Origins is over, and Jason and Andrew should have their recaps up later this week. Until then, the NEWS:
Love Letter jumps the shark [Link] Er… I mean receives lots of different reskins, courtesy of this joint announcement from Cryptozoic and AEG. The Hobbit Love Letter? Downton Abbey Love Letter? (While we’re on the subject of jumping sharks… [!]) Seriously, folks: this is crazy. It’s not even a very good game.
Bruno Faidutti explores board games and emotions [Link] Faidutti asks why we are usually not emotionally moved when we play board games in the same way we are when we read a book or watch a movie. I know I’m usually not, but I don’t approach games for emotional reactions of that sort. I like the thrill of competition and opportunities to be clever, but if I want to be moved, I’ll read a book. (That being said, Robinson Crusoe is an excellent board game if you want to feel storied emotions.)
Geeklist surveys OCOOP: overhype caused by out of print [Link] Is a game genuinely amazing, or is it just praised as such because it’s not readily available? This geeklist offers a survey for you to gauge. (Hint: El Grande is as awesome as you’ve heard.)
Chess was once deemed a menace, io9 reports [Link] I haven’t read this one yet (so I can’t speak to whether the article legitimately delivers on its shock value), but I thought I should share it for you. And hey, Wolfie passed me the link, so at least one of us has read it.
Boards & Bees examines eleven Spiel des Jahres winners [Link] This year’s list looks at winners 1990-2000, among which is my favorite game (seriously: check out El Grande). This is a great overview, and I learned about some games I hadn’t played. I still think the award is relevant, by the way.
Chicago Toy and Game interviews Tom Felber of the Spiel des Jahres committee [Link] And I’m going to be honest with you: it’s not a great interview. I don’t think this is at all the fault of the interviewer. Rather, it seems like the kind of thing that was arranged by a third party, and Felber doesn’t seem wholly on board. No matter. You might learn something about the Spiel des Jahres award (or those who choose its recipient).
Kevin Nunn (Rolling Freight) writes about the Friend or Foe? dilemma in games [Link] This is the first I’ve seen where the mechanic is given a name, and it fascinates me. The Friend or Foe? dilemma, as defined here, is where two parties are given a choice: be friendly (each gets a minor victory), both choose in favor of self (each loses all), stab the other in the back (lopsided victory for greatest gain). Cosmic Encounter seems in some way built on this dilemma, but while I find the dilemma fascinating, I don’t care for that game at all. Basari: Das Kartenspiel, which I’ve been eyeing for some time, seems a less severe form of this and not quite so pointed–perhaps that’s more my speed? Anyway, putting this into a compelling game seems tricky. I’m eager to see Nunn’s friends’ results.
Last week on iSlaytheDragon [News Bits, CV review, Marvel Legendary review, Under the Table episode 4, The Adventurers: Pyramid of Horus review, 9 (10?) things only Ticket to Ride would understand] A packed week last week, followed by a packed week this week. We also had our first reviews from our new writer Jennifer. Keep slaying!
Kickstarters of Note
- 12 Realms: Ancestors Legacy: This is for the expansion and reprint of 12 Realms, a cooperative game set in a storybook world. (We interviewed Alex Argyropoulos of Mage Company here, and we reviewed the first edition of 12 Realms here.) $45.
- Evolution: This campaign is for North Star Games’ first strategy game for gamers, and it’s a revamp of an older design. (We reviewed the old version, but the new one looks nothing like it.) The art looks great, and the gameplay looks interesting. $50.
- Luchador: Mexican Wrestling Dice: I’ve seen lots of great comments about this game after last year’s Essen, but it hasn’t really been available stateside. Game Salute is working to bring the game to the US with upgraded components in a fancy second edition. $35 (or $25 if you’re upgrading your first edition).
- Essen: It’s a board game about the Essen board game convention! If that’s not too meta for you, the game looks cool, and the price is reasonable for the small print run. $50.
- BattleCon: War of Indines Remastered: Board games simulating 2D video games are all the rage right now, but BattleCon is rated one of the best on Board Game Geek. It has garnered lots of praise, and even though it isn’t my kind of game, I’ve been interested in checking it out. This is a revised reprint of an earlier version of War of Indines. $50 (although there are various other options available).
- Ortus Regni: All I know about this one is that the art is beautiful and the game is baffling. $45.
- Beowulf: No, this isn’t one of the Knizia Beowulf games from Fantasy Flight. Rather, this is a super thematic literary game from the same company that successfully funded the Moby Dick card game last year. Doesn’t look like my thing, but I’m a huge fan of the theme and look. $45.
- AV Ghost: This game isn’t the kind of thing I usually go for, but it looks pretty cool. It’s a board game you play in the dark. It’s a supernatural horror game in which players are solving a mystery in the dark. Looks very thematic and atmospheric (and it comes with minis with flashlights). $75.
- Penny Press: A game about putting together front pages in the age of yellow journalism. This game just won Cards Against Humanity’s Tabletop Deathmatch, and it’s coming from Asmadi Games. The game looks so, so, so good, it’s already funded, and it is reasonably priced. $40.
What We’ve Been Playing
- Glory to Rome: Early this week I played Glory to Rome over lunch, which is one of my favorite games. We had four players, and I was able to lock in a pretty sweet combo early on. I had a craftsman client, and I built the Tribunal, which let me draw a jack after thinking, and another building (whose name I forget) that let me think on any turn when I performed at least one craftsman action. My engine was going pretty strong, but I had a major problem: the player to my right had a powerful legionary, and he kept calling exactly what I had in my hand and was planning to use my next turn. Thus he stole my Statue (marble), and on one turn he demanded two stone (which, of course, I had and was planning to use as merchant clients!). It was a little frustrating to have my hand looted like this, but despite these setbacks, I put up a respectable score against the other players. I came in last place, but only six points separated first from last place. Glory to Rome is simply an incredible game (and I’m not just overhyping it because it’s out of print…). (FarmerLenny)
- Splendor: For my Friday lunch game this week, I suggested we play Splendor, the darling frontrunner (at least in most people’s minds) for this year’s Spiel des Jahres award. I suggested it with some trepidation. My coworker is undefeated at work, meaning I have had many defeats at his hands. Still, I wanted to play, so four of us gathered around the table. This game I took a slightly different strategy than in my previous games: I all but ignored the nobles. At least, when deciding what to acquire I did. Once I had a stable tableau, I looked at the nobles and realized I could claim most of them with minimal effort. I was behind for the majority of the game, but in the last few turns, I was able to claim two nobles and the victory. The guy who usually wins was very close in score, and if we had played one more round, there’s a good chance he would have beat me. But this week, victory was mine. I still love this game. (FarmerLenny)
- Get Bit!: We headed to my in-laws’ house this weekend for a graduation party, and my niece and nephew asked if I brought any games with me. My wife thought I had left them all at home, but the truth is, I had squirreled a few away in my backpack just in case. Get Bit! was one of these squirreled acorns, and my nephew thought it looked cool, so we gave it a try. In the first game, my niece was the first one out, followed closely by her brother, and I happened to be in the lead at the end, so I won. (Hooray for me!) In the second game, however, my niece was a little more conscious of what she should play, and when her dad’s robot lost its final limb, I was the one behind. Get Bit! is a filler game that I really enjoy, and it works surprisingly well with kids. I’m glad I have it for just such occasions as this. (FarmerLenny)
- Animal upon Animal: My nephew had laughed a little too hard at his sister when she was out first in the first game of Get Bit!, so it stung extra badly when he was out first in the second game. He was ready for a switch afterward, and I suggested that we play Animal upon Animal. I bought this game earlier in the year because I thought it would be a good game for younger players, and despite this, I’ve only played with adults to this point. But the game worked flawlessly with my niece and nephew (and their dad). I had had too much coffee to drink, so my shaky hands made a mess of my turns, but my niece proved herself once again to be an excellent game player. She was able to walk away with the win handily. They played a second game (in which my wife took my place), and she won handily again. A board gamer in the making? Quite possibly. In any case, Animal upon Animal is excellent with both kids and adults. I’m already looking for expansions (which are unfortunately hard to come by in the States, at least for a reasonable price). (FarmerLenny)
- More Splendor: Jason and I (Andrew) had the opportunity to demo games for Asmodee at Origins last week and we’ll be summing up our experiences later in the week so I’ll keep my comments brief here. Splendor was by far the most requested game and the one that I spent most of my time demoing. I dedicated pretty much the entire first day to doing so and by Saturday we had four different tables of it going throughout the day! I had only played it once before Origins so I was more than happy to play this one a lot throughout the convention. Jason thinks Splendor is a snooze fest and it kept growing on me so I stuck to it and left him to World of Tanks. (Andrew)
- Sultaniya: This one was brand new for Origins as far as I understood. I had read the rules ahead of time and was interested in it but didn’t expect it to be so beautiful and fun. Sultaniya is a deceptively simple tile placement game where players are building a palace from four stacks corresponding to the different floors. There are also Djinns with cool miniatures (yes I’m playing a game with miniatures, Wolfie) that you can hire to help you build more efficiently. It has a puzzly feel as players take on the role of characters that all want something different in their palace. I hope to have a review for this one soon since I’ve gotten to play it a good amount already. (Andrew)
- Concept: I’m not much of a party game person but this one really tackles the whole “try to get the other players to guess a word/phrase” idea by adding in a lot of room for creativity. Players are given cubes of various different colors that they are placing and moving around a board that has a bunch of pictures that represent ideas, categories, and concepts. A good example they give is for the word Bee with markers on the spaces for [Animal], [Flying], [Yellow], and [Black]. The game really shines when players start to get creative with their clues. You can stack the cubes up, move them around, clear them off when things aren’t working, whatever will help you communicate your clues. I agreed to playing originally only so that I would be able to demo it but found myself really looking forward to teaching people how to play and had a blast doing so. (Andrew)
- Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age: I didn’t get much time to actually walk around and do much during Origins but I spotted a copy of the new Roll Through the Ages and couldn’t resit trying it out. I enjoyed the original game (The Bronze Age) but ended up trading it because I didn’t feel like I was being given interesting enough choices. The Iron Age really does a great job of addressing this by giving a lot more options for what to do with the various different die results. After a sample game I concluded that this was what I had hoped the original game would have been. I’m really looking forward to getting this one and exploring the various different strategies. (Andrew)
- Star Wars: X-Wing: If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past couple weeks, its that I just haven’t gotten this wonderful game to the table often enough. Fortunately I managed to hit it again with a buddy of mine, and this time I played as Imperial – for the first time since just trying them out in the core set. I went with a 5 TIE Fighter + Lamba Shuttle squadron, intending to use the shuttle to defend the little guys while they stung like wasps. Some of my plans were offput when my opponent revealed his fleet to be a beefed up Falcon and Y-Wing. Anyways, this is the first time I’ve really had a chance to practice tight formations with a lot of ships. I decided to focus all my energy on the Falcon first, and got my entire squad in range with eyes on target and many in Range 1. With Howlrunner (allowing me to re-roll one attack die per attack) I rolled about 16 attack dice against the Falcon which whittled his shields to nothing. A few rounds later and the Falcon was shredded. Unfortunately he had gotten some good shots back at me and the Y-Wing screwed up my formations with its little Ion cannon, then squashed 2, then 3, then 4 of my TIE Fighters. Now, the shuttle is a great Support vehicle, but it turns like a bus with a flat tire. The Y-Wing isn’t so fleet of foot itself, but with a turret it had a good chance of running the shuttle aground if all my TIE fighters were destroyed. Luckily I got my shuttle pulled around to catch his Y-Wing in a snare at the very last moment and I destroyed him before it was too late. What a ride! (Futurewolfie)
- Star Realms: Will the fight never end? I’ve got a hot winning streak going on. I don’t know how much of it is luck versus skills I picked up just from long-term deckbuilding experience with Dominion and my affinity to space games. In my latest game I got a good run of Blob ships for a quick and decisive victory, dealing 47 (admittedly, unnecessarily excessive due to trashing a few ships and bases for the bonus combat, just to see how high I could get in one turn) damage all at once. Just in time too; I keep beating my opponents the round before they would wipe me to the floor. (futurewolfie)
- Cosmic Encounter: Have I mentioned how I love Cosmic Encounter? I’ve been trying to get this game more frequently to the table this year, having made some new friends who enjoy this kind of social, backstabby sort of game, and I was happy to get it out again at game night. Since there are so many aliens I started everyone with a choice between 3 options instead of the as-written 2. I may sort through the aliens someday and remove the alien powers that are boring, but… whatever. I decided to try out the Horde, which gets a bunch of extra ships (beyond the 20 plastic units) whenever it draws cards or retrieves ships. Unfortunately, my game started off poorly – I lost 2 colonies in the first turn and gained nothing on my own turn. Things were not looking good, as I had a hand full of average Encounter cards, no way to draw new cards or retrieve extra ships (thus rendering my power worthless). Then I played a Negotiate card in an encounter to get compensation, and stole the Morph card from my opponent. I was able to wrangle some cooperation from another player during his turn, and instead of losing to an invasion I convinced him to negotiate with me (we were both behind in colonies). I offered my Morph card plus most of my hand to him in exchange for a colony, and then allowed him to invade one of my planets for a sure victory. This allowed me to clear out my hand, so I could draw 8 new cards (and get 8 horde ships, woo!) which turned the game around. My new hand was much better; I moebius tubed about 12 ships out of the warp (another 12 Horde ships, yay!), won an allied encounter on the defense (rewards deck AND more horde ships!) and managed to tie up the game at 4 colonies with one encounter left on my turn. I decided to stick with my ally (and ensure he wouldn’t ally against me) for a decisive, allied victory. What a blast! A tough game all the way with every player in the running until the very end, to me this is what Cosmic Encounter is all about; zany, fun, and despite what Farmerlenny believes, lots of exciting GAMEplay layered underneath it all. (futurewolfie)