Saturday, December 25, 2010

Last Game Order For 2010

I had planned for one last game order for the year - Power Struggle, but thanks to the year end sale at CSI, I ended up putting in a full-blown order to qualify for free shipping. Was hoping to keep my games collection around the 30 mark but it seems that this order coupled with my recent acquisitions will be blowing that number out of the water.

Since I didn't have anyone to help carry the games back for me this time round, I had to decide between Vpost and Borderlinx as an alternative. Went with Borderlinx in the end due to the 15% shipping discount currently on as well as the convenience of being a Citibank cardholder. This is the first time I'm opting for a commercial delivery so we'll see how it goes. I have heard horror stories of shocking shipping charges. I suppose it's tough to get a good estimate since you can never be sure of the volumetric box size that the games will be packed in. I requested for the smallest possible box from CSI but it really boils down to the fit. Will update on the experience after I receive the games.

Besides Power Struggle, I added Navegador and Vikings to the order. Navegador has been notching great reviews over the past few weeks on BGG. The game from this year's Essen crop that initially caught my eye was Troyes but after ploughing through the reviews that emerged after Essen, it seemed that Navegador would be a better fit for my gaming palate. Looking forward to my first rondel game!

Happy gaming over the holiday weekend and Blessed Christmas!!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Checklist For iDevices Boardgames

With the slew of euros coming out for the iPhone/iPad, I decided to see if I could come out with a list of some sorts to keep my wallet in check:

1. Universal App or iPad version? Since the main attraction for me is really playing the game on-the-go with friends round the table on an iPad.

2. Game I haven't tried or one I don't like enough to own? At the price of a Starbucks Frappe, a mighty attractive option for sure.

3. Online implementation of some sorts? Samurai has been highly addictive in its asynchronous online mode, 'nuff said.

4. Round-the-table/Hot-seat multiplayer format? The pass-and-play format doesn't appeal to me since I find it easier to get others to sit around and stare at a 10" screen then to pass a device around. Boo for the games with hidden info though...

5. Plays more than 2? Smallworld would be a straight purchase if not for the developers nerfing it to only 2 player multi.

6. Price. My current inclination is to pay US$4.99 for a game with online capabilities like Samurai and Carc and US$2.99 for a game without, like NS Hex and Tichu.

Not all my purchases so far meet all the criteria but check out mostly:

Tichu - Misses on 2 & 4. 3 on the way.
Samurai - Misses only on 4 due to hidden info.
Carc - All hits baby!
Roll Through The Ages - Misses only on 3. Unlikely but at least AI on the way.
NS Hex - Misses on 4 due to hidden info. 3 on the way.

I hate gushing but Carc and Samurai are superbly done. All future releases should hopefully seek to emulate what they offer.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Samurai and Neuroshima Hex! On The iPhone

Some comments on previous boardgame apps I bought:

Samurai: Tad more expensive but definitely a very polished product. Online implementation is fantastic. If I use Word with Friends as a benchmark for asynchronous play, this beats it for the ability to set a time limit for each move and online leader boards. I purchased it primarily for future iPad play (but got it now in case of price increase), but I've to say, I'm enjoying the AI/online play tremendously at the moment. I've never played Samurai before I purchased the app. It's probably not a game I need to own a physical copy of as it can be somewhat abstract, but at US$4.99, it's a steal as a substitute.

Neuroshima Hex!: Also a game I've never tried before I bought the app and I must say I rather enjoy it. Playing it even more than Samurai even though it's just against the AI. It is priced more attractively due to lack of online implementation at the moment but developers say it's 'akan datang' (on the way). Suspect price will go up then, so I decided to grab it first. Also another game I don't need a physical copy of, but I can see myself playing it with others over an iPad.

Roll Through The Ages On The iPhone

Bought it. The solo achievements were fun while they lasted (1.5 days), but in all honesty not too hard to accomplish. Little incentive to play it anymore till AI is implemented.

1. Beautiful graphics and interface
2. Be upgraded as universal app soon
3. While multiplayer is in 'hot-seat' format, I see F2F viable on an iPad since there's no hidden info
4. Upcoming AI which should breathe some life into the game after accomplishing the solo achievements

1. No online implementation of any form and none promised.
2. Info divided in separate menus where it would be nice to have it all on one screen. With no separate app for the iPad, I seriously doubt this will change with the universal app.
3. Limited number of solo achievements and current ones aren't too challenging
4. Optimal play seems to always begin with building cities to max out the number of dice available

I suppose the last point is sort of unfair since it's an issue with the game more so than the app. I have never played RTtA before and reviews never convinced me the physical game warranted a purchase due to its multi-player solitaire gameplay. The app (especially at a discounted price of US$2.99) gave me adequate impetus to give it a go. It definitely didn't make me feel as good about the money spent as compared to the Samurai, Carcassonne apps, but I suspect the disappointment is more with the game than the app itself.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My First Geeklist!

Never thought this day would ever come since I've always been more at ease lurking around BGG. But I suppose I was particularly inspired today and started my first ever geeklist.

What's YOUR boardgaming limit?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Musings On Santiago & Havana

Acquired two new games in the last month - got Santiago in a trade for Tribune which had been on the trade block for awhile and managed to purchase Havana 2nd hand at a reasonable price.

Santiago has been on my radar for some time. The only negatives I garnered from the reviews that concerned me were that it was somewhat abstract and that it really only played well with 5 players. Having played it once, I can see why some may criticize it as abstract but it carries sufficient theme not to put me off. I realized recently that while pure abstract games are a no-no for me, some attempt to infuse theme is usually adequate for my tastes as long as the mechanics are interesting enough. Santiago fits the bill for me and even playing with 4 on my first attempt has proved it to be a real gem. It plays quicks (45-60min) with good depth and has straightforward rules which makes it accessible for the casual or perhaps even non-gamer. It reminds me of Chicago Express (another game I'm fond of) in these aspects. However, the auction mechanics are somewhat different and in my opinion, that is where Santiago's brilliance lies.

There are 2 'auction' phases in each round. In the first, players bid for plantation tiles revealed for the round. Each player has to bid a different sum (with the exception of passing) but need not bid a sum higher than the previous bidder. A higher bid will give one the opportunity to pick a more desirable plantation tile. While the tiles which allow for 2 workers are clearly more popular, the kind of crop desired depends on the plantations which each player is attempting to expand. An early pass empowers the player with the role of the canal overseer which accords him the opportunity to earn from bribes or potentially sabotage the productivity of his opponents' plantations.

The 2nd 'auction' phase isn't a typical auction per se but a clever mechanic in which players attempt to influence the decision of the canal overseer with their 'bribes'. The overseer can either take the bribe and follow the proposed canal placement or he can choose to outbid the highest bid to place the canal wherever he desires. The overseer is free to pick any bribe he desires even if it isn't the highest offer - this places immense power in his hands since any damage made to non-irrigated plantations is irreversible. I love this mechanic! It feels like a negotiation game without...the negotiation! One issue I have with games like Chinatown is that it seems to alienate introverted players who may not be so comfortable 'wheeling and dealing' while giving an edge to more vocal, persuasive players. I suppose that's the point of negotiation games but yet an aspect which probably won't go down well with my gaming group. On the other hand, this Santiago facilitates 'negotiation' through a simple once-round mechanic. Sure, banter may help tilt the overseer's decision but ultimately, it boils down to the bribe offered and the board position.

Overall, Santiago is a definite keeper for me!

Havana on the other hand has some interesting mechanics but the means for VP acquisition is mildly disappointing. I enjoy the role selection mechanic which is reminiscent of Citadels, but is enhanced in that the combination of cards chosen further determines turn order. Each subsequent turn only allows the change of a single role card which makes the decision all the more agonizing. Each player also begins with a fixed hand of role cards which means that a role once discarded cannot be repeated till late in the game (when one is left with 2 cards in hand) or by using a specific role to retrieve a previously discarded card. Unfortunately, the game is let down by an uninteresting VP acquisition mechanic based around purchasing buildings. Buildings vary in terms of resources required and VPs rewarded. This reminds me similar mechanics in Stone Age and Keythedral, which took those games a few notches down for me. Havana could have taken some tips from Citadels in this regard by assigning some buildings with special powers. In the case of Citadels, purple buildings allow certain rules to be broken while others provide income bonuses, which adds a set collection dimension to the game.

All in all, some good ideas packed in a quick, relatively accessible game but comes across unpolished due to a rudimentary VP acquisition mechanic.

The Future Of Boardgaming?

Recently, I've been increasingly intrigued by the boardgaming apps introduced at the Apple App store for iDevices (iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch). I'm typically cautious about the paid apps I acquire since expenditure while initially small can snowball easily.

I read a couple of reviews of the various game implementations on the Geek and other sites and finally took the plunge on 3: Neuroshima Hex!, Samurai and Carcassonne. What's interesting is that these are not the typical kind of Euros that appeal to me. I've never played NS Hex and Samurai though they were once on my watchlist. I figured they seem too abstract for my tastes after some initial research. I have played Carcassonne previously but didn't care enough for it to desire a physical copy of my own - tad light for my tastes.

So why did I buy them for my iPhone?

1. Comparatively low prices - While the games don't appeal enough to me to own a physical copy of them but their prices as software were highly attractive. I paid US$2.99 for NS Hex, and US$4.99 each for Samurai and Carcassonne. They are priced significantly lower than their physical counterparts and provide you with opponents when your gaming buddies aren't available, either via AI or online play (NS Hex's online implementation is in the works but promised by the developers). At such prices, it gives me an opportunity to try new games (in the case of Samurai and NS Hex) and own others which I only have a moderate interest in (in the case of Carcassonne). And I must say I enjoyed both new games after trying them out, but yet still not enough to care to own physical copies of them. So this works out perfectly for me.

2. Superb implementation - Of the reviews I've read, these are arguably the 3 best implementations of boardgames in the App Store, with perhaps the exception of Tichu. The numbers of boardgames have been growing with developers jumping on the bandwagon but not all are as well implemented as these. In particular, the online component is especially well designed on Samurai and Carcassonne, allowing for asynchronous play like what you enjoy with Words/Chess With Friends. Samurai even allows you to set a time limit for online games so that the AI will take over the move if the time limit is exceeded.

3. F2F Gaming Over the iPad - This is arguably the main reason that perked my interest in gaming over iDevices. There are tons of free games on the iPhone to keep me entertained when I need fillers throughout the day and I generally don't see the need to pay for such games (with the exception of the upcoming FF Tactics...woohoo!). However, what intrigued me was the possibility of gaming with my friends over the iPad (I don't one yet, but this is probably enough to tip the scale). The portability factor means that by simply lugging around an iPad, I can potentially have a host of games available to game with others on the go - no more worries about finding a large enough table to set up when you are outdoors. It also means I'm able to expand my game collection in a much more affordable way so that I have more options for my indoor gaming sessions too.

4. Price Increase - The 3 games above will all be released as universal apps in future as a free upgrade, optimized for iPad play. Prices will head north when that happens and in some cases double (Carcassonne). Being an early adopter goes easier on my wallet!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Yspahan Caraven Strategy - What I've Been Getting Wrong!

In my last post, I described how difficult it was to pull of the Caraven strategy in Yspahan if your opponents aren't contributing to the caraven as well. Well, I realized the problem in my recent play laid with the fact that I've been playing one of the rules wrong. The caraven doesn't score only when it is completely filled. In fact, it scores at the end of each week! It makes it not only a viable strategy to pursue solo but rather, it makes it so powerful that it's impossible for others to ignore it. Well considering how I taught the rule wrongly, it makes it no wonder why everyone has been ignoring the caraven.

Interestingly, in my recent 4-player game in which I discovered my mistake, I scored an obscene number of points by pursuing the strategy alone (since I only realized the mistake halfway, I decided that we should continue with it for consistency). I leveraged on the 2 spots on the supervisor's track which allowed me to send 2 goods to the caraven simultaneously. No one challenged me for the buildings linked to those spots since they were generally unattractive in terms of building points and there was just a general disinterest in the caraven and hence supervisor movement. So despite only scoring the caraven once when it filled, I had all the camels filled with my tokens except for one by the mid of the final week. By the time my opponents were on to my strategy, they were more or less helpless to stop me.

With the proper rule in play however, I except much keener competition for the caraven slots which is a boon since it not only opens another viable path to victory but also an area which requires your attention even if you are not going to major on it. Without enough attention from all players, I can see how a player who pursues the Caraven strategy will simply run away with the whole game, especially when coupled with the building power that allows you to draw a card each time you send a cube of yours to the caraven. If the stars line up and you have control of the buildings which flank the same spot on the supervisor's path, you get to send 2 cubes and draw 2 cards - all in a single turn! Ouch :D

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Random Musings On My Recent Gaming Session

1. It was nice to get Hansa Teutonica, Glory to Rome, Yspahan and Ra to the table in half an afternoon - been awhile since I last had a solid gaming session.

2. My appreciation of Hansa keeps growing. Been waiting for the point when the other shoe drops.........but till now, I'm still waiting :) In a way, it seems to be a really abstract game and I have heard the term "cube-pusher" used to describe it but it keeps me engaged throughout. I can't help but be intrigued by the variety of ways in which I can score points and how each 'path' to victory seems equally viable.

3. Discovered a new 'broken' combo in Glory to Rome. If you've played the game before, you'll know that almost every decent combo can be a 'broken' one. It really boils down to who can get theirs up and running quickly enough. In my 30+ games of GtR, I've NEVER built the Academy before. After all, its power seems rather 'ordinary' at first glance, especially when considered beside its more awe-inducing counterparts. The Academy allows you one Thinker action after each round in which you performed a Craftsman action.

I guess with my recent dabbling in A Game of Thrones LCG, I've learnt how crucial draw can be in determining a win. In this case, I sort of stumbled upon it having taking a couple of Craftsman clients in a 3 player game. What the Academy allows me to do therefore is to exhaust my hand using multiple Craftsman actions and then replenish it fully to 5. It not only enabled me to build speedily but helped me in my push to victory. It's one of the easier combos to pull off since you do not require other buildings in tandem but rather just a couple of Craftsman clients. Sure, your opponents can slow you down by refusing to craft but in a game with few players, it will not be long before you can select the Craftsman action yourself. In this game, I didn't get to build the Shrine or Temple to increase my hand size but I can imagine how it'll make the combo even more efficient.

4. The caravan strategy in Yspahan has been touted as especially powerful and different ones have even gone to the extent to deem it broken. In my 3-player game, I found it incredibly difficult to pull off successfully if your opponents totally ignore the caravan. It is simply impossible to fill quickly enough and the game ended without me succeeding in scoring the caravan once (it only scores when it fills completely). I however only realized midway through that there is a single spot on the supervisor track which allows 2 cubes to be sent to the caravan simultaneously. Perhaps that will be sufficient to pursue the strategy - I'll have to try it out again. Even if your opponents try to block you, at least you will still be able to fill the caravan more quickly even if it means sending their cubes together with yours.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Macao: First Impressions

Macao was a game that wasn't really on my radar after I read couple of reviews on the Geek. The thing that turned me off was complains regarding the lack of interaction in the game. If you have been reading my blog, you'll know that multiplayer solitaire games generally do not appeal to me. Nonetheless, I acquired it as it was available at a good price, figuring that I could always trade or sell it if it disappointed.

The rules were well-written and rather straight-forward. I had no problems teaching the rules to Van despite being just as green as her to the game. This is in contrast with some fiddly games where it's often hard to pin down all the rules on the first play. Our first play was a 2-player game and it went extremely smoothly - we felt as if we were seasoned players practically. One of my concerns was that Macao wouldn't scale well as a 2-player game since most multiplayer games seem to disappoint when scaled down to 2. However my worries were unfounded as the game played out rather well with 2. Sure, there would likely be more competition for spots in the city quarters and at the ports but the reduced downtime made up for it.

Another reason why Macao didn't immediately grab my attention was that it generally plays between 90-120min. While I'm hardly alien to games that length (a reasonable length I must say), my recent gaming patterns as well as gaming groups have led me to acquire more games of the 60min length. Yet, Van and I managed to complete the game in just over an hour including the rules explanation and that was a pleasant surprise indeed. I suppose the potential for downtime will be magnified with 3 or 4 players but 90min seems a good estimate for the game.

I must say I did enjoy the game and particularly the unique (at least for the moment) wind rose mechanic. It was almost 'fun' loading up a sector with action cubes and figuring how to spend them all when that turn hits. The intellectual stimulation laid in balancing the short term goal of ensuring there were action cubes available each round and the long term goal of activating all the cards on your tableau, failing which will result in penalty points. While challenging, it didn't give me the headache I received the first few times I played Agricola. However, it was one thing to simply avoid penalty points, it was another all together to further balance those goals with scoring points via shipping goods, occupying the city quarters and trading gold for prestige points. Hopefully with a couple of plays in the pocket, I'll progress from avoiding penalties and scoring points incidentally to a more deliberate approach in racking up the prestige points. The game is definitely more tactical in nature as the randomness of the dice and building cards makes it difficult to plan too far ahead.

What about the criticisms of the game? The most common one I read on the net is that it's plays just like another run-of-the-mill eurogame. I'm not sure it's fair to fault a game for that especially when its designer has made an effort to introduce a mechanic that while not earth-shattering is nonetheless rather fresh and interesting. My own personal criticism lies more with Macao's anti-climatic ending. The game ramps you up in terms of action cubes. Early in the game, you start with few cubes and thus turns pass quickly. Midway through the game, assuming you have sufficiently 'invested' in those rounds, you should be flushed with cubes to utilize, especially when coupled with your newly activated building powers. However due to the fixed number of rounds in the game, the latter rounds results in mostly singular cubes to be taken, resulting once again in short, quick and rather uneventful rounds. While this does wonders in reducing the downtime typically painful in quite a number of endgames, it comes across somewhat anti-climatic here as it makes it very difficult for straddlers to catch up due to the limited actions available. I suppose this could be due to my failure to load cubes in those sectors earlier but considering that that is not always the optimum move, I remain unconvinced that my view isn't valid.

Van seemed to enjoy it at least moderately which was a surprise since she usually shuns games with little interaction. This is a valid criticism of the game but it wasn't as bad as expected. It is true that there is little you can interfere with your opponents' acquisition of action cubes since the choice of dice is non-rival in nature. However, interaction comes in competition for spots on the board in terms of scoring prestige points. You compete to trade particular goods first at ports for higher points, as well as compete on the city quarters front for desired goods and to block each others' longest connection. While this seems largely idealistic in that most of your attention seems to be focused on avoiding penalty points, there seems to be sufficient potential for 'competition' in the game mechanics to be realized by experienced players.

All in all, a least for now. I don't see it exactly as a gateway game but neither is it intimidating and I can see myself easily introducing to casuals.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Long Lay-off

Haven't seen much gaming these past 2 months, largely due to travel and work. Brought a couple games back from Europe: Yspahan (which was a steal at 12 Euro), Chinatown, Dixit 2 and Die Kutschfahrt zur Teufelsburg.

It was a tough call, but I decided to sell Chinatown even before I unwrapped it. It seems to play best with 5, which was a number I seldom get to play with. Furthermore, for those rare occasions with 5, I would much prefer to bring El Grande or PoF to the table. I was also hesitant about the negotiation mechanic which was largely what the game was about. It seems to require a certain group for the game to truly take-off.

Hopefully, I will get a session going next week. Still waiting to try Yspahan. Tried Dixit 2 about 4 times with my non-gamer friends and they generally enjoyed it. I can see how repeated plays will lead to diminishing utility but I can see the appeal with the masses. My only attempt to teach Die Kutschfahrt zur Teufelsburg was miserable as I struggled with the rules explanation, having not played the game before. The game ended on a false declaration (due to an unclear communication of the victory conditions by me) but the run-through gave me a better idea of the game flow and left me a little more confident to explain the rules in future. The game did intrigue me nonetheless and I look forward to bring it to the table soon.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Gaming For The Week 22nd - 29th May 2010

Marcus came over early in the week with 2 new games - Innovation and American Rails. I've been dying to try Innovation as I'm a huge fan of Glory to Rome. Verdict? I like it and will be looking to acquire it. It does come across more abstract than Glory to Rome with a definite weaker theme. On the other hand, it feels more accessible than GtR despite its 100+ unique card powers. Perhaps it is due to the fact that only 5 card powers are in play for each player at any one time. Just like GtR, the strength is in the interaction which is a key element I look for in games. I enjoy the fact that not only are many of the card powers interactive in nature but you have to constantly 'compete' with other players to be ahead in card symbols to avoid sharing your powers with others. Van wasn't impressed even though she too is a fan of GtR. I suppose it's down to the theme or in this case, the lack of...

American Rails plays similar to Chicago Express which I own. And I have to admit, it's probably the better game. You get to start anywhere on the board unlike CE's fixed positions, which enhances replayability and offers more strategic options. Secondly, the action mechanism reminiscent of Steam also puts it above CE. I like the fact that each action can only be selected by one player each time round, and your choice of action will determine your turn order subsequently. It definitely adds more depth to the game. The game felt a lot more open, less predictable and many more options available with what you can and want to do with the different companies.

The sole advantage CE has over AR is perhaps its gateway potential. I like the fact that you reduce each player turn effectively down to only 3 options: Auction, Develop, or Expand. However, I find the whole Wabash addition once a company hits Chicago fiddly. Sure it adds an extra layer to the decision-making but new players tend to struggle wrapping their head around that part of the game. Nonetheless, the components of CE are far more attractive and I suppose that always serves as an important hook for casual/non-gamers.

Mid-week, the usual gang came over for our weekly fix of A Game of Thrones LCG. Can't remember much except that Jo (Greyjoy) and I (Lanni) took a close one from Ben (Bara) and Ivan (Martell). We ended off with Ra and Ivan took his first win in that, completely demolishing the rest of us. After Ben left, we managed to squeeze in a game of Dominion:Intrigue and a game of Citadels before calling it a day.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Gaming For The Week 9th-15th May 2010

The usual crowd at the mid-week session where we duked it out with AGoT. Two games were played. I paired with Ivan who played Greyjoy for the first and Ben the next who was playing Baratheon. Jo played Martell and Stark respectively for both games.

Ivan and my strategy was to ignore Jo and concentrate on Ben to garner power in lieu of Martell's characters with the Vengful mechanic (stand vengful characters when you lose as in defence) as well as triggered effects in the same vein. Ben was thumbed down most of the game with minimal characters and Ivan and I took advantage of that to make unopposed challenges.

Jo got off to a fast start in the second game with his Stark deck. My Lannister deck had limited attachments and he killed off my best characters each turn with Bear Island. Ben wasn't faring much better with good income but limited characters to play after being an Intrigue target of Ivan's.

Ivan had to leave after and the 3 of us ended off with Glory to Rome. Ben and Jo have not played the game much as compared to some of my other gaming partners, and seemed generally lukewarm towards it. I had a couple of good draws and managed to get an obscene combo going with Circus Maximus, Bridge, Collosseum and the Wall. Subsequently, I completed the Temple and Shrine and got my max hand size up to 11. I ended the game by using the remaining in-town sites.

With 3, the optimal strategy seems to be getting as many Craftsmen into your client as quickly as possible. Even if your opponents try to starve you of that action, each time you Craft can be a devastating turn, especially with good buildings available.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

OCTGN2: A Game of Thrones LCG

It ought to be rather apparent from my blog posts that I'm rather enamoured with A Game of Thrones LCG. So it was a real godsend when I discovered some enthusiast on the Fantasy Flight forums did some work for it to be played virtually over OCTGN2 (for free!).

I have clocked 5 plays so far and it worked better than expected. In fact it recreates the F2F experience satisfyingly , just without the actual F2F part. There is an in-client chat but I suppose Skype or Ventrilo could help further enhance the experience.

But the real kicker is that you get to build a tournament worthy deck and run it out against opponents from all over the world. The former is a boon since finances may hinder one from obtaining sufficient copies of each card while the latter is a boon since AGoT LCG players are far and few where I live.

I have so far only tried it with Ivan and Jo but hopefully I'll soon be able to play against enthusiasts from other parts. Leave a note if you are keen for a game.

Gaming For the Week 18th-24th April 2010

Had two new guests this week joining us at our mid-week session. Jo, JoGi, Ian, Ivan and myself started with a game of Battlestar Galactica. JoGi and I were Cylons from the start. In a bid to speed up the game, I probably made it easy on the Humans by selecting a 3 distance destination as Admiral. I figured the heavier penalty on resources was worth the risk but in the end the humans managed to eek out the victory. I noticed that on this shorter variant of BSG, there is a tendency for Cylons to reveal too late. JoGi and I made that mistake and weren't able to severely deter the Humans as revealed Cylons, especially when he was forced to reveal from the Brig. I suppose revealing too early does spoil the game for the Cylons somewhat since your options are limited, but revealing too late on the hand limits your opportunities to throw those nasty Super Crisis cards in the way of the Humans. Well, I was just happy to clock another play of the game. My fears that it would simply end up a white elephant due to its niche theme has proved somewhat premature so far but we'll see...

Due to the limited time remaining, we opted for Tribune. Can't believe I'm playing this game back-to-back weeks when it's on my WTS list. But I suppose the one thing going for it is that it packs decent game in a short time. Unfortunately, it just isn't the sort of 'game' I fancy. Predictably, Jo took us to the showers in the game (I called it at the start!), proving once again that he's the master of Tribune. My brain simply cannot wrap around the steps I need to take to obtain the objectives in as minimal steps as possible. Well clearly, Jo manages that. Ivan, Jo and I completed our objectives the same round but once we counted points, it was no contest.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Gaming For The Week 11th-17th April 2010

It was another AGoT heavy week with the usual 4. I had time to tweak my Lannister deck while Ben customized a Baratheon deck for his use. I attempted to lower the average cost of my characters and at the same time, include a couple of sorely needed claim soaks. As it turned out the deck worked relatively well though I was pretty much pinned back in the 2 games played.

In the first, I teamed up with Jo and his Targaryen deck while Ben teamed up with Ivan who played Greyjoy. In the second, I paired with Ben against Jo and Ivan.

Ivan introduced a new card Wharf Rats which was a real pest. Basically you play the character under the control of your opponent and gift your opponent with a 2M character which cannot be killed. Sounds like a boon so far? Here's the kicker - as long as Wharf Rats remain under your control, you discard a card each time you win a challenge, be it in attack or defence. I ended up discarding a third of my deck. While I suppose it isn't a deathblow by any means considering its 3 gold cost and the additional character granted to your opponent. Nonetheless, being on the receiving end of it, I can attest it was a real annoyance. It also effectively nullified the ability of my Lion Heralds to search the deck for desired cards. In fact, since Wharf Rats is a non-unique card, Ivan could foreseeably play 3 of them on me. Yikes!

Ivan left after the AGoT LCG games while the remaining 3 continued with Tribune. Jo continued his amazing streak at the game, acheiving the 5 victory conditions at the end of the 3rd round. We wanted to try the victory point varient for a change but feared there was inadequate time. Nonetheless I doubt it will change my impressions significantly about the game.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Gaming For The Week 4th - 10th April 2010

Ben was available this week so it left Ivan, Jo and I to trade blows over AGoT LCG. While waiting for Jo, I had an opportunity to customize a Lannistar deck for play but as it turned out, a 60 card deck with few income producing locations and high cost characters was a rather bad combo.

Jo played Targayen while Ivan opted for Greyjoy which seems to have usurped Stark as his fav house. The game started with us closely matched but Ivan blew it open in the 7th and 8th rounds, playing the Rise of the Kraken plot card consecutively. That is a claim 2 card with an extra power token for each unopposed challenge. Yup, it plays as strong as it sounds. He was basically unstoppable especially with the ridiculous inititive of 8 on that plot card too. He picked us apart and romper to victory with Jo and I still at single digit power tokens.

Is Rise of the Kraken overpowered? Probably but perhaps not extremely so that it warrents a ban. Nonetheless, I do wish that the initiative wasn't so ridiculously high that the Greyjoy player not only gets free pick of the titles but also starts the attack. I figure that the other players need to pin down the Greyjoy player early in the game in preparation for the big swing when that plot card comes into play, possibly in 2 consecutive rounds.

The Lannistar deck I played with still needs tweaking. Hopefully I'll have a chance to do so next week.

We ended off with Hansa Teutonica which Van joined us for. This game just continues to shine. I went hard for actions from the get-go, being first to 5. Racked up a nice number of bonus markers too as the flips were attractive, contributing to my score.

I really have no major complains about the game. It IS abstract but doesn't feel that way like true abstract games in the vein of Ingenious and Blokus. The abstractness of Taj Mahal got to me but this one hardly bothers me one bit. I'm seriously thinking of taking my rating up to a 10 on this one.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, April 5, 2010

Gaming For The Week 28th March - 3rd April 2010

My cell had a connect gathering over the weekend. Most were non-gamers but they had a good time with Jungle Speed and Liar's Dice. Both games play nicely in the 6-8 range. With Jungle Speed, more players ramp up the difficulty since you have more cards to pay attention too but with too many, decks tend to rather thin and the endings of such games feel somewhat premature. I suppose getting the expansion solves this problem to some extent although I'm not sure if I would prefer to put the dough to a different party game altogether. I would say that Jungle Speed needs to be played quickly for maximum excitement. Over-deliberate flipping can slow the game down to a crawl and make it a far less enticing experience.

I organized a usual games session midweek and there was a nice turnout this time round with 6. The early ones started with a game of Dominion:Intrigue which I won with a low score. Once everyone arrived, we split into 2 tables, with a group of us playing Le Havre while the others took on Confucius. I broke my previous high with a 257 score for Le Havre but it was largely due to the fact that Ivan and Ben failed to challenge me for the use of crucial buildings since they were new to the game. Le Havre, like games such as Puerto Rico, is one that rewards repeated plays. Nonetheless, Ivan did well for his first game.

Both tables ended around the same time. Ivan, Ben and Jo proceeded with a game of A Game of Thrones LCG while the rest of us had a run at Nexus Ops. I heard the AGoT LCG game was a close one with Ivan taking the win by a point. They however couldn't play till 15 power tokens and decided to end the game on a pre-decided round. Marcus was first to 12 points in Nexus Ops. Nexus Ops is a nice alternative to Risk especially with its euro-elements. I like the fact that the objective of the game isn't to wipe out your opponents, but picking battles wisely in order to nab victory points. Nonetheless, the game can be prone to downtime and I can't imagine playing a game with 4. Perhaps playing in teams may help somewhat...

On Good Friday, the cell came over and before we began our themed dinner, we manage to squeeze in two games of Monopoly Deal which Van dominated and a game of Ra.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gaming For the Week 14th - 20th March 2010

Had a good turn-out this week with 6. Jon and Jo were early so we managed to squeeze in a game of Ra and Dominion:Intrigue too. I took the win in Ra while Jo won comfortably in Dominion with his barrage of Harems.

When the full group arrived, we started with Battlestar Galactica. I wanted to use the no-Sympathizer variant but wasn't sure how to further tweak the resources in view that the shortened game variant was a staple. We decided to stick with the Sympathizer in the end. Jo was toaster from the start but sort of gave himself away when he opted not to allow his loyalty card to be checked as offered by one of the Crisis deck cards. We promptly brigged him and he chose to remain brigged in an effort to waste our skills cards instead of revealing. We soon caught on and refrained from throwing in additional skills cards. Furthermore Ben who was playing as Tom Zarek used his special ability to increase the difficulty of the skill check by 2 each time, and successfully halted any attempt to escape by Jo.

Jo lost his Admiral powers, but having already slowed us in our first FTL jump by choosing a destination of distance one. Wei Ning ended up with both the Admiral and President powers somewhere along the line, which spelt doom for us if he too was Cylon. Thankfully for the human race, he proved reliable and Ivan turned out to be the 2nd Cylon after receiving a dubious loyalty card at the Sleeper phase. We had multiple resources in the red by then, which meant it was 4-2 in favour of the humans. We managed to pull out a victory with the Cylons making their move perhaps a little too late.

Jon had to leave after, so the remaining 5 of us proceeded with a game of Chicago Express. The 5 player dynamics proved rather different from the 3-player game which is what I'm more familiar with. You have much less control in the 5-player game and it is far harder to claw back ground after a bad move. As it turned out, I overpaid for the 2nd red share and failed to acquire a monopoly over any of the train companies. It was a close game with the top 3 separated by a single dollar. Wei Ning took the win on his first play - great job!

Wei Ning left soon after and then there were 4, which meant it was time for A Game of Thrones LCG with the usual gang. We had limited time so we paired up and agreed to play till 20 power tokens as a team. I took Lannister as usual and paired with Jo who played as Greyjoy. Ivan and Ben took Targaryen and Baratheon respectively. It was a close one with Jo's combo of the 'Rise of the Kraken' plot card and the 'Assault of the Kraken' event card clinching the win. The plot card gave him an additional power token for each unopposed challenge with a claim of 2. The event card allowed him an additional power challenge that turn provided both were unopposed. This is an awesome clincher combo for Greyjoy and reaped us the 6 power tokens needed for the win.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Gaming For The Week 7th - 13th March 2010

Ivan was back from reservist and raring to game this week. He wasn't disappointed as he, Jo and I managed two games of A Game of Thrones LCG midweek. He has invested substantially in sprucing up his set and this time round he revealed a new deck - that of House Greyjoy. He began with that while Jo and I took Martell and Lannistar respectively.

I had an amazing opening hand, filled with gold producing locations AND characters. Before long, I was running up an income of around 8 each round and was unstoppable as I increased my characters in play. Valar nor Bear Island was in play thankfully and I rushed to 15 power tokens rather comfortably. In a melee game, I made it a point to target Greyjoy rather than Martell for fear of the latter's backlash effects. Ivan struggled with the lack of income locations in his deck - definitely an area he intends to tweak for our next session.

The second game was a much closer affair. I opted for Martell this time round, with Jo trying Greyjoy and Ivan going his new fav - Stark. While he opted not to carry Valar as a plot choice, his Bear Island was nonetheless devastating, having a free kill during dominance of any character without an attachment. It not only depletes your opponents' stock of powerful characters (particularly those with he 'no attachments' trait) but puts him in good stead to win dominance each round. However I played it right this time recognizing Bear Island gives one kill and not one from each opponent which would make it absolutely ridiculous in melee.

Jo also struggled with income, noting he had powerful cards yet was unable to play them. I had no idea how I inched ahead them to win especially when I started unimpressively. But what wa probably integral was Arianne Martell who allows an extra claim for each winning battle she participates in. Considering she had a power icon coupled with a few turns where I had non-kneeling effects, I racked up the power tokens in a jiffy. I suppose it was fortunately I was able to keep her safe from the Bear Island effects by giving her an attachment at the point I marshalled her.

I was keen to play Hansa after but Ivan suggested Chicago Express, not having tried it before. I was surprised to have pulled this game in 2 consecutive seasions. I still have high regard for the game as my pas posts on it indicate but I have to admit the game does feel a little samey with the same player count (which has been 3 for my group). In most cases, Red is the one reaching Chicago first. However, this time round, we split the Red shares evenly so it was Jo and I pushing Blue towards Chicago and reaping the attractive payout afterwards. Jo had an early lead when I foolishly overbid for the 2nd Red share only for him to swoop in for the 3rd share at a cut price the next turn. I managed to claw back the lead with a few well timed auctions and eventually took the win with $90+. Jo and Ivan were both close with $70+ each.

By then we had only time for a filler. We ended up trying the 3-player variant of Battle Line. It was functional but no where as impressive as it's 2-player counterpart.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, March 8, 2010

Two Out Of Three?

Interesting read I came across today via Boardgame News. The original post can be viewed at Pulsipher's blog.

Basic premise is that in general production, you are forced to settle for 2 out of 3 of the following:
1. Fast
2. Cheap
3. Good

Likewise for boardgames, one needs to choose 2 out of 3 between the game being:
1. Short
2. Simple to play
3. Richly detailed

"Richly detailed" seems vague and seemingly pointing to aesthetics but Pulsipher clarifies in a comment to the Boardgame News' post:

"Richly detailed” is intended to refer to the play, not the appearance, though appearance can contribute. It is what I call “atmosphere”, which is different from the way I use theme. Theme should make a difference in the gameplay; atmosphere alone doesn’t affect gameplay.

So nicely manufactured pieces are not in themselves rich detail.

I'm not sure that's the maxim I struggle with since while I don't appreciate abstract games much, a game's atmosphere plays second fiddle to the following:

1. Simple-to-explain rules (gateway potential?)
2. Depth of play (ideally possessing multiple routes to victory)
3. Reasonable game time (under 90min or even better, 60min)

But I suppose this set of criteria differs from the original in that such games are far easier to come by. Here's looking at you Hansa Teutonica and Chicago Express...

Gaming For The Week 28th Feb - 6th March 2010

This week's gaming bunch was made up of Jo, Marcus, Van and myself. Van had been on a semi-hiatus from gaming but was surprisingly open to play provided we kept games with space-related theme or CCG-typed gameplay off the table. I was happy to oblige since we didn't have the right crowd for either BSG or AGoT LCG.

We started with Hansa Teutonica. I had an opportunity to tear off the shrink wrap on my personal copy since Marcus didn't bring his. It was a close game with me nabbing victory from Marcus by a single point.

My admiration for the game grows with each play. If this keeps up, I'll have to raise my geek rating for the game from a 9 to a 10. The multiple routes to victory coupled with the reasonable game time makes this a winner in every regard. It has been awhile since a game kept me thinking about possibilities for improved play after the session, especially when I won the game! I have explored a few alternate strategies in my few plays so far, but there seems so many others out there which I'm looking forward to have a hand at. For example, the max I have upgraded my chain multiplier so far is 2 but I can't help but wonder if a strategy largely focused on building a network of offices while maximizing the chain multiplier is viable.

Next up was Vasco Da Gama, another recent Essen release. It was between this or a first attempt at La Citta. I'm always game to try something new but Van needed a break, which she managed to get while Marcus explained the rules to Jo. I was absolutely demolished on my first play of this game but did much better this time round, ceding the game to Marcus by 3 VPs.

The turn order mechanic is undeniably an interesting one. It allows you to jostle for position with your opponents depending on your risk appetite and your wealth. Being overly optimistic, I paid the price on my very first turn, having to forgo an action due to the lack of money to pay for its use. However, I noticed that apart from the first few placements where this happens, the remaining placements simply follow turn order which takes the fizz out of this mechanic in some way. Still a game that I don't mind playing but see no need to own.

We ended the session off with Glory to Rome (what else?). Nice to know that I've gotten over 30 plays off this baby, and especially sweeter that it's current OOP (sorry to rub it in for those of you still awaiting your copy). There have been comments that the luck of the draw plays a significant role in determining the winner. I still beg to differ although this was game where I really didn't have much to work with while Marcus and Van built a slew of powerful buildings. Marcus had the Wall, Bridge and Colosseum. I built the Palisade early but didn't get a sniff of the other Wall so it was painful as you might imagine. My only hope was a Forum victory with both the Bar and the Aqueduct but unfortunately, the rapid pace at which the deck thinned and having my clients fed to the lions turn after turn meant that I was powerless to nab a surprise victory. Nonetheless, it's always cool to see a combo of effects from supposedly "broken" cards and definitely part of the charm of the game. Jo still surprisingly didn't take to the game after his second game. I say "surprisingly" because he's one of the few that has really taken to AGoT and both games seem to share this trait of combo-ing card effects. Then again, he wasn't all that enthralled by Dominion either. Marcus took the win over Van thanks to his bulging stockpile nicely scored by his Wall.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Gaming For The Week 21st - 27th Feb 2010

Jo and Jon came over towards the end of the week. Jo was early and we started off with 2 games of Dominion: Intrigue. Jo commented afterward that he wasn't much of a fan of the game. I have to admit there was minimal interaction in the 2 sets we played. There were attack cards available but it didn't seem our while to invest heavily in them.

The game at the moment is sort of 'hit and miss' for me. I enjoy the game when there's a good bout of interaction but those occasions are rare since even with the Intrigue cards, Dominion isn't high on interaction. In many ways, it is similar to RftG in its multiplayer tendencies except that it is easier to pick up. Chunks of words can be intimidating on a first play but symbols are much worse.

I have noticed nonetheless that the Intrigue cards seem to play better with more than 2 players. For example, one Torturer does little to damage your opponent's hand and it's rare that you get to play more than one Torturer a turn. However, with more players, it's a higher probability for multiple Torturers to be played before your turn, thus accentuating the ill-effects.

Dominion: Intrigue still holds curiosity for me and I'm looking forward to more plays to figure out how I truly feel about the game. Hopefully, I will find willing opponents.

After Jon arrived, we played a game each of Chicago Express and Puerto Rico. The two games are similar in that the mechanics aren't difficult to pick (well, CE more so than PR) but it takes experience to figure out how to play the games well. I suppose these are games that benefit from having a regular group. Nonetheless, Jo's strategy to go for shipping early kept him competitive, with me pipping him by only 2 VPs.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Gaming For The Week 14th - 20th Feb 2010

I was hoping to bring a couple of games to the table over the Chinese New Year holidays but as it turned out, it was tougher than expected. I thought it was interesting that Chris highlighted in a recent blog post his challenges in "converting" non-gamers. I share the same sentiments and over time, I realize that not everyone is necessarily a gamer-in-the-making, despite my earnest hopes.

My collection is rather limited in terms of fillers and party games so when I reach for a gateway game, I reach straight for something like Settlers or even the Princes of Florence with the right numbers. I put it down to impatience in desiring to suss out the potential gamers from the non-gamers from the get-go. Perhaps it's a resignation that non-gamers can never be fully "converted". These are likely the ones who find a game of Setters more stressful than intriguing, and are often overwhelmed by the rules early in the explanation process. The potential gamers on the other hand are not necessarily ones who embrace the game immediately but will nonetheless express some enjoyment of the game, coupled with an openness to try it or other similar games some time down the road.

I decided that this CNY I would pull out my sparkling new Dominion:Intrigue at any gaming opportunities. This was probably unwise, taking into consideration the wordy nature of the Intrigue cards but I was eager to experiment nonetheless. The results were mixed. The first 4-player game I attempted it was made up of half non-gamers. We successfully completed the game but it dragged due to AP by the non-gamers. I guess it's understandable as the buy phase can be particularly challenging with 10 actions cards staring you face-to-face, each with their own set of instructions. They did enjoy it however and seemed open to try it again in future.

The second attempt with a different group wasn't as positive. I opted for set with limited interaction and the multiplayer solitaire was apparent. This group was made up of one casual gamer and two non-gamers and they seemed clearly bored midway through. I suppose the appeal of building the most efficient deck in absence of interaction simply didn't cut it for them. I made a mental note then that interaction would be a key element of my choice of gateway games in future. The game was abandoned halfway due to new guests arriving and they seemed happy to try their hand instead at Band Hero rather than continuing with the game. Time's Up: Title Recall turned out to be far more successful with my friends and their significant others after dinner.

I wised up the next day when my cell group mates came over and opted for lighter fair such as Monopoly Deal Card Game and Tichu. They seemed to enjoy the former more than the latter, reaffirming yet again its charm with non-gamers.

Thankfully, I still managed to get an afternoon of heavier gaming in later in the week. Ivan, Jo and Ben came over and we started with 2 games of Dominion:Intrigue. Their familiarity with LCG play meant that they caught onto the game quickly and we were flying through our hands. In addition, we were able to pick up on the card combinations faster and the games proved to be highly enjoyable. I realized that having interactive cards in play was crucial to my own enjoyment of the game too. Jo won the first game which was set up using the recommended "Secret Schemes" set in the rulebook. I randomized for the 2nd game and it turned out arguably even more exciting, thanks to the interaction of the Torturer and Masquerade action cards. I have listed the set for those who may be interested to give it a go (using only Intrigue cards):

Bridge, Coppersmith, Courtyard, Duke, Masquerade, Mining Village, Minion, Nobles, Secret Chamber, and Torturer.

I took that game with 31 VPs, with Ben close behind at 29.

We then proceeded to the main course which was our customary A Game of Thrones LCG game. In fact we managed 2 games this time round, opting to pair up to earn 30 power tokens. I (Lanni) paired with Ivan (Stark) the first game against Ben (Bara) and Jo (Targ). Stark was weak on Intrigue and Ben and Jo duly took advantage racing to victory. We switched partners and I paired with Ben this time round. The game was closer but we were pipped to victory ultimately. In particular, Stark was devastating with Bear Island out early which enabled targeted kills of opponent characters without attachment(s). However, I got a rule wrong and assumed that Bear Island allowed an execution per opponent. As it turned out, it was only a character per turn. Perhaps the outcome would have been different if I was able to keep more of my characters on the table. Nonetheless, that location card is definitely one to be feared.

With 4 players, this is probably our favoured format as it clearly speeds things up. It's nice having to pay attention to only 2 opponents' armies rather than 3. While the titles do add an additional political element to the game, I am satisfied to leave it for the times when we play with 3. In fact with 3, more of the titles are rotated since they are only refreshed every 2 rounds.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Finally! My First F2F Game Of Dominion

If you have read my previous posts on Dominion, you would have discovered both my disdain and yet strange fascination for it. I have only played the original game over BSW and while I applaud its unique mechanic, I can't help but feel in my gut that this wouldn't be a game I pay to own.

Just like my recent comments on Tribune and Race for the Galaxy, one of my concerns about Dominion was its multiplayer solitaire tendencies. Particularly in the original, the game is very much of a race in building a deck engine capable of purchasing Provinces (6VPs) on a consistent basis. Chris aptly described this in his response to my views on Tribune as a "heads down" approach, where you tend to focus on your goals rather than worrying about the actions of your opponents and actively thwarting them to your betterment.

My second concern was that after playing quite a number of games on BSW, I found that most hands tended to play themselves. Its fans argue that the heart of the game lies in its deck-building mechanic. I however couldn't help but be put off by the 'auto-pilot' nature of the game.

Where the game fascinated me was in the ease of its rules and the depth offered by a game of its length. In the latter, it arguably surpasses Tribune since it plays in about half the time. It offers a gateway sort of game which I as a gamer wouldn't be bored to play myself as I intro it to my non-gamer friends.

The first expansion to Dominion, Intrigue was touted as one improving player interaction. The supposedly increased choices available on action cards suggest less of an 'auto-pilot' syndrome. Unfortunately, this is both a boon and a bane since it raises the bar for non-gamers.

I couldn't resist the temptation and eventually took the plunge. I managed to persuade Van to have a go today, curious at her reaction to the game. Van has always enjoyed highly interactive games and games like RftG have left her cold in the past.

What surprised me was the ease of explaining the rules. I mean I have heard of compliments in this area before but going at it for the first time, it went even smoother than I could ever imagine. I really need to applaud the designer Donald for coming up with such an excellent framework (ABC) to capture the gameplay succinctly.

Van and I were off and running and despite initial fears that the complexity of the Intrigue cards would put her off, they turned out largely unfounded. I suppose despite Van's fluctuating interest in gaming, she nonetheless is mostly a gamer, and thus the action cards were largely a cinch for her.

While the rules didn't pose a problem for us, formulating a strategy in terms of action cards to purchase was. I reverted to my past Dominion patterns and mostly purchased treasure cards in view of a subsequent rush for the Provinces. However, I couldn't help myself but join Van in a couple of random action card purchases to gain a sense of how they would play out. The game ended 36-33 in my favour which was a surprise as I had the impression halfway through that I might run away with it, purchasing the majority of the Province cards. Van to her credit did well to stay close in her first game.

Verdict? Van didn't hate the game, which I suppose was already a big plus. I think the tide turned when she realized that the game wasn't as complicated as the mass of cards made out, having commented at the start that it reminded her for A Game of Thrones LCG, which is likely never going to play again despite my absolute love for the game. Coupled with the short playtime especially with two, I can see her being open to repeat plays till she forms a firmer opinion of it. My concern though was that the limited interactivity might still put her off eventually.

We played with the "Well Wishes" set suggested in the rule book with only a single attack card - "Torturer". While I saw the possibilities with the other attack cards in the expansion, I couldn't help but wonder whether that level of interaction would be enough for me. Sure, you get to disrupt and hurt your opponents' next turn but cutting down their hand for example, but it doesn't seem as meaningful since that action doesn't really benefit you directly. It's a far more limited attack mechanism than say interaction in El Grande where messing with my opponents usually accord me a direct advantage in area majority. I need to mull over this further.

But I must say my first impression despite the above concerns was favourable. I was especially impressed at the ease of introducing the game and that the Intrigue cards weren't as complex as I initially feared. Looking forward to try it with some non-gamers over the CNY hols.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gaming For The Week 7th - 13th Feb 2010

Jo, Ben and John came over earlier in the week. It has been awhile since my first play of Tribune which left me with certain doubts and I was eager to try it again to ascertain if it warrented a place in my collection.

Verdict? As much as I want to like the game especially since it falls into my preferred category of short but relatively deep games, it simply doesn't strike a chord with me. I don't think the issue is with the perceived abstractness of the game as criticized by some but more that at the heart of Tribune, it is ultimately a 'race' game. Players aim to be the fastest in achieving a set of goals. The option of selecting which goals to pursue is a nice touch but it doesn't change the fact that through most of the game, you are preoccupied with your own moves and plans than that of others. In some way, it reminds me of Race for the Galaxy and its subtle interaction which leaves me dissatisfied. It is ironic that I am complaining of a lack of interaction in a worker placement game but that's how I feel playing it despite it also possessing elements of faction
control. I can see how Tribune appeals to some but clearly for me, it's a case of so close yet so far.

We decided to give Battlestar Galactica a go next and this was another new game I was also deliberating over. The uniqueness of the game experience is certainly commendable but I fear the difficulty of bringing it to the table. Its theme appeals more to guys who do not follow series than their female counterparts. In addition it plays best with 5, thus facing extremely stiff competition from El Grande and the Princes of Florence, which are amongst my favourite games.

We played with 4 and with the sympathizer since I had no idea how to adjust for a shortened game without the sympathizer. I took Baltar, Ben Tigh, Jo Boomer and Jon, s. It turned out that there weren't Cylons before the sleeper phase but we struggled with the crisis cards leading to multiple resources in the red. Ben discovered he was a Cylon all along at the sleeper phase and proceeded to scheme against the humans. He didn't to do much as Galactica was hit by waves upon waves of raiders and despite being a jump away from Earth, the humans met with destruction as multiple civilian ships were lost taking the population indicator down to zero.

I don't know. It is an interesting game for sure and probably the best available on the market but something about co-op games leave me ambivalent, even with the traitor mechanism. It also feels a little too random and my decisions don't seem significant enough in determining my fate in-game. Coupled with the difficulty of tabling it, I suppose this is yet another expendable game. Won't mind playing it, just don't like it enough to keep a copy of my own.

The guys came over again later in the week with the addition of Ivan. They were invaluable in helping me sleeve my new copy of Dominion: Intrigue but we couldn't try it with 5. Instead we went with Age of Empires III since Ben and Ivan in particular were keen. I warned them that the 5 player game was prone to AP, having so far only played with 3-4.

In the end, it took over 2 hours together with rules but just as my previous plays, it didn't 'feel' long. Perhaps I do have other preferred games to play with that sort of time frame available but I must admit that AOEIII has seldom disappointed, keeping me engaged throughout. The rest seemed to enjoy it and there were generally favourable comments all round.

We needed a short game to round off the session only Ra and China seemed to scale well with 5 in about half an hour. We went with Ra in the end and just like with AOEIII, I ran away with the victory largely due to my familiarity with the games.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Gaming For The Week 31st Jan - 6th Feb 2010

Quiet week in terms of gaming apart for Jo coming by towards the end of the week.

We tried drafting for AGoT LCG. I took Lannister and he Stark before drafting for neutral and plot cards. None of us chose Valar or Wildfire for our plot decks leading to a game where the characters continued building up. It was a close affair ending 15-14 in my favour despite Jo winning initiative to go first in the final round.

We played Puerto Rico next which Jo was keen to try. I always shun away from introducing PR for fear of the different building functions overwhelming but surprisingly the rules explanation went smoothly and Jo caught it easily. In fact, I think I find it easier to explain the PR rules than those for Settlers.

Jo played well for his first attempt, racking up shipping points thanks to his 4 corn plantations and Wharf. However, I had a better understanding of the importance of the big buildings and made timely grabs for the Guild and Custom House, resulting in a win, 56-44.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gaming For The Week 24th Jan - 30th Jan 2010

Ivan and Ben came over for some mid-week gaming of what else...A Game of Thrones LCG. It really is a brilliant game and I'm glad to have found common enthusiasts for a game with such niche appeal.

Ben and I opted for familiarity and played with Ivan's Baratheon and Lannister decks, while Ivan unleashed on us his new Martell deck from the recent Princes of the Sun expansion. House Martell has a couple of interesting effects triggered after challenges are lost. It is somewhat unintuitive as you are in a situation where you take one step back to gain two steps forward. It requires far more thoughtful play and bodes well for the strategic depth of the game. I enjoy the peculiar strengths and weaknesses of the various Houses and how a different play strategy is required to utilize each of them successfully.

I struggled with income early on, which is highly ironic for a Lannister deck. I played Wildfire Assault in the early rounds in a bid to rein back my opponents. I leveraged on my draw effects to gain further ground. My advantage in Intrigue reaped me a couple of power tokens through the Lannisport location card which allowed me to pay 1 gold for a power token after each Intrigue challenge I win. This added up quickly and by keeping my power tokens on my House card as opposed to my characters, my progress was undeterred by Ben's Melinsandre, which negates power tokens on opposing characters. In contrast, Ivan struggled as he had a number of card effects which gained him power tokens on his characters. I finally clinched victory with an unopposed power challenge by stealthing Ivan's only unkneeled character with the power symbol.

I played a game of Joust with Ben after Ivan left. I was flooded with income this game but fell prey to Ben's Baratheon power rush. He searched out Stannis Baratheon and racked up power tokens through unopposed challenges as I was unable to defend without a Lord character in play. By the time I managed one, his lead was large unassailable. I played an event card to take out his Robert Baratheon and his mountain of power tokens from Renown but that only delayed the inevitable as he romped to victory shortly after.

In between, we played a 4 player game of Ra with Van joining in. The Ra tiles came fast and furious and my greed got the better of me on the last epoch, opting to hold on to my 13 tile instead of swapping it for a full row. The epoch ended sooner than I expected, and Ben who swooped in on that row with his last tile took the win, with Van a close second.

On Friday, our cell and a couple of friends joined us at our Conrad suite for some games. They were mostly tired after a long day at work but still managed a game of Settlers of Catan.

It occurred to me that despite having explained the game multiple times, I don't seem to have grasped the best formula for it. It is especially ironic considering 1. I'm almost always the 'rules' guy when it comes to new games, and 2. Settlers is like the first Euro I ever played! Somehow, it's difficult to present the rules neatly in a logical flow when there are so many tinny bits here and there to explain e.g. trading, rules governing development cards, etc. I don't think I necessarily do a bad job but I always have a nagging feeling after that my explanation could be better. I probably find it easier to explain more complex games such as Agricola or Puerto Rico as compared to Settlers. Either that or it could simply be the audience I usually pitch Settlers to - opting for it as my go-to "gateway" game and thus facing crowds that may not immediately tune in to such rules and mechanics of Eurogames.

Colin and Kaelyn dropped by halfway through and I was able to introduce them to Monopoly Deal and Citadels. Kaelyn commented Citadels felt very much like a "guys' game". I suppose there's some truth to it considering its medieval theme. For female non-gamers, the theme of the game is probably far more crucial as a 'hook' than its mechanics. Even Van who I consider a gamer of sorts gets turned off by space (read Race for the Galaxy) and medieval (read A Game of Thrones LCG) themes. She may be willing to give them a try but rarely will desire to play them again. Abstracts don't sit well with her either. My most thematic game is arguably Battlestar Galactica but unfortunately, that's the wrong sort of theme for her, especially when she has never watched a single episode of BSG and is unlikely to.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Perhaps Against My Better Judgement...

My local online retailer, Boardgamelifestyle is having a sale. The discount isn't much more than what I usually receive but I couldn't help myself but to browse through the discounted games. In the end, 3 games caught my eye - King of Siam, Traders of Carthage and Dominion:Intrigue.

After reading through some reviews on BGG, I decided that King of Siam probably wasn't probably my cup of tea as well as taking into account its price. Traders of Carthage on the other hand was at a very attractive price point and a game that I have had my eye on for some time. However, concerns about its abstract nature held me from taking the plunge. Furthermore, with the time it takes, I can't help but feel that there are many more "developed" games in my collection that I rather be playing.

Finally there's Dominion:Intrigue. I have had sort of a love-hate relationship with Dominion. When it was introduced on BSW, I sort of burned myself out on the original. I decided it wasn't a game I needed to purchase especially since after some plays, I realized it was uninteresting in that most hands played themselves (or what I would call the auto-pilot syndrome) and it lacked interaction between players. Nonetheless, I couldn't help getting caught up in the hype monster that is Dominion. I do like the simplicity of the A (action), B (buy), C (cleanup) mechanics of Dominion and its speedy gameplay. It seems to me that it would be a game of sufficient depth that I would be keen to intro and play with non-gamer friends that I'm trying to lure into the hobby.

The release of Dominion:Intrigue especially had my hopes raised. It seemed to address my issues with the original, introducing decisions apart from the deck-building and incorporating increased interaction. However, the added complexity hampers what was attractive about the original - its accessibility and speed. The common solution for this dilemma would be to acquire both sets and most seem to do so. However, I am adamant in not acquiring more than one set, thus leaving me a difficult decision of which to purchase if I am to add Dominion to my collection.

As it turned out, the sale was only applicable for Intrigue and not the original though the difference is negligible. What surprised me was the cost to sleeve all 470 cards. Even budget sleeves came up to about 30% of the game price. That makes the game considerably more expensive but I couldn't envision myself playing the game unsleeved. My recent sleeving of Battlestar Galactica wasn't cheap either. It seems card sleeves are doing a roaring trade especially since us "gamers" generally like to keep our games in good condition, whether due to our OCD instincts or to preserve their resale value.

Despite my misgivings, I made the perhaps irrational decision of going ahead with the purchase. This despite the fact that I have a couple of new purchases (BSG, Tribune & Hansa Teutonica) all relatively unplayed. I seem to be edging towards a buyer's syndrome which violates my intention of keeping my collection trim and avoiding 'white' elephants. While I like the idea of having these new additions in my collection, I may eventually have to make a decision with subsequent plays whether they get played sufficiently for them to remain (read: BSG). Or perhaps, I will realize that my preliminary concerns are indeed accurate despite contradicting the favourable opinions of various critics (read: Tribune) and trade or sell them.

With that, here's hoping Dominion:Intrigue surprises a good way.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Gaming For The Week 10th - 16th Jan 2010

Was a good week for gaming. Started out with the youth camp committee coming over for a thanksgiving lunch. They couldn't stay long but we managed the time for a game of Time's Up: Title Recall. Would have opted for a Euro but with 8 of us, that proved somewhat challenging. Nonetheless, we had a good time despite some unfamiliar titles. I suppose what makes the game easier is when partners discuss 'signs' for certain difficult titles. Not sure whether that's 'legal' but for new players, it sure makes it more accessible. As it turned out, Xinyi/Yingyi and Van/Mish tied for the win.

Ivan and Ben dropped by mid-week to get in two games of A Game of Thrones LCG. We used Ivan's decks as usual since they have been customized with chapter deck additions. He also obtained the new Princes of the Sun expansion so it shouldn't be long before we see him with a Martell deck. He played Targaryen while Ben and I used Baratheon and Lannister decks respectively. I didn't get my income locations out as quickly this time round and Ben took the first game convincingly thanks to his multiple characters with the renown trait. Second game came down to the wire with Ivan intervening in my challenging against Ben to give him the win. I suppose he found himself between a rock and a hard place too since I would have taken the win if I had succeeded in that challenge. Squeezed in a game of Glory to Rome after Ivan left. I had some good buildings but took awhile to get the combo going. Van took the win by about 6 VPs.

Kristy, Joelle and Joseph came over the next day. Apart from Band Hero-ing, we managed to get in a game of Settlers as well as Tribune which was the first play for all of us. Settlers ended with a win for me at 11 points, though Joseph was leading most of the game and ended with 9. The girls did well for their first play and seemed to enjoy the somewhat more 'intellectual' game.

Van joined us for a 5 player game of Tribune. The two main mechanics of the game are worker placement and set collection. The varied combos of victory conditions allow multiple routes to victory and play in a decent time. I completed my 3 necessary victory conditions first, but Joseph similarly accomplished that by the end of the round. He beat me in points though, 26 to 22, taking the tie-breaker. I have mixed feelings towards the game although Van seems to like it, which is BIG. Like I mentioned, I do enjoy most games that possess multiple routes to victory that play in a reasonable time. However, the worker placement options did all seem rather similar. Almost all just give you cards with a minor twist on the cost or the means of obtaining them. It also feels that one is largely focused on achieving his or her own objectives during the game without much attention being paid to the play of others. Perhaps this will improve with more plays. I haven't exactly written the game off at this point but compared to my pre-purchase expectations, it has been mildly disappointing. The jury's still out on this one.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

6th Jan 2010 Session Report: First Attempt At Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica

Matt brought back Battlestar Galactica for me recently and I had been eager to give it a go. The opportunity finally arrived and the bonus was that I was able to round up a posy of 5 to give it a go. I have read that the game plays arguably best with 5, without the sympathizer. Furthermore, I suppose it's more fun to have 2 on the Cylon side yet avoiding the increased downtime with 6.

The rules overwhelmed me the first time I read through it. Thankfully, there were player aids and summarized rules on BGG which helped organize the material more logically than the FFG rulebook. I did realize however that the way to intro the game was probably not to bog the other players down with the book-keeping details but simply present the pertinent info necessary to play.

Marcus was the only one who had attempted the game before while it was the first play for Van, Ivan, Ben and myself. As it turned out, Ivan and I drew Cylon cards from the go. I chose to play a variant that shortened the game, in hope of not having Van sour on the game because of its length.

The variant dialed down resources to 6 fuel, 6 food, 7 morale and 10 population. In addition, Galactica starts with one less raptor and two less vipers compared to the original set-up. The Sleeper phase is triggered after a jump distance of 3 and the humans win if they jump unscathed after a distance of 6. The only other change is that centurions that board Galactica begin on the 2nd space of the boarding track.

The variant worked reasonably well and we completed the game in about 2 hours, including rules explanation. Fuel, food and morale ended in the red zone although no centurions successfully boarded the ship throughout the game.

I took Roslin and held on to the role of President for majority of the game till Marcus wrested it from me towards the end with strong support of Ben. Unfamiliarity resulted in no Quorum cards being played and player action tended to concentrate on the use of Galactica's guns to take out the Cylon ships. There seems to be many options unexplored and hopefully, there will increased variability with more plays. I mistakenly assumed that it was the President who chose the destination card when it should have been the Admiral. I suppose it did give an added advantage to the Cylons since I ended up choosing instead of Van who was playing as Saul Tigh with William Adama out of the game. Although there was only one choice that made a significant difference where I chose the destination card with a distance 1 instead the other with a distance of 3.

Ivan did not take any risky moves all game due to his unfamiliarity of the game. He didn't reveal even to the end of the game. Van was on to me from the start due to a couple of unnecessary risky discards although the attempt to brig me failed. In order to avoid further suspicion, I played my cards duely but took every opportunity to dump my cards, so that I lacked any to be of help during crisis checks. Apparently, there are many opportunities to 'lose' cards when you are the President. The humans managed a distance of 6 and were heading for their victory jump when I revealed, and my Cylon action allowed me to deal the final blow taking fuel to zero.

I enjoyed the game because it feels remarkably different from my other games. Van wasn't impressed since the theme didn't appeal to her. I also suppose the group playing the game is important since much of the fun hinges on the metagame. Looking forward to more plays most definitely - hopefully it will see play sufficiently to hold a place in my collection.

The Princes of Florence

This was Van's pick and since we had 5, I was all for it. I wasn't sure if it was Marcus' first play but he played extremely well, thanks to him obtaining 3 Jesters. I was feeling good about my chances mid-game through and planned to end the game strongly by producing 2 works in each of the final two rounds. Alas, Marcus managed to do the same, robbing me of the work bonus in the penultimate round and outbidding me for the recruiting card I needed to produce an additional work in the last round. I gambled instead on a second Prestige card and drew a good one but still fell short by a point, 59 to his 60 points. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the game tremendously and the play once again cemented the PoF as one of my favs.

Hansa Teutonica

Marcus taught Ivan and Ben Hansa and before long, we had a go at a 5 player game. I was behind most game but managed to garner enough points for a 2nd place finish. The points were all rather close though Marcus took the game by a significant margin from the rest of us. Van had control of a good number of offices but failed to string them together for valuable network points. I found myself thinking about game strategy after the play, which is always a good sign. 5 player did drag a bit longer especially since we were still new to the game but even so, I wouldn't consider it a long game by any means.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Quarter, A Dime & Assorted Nickels for 2009

Wow, time flies... I can't believe that I have actually maintained this blog for over a year. I did wonder when I started it in Dec 2008 whether I could sustain the interest of updating it regularly. I must say that while there were a couple of quieter months especially in the middle of the year, I'm rather satisfied to see an average of 8-10 posts per month. Of course, my frequency of posting usually parallels my gaming life. The barren months suggest in all likelihood that I wasn't seeing much joy at the gaming table either.

Reading the Five and Dime lists on BGG reminded me that it would be a good exercise to undergo myself to learn more about my most played games in 2009. So without further ado, here's my Quarter, Dime and Nickels list...

Sole Quarter - Glory to Rome (25 plays)

No surprise here since GtR IS Van's and my fav game. Many of the games have been with 3 players and thus almost filler-like in its play time as we get more and more experienced with the game. Hoping to play it more with 4 or even 5 as I find that those numbers enhance the interaction viable between players. For example, with 4, the Palisade allows the Legionary action to steal from all 3 players instead of just your neighbours.

Sole Dime - Settlers Card Game (15 plays)

This was Van's and my couple game of choice and we went on a tear when I first acquired the game, clocking over 10 plays in a relatively short period of time. We liked it so much that I went ahead to acquire 2 sets of the game, including expansions so that we could fully appreciate the deck-building element of its tournament format. Ironically, we haven't been able to get it to the table much since then. Here's hoping that 2010 will provide opportunities to bring it to the table despite its slightly longish playtime.

Nickels List

7 plays
Stone Age

There was strong interest in this game when it was first acquired but the spark sort of fizzled over time and I sold it eventually. A good gateway game, accessible and not overly random despite the inclusion of dice. However, limited interaction and rather longish for what it is.

6 plays
A Game of Thrones LCG
The Princes of Florence
Le Havre
Monopoly Deal Card Game

Some of my absolute favs here, which I hope to see more plays of in the new year. Le Havre plays a bit long and the huge variety of building powers makes it slightly difficult to intro to new players although the core mechanics are really quite straightforward. PoF is arguably my 2nd favourite game but unfortunately I will only play it with 5, which probably explains why it doesn't see more plays. As for AGoT LCG, it's a rather new game and I do enjoy playing it very much. Hopefully, I'll be able to find a regular group to play it since it's not really Van's kind of game.

5 plays
Battle Line
High Society
Liar's Dice

Mostly fillers here. I like China's depth-time ratio which makes it unique in the filler category of my collection. Endeavor suffered somewhat the same fate as Stone Age - entered with a blaze but I ultimately decided it wasn't a game I needed to own especially since I prefer the somewhat similar but deeper Hansa Teutonica. Not a bad game by any means and on any day, I would probably prefer playing it to a game like Stone Age.


Have a rather huge list of games under 5 plays. The ones that came close were Settlers, Fairy Tale, Chicago Express and Age of Empires III with 4. Hoping to see more of CE at the table in 2010. Should be a high possibility with its very reasonable playtime. Some of the Euro greats at 3 plays such as El Grande and Puerto Rico.

All in all, 167 plays of 44 games (29 new). Not too shabby I think?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Christmas Season Gaming

I had a couple of Christmas parties in December and took the opportunity to introduce the guests to some games. Most of my guests were non-gamers so I figured the typical Eurogames were probably not appropriate for the occasion. In the end, I settled on Liar's Dice, Monopoly Deal and a new acquisition, Time's Up: Title Recall.

Liar's Dice

This went over well, and my ex-students enjoyed the game very much. Somehow, the combination of rolling the dice coupled with the bluffing and guessing going on adds a degree of charm to this filler. I can see how this serves as an excellent party game though I will be hesitant to go with this with more than 6-7 players to avoid increased downtime. The weakness of Liar's Dice as a party game lies in its player elimination as it is much less interesting when you get eliminated early and have to watch from the sidelines.

Monopoly Deal Card Game

This seemed to go down well with my guests in general although we did have a game with 5 which seemed to drag on unnecessarily. I suspect the sweet spot for the game is probably 3-4. Nonetheless the simplicity of the rules coupled with the general fast pace and accessible theme makes this one of the revelations of 2009 for me with respect to fillers.

Time's Up: Title Recall

I was surprised I actually bought a party game but I figured it would come in useful during the multiple parties with larger groups. Tom Vasel has nothing but praise for this game and I hoped that it would not disappoint. Verdict? I really enjoyed the game mechanics in that it goes beyond merely charades, to incorporate a memory element. Unfortunately, my groups were largely unfamiliar with the titles on the cards, perhaps due to its largely American context. I suppose experienced players could get round the unfamiliarity but I found myself having to select titles familiar for the group in order not to make it overly frustrating for them in the first round. Nonetheless, this version was probably the correct choice as I can only imagine the greater difficulty posed by the original version with its celebrity names. One final point I noted was that the game is best played in pairs and thus the ideal group size shouldn't exceed 10. Unfortunately, my groups totaled 15-20 mostly and so we had to play in teams of 3 or 4 which was less than ideal. It excels as a party game for medium groups but it makes me wonder whether there are better games out there for larger groups.