News Bits: 3/17/2014


Ah, St. Patrick’s Day. I have zero Irish in me, but to join those who do, I watch this video annually.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, the NEWS:

Tom Vasel reviews Oneupmanship [LinkI don’t usually link to pure reviews, but this one really is a must watch. Tom Vasel has almost nothing nice to say about this (successfully Kickstarted) game and uses it as a lesson to teach potential designers about game design. I’m not sure why the designer would have sent this to Tom in the first place, but the silver lining is this video.

Hasbro seeks nominations for new Scrabble dictionary word [LinkLike the “choose a new piece” campaign for Monopoly, Scrabble is seeking to revitalize its brand by altering its dictionary. Honestly, this is little more than a publicity stunt, but hey, this is your chance to get “staycation” officially into Scrabbledom.

Larry Levy gives his 2013 designer of the year award [LinkAny guesses as to who won? Stefan Feld. (Surprise!) It was a good year for him, with four games released. (We reviewed Rialto and Bruges; the other two are Bora Bora and Amerigo, all of which are highly regarded.) It’s hard to argue against this choice, although I might have chosen Antoine Bauza. Hanabi (while older) was released in the US for the first time last year, and Rampage has also been gaining traction (although I wonder if it has staying power? I need to play Futurewolfie’s copy to find out!).

American officials play war games for research [LinkNo, seriously. Not “research,” but research–actual research. This makes sense to some degree: games really do help develop transferable strategy skills. I’m guessing the games they play fall more in the simulation camp. So really, research.

Games Precipice discusses scalability in game design [LinkI discovered the Games Precipice blog this week, and I’ve been very impressed. This article is a great look at the problem of scaling a game to fit different numbers of players using several games as case studies.

Games Precipice discusses monetary value in board games [LinkRemember when I said I just discovered the blog? That’s why there’s this week’s link dump. In any case, board game value is something I’ve thought a lot about, and I appreciated this take on the subject. I commented that for me, I judge a game’s value by the opportunity I’ll have to play it and the value it will retain if I decide to resell it. How do you judge value?

Boards and Bees names the eleven best uses of player elimination [LinkAn interesting list to spin player elimination positively. I’m still not a fan of its use in general, but a few games get away with it in my book.

Last week on [News Bits, Keyflower review, Inkognito review, Dragonheart review, A discussion of board game themesLots of good articles last week. This week we’ll have an insider’s look at a Kickstarter campaign, two reviews, and another Why, Why, WHY?! article. Keep slaying!

Kickstarters of Note

  • Tokaido collector’s edition: I’ve not played Tokaido because the game looks a little simple for my tastes. So I was especially surprised to see that this game is being given the deluxe treatment with minis and so on. Looks beautiful, but maybe a tad overproduced. (Then again, what do I know? I’ve not even played it.) $75+.
  • The Nile Ran Red: This is a Kickstarter for three new games from Small Box Games. I love their philosophy, and I’d probably love their games if I could get anyone to play them with me. These three games are set in Egypt with gorgeous artwork. $15/game, $40/all three.
  • Tiger Stripes: This is a children’s game from Isabel duBarry, daughter of designer Philip duBarry (Revolution!Kingdom of Solomon). It looks simple, but it could be just what you’re looking for. $35.
  • Hoyuk: This is a tile-laying game that has won some awards and looks beautiful. $50.
  • Lineage: The Martial Arts Strategy Game: This one looks very nice. You’re a martial arts master trying to pass on your knowledge to your student to preserve your lineage. $39.
  • Cheesonomics: A Euro game about cheese! I love the look and design of this one. $29.
  • Manifest: This game looks simply gorgeousThe art is by professional Franz Vohwinkel, and the setting and theme look great. Jason wrote a preview of it. ~$58 (the campaign is in NZD).
  • The Ancient World: Andrew has been involved in the playtesting of this game, and it looks stunning (as is usually the case from Ryan Laukat). $50.
  • Baseball Highlights 2045: A new game by Mike Fitzgerald. Honestly, I’m not a baseball fan, and this one didn’t interest me at all until I read this appreciation from Tom Lehman (Race for the Galaxy). Now my interest is piqued, if nothing else. $32.
  • Epic Resort: I love the theme and art of this new game from Floodgate Games (Legacy: Gears of Time). This is a worker placement game about heroes on vacation. Very reasonably priced at $40.
  • Tuscany: I received word about this one from the Stonemaier Games e-mail list. When I clicked over to the Kickstarter page, I watched it crossing the finish line–sixteen minutes after launch! This game has been crushing all its goals, and it looks fantastic. The base game is very good (our review), so I suspect this one is worth getting as well. $45.
  • Pay Dirt: The new game from the designer of Alien Frontiers, Pay Dirt has players mining for gold in the Klondike. Looks interesting. $50.

What We’ve Been Playing

  • Dominion: I mentioned last week that I’ve been trying to rekindle interest in Dominion, and it seems to be working. This past week I lured three coworkers into two games over a lunch hour. The first game I was attracted by the beautiful baubles and ran a Mint/Venture strategy, but I was too distracted to actually, you know, buy victory cards, so I came in last place (even though I suspect I had the best deck–what a waste!). The second game I vowed to do better and to focus more, and indeed, this paid off. The second game was strange, as there were a few different attack choices and there was only one (back-door) +2 actions card, making chaining difficult. I tried to keep my deck thin of actions in order to maintain a focused effort. Also, while my opponents were busy upgrading their treasures through Trading Posts and Taxmen, I left the coppers in my deck. This turned out to work in my favor, as the players with Taxmen, no longer having coppers in their deck, began trashing silvers, of which I had precious few in my deck, so I was safe most of the time. The game went a little long because of the lack of chaining, but I was able to pull out a comfortable win in this second game. I love Dominion (and the new set Guilds), and I’m glad others are getting back into it. (FarmerLenny)
  • Innovation: For the Friday lunch game this week, my coworker chose Innovation. I brought down the expansion Echoes of the Past, but we had one fairly new player, so I left it in its box. There were four of us, though, so we played in teams (which is my favorite way to play now). My teammate and I were playing like a well-oiled machine. Our icons complemented each other, and between the two of us (and, namely, Combustion and The Pirate Code), we were able to loot the board and score pile of the opponent who posed the greatest threat. We won the game handily, six achievements to none. I love Innovation in teams, but the downside of it is that if one player is less confident or knowledgeable about the game, it can really bring a team down. I’m not sure the opponents would have won in any case (my teammate and I were in rare form), but it might have been closer had the teams been of more equal skill. Oh well. No way to get better except through play. (But that is a downside of Innovation, or really any Carl Chudyk game: there can be a big experience gap between players.) (FarmerLenny)
  • Coconuts: I got this new dexterity game on Saturday, and Saturday night my wife and I played it–six times in a row! Coconuts is an incredibly silly game where each player has a monkey catapult and launches rubber coconuts toward a play area with stacked cups. If you land a coconut in a cup, you claim it. The first player to claim six cups wins. But the more cups you claim, the harder it is to win, since you have to shoot over your cups (you place them in front of you, in a pyramid shape). You also make a bigger target for your opponent to hit, as they can steal your cups by landing coconuts in them. I was more skilled in these first games than my wife, but she described the game as a “blast” and wanted to play again on Sunday–always a good sign. I’m looking forward to playing this one more. (FarmerLenny)
  • Libertalia: Despite Farmerlenny’s lack of attendance, one of his favorite games hit the table at my game night, mainly because: pirates. I taught a couple new players and we played a quick round.  It actually caught me off guard how easy this game is to teach and get going with, despite the wide variety of cards.  It’s a good reminder of why this game got our game of the year award; simple, elegant, yet it gives you plenty to think about and a lot of choices; many ways to approach victory.  I got a slow start with a lackluster first round, but I held on for the next two rounds and with some sweet combos (and a deadly Mutineer) I pulled ahead for the victory! PIRATES (futurewolfie)
  • Rampage: I had a request for Rampage so we pulled it out and quickly assembled it. I think this game is definitely best with 4 but it works just as well with 3 players, so we quickly got to destroying.  Destruction everywhere! Once people start to know what they’re doing, the walls come down quickly so you can’t mess around – that’s probably a good thing. I think the nature of the game is far more entertaining if it happens quickly.  In fact, in this game, it took several turns to get the stadium destroyed after every other building had been wiped to the ground.  It cost me the game which is a downer for sure, but those last few turns were just not quite as fun (although the other players seemed more motivated to knock me over than to finish off the stadium, which is less than cool guys, c’mon!).  Unfortunately due to all this knocking over I ended up having to sacrifice my character point cards and ended up giving another player the right colors to finish off 2 more sets leading to his ultimate victory. Lesson learned: just knock the darn building over as fast as you can. (futurewolfie)
  • Gravwell: As it was getting late, we threw in one more game of Gravwell.  One player was new, and in the first couple rounds he ended up dead last and way far behind, while I skyrocketed to the front… so far I had to wait around until everyone caught up. At first the new guy felt stuck far behind but he quickly saw how easy it is to catch up and how being way far ahead like I was, was not always the best strategic choice.  In the end, a nicely timed play landed him the victory… unfortunately, breaking my Gravwell winning streak.  So it goes. That’s one of the things I like about this game; you can’t get totally screwed from the beginning, but it’s not just random luck that gets you the win. Your best best for victory is to try and get into a good position at the end of each round, not just rocket ahead or rely on luck in the last round, but everyone has a chance to win and it almost inherently comes down to a final, tense moment where if you had JUST played a different card last round you could have won!



I'll try anything once, but my favorite games are generally middleweight Euros.

Discussion1 Comment

  1. Ah Dominion, such a great game! I taught a few co-workers how to play recently and I think they all enjoyed it. I think Dominion is one of the best lunchtime games. I look forward to moving outside the realm of the core set in the near future.

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