Posts Tagged ‘Game Review’

Terraforming Mars

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

This is now one of my favorite games. In some ways it almost feels like a cooperative game, in that you’re all working to (surprise) Terraform Mars and make it habitable for colonists. Of course it’s not really coop at all… Yes you all are working together to improve the oxygen content, heat up the atmosphere and seed oceans to turn Mars green. However whenever you accomplish one of these tasks it improves your Terraforming Rating which leads to higher profits, and of course the accolades over everyone who wants to move to your section of Mars.

One of the things I particularly love about this game is that there are a wide variety of routes to winning. Doing a thing better than someone else will likely lead to you contributing the most to that factor which leads both directly and indirectly to more victory points. Want to build cities? Cover the planet in greenery? Fund Science? Achieve milestones? Just be the richest? All of these things can contribute to victory. There are two decks of cards, the regular one (about 150 cards) and the Corporate Era expansion (about 80) and every card is unique.

 

Now rather than try and explain the rules I think it might be better to talk about some optional rules. One of them is actually in the rule book, and that’s draft the research every turn. If you’ve got anyone who has not played before you’ll definitely want to skip this… drafting requires a bit of knowledge about the game, and will give just way too big of an advantage to someone who knows how all the mechanisms interact. On the other hand once everyone has a game or two under their belt, it only adds a little time to the game, but improves the game greatly. For starters you have much less chance of getting straight up hosed by a bad draw (instead you get hosed by your neighbors hate drafting when there’s nothing they want) and second it makes it a lot easier to build towards the strategy you want instead of just having to take what the deck gives you.

However an additional optional rule I made up is drafting the initial cards. Again, don’t do this if anyone has never played before, but my suggestion is for the initial 10 cards do two 6 card drafts, discarding the last card of each. One draft left, and one right. Then you buy from those 10 cards as usual, except it’ll be a much more agonizing choice of what to buy because you’ll have had much greater choice in what to take. This also vastly decreases the chance that someone will get a terrible start. And when a game takes 2-3 hours to play you really don’t want to start the game hosed.

I understand the game has finally been reprinted, so if you can get a hold of copy for retail definitely pick this up. You might also want to look into some kind of third party player boards… There are some nice 3D printer files out there if you’ve got access, but you can also get some CNC acrylic or wooden boards. There are also a few DIY projects posted on Board Game Geek using magnets which works pretty well. I made some boards out of drywall corner (flattened) and thick cardstock with a printout glued on top and it works pretty well. Definitely you’ll want some kind of improved player board unless you have a very sturdy table and are careful not to bump things.

Great Heartland Hauling Game

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

The Great Heartland Hauling heartlandCompany is my latest Kickstarter to come in. It is basically a trading game. You drive your truck around picking up and dropping off various goods. It is actually a surprisingly quick play only taking a half hour or so and probably less once everyone knows how to play. It even came with an ‘inspansion’ thanks to being a Kickstarter which adds in upgrades, of which each truck can get at most one. The “board” is made of a  dozen cards, randomly deployed, with a variety of different possible setups depending on the number of players. While the basics aren’t too complex, the fact that you MOVE every  turn means goods move around, and eventually become scarcer. Making a profit becomes more difficult. I’ve only played two games so far, so I’m not sure if there is much in the way of complex strategy, but for a quick, portable game with fairly simple rules it works pretty well.

There are a few things that aren’t exactly covered in the rules … like just how optional some of the options are. Can you choose to “deliver” even when you can’t? These are things that maybe I could find out by looking up in a FAQ but I just haven’t been bothered to do so yet. Too many other games to play!

Puzzle Strike

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

puzzle strikePuzzle Strike: Bag of chips is a deck building game. Except instead of cards, you use “poker” chips. The nice thing about this is that you don’t really have to shuffle, instead you just toss them all into the bag and shake. This game simulates a puzzle game (that doesn’t actually exist) that simulates a fighting game (that also doesn’t exist.) If you’ve played Super Puzzle Fighter you know what’s what. If not, imagine a mix of bejeweled and tetris as a multiplayer game. You can combine gems, and then crash them to send them over to other players.

At it’s heart though, this is still a deck building game. You buy chips, they can give you various actions, or let you trash chips from your “deck”, or you can buy better money. There’s a few dozen different possible piles of chips, so every game is different.
One key thing that is unique about this game is that each player’s starting deck is dependent on what “character” they pick to play. So each starting deck is 3 unique chips, a crash gem (used to send crap to other players) and 6 $1 gems.

Once you know what you’re doing, the game is pretty quick. The only complaints I have are that it can only support 4 players at a time. Of course with an extra dice bag, we could probably do a bigger game. The other complaint is that it can be confusing to keep your hand/in play/discard separate from your gem piles. Apparently the 3rd edition of this game does resolve that issue, but I picked up the first edition at a con for half off, so can’t really complain. In fact, what I may do, given time is make a bunch of them, one for each character, maybe even put a little “Agrajag’s playstyle is:” blurb on each of them to help new players pick.

X-Wing Miniatures

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

 

xwingminis

So I’m basically in love with the X-Wing Minis game. I really wish I’d gotten it earlier, on the other hand, there is now more variety in ships than I can actually afford. Even if you’re not big on Miniatures gaming, this might still have some appeal. A turn basically consists of 3 parts. First you decide how each of your ships is going to move. You do this via a special wheel that you secretly set for each of your ships. This has things on it like Hard Turn 1 left, or Soft Right 3, or 4 Straight, etc. Different ships have different movement options, and some moves are harder or easier than others. Once everyone has set their moves, every ship moves, and then can take an action (like Lock On, or Barrel Roll, and more, again they vary by ship). Once that’s done every ship fires. Then you do it again, until all ships on a side are blown up, or the mission (there are several missions) is accomplished.

I’m already thinking about making a B5 Mod for this game, and possibly BSG. Space Dog-fighting is one of my favorites, so to see something super quick and easy is really nice. That said, this does also kind of make me want to pull out all of my old Silent Death stuff and try and get that going again.

King of Tokyo

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

 

King of Tokyo

King of Tokyo is a great, simple, quick dice game. It’s got a bit of a strategic element, a bit of luck, and bit of needing to know when to quit while you’re ahead. I’ve only played one game so far, and I was killed (second) but I’m still pretty keen on the game.

Basically each player is a giant monster of some kind, intent on become King of Tokyo. To do this you’ll have to fight other monsters. Each turn you roll 6 dice. Triples on 1s, 2s and 3s will give you Victory points (you need 20 to win), Lightning symbols give you energy which you can buy upgrades and events, and monster prints lets you attack. Finally there are Hearts which will heal you (though not above the 10 HP you start with. The first monster to deal damage goes to Tokyo. After that if you are in Tokyo you deal damage to all of the monsters outside it, and vice versa. Also, while you’re in Tokyo you gain VP each turn, and can’t heal. When someone hits you though, you can let them take over Tokyo (though you still take the damage). Blake and I both died in the game, and it was due to staying King of the Hill for too long.

The powerups you can buy give a nice twist to the game, and in fact Will won our game with a “turtle” strategy where he got VPs for NOT attacking thanks to becoming an herbivore.

Who likes Skinner Boxes?

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

 

Screenshot_2013-02-19-22-58-22

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.

40k takes too long

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I like games. You might have noticed. Actually, let’s be fair, I love games. Another thing that I like doing is assembling models. Papercraft, or plastic, metal, glue and modelling clay. Yet another thing I like doing is painting models. So one might think (and I fall into this trap repeatedly) that Warhammer 40k or Warhammer Fantasy would be the perfect game for me. The problem is that when I’m spending literally one third of my waking hours playing a game that’s probably, usually too long. I mean sure, the occasional game of Axis and Allies or Civilization the Board Game or Diplomacy.

However something I’m putting this much time and money into, just to get to the point where I’m able to play a game, shouldn’t cost nearly this much of a time investment to play.  A couple hours for a game, sure that’s reasonable. I’m going to try and do some 1000 point “quick games” and we’ll see how that works out. Maybe with a bit more experience I can get the game times down.

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.

bead case

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

 

distractedbydixit

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.

firstiwasgrapes

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.