The Shut Up And Sit Down Board Game Conglomerate (aka a bunch of nerds who make game reviews) had their first convention at the start of October, and I went! It was in Vancouver! YAY!! 3 days (over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend) and about 800 people, and a heckload of fun. WHAT DID I DO??
There were so many panels. Like, all day every day so many panels. I went to only a few, because I gamed so many games the rest of the time. (See below.) I went to the opening ceremony to see the crew & their guests, and that was nice. The calm before the storm, or at least the calm before the sleep deprivation. The other two I just attended were the Cardboard! with Rich Sommer podcast & Tuesday Knight Games podcast recordings. Both were good fun! Rich had Rodney Smith, Paul Dean & Phillipa Warr up as guests and chatted a bit then did audience Q&A. I can’t find a link, though. Alan from TKG had a quick run through of guests come up and join him, with some chatting about games and sharing spooky stories. So fun! You can listen here.
THEN. I got to take part in a panel/event thing! Designer Grant Rodiek asked some industry friends, which somehow included me, to help out/”judge” his design jam panel “Design With Your Hair on Fire”. It was without a doubt the most fun design event I’ve been a part of. It was a packed room – split into about 8 or so groups of varying sizes. Each group got a stack of cards with words, had to combine two to end up with a title for their game, grab a bag of random components and then had 60 minutes to make a game. YEAAAAHHH!! So great. The overwhelming majority of attendees were gamers with no former experience in game design. They all took to it like naturals. At the end of it there were playable games! Vampire Weekend, Bearistocracy, Volcano Garden, Speedo Oligarchy, Breakfast Treachery.. and more. I was so impressed with so many! And the range of stuff was great – there was a dexterity game, a social negotiation game, some things that veered more towards light strategy. It was fantastic to see the results of this jam. I kinda want to see this sort of thing run at every convention.
I felt like I played a lot more than this, but BGStats tells me 24 plays, 10 new to me. I suppose for 3 days that’s not too shabby. I played a mix of stuff people had with them, a few titles from the library and a couple of things I brought. Overwhelming fave was Castles of Burgundy Dice Game still, because I am enamoured. Had a lot of fun teaching Broom Service the Card Game to folks too! And getting a game of Capital Lux in at least once that weekend – plus having the artist, Kwanchai Moriya, sign it! YAY.
So, new to me:
- London – oh my gosh this is punishing but excellent. Hard decisions and timing in a game of building up London after the great fire.
- Bruxelles 1893 – possibly the silliest fun I had playing during SHUX, which is kinda ridiculous considering this is a heavy-ish Euro game. But yeah. I love having goofy fun with friends while playing good solid games!! I enjoyed this quite a bit, with the spatial aspect and the worker placement and art sales and the like. Good things.
- Wind the Film – Evan describes this as Bohnanza meets Lost Cities which seems apt. Hand management to create sets of shots for points. Delightfully good.
- Okanagan: Valley of the Lakes – Nice mix of tile laying and area control with a bit of resource/goal management. I like the setting, just not keen on the total absence of any mention of indigenous people in that area…?
- Tokyo Highway – omg this dexterity game is maddeningly hard but also very good??
- News @ 11 – Such a fun social/improv game! Cards with random prompts are handed out and you’re then directed to give a quick news segment by the lead anchor using those words. HILARITY ENSUES.
- A Dog’s Life – of course I was gonna try this one. Delightful art, cute stuff, fun light pick up & deliver game.
- Between Two Cities – somehow I’d never tried this?? It was really good!
- Deadline – ooooh hardboiled cooperative fun! The way this plays out is very Grizzled-y in its card play, but unfolds like a mystery, giving you new leads whenever you successfully investigate. This was awesome. Would play again A++
Oh, and I also played Twin Peaks the Murder Mystery Game for the first time, and we definitely modified the rules a BUNCH as we played cos, ya know, early 90s roll and move.
Oh my gosh I saw a lot of great people. I got to introduce Evan to pals of mine, and see good friends at the same time. Friends from other cons I go to, from Twitter, a couple of listeners of Greatway Games (yay JC and Kayla!!) some of the SUSD crew, a couple even from the SUSD forums! I did a rubbish job of the latter in general, considering I was the one that started an “introduce yourself” thread and then just failed at meeting people because i’m terrible at remembering faces, and the like. I did meet the lovely Lisa Pope, one half of the behind the scenes organizing team, plus Alex & Michele a couple of cool volunteers though. The amount of people at the con was great, but I think I still just went “aaaah people everywhere who are they” most of the time. OOPS. Also thanks to Ben for the coffee hookups, hell yes.
Thinky thoughts to end on
I had a great time, but I have regrets! I wish I’d demo’d more games, seen more panels, had more time etc etc etc. It was all over in a flash, and there were a LOT of people I saw but just never played games with, which is the saddest thing. Sometimes my brain is all “they’re busy!!!” and sometimes it’s like “omg you’re not in the cool club nobody likes you!” which always comes up in the post-con sads. Gonna try and aim for that not to happen for BGGcon. Also on top of that all, saying goodbye to your long-distance sweetie at the same time as the con ends and all that, oof. I don’t recommend. I can.. not avoid that for BGGcon though. Oops.
Anyhow, despite all of that, I look forward to another SHUX. Perhaps next time I’ll do my Calgary/Banff visit in addition to soaking up the Vancouver goodness.
Oh boy, it’s been a while! About 6 months. Things have percolated a bit in my brain, but I have only just finally tried to get some of it out onto paper. I needed just few things as a basic structure to tangibly poke stuff around on a table. So these are really basic ideas, which will very much need tinkering and fine tuning, but so far I think it’s a reasonable start. Whether or not after the start it keeps going or gets scrapped, who knows!
To start with, I have decided on some random public goals, as well as the “mate” cards which will be private – players will get 3 of those and choose two (scoring their choice at the end of the game, this is my attempt to offer a little flexibility). I have a Patchwork-esque time track right now, in which players will move to gain certain values of food (representing the bird’s time spent finding better food). Those food tokens will be used in an auction phase bidding on objects to place in your “bower”.
This is the “time track” – with the available objects for the auction round. I also have a few spots along the time track that are similar to the single tile patches in Patchwork – I think in this I’d like them to be bonuses for the last player to pass them over as a bit of a balance for not taking so many food tokens.
There’s my attempts at the public goals and mate cards. These are all really off the top of my head so they need a lot of work. But it’s just to get an idea of what I’d have players aiming for. A little set collection, a little puzzley stuff.
And here’s the “object” tiles! The idea is to have 3 types of objects which would be worth different values, but I haven’t exactly worked that into any of the cards yet (other than generically mentioning type). I’d like them to represent different things like, the garbagey blue things like plastic caps etc, and then the shinier nice things like glass etc. I know I had an idea earlier about birds being able to use one of their own feathers in their bower, but right now I’m not sure what function that could have. Still thinking!
I guess it’s time to show this to people? aaaahhhhhhh!
So, much of the content I’ve been creating of late is surrounding board games. Back in the day I used to write a lot more about music & movies, but I feel like those things aren’t hobbies now but just part of life. Board games are a hobby, a passion, and I love to share my thoughts on all aspects of them, even though it’s not my job to do so. I say “creative” output because none of it’s really creative but I don’t know how to describe it? Ha! My nerd sprinklings? Geeky missives? Anyhow, here they are!
I’ve written a few articles here on this blog, where I feel like I can be as divisive as I like and own the responsibility for that – “Why I’m Not Here To Ruin Your Fun” and “Don’t Bring Gender into Board Games“. But I like to have somewhere a little more appropriate for long-form personal stuff like “I Guess Board Games are my Valentine” and personal con write-ups. And let’s not forget the languishing design series, ha!
For the last few years I’ve been a contributor at the Daily Worker Placement blog (as well as running the Twitter and helping a bit with the Facebook account). My writing is a bit all over the place there – some stuff about conventions, a little on apps, and some stuff like the series of survey infographics I published after taking a big survey of gamers. I like the freedom I have there to write about what I really want to, and I really like that we’re having the reach we do.
A little under a year ago, Games on the Rocks started up – I’d been inspired by certain pub meetups (Vegan Drinks, and Drinking About Museums) to try something similar. But instead of in-person, I’d be doing it with my far-away pals Suz, Maggi & Steph via the internet! So each week we have a bit of a chat about what we’ve been playing, and a topic of some sort (game themes, conventions, and the like) – we even had a live play through of an app (Mysterium) on our last episode which was really cool. Every (other-ish) Friday we go live on the Meeples Included Twitch and there’s an archive of broadcasts on YouTube. We even managed to live-Periscope an episode of the show from BGGcon which was one of my highlights of the trip.
My most recent project is a podcast, Greatway Games. This is my “different” style of content regarding board gaming as a hobby, which is so refreshing! Along with pals Erin & Adrienne, we spend about an hour each episode (1 per month) on a topic that is broadly about the hobby rather than reviewing games & the like. For instance, conventions, teaching games or comfort games! We also approach recording a little differently than most, adding a personal touch with a mood check-in at the start of each episode, a Pet Corner where we update you on all our lil cutie pies, and a segment we definitely took straight out of Pop Culture Happy Hour – what’s making us happy! Recording these is one of the highlights of my month. We’ve also been doing mini episodes to come out mid-month for Patreon backers too, if you can’t get enough. Almost all include Jake barking in the background at some point *facepalm* OH! And I run the Twitter for us too 🙂
Yeah, there’s been some radio silence here these last couple of months. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been gaming all that while. Here’s my thoughts on what I’ve played/want to play from the releases of 2014 as listed on Board Game Geek. Plus a little bit of honourable mentions, all of which were first-time plays even if not 2014 releases. If you count all that – including multiple plays of them – plus replays of stuff, boy I gamed a lot. A LOT. Also you’ll notice that I post a lot of pics on Instagram of what I’m playing, hence their inclusion here to break up the text a bit!
What I Played:
* Dead of Winter: There’s a heck of a lot of zombie games out there, and there’s few now that I will actually play because I’m burnt out on them. Dead of Winter is different though, it brings the stress and fighting and anxiousness of a zombiepocalypse situation – something akin to the tone of the Walking Dead comics, and brings it to this almost entirely coop game (there’s a traitor aspect). I legit had a stressful time playing this game, perhaps because of the mix of personalities and whatnot. I will have to try it again, as I think that can really colour my experience of a game – as I really think this is the best implementation of the theme out there that I’ve tried.
* Splendor: The theme in this game could really be anything (see?) – but it’s super easy to teach, pleasant to play and it’s something that’s not easy to just line up and win game after game – it just depends on turn order, how cards come out etc. I think this is a great gateway game, and I’ve taught it a few times to a range of people – and while some gamers more ‘into’ the hobby tend to avoid it, I don’t know anyone that actually HATES it. It’s just not for them.
* Five Tribes: Taking a euro with an Arabian theme and giving it a fresh twist, this game relies on displacing workers already on the board, rather than each player placing their own workers. The strategy of moving these workers allows you to perform certain tasks, and all of these work toward the generation of points. White meeples allow you to obtain Djinn which have special affects; green meeples allow you to buy from the market; blue meeples are architects that earn you money from surrounding buildings; red meeples are assassins that can be used to eliminate meeples on the board or in front of other players; yellow meeples are worth points at the end of the game (majority). With all of this and a bid for player order at the start of each round, there’s a wonderful balancing game to make the most of your moves. While it’s a tough one to teach & I feel the inclusion of the slave cards in the market is totally uneccesary, I still think this is in my top of 2014.
* Istanbul: This is a really solid game, with enough variation that replay is interesting (the board is made up of large cards, so can have a variable format). The idea is you take your ‘Merchant’ and stack of ‘apprentices’ and move either one or two spots and drop off an apprentice. You then perform the action/get the benefit from that location. It’s a delicate balance of getting around making sure you don’t abandon your apprentices and can’t pick them up, yet making sure you’re doing all of the things you need to do to get ahead in points. It’s a nice simple game that is enjoyable to play, as you move about amassing resources, cashing in for money and points.
* Imperial Settlers: I played about 2/3 of the way through this game, and missed a couple of pretty key things during the rules explanation (first time teach, loud environment) so I don’t know I can give a great review – but I enjoyed what I did understand and play through, so really want to get this to the table again early in the new year. Very cool little light strategy civ game.
* One Night Ultimate Werewolf (& Daybreak expansion) – this has become one of my favourite large group/party/social deduction games. Almost everyone I’ve introduced it to has loved it and I’ve played it for hours at a time with some groups! I tried the prototype of Daybreak in April at the Gathering of Friends, and I’m looking forward to picking up a copy in Feb when it goes to wide release (it was Kickstarted in September).
* Marvel Dice Masters: I have played this just once, and haven’t found anyone into it enough to play with me again 😦 I played through the intro scenario to get a feel for the game, and while it wasn’t particularly interesting it gave me an understanding of the game – and I dig the fun and simplicity of it. Now I really gotta play it again, it annoys me that it’s sitting there unplayed!
* Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Righto, I think it’s understating it to say I was impatient to get a copy of this after playing the prototype in April. This is a great game of tile laying to build up a castle full of rooms to meet the Mad King’s desires (AKA the overall goals for that game – drawn at random – and a number of personal goal cards in your hand). It’s similar to Suburbia in that way, but way more hilarious and ridiculous, and it adds some fun stuff with the start player (master builder) each turn arranging the rooms in the pricing order they wish, and having other players pay them. So much fun! One of my faves, and I default to it more than Suburbia now. Oops.
* King of New York: Yeah, this was ok! I enjoy King of Tokyo (I don’t own it, but I’m happy to play it when people suggest/bring it out!), and this is an interesting variation. I think I like KoT more because KoNY really makes there be more to do, and it takes less away from the feeling of monsters wrasslin’ and adds in all the extra stuff that, while thematically great, slows down the game and that is a bummer.
* Cash ‘n’ Guns 2nd ed: This new edition is great. There’s some new stuff going on which I think really refreshed the gameplay for me. Each player now gets dealt a random special power to use once per round, there’s also some new loot in addition to money (paintings, diamonds, and also med kits to heal up!). There’s also a ‘Boss’ role that can be claimed as part of the loot, and it lets you tell a player to re-aim during the shooting phase. I really had fun, and I like the new character art way better!
* Sheriff of Nottingham: Yaaaaaaaaas!! Earlier this year I played Hart an der Grenze, which is what SoN is based on. It was fun, but some of the theme was bordering on racial stereotyping, and there were a few things gameplay-wise that could’ve been improved upon. Basically, SoN has a theme that still works awesomely and doesn’t feel weird and too real, and improved stuff to make it a really great game. If you don’t like being sneaky and lying and trying to bribe people, this isn’t for you. Sometimes I really dislike negotiation games, but I think this is low level enough that it stays fun.
* Camel Up: Back after playing this in the wee hours at the Gathering of Friends, I wrote “A game of probabilities and guesstimating, with a super cute theme and a lot of fun.” No, Nicole. It’s cute and sort of fun until it devolves into a random luckfest. Frustrating 😐
* Alchemists: I still haven’t played the print version of this! While there was a LOT going on (worker placement plus deduction and a little resource management) I thought it was pretty neat, and I love the use of the app in-game, and that it gives you a fresh combination for deductions each game. I felt a bit overwhelmed by it all, but I think it’s a unique and fresh take for a game.
* Deus: I like games where cards have multiple uses! (Except Race for the Galaxy which makes me weep with frustration at its glyphics.) This is a little civ game using a shared map – cards are used to make offerings to gods (getting you ongoing benefits throughout the game) or to build on the board. It’s a good mix of stuff – it didn’t grab me so much I desperately want to try again, but I’d certainly be happy to sit down at the table for this one any time.
* Pandemic the Cure: Matt Leacock has done such a great job at transferring the theme and general gist of gameplay from Pandemic the board game over to a very light and reasonably quick dice game. I’d say I would almost default to this game rather than regular Pandemic because it’s done such a great job at porting everything over and making it less complicated to play. Each role is well thought out, dice sides are distributed well for players and viruses, the team work is still at the forefront, and it’s still brutally hard to stop the world from being enveloped in filthy sick germs. Whee!
* Abluxxen: Holy cow I’m BAD at this game. The idea is you’re playing sets of numbered cards down in front of you – but if people play a better version of that set, they take them, and you have to draw the same number of cards from the deck, likely filled with unusable rubbish, therefore ending the game with a bazillion cards in your damn hand, losing the game. I don’t know if luck was against me, or I wasn’t playing down good enough sets to protect from being nicked, but gosh I had a tough time of it. I’m not sure I’d want to try this again.
* Evolution: I like the idea of this game – forming a tableau of animals in a sort of ecosystem to see who comes out on top. I played a prototype of what’s probably close to the final version – it was a very light strategy game that had a few frustrating balance issues but was otherwise good! I’d try it again, but likely not own it.
* Valley of the Kings: Deckbuilding, with a neat element of the structure of cards you can buy from (a 6 card pyramid, only being able to buy from the lowest row) – as you build up your deck, the cards in your hand can be used for their effect, or their money – the idea is to build up sets of cards and ‘entomb’ them before the deck runs out, because if they’re still in your hand at the end of the game they don’t contribute to points. So neat! I really like this, but we don’t seem to get it to the table enough.
* Black Fleet: Playing movement cards, you maneuver your pirate/merchant ships around the board to collect goods, or bury them as treasure. You also get to move the navy ships to mess with the other players – but you must watch out for them doing the same to you! Beautiful art & pieces, very easy to learn, and fun to play. Enjoyed it, but not enough to own.
* Lost Legacy: the Starship: This is essentially Love Letter with an added phase at the end of a round. I think the game’s okay, but I feel like there’s more fun in Love Letter than in Lost Legacy for some reason. It’s just okay.
* Battle at Kemble’s Cascade: Space games are pretty cool, and this has a neat element of a scrolling space video game. Gimmicky but neat. Not gripping enough with the actual actions and gameplay for me to be interested in playing again though.
* Pagoda: This was such a pleasure to play! Building up pretty pagoda towers by strategically playing pieces of certain colours to claim for more points. That’s it! Very little strategy, but a nice 2 player game. Adam and I played this at the Board Room Cafe in Halifax.
* This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2 – 4 of us: Aw man, Sen and Jay bust out all sorts of great games, even great MICRO games! This was part of a Kickstarter pack of micro games which I missed, but there were some extra copies available in the BGG Store so I snapped one up! It’s a basic tile laying area control game, takes about 10-15 minutes and it’s excellent! This is gonna be one of my go-to filler games now for sure.
* Madame Ching: If you imagine something a little like Ticket to Ride on water, but change-able from round to round as far as where you’re at on the board, then you’re close to Madame Ching. The idea is to play down cards one at a time in ascending order of varying colours and values (some with bonus symbols to get cards that help towards game-end victory) to get your ship as far as you can across and down the board, which is an open expanse of water. I got stung by luck with cards the first time I played, but have enjoyed subsequent plays, and it’s a nice introductory level sort of game for folks who haven’t played much else before other than TTR or Settlers, perhaps. Art’s lovely, too!
* Subdivision: I enjoyed this when I tried it in April, but the more I think about it, the more I realize I’m never going to care about trying it ever again. It’s in the same game family as Suburbia, but it’s far more self contained and it’s more about dice rolling and drafting tiles to build where you can rather than an engine-building tile laying city builder like Suburbia. A miss for me.
* Roll for the Galaxy: Remember up there where I got weepy about Race for the Galaxy? Well, Roll for the Galaxy is a much easier dice game implementation for folks who can’t wrap their head around the multitude of symbols and stuff in the card game. Space themed exploration dice rolling whee! It’s just come out, and I’m tempted to pick it up, but maybe I should give it another whirl first. (After all, I played a prototype of this back in 2013 so my memories are fuzzy..)
* The Walled City: From local designers here in Southern Ontario! This is a beautiful city builder, where you’re trying to manage and build up/block off areas of the city with your workers inside for points, all the while managing your hand of cards with which you build all that stuff with. Really terrific stuff.
* Card Wars – Adventure Time has a game, and Card Wars is it. All the other stuff is Adventure-Time-themed, but this game was borne out of the show itself, a wonderful animated and interactive game that Jake and Finn play against each other. The cardboard version of this game isn’t bad – but I much prefer the app version of this because there’s less fiddly card setup, it’s fun to see the animations and you can bang out a game quickly against the AI.
* Arf!: When the designer of this game posted it was available for purchase, I jumped on board. A cute card game about getting puppies adopted? YES PLEASE. It could’ve just been that and I’d have been happy, but it’s actually a perfectly wonderful set collection game where you’re making offers of a variety of types of sets (lowest odd numbered card in a suit, best straight of a suit, etc) to puppies up for adoption to suit their particular mix of needs of love, food or housing – or a combination of both. At the end there’s points for the most of a certain numbered card, the most of a suit, and then for pairs or triples of puppies for whom you found homes. WONDERFUL. More please.
* But Wait, there’s More! Imagine a party game where you’re pitching a product like you’re selling it on late night TV. With a hand of features like “now 50% more absorbant!” or “voice activated”, everyone chooses a feature to start with and pitches for the same product – a toothbrush, a car, a lawn sprinkler etc. Now the fun part – about halfway through your pitch with the chosen feature you must proclaim “But wait, there’s more!” and pick a random feature card to then incorporate into your pitch. The results are magnificent and hilarious. It’s got a pretty good appeal for most people, and can play with any folks who are interested in having a fun, creative time (if you enjoy Snake Oil, Apples to Apples – this will be for you). One of my favourite party games – I’ll be glad to have a copy in print sometime soon!
* Munchkin Adventure Time: Aaahhhhh Munchkin. I really don’t enjoy it. But they did really put the fun of the theme into the game, at least. 1/2 a star.
* North Wind: Hey bad luck! There you are, hiding among the really super neat components of this game. There’s a number of layers of straight up luck going on here – multiple die rolls for encountering enemies, pulling tiles for movement – that you can really get the short end of the stick and can’t do anything about it. It’s a shame, because it seems like a fun game otherwise – sail about in your cool looking ship, gathering resources and pirate captain prisoners to trade in for money in ports. We got a comp copy of this, and I feel like we’re gonna have to house rule it a bit to stop some of the luck from ruining it for one or two players entirely.
* Carcassonne Gold Rush: Another Carcassonne variant! This is a good way to keep the game’s brand fresh without it just being constant expansion releases for the base game. This has some transport building (railways), sort of cities (rail terminiuses that must be completed for points), prairies (where you score for what’s in the fields, not what they surround), and also building up mountains to get gold nugget tokens. I did woefully because I didn’t finish up my mountains quickly enough to stop people poaching my gold tokens! But it was a cool game.
* Akrotiri: More excellent design from Canadian designers Jay and Sen. This has gorgeous art, and it’s a really lovely and simple two-player game. Slowly building up the map/board, picking up and delivering resources and trying to figure out where temples are according to the secret maps in your hand to gain points! So neat. We just got a comp copy of this so I can’t wait to get a full game of it in.
* Sushi Go: 7 Wonders Light! Draft your cards! build up your tableau with combinations for points! be amazed at how cute cartoon sushi is! YAY! (I know this was Kickstarted earlier than this year, but the full release was 2014!)
* Strike a Pose – Charades on freeze-frame. One person randomly deals each other player a number – the number corresponds to a list of things within a category. For instance “Terrible Jobs”, “Types of woodworking” etc. Each player looks at their number a “strikes a pose” to best represent it. The judge then takes a look at everyone’s poses to try and determine who corresponds to which item on the list. Very light & fun, I could see this being a fun filler/casual game to have on the shelf.
Out of all those, I’d say my favourite 5 were: Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Sushi Go, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Istanbul & Pandemic the Cure. It’s tough to pick, though.
What I wish I’d played: wishlist of what didn’t I get to play from 2014 releases that I really want to! There’s a bunch I still haven’t gotten around to, as you can see..
* Scoville – but I’ll be getting my Kickstarter version soon!
* Roll Through the Ages: Iron Age – I know it’s probably not that different to the previous one, but I am still curious.
* Coin Age
* Nations the Dice Game.. maybe I should also try Nations the regular game. Hehe.
* Panamax – the Twitters are alive with raving about this game.
* Diamonds – sounds like fun filler!
* Red7 – I just want to try this to know if the hype is real.
* VivaJava Dice – coffee and dice!!
Also as a total anomaly to all of this, Mysterium – release date of 2013, huge buzz for foreign language versions in 2014, English edition set to be released in 2015. I guess I’ll wishlist it 🙂
What are your fave releases/games you want to try from 2014? Up next time: what was new to me in 2014 that was from previous years, because it’s not all about freshly released stuff.
I want you to look closely at this GIF and notice the amazingness going on. A little kid is running back and forth playing Space Invaders. Imagine fitness classes that incorporated this for cardio. Hell yeah.
A 3 year old decided to get her hair cut and donate it to the Canadian Cancer Society. This kid is so much better than so many of us grown-ups.
I’m feeling a bit badly drawn dolphin today. You?
Back in 2004 these people attempted a world record for the largest game of Carcassonne ever. MADNESS. LOOK AT IT. Over 5000 tiles. I am having shivers imagining the breakdown of that once they were done.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a wonderfully wacky kind of guy. The kind of guy that recreates the ‘David After Dentist’ YouTube video perfectly. Amaze.
How can I somehow adopt this guy as my Dad for long enough that he’ll paint a badass Doctor Who/Adventure Time mashup mural in MY room? His art site is here.
The feminism I believe in says “Hey girl – have the whole pie.” Yep. Read the first panel below, and find the rest here.
This time lapse of Aurora Borealis is just stunning. I want to see the lights so bad! Oh man.
This ‘Femme Fatale Ring Gun‘ is pretty badass, right? I gotta hand it to whoever dreamt this up in the 1870s.
This Seinfeld parody in a Mario theme is surprisingly chuckle-worthy! I think they hit the tone so well, and I love their Mario-fied Seinfeld theme song.
Placeholder text gone wrong. Oops.. I guess you shouldn’t trust people to notice the big mistakes, eh? There are many more than this example, click through to see & laugh!
Let’s end on the adorable: tiny, adventurous Lego photographer. Perfection.
I feel like more than anything I can do a year-end wrap up of board games (not so many books/movies/etc standing out for me this year). Although there’s a lot of games I’d had a chance to play before this year thanks to advance releases/copies obtained from conventions in Europe, I’m going to go over what’s listed as a 2013 release according to Board Game Geek’s entries. A little about what I thought of games I’ve played, and some about what I missed out on & would love to try! (Of course there’s stuff that was new to me that I tried for the first time this year, but I feel like making it more specific to this year is better!) I’ve no doubt forgotten some things, because I’m rubbish at logging my plays on BGG to even try and keep track now.
Games I played, and what I thought about them!
- Amerigo: We got to try this on xmas day, as Santy Claws was kind enough to bestow it upon Adam. It’s terrific! Although the setup is super fiddly out of the box (lots of cardboard, tokens and pieces) it’s worth it! Perhaps after a more-than-2-player game I will have some better thoughts. But I enjoy the decision-making that the cube tower bestows, much less frustrating than other Feld games like Macao. I found the flow very good, and the little bonuses added a nice layer to how the gameplay changed for each of us throughout. Delightful!
- Bora Bora: This is a beautiful looking game, and I like the island life theme. Like a lot of heavy euros, it’s not steeped in the theme, but it is interwoven at least a little with the different actions you can take. Many things going on, but when you can realise you don’t have to do them all, and work with what you can do, it’s super fun. A tropical balancing act.
- Firefly – the game: You can have a look at what I think here! I still haven’t played this remotely enough. Sigh.
- Dungeon Roll: A fun & light dungeon crawler – rolling dice to smash monsters & loot. The unfortunate nature of this game means it’s basically multiplayer solitaire, as every player takes their own turn and it doesn’t impact on any other player’s turns.
- Bruges: This is my second favourite Feld game (my first is Castles of Burgundy!). It’s up there with what I played most this year – a mid-level Euro with cards, dice, points and all the good stuff. Not too overwhelming that it is frustrating, just challenging enough to keep you interested and striving for those points. Canals, people, stuff! Whoo!
- Rialto: I did not, unfortunately, have a great first game of this (played at the Gathering of Friends after half-learning and being game-weary). In retrospect, I think the combination of bidding and cards and strategy is a great one, and probably makes for a good game if you just dive in to enjoy the management of your cards/rounds, etc.. I must give it another whirl.
- Spyrium: Worker placement and retrieval in an industrial/steampunk themed setting. I think the main draw of the game for me is the decision-making as far as where and when to place/retrieve your workers, that drives the flow of the game and it’s the part where players interact the most. The game overall can be a struggle (for Spyrium, and for money as resources) but it’s finely contained in a few rounds so as to not bloat out. There’s enough variety in what cards come out in the grid each game to try something little different with strategy each time.
- Augustus: Bingo for gamers. And that’s not a bad thing! Very accessible, a little luck driven with the token-drawing aspect, but there are decisions to be made as far as how you’re using your tokens and working your way through the cards. Goes pretty swiftly, too!
- Mascarade: Oh holy WOW I get frustrated by this game. It’s not because it’s a bad game, it’s just that I find it difficult personally. There’s a lot of hidden information about each players roles that can switch people very quickly thanks to card exchanging; trying to keep track of it all in my head just doesn’t work. It means that I just can not do well at the game, and it’s not for me. If you enjoy bluffing and trickery and have a brain for taking in and remembering a lot of information all at once, then it’s for you!
- Relic Runners: The concept is enormously fun – build up some tracks to collect relics, be the first to collect the most/worthiest. My first and only game was frustrating, as I really had no idea of tactics though. Wht something like Ticket to Ride it’s far more structured – this is your route, you can connect the two by (X) number of combos. I didn’t feel like there was any kind of guidance on the tactic of building my paths in this, so ended up sucking big time. I feel like this would be great after a few goes.
- Maximum Throwdown: This is super fun! Throwing cards out to somewhat strategically place them to benefit you, but not your opponents (hopefully covering up their cards/icons to remove their benefits!). It’s goofy and fun, lighthearted dexterity gaming. Right up there with AEG’s Smash Up.
- Firefly – Out to the Black: I tried a prototype of this at the Gathering of Friends in April, and adored it. Great player interaction, rich with the theme, easy to learn/play (although the game itself can be quite brutal on the crew – again, nice and thematic!). The problem is that Toy Vault have been fucking around with it (starting a Kickstarter, pulling it; saying something about licensing issues holding it up). Apparently it’s now been printed (hence the 2013 ‘release date’), so I hope I can get my greedy hands on a real final version in 2014.
- Triassic Terror: I enjoy area control in pretty much all the forms I’ve tried it – El Grande is especially good. I feel like this is maybe a slightly updated version of El Grande, with a way more interesting theme of dinosaurs (no, really) to drive it and a little role selection to boot. Thematic stuff to do with how certain dinos act/attack or how your populations survive and flourish (or not) adds another level to what could’ve been a very basic area control. I would suggest this over Evo, for instance, if you were into the theme and mechanic.
- Prosperity: This is a very simple game in which you’re playing through a number of decades of your civilization (ie. the player mat in front of you). As you go, you must balance out ecological harm/good to make sure you’re not tipping toward any one end of the scale too badly to make sure you don’t miss out on the benefits of the other. There’s a lot of decisions to be made, but only a little player interaction as it’s only the way that people take tiles before you that can affect your turns. If you like Suburbia, I’d give this one a try as a more grander scale/abstract civ/city builder.
- La Boca: Doing 3D tetris puzzles with a partner while you don’t know what theirs is supposed to look like! Shouting! Flailing! PRESSURE! And so much fun.
- The Little Prince: A precious family game. It’s not so easy as to be boring, and just enough player interaction and decision-making to make it a fun time. It’s a turn-based tile laying game, and you’re trying to make sure your end result will net you more positives than negatives for your end score. Tactics of taking tiles you know other people might need is a cornerstone! Beautiful art.
- Asante: I was surprised how much I enjoyed this new 2-player release (a refresh of an older game called Jambo). It’s some basic set collection, with some special powers/benefits cards and artefacts to keep you on your toes. It’s not 100% interaction all the time, but a good enough mix of managing your own resources and progress at the same time as trying to keep your opponent from progressing. I love the art (Michael Menzel, woo!) and the play time is just right (approx 40 mins) for it to see the table for a good sit down with Adam for just the two of us to play.
- Mage Tower: I’ve only played this 2 player with Adam; I find it overwhelmingly punishing. Each game has just been a downward spiral of me not being able to get ahead enough, and having the string of monsters crush me. I like that the deck building aspect is so varied that each game will be different – but I never feel like I have enough cards to actually build up an offensive or even meaningful defense. Part of this might just be my lack of knowledge of the content of the larger deck that the game pulls from, or my shite tactics. I don’t want to discount this one, but there’s only so much frustration I can take thanks to poor deck/card combos coming out for me.
- Carcassone – South Seas: We got a copy of this just before xmas, as Adam did the translating work for the English version (I’m so proud of his hard work!). It’s a great, fresh twist on regular Carcassonne – completing areas gives you resources rather than points, and then you can use those resources each turn to buy end-game scoring tokens of varying values depending on how many/what kind of resources you spend. Terrific stuff!
- Suburbia Inc: This was a very late in 2013 release, one I’d been looking very much forward to. So much that Adam had me open one of my holiday gifts early because that was it, and he was afraid I’d just go buy it if I didn’t know I was getting it 😉 It’s so great! It makes a great game GREATER! Awesome borders, lots of new tiles to reinvigorate gameplay, and round-specific income/reputation reward goals to aim for in addition to end-game points reward goals. So good. Suburbia is now one of my go-to gateway games, but this elevates and refreshes it for those who might have left it behind.
- Lords of Waterdeep – Scoundrels of Skullport: Speaking of invigorating expansions! The addition of the Undermountain & Skullport modules in this expansion really bring up the game of Waterdeep (which I already enjoy) to be something really new and fun, yet keeping with the theme & feel of the game. It’s awesome to balance out your corruption accrual throughout the game and make decisions on if it’s worth the benefits or not. Plus, tiny wooden skulls! Yeaaah!
Games from 2013 I didn’t play, but really want to try!
- Pathfinder Card Game: I’ve heard fantastic things about this as far as hitting a D&D-ish sort of spot for board/card gamers. It’s a pricey purchase for something I’m not sure about though.
- Nothing Personal: Honestly, I don’t know much about this gameplay-wise, but I’m intrigued to try it because it’s come from one half of the Dice Tower podcast (Tom Vasel).
- A Study in Emerald: Chaotic Martin Wallace card game based on a Neil Gaiman Lovecraftian short story! Adam is the NICEST and gifted this to me for the holidays, so it’ll wing its way to us early 2014.
- Forbidden Desert: I played the prototype of this back when Matt Leacock (the designer) visited Toronto with it (and the Pandemic the Dice game prototype!). Forbidden Island is great, but a little too light for regular gameplay – I think this might be a little more challenging, and interesting with the aspects of gameplay including sand movement.
- Francis Drake: It’s a big ol’ Euro, but it’s gotten great buzz. Would like to try, just because. Can’t believe I missed the multiple demos at the Gathering of Friends.
- 8 Minute Empire: So much hype about this! I love that people are trying to get somewhat tricky, strategic games out there with accessible gameplay time. Must try.
- Rampage: While I haven’t heard great things about the quality of gameplay, it still sounds like fun. Smashing up the board as a giant monster by flicking stuff? Yay!
- Russian Railroads: It’s been a while since I’ve tried a new (to me) train game, and I’m contractually obliged as we received a comp version thanks to Adam’s translating work!
- Space Cadets – Dice Duel: I need a person who owns this to come play with me. Space Cadets regular was too much of a time/money investment, but this sounds JUST RIGHT. Plus: DICE!!
- Two Rooms and a Boom: Bluffing/deduction social party game with shenanigans! Lying encouraged! Yes.
- Patchistory: A lot of what gets me interested in trying certain types of Euros/heavier games is an interesting mechanic, standout theme, etc. This is a civ-building game where the layout of your cards creates a patchwork of history you build up. Seems like a natural progression from something like 7 Wonders, so i’m interested to try.
- Going, Going, Gone!: A fast-paced auction game where everyone is shouting and chucking cubes into cups to try and win? The only more fun way to describe this would be adding “while drinking” to it.
- Blueprints: Building structures with dice! This sounds like something truly fun and with a draw in that’s not so gimmicky to not actually work as decent gameplay. Must try this.
- Card Wars: I know it’s going to be rubbish, but I have to try it because: Adventure Time.
There’s a couple that I feel should be on here – like Targi, Coup, Terra Mystica – but aren’t on BGG’s 2013 list. That’s what happens with Euro release dates VS North American ones I guess – or Kickstarter delays! (PS. I played & LOVED those games). There’s also stuff that was released in 2012, perhaps late enough to count as 2013, or not be widely available until 2013 – I think Morels falls into that category – which I only just tried in September!
What have you played that came out this year? Any favourites? Or is there something you think should be on these lists?
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.