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News Bits: 6/30/2014

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This week’s NEWS:

Tom Lehmann reveals details of new Race for the Galaxy expansion [LinkIt’s called Xeno Invasion, and it looks like players now have to worry about an alien presence poaching their gains. Sounds very interesting. Now if only I can get my friends to play Race for the Galaxy to prepare…

NPR airs obligatory “people still play board games” story [LinkThere are dozens of us! Dozens! And dozens of these stories.

Mark Rosewater imagines an LCG model for Magic: The Gathering [LinkAnd thinks it’s a terrible idea. LCGs, he seems to argue, make sense for the consumer who wants to play in more organized ways, but they don’t make sense for the Magic draft crowd–the occasional get togethers, the aftermarket devotees, those who immerse themselves in the game without actually playing. (I’ve known some of those too.) I understand these points and hadn’t thought of them. I wonder what effect, if any, the Netrunner draft packs will have on this argument.

Last week on iSlaytheDragon [News Bits, Flash Point: Urban Structures review, Assault on Doomrock preview, Cube Quest review, Why, Why, Why board games on iOS are lame] A full week last week with some good articles. This coming week we’ll be taking a break on Friday because of the holiday. Keep slaying!

 

Kickstarters of Note

  • The Amberden Affair: A game about butlers, one of which is out for blood. Looks interesting, and it was one of the finalists in Cards Against Humanity’s Tabletop Deathmatch. $47.
  • 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.
  • Stonemaier Treasure Chest: Stonemaier Games has made a name for themselves by being ridiculously friendly with Kickstarter backers and also by creating incredible game components. Now they are on Kickstarter for realistic game components that should work with most Euro board games. If these are anything like the components included in Euphoria, you’ll want these. $33.
  • 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.
  • Ophir: This game looks simply beautiful. It’s a game about merchants, but the setting is absolutely gorgeous. We’ll have a preview up soon. $39.
  • Tiny Epic Defenders: Right on the heels of Tiny Epic Kingdoms is Tiny Epic Defenders, a micro cooperative game set in the same universe as Kingdoms. Fantasy stuff isn’t my thing, but judging by the warm response this has gotten, I am in the extreme minority. $16.
  • Antidote: This is a small box deduction game from Dennis Hoyle and Bellwether Games (Drop Site). I had the opportunity to play this one as a prerelease, and I found it to be a fun and clever take on the deduction genre. It’s lighter than most, but still enjoyable. $16.
  • Start Player Express: Bezier Games is Kickstarting Start Player Express, whose tagline is “Go first faster,” which is brilliant. This is four dice that help you determine at a glance who at the table should go first. $10.

 What We’ve Been Playing

  • Lascaux: I’ve been very interested in Michael Schacht’s Mogul, but it’s ridiculously out of print, and Rio Grande Games’ reprint is nowhere in sight or on the horizon. In researching that game, though, I came across Lascaux, which uses the same bidding mechanism as Mogul but includes an element of bluffing missing from the more popular and simpler No Thanks! The game is ostensibly about cave paintings, but the theme is completely window dressing in this title. I played my first game this week with my lunch group, and after a rules explanation (that didn’t go as well as I expected, considering how simple the game is), we were off and running. I decided to take the diversified portfolio approach, which could have been disastrous in a game where you are rewarded for winning majorities. Still, I was able to outguess my opponents, and in most rounds, even those in which I passed first, I was able to collect something. The game is really interesting in that way. Unlike No Thanks, which is almost straight chicken, Lascaux has a fascinating deduction/bluff element to the bidding. I ended up winning, and I’m eager to play this game again. Very cool (if slightly overproduced). (FarmerLenny)
  • Libertalia: My Friday lunch games group decided to play this perennial favorite. The game had a strange mixture of roles, but I was able to keep within range of the pack the whole game. By the third round, I knew I had to have an amazing campaign in order to win, and somehow I was able to outguess my fellow players to steal the win. What helped me: judicious avoidance of the Brute and Beggar, both of whom showed themselves in the final campaign and ruined the plans of my two closest competitors. I love both of those roles, but they can be a huge burden if you don’t plan ahead for them. (FarmerLenny)
  • Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island: This Saturday was Wolfie’s monthly game night, and since there were only four of us there, I thought this was the ideal time for Robinson Crusoe. Up to this point, I had only played the game solitaire. And let me tell you, there are a lot of rules. It’s a beast to learn on your own, but it’s even worse to teach that to other people for the first time. I know I could have done a better job on the explanation, but for the most part, I just wanted to get us playing as soon as possible–the game is about immersion in a story, in a desperate situation, and I wanted to get us there. In doing this, I don’t think I was as clear as I could have been on what actions are available, and I also botched a rule for multiplayer that never comes up in solitaire: the morale track does not produce unfulfilled demands. In our first game on the Castaways scenario, because I missed this rule, we were dead by the end of the third round. It was unsatisfying, and I thought we were going to pack the game away for nothing, but Wolfie suggested we try again, this time with the correct morale rule in place, and we were off. We did much better the second time after I advised two courses: 1) judicious use of automatic successes and 2) wound avoidance. We did well for the most part, despite the inhospitable conditions on the island, but we could see that winter was coming, and things were about to turn nasty fast. Our Cook spent most of her days arranging the camp, gaining determination so she could make stone soup (until we got our food shortages under control) and alter the weather. I, as the Soldier, worked slowly but steadily building our weapons up so I could hunt some beasts to give us the fur necessary to protect our shelter (we were losing lots of wood to the weather dice because our roof was bogus). The work was slow and grueling, and it looked like we wouldn’t create the signal in time, but we were able to complete the wood pile on the 11th round, each of us wounded almost into oblivion. We climbed gratefully aboard the rescue ship. I enjoyed the game quite a bit with four players, but what this game showed me is that Robinson Crusoe is surprisingly awesome with one player. There are some actions that don’t see as much use in the solitaire game (namely anything involving boosting morale, and hunting isn’t as necessary, nor is gathering resources), but the experience is surprisingly complete. I’m definitely willing (and looking forward) to play the game with more people again, but the rules explanation is a bit of a nightmare. Robinson is a fun game to know how to play; it’s not fun to learn or teach. Still, I think the learning curve is worth it. I hope the other players thought so as well. (FarmerLenny)
  • Galaxy Trucker: This was my second game of Galaxy Trucker, and it did not go well. At all. The game is played over three rounds which increase in difficulty. The first round I did terribly, earning a mere 3 credits. The second round I redeemed myself quite a bit, scoring in the neighborhood of 30. I was poised to do well in the final round. Or so I thought. The problem was that my ship was always just behind the leader, so I wasn’t able to take advantage of the smugglers or derelict ships we came in contact with, since someone was always beating me to them. Then, finally, I did get out in front…only to be affected by an event. I was tied with another player, and apparently in the case of a tie, the player furthest forward has to suffer the consequences. The one time it wasn’t beneficial to lead the pack, there I was. The event was a Saboteur, and my ship was tightly woven, with the parts intricately lined up. Well, the Saboteur destroys a random piece, and the random piece s/he destroyed happened to be the linchpin of the left half of my ship. One tile destroyed all of my goods and consequently every opportunity I had to score. So…I had less than half the credits of the next lowest scoring player. Not cool, but now I know for next time: have more crew on your ship. I still like Galaxy Trucker quite a bit. (FarmerLenny)

 

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

Discussion2 Comments

  1. I’m really glad we played Robinson Crusoe a second time, the experience was much more satisfying and complete.

    I could be wrong, but I think that if 3 out of 4 or even 2 out of 4 people know the rules of the game, you could jump in pretty quickly. It seemed like things escalated slowly enough that you could just point out a few things worth doing and explain things as they come up. And explain the things YOU do as you do them. You’d definitely be helping everyone through the first few rounds but it would get everything going right away. As long as more than 1 person knew what was going on, things wouldn’t spiral out of control.

    In other words, I would love to play again as soon as possible 🙂 but you make a strong case for getting a copy of this game for the solo version.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it, and I’m so glad we played a second time.

      I think you’re right. I wasn’t counting on the game escalating as slowly as it does. (The first round or two in solo go so fast I almost forget them completely.) With two people familiar with the game, it could go a lot quicker. And hey, every scenario is COMPLETELY different from every other scenario, so there’s reason to play again.

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