Sunday, January 29, 2012

Top 42 Part 3 (28-22)

Thanks for coming back. Previous parts can be found Part 1 and Part 2

#28 This Game is Bonkers!
I did a larger review of Bonkers in my Mousetrap post for Not in Candyland, so I'll just talk briefly about it.  Bonkers is a fairly quick game all about dice rolling and then movement, but rather than have a preplanned board, the players set up what different spots do.  Some will involve advancing your piece, others going to Score, while others let you roll again or exchange tiles.  The players build the board, and this has appealed to me since the first time we played.  Sure, most moves are fairly obvious, and there's tons of luck, but Bonkers is a game that everyone has fun playing, and you don't really care if you win or lose.

#27 Kingsburg
Kingsburg is a Dice Management game, meaning that you roll dice, and use them to get different resources which in turn you use to build buildings.  These buildings give you points, and points are how you win the game.  The interesting part of the game is the advisor track.  Each advisor has a number - 1-18, and different things associated with them, anything from 1 victory point, to 4 stone, or one of each resource and a point.  Obviously, the higher the number the better the item, but you have to use your dice.  Each player rolls 3d6, and the low roll gets to place on one advisor with one or more of their dice.  That's the strategy to this game - how to make what you roll work best for you.  It isn't always as simple as taking the highest advisor possible, sometimes you have to break up your dice, but in breaking them up, you run the risk of someone else blocking you.  There are also a lot of different buildings you can go after, and with different ones doing unique things many strategies exist for building order.

#26 Race for the Galaxy
RftG is a card based empire building game.  At the start of a turn, each player selects a phase that will be played by all players this time, with the selector of the phase getting a bonus.  The neat part of the game is that the cards in your hand are the developments you can make, the planets you can settle or conquer and the way you pay for those things.  Games don't take all that long once you know how things work.  There are several different strategies which all seem to work well depending on your cards and what you opponents attempt.  I traded away my copy, since I don't play on my own, but my gaming family still has their copy, so we can play it if we want.  I do play a fair amount with the free download against an AI, and this program now supports online multiplayer.  It's a  well designed game, which gets it high on this list, but a long learning curve and a lack of interaction keep it down at 26.

#25 Wits and Wagers (and Family Version)
W&W is the better Trivia Pursuit in the sense that it's trivia, but you don't have to know all the answers.  One person takes a card and reads a question. Each person then writes down what they think the answer is on their card.  After everyone is done, the cards are revealed then organized from low to high.  Now, depending on the version, the betting rules change, but since no one has has answer right (most likely) players have to bet on where they think the answer is, as in between two different answers or higher than the highest, lower than the low, or on an exact answer.  Players then get points or chips (again, based on the version of the game).  After 7 questions in the base game, or until a certain point number in the family version, the game is over, and high score/chips wins.  Of course play can go longer depending on the players.  I've learned a lot of random facts from this game, and the great thing of W&W is that you don't have to know the answer to do well, and leads to things being more fun and less stress.  It's a great party game, and something I'd love to play in big teams.

#24 Tiki Topple
I was first introduced to Tiki Topple by an RD at college and her husband.  It was a great game to end the night, so I decided to pick up my own copy.  It's been a hit ever since.  I've given it as a wedding gift, and other game plays have lead to two people picking up their own copy.  The best use of Tiki Topple was in a Jr. High and HS game day that taught kids more about games.  In the game, there are 9 tikis which form a totem pole.  Your secret mission, is to get your 3 tikis to the top of the pole at the end of the game to score points. Each card has a tiki from each of the 3 groups of tikis on the board, meaning something starts in the top 3, something in the middle, and something in the bottom 3.  First place must end in 1st to get points, but 2nd can be 1st or 2nd, and 3rd just has to be in the top 3.  You play until you either have 3 tikis left, or all players have played their tiki toast cards.  A tiki toast card simply removes the low tiki from the round.  The rest of the game is about moving your tikis up, and trying to avoid them getting toasted.  It's really lighthearted, and rather out of your control.  It is fun to watch someone's face as you toast their Wikiwiki that they needed in 1st.  That satisfaction is short lived because your Hookipa that you need in 1st will then get toppled and toasted before you can do anything.  If you go in knowing it's a fun and random game, you'll have a good time with it, but if you want tons of control look elsewhere.  Tiki is a great random game for me, and something I love playing anytime someone suggests it.

#23 Risk Legacy
This is much more than Risk.  It's a modified campaign, and the goal isn't world domination, it's playing to a certain victory point count.  I've only played two games out of the recommended 15, but it made a great impression.  There are packets containing secret information which you open at specified times depending on game events, like eliminating a player, or playing a certain number of missiles.  The tagline of the game is "What has been done can never be undone."  Let me tell you, there are things that other players have done that I'd like to do differently, but that's the charm of the game.  We have a unique Risk board that plays differently than anyone else's, and that really cool to me.  Yes, the combat is still the same, but there are special faction powers and 'scars' which change some of that, and a lot of rules I've yet to get into, since each packet changes those rules as well.  I know I'll get 15 plays out of this eventually, since that's what the campaign is set-up to do.  That's more than most new games out there, so for the innovative ideas Risk Legacy comes in at #23.

#22 For Sale
For Sale is a pretty quick and easy to teach property game.  Each turn, you reveal one property for each person playing.  You can then bid or pass. If you pass at any time, you pay half your bid rounded up and take the lowest numbered property on the table.  The last person pays their full bid and gets the highest property.  There are only 30 properties in the game, so a 5 player game only takes 6 rounds, a 6 player game takes only 5 rounds.  After all the properties are distributed, players take their hand of cards and will use them to secretly bid on checks.  There are 30 checks valued at $0 to $15,000 with two copies of each and no $1,000.  There are checks turned up for the number of players, then each player chooses a property, places it face down.  Then all are revealed and the highest property gets the biggest check, the lowest property the lowest check and so on.  At the end, you total up your checks and any remaining bid tokens you have with the high score winning.  Overall, the game takes ~20 minutes, often less.  It works for 3-6 players, but I find it best for 5-6.  I'll play For Sale any time, and will probably play it for as long as I play boardgames.

Well, that's the first half of the list.  Hope you've enjoyed it so far.  Keep checking for more parts to the list on Wednesdays and Sundays, as well as other reviews throughout the week.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Life update

This is a post that no one wants to write nor read but here it is. This morning I was woken up by rummaging noises in my house. Turns out someone had broken in. I was the only one home at the time and I'm ok which is the most important thing. However the criminal did abscond with my laptop and digital camera. Fortunately they left the iPad so I still has some Internet connection. The downside is that my ability to take pictures is gone, so game reviews are on hold, as is the top 42 list until I can recreate it(I only wrote it down on the computer so the specifics are shot for now)
It will probably take me at least the weekend to get things sorted out and the pieces back together.

Your thoughts are appreciated in this jarring time. Hope you'll be back when I am. If you're newer to BOBG take a chance to read some of the early articles.

Thanks for your time and support. Wer're nearly to 1000 page views in under 2 months!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Top 42 Part 2 (35-29)

In an effort to not drag this list on for a month and a half, I'm going with two posts a week, meaning we'll be done before the end of February.

#35 The Game of Life: Jedi's Path
Alright, I know you're all going Life! Really?  Sure, this game still uses the same roll and move mechanic, but there are more options.  There are four different skill categories which all have tests throughout the game.  Your career and house have been replaced by a master and a lightsaber, a pretty good trade if you ask me.  You also have the choice to take different paths, but most require taking a dark side token.  These can cause you to go over to the Sith at the end of the game, or hurt you if you end up on the Jedi side.  At the end, the strongest Jedi and Sith have a final showdown, winner takes all.  This gives players some strategic choices in case they see a strong Jedi, they can go dark and try to win that way.  Overall, a nice variation on Life, a good use of the Star Wars theme, and a good game for Star Wars fans, but not something for the hardcore gamer.

#34 Fauna
Fauna is a game all about wildlife trivia.  Don't stop reading, it's actually a fun game.  See, the game isn't about knowing it all, though a good knowledge of animals will help you out, it's about having good ideas and estimates on things.  It's rather simple, an animal is revealed, you see a picture, get the scientific name, and how many areas it lives in. Based on that, you can place a cube in a region of the map, or take a guess as to how much it weighs, how tall/long it is, and how long its tail is.  If you're right you get points, but if you're adjacent to the right answer you get some points.  The game usually sees ~15 animals in play, so even if you have no clue on one, you can still win the game.  The wrinkle to the game is that you only get 6 cubes.  If a cube scores points, you get it back, but if it doesn't you lose it for a round.  You always get at least 3 cubes to play with, so you won't fall too far behind if you take a lot of chances.  I've only played twice, but both games have been close.  It's a game the entire family can play, and I'd also see some great uses in a classroom setting using teams as each player.

#33 The Adventurers (Temple of Chac)
I like to call this Indiana Jones, the board game.  As an adventurer, your job is to go into this temple, get  as much treasure as you can, and make it out before the boulder seals you inside.  Now, it would be easy to just get all the treasure you want, but the more you get, the less likely you are to get actions.  Meaning, there's a great balancing act.  Throughout the game you'll have to get through two walls closing in on you, then outrun the boulder while tiptoeing the lava pit, rushing down the river, and crossing the rickety old bridge.  If this sounds fun, just wait until you see the boulder right behind you while you're doing all of this. The production quality here is amazing.  You get 12 different adventurers, the walls, the boulder and the bridge, as well as lava tiles and all the treasure cards.  I've yet to come out alive, but the game is still a great deal of fun.  Also great for the young ones.

#32 Mr. Jack
A two player game of deduction and stealth.  In this game, one player takes the role of a Scotland Yard detective while the other player takes control of Jack the Ripper.  Each odd turn 4 of the 8 characters are revealed, and used by the players to learn or conceal information.  The inspector's goal is to figure out which character Jack is using to hide his identity, while Jack is trying to escape or last 8 turns with the inspector either not making an accusation, or making a false one.
Each of the 8 characters has a special ability.  Some are more helpful to the Inspector, others to Jack, but figuring out how to make best use of each of them is the fun part to the game.  I've played a lot more online than in real life which gives you more time to think, but I've come to realize that I much prefer playing Inspector rather than Jack.  Its two completely different ways to play the same game, which gives it some replayabilty.  The theme is great for someone who's a mystery fan, but as a game, I think there are better two player only games in existence.

#31 Power Grid
This is probably the first "euro" game I ever played, meaning it's all about the mechanics, and strategy, very little luck.  I enjoy Power Grid because it feels like a giant math puzzle.  It's all about figuring out when to expand, how much to bid in the auctions, and how many resources to keep stored versus waiting for that next turn.  I've only played a handful of times, and I ended up going overboard by buying most of the map expansions, which gave me options, but I realized that I really only needed the original map, and I think I have one more just for variety.  There's a lot of math here, but it's covered in money, so it seems to be more straightforward.  I haven't played this in almost two years, maybe three, but it's still one I enjoy, even if the theme is a bit bland.  Maybe it was me winning all the time, though I doubt that would hold up long term, or maybe it was that Power Grid felt too much like work, my gaming dad does work in the power industry, that caused PG to fall flat.  Nevertheless, it's still a great game design, and something I'm glad I've played, and something I hope to play more in the future.

#30 High Society
I have to admit that High Society's ranking shot up because of the IOS app.  It has allowed me to play a lot more games, and see the intrigue in the game.  Essentially the game is about using your money to acquire works of art, and avoid hazards like a thief, a fire and a forgery.  There are 10 paintings worth 1-10 points, 3 2x multipliers, and the 3 hazards (steals your lowest, cuts points in half and -5 points respectively.)  Each turn you flip a card over and have to bid on it with money cards in your hand.  You can only add in cards from your hand, never replacing, though if you pass you take your cards back.  As soon as the forth multiplier card is flipped (the 3 doubles and the half) the game is over and the high score wins.  Sounds pretty simple right? Well, before you figure out the high score, the person who has the least amount of remaining money (or people if there's a tie) are automatically eliminated.  This creates a balance between gaining paintings and having money left to spend.  Overall a fun, quick card game for 3-5 people.

#29 Formula D
Formula D is a racing game, Formula 1 racing to be specific.  If you're a fan of that, you'll love the game, but even if you aren't, you still might enjoy it.  I purchased Formula D for Father's Day a few years back, and we've played as a family.  Most of our races have come down to dad and myself, but sometimes my sister gets in there and steals the win.  We've yet to play the advanced rules, since we don't play this much, but we have a great time teasing mom when she crashes out, or dad when he rolls the worst possible number and takes 5 turns to get down the straight.  The great thing in Formula D are the different gears are represented by different sided dice. So when you're in first gear you roll a d4 and can only get a 1 or 2. 2nd gear gives you a d6 numbered 2-4 twice, and so on, all the way to 6th gear and a d30 numbered 21-30 3 times each.  It's really fun to have different dice represent the progression of gears, and really gives you a reason to move through the gears and have fun with it.  Sure the game has some funky maps, but there are so many of them between Formula D and Formula De, that you can pick and choose the best ones.  If you like racing at all, or like moving a car around a board, give this a try.  It's easier than you think it would be, and a lot of fun.

That's the first third of the list, coming up on Sunday night, 28-22, and next Wednesday I'll do 21-15.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Top 42 Part 1 (42-36)

I've been thinking about doing a Top n list of games for awhile now. My first thought was 100, but I realized I didn't really like the tail end games, so that wasn't going to work.  Then I thought 50 would be a  nice even number, but that's a little too plain.  So I give to you a Top 42 in honor of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxay.  I'll run my list in 6 weeks of 7 game segments, so be sure to come back every week for the new list

#42 Sorry Sliders
Sorry Sliders is a neat little dexterity game.  There isn't a lot of strategy, and ultimately it comes down to how well you can slide your sliders, but it's a fun game.  It's quick to play and easy to teach, making it a game I can play with just about anyone.  Not my typical fare, but still a fun game every so often.

#41 No Thanks!
No Thanks is a filler card game.  Each turn there a numbered card gets flipped over, and you have to either place a chip on it to pass, or take the card with all the chips.  Your goal is to get the least amount of points, but all cards count positive.  The trick is in a run of cards, only your lowest counts against you, and then all chips help lower your score.  The downside is you never know if the card you need to bridge your run is even in the game, since some cards are randomly removed.  All in all a fun filler game which I enjoy, but not something I play all the time.

#40 Blokus
Blokus is a puzzle game where you're trying to get all your pieces on the board, and stop your opponents from doing the same.  The board is large enough for everyone to do this easily, except for the rule that you have to only touch a diagonal edge with your own pieces, you can never go adjacent to any of them.  This causes players to expand quickly, so they have the most room possible for tricky pieces.  I really like the puzzle aspect of the game, but I don't play it much, else it would be higher on my list.

#39 Mystery Express
Mystery Express is a deduction game in the ilk of Clue.  I love logic puzzles, but Mystery Express is far more than that.  It's not about figuring out what thing is missing, it's about finding the thing that only has 1 copy instead of 2.  This distinction adds a lot more mystery to the game, since in order to rule something out you have to see both copies in the same turn, because cards get passed around between players.  I've rarely won this game, but I always have fun playing it.  It takes a little long for what it is, but all of those turns matter for trying to figure everything out.  It's another one I don't play as often as I'd like, but it's a great alternative to clue, and a fun way to spend an evening solving a murder.

#38 Say Anything
Say Anything is a party game which is best described as free-form Apples to Apples.  The "judge" asks a question, then everyone writes down their answer.  The judge then secretly selects the winning answer and all players place bets on which one the judge chose.  Points are then awarded based on guessing the judge's choice, as well as having other players guess your card.  I prefer this over Apples to Apples, because the limitation is in the player's creativity.  There are also more ways to score points, and clearly defined guidelines, whereas Apples can lead to judges choosing cards for all the wrong reasons.

#37 Give Me the Brain!
You're a zombie working in a fastfood restaurant.  You have one combined brain. Let the hilarity commence.  With cards like "Is this meat vegetarian? Uh you mean did the cow eat meat?" and "I need the brain, my hand is locked in the safe" It's just a fun mess.  Sure, the game has balance problems, and too many ways for you to have no chance to win, but that's ok, it's fairly quick.  This isn't a strategy game, but it's something you can play at a party, or that Zombie theme night you've always wanted to throw, and people will have a good time.

#36 Colossal Arena
Colossal Arena involves controlling monsters, playing cards to support them in combat, and a fight to the near death.  Ultimately, it's a betting game, but you have a fair amount of influence over the various creatures.  If you have the most invested in a creature, then you are it's "backer" meaning you get to use it's special power when you play a fight card to support its survival.  This continues until every creature has a fight card and a single creature has the lowest value (range 0-10).  The problem I have with the game is that public bets allow for one player to be targeted by the others.  The other issue is how the game ends.  You either have 3 creatures left, or you run the draw deck. The draw deck tends to run out far too quickly in a 4 or 5 player game, which means the true end only happens in a 3 player game. Just know going in, great 3 player game, ok 4 player game, not the best 5 player game.  I do enjoy the various creature powers, but the game does become samey after a bit.

I'm Going to Warfare Your Planets

Detail on the two bigger ships

Eminent Domain
  • Designed by Seth Jaffee
  • Published by Tasty Minstrel Games
  • For 2-4 players
  • Plays in 30-60 minutes, or roughly 15 per player

Eminent Domain was the first game that got me on the Kickstarter bandwagon.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Kickstarter, the basic idea is that a person/company puts up a project and offers various funding levels for the public.  If the project is successfully funded the backers get charged and eventually get their product.  If it isn’t funded, then no money is charged.  I’m a subscriber to the TMG newsletter, so that alerted me to the project.  My first reaction of Em-Do was that it was just another deckbuilder, this time set in space.  It still looked interesting, and there was more to the game, so I decided to fund it.  It took awhile to get the game, roughly 9 months after funding, but it was well worth it.  The game offers a bevy of strategies, and a lot of choice for each player.
A pile of ships destined for great warfare
I was pleasantly surprised by the component quality.  The cards are excellent quality, the wood tokens are solid, but the warfare ships are amazing.  I’ve actually considered using them for painting practice, since there are so many, but I’ve yet to get there.  This game doesn’t have a lot of components, but what is has are great quality, and they get big credit for having plastic ships when they could have just done warfare counters.  Em-Do gets a 10 for functionally, a 6 for amount, and an 8.5 overall in components.
Game Mechanics
The mechanics of Eminent Domain are fairly simple to someone who’s played other deckbuilding games.  On your turn you may take an action, which is playing a card from your hand for it’s effect.  After your action, you take a role card from the center, and you may “kick” it with like cards from your hand.  Then each of your opponents may take the same action without the leader bonus, or they may dissent, and by dissenting they draw 1 card from their deck into their hand.  
The different types of actions and roles are fairly straightforward, but deciding what the best one is at any point creates a strategy that trumps Dominion.  There’s also a very interesting take on technology in Em-Do.  What you can research depends on the planets you control, and once one player takes a specific thing, no one else can get that.  There are also 3 technology levels. The first consists of improved versions of the standard actions There are also 4 versions of each one, so these don’t run out.  The second start to do unique things, with one acting as a permanent tech that stays in front of you rather than cycling through your deck.  Level 2 are also worth 2 points a piece.  Level 3 techs are all permanent and are worth 5 points.  There’s only 1 in each of the 3 research branches, and offer the user rather game changing benefits, such as drawing 2 cards when dissenting as opposed to just 1.
I had 4 "advance" planets, at least 3 produced resources
All in all, very interesting mechanics, and a lot to explore still for me. A very solid 9/10.
Player Interaction
There’s no direct interaction in Eminent Domain, rather the designer opted for a more subtle route.  The ability to anticipate your opponent’s role and follow or dissent accordingly is very intriguing, though when you play with the same people, you start to notice tendencies, and plan accordingly. 
9/10 for taking the subtle approach, but it would be nice to affect what someone else does in their empire.
Eminent Domain takes place in space and I suppose you can read more into things. You play a galactic ruler, deciding between warfare and colonization of planets.  You can survey new worlds, produce and trade resources or pursue technology, but don’t get fooled into thinking that Em-Do is a space civilization game.  You could peel off the space theme, change some names around, and you’d still have the same game.  For me the theme here isn’t that important, nor does it shine through.  
A “meh” 4/10 in theme for me.
Some of the different role cards
Learning Curve 
I’m going to give two cases for a learning curve here.
If you’ve never played a deckbuilding game, it’s a Moderate learning curve.
If you have played a decbuilding game, it’s a Short-Moderate learning curve.
Both ways you probably need a game to understand why things work the way they do, but you may catch on earlier depending on your teacher. 
Why I like this game
I like Eminent Domain because the gameplay is straightforward, yet I always have choices to make on my turn.  I’ve also played almost all close games, usually 1st and 2nd within 3 points of each other, and to me close games make things more fun.  
Why I don't like this game
I already talked about theme, but that doesn’t really bother me.  The main aspect I don’t like is how the game feels the same most of the time.  There isn’t tons, aside from technology, that make the game feel different from play to play.  Sure, different planets do different things, but that’s not going to last forever.  
My Empire with resources, and 3 permanent technologies

There are a lot of different victory paths to explore in this game. You have to choose how to turn over planets, either warfare or colonization.  Both have merits, and it’s hard to do just one exclusively.  The other thing is how much technology do you pursue?  Tech will help you do different things, but alone it won’t win you the game.  The thing I’ve noticed lately is how useful a produce/trade strategy is.  It rarely depends on other players, but it can be helped immensely if someone works with you on that route.  
All that being said, I fear how long Em-Do will be interesting.  I think they need an expansion to increase the tech options, and maybe add in a new action/role card.  I like the game, but I want more from it.
It’s a fun game. I like playing it, and I love how 3 or 4 of us can all take different paths to victory and end up really close to one another.  It proves the game is balanced and we all enjoy it.  It’s enjoyable to try new things.  I’ve yet to explore all the technology cards, but I’ve made good use out of some I never thought I would play.  
Overall I give Eminent Domain an 8.5/10 with the caveat that given an expansion, this could jump to a 10.
Will you like this game?
If you enjoy deckbuilding games, this is one of the better ones out there.  Also, if you’re looking for a quick 2-player game with a lot of options, this is probably a good bet.  It’s hard for me to explain why I like this game so much.  I think it did what I wanted Race for the Galaxy to do, and it was easy to pick up and play.  Maybe it was the months of anticipation with Kickstarter, or maybe it’s having my name in the rulebook.  All in all, it’s just a fun game.
Each Planet has a warfare cost (ships)
and a colonize cost(colonize cards under planet)
If you complete one, you can take it over for an action
Amusing Story about a Gameplay
The first time we played with 4 players the final scores were along the lines of 32-31-30-30.  Right then, I knew we’d play a lot of games, since we have nothing else that gives us tight games.  Also, there’s nothing like using a tech to score 12 points on your last turn, ending the game, and then losing by a single point.  I was out of it all game, and to be that close to a win was a great personal triumph.  
Final Thought
Thank-you Seth Jaffee and TMG for creating an in game start player method.  Saying something like “players choose a method that they all agree on” is just a cop-out.  Putting first player on one player aid while the others were blank was just brilliant, so thank-you for that.

(All photos are taken by the writer and part of actual gameplay)

Want to buy Eminent Domain and support BoBG?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Contest Update

I've shortened what you need to do to enter the Say Anything Contest.  It's now just an e-mail and two little things, which should take you all of 2 minutes.

You have until the end of January to enter for a free game, so give it a go, and also look and various articles for extra entries.

All the info you need is on the Contest page which you can find at the top of the page.

Happy contesting!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mousetrap - It's a game? And a Bonus Review

Mousetrap: Part game, part construction project.  When you boil down Mousetrap, you end up with a simple roll and move game, which is typical of most games in this series, but there's a bit more than that here.  The fun part for most people was the creation of the full mouse trap, and watching something you built function.  I think as a child, I probably played the actual game twice.  I wanted to play by the full rules, I really did, but building and triggering the trap was always more fun.

I think Mousetrap is ultimately judged on the toy factor.  It's a fairly simple game, with little choice, but it's a pretty fun toy.  So, the question becomes how to make Mousetrap better.  My answer, don't try.  Play it as a toy, let the kids have fun with it, and when they're looking for better games, go elsewhere.

It's probably a cop-out to recommend the Adventurers again as a next step game but I think it works.  You have a fair amount of the toy factor, but Adventurers combines the toys with a decent game.

Since that was relatively short, I'll give you a bonus micro review.
It's a Milton Bradley game from the 1978 called This Game is Bonkers or Bonkers for short.  The object of the game is to get 12 scores, the first one to do this wins the game.  So how do you score? There are 3 ways; 1st you can roll a 12, 2nd, you can land on the score spot, and 3rd, you can get caught in a loop.  Now, this would be very simple, and take a very long time, but whenever you land on an empty spot, you can place a tile that tells you how to move.  At first, this takes awhile, but eventually there are combos that lead you to scores.  Also, if you land on a spot that someone else occupies, you get to roll again.  This goes on until you land on an empty space after you've placed a tile, or until you "Go to Lose!"  Every player is also given a token that allows them to send another player to Lose.  Now, the fun part of this game is yelling "SCORE!" whenever someone scores a point, and sympathizing when someone goes to "LOSE."

Now, is this a great strategic game? No, not at all,  But, it's a great way to start or end a game night.  I know it's not in production anymore, but there are ebay copies, as well as thrift store and garage sale possibilities.  It's a fun game with numbers, and if you approach to have fun rather than to win, you'll be glad you played it.

Also remember, it's the people that make things fun, appreciate those people who play games.


I like to think of Sodoku as the Mathematician's Crossword puzzle.  I was never, and probably never will be much good at crossword puzzles, but something clicked when I saw my first Sodoku puzzle.  Now, this isn't a boardgame persay, but it is a puzzle, and puzzles can be games, so hence the article.

What triggered this post for me was an article that proved that it is impossible to solve a Sodoku puzzle with only 16 clues. Proof  Now, the mathematics does get a tiny bit tricky, but I see it as more logic than math.

This brings up the idea of "solvable" games. That is, a game with limited options where the best move in any circumstance can be determined.  Checkers is an example of a solvable game.  Chess is to an extent, but there is not a complete solution as of this post (at least not one I know about).  A simple to solve game such as Checkers still holds some appeal, at least until you see the solution, but partially solvable games are where the fun happens.

Think of your favorite game. If you look at the different things going on, there are probably some things that you always see as being the best thing to do.  Other times, things are less defined.  It's a tricky balance to maintain, but I hold that it is a necessary balance.  A game with all luck will leave the victor less than satisfied and the losers complaining of bad dice rolls, or bad card draws, but a game with no luck tends to see the same person always winning, and dominant strategies emerge, which takes the fun out of the game.

Soduku has sharpened the logic of the people who solve the puzzles.  The puzzle is full of deductive reasoning, and the more you can do that, the better you'll be at some boardgames.  Sure it won't help you the next time you play Farkle, but it might help you when you play Liar's Dice.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Star Trek Fleet Captains

I got a new game on Wednesday January 18th.  I debated getting fleet captains since I first heard about it, but was turned off by the price.  I paid $80 at my local game store, MSRP is $99.95 meaning $100, and the cheapest online price I could find was $65.

So why get it at my local game store?
1, it was there, meaning I could open it today and play it this weekend rather than sometime next week.
2, good to support the local store when I can.
3, I had a $20 gift card, so it was like paying $60, making it the cheapest option to me.

Now, I've yet to play it, so I won't talk about the gameplay or do an official review, so my first video will have to suffice.

Come back later for a full review, which will come after I play it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


One of the key factors I look for in a game is replayability, or the ability for the game to be interesting over repeated plays.  The subject is very subjective, because what defines interesting, and what defines repeated?  I have to address the matters in a personal way, so my biases will not only creep in, but this article will be oozing with personal bias.

First some definitions.  Interesting to me in a game means that the players have to figure out how to deal with each other's actions and figure out what to do in order to win.  Specifically, players can do something that gives them the element of surprise, or do something unexpected that makes others adapt.
Repeated: a desire to play more than one game within a short amount of time. I know this is still vague, so for me, with the knowledge that I play games about 3 times a month, usually for long game days on the weekends, sometimes more, sometimes less.  All of that is to say that playing a game about 10-15 times in a year is repeated.

If you take a look at my list of games played two main things stick out. First, there are a few games I have played a lot, and secondly, a lot of games I have played a few times.

Here's some of the play count list, without the game names

  • 207, 189, 74, 45, 45, 37
  • 32, 32, 28, 27, 23, 21
For those who know me well, it's no surprise that Cosmic Encounter and Dominion take spots 1 and 2, and there's a great reason for that; they are replayable games.  Those two are perhaps the best examples of near infinite variety. Assuming a 5 player game of Cosmic, there are currently 5,273,912,160 possibilities of alien power combinations.
And for Dominion as of the Hinterlands expansion and including the BGG promo cards (total of 157 cards) there are 6,790,908,493,212,710,000,000 which is 6 sextillion, 790 quintillion, 908 quadrillion, 493 trillion, 212 billion, 710 million possible set-ups to play, which can be doubled if you want to worry about a colony game, or no colonies.

Needless to say, neither of those numbers will ever be approached in my lifetime, yet alone in games I play.  Also, my apologizes to the non mathematically inclined, didn't mean to scare you with large numbers.  So why those two games as my top two played?  Well the answer is fairly straightforward. I like the way those games play in their simplicity (once you know what's going on), and then the things that give them variety make me want to try the different combinations.  I think the lack of changing features is an aspect of why the big name games don't do well in comparison.  There isn't a new challenge to figure out, or some new strategy to explore, it's all the same again and again.

Now, everything I've presented leads to the possibility of most games meeting the criteria.  At first I thought that might be a problem, but I realized that the great thing about hobby boardgames is that they are vastly replayable.  There are hundreds of games published each year, yet I'd wager only a fraction of them see even 10 plays.

There was a bit of an outcry over Risk Legacy, which has components for 15 game plays, and then the modifications are done.  At first this bothered me, and then I looked at how many games I had played more than 15 times.  For me, that answer is oddly enough, 15.  Now, I expect that to nearly double by the end of the year, but still, if you get 15 plays out of a $30-$40 game, that's not bad.  It comes down to $2-$3 per play for one person, which is fairly cheap entertainment.

Replayability seems to be at war with new games.  I love opening a game, learning the rules, figuring out new strategies; but I realized in writing this that the true measure of a game for me is how much I play it in the long run.  Carcassonne was the first game I ever owned, getting it back in 2007.  Back in those days I didn't log my plays, else it would be in the 15+ category, but it's a game I'm still playing today.  Same thing with Ticket to Ride, Cosmic Encounter and Pandemic, which are all games from my early days of gaming.  It may take awhile to get to 15 plays, but the good ones are worth the time.  It's also nice to play a game without having to reference the rulebook.

I hope this encourages you to pull an old favorite off the shelf and give it a play.  I did with Pandemic this past weekend, and though we lost miserably twice (getting 8/9 starting cities all in the red area is just plain rough), we were all glad we played it again.

Comment with the game you've played the most, or a few of them for an extra entry into the Say Anything Contest. And don't forget to enter the contest, you've got until the end of the month.
There's a link at the top of the page for all the details.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Two Go In, One Comes Out - Co-op Style

              Forbidden Island                                   
Matt Leacock
Gamewright Games
2-4 Players
Plays in about 30 minutes

Matt Leacock
Z-Man Games
2-4 Players (5 with Expansion)      Plays in about 60 minutes     
Since these two games share a lot of similarities; same designer, both are co-operative games, and both share similar mechanics.  With that in mind I’m going to review both at the same time, pointing out their differences, giving each part a running score, with no ties allowed, and always a point difference, and we’ll see which one I like better when all is said and done.
Forbidden Island is a family geared co-op game, meaning that everyone works together against the board.  Players find themselves on a sinking island where they must collect 4 treasures and then get off the island before it sinks completely.  There are several ways to lose the game, but only one way to win.
Pandemic is geared a bit more to the medium gamer. It’s also a co-op game, but this time you’re members of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control, which is headquartered in Atlanta, thus the starting point) who are trying to find cures for 4 major diseases while treating the diseases around the world.  Yet once again, many ways to lose, only one way to win.
All the treasures stacked
Photo courtesy of Tahlia M.
Pandemic has a few more components, but Forbidden Island’s are snazzier.  
Pandemic has a fixed board which I think gives it an edge in game to game balance.  It also allows for outbreak trackers as well as how many infection cards to draw each turn.  Forbidden Island counters with a tile for each land area.  These tiles are of great quality, and have a normal side, as well as a sinking side.  Forbidden Island has the advantage of being random each time you play, which is nice to have variety.
As I alluded to at the start of the section, Forbidden Island has snazzy components, which come in the 4 treasures that the adventurers attempt to collect.
As it always does, it comes down to scores.  Both games have excellent components, but snazzy wins out, so Forbidden Island 10, Pandemic 9.
Game Mechanics
Yes, I do have a rubber glove
for handling the disease cubes
It's a joke from a former roommate.
Both games involve players getting a set number of actions each turn, trying to move around the map and fight a losing battle.  Players attempt to collect sets of cards to collect the items that help them win the game.  Each player has a different character ability that helps them do something special to help the team.  In FI you have a pilot who can move anywhere on the map for an action rather than just up, down, left, right.  You have a messenger, in both games, who can give someone else a card without having to be on the same spot.  In Pandemic you have a scientist who can research a cure with one fewer card than normal.  The interaction of these powers, and the players’ ability to maximize their effectiveness is the key to winning or losing.
The different roles in F.I.
One flaw in both games is that sometimes you’re going to lose no matter what you do because of the way the cards come up.  That’s not a huge issue since everyone wins or loses together, but it still may irritate some.  
The deciding difference for me is that Pandemic has a bit more that you can’t account for, which keeps players on their toes, and I also prefer not needing to save one specific card and get everyone to a specific location in order to win.  Therefore, Pandemic gets a 9, Forbidden Island an 8 for mechanics, making our running score 18 to 18.
Player Interaction
One of the pawns and a
sinking tile for F.I.
The player interaction in both of these games is found in the actual players.  The game does require teamwork, but it has a fatal flaw in the puzzle-like nature which can lead to one player telling everyone else what to do in order to win.  This probably isn’t a bad thing at the end of the game, but it is rather annoying if it happens the whole time.
With that being said, I try to encourage each player to make their own decisions, but also take advice from the other players.  Sometimes someone has a great idea that I didn’t see, and sometimes I see something they didn’t which allows us to learn and appreciate the advice of the other players.  
Infection tracker and city infections
The other thing I’ve noticed is that both games can be played by yourself acting as multiple players.  To some this is a good thing, to others, not so much.  Personally I like that aspect, and I have played both games acting as two people to see if I could beat a hard difficulty.  In playing solo games, I noticed that I missed that check of running it by someone and having input.  
Ultimately, I think both of these games were designed for players to work together.  Forbidden Island is slightly easier, which makes the choices less complex.  There’s less to work out, and fewer choices to be made, so for that reason Pandemic takes the edge 4 to 3.  There isn’t a lot of interaction, thus the low scores. That brings the running tally to 22 to 21 Pandemic.
The roles from Pandemic
Finally something where these two games are miles apart.
As I’ve previously stated, Forbidden Island is a gigantic treasure hunt.  Watching the tiles flip as they take on water, and then sink with too much water feels tense and rather thematic.  
Pandemic is about curing diseases, which to me is a good theme to have, but the game doesn’t envelop the theme until you actually develop a cure.  By the time you have a cure, then it’s fun to  cure a disease completely from a city, but until then it’s a micromanagement game.  
The player cards for F.I.
I feel like the mechanics in Pandemic could be adopted to several different themes without much effort, while Forbidden Island works perfectly.  Therefore Forbidden Island gets a 9, and Pandemic a 7, for a score of 30 to 29 Forbidden Island.

Learning Curve 
Forbidden Island has very simple rules to explain.  It’s very much a game geared towards families, meaning mom and dad, or big brother or sister will be around to help younger kids, and that makes FI a Short learning curve.
Pandemic is still on the short side of the curve, but it ventures into the medium due to enhanced complexity.  Therefore Pandemic is a Short-Medium learning curve.
For ease of learning, Forbidden Island a 9, Pandemic an 8. Making things 39 to 37 Forbidden Island.
What I like about these games
The flood tracker in F.I.
I think I’ve given a lot of reasons why I like both of these games, so I’m going to give you my favorite part of each game.  Pandemic was the first teamwork game I played and we had a lot of fun in college with a good amount of people.  Forbidden Island is a game I can teach to anyone and because of that, it’s a game more people have bought than anything else based on playing with me.
No score for this category, and none for the next one either.
Why I don't like these games
Both games suffer from the general or dictator problem, but I think that would be a cheap way out.  Specifically in Pandemic, I dislike the abrupt end.  It feels like the job is only half done when the cures are researched, and I want to go cure the world rather than leave it in shambles.
For Forbidden Island, I dislike the abandoning tiles rule. It can almost be a greater help than hindrance. I know that’s rare, but it is still a problem.
Special Event cards in Pandemic
I decided to add a new category to my reviews and that is replayability.  The point of the category is to talk about the variety between games and how much I find myself wanting to play the game.
Both of these games have moderate replayability.  There are some changes in terms of initial set-up, the player powers and the people playing the game, but at some point it starts to feel more like a puzzle.  It’s been over a year since I last played Pandemic, and sadly I don’t see that changing, but that’s not my choice.  Forbidden Island is still a newish game to me, and it continues to see play time, but I don’t long to play it frequently.
Pandemic gains new legs with the On The Brink expansion which added a lot of new player powers, and 3 new ways of playing the game.
Before the expansion, the scores would have been Pandemic 5, Forbidden Island 6, but the expansion for Pandemic brings the replayability up to an 8, giving us a 45-45 tie.
As full games, I like both of these games, but I think that owning one is sufficient since they are so similar.  I like both of these games for different reasons, yet they scratch the same itch.  In order to break the tie, I have 2 deciding factors: Bang for Your Buck and if I had to own just one, which one would it be.
Forbidden Island has amazing production value for the pretty low cost of ~$20.  Pandemic + Expansion goes for ~$50 online.  Simply put, Forbidden Island is the far better bang for your buck. 
Now, for which game I’d rather own, it’s really tough for me.  I like having both games, I enjoy playing them both, and they’ve worked with a variety of people.  The biggest thing that sways it right now for me is the ease of play in Forbidden Island.  Both games have their place, and if I was playing games more often, I’d probably take Pandemic, but Pandemic is also a longer game, which keeps it off the table more often than not.
So there you go, my winner is Forbidden Island just by a little bit.
What you get in the F.I. box
Will you like these games?
The only reason you wouldn’t like Forbidden Island is because you dislike co-operative games, or simpler games.  If you like playing family friendly games, give it a shot.  It’s also a nice break for college students.
Pandemic would be great for high-school or college students, as well as an adult game group.  It can be played with the family, but older kids would be better.
Amusing Story about a Gameplay
There isn’t one defining moment in Pandemic for me. There have been a lot of tight games, but I can’t recall a particularly memorable one.  Forbidden Island is another story.  I once played a game where Fool’s Landing came up in the initial set of sinking tiles, and then I drew a first turn Water’s Rise, followed by turning over Fool’s Landing thus losing the game.  For those of you who don’t know the game, Fool’s Landing is the tile that everyone has to get to at the end in order to win the game, so if it sinks completely, the game is over.
Final Thought
It’s hard work comparing two games at once, but I think the extra work was worth it.  Let me know what you think.

Want to buy Forbidden Island or Pandemic and support BoBG?