Oh, here’s a tangent: Have you seen/used/been amazed by the WHAT TO PLAY app for your computer? It’s this amazing tool that syncs up with your BGG account so you can do a search of your collection based on whatever filters you choose. It’s fantastic, and I use it almost every single time I am going to play games.
For example, I had a buddy come over late, and we decided to try something new. So I filtered my collection by 0 plays/best with 2 players/60 minutes or under. It told me which 13 titles fell under those conditions, and we chose VœLû5pã.
Solid nerd gold. Please to check this app out.
Anyway, Völuspá is a fairly quick (30-45, I’d say, with experience) tile-laying game. Each tile you lay has the chance to score points, and most of them also have some funky bonus quality. Dragons can be placed on other tiles, Loki zeroes out the value of all adjacent tiles, etc.
After all the powers and whatnot, if the tile you’ve just placed represents the highest value in the row and/or column in which you placed it… in… you score points for each tile in the column. Or row. In which. It’s in. Jesus.
The rules explain it better than that. They must, since I was a couple beers in, and I still figured it out.
ANYWAY you go back and forth until the tiles are gone.
I’m not doing a good job of selling this, but it’s actually really fun. I thought it sounded dry from afar, but it plays quickly, and offers plenty of short-term planning opportunities. I’d peg it as a slightly meatier filler. We played with two, and I have to imagine it’d scale just fine all the way to five.
The theme is not exactly dripping wet, but it’s fun and the pictures are pretty and I liked it a lot and I really shouldn’t write reviews.
(I don’t know if I’m going to actually “review” games on here or not. It makes me a little uncomfortable. There are a billion people doing it a billion times better. In fact, I hesitate to call the below “a review.” It’s more of “a description of a game, and also some of my opinions about it.”)
I played Pressure Point on the Never Not Funny telethon this last November. It was super fun, and we loved the game. You can watch it here. There are some swears and stuff, so, y’know, NSFW.
After doing the podcast, the fine folks at R&R Games sent me a bundle of games as a gift. I was especially excited about one of the games I had heard a lot about, but had never played: Smarty Party.
As a rule, I dislike trivia games. I don’t like games which reward a ton of prior knowledge, with no chance for We Dummies to do well. Trivial Pursuit is my nightmare. Same thing goes for word games, by the way. Here’s a blog post I remember writing a few years ago:
Smarty Party still wants you to know a bunch of stuff, but it plays differently enough that it doesn’t sting too much if you don’t. The goal is to avoid points. You gain points when you can’t name items from a list. That’s almost the whole game.
The lists are tough, sometimes. For me, anyway. I know jack shit about sports and geography, two favorite categories for this game. But again, it kinda doesn’t matter. The way it awards points is sort of interesting. Every time you miss an item from the list, you take a chip. There are seven chips; four 1s, two 2s, and a 3. After the chips are gone (or all of the items on the list are named (ha ha just kidding that happens pretty freaking rarely (in my group, anyway))), you score the points. BUT: whomever named the most recent correct item from the list gets to ditch their highest chip.
The current point leader (loser) is the category reader, and they bet whether the group will hit the requisite number of answers — if the list is ten items long, the goal may be set at six or something — and they gain (bad) or lose (yay) a point, respectively. It’s an excellent balancing mechanic, and it keeps the game fairly tight.
Anyway. Like I said, screw trivia games, usually. But I’ll play this one anytime.
SMARTY PARTY by Pitt Crandlemire and Aaron Weissblum 3-8 players 45 minutes
I'm assuming you've played Arkham Horror before, but were you going to include it on your Solo Games list?
I have played it. It was kind of a bummer. To be fair, we played with five or six, and started learning it at midnight. I’ve been told since that these were not ideal conditions.
I didn’t have much fun with it, is what I mean.
Plus, now that I’ve played Eldritch Horror (with three), I doubt I’ll ever go back to Arkham. I don’t need a game to be that fiddly, and Eldritch scratches any itch I think I’d ever even remotely have for that universe.
I’m writing this on my phone, so I have no idea if the picture I’m about to try embedding is going to appear. But with any luck, you’ll see a big old clickable picture of the Nothing Personal box art below.
Did it work? Hope so!
I kickstarted Nothing Personal last year, and finally got it to the table this week.
It’s a light negotiation game. The gist is to gain influence of a few key family members, and to use them to gain respect (VP). When you control a mobster, you can use their personal action (if they have one), or the special action attached to their current job title.
It’s a super themey game. You can blackmail people, to make sure you have a say in what they do. You can “make a move” on folks to get a promotion within the family. You can snitch on a character with too much influence, to get them sent to the clink. And you can call out a hit on a mobster, to get them removed from the game completely.
The rule book is a touch wonky, but once you digest it, it’s a pretty easy game to play. It clocks in maybe juuuuuust a touch longer than it should, but that will surely go down with more plays. I certainly wouldn’t have wished for any fewer than five rounds.
The components are awe. some. Super chunky and heavy. Really fun to throw the money and blackmail coins around.
I love negotiation games, but they’re super group-dependent. If you have a bunch of folks whose feelings will get hurt by a couple little in-game lies, I’d definitely steer clear of this one. Rage-wise, it’s way closer to I’m The Boss than it is to, say, Intrigue (or Diplomacy, god forbid), but there’s still plenty of room for hurt feelings among the Sensitive Set. Luckily, the group I played this with are old buddies who verbally kick the crap out of each other all day long, so this was perfect. Can’t wait to play it again.
by Stephen Avery and Tom Vasel (both stand up fellas)
3-5 players (we played with four)
120 minutes (so they say; took us longer)
I’m lucky Tumblr hasn’t forcibly retired this blog. I certainly deserve it.
Now for some Q&A! From me to me!
Q. WHERE THE HELL HAVE I BEEN?
A. I don’t know. Hanging out, I guess? With my family, sometimes? I have no excuse.
Q. AM I GOING TO START UPDATING THIS MORE REGULARLY?
A. I have no way of knowing. I would like to, sure. But I know myself pretty well. So probably not.
Q. AM I GOING TO CONTINUE MY SOLO GAMES ODYSSEY?
A. Yeah! I think so! I have to juggle the list a bit, since I have picked up/traded off some games since then. And I need to not get so freaked out by LOTR: TCG and Mage Knight. Those are what froze me up last time. But having procured Pathfinder: TACG and Robinson Crusoe make me reeeeeeeally want to get back on the horse.
Q. WHAT ARE MY NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS, GAME-WISE?
A. Wow! Great question, me.
Inspired by this thread on Reddit from a few months ago, I took a look at how many games I own that I’ve never played. It’s, um, a big number. Not counting expansions, I’ve played roughly two of every three games I own.
I’m not proud of having NEVER PLAYED a third of the games I own. Not even, you know, to see if I might like it before buying it. Ugh.
So my two main goals are:
1) To make a giant dent in my owned-but-unplayed count. Whether that means getting them to the table or trading them off, I kind of don’t care. But having this many games sitting unplayed is stupid and gross.
2) To slow my roll on buying games I’ve never played before. I don’t know that I want to eradicate buying untested games COMPLETELY, because I like Kickstarter too much and I read lotsa reviews. But I have to put on the brakes somewhere, and this category makes the most sense.
If you have an idea of how to concisely state those resolutions so’s I can put them on a post-it or something, let me know.
Q. HOW WAS BGG.CON THIS YEAR?
A. So ridiculously fun. I have few words. Some words, though, might include: games, tired, friends, games, whiskey, laughs, games.
Q. HEY, AM I EVER GONNA START THAT PODCAST I’VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT FOR LIKE TWO YEARS AND KEEP TELLING PEOPLE I’M GONNA START?
I’m an idiot if I don’t. It’s a fun concept, I think, and I have all of the equipment and I should just do it, but I’m kinda scared and lazy but mostly scared.
So there we go! We’re all caught up. Maybe I’ll post more stuff soon. Or maybe I’ll write another one of these in like a year.
I played Checkers as a kid. And I went through a Chess phase in my first year at college. But since getting into The Hobby, abstract games weren’t really all that interesting to me.
Ingenious was one of the games that re-piqued my interest in abstract games. Along with Hive, Ingenious made me understand that an abstract game could be more than a theme-less puzzle.
When played with other people.
Played solo, Ingenious is kind of… a theme-less puzzle. Sort of. I don’t think it’s necessarily solvable, but your choices are pretty cut and dried.
Your goal is to create strings of symbols. When you place a tile, you receive points for matching symbols in lines out from your tile. This picture from the rules explains it better than my words do.
Anyway, your final score is equal to whatever your lowest color’s score is at the end of the game.
I played it twice. Both times, I ended up with 18 points. I think I would have needed some pretty miraculous tile draws to get above 18.
It’s a great game, with more than one player. And it’s a fantastic gateway game for people new to The Hobby. As a solo exercise, I think I’m unlikely to play it again.
Ingenious score: 18
Running TWIP: 1928
It’s a good thing I’ve had a little run of light-ish games, because I’m about to embark on a couple of doozies. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game isn’t THAT cumbersome, except that I plan on trying it couple times, while re-building my deck along the way.
Most zombie games are based in the idea that if you can survive, you win.
Not If I’m Going Down….
IIGD is referred to by the designer as a “Dying Card Game,” because no matter what you do, your character will die. Your goal is to take as many zombies out as you can before that happens.
I mean, you can’t take it too seriously. I think when I started playing it, I was taking it a little too seriously. You can only maintain so much control over what’s happening. There’s a shit-ton of luck involved, since both your weapons and the strength of the incoming zombies are determined by flipping cards off of several decks.
But it’s fun. The game builds up pretty quickly, and makes you feel overwhelmed. You can do what you want, but you’re going down.
It can end a little quickly, which can be a bummer. But it’s fast to reset, so it’s not that big of a deal.
There are a couple scenarios included, and optional stories you can add in for flavor. You can also choose which character you want to use for the scenario. Each character has a different special ability.
I love scenario-based games. I love that kind of included variety.
I did the Intersection scenario for my first two plays (6 and 8 points, respectively), without a story attached. It was fine, but playing the third game was far more fun.
I went with the Shack scenario, and included the first available optional story. It was a totally different experience. I’m glad I started with the vanilla game to get to know it a little before I dove in for the full-fledged game.
This round, I started off strong. Got my hands on a rifle, and picked off a handful of zombies. Right when my ammo was about to run out, I happened upon another rife, so I swapped out my old one for a new one and got a few more. When they really started to gang up on me, I grabbed a flamethrower from the ground and blasted six dudes, twice. Awesome.
I almost triggered a story event (part of the optional add-on stories (which I, again, highly recommend once you know the game a little)) — I WAS SO CLOSE — but it didn’t matter. It’s a super fun game. Check it out.
You are Friday. You have to help ready Robinson Crusoe to fight the pirates. You know, buy building the best deck you can against hazards like animals and cannibals and such.
It’s a deck-building solo game. I love it.
I sat down this time after recently having played Dominion: Dark Ages, which is often about culling the shit out of your deck, so I fared slightly better than I had in NYC.
I played three games, increasing my score incrementally each time.
First game: -23 points. Ugh. I got halfway through the red level (the third and final level of the deck-building portion of the game, just before you get smashed by the pirates). This was still better than most of my games back when I bought it.
Second game: +7 points. I made it to the first pirate, who smoked me pretty quickly. I had figured out how to stop fighting hazards more quickly — it’s a requirement to play at least one card against hazards as you’re working your way through the game, but you can stop once you’ve beaten them. Before, I had placed the maximum amount of cards. Don’t know why. I’m an idiot. Made me age much more quickly than necessary.*
Third game: +35 points! I beat the first pirate, and came THIS CLOSE to beating the second one.
Long story short: I still haven’t beaten the game on its easiest level (there are four levels), but I am improving each time. This is easily my favorite of the solo games I’ve played thus far. From what I hear, Mage Knight may be pretty amazing too… But for a quick, relatively light solo game, I can’t recommend Friday highly enough. Buy it. It’s like $20, tops. So fun.
Friday score: 35
Running TWIP: 1854
*— Sorry for using language you’d really only understand if you’ve played the game. Just play the game. It’s really good.
my solo games odyssey: Field Commander: Alexander (and Napoleon, sort of)
I bought this game when I was in Miami for eleven days shooting an episode of Burn Notice. I spent a lot of time in my hotel room playing Field Commander: Alexander, and watching the Evil Dead movies so I’d have something to talk to Bruce Campbell about.
FC:A is a very simple solo wargame. I’m not sure wargamers would even call it a “wargame,” but that’s what I’m calling it.
Your goal changes with each scenario, but in general, you have to get Alexander’s army to a certain area of the board, having conquered a bunch of certain places on the way.
I played the Granicus campaign covered in the rulebook. The goal there is to have conquered every stronghold on the map, either through battle or intimidation, and end with Alexander’s army in Lycia. Of course, that means you have to win a battle in Halicarnassus, which is terrible and difficult. Enemy forces build up each and every turn, and every so often dump into Halicarnassus.
My point: You have to spend some cash to build up your army before heading there. That can take time. The longer you wait, the fewer points you get at the end.
I waited for a bit.
I ended up winning, and peacefully governing five areas on the map. You can raze or govern a place you take control of. Razing gets you fast cash, but loses you some esteem across the board. Governing gets you less up-front money, but pays you throughout and keeps people respectin’ you.
At the end of the game, you add up some stuff to get your Immortality Points, which dictate how long history will remember your efforts. Or something. Then you can go on to play further campaigns with your beefed-up Alex.
I stopped here.
Governing five areas on the map got me 30 points. I had a single unspent “Glory” counter, netting me 4 more points. I built two cities along the way for 5 points each, and I won in the winter of 335 B.C., for 10 last points.
So we take my 54 Immortality Points, cross-reference this handy little chart in the rules…
Huh. 50 years.
Maybe could have done a little better.
Sometime, it’d be fun to link some campaigns together and go for the full experience. But not now. I have too much to do.
Field Commander: Alexander score: 54
Running TWIP: 1819
AND NOW FOR THE BAD NEWS:
Field Commander: Napoleon has been sitting on my shelf for about a year. When I first got it, I eagerly punched out all of the pieces, and gave the rules a cursory read.
Then I put it back on the shelf.
And that is where it has lived since then.
I pull out the rules once in a while and give them a read. Then my eyes glaze over. I realize it is probably a fantastic game. But the added mountain of rules on top of what the system already does with FC: Alexander… It seems like something I’m just not willing to embark on.
I think I’m gonna trade it. I know I’m missing out on something, just like I am with Ambush!. But I am not excited enough to spend time playing it, when there are a bunch of games I am very excited to get to.
Field Commander: Alexander score: TBD (something terrible, I’m sure)
My favorite game of the last year, hands down, is Summoner Wars. It’s a fantastic two-player game with tons of replayability. I am not a fan of fantasy themes in games, usually. But Summoner Wars won. me. over.
Dungeon Run, while nothing at all like Summoner Wars, is set in the same universe. Many of the characters and abilities are direct ports, and there are lots of little tips of the hat throughout.
I’m pretty sure this is a game built to be played by more people. It plays from 1-6, but I hear four is the sweet spot. Before today, I had only played a two player game. We liked it fine, but knew it’d be better with more.
Now that I’ve played two solo games, I can say again (in case you didn’t hear me): This is a game meant for more people.
THAT BEING SAID: It’s fast and cute. I actually could see myself playing it again solo, although I’m not sure I could do much to shift the outcome. It’s heavily luck-driven, and I imagine the luck increases with each fewer player you have.
My first game, I chose to play as Birodin. You know Birodin, right? He’s the Mountain Vargath Aspirant? ANYway, I was able to dispense quickly with the mummy I encountered. The arrow trap? Disarmed. Zombie? Kaboom. Then I found the big boss: Gra Bogga. He has this neat “kick” ability, with which he dispensed of me tout de suite.
For the second game, I grabbed Addolgar Vayne. He’s the Questing Knight of the Vanguard, y’see. He cruised quickly through the dungeon, right up until he bumped into Ra-Alal and his rotting zombie friend. This fight went a little better than the first one, but ol’ R.A. rolled a stupid amazing attack, and it was over in two shakes.
Look, it’s not a perfect solo game. But it’s still pretty fun. I enjoyed playing it more than I have several of these other suckers. And I am eager to get it to the table with more players. I have a hunch it’ll be a ton of fun that way (see above).
Decathlon is one of those games, but it’s maybe not the game he’ll be most remembered for. I’m just guessing here.
The rules are on his website, so feel free to download them and get eight dice and have at it. It’s light fare. The only time I’ve played it with other humans was at a cabin in Minnesota, which is maybe the most perfect setting anywhere for this game.
Basically, it’s ten dice-driven mini-games. Each one is supposed to emulate a decathlon event.
"Emulate" may be a strong word. Maybe, "each one is printed next to the name of a decathlon event," would be more appropriate.
I played two rounds today. My worst event was the shotput, which I scored a big fat zero in both times. My 1500-meter kicked some ass, though.
If you can make out my terrible handwriting (you can’t), you’ll see that I scored a sweet 218 points overall. PUT ‘EM ON THE BOARD!
Decathlon score: 218
Running TWIP: 1265
BY THE WAY: An excellent two-player Knizia game, Lost Cities, came out on iOS a coupla weeks ago. I highly recommend it. Super slick implementation.
When I said that there’s no game that does anything quite like D-Day Dice, I may have misspoken.
That’s in no way meant to suggest that The d6 Shooters comes anywhere near DDD in complexity or fun or chrome. But it does trip some of the same triggers in my brain when I play it.
This one has never been published, and is fully available to Print and Play. I raided my copy of Perudo to get the dice. There are two scenarios out there, and they play pretty differently from each other. Long Road to Reno is the version I had played before, and it’s a bit of a slog. Unless you’re brand new to this type of game, I’d suggest skipping it. Ghost Town Showdown, terrible pop culture references aside, is a much more enjoyable version.
Your goal is to reach Hoodia by the 30th day (1 day = 1 roll). Once you get there, you have to survive a final showdown. I played twice, and got to the showdown both times.
The first time through, I only had one member of my posse left, versus fourteen bad guys. I lost the second I crossed into Hoodia.
The second time through, I did a little better. However, a few feet from entering Hoodia, one of my posse members revealed that was a bad guy in disguise. I blame him for the fact that I lost again, although I made it a little further into the fight.
It’s fun, I guess. There are choices to make throughout. It’s a pretty thematic game, for a bunch of dice. (although the Ennio Morricone I played in the background probably helped.) And the black/red/white dice mechanics are pretty cool. But I couldn’t muster up the energy/interest to try a third time.
So I’ll accept my zero points and mosey on over the the Decathlon in Reiner Knizia’s backyard.
As far as dice games go, there aren’t many I can think of that do anything quite like D-Day Dice.
Originally available as a Print-and-Play game, D-Day Dice had a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign last year, and I got in on it. Since the game arrived a few weeks ago, I’ve gotten to play it quite a few times.
In a way, it’s got some similarity in mechanics to Catan Dice Game. But the execution is way, way better. There are maps you are trying to make your way up. You can discover items in the field, and use them to affect your situation. You can enlist Specialists who have permanent effects on your unit.
It’s pretty great.
Now, I have beaten the game before. It’s never very easy, but I’ve certainly done it.
Today? Um. It was REALLY NOT VERY EASY.
I bet I played ten games of it. Maybe more. And I got ripped apart each. and. every. time.
I tried to be conservative. I tried to be aggressive. I switched maps. I couldn’t get ANYWHERE.
The way you win? You enter the bunker at the top of the map, and survive the ensuing firefight with at least one soldier left. I couldn’t even get to the bunker.
The kids were waking up from their naps, so I thought, forget it. I get 90 points for making it to Sector 9. That’s more than I’ve gotten for any non-Sackson game in this stupid thing.
About seven hours passed. I was about to go to bed.
I couldn’t do it. I had to give it one more shot.
This time, I decided to make it slightly easier on myself by including the Badges expansion. Basically, the Badges expansion gives you a little leg up here and there. You end up losing 10 points per badge you have in play at the end of the game, but if I could get into that bunker and mess some Germans up, a few badges wouldn’t be a concern.
Through some careful play and some pretty lucky rolls, I finally got there. I stormed that bunker. I CHARGED.
And I got immediately mowed down.
After deducting 10 points per badge, I was left with 50 points.
I think I have lost my D-Day Dice mojo. I still love the game, but I don’t think it cares much for me.
I’ll be sticking with my 90 points from earlier, thankyouverymuch. Which still pushes my Total Worth In Points over the thousand point hump, which is pretty much all I cared about today.
my solo games odyssey: an update, and back for more.
Remember when I told you that My Lovely Wife left town? And then she came back?
Now she left again. So I am back to drowning my sorrows in solo board games.
The list from the initial post has shifted a bit. Some games have been dropped (Blokus x2, Book of Classic Board Games), and some have been added:
If I’m Going Down… is a zombie game where the player’s little dude will die. For sure. There’s no getting out of it. But you try to stay alive as long as you can.
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a pretty spectacular card game version of the books, and beyond. I used to own it. I donated my copy to a charity auction. This was the perfect time to get it back.
Swing States 2012 is a solo election game. You can play as either side’s nominee. I love election games, and this’ll be my first time playing one designed for one player. I’m excited to get to it.
Yggdrasil is a cooperative game for 1-6, and I’m told it’s great. It’s about mythical gods and stuff. Not my usual cup of tea theme-wise, but I hear very good things. The cardboard version doesn’t include a way to score the game, but the iPad port has scoring rules created by the designers, so I’ll be using those.
Here’s the updated list, along with my points earned so far, per game.
So here we are. I am excited to get back into the swing of things. There will be a couple breaks here and there (Emmys, trip to NYC to see My Lovely Wife’s play), but I think I can get through the list before she’s back for good in mid-October.
If I can survive being a single dad. These kids. Man oh man.
There’s this game, see? It’s called The Settlers of Catan. It’s lots of people’s introduction to the netherworld of the board gaming hobby. And a lot of people LOOOOOOOOVE it.
I have played Settlers. A lot. But I have also played a bunch of other games. I have a feeling that those people who LOOOOOOOOVE Settlers would be even happier playing something else, but they get sort of stuck on Settlers for some reason.
I think it’s pretty meh. It came out in 1995, I think, and it already feels fairly dated. There have been lots of games to come out since then, and many of them have refined what Settlers was trying to do, and made it much more fun.
Like Bohnanza. Anything I like about Settlers, Bohnanza does better. Its dice version is even better than Settlers’.
All of that being said, I am not a game snob. I think you should play whatever the hell you want to play. If you love sitting around with your pals and playing Monopoly or Risk or Settlers, I think it’s just great. I just hope that you’ll consider looking just beyond them, as well.
Anyway. On to my first of five heavily dice-based games in a row…
Catan Dice Game is the super simplified Settlers you’ve always dreamed of!
It’s actually not that bad. It’s just very basic. Much like the board game, you collect resources of different types, and you use those resources to build roads and settlements and cities and whatnot.
The good news for me is that the dice game gives you crazy points for doing this. There’s a variant floating around boardgamegeek.com that makes it slightly more like the board game — and limits you to ten points. I played the straight-outta-the-box rules. And that allowed me to get way more than ten points.
It’s fine. It’s light, it’s quick. I think I would have loved it so much I’d have shit my pants, when I was twelve.
BuyWord is my second Sid Sackson entry on the list, and it’s a goody.
I always say that board games are basically prettied-up math problems. This one BARELY counts as “prettied-up.” It’s a straight up math game, trying real hard to look like a word game.
The solo version is just about identical to the multiplayer version. You get some tiles on the table and evaluate them. Each letter has a dot value, and you add up the dots visible on the letters in front of you and square the total. That’s how much the letters cost. Then you sell them in combination with others purchased earlier, hopefully for more than you paid for them.
Buy low, sell high.
Do that a bunch of times, then count up your “money.”
Sid is my best friend on this list. He loves giving you lots and lots of points. Bowling Solitaire netted me the most points so far, and BuyWord has blown it out of the water.
You start the game with $200. Sid says in the solo rules that ending with $800 is a fair game, $900 is good, and $1000 is outstanding.
Guess what. I am none of those.
But I don’t care. Compared to the rest of the games so far, I did AMAZINGLY WELL. And with an exchange rate of One BuyWord Dollar = One Point toward my Total Worth, I just got a whole lot more worth-y.
What did you expect? When someone is this bad at all games period, he’s bound to screw up even the simplest attempt at measuring his Total Worth in solo board game points.
The next three games on the list, Blokus, Blokus Trigon, and The Book of Classic Board Games, don’t work for my little adventure. None of them have official solitaire versions which give you a score at the end.
So I am going to remove them all from my list of games.
To make up for their removal, I am adding at least two games to the list.
The kind folks at Van Ryder Games have been following my progress, and have graciously offered to send along a copy of their brand spankin’ new If I’m Going Down… !
I’m excited to give it a whirl. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the game from people who had the chance to try it at this year’s GenCon.
I told them that if they could get it to me before I got to that spot in my alphabetical list, I’d play it. So here’s hoping.
I’m also keeping an eye out for solo games that fit the criteria later in the alphabet. Not that I need more to do with monsters like Mage Knight coming up, but, you know, I like games. I just ordered a copy of Swing States 2012. I’m a sucker for election games, and it fits the criteria. So that’ll be on the list, too.
I almost wrote this entry in the same nightmarish vernacular this book uses, but I thought way, way better of it.
Blazing Aces! A Fistful of Family Card Games is a book by mega-designer Reiner Knizia. According to boardgamegeek.com, he has published more than 500 games and books about games.
That’s, um, a lot. I think he’s what you might call, “prolific.”
Anyway, Blazing Aces! is his book of poker variants. Not really poker variants you would want to play with your friends for money, but poker variants you might play with your kids, or that kids might play with other kids.
It’s not a real complex collection, is what I’m saying.
That being said, I did once hole myself up in a hotel room for a few days of games with a buddy, and we worked our way through most of the two-player games in the book. It wasn’t too bad. Of course, we also played War of the Ring twice, which kinda helped swing up the average difficulty for the weekend.
There are two options for solitaire play in the book, and both are fairly annoying. I chose the more innocuous of the two, Oregon. It’s a very basic solitaire game in which you try to assemble the best poker hands you can, each of which are ascribed some points.
Doesn’t the crap below the points just make you wanna punch that book? Ugh.
I played five times. Well, four. I had one rage quit in the fourth game (a busted full house in the second row that just WOULD NOT GET THERE). The most I was able to get in a game was 13 points.
Basing my Total Worth on how many points I can get in games may not have been a very good idea, self-esteem-wise. I’m not worth much.
At the Gates of Loyang is part of Rosenberg’s “Harvest Trilogy,” the other two games being Agricola and Le Havre (which I thankfully traded away before having to learn how to play it solo for this little odyssey, which would have made my brain melt).
I have played Loyang several times before as a two-player. I really dig it. It’s a fun little economic game, where you are constantly trying to squeeze every last coin out of the sales you make.
Also, you plant stuff and harvest it. Like in Agricola, sort of.
I’ll bet money that non-gamers think games about farming sound REALLY BORING. There are plenty of gamer-gamers who feel that way, too.
I like them. At least these two games about farming.
I mean, I like playing them. I’m not good at winning them, so I don’t know yet if I like winning them. I bet I’d like it.
According to the solo rules in Loyang, a score of 17 classifies you as “good.” 18 gets you a “very good” rating. 19 mean you’re a Loyang “master.”
I played two games of it today. First game, I got 14 points. That did not satisfy me. I was a little rusty before the game. Worth a second shot.
Second game: 16.
I was only able to eke out two more points. I’m not even good.
This does not surprise me (or any of my math teachers (or anyone I’ve ever played games with)). It’s still a great game.
This was supposed to be a happy post. This was supposed to be where I told you that after three other failed attempts over the last eight years, I FINALLY got over whatever weird grudge my brain has against this game.
This is not a happy post.
Ambush! is a game I am supposed to love, according to all of my other gaming interests, and according to everyone who’s ever played it ever. It’s a scenario-based WWII game, where each move you make triggers a “paragraph check,” which is where you look up a paragraph in this book, and the paragraph tells you what happens.
Sort of like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.
All of that sounds awesome to me, in concept.
BUT FOR SOME REASON: Every time I have gotten this out to play, I have blown it somehow.
It always begins the same way: Two-or-so hours of rules study. Setting up my squad. Carefully following the setup, step by step.
And it always ends the same way: I realize an hour-and-a-half into the game that I have made some gigantic rules error, that all my work is for naught, and that I don’t have the heart to start again. Not to mention that I now know that [this certain thing] happens once I enter [this certain hex], so that part of the game is ruined until I forget it and try the game again in like two years.
Every. Single. Time.
This time, I forgot that even in Action Rounds, you have to do paragraph checks for every hex you move into. So, about an hour into a firefight, I realized that I had glossed over about a thousand paragraph checks, each with a potential event.
I mean: Shit. That’s kind of a big rule.
I considered, briefly, starting over. But the fact of the matter is that it got late, and I have to get up with the kids somewhere between 5am and 6am.
Part of my goal with this thing was to learn more about the games I own. It’s possible that I’ve learned one very important thing: For some reason, my brain cannot, or will not, handle Ambush!. It’s frustrating. I feel like I should hole up in a cabin some weekend when my kids are in college and FORCE IT.
Or I could give up on it.
So here I am, only three games in, already taking a pass. Maybe I’ll get back to it later in the odyssey (I won’t). For now, I will pack the game back up and drink this egregiously overpoured glass of Jameson.
Ambush! score: TBD*
Running TWIP: 190
* — Like I said in my initial post, I will average out the points per game, and deduct that many points for each skipped game. So I don’t know yet how much this hurt me, points-wise. Oh, I know how much it hurt me time-wise. ugh.
I hadn’t played Agricola since November 8, 2008. I know this because I log all of my games played on a website because I HAVE A PROBLEM, OKAY?
Anyway, it had been a while. So I re-read the rules this evening and dove in, not remembering a single thing about strategy or how anything works, but remembering that I loved it when I used to play it.
Basically, it’s a game about farming. A very complex and cool game about farming. It plays 1-5 players, probably most smoothly with 3-5. There are two versions included, the “Family Game,” for new gamers, and the “Experienced Game,” for the rest of us.
One of the things I look for in a game is that it moves along in a semi-intuitive way. Lots of folks may disagree with me, but I think this is a pretty intuitive game. I have X family members on my board, so they need 3X food at every harvest phase.* I can get them food by planting grain, which I then harvest and bake into bread.
I mean, that’s how it’s supposed to work. What I actually end up with — every time I play it — is a little pile of the hairs I’ve ripped out because there is never enough game time to make all of the moves I need to make.
Which is another thing I look for in games. That tension.
My point is: I couldn’t get much done. I mean, I did some stuff. I upgraded from a wood home to a clay home, added a room, then flipped up to stone. That was fun. And I kept my family fed — both parents AND their stupid kid — for the entire game. But I had grand ambitions that fell flat. Had to cut some corners right at the end that pissed me off. If you know the game at all, here’s how it all looked at the end, so you can evaluate for yourself:
Anyway, for my two-or-so hour investment, I netted a meager 34 points toward my Total Worth. Not much compared to the score from my fifteen minute game of Bowling Solitaire. But I reacquainted myself with a pretty great game. Hoping to get it back to the table with a group very soon.
Agricola score: 34
Running TWIP: 190
* — in the solo game. it’s 2X per family member in the regular game. just to head off the rules lawyers.
It’s all starting off so easily. I love this book.
A Gamut of Games is a collection of games mostly created by Sid Sackson and some of his pals.
If you don’t know who Sid Sackson was, just know that he designed about a billion games, and most of them are super-duper good. He was kind of the shit, game-wise.
It’s really a great book. It’s actually mildly entertaining as a straight read, if you’re a huge dork who likes games as much as I do.
Of the three solitaire games in A Gamut of Games, I chose Bowling Solitaire.
It’s scored exactly like bowling, which is to say I had to start over twice in order to get the scoring right, and only after Googling to re-teach myself how to keep score in bowling.
PS: I took bowling in college. I am a zero in the retention department.
Anyway, I’ll leave you to track down a copy of the book (currently $9.95 on Amazon) to get the rules. Suffice it to say, this is a fast-playing card-based solitaire game, and it’s a kajillion times more interesting than the regular solitaire game you’ve played so very many times.
Also, I am much better at bowling with playing cards than I am at bowling with a ball. Which is NOT SAYING MUCH.
Bad news: It is in New York, and the kids and I will be without her for six of the next eight weeks!
Middling news: I am going to have a shit-ton of time to play solo games!
I used to think solo games were sad. Like going to a movie alone.
Of course, about ten years ago, I went to a movie alone. And it was KIND OF AWESOME.
Being married to someone who hates playing almost every game out there? It’s led me to find the beauty in a solo game. And I have amassed a few of them over the years.
I did a filtered search of my collection to see which games could be played by One-Lonely-Dad-Who-Is-Stuck-At-Home-While-His-Children-Sleep. I came up with a list of 32 games. Of those, 28 give you a “final score” upon completion. Most require you to win to receive the points, but some give you points even if you lose. I guess they figure, “eh, you’re already alone, let’s throw you some Pity Points.”
GAMES RICH OWNS WHICH ALLOW ONE PLAYER AND GIVE YOU POINTS AT THE END:
My goal: To play each of these 28 games, in alphabetical order, and find out my Total Worth In Points (TWIP). This value will be VERY IMPORTANT, you know, just… because.
Some of the listings, as you can see, are books, often containing more than one solitaire option. I will select one game from each book, usually based on whichever looks more fun/pays more points.
If I am having fun and/or am dissatisfied with a score I received, I will play the same game again, and will keep the better score.
I am 100% sure I will bail on a game or two. Some of these puppies are BIG games. I have to sleep at some point, and I don’t live in a place where I can leave games set up over time, because my kids will destroy them. If I bail on a game, meaning either I don’t play it to completion or I skip it entirely, I will average out the number of points per game, and dock myself that many points. Because THIS ALL MATTERS.
I am doing this to a) stay sane, and b) get to know my games a little better. Most of these have never even hit the table before.
So there we have it. I will report back on how it’s going, game-by-game.
Oof. This feels like work. I mean: Yay! Games!
(edited to add Race for the Galaxy, which was left off the initial filter because I excluded expansions blah blah blah)
Usually, when I am Kickstarting a game, I haven’t yet had the chance to play it. I am generally risking money up front for a game that sounds kinda neat.
Not the case here.
I have played The Resistance: Avalon five times. It is fantastic. I love the original, but this bumps the gameplay up substantially. It’s just great.
Whether you’ve played the original or not, I super-duper recommend you drop a couple bucks to pick this up. It’s simple to learn, and will get you and your friends destroying all that pesky “trust” you’ve built up in no time.
I guess eventually, everyone who tries to do a blog on board games feels compelled to do some version of a list like this. A gentleman who goes by @TheGilletteFive on Twitter asked me a little while ago about my ten must-have games. This is, how you say, a “toughie.” It also makes me a little anxious and sweaty, putting myself in the imaginary place of only having ten games to choose from.
It’s a scary place to go.
Anyway, I think there are two ways to go with this. I could make a list of the ten games I would keep if someone forced me somehow to get rid of the rest of them. (my “desert island” games) Or I could make a list of the games I think a new gamer should consider, so that they have a well-rounded selection of games to start their collection.
I’m choosing to go with the latter.
So these are games for someone who’s just getting started in the hobby. All of them are fairly easy to pick up and play, and have some longevity for me, since I still like playing them. I tried to choose games with different mechanics, so you could get a well-rounded intro that will make it easier to learn more complicated games down the road.
And know that this is super subjective, etc., etc. And not in any particular order of importance. And I’m also assuming that you already own a deck of cards, so all of those games are already wide open to you (you probably haven’t played WYSIWYG, and you should).
A great, nearly intro-level area control game. Pretty to look at, and the Castillo keeps it all pretty interesting. Long-term planning is difficult, since the situation on the board changes radically from turn to turn. But you can keep up. This was one of the first games that really sucked me in. The box says 2-5 players, but I will only play with five. I hear four is okay, too.
I love a cooperative game when the mood is right, and this one is very new and very fun. It’s tense and allows for plenty of decisions. I *think* I like it more than Lord of the Rings, but it’s a tight race between this and Pandemic with the On The Brink expansion. They’re all fun. I don’t care which you choose. JUST CHOOSE ONE.
So much replayability, it’ll make your head spin. Especially if you add the expansions. Even without them, there’s a helluva lot to play with. I love scenario-based games, and this one comes with 16 of them. You get a little history, a little strategy, some tactics, and some little army guys. The base rules are easy to grasp, and each expansion adds a little complexity. One of my all-time most-played games. I heart it.
Crazy-fun trading game about bean farming. Well, maybe not ABOUT bean farming, but there are cute little pictures of cute little beans. If someone wanted to play a trading game, I would choose this over Settlers of Catan every time. I don’t hate Catan, but this is more fun. Plus, it scales okay from 3-7. The box says it plays 2, but it’s a totally different experience. And not necessarily a great one.
Look: It’s chaos. But it’s delightful, enraging chaos. Enraging in a good way. Some people hate this game, and I totally get it, but I have a great time whenever I play it. If you like planning and having all of your plans come to fruition, and you hate people meddling in your shit game-wise, then skip it. But I think there’s room for a little bit of that on your shelf. I do recommend keeping it closer to three players than six. I like the chaos, but I don’t like it THAT much.
Man, this game started a trend. There are bunches of deck-building games out there now (some better than others), but this is where it started. At least, it’s where it got crazy-popular. The base game alone allows for 3,268,760 different starting setups (not my math; but a Google search for “Dominion base game math” is guaranteed to yield a more accurate result than if I actually tried to calculate it). It plays very quickly, and feels pretty different depending on which cards are in play. It’s fun.
I suppose you’ve gotta have an abstract game or two, and there aren’t many as fun and straightforward as this one. Plays from 2-4 (although Travel Blokus is best for 2, and Blokus Trigon is best for 3), and can be a great time. I used to dislike abstract games (games without an apparent theme), because I like pictures and stories and things. But Blokus and Ingenious were two of the first games to prove how stupid it is to dismiss abstracts, and I am now a happy happy enjoyer-of-the-themeless. Abstracts are also a very easy avenue for the non-gamer to be sucked in, for some reason. Usually. Chess excepted, I guess.
Sort of like Rummy on steroids (if you think about it (and get liberal with your imagination)). You’re building sets of cards, with which you play sets of trains to fulfill routes from city to city. The base game is super duper easy to find and learn. Your family, if they like any games at all, will like this game. For my money, the game becomes far more interesting as you start to grow into its several expansions and variants, but the base game is fun, too. Definitely keep this on your shelf. Colorful, fun theme — you should have no trouble getting people to play this.
Let me preface: I am generally not a fan of fantasy-themed games. It’s a turn-off for me. I totally judge games by their cover, and, other than Lord of the Rings stuff (which I also avoided for a long time (like an idiot)), I usually dismiss it without thinking about it. When I was presented with Summoner Wars, I rolled my eyes. Then I played it. It. Is. Awesome. It is a easy-to-learn game with tons of variety, depending on which factions you choose to play with in any given game. It’s like chess-lite, plus something awesome. Sort of. Just trust me and buy it. And if you hate the fantasy theme even more than I do, pick up Manoeuvre. It’s a barely-more-complex game that uses many of the same ideas, but with historical armies. Also fantastic.
This spot should probably be held by Werewolf, since it’s a simpler version of this type of game. But since that can be played with a deck of playing cards, I get to list this special little sucker instead. Secret roles, lots of lying and screaming. Some of my favorite game elements. When you pick it up, stick with the basic rules for the first few plays. Then add in the variants and included expansions. It’s one hell of a fun game, and scales very well from five to ten players. If you have more than ten, go with Werewolf. Fewer than five? Two fewer, to be exact? Try Win, Lose or Banana. Here’s a link to our Game Night segment where we covered The Resistance (as well as the electronic version of Ticket to Ride (see above)).
There they are! Ten games you should consider looking into if you’re interested in the hobby. All fun and easy to learn. Please let me know what you think of these. Do you agree? Or have I made total boner choices?
Some people don’t like Risk. I get it. I have never been a huge fan of the basic game. Takes too long, and there isn’t enough reward for your investment.
I do, however, really like the newer Risk Revised. The rules were changed enough to take the game down to a much more attractive 60-120 minutes. The game is no longer about “world domination,” and now focuses on completing various mission for various amounts of points.
Risk Legacy — hoo boy — takes the Risk Revised ruleset, and makes it a whole new experience.
I’ve talked about it before, so hopefully you know the gist. But now that I’ve played it seven times, and can’t stop thinking about it, I thought I’d tell you:
You should buy this game.
Lots of nerds freaked out when they heard that the game instructs you to destroy parts of it. As someone who takes pretty good care of his games, I understand the reaction. But as someone who also looks for unique game opportunities, I will do what the game tells me to do, because there is no other game like this, anywhere.
The game changes with every single play, in some way. Some of the changes are minor — maybe a territory on the board gains a little bonus, or a minor city is founded. But some of the changes are h-u-g-e. Like, totally change the way the game is played. And it is awesome.
The investment in each round of the game is deep, since you want to be the one who decides how the face of the game is altered. And if it’s not you, it’s most likely gonna hurt you. Bad.
The game stops changing after fifteen plays. Then it’s “locked.” Still playable, but most likely gonna be shelved for whatever comes along next. (which may very well be a second copy of Risk Legacy, because I want to see what happens if we make different choices from the get go.)
Look: The game is like $70, if you buy it in a store. You can find it for less online. Assuming you play all fifteen games (and I don’t know how you couldn’t; it’s all I’ve been thinking about since I played the first game), that’s less than five bucks per game. It’s way, way worth it.
By the way, just to be clear, I sometimes get free games. People give them to me to talk about them here or on an AOTS segment. Not the case here. I bought the game, and genuinely love the shit out of it. So take that for what it’s worth.
games i have recently acquired that i really, really want to play: a list
Flash Point: Fire Rescue. Just arrived today from the Kickstarter campaign. Great components, great looking board. Cooperative game about rescuing folks from a fire. Plays 1-6, so this would probably hit the table first (since I can play it by myself (I am sad and lonely)).
Alien Frontiers. Another one from a Kickstarter campaign. A dice placement game that has an expansion coming down the pipe soon. I love dice placement, but I don’t always love outer space themes. Which is why…
Troyes may end up getting a little more play. Also a dice placement game, but with a more euro-y theme. This one looks fantastic.
Survive: Escape from Atlantis! Got this one hoping it would be right for a Game Night segment, but it’s not readily available for purchase, so it’ll have to wait. Until then, I am excited to get it to the table with the right group. Maybe coupled with Panic Station.
Eminent Domain. SUCH A GREAT GAME. Played it a number of times at Strategicon this year, but my copy just arrived. It is fantastic. Deck-building, but with a twist.
D-Day Dice is a great little game. I played the print and play version from BoardGameGeek and loved it.
The published version looks very pretty, and looks a billion times more involved and interesting. They have obliterated their original funding goal, so getting in on the deal now is just for your own benefit.
I think I may have owned more copies of Ticket to Ride, over time, than any other game. It’s been a little like the books Replay and In the Lake of the Woods* for me; when I meet someone who hasn’t experienced it yet, I pass my copy on to them.
This game is great for people new to the hobby. It’s easy to learn. It’s pretty to look at. And it plays fairly quickly and intuitively.
People get it.
A testament to it’s accessibility is the fact that it is one of the very few of, “our games,” available at Target.
TtR may seem pretty simple on the surface (and it is), but there are some defensive strategies that can develop over time. You can pretty quickly learn to pick up on the cues of your opponents’ train placements, as well as start to recognize certain routes from previous plays.
Of all the games we’ve covered on Game Night, this is the easiest to jump head first into the hobby with. Grab it.
And the iPad app is nifty, as well.
* - I am not comparing Ticket to Ride to these books based on a scale of content and emotional impact. Just on a giving-away-copies scale. Also, I am betting I am the first person ever to have compared Ticket to Ride to Replay and In the Lake of the Woods. Probably a good thing.
This was originally a game playable with a regular deck of cards. I’ve played it both ways, and I prefer the published version. The pictures are pretty, and there are lots of rule variants inside the box that weren’t available with the playing card version.
This. Game. Is. Fun.
Like Panic Station (which I’ve mentioned before), and really any conversation-based game, you have to have the right group for The Resistance. If there are shy folks, they may have a tough time defending against the accusations from the loud folks.
Or maybe it will force them out of their shells. I’ve seen it happen.
If you pick up a copy, and I strongly suggest that you do, play the vanilla version a few times before adding the variants. They are fun, but they can weigh down the game if you don’t know what the hell is going on.