2018 – –

Our family’s gaming seems to be returning to somewhat normal…

I’m still on the road just about every weekend and Julie’s meds make her sleep – sometimes for days at a time… 🙁

————————————————————————-But what should appear on the horizon??

Aaahhh… Kingsburg… Time for a birthday present… to myself…

I’ve been hearing this game referenced for comparison in different reviews for years now, looked it up and immediately put it on my radar!! By then it was out of print of course… then I read that there was a new version coming which seemed to take forever to materialize… in the meantime I learned that there are a couple expansions that really add quite a bit to he game… and then I hear that all the expansions plus a new one are INCLUDED in the new edition!! It was still hard to find but then I read that they’re releasing a REVISED edition!! Apparently there were a couple things in the new 2nd edition that needed ‘tweaking’…

I found it in stock at Miniature Market the first week of February (2108)… the time was right…

(from BGG): The realm of Kingsburg is under attack! Monstrous invaders are gathering at the borders, aiming to invade and plunder the realm! Your king has chosen you to take charge of a province on the border; you will manage your province and help defend the realm. To accomplish this, you must influence the King’s advisers and the Royal Family to obtain gold, wood, stones, and soldiers to expand and defend your lands. But you are not the only governor seeking the aid of the advisers! The other players also seek to collect the best resources for their own territories.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I think the dice placement – how the game uses the dice rolls – is what really hooked me… the options and strategy… it all just looked very interesting to me… I’ve waited a long time and can’t wait to play it!! I texted my wife to tell her that her birthday present to me was being delivered and that she should hide it until then… SHE DID!! I guess I really should wait until my birthday the end of March… 🙂

A first week of February venue booking ‘snafu’… they sent a contract with a performance date of 2/3 but meant to say 3/2… bottom line, a rare weekend off for me!! Selena was working so where would I take my wife for an also rare date night?? Flipside Gaming – where else?!?  🙂  OK – before I’m deafened by people accusing me of being ‘unromantic’, SHE wanted to have a game night so I thought we’d load up the dog, take a ride, get to chat, grab a bite and let her pick out a new game… we came home with THREE!! Happy Valentine’s Day girls!!!

The first thing my wife spotted that she recognized (because we had just watched a review) was Bunny Kingdom!! I had picked out no less than 10 games already – and that was just my first trip down the game isle!! I shouldn’t be allowed in this place… 🙂

(from BGG): Peace has come at last to the great Bunny Kingdom! Lead your clan of rabbits to glory by gathering resources and building new cities across the land!

Draft cards and pick the right ones to position your warrens on the 100 squares of the board, provide resources to your colonies, build new cities to increase your influence, and plan your strategy to score big at the end of the game. Settle in lakesides or fields to collect water and grow carrots, gather mushrooms in the green forest, and climb the highest mountains to discover rare and precious resources… Secretly rally rabbit lords and recruit skillful masters to make your cities and resources even more valuable at the end of the game.

After each turn, your groups of contiguous warrens grant you points depending on the cities and different resources they include. The game ends after 4 turns, and the player with the most points wins the game.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I’d seen the review before and the game just looked interesting… and fun… and challenging… but with bunnies… My wife picked it for the bunnies… 🙂

The first play through took a while as you’d expect but by the end of the first round the three of us had it down. And we LOVED IT!! I have a feeling this one will be hitting the table a lot… 🙂

Then she spotted Lanterns: The Harvest Festival – Yet another game we’d seen played on Tabletop – Season 4 which may have been sadly the last… It looks like a beautiful and relaxing game…

(from BGG): The harvest is in, and the artisans are hard at work preparing for the upcoming festival. Decorate the palace lake with floating lanterns and compete to become the most honored artisan when the festival begins.

In Lanterns: The Harvest Festival, players have a hand of tiles depicting various color arrangements of floating lanterns, as well as an inventory of individual lantern cards of specific colors. When you place a tile, all players (you andyour opponents) receive a lantern card corresponding to the color on the side of the tile facing them. Place carefully to earn cards and other bonuses for yourself, while also looking to deny your opponents. Players gain honor by dedicating sets of lantern cards — three pairs, for example, or all seven colors — and the player with the most honor at the end of the game wins.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): As I mentioned earlier, it looked like an elegant, relaxing game which it is… And it’s over before you know it as our daughter discovered on our first play… 🙂 I may even take a crack at this with my 86 year old Mom!!

And last but certainly not least was Whistle Stop!!

Description from the publisher: With the driving of the golden spike in 1869, the first transcontinental railroad was completed in the United States — but really it was only the beginning of a rapid expansion of railways that would crisscross the entire country.

In Whistle Stop, you make your way west across the country, using your fledgling railroad company to build routes, pick up valuable cargo, and deliver needed goods to growing towns, creating a network of whistle stops that you and your competitors can leverage as you continue to expand your networks. Along the way, you gain shares in other railroads and watch your reputation soar with each successful delivery before making a final push to complete long hauls to the boom towns of the West.

This design is a new twist on pick-up-and-deliver games. As players move their trains west and pick up goods, they can deliver those goods to small towns to gain shares in railroads, or hold on to them for a bigger payout when they reach the west coast. At the same time, they try to optimize their actions (and gain extra ones), lay down new track tiles, block the other players, gather and use valuable whistles for special moves and abilities, and carefully manage their coal resources.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I love train games – ever since I first played Railroad Tycoon on the PC and Ticket To Ride when I discovered the modern board games. This one looked great and reminded me of Tsuro of the Seas which I also really enjoy.

A 12+ inch ongoing February snow storm… Selena’s work closed… both our schools closed (I’m supposed to report regardless but chose to burn a vacation day) lends itself perfectly to some gameplay!! But first Selena and I tackled attaching the ‘snow cab’ she got me for Christmas to my snowblower…mission accomplished!! I’ll be breaking that in about 9:00 tonight when this beast of a storm is supposed to be out of here… Back to Whistle Stop…

The game has a little setup to it but that contributes a great deal to its replayability… It’s a fairly simple game once we got used to the iconography and I blew through the rules while the girls got everything setup (I’d been reading and watching videos so I was ready for them)… 🙂 We had a blast!! Julie was waaaay out in front and it didn’t appear that neither Selena or I could catch her. As the final round approached we were both able to pull of some last minute scoring to get within striking distance – 1st and 3rd place were separated by only 11 points!! Bring on the final scoring… I managed to pull ahead on the strength of my acquired stocks albeit briefly… then Selena came from out of nowhere to take the lead but Julie quickly regained her lead and it looked like she would indeed win BUT… the very last item to be scored is the track tiles where if you have any special tiles in your hand it costs you 10 points… my 3 tiles were fine but I worried about Selena who had purchased the Big Boiler upgrade so she had 5 tiles in her hand… all good… Julie?? One of her tiles was a special so she lost 10 points – moving back on the score track just past Selena who pulled out the victory!! I think this will hit the table again very soon – maybe before bedtime!!

OK – we didn’t make a second play that night but did break it out the very next night!! Julie was waaaay out in front AGAIN!! This time it felt like Monopoly (and why I hate to play that)… she was so far ahead and our daughter right behind her and me – I was just begging for a merciful ending to the game. I could see the final rounds approaching and had no chance of getting any more trains to the end so I had plotted a few moves that would snag me 20-30 points on the last round so maybe I could catch up at least a little… BUT NO!!! Selena moves her last train to an end position and triggers the end game!!! I never got to play my well thought out point grab!! We start the end game scoring and after all the stocks were scored… wait – can this be?!? We were ALL tied at 103!! We continue through the end game scoring and both girls are well ahead of me and I have nothing left… BUT… remember that special tile rule that bit Julie last game?? Here it comes again… I was fine but BOTH girls had TWO in their hands… that’s -20 for each of them!! And with that I was declared the winner and this is also why I am such a huge fan of these types of Euro games… you never really know the winner until the very end… well done Whistle Stop designer Scott Caputo!!

End of February… tax refund was in and I’m heading to the first band rehearsal of the year so you know what that means, right??  Flipside here I come!! My schedule is a little crazy so sadly it might be weeks before we get to play but I’ll read up and be ready anyway.

I decided ahead of time to limit myself to around $100 because I have a brake job on the horizon and Selena’s graduation / birthday party but I have that covered… and I always try to do at least one ‘fun’ thing with part of the refund so what would it be… so many choices… and I’m on a budget… and a time constraint of about 30 minutes because I really do have to go to rehearsal… maybe two games… something light and something heavier… I like this… the girls would like that… uuuum… oh… OK!! Checkout time!!

For the heavier game I selected Champions of Midgard. (from BGG): Champions of Midgard is a middleweight, Viking-themed, worker placement game with dice rolling in which players are leaders of Viking clans who have traveled to an embattled Viking harbor town to help defend it against the threat of trolls, draugr, and other mythological Norse beasts. By defeating these epic creatures, players gain glory and the favor of the gods. When the game ends, the player who has earned the most glory earns the title of Jarl and is recognized as a champion of Midgard!

Placing workers allows for the collection of resources and warriors, which players may then send on journeys to neighboring villages or across the sea to defeat monsters and gain the glory they need for victory. Resources are used to carve runes, build ships, and feed your followers. Viking warriors (custom dice) do battle with the myriad enemies the town faces.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): We’ve all watched the Wil Wheaton Tabletop play through and it looked like it would be a fun game so when I happened upon it at Flipside I decided the time was right.

An early March Nor’Easter dumped about a foot of heavy, wet snow on the area and canceled a band date… Selena and I setup a game in between my snowblowing and shoveling and figured we’d get a couple rounds in before she had to go to work. We really liked it!! At its core it’s mostly a worker placement game… there are lot’s of choices so while you can get blocked from something good there are usually plenty of ‘plan B’ choices. We left it setup – hoping to resume after her work and as luck would have it, Julie was feeling a little better by the time I picked up Selena from work so a late evening game night ensued!! We reset the board, taught Julie the rules while we all snacked on hot orange cinnamon rolls then proceeded to blow through a full game in just over an hour!! And Selena seems to be returning to her sly gaming ways where she regularly wins the first play of almost every game… in this instance she trounced us good!! This is a great game and pretty easy to pickup once you get familiar with the iconography.

On the lighter side I chose the dexterity game Ice Cool!! (from BGG): The lunch break is almost there and all of the young penguins would finally get the fish they’ve been craving. However, some rascals think they are quick enough to snatch some of the fish before the lunch break starts, but they have forgotten one thing – the Hall Monitor! Each school day one of the penguins is designated to watch over the school, and this is his moment to shine – for each rascal penguin he catches he would get additional fish!

A fun run takes place – the rascals are running everywhere and trying to snatch some fish on their way, but the Hall Monitor is trying to catch each and one of them to have some order in the school. Who will be more successful?

Ice Cool is a flicking game in which each round one of the players takes the role of the Hall Monitor (also called “the Catcher”) – his aim will be to catch each other penguin and get points for that. The others (also known as “Runners”) will try to run through several doors, thus gaining fish (that give them points) on their way. When either the Hall Monitor has caught each other penguin once or any of the others has gone through all 3 doors that have fish on them, the round is over. Each player will take the role of the Hall Monitor once and at the end of the game the winner will be the one with the most points on their fish cards.

The penguins can be flicked in a straight line, make curves and even jump over the walls! Each player will have to use the best of their skills in order to get the most points in this fun and exciting game. It’s not just cool, it’s ICE COOL!!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): This has been on my radar for a while… it’s incredibly unique AND cute… the only thing holding me back was the gameplay in that this wasn’t something where we could all sit around the table as usual… for this we’d have to be standing and move around the table to execute the best shots and I wasn’t sure my wife’s health would be up to it (we can prop her up to the table for most games… just kidding)…

Selena and I play tested it the night before the storm and had a blast!! Games are over in a matter of minutes and it’s like potato chips – you just can’s stop playing!! Of course Selena figured out how to make her penguin jump while I was able to achieve the more subtle curving moves.

After our initial Champions of Midgard play with all three of us, Selena and I were anxious to see if Julie felt up to trying this one… Once we assembled the board and showed her some of the finer points of penguin flicking she was up and we were frantically chasing each other’s penguins!! I’m sure this will be hitting the table a lot. AND I just read where there’s an Ice Cool 2 coming out this year (2018) that serves as both a standalone game or an expansion to the original where you can play with up to 8 players and adds some other goodies!!

March 2018… some odds and ends…

This month we learned that Toys R Us was going out of business!! They didn’t have a huge selection of what I’d call ‘modern’ board games and their prices were far from competitive but every so often I’d stumble on a surprise…

I had to pick up the medical profession’s latest feeble attempt at pain management for Julie and decided to swing through Toys R Us to see if by chance they had any going out of business specials… nothing yet but I was pleasantly surprised to find Quest / Race for El Dorado (I’ve seen it referred to both ways) on their shelf and at a decent price!! I couldn’t pass that up…

(From BGG): In The Quest for El Dorado, players slip into the roles of expedition leaders who have embarked on a search for the legendary land of gold in the dense jungles of South America. Each player assembles and equips their own team, hiring various helpers from the scout to the scientist to the aborigine. All of them have but one goal in mind: Reaching the golden border first and winning all of the riches for themselves. Whoever chooses the best tactics will be rewarded!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I remembered seeing this reviewed a long time ago but even that was in German – I’d yet to see anything about a release here in the states but there it was. It was nominated for the 2017 Spiel des Jahres Nominee getting beat out by Kingdomino – another great game though not as good as it’s big sister QUEENdomino that was released shortly after. Anyway, I wanted it because it was a quick game with simple mechanisms – a deck building race which is not something you see everyday. I’d honestly forgotten about it and didn’t even have it on my radar…

Julie and I played a couple 2 player games while learning it… we loved it and couldn’t wait to try it with Selena… who proceeded to learn it and kick both our butts 3 times in a row!! Guess it’s back to two players… 🙂

Along about this same time I stubbed my toe on my attempt to build my own gaming tabletop from last year which is propped up in our bedroom. It was successful on a couple levels… the spray glue technique I’d seen online worked as described… I put down a layer quilted fabric followed by a layer of premium grade felt (both from Joanne’s)… From a playing standpoint this combined to make a surface where it was easy to pick up cards and tiles yet game boards still sat perfectly flat… perfect. However, my choice of material for the foundation board (a single 4′ x 6′ piece of 3/4 inch MDF) may have been a bit of overkill since it takes two people to lift and move the damn thing!! I love playing on it but it’s not very practical…

Then I spotted a portable version in various sizes at Dick’s Sporting Goods of all places… I guess it’s designed with campers in mind but they had a 3-fold model that seated 10 players and looked decent…  I spent a couple days reading reviews and debating and was about to pull the trigger when I spotted a very similar one but with better reviews on Amazon for $30 less that also had padded arm rests!! For $100 I had to check out this 84″ 10 player…

This is the actual table surface…

We haven’t tested it yet but I did unbox it and it’s pretty impressive!! Details to come…

OK – jump ahead to March 30th… the day before my birthday… I’m looking forward to getting together with family and Mom still makes a cake which doesn’t break my heart – there’s always room for cake (or was that Jello?? Yuk!!)… But waiting to finally play Kingsburg has been like some sort of Chinese water torture!! If you recall, I ordered this for myself for my birthday and told the girls it was for them to give to me so THEY HID IT!! It’s back out now but they haven’t taken it out of the shipping box for me to see… and touch… and read… This is just plain cruel!!  🙂

March 29, 2018 – This just in…

April 28th is International Tabletop Day!! There will be events taking place all over the world celebrating board gaming, etc.

This year I’ll be heading to Adirondacon – a local board gaming convention held at the Elk’s Lodge on Cronin Road in Queensbury, NY. They held their first con last fall but I was traveling with the band for a wedding well out of town and had to miss it…

On this day though I’ve decided to venture outside my comfort zone and volunteered to be the game master for…

I arrived early to setup and plaster these posters around the signup sheets… 🙂

If you’ve read any of these gaming pages you probably already know that this is by far my favorite game currently. I’ve taught a few family members and friends already and am coming off running 28 training sessions at school which took me out of my comfort zone… so hot off that, and given the game’s continuing popularity and my rare availability the day of the con, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the day than running a couple sessions of GWT for people I don’t know!! Public speaking has never been something I’ve enjoyed but training at school went well and I know this game so why not?!?

Post Con Reflection… Well I survived my first game convention as a game master… I had one guy (Eric) signed up for my first session when I arrived but as I was just about finished setting up the game a father and son from Stillwater (Mike and Nelan) spotted it on the table… we talked briefly then they headed for the signup board and chose to join me!!

I was physically shaking the whole time I was teaching the game and only started to relax a little once the game started… Eric had played before and caught me off guard with a couple rules questions which I was able to answer after a little research (I’ve spent a lot of time with that manual)… It was obvious he knew what he was doing and while Nelan seemed to be getting the hang of it and had developed a strong herd his Dad was struggling a bit and focused on culling the lower value cattle from his herd but I could see the ‘ah-ha’ moments happening… About 2 hours into it I heard Nelan tell his Dad that when they signed up he wasn’t sure about this game… herding cattle… but he really liked it!! Yay – a ‘convert’!! 🙂

It was almost 3:00 and we were probably 20-30 minutes away from completing the game but that would have run over the time slot and Eric had signed up for another game starting at 3:00 so we completed one last round then went through the 11 final scoring steps. Eric was in the lead as you might expect but Nelan was only a couple points behind and with his strong herd may have pulled off the victory had we been able to finish. Mike was well behind but he had gotten a grasp of the game and I would have loved to see how his plan would have worked out because he was in a great position to score big late.

Even though the people running the convention had emailed to confirm I was running a second session they never had it on the schedule or the signup board. I hung out for another 30 minutes or so but everyone was participating in other games by then so I packed up and called it a day but all in all it was a great time and I’d do it again in a heartbeat!!

I finally got to open and eventually play my birthday present – Kingsburg (Second Edition)!!

The first game was just my daughter and I working our way through the rules… I’d watched several videos in anticipation of this day and did read the book but wanted to make sure we were doing it right. And the 2 player rules have an interesting twist where the dice from two unselected colors are rolled and placed as dummy players thus blocking advisers we might otherwise have played on… sneaky… 🙂

We loved the game!! I liked all the elements I’d seen which made me want it in the first place… Selena thought they were cool but probably liked it more because she kicked my butt!!

Julie was feeling up to it the next day so I brought her up to speed on the rules and the three of us played (so no dummy dice on the board) and I think we are all enjoying the game… and Selena kicked both of our butts!!

About the only thing I miss is any real end game scoring… If you play with the discs rather than rolling dice for the King’s Aid when battling the attacking monsters then you can earn points for the disc you didn’t use but I haven’t seen where it’s enough to make a difference in the game yet so if someone is out front by a good margin as the game nears the end there’s not much anyone can do to catch them. I’m still tweaking my strategy and maybe someday I’ll even win a game. 🙂

Spring / Summer / Fall 2018… playing catch up…

It’s been a while since I updated the gaming section and I’d forgotten why… then, just as I was putting the finishing touches on this section, I published it and when I went back to edit the page was dead!! It wouldn’t open… I couldn’t go back to a previous version… nothing. On the bright side, the edits DID save and did appear on the page so all was not lost and I immediately began splitting what was a huge single page into several sections… everything seems happy now so where was I?? Oh yeah…

I’ve honestly lost all track of time but somewhere during this stretch I made some key financial moves – not the least of which was getting a home equity loan to totally payoff ALL my credit cards, their surprise fees and their ridiculous interest rates!! Along about that same time the band hit a stretch of weddings like I’ve never played before and the two combined to provide me with money in the bank like I’d never had before. Of course from time to time I had to put some of that extra cash into my board game hobby, OK, addiction… if anyone wants to schedule an intervention I’ve got the perfect game… 🙂

Over these months there’d be times when I’d take some combination of my Mom and/or one or both of the girls (and the dog) for a ride to grab a bite and occasionally swing through Flipside Games in East Greenbush… one night Selena was working and the trip became a ‘date night’ with Julie (and the dog) and she picked out a couple games…

Julie’s health is still a nightmare but there are times she feels like playing which gets her mind off the pain however briefly and other times where she feels pretty good and we have a 2 or 3 game mini-marathon but those have been few as of late between her health and my schedule… And Selena’s working and going to college locally so all things considered I’m happy any time we can squeeze a game in. Selena hasn’t got her license yet (she’s close) so there are weeknights where either Julie or I have to pick her up – some nights as late as 10:00 or 11:00 – and (when she’s up to it) we break out some games to pass the time… other times Selena and I will spend some time with a two player something or other… I love gaming with my girls but especially love it when we all play together!!

At any rate, here are the additions for this period in no particular order… Well, except I think I remember this being the first one I picked up…

I was a little surprised to find Gizmos on the shelf at Flipside as it was only just released at the time but there it was…

(from BGG): The smartest minds of our generation are gathering together at the Great Science Fair. Everyone’s been working hard on their creations, but only one will be crowned champion. Contestants have to think on the fly to build their machines quickly and efficiently. Whose project will be the best?

In Gizmos, you want to build engines — engines within the game to get things done faster. Using the four types of energy marbles, plucked from the 3D marble dispenser, you purchase and construct new additions to your works. As you build, new attachments can trigger chain reactions, letting you do even more on your turn. Whoever builds the greatest machine and collects the most victory points wins!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): This looked like a simple yet ingenious engine builder that I thought we’d all enjoy (and the girls would love the energy dispenser)… It’s a beautiful design and once the engine part kicks in and we’re making these combos where one thing triggers another that triggers still more things it gets really exciting.

Then I spotted Coimbra… this one wasn’t even officially released (the official release was at the 2018 Essen show) so this too had to come home with me…

(from BGG): In the 15th and 16th century, Portugal is thriving under its leading role during the Age of Discovery. Nestled in the heart of Portugal, the city of Coimbra serves as a cultural center of the country. As the head of one of Coimbra’s oldest houses, you seek to earn prestige by deepening relationships with nearby monasteries or funding expeditions of the era. To reach this goal, you must vie for the favors of the city’s most influential citizens, even if you must offer a bit of coin or some protective detail.

Coimbra introduces an innovative new dice mechanism in which the dice players draft each round are used in multiple different ways and have an impact on many aspects of their decision making. While there are many paths to victory, players should always seek to optimize their opportunities with every roll of the dice. Combined with ever-changing synergies of the citizens, expeditions, and monasteries, no two games of Coimbra will ever be the same!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): After watching a number of videos this one had my curiosity piqued – mostly because of the dice mechanic where everyone is drafting dice for each round (taking turns choosing) then in one phase the numbers matter but in a later phase it’s the colors from those same dice… really gets you thinking in two directions… lot’s of fun and not a long game.

On the nights we’re waiting to pick up our daughter but she’s not quite up to a game we’ll curl up and watch videos… if I have the remote they’re usually game reviews or playthroughs on YouTube. We’ve watched a few things on A Feast For Odin and when she saw it on the shelf at the store she immediately snagged it!!

(From BGG): Using the central board in A Feast for Odin, players have to hunt, gather basic materials, refine those materials, develop their production-buildings, build/buy ships, and raid settlements.

The resulting earnings are placed on the players’ board in the best possible pattern to produce income and (later) victory points.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): This is the epitome of a ‘big box’ game… it has a bazillion pieces and eats up all but the biggest table!!

I love the fact that, in this game, on every turn, you can choose from 63 different locations to place your worker!! 63!!! I fear analysis paralysis just a little – especially while learning the iconography but all indications are that it wouldn’t be an issue and I couldn’t wait to find out!!

Julie and I started a game (after I’d read the rule book a few times… and the almanac, etc. – the game has great documentation) and we were getting the hang of it but stopped so I could pick up Selena… then she wanted to try it so we reset everything for 3 players and got through maybe 1/3 or 1/2 a game before it started getting late and we were all getting a little tired… We’ve yet to get it back on the table for a full run but had a pretty good feel for it and all really liked it!!

One day Selena and I were spending some Daddy / daughter time and took a road trip and she picked out Altiplano (no doubt because of the alpaca)…

(from BGG): Altiplano, a bag-building game along the lines of Orléans set in the South American highlands of the Andes — the Altiplano — is not a simple game, presenting players with new challenges time and again. There are various ways to reach the goal, so the game remains appealing to try out new options and strategies, but success or failure also depends on whether your opponents let you do as you like or thwart the strategy you are pursuing. The competition for the individual types of goods is considerable — as is the fun in snatching a coveted extension card from under another player’s nose!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I had no idea what the artwork and the alpaca had to do with anything but when I saw the game itself in some reviews and the comparisons started flying to other games on my radar I was hooked!!

The gameplay is mildly complex, the components are excellent and we really enjoy playing!!

Rising 5: Runes of Asteros – I’d forgotten about this one… I stumbled on another video one night and decided to watch because I couldn’t remember why I’d liked…

(from BGG): Find the lost runes and save the planet Asteros!

A long, long time ago, the ancient King of Asteros confined the brutal monsters in the Rune Gate and sealed it with four divine runes. But five days ago, a mysterious evil power opened the gate and changed the code. Asteros is haunted by fear and disasters again! The wise leader ORAKL asked the Council of United Planets and they sent four famous agents: EKHO, HAL, ELLI and NOVA. ORAKL the wise and the four brave agents begin to fight against the evil powers to save Asteros. They must find the Code to reset the Gate and confine the monsters again. People call them “Rising 5”, hoping they will be able to restore peace on the planet.

Rising 5: Runes of Asteros is a co-operative deduction and adventure game with a mobile phone application or a game master. Players must find the answer Code with the four Runes in the right arrangement before the evil power devours the planet. Players can explore the planet to collect energy or clues and to fight against evil monsters. When players try to unlock the code, the App or the game master will give signs that lead to right code.

If players successfully find the code, they win; if the Darkness Level reaches the Red Moon because of the evil monsters or if the Character card deck is exhausted, the players lose the game.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): The app!! The app!! The app!! What a fantastic integration of technology in a board game!! And we love it!!

Azul – To be honest, this wasn’t even on my radar – despite having won the prestigious Spiel des Jahres (THE most prestigious award in board gaming) this year (2018)… But I was picking up one of my wife’s many prescriptions and happened to spot it in my local Target store and thought she might like it… after all, it was bright and colorful and all the reviews say the tiles are incredible…

(from BGG): Introduced by the Moors, azulejos (originally white and blue ceramic tiles) were fully embraced by the Portuguese when their king Manuel I, on a visit to the Alhambra palace in Southern Spain, was mesmerized by the stunning beauty of the Moorish decorative tiles. The king, awestruck by the interior beauty of the Alhambra, immediately ordered that his own palace in Portugal be decorated with similar wall tiles. As a tile-laying artist, you have been challenged to embellish the walls of the Royal Palace of Evora.

In the game Azul, players take turns drafting colored tiles from suppliers to their player board. Later in the round, players score points based on how they’ve placed their tiles to decorate the palace. Extra points are scored for specific patterns and completing sets; wasted supplies harm the player’s score. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I was skeptical going in but thought I’d give it shot and see what the girls thought… The girls loved it… and so did I!! We finished and immediately played another game… then a third… the next night Julie was pretty medicated so Selena and I played severl 2 player games. This game scales well from 2-4 players, the tactile element of drawing those porcelain-like tiles and placing them on your board is very enjoyable… it plays pretty quick and is one we find ourselves returning to pretty regularly.

Selena’s job made her full time after she graduated with the understanding that her hours would come back down once college started… this led to more time for Julie and I to play with just the two of us so I decided to try the 2-player version of a game that was on my radar – Caverna… enter Caverna: Cave vs. Cave.

(from BGG): In the two-player game Caverna: Cave vs. Cave, each player starts the game with only two dwarves and a small excavation in the side of a mountain. Over the course of eight rounds, they’ll double their workforce, open up new living space in the mountain, construct new buildings and rooms in which to live, and dig for precious metals.

In more detail, each player starts the game with an individual player board that’s covered with a random assortment of face-down building/room tiles and only one space. Some tiles are face up and available for purchase at the start of play. Four action tiles lie face up as well. At the start of each of the eight rounds, one new action tile is revealed, then players alternate taking actions, with the number of actions increasing from two up to four over the course of the game. As players excavate their mountainous player board, new building and room tiles are added to the pool; some rooms can be used immediately when acquired, whereas others require the use of an action tile.

After eight rounds, players tally their points for buildings constructed and gold collected to see who wins.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Julie and I have played a few games of this now and we do like it though it isn’t really earth shattering… I started teaching Selena and she fell asleep… OK – it’s not that bad but I’m not sure how much this will get to the table… maybe I’m just really looking for the full blown Euro goodness of the game’s big brother… I think more plays are definitely in order.

I’ve had my eye on Raiders of the North Sea for quite a while now… I’ve even gone back and watched reviews and playthroughs just to make sure so when it was still on the shelf on one of my Flipside visits I grabbed it. However, it didn’t make it to the table right away between Julie’s health and Selena’s and my work schedules… During that time I kept recalling in the back of my mind the various reviews that mentioned the expansions… I think in Tom Vasel’s original review (before the expansions were announced) he said that this was a great game and one that didn’t need any expansions… After the expansions were released his review of two in particular – Fields of Fame and Hall of Heroes – he said he would never play the game without them because they added so much yet were so easy to teach.

(from BGG): Raiders of the North Sea is set in the central years of the Viking Age. As Viking warriors, players seek to impress the Chieftain by raiding unsuspecting settlements. Players will need to assemble a crew, collect provisions and journey north to plunder gold, iron and livestock. There is glory to be found in battle, even at the hands of the Valkyrie. So gather your warriors, it’s raiding season!!

Aim of the Game

The aim of Raiders of the North Sea is to impress the Chieftain by having the most Victory Points (VP) at the game’s end. Victory Points are gained primarily by raiding Settlements, taking Plunder and making Offerings to the Chieftain. How players use their Plunder is also vital to their success. The game ends when either only 1 Fortress raid remains, all Valkyrie are removed, or all Offerings have been made.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I loved the theme but the more I learned about the gameplay and the unique worker placement mechanic I knew this was one I’d have to have.

Julie and I eventually got to play the base game and really enjoyed it!! So much so that the next night she asked to play again and I was ready to add the expansions (see below) and we loved it as much or more with those!! A few nights later all three of us were able to play and we taught Selena the game with the expansions as part of it and she loved it too!! Tom was right – they really aren’t that hard to add in… the hardest part was our failed attempt to get everything to fit in one box (I just read where someone is selling a bigger box to hold it all but the box art isn’t as nice). This one will get a lot of play time I think…

Hall of Heroes and Fields of Fame

(from the publisher): In Raiders of the North Sea: Hall of Heroes, a mead hall has been constructed, attracting a new breed of adventurers. Each raid brings new quests for the daring to endure. But with mead in abundance, there is little room for the wary, so sharpen your axe and ready your shield as new adventures await!

In addition to including components for an extra player, Hall of Heroes has the new mead hall board, large player boards, mead, quests, reputation, and a variety of new townsfolk.

(from the publisher):In Raiders of the North Sea: Fields of Fame, enemy jarls have joined forces to help defend against the onslaught of raids on their settlements. But despite their threats, there is fame awaiting those who seek to kill or subdue them. Encountering a jarl is sure to bring injury, but now is no time for the faint-hearted. Onward to the battlefield!

In addition to including components for an extra player, Fields of Fame also includes the new township board, enemy jarl tokens and cards, fame, damage and a variety of new townsfolk.

Our continued enjoyment of the combined game and expansions has us all looking forward to their latest release (end of 2018) named Architects of the West Kingdom which has another unique worker placement mechanic!! But of this recent batch of collection additions, this was our go-to game… until Dinosaur Island… but I’ll come back to that…

Voltage… (from the box): Simple 2-player card game. The board has 4 colored areas with plastic terminals on it. The terminals are 2 sided, either plus or minus. Players play color specific cards to their corresponding terminals, on either their side or their opponent’s side of the board.In the fall of 2018 Selena had to have oral surgery to remove all 4 wisdom teeth (while still having braces on)… I know she might be miserable from pain and I picked her up an easy older card game (2006) that was just reprinted named Voltage for whenever she felt up to it (which didn’t take long).

Players can do 1 of 3 things on their turn:

Play a card and draw a card (in that order)
Play 2 cards to 2 different colors
Draw 2 cards

When a colored terminal has a total of 5 cards played to it, that terminal is scored depending on the orientation of the terminal. If the terminal is plus side up, then the player with the highest numerical value wins the point. If the terminal is minus side up, then the player with the lowest numerical value wins the point. First player to score 4 points wins!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I thought this would be an easy to teach / easy to play diversion as Selena healed from surgery… We’ve played several games and she’s played more with Julie… It’s very simple… we all enjoy it… I even recently taught my 86 year old Mom and she likes it too!!

Dinosaur Island – Wow!! I wasn’t sure about the neon color theme but once I sifted out the rules and got all its massive game goodness to the table with Selena we were sold!! This is ‘Jurassic Park’ the board game – minus the actual movie licensing (I recently saw that there now is a game named Jurassic Park but all indications are that the gameplay is horrible) and has bumped ‘Raiders’ from the table for the time being…

(from BGG): In Dinosaur Island, players will have to collect DNA, research the DNA sequences of extinct dinosaur species, and then combine the ancient DNA in the correct sequence to bring these prehistoric creatures back to life. Dino cooking! All players will compete to build the most thrilling park each season, and then work to attract (and keep alive!) the most visitors each season that the park opens.

Do you go big and create a pack of Velociraptors? They’ll definitely excite potential visitors, but you’d better make a large enough enclosure for them. And maybe hire some (read: a lot of) security. Or they WILL break out and start eating your visitors, and we all know how that ends. You could play it safe and grow a bunch of herbivores, but then you aren’t going to have the most exciting park in the world (sad face). So maybe buy a roller coaster or two to attract visitors to your park the good old-fashioned way?

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): We are all fans of the Jurassic Park movies and this game is that in a box (without the blood and gore)… The first time Julie joined us I didn’t tell them what game I was setting up and did it by myself… then as they were entering our game room I fired up the John Williams soundtrack and told them, “Welcome to Dinosaur Island” (if you now have the music going through your head you will love this game)… 🙂

It’s not easy by any stretch and takes some time to setup all the boards and pieces but it is well worth it AND taking the time to learn the rules and watch a video or two (like Rodney Smith’s How To Play)… The first play took a while because there are a lot of moving parts but subsequent plays moved right along… Great game if you’re ready to go to the next level!!

Somewhere in this time frame I also snagged an expansion for Champions of Midgard (see above) named Valhalla. This, as with Raiders of the North Sea (also above), was another of those don’t-play-the-game-without-it expansions…

(from the publisher): In Valhalla, the second expansion for Champions of Midgard, you will find yourself rewarded when your warriors die in battle. Your warriors’ eternal glory becomes your earthly reward as the Valkyries bestow powerful effects, relics, and warriors upon you for use in your battles in Midgard. Some of your fallen soldiers may do more, rising to face the greatest enemies even in the afterlife, defeating epic monsters and bringing you glory from beyond the grave!!

Couple these new rewards with fierce new warriors in the form of Berzerkers and Shieldwarriors, and new custom dice and powers for your leaders, and your adventures in Midgard will never be the same!!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): We all love Champions of Midgard so after seeing what it added to the original game it felt like a no brainer… It hasn’t made it to the table yet while we are still caught up in all the new additions but it will very soon.

Disney Villanous – this was easy since the girls love anything Disney…

(from BGG): In Villainous, each player takes control of one of six Disney characters, each one a villain in a different Disney movie. Each player has their own villain deck, fate deck, player board, and 3D character.

On a turn, the active player moves their character to a different location on their player board, takes one or more of the actions visible on that space (often by playing cards from their hand), then refills their hand to four cards. Cards are allies, items, effects, conditions, and (for some characters) curses. You need to use your cards to fulfill your unique win condition.

One of the actions allows you to choose another player, draw two cards from that player’s fate deck, then play one of them on that player’s board, covering two of the four action spaces on one of that player’s locations. The fate deck contains heroes, items, and effects from that villain’s movie, and these cards allow other players to mess with that particular villain.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Like I said, it’s Disney. I’m not as into as they are which is why we don’t play Codenames Disney very often (they always trounce me) but this one actually appeared to have a solid game under it and a top notch production. It’s an excellent game – for Disney fans AND gamers!!

Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game – this one caught Selena’s eye… she loves her sciences and talked me into it…

(from BGG): In Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game you are going to solve FIVE different cases and find out what connects them, you are going to BREAK THE 4th WALL by using every resource you can, you are going to browse the game’s DEDICATED DATABASE simulating your agency’s resources, you will enter a city maze of old mysteries and fresh CRIME, and you will be able to COOPERATE with other agents or solve the mystery on your own.

Take the job of a real detective in a modern setting! In Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game, 1-5 players take on the role of investigators, solving mysterious crimes while working as an Antares National Investigation Agency team members. This board game tell rich stories – stories you will participate in. Let’s hope that you will be able to deduce the end, before there is another crime… The game will challenge you with five different cases, that have to be played in order. Seemingly unconnected at first, they will unveil an immersive meta-plot based on facts and fiction alike.

Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game brings classic, card-based, puzzle-solving gameplay into the 21st century with the introduction of online elements. You will gain access to the online Antares database that contains data about suspects, witnesses, and documentation from arrests and trials related to your case. Use every tool at your disposal to solve these crimes – consult the Internet, check the facts and constantly discover new clues. You are not playing a detective; you ARE a detective!!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): As mentioned in my opening, Selena loves her sciences and I think she likes solving mysteries and puzzles as well so this was a great choice. We played the first case with just the two of us and only managed 4 out of 40 or thereabouts… in trying to be thorough we took too much time and didn’t recognize dead ends for fear of missing something. We haven’t got to the second case yet (hoping to add Julie to the game) but are a little concerned that our poor result in the first case may hurt us in the subsequent cases since they all tie together somehow… uh-oh… It uses a fantastic card system and is very interesting but not easy at all and we are anxious to try again!!

November update: We finally got a game night in with all three of us and Selena and I decided we’d start fresh – replaying the first case and letting Julie pretty much guide us… We ended up following different paths and putting all three heads together we were able to do much better… now Julie is hooked too!!

While we were browsing the store this night, Mike behind the counter tells us that all the games on the table behind us are 60% off so we had to check them out… we eventually found our needle in the haystack… an older game that was pretty unique when it was released and that’s World of Yo-Ho.

(from BGG): World of Yo-Ho is a fantasy game of adventure and piracy on the high seas, combining the tangible elements of a board game with the interactive mechanics of a video game. The game features a board with a gridded map of the world of Yo-Ho and a downloadable app that turns your smartphone into a ship. Simply place your phone on the map and set sail for adventure!

Become the most famous captain of Yo-Ho, a parallel world teeming with intelligent animals, lost islands, and wild magic! In search of fame and fortune, you will explore the mysteries of Yo-Ho and battle sea monsters and other booty hungry corsairs in tactical naval engagements. Fill your holds with plunder you can use to upgrade your boat and acquire useful items and more powerful weaponry. Stock up on swag and fly your colors high.

You’re the master of your own destiny: Will you be a bloodthirsty swashbuckler, brazenly hoisting the Jolly Roger as you plunder all those you cross? Or will you choose to stand as defender of the innocent and a peaceful merchant? Whatever your freebooting predilection may be, the stage is set and you will play a vital role in the saga of Yo-Ho, if you are but bold enough…

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Your phone is your ship and who wouldn’t love seeing two ships battling – sending cannon balls from one phone to the other?? AMAZING!!! We all love this one!!

Nyctophobia – as soon as I saw a preview and heard the backstory this became a must-have for me (“I want an oompa-loompa NOW Daddy”)…

This game was designed by a 23 year old college student who plays a lot of board games with her Uncle who is blind… she tells about how much longer it takes to explain any game so that he is able to visualize it in order to play so she set out to design a game that flips that… There are two versions – one is an escape-the-axe-murderer and the one we have is Nyctophobia: Vampire Encounter

(from BGG): The night is cold and dark. It’s hard to see where you are or where you’ve been. “A road trip gone awry” is a charitable description of the world you and your friends find yourself trapped in. No one will ever believe you. Vampires aren’t real. Right? Well, tell that to the bloodsucker that’s been hunting you. Tell that to your friend who wandered off into the forest with him.

In Nyctophobia: Vampire Encounter, you attempt to outrun and outsmart a vampire who is hunting you. The forest is a dark and lonely place. Players must blindly navigate it while wearing blackout glasses, trying to find and rescue their friend — “the familiar” — who the vampire has kidnapped and hidden in the forest. Only the vampire can see what’s going on around them. The hunted players have the navigate the board through touch and memory only!

Nyctophobia: Vampire Encounter differs from Nyctophobia in that the hunter player takes on the role of vampire instead of the axe murderer or mage in the original game. The vampire can control the familiar and the player who is leading them out of the forest, leading to tricky situations for those in the dark. The game includes two pre-set maps for players to work through while they’re trying to rescue the NPC familiar and return them to the car without anyone dying.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Wow!! Wow!! WOW!! If you watch the video I linked to Tom Vasel says that the game is more of a great EXPERIENCE than a great game but it definitely is unlike anything we’ve ever done before… I wondered about the blackout glasses versus something like a sleep mask but the designer says they play-tested it with masks and players were too uncomfortable – feeling very claustrophobic!! That feeling may still exist with the glasses but is lessened because you can see light out the sides… very impressive game!! I was the vampire in our only play so far and the girls loved it while being very creeped out by not being able to see anything… I know Selena will want to be the vampire and I can’t wait to play as one of the hunted!! AND, if you want to take it up another notch, the vampire can do things like rotate the board so just when players have a good mental picture of the map everything changes… well done Catherine Stippell!!

Christmas 2018… in the months prior to Christmas we are working on rearranging our daughter’s room to make room for her computer and desk and another student desk and chair from my office (when she was growing up I knew this would be handy as I could keep working and still help her when needed)… this would make room to move the overflowing shelves of our bulging game collection to my office which would in turn free up some space in the living room for things like a chair or the Christmas tree… it’s a work in progress but that didn’t keep me from adding to the collection… Hello, Room Service?? Send up a bigger room!! I MAY have gone a little overboard this year (since I had a lot of extra work which translated to additional income which means I’m having a blast – not just with games – but because I love to give presents)… 🙂

UPDATE: It’s 3 days until Christmas and Julie is struggling with chronic pain but at least we now know the cause of the latest but they only want to pain management which isn’t working on the other pain… she was nervous about all the test results – fearing the cancer had spread and / or grown but it turned out to be a return of Endometriosis – the reason she had a total hysterectomy 13 years ago!! Selena and I gave her one of her most wanted games early to try to cheer her up which it did… she just hasn’t felt up to playing anything… she totally missed Thanksgiving and I’m afraid she may sleep through Christmas too… the following games will be here when she’s up to it…

As usual (in no particular order), here are our 2018 Christmas additions (I hope the girls don’t follow this page)…

Let’s start with my Christmas Eve selection (in recent years I started wrapping a new game just for this night)…

When I first heard the description I pretty much thought eh… then I saw the game in a review and it immediately went on my radar and will now join our collection officially on Christmas Eve… You see, we’ve always let Selena open something Christmas Eve but as she’s gotten older and we’ve got into gaming I always have an easy game wrapped for that night and after all our family visits we head home and enjoy some family time of our own which more often than not means snacks and games…

(from the publisher): After being stripped of all their possessions, a mage, a warrior, an elf, and a dwarf are forced to go rob the local Magic Maze shopping mall for all the equipment necessary for their next adventure. They agree to map out the labyrinth in its entirety first, then find each individual’s favorite store, and then locate the exit. In order to evade the surveillance of the guards who eyed their arrival suspiciously, all four will pull off their heists simultaneously, then dash to the exit. That’s the plan anyway…but can they pull it off?

Magic Maze is a real-time, cooperative game. Each player can control any hero in order to make that hero perform a very specific action, to which the other players do not have access: Move north, explore a new area, ride an escalator… All this requires rigorous cooperation between the players in order to succeed at moving the heroes prudently. However, you are allowed to communicate only for short periods during the game; the rest of the time, you must play without giving any visual or audio cues to each other. If all of the heroes succeed in leaving the shopping mall in the limited time allotted for the game, each having stolen a very specific item, then everyone wins together.

At the start of the game, you have only three minutes in which to take actions. Hourglass spaces you encounter along the way give you more time. If the sand timer ever completely runs out, all players lose the game: Your loitering has aroused suspicion, and the mall security guards nab you!!

Post Christmas UPDATE: Julie was medicated but still had several cookie deliveries and Selena was working so I ended up spending much of the day and night driving both of them around (Selena will have her license soon)… this meant I didn’t get to finish wrapping all these games and much more until later that evening… Selena and I didn’t finish until after 11:30 and by then we were all wiped out and just went to bed.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): We really like ‘Escape: Curse of the Temple’ so this seemed very similar but with the added hurdle of not being able to talk or otherwise communicate for most of the game. Selena and I got it to the table first and I think played 3 or 4 games in a row, took a break for some Ganz Shon Clever (see below) then played a couple more!! It’s that quick and that much fun… we knew Julie would love it.

It took another few days before we got to teach Julie… I could see her frustration building as Selena and I would take turns banging the ‘Do Something’ pawn in front of her… we’d lose, then we’d explain what she missed then SHE’d quickly reset everything… We lost the 2nd game but I could see her starting to grin as SHE was setting it up AGAIN… we won the third game (still at the base level), lost the 4th game at the next level but beat it on the next go round. It’s stressful but if you take advantage of the limited communication opportunities it’s not so bad and actually fun… we all love this one!!

Next up – my Christmas present I gave the girls to give me (worked well last year with Great Western Trail except I felt like a little kid again who couldn’t wait for Christmas morning)… 🙂  That’s Scythe!!

OK… factions with a freaking bear or tiger AND MECHS!!! I have GOT to get my hands on this and have no logical explanation to what I’d been waiting for…

(from BGG): It is a time of unrest in 1920’s Europa. The ashes from the first great war still darken the snow. The capitalistic city-state known simply as “The Factory”, which fueled the war with heavily armored mechs, has closed its doors, drawing the attention of several nearby countries.

Scythe is an engine-building game set in an alternate-history 1920’s period. It is a time of farming and war, broken hearts and rusted gears, innovation and valor. In Scythe, each player represents a character from one of five factions of Eastern Europe who are attempting to earn their fortune and claim their faction’s stake in the land around the mysterious Factory. Players conquer territory, enlist new recruits, reap resources, gain villagers, build structures, and activate monstrous mechs.

UPDATE: I also ordered the Scythe: Invaders from Afar expansion because the extra factions are included on the base game BOARD but not with the game so I felt like this completed my base game… And I ordered a metal coin upgrade because we all get giddy when we play with metal coins… 🙂

(from BGG): While empires rise and fall in Eastern Europa, the rest of the world takes notice. Two distant factions, Albion and Togawa, send emissaries to scout the land and employ their own distinct styles of conquering. Scythe: Invaders from Afar, an expansion for Scythe, adds two new factions: 10 miniatures, 62 custom wooden tokens, and 2 faction mats. It also includes some new cardboard tokens, two new player mats, six Automa cards, and a custom plastic insert designed to fit into the expansion box or the original Scythe box.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I’ve had my eye on this since it came out but for whatever reason never picked it up… maybe it was the somewhat hefty price tag… I know if I find a couple reasonably priced games I think we’ll like I’ll grab those before a single, more expensive game. But during my Christmas shopping I found this on special and grabbed it AND the expansion. It may be a while before I get to read everything and am ready to teach it but we’re all loving the artwork, the idea of mechs in that era of Europe (sort-of) twist and are looking forward to playing.

Julie loves roll and write style games (Avenue being one of her favorites)… I’d seen a few good ones reviewed throughout the year but most still weren’t available in the US (‘Let’s Make A Bus Route’ for example)… I did find a couple online that I’m sure she’ll enjoy (and one I’m not so sure now)…

(from BGG): As an architect in Welcome To… you want to build the best new town in the United States of the 1950s by adding resources to a pool, hiring employees, and more.

Welcome To… plays like a roll-and-write dice game in which you mark results on a score-sheet…but without dice. Instead you flip cards from three piles to make three different action sets with both a house number and a corresponding action from which everyone chooses one. You use the number to fill in a house on your street in numerical order. Then you take the action to increase the point value of estates you build or score points at the end for building parks and pools. Players also have the option of taking actions to alter or duplicate their house numbers. And everyone is racing to be the first to complete public goals. There’s lots to do and many paths to becoming the best suburban architect in Welcome To…!

Because of the communal actions, game play is simultaneous and thus supports large groups of players. With many varying strategies and completely randomized action sets, no two games will feel the same!!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): As Yogi Berra used to say, “It’s Deja Vu all over again.”  You’ll read this all over but Julie loves roll and write games so I picked out several for this year – partly for that reason but also they usually have great solo variants for those nights when I’m performing out of town and Selena’s working…

It was mid-January before Julie started feeling well enough for some gaming… Selena was at work, the band was off and it looked like it would be easy to teach… she loved it!! We BOTH did!! It’s a clever game and just about everything makes thematic sense to go along with the great 50’s artwork… we finished the first and Julie was ready to go again… and again… and again… I eventually talked her into one game of Ganz Shon Clever before I called it a night which turned into 4 or 5 games but I got to test out my Google Sheets score sheet which made the end of game scoring a little quicker. I’m 2-for-2 on her Christmas game selections!!

It wasn’t until after a late evening Fury of Dracula session (where we taught Julie the game) that we convinced Selena to try Welcome To… with us… of course she beat us both!! This will be hitting the table pretty regularly I predict…

I also found a copy of Railroad Ink Deep Blue… though after I ordered it it didn’t look like it would arrive in time for Christmas but I just got word that it had shipped but I have no idea from where…

(from BGG): In the multiplayer puzzle game Railroad Ink, your goal is to connect as many exits on your board as possible. Each round, a set of dice are rolled in the middle of the table, determining which kind of road and railway routes are available to all players. You have to draw these routes on your erasable boards to create transport lines and connect your exits, trying to optimize the available symbols better than your opponents.

The more exits you connect, the more points you score at the end of the game, but you lose points for each incomplete route, so plan carefully! Will you press your luck and try to stretch your transportation network to the next exit, or will you play it safe and start a new, simpler to manage route?

Railroad Ink comes in two versions, each one including two expansions with additional dice sets that add new special rules to your games. The Deep Blue Edition includes the Rivers and Lakes expansions. Increase the difficulty by adding the River route into the mix, or use the Lakes to connect your networks by ferry. These special rules can spice up things and make each game play and feel different. Each box allows you to play from 1 to 6 players, and if you combine more boxes, you can play with up to 12 players (or more). The only limit to the number of players is the number of boards you have!!

Then there’s Ganz schön Clever… this looked very interesting to me as it was a meaty roll and write that I really thought Julie would enjoy BUT… one night, while waiting to pick our daughter up from work, we were relaxing and watching some game reviews (I was sneaking in some of my presents so the games would be fresh in her mind) and we were watching this and Julie said, “It’s just Yahtzee!!”   Uh-oh… it’s much more than that and I think once she plays it she will like it but we’ll have to see…

(from BGG): Choose your dice well in Ganz schön Clever to enter them into the matching colored area, put together tricky chain-scoring opportunities, and rack up the points. The dice you don’t use are as important as what you do because every die that’s smaller than the chosen one can be used by the other players, keeping everyone in the game at all times.

Post Christmas UPDATE: I wondered why the game had a German title and after opening our copy I discovered that everything is in German!! Apparently this game hasn’t had an English release yet!! Now what?!? The score sheet is not language-dependent… I know there are videos so I checked out a few of those but it was hard to fully grasp the game from them… then I found someone who had created a text file with the English rules in a forum on BGG… I read through them and they were very helpful but I’m going to need a little (OK – a LOT more) visualization to know what they’re talking about. I found myself with some free time and over the course of a few days was able to make graphic images of the pages from the PDF of the German rules and overlay the English rules from BGG. They didn’t include the example descriptions but with the help of Google and some German – English translations (and some editing by yours truly) I was able to put together a full Ganz Shon Clever (That’s So Clever) English rule book!! After reading and learning the rules I’m more sure than ever that Julie is really going to like this!!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): As l said above, Julie loves roll and write games so I was sure she’d like this one. It’s dice rolling and scoring like Yahtzee BUT with an added dimension that’s like engine building where marking something in one spot gives you something somewhere else that even more actions… it’s very CLEVER!!  🙂

Post Christmas UPDATE UPDATE: it’s New Years Eve… my gig is an hour away but I had to setup in the morning so I came home for the afternoon and Julie felt good enough for me to teach her… and she loves it!! That makes it almost unanimous!! Going to try it with my 86 year old Mom next… 🙂

Post Mom UPDATE: Mom – uuummmm… not so much. We only had time for one quick round – not enough for her to really get a feel for the game… if we’d had time to finish I think that would have made a big difference. So for now she’s more of a Yahtzee / Farkle dice player… While not a dice game she DID enjoy Ticket To Ride which surprised me… 🙂  I may try to convince her to give this another shot…

This one has an interesting story… First there was KINGdomino… that game is much easier than this and won the coveted Spiel de Jares!! Shortly after that victory QUEENdomino appeared and for all the ‘gamers’ that thought ‘King’ was too easy this was the answer. I think this will be an easy one to teach and learn and we’ll all like it – especially Julie who loves anything Tetris-like… If it goes as well as expected I’m thinking of buying KINGdomino too since you can combine it with QUEEN and increase all player’s grid size from 5×5 to 7×7!!

(from BGG): Build up the most prestigious kingdom by claiming wheat fields, forests, lakes, grazing grounds, marshes, and mountains. Your knights will bring you riches in the form of coins — and if you make sure to expand the towns on your lands, you will make new buildings appear, giving you opportunities for new strategies. You may win the Queen’s favors … but always be aware of the dragon!

Queendomino is a game completely independent from Kingdomino, while offering a choice of more complex challenges. Two to four players can play Queendomino independently, but also in connection with Kingdomino, allowing for games with 7×7 grids for four players, or for up to six players if you stick to 5×5 grids.

Speaking of Tetris-like, Spring Meadow is the closest thing yet to the original Tetris where your building up from the bottom of your game board…

(from BGG): The first delicate flowers herald the end of a harsh winter. The sun shines longer day by day and pushes the snow back. Lush meadows bloom, and curious marmots slowly awaken from hibernation. Finally, spring is coming into the mountains — the perfect time for a hike. Choose your route carefully, watch out for the burrows of the marmots, and pack enough snacks. Your chances to earn an edelweiss hiking pin are rather low if you sit hungry in the snow.

Spring Meadow is the grand finale of Uwe Rosenberg’s puzzle trilogy following 2016’s Cottage Garden and 2017’s Indian Summer. The complexity of this game — the most interactive of the trilogy — is set in between those two games, and fans of the trilogy will find familiar elements combined in an innovative way.

Place your meadow tiles with 0-2 holes skillfully on your mountain board to receive extra tiles when creating or expanding groups of holes. Find your way around the burrows of the marmots because they can restrict you during tile placement. Scoring takes place depending on the players’ selection of meadow tiles from a central game board. Whoever has the largest meadow during a scoring receives a hiking pin, and the first player to earn their second hiking pin during scoring wins.

New puzzle challenges are guaranteed with 172 tiles in 49 shapes.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Julie and I liked Cottage Garden and this is the third game in the trilogy (we skipped Indian Summer)…

I read through the rules and it seemed easy enough so I taught Julie one night while waiting to pick up our daughter from work. The game can be very quick… our first games lasted only about 10-15 minutes but once we had a better grasp of it they were much more competitive and lasted a little longer but not much… We probably played a half dozen games in a row!! We liked it that much…

It was a week or so later when Selena and I got it to the table… she seemed to like it but only played one game… she thinks it’s ‘cute’… 🙂

Another relaxing night and checking out some game reviews with my beloved and and I pulled up Pie Town… I thought I remembered liking this but couldn’t remember for sure… but Julie thought it looked really cool and would be fun so Merry Christmas!!

(from BGG): Welcome to Pie Town, a community built on apples and butter. Business here is no cake walk, so manage your operation well and keep your secret recipe secret.

Pie Town is a worker-dice placement game with hidden information. You need to manage your constantly changing workforce to harvest, bake, and sell pies while deducing other players’ secret recipes! Now is your chance to become the best pie shop in town!!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): This looks like a cutesy – almost kids game… but read the fine print on the cover… ‘Spies, Lies and Apple Pies’…

It’s an interesting worker placement using dice with an element of deduction thrown in… Julie and I had just finished the rules and started a game when Selena called to say her work was closing early because of a huge winter storm that had begun earlier in the evening (and would dump over 2 feet of snow on us)… I picked her up and taught her the game while she had a late supper… The girls were well out in front of me and I had lost track of their ingredients and shifted focus to baking and selling pies – a strategy that almost worked… at the end of the game I was in 2nd place – 2 points behind Selena – and Julie was just 2 points behind me. We all enjoyed it but for me it felt like it might have gone 1 or 2 rounds too long – not enough that I wouldn’t play it again anytime they wanted… 🙂

A very interesting concept… in Spirit Island players are the SPIRITS trying to scare off colonists who are trying to inhabit the island!! I know Selena is going to love this one…

(from BGG): In the most distant reaches of the world, magic still exists, embodied by spirits of the land, of the sky, and of every natural thing. As the great powers of Europe stretch their colonial empires further and further, they will inevitably lay claim to a place where spirits still hold power – and when they do, the land itself will fight back alongside the islanders who live there.

Spirit Island is a complex and thematic cooperative game about defending your island home from colonizing Invaders. Players are different spirits of the land, each with its own unique elemental powers. Every turn, players simultaneously choose which of their power cards to play, paying energy to do so. Using combinations of power cards that match a spirit’s elemental affinities can grant free bonus effects. Faster powers take effect immediately, before the Invaders spread and ravage, but other magics are slower, requiring forethought and planning to use effectively. In the Spirit phase, spirits gain energy, and choose how / whether to Grow: to reclaim used power cards, to seek for new power, or to spread presence into new areas of the island.

Selena picked out Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game earlier this year and we’ve played a couple times – the second time starting over to include Julie who also loved it (it’s a little too dry I guess would be the best term for me)… Then one evening we were all relaxing as Selena was recovering from surgery to remove all 4 wisdom teeth and I played a review of Chronicles of Crime… after only a few minutes she (as bad as she felt) starting smiling and whacking my arm and telling me she loved it!! While Detective uses a website designed specifically for the game (as well as the internet in general for other research) this game relies totally on the app to run the game and in such a way that the multitude of character cards can be used for different people in each case…

(from BGG): Chronicles of Crime is a cooperative game of crime investigation, mixing an app, a board game and a touch of Virtual Reality.

With the same physical components (board, locations, characters and items), players will be able to play plenty of different scenarios and solve as many different crime stories.

Players start the app, choose the scenario they want to play, and follow the story. The goal being to catch the killer of the current case in the shortest short time possible.

Using the Scan&Play technology, each component (locations, characters, items, etc.) has a unique QR code, which, depending on the scenario selected, will activate and trigger different clues and stories. That means players will be able to get new stories way after the game is released simply by downloading the app’s updates, without any shipping of new physical components involved.

The VR experience only requires a mobile phone. Players simply put the VR glasses (optional buy) onto their mobile device, and put the VR glasses on their nose, holding their mobile device in front of their eyes, to immerse themselves in the game’s universe and search for clues in a virtual world.

The game comes with 1 tutorial and 5 scenarios, but more can be downloaded directly inside the app!
Each session last around 1h to 1h30 minutes and many scenarios are connected to each others in order to tell a much bigger story.

I snagged a little card game for Selena’s stocking called Welcome BACK To the Dungeon… a game we watched on a Wil Wheaton playthrough that looked like a lot of fun…

(from BGG): The sun is shining in the Abysmal Woods where you’re strolling without a care in the world, your weapon at your belt, dreams of adventure in your head. On your path, you stop before a damaged dungeon door. It seems that great battles took place here, a sure sign of coveted treasure inside.

You recognize this dungeon from the ballads sung in your village! However, you’re not the only one who wants to enter, despite the warnings left around the entrance by the previous adventurers. Will you muster your courage to break open the door or will you let your opponents brave the monsters found inside? Let the adventure begin!!

Welcome Back to the Dungeon is a simple and subtle push-your-luck game in which you’ll need to adopt a show of bravado or outwit your opponents!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Selena hasn’t seen the Tabletop playthrough but Julie and I knew she’d like it and it made for a great stocking stuffer that she didn’t expect.

UPDATE: Selena and I broke this in just after New Years… our copy has different heroes than the video but plays exactly the same and we really liked it. I can see where it could be more fun with more than two players but it worked fine and we’ll have this on the table again soon.

I’m not a huge fan of miniature games – mostly because of the added setup time – but then when we get them on the table they look soooo cool… Wasteland Express Delivery Service has some miniatures and is a lot of game but I know it’s nothing we all can’t handle at this point in our gaming lives…

(from BGG): Wasteland Express Delivery Service is the depraved brainchild of a superstar team of acclaimed game designers: Jon Gilmour (Dead of Winter), Matt Riddle (Fleet, Morocco), and Ben Pinchback (Fleet, Morocco), brought to technicolor life by award-winning comic artist Riccardo Burchielli (DMZ, Batman Black and White) to create the perfect marriage of emergent thematic gameplay and balanced strategy.

Take on the role of the half-insane drivers for the last delivery company left of earth: the Wasteland Express Delivery Service. In order to scratch out a living in this deranged universe, drivers will deliver goods and guns between the handful of settlements pockmarked throughout the hellscape that you call home and take on missions from the handful of factions still trying to hold onto the last dregs of civilization.

Course, none of this is easy. Inhabiting the post-apocalyptic wasteland are unhinged characters set on unleashing mayhem at every turn. If you want to survive, you’ll have to battle through the psycho raiders who occupy the void between cities. Maybe the world can be saved, maybe you can bring humanity back from the brink. Band the world back together to fight back against the void. Then again, what the f*&% do you care? You’re here to get paid and live another day free. Outfit your truck, get loaded for bear, hire some allies, get paid, and just keep on truckin’.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Another higher priced game that I’ve passed on a number of times if for no other reason… Like Scythe (see above) I found this on sale and decided the time was right. I loved the ‘Mad Max’ vibe and thought the girls would enjoy it (even if they had no idea who Mad Max was)… 🙂  I can’t remember who’s review I watched but someone mentioned that their biggest knock against the game was the game was the shear number of pieces… on the flip side, the giant box included trays for storage that also enhanced the gameplay… I spent over an hour punching out cardboard pieces… then Julie and I spent another hour sorting them and figuring out where everything went and how to pack the trays in the box (all covered in the manual)… now I just have to read and read and read…

Fury of Dracula caught the eye of my daughter and I both and I think this would be our first ‘hidden movement’ game!! Unfortunately, before I could get my hands on it, I started hearing rumors that it was soon to be hard to find… WHAT?!? Why?? Turns out that two companies came together to produce this third edition but the ‘marriage’ was short lived and production was halted!! In the fall of 2017 I also heard that a 4th edition was on the horizon…

(from BGG): This edition (version 3) of Fury of Dracula features all-new art and graphic design crafted to complement the game’s intuitive, thematic mechanics. Rounds are now broken into day and night: hunters take actions during both, but Dracula can only act at night. Combat is now more streamlined and decisive, and new rumor tokens allow Dracula to mislead hunters and extend the terrible reach of his influence. Count Dracula triumphs if he advances his influence track to thirteen; if the hunters can defeat him before then, they save the continent of Europe and win the game.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Wil Wheaton… enough said. We are really missing his Tabletop shows… as I mentioned earlier, his playthrough was what really sold us on this.

UPDATE: November 2018… That 4th edition reprint has become a reality and I pre-ordered a copy for Selena though it doesn’t look like it will be here for Christmas… but it’s coming!! NOTE: the review in the links is of version 3.

UPDATE UPDATE: January 3, 2019 – the game arrived just as Amazon promised. Selena already opened it, punched out and sorted and bagged the plethora of components so all that’s left for me to do is read the novella of a rule book, keep the separate rules reference handy and teach the game. Lucky for me the band is off the next two weekends… 🙂

Post delivery-and-sifting-through-rules-and-videos UPDATE: two days later, band is off, Selena is working and already planning to play when I pick her up this night… and she’s going to be Dracula of course… I found a 45 minute how to play video from ‘Get Ready for Game Night!‘ which was very good… watched that while I had lunch then dove into the rules. That video made the written rules make much more sense so I was glad I watched that first. The version 4 production is beautiful (Selena really loves the map of the world) and they’ve split the instructions into two books – a ‘how to play’ and a ‘rules reference’ which works very well. When it came time to play I ran that same video for Selena while I set everything up and reviewed a couple rules. It was almost 10:00pm when we started… At one point I (playing all 4 hunters) was able to find Dracula!! I thought I had Selena pretty much cornered but somehow she was able to slip by me and I never found her again. She had managed to get totally behind the net I was preparing to toss over her… NICE JOB!! It was almost 1:00am – where did that time go?!? Great game!! Maybe we’ll try some of the advanced rules next time and I’m sure it will go a little quicker now that we know what we’re doing.

Julie-learns-the-game-UPDATE: Selena was ready for another post-work Dracula session and I told her I’d have it setup and ready for her but I was having a hard time convincing Julie to play (she’s not a Dracula fan)… she eventually caved and she and I split up the hunters… she was a hard sell and was obviously just playing because she said she would but we uncovered some recent cities Dracula had been in early in the game and we knew we were close and THAT’S when she got into the game!! And we got much closer than I did by myself… Julie even found Dracula and did combat… but it was too early in the game and her character didn’t have enough inventory to make it a close fight… She DID cause some damage though it didn’t take long for Dracula to easily defeat her and the victory conditions combined to give Dracula the win on this night… but we were close!!

It’s a little longer than we normally like but definitely held our interest (once we got Julie interested)… We’ll be playing this a lot on nights when we have the time (because vampires can’t come out during the day)… 😉

A late arrival… I knew my daughter really liked this and I happened upon it when Cooper’s Cave – a little local game and paintball shop – ran their Black Friday special of buy anything and get anything else for 50% off… I found this and a present for a coworker on my way to a gig… nicely done if I do say so myself.

(from the publisher): The sun shines brightly on the canopy of the forest, and the trees use this wonderful energy to grow and develop their beautiful foliage. Sow your crops wisely and the shadows of your growing trees could slow your opponents down, but don’t forget that the sun revolves around the forest. Welcome to the world of Photosynthesis, the green strategy board game!!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Selena loves her sciences and wanted this as soon as she saw the title…

We took advantage of Selena’s getting out of work early because of a storm to have a late evening game night and I chose this (after we’d made our way through Pie Town – see above)… The artwork is amazing… the trees are gorgeous and the colors bright and easy to tell apart (and they’re all different shapes so people with color-blindness might be able to play as well)… The gameplay is very interesting but logical and totally fits with the theme as you grow trees from seed to recycling for points using light points as the game’s currency. It was fascinating to see our forest develop and grow and I even managed to win the game (which doesn’t happen often on first plays as I’m usually more focused on making sure the girls know what they’re doing and are enjoying the game (and answering rules questions)… I don’t know what time we started but we were all surprised to discover it was 1:15am when we finished!! That’s the mark of a good game… 🙂

And lastly, Architects of the West Kingdom. If you glance at the cover art it may look familiar since this game is from the same designer and artist that created Raiders of the North Sea and its expansions. We were so totally blown away by Raiders that I had to try to get a copy for us (from Santa). This new games takes the worker placement mechanisms that made Raiders so unique and  creates even more twists that had had this one steadily climbing up the BGG Hotness list since its release!! AND I’m excited that I just received notice that it had shipped!!

(from the publisher): Architects of the West Kingdom is set at the end of the Carolingian Empire, circa 850 AD. As royal architects, players compete to impress their King and maintain their noble status by constructing various landmarks throughout his newly appointed domain. Players need to collect raw materials, hire apprentices, and keep a watchful eye on their workforce. These are treacherous times, and rival architects will stop at nothing to slow your progress. Will you remain virtuous, or be found in the company of thieves and black marketeers?

The aim of Architects of the West Kingdom is to be the player with the most victory points (VP) at game’s end. Points are gained by constructing various buildings and advancing work on the Archbishop’s cathedral. Throughout the game, players need to make a lot of moral decisions. However, only at game’s end will their virtue be judged. A few underhanded deals here and there might not seem like much, but fall too far and you will be punished. The game ends once a set number of constructions have been completed.

And with Christmas only 11 days away I actually thought I was finished BUT…

Julie’s had some setbacks health-wise but she still likes to game and I can tell when she really feels up to it as opposed to just doing it to entertain me… If you’ve been following along you know that we like to curl up and watch game reviews (and movies and old TV shows) and I randomly played a couple recently that she really really liked. I hadn’t planned on picking up anymore but I found myself in Albany for a conference and started thinking that I hadn’t made a visit to Flipside in quite a while and I always like to give them some business before the holidays so after the tech day was over I headed in Flipside’s direction.

I started browsing the shelves and spot one of Julie’s choices right off the bat… here we go… I found some other interesting candidates as well including the Great Western Trail expansion Rails To the North. GWT remains my favorite game in my collection so you might think I’d be all over this expansion but I’ve watched some reviews and play throughs and am still a little on the fence and decided to pass on that on this day. Shortly thereafter don’t I find the other game from Julie’s wish list… that’s it – I’m done!! When I checked out I asked the guy behind the counter to block my home phone because my wife must have called and had them order these… 🙂  So the two late additions for Julie were…

Reef – this has been on and off my radar… I see it and think it would be fun but then I seem to forget about it pretty easily…

(from BGG): In the game Reef, players take on the role of the reef itself, alternating turns in which they carefully select the colors and patterns in which to grow and expand — the more beautiful the reef, the more points they score!

Reef is suited for players aged 8 and up. While it could take thousands of years for a coral reef to grow, a game of Reef should take only 30-45 minutes.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): As I said earlier, I wanted it for Julie, Julie likes the colors and since it’s from the people who made Azul which we all love I’m sure this will be a hit with us too.

And knowing that we all love Azul you might have guessed that her other game was Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra. This is a new release as I’m writing this (and the game we gave her early)… I’ve seen some reviews and I’m not sure but then I didn’t think I’d like the original either and we all love that one… If I had to make a choice for relative new-comers to the hobby I’d say go with the original as this one adds some layers of complexity that may not be your cup of tea…

(from the publisher): Created by Michael Kiesling, Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra challenges players to carefully select glass panes to complete their windows while being careful not to damage or waste supplies in the process. The window panels are double-sided, providing players with a dynamic player board that affords nearly infinite variability!

Players can expect to discover new unique art and components in Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, including translucent window pane pieces, a tower to hold discarded glass panes, and double-sided player boards and window pane panels, in addition to many other beautiful components!

Another post Christmas UPDATE: Julie hasn’t been feeling well for months and was pretty stressed about an upcoming appointment where we hoped to get some answers regarding some new that have appeared on top of the old ones… I had our daughter wrap this one for Julie and in the days just before the appointment we thought it might cheer her up… it did!! She was laughing and hugging the box but unfortunately still didn’t feel well enough to sit up in bed and play.

I’m happy to report that the test results were a relief (the cancer hasn’t spread or gotten worse) and we were able to get a couple games in before Christmas.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): As expected, we all love it!! We all really liked the original Azul from last year (which was a big surprise for me as I didn’t think I’d care for it)… this game replaces the great tiles from the original with CLEAR tiles (stained glass)!! Everything including the gameplay seems to have been taken up a notch or two. We love and will continue to play both games – this one just has a little more substance.

Another post Christmas UPDATE: The girls really surprised me with one of my gifts… I guess they knew better than to try to select a game so they did the next best thing and got me $100 gift certificate to Cooper’s Cave – a small game (and paintball) shop about 15 minutes from home. The even cooler part is that CC doesn’t have your standard printed gift certificate – they have gift ‘coins’ the size of thick poker chips and put them in a small CC nylon bag making it look like pirate loot… VERY COOL!! Thank you!!

How on earth can I top this next year??  🙂