Monday, March 11, 2013

Extolling the Virtues of the Local Store

Since I started buying games, I've done most of my buying online.  It's cheaper, they have most of the things I want to get in stock, and many offer customer loyalty programs.  What online can't offer is personalized recommendations and instant gratification.  At this point you're going, yeah, yeah, I get it, difference between cheaper cost but waiting and buy it now, make your point already.  So here's my point in a single sentence - In the world of boardgames, personal recommendations, and having a store go out of its way to provide you with an enjoyable gaming experience, is worth far more than the price difference between that store and online pricing.

I'm not trying to tell you that you're a bad person if you order online.  If I did, I'd be a very big hypocrite.  Sometimes the local store isn't all that great for any number of reasons. I won't get into that, that's a post of its own.  When the local store is great, then they're worth investing in.  If the local gamers don't support the store, the store goes away.  That's the facts of business and the free market.  Now, I'm fortunate to have two stores I consider to be my local game stores.  One is in town, about 10 minutes away, and the other is a few towns away, about 30-40 minutes away.  The one in town caters mostly to Magic players, comic book enthusiasts and the like.  They have a selection of around 30 boardgames, and they're willing to order most anything for you.  Well, having something ordered for me kinda defeats the purpose of shopping at the store, but I appreciate the service that exists.  The store that's a bit away is truly a game store.

Gateplay is my "local" store of choice.  While they aren't open 7 days a week, they do a lot of events, in fact they hosted the tournament of games I discussed in this post, and an X-Wing gathering/tournament to celebrate the Wave 2 release.  They have a library of around 60 games which are open to anyone to pull off the shelf and play.  The store also stocks over 100 games, and is willing to special order anything as well.  The owner is very personable, and willing to help you find something that you'll enjoy playing.  He seems to be someone who loves games who happens to run a game store, rather than a business owner who happens to be in the boardgame world.  One of Gateplay's missions is to find the best boardgames that will appeal to a wide variety of people, including the serious gamer and the casual gamer.  You may find their website to be limited, but what you will find are games that should appeal to a wide audience.

I play boardgames for fun and for the people.  It makes me feel good to support a small business that cares about similar things when it comes to games.  I'm in no way affiliated with Gateplay beyond being a customer and an occasional Tournament Organizer at the store.  I feel that good things deserved to be brought to the attention of others.

We all have a plethora of stores at which we can spend our gaming dollars.  Sometimes price or availability is the motivating factor in a purchase, other times it's convenience or a desire to have the game today.  I think there's room for local game stores and warehouse sites.  I don't think either one will drive the other out of business.    As someone who owns too many games, I will say that I would rather have 20 great games that I can play repeatedly than 50 games that I play a few times and get bored.  If I have to pay $5-$10 more on a game, but it's a great game, I consider that worthwhile.  Afterall, it's far more expensive to buy 2 games than 1.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Few First Impressions

I've been playing several new games/expansions lately.  Since I haven't played any of them enough to do a full review, I thought I would just give some of my thoughts on them.  All of these games have been played less than 5 times, and my opinions may change with additional plays.

King of Tokyo
A quick and entertaining game.  Lots of luck with the dice, slightly mitigated by the Yahtzee style re-roll (3 chances to roll, hold any you want).  There are a lot of interesting cards that can alter the flow of the game.  It's not a game to take too seriously, but it is a lot of fun.  Works with up to 6 people, 7 if you get the Power-Up Expansion.

An interesting blend of cards and dice.  The card draft at the beginning seems really important, but it's hard to have a cohesive strategy for that at the beginning.  Adapting to the dice rolls each round, and deciding when to use your special abilities is also important.  The game has a lot of potential, and a lot of cards that will likely keep it fresh for awhile.

Smash Up
I've only played this as a 2 player game, but I've enjoyed it.  It has great potential to work for more players.  I really like the way each set of factions interacts with the other.  Some faction combinations are likely better than others, but I'm not that invested in the game yet.  I have a fun time playing cards, messing with other people, and trying to capture bases.

I know this is an old game (2003) but I was only introduced to it in the late fall of 2012.  I've played it a few times since and I'm really enjoying it.  It's not a complex game, but there is a good mix of luck of strategy.  Players try to build the best Alhambra using buildings of 6 different types.  There are 3 scoring rounds, with each round yielding more points than the last.

X-Wing Wave 2
Specifically the Millennium Falcon, Slave 1, A-Wings, and Tie-Interceptors.  The big ships are a challenge to weave through the asteroids, but I think that makes them more interesting.  They both have low agility values, so they can't just rush into the fight.  Also, they both have a lot of room for upgrades, leading to a lot of variety.  The smaller ships are fast and nimble.  One player at a tournament called them "squirrely."  I think that is the best way to describe them.  The A-Wings don't pack a huge punch, but they are a capable fighter.  They're also hard to bring down in one shot.  The interceptors seem to be the best overall Imperial fighter, but time will tell on that.  Both of the new small ships emphasize careful maneuvering and focusing on angles and range.  They aren't ships you can just fly into the fray and hope for the best.

Kings of Air and Steam
A very well designed game.  It's the first pick-up and deliver game I've purchased, though I've played others.  The game seems very balanced, though I've yet to play with the variable characters.  The game leaves you wanting just 1 more action to do something, so that means the choices are well spread out and meaningful.  It is a bit long, and it can be very thought intense, but it is worth the investment.

This is a quick dice game about building skyscrapers.  Each turn you take 3 dice (ground floor, middle, penthouse) and roll. You then have to add at least one to your building area, then you can reroll, and repeat.  The game only takes about 10-15 minutes, and it has some meaningful choices, especially for a short dice game.

Want to buy one of the games discussed here and support BoBG?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Tournament of Games

On Saturday I had the opportunity to play in a tournament of games.  Now, you're probably asking what in the world is a tournament of games.  Well, it's what it sounds like.  You play a bunch of different games and get points based on where you place.  There were also time multipliers to help balance between long and short games.  Prizes were given out to hourly winners, as well as the overall point scores.  There were 8 gamers present, and due to timing of things, we split into two tables of 4 and never mixed (sadly).

The day started with somewhat ominous words "Who wants to play Munchkin?"  I figured it couldn't hurt as a warm-up game, and fortunately the game took less than an hour.  Three of us were at level 9, and the game ended quickly after people hit 9.  After Munchkin, we decided to play a quick game of Tsuro to get another game in before the hour was over.  One player had some unfortunate tiles, and had to leave the board on his 3rd play.  I may have expedited his departure, though not intentionally.  I got caught between allowing someone to dictate my move, or going to the edge and needing to draw a tile to live.  I chose the edge, and didn't get what I needed.  So after 1 hour I had tied for 2nd, and come in 3rd.  Not a great start, but not the worst either.

At this point we decided to go for something a little longer, so Ticket to Ride came out.  We decided to play on the US map, since two people had never played.  Unfortunately, the store copy was just the base game, so "hobbit" cards were the order of the hour.  I had some rough luck with destinations, as well as getting blocked a couple of times.  I managed to eek out 3rd, but I was 20+ points behind 2nd.  One of the new players ended up winning, which was nice to see.  Two players went out to grab food since it was around dinnertime, so I sat down to Zombie Fluxx with one player.  I drew a lot of zombies, far more than she did.  I was one turn away from winning when she played a goal and snatched the win.  So yes, if you're keeping track at home, I'm winless through 4 games.

We returned to our train theme with TransAmerica.  I figured I had a decent chance with this.  I've done well when I've played irl, and online.  Well, today, luck was not on my side.  I ended up being the first off the track, taking a lovely 4th place.  At this point, I was tired of losing, and 1 player needed to leave in about 30 minutes, so I suggested For Sale.  Now, For Sale is not a game I always win, nor do I always do well, but I thought I had a good chance.  Turns out my thoughts were right.  I managed to snag the 30 and 28 at auction, with the 29 being removed from the game.  The end score reflected that boost, as I had $10,000 more than 2nd place.  Lastly, the 3 of us decided to play Pizza Theory.  It made sense to both guys who had never played, and they both beat me.  It only took us two rounds, before the veggies had taken over the pizza.

Overall I played 7 games.  I won once (For Sale), came in 2nd twice (Zombie Fluxx, Munchkin), 3rd three times (Tsuro, Ticket to Ride, Pizza Theory) and 4th once (Trans America)  And all of that netted me last place, which was a victory in and of itself.  I did win a prize for that (Order Up), and I got a little game (Flapjacks and Sasquatches thanks to Mike's kindness).
Even though this was a tournament, and with it, a competition, it was still about having fun.  I got to teach games all day, and play with people who were eager to learn.  There were a lot of laughs, a lot of smiles, and I think everyone had a good time.

I was also excited to go down to Gateplay because I had my Wave 2 X-Wing ships on order.  I has Falcon.  I also picked up an expansion to Flash Point, and an expansion to King of Tokyo, meaning I own an expansion to a game I don't yet have in my possession.  (The order is coming on Monday from UPS, it got delayed due to the snowstorms in the midwest.)

Friday, March 1, 2013

February 2013 Recap

Another 4 weeks and a new month.

February was a good month of gaming for me, but not for the usual reasons.  My play count was down, one of my dear friends and faithful gamers is moving overseas for at least the next 2 years, an opportunity in the gaming world came and went just like that, and I only made one post. So that's a lot of bad things, but they're all part of life.  The good of February was two-fold.  One, I played Alhambra with my parents.  When we were done my mom said "The next time we play, I'll pay more attention to that."  It's huge for her to say that. She's not a gamer, well, not really.  She'll play Ticket to Ride, Shadows Over Camelot, maybe Carcassonne, Tiki Topple, For Sale, but nothing huge.  She's usually the person we have to talk into playing, so for her to talk about the next time is a minor miracle.  I also *finally* received Kings of Air and Steam from Kickstarter. I say finally because the project funded in November 2011 with an intended release of Summer 2012.  I've played it twice, and both games have been close with everyone enjoying it.  The most recent game was a "3 Player Cutthroat"with a final score of 157-154-153.

I logged 17 game plays not counting expansions, which is now 46/365. It's 13 plays behind the curve, but not a terrible start.  I played 8 games for the first time this year, which brings me up to 29/100.  I also got to play with 3 new people, bringing that count to 18/50.

Just a quick list of what I actually played in February

2 Times
  • 7 Wonders
  • Alhambra
  • Kings of Air and Steam
  • Skyline
  • Tsuro
1 Time
  • Fleet
  • Las Vegas
  • Pizza Theory
  • Roll Through the Ages
  • Saint Petersburg
  • Shadows Over Camelot: The Card Game
  • TransAmerica

I acquired four new games, three thanks to Kickstarter games showing up (finally).  Those games are Alhambra, Kings of Air and Steam, Ground Floor, and Skyline.  I've played all except Ground Floor, but that will happen at a game-night soon, after I read the rules.

Looking ahead to March, two exciting things of note.  On the 2nd, I'll be at a tournament of games, and hopefully will have a prize from that.  It's going to be a great opportunity to play with some new people and play a bunch of games.  I'm also taking place in an X-Wing Tournament the 2nd week of March to celebrate the launch of the Wave 2 ships.  I'll try to do a report of the tournaments, hopefully someone will find that interesting.

Reviews. I know I'm not getting content out there, but trust me, it's coming. I did get Flash Point out there, so hopefully you've had a chance to take a look at that.  I'm currently at a weird point with games to review right now.  I haven't been playing enough of anything to warrant a review, especially since I don't want to rush judgement on a game.  I may take some time to do a few lighter games like Fluxx and Munchkin just as a change of pace.

Until next time, thanks for reading.