Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cosmetic Changes

Stick with me here, I have two points for this post.  The first are the changes to the blog.
We got a logo!!! Big thanks to my friend Rose for designing that. If you click the picture, you're taken to her site where she does various design pieces, and a lot of cool work with chain maille. The second thing you'll notice is that the black background for posts is gone. In it's place a more pleasing grey which is easier to read if nothing else.  I also took the text up a shade to an off white to make that easier on the eyes.

Secondly, I want to talk about cosmetic changes that people make to board games.  Sometimes this is as simple as replacing paper money with poker chips or coins, sometimes it's a more extensive change (see what I did to Fleet Captains)  I think the most common game to modify is Agricola.  People like to get glass or plastic carrots and ears of corn for the vegetables, little cow and sheep minis for the animals, and other things.  While this doesn't enhance the game per say, it can make it more enjoyable to play.

Some games need these changes, while others benefit from them.  I like to believe that most games are playable as they come in the box, but some need a hand to make them easier to play.

Here's the question for the readers -

What game or games have you made some changes to with regards to components? It can be a little or a lot, just let me know.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fleet Captains Customization

When I first played Star Trek Fleet Captains, I was impressed with the gameplay, but I felt it needed more.  My cousin was thinking the same thing because he said something to the effect of "wouldn't it be awesome to have a wood board for the game."  So I took that and ran with it.  I started thinking of how to make things work, and I decided that a wood was easier to work with than plastic.  I didn't want to do an edge or a barrier like Catan, I wanted a board.  My first instinct was to take a board and drill/cut hexagons into the board, but hexagons are hard to work with, and I didn't have any tool to do that job.

So with help from a friend and her dad who works with wood a fair bit, we came up with a fairly elegant solution.  We decided to lay out a triangular grid to make hexagons, and then use pieces of wood as a boarder.  As you can see on the left, it's not 100% perfect, but the hexagons work well.  On the right, you can see how the tiles fit on the board, there's plenty of room to get a finger in to flip or remove them.  The main board works for the two player game, while the sideboards are for a 4 player game.  I added the blue and red paint on top to mark the command posts so players don't have to fiddle with the layout as much.  It also makes for faster set-up.

As the board work was going on, I took a few days to paint some of the miniatures.  For comparison, unpainted ones are on the left.  I won't claim that my painting skills are perfect, or even all that good, but I'm fairly pleased with how things turned out.  I can give more details for how I did everything, but I'll just give a basic rundown here.  I used simple Acrylic paints that you can find in any hobby store.  The key is using the same brand of paints on any given ship.  For the Federation ships, I started with a grey base coat, simply painting the whole ship.  I let that dry, then depending on look, I added a grey-black or grey-white mix to get a shade I liked better.  Then I added detail work, such as blue on the nacelles, some red for impulse engines, and some deflector work as well as running lights and phaser lines where I thought it would look good.  For the Klingon ships, I had 3 different shades of green, so I decided to divide the fleet in three shades.  This works since some houses in the empire would have their own paint scheme.  I then added some touches of red for torpedo launches and some phaser arrays, but nothing over-the-top there.  The whole painting project took me 3 days, which was 1-4 hours  each day.

If I had it to do over, I probably could have had it done in 6 hours total including dry time.  I also had a few snafus with two figures coming off their bases, so that took some time to glue and then overnight set-up which slowed me down.
Another part of the customization was finding these little craft storage boxes to organize all the tokens and bits that come with the game.  I went with Blue for the federation, and Pinkish for the Klingons.  If/when the Romulans come along, they get green, but for now it helps divvy up the storage and makes things easier to find.

Here's the takeaway for this whole project.

  • It's a lot of hard work, but a great reward.
  • Painting Miniatures to a reasonable level isn't all that hard if you take the time, have patience, and work carefully.
  • Touch-ups are necessary
  • Woodworking gets expensive, but is also easy to work with.
  • Friends and parents make things a lot easier
Here's what I had to purchase to make this whole thing happen
  • Acrylic Paints
    • Black, Blue, Grey, White, Red, Orange, Green x3(but you can get away with 1)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood Glue
  • Wooden Dowels (~20 feet worth)
  • Wood Boards (x2)
  • Pack of Craft Storage Boxes
  • Black Spraypaint for the board
  • Wooden Disks for the feet
  • Piece of Felt for the feet
  • 2 dice which work well for the game - blue and black for the feds, green and red for the klingons.
Other things I used that some people might not have available
  • Tool to cut the wooden dowels
  • Power/Table saw to cut the boards
  • Measuring tape
  • Yardstick
  • Protractors
All in all, it ran me about $60 and three weekends of work, so it's not a simple project, but I think it's well worth it.  I hope you'll agree with me that it is as well.

I owe a huge thanks to Rose, who helped me figure out the hexagon grid, and who helped cut the dowels, sand them, and glue them to the board.  Also thanks to my dad who helped me cut the boards to the right size.

I've learned a lot about woodworking, and I doubt this will be my last attempt.
I've also learned a fair bit about miniatures painting, so if you like my style, let me know and I might be willing to do some work for you.

If you are a registered member on Boardgamegeek, please give my work a thumbs up on this article http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/137425/item/2052536#item2052536
It's a contest to show-off good work in customizing games.
If you aren't a member on BGG, you should be.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Risk OR I Shall Conquer Your Territory, Oh Wait, You Rolled a 6, AGAIN!

That's right, today is Risk day.  I have a lot of fond memories involving Risk.  I think I first played when I was 10, but I watched my cousins play for a few years before that.  They'd never let me play with them, but that was probably more because they wanted to maintain their group order and long-standing alliances.  The first time I ever played was with my best friend from elementary school, and boy did we get the rules wrong.  It was also a two-player game, which is not the way to play Risk.

For those of you not familiar with Risk, let me run down how it works.  Players take turns to conquer territories and eventually take over the world by using armies and dice.  Eventually players are eliminated and only one remains.  Combat is straightforward, the attacker rolls up to 3 attack dice, the defender 2, and you compare high die with high die and next high with next high, with the defense winning ties.  The advantage of the defense winning ties leads to a lot of build-up and very little fighting until someone goes on a run.

There's a lot to like when it comes to Risk.  There's some military strategy, at least with troop deployment, the combat mechanics are simple.  The global scale gives players a grand sense of control.  People can easily learn the game, and the rules are straightforward.

Now, for all the good things, there are problems with the game.  The first problem comes with dice. The simple fact is that one troop can hold off a whole army, even destroy that entire army by rolling a 6 repeatedly, or at least as high as the high die from the attacker.  Sure, the odds are that they can't keep this up, but dice do weird things sometimes.  Another issue is that every territory starts with at least one troop, so combat is required from the star in order to get cards.  It also gives players no where to expand, and troops in places they simply don't care about.  The more elegant solution is presented in Risk Legacy by having each player start in one territory and expand from there.  A third issue is in the trade-in of cards.  Players don't want to trade in, because their opponents will get more troops than they do,

So, we have some good things with Risk.  I won't deny that this was my favorite game for awhile, and it was the reason I was introduced to Catan, but Risk has it's bad parts.  It's a long game, unpredictable time frame, and it has player elimination, which in itself isn't a bad thing, but combined with the long timeframe, it leads to bored people.

As I always try to do, here are some alternative games based on why you like Risk.

  • First off, Risk Legacy if you have a consistent play group.  It maintains the Risk mechanics, but offers a lot of variety.  
  • Memoir '44, Battlelore, or Command and Colors gives you the combat, a short play time, and a more historical flare.
  • Axis and Allies is a classic, though it still suffers from the long playtime.
  • If you really like Risk, but you want a better game under the Risk header, take a look first at Legacy, but then at Risk 2210 or Risk Godstorm. Self note, if anyone is looking to get 2210, let me know, I have it for trade or sale.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wits and Wagers Party - A First Look

Yes, that's right, a preview look at a game before it hits shelves.

I was a play tester for Wits and Wagers Party in the summer of 2011.  Since the product has been officially announced by Northstar Games, I can talk about the gameplay.  When I tested the game, there were three different rulesets to test, and as it turns out, none of them exactly made the final cut.

First, for those of you unfamiliar with Wits and Wagers, it's a trivia game, like Trivial Pursuit, but all the answers are numbers, and knowing the exact answer is not critical.  The game is played over seven rounds, with each round consisting of a question.  Each player secretly writes their answer, then players "bet" on what they think is the closest answer without going over.  That answer pays out, and then the person with the most chips after 7 rounds wins.
Betting Tokens

So what's new in the party edition?
Well, a new ruleset is the main thing.

  • Play 7 questions
  •  Order everything above the “1” answer board.
  • The closest guess without going over the correct answer will payout.
  •  Pay out in poker chips.
  • The “1” answer board pays double.
  • You can bet up to all of your chips on the final question.
I think this is the simplest version of rules they have, and it's perfect for the party version of this fun trivia game.  

Player answer cards
There are also a bunch of new questions, my guess is 700, and some pretty fun artwork.  I received prototype artwork over the summer, so know that this is only prototype work, but I think it shows off the fun nature of this version.

Also some news from Northstar is that a Wits and Wagers App is in development and should be ready to go around August of 2012.  There's some other news as well, but I don't believe I'm at liberty to discuss that, just know that Dominic has big things planned for the Wits and Wagers brand.

Want to buy Wits and Wagers Party and support BoBG?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Not So Storybook Ending. A Scary Tales Review

Scary Tales
  • Designed by Reiner Knizia
  • Published by Playroom Entertainment
  • Each set allows for 2 players to play, and there are currently 3 sets.
  • Plays in roughly 30 minutes. Some games are faster, some slower.
The Characters and Fairies I have
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Snow White and Red Riding Hood had a contest in fairy tale artifact collecting? What about Pinocchio and the Giant?  Well, this won't exactly answer the question, but it gives you an idea.
Scary Tales is designed to be a simple two player game with hand management and relic collection.  There's a lot of luck in the cards that you draw, but there is also strategy in when you should play your cards, and when you shouldn't.  

Scary Tales doesn't have much in the way of components. It simply has 3 dice per character, one die per fairy, and a bunch of cards.  The cards are high quality, the dice, while plastic, don't feel cheep and seem to be well balanced.  It's a minimalist production, but there are no unnecessary bits, so high marks for quality in what's in the box. The rules are not intuitive, and are poorly written, simply jumping from point to point with no real explanation of how the game plays out. Still, a solid 6.5/10.

Game Mechanics
Various Pre-Roll Cards
Gameplay isn't that complicated. You start with one of the fairy tale characters, a relic, and 5 power cards.  You choose an opponent's relic to "attack" then play preroll cards from your hand to add to your dice, then you roll your dice. If you roll the symbols on the relic, you take it, adding to your stack, and if you don't, you get your cards back. In a two player game, you can make another attack.  Then you can play any post roll cards, and finally you draw a card from each deck.  The power deck has all those pre and post roll cards, while the fortune deck has some events, a few companions, and a lot of relics. You carry out any events as you reveal them, add any companions to your play area, and then stop when you get a relic, adding that to your pile.  The first player to start their turn with 7 points worth of relics wins. Incidentally, I just taught you almost everything you need to know in order to play the game.  The mechanics are simple, but are just right for the game.  They get a 7/10.

Various Relics. Some of the lower
points are harder to take, while high
point cards are more easily stolen.
While there is interaction in taking your opponent's relics, there isn't anything they can do to stop you.  There's almost no interaction here, so it gets a 2/10.

The fairy tale theme is well incorporated.  The cards with pre roll symbols are your classic creatures, such as ogres, elves, dragons, etc.  The relics are all related to one of the fairy tales involved, such as the map to grandmother's house, the golden egg, and many others. There could be a stronger tie-in between the theme and the way the game plays, but still it's an excellent 9/10.

Learning Curve
I would think by the fact that I explained the mechanics previously that the learning curve would be obvious, but in case it wasn't, it's short.  This is a classic filler game, and is easily learned.

Some of the other
Fortune Deck Cards
Why I Like Scary Tales
The game is simple.  I like playing it in-between longer games, or while eating dinner.  It works well for the entire gaming family, and the four of us have a good time.  I don't even care if I win or lose, it's just fun to play.

Why I Don't Like Scary Tales
It's overly random.  If you get low point relics, or boosts that don't help you, it's hard to win.  There's too much luck with dice rolling and card drawing.  

Most days when we play it, we play 2 or 3 games of Scary Tales, and we've played 10 times so far, so it looks good.  Eventually it will fade out, but it's still a reasonable game to play over and over for the low price.  It could easily become something I play a couple of times on a single game day once every month or two, and stay that way for a year or more.

Various Post-Roll Cards
Will You Like Scary Tales?
If you're looking for a fairy tale game, this is the best one I've played.  I think it could be fun to play with children once they're a little older, starting in the 9-12 range (the box says 13, which is probably for some of the character artwork)  If you're looking for a game with a fair amount of luck and randomness, then this is for you.  There isn't a lot of strategy, but I've enjoyed it so far.

I picked up Scary Tales in a BGG auction on a whim.  It seemed like a fun little game, and for the low price, it was worth it.  The odd thing is that I rarely bother to remember the price of a game after I buy it, since at that point I just try to enjoy it for what it is.  I've tried the 2 player game, and it's not very good.  It's a bit mean just attacking the same person over and over.  It's worked wonderfully with 3 or 4 since you can balance to try to stop someone from winning. What it does mean is that you can be attacked many times in a round, but that happens rarely.  Additional players also give you the ability to target a relic which you can actually win based on your cards, and not just get stuck on one you can't touch.

Overall, I give Scary Tales a 7/10 which means that it is a game that I like to play, will continue playing, but it has several flaws that make me not want to play it often.

Want to buy Scary Tales or an expansion and support BoBG?

Monday, February 20, 2012

It's All About the People

I was listening to The Dice Tower Podcast, episode 243 last night, and the segment the Chief presented struck a chord with me.  He spoke about a gaming buddy who really wanted to play Battlestar Galactica at a conference, and it made him realize that he was fortunate to have so many people who like to play games in his life.

This made me remember again how many amazing people I have met through boardgames, and how many more I hope to meet in the future.  I have a gaming family who opens their house to me nearly every weekend to come and play games, and then on top of that, they feed me wonderful food.  More than that though, they've welcomed my friends over to join in, and I think everyone who's gone over has had a wonderful time.  They've truly become my second family, and a home away from home, even though it's 5 minutes down the road.

Secondly, I have my college friends who endured my overzealousness with boardgames and constant pleas to play.    I've talked a lot about those them, look for other history posts, but I'll say one big summation about my college years.  I would not have enjoyed school nearly as much if it wasn't for the people who played games.

I have a lot of other people who play games. I have friends who invite me over to play with their parents, or their siblings, friends who will come over and play a two-player game with me, and one of my cousins who has a conglomeration of various people who will play games occasionally.

So here's to all the people I count as friends who play games.  Your time spent gaming is a source of joy in my life.  You have been the inspiration for this blog and the driving force in my life.

Too often it takes tragedy to make people remember what's truly important.  Well, no tragedies in my life right now, just a 2am rambling, and a good perspective on things.

Take time to thank the people who play games with you.  It's amazing how much a thank-you and a smile can go.

Until next time, remember, games are rather boring if we have no one to play with.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Yes Virginia, There is a Secret Santa, He Just Doesn't Have a Calendar

Valentine's Day (ok 3 days after) is a lot better timeframe than Easter.
Tiny bit of backstory to make that make sense, last year I was the last person to get games from Secret Santa, but it was all worth it in the end, as Santa was immensely generous.

So as Christmas drew near and nothing showed up, I was thinking "Here we go again!" I came home on Christmas night and found a GM from Santa, saying he had some delays, but was taking care of things. Then February rolled around, so I inquired about things with Octavian. Got a response on Thursday Feb 16th. Turns out my first replacement had something come up, (hey, life happens, no harm done), so I had a second and games were on the way.

Today (Friday), I hear the doorbell ring, and there are 2 packages on my doorstep from Amazon. I figure it's something my mom ordered, but then I see my name on both of the boxes, and they're heavy!

I break out the pocket knife and open the boxes to find them wrapped with a little card on each one saying "Enjoy! From Your 2nd Secret Santa"

The small box has one game, a little bit long and flat, so I take that out but leave it wrapped. The bigger box has two games roughly that Ticket to Ride box size. I open one of the bigger boxes and find Dominion: Hinterlands. Awesome, it's the expansion I need to complete things for now, still need to get sleeves though (not Santa's fault, just my own pickiness). I know this one will get played, as I've played a bunch on Isotropic.

The next big box contained Ascending Empires. I love Catacombs, and I love sic-fi games, so this seems to be a great fit. I've heard a lot of good things, and look forward to playing this one.

That smaller box that I mentioned early was the true surprise - Twilight Struggle. I've really enjoyed 1960:Making of the President, but the guy I play with and I are both looking for something with even more tension. I was born right at the end of the Cold War, so I don't have a full appreciation for the tension, but I've heard it's an amazing design, and a great game, so this will get played. It might be a bit, since I don't play 2 player games often, but I'll get it to the table eventually.

Big Thank-you to Secret Santa and BGG for taking care of things. I know it's odd to be on the "snub" list two years running. By snub I mean needing a replacement Santa.

The JOY of Secret Santa is in the giving. I wish more people understood that.

Thanks for reading. Hopefully I make a post like this in December 2012 and not in early 2013!

P.S. Now I have two new games to get played, and an expansion.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Murder? OR Mr. Boody is Dead, Which One of You Did it? Oh Wait, It's ME!

This week for Not In Candyland, we're talking Clue, or Cluedo for the Brits among us.

I write this with the disclaimer that Clue was and is still my favorite mass market game, I even went to a character night as Mr. Boody, it was easy, white dress shirt, black bow tie, jacket, dress pants.  But I digress.

Clue is the classic who done it game.  Essentially it's a race to figure out who did it, what they used, and where the murder took place.  Now, the fact that you don't know where the murder took place, yet you have a body is odd, as well as the fact that your character can be the murderer and you don't even know it.  Those bits aside, it still is a reasonable deduction game.

I like the aspect of figuring out what's missing from the deck.  You have to use the cards in your hand to help do that, but you have to be careful because everyone else hears your suspicions, meaning if something goes around the table with no response they know either you have those cards, or that is the set of mystery items.  When I first played the game it was all about me figuring things out, but then I learned to pay attention to what everyone else was asking.  I started to notice patterns with what people asked and I was eventually able to figure out what they had in their hand.

I won't go too much into the strategy behind clue, since that eliminates some of the fun.  Also, my ideas are by no means perfect, but I do tend to win a fair bit.  What I have noticed is that players spend most of their turns rolling dice and not making a room.  I think an improvement to the game would be to make sure players could go to a room each turn.  As the board is now, some rooms are much harder to get to, i.e. Kitchen, Billiard Room, and others are easy.  The secret passageways do help movement, but it leads to clumping of characters.  It's also annoying when someone suspects you, forcing you into a room you don't want to be in, so you have to start your trek all over again.  The other thing is that sometimes luck hits on the first turn and a player knows one or two parts of the case, which isn't much fun for everyone else.  I've never seen a one turn win, but I know it's possible.

What's to Like?

  • Good introduction to deduction games
  • Plays up to 6 people
  • Simple rules
  • Short playtime
What's not to Like?
  • Luck with movement
  • Too much luck in terms of guessing clues
  • Location being determined by other players
Overall, I like Clue for what it is. There are better mystery games out there, which I'll get to in a moment, but Clue has a unique blend of fun and simplicity with a good logic challenge.

If you like Clue, but you're looking for a more in depth game, here's some options (with links to the Boardgamegeek pages).
  • Code 777 - this is more of a logic game with numbers, but it also has deduction aspects.
  • Mystery of the Abby - a clue-like game where the deduction comes from figuring out which Monk is missing by asking careful question. This is Out of Print, but worth playing if you have it or know someone who does.
  • Mystery Express - the game that replaced MoaB in DOW catalog. It takes the what's missing and twists it so there are two copies of each card, and players have to figure out which card exists only once in each category.  It's not perfect, but it is fun every once in awhile.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I Tried and I Tried and I Tried

(but everybody wants to pull me down, they say I'm going crazy. Lyrics from Somebody to Love)
But that's not why I wrote this article.  I want to talk about games that we've given a chance or two or three, and they just don't work.  Now, my goal is not to attack specific games, but rather talk about why they don't work.  This is highly subjective, and something that flops for me may be a great success for you, so don't take it personally.

Two games specifically stand out, though others exist.  Both games are published by the same company and have long rulebooks.  Now, I enjoy other games from this company, so it isn't a widespread problem, but these games have both lead to ending the game halfway through.  Both games had themes which I thought would be interesting in a boardgame, but the implementation of them seemed clouded in terms of game design.  Maybe I've been spoiled with the elegance of games like Ticket to Ride and Cosmic Encounter, but when a game feels more like work than fun, a red flag goes up.

There's no hard and fast rule as to how long a game needs to be played in order to determine if it's a hit or a miss, but I'd say 3-4 hours is a good starting point.  For one game, we'll call it game "A" the issue was to knowing what it really took to win the game.  Now, this is fine in a game like Dominion where you play for ~30 minutes, and then it's over, but when you're facing a 6 hour playtime, that's not such a good thing.  Game A also had a lot of sub quests that players could partake in order to score points, which is interesting, but once again, without understanding how they relate, it's hard to know what is worth it and what isn't for your specific character.  Game A is the only game that I played once, stopped part way through, and completely refuse to play again unless someone who knows the game sits down and teaches it to me.

The problem with game B was a dependance on each player to keep the others in check.  This is Game of Thrones, the first edition. There has been a reprint which incorporates expansion elements which supposedly balance the game so that any house can win.  The problem we ran into was probably more in play styles such that we didn't want to work together, so attacking was rare, and it became a giant stalemate.

So what causes games to flop in general?

  • First, games that make players play the game a specific way.  Most people like to try their own strategy and do something different, so forcing them to play a specific way in order to win isn't much fun. Players want the ability to make choices and still win the game even if they didn't make the right choice every single time.

  • Second, convoluted rulebooks.  I'm not opposed to long rulebooks; complicated games are great fun every so often, but the game needs to be teachable.  The Ares Project took an interesting approach to this problem by having essentially a learning game rulebook.  It takes the big rules and boils them down to maybe 33% of what the full game has.  This gives players the ability to try and make mistakes without becoming overwhelmed.  If the game is going to have a 30+ page rulebook, there needs to be some form of teaching guide included, and if possible a way to learn without playing the whole game.

  • Third, theme.  Not everyone worries about the theme in a game, but to others, it can be the sole reason to play or not play a game.  Personally, I don't care for zombie games with high zombie theme, or horror for that matter, yet I play Give Me the Brain, which is lightly zombie themed, and Space Hulk: Death Angel, which has a dark side.  Those themes appeal to certain people, and if you love them, great, there's games out there, but they don't strike everyone's fancy.  

  • Fourth, playtime.  This isn't saying that any particular playtime is good or bad.  I like 10 minute games, I like 3-4 hour games, if I had a longer game that I liked, it would be good.  What I mean by playtime is that the game should be engaging for the duration of the time.  Players should be involved and choices should matter.  You don't want to feel like you're going through the motions, but you also don't want to play a 2+ hour game knowing you have no chance at winning.  
One play is rarely enough to determine if you like a game or not.  If the entire group isn't enjoying it, then the odds are it will never work for that group, but maybe another group will love it.  Many games depend on the people playing it, so don't give up after one play.  Also, don't force a game you don't enjoy on people with the hope that it will get better.  I guess what I'm saying is that there's a balance between a flop of a game and a flop for a group, try not to confuse them, else you might miss out on some good games.  The flip side, if a game doesn't work for you, don't be afraid to sell it, trade it, or carve it up for spare parts.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Top 42 Final Part (3-1)

Well, not bad for a 3 week journey, especially compared to the 3 month journey that was the Dice Tower top 100.  It's been fun working through the list, and I hope to have fun doing it again next year.

For those who know me well, the top 3 are no surprise.  I will say that the top 2 are likely to be fixed for years to come, but Fleet Captains is the one I can see taking over #2, and maybe someday #1.
As always, my list is my own, and I know it doesn't appeal to everyone, but you should know my work well enough by now to know that I am fair in my assessments, and that these games are truly great ones which I fully believe I'll be playing in 5 years and longer.

#3 Ticket to Ride
For more details on Ticket, check out my review.  Ticket to Ride is a great family game.  It's my go-to game for my immediate and extended family, it gets played about every other time at my gaming family, and it's a lot of fun.  I love working out the best route, then reworking it as I get blocked off.  It can be frustrating at times, but winning or losing this doesn't really bother me, so long as we all had a good time.  I've played every official map in existence so far except for India, but that's going to happen soon.  I've even tried Dice and Alvin and Dexter.  The only thing I haven't played bearing the Ticket name is the card game, but what's the point in that?  Sure there's luck in Ticket, but the game is very strategic, and perfect for the time length.  Like I said in my review, I'm a sucker for trains, I had birthday parties at the train museum, I own a Lionel train set.  Ticket is a great fit with that theme, and a classic that every hobby gamer should either own or at least have the ability to play occasionally.

#2 Dominion
Here's a game I haven't talked about much on the blog.  I've spent more hours playing Dominion than just about all my other games combined.  Now, that has to do with playing on BSW and now Isotropic, and those sites account for ~3000 plays.  I'm also organizing a tournament online for friends, so if you're interested send me an e-mail at bitsofboardgames@gmail.com and let me know.  For those of you who don't know Dominion, it's a card game where all players start with a basic deck which they use to buy better money and action cards to help them buy better victory cards.  Some games are short, ~15 minutes, some are long ~1.5 hours (that's my longest, not a usual thing) but most games are fun.  The random set-up of possible action cards make the game different, and I like to think that 1 different card can change the way a specific game would play out.  Dominion started the whole "deck building" fad, and with the expansions still coming it doesn't look like it's stopping anytime soon.  It's a great blend of strategy and luck; luck from shuffling, strategy from purchases, but strategy usually wins out. I'm always happy to teach this online, just look for me on dominion.isotropic.org I play under the SN mathguy89.

#1 Cosmic Encounter

Big shock here for people who know me, or anyone who read the Cosmic review I wrote really early on.  For me, this is what a boardgame should be.  There's great player interaction, loads of variety, controlled chaos, the ability for players to mess with each other, and memorable games.  I can't deny that it takes awhile to learn Cosmic.  You'll spend the first game just learning all the phases and what everyone can actually do.  The next few you'll finally see the powers interact, and realize that you shouldn't invite everyone to ally all the time.  Then, one time, it will click.  You'll see the game come together, powers, flares, other variants, and it will make sense.  You may not win that game, you may take 50 games before you win one, but eventually you will realize that Cosmic isn't so much about winning as it is having a good time conquering the galaxy with friends and foes alike.

I'm currently in a forum game on BGG, and while it looks like I have no shot at winning, I'm still having fun and it was a great way to test out two new powers before they're printed.  This is the game I look forward to playing. This is the game I read news articles about to find any hint of new expansions.  This is the game I'm helping to develop the fan expansion set. For all those reasons, I can't put any game ahead of Cosmic, and I don't actually know of a game that could beat it when I really think long and hard.  Sure, I play other games more often, but I've had a Cosmic only game day multiple times, and that doesn't happen with other games.

First, it was a lot of fun making this list.
Second, it was a lot of work making this list.
I hope you've enjoyed reading my explanations and little talks about why each game is where it is.  I can already tell that there's going to be movement next year, since I'm really just getting into the swing of my main gaming time.

Comment as to what you liked, what you didn't like, etc about this list.
Also feel free to post your own top 3-5 games as a comment here.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Why We Play

As children, many of us would play boardgames with our families.  It was something we could all do together, and it didn't involve the television.  Personally, I played many games with my grandpa.  It was something we could both enjoy and it kept me out of my parents hair for awhile.  There were also the New Year's Eve games of Monopoly with aunts, uncles, and cousins.  I grew up with 4 older cousins who would all play Risk. I was too young to play with them, though I suspect that they just wanted to keep the game shorter, something I can't blame them for attempting.  We saw various editions of Monopoly come and go, Star Wars (Original Trilogy), .com, Millennium, and others, but we were always together having a good time.  If you went bankrupt in Monopoly, you simply watched TV or ate food, or did something else with the rest of the family; that's the advantage of ~16 people hanging out.  As my cousins got into High School, the games seemed to stop.  People had dates and everyone was just busier in general.  Sure, I still played games with friends every once in awhile, but video games had taken over.  It was the time of the N64 and eventually the Gamecube, and that's what people wanted to play.

Now, I suspect elements of this resonate with every gamer, but we all found a path to games.  Maybe it was a college roommate, maybe it was a significant other having an interest in the hobby, maybe it was a longing for the togetherness we felt as children playing games with our friends and family.

I submit to you my readers that the main reason we play boardgames is to be together.  

I am an introvert by nature, as I suspect many board gamers are, yet in playing boardgames I have become more of an extrovert.  It's an amazing social lubricant, by which I mean that games give people a medium to organize their interactions where they can feel safe and have a good time.  I made friends because of boardgames that I would probably have never even talked to if it wasn't for games in some way.  I look at the college majors/degrees that people I played games with at some point and basically everything is covered.  I have a Math degree, and others have Psychology, Chemistry, Biology, English, Music, Spanish, Philosophy, Physics and Computer Science.  Now, this isn't every major, but it shows the variety of interests and personalities that I spent a good deal of time with.

The two things that brought portions of that group together were dinner and boardgames.  When you're in college, specifically a residential campus, you're around people all the time, but it's hard to find closeness there.  People are around all the time, but until you sit down and do something, it's not the same.

Some other reasons we play boardgames

  • Fun
Games are certainly a lot of fun, but others are strategic.  Still, it can be enjoyable to just do something more than sitting and talking.

  • Cost Effectiveness
A boardgame is a great investment.  Figure your average game costs ~$40, and that you'll play it 10 times at about an hour a play.  That's still only $4 an hour per play.  Good luck finding something else you can do for $4 an hour for a group of 3-6 people.  (Yes, I know things exist, but they're harder to find.)

  • Brain Engaging
Some people like games because the games make them think.  Many games present you with a problem and limited ways to create the best solution.  Some games are economics driven, where it's all about building a good "engine."  Other games are a puzzle with only one right solution, and it's a race to see who gets it first.  Boardgames are more thought driven than watching TV or playing most video/computer games.

  • Stories/Memories
This refers to both stories about the game and the people who play.  Take a moment to come up with a happy memory about playing a game.  I bet it doesn't take more than 15 seconds.  That's the power of games.  We remember playing them because of the people.  It gives us something to talk about with that group, and new people when they join in.  This is why I always try to share something personal about a game when I do a review.

  • Competitiveness
I won't say that this is the best reason to play games for me personally, but it is a reason nevertheless.  Sometimes it's nice to play a game where someone gets to be the winner.  It gives individuals a chance to put their skills to the test and see who's the best.  Now, you have to remember that it is just a game, and when the game is done that's that, but winning is a very satisfying feeling.

To wrap things up, there are many reasons why we play boardgames.  There aren't really any wrong reasons to play, though gambling/financial gain may be one of them.  Whatever your own reasons for gaming are, be sure you know them.  I'd love to hear why you play games, especially if I've missed a big reason.  So please, leave a comment and let me know why you play boardgames.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Words Words Words OR Scrabble and Other Word Games

I haven't played many games of Scrabble, but you wanted my take on things, so here it is.  I find Scrabble challenging, I don't find too many flaws with the game, but I don't like it.  I think that there's two problems with word games in general - one, the biggest vocabulary always wins, and two, there's virtually no luck, or all luck based on the tiles.  Now, don't get me wrong, Scrabble is a good game.  The board is interesting in terms of the various tiles, but it boils down to who knows the most before the game.  To me, that's not much of a game when all players don't have a reasonably equal chance to win.

Boggle is a step in the right direction, since it removes the luck of tile draws, thus giving every player equal access to words, but the main problem still remains.  The person who knows the most words will once again win.

I do find challenge in word games when it's timed to see how many I can get in a given period.  The problem is that these are best suited for computer games, little social networking apps, and phone games, thus they are best as single player games.  Even then, the experience is less than satisfying.  Maybe it has to do with pure skill games and the way that players can get better than everyone else through practice or certain other means.  If one person is always going to win the game, or almost alway win, what's the point in playing?

So the question becomes how do you improve Scrabble.  Well, the first idea is make sure you play with people right around your vocabulary level.  Sure, sometimes you'll know more words, sometimes others will, but that makes the game closer.  Now, this isn't perfect since there's not a great way to quantify vocabulary knowledge.  So what might help? How about a list of possible words, something like 30-50 words so players can play quickly even if they get stuck.  I really don't have great solutions here.

Some other word games that might scratch the Scrabble itch, but do it in a more compact or fun way.
Word on the Street (Junior version as well)
It's a two player/team game where one team reads a category and the other side has to come up with a word that fits the category.  They then spell the word moving each letter in the word one spot closer to their side.  This causes people to come up with words using b's d's, g's, w's, etc. and stretches players vocabulary.  It will favor the bigger vocabulary, but there are ways to win before that becomes an issue.  It may not be the best alternative, but it's out there.

I don't know of any other word games, but I know they exist.  If they don't, maybe it's a sign that the masses have given up their thesauruses in favor of simplistic language and that word games just aren't all that fun to play with the same group over and over again.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Top 42 Part 6 (7-4)

Woo! Top 7. It's been a fun ride so far and I think it will be even better next year since we'll get comparisons to this year.

#7 Star Trek Fleet Captains
I never thought that two plays would make a game jump this high on my list.  Maybe it's a desire for wanting great games, maybe I'm colored by the newness of the game, but I can see myself playing this a lot for a long time.  The Star Trek theme is incorporated wonderfully. Everything from the ships to the encounter cards and the locations are directly out of Star Trek.  There's a lot of room for expansions, both in the federation fleet as well as other races from the show.  This game is perfect for Star Trek fans.  I can't speak to it's enjoyability if you don't know Trek, but the game mechanics seem to be solid.  There are many paths to victory for each side from scientific achievements to military conquest.  The game plays fairly quickly once you understand the rules, which does take awhile, but gameplay seems to speed up as it progresses, and the endgame seems to hit just as things are getting interesting.  I've only played with the recommended point count, but there's always the ability to undertake a longer game.

#6 Eminent Domain
I recently reviewed Eminent Domain, so the details are there so I'll make this quick.  I enjoy playing Eminent Domain, and I think with an expansion it could move into my top 5.  I love the diverse strategies possible in Em-Do, and the way a player has the follow or dissent option on other player's turns is brilliant.  It's quick to play and fairly different every time you play.  It's one game I want to play more as a 2 player for the longer strategies, but it's fun as a 3 or 4 player game.  Plus having friends start this whole "I'm going to warfare your (fill in the blank) has become an iconic phrase between us, and it's good fun to have those inside jokes.  TMG did an amazing job with the entire Kickstarter campaign, and it is a game I probably would have paid more, but I'm glad I got a bargain.   As a final note, it's really cool to see your name in print, even if it is only at the Silver Supporter level.

#5 Battlestar Galactica
Here's another one I've reviewed, so I'll keep it short again.  This is an amazing game with the right group of people.  The theme is once again dripping through the game.  I often feel like the series is happening as we play, watching the cylon fleet jump in by surprise and change the flow of things is great fun.  Watching morale drop is frightening for the players.  I wish there was a way to not know how many cylons were possible, since once they're known the tension tends to evaporate.  Still, there's a lot of fun here.  It would be higher if the the playtime was a bit shorter, and if I played more in real life instead of only forum games these days.

#4 7 Wonders
I was tempted to put this at #7 just for the pun, but 7 Wonders has moved up a lot in the last few months.  It's not the easiest game to learn, but the effort is worth it.  We're still at the point where we have to look up symbols, especially on the leaders, but it's getting easier.  I'm planning on a full review soon, but that's going to take a new camera, so I won't go into tons of specifics here.  I enjoy that the interaction in the game is only with your immediate neighbors.  It makes the game scale from 3 to 7 players withe ease, and you can almost ignore the strategies of your non-neighbors.  I think my favorite wonder to play is Babylon, though that probably has to do with the fact that I built a model of them in 6th grade, plus I always like to take the science route. The great thing is the lack of a completely dominant strategy.  If one person seems to be running away with things, others can always throw out the cards they need, or use them as wonder build markers.  The gameplay is pretty quick, the variety is excellent, and the huge player range is rather nice to have.  For all those reasons, 7 Wonders comes in at #4.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Top 7 Games to Play with your Significant Other

As Valentines Day approaches(it's next Tuesday as of the date of posting), our thoughts naturally turn to candlelight dinners, chocolate, and the one we love. Well, not so much in my case, but there is hope for the future.  Consider this my top 7 games I'd like to play with my wife someday.  I'm going to go with games that play well as 2 player, but not necessarily games that only play 2 player.

First off, some honorable mentions, but ones that didn't make it due to lack of a widely appealing theme, or me not knowing the game enough - Small World, Eminent Domain and Lost Cities.

#7 Mr. Jack
Mr. Jack is a back and forth puzzle and deduction game.   It's also a 2 player only game, so the game is balanced for that.  With game time around an hour, this isn't a brain burner, and it's pretty fun to pull out every so often.

#6 Carcassonne
Carc works really well as a 2 player game.  It's a simple matter of outscoring one opponent, and using tiles to either help yourself, or make life harder on your opponent.  If you take that to an extreme, you end up in trouble, but the occasional block should be fine.

#5 10 Days in _____ 
This is a full series of games in different locations.  I've yet to play it myself, but everything I've seen and read about it makes it fit this list perfectly.  It's all about planning a travel route in a manner similar to Rack-O.  You're dealt an opening set, but you have to draw new tiles to make adjacent countries connect, or use cars and airplanes to travel to non-adjacent countries.  It looks like a lot of fun, and who knows, you might just plan your next vacation this way.

#4 Agricola
Repeat after me, "This is not a weeknight game"  Now, some may disagree with me, but after a long day of work, I don't know anyone who wants to sit down and play a 1-2 hour game.  True, 2 player is the fastest way to play the game, but still, there's a lot of planning to this game, and every move has to matter. With that kind of cause and effect, it feels too much like work, and not the best way to relax on a weeknight.  That being said, it does make an excellent Friday night or Saturday game.  Lots of back and forth, tons of options, and you have the ability to take what you need and perhaps block your opponent from what they need.

#3 Dominion
This takes #3 in my book because it's has a lot of variety, and is quick to play.  If you or your partner don't care for the attack cards, don't play with them.  Don't like a certain card, change it out.  The goal is to make it fun for both players.  If you find that one of you wins all the time, try starting with 2 estates and a curse instead of 3 estates.  Dominion is all about cards and coming up with a good strategy.  There isn't a ton of thought required once you know the game and all the cards, but that can take awhile.  Still, for a 20-40 minute two player game, it's hard to go wrong.

#2 Ticket to Ride
I'm specifically thinking Nordic Countries since the board artwork is great, but any Ticket map would probably work well.  Depending on the map and the tickets, TtR can be a mostly friendly game or a brutal block-fest.  I think both ways can be fun, and as long as your sig-other remembers that this is just a game, I think it's a great game to play with 2 or more people.

#1 Forbidden Island
I excluded Pandemic since they are similar games as noted in my review of the two.  Forbidden Island is a great 2-player game.  The theme makes it accessible, and there's nothing better than teamwork for a relationship.  It's relatively quick, which makes it easy to play on a weeknight after dinner, and it doesn't require too much thought, which makes it the perfect game to play with your significant other.

I hope this list inspires you to sit down and play more games with your significant other.  It's a great way to bond, and a lot cheaper than dinner out and a movie!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Top 42 Part 5 (14-8)

Welcome to the top 14.  Now that the Super Bowl is over, it's time for some game talk.
Any of these 7 games could be anywhere on this list for me, but I tried to order them in terms of what would I like to play the most if I had the right group, right play time, etc.

#14 Catacombs
Catacombs is a dungeon crawl as the name suggests, but has a huge twist.  There are no dice, no combat charts, simply flicking.  That's right, you flick your hero at the monsters, or monsters at the heroes if your the game master.  Every hero has a special ability, which is further enhanced by artifacts available for purchase at your friendly neighborhood gift shop.   This game is highly innovative in the way it takes a dungeon crawl and simplifies it with the flicking mechanic.  Sure, it's hard to remember where pieces flew off the board, or to check if that piece really did hit that other piece, but that's what cameras are for, especially if they have slow motion or frame by frame replay. (You think I'm joking, but I'm not.  We've actually gone that far.)  I enjoy playing either side in Catacombs, and while the GM has a lot more to work with, the heroes generally have a fighting chance.  Sometimes it takes too long for what it is, but I enjoy playing and having a flicking good time.

 #13 Pandemic
My thoughts on Pandemic have been fairly well expressed on this blog.  If you haven't read the review on it, go take a look.  I really enjoy the puzzle aspect of Pandemic.  Now puzzle doesn't mean that there's only one right way to win the game, but rather that each piece gives a clue as to what's next.  It's a hard co-op where the board can beat you fairly easily, yet almost every game is winnable.  It's a great challenge, and a great way to see how people think and work together.  You simply have to make good use of the player abilities, else you are doomed to fail.  At this point, I never play without the expansion for the game because the additional powers make it more interesting, the new special event cards add variety, and the different ways to play the game add new challenges.  Pandemic would be ok without the expansion, probably in the 20s for me, but with the expansion it makes #13, with potential to climb.

 #12 Dixit
When I first heard about Dixit, I was skeptical at best.  I'm not a very creative person when it comes to words, as you may realize from reading my articles, but the artwork intrigued me.  There was so much depth to the pictures, and now so much variety due to ~250 cards.  This is perhaps a better Apples to Apples because it gives players freedom, and it has a better structure for scoring points.  Dixit shot up my list because of the people I played with. It's an experience game, made amazing or meh by the people who play.  At school I had many well read friends who could pull references that I knew nothing about.  Some people may get frustrated by that aspect, but I learned things, and eventually gained a good guessing instinct for the cards.  There's a very subtle line between realization and giving away the answer to other people, because the storyteller is trying to get someone but not everyone to guess their card, but if everyone or no one gets it right, the storyteller gets no points, and everyone else scores.  Dixit is a lot of fun, and if you have a group that likes Apples to Apples or storytelling, this is definitely worth a look.

#11 Forbidden Island
Here's another game that I've talked about a lot, and you'll notice the distinction between Forbidden Island and Pandemic isn't great.  Simply put, I've played Forbidden Island more frequently as of late, and had better success teaching new players the game.  I love the artwork and the near constant tension that everything has to be taken care of, else we could lose at any moment feeling.  Seriously, the best thing I can say about this game is that unless you absolutely hate co-op games, you won't be disappointed with this as compared to the money it costs you.  At worst you'll be able to give it as a gift to someone who will like it.

#10 Incan Gold
This is an intriguing press-your-luck game.  The goal is to get more treasure from the temple in 5 rounds than your opponents.  Now, you might think all you have to do is stay longer than them, but knowing when to stop is the key to this game.  Each round, a card is turned over, revealing either treasure or a trap.  A single trap acts a warning, but a duplicate triggers the trap sending everyone away empty handed.  There are 5 different traps, so it's possible that nothing will spring until the sixth trap.  The revealed treasure is split evenly between remaining players, with leftovers going on the card. The leftovers are given away to players when they run, so knowing when to run is a key aspect.  If you stay too long you may get nothing, but if you run too soon you'll be greatly outscored by your opponents.  I've had many good times with this game.  Everyone seems to understand it, though silly mistakes will be made, it's short enough, ~20 minutes, to play more than once.

#9 Rattus
Not to be confused with Ratatouille, the beloved Pixar film, this game features rats in the black plague timeframe.   Now, if you're skeptical of the theme, don't worry too much, the game doesn't really involve rats, just some rat tokens.  The goal of Rattus is to have the most cubes on the board at the end of the game, but this is easier said than done.  On your turn you can take a power card, each one has a symbol on it which will come into play later.  Then you place cubes in one region equal to the number of rat tokens there.  Then you move the plague piece into an adjacent region, place one or two rat tokens in adjacent regions, and finally you resolve the plague by looking at the total number of cubes in the area, comparing it with the token, then causing player powers, the majority owner or all players to lose a cube.  This goes on until there are either no rat tokens left, or one player gets all 20 of their cubes on the board.  It's a fun back-and-forth amongst powers, with players taking your power sometimes.  You want the powers to do extra things, but the powers also cause you to lose more cubes, so it's a tough balance.  If you can get past the theme, Rattus is an enjoyable strategy game with some luck mixed in.

#8 Shadows Over Camelot
Shadows is one of the earlier co-op games, but it took me awhile to get around to playing it.  I personally love the theme, come on, it's Arthurian Legend.  I think the knights of the round table was the first real fantasy that I enjoyed, plus the Stargate-SG1 use of things helped keep my interest in the mythos.  Each player plays a knight of Camelot, or King Arthur.  Every knight has a special power which helps good defeat evil, but the twist to the game is that one knight may be working against the others.  It took my 45 games to finally act as the traitor, though not all of those were games where a traitor was possible.  There are multiple quests that the knights have to work on together in order to succeed.  Knights can purse the Holy Grail or Excalibur, fight the Black Knight, the Picts or Saxons, the treacherous Lancelot or the fearsome dragon.  There are a lot of things to do, and the key to Shadows is managing what you can and can't do, letting things fail, and trying to win things at the right time.  I've spent many good hours trying to figure out and then defeat the traitors to Camelot, as well as direct the knights.  I've had more fun watching seemingly innocent people (MY SISTER!) play the deepest hidden traitor act, and completely bamboozle the knights.  The one thing I've yet to see is King Arthur turn traitor, but I know it will happen eventually.

Just one more week to get through this list.
I apologize for the lack of other articles, but without a digital camera I'm kinda stuck on reviews.  I've been writing a few, but other life events also slow things down.  I'm trying to keep things going, so a big thank-you to everyone sticking with me and here's to better things ahead!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Top 42 Part 4 (21-15)

Thanks for coming back again. You can find part 3 here, and links to previous ones from there.

Without further adieu,

#21 Werewolf/Mafia
It's hard to really count this as a board game, but with the ultimate werewolf edition, and thus role cards I'm going to go ahead and count this.  I've only played Werewolf a handful of times, but each time it has been a lot of fun.  It takes a large group to play well, and the best games I played were the 15-20 person ones.  You need at least 10 to make it worthwhile, so because of that, I don't get to play it much, but it's a lot of fun trying to figure out who's a werewolf.  The best moments are the ones where everything goes wrong, like when the werewolves get the last laugh, who then kills one of cupid's lovers which kills the other lover.  This game has a lot of good memories, and is a really fun way for a large group of people to play something together and have a lot of laughs.

#20 1960: The Making of the President
This is another game that I've only played a few times, but it was an interesting game.  Politics aren't of much interest to most people except in election years, but this game captures the tension of a close political race.  1960 was perhaps the most seesaw election process in recent history, and this game captures it perfectly.  Each player can play cards either for their affect or for action points, but they have to be careful because if they use them for action points, their opponent can try to use the action for himself.  I don't have much of the strategy to this game figured out, but it's a very well designed two player game, and it makes me want to try Twilight Struggle.  A great political game about a fascinating election, and my favorite 2 player only game.

#19 Carcassonne
This would be higher on my list, but it dropped down due to lack of recent plays. I think all the good things I have to say are in my review of Carc, but let me summarize why it's here on the list.  I can play it with just about anyone, it's easy to teach to new players.  Also, Meeples are just plain fun to play with, and the way they do different things gives players strategy opportunities.  You can't go all farmers early on, else you'll fall behind on points, and your farms won't do enough to catch up.  The downside is the numerous expansions and thus new rules, so it feels like I play the set of tiles every single time.  It's the only tile laying game I own, which gives it unique mechanics.  I really like the variety on tiles and the building aspect.  I've had a lot of fun with Carc, and I will continue playing it at least occasionally for a long time.

#18 Small World
First off, sorry Tahlia, it did fall this low, but really 19-8 were really had to decide between, and they each have their own merits and I like them all.  Small World is a fantasy combat game.  I won't call it a war game, since it's a bit too simple for that, but the game is all about combat.  You get a race, think Halflings, Elves, Giants, Sorcerers, etc. and a power, like Seafaring, Forest, Dragon Master, which give you a certain number of tokens which you use to conquer areas on the board. For each area you get a coin, and after a certain number of rounds, the high total wins.  Combat is really easy, you just need 2 tokens, plus how ever many things are currently on the region in order to take it over.  This leaves no surprises in bad die rolls which eliminates some of the frustration.  Somehow it just seems more fun when you die to Diplomat Ratmen or Flying Halflings as opposed to the rigorous and tedious combat system that is Risk.

#17 Space Hulk: Death Angel 
This is the hardest co-op game I've played.  The genestealers pursue you from room to room, and your space marines will rarely be exactly where you need them.  Nevertheless, it's a lot of fun to try to beat the game, and with player range going from 1-6 it works well for a lot of game groups.  Each player is put in control of one team of space marines (2 different marines) and given 3 options for actions.  On your first turn, you can choose from any of the three, but after that you only have access to the two you didn't just play, meaning you can't do the same thing back to back.  This means you have to be sure that what you're doing now isn't going to be necessary next turn, and you also have to communicate with teammates so not everyone attacks on the same turn.  It's all about balance and communication, yet the way in which enemies come out and the events that happen are anything but balanced, and the game limits the player's communication.  It doesn't matter though, because the game is still enjoyable and something I want to play frequently.

#16 Settlers of Catan
More specifically, Cities and Knights.  This was the first hobby game I ever played, and I, for lack of a better term, fell in love.  I started thinking about it, replaying games in my head, and wanting to play it all the time.  Perhaps I've romanticized Settlers, because when I play it now, some of the charm is gone, but I can't deny that I played it a lot of times, and it was the start of my gaming family, and the reason I have three amazing friends from college.  Catan is a game I will one day play with my girlfriend, and then fiancĂ©, and then wife, and someday kids and nieces and nephews.  I can't deny that it is the reason I love boardgames, and it's an amazing blend of strategy and luck, resource management and player interaction.  It does a lot of things pretty well, no single thing great, but it's a great way to spend a few hours with people, and that's the mark of a great game.

#15 Roll Through the Ages
Consider this a civilization game boiled down to dice. Now, many elements had to be removed, but since I've never played a true civ game, I enjoy this for what it is.  You use workers to build cities, cities give you more dice, then you use workers to build monuments.  You have to get food to feed your cities, else your people starve and you lose points.  If you roll too many skulls, you lose points, but if you make 3, you attack your opponents.  Skulls give you goods which let you trade for coin which then allows you to buy developments.  Sure, there's luck in what you roll, it's dice for goodness sake, but there's a lot of strategy that can mitigate the luck.  I personally play with the expansion which adds more development and player to player trading, which adds to the civilization feel.  Overall, it's a well done dice game that I enjoy in ~45 minutes, which is great.

Just 14 more to go.  Sunday will be 14-7, then I will do 7-6-5-4 on Wednesday 2/7 and 3-2-1 on Sunday 2/11.