2019 – –

Julie made it through Christmas health-wise (after having slept through Thanksgiving due to her meds and chronic pain) and the band has a couple weeks off so we are getting the occasional game in when she’s up to it AND not crafting on her new Cricut cutter… 🙂

After the haul we had for Christmas I haven’t felt the necessity to purchase any new games though I have $100 in gift coins to Cooper’s Cave game shop so that won’t last long… 🙂

Our post-Christmas plays are spilling into this year so from now on I’ll update those games here (and apologize up front for repeating some of the info from the end of last year for anyone who’s been following in previous years)…

Here they are in chronological order (as best I can remember) then moving on to the remainder of the year…

Our first post Christmas game was Ganz schön Clever (OK – so technically this one is from 2018)…

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…

(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.

Prior to our playing any game I will read and reread the rules and watch videos to make sure I’m ready to teach the game (so they won’t have to read the rules or listen to me read them to them)… I wondered why this game had a German title and after opening our copy I discovered that everything indeed was in German!! Apparently this game hasn’t had an English release yet!! Now what?!? The score sheet is not language-dependent… I’ve seen the videos 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): Julie loves roll and write games so I was sure she’d like this one. It’s dice rolling and scoring like Yahtzee BUT everyone gets to mark something every turn… plus there’s an added dimension that’s like engine building where marking something in one spot could give you something somewhere else that triggers even more actions… it’s very CLEVER!!  🙂

It was New Years Eve (OK – so again technically this was 2018)… my gig is an hour away but I had to setup in the morning so I came home for the afternoon and Julie felt well 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…

If you’ve been following along you’ll know Magic Maze was intended for what’s become our traditional Christmas Eve gift and game night but we got busy and behind and ended up exhausted and just went to bed…

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…

(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!!

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 schön Clever (see above) 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!!

Another night where it’s just Selena and I so we decided to try a little card game I’d stuck in her stocking called Welcome BACK To the Dungeon… a game we watched (or thought I did) 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. 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.

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): 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 play and Julie was ready to go again… and again… and again… I eventually talked her into one game of Ganz schön Clever (see above) 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…

As much as Julie now loves roll and write games she’s loved Tetris for as long as I’ve known her. 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… The artwork isn’t complex but seems perfect for snow melting in a meadow

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’… 🙂

Fury of Dracula caught the eye of my daughter and I both a few years ago 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. It took a year and a half but in November 2018 that 4th edition reprint became a reality!! I pre-ordered a copy for Selena not knowing how long it would be before it actually shipped but I printed a gift certificate for her stocking so she’d know it was coming…

NOTE: the review in the links is of version 3… version 4 has slightly larger and PAINTED miniatures but the rest of the artwork is almost identical…

The game arrived in early January just as Amazon promised. Selena already opened it before I got home from work, punched out and sorted and bagged the plethora of components so all that’s left to do is for me to read the novella of a rule book, keep the separate rules reference handy and teach the game. Lucky for me the band was off the following two weekends… 🙂

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.

A few days later 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)… 😉

Mid-January… a major storm is heading our way (2 feet or more of snow)… I’m off and Selena has an early work night and no one has to get up in the morning so I plan a double header game night – picking one game I got for each of them… Pie Town for Julie and Photosynthesis for Selena!! I spent the day soaking in the rules and prepping for the evening…

I had finished teaching Julie and we had just started the first round when Selena called – they were closing her store early because of the storm (that ended up dumping almost 30 inches of snow here) so I headed out to retrieve her. When we got home I gave her the same crash course while she ate then we launched into the game…

(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 kid’s 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 as you try to uncover the other player’s secret pie recipes… 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… 🙂

We never checked the clock after packing up Pie Town and the girls didn’t know what the other game was I had planned so they were a little surprised to see Photosynthesis

(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…

The artwork is amazing… the trees are gorgeous and the colors bright and easy to tell apart (and the trees have different shapes so people with color-blindness might be able to play as well)… The gameplay is very interesting but totally logical and totally fitting with the theme as you grow trees from seed to ‘recycling’ for points using light points as the game’s currency. You gain light points as the sun rotates around the board – casting rays of light on trees NOT in the shadows of other trees (either other player’s or your own). The one thing the felt odd to me was that players don’t play items (seeds, trees, etc.) from their player board but rather from an ‘available’ area next to their board. I had to keep thinking of the board as a ‘shopping center’ to keep it straight…

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… 🙂

At this point I am totally shocked at how many games from Christmas haven’t made it to the table yet… I’m reading rules so I’m ready whenever the girls are…

And then I turn around and add yet another game into the mix…

It’s mid-January and the band has its first rehearsal of the year and that means a trip to Filpside Gaming of course!!

I may have over done it at Christmas so I wasn’t in the market for anything for us but rather hoping for a Haba kid’s title or two for a dear friend at work and her grandsons to introduce them all to the hobby. I was in luck!! The base version of Rhino Hero and an English version of Animal Upon Animal (get your mind out of the gutter)!! Both great kids game but the Animal Upon Animal also makes for a great adult party game (as happens with many Haba games)… I fully envision my friend having visitors, drinking a few wines and before you know it they’re stacking wooden pieces and making animal sounds… 🙂  Mission accomplished.

WAIT!!! Oh no… I’ve been looking for this… They have a copy of Viticulture – Essential Edition!!

(from BGG): In Viticulture, the players find themselves in the roles of people in rustic, pre-modern Tuscany who have inherited meager vineyards. They have a few plots of land, an old crushpad, a tiny cellar, and three workers. They each have a dream of being the first to call their winery a true success.

The players are in the position of determining how they want to allocate their workers throughout the year. Every season is different on a vineyard, so the workers have different tasks they can take care of in the summer and winter. There’s competition over those tasks, and often the first worker to get to the job has an advantage over subsequent workers.

Fortunately for the players, people love to visit wineries, and it just so happens that many of those visitors are willing to help out around the vineyard when they visit as long as you assign a worker to take care of them. Their visits (in the form of cards) are brief but can be very helpful.

Using those workers and visitors, players can expand their vineyards by building structures, planting vines (vine cards), and filling wine orders (wine order cards). Players work towards the goal of running the most successful winery in Tuscany.

Viticulture – Essential Edition comes with components for Viticulture, but adds some parts of the Tuscany expansion, including 36 Mama & Papa cards, Field cards (previously known as “Properties”), expanded / revised Visitors, and 24 Automa cards (solo variant), along with a couple of minor rule changes.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): This game has been talked about for years and always looked interesting… then I recently watched a review and it really piqued my interest again but by now (of course) it’s out of print with no reprint on the horizon (that’s what they always say)… It was sold out online though I remembered seeing it at one of the local shops but no one had a copy… until now!! My inner child took over and before I decided to have a tantrum right in the isle I had that under my arm too.

NOTE: One thing that BGG failed to mention from this edition was the addition of a ‘Grande Worker’… in the original version it was too easy and frustrating to get blocked from a worker spot you desperately wanted… not anymore!! Once (only once / year) you can place this new worker on any spot – regardless of how many workers are already there. In many of the reviews this was touted as a ‘game changer’ in their rating of the game.

I knew it wouldn’t be long before I found something with my $100 in Cooper’s Cave gift coins (as if we need more new games right this minute)…

I was watching various reviewers present their end-of-year top 10 lists – many were updating their favorites of all time and a number of games caught my eye… some that I’d forgotten about… one of those was Dice Forge and thought I recalled seeing this at Cooper’s Cave… sure enough!!

(from BGG): Heroes, stand ready! The gods are offering a seat in heaven to whichever hero defeats their rivals. Your courage and wits will be your most precious allies as you use divine dice to gather resources along the road to victory.

Your divine dice are exceptional, with removable faces! Customize your dice to make them more powerful as the game progresses. Sacrifice gold to the gods to obtain enhanced die faces. Upgrade your dice to produce the resources you need. Overcome ordeals concocted by the gods to grow in glory and earn rewards. Skillfully manage the luck of the dice and take charge of your destiny. Only the greatest will ascend to the heavens!

Dice Forge is a development game featuring innovative mechanics based on dice with removable faces. In this dice crafting game, players build their own dice. Roll your dice, manage your resources, complete ordeals before your opponents and explore multiple winning strategies.

Now you control the luck of the dice!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): In two words – DICE CRAFTING!! I was recently reminded of how good this game was and how stellar the production was and there aren’t many games that let you customize your dice (at least that are also accompanied by great gameplay)…

UPDATE: Got this to the table finally and the production is insane!! It looks fantastic plus the islands visually connect to the end of the game box which holds the temple (all the die faces) during the game. The game itself is pretty simple so it was easy to teach and we all liked making our own custom dice. We really liked the whole thing and just in time as I read there’s a new expansion for it!!

As I perused the isles further my mind kept coming back to Orbis… there was something about this that I remember really liking so I thought that would be a good second selection…

(from BGG): Orbis is a tactical game of world development and strategic resource management, in which players take on the roles of gods creating their best universes. Utilizing lands lost in the aether, players accumulate worshippers to spend on even more fruitful lands — some of which grant game-changing bonuses. The key to victory lies in having the most creation points (CPs) at the end of the game!

On your turn, you must take a tile from either the nine region tiles in the center of the table or the available God tiles. (A player may take only one God tile throughout the game.) Every time you take a region tile, worshippers of the same color as the tile taken are placed on adjacent tiles, making the tiles left behind more enticing for the next player. Restrictions apply to region tile placement, making each decision tougher than the last!

After fifteen rounds, the game ends when all players have created their universe, at which point CPs are calculated, bonus tiles awarded, and a winner is crowned. Beautifully simple yet rich in strategy, Orbis is a different game each and every time you play it.

Become the best god and craft your most prosperous universe!!

I still had $20 left so I kept looking and discovered a number of expansions for Marvel Legendary…

(from BGG): Spider-Man and his allies make their long-awaited return to the Legendary Universe! Legendary: Paint The Town Red is a Small Box Expansion to the Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game.

5 new Heroes! 2 new Villain groups! 2 new Masterminds! 4 new Schemes!

The game will feature the long awaited appearance of Black Suit Spiderman as well as the evil Mastermind, Carnage. Each Small Box Expansion Set comes with 100 playable cards featuring all original art.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): We all enjoy playing Legendary and it’s a huge card game with a ton of expansions… I snagged this one for Selena because I know how much she likes Spiderman (and Deadpool and Hulk, etc.)…

End of January… Selena and I finished our other responsibilities and felt like a game…

Selena had picked out Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game early in 2018 and we’ve played a couple times – the second time starting over to include Julie who also loved it (it’s a little too, well… ‘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 thinking this might be just the thing to take her mind of the pain… 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 to portray 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.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): This was a Selena pick though I was fascinated by the way it all worked… When we got it to the table and played through the tutorial there was no doubt we were going to play the first scenario… we probably would have played more if we both didn’t have to get up early for school and work…

It plays great and the app works flawlessly!!

We loved it and can’t wait to include Julie in a scenario!!

And we love the fact that they’re creating additional scenarios so once we finish the included content the game doesn’t have to end!!

For me this may be a Detective killer… While I love crime dramas and detective shows, Detective felt too dry and serious… too slow and just too long (again, at least to me) because I often felt like I was sitting and watching rather than participating…

Not so in Chronicles of Crime…The pace is comfortable and I think the app can somehow tell when you’re struggling because there will be a ‘call form the chief’ to kind of nudge you in a direction which was helpful at one point in our play…

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.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Julie and Tetris… sound familiar??  🙂

Our first time to the table was a two player so we were attempting 7×7 grids… when the game was over this felt just right – 5×5 would have felt cramped. We loved the game though the icons on the tiles could be a tad bigger for my old eyes but that’s just me… If Selena likes it and it looks like it will see more table time with the three of us I’ll definitely spring for Kingdomino and merge the tiles together so we can build 7×7 grids with ALL player counts. It’s a great light to medium weight game with the addition of the building tiles (not part of Kingdomino).

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.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): After playing Raiders of the North Sea with it’s two highly recommended expansions and totally loving it this was definitely on our radar. Then when I saw the reviews and learned about the ingenious worker placement elements I knew we’d love it… and I was right. There is a lot of iconology to soak in but once you’ve seen a couple the rest all make sense… Julie (who usually has to play into the game before she begins to understand) was telling what each location did as I was reviewing them from the rule book… she was ready!! I picked up Selena from work, ran through everything with her while she scarfed down some supper and we were off.

If everyone pays attention and plans ahead when it’s not their turn, game play really flies!! Selena would look things over, make her move and start playing with the cat then I’d play, Juile’d play and Selena would be caught off guard – “It’s me already??”  For everything that’s going on, the game does move fast and doesn’t seem to over stay it’s welcome so to speak… This will be hitting the table again very soon… If it’s just Julie and I, we’ll definitely play with the 2 player versus bot variant that looks very interesting.

Now there’s word that there’s a sequel to this named Paladins of the West Kingdom – the premise being that you’ve built the kingdom – now you need to defend it. And word is this game will have even more innovative worker placement mechanics!!

Architects UPDATE… Got it to the table a couple more times so far with just Julie and myself and the bot… even though the bot is only a couple shuffled decks of cards it plays tough – almost mean (at least in our game)… we both swore we’d never play with it again but we will because it did make for an interesting game even though we didn’t get to finish… the last time we’d just got everything setup but didn’t even get to start because another storm was rolling through and Selena got out of work 90 minutes early… Next time!! 🙂

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hot on the heals of unwrapping the Great Western Trail expansion (see below) (and a few games of Farkle with my Mom while I waited for Selena to get out of work) Julie was determined to finish a game of Architects… I’m always game (so to speak)…

We debated playing with the bot 3rd player but eventually decided to include it again (though I’m not sure I’m using it totally right)… It’s definitely fascinating (at least to me) to see how it interacts with the game and the live players which can best be described as ‘unpredictable’. We’re fine with it capturing a bunch of our players when we’re not expecting it – that much feels similar to what a live person would do… but, upon reflection, I think the only thing that may give us pause is that, unlike with a live player, we can’t predict what the bot might be working towards so we can’t head it off… again, it’s totally unpredictable. We really like this game and I’m sure we’ll be playing again but I think we’ll try it with just the two of us then we’ll know which we like better. Oh – and the metal coins will be here tomorrow.  🙂

Mid-February give or take… I still have some hefty titles from Christmas to learn and get to the table but I had my taxes done earlier in the week and was thrilled to learn I didn’t have to pay anything this year so I prefaced this week’s band rehearsal with a visit to Flipside Gaming of course.

Great Western Trail still remains my favorite game of all the games we own and I had seen the expansion Great Western Trail: Rails to the North there on a previous visit but still wasn’t sure it was something that would further enhance my enjoyment of the game I already loved. Then I stumbled on Bryan Drake’s review and I was sold!! It seems pretty easy and I can’t wait to play it!!

(from BGG): Great Western Trail: Rails to the North introduces a new railway system for players to compete on as they grow their cow herding businesses.

With this expansion, players deliver their herds to northeast United States with stops in Chicago, Detroit, and New York City, amongst other cities, in an effort to become the most successful cow rancher this side of the Mississippi. Be advised that business is much more difficult on this rail, so players will want to take advantage of friendly hospitality by establishing branchlets and helping form towns. In addition to the new railway system, players will also discover new station master tiles, private buildings, and an expanded player board to offer more strategic depth in their decision making.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): As I stated earlier, GWT remains my favorite game of all our games. Somewhere between seeing the review and visiting the game store I’d read that someone thought this made an ‘already great game perfect‘. How could I let that possibility pass me by… 🙂  I think Julie enjoys it as much as I do and, judging by her excitement when she saw it in my hand, I have a feeling I’d better read through the rule quick because with the band off, she will want to play it this weekend!! I’m game… 🙂

UPDATE: Selena’s working, the band has the day / night off and Julie is awake so it’s the perfect afternoon for breaking in this expansion (especially since this is one of the few games Selena refuses to play again)… 🙂

I’ve read the short rules addition and it seems extremely easy… in fact, nothing changed in the base game other than the addition of a couple private buildings for each player so it took only a few minutes to explain and we were into the game. This expansion does make it difficult to ignore… if you try not to build ‘branchlets’ to the new locations you’ll soon find yourself running out of delivery options and they’ve made the penalties a little steeper for the cheaper locations BUT they’ve made it easier to improve your herd before selling so it feels pretty balanced. When it was all done I had won the game (Julie had trounced me the last couple of time we played the base game) but I think that may have been in large part due to my being more familiar with the expansion. Julie had a much better feel for it by the end… if we played again today I probably wouldn’t have a chance… 🙂  Bottom line is we’ll probably never play without this expansion.

I had some time so I continued to peruse the isles and 7 Wonders Duel caught my eye…

(from BGG): In many ways 7 Wonders Duel resembles its parent game 7 Wonders as over three ages players acquire cards that provide resources or advance their military or scientific development in order to develop a civilization and complete wonders.

What’s different about 7 Wonders Duel is that, as the title suggests, the game is solely for two players, with the players not drafting cards simultaneously from hands of cards, but from a display of face-down and face-up cards arranged at the start of a round. A player can take a card only if it’s not covered by any others, so timing comes into play as well as bonus moves that allow you to take a second card immediately. As in the original game, each card that you acquire can be built, discarded for coins, or used to construct a wonder.

Each player starts with four wonder cards, and the construction of a wonder provides its owner with a special ability. Only seven wonders can be built, though, so one player will end up short.

Players can purchase resources at any time from the bank, or they can gain cards during the game that provide them with resources for future building; as you acquire resources, the cost for those particular resources increases for your opponent, representing your dominance in this area.

A player can win 7 Wonders Duel in one of three ways: each time you acquire a military card, you advance the military marker toward your opponent’s capital, giving you a bonus at certain positions; if you reach the opponent’s capital, you win the game immediately; similarly, if you acquire any six of seven different scientific symbols, you achieve scientific dominance and win immediately; if none of these situations occurs, then the player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): 7 Wonders was one of my first classic purchases along with Dominion (their descriptions are back in the early years) and I really liked and still enjoy playing both games despite seeing more and more reviewers carry-on about how they’ve lost interest or the games haven’t aged well or what have you… maybe because they’ve been in the hobby that much longer than I… I also knew that some of those same people really seemed to like this and knowing that, and with our daughter in college and working, there are many nights where it’s just my wife and I so I wanted to give this a try.

Other than some minor setup variations (like the clever way they replaced the card drafting from the original with special card layouts for each age) I barely had to read the rulebook and we were up and playing in no time. We immediately reset for a second game… if you’re paying attention and planning ahead turns and ages can fly by. It is an excellent two-player game and one that I think will be getting a lot of plays.

Early March – A First… Today I backed my first Kickstarter Paladins of the West Kingdom!!

(from the publisher): Paladins of the West Kingdom is set at a turbulent time of West Francia’s story, circa 900 AD. Despite recent efforts to develop the city, outlying townships are still under threat from outsiders. Saracens scout the borders, while Vikings plunder wealth and livestock. Even the Byzantines from the east have shown their darker side. As noble men and women, players must gather workers from the city to defend against enemies, build fortifications and spread faith throughout the land. Fortunately you are not alone. In his great wisdom, the King has sent his finest knights to help aid in our efforts. So ready the horses and sharpen the swords. The Paladins are approaching.

The aim of Paladins of the West Kingdom is to be the player with the most victory points (VP) at game’s end. Points are gained by building outposts and fortifications, commissioning monks and confronting outsiders. Each round, players will enlist the help of a specific Paladin and gather workers to carry out tasks. As the game progresses, players will slowly increase their faith, strength and influence. Not only will these affect their final score, but they will also determine the significance of their actions. The game is concluded at the end of the seventh round.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): We loved Raiders of the North Sea and even added a couple expansions… then came the first in this latest trilogy – Architects of the West Kingdom – which we also loved… enough to order metal coins for it just for fun… Paladins is the second game in that trilogy and all indications we’re going to love this one too!! Who’s have thought someone could create so many worker placement mechanics that hadn’t already been done but designer Shem Phillip’s mind must work entirely differently from everyone else… 🙂

UPDATE: October 6… I drove home this morning after playing a wedding in Philadelphia last night… I was very excited as my Kickstarter copy of Paladins of the West Kingdom  had arrived a few days before I left… I’d been reading and watching videos and reading some more and watching some more and thought I had a pretty good grasp of it… After supper I asked Julie if she was up for trying to help me figure it out so we spent the next few hours setting up as I explained the ins-and-outs as much as I could remember on what little sleep I’d had and we pretty much figured it all out and even played through 3 or 4 rounds… for as many moving parts as it has we were getting through it pretty good by the time we decided to call it a night (I did have to work in the morning after all) and we simply scored from where we stopped… and she beat me of course… but we’re looking forward to a complete play through when I’m home again and she feels better.

UPDATE: October 8… I got home from work and Julie was up and moving and already asking if we were going to play (I think I have her hooked on the hobby)… I quickly ate in hopes of getting a full game of Paladins in before going to bed…

It didn’t take us long to remember everything from a couple days earlier and we were able to blow through a 2 player game in well under 2 hours… we both really like this game!! For all it’s complexity and moving parts, it really doesn’t feel that hard to either of us… and yes – she beat me again… there – I said it. 🙂

Along about this same time I had band practice and can never resist a visit to Flipside Gaming of course… I had a couple games that have proven hard to find but other than that had no intention of buying anything… I’m sure you’ve already guessed how that worked out…

Welcome to Meeple Circus!!

(from BGG): Let the show begin!

You have only one goal in Meeple Circus: Entertain the audience. The competition is tough, but you can create the most amazing circus by proposing incredible acts! Acrobats, horses, and many accessories are at your disposal. Be sure to undertake a good rehearsal, then with your remarkable dexterity, you can give them the show of their lifetime. Once the circus music starts, all eyes will be upon you!

In short, Meeple Circus is a dexterity game in which you do what all gamers do when setting up a game: Pile up your meeples!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): We love dexterity games (though Selena usually bumps the table at least once in the middle of the game)… 🙂

I’d debated this one for a while… it looked like fun – almost more of a party game… I just never snagged it.

Then I saw a review of the expansion – The Wild Animal & Aerial Show

(from BGG):On the roster of The Wild Animal & Aerial Show, the new act for Meeple Circus, you’ll find a bear and wild lion, along with breathtaking aerial acts starring Otto the tumbler and Luna the tightrope walker!

Each player starts the game with three acrobats: 1 blue, 1 yellow, and 1 red (instead of only 1 blue and 1 yellow as in the base game.) You have more acrobats as you have more to do in this expansion thanks to new public demand cards and challenge tiles. If you want to have a more challenging game, the expansion comes with an option to play with advanced rules.

Just for the tumbler alone I HAD TO HAVE IT!! The problem (which I only discovered after I got home the base game) is that apparently the publisher is having difficulty getting the expansion to America and I can’t find any place to order it from overseas though I can PRE-order it on Miniature Market… might have to go that way… alright – I already did.

I also was surprised to find the expansion board for Scythe. The board that comes with it is double sided… normal on one side and about 2/3’s of a larger board on the back (you have to buy the rest of the board separately). Even though I haven’t got it to the table yet I can foresee things getting cramped with 3 or more players since there is no limit to the number of pieces that can occupy a hex. I like being prepared… 🙂

The band is taking some time off from live performing to work in a new bass player and a ton of new material which left me with a weekend open…

I’ve been reading and re-reading the 30 page manual and watching multiple videos and felt like I was fully prepared to teach it without having to recite the manual (it even recommends not doing that in the manual) and I already had a plan of how I would go about it…

If you read my Christmas roundup from last year you’ll no doubt recall that this was my Christmas present… that I gave the girls… to give to me (worked well the year before with Great Western Trail and made me feel like a little kid again who couldn’t wait for Christmas morning)… 🙂  This time it was 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… maybe I thought it might be a little too deep or complex for our tastes… I know if I find a couple reasonably priced games that I think we’ll all enjoy 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 am looking forward to playing.

UPDATE – Mid March… It was beginning to look like I might have to play the Automa solo mode for my first play but, as the pendulum that is our family’s health swings between us all, this weekend found Selena with the flu (not the stomach one thankfully), Ellie (our English Cream Golden) recovering from eye surgery and Julie feeling a little better… well enough to agree to tackle Scythe!!

As I mentioned above I have been focusing on this game – reading and watching videos then going back and reading again – to make sure I not only knew the game well enough to teach it but also do so in such a way that we’d be playing quicker and no one would be yawning while I read the rather lengthy manual aloud to them. When all is said and done it is really an elegant and relatively simple – almost self-explanatory – game to play with very few actual rules at its core… it’s complexity essentially comes from whatever strategies you might choose to deploy. Without going into drastic detail here’s a quick summary of our initial play…

My plan in explaining the game was to start with just the board (which has fantastic detail when closely examined) then zoom out as I broke down each space then the available actions followed by the few rules that we all had to abide by. It’s so logical in its design that by the time I finished unpacking the cards and my faction’s pieces we were able to start playing straight away. The game is turned based but doesn’t have rounds – instead there is a Triumph track where, when each player accomplishes certain goals in the game, they add a star to that track… when a player adds their 6th star the game ends immediately and the final score is calculated.

I let Julie pick her faction first and she went by color which was fine for our first time… designer Jamey Stegmier did an amazing job of keeping the factions balanced while still granting each asymmetrical powers that no one else has… she chose the Togawa faction from the expansion and I selected the Nordic faction because, since most home bases are locked in by rivers and lakes I thought that my worker’s ability to swim across rivers would come in handy… which it did.

We were both learning as we played (though I’d been studying for weeks) but I could tell after only a few turns that Julie ‘got it’ and could see the wheels turning… and I was scared… 🙂  She got all of her workers out very early which in turn got her the 1st star of the 6 needed to end the game but that would make producing the necessary resources pretty expensive and I thought that might bite her in the end (so to speak)… then I realized she already had a star so I’d better focus on what I needed to do.

We went back and forth – each getting stars for various things when I noticed that I appeared to have significantly more coins than Julie and I thought I could end the game with our first combat of the game and emerge victorious from the battle AND the game!! I made my move and attacked her territory… combat is a minor part of the game… each player can see everyone’s combat power but no one knows how much of that power a player will secretly commit to a battle or how many combat cards the player might have and might commit and their values until there is a simultaneous reveal… I had some higher value combat cards to throw in (these cards have no value at the end of the game) and almost maxed out my power commitment (trying to appear nice but still finish her off)… Julie did the same then came the moment of truth… and she walloped me… she lambasted me… she combat kicked my ass from here to there and back again!! I had overlooked two important things in my overzealousness to be the one to end the game… 1) I had noticed her stockpiling combat card throughout the game then didn’t give it much thought… she played a fistful of cards so it wasn’t even close. It didn’t hit me until the next day that we had both played it wrong… you can only commit a number of combat cards equal to the number of your faction’s pieces taking part in the combat. But 2) by defeating me in combat SHE was able to place HER 6th star and end the game!! It took us a bit longer than the 155 minutes on the box but most of that was teaching the game… I can see it going much faster with people who know the game…

When we finished the end game scoring she had beaten me by $2… BUT WAIT… we forgot the end of game building bonuses… throw those in and… we TIED. And this is why I love ‘Euro’ games… whether you think you’re way ahead or really out of a game, you never really know until the very end and it’s those moments that I’m finding usually bring people who play these types of games back again.

Scythe is truly an amazing game – worth every penny!! Julie’s already challenged me to a rematch the next day… And while I’m not usually a big expansion player I may have to look into the others a little deeper now – we liked it just that much.

UPDATE – Day 2 – Another night off and Julie really wants a rematch and I want to fix a couple rules things we messed up (OK – I have a night off and will play just about anything with anyone)… we get setup, each took different factions (both from the base game) and launched into our rematch.

Before I knew it she had a star on the Triumph Track… then another!! I completed one of my objectives to get my first star but was trying to see how much I could produce with as few workers as possible to keep the cost down and that strategy seemed to be working… back and forth… back and forth… I had my mechs out and in a position to attack which I think she noticed because she was stocking up on combat cards… my diversion was working… keep her thinking I was getting ready to attack (winning combat gets you a star and you can do that twice) while I was really setting up other Triumph Track requirements so they had single moves left for stars… I attacked her once on an out-of-the-way space to keep her thinking combat (which she won by 1 point for a star – oops)… I soon placed my 5th and she followed with her 5th but I dropped my 6th and by her angry shriek I’d say that I was able to do it to her before she did it to me… 🙂

When all the coins were paid out and counted I had broken $90 (they say a good score is $75) while her lack of Popularity (the end game multiplier) put her almost $30 behind. Victory is mine!! Victory is mine!! And in just over 90 minutes so I’d say we have a pretty good feel for it now. When Selena feels better I’ll teach her… I could tell she wanted to play but just didn’t feel up to it.

UPDATE – A few days later… Selena managed to shake the flu… fever broke and she was feeling well enough to break in her new waffle maker Sunday morning (they were yummy)!! By Sunday afternoon she was restless and bored and ready to learn Scythe!!

I went through my custom tutorial just as I’d done with Julie then it was game on. Selena took little time to pick it up and was blowing through actions like nobody’s business… I tried my attack distraction ploy that had worked with Julie but I think Selena turned the tables on me – playing into it by repeatedly asking why I wanted to attack her then, before I even knew what happened, she placed her 5th AND 6th stars in one turn!! Ending the game well before I could pull off my plan to place my last three stars. Needless to say she clobbered me – I think by more then $50!! And she really liked it making it unanimous. Can’t wait to get it to the table with all three of us. Should be interesting… 🙂

Last weekend in March… Band is off (relaxing before things get really crazy), Selena is working and Julie is feeling rotten after her most recent procedure and also medicated as usual so she’s been asleep for a couple days when I stumble on the local game group having multiple gatherings over the weekend…

On Friday they were hosting a game night at a small game store named Freakopolis in Whitehall so, not knowing what to expect, I packed a few games (because they invited any experienced gamers to teach and run games) in a small suitcase and headed up directly from work. I arrived to find Veronica (the organizer) outside – recording the group’s big announcement regarding their spring convention. Inside were a handful of very nice people and after some introductions and discussion we split into two groups and I learned the game Visitor In Blackwood Grove – and interesting deduction game with an alien and a child and Federal agents… When that was over the same group decided to play Mysterium… It was a struggle but in the end we managed to beat it – with plenty of time left for me to get back to Queensbury in time to pick Selena up from work.

Saturday morning they hosted a family game day at the Hudson Falls Library so I packed a few family-friendly / gateway type games and hit the road. Veronica and John (organizer and SUET game designer) were there unpacking large bags full of games… 2 or 3 parents with kids stopped in, a couple actually tried some games which was nice… The librarian encouraged us to go ahead and play as that would attract attention so I was invited to join another group member and Veronica for a game of Imhotep. I’d forgotten how to play as it had been quite a while since the girls and I had gotten this to the table… as the game progressed I remembered why I liked the game so much. We finished and packed and I was thinking of heading out when John’s wife arrived with the Girl Scout cookies my wife had ordered. With that I followed her out and snagged our order (Tagalongs – my favorite!!) and headed home to get Selena to work.

Saturday evening I was torn between attending yet another game night with the group or catching the South Street Saint’s first set since they had a 7:30 start… I suspected that they were in the same vicinity and, once I confirmed that they were indeed right across the street from each other, I ate, dressed, packed games and headed for the Chameleon in the Shirt Factory building. I arrived an hour into the event and found some familiar faces as well as some new ones… They were just getting ready to regroup and trying to select a game… I offered to teach Gan Shon Clever or Fuse and after I described each I had a table full of Fuse players. I did a quick refresh on the rules while we were setting up, brought out my Bluetooth speaker for the timer… and the increased stress level from the soundtrack, ticking timer and the obnoxious woman… I messed up the deck preparation the first time and they beat it with minutes to spare… I corrected it for their second play and, while they still beat it, there was only about 30 seconds left and they were feeling the pressure and that’s how the game is supposed to make you feel… 🙂 I stuck around and watched them start game of Betrayal at House On the Hill (one of Selena’s favorites) but with the Widow’s Walk expansion added in before heading out to catch the band but it was great to get to meet some people and play and teach some games!!

March 31, 2019… Happy birthday to me!! Of course my girls had to add to our collection with a couple classics…

First was Ticket To Ride – Nordic Countries

(from BGG): Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries takes you on a Nordic adventure through Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden as you travel to the great northern cities of Copenhagen, Oslo, Helsinki, and Stockholm. This version was initially available only in the Nordic Countries of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland; a worldwide limited-edition release occurred in August 2008 and it has since been kept in print again by Days of Wonder.

The goal in “Nordic” remains the same as base Ticket to Ride: collect and play cards to place your trains on the board, attempting to connect the different cities on your ticket cards. The map incorporates tunnels from Europe and also has routes containing ferries. Ferries will require a certain number of Locomotives to be played, as well as other cards, in order to be claimed. Locomotives are handled a bit differently as well. On your turn you may take 2 Locomotives if you want, but you can only use them on ferries, tunnels, or the special 9 length route.

Unlike the USA or Europe maps, Nordic is designed for 2-3 players only and has a heavier focus on blocking your opponent and more aggressive play.

And Seafarers of Catan – an expansion for The Settlers of Catan

(From BGG): This is an expansion for The Settlers of Catan. Players can build shipping lanes, which are very similar to roads.

April 2, 2019… Band is starting to kick things back into gear just as Adirondicon Tabletop Day 2 2019 was announced… Of course we’re playing that night BUT I caught a break… we’re playing at Rivers Casino where I have to use the house drums and they don’t let us in before 6:30… PERFECT!!

I have already signed up for a 10:30 or 11:00am session to teach Scythe to up to 5 beginners!! I was absolutely thrilled with how I was able to teach my girls without reciting the manual to them and am anxious to try it out on strangers (hopefully I’m not shaking as bad this year)… I have to believe there are some people out there that either because of the cost or the perceived level of difficulty have passed this game by and while it’s true that it does have a lot of ‘moving parts’ my wife and daughter picked it up in no time and proceeded to cream me. So, at ADK TT D2, I will further put my teaching theory to the test… I’m confident that I can teach a table of ‘newbs’ the ins and outs and provide some flavor in 30-45 minutes and hopefully complete a game within the allotted time… I’m ready!!

April 3, 2019… rehearsal night + a pocketful of birthday cash = a visit to Flipside!!

The first thing I spotted was the Widow’s Walk expansion for Betrayal at House On the Hill – one of Selena’s favorites so I had to snag that…

(from the publisher): The house on the hill has a wicked reputation. Those who dare to darken its door often leave steeped in madness and despair — if they leave at all.

Now the horror reaches new heights with Widow’s Walk, the first-ever expansion for the critically acclaimed board game Betrayal at House on the Hill. The house is expanded with the addition of twenty new rooms, including the roof, a previously unexplored floor. Also in its halls you will find new monsters, items, omens, events, and fifty brand-new haunts, penned by lead developer Mike Selinker’s all-star cast of contributors from the world of gaming and entertainment. In Widow’s Walk, terror and panic are taken to a whole new level.

Enter if you dare. Exit if you can…

Right next to it was the Encounters expansion for Scythe… I find the Encounter cards to be interesting in the way they augment your submersion into the story and this expansion adds to that… in addition, these cards were designed by Scythe players and fans and chosen and tweaked (when necessary) by the original designer Jamey Stegmeir.

(from the publisher): In June 2018, Scythe fans were invited to make a design for ONE encounter card using specific art. Jamey reviewed the submissions, selected his favorites (often mixing and matching various submissions), and developed them. Now the Scythe Encounters promo boxed set is a reality!

Scythe Encounters is a boxed set of 32 brand-new promo encounter cards. These cards feature a number of innovations in the encounter system. We recommend that you play with them on their own for a few games; after that you can shuffle them into the regular encounter deck.

A couple trips up and down the isle… so many great choices but I settled on a newer game – Raccoon Tycoon. Happy birthday!!

(from the publisher): Astoria is a land bustling with productivity and growth! New towns, factories, and railroads are springing up across the land. A few savvy business tycoons (you and your opponents) are determined to make your fortunes on the crest of this wave. These tycoons start out as the producers of the key commodities: wheat to feed the growing towns and factories, wood and iron to build them, coal to fuel the trains and factories, and manufactured goods and luxuries to fill the insatiable demand of the animals of Astoria.

Cornering the market for the most valuable commodities can create small fortunes that can be invested in the new businesses, turning them into huge fortunes. The sky is the limit during this Gilded Age!

In Raccoon Tycoon, players try to produce the most valuable commodities in an ever-changing marketplace. They then use those commodities to build towns, or sell them at the best price to secure great profits that can be used to win auctions for the all-important railroads. The profits may also be used to buy powerful buildings that give the players power-ups or bonuses in production. Owning the best towns and railroads determines victory. There can be only one “top dog” in Astoria. Is it you?

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Animals in Victorian dress… need I say more?? Actually, what got me interested is the card-driven stock market mechanisms… but the artwork is fabulous and the cards are huge compared to most games…

I sprung this one on Julie the first week of October and we both enjoyed it… she trounced me but it was still fun… my only gripe with the two player rules would have to be the railroad auctions… in a 3-5 player game bidding continues until all but one player has passed… in the two player game, the person triggering the auction makes a bid and the other player either outbids by a dollar (there are no more bids so there’s no need to bid more than $1) and takes it or passes and that’s the end… I was burned numerous times because I wasn’t sure how much money Julie had, made a higher bid than I would have liked, and she still screwed me out of several railroads I needed and consequently points in the end. I got burned in reverse too – bidding really high then having to pay that cost… I’m debating trying a house rule next time where the person triggering the auction gets one ‘rebuttle’ bid… then, if the second player outbids them again they take it. Nice game with great production and not too long… it’s a keeper.

April 4, 2019… game night at the Crandall Library… some familiar faces and some new ones…

We played a quick game of Visitor In Blackwood Grove then split into smaller groups as more people had arrived… I found myself at a table with the host (Veronica), another regular (Tammy) and an older woman (Linda) who was new to the hobby but had been to a previous game night – her first – and was making a return… we were trying to decide what to play when Tammy brought Nyctophobia: Vampire Encounter to the table… I started telling the story of the college-aged girl who designed it so her and her blind Uncle could play, etc… once they realized that I knew the game I ended up being the vampire and running the game… I made it spooky of course and the other group was checking it out… In the end the girls found their friend and the car and managed to escape.

I finished the night teaching Gan Shon Clever –  a dice game that I like to describe as Yahtzee on steroids…

With the band dates starting to pick up I wasn’t sure when I’d be able to attend another game night before the convention… the next day I learned that the band had booked a second gig for the afternoon of the day of the convention and I’d have to drop out of the con… 🙁

April 7, 2019… a day to do nothing… actually, I was browsing corner desks for Julie’s craft center we’re piecing together, landed on Amazon and of course found a few games that had been on my radar for a while but I couldn’t find in stock anywhere locally…

First off was Luxor

(from the publisher): On the hunt for priceless treasures, groups of adventurers explore the legendary temple at Luxor. Their ultimate goal is the tomb of the pharaoh, but many treasures can be collected as they search. As they explore, the challenge unfolds: The player who manages to quickly get their team of adventurers to the tomb, while salvaging as many treasures as possible, will be the winner.

Luxor offers variable game play as the path that leads to the tomb is different for every game — and will even change during play!

In Luxor, players move their adventurers through the temple with the goal of reaching the tomb in the middle of the game board. At the start of the game each player gets dealt 5 cards, which he is not allowed to change the order of.

In each round players take turns that consist of 3 actions:

1. Choose either the left or right most card to play to the discard pile.

According to the played card move, one adventurer that many tiles forward towards the tomb. An adventurer only moves from tile to tile, jumping over empty spaces and not counting them.

2. When the adventurer has completed his movement, he performs the action of that tile, if possible. Depending on the tile this can have various effects:

Treasure tile – If enough of a players adventurers player are placed on a tile, the player can collect that tile and earn points for it. Additionally he keeps the tile, trying to collect treasure sets consisting of the three different treasure kinds, vase, statue and necklace.

Horus tile – The player can either gain a key or a Horus Card. He will need the key to enter the tomb and the special Horus card offers unique and strong ways to move his adventurers once he plays that card.

Osiris tile – The tile acts as an catapult instantly moving the adventurer a certain amount of tiles forward.

Temple tile – On these tiles players get special bonuses, like scarabs that are worth victory points or joker tiles, which complete treasure sets. The most unique tile is the tunnel. If an adventurer lands on a tunnel he instantly gets teleported to the next tunnel in play, creating a shortcut through the temple.

3. After performing the action of the tile, players draw one card from the draw pile to refill their hand to five cards. The drawn card is placed in the middle of the hand.

At the start of the game, players can chose to move one of 2 adventurers. Every time an adventurer crosses over an Anubis statue for the first time he gains a new adventurer which is placed at the start.

The game ends once two adventurers reach the tomb. But in order to get in the tomb and collect the valuable sarcophagi, players need to have a key, which they collect from landing on Horus tiles. One key is needed for each adventurer wanting to enter the tomb.

The round is finished and then the game ends with a final scoring.

The player who now has the most points is the winner!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Julie and I watched a preview of this and were totally excited by the design and especially the clever card mechanic that determines how you move your explorers. It took me a year and a half to finally find it in stock and we got it to the table within a couple days – playing back to back games (which she trounced me both times but that’s another story). It’s fast, clever, easy to teach and play and the video mentions add-ons that can make it a little meatier if desired… we might try to find those but did enjoy the base game very much.

Next I remembered and expansion for Whistle Stop that I’d been trying to catch called Rocky Mountains Expansion

(from the publisher): The Rocky Mountains have always inspired with their majestic heights and seemingly insurmountable peaks.

The Rocky Mountains Expansion literally expands the Whistle Stop gameboard, adding a 3D mountain range to the game. These mountains provide a barrier that will challenge your West Coast aspirations, but can also provide lucrative rewards for those willing to cross them.

Rethink your strategies and come up with new ways to execute the management of your trains to score more fame points than your opponents.

In addition to the mountain range expansion board, this expansion contains 5 new End tiles, 4 new Special tiles, 2 additional train route tiles, 2 new variable common resources tiles, 2 new town tiles, 4 new six-point gold nugget tokens, 4 new whistle stop tiles, 2 new gold nugget tiles, 9 new upgrades, and 6 new shares.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Julie and I both really liked the original game (Selena thought it was OK) and this adds an elevated middle section to the board so it definitely sounded interesting.

And last but certainly not least, after much patience and research, I finally found this in stock at Amazon… Teothihuacan: City of Gods!!

(from the publisher): Travel back in time to the greatest city in Mesoamerica. Witness the glory and the twilight of the powerful pre-Columbian civilization. Strategize, accrue wealth, gain the favour of the gods, and become the builder of the magnificent Pyramid of the Sun.

In Teotihuacan: City of Gods, each player commands a force of worker dice, which grow in strength with every move. On your turn, you move a worker around a modular board, always choosing one of two areas of the location tile you land on: one offering you an action (and a worker upgrade), the other providing you with a powerful bonus (but without an upgrade).

While managing their workforce and resources, players develop new technologies, climb the steps of the three great temples, build houses for the inhabitants of the city, and raise the legendary and breath-taking Pyramid of the Sun in the centre of the city.

Each game is played in three eras. As the dawn of the Aztecs comes closer, player efforts (and their ability to feed their workforce) are evaluated a total of three times. The player with the most fame is the winner.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): This game looked fascinating right from the Kickstarter preview (and watching everyone try to pronounce it was just a fun bonus)…

April 25, 2019… I have no idea why this appeals to me like it does but today I backed my second Kickstarter… not for a game but rather for (of all things) DICE!!

This company (the first that I’ve ever seen or heard of) is producing DoubleSix Dice – that is to say, 12 sided dice numbered 1 – 6 TWICE!!

Maybe it’s because I always loved rolling the bigger dice in certain games… Whatever the reason I backed it and I can’t wait to try Farkle with Mom using these… bet she loves them too!!  🙂

My pledge gets me 20 dice (five 4 packs)… I realized after that if I’d gone for the next level up I might have been able to replace my Ganz Shon Clever dice too!!  🙂

August 11, 2019… it’s been almost 4 months since my last update and in all that time I had one short game night with Julie and we broke in Meeple Circus with the Aerial and Animal expansion… I’ve been working constantly, her health hasn’t been great and Selena finished her first semester of college, got her drivers license, took additional hours at work and found a new boyfriend so I rarely see her. Julie started asking to play again recently but then her meds kick in and she’s out… the band has its first weekend off the middle of September after 4 1/2 months non-stop so I hope to get some gaming in either at home or with the local game group…

August 22, 2019… I’ve been reading and watching how to play videos for Teotihuacan: City of Gods in hopes of finally getting it to the table and on this night that paid off… Julie was awake, I was home and even though it took almost as long to get it to the table as it did to have it delivered we would soon find out it was worth it.

There were a lot of moving parts to go over but Julie likes to jump in and figure it out as we go which is fine but I don’t get to ‘play’ the game as much since I am explaining all her possibilities and making sure she ‘gets it’ and is enjoying it which is fine so I rarely win when we play – especially the first couple times we play a new game… she trounced me of course but asked to play again the next night which told me how much she liked it.

Selena got home from work shortly before we finished and the board caught her eye and she sounded excited… maybe I’ll get to teach her sometime…

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): There were a few things that attracted me to this game… the presence on the table is impressive, the gameplay itself has some interesting mechanics and it comes with several ways to change the board and add various options so it’s easy to mix things up and create a new experience on subsequent plays. My only problem with the game was with the ‘currency’ which happens to be Cocoa… all the other resources are wooden bits but the Cocoa was cardboard tokens that seemed a little out of place to me… I did a little digging on line and found resin coffee beans that are so close to the Cocoa on the cardboard that I ordered a set and now I’m happy… I know – I’m a little nuts… but when Julie saw the pieces we had to test them out…perfect!!

August 31, 2019… the band has its first Friday and Saturday off since back in April or May (but we have a Sunday wedding) and Julie is in a prolonged medicated slumber… but luck was on my side as I received notice of a last minute game night by the Adirondack game club at Domino’s in Hudson Falls… I’m in!!

I packed Teotihuacan (and a couple spares) knowing I could easily teach it if anyone was interested… I arrived and was immediately dealt into a card game I can’t remember the name of but really enjoyed… then those in attendance threw around titles to decide what to play next… the more hard core went for a zombie / dungeon something or other so I held back – waiting to see what Veronica (the night’s hostess) might select… she asked what else I had and I broke out Luxor… a dungeon crawl of sorts with an interesting card mechanic that determined movement… that piqued her curiosity as well as Sam though her partner Jess wasn’t so sure… sometimes she’ll sit out and read a book but we convinced her to join us and I started skimming the rules and racking my brain to try to teach it.

Once we started everyone was engrossed in the game – especially that movement mechanism where everyone is dealt a hand of 5 cards that they can’t change the order of… they choose a card from either end of their hand and that’s how many spaces they get to move… when they draw back to 5 cards the new card has to go in the middle of their hand… the game progressed and we were collecting treasures and bonus moves, etc. – all racing to collect keys and be the first to enter the tomb… as soon as the same player makes it there twice the game is over… then came Jess… reluctant Jess… who starting laughing and rocking with excitement… we picked on her for having a bad poker face and trying to imagine what she had planned and she started laughing… then we started laughing… which made her laugh harder… then everyone was in hysterics for no apparent reason… and when it finally came around to her turn, she decided to do something else which had us all laughing all over again… 🙂

I can’t tell you who won the game but I know we all had a fantastic time and I personally was thrilled that Jess decided to play and hope that comfort level carries over to the next time I’m able to attend a game night that she and Sam are at.

September 17, 2019… I’m driving the girls to Rochester for an appointment with a specialist – a geneticist to see if they have Elhers-Donlos Syndrome… they do… someone saw some of Julie’s posts online and contacted her… turns out she may have been mis-diagnosed and giving the wrong treatment for the past 6+ years… this visit and confirmation today should finally get the insurance company to cover the aqua therapy several doctors have been recommending but the insurance kept turning down… the other and more exciting possibility is that she may be able to get off some of the harder narcotics they’ve been pumping into her this whole time which is the main reason she sleeps most of the time… We left at 8:30am and were home 8:10pm that night… 8 hours of driving… why is all this on one of my gaming pages you may ask?? Well…

As is my MO, in the weeks leading up to the trip, I was checking and planning my routes and refueling and eating and discovered there was a game store 7 minutes from the medical center!! I knew where I’d be while the girls were being tested… (and there was a Popeye’s right across the street which got the girls excited)… Welcome to Millennium Games!!

When I walked in I couldn’t believe my eyes… it made my local games stores look like phone booths!! And it was bright and clean and staffed by several very nice guys in store-branded attire… this was a pro setup all the way!!

During my visit, any time a staffer would pass, they’d ask if I was finding everything or needed assistance… I had to tell them how much I was on overload from the selection that was well sorted, organized, maintained and seemingly endless… so much so that I had to break out my phone and start a list of the games I would ultimately choose from for fear of forgetting something…

Young Ben stopped to see if I needed help and we had a long conversation about my and my families gaming habits and the stores I was used to… I had to ask if there was that much of a gaming community in that area… he replied that there was a huge geek population – primarily because they were located between 3 major colleges including RIT which was minutes away… I told him I was finding titles that I didn’t think were even released yet and others that I’d read were long out of print with no reprint on the horizon… he said the owner was great at keeping things current and well-stocked… WOW!!

This is about HALF of their gaming area… the double sliding doors in the back lead to a private gaming room that can be rented out (or free if you spend $50 in the store)…

I wandered the isles for an hour – spotting things I’d missed every time I turned around and making notes on my phone… the one thing I had hoped to pick up was the Norwegians expansion for A Feast For Odin… I found the base game in a couple spots but not the expansion so I asked Ben who didn’t recall seeing it but went to check in the system but they didn’t have it… of course I had to bust his chops about the massive selection yet they didn’t have the one thing I wanted… I told him it was fine – I was sure I wasn’t going to have any trouble getting in trouble there (I did find it at my local Flipside Gaming a few days later so my ‘phone booth’ came through for me yet again)…

A Feast for Odin: The Norwegians – (from the designer) The first large expansion for A Feast for OdinThe Norwegians includes four new islands (Isle of Man, Isle of Skye, Islay, Outer Hebrides) with Irish coastal viking-settlements on the backside (Waterford, Wexford, Cork, Limerick), where people from Norway came to stay through the winter (longphort), to trade at, and to settle nearby. This offers new strategies and new puzzle-tiles like horse (6VP, 2×5 spaces)/pregnant horse/leather(green)/vadmal(blue) and pigs (1 VP, breed every round; 2×3 – 1 = 5 spaces)/herbal (orange)/ antler (green)/tools (blue). The game has a third box for the tiles and offers the four old islands too (renewed little different VPs and new graphic-aspects of mini-expansion islands Lofoten/Orkneys/Tierra del Fuego).

The expansion includes another mountain-strip (last round), more two-silver coins, meat/beans and runes/oil and a “little emigration” piece that covers one food instead of two. You get it on a new action-space for giving away a whaling boat. The renewed action board has three pieces that can be turned around for different numbers of players (version for 1-2, 3, and 4 players), which increases the chances of players getting in each others way. It contains new opportunities like butchering, elk-hunting, fishing, and thievery, along with changes for some old actions. It’s now easier, for example, to play an animal strategy, also because you can now get two of the same animals in one action. There is also a new fifth column to make a (better) action with your last viking! You can smith, for example, now a grey piece with maximum of eight swords by using an ore and only one action. Also for this, there are five new grey puzzle-pieces like pan, hauberk or anvil and a little board for smithable pieces with fewer than nine swords.

Totally new is also the idea of a random start-building. Everybody gets one of the six artisan shed boards and can build the front or backside with one wood and one action. These buildings offer, covered like stonehouse and longhouse, some stuff (pieces, weapons, commodities), VPs and one silver (horse stable 2 silver). So everybody has another different start-opportunity – like the profession card. Another new option is, that instead of puting a profession card into the game, you can throw it away for a VP-chip. A nice little competitive element, because there are only two 4-VP-chips, six 3-VP-chips and eight (endless) 2-VP-chips.

The expansion includes also an extra board for ships and small emigration tiles.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): When I first watched a review they said that they never thought A Feast for Odin needed an expansion – especially given the amount of content included in the base game… I’d hear this repeated in subsequent reviews as well… but a Rahdo Run Through convinced me that this was something I needed to add to the collection because, aside from some added mechanics and animals, it fixed a couple things he had an issue with in the base game – providing a more balanced and streamlined game… as much as we loved our couple of plays we hadn’t been able to complete either play for various reasons… that said, I thought I would just replace the base board, etc. with those from the expansion and use that when I re-taught it the next time it hit the table. And I did manage to get all the components in the base game box but it wasn’t easy and I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it twice…

So what did I walk away with that day in Rochester??

I couldn’t pass up one of the ‘out-of-print’ titles – something I’ve been trying to get for Julie for a couple years but couldn’t find online even…

Bärenpark – (from the publisher) Up to two thousand pounds in weight and over ten feet tall, the bear is considered the biggest and heaviest terrestrial carnivore in the world. Of course, there is not just “one bear;” on the contrary, there are plenty of subspecies that differ from each other in various aspects. For instance, only the Kodiak bear (ursus arctos middendorffi) weighs about 2,000 lbs. The polar bear (ursus maritimus) weighs “only” 1,100 lbs., but gets much bigger than the Kodiak bear, being as much as 11 ft. tall!

Bärenpark takes you into the world of bears, challenging you to build your own bear park. Would you like another polar bear enclosure or rather a koala* house? The park visitors are sure to get hungry on their tour through the park, so build them places to eat! Whatever your choices are, make sure you get the next building permit and use your land wisely! (* No, koalas aren’t bears but they’re so cute, we couldn’t leave them out of this game!)

In more detail, each player in Bärenpark builds their own bear park, attempting to make it as beautiful as they can, while also using every square meter possible. The park is created by combining polyomino tiles onto a grid, with players scoring for animal houses, outdoor areas, completed construction, and more. The sooner you build it, the better! Cover icons to get new tiles and park sections. The game ends as soon as one player has finished expanding their park, then players tally their points to see who has won.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): We managed to get a couple plays in a couple nights after the Rochester trip… there’s a little bit of setup because of all the pieces but the game is a breeze to teach and play – even with the advanced variants… we both enjoyed it but I have a feeling Julie will be asking to play this one a lot… I taught it to Selena a day or two later and I’m sure I’ll be teaching it a lot because it’s just that easy to play.

October 2… I’m home for the evening and Julie’s feeling better so after I taught Raccoon Tycoon we played a couple quick games of Barenpark… and she trounced me both times… This has to be one of the easiest games to teach and play and I can’t wait to share it with some newbies…

I also snagged one of the new releases that caught my eye and stuck in my memory…

Sierra West – (from the publisher) In the late 1840s, thousands of pioneers headed out West to seek wealth and opportunity. Many of these brave souls traveled by wagon over the Sierra Nevada mountain range, into what would soon become the Golden State of California. In the game Sierra West, you are an expedition leader who must guide a party of rough-and-ready pioneers—employing a clever mix of strategy and tactics with each step.

Sierra West comes with four sets of special cards and parts, each of which can be combined with the game’s basic components to create a unique mode of play. During setup, the players choose a mode, then build a mountain of overlapping cards with the corresponding deck. Each mode adds new thematic content, alternate paths to victory, and interesting twists on the core mechanics.

The four included modules are:

Apple Hill, Gold Rush, Boats & Banjos and Outlaws & Outposts

Overview of Play
At the start of each turn, you will overlap and arrange three cards into your player board—exposing and concealing a selection of the action icons available on them. This will create two unique paths for your pioneers to follow. Next, you will move your pioneers across their paths from left to right, performing a series of small actions. Common actions include: claiming cards from the mountain, building cabins, gaining resources, and advancing your wagon. Additional actions are brought into the game by the chosen mode—such as: harvesting apples, mining for gold, fishing, and fighting outlaws. As your pioneers complete their paths, they will gain access to the action spaces on the upper portions of your cards. On these, you will be able to exchange resources for to advance on the wagon trail and homestead tracks, or activate other special abilities unique to the mode.

As the game continues—and more cards are removed from the mountain—new and exciting things are discovered! Each piece of the mountain is either a card that can be gained to improve your deck, or a special card that is added to a face-up row at the mountain’s base. As this row extends, more of the mode’s opportunities and challenges come into play. For example, in Boats & Banjos mode, the row is a river that offers more fishing and gold panning options as time goes on.

Sierra West can be set up and played in under an hour, often leaving people with the desire to play it again right away—especially to explore the other modes! It is a highly thematic ‘Euro’ game that offers a truly novel and satisfying spin on action-programming, worker-placement, and deck-building.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): As I said earlier, I’d seen this in a pre-release video review and loved the mountain made of cards and how players used them to build an action sequence… I didn’t think it had been officially released for sale yet so when I actually had a copy in my hands it had to come home with me… it hasn’t made the table yet… actually, I’m still un-boxing and sorting and determining the best way to pack everything from the 4 modules… I can say the production is impressive and once I get through the beefy manual and wrap my head around the modules we’ll certainly give it a try…

UPDATE: October 20… Julie was feeling better on this weekend so I told her to rest up Friday and Saturday since I had an early gig Saturday and was hoping for a game night… unfortunately her meds got the better of her and she slept all day Friday… and all Friday night… and most of today (Saturday)… I had given up hopes of gaming and was getting ready to have some dinner and hit the shower when she taps me on the shoulder and asks if we’re going to play!! I hadn’t brushed up on anything because I thought the option was off the table (so to speak)… I showered and refreshed myself on Sierra West… I’d read the rules and watched a few ‘how to play’ videos already so I felt pretty good about teaching it going in… I explained the various modules while I was unpacking then focused on the card mechanic so she could practice it while I finished the setting everything up…

The game seemed to start a little slow but that may have just been us getting a feel for it… it only took Julie a couple turns and, before long, cards and resources were flying around on her side of the table… OK – it’s game on!!

There’s a lot of planning to be done before your actual turn and even some off-turn actions that you can take based on what the opponents do… I kept reminding her about those to make sure she didn’t miss any opportunities… as I’ve said before, I always like to make sure she’s not confused and enjoying the game – often to the detriment of my own focus – but hey, if it gets her to play that’s fine by me. This time though I could tell she was tearing it up over there which allowed me to plan a little better and further ahead other than her occasional iconography question…I’m sure I was starting to annoy her every time I asked for resources (which were on her side of the table) – interrupting her planning… I was really surprised at how little I actually had to refer to the rule book!! By mid-game turns were taking no time at all and the end-game triggered in what felt like minutes… Score time!! We stepped through it and even went through a second time to make sure we did it right… she had 73… and I, thanks to my second to last move (my wagon) that increased my scoring multiplier, finished with 75. She immediately pointed to my wagon – she knew that move gave me the edge which told me just how into it she was… I’m sure this will hit the table again very soon… probably with the same module once more before exploring one of the other three… great game!! One note… adding everything in our heads at the end of the game was a little challenging so I found a score sheet on Board Game Geek’s website and printed and laminated it… that should help.

UPDATE: October 26… Julie is medicated, Selena is working and I’m awake with hours to kill before heading off to another FE gig… I’m not a solo game player… I’ve setup a couple different games with solo modes and barely started them before losing interest… I’d much rather play with a live person or two or three – preferably my girls… but I was so bored today that I broke out Sierra West again and decided to try the solo mode and check out one of the three modules we hadn’t played yet…

For this venture I selected Gold Rush… I have to say that the modular design in this game is brilliant!! It only took me a couple minutes to learn the new module since probably 98% uses the exact same core game mechanics… yet the Gold Rush module’s minor changes make it feel very different from the Apple Hill module we’ve been playing… learning how Hastings (the solo opponent) works took a bit longer and some rereading and with that I still messed up a couple of processes… still, I actually found this very entertaining and interesting but had to cut it short to leave for my gig. If it’s any indication of how much I enjoyed this solo play, I had to finish the game after returning from the gig at about 2:30am… I’d describe it in more detail but I’m going to give it another go now… 🙂

October 11… a rare Friday night off from the band… Julie has been in severe pain for the last several days but held out until her regular CT scan (rather than let me take her to the ER) and the scan revealed she was having another diverticulitis attack!! And she now has a mild for of Emphysema to go along with all her other pains… the doctor’s office screwed and it took 2 days before antibiotics were ever called in but she was starting to feel better and I was home so she asked for an easy game…

When we were in Rochester a few weeks ago and I got to visit Millennium Games one of the things I liked was that, at various places around the store, they had games setup like they would be played. One of those games caught my eye and I almost snagged it but didn’t… a few days ago I had to order something of Amazon and it appeared so I thought it was a sign… the game was Hadara.

(from the publisher): Hadara carries you off into the world of cultures and countries of this earth. Over three epochs, you will experience the transformation of your new world from a small settlement to a high culture. You want to populate this world with people who come from different cultures and continents as well as different ages. To bring glory and honor to your world, you should choose the persons and accomplishments skillfully. But you should not ignore agriculture, culture, and military power, otherwise one of your competitors might get bigger and more successful than you. Who will succeed first in creating a new flourishing high culture?

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): As I said earlier, this caught my eye in Rochester… a number of the videos I watched later compared it to Splendor which I recently taught and played and forgot how much I enjoyed that as well… Hadara is bright and colorful and looked like it would be easy to play and teach… it was. And very enjoyable… It was just enough game for Julie on this night and I’m sure we’ll be playing again in the next day or two since I have a long weekend after a gig tomorrow night. It will also be the next one I probably teach to the local game group… when I have another Saturday night off in about 3 months… 🙂

November 2019… here’s a general update for the month of November as I’m behind on updates and can’t remember the actual dates…

Julie’s been more passed out than upright so I’ve been trying to get into solo gaming a little more though I honestly don’t enjoy it as much as playing with my girls… towards that end I’ve been playing Sierra West solo as a way to get familiar with the 4 various modules in hopes of being able to quickly teach Julie should she be feeling better… that worked very well and we’ve been enjoying the first three modes… I’ll learn the last one soon but I keep getting the itch to play Viticulture… we started it twice and something always came up that prevented us from getting too far into it before having to stop… I did finally get a solo play of that in… it feels like it moves a little slow but I think some of that is the scoring… a point here and a point there as you try to make your way to 20 maybe cuts down that feeling of accomplishment… I still enjoyed it though…

Later in the month we finally got to play Whistle Stop with the Rocky Mountains expansion… Julie and I both liked the original game (Selena not so much) so I was excited to get my hands on the expansion a few months ago… other than having to figure out a couple of vagaries in the rules having to do with crossing the Rockies on our own we both enjoyed the expansion very much… and she beat me for those of you whom that is important… but I will say this… as usual, I was watching her plays and making sure she wasn’t missing anything and in the last round I pointed out a move that I didn’t want her to lose out on that gained her a whopping 15 points!! Otherwise her margin of victory would have been only 1 point… 🙂

December 2019… Julie is still bed ridden for the most part and Selena’s time is dominated by college, work and boyfriend but, through some sort of minor miracle, the stars aligned and I was home for an evening and Selena was bored and I finally got to teach her Meeple Circus!! She loved it other than repeatedly accidentally knocking down her big final show… despite her frustration the next night there was yet another miracle – this one worthy of a statue on a dashboard… we were all home and Julie was up, I made a batch of orange cinnamon rolls AND all three of us played Sierra West AND TWO games of Meeple Circus!!! It’s been a long time – too long – since we’ve been able to spend a night together like this and I think we all enjoyed it thoroughly.

Another week and a rare Saturday night off with the band… Selena’s working then heading to her boyfriend’s house, Julie’s medicated and sleeping but the local game group is having a short notice game night!! I had dinner, packed some games and headed over… I was able to see enough of the original Century Spice Road to know I’ll like it, learned and played Citidels and Deception: Murder in Hong Kong AND got to teach Barenpark to Orion (a really nice guy) and an equally nice girl and an older woman who turned out to be his wife and Mom who picked these games up surprisingly quick. It made for a really great night of gaming that I was very grateful for… fun group!!

Being December I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my Christmas haul… last year we weren’t gaming that much so I shifted my gift shopping focus elsewhere… then, at the last minute, my girls made a game push and I scrambled to grab some titles…

This year I’ve gone back and forth… we still have a couple big games from last year (Spirit Island and Wasteland Express Delivery Service) that haven’t hit the table – mostly due to lack a of time… time for me to learn them well enough to teach them and time to play them as well given all the previously mentioned circumstances… I’ve watched a ton of video reviews and previews throughout the year and there are just so many great titles to pick from… This year I did avoid the temptation of buying myself any from my wish list (for the girls to wrap for me like Maracaibo from the designer of Great Western Trail, Wingspan or Tapestry or Century Spice Road just to name a few) but I did order one in particular that I think will please both my girls immensely… I’m not naming names until after Christmas but the biggest surprise of all (especially to me) is a new version of Monopoly (yes – Monopoly… my most despised game EVER since discovering modern board games) but for Julie as it remains one of her favorites… I recently learned about this essentially undiscovered version that actually has me wanting to play… NOW I’m excited for Christmas – for the game as much as for her reaction!!

You’ll have to go to my Games 2020 page to find out more… 🙂