Saturday, 31 March 2018

#ReducingThePile December 2017 Update

Still catching up on these. 

This series is a look at the new to me games I play each month. I'm trying to reduce my piles of shame, thus the #ReducingThePile tag. Each post I will share the new to me games I played each month and some thoughts about each.

In December I logged 13 game plays, of 9 different games, 4 of which were new to me. It's those 4 that I will be looking at in more detail below.

Shadow Hunters - This one was new to me but wasn't off one of my piles of shame. This was a friends copy which I played at one of the Brimstone Games game nights.

Shadow Hunters is an anime-inspired social deduction game. One of those games where you are given a role card and need to determine which other players are on your side and which other players you have to eliminate. There's more of a game here than many of these style of games. Instead of just talking at the table you roll dice to move around to different locations on the board to let you do various things like pick up equipment, attack other players and/or ask loyalty based questions. Most of the deduction is through passing cards to other players and determining their faction based on their actions. A card could say something like "if you are loyal, heal one damage" - so if the player heals you know they are loyal. Note I can't remember the actual faction names.

This was okay. I'm not a big fan of social deduction games but I did enjoy Shadow Hunters more than games like Coup or Secret Hitler. It's not one I plan on picking up.

Fields of Arle - when I bought this huge heavy box I thought I was buying the next big Uwe Rosenberg game. One of those fantastic 3-5 player euro misery farming fests like Agricola or Caverna. What I did not notice is that it's two players only. I was pretty bummed about missing that key feature of the game and due to this player limit, it sat on my pile of shame for a long time.

Then my wife and I were able to get away to London for the weekend and one of the things I packed was Fields of Arle. After having to re-arrange our hotel room so that it would fit on the table we had we got in one play and loved it.

This is a big, pretty heavy, rules-heavy euro just like the Uwe games I already love, but for only two players. Unlike the smaller two-player games like Patchwork and Agricola All Creatures Big And Small, there's nothing small about this game. It's huge. Tons of cardboard. Lots of components and one of the biggest table hogs I've seen. This really is a big farming Euro for only two players.

Ghost Fighting Treasure Hunters - we got this one for the kids for X-mas and played it for the first time X-mas morning and everyone immediately fell in love.

Ghost Fighting Treasure Hunters is a Kinderspiel Des Jahres winning cooperative kids game where each player takes on the role of a kid about to enter a haunted mansion. The goal is to get in and get out with a set amount of treasure based on the number of players. The problem is that the treasure is guarded by ghosts. Each turn players get four actions to move, attack or pick up a treasure. After each player goes new ghosts spawn. Any time there would be four ghosts in a room instead the room becomes haunted (you replace the cool ghost miniatures with an even cooler haunt miniature). Once a room is haunted players with treasures can't leave and haunts can't be defeated without help.

Players are encouraged to work together both to split up the work and to gang up on ghosts and haunts. Any time there is more than one character in a room all players roll more dice to attack so it's worth traveling at least in pairs.

This is one of the best co-op games I've played. Not just co-op kids games, but co-op games overall. This is a must have to anyone with kids and if you don't have kids you may want to pick it up anyway.

Catacombs: Sands of Time - It's worth noting that I only have the first printing of the game which appears to be quite different from the current printing. The copy I have I picked up when Geektropolis closed its doors. It was a game I was curious about but didn't want to spend money on not knowing if I would like it. Now that I've played I don't feel I've wasted anything.

Catacombs is a dexterity based, one vs. many, dungeon crawl. One player plays the DM and controls the dungeon set up, and plays all the monsters, the other players each control one hero character. The game involves flipping through room cards to represent exploring the dungeon. Each room card has you set up a game board that will include some holes in it. These holes are filled with large wooden grey disks. On the board, the GM will place similar smaller discs for each monster. Then the players will place their discs at the opposite end of the board. Then, in turn, each player will get to flick their disks in order to attack or use special abilities. Most of these also involve flicking discs. For example, a ranged attack has you flick a small arrow disc. In general, if your flick hits an opponent disk it takes damage. Most monsters only take one to destroy. After all the monsters are defeated the next room card is flipped. Some rooms are not fights but rather stores where the players can buy new equipment or a healer where they can spend money to heal their characters. Eventually, if the players continue to win they get to the final card, a boss room where there's a big boss battle.

Overall Catacombs was actually way more fun than I expected. It's not the best looking game. Almost all of the art is in black and white and it looks like the kind of stuff I drew in my high school binders, but the gameplay makes up for this. It really does give that dungeon crawl feel while being a very solid flicking based dexterity game. I'm glad I picked this one up and I'm tempted to pick up one of the newer editions to see how they've improved the game.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

#ReducingThePile November 2017 Update

Yes I know it's March 2018. At least I'm here trying to catch up. I have plenty of excuses but that's really not the point. I just hope to catch up on these and blog more in general.

This series is a look at the new to me games I play each month. I'm trying to reduce my piles of shame, thus the #ReducingThePile tag. Each post I will share the new to me games I played each month and some thoughts about each.

I got in 12 different games November, 8 of which were new to me.

Menu Masters - this game was kindly donated by Calliope games for us to play as part of the 2018 Extra Life event and that's exactly when I played it. Based on the box I wasn't expecting much from this game but it's rather solid. It's actually fairly similar to Stefan Feld's Speicherstadt. In it players are bidding to get ingredients from four different stores in order to fill recipes. The thing is that the more players who want an item the more it costs. So if three people play on the Butcher, then the last player gets the first choice but has to pay 3 coins. After they go the next player only has to play 2 coins and so on.  It's a very solid system and works well in this otherwise light filler game.

Also, Menu Masters has one of the best first player tokens ever :D

Palazzo - this is another game that was kindly donated to our Extra Life efforts. This time from Rio Grande Games. This game is number #2 in the Alea Medium Box Series. Back when I first got back into Hobby Gaming, the various Alea series' were the be all end of all good gaming. You don't hear much about them now. Which is sad as this is a very solid abstract Euro. Players are competing to build the best Palazzo through a mixture of auction, set collection and drafting. It does some neat stuff with money that reminds me of Alhambra.

Overall I enjoyed Palazzo game quite a bit but it does feel dated. It's rather dry and the theme, well there's a theme I guess. If you dig older dry Euros you will probably dig this. I know there will be fans out there.

Leaps And Ledges - this one doesn't count as getting out of my pile of shame since it wasn't mine. This was the first game I played as part of Extra Life 2018. I walked into Brimstone and saw some friends sitting in front of this rather tall very colourful tower. They were playing Leaps And Ledges.

This is a silly, quick, take that racing game with a rather impressive 'prop' for a board. Players play cards to move their collection of rubber meeple up the tower. The thing is that if you land on someone else they leap off the tower. The game ends when one player gets all their five dudes to the top of the tower.

It's fast fun and really draws a crowd.

Kingdomino - I had heard this game was good. It won a bunch of awards include the Spiel. I knew I had to check it out at some point and Extra Life proved the perfect time. I first broke this out just for my wife and I and I think we played five games in a row. it was that good. Then we recruited two more players and played four players at least three times. Since then I've played Kingdomino many times.

This is a very easy to teach tile laying game that has a surprising amount of depth. That's really the perfect filler game combination, isn't it? You can play a game in about 20 minutes, sometimes a bit longer with AP-prone players. Gameplay is drafting tiles and then using them to build a 5x5 kingdom. Each tile has one or two terrain types and you have to connect them like dominos. Points are scored for areas of the same terrain and multiplied by special crown symbols. If I had a copy in front of me I could probably teach you to play in under 10 minutes.  I can't find anything wrong with this game.

Town Center 4th Edition - I love this game. About half the people I teach this game to hate it. I've yet to show it to someone who thought it was just okay. At this point, I like teaching new people just to learn if they love it or hate it.

I first heard about this game on the Heavy Cardboard podcast where the hosts were similarly split. Town Center is a very abstract city building game. This is probably the most abstract game I've played. In it you are drafting cubes which you are placing on a grid to represent your city growing. After drafting and placing your cubes you check to see if there is growth. This is the odd, unique, hard to grasp part of this game. If residential cubes are next to enough offices they grow. Then if commercial cubes are next to enough residential cubes they grow. Now sometimes growth is good, but other times it's bad.  Urban sprawl is not a good thing in this game and you end up losing points for every cube that ends up in the suburbs. This is a game I have a hard time explaining in real life let alone here in text so I'm just going to give up now.

Town Center makes you think spatially something that is very rare in board games. Trying to figure out how things are going to grow, how to make them grow and then getting them to grow the way you want them to is rather mentally taxing. That is what I love about the game and it's what many people hate.  There is no other game that I would suggest Try before you Buy more.

Fire In The Lake - this is another one that doesn't count for my pile of shame as it was a friends copy of the game. This is my first COIN game and I have to say I'm both overwhelmed and impressed.

We played Fire in the Lake with the full four players and I played the US and I think I spent way too many of my resources helping my Vietnamese ally. This is not an easy to learn game. Even at the end of the game, I was just starting to get used to what my faction could and probably should do. I wasn't even close to figuring out what the other factions were up to or could do. 

Despite the very steep learning curve I still had a lot of trying to figure out Fire in the Lake and I'm very willing to try this one again. It seems like the kind of game that you need to play again and again to really get the full effect of what the rules are trying to do. I was very impressed by my first COIN experience and look forward to trying others in the series at some point. 

Through The Ages: A New Story of Civilization - This game has been in the top 5 on Boardgamegeek for as long as I can remember. It has taken me far too long to actually get to play it. The main reason for this is the fact that it's a long game. A very long game. Especially when you are just learning it. By long I mean five hours plus. Even once you've learned the game it doesn't get all that much quicker. I would expect an average game to take four hours.

Despite being so long Through the Ages is worth it. This is a fantastic civ building game well worthy of its spot on the BGG top list. I would say that Through the Ages is now my number one Civ game, beating out Nations and Clash of Cultures and many other games in this genre. It's not easy to teach and it takes a long time to learn but it's worth it.

Hyperborea: Light & Shadow and Promo Set - Hyperborea I have played before and enjoy quite a bit. It's a dudes on a map bag builder that's a lot more Euro than it looks. It's a hidden gem that I think many people skipped over for the very Amethrash looking theme.

Mid-November I convinced a friend to pick up the game and after one play he immediately went searching for an expansion and some promos that I did not even realize exist. It ends up they were never sold in North America and were only available right from the publisher. Well, my friend managed to get a copy and we tried it out.

This was the kind of expansion I like. It added something to the game without changing the overall feel. The addition of ruins you could explore helped reinforce the fantasy theme as did the rules for heroes. The additional tech and new cubes were okay but didn't wow me. Overall it seemed like a decent but not a required expansion. Which is a good thing since it's so hard to find and, in my opinion, overpriced for what it is.