Archive for the ‘Gaming’ Category

Who likes Skinner Boxes?

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

 

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So I “participate” in a bunch of skinner boxes. I keep going to work, and they keep giving me money which I can then use for food. That’s the main box. I also work a second job for which I’m rewarded with games. Fortunately most of those are board games or miniatures games, few (if any) of which can be described with this slightly pejorative moniker. On the other hand, I pretty much constantly have one skinner box on my phone. For a while it was Tiny Tower, or Pocket Planes, or Coin Dozer. Tiny Tower I beat … as in, there was almost literally nothing left for me to do in the game. I got every possible building, I had everyone working their dream job (with a 7 or higher rating out of 10 possible). Thing is, most skinner box style games don’t have a “win condition”. DragonVale, my current addiction, falls squarely into this. They add new dragons frequently, and some dragons can only be hatched at certain times.

I rather like DragonVale, which I’ll acknowledge is dangerous in and of itself. Here’s what I like, you get to raise and breed dragons. And they fly around on the screen in the game and slowly earn me money with which I can buy more areas in which I can raise more dragons. Of course, I need to feed my dragons so they’ll grow up… though once they’re fully grown you no longer need to feed them. In a way I’m kind of disappointed, because was such an onerous and repetitive a task required to play the game I probably would already have deleted it. Mostly though it’s hop on some time in the morning before work, harvest my money and food, see if I’ve got a new egg to hatch, or my breeding pair have produced a new egg … done. I’ll probably check again around lunch time, and then sometime in the evening as well… In general the game eats up about 15-30 minutes of my time each day. Not too bad for a skinner box.

Would I recommend this? Well, yes, especially if we’re friends on facebook, because then we can swap gems (the pay for it currency which you can slowly acquire through in game means as well). If you don’t deal well game addiction … well maybe this isn’t the right one for you. Especially if you’re already playing Pocket Planes, Farmeville and 7 other skinner box games.

Monster Hearts – Session 1

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

monsterheartsA ghoul, a werewolf, and the chosen one walk into the bar… and then get kicked out because their fake IDs are crap.

So I just started running a game of Monsterhearts. This is a storygame, loosely based off of the Apocalypse World engine, but it’s a Teen Monster Sex Drama thing. I’ll admit, this isn’t exactly “my genre”, but at least it’s not fantasy. And here’s the wonderful, beautiful thing about AW hacks, I barely have to do anything. Unlike D&D or other traditional RPGs there are no rails for me to keep things on. In fact some of the best story happens when things don’t go as expected. My job is more to know when to switch scenes, to make sure everyone gets time in the lime-light. Keep things fun and interesting and complicated and messy.

Just thinking back, I can think of so many things I could have done better, but because the focus is on the players, not “my pet story” it doesn’t matter. I’d bet most of my “mistakes” went unnoticed. The other thing I love about this style game is the amount of prep required, which is to say barely any. There are a few things I plan to do before the next session, mainly come up with some lists. I want a nice list of a couple dozen names I can quickly nab for NPCs. Maybe a bunch of “descriptors” as well so instead of spending 45 seconds coming up w/ the name Theresa for a waitress, and spending so much time thinking of that that I didn’t even describe her, I can spend the same amount of time, cross out Theresa, Curly hair, Curvy and people will have a much better idea of who she is, even if she ends up only being a bit character.

My only disappointment is how excited I am. It’s been slightly over a day since our first session, and I’m already super excited about the next one. On a related note, our gaming group now has an official name I Podcast Magic Missile and we’re going to start blogging there as well as posting our Actual Plays. I may switch to 3 times a week here, and once or twice a week there, or find a way to crosspost. More info, and links coming once we get some content organized on there.

Eclipse

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

 

eclipse player board

It appears that Eclipse is a 4X board game that can be played in a reasonable amount of time? Who would have thought. It says 30 minutes per player on the tin, and assuming everyone knows how to play that seems easily achievable (if not better).

The technology “tree” is fairly nice, feels weighty and meaningful, but is still pretty simple. Of course I’m going to talk about the Techtree first, did you think I’d been replaced? Anyway, the “available tech” is limited. There are ~4 copies of each tech in the bag, and you pull out a few each turn (6 per turn + initial seed in a three player game). In a 5-6 player game some folks just aren’t going to get tech, but even in the three player game we played some of the tech didn’t come out in time. Every tech has 2 prices, Normal and Minimum. So something simple might cost 2/2 something more difficult might be 8/4. There are three general types of tech, and as you buy more of one, you get a discount on future ones, down to the minimum price.

There are three resources in the game, Money, Material and Science. Science gets you tech. Material builds you stuff, and you have to pay money each turn to keep your empire running. You can take as many actions as you want each turn, but each one uses one of your influence discs (two if you’re colonizing a new zone). The more discs you use, the higher your upkeep (in money) each turn. There are three kinds of planet in the game (four if you count wild) and each time you settle one your production of the appropriate type of resource increases. The board is hex based, and modular. Exploration can lead to possible fights with ancient races, and various bonuses.

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Diplomacy basically lets you send a population cube to an opponent you are adjacent to (and they send one to you) make both of your races more productive, and giving a victory point. Winning wars lets you pull a number of victory tokens from the bag, but you only get to keep one of them. And even then you only have 4-5 spots which double as spots for diplomats. You can of course return the lowest victory token to the bag when you get a better one, but ending diplomacy isn’t so simple. And if you end it with a sneak attack you take the traitor token (worth -2 victory points) from whomever may have it.

The game looks way more complex then it is… there are lots of parts and initial setup takes extra long if you don’t know exactly what you are doing, but with a bit of proper pre-sorting it should be manageable. I’m going to use a bead box like the one pictured to the left (it was like $3-5 at Michaels) to hold everything, which should make setup a lot simpler.

I can’t wait to play this again!

Dixit – Game Review

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

 

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Dixit is a great game for all ages. It is a game about balance. It’s a game about telling stories. Here’s how it works. Each player takes a turn being the storyteller. You have a handful of cards with various pictures on them. The storyteller will pick one card and try and tell a story about it that is obvious enough so that at least one person is able to guess it, but not so obvious that everyone does. So Balance. Once the storyteller has put a card face down on the table, everyone else looks through their hands and tries to find the card that would most easily be mistaken for the correct choice. You get a point for everyone who guesses your card instead of the correct card. If no one guesses the right card the storyteller also loses 2 points. If everyone guesses it, the same thing happens. Then it’s time for the next person to tell a story.

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If you’ve played Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity then the basic principle will be familiar to you, but the added interaction of trying to come up with stories that only one person will get is a refreshing change. Plus you don’t have to worry about someone always picking certain cards as right just because they think it’s funny which can be a problem in both A2A and CAH. Games are fairly quick once everyone understands what’s going on, and participation is pretty constant. The cards are beautifully illustrated, and there are 2 “expansion packs” that each have another 80 or so cards to either make the base game longer, or give a  new twist to it. I’d definitely recommend checking it out if you have a chance. The only downside is this game really requires 4 or 5 players to shine, and supports 6 at most. I’m kind of tempted to make a 8 player expansion, I don’t think it would slow down the game much, and with 2 packs of cards it should still be sufficiently long.

Village game review

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

village board big So the biggest problem with worker placement games is the huge front end of explaining how the game works. They can be a ton of fun, and they’re great for building tension as you try and figure out how you can manage to accomplish all of the things you need with limited resources. The newest Worker Placement game in my library is Village.

Now, one of the coolest things about this game is that people are going to die, and that’s not entirely a bad thing. In fact, when people die, they go to the village chronicle (the book in the lower right of the board) … well, as long as there is space. If there isn’t space they go to one of the unmarked graves in the lower left of the board. The game ends when the book is full, or all of the unmarked graves are. There are a lot of ways to get victory points, and if you have 3+ people in the chronicle you’ll get victory points. Depending on the number of players there are more or less spots, and there are limited spaces depending on your peoples’ jobs at the time of their demise. In a 4 player game 2 council members will be recorded, and 5 farmers. And it’s first come first serve, so sometimes you do want to die first.

However there’s more to this game than just dying. There are a mess of resource cubes. Each time you do something you earn one of them. And in general you can’t do a thing unless there are still cubes available for that are. So for instance, the council generally starts with 2 cubes. If they’re gone when your turn comes up you’re basically out of luck. Some tasks can be accomplished w/ the appropriate cubes but more often you’ll use time to get things done. Say you want to create a wagon so you can send one of your family off traveling to distant lands. It’ll take 2 time to for your dude to learn how to make a wagon and 2 more to actually make it. On a future turn it’ll only take 2 time to make a wagon… unless of course your dude dies in the meantime. Every 10 time, one of your dudes dies. And it has to be from your oldest generation. You start with four 1st generation people. The family action will get you three generation 2 people, then 3 and then 4.

There’s a market, which may well be the key to high scores, I haven’t yet seen anyone broach 60 points, though the board goes to 80. The game is a little long at 60-90 minutes, and probably will be longer the first few times you play, but it is quite fun once you get the hang of it, and trying to get your people killed off at just the right time can be kind of hilarious, as can be realizing you let one of your mans live too long. I’m certainly looking forwards to playing a game of this where everyone knows how to play.

Miskatonic School for Girls

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

miskatonicSo as part of one of the many Kickstarter projects I’ve supported I got Miskatonic School for Girls. I love Deck Building Games, I liker player interaction, and I’m a fan of the Lovecraft Mythos. So here’s the premise, each player represents one of the Houses at girls preparatory school. The twist is that the teachers are all Eldritch horrors from beyond time and space. As with many games with a Lovecraftian theme, the goal isn’t so much to win, as to be the last person to lose, or in this case go insane.

Each turn you buy two cards. One is a student (that will generally be in your next hand) and one is a Faculty card, which goes to the player on your left. This is an important point, as long as your opponent is still sane, you are ruining their deck every turn. I bring this up because every card generates Nightmare points (to buy Faculty), Hearts (to buy students) or Either. That is to say a card might have both Nightmare AND Heart points on it… but you only get one. The reason this is important is if you concentrate really hard on hosing the person to your left, you’re going to neglect your own deck, and unless it’s a two player game the person to your right will probably end up winning because you’ll be an easy mark. However if you solely concentrate on honing your own deck you’ll also probably end up going insane, because you won’t be messing with your opponents enough.

One thing this game lacks is one of my favorite things to do in Deck Building games, which is deck thinning. Okay, there’s like 2 cards that do it once per game … which means I stand by my original statement.

On the other hand, this game also has another “game mechanic” which I love, though I use the term in the loosest of all possible senses. See your sanity track is split into 4 colors. When your sanity drops to a new color you have to laugh or cackle crazily to represent yourself going insane. The punishment for failing to do so is to be taunted by the other players. That’s it, the reprobation of your peers is the only enforcement of the rule.

Gauntlet Of Fools

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Gauntlet of Fools

Possibly the most fun you will have facing Certain Death. And I do mean Certain, as in everyone dies. The goal isn’t to survive; it’s to have the most gold before you die. More precisely it’s to have the most gold once everyone is dead. The Zombie can earn gold post-mortem after all, at least, as long as someone else is still alive.

So you may have played a dumb game around Xmas called Dirty Santa or Yankee Swap or White Elephant or any of near a dozen other names. Basically it’s Secret Santa with a twist that you can steal presents from other people. Why do I bring that up? Well because that is kind of the root of this game… except instead of presents, you’re stealing heroes. All heroes aren’t created equal, but even if they were, some work better with different weapons, and each hero get a random weapon. The glare makes it a little hard to see, but I’ve got a Priest with a Sword in the picture to the right. Now if everyone just took turns picking heroes, whomever went first would get the best hero, and the last player would be hosed. That’s boring, and you might as well just roll a die to see who wins at that point. This is where the White Elephant comes in… After I’ve picked a Hero (and whatever weapon he’s got this week) the next player can either pick a different hero, or they can steal mine, but to do that they have to make an additional boast.

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Now in the game pictured to the right I got the Priest without having to boast at all, but he ended up being pretty crappy and I lost hard. I should probably have stolen the Armorer or one of the other heroes … but then, I didn’t know what we were going to face in the Gauntlet. See once everyone has a Hero (some of whom are hungover or have a hand tied behind their back, are a juggling, or what ever other extravagant boast they’ve made) you start fighting monsters. Whatever monster shows up, everyone faces it. Then the survivors face the next monster, and so on until everyone is dead. There are a couple exceptions like the Spear Trap which just injures everyone (except for maybe the thief) or the Gold Vein which gives everyone money. And then of course there is a the Side Passage … which often leads to an interesting decision… like do I fight the harder monster and maybe get more money or take the sure thing that isn’t worth as much. Other times it can lead  situations like that pictured to the left. “You come to a fork in the road. The sign to the left says “Trap” and the one pointing to the right says “Free Money” which way will you go?”

And yes, that was an actual pull in a recent game… unsurprisingly no one went down the trapped passage. Finally it is worth mentioning that if you get the Armorer with a half way decent weapon you can probably actually survive all the way to the end… since you’ll have to give up the gold from 2-3 successful kills to make yourself nigh invincible this still might not actually win you the game… you don’t actually get any kind of bonus from surviving… However, if you do see the armorer w/ a 4 dice weapon it’s probably worth stealing it unless he’s already Juggling, Blind-Folded, Hopping On One Leg and Hungover… then again, you still might be able to win it skipping breakfast as well.

If you can find a copy of this game at MSRP buy it. It’s pretty hard to find, but well worth adding to your library.

Merchant of Venus

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

merchant of venus temp

There are so many good games, reviewing just one a week, much less playing only one a week can be a little difficult. However I’ve now played 4 games of Merchant of Venus and it is quite awesome. There are SO many pieces that it looks way more daunting than it actually is. At it’s heart it’s a resource trading game. There are 14 races, and each race sells one “good”. These goods can be delivered to 3-5 other races for various profits. The catch is the location of each race on the map is not only random, but initially secret. The map has a variety of hazard, and navigational problems to trip players up as well.

Setup takes about 10-15 minutes, as does putting it away, but judicious uses of baggies, can keep it closer to 10. Then there is about 15 minutes of explaining how to play to anyone who hasn’t played before. The really hard concept to grasp is the Navigation Gates… These are generally 3-way intersections with arrows pointing out of each intersection. Each turn after you roll your speed dice (generally 3d6) you pick one die to be your Navigation Die… when you hit a nav-gate you have to follow the direction that matches your Nav-Die. Doesn’t sound so bad, except that most of the places w/ nav-gates have a bunch in a row, or worse, the way you want to go you need a “2” on one of your dice and you roll every number but.

There is a LOT of luck, but it’s generally fairly well spread out. The last game we play I would have won if I had rolled 8+ on my speed roll. I failed (got a 6 I think) and wasn’t able to make it to the station where I could sell enough goods to win; on Billy’s turn he needed to roll a 6 on one of his dice to fly through the appropriate gate and win, and he got it. The third player was also nigh on a turn from winning.

There is also the “bonus cup” or in my case, bag. This has passengers, which give you a nice payout if you take them to their destination, but don’t cost anything but cargo space to pick up (and also don’t start on the board at all) and Demand Tokens which ups the value of certain goods at various destinations. Each time you sell a good you put it in the bag and draw a new token from it. If you could take 3 glorious junk to a planet that has three +c60 demand tokens on it, you’d make an extra c360 (each time you fill demand, one of the demand tokens also goes back in the bag).

The game isn’t cheap, but it’s well worth the price, even if you never play the Fantasy Flight version that has a whole mess of extra parts.

Legendary lives up to its name!

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

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So one of the newest games I’ve picked up is Legendary. It’s a semi-cooperative Deck building game, set in the Marvel Universe. This is definitely very excellent. First off is the fact that it is semi-cooperative. That is to say either everyone wins (if you defeat the mastermind) or everyone loses.  In the event that you do manage to win, there are victory points for defeating villains and saving bystanders, so one person can be the clear “hero”… the biggest winner. This makes for some interesting dynamics…early on you’ll want to cooperate, work together and try ensure everyone is making progress, otherwise things can quickly get out of hand and you all lose. Later in the game though, you may find yourself wanting to try and hose the other players so you can do all the good deeds yourself.

So far we’ve played approaching a dozen games, and lost three times. All three times have been to Loki, who is admittedly the toughest of the masterminds, but even still it’s been more to bad luck… the heroes all end up being too expensive or the Scheme Twists come out too fast. The fact that almost a third of the games I’ve played have been lost actually is pretty awesome in my mind… there is little more boring then a game that you can always win… and coop games that can be even more true, even if there is an “overall winner” as is the case here.

I certainly hope we get some more copies in stock at Fun-N-Games, because I will not hesitate to recommend this game to anyone (unless they love DC and hate Marvel I guess), and no one who has played it with me has had less than a great time.

Complaints:

  • The game is a little confusing to setup/put away/store.
  • The dividers are very nice, but it’d have been sweet if they were pre-labeled.
  • Needs a “setup” app…
  • Needs expansions so bad… Where are the FF? I really want Nightcrawler (my favorite Marvel character) and Dr. Strange.
  • Doc Oc shoulda been a mastermind, not just a Spider-Foe.

Also to anyone looking to sleeve the game, I’d suggest 2 or 3 colors of sleeves. The Heroes all need to be the same color, as do the Villains, Bystanders, Twists and Master Strikes… The Schemes and Masterminds could probably stand be be a different color (and TBH, you could put each Mastermind and his 4 cards in different sleeves if you have a few extras handy.).

Get Bit

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

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So I got in several new games this week: Get Bit, Legendary (a cooperative Deck Building game set in the Marvel Universe), and 7 Wonders: Leaders, but we ended up only playing Get Bit of my new games. We had several people who hadn’t played 7 Wonders at all, and I didn’t want to toss them into the middle of a big expansion w/out them knowing how to play. We did get a game of 7 Wonders in, and a little bit of Dominion as well, but the highlight was probably the game we spent the least amount of time playing, namely Get Bit.

So here’s the deal, each person takes control of a brightly colored robot, and you’re all out for a leisurely swim when a shark, excited by the electrical signals in your metal bodies decides to try and eat you. Each player gets a hand of 7 cards numbered 1-7.  Each turn everyone plays one card face down, and then all the cards are revealed at the same time. The objective is to pick a card no one else picks. Everyone who plays a unique card moves to the front of the line (low numbers first, so high numbers are generally better) and everyone who ties, stays were they are … effectively falling behind due to all the people who move forward.

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Cards you play stay visible, so if you can tell that everyone else has already played their 4, then you know it’s a safe play. On the other hand, if you can tie with someone who is behind you, they’re more likely to get bit … so that can be a strategy as well. Each round (excepting the first) whoever is in last place gets bit and loses a limb. They then go to the front of the line and pick up all the cards they’ve played. I haven’t won a game yet, but I’ve enjoyed all of the games of it I’ve played. Plus it’s exceptionally quick. Expect it to be 20 minutes if people haven’t played before, but more like 10 if everyone knows how to play and stays “on task”. I could certainly see playing this to see who gets to go first when we play some other game where turn order might be important.

I’m also pretty sure that younger kids could have fun with this game, even if they don’t understand the exact strategy of the game. If you can find a copy, I highly recommend you pick it up!

We also played Shadows over Camelot, but that really deserves it’s own post, so I’ll cover it next week!