night game night every month, with a twist. Again, details forthcoming.
Have a great weekend everyone.
I don’t know if it is the brain sluggishness brought on by the heat, the increased summer workload at the shop, or my attempts to play outside as much as possible before the rains hit. But for some reason, I’ve been digging the lighter games lately. It could also be that we’ve had a few good ones hit our shelves in the past month. Here’s a quick run-down of some of the little guys I’ve been enjoying.
Friday the 13th: No, this is not a game about a troubled kid in a hockey mask terrorizing coeds. This is from the uber-brain of Reinier Knizia and it is a re-theme of his older card game, Poison. Friday the 13th has some large, attractively illustrated, and very hard to handle cards in 3 suits. The game feels like a trick-taking game, so card-counters will be in heaven. You will play cards to suited-piles, and if you tip the total over 13, you take the cards. Generally a bad thing, but great if you shoot the moon and have the most of a given suit. Simple and fun to watch those piles build to a point where one player is just outta luck.
Biblios: This is a re-release of a game that last sat on our shelves last year. Another example of a game that sold very well but the publisher decided to take a year to reprint it. Thankfully they did get some copies out, because it is a blast. You play 2 rounds, and much like the game For Sale, in the first round you collect cards, then use them in the auction during the second round. It all boils down to set-collecting, but you get to choose the cards that go in the auction and you get to adjust the final scoring for each suit. You won’t be able to play just one round of this one.
Lost Legacy: The Starship: This is another one of Seiji Kanai’s games with only 16 cards. Love Letter is his most famous, but Brave Rats is another one, and I’ve been forcing this one on everyone I can to fill tiny time gaps. In Lost Legacy, you simply draw a card, play a card, and try to deduce who has what cards. Ultimately you want to find the starship card to win. This is Love Letter with a teensy bit more choice and a theme that works. A perfect filler.
Seventh Hero: This is a borderline filler, as it is closer to 45 minutes in length. This game also got poo-pooed at the shop on the first try due to some rules arguments and just general lack of desire to have fun. I still enjoy it, largely because I like to watch the frustration in others when they realize they’ve been stuck in a no-win situation with the card I’ve passed around the table.
Now, my gaming time has not just been filled with these lighter games, although I’ve been playing more of them than usual. This past weekend though, I had the chance to attend the inaugural convention held by a long-time loyal customer whose interest is big, heavy wargames. I cannot say enough good things about this experience. Beyond the games, I had the chance to play with fantastic folks that I did not know at all before running the silliest game shop in Portland. This is why I opened the shop, to build a community of gamers, rather than just a group of nameless people playing games. Thanks to Ty for making this happen. As much as I’d like to do something like this at the shop, we are a business, and the shopping must go on, so I’m grateful I was able to get away to TyCon 2014. Here’s what I played:
Roads and Boats: It’s big, and sorta heavy, but it is not what you’d consider a wargame. That did not stop 1 of the players from trying to turn it into one. Roads and Boats feels like a civilization game, but with opportunity to send your donkeys and geese out to the fields to do some baby-making. Yeah, there are some interesting ideas in this nearly-impossible-to-find game, but it is really an industry-building and pick-up-and-deliver game with a malleable map and a whole host of paths to try.
Here I Stand: Holy Hand Grenade! This is a monster of a game. We’re talking 3 different games in one really. Here’s the tagline: ‘the first game in over 25 years to cover the political and religious conflicts of early 16th Century Europe’. Boy, why did it take them 25 years to make another one? Well, because there is so much going on in this game. I played as the Protestants, so for about 6 hours I did nothing but fight the Papacy for the hearts and minds of the good people of Germany and translate the bible into 3 different languages. During this time, on the other side of the table, France, England, and the Hapsburgs were battling for space as well as for treasures from the New World. Oh, and then the Ottomans were making pitiful pirating attempts along the Mediterranean coast. This is a game you need to play 6 times so that you can try each faction, because they are all very different. In the end, 10 hours later, God won, perhaps only due to exhaustion. Truly an epic game that belongs at every TyCon in the future.
Hope all of you have been playing some sweet games. Clear your tables and balance your checkbooks for next week, because the first of the GenCon beauties should be arriving. Rumor has it that Imperial Settlers will be in the shop by next Wednesday, and after playing its predecessor, 51st State, I cannot wait! We’ll see what other excitement arrives. Happy gaming folks!
Before I explain the title of this week’s blog post, many thank you’s are in order. A few weeks ago the Mercury posted their reader’s choice awards and we were pretty amazed to find our silly little shop ranked as the second favorite Game Store in PDX. Number 2 folks! I know, I know, its only the silver medal, but that is prerrt darn good considering that we’re the smallest and the hardest to get to. So thank you to anyone out there who voted. But heck, thank you if you did not vote too. I’m guessing that part of the reason we made it up the list is our community vibe, and that is all you loyal reader. I think all of you have more to do with our approval rating than we do, people return to our humble space for you as much as us.
We witnessed an example of this just this past Wednesday when a regular member of our game night community spent his final night with us before traveling east for professional pursuits. Cupcakes were baked (not by us) and shared, wine was gloriously spilled, and hugs and hearty goodbyes were dished out. This is why we made number 2, because that game night feeling permeates the store even in-between game nights. So thank you, no thank you, oh no its all you, oh stop it, its you, really.
Now while our shop was basking in the number 2 spot, I was grinding gears in last place, twice in a row, in GMT’s newest release, Thunder Alley. It’s a card-driven NASCAR-themed game with 4 beautifully huge tracks and lots of annoying little damage chits, annoying because they will be piling up on your cards and slowing you down unless you hit the pits. What really makes this game special is the prominent drafting mechanic. Nearly every move you make brings a whole group of cars with you, and since you are actually in control of multiple racers, drafting is the key to victory. Of course, your cars are rarely alone in a particular pack, so you need to be careful about who tags along with you.
Despite my poor back-to-back performances, this game was a blast, just pure fun. It is also the first GMT game that I could play with my family and non-gaming friends because it really isn’t that complicated and makes great thematic sense. We racked up a second game right after the first, and we would easily have played a third round if we had time. I highly recommend this game, but it is sadly now out of stock. Hopefully we’ll see a reprint soon, but I’m sure you’ll get a chance to over-fund it on Kickstarter first, yay for the world. By the way, Thunder Alley did not even reach half of its funding goal when it was initially proposed on Kickstarter, but some bloke collected a decent annual salary by Kickstarting his first attempt at Potato Salad. Ughh. Those are fine clothes you’re wearing emporer, interested in some shoes?
New games will be hitting our round table tomorrow, including Twin Tin Bots, Friday the 13th, and a Biblios reprint from Iello. We also now have a limited number of Betrayal at House on the Hill back in stock. Last week we received Madame Ching and Hotel Tycoon, and both of those should be available for rent later today.
Finally, with GenCon approaching we will soon be seeing a slew of new games, and if you are interested in any of these, definitely get us your preorders. Some of the most requested of the GenCon batch so far are Machi Koro, Imperial Settlers, the Star Realms reprint, Dead of Winter, and 7 Wonders: Babel.
Happy Gaming everyone!
Happy end of the heat wave folks. We are back from our trip to the south, still sticky, but glad to be back in such a great town. While we were away, we had the chance to play quite a few games with family, including 9 and 11 year old nieces. Rummikub was the big hit, despite one game where I collected tiles for every single turn except the last, so many tiles that my rack overflowdeth.
Also popular were Rage and Phase 10. I whined a lot during Rage, since it is a trick-taking game in the style of Spades or Pinochle, and my brain just does not process that style of game very well. I definitely did not earn any points with the family when I won the game after all the whining, dumb luck I guess. Thankfully, my subsequent Phase 10 victory was executed with much more grace. Both of these card games make for great family tabletop time. Phase 10 can go a little long, but the ease of play allows everyone to gab and goof-off.
Our gaming fun came to a bit of a halt though after an insanely long round of Settlers of Catan. I was pretty excited to show my family perhaps the biggest phenomenon in the tabletop world since Dungeons & Dragons or Magic the Gathering. We’re talking about the game that woke up my slumbering video-game-numbed brain. When I first played this game I remember feeling saved, a long-closed door in my noggin creaked open. by the time Catan came stateside, millions of minds, including my own, were deeply atrophied from playing first-person shooters and farming Warcraft loot. The good old days of getting together with buddies and powering through an epic Avalon Hill game, or a round of Risk, had been replaced with twitchy digital repetition and online bad behavior.
Then here comes Settlers of Catan, a strategy game for the adult world, a world where binging on Game of Thrones episodes is preferable to a 6 hour game of Axis & Allies or Risk. But Catan only takes you away from the digital world for an episode and a half, or at least it is supposed to. Our visit to Catan took over three episodes, and ended with one player being completely unable to do anything for the last few rounds. Needless to say, my family did not have the same nirvanic experience I had upon first playing Catan. Fortunately, during the plane ride back, we received a text photo of our two nieces enjoying another round of the game, so the kids were hooked!
Upon returning to our wonderful city, I was itching for some gaming, so I rounded up the regular crew and brought some good ones to the table. First was Fresco, one we have not played in some time for no good reason. Fresco is a smooth and very competitive game with a pleasant look and feel, typical of games by the publisher, Queen. The game has some classic euro-style elements: choosing when to wake your workers up to get a leg up at the market and painting the Fresco, but at the expense of higher prices and unhappy workers; choosing paint resources in one turn in order to mix them for a future turn, and of course managing your finances.
Following Fresco we played a round of Splendor, a surprise loser of the coveted Game of the Year award in Germany. Splendor is a delightful game that let’s you think just the right amount and can be played by anyone. It is high on the shop’s recommended list for serious and casual gamers alike. Finally, we got in a round of the new Game of Thrones card game. with insanely simple rules and fast play, this $10 game is a perfect filler with more thinking than you expect up front.
There you have it folks, lots of lighter games have hit my table during the heat wave here and on the other side of the continent. Beyond the games though, just playing with family and friends is a blast, it sure beats plugging in. Cheers everyone,