Sunday, August 23, 2009

Games I should probably stay away from (aka the pretty pictures post)

So this will probably be the last game related post for a while. At GenCon two of the games I got to play were miniatures games. I played Star Wars pod racing, which was a variant of another game.

Along with that I also played a game called Reich of the Dead, which was a WWII man to man combat game that included. . .Nazi Zombies.

Essentially, miniature games are playing with toys with rules. There is also the element of being able to create and build something that is kind of cool. For example, the Reich of the Dead game had a fairly sweet "map" that we played on.

And compared to some of the other constructions at GenCon, that was fairly mild. These pictures are from a fantasy game:

What is really impressive, is that in the town set-up, each and every one of those buildings have removable roofs, and detailed interiors. I have always liked model terrain. For example, Abigail's mom and step-dad make really impressive Christmas village displays that are cool. However, it would most awesome to put together something similar that could be used for a game, and that is what miniatures are all about. On top of that, miniatures have a customizable aspect to them which I am truly all about when it comes to games. I could really see myself getting into miniature gaming if I let myself, whether it be a WWII game, fantasy game, or even straight up Zombie game.

The problem is that the stuff is bloody expensive. For example, in the Reich of the dead game I played, each figure cost $5. So if you look at the overview picture above for that game, the Nazi army alone cost roughly $220 (now in fairness, that is a game that was intended to have four players control that army, but still). Plus, in a traditional miniature games the figures come unpainted. Being able to do custom painting is one of the pluses of these games, but that also has an expense has the metal paints and small brushes are not exactly cheap. On top of that, terrain also has its own cost. So playing with miniatures is a very expensive endeavor.

Of course there are some cheaper options, in that of pre-painted miniatures, and some of these look fairly awesome. A video game that I really like is Battlestations: Pacific. Which has some strategy while controlling WWII-era naval and air forces in skirmish battles. There is apparently a pre-painted miniatures game that does this as well.

Even more awesome is that there are Pre-Painted Star Wars miniatures, that exist in two forms. There are miniatures for individual unit battles

AND for Starship battles

Seriously, how awesome is that?

The problem with these games is that they are collectible, which means they come in starter sets, which really do not have enough units to play the game out of the box, or blind booster packs which is built on a principle of buying a lot to get the units necessary. I suppose it is possible to buy singles, but for specific units that are "rares" I am sure the price gets rather high. So while the individual miniatures are cheaper and they come pre-painted, the collectible aspect also drives up the cost. It would be "cheaper" in theory to play these games as opposed to traditional miniatures, but the constant expansions make these a potentially greater money pit.

There are a few other options. There is a game called Arcane Legions.
the "commander units" come in random boosters, but it is possible to buy the commons on their own. Plus they are not completly randomized, so it is possible for about $270 to get the complete set, which in terms of miniatures and collectible games is an absolute steal. Unfortunately, I demoed this game at GenCon and thought that it was merely ok.

There are some other possibilities as well. The cheapest option is to find my lost book.
The company that made the Star Wars RPG I played a lot in high school also published some miniatures rules. I used the Star Wars micro machines, which I already had has the miniatures. I even bought some extra stormtrooper/rebel trooper packs and a felt mat. I think I even got my brother to play once, but it was when I was trying to figure it out and I do not think it went that well. I already had the Star Wars CCG, which was one Star Wars game I mostly played by myself, so I kind of did not pursue the miniatures that much. I still have all the micro machine men, but despite my attempts to find it the rule book is MIA. I can not imagine I would have gotten rid of it, since it is Star Wars and I only in the past couple of months purged my boxed star wars stuff. This leads me to conclude that the book got lost in a move, or is buried in some wayward box in my parent's storage shed/garage.

The other option is actually a board game called Okko, Era of the Asagiri. This game is essentially a miniatures game in a box, and it is promoted as such. The game comes with multiple boards and multiple units so that "armies" can be customized. There are a couple of downsides in that it is really not an army game, in that the game really just simulates ninja squad versus ninja squad. The other initial downside is that the game is made of cardboard
The plus side is that since it is a miniatures game in a box, they do make actual miniatures of the cardboard characters that can be used instead. These miniatures still require painting, but they are cheaper then traditional miniatures. In my opinion the extra investment of the miniatures are buildinig terrain would be worth it, because it turns the above image into this

Of course, the whole problem with this whole thing is that the games are only fun if I have someone to play them with. I know from brief flirtations with Mech Warrior several years ago that Abigail is not a big fan of measuring stuff out. This is another reason why Okko would be a good pick, because it is played on a square grid, that eliminates all measuring with rulers. I should probably stay away from miniature games in general because I know that I will like them way to much. . .but we will see. . .

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Abigail's Top Ten Favorite Games

Fair warning, the next few posts I make here will probably all be gaming related, as I am still glowing from GenCon. As you have probably realized I like making lists of the things I like. Abigail, on the other hand does not. She might be able to pick a couple of run away top favorites, but after that everything tends to fall into a "like" or "don't like" category. When I have asked what her top ten games are before, she could get to five or so and then it was "I don't know." However, I still want to know what they are. Since she is unable to pick out her top ten favorite games, I figured that with her permission I would take a stab at. So here are my guesses, in order of Abigail's favorite games. I realize that most people have probably not heard of most of these games, so I put links that you can follow if you want to know more.

10. Ticket to Ride
Trying to guess what would be #10 was a bit hard. It was between Ticket to Ride, Formula D,Battlelore, and Ghost Stories. In the end I went with Ticket to Ride, even though we don't actually own the game. We do however, have Ticket to Ride on the Xbox, and every two to three months Abigail seems to remember this and she plays it like crazy for a few days. The game is all about maximizing combinations in set collections, which I think appeals a lot to Abigail. If we had a copy of this game, I bet it would get played a decent amount, and cement itself as one of her top ten favorite games.

9. Rummikub
As all of the Sudoku books we have attest to, Abigail loves number puzzles. She also really likes organizing things. This is a game about organizing numbers, which means it is right up her alley. The only reason why it is low on this list, is because I really don't care much for the game, so we only play it occasionally.

8. 313
313 is a Rummy variant where the hand size starts at 3 and increases each round up to 13. Being Rummy, this has organization and set collection (you may start to notice several themes about the type of games Abigail likes). 313 is also Abigail's most played game as she grew up playing it regularly.

7. Blue Moon City
This is a game that we got because Abigail wanted it after looking at it. Blue Moon City has set collection and worker placement. In this game players collect cards and then play them to play a cube on a building. Once enough cubes have been placed on a building, the building is complete and everyone who contributed cubes to building it gets rewarded. The main reward is Crystals, which are then exchanged for victory points. It sounds terribly confusing to explain, but it is a lot of fun.

6. Cthulhu Rising
This is one of our newest games, as I just got it at Gen Con. As soon as I played it, I knew Abigail would love it. When I told her I was making this list, she confirmed how right I was by mentioning that I would have to include it on the list. Theoretically, this game is about the struggle between cultist trying to raise Cthulhu from his slumber and investigators trying to stop it. In reality, this is a numbers game played on two five-by-five grids, where players are trying to get pairs, three of a kind, etc of certain numbers. Despite being numbers, based it seems to be a fairly even match when Abigail and I play.

5. Bonnie and Clyde
This summer we really did not have a vacation, we just had some scattered fun days. One of those days what we decided to was buy the first game that we found appealing, and spend the afternoon playing it. Bonnie and Clyde is a form of Rummy, so once again it is all about collecting and playing sets of cards for points. However, this game adds extra strategy of having a car that moves across the board and can be used to score extra points.

4. Dominion
Dominion is a fun game that we play a lot. The goal of Dominion is to get the most points, but this is done by systematically building a deck from available cards. These cards, make it possible to do more actions, and eventually buy the big point cards. Like many of these games, Dominion is hard to explain, but easy to learn and play.
3. Stone Age
Every time we have played this game, win or lose, Abigail has commented how much she likes it. Stone Age is a worker placement game. Each turn every player has a certain number of workers that they can use for various purposes like collecting food or resources. The main goal of this game is to collect resources, and then trade those resources in for victory points. Whoever gets the most points wins. What is really fun about this game is there seems to always be a couple more actions that one wants to do, but can't so there are hard choices.

2. Settlers of Catan (with expansion)

Abigail has played close to 100 games of Catan online, and really likes this trading game. However, she has also stated that she thinks she might like Stone Age a bit more. I am betting though that if she had the choice between the Settlers of Catan with the Seafarers expansion and fishermen of Catan that she would choose Catan over Stone Age, which is why I put this game at #2

1. Race for the Galaxy
I believe that this is the single favorite game for both of us. Since getting it in December of last year, we have played the game on average over nine times a month. Like Blue Moon City and Stone Age, this game is about converting cards/resources into points. What is so great about Race for the Galaxy is that there are multiple strategies to do that, and what strategy to pursue will all depend on the starting planet and hand. Unfortunately, this game is not very new friendly player but we started playing it together so we are usually evenly matched.

So I think those are Abigail's top ten games, in the correct order. Now I just have to wait to find out how right or wrong I am.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Gen-Con 2009

I got to go back to Gen Con this year, and I moved up from the one day of attendance of last year and went over the course of the three days. I created a list of everything I did on This post is a copy of that so each numbered thing is a game I played and/or bought. If you want to see pictures/read more about the games you can go look at that list here.

1. Okko, Era of the Asagiri
I arrived to the con on Thursday, and after spending an hour and half parking/waiting in line, I finally got my badge, and I went to the main exhibitor hall first. The first game I played was this one. This game is basically a "my first miniatures" game, with small squads of combat. The game was fun enough, and I liked that it was customizable.

2. Arcane Legions
Speaking of miniatures, I wondered into Arcane Legions. This is a new game that follows the collectible miniatures game model, with an exception of being able to buy common units on their own. It was simple, and kind of fun, but collectible games miniatures games are a money pit I can say no to.

3. A Touch of Evil: Something Wicked.
Next, I stopped by the Flying Frog both to check out the new expansion to A Touch of Evil. The game developer lead the demo. I really liked the new board that the expansion added, as well as the new cards and ideas like characters getting possessed. If I played a Touch of Evil a bit more regularly, then the expansion would be a must get.

4. Palatinus
So as you will see, really cheap games/good deals are my kryptonite. I am drawn like them like a moth to a flame. I heard several people mention that there were a lot more bargain priced/close out clearance games this year than in previous years. Anyway, Mayfair Games had a whole row of shelves of cheap games. This one was $4, so I figured it would be worth trying

5. Arcana
This is one of the games I knew that I would actively seek out. This game has deck building games like Dominion, but it is much more adversarial because players compete over the cards to add to their decks. After playing several other games, on Friday I would come back to buy this one.

6. Beowulf: The Movie Game
This is another sale game. There was one game publisher that had everything for $5. So I picked this up. I don't really care about Beowulf but the game is made by Reiner Knizia and Abigail likes his games so again I figured it would be worth the risk.

7. Race for the Galaxy
I left the Exhibit Hall and found myself in the Rio Grande room. While there I played this game (which is my absolute favorite) against the Designer. It was a good game, and in the end he beat me by one point. Even though he won, he still signed my copy of the game. Later in the evening I played this game a second time.

8. Dominion
While in the Rio Grande room I saw two people who were clearly trying to figure out how to play the game. They let me play and teach them how to play. It was fun. The two people made a common mistake for first time players in that they got so caught up in building a deck that they forgot to buy enough points. This meant that I won by a good amount.

9. Catan: Seafarers
This gets to Friday morning, and I got lucky that there was an opening in a Giant Seafarers of Catan game. This meant the board was extra big and three dimensional. I did fairly well. I got to 11 point and stalled, because everyone started picking on me (as tends to happen in Catan). This allowed another player to have a big turn and come back for the win.

10. The Island of Doctor Necreaux
This is another game that I really wanted to play. It is a co-operative car game. It was ok, but my biggest problem with the game is that it clearly has several rules issues. In the demo game I played there were two problems that occurred that the rules did not properly address, and the guy running the game had no clue how to resolve it. Going into the Con, this was the game that I thought I was most likely to walk out with but playing it changed that.

11. Battlelore: Heroes Expansion
Next I got to play Battlelore and experience the newest expansion, which addes heroes and an RPG-lite leveling system. The expansion seems kind of cool, but to really get a lot out of it the expansion needs to be played regularly. Sadly, I do not play this game enough to make it worth it, and to me it seemed really expensive at $40.

12. Penny Arcade
I really like Penny Arcade. I read the webcomic every week and I have all of their books. This is a light 2 player card game that simulates a fight between the two comic strip characters. It was really fun, but a tad quick. The humor of the strip comes through in the cards as well. I did not buy it, but this game is going on my wishlist for sure.

13. Adventurers
This was another game that I was hoping to play. Adventurers is a competitive game that borrows a lot from Indiana Jones type ruin raiding. The game was an absolute blast to play, but I have serious doubts about the game would hold up after repeated playings.

14. Vapor's Gambit
Remember, I am drawn to cheap games and this one was a $1 with a coupon. Seriously, how could I pass up a $1. Even if the game is awful, I could probably get a $1 from a yard sale for it.

15. Battle Spirits- Trading Card Game
I played this game because it was open as I was passing by and they were giving away free decks when people played it. The game is a simplistic and overall not good Collectible card game. Fortunately, the whole game lasted less than 10 minutes.

16. Who Would Win

demoed this game, and then instantly bought it because it is going to be PERFECT to use at youth group meetings. It is a debate game where two cards are drawn that determine to random people that will compete in a random category. Each person has to then argue why their person would win. For example in the demo I had to argue why Napoleon would beat Spider Man in hurdles.

17. Arena Assault
This booth was right next to Who Would Win, so I played it as well. This is a simplistic card combat game where each player needs their own fixed deck. It was simple fun, but the cards were ugly and it was overpriced.

18. Chthulhu Rising
I played this simple two player numbers game, and I instantly knew Abigail would really like it. I ended up buying it on Saturday.

19. Zombiegeddon
This game has nothing to do with Zombies and the theme is really forced onto the game. I found out on Saturday that I prefer Hey! That's my fish! much more, as the two games are fairly similar.

20. Universal Fighting System
There was a merchant in the exhibit hall who had old UFS decks for $1. UFS is a collectible Card game that is based on fighting video games. Several of the decks were Soul Calibur characters (my favorite fighting game). However, I know from experience that CCG like games do not go over with Abigail, so I sought out a demo for this game and played it. Turns out I was right, she would hate it.

21. Hidden Conflict
I took the money I did not spend on the decks and got this instead. It was a sale game at the Twilight Creations booth. I had picked it up and looked at it a couple of times on Thursday and Friday before buying it. The game box advertises that is a Customizable, expandable, strategy Tile Game". It had me at Customizable.

22. Small World
I went to the Days of Wonder booth to seek out a game of Small World, and once again I found three people who did not know how to play so I played and taught them. I had Seafaring Tritons at the beginning, and I held onto them a little to long, and that led to me finishing in third.

23. Circus Maximus
My last game for Friday was Star Wars Podracing. A person to the rules from Circus Maximus and created a podracing variant. It was a lot of fun, and despite having a naturally slower podracer I battled for first and second for most of the race. However, three engine stalls in rapid succession meant that I ended up finishing in 7th out of 8.

24. Endeavor
This gets my experience to Saturday I arrived to find someone I know looking for players for this game, so I was up for it I really enjoyed playing this game. Apparently, the night before someone left the game upset because they did not believe there was enough of a military factor in the game. I played this game going all in on military by the end of the game four of my seven buildings were military ones, and I had conquered most of Europe. It worked well for me, because I tied for first.

25. Catan Geographies: Germany
Since my wife and parents LOVE Catan, I figured I should try the newest Catan game. . and it is garbage. Technically it is Catan but all of the fun is gone. The board is obviously fixed. On top of that, the starting locations are fixed and terribly unfair. One person started off in much better building position than me. Technically my starting numbers were better, but that would only be true if the dice followed perfect probability. On top of that the places where settlements can be built is also fixed. The monuments add very little. The people I played with felt the same way about the game, and we actually all conspired to let the front runner win to end the misery quicker.

26. Hey! That's my Fish!
So the people I played the Catan game with gave me their ribbons. Mayfair does this thing where if someone collects all of the resource ribbons they can trade it in for a free thing. I knew that Mayfair would also accept Clay ribbons in 2 for 1 trades with the "bank". So I took my three new clay ribbons and went to the demo area to earn more. I played this quick and fun game to get sheep, and while there traded two of my clay with other people for wheat and wood.

27. Catan Dice Game
I needed an ore, and there was a wait for those games so I suffered through the Catan dice game to get another Clay. However, while playing it one of the people I played with had an idea of using the dice game dice in place of the normal dice in the regular game, and that could have some potential.

28. Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix.
I didn't realize that along with getting a free Catan map for collecting all the resources I also got a 50% off coupon so I used it to get this game which I have wanted for a while now.

29. Small World
Once again I went seeking out a game to play and once again I found someone looking to learn Small World so I taught him and we played I won a big victory. However, he learned quick because we immediately played a second game (with a third player) and he won this one.

30. Reich of the Dead.
Something I have been interested in doing was playing a miniatures game so I used Gen Con to do just that. I decided to go with a WWII game that pitted Americans versus Nazi Zombies. I played the Zombies, and got crushed but it was fun. . . the game was just about over when the fire alarm went off putting the game to an abrupt end.

Once again, Gen Con was a great experience. I was there for a lot longer than last time, but there was still so much that I did not get to do, which of course just leaves me more excited about going back next year. Until then though, I got several new games to play, which leads to the question: Who wants to play?