Thursday, December 31, 2009

1.27: Happy New Year!

Hopefully everyone's holidays have been pleasant and provided more rest than mine have.  As you may have noticed, I've taken a slight break in posting here; while I had planned to do so, this break has been more absolute than intended.  Let's just say that Campbell's soup should show some high Chicken Noodle sales for their fourth quarter of this year.

Expect more regular updates in "Twenty-ten."

Take care all.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

1.26: If everyone else jumped off a bridge...Holiday Gift Guide

Well, it seems that everyone I know and all the podcasts and blogs I frequent are doing a "Holiday gift guide." has their annual gift guide, The Spiel did an entire podcast for theirs, and there seems to be no shortage of other gaming gift guides.  There's a lot of great suggestions, a lot of great games and ideas and categories for all types of people and ages (if you have kids, click the word "other" in the previous sentence).  With all this, could I have something to contribute?

Well, no.  Not really.

Okay, obviously I'm kidding, despite my deepest urge to simply end this update now for S&G. 

Despite my urge to send any number of "non-gamer" blindly into a game store, to be struck with awe and then lost amid the vast selection of boardgames (okay, actually that's the opposite of what I want...regardless of how funny that would be), you're probably a thousand times more comfortable doing your boardgame shopping at regular retail stores like WalMart, Target or Kmart.  So let's explore some good games you can get at those stores (that should be read with disdain--not for any reason, just because).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

1.25: Party games...hooray? Take 2.

Alright, already said, I'm not a big fan of party games.  The benefit of playing a party game is that they scale up, allowing a large number of people or teams to play.  Think Pictionary--the minimum to play is 4 (two teams of two), and the maximum is the number of people able to see a give point (ie, the drawing tablet) before the curvature of the earth blocks view.  Obviously if you have tall friends, this number is higher.  The drawback, the games need to be accessible, and as such are often re-hashes of other party games.  How many games have you draw, or do pantomime, or hum songs, or answer trivia questions?

And as stated before, I so, so hate pantomime.  I believe my quote from the last party games post was "I'd murder everyone in the room before I played Charades."

Well, I guess it's time for me to eat a little crow.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

1.24: BGG.Con Day 1 - What we played

I've already listed what we played on Day 1 of BGG.Con, but here it is again:

Fluch der Mummie
Pack and Stack (x2)
Homesteaders (Just me, Jackie was doing homework)
Crokinole  (x3)

I'll give a run-down of what each game is, and a blurb on our own play of it.  Writing this, I realize this is going to be a long post, so I've titled each section with the game's name; also, the last paragraph or so a little info on our play experience, and the rest is info on the game itself. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

1.23: Conventions and BGG.con Day 1

It's been a busy month for many reasons, but the most pleasant by far has been BGG.con, a boardgaming convention held just outside of Dallas by Aldie and Derk, the guys that run  

For those who are unfamiliar with conventions, it's simply a gathering of a lot of people with like interests.  Conventions are held annually for pretty much everything:  TV shows, story genres, some things you'd probably not want to think about, and, obviously, boardgaming.  Often there are special guests, events, and a number of other things related to the subject of interest.  One of the best parts of a convention, you're surrounded by a number of like-minded people; all the jargon, all the related head-space, it's all fair game.

This is our first year attending BGG.con; Jackie and I have attended boardgame conventions in the past including Gencon, which we've enjoyed every year for the past 5 years.  This, however, was a whole different monster.  Gencon is busy and huge, there are a lot of events, special guests, and hundreds of gaming companies showing their wares; attendance is around 20-25 thousand.  BGG.con had something like 6 vendors, less than 10 official events, and 900 attendees; obviously this is a much different convention, and just looking at the numbers you can tell it's much more intimate.

On arriving at the convention, we were met with two lines of around 100 people waiting to pick up their registration packets--this line moved quickly, and at the onset we were already in possession of four new games, thanks to Queen games and some of the other sponsors.  Once out of the registration line, however, Jackie and I were a little lost--here, too, we were pleased, as one of the staff noticed our "First Time" ribbons on our badges, and directed us to the library and main gaming hall.  After a quick pass through of the library, which is a portion of Aldie's collection and consisted of several thousand games, we went to the main hall, and within five minutes were invited to a game of Fluch der Mummie, followed by two games of Pack and Stack, both of which were taught to us by the couple that invited us over.

We also checked out a copy of Agricola, probably had a daunted look on our faces as we glanced over the 900+ pieces in the box, and thankfully Guy from Canada showed us how to play before he left for dinner, and another attendee (name forgotten) who had played Agricola before hopped into the game and made sure it ran smoothly.

I'll give a run-down explaining these games later, but here's a list of what we played on the first day of BGG.con:

Fluch der Mummie
Pack and Stack (x2)
Homesteaders (Just me, Jackie was doing homework)
Crokinole  (x3, and a lesson learned--don't even consider playing Jackie for money)

I'm estimating this at around 7 hours of gaming, just on the first day. Next post on BGG.con will cover days 1 and 2, including short synopses of the games.


Happy Thanksgiving!  Remember to play something good!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

1.22: Party games...hooray?

It's that time of year--Halloween is over, and three days before it all the stores put out their Christmas stock.  Yes, the holidays approach!  A time for friends and family, large gatherings, and, of course, an excellent time for gaming.  Large gatherings require a special class of game--the Party game!  *sigh*

Party games--they're games you play at parties, right?  Charades, Pictionary, Cranium, uh, Trivial Pursuit, Win Lose or Draw (do they still make this game?).  Party games are designed to be played with large groups of people or teams of people.  We're talking more than a standard boardgame which supports between 2-6, more on the order of 10-30 or more.  The rules are really easy, they're generally on pop culture or common knowledge items (especially if they're trivia games), and for play time...well, ideally it'd be an hour or less, but for better or worse that may not be the case.

I'm not a big fan of Party games.  Of those listed above, I'd probably play Pictionary and Cranium (though I'll never do any of the singing/acting cards), and I'd murder everyone in the room before I played Charades.  That said, I should probably point out some party games that I actually enjoy, and hopefully you will too.  As with Halloween, I imagine I'll post more than one of these.

First up, Scene It?  Scene It? requires a DVD player; during a team's turn, they roll two dice--one is the distance moved along the track, the other determines which type of question the team answers.  There is the standard "question on a card," but they also use the DVD player to great effect.  There are several different types of questions on the DVD, many involve playing a movie clip and asking a question afterward, but there are also screen shots with missing items, Wheel of Fortune type title puzzles, scrambled images and more.  There are also several types of Scene It?, from Friends, Marvel Comics, movies, television, Disney, blah, blah; basically, you should't have a problem finding something that interests you.  This game is available at most large retailers, and can range from $10 (travel edition) to $40 (licensed content).

Wits and Wagers was released in 2005 by North Star games, a smallish company, but has had great success, and has been picked up by a large retailer (Target, I believe).  In this game one player asks a question that has a numerical answer, such as "How old did Mozart live to be?"  All the other players have a small dry-erase board, and write their answer.   When everyone has written an answer, the dry-erase boards are arranged in numerical order and placed on a mat which depicts betting values.  The middle value guess is placed on the center space (which pays out 2:1), and the remaining guesses are placed outward from the center (3:1, 4:1, 5:1).  Players then may place up to two bets; whoever places chips on the answer that is the closest gets their payout, plus the player with the closest guess also gets a payout.  This game is quick, fun, and best of all it's a trivia game where you don't have to know the correct answer--you can win by guessing the closest answer, or by making judicious bets--you may not know how wide a football field is, but if you place your bet on the answer of a football fan, you'll probably get a payout.  As stated before, this is available at a large retailer (Target, I believe), and goes for around $30-$40.

Lastly, let's do something different.  At home we've had some great success with Ca$h 'n Gun$.  CnG (I'm too lazy to spell that correctly again) supports up to 6 people, though you can expand this by an additional 6 by purchasing additional copies of the game, or you can buy the expansion that adds 3 players...but we'll get back to that.  In CnG you are a member of a gang that has pulled a heist, and it's time to divide up your spoils--however, you can't all decide on how to split it...and so the guns have come out.  The game lasts 9 rounds, each round five of the money tiles are turned over--the goal is to have the most money and be alive at the end of the game.  Each player has a deck of nine "bullet" cards, and chooses one of these cards and places it face-down in front of them.  There are three different bullet cards--Click Click cards do nothing, they're basically a bluff; Bang! cards do one damage and knock a player out for the round; Bang! Bang! Bang! cards have priority over Bang! cards, do one damage, and knock a player out for the round.  A card is discarded after its use, so you'rea free to use all your non-bluff cards early, but if someone is keeping track, you could be in a world of trouble.

The best part of the round, after everyone has chosen their bullet card, you pick up your foam gun, and on the count of three everyone simultaneously points and whoever they want to threaten (read as "shoot").  You know what's in your gun, but you have no idea what your opponets are doing--and the battle of wits has begun.  There will be another count of three, and every player has a choice here--either stay in and risk being shot (if anyone is pointing a gun at you), or drop out (usually if you suspect someone has a non-bluff card in their gun, or if several people are pointing at you).  If a player drops out, they get a "shame token" (worth -$5000 at the end of the game), but can't be hurt this round, but can't collect a share of the pot.  The remaining people reveal their bullet cards, and anyone with a non-bluff card does a damage to whoever they're pointing at, and knocks that player out for the round (that player can't collect a share of the loot).  Anyone left standing gets a share of the loot--if all or a portion of the pot can be divided without making change.  Any money left in the pot carries to the next round.

The last thing to consider, if a player takes a total of three wounds, they are dead--they don't participate in the rest of the game, and can't win, even if they had the most money.  It's commonplace for a person to collect a large pot early in the game, and the next round be faced with 4-5 gun barrels the next round, or receive a steady stream of barrels for the entire game, making survival difficult.

The base game also includes "Special Power" cards, which change how each player plays--you may be "The Kid," who is able to see where everyone else points before you decide; or you may take the gun of the first killed player, using two guns for the rest of the game; or you could just be friggin nuts and carry a grenade with you, waiting for someone to shoot you so you can pull the pin...  As for the expansion, titled The Yakuza, it adds three more players, all from a Japanese gang carrying throwing stars and swords, and turns CnG into a team-based game, with groups of 2-3 players attempting to get the most loot for their gang. 


That's it for this week, hopefully everyone will be enjoying their holidays, getting together with family and friends, and crushing them under your feet.  In boardgames; I'm not advocating violence, though I may partake in the literal crushing of family members over the holidays anyway.

Staying busy here, NaNo is kicking my butt and I've had to switch my novel, meaning I had to start over; 50k is in sight, but it's way, way over there.  Family obligations and all that have priority, as always, so finding time to write is difficult.  Oh, there's one other thing I should probably mention...

Happy Anniversary, Jackie!  Three great years and counting!

Monday, November 2, 2009

1.21: Know your Gamer - Dice

I kind of aim this blog at fledgling gamers and people that might be interested in games and gaming, or could be if given a nudge. People that, for the most part, have only bought boardgames from conventional retail outlets such as WalMart, Target, or Toys R Us. The goal is to expose these people to the larger gaming world; I throw around and explain a lot of terms, and try to explain the social and ritual aspects within the gaming community. These "Know your Gamer" articles are going to aim at this last idea, explaining gaming concepts and social/ritual aspects of gaming. If you're interested in gaming, it helps to know the jargon, and like going to one of the many possible multi-cultural/religious ceremonies, you don't want to do something that would embarrass you.

With that said, let's start off at a familiar yet wholly foreign gaming accessory--dice.  I'm going to make the statement right now that this may be a strange post.

"Hand me that dice on the table."

"Dice, I've seen those before, the white cubes with black dots."  
"How many dice do you need?"

STOP RIGHT THERE.  Firstly, let's talk grammar before someone impales you onto a pile of d4.  Dice = plural; Die = singular.  Read aloud, and never forget this.  "I have one die."  "He has two dice."

Next, a point of terminology.  Well, let's first utter a phrase from the mouth of a new gamer looking down at the gaming table, "What are those?"  The answer, dice.  Look at the picture on the right.  Beyond the standard six-sided dice, you'll see a number of non-standard dice in a plethora of colors:  4-sided, 8-sided, 10-sided, and more.  As a result, there had to be an idiom, a simpler way to state how many and what type of dice to roll.  You may have noticed I used the phrase "d4" in the paragraph above--the number after the "d" refers to the type of die; in this instance it refers to a 4-sided die.  Putting a number before the "d" indicates a quantity of dice.  Thus, the "correct" way to state "Roll ten 6-sided dice" is "Roll 10d6."  Simple.  Now you know what I'm saying if I say 4d8, 2d20, or 15d1.  Okay, maybe not that last one is a little strange.

As for that last statement, "How many dice do you need?"  Let's just say you shouldn't ask this question, as it's marginally rude.  Asking how many a gamer has is perfectly acceptable.  Gamers can be weird about dice, which we'll get to in a minute, but most will have a good number of dice and possibly a "dice bag;" some gamers purchase dice regularly--once a week, a new set for every new game they play, a new set once the old one has started having problems.

Which leads us to the really weird stuff.

Gamers deal with problem solving, logic, strategy and a bunch of other multi-syllable words as a hobby.  However, when it comes to dice, that's all out the window.  Die keeps rolling bad, it must be tired, give it a rest.  Your set of dice causing problems?  Simply line all the dice around one of the offenders, and smash it with a hammer--the other dice will get the hint.  How to get rid of "cursed" dice?  Burn them, freeze them, smash them, ritually skewer them--just don't let them touch any of your other dice.  And heaven forbid you touch someone else's'll be lucky to escape with all your fingers.

Akward ending and transition!  Because I'm tired!  And have other things to write!  See below!


Before anyone says anything, yes, I missed one Halloween post; it was mostly done, so it may make an appearance in the future--oh, 12 months from now?  Ultimately I was busy and other things got in the way, like my daughters' boogers; we've got to have priorities.  As for Arkham Horror, that will be reviewed in the future as well; it's a great co-op game, but when attempting to refresh my memory, I downloaded the 24 page rule book and looked at my metaphorical watch and decided that I wanted to do something else with the 17 hours it would probably take to read and recall the game we played.  I do recall that we were facing Chuthulu and we still managed to win, so there. 

And, speaking of priorities, this blog is one, but November brings with it the madness of NaNoWriMo!  One 30 day month, one 50 thousand word novel, piece of cake.  Yes, November is a busy month, but NaNo's opinion on that:  You're already doing a million and one things, what difference does one more make? 
Blog posts should be on time, but don't be surprised if they're a little shorter than normal--these posts don't count toward my daily novel  word count.  Also, as I finish this, it's day 2, and I'm already 3k words behind, so that need to be amended.  If anyone is interested in joining, NaNoWriMo is free, it's all on the honor system, a great personal challenge, and it's fun to boot.  Or glove.  So you're a few days behind--so am I.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

1.20: Halloween week daily update 2 - Death Angel ...and Scary stories!

How on Earth I forgot about this on, I have no idea.  Today's game is easily among my top five horror-themed games, and has a great cinematic feel.  I've played this game dozens of times, and could tell you just as many stories--like the time we were trapped on the bus with the murderer and she marched through the seats, killing everyone...or the time I, nearly dead, hopped on the altar of the Church, crushing the killer with my rusty Civil War sabre...  Best of all, this one is a Print and Play game--for those of you familiar with this term (good for you if it's because you've been following this blog--have a cookie), you're aware this means the game is either cheap or FREE.

Death Angel was designed by Anthony Gil, and released on his website for free in 1998.  It plays 2-6 players (the more players the better), and takes 60-90 minutes to play.  The idea behind Death Angel is that you're on a bus that has a blow out in a farming town.  As the bus driver checks the tire, he is killed by Angel, a girl with blades bolted through her fingers.  This is where the game begins, and your goal is simple--survive.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

1.19: Halloween week daily update - Lord of the Fries

Here we go, attempt-at-a-daily-update #1, what's on the menu?  How about a zombie game?  How about some Lord of the Fries?  Lord of the Fries is a 3-8 player card game which takes 45 minutes (or more, time increases with the number of players)  to complete.  Originally published by Cheapass Games on cardstock in 1998, there have been two subsequent versions of the game; the latest "Third edition" (published in 2008) is in a sturdy box, has high-quality full color cards, and includes multiple menus to represent different fare.  I have played both the first and third editions of this game; since gameplay is the same, we'll talk about the third edition, which includes a few extra goodies.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

1.18: Late...almost two weeks running. Yes!

Yes, I missed last week's post; it also appears I may be late on this week's post.  Arkham Horror is still coming, but it's a bit daunting--I mean, the rulebook is 24 pages long, and it's been about two years since I played it last.  I'm going to need some time to refresh. 

So, here's the deal.  To make up for my tardiness, I'm going to post one Spoooooky themed game each day until Halloween, probably in the evenings, but we'll see.  Perhaps I can even get a couple games of Der Hexer von Salem, a 2-4 player co-op game I picked up in Germany (yes, I went to Germany and brought back boardgames).  It was either just released, or is soon to be released, in the US under the name "The Witch of Salem."  That's right, I'll try to review a game that you may or may not be able to get in the US.  Hopefully it will be awesome, you'll all run out to your local game store, and you won't be able to get it.

Neener, neener.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

1.17: Son of Halloween - Halloween Post 2

More scary games?  Really, how many can there be?

...well, a lot!

Let's start with a 1-player "print-and-play" game.  Wait, one player?  Print and play?

Zombie in my Pocket was designed by Jeremiah Lee and released in 2007; to the gratitude of many, the game was originally released in a Print and Play format, meaning you can download the files (for free!), and you print and assemble the components.  In this game, you are searching for weapons to fend off zombies, and ultimately hope to find the zombie totem; if you are able to bury it before midnight, you end the zombie curse and save the world.  And, yes, you read correctly--this is a one player game, and as the title states, it conveniently fits into your pocket.  (It's recently come to my attention that there is a retail version of this game, running less than $10, that comes in an attractive metal tin--go find your own picture, lazy).

Next, for all you Lovecraft fans out there, Unspeakable Words.  Unspeakable words was published in 2007 by Playroom Entertainment; it is for 2-6 players, takes around 30 minutes to play, and runs $15-20. This is a (the actual term eludes me, perhaps it is, itself, an unspeakable word)--think Scrabble or UpWords (no links provided--really, do you need them?).  Score points for spelling words, but for each word you create you must make a sanity check; longer words score you more points, but put you at greater risk of going insane and being removed from the game.  Kind of a unique self-balancing aspect for those smarty-pants word game aficionados--sure, they can spell a few big words in a row and be eliminated early, but another player's consistent small-word approach may keep them in long enough to outpace Smarty-Arty's score.  Plus it comes with a bunch of small plastic Cthulhu figures to track your sanity!

Lastly...perhaps a game you should steer away from.  The Haunting House has an interesting theme--you and your friends are in a haunted house and are attempting to traverse its maze-like hallways and be the first out.  The problem?  The hallways keep changing, and your friends aren't helping you out either.  In this game you "program" your turn, selecting which cards you are going to play (move 1, move 2, turn the tile you are on 90 degrees, etc), but your opponents also add cards to this stack, messing with your plans.  The game itself is okay, the components look great and the theme is interesting though shallow, but this game can take far too long--45 minutes (or more, as you fight with your opponent's "help"), in a game where you're trying to get across a 6x6 grid of floor tiles seems long, and after the first 20 minutes I felt it was already dragging.  However, if you and your friends like maze-games and screwing with each other's plans, you may enjoy this one.  I should mention, there are a couple expansions for this game...which make the game longer.


That's it for this one, I'll probably be covering an excellent co-op game in the next post.  Happy Halloween everyone!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

1.16: Halloween-y Gaming Goodness

I love this time of the year--I'm in SoCal, so our weather is generally "More Hot" or "Less Hot."  Thankfully, this is the less-hot part of the year, and we've had some wonderful, dreary, overcast weather, just how I like it.  We're also approaching the holiday season, where much foody goodness will be had...but before then, we have Halloween.  I'm not some wierdo (well, not any more than anyone else is), but for some reason, the creepy, scary, and strange aspects Halloween engenders interest me.

With Halloween's approach, I figured I'd discuss some Halloween-type games, either legitimately scary games, horror themed games, games for Halloween parties--things of that sort.  I'm going to try to hit a few different areas of complexity and game type.  If anyone has any suggestions, especially for parties, by all means, suggest away.

Friday, October 9, 2009

1.15: Gateway games - the first one's free

Gateway games--I'm sure I've mentioned this term multiple times on this blog.  I've probably given a definition as well, but for the sake of discussion, let's define "gateway game" again.  The term refers to a game that interests a person in gaming, and for our discussion, may introduce a person to modern boardgames.  Many boardgamers can recall their gateway game, and many people cite the same gateway games (often Eurogames) for good reason.  But what makes a good gateway game?  As I see it, a gateway game should have four elements:

A Gateway game:
1.  Has a simple rules set
2.  Is easy to understand
3.  Is easy to play
4.  Is engaging.

The combination of the first three makes the game accessible, the last makes a person want to play.  I'll go through each of these and give examples.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

1.14: For the heck of it - game contest and deals October 3, 2009

Just doing this on a whim here, I may or may not do another of these depending on its reception. 

First, a contest.  Days of Wonder is giving away a game every day until October 13th.  In order to qualify, you have to link your DoW account (free to sign up) to your Facebook account, and then write a story about playing a DoW game (it appears you can also use the auto-update).  For those of you unfamiliar with Days of Wonder, they put out excellent quality games which continuously have top-notch game art.  Their Ticket to Ride series are all wonderful gateway games for those unfamiliar with the Modern boardgame, and Small World the game that's gotten the most replays this year.  If you haven't played a DoW game, by signing up for the free account you can play several of  the games online for free. 

Second, a deal.  Sorry! Sliders is currently $16 at Toys R Us, a savings of around $10, or 40% off the retail price.  In Sorry! Sliders you are attempting to flick a pawn down a short ramp onto the target board, scoring the value of the highest numbered ring the pawn touches.  Easy enough, except that you don't score until everyone has flicked all four of their pawns onto the same target board, in the process knocking their opponent's pawns onto different rings or off the board.  This is an excellent dexterity game, playable by 2-4 players ages 6 and up--but I would argue that a 3 year old should have no problem playing this game.  If you're tired of playing Candy Land, I'd definately recommend picking this one up; this game is also good for adults, who will find a great deal of fun in the positioning, finesse, and competitiveness of this game.


I find deals and contests fairly often; if you're interested in hearing about these, or if you're not, please let me know.  I figure it's pretty easy to enter most of these contests (I'll probably only post them if the entry qualifications are relatively easy), and if someone I know wins a free game or two, all the better.  If you've entered the contest, or if you win a contest I post here, let me know as well.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

1.13: What is this Gaming Thing? Part 4 - The Cost of Gaming

Ah-ha, I lied!  You thought the topic was going to be "Where did I go wrong?"  Well, after writing that up, I felt it'd probably be better nearer the end of this series.  That's right, it's done, and you can't read it.  Neener -neener.  This also means that sometime in the future I'm actually ahead of schedule.  Just not right now. 

This is part 4 of the ongoing series, "What is this gaming thing?"  Click here for parts One, Two, and Three.

Gaming is my primary hobby.  Some people go skiing, skating, skydiving.  Some people watch sports, buy tickets to games, buy their team's jerseys.  Obviously a good portion of my "entertainment" budget goes into purchasing boardgames and related accessories, though there isn't anything as silly as boardgamer clothing (ahem).  I also have a celebrity toenail clipping collection, but the cost of that hobby is negligible (before people start wondering, that's totally made up).

So what does this hobby cost?  That, of course, is going to vary with your tastes--tthe cost of card games can be as low as $10, but the majority are probably in the $18-20 range.  The average boardgame is probably in the $35-50 range, but can be higher for some of the really big games, such as Descent or Twilight Imperium.  For reference, these two games come in boxes that are about 18 inches wide, three feet long, and six inches deep.  Gauge that with your hands.  Yeah, big.

That seems expensive, but is it really?  As far as entertainment goes, gaming is actually pretty affordable.  Let's take some loose averages and figure this out.

"Let's go see a movie."  Sorry, I have to use something I'm familiar with--I could have gone with Bowling or competitive pie-making, but I'm not familiar with the cost of those activities.  Anyway, cost of a movie, around $9 out here for a matinee.  Since Jackie and I usually game with another couple, let's look at a family of four going to a movie--that comes out to $36 for four people to attend a matinee, about 90 minutes of entertainment, and that's without popcorn or drinks.  I'll let you figure that out for yourself; don't try lying, I used to work at a theater, and watched as the concession prices raised a quarter, fifty-cents or more every year.  One trip to the movies with no snacks, 90 minutes of entertainment, about $9 a person. 

Now, gaming.  An average big box game, no, instead let's use Small World or Ticket to Ride, both excellent quality games with gorgeous components, and a slightly higher than average cost.  Both of these games support play for 2-5 players, take around 90 minutes to play, and cost $45 retail.  When Jackie and I play, we usually have another couple playing with us, so we'll divide this cost by four.  This comes out to 90 minutes of entertainment for $11.25 each.  But that's more!  But, when you're done playing a game, you can set it back up and play again.  As often as you want.  Once you've purchased the game, there is no additional cost to playing that game.  Even if you threw the game on a shelf after the first play, it can always be pulled down months later, and each time you play it you reduce the cost of each hour of play per person.

Additionally, and one of the key benefits of playing boardgames, is that it's a social activity; friendly competition, problem solving for a little self-challenge, and a forum for interacting with your friends--and if you're hanging out with the guys and have the desire to beat the feces out of each other, there are games that fit that bill also.


Well, that's it for this segment, come back in the future when the topic will be...something else.  I've also considered covering types of games; I'll probably start this off with either Dexterity games or Party games, so expect these topics to come up soon.  If anyone has any questions or suggestions, especially suggestions for further topics, by all means post a comment here.  I can read your mind, but my mother taught me that it's rude, so I don't do it often.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

1.12: Boardgame websites you should know about -

New or veteran gamers, if you are not familiar with this site, make a point to visit. was created and is run by Scott "Aldie" Alden, and serves as a database and meeting place for gamers.  The database has tens of thousands of games in it, and better yet, if you somehow manage to think up a board or card game that isn't in the database, you can add it yourself.  Yes, the site's content is user created, including the database. 

The community on BGG (which includes a number of game designers) is generally friendly and helpful as well, and there are a number of groups within the community, assuring that most everyone can find somewhere on the site to hang out.  Contributions are also rewarded with Geekgold, BGG's digital currency.  While many sites allow new members to create their avatar on signing up, BGG instead encourages new members to reach out and contribute by requiring 30 Geekgold to "purchase" the ability to create an avatar.  Your geekgold can also be used for a number of other purposes, including further personalization of your avatar, turning off ads, and also to bid in other members' boardgame auctions.

There are a number of useful features on BGG beyond its database.  Each database entry links to reviews, play sessions, photos, rules clarifications, player aides, and much more.  While a little time consuming if you have a large collection, you are able to use the database to create "Games Owned" list, which allows you to keep track of your collection and add personal info on each entry, as well as "Games wanted," and "For trade" lists, if you are interested in trading boardgames with other BGG members.

The best part of it all, is free.  All the features listed above are free, you simply have to create an account.  The site does accept donations, and that is part of what pays to keep it going; there are some incentives to donate (some geekgold and the ability to permanently turn on Ad-blocker, off the top of my head), and I'm happy to say that I've been a member and "officially" donating since 2006.

As a head's up, Aldie also recently started Geek-do, which links in with a user's BGG account, and includes Roleplaying games.  Anyone interested in boardgames of any era can find useful information on BGG; I use it to keep track of my collection, as well as to keep abreast of upcoming games, and to research before I make a purchase. Anyone interested in seeing BGG in use, feel free to check out my account by clicking right here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

1.11: Let's the End?

Okay, not the end, but the Endgame.  For this segment I'm not interested in how to win a game, but in what causes the game to end.

Many traditional boardgames end with one of two endgame scenarios--either get your pawn or pawns from A to B, and the first one to do so wins.  Examples of this are Pachisi, Sorry!, and Candyland.  Of course there are games that throw a few caveats into this, such as Life, where the first player to the end of the path gets a huge cash bonus, but the winning player is the one with the most cash.  The second scenario is DESTROY YOUR OPPONENTS!--that is, you win when you have eliminated all other players from the game.  Obvious examples here are, of course, Risk and Monopoly.  (Monopoly, really, I don't hate you, you're just such a useful example.)

For the Modern boardgame, though the above endgame mechanisms may be included, there are a number of different endgame possibilities.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

1.10: Crushing defeat in Black Sheep

Yeah, it happens.  A friend of me dubbed me an "Elite Gamer"--I think he was referring to my knowledge, ethic, and experience in boardgaming.  I hope he wasn't referring to any sense of gaming snobbery, and doubt he was referring my ability to win all the time, since that theory would be crushed--crushed about as bad as I was this past weekend. 

Robert, Wendy, Jackie and I had dinner and sat down for a game.  Since I'm still working my way through my unplayed games, I pulled down Black Sheep.  Black Sheep is a game by Reiner Knizia, originally published in 2008, it is a game for 2-4 players, and takes approximately 30-40 minutes to play. 

If you've played Poker, you already know how to play half the game.  There are three fields, and two plastic animals are randomly assigned to each field.  Each player will play a total of three cards (the cards depict the seven animals in the game) to each field, and you "Poker hand" is composed of the three cards you play and the two animals in the field.  The player with the highest hand when all players have played three cards to the field takes the two animals.  At the end of the game players look at the underside (not the backside) of the animals, where a number from 1-3 is present; players score positive points for all animals except the Black Sheep, who is worth negative points.  Bonus point cards are given to the individual with the most of each type of animal, and for each full set (one of each animal) a player has.

Despite the seeming simplicity of the game, there are a lot of tough decisions, and half the time you have to sacrifice a chance to win one field to delay your play on another field in the hopes of winning it.  At least that was the game Robert and I were playing--the girls seemed to have trouble not taking animals every other turn.  I was actually the last player to take any animals, and took them just as the endgame began.

Let's just say I scored very few points.  Add to this that Jackie ended up taking majorities for three of the seven animals, and Wendy for another.  Robert took a majority as well--for black sheep--the 6 point bonus card didn't make up for the 9 negative points he scored on the black sheep.  I won't talk about exact scores; we'll just say that Jackie won, and almost tripled my score.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

1.9: An actual schedule for this blog?

Uhh, kind of. My goal is to get one significant post a week; either game overview, continuing part of a series, discussing a game mechanism, or something of that nature. I think I can drop these on Monday or Tuesday, so that will be the schedule for now--we'll see what my daughters have to say about that.

Mixed in among these will be other smaller things, such as quick reviews, recommendations, and play sessions. If over the weekend I get my butt kicked in a game of, uhhidunno, Black Sheep (not that this would ever happen)--I'll post about it here. I'm thinking many of these will be first-plays of a game, but I'll juggle these around and see what works.

If anyone has any comments or questions, or wants to see more of something , please feel free to make suggestions. If they're good, I'll be happy to follow up on them. If they suck, I'll feel free to ignore them, and will probably make fun of you the next time I see you.

Until then...go play some damn boardgames.

Maybe we need to work on the catch-phrase.

And, yes, I know that "uhhidunno" isn't a word.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

1.8: Settlers of Catan - Overview of play

During my last post I realized that I should probably do a full overview of The Settlers of Catan; I gave a summary of the game, but it really should be given more time. While, yes, this is an in-depth overview of the game, I'm not covering every piddly nuance--if you want that, why don't you just go play the darn thing a couple times...

The Settlers of Catan was designed by Klaus Teuber; originally published in 1995, it has since earned a number of awards, including the Spiel des Jahres (those familiar with boardgaming realize this is a big deal). The game supports 2-4 players, and takes about 60-90 minutes to play. There have been several expansions for this game produced, but we'll start out by explaining the base game, and will mention a few of the expansions at the end.

Monday, August 31, 2009

1.7: What is this gaming thing? Part 3 - Modern Boardgames?

This is part 3 of the series, "What is this gaming thing?" Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 can be found over here.

For this segment, rather than reminiscing, I figured it's probably a good time to explain what it is about the "Modern Boardgame" that is so interesting, and why adults and families coming together to play again.

First, let's start with the actual physical presentation of the games; one of the features of the modern boardgame is the aesthetics of the game. I have for you two photos of games--the classic game, Monopoly, and what is many a person's first foray into the modern boardgame, The Settlers of Catan (Note: click the game's name to get a larger view). The first things a person new to the modern boardgame often notices is the visual representation of the board, much bolder and more colorful than the classic boardgame, and the quality and number of bits that come with the game. In addition to the visual elements, the games often contain tactilely pleasent elements, that is, the parts of the game (wooden bits, cards, dice, thick cardboard chits, and even the board) are pleasent to the touch. Many of the "Eurogames" contain a number of wooden bits, while many "American-style" games may contain a number of intricately detailed plastic miniatures (don't worry about these terms, we'll come back to them later). Often this initial wow-factor was the initial source of intrigue for many veteran boardgamers.

I had mentioned in Part 1 of this series that classic boardgames, while having a place, can become uninteresting. This is due largely to a lack of choice, very limited strategic options, and high randomness; while any one of these may be present in the modern boardgame, the extent to which it plays a role will be moderated. I'm not trying to beat on anyone's favorite game here, but let's use Monopoly as an example that everybody knows. Without recapping how Monopoly works, I'll simply state that it is restrictive in choice and strategy (ie, the dice are a larger determining factor than the player's will or intuition), has a largely static board, but does have a decent asset trading scheme.

Now let's take Settlers as an example of a modern boardgame. First, the board; while this is not always the case with the modern boardgame, the board for Settlers is modular--that is, it is made up of a series of pieces which can be interchanged in order to alter the board. Look back at the picture above, and you'll see that the board is a series of hexagons; while the ring of water does always surround the island of Catan, the 19 tiles that make up the island can be shuffled around, greatly affecting play.

Next, player choice. During the game the player will obtain resources, which they will use to expand and develop their settlements (I'll be making a post that covers Settlers soon enough). Let's say they have one of each brick, timber, wheat, and a wool resource. They could build a road with a brick and a timber, which would extend the reach of their settlements, giving them the opportunity to expand and reach other resource tiles. However, if they did that, they wouldn't be able to build another settlement--since settlements (which sit not on, but at the junctions of tiles) are what produce resources, having more enables a player to produce more resources, different resources, and they can rely on them being produced more often. Also, a player may wish to hold on to all of these, in the hopes that they receive an ore resource, enabling them to build a development card. While which resource is produced each turn is determined by the roll of two six-sided dice, how and when each resource is used is entirely up to the player. Since the value of each resource is also determined by the game and individual players, the ability to trade resources is also an interesting part of the game--for instance, a player who needs one more piece of road to block out another player may be willing to trade extra resources for that last brick they need, or perhaps grain is overproduced in the game, and thus trading it for another resource results in a 2 or 3-to-1 trade ratio.

As you can probably see from this run-down, the depth and interaction in Settlers far exceeds that of Monopoly. Now, here's an interesting piece of information--an entire game of Settlers of Catan is 60 to 90 minutes; while a game like Sorry! may only be 30 to 45 minutes, how long was your last game of Monopoly?

Since this post is getting long, I'm going to cut it short here. The series will continue with another reminiscing segment, "What is this gaming thing? Part 4 - Where did I go wrong?"

Saturday, August 22, 2009

1.6: What is this gaming thing? Part 2, Discovery

This is part two of the series, What is this gaming thing? Click here to read part 1.

How many of you had a closet or shelf at your parents' house that held all the boardgames? Ours was the closet at the entry for our house (I suppose it would qualify as the "coat closet," but we live in Southern California...I don't think I even own a "coat"). We had the usual copy of Memory, Sorry!, Monopoly, Pick-Up Sticks, a few decks of cards; there were also a few more interesting games. Bazaar (a trading/set-collection game) and Dungeon Dice (a press-your-luck style game) are two that stick out in my mind--initially because we, as a family, played these often (you should see my dad's copy of Dungeon Dice, one day the box just gave up, it's atoms scattering into the ether). Secondly, though I didn't think about it in my youth, these were not the typical "roll and move" style games. To me, they were simply "more fun."

Let's hop forward a number of years, High School; little boardgaming to speak of in the interim, but hanging out at Brian's one day, he brings out a copy of Kingmaker, a game about the War of the Roses (not the movie). The board, which was actually just on glossy paper, took up almost the entirety of his floor, and there were all these cardboard counters and cards, and a 20+ page rulebook. Like fools, we glanced at the 20 page rulebook and jumped right in. Hours later my meager army was holed up in London with the next heir to the throne, watching the rest of the world's population (aka, Brian's army) march toward them. We flip an event card for my turn...and my entire army falls victim to the plague. At that point I have to resign, giving Brian victory, but I leave intrigued. I'd later learn this game, Kingmaker, is considered a Wargame, but at that point I have two thoughts on my mind: First, I'm never playing that again. Second and more significant, I've never played anything like this--what else is out there?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

1.5: Games for children, starting around age 2.

This is written in response to a friend's post, wherein she stated that she had just completed the world's longest game of Chutes and Ladders. This friend has two children, ages 2 and 3.

Let me start this post by saying that games are good, especially for children. They are a wholesome social activity in which they can interact with their parents on a more even playing field, and an excellent way to teach any number of skills (reading, math, memory, spatial relations, etc.) and develop their dexterity.

With that said, some games...let's use the phrase "quickly outlive their usefulness." Perhaps this isn't the most correct phrase, but if you're a parent who has just completed their 900th game of Candyland, you understand what I mean.

The goal of this post is to suggest games that serve this purpose, that is, aid the development of one's children, but don't bore a parent into a coma.


First, here's a link that takes you to a small list of games for children of about age two. While not linked here, with a little attention and tweaking, most children around age 3 should be able to play games listed "for ages 5 and up"--this greatly extends the number and variety of boargames available for play. Also keep in mind that development at this age is amazing--a child at 2 years, 2 months will be far more developed than they were at only 2 years.

Now, some more specific suggestions of my own, with summaries. Many of these games take 20 minutes or less to complete.

Gulo Gulo:
--Players draw wooden spheres from a small wooden bowl without knocking over the "alarm" stick; player moves to the same color on a track as the sphere they drew. The goal is to get to the end of the track first. Twenty minute play time, and kids tend to excel over adults due to smaller fingers. Note: The wooden spheres look somewhat like peanut M&Ms--if you children are familiar with this candy, either pay really close attention or pass on this game.

Tier auf Tier (Animal upon Animal):
--Each player has a set of thick wooden animals. On their turn, a player rolls two dice, and must stack the associated animals upon the crocodile (or upon the other animals already on the crocodile). First to stack all their animals without knocking over the crock wins. Good, simple dexterity game with solid, sturdy pieces.

Hula Hippos:
Another dexterity game, this game comes with a wooden ring and four sets of colored wooden hippos, six to each set. One player spins the wooden ring; everyone plays simultaneously, flicking their hippos. Players attempt to get the hippos in or under the ring once it stops spinning; these are removed from play, and the ring is spun again to start a new round. The first player to get rid of three hippos wins.

Hey! That's My Fish!
For two to four players, I'm actually considering this one for a child slightly older than two--perhaps three or four years old. The board is composed of a number of hexagonal tiles, each depicting 1, 2, or 3 fish. Players have two or three wooden penguins, and after placing them on the board, take turns moving any of their penguins as many spaces as desired in a straight line, and remove the tile the penguin started on. Eventually the board develops holes or separates into several pieces (think of the motorcycle things in Tron--hopefully everyone has seen that movie) as the penguins jockey for board position. The player with the most fish at the end of the game wins.

Lastly, I'll make two suggestions that I think are funny and unique.

Run for your Life, Candyman!:
If your kids can play Candyland, they can play this with a little help. This is Candyland in reverse--after discovering that the King of Candyland has been selling the gingerbread people to the children of the world (for eating!), you (a gingerbread person, of course) decide you need to escape. Of course, only one can make it, so if you have to beat on the other gingerbread people, so be it. This game plays exactly like Candyland except for two things: first, you hit and damage any player that you pass--this can ultimately lead to destroying an opponents arms, legs, etc. Second, you get weapons to help you hit your opponent more and/or harder. There is a little reading, but if you are selective with the weapon cards (all of them are cute, candy themed weapons) and play with open hands, this shouldn't be a problem.

Purely a dexterity game, players flick their cars (wooden disks) around a smooth wooden track. The goal, of course, is to be the first to pass the finish line. Great fun and playable by anyone that can flick, it is, unfortunately, on the pricey side, at around $80. is an excellent resource for all manner of boardgaming knowledge, has an excellent database of boardgames, and, best of all, it's free to use. All links in this post will likely lead to

Saturday, July 18, 2009

1.4: What is this gaming thing? Part 1

Many of us grew up playing boardgames--Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Memory--these are generally the games we were introduced to, and often enough enjoyed. But we grew up and our opinion of these games changed. Even by our early teens we had decided that these games were horrible--Candyland could take hours to end as your character, three spaces from the end, was called back to Gumdrop Lane all the way at the start of the path. The same with Chutes and Ladders--why, why did they make space #99 a slide that goes all the way back to the start? And Memory...well, really, how many times do you want to find those same two dogs or chickens or whatever?

And so we moved away from boardgames, maybe on occasion playing Sorry! (yes, the title has an exclamation point in it), Monopoly, Risk. But even these had their problems--Monopoly and Sorry! are both very simple "roll and move" type games, a random number determining how far you moved a piece along a circular track. And Risk--sure, you got to kick your friends' collective butts, but the randomness of the dice greatly outweighs any attempts at strategy.

And so most of us put boardgames behind us completely.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

1.3: Defeat in Small World

Played three games of Small World yesterday--fun as always, but, man, I had my butt handed to me. DB, my brother in law, beat me by nine points in the first game, for his second win. The second game I was victorious, but the third game...

A four player game with my wife Jackie, DB, and my sister D. My wife started, and from the get-go I knew we were in trouble. First, let me preface this game with this statement: I have not yet beat my wife in Small World. She has played the game one third of the times I have, yet every time I play against her, no matter how many other players are involved, she wins.

My wife chose her first race, Spirit Ghouls. D took forever taking her turn, and DB started out strong with an eight point turn. I start out with a little Ghoul butt-kicking. Jackie's second turn, you guessed it, going into decline; unfortunately my turn had opened up Merchant Trolls, and on her next turn she took these.

The game was close between Jackie, DB and myself, but Jackie had a strong lead with her multiple 13+ point turns. The one chance we had was two simultaneous attempts made by DB's Underground Amazons, who popped up from every which location on the board, conveniently almost exclusively owned by one of Jackie's three races, and my Berserk Giants, who took the mountain near Jackie's Ghouls and laid waste to Troll after Troll.

When final scoring rolled around, I knew I would be soaring into last place; DB and I both had around 60 points, but both D and Jackie counted over 80 points (apparently we overlooked D's last few turns, which were getting 15+ points). Jackie ultimately won by only one point.

Friday, June 26, 2009

1.2: Hula Hippos Review

Hula Hippos, designed by Heinz Meister and published by both Gamewright (and HABA as Maus nach Haus), is a simple dexterity game four players, ages 5 and up.

The components are excellent--a polished wood ring around 4 inches in diameter, and 24 wooden hippo tokens in four colors. The ring and hippos have a nice feel and weight to them, and are smooth, so there is little risk to the playing surface (such as a wooden dining table).

The game is simple; you spin the wooden ring, and everyone attempts to flick their hippos such that they are either enclosed by or under the ring when it stops spinning. Any that meet this criteria are removed from the game, and the ring is spun again to begin a new round. Once someone has successfully flicked three of their hippos into/under the ring, that person wins.

While a simple quick game, taking only 5-10 minutes to complete a game, the experience is fast and fun, and begs to be played again immediately. The hippo tokens slide across the table and bump each other, players shouting, and as the ring falls, there are always a last few desparate shots to get under the ring or remove another player's hippo. Add the zero set-up time, and this makes for an excellent quick filler that will likely get much play.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

1.1: Small World Overview and Review

Small World is the latest boardgame release from Days of Wonder (, designed by Philippe Keyaerts. This game plays 2-5 players, and takes 40 to 90 minutes, the play-time increasing with more players.
The goal of Small World is to score the most gold (points) by taking and controlling territory, and removing your opponents' pieces from the territories they occupy. A player gains one point for each territory they control at the end of the turn, a simple enough idea, except the game features 14 Races, each with unique abilities; there are also 20 Special Powers which are randomly assigned. The result, hundreds of Race/Power combinations--Diplomatic Trolls, Berserk Elves, Hill Ratmen and others; each combination has different advantages.
The basic turn is simple. If you do not have an "active" race, you choose one of the six upturned Races and the randomly assigned Special Power next to it. Each of these tiles has a number value on it; the sum of these is the number of Race chits you receive, generally between 8 and 16. After this you take territory, if the territory is empty, you may take control of it by placing two of your Race chits onto this space. If there is any other cardboard on the space, be it mountains, bivouacs, or another player's Race chits, you place two of your own Race chits plus one for each piece of cardboard (ie, a Mountain space occupied by three of an opponent's Race chits would cost 2+1+3=6 of your own Race chits).
Play continues in this fashion; each turn you take up as many of your Race chits as you wish (generally you leave one on each space you conquered the previous turn), expanding the territory you control. However, your expansion is limited by the number of chits you began with, and each time an opponent attacks your territory you lose a chit, decreasing this number even further. Inevitably you will need to "go into decline."
Going into decline takes a full turn; when doing so you flip over all your chits, leaving only one on each territory you control. On your next turn you are able to purchase a new Race, and continue to score for both your "active" and "in decline" races. This is another interesting addition to the game, as it becomes essential to have both a successful active and in decline race in order to win the game.
Having now played several games of Small World, I believe that Days of Wonder has another hit. With the combination of Races and Powers, the variety in each game is astounding; a race may be looked over one game (Hill Humans? What am I supposed to do with those...?), only to find its combination with another power exactly what a player needs in another game (Berserk Humans! You're dead now!).
The rulebook is clearly written, and the game also scales extremely well--it actually comes with two double-sided boards, each marked with a number 2, 3, 4 or 5, to denote which board to use depending on the number of players.
As far as level of difficulty, I'd put this in the Medium difficulty range--experienced gamers will have no problem with the game, and new gamers may have only a little difficulty with game terms or mechanics.
Presentation: 8 of 10 (only marked down for lack of clarity of in-decline chits)
Difficulty: 4 of 10 (most people should be able to play this game with little or no help)
Overall rating: 9 of 10