Monday, April 23, 2012

Top 7 games to play with 3 players

3 is perhaps the most awkward number in gaming and life in general.  Two people can usually agree on something, but once a third is in the mix, things get clouded.  Plus the major problem with most 3 player games is that person A goes after person B. Then person B retaliates to person A, leaving person C in a better position.

This is not a comprehensive list, as other good games work well with 3 aren't here.  Some that I know are Small World, Quarriors, Citadels, and Acquire.  

#7 Tiki Topple
Yes, I am going here. Tiki Topple is best as a 3 in my opinion.  Everyone gets to use their toast cards, and the round can't end until everyone has done so.  Unlike a 4 player game where 1 player could use neither of their toast cards and have the round end.  2 is ok for Tiki, but there are too many leftovers and not enough dynamics.  3 is a good balance of control and making the best of what happens.

#6 Pandemic
2 player Pandemic can be a little too easy sometimes since cards are more concentrated. 4 can be a little hard since everything is spread out. But 3 is a good balance of the two.  Pandemic is a good challenge at any player level, but a 3 player game gives you the right mix of voices to contribute but not too many cooks in the kitchen.

#5 Settlers of Catan
Now, I learned Catan with 5 and 6, played a lot of games at school with 4, and all of those were good, but there's a nice elegance to 3 player Catan.  Trading is straightforward, you have a pretty good idea of what your opponents can and will do, and the biggest advantage, you get your turn frequently.  Now, 3 player Catan does lose some of the dynamics, I'm thinking of resource variety, special building with 5 and 6,,, but the map is fairly open, and everyone will have good places.

#4 Pizza Theory
Here's a new game to me, I just got it in mid March, but the first time I broke it out, I played it 7 times.  The game is specifically designed for 3 players, and it does a great job at giving players strategies to pursue that depend on others, but there are no means of direct retaliation.  For kicks, it's also a game all about pizza, which is an unusual theme.

#3 Ticket to Ride (Ideally Nordic or Switzerland)
Ticket to Ride is a classic game with any player count really.  It works well as a 3, since blocking isn't too horrible, but to eliminate blocking as a huge play, go for a map where 3 is an extended route set, like Nordic or Switzerland, rather than one where 2 and 3 have the same options like US, Europe, Marklin.
3 players keeps the game moving, there's very little down time, and a lot easier to go where you want than in a 5 player game.

#2 Eminent Domain
Em-Do doesn't suffer from the A v B so C wins, which moves it up the list.  The 3 player game feels long enough to be fun without being so long.  The 4 player game feels short, and the 2 feels long, so 3 with either one or two piles works well.  I personally like 2 piles just to get tech moving a little bit, but one less player taking cards does prolong the game.  I suppose it depends on the strategies at play, since running out the victory tokens seems to happen more often than two piles in my extended 3 player games.

#1 Dominion
3 player Dominion has a few advantages over 2 player Dominion.  There are 12 of each victory card instead of 8, yet still 4 per player.  Some attack cards become more useful, Pirate Ship, Thief.  Other cards become more intriguing.  The choices are a little deeper, and the strategies aren't as straight forward as 2 player, specifically in the endgame.  Best of all, Dominion has very little of the A v B so C wins dynamic.

The main point of this list, don't be afraid of games with 3.  Sure, not everything works, but some games can be fun, or even their best at 3 players.  If you have a group of 3, try pulling these games out, and see where they get you.  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

7 Wonders with Video

I don't have tons to say about 7 Wonders, certainly not enough to do a full review treatment.  Fact is, I like the game.  Right now it's #4 on my top games list.  It's a card drafting game, a civilization game, and a good game for 3-7 players where each player number offers something different, but the game is still the same.

7 Wonders isn't the easiest game to learn, in fact it has some different ideas.  It plays quick, each player only has 18 card plays, so each move matters. Because every move matters, you have to know what the end game holds to understand what you're going for early on.

Well, rather than read my writing, you can listen to my words.

Part 1

Part 2

Monday, April 16, 2012

Dice Tower Gaming Award Nominations

The Dice Tower Award Nominations came out this morning for games produced in 2011.  I wanted to take a look at them, give you my choice from the list, and the one I think will win.  Often these will be the same, but I think some differences will exist too.  If you feel so inclined, leave a comment below as to where you disagree.
Game of the Year:
A Few Acres of Snow: Martin Wallace – Treefrog Games
The Castles of Burgundy: by Stefan Feld – Ravensburger
Eclipse: by Touko Tahkokallio – Asmodee
The Ares Project: Brian and Geoff Engelstein – Z-Man Games
King of Tokyo: by Richard Garfield – IELLO
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game: by Nate French – Fantasy Flight Games
Mage Knight Board Game: by Vlaada Chvatil – WizKids
Quarriors!: by Mike Elliott and Eric M. Lang – Wizkids
Risk Legacy: by Rob Daviau and Chris Dupuis – Hasbro
Star Trek: Fleet Captains: by Mike Elliott, Bryan Kinsella, and Ethan Pasternack – WizKids

My Choice: Star Trek: Fleet Captains
What I Think Will Win: Eclipse

Best Family Game Nominees:Flash Point: Fire Rescue: by Kevin Lanzing – Indie Boards and Cards
Kingdom Builder: by Donald X. Vaccarino – Queen Games
King of Tokyo: by Richard Garfield – IELLO
Quarriors!: by Mike Elliott and Eric M. Lang – Wizkids
Say Anything Family Edition: by Dominic Crapuchettes – North Star Games

My Choice: Say Anything Family Edition
What I Think WIll Win: Flash Point: Fire Rescue

Best New Game Designer Nominees:
Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game: by Jason Little – Fantasy Flight Games
Flash Point: Fire Rescue: by Kevin Lanzing – Indie Boards and Cards
The Ares Project: Brian and Geoff Engelstein – Z-Man Games
Sentinels of the Multiverse: by Christopher Badell and Paul Bender – Greater Than Games
Nightfall: David Gregg – Alderac Entertainment Group

My Choice: Flash Point
What I Think WIll Win: Sentinels of the Multiverse

Best Game Reprint Nominees:

Can’t Stop: by Sid Sackson – Gryphon Games
Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War: by Robert Abbott – Stronghold Games
Evo: by Philippe Keyaerts – Asmodee
A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition): by Christian T. Petersen – Fantasy Flight Games
Puerto Rico: Anniversary Edition: by Andreas Seyfarth – Rio Grande Games

My Choice: Can't Stop
What I Think WIll Win: Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War

Best Production Values Nominees:

Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt Board Game: by Peter Lee, Mike Mearls, and Bill Slavicsek – Wizards of the Coast
Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon Board Game: by Peter Lee, Mike Mearls, and Bill Slavicsek – Wizards of the Coast
Mansions of Madness: by Corey Konieczka – Fantasy Flight Games
Risk Legacy: Rob Daviau and Chris Dupuis, Hasbro
Super Dungeon Explorer: by Chris Birkenhagen, John Cadice, and Deke Stella – Soda Pop Miniatures

My Choice: Super Dungeon Explorer
What I Think WIll Win: Super Dungeon Explorer

Best Small Publisher Nominees:
Flash Point: Fire Rescue, by Kevin Lanzing – Indie Boards and Cards
Dungeon Run, Mr. Bistro, Plaid Hat Games
Rallyman: by Jean-Christophe Bouvier, Rallyman Inc.
Sentinels of the Multiverse: by Christopher Badell and Paul Bender – Greater Than Games
Bears!: by Anne-Marie De Witt, – Fireside Games

My Choice: Flash Point
What I Think WIll Win: Dungeon Run

Best Party Game Nominees:
Crappy Birthday: by Brian Weinstock and Amy Weinstock – North Star Games
Dixit: Odyssey: by Jean-Louis Roubira – Asmodee
Reverse Charades Junior Edition: Scott and Bryce Porter – Gryphon Games
Faux-Cabulary: by Matthew Nuccio – Out of the Box
Train of Thought: by Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim – Tasty Minstrel Games

My Choice: Dixit: Odyseey
What I Think WIll Win: Reverse Charades Junior

Best Game Expansion Nominees:
Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 1 – Team Asia & Legendary Asia: by Alan R. Moon and Francois Valentyne – Days of Wonder
Thunderstone: Dragonspire: by Mike Elliott and Brent Keith, Alderac Entertainment Group
Small World Underground: by Philippe Keyaerts – Days of Wonder
7 Wonders: Leaders: by Antoine Bauza – Asmodee
Summoner Wars: Master Set, by Colby Dauch – Plaid Hat Games

My Choice: Ticket to Ride Map Collection 1
What I Think WIll Win: Summoner Wars

Most Innovative Game Nominees:
The Ares Project: by Brian and Geoff Engelstein – Z-Man Games
Ascending Empires: by Ian Cooper – Z-Man Games
Paperclip Railways: Tony Boydell, Surprised Stare Games Ltd
Quarriors!: by Mike Elliott and Eric M. Lang – Wizkids
Risk Legacy: by Rob Daviau and Chris Dupuis – Hasbro

My Choice: Risk Legacy
What I Think WIll Win: Risk Legacy
Talk about a hard category here, I could see anything winning.

Best Game Artwork Nominees:
Dixit: Odyssey: by Marie Cardouat and PierĂ´- Asmodee
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game: by various artists – Fantasy Flight Games
Mansions of Madness: by Christopher Burdett, Anders Finer, and Henning Ludvigsen – Fantasy Flight Games
Flash Point: Fire Rescue, by Luis Francisco and George Patsouras – Indie Boards and Cards
A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition): by Tomasz Marek Jedruszek and henning Ludvigsen – Fantasy Flight Games

My Choice: Dixit: Odyssey
What I Think WIll Win: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

Best War Games Nominees:
Sekigahara: Unification of Japan: by Matt Calkins – GMT Games
Band of Brothers: by Jim Krohn – Worthington Games
A Few Acres of Snow: by Martin Wallace – Treefrog Games
Julius Caesar: by Grant Dalgliesh and Justin Thompson – Columbia Games
Sergeants Miniatures Game: Jeff Billings, Lost Battalion Games

My Choice: A Few Acres of Snow
What I Think WIll Win: A Few Acres of Snow

Best Game Theme Nominees:
Dungeon Petz: by Vlaada Chvatil – Z-Man Games
Flash Point: Fire Rescue, by Kevin Lanzing – Indie Boards and Cards
Last Will: by Vladimir Suchy – Rio Grande Games
Yggdrasil: by Cedric Lefebvre and Fabrice Rabellino – Z-Man Games
Takenoko: by Antoine Bauza – Asmodee

My Choice: Flash Point
What I Think WIll Win: Flash Point

Best Digital Boardgame Nominees:
Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer: by Robert Dougherty, John Fiorillo, Justin Gary, and Brian M. Kibler – iOS, Playdek
Ticket to Ride: by Alan R. Moon – iOS, Days of Wonder
Forbidden Island: by Matt Leacock, Gamewright – iOS, Button Mash Games
Ghost Stories: by Antoine Bauza – iOS, Repos Productions
Elder Sign: by Richard Launius and Kevin Wilson, Fantasy Flight Games

My Choice: Forbidden Island
What I Think WIll Win: Ticket to Ride

There are a lot of great nominees here, and picking winners is hard to do, but I think these are mostly great games, and each has a lot to offer. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Star Runner Part 1

Sample box holding all
the components.
Friday marked a completely new experience for me in my board game life.  I played a game of my own design.  Yes, that's right, a design of my own creation and a lot of help from a few friends came together in paper and cardboard to make a board game.  If you hadn't guess from the title, the game is operating under the name Star Runner.  Star Runner stared as a rough concept in the summer of 2009.  I wanted to design a game based on Firefly, so my first thought was to use different elements of that universe and figure something out to make it work.  As I worked on it, I realized I wanted some more creative freedom, so the Firefly cannon was dropped, but some ideas still exist from that.
Some of those ideas are found in the set-up of the game, which is get a ship, get a crew, find a job, try to make money, and stay out of trouble.

Focus on the various types of cards
From left to right we have
Tech in orange, Passangers in blue
Runs in green, Crew with the black bar
and colors at the bottom, and
resource cards in the TTR deck facedown.
It's still very early on, but I spent 3 hours printing everything (thanks to my generous aunt and her color laser printer) and then the better part of a week gluing, cutting and sleeving everything. As my friends will attest, I kept telling people I was cutting something for my game, and I felt it was all I was ever telling them.  I would cut while watching TV or listening to podcasts, and use my friends as nice breaks from the strain of scissors.

I think the components look pretty good, especially for testing. I'm using old Star Trek CCG cards as backers for the big cards, and the US Ticket to Ride cards as backers for the small cards. Fortunately, they don't detract from the game play, though the sleeves get annoying for shuffling at times.  The good news with shuffling is that most of it is done in the beginning, and after that, there's very little, so it keeps things moving.  It took us about an hour to go through set-up and teaching, but that's because I was the only person setting up, and next time it should go faster, at least I can hope.
Game in progress, about 1/3 done.

One of my biggest fears going in, besides the fear of complete rejection and not having a fun game, was that the market system would crash and burn.  As it turns out, it was a pretty clear system with two players monitoring it.  Everyone ended up having a job or two of their own. One player was the banker for money, two managed the market, and helped with cards. One also helped manage the movement arcs, and I took care of drawing market and inspection tokens.  Several other things crashed and burned, but we tweaked what we could while playing, and wrote down changes that we think will work better next time. Next time is also the best news I could ever get, because it means they liked the game.

Speaking of the fear of rejection, it really is unnerving to place something you've created in front of other people for the first time.  I've invested parts of the last 30 months into this, and a good portion of the last 3 months, so to have that go to waste would be deflating.

The crucial thing I learned with testing this was how to make adjustments on the fly.  We saw that something wasn't working, and we came up with a way to fix it.  Some other things are design elements I have to go back and rework, but I have a much better idea on how the game plays, and thus how to design it how I want it to play.

I hope this post also clarifies why I've been a bit sparse with my postings.  Trying to get a design to prototyping was a big push, and once I could see it close, I just had to get there.  My original plan was May 1st and I'm proud to say I beat that arbitrary deadline by 2.5 weeks.

If you'd like to know more, leave a comment with any questions, and I will answer them to the best of my ability in Part 2.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cosmic Alliance Review

Cosmic Alliance is the 3rd expansion to Cosmic Encounter.  The box contains a new color (white), and all the materials for an extra player, 20 new powers, extra cards for a large game, and rules to play teams.

I've had Alliance since early March, but I wanted to wait on a review until I had a chance to play teams.  Fortunately, I got that chance at the end of March when I visited Westmont.  I played with 6 players, 2 of whom had never played, and 1 who had only played twice and barely remembered anything, so essentially 3 new players.  Due to that, we decided to have the 3 who remembered the game pair up with the 3 newbies and formed teams that way.

I like the aspect that you always have your teammate as an ally.  It is a great way to introduce people to the game, and is now my method of choice for helping.  You may have to bend some rules and let a teammate see cards so they can explain things, but that just makes for a better team effort.
I give the team rules a big thumbs up.  It's a great way to teach the game, and a great way play with large groups.

Let me take a moment to talk about the extra cards.  Two words - Power Creep.  Another Attack 30 and a Reinforcement +8??? Those are just too good.  Might as well have another 40.  Also, all even values on the Attack card, further skewing things to even.  Where were the 17s, 19s, 15s, maybe even a 21.  The choices for cards here seem odd, and lacking creativity.  It's nice to have more cards for the main deck, but the community could have come up with a better set.

The new powers are fun.  People may complain about this power being too good, or this one being too weak, but you just have to go with it.  Cosmic is more about your hand and your ability to persuade others than the actual power you have.  It's simply called make the best of what you have.  Sure, the design team should come out with better powers, but once they're there either don't play with them or learn to play the power.  I like the challenge of figuring out how to play Observer well, or Hacker.  Each power has it's strengths and weaknesses, and the fun of Cosmic 200 games later is finding new ways to exploit a power's potential.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Horde, or as we like to call them, Cosmic Scrubbing Bubbles, or Duckies.

Until next time, have fun playing games.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

March 2012 Update

Welcome to April
March saw several good gaming days, including a trip to Westmont and two amazing days of gaming.  I logged 32 game plays not counting expansions, bringing the running total to 82.  It's a little ahead of the curve, but April has fewer game opportunities at present.

I acquired two new games, Hunger Games Jabberjay, which I've already reviewed, and I traded my copy of Quarriors for Elder Sign.

My unplayed game count is now at 15 due to playing Ascending Empires and Twilight Struggle from the new games.
  • Tales of the Arabian Nights (soon)
  • RoboRally (soon)
  • Zooloretto 
  • Coloretto (Soon)
  • Elder Sign
  • Descent (Summer hopefully)
  • Scrabble Slam 
  • Monopoly Express 
  • Clue Express 
  • Battleship Express 
  • Crappy Birthday
  • S'quarrels 
  • Risk 2210 AD (Risk Legacy takes precedent)
  • Settlers of Canaan (no rush since I have other means of playing Catan)
  • High Bid 
March saw the 3,000th page view for this blog which is incredible in under 4 months, thank-you all so much for that.  
I didn't get as many reviews as I would have liked done.  This has a lot to do with my work on a project which I'll be announcing soon.

April should hold a full review for the following
  • 7 Wonders
  • Star Trek Fleet Captains
  • Cosmic Alliance (Cosmic Encounter Expansion)

I plan on taping a how to play video for 7 wonders, since there have been some requests.  This will take time, but hopefully it will be out soon.

The best news, one of my year goals has been completed.  I taught Cosmic Encounter to not just one, but two new players.

Risk Legacy is also up to 4/15 games.
I also ran a micro tournament of Dominion, I lost in the semifinals, but won the consolation game for 3rd place.