Over at BGG, I frequent the “Women & Gaming” forum, where ladies in the hobby get together to chat about games, and life, and stuff (and also non-lady friends, parters, allies are encouraged to take part too!). Someone was curious what everyone’s 2015 gaming ‘resolutions’ (more goals/plans) for gaming in the year would be. So here’s mine – slightly edited to add another one I put on there after I’d posted. Do you, as a board gamer, have any goals for the year?
1. Scale back buying new games; I can’t say no new games coming in because Adam gets some free copies of stuff through his translation work, but our choices to buy can definitely go down. Plus Adam will always buy Netrunner stuff.
2. Go back to our system (stolen 100% from Steve & Leslie Wolfhard) of putting a few coins in a jar every time we play a game and when there’s enough there, put it toward something new; that way we’re forcing ourselves to play what’s in our collection, and also rewarding ourselves for it! It helps with slowing down buying too.
3. Cull the collection! For a while Adam’s been hesitant to do this, but I think he realizes it’s time now; we have a big job with it, but it’ll be worth it to trim the fat. (As you can see from the hectic shelves below, it needs trimming and tidying!)
4. Log more plays! Right now I just log new-to-me games the first time I play so I remember at year-end, but I think more stats on what I play would be fun.
5. More W&G participation and more online games at BAJ/BGA/Yucata with W&G forum folks!
6. More blogging about games.
[Aforementioned shelves – click through for larger messy versions.]
Although I am pretty consistently posting stuff to Instagram, there are still always bunches of photos that collect themselves on my phone and never make it off until I think about doing something like a photo roundup. So here we go!
And now to finish with a few games that have hit the table (out of many) this year so far.
There’s quite a few games that aren’t specifically designed for 2-players but are great played that way – Carcassonne, Through the Ages, Alien Frontiers etc.. But I wanted to look at what games are only for 2 players that I love getting to the table. These are all readily available except my honourable mention, I believe! (Images below sourced from the game’s pages on BoardGameGeek.com!)
Jaipur is an outstanding game that makes a trading theme for 2 players super fun. You have to play the market (i.e. take cards from the spread) to collect sets and trade them in for chips for those goods. The more and earlier you trade, the better return you get for those goods. There’s some tactics, a little risk and pushing your luck, and it’s so fun trying to beat your opponent to the better rewards! I guarantee you’ll be playing back to back games of Jaipur.
I have just recently tried Morels, and after a couple of plays I’m convinced that it’ll stay in my go-to 2 player game list. Thematically, it’s a delight – you’re strolling through the forest trying to collect different sorts of mushrooms. You can sell these to gain the game’s currency (sticks) or cook them up (plain, with vinegar or butter) to collect end-game points. The “strolling through the forest” part is actually you just taking cards from a constantly refreshing line of them – some are discarded along the way too, so you need to think strategically about how to best select cards to aid in your set collection while avoiding poison mushrooms and picking up benefits along the way (bonus night deck cards, baskets to add to your hand size, pans for cooking). It’s a simple game with light strategy and I find it a lot of fun despite the slight luck aspect of how the cards come out. The only downside? It makes me SO HUNGRY for fried mushrooms every time I play.
I get so frustrated by chess – having to remember how everything moves, the level of strategy involved.. plus, I just find it boring to play! Hive is a great alternative to chess for me – excellent abstract strategy with the added bonus of awesome insect theme to help me remember how each piece moves (it seriously helps!). I can only assume it would appeal to casual chess players also due to the strategy involved. The aim of the game is to play your insect tiles strategically in order to trap your opponents queen bee by having them totally surrounded by tiles (either player’s). It seems so simple, but there’s depth to it that can make you flail as you release that damn it all, your bee’s about to be trapped and there’s nothing you can do. Highly recommend this for terrific player interaction, also. Plus, the bakelite pieces are a joy to handle. Mmm, tactile.
Let’s put aside for a moment that the picture I found above isn’t the English version – it just best represents how this game looks when it’s all laid out. Targi intersects board and card game in the best way possible. You’re playing on a card-created board that shifts throughout the game, and determines the strategy in which you place your pawns. Strategic placement of your pawns means you will collect resources and points, as well as tribal cards. You’ll need to play those tribal cards down in front of you and meet their requirements (have x amount of these types of cards, etc) for points to win the game. There’s a lot more to it than that, but I wanted to give a general gist (this is a far better actual review) – I think this is the most strategic and complex 2-player game I’ve tried, and it’s worth the investment of time to learn – gameplay itself is around 45 – 60 minutes, so it’s nice to have something that isn’t just filler for 2 players. If you wanted to learn more, this walkthrough video might help!
Plus, it’s definitely one of those games that looks great with googly eyes. It’s important stuff.
Okay, it’s about to come into print so not currently super available first-hand. But keep an eye out for the reprint. If you wanted something fantasy-based for theme, this is the 2-player for you! (Unless you want something really dungeon-crawly and then I’d say give Claustrophobia a whirl – it’s asymmetric too). This is a wonderful asymmetric 2-player game where one of you is the good guys (hobbits, elves et al) and the other player takes on the baddies (ringwraiths, trolls, Shelob et al) – you can’t see the opponent’s pieces until direct combat occurs between the two of you. Every character has a unique ability (you can defeat another character automatically, you can move/retreat in certain ways, you can mess with how combat cards are played, etc) so you need to try and move your characters around the board to best make use of these to defeat the other side. As the good side, if you can get Frodo to Mount Doom, you win! As the baddies, if you defeat Frodo or 3 of the good guys, you win! Trying to deduce what pieces your opponent is moving around, and how best to defeat them/get past them with yours is challenging and fun. It’s nice to play a 2 player game where you’re each running at the strategy a little differently, working with different tactics rather than playing the same ground. Also: hobbits!
While there is a theme to Lost Cities – you’re adventuring archaeologists, mounting expeditions and hoping they’re profitable – its not ever really apparent while you’re playing this game (as much as, say, Morels or LOTR: the Confrontation). That’s not to say it’s not a solid 2-player game though. Every expedition you commit yourself to starts at -20, so to make a profit at all you need to get at least 21 points. Drawing through a pile of cards, you need to decide what to keep to aim for sets to gain points – or what to discard instead (hoping this doesn’t aid your opponent in their expeditions). ‘Handshake’ cards can make your expedition more profitable (doubling, quadrupling, etc), and make the point goal much more important to reach (you’ll lose far more points if you don’t succeed at these important expeditions!). It’s fun, light, and with a little player interaction so you’re not just each sitting there playing your own game at the same time.
Honourable mention to Rosenkönig
I think I have played this more on the iOS version against the AI than I have actually played the cardboard version, but it’s still worth a go if you can find it! Beautifully simple to learn, the basics are – play cards to move your pawns, use those pawns to claim your opponents’ as your own by controlling areas. This is roughly themed as the Lancaster and York factions going up against each other, but this could have “one versus another” theme laid on it and still be a delight to play. Simple gameplay with an interesting strategy to delve into.
I love that Adam’s cafe, Fahrenheit Coffee, has won Best Coffeehouse in NOW Magazine’s Best of Toronto reader’s poll! I am so proud of how skilled he’s become, and how he’s amassed a huge amount of knowledge and his passion for coffee has flourished. That he gets to do it in a quality workplace like Fahrenheit is fantastic. Just look at this beautiful cortado he made me a while back..
While I love playing the physical versions of board games, sometimes it’s nice to poke at your tablet and zoom through a game instead (and much easier for travel purposes!). Obviously I prefer it when developers include Android devices in their board game to mobile game ports – for selfish purposes, owning a Nexus 7 tablet – but I love that top quality ports are happening at all! (And sometimes I get to try them on Adam’s iPad). So I love seeing a great game – Lords of Waterdeep – getting what looks like a pretty great mobile version developed, by the looks of this brief video. It should be out soon, I’m hoping to give it a try!
Snail mail is one of my favourite things – especially postcards! Even those of you who know me in passing online have probably seen me post about my wall plastered with ’em. Beyond those little scraps of ephemera, I don’t really send or receive real snail mail letters anymore, just an occasional parcel for presents or something coming in that I ordered. (Or stuff like my recently received permanent residency card, and renewed ROM membership, exciting stuff to get!). So when MeShell posted about this pen pal program, I signed up not thinking of how rubbish I am at writing or being creative, and just hoping it turns out fun (and ignoring the part where I worry my pen pal won’t like me). Never in my life do I think I’ll reach the beautiful heights of letter writing as this, however.. I could eat up little sentences like ” I have never seen such an agreeable likeness of a hedgehog, and the volcano in the background is magnificent.”
I have also been trying to find love and delight in the small things – trying to start some new books, making movie plans with friends, looking forward to seeing the Evil Dead musical now it’s back on stage in Toronto. These little things should keep me buoyant until such time as the rest of my brain catches up with life.
Anyone who even kinda knows me knows that I’m a Browncoat. (Even if they don’t know that’s the word for it.) I’m an enormous fan of Joss Whedon’s ill-fated show Firefly, the follow-up film Serenity, and the subsequent comics that accompanied the show/movie. And in addition to this, most of you probably realise I love board games. So when I’d heard there was a Firefly game coming out, I got pretty excited (this is a mild understatement). I hadn’t realised there was going to be a Gen Con release of it, so my wait to get it in my greedy little hands was a bit longer (although I have friends in town who’d procured a copy that way, and had a bit of a tinker-play with it before my purchase). After a half-learning game, a solo play and then a 2-player session with Adam, here’s my impressions so far.
The Look of the ‘Verse
Gale Force 9 did a bang up job of how this game looks. Little minis of ships rather than tokens to move around was an important choice, if you ask me. Makes you really feel like you’re zooming about out in the black. The cards have wonderful design, with a retro feel, almost. The supply planet cards are especially great, as they remind me a bit of this Blue Sun travel poster series – very kitschy and in keeping with the look of the universe as portrayed around the show/movie. Images from the show are used for character cards and gear, so when you look down at your crew you see who they are all laid out – last game I had Mal, River and Wash and it was kinda great for a big fan like me to have the big damn heroes included in the game, not just background extras and one-episode folks used as imagery. (It’s a bit sad the IP for Serenity couldn’t be included, but licensing is what it is.)
Overall, no complaints with the look of this game. Really nice quality and in keeping with the theme.
The rule book is utter rubbish. There, I said it. I guess they rushed it to be done for Gen Con. It’s a stupid mistake to rush a rule book for a fairly complex game, because it leaves the customer with a lot of unanswered questions, little clarification, which ends up bloating gameplay the first couple of times you crack out the game. The first little bit about setup and whatnot isn’t so bad, but the rest of it is a bit of a mess and not necessarily organized logically, making it frustrating to quickly reference stuff because for many things I’m not sure where to look. For instance, they suggest a story card to use for your first game which I grabbed to sit down and play solo, not even looking at the rest – unfortunately, the rule book mentions nothing specifically about solo play (just that some cards will require a different setup sometimes) so I didn’t think to look specifically for the one solo-play story card.
They’ve since had to release an official FAQ to clarify a lot of issues that came up from fans on Boardgame Geek. They really missed the boat with not including a player aid, too – to have to keep flipping through the rule book while taking turns isn’t the greatest. Maybe in subsequent printings it’ll be revised, but until then I’ll keep looking for more FAQs. It’s frustrating, but it is what it is.
Despite the rules contributing to the time spent understanding how turns play out, etc, the gameplay is pretty straight forward. You have two actions, and you can spend them to either fly, buy, deal, or work. It’s simple to look at, and it’s in keeping with how the crews of Firefly class ships roll in the ‘verse. Get jobs, get paid, stay flying. You can visit contacts (Niska, Patience, Badger, Amnon Duul & the Alliance’s Harken) to get either legal or illegal jobs to work. Working jobs means smuggling, doing some crime, just transporting stuff or outright misbehaving. Visiting supply planets allows you to gather more crew and gear. Flying comes with its own risks – you could bump into the Alliance or the Reavers out there. All of this helps you work toward reaching the goals set out on the story card which you pick at the start of the game – a variety of stuff like being solid with contacts, being the first to earn a certain amount of money, or even just gallivanting around the ‘verse, misbehaving to get through.
If you’ve played the game before, it’ll likely pan out to be around 2 hours to play through a game of 2 – 4 people – but with learning and getting used to the game, it can add 30 – 45 minutes on top of that. It’s an engaging game though, and I feel like it wouldn’t work at a shorter time. You have to put in the effort to improve your chances of reaching the story card’s goal, and you can’t do that in one swift circuit of the ‘verse. Despite the rules, there’s nothing hugely complex about the game just as long as you pay attention to the text on cards etc once you understand the basic mechanics of how turns go, and skill tests work.
EDIT: I realise I didn’t go into detail about solo play. The way they set it up works well, with a timed game. Only thing that bugged me was the uselessness of the navigation decks. Not much threat when you’re the only one moving ships. Otherwise it’s a great adventure!
You’re gonna need a bigger boat. And by that, I mean you’re gonna need a big-ass table to play this game. Our square Ikea table with both leaves extended is about right, if you have two players on each long side of the table and everything else (cards, tokens, money) spread out on the short ends of the board. Holy smokes it’s a space-eater, this game. Make sure you set aside 10 – 15 minutes to get it all properly laid out before you launch into the actual game set up with players.
Theme-wise, this is a joy. I was a little concerned that the point could be missed, but it’s been thoroughly integrated throughout. Dealing with Niska as a contact can be a dangerous thing. If you have one aspect of YoSafBrige on your crew, when someone else hires one of her alternate identities (Saffron, Bridget or Yolanda), then she vanishes from your crew. How awesome is that! River can be really useful for skill checks, but she’s just as likely to wander off back to the ship as be offering mechanical help when you need muscle. (She’s a little crazy, our dear Mei Mei.) Even Jayne’s cunning hat turns up as gear. If you’re a fan, but not a board gamer, I think the richness of theme will draw you in to try this game – even if all you’ve ever tried is Settlers of Catan! If you’re a board gamer who has even a passing interest in space adventuring then this is a no-brainer to try out.
There’s a lot of potential to expand on this game. Although I think the 5th player addition is a bit of a mistake (this is long enough to play with 2 or 3, let alone the max of 4, or 5 with the expansion), I love that they have already made a proper introductory story card to download and that there’s potential for more story cards and extra adventures. I believe there’s an expansion in the works, so I hope that’ll address the rule discrepancies and add some shiny new things.
Overall? With some reservations re: rules and learning curve, I heartily recommend Firefly: the Game! I can’t wait to get it back to the table once I’m more at home with rules/gameplay.
Short ‘n’ sweet!
Firefly is one of my TV loves. Board games is another. Bring the two together and SMASH – Firefly: Out to the Black. I played a prototype of this at the Gathering of Friends earlier this year and it was a fun, challenging co-op with the theme really richly integrated. Great card game. I suggest you get your greedy hands on it as they’re Kickstarting it now! Good luck to Ed Bryan 🙂
And speaking of TV.. I still love Spaced so much, even after many rewatchings. I have seen a lot of Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright on Twitter lately as they’re promoting The World’s End, so I burned through half the first season of Spaced this afternoon and was so great.
When I hear about friends making big life decisions and doing awesome things, it makes me happy. I love that our friend Kris is gearing up to move home to Halifax to open up a board game cafe. Obviously it sucks our friend is leaving, but he has so many exciting adventures ahead of him with this business – I think he’s a smart and lovely dude and will do well with it. Plus, it gives us a nice excuse to head out east sometime!
I love making treats for friends and having them work out nicely and seeing everyone be so excited to enjoy them. So good! These were a hit with my fellow boot campers after our last class of the month yesterday evening. I’m looking forward to making them again and throwing in some variations for flavours.
And finally, I love not moving house. I know it’s kinda esoteric for this list, but at the start of the month when I see folks struggling in and out of our apartment building, trying to get everything into the elevators and just knowing all the extended stress involved with moving.. I’m just really glad to have been settled in one place for a little while. I know it’ll happen again sometime but having had this place with Adam as my home base for nearly two years has been the longest I’ve been in any one home since I left Australia back in 2007!
Enjoy your Thursday evenings, folks!
I’ve played a decent amount of new (to me and to the market) games in the last couple of months, so here’s a little bit about some of them (mostly because I’ve remembered to take photos of these!).
La Boca: I know I mentioned this back in my SdJ post, but I wanted to bring it up again as I’ve played it a couple of times since I first tried it. It’s still wonderful fun, but I’ve discovered that if you play with more than 4 people it can drag a little and there’ll be downtime due to the amount of pairings that can come up for each round.
Tweeeet: My friend Kris got this beautiful limited edition game about birds gathering food & travelling. It’s best with 6, as then you can split into two teams of three. Each type of food will let the birds move a certain amount of spaces to pick up another type of food; the idea is to get from food nubbin to food nubbin without running out & without blocking your team mates (but blocking the other team) and get to a predetermined nest first. The board is a series of strips that are added as you move (and taken away from the back as you progress forward), which is a cool way to have forward movement without a huge board, I really liked that. Although very light on theme, there’s a great strategy to work on with team mates to ensure success, and really – look at these beautiful pieces! It’s a joy to just sit and play 🙂
Targi: Rather than having a board, you create the playing area with cards in Targi, a great little 2-player worker placement game. The frame of cards around the outside tracks the progression of the game (and also allows you to perform the action on there if you place a worker on certain cards), and the cards in the middle will either be goods or ‘tribe’ cards – the latter you build in front of you to create a tableu worth a various amount of points. The strategy is pretty decent in this, but there’s a lot to the part where you have to try and place your workers in the best place possible each round, but also think on your toes for a plan B or plan C when your opponent takes the spot you really wanted. I love it!
Diavolo: This had my brain hurting about 15 seconds in. I’m usually okay at quick reaction games but this is really friggin’ devilish! You will toss all the components on the table – one die will give you the conditions on which you’ll look at the numbered dice, and when you have the ‘answer’ (for instance, largest sum of what coloured dice) means you’ll make a grab for a little imp of that colour. Miss out on an imp? Lose a gem. I lost gems pretty quickly, ha! Maybe next time i’ll try and ramp up my brain with coffee beforehand.
Banana Matcho: Zoch, known for bringing terrific kids games to the market, make sure you have ridiculous banana-squeezing dice-rolling fun with this. The premise is simple – one person is rolling the monkey dice and trying to get to three monkeys and squeeze the banana before the other person rolling at the same time gets a set on the dice with fruit symbols (various combos are worth different amount of points, but you want to get points before the monkey roller squeezes the banana!). I love that this keeps two people involved in the game at once – and even though it’s a light dice-rolling game every time I’ve played it it’s had a table full of adults shouting with excitement.
Game of Thrones LCG: Sat down to a 4-player game of this a while back, and despite the “thrown in at the deep end” feeling you get when you’re not familiar with the decks in this game, especially with many expansions (I don’t think I even saw my whole deck that game!), it was still a great, deep game. Unlike other deck-based games there was a pretty neat component in the role selection at the start of each round, which allows for a little benefit depending on what you pick, and certain pairings between players are created depending on where you’re placed on the board – you’ll either benefit from leaving a player alone that round, or from going at them. As this was the first time Adam & I had played and the first 4-player game for our fellow players, it did stretch out time-wise.. but I look forward to visiting this again to see what some of the other decks are like (I was the Greyjoys, would like to give the Starks and Lannisters a go!).
Ave Caesar: A fun, light Roman-themed racing game. It’s a simple form of gameplay – you play a card (value 1 through 6, randomly drawing three to start the game with and topping up as you go) to move around the track. But there can be bottlenecks where you can block people from getting past you, and there’s the requirement that you must take a pit-stop in round 1 or 2 to give an ‘Ave Caesar’ to the emperor. You also have a limited deck of cards, so you need to make sure you have enough points to get you around the track 3 times and over the finish line! I scraped in with the win in this game, despite being blocked at a bottle neck for my second-to-last round. Good times!
Bruges: We have an advance copy of the English release of Stefan Feld’s Bruges – I didn’t get to play this at the Gathering of Friends so i’d been waiting until this past week to try it, and overall I really love it! It’s a simple game of rounds of taking actions, light strategy and some luck due to card drawing. The little bit of luck can be hard to mitigate which is my only gripe about the game – I’ve played twice and some aspect of the game has been tough to accomplish due to not getting the right types of cards. Despite that, there’s a lot of variety in what you can do, and the huge pool of cards (of which only some are used in each game) means a great deal of replayability. This is most definitely the most I’ve enjoyed a Feld game since Castle of Burgundy – I believe it’ll be out this September in stores!