Monday, July 30, 2012

Daring to Dream

When I graduated college, there were many cards of congratulations, some with encouraging words, others with funny quips about "real life" and such beginning, but one stood out.  My elementary principal, who was a family friend during and after my time in school, mom was on PTA and all that good stuff, sent me a card with a very nice bookmark.  On the bookmark, there is a quote from Henry David Thoreau, "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams."

Now, I'm not the biggest fan of Thoreau, but the quote is a good adage to strive towards, a good message when nothing is going right, and a good reminder when everything is going well.  All of us have many dreams, some seem like pipe dreams or the things that have almost no chance of happening, but others seem obtainable.  Maybe they're a longshot, but that's what dreams are for.  Dreams inspire us to keep going, to do more than we think we can.

At this point you're probably thinking something along the lines of "well that's all well and good, but what does this have to do with boardgames?"  Well, 2 parts.  The first part is this blog.  This blog started as a dream.  I wanted a way to voice my thoughts and opinions on boardgames.  I never dreamt I'd get nearly 7000 page views in 8 months.  I never dreamt I'd have dicetowernews posting about my blog, or countless game companies retweeting and reposting my reviews.  I set out on a cool idea, blogging about boardgames, and I found a wonderful community where the people do care, and do appreciate what you have to say, even if they disagree with you.

The second part of the dream is what has turned into Star Runner, my game design.  I dream of getting that game published.  I'm working on that dream practically every day.  It's a very long process, but I'm going to get there someday.  I honestly believe that, because if I didn't, I wouldn't keep going.  I think the game is fun, I think there's some cool stuff out there, and every time I play, I'm learning more about it.  The best part, other people are excited to play, and keep asking to play.  That's the biggest thing for me, because even if the game never gets published, it's something I can play with my friends, and isn't that fulfilling the dream?  Ok, maybe it's a modified dream, but it's still there.

Here's the takeaway. Dare to Dream!  Take the thing you want to do, or love doing, and go for it.  If it doesn't work out, try something else, but keep dreaming.

*gets off the soapbox, puts it back in the corner with the cobwebs*

Thanks for indulging me in a philosophical post.  Let me know what you think.  Do you want to see more of these? Do you want me to stay away from these?  Let me know.  I can take criticism.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I Don't Want It, You Take It. No Thanks! Review

No Thanks!

  • Designed by Thorsten Gimmler
  • Published by Z-man Games in 2005
  • Plays with 3-5 players ages 8+, which I think is the proper age range.
  • Takes around 10-15 minutes.

What you get inside the box
No Thanks is a very simple game to learn, and a somewhat tricky game to master.  The rules are simple, in fact I will go into them in their entirety in the Mechanics section, but they're not hard to learn.  The game is never going to be the center of a game day, but it is a fun game that plays quickly.

No one will mistake this game for having amazing components as compared to some of the miniatures games, or games with lots of plastic, but what's in the box is good quality.  There are 55 little chips that work perfectly for the game.  The cards are good quality, and still haven't shown much wear after 25+ plays.

The box fits in my hand
I'm going to explain the game here.  There is a deck of cards numbered 3-35.  You remove 9 cards randomly.  A card is flipped over.  Each player must then decide to either take the card, or place a chip on it to pass.  Players pass until someone takes the card and all chips played on it.  The face value of a cards counts as positive points, chips count as negative.  If you have a sequence, aka 11-12-13, the entire sequence is worth only the lowest card's value, in this case 11.  At the end of the game, the player with the lowest score wins.  Sounds simple, right?  It is.

There is a decent amount of player interaction here.  Say for instance you have the 30 and the 32.  If the 31 comes up, you know you need it, but you also know that no one else wants it, because of the points against them.  You can use this to your advantage to extort more chips out of players.  Just don't push your luck too far because someone might take the card, either because they have to (they're out of chips) or they don't want you making the bridge.

Scoring example
This total score is 11
This total score is 24
There's no theme here.  The game doesn't pretend to have one, and that's a good thing.  I don't think it needs one, and I don't think a theme would actually help the game.  

Learning Curve
This is a very short learning curve.  The fact that I can explain the rules in under a minute is great for this game.  There are a few quirks, but nothing big enough to throw inexperienced players.

Why I like No Thanks!
As someone with a mathematics degree, I do enjoy numbers.  This game does have numbers, in fact, it's all numbers, but there's not tons of math.  It's really a risk game in terms of when to take a card versus the chips on it, and do you risk taking the 31 when you have the 29 and hoping the 30 is left in the deck.  It's a fun tension when the last few cards come out.

Why I don't like No Thanks!
There is a lot of luck in what cards are in the game, where those gaps are, etc.  If you bank on a higher card being in the deck, and it doesn't show, you're in trouble.  If someone can make a 4, 5, 6, or more card streak, they're in a really good position to win.  The game has it's swings, and after a certain point it becomes more about who has what cards and the runs they can make versus any kind of strategy.
Chips on a card when
players pass

I often play 3 or more games of No Thanks! in a row.  That does tend to satisfy me for a few weeks.  It's a good game to have as a filler, meaning something to play when you're waiting for someone to show up, or you need a short game as a break between longer games.

I enjoy No Thanks!  It's a very fun, quick game.  It's not for everyone, but I think it's one of the best 10-20 minute games on the market.  I don't have a huge call for games like that, but when I do, this is the first one that comes to mind.  I can teach it to anyone who can do some simple math, addition/subtraction.  

Will you like it?
Unless you absolutely hate numbers, then I'd say give the game a try.  If you like making straights of cards, if you find the aspect of push your luck with cards and taking some chances, then this might be a game you'd enjoy.  Because the game is ~$10, it's not a horrible investment if you don't like it.  You can probably find someone who does.  Also, because the game has been out for 8 years, the odds are good that you can find someone who owns it to play with before you buy.

Want to buy No Thanks and support BoBG?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Redesigning Star Runner - Part 3 of the Design Series

Awhile back, I started talking about Star Runner, the game I'm designing.  That was mostly in this post.

Well, a lot has changed since April.  With the help of a good friend, I've taken the game and trimmed it down to the core.  I had a lot of ideas that sounded really good in my head and even on paper, but when they were put into a game, they weren't elegant.  A lot of things felt too clunky, or too math based, and because of that, the game was taking 4-5 hours and not even getting played to completion.  At first I chalked this up to a completely new game taking far longer than any other play but when play 2 came and took about as long, even after changes, I was growing weary.  Then, the best thing happened.  I brought the game with me on a weekend to LA, and got a chance to pull it out and just explain things to my friend.  It became very clear to both of us that there was too much going on.  Set-up for the game took 45 minutes, and I hadn't even explained all the rules.

We left the game set-up and talked about the core ideas.  Essentially, what made the game tick?  It started the process of trimming the fat.  In a way, I had built a shorter version of Twilight Imperium 3, maybe something like Eclipse, but that wasn't what I was going for.  I wanted smuggling, not combat, and stealth, not blatant aggression.  Perhaps the downside of being 22-23 is that you want to play games that have a "cool" factor.  Lots of pieces, lots of cards, abilities, etc.  The simple fact was that 500+ cards was never going to be feasible for a game with so many other components.

So that was end of crew and unique ships.  Players had too much to worry about that they didn't need to decide which one of 3 ship types, and then which of 3 ships in each type to buy.  I also didn't need to worry about how to balance 30+ crew members on top of everything else.  Maybe an expansion someday, or something to add later, but nothing for now.

Let's get back to the core ideas.  You're probably asking yourself something along the lines of "what is actually driving the game?"  Here's the elevator pitch(a conversation in an elevator where someone asks what you do, or something like that) in a very rough form.  Star Runner is a smuggling game in space.  You have contracts to complete.  In order to do so, you go to various planets, buy resources, and then sell them to the planet that needs the resources.  You use money to buy more ships, upgrade your ships, and by technology for your ships.  The person who does that the best, wins the game.

In an effort to further explore these ideas, let's dig into each one.

Contracts are what they sound like, a list of resources to be delivered to a planet with a reward for doing so.  Nothing too original here, contracts exist is many games.  The twist for these contracts is that players have far more choice, and when they pass on a contract, it doesn't get discarded, it gets incentivized.  I'm leaving the details of that vague for now, but I'm going to talk more about it later.

Like any good smuggler, you want to be known for great exploits.  A good way to go about this is to have multiple ships to carry out your nefarious activities.  Players have to balance having multiple ships versus upgrading the ships they already have.  Again, probably nothing too original, but these work well and have a nice blend of attributes.

This is the area that underwent the most changes.  They started as cards that came from a randomized deck that players could buy with special resources.  They transformed into a common pool that had several different techs which could always be purchased.  This was a good step, and I liked this place, but no one seemed to want to buy tech at this point.  So it changed one more time.  This time, tech is something you buy for your entire fleet.  The costs are simplified, the abilities are straight forward, but the choices each player has to make in regards to technology are tricky, and sometimes subtle.

The core of the game is contracts.  At the heart of contracts is the market.  Everything else revolves around that.  The game is economically driven, you're trying to gain money, use it to do stuff, and have the most stuff at the end.

In the span of 3 weeks, I took a game that had tons of stuff going on, 25 resources, 18 planets, a black market, mining, mining resources, 50 tech, 9 different ship types, passengers, crew with abilities, and a some other things, and boiled it down.  Now there are 8 resources, 12 planets, a black market, mining which now uses the same 8 resources, very modified tech, very simple ships (down to 4 types).

For all that work, the game went from taking 5-6 hours to now taking 2 and a half hours.  I'm fairly confident that I can get that down to 2, maybe even 1.5 with some streamlining.  At that point, I feel like I have a game that people will enjoy, but moreso that I will enjoy.  As an aspiring designer, I want to design something I want to play.  If I can't enjoy my game, how can I expect others to enjoy it?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Expansions Part 3 - Dominion and Carcassonne, Where to Stop?

In the last article on expansions I said I was going to talk about Carcassonne and Dominion expansions, the good and bad, and what felt like a complete collection.


All of this talk is predicated on you knowing the base game, because I'm going to talk about what these expansions do to change that for good and bad.

Let's start with perhaps the most controversial - Dominion.  All these expansions are viewed through the lens of what they are after Hinterlands, before Dark Ages, and not what they were when they came out.

  • Intrigue - This functions as a full game, since it includes all the basic treasure and victory cards.  It's also needed if you're going to play with more than 4 players.  Notable cards include Nobles, Minion, Torturer, Saboteur, and Pawn.  The set of cards are a bit mean, lots of attacks, and the reaction card - Secret Chamber - isn't great in comparison, but I feel like this is a worthwhile expansion for large groups.
  • Seaside - Duration cards.  Basically, cards that do something now, don't get discarded, and do something on your next turn.  I love this mechanic.  I think it gives a bit more strategy to the game, though it can enhance play time, since players are really gearing towards card drawing decks.  There are some engaging attack cards, Pirate Ship, Ambassador, Ghost Ship, and some just plain fun cards, Treasure Map, and Treasury.  I think Seaside is a great expansion to own and play with.  I wouldn't necessarily want it as my only expansion, but it's fun.
  • Alchemy - One word for this expansion - Potions.  Potion cards are a new form of currency.  There are cards that can only be purchased using a potion and some amount of money.  This does increase the cost of those cards, and forces players to consider the drain on their deck from a card that doesn't contribute to the Province quest, but it may help get cards that get you to Provinces.  Alchemy has a bad rap because several cards feel like they are just redone versions of original cards, but I find the changes enough to warrant inclusion.  Alchemy isn't for everyone, it has one of the meanest cards in the entire game - Possession - but all things can be counteracted and it does adjust strategy.
  • Prosperity - Why 7 can be a good amount to have.  Many of the cards in Prosperity are bigger versions of base game cards.  Expand is a bigger Remodel, Kings Court is a bigger Throne Room, etc.  It also added Platinum and Colony cards to the game for better or worse.  What Prosperity really does is add to the game length.  Provinces are no longer the goal, instead it's Colonies which cost 11.  This leads to players spending more time buying money and action cards, which lengthens the game.  I like the strategy change, because some cards are more useful in long games, while other cards are less useful.  It forces players to adapt to different strategies, and now players hate getting 10 instead of 7, a much less common occurrence.
  • Cornucopia - Variety.  I like to call this the "new player" expansion.  Cornucopia has a lot of cards that deal with having different cards in your deck, so it's perfect for those who like to buy one of everything to see what it does.  The card set is interesting, but I found some annoying - Tournament - and many others lackluster - Harvest.  Big Kudos to Horse Traders for being the most fun reaction card in the game, and arguably the most useful in most games.
  • Hinterlands - Plenty.  Many cards in this set do multiple things.  There are cards that do something when you buy them like Embassy, Ill-Gotten-Gains, Cache, Noble Brigand, Nomad Camp, Mandarin, Farmland and Inn.  That's almost 1/3 of the set that does something when you buy it, and then it does something in the game.  Hinterlands to me is the most refreshing expansion I've seen.  There are some cards that do very different things, but they don't feel overpowered, nor are they overly complex.  They are subtle at times, but when used right, the cards do wonders.

To conclude the talk about Dominion, some advice lists for expansion purchases based on different criteria.

           If you own Base Game          If you own Intrigue        

  1. Seaside                                     Prosperity                
  2. Hinterlands                               Seaside
  3. Prosperity                                 Hinterlands
  4. Intrigue                                     Cornucopia
  5. Cornucopia                               Base
  6. Alchemy                                   Alchemy
If I had to pick only x sets of cards, since you can buy the basic treasure/victory cards separate, this is what I'd buy.

  1. Prosperity
  2. Hinterlands
  3. Seaside
  4. Base
  5. Cornucopia
  6. Intrigue
  7. Alchemy
If I had to draw the line in the sand for Dominion I would say start with Intrigue game, get Prosperity and Hinterlands, maybe Seaside, and call it there.  That gives you 75/100 cards and a lot of neat ideas to explore.

Let's take a little bit to talk Carcassonne aka Carc.  The game presents almost limitless expansion potential, but how much is really enough?  I think the answer to this really comes down to another question.  How much do you play Carc?  For me, I used to play it often, probably 1-3 times a month.  Now, I'm lucky to play 1-3 times a year.  With that in mind, let's talk about the different expansions.

  • Inns and Cathedrals - This is by far the single most important and necessary expansion to Carc.  It adds the intrigue of double or nothing roads, gives players a large meeple to use in takeovers, and has some neat tiles.  It's also important if you have more than 2 people playing so you get enough tiles to feel satisfied.  I always play with I&C.

  • Traders and Builders - I like the expansion.  It has city tiles with trade goods on them which are given to the player who finishes a city.  This gives you reason to complete someone else's city, which is an interesting twist.  It also has a pig and builder meeple.  The pig goes on an existing farm, and gives the player an extra point per city at the end.  The builder can be placed in a city or on a road, and then whenever you add to that feature, you get to draw and place another tile.  This isn't something I pull out with new players, but once someone has played a couple of times, this is a great depth enhancer.

  • Princess and Dragon - This is the attacking expansion.  The princess appears on some city tiles and forces a player in the city to remove one of their meeples.  This drastically alters the flow of the game, and makes life rather annoying.  The dragon roams around the board and devourers any meeples in its path.  Also making the game rather annoying.  The dragon does mitigate some of the large farm problem, but it really just creates a lucky break for the first player who can place in an open farm.  I'm not a fan of this expansion.

  • The Tower - I've personally never played this, and likely never will.  The whole idea of capturing your opponents' meeples seems out of place here.  If I want to directly attack someone, I have a lot of other games that do it better than this seems to.

  • Abbey and Mayor - This expansion did two things I really liked, and a few that I didn't.  First, it gave everyone a one use tile that ended everything it touched.  The trick is, you have to wait until there's a tile on every side, essentially, you're looking for a missing hole in the board.  This gives you the ability to end a city or road that may not have a legal tile available to play.  The other thing I really liked was the Mayor meeple.  It is worth one point of strength, for determining who has control in a city, for every shield symbol in the city.  This gives those symbols a further reason for existing, and I think ties in nicely to the theme.  The thing I didn't like is the wagon and the barn.  The wagon rules are a bit convoluted and complicated for Carc.  The barn is ok, but I think it just further promotes big farms, and that's something that isn't apparent to newer players.

  • The Catapult - Great idea, horrible execution.  I think the idea of some randomness in the game is fun, but the way they did it just doesn't work.  For one, the catapult is horrible, so much that a friend actually built one for me out of scrap wood.  It currently sits on top of my game shelf.  I've never played by the actual rules to the catapult, it just seems a little too random.  I'd like to sometime, but it's not something for new players.

  • Wheel of Fortune - This is how I'd by the basic game now.  It has all the original tiles, but it also has this neat wheel mechanic.  Players can add meeples to the center and get certain points for different things in the game.  I think this gives players a chance to catch-up, and score points for some things that aren't normally scored, which is good.  I think it's not something to play with the first time you play Carc, but it makes a much better base game.

  • Bridges, Castles, and Bazaars - I haven't played this expansion nor do I own it.  I also probably never will.  The bridge idea sounds interesting, but the others don't appeal to me.  (If you have played this, leave me a comment, and I'll go back and edit this with your comment to have a more complete view)

Those are all the big box expansions.  I'll talk about those before briefly going over the small box ones.

I can't imagine Carc without Inns and Cathedrals.  I think that needs to be part of the game.  So definitely get that if you like Carc.  I highly recommend Traders and Builders.  The rest, up to you.  If those two were the only 2 big box expansions I have, and I'd be happy.

  • The River - This eliminates the starting tile and replaces it with the river.  This helps break up the mega farm.  Overall, a great thing to have.
  • The River 2 - Splits the starting River in 2 directions, further breaks up farms, but does require more play area.
  • King and Scout - Like the tiles, never use the bonus things, find they give too much of an advantage.
  • The Count - Interesting idea to start with a big city, don't like the stealing/sharing aspect of the Count.
  • Games Quarterly - Like having more tiles, nothing groundbreaking here, just more good Carc.
  • Cult, Siege, Creativity - Love the cult pieces, they give an interesting dynamic to the cathedrals.  The sieges are a nice change up, not too many of them around to wreck havoc, just enough to mess with people.
For me, the only mini expansion worth getting is the River, maybe River 2.  The rest do add to or change  the game in some way, but none are necessary for an enjoyable experience.

So that's my thoughts on Dominion and Carcassonne.  Agree or disagree with them? Let me know.  I think the big message here, don't buy everything. It's not worth it, because you'll never play with them all.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Expansions - Continuing the Conversation

It looks like GameswithTwo and I have had some similar ideas for blog posts lately.  I kinda started the talk on expansions, not that the idea is original to me. GwT now has 2 parts to their expansion series, so I'm going to do a follow-up to discuss some comments I got here and over on BGG.

Expansions take many forms.  I want to take some time to discuss the different types of expansions we see for different games.  This is by no means a complete list, nor is it meant to tell you what to do. I'm just trying to offer my own opinions, as always, and you can take them for what their worth, and since they're on the internet and reading this is free, that's about what they're worth.  (Trying to inject some humor, just go with it.)

Increased player count with something else
These are probably the best kind of expansions.  You take a game that was really good with 2-4 people, and now a 5th player can join in.  This has been done in a lot of games, Carcassonne, Cosmic Encounter, Battlestar Galactica, Shadows Over Camelot, just to name a few.  More players is typically a good thing, but we have to be careful that the game still works well at that number.  Just because a game plays 3-8 players doesn't mean it's a good game to play with 3-8 players.  Maybe the sweet spot is at 5 and it works well at 4 and 6, and then ok with 7.  More players typically increases the play time of a game, so keep that in mind as well.  Maybe that 60 minute game with 4 people is great, but a 5th would make it 90 minutes, and that's just too much for what the game is.  That's not always the case, but something to keep in mind.

New "modes" of game play
This can be something as simple as variable map set-up or scenarios for a game you already know, or it could be a completely new way to play the game.  Seafarers of Catan did this for Settlers by giving players boats to build and islands to explore.  Battlestar Galactica took a page from Arkham Horror when it comes to expansions.  The core gameplay is similar, or even the same, but there are new characters, new cards, maybe a new way to end the game that players can pick and chose from.
This type of expansion gives players flexibility as well as new ways to play the game, which kinda makes it feel like a new game each time.

There are several games which utilize new maps to bring in something new to the game.  The main three that I can think of are Ticket to Ride, Power Grid, and Formula D/De.
Let me address each one.

Ticket to Ride started by making full games with a new map, so if you wanted a new map you had to buy a $50 game with train pieces and train cards and new tickets.  This wasn't horrible, but in 2011, Days of Wonder released 2 Map Expansion Packs with a double sided map.  These cost around $20-$25, which is a great deal.  At this point I have way more Ticket to Ride than I'll ever get bored of, but that's a good thing.  It means every time I play it, I can explore some new aspect of a map, and continue to rotate through different things.  I consider the Ticket Map Expansions to be well worth it.

Power Grid is an interesting case study.  I enjoy Power Grid, but I play it maybe once a year.  At that point, I don't need anything more than the original map for the game.  At one point I had 3 different map packs, and I think I played on at least 1 side of all of them.  I had a friend who really liked Korea, so we did that map with him, and so on.  What I found was that each map did bring something new to the table, but I ended up trading away every map expansion because I didn't have the need for them.  I've yet to feel like one of them was crucial to enhancing gameplay, or made me like the game more. Rather, each map just brought something different to the table.  If I played Power Grid more often, say once a week or even once a month, I'd probably want a new map set, but right now, I'm content with just the original map.

Formula D is a blend of Ticket to Ride and Power Grid.  First, the backstory.  My dad and I are long-time fans of Formula 1, so this game is a great fit.  It's great to race around all the different tracks that we see on TV.  Even so, they don't get used.  We play it so little that if Monaco was the only track we had, we wouldn't get bored with it.  I love the idea of having all these maps, because we do get new ways to play, and it would be a lot of fun to race a season over the course of weeks/months.  The problem is, I just don't see it happening, especially since so many of the classic tracks are long OOP, and rather pricy to acquire.

For the next part of this series, I'm going to talk about 2 games with a lot of expansions, Dominion and Carcassonne.  I'm going to look at the advantages and disadvantages of each and every expansion so far, which will be a long, but hopefully useful article.  I'll also try to give some advice on where to call your collection complete in terms of those games, but remember, there are no hard and fast rules to games.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Quitting a Game - How to React

I came across this article on BGG talking about how to handle someone who sporadically quit games when he had no chance of winning.  I've never had to deal with this specifically, but I have had the whiners and complainers, which drive people to think about quitting.

I talked about this tangentially in my All About People article from February, but that was more about appreciating the people we play games with.

So, what's my take on quitting a game?
Well, it's two-fold.  In a 2-player game, I have no problem with a resignation.  This probably has a fair amount to do with early Chess training, and tipping your King when there is no hope.  I see it a lot in Dominion when one player is clearly ahead, but the game is going to take several more long turns to come to a conclusion.  Even so, part of me is torn because in a lot of games, anything can happen.  Chess is a different animal, because if both players know what they're doing, there isn't going to be a mistake.  Most of the games I play involve some form of luck.  There are dice, random cards, cube bags, etc. that allow for momentum swings.  I've had several games of Small World where I thought I was clearly winning or clearly losing; yet when final scoring came, the results had gone the other way.  Sometimes you just don't know where you're at, and what might happen in the end.

2-player games, it's ok to resign, but if the end is near, try to play it out and see what happens.

Multiplayer games are a completely different story.  It is poor sportsmanship to quit a multi-player game.  You aren't surrendering to the other side, you're walking out on a group of people, and fundamentally changing the way they're playing the game.  Many games play differently with various numbers of players.  By quitting, you've changed the interactions, and quite possibly handed one player an easy victory that they would not have otherwise had.

I can see not bothering to count your final score at the end, but even that creates some problems.  I had another game of Small World (5 player game) where one person thought they had lost miserably.  We counted their score and they came in 2nd, and lost by I believe 5 points.  I'll use Ticket to Ride as another example.  There are times where you've completed none of your destination tickets.  At that point, it's reasonable to not bother scoring your points, and just ending it, but that's a matter of a minute to score versus quitting a game.

The idea that's driving this whole thing is sportsmanship.  We play games with the pursuit of winning, and the notion of always having fun.  It is the pursuit of winning that many find enjoyable, but not the actual win.  I enjoy winning games, but I have great fun in losing them too.  I just wrapped up a forum game of Cosmic Encounter, which has been going on for 6 weeks.  I had horrible luck, but I still had a chance to win the game at the end, only to be cleverly sent home before I could win.  Now, I wasn't exactly happy at being played that way, but it was a very Cosmic move, and I appreciated it for that.  That game was a long haul at times, and I really thought I had no chance, but quitting was never a serious thought in my mind.

The other notion here is this, don't let your bad time ruin everyone else's good time.  If you're not winning, try to play to improve your position by 1 spot.  Don't just quit and spoil the game for everyone else.  Plus, most people don't want to play with a quitter, and you'll probably find that most people won't play with you.  Be a courteous person, congratulate the winner, help clean up, or set-up for the next game.  If all else fails, remember the old adage "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

How would I handle the situation of a repeated multi-player game quitter?  Very simply, they're not welcome to play with me.  They can play with other people, but I won't play with them.  I'll play 2 player games, but not group games.  If you're ruining my ability to have fun, I have other people I can play with.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dice Tower Award Winners

Back in April, the Dice Tower released their award nominations for 2011.  I did a post where I predicted the winners, so let's see how my predictions lined up with the actual winners

Game of the Year:
My Choice: Star Trek Fleet Captains
What I Think Will Win: Eclipse

Actual Winner: Eclipse 
I haven't played Eclipse, but it's a game that's lived up to the hype, and looks to have great staying power in the game market for a long time.
Best Family Game Nominees:
My Choice: Say Anything Family Edition
What I Think WIll Win: Flash Point: Fire Rescue

Actual Winner: King of Tokyo
I haven't played King of Tokyo, thus why it wasn't my choice, but everything I know about the game makes it a worthy winner for the category.  I can see this being a bigger hit with boys rather than girls, whereas I think a lot of other games appeal to both.

Best New Game Designer Nominees:
My Choice: Flash Point
What I Think WIll Win: Sentinels of the Multiverse

Actual Winner: Flash Point
Lots of great new designers in 2011.  If this is their first or 2nd game, I can't wait to see what they do when they've had more experience in the market.

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

Actual Winner: Confusion
Great components by Stronghold games, amazing quality and a fun game.

Best Production Values Nominees:
My Choice: Super Dungeon Explorer
What I Think WIll Win: Super Dungeon Explorer

Actual Winner: Mansions of Madness
I've never played nor seen Mansions of Madness set-up.  The pictures on BGG are impressive though.  No argument with MoM winning.

Best Small Publisher Nominees:
My Choice: Flash Point
What I Think WIll Win: Dungeon Run

Actual Winner: Flash Point

Best Party Game Nominees:
My Choice: Dixit: Odyssey
What I Think WIll Win: Reverse Charades Junior

Actual Winner: Dixit: Odyssey
Dixit is a great party game.  It's a little more thinky than a lot of others, but it has a lot of Apples to Apples ideas just with freedom and creativity.

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

Actual Winner: Summoner Wars
2011 was the year of great games, not so much of expansions. I think that goes to 2010.  Summoner Wars has had great expansions that add to the game, I'm not a fan of the system, but that's a person thing.  

Most Innovative Game Nominees:
My Choice: Risk Legacy
What I Think WIll Win: Risk Legacy

Actual Winner: Risk Legacy
In my prediction article I said that anything could win this, and I still hold to that notion, but Risk Legacy was the most Innovative game.  The idea of secret packets that change the game, and make every copy of the game unique is just outstanding.  The best part, it hasn't been done by anyone else yet.  I think it's going to happen, but this game is fantastic for the changing nature.

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

Actual Winner: LotR: The Card Game
LotR and Dixit were my top 2 for artwork.  Both have fantastic artists working on the game.  LotR impressed me when I played it, and the art fits the game.  I'm a fan of the abstract nature of Dixit, and how the artwork is incorporated into the game.  Still, LotR was a great choice.

Best War Games Nominees:
My Choice: A Few Acres of Snow
What I Think WIll Win: A Few Acres of Snow

Actual Winner: A Few Acres of Snow
I'm not a wargamer, many would argue that A Few Acres of Snow isn't really a war-game, but I think the game can bring people into war-games, and that's not a bad thing.  Having never played it, I really don't know.

Best Game Theme Nominees:
My Choice: Flash Point
What I Think WIll Win: Flash Point

Actual Winner: Flash Point
Firefighting is a great theme, and makes for a wonderful co-op game.  People have to work together, and the mechanics and theme blend perfectly to make a fun game.
Best Digital Boardgame Nominees:
My Choice: Forbidden Island
What I Think WIll Win: Ticket to Ride

Actual Winner: Ascension
I haven't played Ascension, but I hear amazing things.  The digital implementation looks amazing, but without having played it, I didn't want to make a call on it.  Forbidden Island and Ticket to Ride are very good implementations but seeing things now, Ascension is a very clear and deserving winner.

So, how'd I do?  Well, in any kind of award prediction it's hard to get inside the mind of the judging panel, but I think I did alright.
My Choice games, I went 6/13
My prediction for wins was 7/13
I completely missed Family Game, Production values, and Digital Game
At least I nailed Innovative, War Game, and Best Theme.
All the winners are worthy games, I've either played them or heard enough good things about them to be interested in.  
Clearly I need to play more of the nominees.  I think this award is the closest thing we get to an American gaming award.  Eclipse isn't for everyone, but it looks mighty impressive.  I love the categories of awards, and I think there's some award that fits every gamer.  Wargamers will probably argue that the war-game award isn't for them, but that's ok.  This is a mainstream award trying to focus on a casual war-game rather than a 50 hour campaign game.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Easy as Pi - A Pizza Theory Review

 Pizza Theory

  • Designed by Greg and Brian Powers
  • Published by Gryphon Games
  • Plays with 2-3 players in around 10-20 minutes (I've only played as a 3-player game).
  • Recommended for ages 6+, but I really think you need to be older to see the strategy.

Start of game Set-up
I saw Pizza Theory on Kickstarter and decided to take the plunge.  The game looked interesting, the theme was something a little different, and a 3 player game was a needed addition to my collection.
Pizza Theory has no randomness and simple turn actions, but the outcome each round is unpredictable since each cook has his own idea for the best way to create the pie. (BGG description)

All the different toppings.
The components in Pizza Theory are well done.  There are 12 different toppings in 3 colors.  The topping disks are good quality, and move around nicely.  The board is very high quality and easy to follow.  The pizza cutters (aka sticks) are colored and easy to lay on the board.  The dice are a bit large, but they work well.  An excellent 9/10.

The game is pretty straight forward. Players take turns adding a toping to the pizza.  The only catch, you can't place next to a topping of your own color.  When all players are out of placements, the real game kicks in.  Each player uses their die to determine which line they will place their pizza cutter on.  Once everyone has decided, players simultaneously reveal, and then divide the pizza.  Whoever has the majority of toppings in a slice replaces other player's toppings with their own.  In a tie, the low score goes away and the tied players stay put.  This goes on until one player has placed all 16 of their toppings on the board at the end of a round. A solid 8/10.
End of the first round, pre-cut

There is a moderate amount of player interaction.  Some blocking can occur based on where you place your toppings, but for the most part, players will be able to place toppings in a way that lets them have about the same number on the board.  The real interaction comes with the slicing of the pizza.  A skillful player can try to figure out where his opponents will cut the pizza, and based on that where they should cut.  The trick is that a player can never really know for sure where his opponents will cut, so there's a lot of educated guessing going on.  It's not combat, or trading, but there is a lot of good player interaction here, even if it is more indirect and subtle.  7.5/10.
Cuts for the first round

Pizza.  Love it or loath it, it's a staple of college life and a regular weekly meal for a lot of Americans.  The toppings add to the idea that this is a pizza game.  Pizza Theory is all about the strategy, so this game could be played as easily with 3 different colors of cubes placed in different areas, but I don't think it would be as fun.  The theme definitely enhances gameplay, and it's pretty fun and not overdone.  9/10.

Learning Curve
Pizza Theory has a short entry time.  The idea of play adding a topping to a pizza is accessible .  There's some strategy in terms of where to play early, and recognizing where both your opponents can't place, thus leaving those spots to the end, but new players have a good to win.  

Why I like Pizza Theory
State of the board mid game.
The game is easy to teach.  That's a huge plus.  It's simple enough that non-gamers will enjoy it, it's complex enough for gamers to enjoy, and it looks fun from a distance so people will come over and watch, and maybe even play a game themselves.  The theme is enjoyable.  There are meaningful choices, yet the game doesn't take hours to play.  It's short enough to play multiple times, and it's a great game to play while you wait for more people to show up.

Why I don't like Pizza Theory
There is absolutely no luck in the game.  If you get behind, you're going to stay behind.  Also, the game can end in one round, though it shouldn't.  That typically happens when someone isn't paying attention to what could happen, and the breakdown of toppings just falls the right way for someone.

There's some decent replayability here, but I worry about the longevity of the game.  The Anchovy expansion does change game play significantly, which gives the game new legs, but even that grows stale after time.  I think it's a matter of trying some different ideas with the cuts, and watching new people learn.  It will be interesting to see plays when everyone knows the game well to see if/how things change.   
Green Wins by a lot.
He would need 5 more tokens
to cover all of the right slice.

I like Pizza Theory.  I don't love it, it's not a top 10 game for me, but it's an 7 overall.  The lack of luck makes it hard for some groups, but great for others.  It's sticking around in my collection, mostly because I want to see what the official rules for the Anchovy expansion will do for the game.  (I got the demo version through Kickstarter)  I still like the game, and it may have a place on a shelf for years to come, but I could also see it departing the collection in time too.  Only more plays will tell.

Final Thought
If you love the idea of a Pizza game, but aren't sure if Pizza Theory is right for you, take a look at Top This! A Pizza Flicking Game. Here's the boardgamegeek link

Sometimes a game can seem like a perfect fit for a group, and then it flops.  What do you do when that happens?  You'll have to wait for the next article here at bitsofboardgames.

Want to buy Pizza Theory and support BoBG?