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.
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!
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.
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
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?