Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mystery of the Abbey Review

Mystery of the Abbey
  • Designed by Bruno Faidutti and Serge Laget
  • Published by Days of Wonder
  • For 3-6 players, ages 10+ though I recommend 4 or 5 player games.
  • Playtime is around 2 hours, though I've seen a 75 minute game and a 2.5 hour game recently.
Take the classic game Clue, add controlled movement, add a lot more options, and you have Mystery of the Abbey.  Basically, MotA is Clue on steroids.

In Mystery of the Abbey, players are trying to figure out which monk card is missing from the game.  Each monk has several characteristics, their order, their position, if they have a beard or clean-shaven, if they're hooded or unhooded, and if they're skinny or obtuse.  Players start with a hand of monks which they can rule out as suspects, and they gain more knowledge by taking actions.
On a turn, players move 1 or 2 spaces, and may perform the action of the room they're in.  If they end their movement on the same space as another player, they must ask them a question.  The other player then has two options, they may either answer honestly, and then ask the first player a question, or they may take a vow of silence and not ask a question.  After each player takes 4 turns, then all players return to the chapel for mass which involves passing cards and some kind of event.  Figuring out what to ask, and when to answer questions other players ask is a key to this game.  The first player to figure out who the murderer is, and get to a specific location, gets 4 points.  There are other ways to get points in the game, but most often, the player to figure out the murderer will be the winner.

Questioning and listening is a huge part of this game.  Questions are very interactive, while listening is very passive, but both are very crucial aspects of the interaction in MotA.  This game requires player interaction, else it becomes a very tedious exercise in luck.

The abbey theme comes through with a lot of flavor text on the library cards.  I like the way the theme is incorporated with the mechanics, but the game could have a completely different theme and still play the same.  Nevertheless, the theme is good, especially for a family game.

The game has a bell!  See, I like random cool components that actually serve a game purpose, and the bell here fits the bill.  Player pawns are well done, the custom dice work well, and all the cards are good quality.  The rules are well written with plenty of examples to help new players learn and people who haven't played in a long time refresh their memory.

Learning Curve
Mystery of the Abbey takes a game to have a sense of what to ask and when to answer questions, as well as have some idea about why other people are asking what they're asking.  It's certainly a game that anyone can win their first time, especially if they enjoy the deduction in Clue, but it is not an easy game.
A Crypt card that players can get
from the crypta in order to take
an extra turn later in the game.

I've gone in spurts with MotA.  I don't play it all that often, and I think that I'd get tired of it if I did.  That's my personal taste in frequency, but the game is highly replayable.  Sure, it is essentially the same problem every time, but there's a lot of different ways to solve the problem, and the clues are different, so the game feels different every time you play.  I suppose once people really know the game, they will play the same way every time, but I haven't gotten anywhere close to that yet.

Why I like Mystery of the Abbey
Sample Mass card
This one is for round 6
I liked Clue growing up, it's probably the most mainstream game that I'd be willing to play right now.  MotA takes the things that I like about Clue and refines it, and adds in different options that make the game very enjoyable.  It's a process to try to win, but it's one of those games where I don't really care if I win or not, because the process has been enjoyable.

Why I don't like Mystery of the Abbey
MotA is a bit long for what it is.  I've taken to using some of the speed up variants in the rules, because they eliminate the tedious, and add to the fun part of the game.  Even with those, the game can be long.  It really depends on the other players though.  Certain players will make this game a blast, while others can make it really tedious.

The player aid and suspect sheet hiding device.
I like Mystery of the Abbey.  I enjoy playing it.  I don't think it's the best game out there.  I like it more today than I did last year because I had a chance to play it with a fresh perspective.  MotA isn't a game I'm going to pull out all the time, it's maybe a 2-3 times a year game, if that.  If you enjoy deduction games, this is certainly one of the better ones out there.
Suspect sheet
It says something when a game that originally came out in 1995 is still around today and worth talking about.

Would it be a good game for Tabletop?
No. Mystery of the Abbey really rewards players who know how to play the game well when it comes to questions, and I think this would be hard to watch and understand what's going on for someone who didn't already know the game.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Best and Worst Games Played for the First Time in 2013

As I mentioned in a previous post, I put up the opportunity to guest write a post in the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund Auction on BGG.  Chaz Marler won one of the two opportunities  Chaz runs his own board game website/blog thingie at  If you like what he has to say in this post, please go check out his blog.  We corresponded for a couple of days in early December to figure out what we wanted to talk about.  Eventually we decided on a best and worst games played for the first time in 2013 article.  This has a bit of back and forth with each of us talking about our games, then critiquing the other, and finally offering a rebuttal to any critique.  I hope you enjoy.

Chaz: Best Game that I played for the first time in 2013: Suburbia
It’s difficult to talk about Suburbia without making comparisons to the computer game Sim City. Both allow players to experience the nerve-wracking glory of building a city from the ground up, overseeing the growth of residential, industrial and commercial zones while balancing your city’s income, taxes and population. But while Sim City requires a computer to run it, Suburbia just needs… well, it just needs a copy of the board game Suburbia.

Now, I’ll confess that I’m a sucker for games with lots of pretty plastic pieces, which Suburbia lacks. That’s why, as a “Component Proponent”, I initially thought that I wouldn’t enjoy this game very much. It’s a bit bland to look at. However, its gameplay more than makes up for it. The game pulled me in quickly, and I forgot about the lack of eye candy after just a few turns.

Suburbia’s gameplay can be a bit technical at times. Things to mange and cross-reference can start to accumulate on your turn. But, in my experience, this still doesn’t diminish how enjoyable and rewarding it is to play. How enjoyable? Enjoyable enough to be my pick for the best new game I played in 2013.
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BoBG response: I had a chance to play this game in January, and I really enjoyed it.  I do agree with you that the components aren’t over the top, but everything is high quality and functional.  I haven’t played much Sim City, but I do see the comparison.  Suburbia is in my top 5 games played for the first time in 2013, so I completely agree with the choice.
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Chaz's final thought: Awright! I picked the only game of the four that we both played this year! I think that means I win this article. What's that? This wasn't a competition? Well played, Montgomery. Well played...

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BoBG: Best Game that I played for the first time in 2013: Star Trek: Attack Wing

I came to the game with mixed anticipation.  I knew it had potential with the Flightpath system, but I was weary of bringing in bigger ships to that system.  After playing my first 3 games, I was sold on the whole thing, and it’s turned out to be one of my favorite games, not only of 2013, but of all time.  I really enjoy the ability to mix crews and factions to make interesting fleets.  The organized play system is incredible for fans.  Really, the whole game feels like it’s paying homage to Star Trek fans.  
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Chaz's response: Oh-ho-ho, I'm jealous! Attack Wing looks really fun - in a strange way it reminds me of another game I grew up playing: Battletech. I've considered investing in this game more than once, but, so far, my wallet has been uncooperative. So, I gotta know, why did you chose this over Star Wars: X-Wing? Was there a rules variant you liked better in the Star Trek version? Prefer the Trek ship miniatures? Still bitter over that Greedo shooting first thing?
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BoBGs final thought: I actually got to play X-Wing back in 2012.  The systems are similar, and I've invested into both.  As for which I prefer, well, you'll just have to stay tuned to my top games list in January.  Star Trek was my first sci-fi love.  It captured my imagination, and I really enjoy the whole universe.

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Chaz: Worst Game that I played for the first time in 2013: The Lord of the Rings Dice Building Game
Several years ago, a game named Quarriors was released. It was a new twist on the deck-building genre, in that the players accumulated dice instead of cards. I haven’t had a chance to play Quarriors, but the idea of a dice-building game intrigues me. So, when The Lord of the Rings Dice Building Game (or “LOTRDBG” because I’m too lazy to ever type that long title ever again) came along, I thought it would serve as a great introduction to the dice-building genre.

But no, I was wrong. So very wrong. And I was severely punished for my mistake. 

I’m sure there’s probably a fun game in there somewhere, but I fear I’ll never find it because LOTRDBG’s rulebook is nigh-incomprehensible. I can only assume it was written by someone who hates information. 

The rulebook also makes repeated references to the game Quarriors. It assumes that the reader is familiar with that other game, and that for some reason knowing the differences between the two are paramount to your understanding of this one. At first blush, riddling one game’s instructions with references to another one may seem unnecessary and even confusing; like making UpWords anecdotes while teaching someone how to play Scrabble. 

But I think it’s brilliant! In fact, I’ve started randomly throwing out references to other somewhat related things whenever I’m teaching anything to anyone. While teaching my daughter how to tie her shoelaces, I peppered her with facts about velcro and buckle fasteners. Sure, she eventually decided to just go barefoot, but think of all the trivia she now knows about footwear she’s never worn.

Eventually, a slightly more comprehensible rulebook for the game was published on, but I’m still too shell shocked by the first one to attempt trying to learn this game again.
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BoBG's response: I haven’t had a chance to play this game, but I have played Quarriors.  From your description, I can’t imagine trying to learn this game from the rulebook.  I think it’s poor quality control, and general laziness to cite from other games that people may or may not be familiar with.  I don’t know if this is the worst, but it certainly sounds like a terrible experience and one that would turn me completely off of a game.
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Chaz's final thoughts: I agree, because the experience has prevented me from taking the plunge into regular Quarriors. Every time I'm about to buy a copy, I'm revisited by the specter of LOTRDBG. Plus, I also have to stop and ask myself, "Do I really need another dice game? Don't I already have enough dice?" (Spoiler alert: The answer is no, you do not already have enough dice. One can never have too many dice. I am unsure how the human mind could even form such an absurd question. *shudder*)

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BoBG: Worst Game that I played for the first time in 2013: Ace of Spies
I backed it on Kickstarter, and I really thought it had potential.  The game just feels lifeless to me.  I’m collections and playing a bunch of cards.  There’s very little tension to the game, outside of wondering what terrible thing your opponent might do to you next.  The game is far too long for what it is, and on top of that, it isn’t engaging.  Ace of Spies took a wonderful theme and turned it into a snoozefest.
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Chaz's response: Aw, that's disappointing to hear. I missed out on this game's kickstarter, so I haven't had a chance to play it, but it did look intriguing. From what I've heard about how the game plays, it sounds like it may be one of those where the enjoyment level may hinge on the personality type of the people you play it with. Do you think that it would be a more enjoyable experience if you were to play it against a different opponent? 
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BoBG's final thought: It could be the people I played with.  I think it has potential with a different group, but groups don't change the mechanics.  I have only played this once, so I'm willing to give it another shot.
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So folks, there you have it.  Those are some thoughts on some of the good and bad games Chaz and I played for the first time in 2013.  I wish we had a little bit more back and forth, like one of us hating a game that the other loved or vice versa, but I still think this is a quality article.  Big thanks to Chaz for donating to the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund and for coming up with a great article topic.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

2013 Holiday Game Gift Guide

As a reviewer, I'm frequently talking about different games.  I give my opinions on games, and try to give you ideas of what to buy for yourself or others.  So why a Christmas shopping list?  Well, a few thoughts.  First, it's nice to have a set of recommendations in one place.  Second, it's a lot easier to point people to a list rather than a blog and say read reviews.

Formatting note, each category has 5 games in it, except for the Personal Favorites.  Those games are ordered alphabetically, not in an order of preference.  There are no repeats on the list, but there are games that would work in more than one category.

Personal Favorites
These are games that are great in a variety of situations.  They're things that most casual gamers should have in their collection.  They are games I've enjoyed, and they work for a lot of different people and situations.
  • 7 Wonders - A card driven civilization building game.  Many different paths to take in the game: Merchant, Science, Warfare, Buildings.  Plays in around 45 minutes, less as you play more.
  • Article 27 - A very engaging negotiation game.  It's great for people who like to talk and try to make deals.  It's not too complex, so anyone can play, but there's some depth that isn't apparent right away.
  • Dominion - The grandfather of deckbuilding games.  Play cards to gain more cards, and ultimately victory points.  Plays in roughly 30 minutes, depends on the set of cards.
  • For Sale - Quick auction game.  Bid on properties, use those properties to gain checks, try to make the most money. 
  • Incan Gold - Push your luck game with a great sense of adventure.  Knowing when to run is key in the game.  Lots of fun for all ages and all types of players.
  • Settlers of Catan - One of the classics of modern gaming.  Compete to gather resources, build roads, settlements, and cities.  Be the first to 10 points and you win.  Lots of luck, good amount of skill.  If you want a twist on it, check out Star Trek Catan.
  • Ticket to Ride - Another classic of modern gaming.  Build routes on the map to complete tickets.  Have a network of trains to complete lots of tickets.  Easy to learn, quick to play.  I recommend either the US or Europe map to start.

Family Games for Young Children
These are primarily meant as games that young children can play with their siblings and/or parents.  I don't have much experience here, but I thought some ideas on this category would be helpful.
  • Botswana - A card game about gathering animals.
  • Bugs in the Kitchen - A quick game with a really cool toy factor.  You move utensils to guide a mechanical bug into your corner of the map
  • Forbidden Desert - A co-op game(everyone works together) about gathering parts of an ancient airship after you crash-land.
  • Loopin' Louie - Perhaps more of a toy with a game connected. Players try to make the plane land in someone else's farm.  The plane steals chickens until only one player has chickens left.
  • Sorry Sliders - Players slide pawns down a track, trying to score points in the center area.  Somewhat similar to Curling, but with much simpler scoring.
Family Games for Older Children
As kids get older, they're able to play more complicated games.  Here are some games that are fun for kids and adults.  These games offer a challenge, but are also light enough that people won't be upset.  The themes are also kid friendly.
  • The Adventurers - Ever wanted to feel like Indiana Jones? This really is the game for you. Avoid the walls closing in, the giant boulder running you down, lava pits, a rapid river and a rickety bridge.
  • Castle Panic - A Co-op tower defense game.  Work together as a team to defeat goblins, trolls, and other fantasy evils.
  • Say Anything Family - Ever wonder which boy band is the best, or which Disney princess in your dad's favorite.  This is a great way to find out.  Lots of fun questions, and players can write anything they want as an answer.
  • Word on the Street - A tug-of-war of words.  Work in teams to spell long words that fit the category.  
  • Zooloretto - Ever wonder what it might be like to run your own zoo?  Zooloretto gives each player a chance to see how well they'd do as a zookeeper. 
Games for all Ages
These are games for families, for kids, for adults, basically, whoever plays games.  They're not the most complex, but they are fun, and fairly short.
  • Can't Stop - A push-your-luck dice game.  You roll 4 dice, combine 2 dice to make numbers, and then move that marker up. You only get 3 markers each round, and if you don't roll your numbers you lose. You can freeze after any roll, so there is an interesting choice to be made.
  • Escape: Curse of the Temple - A real time co-op dice game.  This game takes exactly 10 minutes to play.  It's also probably the most intense 10 minutes of gaming you'll experience.
  • Flash Point: Fire Rescue - Save people, and pets, from a burning building.  It's a great theme, a good challenge, and has good replayability.  
  • King of Tokyo - A game of King of the Hill with all the randomness of a Godzilla movie.  Players are trying to destroy each other and the city of Tokyo.  
  • Shadows Over Camelot - A Co-op game in the times of King Arthur.  Work together to fight the forces of evil, defeat the black night, find Excalibur and the Holy Grail, hold off the Picts and Saxons.  And if that wasn't hard enough, there might be a traitor amongst you.
Stocking Stuffers
These are relatively inexpensive games, I believe all are under $20, perhaps even $10. They're quick to play, and work in various situations.
  • Bananagrams - A different take on the classic Scrabble.  Awesome carrying pouch, and no letter points make the game play faster and easier.
  • Hanabi - A co-op card management game.  You really have to work well together to get out the right information at the right time.  This is a challenging game, but fun for a great number of people.
  • Love Letter - 16 cards, some cubes, and very strategic gameplay with a bit of luck.  The game plays quickly, but it also good fun.
  • No Thanks! - A quick card game with numbers. Players use chips to pass on cards or take cards.  Cards are points at the end of the game, but like golf, the low score wins.  Chips are negative, and when you take a card with chips, you gain the chips as well.  Make a run of cards and only the lowest card in that run scores.
  • The Resistance - An interesting deduction/find the traitor game.  Plays quickly and doesn't feature player elimination like Werewolf/Mafia does.
Games for Teenagers/Young Adults
I'm thinking of games I was able to play in High School and College, plus some new games that would have been great for those groups.  A lot of the family games would work here as well.  The biggest thing for this category is theme.  13-25 is a time of life where most people, guys especially, want some theme in their games.  Theme helps draw people in.  These are all games with fun themes and good gameplay to back it up.
  • Battlestar Galactica - Amazing theme incorporation, often a tense game, superb with 5 players.  It runs long (around 3 or 4 hours) but it's a great experience.
  • Pathfinder Adventure Card Game - I haven't played this, but I've heard wonderful things about it from some friends who love roleplaying.  It seems to have a lot of variety and depth.
  • Risk Legacy - This is THE GAME to buy for someone who loves Risk.  It's such a different game experience while holding on to the same mechanics.  It's still dice rolling and armies all over the place, but the game will end.  It's a matter of points and objectives not just take over the world.
  • Small World - A fairly quick (~45-60 minutes) combat game. Players use combinations of fantasy races and powers to stay on the map and earn points.  Eventually all good things must come to an end, but new things come out.  Combat is simple, turns are quick, but choices are meaningful.
  • Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game - If you have a child/parent/spouse/sibling/cousin/fiancè/etc. who loves Star Wars, buy this for them.  They will love it.  This is Star Wars space battles in a box.  There's a lot of room to expand, but this is a great place for anyone to start.
Couples games
These are all 2-player games. They come recommended to me by several couples.  I will say that I am not an expert, or even a novice here.  Really, Games with Two is your best resource for couples games in general.
  • Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small - I haven't played this, but the wonderful people over at Games With Two did a fantastic review.  Here's the Link.
  • Lost Cities - An adventure game using numbers to gain points on various trips.  You have to play cards in ascending order, and once you skip something you can never go back.  Several interesting choices in the game.
  • Hive - A tile game where each piece type has a different power associated with it.  I've only played it on the iOS, but it's a challenging game, and a good battle of wits.
  • Kahuna - Players use cards to place or remove bridges from various islands.  If you gain the majority around an island, you take control of that island and remove your opponent's bridges to that island.  That action might cause them to lose a majority on another island, and the ripple effect ensues.
  • Mr. Jack - A deduction game that uses special character abilities.  Jack the Ripper assumes a hidden identity which the inspector attempts to uncover.  Jack tries to escape under the cover of darkness, or last 8 turns, in either case he wins.
Games for the Non-Gamer
These are some ideas for games to get someone who isn't already a gamer.  They may never become a hardcore gamer, but these are some fun games that are easy to learn, play in under 30 minutes, and work for a variety of people.
  • Beyond Balderdash - A hilarious game about making things up while trying to sound like the official answer.  Balderdash is just definitions of words, Beyond Balderdash extends that to dates, places, and all kinds of other things.
  • Blokus - A great game for visual spacial people.  The puzzle pieces are tricky to get in the board, and other players often mess you up, but it's a great challenge.
  • Ingenious - This is a big matching game. The challenge comes as space gets tighter and your options decrease.  There's a lot of planning, but also choices to be made each turn.
  • Qwirkle - Place tiles in rows and columns with either the same color or the same shape, just no doubles.  Gain extra points for making a Qwirkle (all 6 pieces in a row/column)
  • Take it Easy - Similar to Bingo, but all skill instead of the random luck of numbers.  It's a puzzle game, and no direct interaction, but a true challenge of a game.
    Games for the Zombie/Horror Enthusiast
    I am not personally one of these people, but I know Zombies are a big thing lately, and there are several games that use the theme to varying degrees of success. The same goes for the horror genre, though I've played some of those games.  
    • Arkham Horror - This is the biggest game for the category.  It's a mega co-op game.  There are bunches of cards and even more tokens.  There are also around a dozen expansions.  It's a fantastic game for Lovecraft fans, and a solid game for people looking for a deep co-op experience.
    • Elder Sign - Set in the Arkham Horror universe, Elder Sign is a co-op dice game.  The challenge is to collect Elder Signs before an evil one awakens, wreaking all kinds of havoc.  Players use cards, strategy, and lots of luck to complete quests and earn items crucial to their success.  This is by no means easy, but it is a good challenge.
    • Give Me the Brain - Ever wonder what would happen if a bunch of Zombies ran a fast food restaurant? Well, this game gives you the opportunity to find out.  It's a fairly quick card game where you try to get rid of your cards as quickly as you can.
    • Last Night on Earth - A team game of humans versus zombies.  Humans are trying to escape/survive/kill zombies based on the scenario.  Gameplay is simple, lots of dice, and some fun to be had.
    • Mansions of Madness - An investigation game where players much seek out clues, avoid monsters, and try to escape with their sanity intact.  
    Party Games
    These are games that work for a large group of people.  They're meant to be loud and energetic games with a lot of laughs.
    • Bang - A wild west shoot the bad guy game.  The sheriff is known to all players, but all other players are hidden.  The outlaws try to kill the sheriff while the good guys try to kill all the outlaws.
    • Dixit Odyssey - Any Dixit works, Odyssey plays with the most people.  Dixit has amazing artwork, and draws on players imagination and story-telling abilities.  Even if you're not a good storyteller, or a creative person in general, this game is still a lot of fun.
    • Mafia/Werewolf - A hidden identity and player role game.  The werewolves/Mafia know who each other are, but the "regular" people have no clue who is who.  The "bad" guys get a kill every night, and then the group as a whole can take someone out during the day for suspicions of being the "bad" guy.  It's an interesting exercise in group think
    • Telestrations / Eat Poop You Cat - Words into a picture or a picture into words.  The game is a hilarious example of how bad communication is amongst people, especially when you can't draw.  There are no real winners or losers here, just a great way to spend time and recount things at the end.
    • Wits and Wagers Party - A trivia game where you don't really have to know anything.  Sure, having an idea about things is good, but these questions are set-up so that you don't have to know it exactly in order to do well.  The game plays fast, but there's room for discussion and chat.  It also helps to know those around you, so when that random movie question comes up, you know to bet on the movie "expert." Or when the science question comes up, you bet on the guy who's taught HS science for 20 years. The better version of Trivial Pursuit.
    Games Released in 2013 that are Worth a Look, Even Though We Haven't Played Them Much or At All.
    • Augustus - I've heard this described as gamer's Bingo.  It's a fairly light game, but looks to be a great family game.
    • Caverna - I've heard this called Agricola 2.0.  So, if your gamer is a fan of Agricola, this is certainly worth a look.
    • Eldritch Horror - This is a followup game to the wildly popular Arkham Horror.  It's cooperative, and has a lot tough decisions.  There's a lot of different things going on in this game, so players should never be bored.
    • Firefly: The Game - A must have game for the Firefly gamer in your life.  The theme is woven through this game at every turn.  It may not be a perfect game, but it captures Firefly.
    • The Duke - I've heard this described as boardgamer's chess.  There are pieces on a board that can move in different ways, but once they move, the tile is flipped over and a different move is possible.  I think this has a lot of potential, especially for a chess player looking to get into boardgames.
    Games for Gamers
    There's a lot of variety in games that gamers will like. What this category attempts to do is give some games, both new and old, that should appeal to a wide variety of gamers
    • Agricola - A classic Euro style game with a lot of replayability.  Players act as a farmer, balancing growing crops, raising animals, procuring resources for the home, and feeding their family.  There are a lot of choices to be made here, and not everything can always be done.
    • Black Friday - A Stock Market manipulation game.  There are a lot of ways to adjust the market, a lot of back and forth, fighting to increase the value of a good so you can sell it for more, or lower it, so your opponent's stash is less valuable.  The game can get a bit mathy, but it's money, so not too bad.
    • Cosmic Encounter - The grandfather of variable player powers.  Cosmic is a negotiation game with a streamlined combat system.  There's a ton of chaos, but it's mostly controlled chaos.
    • Power Grid - Another economic game with a twist.  Players purchase power plants to power cities and buy resources to power the power plants. Power plants involve an auction, purchasing resources is done from a market so that the player who is "losing" pays the least for resources.
    • Twilight Struggle - A two player political game that recreates the cold war.  Twilight Struggle is tense, has a lot going on, and will actually teach you a thing or two about the cold war era.  
    Where to actually buy the games.
    There are several places to buy these games.  Target, Toys R Us and Barnes & Nobles carry some of these games, but not all.  Amazon has just about every game listed here but can often be a little expensive.
    I personally recommend these online sites
    I hope these give you some great ideas for games to buy for those around you.
    62 games should give you some ideas.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you. May your days be spent with the ones you love.

    November 2013 Recap

    Another 30 days and we reach December.  Time for family, friends, way too much food, and a lot of other good things.

    I played 57 games in 30 days, bringing the total to 446, so my stretch goal is 500.  Possible that I'll play 54 games in December, but one never knows.

    I played 5 games for the first time this year, which brings me up to 94/100.  The biggest challenge will be getting 6 new games played.

    Just a quick list of what I actually played in November

    7 Times
    • Resistance: Avalon
    6 Times
    • King of Tokyo
    5 Times
    • Bugs in the Kitchen
    • For Sale
    • Love Letter
    • Star Trek: Attack Wing
    2 Times
    • Article 27
    • Coloretto
    • Hanabi
    • Resistance
    • Tsuro
    • X-Wing
    1 Time
    • 7 Wonders
    • Acquire
    • Castellan
    • Eight Minute Empire
    • Eight Minute Empire Legends
    • Incan Gold
    • Marvel Legendary
    • Martian Dice
    • Mystery of the Abbey
    • Power Grid
    • Risk Legacy
    • TransAmerica

    I acquired 3 new games this month.  I bought Bugs in the Kitchen, which is a really fun and light toy/game.  I was also given a copy of Kingdom Builder from my local game store - Kriers Cards and Comics in Modesto California.  Eight-Minute Empire Legends also showed up from Kickstarter

    For December, I'm going to try to get a couple of older games reviewed, and I'll also do a review of Bugs in the Kitchen.

    Also, please vote in the poll.  I want to know what you guys want to see for my top games list.

    Until next time, thanks for reading.

    Monday, November 25, 2013

    "Live Long and Prosper" - A Review of Star Trek Attack Wing

    Star Trek Attack Wing Miniatures Game
    • Designed by Andrew Parks and Christopher Guild
    • Published by WizKids Games with the flightpath license from FFG
    • For 2 players, but you can really play with any number, so long as the fleets are balanced.
    • Playtime depends on what you're doing, most core set matches will take 45 minutes, larger games run longer, it depends on how large you make it. Figure 60-90 minutes for most matches.  Organized play is exactly 60 minutes.

    Part of my painted fleet
    First off, this is a miniatures game, but don't let that scare you off.  Attack Wing plays a lot more like a board game than a traditional miniatures game.  That being said, if you get into this game, you will spend money buying expansion ships.
    Players make moves, take actions, fly around in space, all with the goal of shooting the other guy down in flames.  It may not be an accurate space combat simulation, it may not even feel accurate to Star Trek, but it is an engaging experience.

    Review Note: I have a whole lot of ships, so it's almost impossible for me to discuss only the core set.

    I have everything organized in a Plano 5231
    Core Set: 3 ships (1 Federation, 1 Klingon and 1 Romulan), and all the components you need to actually play the game.  This includes movement markers, special tokens, attack and defense dice, ship cards, and a few upgrades.
    Each Expansion: 1 Ship, a movement dial, 1 or 2 special captains, some upgrade cards, assorted tokens. For instance, the Defiant expansion comes with most of the main federation characters from Deep Space 9.
    Quality wise, all the tokens are good to great, while the cards are ok.  I have all my cards sleeved to protect them, and give them a little added rigidity.

    A Federation and
    Romulan logjam.
    Here's how turns work. All players select a movement on a movement dial for each of their ships.  Starting with the lowest captain skill and going up, players reveal their move, use the movement guide to execute the maneuver, and then select an action to perform.  After all ships have moved, the highest captain skill, and going down, makes an attack if they can.  Attacking is simple, roll dice equal to your attack value, 1 extra if you're at close range, while the defense rolls defense dice equal to their defense value, 1 extra if they're at far range.  If the attacker rolls more hits than the defense can evade, the defending ship suffers damage equal to the non-evaded hits.  When you've taken damage equal to your hull rating, your ship goes boom.

    The game offers a handful of scenarios, which I've yet to try.  I've been playing last man standing, and the Organized Play campaign, which I'll talk about shortly.

    A close up of Picard in
    command of the Defiant
    Attack Wing is full of interaction.  It's a game of out-thinking your opponent, trying to get the tactical edge, and exploit it.  It's a little slow at first, but the game quickly picks up and turns into a knock-down, drag-out fight.

    Attack Wing is Star Trek combat.  It is far from perfect, but it is easy to play.  Each captain brings their own unique ability, and each ship has its own unique ability, so it seems to work well.  The game mostly makes logical sense, aside from a full stop move.  The game does allow for some weird stuff, like being able to assign Captain Picard to a Dominion or Romulan ship, but that caries an added point cost for your squadron.

    Learning Curve
    The difference some paint makes.
    Left is out of the box,
    Right is after a base coat of grey,
    a wash, and some custom touches
    There's a medium learning curve.  There are intro rules, but they are very basic.  Still, if you've never played advanced boardgames, the intro rules give you a great jumping in point.  The full rulebook is involved.  There are a lot of things to understand, so it's best to take it step by step.  It may take a couple of games to start to understand what's going on, but you'll get there.  After you understand the core concepts, you still have squad building to work through, which can take a good deal of time.

    Why I like Attack Wing
    I've played X-Wing, and I love Star Trek.  I was skeptical for a long time about getting into another minis game, but the support from WizKids and the variety of ships have tipped me over.  The game is easy to get into, but also very challenging to master.

    Why I don't like Attack Wing
    Price point.  Core sets are reasonable, ~$25 online for 3 ships plus a whole lot of cardboard isn't bad at all.  After that though, each miniature is $10-$12 online, $15 MSRP.  Now, I know that hand-painted minis are pricy, but it can get expensive to have a large game, particularly if you don't have fellow players investing.  I'm currently in this game for around $200 with another $40+ every two months for new ships.

    Organized Play
    I've added this section for Attack Wing because it's worth talking about.  WizKids started this game off with a bang.  A 6 month campaign focusing on 6 of the biggest moments in the Dominion War from DS9.  Each month you get something just for showing up to your local store.  If you win, or get the fellowship prize, you get an exclusive ship with some new captains and various upgrade cards.  At the end of the 6 months, the overall winner takes home a "mini" Deep Space 9 which is over a foot in diameter.  They've also announced a couple of one-off events focusing around the Tholians and Gorn episodes from TOS, as well as a "Resistance is Futile" campaign which means Borg.

    Showing what a black wash can do
    Depends on what you have.  The core set offers 3 scenarios, plus dogfighting and some customization with captains, crew, and various other upgrades.  This is a great amount if you play it as a 2 or 3 player game and just as an occasional Star Trek fix.
    Once you add in extra ships, the replayability grows exponentially.  First, you'll want to play more often because the game just feels that awesome. Secondly, there are new challenges with fleet construction and point matches to keep things interesting for a long time.

    The rest of my Federation fleet
    and a comparison between
    boxed Defiant (R) and painted (L)
    I think Star Trek Attack Wing is a good design.  It uses the Star Trek license to full effect and has me, and many others, eagerly anticipating future ships.  It built on a solid set of mechanics using the Flight Path system.  The models are ok, they really need at least a wash, probably a full paint to really look good.  The gameplay is solid, though a bit random at times.  The game plays quickly, but allows for longer matches if players desire.  It really is flexible to whatever you're looking to get out of a skirmish game.  Ships die quickly in this game, which can be both good and bad depending on what you're looking for.
    Box (L) and washed and painted (R)

    Also, the future is bright with this game.  As of posting, there are 12 expansion ships, plus the 3 in the core set released.  There have been 3 months of Organized Play adding an additional 3 ships.  4 more ships are scheduled to come out in early December, 4 more in February, and 4 more in April.

    Tuesday, November 19, 2013

    Jack Vasel Memorial Fund Auction

    I know that I'm late posting about this, but the auction is still going on, so here we go.

    Every year there is a gigantic auction on boardgamegeek that benefits the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund. The simple explanation for the fund is that it helps gamers in their time of need, whatever that looks like.

    There are some amazing items up for auction, so if you can bid, please do so, but even if you can't, know that something like this exists.

    Here is the link to the auction -

    You have until Nov. 25th to bid on items.

    On a personal note, I put up the chance to write an article on the site, and there was an opening bid of $10 which I thought was amazing.  Then someone bid $15.  Then someone bid $20.  At that point I decided to open up a 2nd opportunity, and offer it to the top 2 bidders.

    The generosity of the boardgame community amazes me at every turn.

    Friday, November 15, 2013

    Article 27 Review

    Article 27: The UN Security Council Game
    • Designed by Dan Baden
    • Published by Stronghold Gales
    • For 3-6 players, ages 10+ though I recommend 4 or 5 player games, with the occasional 6.
    • Playtime is around 7 minutes per player. (5 for each negotiation round plus bookkeeping)
    Have you ever wanted to find out how you'd do in international politics?  Do you think you can convince your friends to do what you want even if it's not in their best interest?  Do you like negotiation and frantic back and forth?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then Article 27 just might be the game you're looking for.

    Player board after drawing issue tokens for the round.
    At the start of the game, each player is given a secret objective such as Power or Social Justice.  At the end, that objective will score points based on how many times it is part of a successful bill during the game.  In each round, one player is the Secretary General, which means they are in charge of crafting a bill and maintaining order to some degree.  Each player will draw 5 tokens and place them (in order) on their player board.  If the color is part of a successful bill, then the player will gain, or lose, points based on the position.  Once all players have drawn their tokens, the Secretary General places an bill on the table, bangs the gavel, and starts a 5 minute timer.

    Most of the components in the game.
    This is were the madness kicks in.  Players have at most 5 minutes to bribe others to do what they want.  Some bribes can be simple, such as, "I'll pay you 1 to put red in the bill." or "I'll pay you two to take blue out."  Other bribes can get much more complicated like "I'll pay you 4 to put yellow and blue in, take green out, and you only get it if the bill passes."  Typically the complex bribes don't work, but they can be worth trying.  Only the Secretary General may alter the bill, so those are all examples of a bribe to the SG.  A player could bribe someone by saying "I'll pay you two to vote 'yes' on the bill." or even, "I'll pay you 2 to veto."  Your own creativity is your only limitation in how you bribe others.

    The rest of the components in the game
    At the end of 5 minutes, or when the Secretary General stops negotiations, all players vote on the bill.  A player has 3 options - 1) Approve 2) Abstain 3)Veto.  If any player vetoes, they pay 5, and the bill fails.  If there is no veto, then a majority of the table must approve in order for the bill to pass.  If a bill is approved, then the Secretary General takes 5 points, all players take points equal to the sum of their positive and negative tokens, and the issues that were part of the successful bill are placed face up in the proper row, while issues left on the table are placed face down.

    This process repeats until every player has had a chance to be the Secretary General once, twice in a 3 player game.  Then players reveal their secret agenda, take points for it, and reveal their total score.  High score wins.

    The artwork on the 6 country boards
    Since Article 27 is a negotiation game, there is a great deal of interaction. Most of the interaction is with the Secretary General, but when you get a bill you really like, you have to make sure that no one is going to veto it, so you have to gauge other players and perhaps bribe them to make that happen.  Article 27 is founded on negotiation and interaction.  Without it, the game is rather dull.

    Article 27 does a decent job of incorporating it's theme into the game.  I rarely feel like I'm a country negotiating with other countries, but the theme is there for people who want it.  Some people will start talking in accents, which is often hilariously bad, but it adds to the game.

    The final issue board.
    Money gets 3 points, Prestige gets 6 points,
    Justice gets 10 points, Peace gets 6 points,
    Innovation gets 6 points, and Power gets 6 points.
    Very simple components here.  Everyone has an approve and reject token and 6 country tokens.  The issue tokens are well done, though white on yellow was not the best call, so I had my sister use a sharpie to outline the pictures.  The player boards are well designed, though I wish that the screens were less prone to coming undone.  All the components are good quality, the artwork is well done, even if not to everyone's taste.  The gavel sends it over the top though.  It has to be one of the better components in any game.

    Learning Curve
    I think that Article 27 is the kind of game where you need to play it, or at least see it played before you truly grasp what is going on.  It's not that the game is overly complicated, it's that the game has several things going on that everyone needs to track.  It helps immensely if someone has played it before.

    I've played Article 27 13 times in the past several months.  However, it's been played less often.  I'm always up for this, but not everyone else enjoys it.  I think that might be because you're essentially playing the same thing every time.  Sure the secret agendas change, and the way issues come up, and the tokens you draw, but really the game is fundamentally the same every time.  I don't think that being the same is a terrible thing, but I wonder how much more I can really play it.

    Why I like Article 27
    Negotiation is fun for me.  Having to compromise, yet knowing when to flex your veto muscle is a great challenge.  You have to read people, try to figure out who wants what, and you have to maximize your points.

    Why I don't like Article 27
    The lack of variety as mentioned in replayability doesn't help.  If people aren't engaged, the game can fall flat.  It does take a group who's willing to work together but also mess with each other to bring out the fun in the game.

    A Screenshot of the free timer app from Stronghold Games.
    It also makes gavel noises at the start as well as every minute.
    I like Article 27, but I can't love it.  It's a solid game, but after the first 10 or so plays, the shine is gone.  I'll still play it any chance I get, but I'm not actively seeking it out.  If you're into negotiation, this is a great game to try.  I'm happy I own it, I think it fills that negotiation niche in my collection.  I'd love an expansion, but I have no idea what you'd do in an expansion for this game.

    Would it be a good game for Tabletop?
    Perhaps.  BGG's Gamenight played this, and I enjoyed watching that.  I'm not sure Tabletop would be right since they edit a lot for time.

    Friday, November 1, 2013

    October 2013 Recap

    Another 31 days and a new month.  I hit 2000 life time game plays which I'll detail in another post.  #2000 was X-Wing for any curious people.

    I played 50 games in 31 days, which hits the 365 game play total for the year! That total now stands at 389, so my stretch goal is 500.

    I played 7 games for the first time this year, which brings me up to 89/100.

    Just a quick list of what I actually played in October

    9 Times
    • Resistance: Avalon
    4 Times
    • For Sale
    • Incan Gold
    3 Times
    • Love Letter
    • Pizza Theory
    • Resistance
    • Star Trek: Attack Wing
    2 Times
    • Forbidden Desert
    • King of Tokyo
    • Nefarious
    • Pandemic
    • X-Wing
    1 Time
    • Dominion
    • Get Bit
    • Hanabi
    • Mystery of the Abbey
    • No Thanks
    • Phase 10
    • Rattus
    • Small World
    • Star Trek: Expeditions
    • TransAmerica
    • Word on the Street

    I acquired 3 new games, and several expansions this month.  I picked up the 4 new Star Trek Attack Wing wave 1 ships, as well as a couple B-Wings for X-Wing.  I also bought Forbidden Desert which is a very fun and challenging co-op game.

    For November, I have my Article 27 review done, just need to take pictures.  I will also get out a review on Star Trek Attack Wing.  Not sure what else I'll get to, but I'll try to write more than I have the last couple of months.

    Also, please vote in the poll.  I want to know what you guys want to see for my top games list.

    Until next time, thanks for reading.

    Thursday, October 31, 2013

    A Breakdown of 2000 Plays

    Since Wednesday marked my 2000th recorded gameplay, I wanted to make a post detailing some of the games that got me to that point.  These have all been plays since 2007, so 6.5 years.  I've had ups and downs in terms of plays per year, but the average is around 300.

    Without further adieu, my top 10 played games on the way to 2000.

    #1 - Cosmic Encounter - 248 plays - 12.4%
    The game I've played more than any other, though not lately.  I still love Cosmic and will never turn down an opportunity to play.

    #2 - Dominion - 222 plays - 11.1%

    #3 - Ticket to Ride - 87 plays - 4.35%
    This counts all the different maps of Ticket to Ride.

    #4 - Pandemic - 78 plays - 3.9%

    #5 - Tsuro - 57 plays - 2.85%

    #6 - Settlers of Catan - 56 plays - 2.8%
    This includes Seafarers, Cities and Knights, Traders and Barbarians, as well as Star Trek.  Figured it was easier to just put them all together.

    #7 - Incan Gold - 52 plays - 2.6%

    #8 - King of Tokyo and Tiki Topple - 48 plays each - 2.4%

    #10 - Battlestar Galactica - 46 plays - 2.3%

    So 10 games account for 942 plays which is nearly half of all my game plays.  I've played 181 different games at least once. (after I eliminate different versions of Ticket to Ride, and other similar games) I've played 21 games at least 20 times, which I consider a good return on investment.

    For me, the interesting thing will be to track the games I play that get me from 2000 to 2500 and/or 3000.

    Let me leave you with this.
    There are many games we love.  You can see some of mine on this list just based on how many times I play them.  We often get caught up in the newest games, but we should take the time to enjoy old favorites.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with playing new games, just don't forget about older ones.

    What are some of your most played games?  Leave a comment please.

    Thursday, October 17, 2013

    What Kind of Game Group?

    I was listening to Dice Tower Podcast Episode 324 the other day, and there was a contributor, Barry, who was discussing the failings he had with his own game group.  In response, Tom and Eric each gave helpful advice for anyone running a game group.  The piece of advice that stuck with me boiled down to knowing your audience.  Simple things like not bringing Twilight Imperium 3 to a church game night, or a New Years Eve party, not bringing party games to a strategic gamers meeting.  The advice seems obvious at first, but I realized how many times I've messed that up, and seen others mess it up.

    I am the lead organizer for a game group that meets in a card and comic shop.  As such, the typical patron isn't a hardcore boardgamer.  If they're a boardgamer at all, they're looking for something with a lot of theme, and relatively light - think Marvel Legendary, DC deckbuilding game, King of Tokyo, etc.  There's nothing wrong with these games, in fact there are many good games in this area, but I have to know my audience.  There are times I want to play something meatier, but I have to pick and choose.  Now, a lot of the regulars to gamenight are happy to try out just about anything, which is a great dynamic.  Still, I find myself bringing a lot of the same games each week.  At some point it becomes easier to play something everyone knows rather than teach something new.  The store environment lends itself to the lighter games, easy to teach, accommodates a good number of people.  There will always be room to try to add something new into the mix, even a deep Euro, but for the most part, the games played will be on the lighter side of things.

    I also attend a bi-weekly gaming group that started out solely playing Settlers of Catan.  Now, I like Settlers, but I needed more variety, so I started bringing other games.  They didn't catch on at first, but eventually they did, and now Settlers hasn't even been opened up in 3 months.  It'll come back, but it's nice to have the variety.  The group perplexes me sometimes, because they like to keep things fairly light, yet there are several who really like Imperial which is a very deep game.  I think the group is willing to go for just about anything, and it's nice to have a game that pushes you from time to time, but you also have to have a comfort zone.  The great thing about this group is that it's growing, so hopefully we'll be splitting into multiple games so people can choose if they want something a little lighter or heavier.  All that to say, that group started as one where I thought along the lines of party games and light fillers like Incan Gold, For Sale, etc.  We still play those games, but we've also grown to love Resistance: Avalon, Article 27, and a whole slew of other games.  At this point I think I could bring just about any game to this group and they'd give it a go.

    Know your audience.  If you're in a public place, and you want to get new people in, have games that will work for them.  If you really want to find the deep strategic gamers, they're out there too.  All kinds of game groups exist, because all kinds of different people like different styles and complexity levels of games.  It's important to know who you're looking to interact with and what kinds of games you want to play.  If you love strategy, you don't want to get stuck playing Munchkin or Wits and Wagers for the 20th time.  If you love party games, you don't want to be roped into Agricola or Puerto Rico.  There's nothing wrong with exploring new games, but don't torment yourself by repeatedly playing games you will never love just because other people do.

    Tuesday, October 8, 2013

    Resistance: Avalon Review

    Resistance: Avalon
    • Designed by Don Eskridge
    • Published by Indie Boards and Cards
    • For 5-10 players, ages 13+
    • Playtime is around 20 minutes.
    You are a knight of the round table who is attempting to go on quests and figure out who the traitors are.  Unless you're a traitor, in which case you are trying to fail quests and place blame on others.  Avalon is a game of deduction and bluffing.  Evil is around you, and your job is to figure it out before the kingdom is lost forever.

    There will be a mix of traitors and loyal knights at the round table.  How many depends on the number of players, but typically it's one less than half the group.  At the start of the game, everyone is given a role card.  There are some generic loyal and traitor knights, but there are also some special characters which I'll discuss in a bit.  Once everyone looks at their card, a player will conduct the opening of the game by having everyone put their heads down and then traitors will look up and see each other.  Then they go back to sleep, but they place a thumb up in the center of the table.  At this point, Merlin(a good guy) wakes up and sees who all the evil players are, but no one sees him.  (Various other characters can add to this, but I won't discuss them here.)

    Then the game begins.  The starting player nominates the number of players for the first quest (this varies based on player count) and all knights vote to approve or reject the team.  Since this is the round table, everyone has an equal voice and majority rules.  If a team is rejected, then the crown passes to the next player who nominates a new team.  If a team is approved, then those players go on a quest.

    Typical roles for a 5 player game
    On a quest, each player is given a Success and a Fail card.  If a player is loyal, they MUST play success.  If a player is a traitor, they have the option of playing success (deep cover) or playing a fail.  These cards are placed in the center and mixed up.  If there is even one fail, the quest fails.  The only way to succeed is if all cards are a success.  This continues until one side has won 3 quests.

    At this point you're thinking that this sounds pretty simple, and that Merlin has a huge advantage.  Well, you're right on both counts.  The counter to Merlin is that at the end of the game, if the loyal knights are victorious, then the traitors have a chance to assassinate Merlin.  If they guess correctly, then they win instead.  The counter to the game being simple is that player interaction makes the game insanely messy and complicated in a good way.

    Avalon is one of the, if not the best example of an interactive game.  Everyone knows a part of the puzzle.  Spies and Merlin know the whole thing, but they can't convey their knowledge without giving something away.  Every single action you perform in this game tells a little something about who you are.  Who you send on teams when you're the leader is vitally important, but so is the way you approve or reject teams.  Then there's the way you talk to other players.  There's a lot of group think, but you can never rely on it because you never know who's on your side.  I'm a very vocal player in this game, which is great when I'm Merlin or a spy, but terrible when I'm a normal good person.  Still, I have to be the same vocal person every time.  Because I'm very vocal, and because I'm a very logical thinker, I have a lot of persuasion power over people.  Someone once said I could convince a loyal knight that they were a traitor.  I don't think I can quite do that, but the idea is there.  I once gave a completely logical argument to Player A as to why I wasn't a spy and Player B was.  Player A believed me, and yes, you guessed it, I was a spy.  Those are the moments this game provides.

    Avalon is reasonably themed.  I enjoy Arthurian lore, so the game is a fit for me.  This is a rethemed version, with additions, of The Resistance.  I bought the Resistance in 2012, and it fell flat.  It wasn't bad, but it just didn't grab anyone.  Avalon captured people's attention and imagination.  Having traitors in your midst provides tension to the game, but not so much that it makes people overly anxious.  I think the short playtime really helps with that balance.

    Pile of components in the game.
    A lot in a small box.
    Very simple components here.  Everyone has an approve and reject token, there are loyalty cards, boards for the different player counts, and success/fail tokens to mark the results of past quests.  They're all solid and functional components.  I am noticing some wear on my approve and reject tokens, but that's not a huge issue.

    Learning Curve
    I think that almost anyone could learn this game with just the rules, but it probably takes a play to see how things work.  For some it may take more to feel comfortable enough with all that's going on, and to play all the different roles, before they really grasp the game.

    I've already played 23 games in the 2 months or so that I've owned the game.  This almost always gets played at my biweekly Friday night gamenight, and we play at least 3 times.  I want to play this game even more than I already do.  There's something new every time I play, even when everyone has exactly the same roles they've already had.

    Why I like Resistance: Avalon
    This gives me a reason to flex my analytical muscle.  I love trying to figure out the puzzle.  It forces me to talk and organize things, but also to slide into the background at times.  I enjoy playing this game with any role, though Merlin is the most fun for me and loyal servant is the most challenging.

    Why I don't like Resistance: Avalon
    It really takes a group of people who are either comfortable with each other, or players who are willing to make wild accusations to keep the game interesting.  If everyone just does their own thing, the game can be boring.

    All of the roles (From L to R, Top then Bottom)
    Normal evil, Mordred, Assassin, Oberon, Morgana
    Normal good x3, Percival, Merlin
    If you couldn't tell from the above that I really really like this game, then you probably just skipped down here.  In all seriousness, this is a huge keeper for me, and it may do shocking things when my top games list comes out in January.

    Some people call this a Werewolf/Mafia knockoff/clone/variant.  It's true to a very small extent, but here's why I like The Resistance better.  You don't need a moderator, which let's everyone play.  It also has no player elimination, which keeps everyone involved the entire time.  Sure, you can have a spy outed really early, but there's always the chance that they can try to work their way into good graces again, whereas in Mafia/Werewolf, once they're lynched they're gone forever.

    Would it be a good game for Tabletop?
    Sure, they already did normal Resistance, why not throw in Avalon?