Grads and Dads month is here, and its time to crank up the radio when Alice Cooper belts out “School’s out for Summer”. For those who get a summer break, enjoy every last second of it. For those stuck inside all summer, staring longingly out the window at the beautiful sunny days, our first new arrival this week is your chance to stick it to the big bad corporate man. Whatever your situation, check out Tabletop’s show on Munchkin, then help us kick off the arrival of June at our First Friday art opening tonight, where Lisa Thomas shows off her stunning works of game art.
Infiltration: The man who brought us Dominion brings us yet another good looking game about competing to be the best futuristic corporate thief. Check out these rules if you want to get prepared for bringing it to the table tonight.
Magic 2012 Planechase: Planechase is a multiplayer format for Magic the Gathering that involves traveling between different planes at various points in the game. Each plane changes the rules environment, and the new set introduces Phenomenon cards that have immediate effects during interplanar travel. The set consists of 4 new complete and limited edition decks, each with limited cards available only in these decks. If you don’t want to buy a pack, why not join us for our Avacyn Restored draft tournament this saturday evening and try to win a pack!
Pokemon Kyurem Box: Kyurem is getting his own special box, complete with a figurine, a special foil card, and 4 booster packs. Grab a box during our Pokemon league saturday morning from 10-noon and experience the thrill of busting out that figurine when your Kyurem foil card hits the table.
Big Bang Theory Party Game: Sounds like you’ll need to be a pretty big fan of the show to enjoy this Apples to Apples style party game.
Lemonade Stand: All the fun of the real deal, but you get to keep your tooth enamel.
Upcoming Special Events
First Friday Art Gathering: Join us for some, sips, snacks, and some pretty cool new art in the demo room, 6-8pm.
Pokemon League: New day and time, 10-noon this saturday morning.
Magic the Gathering, Avacyn Restored Draft Tournament: At the request of our small but incredibly awesome group of Magic customers, we’ll be holding a draft tournament this saturday evening at 6pm. We hope to continue these tournaments every few weeks and expand our fledgling Magic community into the nicest bunch of summoners in the city. The entry cost of $13 gets you 3 packs for the draft and a chance to win some prizes, including a Planechase deck for the winner.
New on the Rental and Used Shelves:
No new used games this week. We are working on getting K2 on the rental shelf, and will be adding Infiltration as well.
Happy Memorial Weekend Folks. We’ve got a fair bit of new stuff to announce, so let’s jump right into it:
MEATY GAME DAY is tomorrow (May 26) at 4pm. Bring your hearty lengthy games and play them with others willing to let their bums go numb.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: During meaty game day, Admiral Mike will be organising an epic session of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA the board game, with all expansions. This is a wonderful game experience that really stays true to the core tension in the TV show, so definitely give this a try if you’ve got a few hours. Starts about 4pm.
MAGIC DRAFT TOURNAMENT: On Saturday June 2 we will be running a Magic the Gathering Draft style Tournament starting at 6pm. Entry is $13, which includes 3 packs to draft with and prizes for the winner(s).
FREE RPG DAY: Saturday June 16 is free roleplaying game day. We’ll have a bunch of free goodies from different publishers, and we’ll hopefully have a few game sessions running. If anyone is interested in being a GM for their favorite game, please contact us and we’ll hook you up with some swag.
PATHFINDER CAMP: Speaking of RPGs, we’ll be hosting a 4-day Pathfinder camp for ages 10 and up. For those who do not know what Pathfinder is, think Dungeons and Dragons. The camp is tentatively scheduled for July 17-20, and will cost $175 per player, which will include all materials needed to play as well as some snacks and other goodies. Seating is very limited, so please contact us if you are interested.
PATHFINDER SUMMER CAMPAIGN: Cloud Cap has an intern interested in running on ongoing Pathfinder Campaign for no more than 4 players ages 13 and up. Let us know if you are interested, days and times are still not set.
POKEMON LEAGUE: Now officially on Saturday mornings from 10-noonish.
WEDNESDAY GAME GATHERING: This is our weekly board game gathering. Come on by and play some games with good people. We do our best to help you get up and running on a new game if necessary, and others will do their best to include you, so don’t be shy.
New Product Arrivals:
KITES, KITES, KITES, AND MORE . . . . That’s right, we’ve brought in a few kites, but not your average plastic throw away ones, these are high quality kites from HQ. We have some stunning single line kites and some sweet dual line stunt kites at affordable prices. Come check these out, or find me at the park tomorrow crashing my stunt kite into the ground. We also have a few outdoor games and activities from HQ.
ORA & LABORA should be back in stock this afternoon.
MANSIONS OF MADNESS: HOUSE OF FEARS expansion is also expected today.
K2 was nominated for the kennerspiel des jahres award (basically, hardcore game of the year), and we’ve got a copy coming in today as well as the expansion.
New rentals and demos: We will be throwing the Kingdom Builder expansion into the rental copy as soon as it is returned. We’ve also put the Going Cardboard DVD on the rental shelf.
Have a great weekend everyone!
So the fellow who gave us the wonderful game of Dominion released a surprising new game at the end of last year titled Kingdom Builder. Because Dominion was such a unique and enjoyable game, the release of Kingdom Builder was preceded by a fair amount of anticipation within the hobby gaming community. Well, upon its release, Kingdom Builder turned a lot of smiles upside down, and a small turbulent fire was lit on the online game forums, where the minority of folks who enjoyed the game desperately tried to defend it against the waves of trolls attempting to crush every copy in existence.
After the initial flames burned down, Kingdom Builder quietly crept into dark corners where the proud few stealthily huddled over it, hoping to avoid the ire of their serious gamer friends. The hard core forum trolls aimed their spray of venomous spittle at other new and exciting games, believing that they had obliterated any hope of Kingdom Builder making a lasting impression. Well, they were very, very wrong; Kingdom Builder was just nominated for arguably the most prestigious board game award in the world, an award that guarantees lasting international success: The Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year). So now, the forum flames burn bright again, but this time the trolls have lost some strength, for some of them upon playing Kingdom Builder a few more times have begun to recognize the game for what it is, a very interesting light strategy game that nearly anyone can play and enjoy.
The purpose of the Spiel des Jahres is to highlight recently released games (in Germany) that, above all, offer fun and challenging experiences for a very broad audience in a relatively short period of time. For your average German family or group of friends (who, I’ve been told, play far more games together than we do here in the United States of Electronica), the Spiel des Jahres award provides assurance that all will have a satisfying game experience. Really, without any knowledge of a game whatsoever, someone could purchase an award nominee or winner, then learn it and play it in a single social evening and have a great time doing so.
Kingdom Builder, I believe, is a perfect nominee for the Spiel des Jahres award. At its heart, it is an abstract area control strategy game. The basic rules are very straightforward: on your turn play the only card you have in your hand by placing 3 of your settlement pieces on the terrain type that matches your card. That is it folks, seriously, that is how you play the game, you play your only card and put 3 pieces on the board, and 45 minutes later you tally the scores. Now, not all spaces on the map are equally valuable, and this is where things get very interesting. First, some map spaces are near specific locations, which can allow you to do more actions on your turn. Also, the conditions for victory change every game, so different map spaces hold different potential values depending on the conditions in effect. Furthermore, your piece placement options during future turns will be dramatically limited by the pieces you place on your current turn, so some careful thought is required. Combine all of these implications for piece placement and you end up with a fascinatingly rich though confined set of choices. Oh, and let me repeat: to play this game you simply play your only card and put 3 pieces on spaces on the board that match that card. How awesome is that, best game ever to explain to new players!
Well, enough said. Absolutely give this game a try, we have it on our rental shelf to make it easy. And play it more than once, the first game often leaves players feeling that luck dominates. Like a nice pot of chili, Kingdom Builder thickens and grows richer over time. Even the trolls will be crawling out from under the bridges and eating humble pie once they play a few more games.
Really no new games to announce this week, though the Nomads expansion for Kingdom Builder will be in the shop this afternoon. We’ll be opening a copy as soon as it gets into our hands, so stop on by this weekend to try it out. This also means that the rental copy of Kingdom Builder will get the Nomads upgrade next week.
We are also thrilled to start carrying products from HQ, a producer of high quality kites and other outdoor play items. Next week we will be receiving both single line kites, dual line sport kites, and other assorted outdoor activities. If you have not yet tried a sport kite, they are quite addictive and challenging, we may just have to do a demo at the park next weekend.
Wil Wheaton’s new video series, Tabletop, has been getting a lot of buzz, and for good reason. As impossible as it seems, Wil has actually made it entertaining to watch a group of folks play board games. Wil also teaches the basic game rules as the group plays, so the show can be a nice way to begin an evening of playing new games. The new episode should go live today, and Ticket to Ride is the game. As for our stock of the games highlighted by the show, we have plenty of Small World, Ticket to Ride, and Settlers of Catan; of the lighter games featured 2 weeks ago, well, we are nearly out of Zombie Dice, Tsuro will be back this afternoon, but Get Bit is gone and who knows when it will be back.
Another great videocast to check out is Shut Up & Sit Down. This guys with funny accents bring a whole new style to game criticism. I find their show extremely informative as well as entertaining, and do recommend their video and written reviews of games you are considering purchasing.
Finally, shop events. Want to remind everyone that the Pokemon League has moved to Saturdays from 10am to noon, starting tomorrow. This Tuesday, May 22, we’ll be donating 15% of sales to the Sellwood Middle School Foundation, so come do some guilt-free shopping. And we will end the month with our meaty game day next Saturday, May 26, where Admiral Mike will be organizing a game of Battlestar Galactica with all the expansions, so reserve a seat now!
Oh, one more thing, entirely unrelated to gaming, the Salmonflys are hatching along the Deschutes River. Whether you are a fisherman or not, this is one incredible natural spectacle that is worth the 2 hour drive. Where else can you get covered in harmless bugs the size of your index finger, and watch happy fish and birds chow on them as they fly upriver to deposit their eggs? Simply awesome, until you feel a live one in your pants halfway through the drive home . . . .
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.
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 (http://wizkidsgames.com/quarriors/quarmageddon/). If you are interested, the new rules are posted here: http://wizkidsgames.com/wp-content/uploads/quarma/QuarmageddonRulebook.pdf.
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 . . . .
Modern games are by no means cheap. While hobby gamers rarely blink at a $50-$60 price tag for a board game, most shoppers gasp loudly when they see our prices. We’ve heard such gasping many times in the shop, and because of this we have to continually convince ourselves that the games we carry are worth the price.
Typically when gamers defend game prices, they compare the cost of a game to the cost of seeing a movie with family or friends. Nowadays you’ll pay about $10-15 per person for a new release on the big screen, so a group of 4 will spend $40-$60 for a few hours of entertainment. Compare this to a similarly priced board game that can entertain a group of 2 or more people for anywhere from 2-30+ hours, and the game should be the better value.
But is the comparison between board games and movies really valid? A movie is a very and largely non-social experience, providing a few hours of often mind-numbing relaxation. A board game, on the other hand, requires some effort, not only to read and understand the rules, but to make challenging choices during the game and resist the urge to scream at your opponents when they utterly trash all of your plans for victory. We see movies to be entertained, the movie does all the work, and it could care less if we are watching or not. Games require that we do all the work, and the game breaks down if players provide no input. So, while a board game seems to provide more bang for your buck than a movie, the experiences are too different to compare, and for most people a movie is a better bargain precisely because it is a less demanding and perhaps more relaxing experience.
Video games are a bit more appropriate for comparison with board games. Both are games, and therefore require some user input. Both are similarly priced as well.Yet, despite the similarities, many households now have at least a shelf full of video games, and the expensive apparatus to run them, while a much smaller number of households have a shelf of actively played board games. So why does the $40-$60 price tag for a video game not bother as much as the same price on a board game? Again, I think it comes down to the amount of effort involved in playing a board game, video games still do most of the work for you, and you can largely just sit back and watch the show. Video games can also be played alone, allowing one to escape social reality for a while.
What activity, then, can we compare board games to if we want some accurate sense of their value for your dollar? I think sports actually provide a great comparison. Like board games, athletic games are active and social. Also like board games, many sporting activities have a high entry cost. Baseball, for example, requires the purchase of a bat, some balls, and some gloves. Even the casual soccer player needs a decent pair of shoes. Sports and board games both provide an escape from the sometimes overwhelming responsibilities of everyday life while still requiring social interaction. Both activities also challenge some aspect of ourselves. Athletic games challenge the body while board games stimulate the mind and foster creativity. Now this physical vs. mental comparison unearths the age-old high school jocks vs. nerds rivalry, which in large part still subtly exists in the collective unconscious. But if we grow up and accept reality, in terms of value, neither is better than the other, and both are vital.
Despite the similarities between athletic activities and board games, one major difference still remains – the barrier to entry. Sporting games generally make sense, take very little explaining, and don’t require reading a rulebook. Board games, on the other hand, are often confusing at first and require reading cryptic rulebooks. No matter what comparisons we make, this is where board games lose all value for many people, the effort required is too great, and too uninteresting. Sometimes it just feels too much like work. As far as entertainment spending goes, board games require more effort per dollar than really any other product on the market.
But the mental challenge and sometimes frustrating social interactions involved in playing board games are precisely why I, and many other hobby gamers, enjoy games so much. For us the effort of learning a game, the often painful brain-burning choices made during the game, and the social challenges are what give games their unique value. Board games are not for everyone, but they are anything but expensive when compared to other forms of entertainment. In addition to playing board games, I rock climb, mountaineer, fly fish, see movies, and play video games. And honestly, board games are insanely cheap when lined up with these other activities. I think ultimately, it is not just the price of the game that induces gasping, it is more the concept of paying any amount of money for entertainment that requires mental work.
Now the sales pitch: we try very hard at Cloud Cap to reduce the barrier to entry for board games, because we know that if that wall is breached, most people will find a very rewarding experience on the other side. So step into our demo room and let us help you learn a game. Or take a game home from our rental library, and if you don’t want to read the rules, watch a tutorial on YouTube. Better yet, come to one of our many game nights and learn from someone who really wants to teach you their favorite games. If you find a game you like and can play it for a lifetime with friends and family, you’ll discover that eventually, bang for buck, board games explode for just pennies.
Modern board games are expensive, many just won’t work for you or your group, and many more just won’t make it to the table more than a few times every year. We’ve already got our demo library to help with some of these issues, but now we are now offering one more way to try before you buy, or just try and not buy: Board Game Rentals!
That’s right, take home one of our precious playables at a rate of $5 for 3 nights. Not only that, if you do decide to buy the game, the rental payment will be applied to the price of the game, so you essentially get the rental for free.
Below is a list of our current rental games, and we’ll be adding new titles as often as possible, at least once per month, so feel free to offer suggestions. Oh, and for you maximizers out there, we are closed Mondays, so guess what the best night to rent a game is?