Well the big news this week, at least for many, is the release of the Firefly Board Game. This puppy was hot at GenCon, but not all GenCon darlings maintain their temperature once outside the convention hall (hi there Quarriors). I’ll give you more of my thoughts about this game below, as well as thoughts on a few other games. Despite the fantastic weather lately, I’ve been choosing games over fish, so I’ve played a bunch and thought I’d give you my thoughts on them, starting with the gorram Alliance elephant in the room. Don’t expect the same next week as the upcoming weather looks too amazing to pass up.
Also, don’t miss our big anniversary party on Saturday, November 2. Big sale all day, party all night!
Mini-Reviews (with some snark, and links to the boardgamegeek page for more information. Just add shipping to the cost when you click on those cheap prices, or buy a few more games you’ll never play to get free shipping!).
Firefly, the Game: First off, if you don’t like or know the show, don’t even touch this game. Firefly is a fully American adventure style game, reminiscent of classics in the genre like Talisman and Betrayal at House on the Hill. At its core, it is a pick up and deliver game: go to a planet, pick up goods, deliver them for a reward. Along the way though you will risk encounters with either the Alliance, the Reavers, or both. You’ll also be forced to repair your ship, have the opportunity to salvage abandoned ships, or shop at various supply planets to pimp out your ship and crew. Very American, but strangely, with very little player interaction. I can’t honestly praise this game for its design, yet I still really want to play it again. Creating an awesome cast of characters with sweet equipment is fun, and mapping a safe route across the board with a load of goods is satisfying. But strategy game it is not. This is Talisman in space, so you’ll have very little control over your fate, which means you’ll absolutely feel like you’re getting by on the seat of your pants. Also, if you pick up this game, head straight to Ikea for an extra table, you’re gonna need it.
Dungeon Roll: Dungeon Roll is a sweet little treasure chest full of lovely dice and fantasy characters. Like Firefly, this is a box full of Americana. It’s a push-your-luck dice game, which usually implies that you’ll have only two choices to make each turn, keep rolling or stop, and the only way you screw up is by rolling up some bad luck. In Dungeon Roll though, you’ll have character abilities and various treasures that expand your choices each turn and actually create the possibility of playing poorly beyond just pushing too far. Great Fun, and the perfect way to pass the time while you wait for your roleplaying buddies to show up.
Strut: A dice and cards game that took about 10 tries to play correctly. Now, its a great game. You’ll have a hand of cards showing dice combinations, and your goal is to quickly call Strut! when you think the dice on the table match your card. With a mix of speed and tactics, you will not be sitting around waiting. Plus, we’ve found that it appeals to both casual gamers and hardcore hobbyists, well, not the hobbyists who don’t like a little noise.
Lost Legends: Designer Mike Elliot is back with another fantasy twist on a popular card game. Shortly after the release of the now famous Dominion, Mike Elliot’s Thunderstone hit the shelves with a dungeon crawl take on Dominion. Thunderstone was far from the elegant perfection of Dominion, but it was still a blast to play. Elliot’s latest game, Lost Legends, is a dungeon crawl version of 7 wonders, with card drafting to build your character followed by a battle phase to achieve experience points. Again, the game is a bit mathy and completely unbalanced, but still very fun as a dungeon crawly experience. Absolutely want to play this more.
Bruges: Stephan Feld has been a very productive designer of late, with at least 3 games released this year. Bruges is one of his latest releases and it is a unique and swift card game with some board elements. A set of dice will strongly influence your choices each round, and each card in your hand belongs to one of 5 suits and can be played in 6 different ways. One way to play your cards is add them to a cast of characters in your little piece of the city, who will then benefit you in various ways. Sounds a bit mind-boggling up front, but after a few rounds a rhythm develops and the game hums along. For an hour-long game, Bruges is an immensely rich and satisfying experience.
Clash of Cultures: Now that this game is back in print, I’ve had the opportunity to play it a few more times. Like all other civilization building games, you will start with a piddly settlement and try to become a full blown nation. Also like other civ games, you can focus on becoming a military powerhouse, a spiritual leader, an economic mastermind, a learned society, or any combination thereof. The rules are streamlined for a civ game, yet the replay depth remains. The technology advancement tree provides numerous possible combinations, and often your opponent’s decisions can strongly influence your choice of advancements. The map, which will be randomly assembled each game, has a major impact on strategy since the terrain will limit movement and resource collection. On top of all this, you have objective cards that encourage you to follow specific paths to grab some victory points, paths that often seem odd to your opponent. Then we have the action cards and event cards, all of which can hurt or help you or your opponents. Despite its long playtime, about 90 minutes per player, I’m always sad to see the game end because it does feel like you just got your civilization to a sweet spot and you want to watch it grow.
Through the Ages: Oh Vlaada, you are lucky you live so far away, because I would stalk you, I love you that much. Through the Ages is another amazing civ game that feels so much different than any other game in the genre. The biggest difference is apparent right out of the box: no map tiles. This game is all cards; every advancement, leader, and military unit is represented by cards and annoying little wooden cylinders placed on the cards (or rolling off the cards and onto the floor). Acquiring new advancements for your civ involves grabbing cards from an ever changing offer, and each age, the offer gets better. Now I’ve only played an abbreviated version of this game, 2 ages and no war, and even the short version provides an insane amount of variety across plays. With this game and Clash of Cultures, I may not need to play any other games in my lifetime, until another civ game gets released.
Cheers and happy gaming everyone!