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I decided to skip seeing Lewis Trondheim at Bergen St Comics, and went to NerdNYC boardgame night. Here’s what I played:

Rise!
Simple two-player game. Each player gets to take two actions per turn, which is the primary constraint on the action. We didn’t even bother finishing the game out when it became obvious that I’d win and there was no way for the other player to catch up. There are expansion rules that might make the game more interesting, but we didn’t use them.

Pandemic
Pandemic’s been around for a while, but this is the first time I’ve played it. Players cooperate to defeat a disease-ridden planet. We almost won, curing three out of the four diseases. This was fun; I’d play it again.

Zooloretto
I’ve played this one a few times, and been doing pretty well at it recently. I miss the speed and simplicity of Coloretto; maybe I should buy a copy.

I also saw a group playing the new anniversary edition of Puerto Rico. Fancy! Metal coins, redesigned pieces, new artwork.

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Been a while since I talked about boardgames, hasn’t it? I’ve been getting my fix at the monthly NerdNYC boardgame nights. I’ve played a couple of new things:

Eminent Domain
I’ve played this a couple of times. It’s a space-themed deck-building role-taking game, like a cross between Race for the Galaxy and Dominion. The innovation is that each time you take a role, you gain a copy of the card for that role. Also there are neat little plastic spaceships.

Quarriors!
Another deck-building game, but with dice instead of cards! You get a bag of dice with various symbols on them, and at the start of each turn you pull out six and roll them, generating “quiddity” (magical power) that can be used to summon creatures or buy new dice. Your creatures go out and fight other players’ creatures, and if they survive to the start of your next turn, they score victory points for you, and let you cull unneeded dice from your collection. We played this twice today, and while the first game took about an hour and a half, the second (once we all knew how to play) took just 45 minutes (and I won).

Eminent Domain seemed pretty tight, by which I mean various strategies became apparent as I learned the game, and it seemed like there was a clear link between success and strong play. Quarriors! seemed less so. There was a high luck element, and the strategic connections among dice were less clear than those among, say, Dominion cards. One of the discussion threads on BoardGameGeek claimed that there were some optional “expert” rules in an upcoming expansion that tightened up play: Allow the purchase of two dice per turn, and require that the scoring creature be culled.

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Treasures uncovered while looking for the gesso:

  • A pack of a dozen 4×5-inch canvas panels, pre-primed, ready for painting.
  • A small desktop easel.
  • An old AOL bisk tin, filled with colored glass aquarium stones, of the type gamers use to track various game resources (hit points, Fate points, etc).
  • My copies of four games from Cheapass Games’ “Hip Pocket” series: Light Speed, Agora, Nexus, and Steam Tunnel.
  • The power supply for my old Belkin seven-port USB hub. I now have all of its pieces in one place! And no strong need of it.
  • My copy of Asterios Polyp, which I still haven’t read.

Treasure still to be found:

  • The gesso.
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Friday night, I went to my first NerdNYC Board Game Night. (I’d previously been to one Recess, back when it was held in Brooklyn.) Got there about 20 min after things started; it was pretty full, not much table space, the well-lit tables occupied by people playing long games. I found a few people setting up a game of Condottiere (did pretty well, but didn’t win), and after we finished that we played Guillotine (kicked everyone’s butts), and then I chatted with [livejournal.com profile] matt_rah for a bit, then went home. Next time I’ll make an effort to get there early and grab a good spot.

Saturday night, [livejournal.com profile] bugsybanana and I went out to see True Grit, the recent Coen brothers version. (Neither of us has seen the John Wayne version.) It’s got great dialog and great hats, just like you’d expect of a Coen bro’s movie.

Sunday we met up with Sumana (who I’d run into at a few geekish gatherings before, and wanted to get to know better) and her husband Leonard (who I’d never met before) for lunch. We chatted about books, comics, and insurance fraud, and stopped off at City Bakery for astonishing hot chocolate.

Monday looks like it may be as warm as 50°F, so I may actually leave the apartment for its own sake, rather than shopping or some other specific outside-oriented goal.

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Our apartment building has a recurrent problem with leaks. As one of my neighbors joked, leaks are how we meet each other.

Tonight we discovered a leak in our bedroom, and I went upstairs to tell the guy above us about it. Turned out his bedroom ceiling was leaking, too, so we both went up another level to some neighbor I hadn’t met before. I knocked on the door, and then again, louder. Between the knocks I could hear someone talking from inside: “If you roll a seven, you get to decide who the robber attacks.” So when the door opened I introduced myself with “Sorry to interrupt your Settlers of Catan game, but…”.

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Nobody brought Dominion! Nobody brought Race for the Galaxy! What were we going to do?!

Wasabi
When I got there most of the attendees were already starting a game of Agricola, which I don’t really like. There was one other excluded player, so we grabbed [livejournal.com profile] mnemex’s copy of Wasabi and gave it a spin. And it was fun!

The first thing we noticed, unpacking the game, was that Wasabi has great physical bits. The board, tiles, and action cards all have bright, attractive artwork, and the tiles are on nice, thick stock; the screens that hide your recipes from the other players are done up to look like restaurant menus; and there are even little soy-sauce bowls to hold the wooden wasabi cubes.

The game itself has each player trying to complete recipes by placing ingredient tiles down on the board (which looks like a sushi mat). If you’ve got a straight line of ingredients that matches one of your recipes, you score it, and put a point marker on it. If all of the ingredients are in the same order as shown on the recipe card, you’ve completed it “with style”, and you get some wasabi cubes (bonus points). Recipes vary in length (number of ingredients), from two to five, with longer recipes being worth more points, and shorter ones being easier to complete.

Completing a recipe also allows you to pick up an action card, which can be played later to let you do something interesting: Spicy lets you lay down two ingredients in one turn, Stack lets you a tile on an existing tile, Chop lets you pick up a tile that had been laid down earlier, Swap lets you exchange the contents of two adjacent squares, and Wasabi lets you freeze up a four-square section of the board (and earns you a wasabi cube). This means that having a 2-length recipe around that you can complete easily can earn you the action card that you need to finish one of your longer recipes.

The game can end in one of two ways: If the board fills up, the game ends, and the player with the most points wins. (Empty squares blocked by Wasabi cards count towards filling the board, and I won a game by blocking off two big empty regions when I was ahead.) Or, if one player completes ten recipes, the game ends and that player wins regardless of points. However, you can only complete recipes for which you have unused scoring markers of the appropriate length, and you get four 2-lengths, three 3-lengths, two 4-lengths, and one 5-length, so you can’t just dash out ten 2-length recipes for a quick victory.

We played three games, with two, three, and four players, and the four-person game was the toughest, with a really tight endgame where one player managed to score a last-minute recipe against everyone else’s expectations and pull off a surprise victory. Still, it felt like there was a large and frustrating element of luck to it.

I’m seeing a few variant ideas on the Boardgame Geek discussion boards:

  • Any player can remove a Wasabi card from the board on their turn, at the cost of one wasabi cube.
  • Any player may pay two wasabi cubes to pick up an action card at the end of their turn.
  • Any player who plays the Wasabi card has to eat a spoonful of actual wasabi!

Ingenious
Ingenious is a club classic, one of those games we find interesting enough that you can almost always find people to play it, but not so interesting that we play it when there are better options. We played two 4-person games, but for the second one we played in teams, which I’d never done before. This was good, but a little frustrating.

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I just played a few games of Dominion on BrettspielWelt, and saw some cards I hadn’t seen before:

Upgrade
+1 Card, +1 Action. Trash one card from your hand to gain a card costing exactly one more. Cost 5.
Nobles
Either +2 Actions or +3 Cards, your choice. Also, worth 2 Victory Points at game end. 6 cost. (The interface for this one on BSW is a bit weird. You have to click on the card image in the play area of the window.)

From this, I assume the expansion set is out, or close to it. BoardgameGeek says the new set is called Dominion: Intrigue, and it can be played as a stand-alone, without the original. It’s got a full set of Treasure and Victory cards, 25 new kinds of Kingdom cards, and rules for playing with up to eight players.

I see on the BoardgameGeek forms that there were copies at Origins, so I expect [livejournal.com profile] mnemex has already picked one up. There’s some discussion of the new cards here, and here are descriptions of 11 of the cards, but I don’t see a comprehensive list with full descriptions.

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I started An Evil Guest, Gene Wolfe’s latest, on the way to Games Club yesterday. (Oh, lost a lot of games of Race for the Galaxy and Dominion.) Here are things I’m noticing as I go; page references are from the first Tor hardcover:

Here's your spoiler-cover )
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Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm is here! I mean, literally, I just picked up a copy at the Complete Strategist this afternoon.

What’s in the box?

  • Pieces for a fifth player — turquoise action cards (seven regular plus the two extras for a two-person game) and 12 points worth of victory chips.
  • Four new starter worlds, bringing the total to nine, including:
    • Damaged Alien Factory, an alien production world that requires you to discard a card to produce.
    • Doomed World, which is worth -1 victory points, but you can discard it to settle a non-military, non-alien world for free.
  • A new version of the Gambling World card to replace the old one, I guess with a new table to reflect the new card distribution. I think they’ll have to do this for each expansion.
  • A third copy of the Contact Specialist development.
  • 18 more new world and development cards of various types, including:
    • Improved Logistics, a development which lets the owner settle a second world in the Settle phase.
    • Imperium Worlds, a 6-cost development which lets you draw a card in the Produce phase for each military world in your tableau.
    • Space Mercenaries, a development that lets you discard up to two cards from your hand for +1 temporary military strength per card.
  • Goal chips, which give you extra victory points for being the first to meet some goal, or having the most of something.
  • A set of components for solitaire play! This playmat, chips, and pair of custom dice let you automate the actions of an abstract robot player, against which you can play the two-player version of the game.
  • A bunch of blanks for designing your own cards, including a contest blank you can send in with your best card idea for possible inclusion in a future expansion. Sadly, the printed deadline is this Saturday. Since the set just shipped this week, I expect they’ll somehow publicize an extension.
  • Rules for a “drafting” variant, where players (after seeing what their starter worlds will be) divvy up the deck to each create a personal deck to draw from.

This review on BoardGameGeek has photos of most of the new stuff, and describes the solitaire game. I’ll be bringing my copy to the party on Friday, and up to [livejournal.com profile] cthulhia’s on the weekend. (I’ll leave the solitaire stuff at home, though.)

Recess

Sep. 7th, 2008 01:43 am
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I’ve been hankering for more gaming in my life, so when I heard that NerdNYC was having a gaming get-together within walking distance of my home, I couldn’t miss out. (Though I didn’t actually walk, since it was raining.)

I played one game of Jungle Speed, a tense twitch game that relies on fast pattern-recognition skills. I’ve played it before at GC. I came maddeningly close to winning at one point, then fell way behind.

Then I got into a couple of games of Incan Gold, a quick, simple game with a treasure-hunter theme (and step-pyramid art, though I don’t think the Incans were pyramid builders). Players explore a tunnels as a group, with each player having the opportunity, at the end of each turn, to either press on or return to camp. Returning secures your existing treasure, and might let you scoop up more on the way out, but bars you from further gains in that tunnel. Pressing on gives you the opportunity for further treasure, but risks losing it to a random hazard card. There’s a strong chicken aspect to the game. It supports up to eight players, and I think it’s better with larger groups.

For role-playing, I signed up for what is probably [livejournal.com profile] cadhla’s ideal dream game: The PCs were all Disney characters, living in Kingdom Hearts-style linked worlds, when the zombie apocalypse hit. ([livejournal.com profile] bugsybanana says that for it to be truly Cadhla’s perfect game, it would have to smell of pumpkin spice.) We started out holed up in Scrooge McDuck’s money pit, and wound up heading to the setting of Aladdin to get the genie’s lamp and end the plague. I played Huey Duck; the other PCs were Scar from The Lion King, Mulan and Mushu, Sally from The nightmare before Christmas, Clayton from Tarzan, and Gonzo from The Muppet Show.

The really odd thing about this game was the resolution mechanic, which involved pulling a piece from a Jenga tower to do anything dangerous or interesting. If the tower collapsed, your character died. This only happened once, near the end of the session, but for a good half the game the tower was really intimidatingly skeletal, and we all eyed it warily as we weighed our options.

It also occurred to me that you could use this mechanic for a really tasteless game in which the PCs are firemen trying to evacuate the WTC on 9/11.

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Via [livejournal.com profile] jimhenley, here's the table of contents of Green Ronin's book Hobby Games: The 100 Best. Titles I own (or have owned) are in bold, titles I've played are in italic, titles I've both are both:

Big long list )
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It’s been a few months since I posted about new games at Games Club. I think we fell into a habit of playing mostly old games for a while, and then bugsybanana and I skipped going for most of this summer’s exile period. But now, here, some games that were new, or at least new to me, from this semester:

Maharaja
I barely remember this now; we played it back in September. It involves moving around a board building palaces, with money generated at the end of each turn based on what you’ve got in a particular city, and it costs money not just to build houses and palaces but also to move your architect token around the board. First player with seven palaces wins. Challenging, but we haven’t played it again since.

Clans
A pretty simple movement-based game. I’ve played it a couple of times now, and while it’s not great, it’s pretty simple and doesn’t take long to play.

Arkadia
I’ve played this twice, and both times came in second one point behind mnemex. It’s a pretty good game based on construction, worker placement, and earning colored seals which have varying values. One of the challenges is that you have only five opportunities to cash in your seals for victory points, and you get to choose when four of those happen (the fifth is at the end of the game), and have to time them for when the seals you have are at maximum value. But those cash-in phases are also the only way to get the workers you need to earn more seals….

Race for the Galaxy
Race for the Galaxy is a new game (just shipped a couple of weeks ago) based on the original design for San Juan, and incorporating more elements from the parent game, Puerto Rico, like exchanging goods for victory points. It’s about as complicated as Puerto Rico, though it seems more intimidating because of the variety of strange little icons on the cards, but it plays faster. We played it four times in five hours last night, and that included learning the rules and explaining them twice.

Like San Juan, it’s plays pretty quicly and is easy to set up. Like Puerto Rico, it supports more strategies — not just a shipping strategy, but multiple build strategies. Because play within a phase is simultaneous, you’re not screwed if the player to your right is following the same strategy you are, as you are in Puerto Rico.

I’ve got one big complaint about the card design: The card titles are printed in black, on top of a dark gray gradient. But the title is the least important part of the card, so it’s not that big a problem.

Update: One of the developers posted a “periodic table” of the cards. (That’s the large version. You need to be a member of BoardGameGeek to get at the super-large version.) A few observations:

  • Military worlds make up a bit more than a third of the total set of world cards (23 military to 41 non-military). It didn’t feel that way when I started with New Sparta, tried to follow a military strategy, and only drew two meager little military worlds all game.
  • There are more blue production worlds, and fewer blue windfall worlds, than any other color:
    • Blue: 9 production, 5 windfall (14 total)
    • Brown: 5 production, 7 windfall (12 total)
    • Green: 4 production, 7 windfall (11 total)
    • Yellow: 2 production, 6 windfall (8 total)
  • Also, blue and brown have a smaller proportion of military worlds.
  • And there are 17 uncolored worlds.
  • There are 12 6-cost development cards, out of 31 development cards in the deck, but that doesn’t count duplicates.
  • There are 14 cards that increase military strength.

(Earlier posts about boardgames.)

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“The name of the game is Ball Buster!”

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Another new game at GC last night: Carcassonne: The Discovery, a great addition to the Carcassone series. It’s a simpler game than most in the series — three terrain types (grasslands, seas, mountains), plus one feature (cities), and that’s all you have to keep track of on the tiles.

The big innovation is the scoring rules. Scoring’s not automatic in Discovery. Each turn, after you place a tile, you can either place a follower or take one up. If you take it up, the feature it’s on scores points for you — full value if it’s complete, half value (usually) if it’s incomplete. Any followers left on tiles at the end of the game do score automatically, but count as incomplete even if they really aren’t. And you’ve only got four followers to work with, so your resources are much tighter than in most Carcassonne games.

It plays pretty quick, too. Even though there are more tiles than in original Carcassonne (84 instead of 72), we played two games, both with most players having never played before, and they both went pretty quick.

I also got into a game of Attribute (still fun, a good, simple social game), and a bit of late-night Falling.

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Played something new at GC today: Thurn and Taxis, a game about building mail-delivery routes in 17th century Europe. There are territories of various sizes and colors, and cities with roads connecting them, and you build routes by playing cards. When you score a route you place houses of your color in the cities you connected — either all the cities of one color, or one in each color. You can score bonus points by having houses in all the cities of a color region, but also by having at least one in almost all the regions. Building long routes also scores you bonuses. One clever touch is that the bonus chips are stacked with the highest bonus points on top — first player to get all the purples scores 3 points, the next only gets 2, etc.

Having read The Crying of Lot 49 didn’t really help me any. I did start out strong, grabbing a 7-spot route and the 3-point purple territory chip, then the 5-point gray chip, early on, but having specialized in colors left me with fewer options late in the game, and two other players caught up. The scores wound up 19, 18, 18, 13, with me as one of the 18s.

Also played a two-player game of TransAmerica, which turns out to be better with more people. And I pulled out my DS and played a couple games of Meteos, which I picked up last night instead of buying a Wii.

I also picked up Brain Boost: Gamma Wave last night, hoping I’d like it more than Brain Age. The Brain Boost line of games is supposed to train your mental abilities, but each game develops a particular skill. Beta Wave trains concentration, but I figured I can already concentrate pretty well when I’m interested in something. My memory is slipping as I get older, and that’s what Gamma Wave is supposed to help. And eventually it should turn me into this guy.

Games Club

Nov. 11th, 2006 03:51 pm
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First up, there was Martian Coasters, since [livejournal.com profile] mnemex just got a copy. I hadn’t known it was out yet (so new, the Looneys haven’t even bothered to devote a page to it on their website), so I’ll pick up a set. We played a couple times, and it was fun, if kinda random. Then we played a game of regular Treehouse, which was even more random — the guy who spent the whole game unable to make any moves on his own pieces won with a couple of moves at the end.

Then a game of Hacienda, which was great. This is one of those complicated resource-management games that serious boardgamers like so much. I did decently in the first half with my one-big-chain tactic, but I’d neglected the rest of the board so much that I was largely shut out of the big scoring opportunities in the second half. The big winners were people who’d gone for a lot of markets.

Then I noticed a mancala set on the table, so [livejournal.com profile] bugsybanana and I played a few games.

Then a bunch of us watched videos on YouTube. Y’know, The Daily Show used to be funnier than it is now. Too many of the current cast members are too willing to break character and go for cheap laughs. It was better with people like Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell, who could play their parts with straight faces. Here, check out these clips of “Even Stehpven”, the show’s old parody of point-counterpoint acts.

Games!

Oct. 31st, 2006 09:25 pm
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Just received from FunAgain.com:

  • Warp 6 — I was expecting this to arrive in a tube like [livejournal.com profile] ebartley’s copy, but this came in a flat plastic case that’ll actually fit in my shoulder bag.
  • Verräter — Finally!
  • Fluxx 3.1 — I slightly resent that they dropped an Action card (“I Need a Goal”) from this edition in favor of an advertisement card.
  • Two sets of Fluxx Blanxx
  • A Treehouse set

And last week I played The Settlers of Catan Card Game for the first time. I fucked up my opening card draw, which screwed me over for a lot of the game (just like the original boardgame!), but I did manage to do better than either I or my opponent thought I would.

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Today was winning day for me at Games Club. First up: Blokus Trigon with three people. This is a bit trickier than regular square Blokus, the blocking tactics a bit less obvious, and that fact that you can use flat sides as corners seems somehow like cheating. (The rules suggest forbidding that as an option, but we haven’t yet played that way.) This was only my second game, and I managed to place all of my pieces.

Then we played King’s Breakfast, a simple card game with a neat, simple, tension-causing design. The deck contains cards representing seven foods, fifteen identical cards each. At the start of each round cards are dealt out face-up, and each player takes all there is of one food, or draws a single card from the face-down deck. Any leftover food goes to the king’s table. There are also five dragon cards, each of which can remove two cards from the king’s table. At the end of the game, you score for each of the foods: number of that food you have times the number the king has unless you have more than the king, in which case you score nothing for that food.

It’s supposed to be a memory game, since your card collection is kept face-down so you have to just remember who’s taken a lot of chicken or cheese, but the first game we played with everyone’s cards face-up, and the random element kept it fun. You might want to try playing it that way your first time, or with younger players.

MechaTon!

May. 23rd, 2006 10:03 pm
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So it looks like I may be developing a new addiction, or relapsing into an old one: Lego! Vincent Baker (of Dogs in the Vineyard fame) has come up with yet another game, this one a tabletop wargame with do-it-yourself miniatures — MechaTon. He posted the alpha version of the rules a while back, but more recently has kicked them into something more final. Unfortunately, those final rules haven’t been all gathered into one document yet; they’re scattered across a bunch of posts in his blog, and I suspect some may not have been written down yet at all.

But that’s not gonna stop me from indulging my inner eight-year-old and putting together some Lego mechs! Best part is, I can design them in a specialized Lego CAD environment without having to buy the bricks till I know just what I need. (Though I have bought a few small, sub-$5 sets.) Here are my first couple of designs:

This first one isn’t complete — I don’t know what sort of weapon to put in that left arm yet. But with those rocket-studded wings, this clearly gets two green dice for movement.
Cobalt Blitz Mk 1

Second mech )

So, once the final rules are published, I’m hoping enough CUGC people are interested that we can get a game together. Vincent explains his process for buying a mech here (design in a CAD program, list the parts, order from one of the very many online Lego vendors that sell individual bricks). As far as the CAD programs go, LeoCAD runs on Linux and Windows, and Bricksmith on MacOS X.
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hermit crabTonight’s Games Club in Exile broke up pretty early, a bit before midnight. OK with me, I might make a habit of heading home early and not throwing my sleep cycle way off every weekend.

I skipped out on the Rail Tycoon game, intimidated by the massive board and a bit sleepy and wanting some drawing time. After that was done, I got in on a game of Blokus. A few weeks back I saw an essay on Blokus strategy, suggesting that the best four pieces to open with are the N, Y, T, and Z pentominoes. I tried it at the next opportunity, and won my first four-person game. Tonight I tried it again, and not only won, but placed all my tiles! Actually, in both cases, the first three pieces I played were from that set, but the fourth was not, chosen instead to fit the particular circumstances of play.

I’ve also started examining my opponents’ stashes of remaining pieces, and planning blocks based on what they can no longer play.

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