This was a packed week for the NEWS:
Annual Jack Vasel Fund Memorial Auction begins on Board Game Geek [Link] This is Tom Vasel’s annual auction in honor of his son, Jack, who passed away shortly after birth. All proceeds from this auction go to the Jack Vasel Fund to help gamers in need. The generosity of the gaming community is truly astounding sometimes, and there are some incredible (and unique) items available.
Z-Man Games posts dates for US Essen release availability [Link] Most of these are coming in late November/early December. But if you were waiting for the Dungeon Petz expansion or Tash-Kalar, you’ll be waiting a bit longer (early 2014).
Fantasy Flight Games announces draft packs for Android: Netrunner and A Game of Thrones LCGs [Link] LCGs are great for deck building, but they aren’t very good for drafts. Fantasy Flight is looking to change that with new draft packs. It looks like draft packs will bring the randomness of a CCG to the LCG, and cards in the draft packs (unless otherwise stated) will be legal in regular decks. So what we have here, folks, is the CCG come full circle.
Mechanics & Meeples interviews Serge Laget and Bruno Cathala on cooperative games [Link] This is a fascinating interview on the development of Shadows over Camelot. I found especially interesting the process of designing the traitor aspect. I’m not certain Shadows is a better co-op game than Pandemic, but at least in the games I’ve played, it has had less of a “director” problem, due to the designers’ choices discussed in this interview.
Torontoist interviews Steve Tassie, Game Guru, for I Want Your Job [Link] This is an excellent interview because it doesn’t approach the hobby of board gaming as something that has to be described for the unknowing masses. And Steve is articulate, so that helps. Also, this solidifies my desire to visit Snakes & Lattes if I’m ever in Toronto.
Nothing Sacred Games discusses setting MSRP [Link] Yes, there is a lot that goes into setting the price that we economical gamers try to subvert at every pass. This is a good account of the process.
Hyperbole Games discusses catch-up mechanics [Link] I’m a fan of organic catch-up mechanics. Dominion is a prime example of this. The cards needed to win the game inherently slow a player down. Now, some later expansions fought this somewhat (most notably in victory cards that do other things), but this is a very natural leadership handicap. In Power Grid, the whole game centers around a catch-up mechanic: the last-place player has the best position, so players jockey for last until within striking distance of the goal. Maybe it’s race games that have more natural catch-ups? I don’t know. But here are two examples I like.
Paul Owen looks at 1960s board game covers [Link] Until a few years ago, my copy of Acquire was the one pictured here, appealing to classy adults. (Now I have the high-powered Avalon Hill edition depicting a man with a briefcase–a go-getter, to be sure, not one who would be sitting around playing board games.) His analysis brings to mind something I hadn’t really thought about: all of these board game covers show adults playing them not just as a normal thing, but as a very civilized activity. These games are all by one or two companies. I wonder how pervasive this view was. I know that in my family games have always been at the heart of what we do when we get together. (I’ve mentioned before that one of my fondest memories was my dad finally taking me into his lap and showing me how to play Pinochle, a game I had only ever observed the adults playing.) Nowadays mentioning board games as a hobby to adults produces responses of, “Oh…” like they’ve caught you making sound effects while playing with action figures. In any case, I found this interesting.
Last week on iSlaytheDragon [News Bits, Paradise Fallen review, Zulus on the Ramparts review, Leuthen: Frederick’s Greatest Victory review, Top ten lunch games] Lots of good stuff last week, followed up by a full schedule of entries this week, including three reviews, a guide, and an interview. Keep slaying!
Kickstarters of Note
- Keyflower: The Farmers: This is for the import of Keyflower’s expansion. This is pretty obviously a preorder, but if that doesn’t bother you, the price is right. $35.
- Get Lucky: Kill Doctor Lucky was one of my very first hobby games, so it occupies a special place in my heart (and on my shelf). This is a shorter card game based on the board game. $20.
- Dungeon Roll: Winter Promo Pack: This is a really cool idea if you like Dungeon Roll. These promos are winter themed, with characters like Jack Frost and Santa. It’s pay what you want, but the donations start at $2 in the US.
- Brew Crafters: It’s always an event when Dice Hate Me Games launches a new Kickstarter, and Brew Crafters is no exception. This is a worker placement game about running a brewery. $60.
- Kings of Israel: This is a cooperative game set in the northern kingdom of ancient Israel. It looks Pandemic-like, and the theme is interesting. $45.
- DarkStar: This is a space civilization game that looks pretty cool, albeit a bit pricey. $75.
- Two Rooms and a Boom: This social game smashed its funding goal and has tripled it in the short time it has been on Kickstarter. It looks like a game in the vein of The Resistance and Werewolf. $20.
- Dreaming Spires: The theme of this one will sound boring to some, but I think it sounds awesome. This game is all about building your college of Oxford and attracting famous scholars. $49.
- The Manhattan Project: Digital Edition: The Manhattan Project is one of the best worker placement games I’ve played (see my review), and now it’s on its way to iPad and Android tablets. $10.
- Dark Horse: Rebels and Rogues: This Kickstarter is for the expansion to Dark Horse (reviewed here). Looks to add some interesting bits with reputation. $25.
What We’ve Been Playing
- The Resistance: I brought Rise of Augustus in for our Friday lunch game, but the demand for Roman bingo was so strong that we had to play a more accommodating group game. We pulled out The Resistance, and it was a blast. I was a spy the first game, and I made it through the entire game without being suspected once. The spies won pretty handily. Contrast that to the second game, when everyone was certain I was a spy for the whole game, despite my protests to the contrary. I eventually convinced another player of my loyal status, but by then it was too late. The resistance should have won the second game easily, but by alienating a core member (that is, me), we lost out. Not that I’m bitter or anything… Win or lose, this game is awesome, and these games showcased why. (FarmerLenny)
- Rex: Rex is probably my favorite combat-centric game (it’s probably not tactical enough to call it a wargame) but because of the length, my schedule doesn’t allow for it that often. We got in a 5 player game over the weekend, and it was fantastic. Everyone was rusty but after a few false starts (one player accidentally committed all of their troops to a battle they had clear superiority in, resulting in all of their troops being removed after winning the battle), alliances soon grew out of the ashes. A few barrages from the Sol fleet later, I realized my ally and I were in position to take 4 strongholds by the end of the round, if we risked everything. It was a situation in which if we won, the game was ours, if we lost, we would have an uphill battle to recover. Fortunately, our hearts were steady and we committed our troops and leaders wisely, and though our hold was tenuous at best it was enough to win the game! A tense and glorious victory, and we roped the new player in for future plays. (Futurewolfie)
- Infiltration: I had planned for Rex to fill the game night, but we actually finished in around 2 hours, so we had time for a game of Infiltration, another favorite of mine from Fantasy Flight. Normally when playing this game I like to push my luck as far as it can go and run as deep into the facility as I can get. This game, the first room bumped the Alarm level up, and at the end of the first round, Officer Nelson was on the table, raising the alarm again. An item I originally planned to use to pull the alarm back down, I instead used to raise the alarm level, and it took a few rounds to take out Officer Nelson. As everyone else had pushed ahead, I stayed in the second room, freely collecting all the data there, and as the proximity dial rocketed upwards, I was able to step out of the building with ease while everyone else frantically tried to escape and just didn’t have the time. It was a less climactic ending, but I felt like I had played well and was satisfied with my clean getaway. (Futurewolfie)
- Nothing Personal: Our first play of this gangster-themed game started off slowly as we acclimated to the rules and the flow of the game. Actually it started, middled, and ended slowly. A few tentative long-term alliances formed, but my “ally” started pulling pretty far ahead near the end, so I had to turn against him. With plenty of positioning and finaggling earlier in the game I was in pretty good position, and managed to make up a lot of points and even overtake my ally. Unfortunately, Kristen managed to be in the right places at the right time and score a boatload of points at the last second, moving from second-to-last place up to a steamrolling first place. The game is an interesting combination of euro-style mechanisms (using “influence tokens” to control various locations to gain respect, money, and abilities in different combinations), and a heavily element of player-to-player bantering, negotiation, and betrayal, not to mention wide swings on point totals. It was enjoyable, but 3hrs was far too long. I’m hoping playing with experience will knock it back down to the 1.5hr time limit on the box, but if not… well, we’ll just see what happens. (Futurewolfie)
- Hanabi: My wife and I have been playing Hanabi pretty frequently since I picked it up, but until a few days ago our best score was 19 and we had earned some soggy middle-of-the-road score. Today we hit the sweet spot of communication, or something. Our clues seemed rather effective, we deduced the right things, and with a little luck we scored an honest 24 points. The final score can depend on the luck of the draw, but far more important is how you play and the timing of your clues, so it’s a satisfying experience every time. (Futurewolfie)