So its Thursday, and I’m going to rave a bit about a game called Friday, that I actually first played this past Sunday. As the weather warms up and the bugs start to hatch on the rivers, I spend most of my days off knee deep in fresh cold running water casting at feeding trout. When the sun sets on the river, though, the casting must end, and I need something to do for an hour or two before bed, otherwise my mind races with excitement for the next day of fishing. Games on a tablet device or games that can be played solitaire are perfect for these moments, and last Sunday I discovered an excellent solo card game called Friday, by Friedemann Friese (of Power Grid fame).
In Friday, you are helping a poor fellow named Robinson shortly after he was shipwrecked on a lonely island. On the horizon, two pirate ships approach, and you need to help Robinson develop his survival and fighting skills so that he can fend off the pirates, take their ship, and leave the island.
Friday is a deck building game. This means you will have a starting deck of cards that you’ll draw cards from to play, you’ll be acquiring helpful cards that will go into your discard pile, and when your deck has no more cards, you will shuffle the discard pile to make a new deck. In Friday, your starting deck is terrible. But as Robinson successfully explores the island and faces hazards, the hazard cards become reward cards that get added to your deck.
Each turn consists of drawing two hazard cards, choosing which one to face, then drawing a number of cards from your character deck as instructed by the hazard card. If your total fighting points match or exceed the hazard value, you win the hazard card, if not, you will lose some life but also have the option to destroy some of the terrible cards in your deck. In addition to fighting values, some of your character cards have actions you can perform, and this is where the game gets very interesting. The actions may allow you to draw more cards, rearrange the top 3 cards of your deck, gain more life, destroy cards, and a few other options. These actions can be performed in any order, and the play order is often very, very important. Unfortunately, all of the exploring and fighting takes time, and when you need to reshuffle your discard pile to make a new deck, you also add a horrible aging card to the deck that ruins a great offense when it shows up later in the game.
I’ve tried out a few solo games on my fishing trips, like the Lord of the Rings Card Game and Roll Through the Ages, both excellent games (If Mage Knight were more compact it would easily be the only game I played). Friday, though, is a near perfect game for my needs. It is compact, plays in about 30 minutes, and it is very challenging with fun choices. So if you find yourself in lonely situations, I highly recommend helping Robinson escape his own in a game of Friday by Friedemann Friese.
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?
Dominion is a wonderful game of deck-building, or constructing a small efficient engine out of a deck of cards. For some though, the term deck-building induces facial micro-expressions so powerful you don’t have to be Cal Lightman to sense the revulsion. Well, for both loathers and lovers of deck-building, two new games have hit the shelves that herald the next generation and are worth at least 10 or more trys: Eminent Domain (designer Seth Jaffe, publisher Tasty Minstrel Games) and A Few Acres of Snow (designer Martin Wallace, publisher Treefrog Games). Both of these games use deck-building as a single mechanic within a multi-faceted game experience.
In Eminent Domain, players are attempting to colonize or attack planets in order to expand their space empire. A large empire alone can win you the game, or you can use the planets to produce and trade resources, or acquire advanced technologies. In addition to deck-building, Eminent Domain combines role-selection (a la Puerto Rico, Glory to Rome, and Race for the Galaxy) with tableau development (a la Race for the Galaxy and 7 Wonders). I’ve played this puppy too many times to count and I still want more. Beware though, the role-selection aspect of the game throws many people off, so if that is a new element for you, approach Eminent Domain with extreme caution.
A Few Acres of Snow takes deck-building in a slightly different direction by combining it with area control in a region of North America during the time of the French-Indian War. Deck-building is accomplished in a standard fashion, by buying cards, but settling territories on the map also leads to the acquisition of territory cards, which often junk up your deck the same way Dominion property cards do. You’ll be using your cards during the game to collect money, develop territories, and, oh yeah, siege and raid opponent occupied locations. A Few Acres is 2-player only, and it has a certain cigar-smoking distinguished feel about it, like a chess duel. Oh, and the box art is stunning, you could face this baby out in your art gallery!