Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gen Con 2012 Hype!

Without a doubt Gen Con is my favorite time of the year.  You know that person who gets unreasonably excited about the "holiday season" and wants to get all festive?  That is how I feel about Gen Con.  About a week ago, event registration went live, and we registered for events so I have a fairly decent idea what my Gen Con schedule is going to look like.  So here are the things I am looking forward to doing, and the new games I am most excited about.  

This year I will actually be going to Gen Con starting on Wednesday.  They have something called Trade Day which is for librarians and educators to learn about games and education.  Being a youth pastor counts as a Christian educator, so I qualified for trade day.  The trade day events are not posted yet, so I am not sure what I will be doing on Wednesday.  However, one of the perks that Trade Day gives me is early access to the main hall on Thursday, so I will begin Thursday morning in the dealer hall looking at the new games.  Hopefully, by August I will know what my one must get game will be so I can jump in line and get it.

Then, right around noon I will take part in a True Dungeon Run with several friends.
True Dungeon is one of the big experiences of Gen Con I have not participated in.  In True Dungeon my group will go through rooms in a dungeon, solving critical thinking exercise style puzzles and engaging in "combat" through a dexterity game.  The sets and production quality is suppose to be really high, and I am looking forward to it.

On Thursday afternoon I am playing in a Super Smash Bros. board game.  Someone took an older Star Wars game called Epic Duels, and modified the system to a Super Smash Bros. game.  This is the kind of thing that can only happen at Gen Con, so it should be fun.

In the evening, Abigail is going to play in a giant game of Settlers of America, and I will be running one of my two events.  I think that Gen Con does not have enough war games represented, so I decided what I would do what I could to fix it.  On Thursday night I will be running a Manouevere Tournament.
This is an official event, but as of right now only one person is signed up for it.  Hopefully that will change.

Friday is the day that Abigail and I plan to spend the most time together in the main dealer hall.  We will spend a lot of time walking around at our pace and check out everything that is of interest to us.  I know Abigail wanted to spend a little bit more time in the auction hall, so we might check that out some on Friday during the day as well.  

At 4:00 PM I am playing in the Warhammer: Invasion North American championship.  Warhammer: Invasion is one of my favorite games, and one that I fell like I am decent at.  In April, I played in a regional tournament and finished 3rd.   I do not think I will win it all, but I do think I can be competitive.

It is kind of hard to judge how long the tournament will take, but on Friday evening we are hoping to connect with friends and play some games together.  Like last year, we also have a downtown hotel room on Friday night.

One of the things that I like to do every year is play in a miniatures game, and this year Abigail was kind enough to allow me to take four hours to play in a Star Wars miniatures game.  After my miniatures game is over, we really do not have any plans on Saturday.  This will be kind of a spontaneous day where we just go with the flow and see where it takes us.  In the evening we are going to go to the Mayfair games Git Together.  This is open gaming in the Mayfair game room, with the full Mayfair game library.  We did this last year, and we enjoyed it quite a bit.  

Like the past couple of years, I will begin Sunday by going to the Gen Con worship service.  After that, I will get to make one last pass of the dealer's hall.   Like last year, I will end Sunday by running a RPG. I love to GM role playing games, but do not get to do it regularly.  Gen Con is a time where I am guaranteed to do it.   This year I am doing another pulp story, but this will be all about private detectives and globe trotting mystery.  Actually, if you want a good hint at the story just check out how far I got on it in the past:  Death Blossom: A Dirk Sullivan Adventure.

Anticipated Games
One of the best parts about Gen Con is discovering new games.  Last year, I got both Blood Bowl Team Manager, which was a surprise release and Elf Ball-which had been out for years but I just discovered.  I am sure there will be games that I discover this year, but these are the games I am most excited about checking out:

Smash Up
This is the game that I am most excited about that is coming out at Gen Con. Smash Up is a card battle game.  The unique part is that to create a deck players pick two factions that each have a half deck and then shuffle them together to make a new deck.  So I might have Ninja Dinosaurs or I could just as easily pick Ninja Zombies or Zombie Dinosaurs.  I really like the concept

Mice and Mystics 
This game has a high price tag ($80) so it will have to be an amazing game to buy it, but I am willing to wait a good while to demo it.  Mice and Mystics is a co-op dungeon crawl, where players play warrior mice trying to save the king.

Zombies!!! Card Game
Twilight Creation games tend to be great concepts but often are a bit messy to actually play.  This one will probably not be any different.  However, a zombie card game is intriguing enough to me that I at least want to try the game out.

Impact City Roller Derby
This is one of my most anticipated games of this year, and we have already backed it on Kickstarter.  However, the game will not be out until December so I am looking forward to getting the chance to play it at Gen Con.

Gen Con is only 2 1/2 months away, and I can not wait!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Decisions, Decisions

So I still have three unused vacation days, and they reset in June at annual conference.  I had just assumed I would not use them, but Abigail convinced me that I needed to do so.   This means at the end of May/beginning of June I will have my own little Stay-cation.  Because of Memorial Day weekend, I will effectively have Sunday afternoon through Saturday to do things I want to do.   As I have thought about it, I have thought of four  things I would like to do during that week.  This is a list, so of course it is descending order for dramatic effect:

4.  Play Video Games
Earlier this year after getting Skyrim, I had pretty much decided that was going to be the only video game I bought until like September or so.  Then my brother had me play a beta for Ghost Recon: Future Solider, so now I will be getting a game in May.
 The game comes out a week before my little break, so I hope to spend a few hours playing it during the week I am of off.  Ideally, I would like to beat the single player and spend some time online.  However, I have to be cautious not to play to much or I will find myself out of time.

3.  Read a Book
I like to read and I do read regularly, just at a low level or regularity which creates a slow pace.  I probably finish a book every other month or so.  This means I have an embarrassingly big backlog of books to read.  It should not take up to much of my time during this week to knock one book off the list.  I am not particular about which one either.  I have a couple of books that people have lent me, so it will probably be whichever one of those first I find when I am ready to read.

Those were the easy things that I know I want to do over this week.  In a general sense, I know there are two other things I want to accomplish but I am unsure on the specifics.  Generally, when there is something like this where I want to do something but I am undecided on how to do it I will end up not doing it due to indecision.  I do not want that happen because I really want to do these things, so I would appreciate your opinion to help sway my thoughts.

2.  Play a war game (by myself)
It is firmly established that Abigail really dislikes hex and counter war games.  It has also been established that I really do like them.  This puts me in a sad state (that apparently a whole lot of people find themselves) that if I want to play a war game it is by myself (unless someone reading this is a willing opponent).  That is fine, and it is something I rarely do because of the time commitment.  However, I want to do it this week I just do not know which option I want to go with.  My choices are:

Battle for Galicia, 1914:  This is a fairly standard hex and counter war game about the opening fighting of World War I on the Eastern front.  I got this game about a year ago for $3.  This was marked down from a ludicrously high $18.  The reason that is so expensive is because this requires players to assemble their own double sided counters.  Using chip board I did this.  Because I put some time in this game, I would like to play it.

War and Peace:  This is a game that allows player(s) to play through all of the major Napoleonic campaigns.  This is a strategic game, which means that players control the entire campaign and not just the units for an individual battle.  Of the these three games, this is the highest rated/regarded.

Gazala 1942:  This is a game about the British and the German fight for North Africa in 1942.  Specifically, the British need to hold back the German advance.  It uses a neat chit-pull system to determine which units activate.  My wife gave me this game for father's day last year and I have played it once on my own already.  There is something said about playing a game more than once.  

1.  Create a Board Game
I have written a lot the past couple of years about the appeal of the creative process of creating a game.  I have even created prototypes a hand full of times and played them (they were just never any good). I have several ideas, and I just need to sit down and figure them out.  I really, really want to spend one of my days off just doing that.  Ideally, by the end of the day I could have (roughly) written rules and a working prototype to play with.   Again, I just have to decide what idea to run with.  These are the front runners:

Dodge Ball Game:  Back in February on a long car ride I was listening to a podcast where one of the people said as a joke that they wanted a dodge ball board game, and then they followed up with that it really was not a joke and they thought it would be neat.  I spent the rest of the drive thinking about that.  The game would be a simple, quick game (as dodge ball should be) that is all about simultaneous action selection, and then simultaneous target selection.  The actual act of throwing and dodging will be determined with a dice roll (with modifiers of course).  Of the three this would be the easiest to make.

Call of Duty Board Game:  Of all my ideas this is probably the most developed, because I have actually created a very rough version of this game as a miniatures game that we played as part of a couple of youth group lessons.  The idea of this game is to capture the feel of a call of duty video game in a board game form.  Players create a character by picking perks and a weapon load out.  The actual game is determined by players picking the action they wish to do and then simultaneous revealing that action.  Actions are then resolved in a specific order.  For a tactical miniatures style game it play fairly quickly.  The board game version would borrow a page from Memoir '44 where a blank board would be modified by placing terrain tiles, that way various scenarios and "maps" could be created quickly.  Of the three this is the game that I have the most thought out, but it would also be the hardest to create.

Co-op Church Game:  This idea came from me thinking about the possibility of actually creating a faith based game that was not a bible re-theme (like Apples to Apples: Bible Edition) or strictly historical in theme  (like Kingdom of Solomon).  I thought of a co-op card game where players control a church and they have to balance using the resources of what the church considers meeting its basic needs, and using the resources to help others in the world.  Players would work together to meet world needs using their resources, but they have to meet the needs that the church their playing requires as well.  If to many world needs pass by unfulfilled then everyone loses.  This is the game that I have the least thought out, but the one I am the most intrigued by.

So what do you think?

Friday, May 04, 2012

Top Twenty Board Games (2012 Edition)

This is my fourth year to do this so I think it is now established tradition, but every May I make a list of my favorite board games of all time (as of that year anyway).  For the past three times I made a top ten list.  However, I have played just shy of 500 unique games so even a top twenty list is still less than the top 5% of all games that I have played.  Plus, my top ten list is really starting to solidify and there is not as many changes in years past, so going to twenty gives a better picture of the games that I love.  As always the list is in descending order for dramatic effect:

20.  Citadels
Back in 2009, when I first made a top games list, Citadels sneaked onto the list at #10.  At that time I had a much lessened exposure to board games than I do now, but Citadels as endured as a favorite (for perspective only 4 of the 10 games from that original list are still here).  Citadels is a game where players are building buildings in a city, but to do this they are selecting secret roles.  A lot of the game's fun comes from trying to figure out who has what role, and how that guess might be used to one's advantage and the opponent's disadvantage.

19. Ninjato 
This is a new game that came out last year, and when I made my top games of that year, I listed it at #5.  A few more plays has moved Ninjato further up the list, and into the top 20.  In this game players control a ninja clan and raid noble houses.  The game is extremely thematic and a lot of fun.  Players only get three actions a round, and there are only nine rounds.  This makes the game very tight and every decision a tough one. Plus, it has ninjas :)

18.  Manoeuvre
This deserves to be on the list because it is a war game that Abigail actually enjoys!  In this game, players control the army of one of eight countries.  Each army is represented by eight counters and an unique deck of cards.  This game really emphasizes maneuvering and using board position to dictate the flow of the game.   This game uses dice for combat as well, so the mix of luck from dice/cards and strategy is really good.
17.  Federation Commander
This is the most recent addition to this list, as I just played it for the first time in February but I think I love this game.  Federation Commander is set in a variant of the Star Trek universe and is a star ship combat game.  Each ship is represented by a counter and a sheet that shows systems, shields, engines, etc.  The game is all about energy management, so when a hit goes to the forward shields and drops them to 20% I can transfer power to the forward shields.  Even though it is all counters, dice, charts, and dry erase markers this game makes me feel like I am in the captain's chair and that is a blast.

16.  Last Night on Earth
At this point I have played A LOT of zombie games, and this continues to be the best one.  The game is made to play out like a zombie movie where four survivors try to do complete an objective, like rescue survivors, escape in the truck or burn out the zombies.  This game is very luck dependent, but it is also a lot of fun and tells a great story.

15.  Yomi
Last year I considered this my 9th favorite game, and the second best game made in 2011.  Yomi has dropped a bit, mostly because Abigail is "meh" on the game and I do not get to play it as much as it really should be played.  Yomi is essentially a card based version of a 2D fighting game like Street Fighter 2.  The neat mechanic is that players play cards at the same time and a Rock, Paper, Scissors like mechanic determines who hits.  The game has ten unique fighters who all play differently, and involves really trying to get into the opponent's head.

14.  Havana
In 2010 I listed Havana as my ninth favorite game, and in 2011 it got bumped back.  However, it is still one of my favorites.  Like Citadels, Havana is a role selection game where players are picking roles and building buildings.  However, in this game players will have two roles a turn, and at the end of each turn choose to replace only one of them.  This creates some interesting combos and a lot of trying to figure out what the other players are going to play.

13.  Glen More
This is a tile placement game where players slowly build up their own little corner of Scotland.  It uses a very unique way of determining whose turn it is.  It also has an unique way to do scoring.  I find this makes every game play differently and it is very tactical.   Having an overall strategy is good, but decisions need to be made and modified turn by turn.  Another big plus of this game is that it features real world locations, and Abigail and I have been to most of the castles and loches in the game.

12.  Agricola
In 2010 this was my 5th favorite game, and in 2011 it was my 7th favorite game and it continues to drop.  I like Agricola and I always have fun playing it, but I do not enjoy the thought of playing the game.  Agricola is a game of worker placement and farming.  It is also brutal, as there is never enough actions to do everything that needs to happen.  By the fifth turn in or so, I feel like the game is kicking my butt and I am going to get destroyed, but by the end of the game things have turned around.  Even if I do not win I feel like I have a working farm that only a few turns ago seemed destined for ruin.  This game is fun, but it is an emotional roller coaster.

11.  Core Worlds
I know this picture makes Core Worlds look like a mess of cards, and it kind of is.  This is a deck building game where players are going to acquire tactics, troops, and ships.  These are then used to conquer planets and build a space empire. However, players have a limited amount of actions per round so every round provides tough decisions as players balance building their deck, playing cards, and conquering planets.

10.  A Touch of Evil
A Touch of Evil continues to be my 10th favorite game.  I know that objectively there are mechanically better games.  This game still uses roll and move to get around the board!  It also has a lot of luck, and a strong dose of "take that" which can lengthen the game and lead to king making scenarios.  Despite that, I love playing this game.  The theme and narrative structure is so strong.  Every time I play this game I feel like I am taking part in an exciting and compelling story in a rich and engrossing setting.

9.  London
London also remains one of my top ten favorite even though its position has shifted down a little bit. London is a game of risk management and building London after the great fire of 1666.  Having an overall strategy is helpful, but making good decisions based on the context of the turn from round to round is just as important. I really like the card interaction in this game as well.

8.  ElfBall
This is the first of two new entries into my top ten favorite games.  Elf Ball is a fantasy (emphasis on fantasy) sport game about a sport that is kind of Rugby like.  The game is a simulation, played on hexes.  I love the back and forth of this game. There are over a dozen teams available for the game.  I have cardstock stand ins for all the teams, but the game is meant to be played with miniatures.  I have two miniature teams I painted for the game, and one of them is what is pictured.  I really want to get another team, I just have to find a reason to justify it.  My brother likes this game, and he likes the Dwarf team. . . .

7.  Small World
Small World is one of four games to be in my Top Ten all four years.  The game continues to be a blast to play.  In Small World, players score points by conquering territory with fantasy races.  Each race has a special ability, and they are also randomly assigned another special ability.  So one game the elves might be "Dragon Rider Elves" and the next they might be "Sea Faring Elves."  This makes every game feel very unique.  There is a new expansion for this game coming out this year that adds a randomly created board to the mix, and I think that will give this game even more possibilities.  

6.  Blood Bowl: Team Manager
This was my favorite game of 2011, and it is one of my favorite games period.  Blood Bowl uses cards to abstractly simulate a Blood Bowl (fantasy based football) season.  The winner of the game though is not the player who wins the most games, but has the most fans.  Each round provides exciting back and forth between the players.  I am not entirely sure what it is, but I love this game and I do not think I will ever get tired of playing it.

5.  The Resistance
When it comes to a group game, the Resistance is my absolute favorite.  In the Resistance players are members of rebels trying to take down an evil Empire.  However, the empire has infiltrated the resistance with spies who attempt to foil missions.  The resistance win if three missions succeed, and the spies win if three mission are foiled.  Everyone accuses everyone of being a spy and it is great fun!

4. Race for the Galaxy
This use to be our favorite game, but last year it was dethroned by Memoir '44, and this year it takes another step back.  However, it is still way up their on how much we like it.  Race for the Galaxy is a great card game that combines card synergy with role selection.  It has a great mix of strategy and tactics as well.  The game has a new expansion coming out this month, and we are anxiously anticipating getting it.

3.  Dominion
The above picture is out of date.  It use to be the picture of every card available in Dominion, but it is one expansion set behind.  Dominion is a deck building game where players start with a small group of cards and use those to buy more cards all with the idea of getting enough cards to buy high value victory point cards.  Of the cards available in the game, only ten are used at a time and the possible card pool as over 150 possible choices.  This makes the game just about infinitely replayable.

2.  Warhammer: Invasion
At this point Warhammer: Invasion is my most played game.  By the end of the summer I will probably have over 100 games played just in 2012.  In this game players take their own sets of cards and build decks to compete against each other.  The game offers six factions that play differently, and every game is full of interesting decisions.  I also feel like I am somewhat decent at this game.  Recently I competed in a Regional tournament and finished third.  Every month new cards for this game come out, and as long as they make them I will probably get them.

1.  Memoir '44
Memoir '44 continues to be my favorite game.  I just love everything about this game.  I love the way it scales to create a whole variety of WWII battles.   I love how the system uses command cards and dice to mix luck and strategy almost perfectly.  I love how the terrain tiles make it for new scenarios to be created easily.  I love how the expansions have added a ton of depth, new options, and replayability to the title.  Every time I play this game I have a blast, and it is easily the game I enjoy playing the most.  Memoir '44 is my favorite game ever (at least for this year).