TI-3 Storage

Twilight Imperium III is a favorite board game with our family.  Readers of this site have probably already figured that out.  We play with the Shattered Empire expansion as an integral part of the game.  And we have “tweaked” our components a little bit by adding extra colored dice sets.

Recently there was some discussion about how gamers store their copies of TI-3 and if they put the expansion pieces in the same box.  We do, and I realized that it would probably be helpful to provide some photographs of how I organize everything.  I also want to explain some of what I think are helpful ideas that we have incorporated into the storage strategy.  This helps with ease in setup.  Some hobbyists organize everything when a game ends to better prepare setup for the next game.  I’m one of those individuals.

Here we go.  Everything is inside the original box.

A look inside.  Obviously the original box insert has to be discarded to make this work.

The first thing you will notice is that there are Plano-style plastic organizers.  Notice that all the System Tiles, the large hexes, are stored on-edge alongside the larger storage organizers in front.  The instruction manuals for the base game and expansion fit easily off to one side.  I also store some self-printed materials, such as rules for a 2-player game variant, underneath the instructions.

With the instructions removed you can see that all the smaller cards are stored in the original holder from the base game.  Now you might reasonably be asking how that is possible since the expansion adds a substantial number of cards.  Where are all the extra cards?  More on that in a moment.

When the player Race Sheets, Wormhole Nexus tile, cards box and scoring track are removed, another storage box is revealed.

 

The storage box is obviously a smaller one and rotated crosswise in the box.  You might ask what the plastic bags are doing in there.

These are wooden cubes.  They are not part of the base game, of course.  When we play the 2-player variant (instructions can be found here), the pink and black wooden cubes are used to count “votes”.  These cubes came from an original Risk board game.

Here the box with just the 3 storage organizers and System Tiles is shown.

There are actually 2 of the larger storage organizers stacked on top of each other, on the left.  Here’s how I use the first one.

There are some interesting details here to learn about.  In this box there are 4 of the plastics color sets (green, orange, blue and red).  With each color set we added 4 sets of D10 dice.  We had some fun picking out cool dice colors that match the 8 fleet colors.  You can’t see the dice too well in the picture.  Here they are.

There are 4 of each color.  32 dice in total.  The black dice are from the original board game and we store those with the black plastic ship pieces.  The next set are a kind-of blueish-violet, for the blue fleet.  The red dice are for the red fleet.  The silver and brown marbled dice are for the gray fleet.  Green dice for the green fleet, yellow for yellow.  The marbleized purple is for the purple fleet, and the orange dice are for the orange plastic fleet.  Obviously you don’t need any extra dice, and certainly not so many colors.  But we love this game and having these cool dice just adds to the fun of playing the game.

Some of the extra cardboard chits are stored in 2 extra bins in this first tray.  Let’s look at the second large organizer and then discuss a little bit about how and why we have the game organized this way.

Four more plastic fleet sets are stored in here.  Grey, black, purple and yellow.

Remember that when playing TI-3 the player color is unrelated to the chosen Race colors and flags.  However, there is a technology deck for each of the 8 fleet colors.  For this reason we just store the technology decks within the same compartment as the related plastic fleet pieces.  There’s plenty of room for the fleet, dice and cards within each bin.  In some cases the cards are underneath the plastic, so not always easily visible.

There are 14 races available for play in TI-3, if you include the Shattered Empire expansion.  We use the remaining 14 smaller compartments to store these.  For each of the 14 smaller compartments we store the specialized chits, Home World Planet card(s), Trade Agreements and (if you have the expansion) the Race Specific Technology card.

Using this storage technique allows each player to easily find the pieces and cards they need for whatever color they have chosen, as well as all the Race specific components.  At least for this part of game setup, it’s relatively quicker.

Here is the third organizer.

The Trade Goods and extra Fighter and Land Force counters are stored in compartments as shown.  We put the Space Mines and Shock Troop chits in the same bin.  The Strategy tiles are stored in another bin.  Lastly, the Bonus Markers, Speaker Token, and 1 clear Glass Bead are stored in a bin.  We use the Glass Bead to count off game turns when playing the Age of Empires official variant from the rules.  Age of Empires variant is a house favorite and I think lends to more strategic planning by the players.  I recommend you give it a try if you are not familiar with this optional rule.

Everything fits in the original box.  It sits just a little bit higher when the lid is on.

Okay, if you’re a fan of the game, I hope this article gives you some good ideas if you are considering storage options for your own copy of Twilight Imperium III.

Have fun playing.

Haven’t Played Board Games in a While

It has been a while since I’ve posted a board game review here.  The truth is it’s also been a while since I’ve played any board games.  With family activities and work, and a trip to Cincinnati, Ohio to visit family, it’s been difficult to find time.

I did teach someone how to play Twilight Imperium III a few months ago, and managed to get a few other games played back in March and April.

However I did purchase a few games to add to the backlog, and I would like to take a moment and mention some of the great board game titles I’ve recently purchased, read about, or heard about in Podcasts.

Queen Games published “Chicago Express” in 2008 and I really enjoy playing this game.  Chicago Express is an update to the old board game “Wabash Cannonball”.  This version is produced with the usual high quality components and board that lives up to the Queen Games name.  The board is beautiful and has 3 little built-in dials you rotate as player actions are “consumed”.  The trains are painted wood and look great.  The railroad stock boards are thick cardboard.  The money is paper so if you end up playing this game a lot you may want to switch to poker chips.

This is a no-luck driven stocks and economics strategy game for 2 to 6 players.  You need to plan carefully and pay close attention to what every one else is doing.  Players don’t own a specific railroad company, instead they purchase shares in the 4 primary railroad companies (B&O, C&O, Pennsylvania and New York Central).  A fifth company, “Wabash” appears as the game develops.  As the players grow the railroad companies they invest in, adding connections while the trains head west towards Chicago, they compete to make the most profit by collecting dividends from the company stock.  There’s an auction component to the game because each player decides how much they want to pay for shares in companies as they become available.  Overall, I’m impressed with how much fun and interest this game generates in only about an hour playing time.  I’ve played it once or twice as a “practice or learning” game and then once in a four player game.  The rules are easy to learn and everyone had a blast.  This is one of the first games I want to see hit the table again soon.

This is a board game version of the family favorite card game Lost Cities, also designed by Reiner Knizia.  the board permits up to 4 players, which is a nice improvement over the card game.  Colors and artwork are similar to the original card game.  The game mechanics will be very familiar to fans of the card game.  There are a couple of interesting twists.  A player may optionally choose to begin an expedition counting down numbers instead of up, as in the card game.  Once a player chooses a direction, ascending or descending, for a given expedition, it cannot be changed.  That’s a nice change.  Players get wooden pieces that look a little like Indiana Jones characters.  There’s one large wooden character included per player too.  This is how the “double” investment concept gets applied in the board game.  Other new ideas in the game are artifacts and bonuses that are visible and can be seen along the expedition paths.

Lost Cities: The Board Game supports 2 to 4 players and finishes in about 30 minutes to an hour.  The board game runs longer that the original card game version.  If you enjoy the card game Lost Cities you’ll enjoy playing this board game version.

There’s an interesting back-story to the name of this game.  Essentially, Reiner Knizia designed this board game as a follow-on to his highly successful Lost Cities card game.  When the game was produced early last year in Europe, the publisher re-themed the game and called it “Keltis”.  The US publisher, Rio Grande Games, decided to stay with the name as designed.  In the mean time, before production completed on the USA version (Lost Cities: The Board Game), the re-themed version called Keltis won the prestigious German board game of the year award “Spiel des Jahres”.  So there was some controversy over whether the name should now be changed back to “Keltis”.  The SdJ award is a pretty big deal for board game manufacturers.  I’ve seen pictures of the game Keltis and admire it’s simpler board layout and shamrock green theme.  But I’m also quite happy with Lost Cities: The Board Game and how well it matches the theme of the original card game.

We’ve played the game a few times and have enjoyed it.  It’s easy to learn and lightweight, so it makes for a good opening game before the deeper stuff gets pulled out on a game day.

 

Okay, this game is fun, but silly.  It’s a lightweight “beer & pretzels” card game.  It’s based upon the card game “Fluxx”, so if you are familiar with it you know what to expect.  The game is chaotic and seems very luck based for whomever wins.  The game is for 2 to 6 players and takes only 30 minutes, although it can end much sooner.

I’m not a fan of Fluxx, but how can you resist the Monty Python theme?  The text on the cards and artwork is all very funny.  If you’re a fan of “Monty Python and The Quest for the Holy Grail”, you’ll have a blast as each card gets played.  In some cases there are cards where you have to recite lines of dialog from any Monty Python movie or skit.  Chances are that’s really easy to do.  I don’t play the game much, it’s owned mostly for the novelty.  And I purchased an extra copy for a friend of mine who’s a true Monty Python fan.

Awesome TV show, awesome board game.  Fantasy Flight Games, one of my favorite game publishers, produced this board game in 2008.  It’s a science fiction themed (obviously) cooperative game based upon the re-imagined television show.  You don’t have to know anything about the show to enjoy the game, but this game is dripping with theme.  If you loved the show you will enjoy how it feels to be playing this game.  Out of the box, it’s for 3 to 6 players aged 10+.  However, Fantasy Flight Games produced a free official rules variant, by the designer, that supports new cooperative modes as well as 2-player and solo play.

What makes this cooperative game interesting is that there can be more than one secret traitor amongst the players, similar to “Shadows Over Camelot”.  However, in keeping with the theme of the game, a human player can “switch on” and become a Cylon during game play, undetected by the other players.  This air of mistrust, intrigue and just overall feeling of dread and doom as the humans try to survive long enough before making it to Kobol is amazing.  What other game can you play where you get to say things like “Frakkin’ Toasters”?  Each player gets to be one of the key figures from the series: Tom Zerak, “Chief” Galen Tyrol, Karl “Helo” Agathon, Lee “Apollo” Adama, William Adama, Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, Saul Tigh, Laura Roslin, Sharon “Boomer” Valerii, and Gaius Baltar.

Love this game.  It does take about 2 to 3 hours to play, so keep that in mind.  The quality of the components and game board are first class.  The rule book is well written with many illustrations.  Overall this is a well done design and an excellent game to add to your collection.

“So Say We All”

 

You can’t discuss really hot recent games without mentioning Dominion.  This game came out last year and sold out in a hurry.  It’s a card game.  There is no board.  The game comes with about 500 cards.  It plays with 2 to 4 players and it plays really fast.  The rules are easy to learn.  Here’s the thing about this game:  It’s addicting.

Every player begins with an identical deck of cards that they alone use.  The only randomness is which cards from that deck they see in their first hand drawn.  As the game progresses each player buys other cards of varying power and capabilities and adds them to their own deck.  Different cards multiply and impact each other as the player tries to get a little “engine” going to generate money at first and then eventually victory points.  What makes the game so addicting is that after you complete a game you want to try again and experiment with other card building combinations and strategies.  The game comes with a lot of cards and provides enough variability to make this game fun even with multiple plays.  That’s a good thing too because when we play the game we’re always running several times through.  The game is only recently back in stock at the game stores and on-line.  It’s popular like Pandemic was last year.

I wouldn’t call this anything more than a lightweight and fast card game, but it is fun and plays very quickly.  And like I was saying, it’s addictive.

Another newer game that I have really been enjoying is “Race for the Galaxy”.  This is another card game.  It’s science fiction themed with great artwork on the cards.  Play is a little like “San Juan”, the card game version of “Puerto Rico”.  That’s not surprising when you consider the history of how this game was developed.  The designer, Tom Lehmann, was asked to design a card game version of “Puerto Rico” years ago, but before he was completed the publisher decided to go with the game that became “San Juan” instead.This game is remarkably refined, having gone through thousands of play tests over the years.  It’s for 2 to 4 players, and there’s already one expansion available that extends the player range from 1 to 5.  Another expansion is expected later this year that will increase the number of supported players to 6.  This is a very elegant design with some real potential for strategic play.  It’s a lot heavier than a game like Dominion, and takes about an hour to play.  The rules take a little time to learn.  The iconography on the cards takes some getting used to but once you “get it” you began to realize how clever the game mechanisms and mechanics really are.  It’s a well designed game.  My wife enjoyed it even after the first initial play.  I already own the first expansion, have the 2nd expansion on order, and will be purchasing the 3rd announced expansion when it comes out next year.  This is a fun game to learn and play and it plays great with even 2 players.

Board games I have purchased but not yet played

 

Genji is a game I ordered as soon as I learned about the theme and that it was to be pulished by Z-Man Games.  It’s for 2 to 6 players.  Genji is a game about Japanese poetry.  How incredible is that?  The players place upper and lower halves of Japanese poems laid out in a circle around some princesses you are trying to impress.  Players win points by matching poem designs to the specific interests of the princess they are trying to woo.

The cards in this game and components look great.  And I did a practice/learning game and am quite encouraged that this will be fun.  The theme alone is unique and compelling.

Ghost Stories is a new cooperative game.  Like “Pandemic”, it’s difficult to beat.  It’s for 1 to 4 players and again has excellent cards and components.  In this game the players are trying to defeat the spirit of Wu-Feng and his legions of ghosts as they haunt a Chinese town.  Game play is about an hour.  I have run through a practice / learning game of this and am eager to give it a go.  Game play takes about an hour.

Supernova is a board game I’ve had on pre-order for quite a while.  I love science fiction themed games with economics, empire building and space battles and this one looks like it has all those bases covered.  The game arrived a few months ago, and I’ve got it out to pour over the beautiful components and artwork designed by Mike Doyle.  It’s for 3 to 5 players and looks very cool to me.  I’ve only skimmed over the rules, so this one is still in the “queue” to be played.

Comment:  I have many close friends who are religious and quite comfortable with their faith.  My wife has a very strong spiritual foundation in her life.  In no way, by commenting positively about this controversial game, am I sweeping aside those who live by covenant and faith nor do I wish to offend or insult anyone.  It’s just a game and does nothing I would ever not tolerate–such as glorify the occult.  Opus Dei is a game for skeptics.

When I read about this card game I knew I had to own my own copy.  This is an atheist-themed game based upon the world of philosophy.  We ordered it on-line from a company in Denmark and it just showed up today.  The cards have descriptive text and artwork about famous philosophers and religious leaders (referred to as “fools”) as well as philosophy concepts.  When I read the description of the game to my wife she said, “Let’s order a copy.”  She studied philosophy in college and I studied philosophy of religions while in college.  Here’s the description about the game from the back of the box:

Opus Dei: Existance After Religion

 

This intellectual, entertaining and irreverent card game takes place in a universe without religion.  Players represent rival “Zeitgeists” (German, Time-Spirits) competing in a meta-battle of rational ideas to maintain ethics, morals and meaningful lives for all!  It takes no prior knowledge of philosophy to enjoy, as the gameplay is 100% strategic.

Each round a queue of potentially existing philosophers and scientists are lined up.  These humans are worth varying amounts of points, according to their intellectual status and magnitude.  It is then up to each Zeitgeist, in their turn, to add the best of them into their particular World by playing cards that can alter the order of the line.  The player with the most points at the end of the game wins!

It’s for 2 to 6 players and is supposed to take about 45 minutes to play.  There’s an interesting story going on about the title of this game.  Apparently the publishers of the game are in a legal battle with the catholic organization “Prelatura del Opus Dei” over the right to use the name.  The designers of the game selected the name based upon the book “The DaVinci Code”, thinking that this was a fictional organization.  Since then they realized they didn’t do quite enough research to know they would be offending a very real and powerful group.  It’s quite possible the publishers will have to change the name of the game if they lose the legal battle.

We haven’t played the game yet, nor even read the rules.  But from browsing over the cards it looks like it will be an interesting experience.  I figured I wanted to own a copy before it “disappears”.

Snow Tails is an Essen 2008 release from The Lamont Brothers.  These guys that did the cute little over-produced game “Shear Panic” in 2005.  It’s for 2 to 5 players and is a game about dog sled racing in the Arctic Circle.  I read a lot of good things about this game and even heard several really positive reviews in gaming podcasts, so I ordered the game a few months ago.  I’ve got one of the original release editions.  Since then I believe the publisher is making an updated version that should be available soon.  I did pull all of the components out and look it over.  The game comes with a number of cardboard track sections that you assemble for each of the dog sled teams will race.  From what I saw it looked like all of the tracks had some difficult sections to traverse, so I’m very interested in seeing how this game plays out.

There are a few games I am looking forward to owning

Two games I have on my “radar” are “Tulip Mania” and “Big City”.

“Tulip Mania” is a new design by video board game reviewer Scott Nicholson.  It’s supposed to be about the world’s first economic bubble market over December 1636 and January 1637, when the speculation and investment over tulips were hot.  Sounds like an interesting theme.

“Big City” is a Valley Games reprint of a classic game that’s been out of print for a while.  The art work will be by Mike Doyle, so that alone will garner some of my attention.  I don’t have either game on pre-order (yet) but am keeping a close eye out for when these titles will become available.

So there it is, an update to my games web site.  I haven’t been playing many games and hope that problem will be resolved in the month of May.  I have been purchasing games, and quite a few (some of which were described above) look very cool.  Once I get some plays in on some of these games I’m sure I’ll be posting a real game review or two.

Custom “Animeeples” for Agricola

One of the new board games that we like quite a bit is Agricola.  It’s not just popular with our family.  Agricola is currently number 1 at Board Game Geek.  That’s pretty amazing.

Something that a lot of fans of the game started doing is making custom farm animals from hobby clay.  They’re referred to as “animeeples”.  We’ve made some too.  It takes a lot of time, but when they are added to the game it just adds so much laughter and fun to the game play.  I’ve created a little web page with photographs of some of our custom made Sheep, Pigs and Cattle.  Check them out here.

Games That Are Popular With Our Family

Recently someone remarked that I was quite lucky that my wife loves to play certain board games.  In particular the heavier games were noted.

This got me to thinking and I compiled a quick list of games my wife prefer playing from our board game collection.  Yes, I agree, I am fortunate in more ways than one.

These are the games that are favored

Carcassonne

Long time favorite.  It plays well with 2 players and scales up easily.  It is actually capable of being played competitively.  My personal experience is that whenever I agree to a game of Carcassonne with my wife, I know it will be a challenge to win.  She excels at this game.

 

Ticket to Ride

This was the first Euro Game we ever played and still remains a favorite.  We’ve been playing with either the 1910 expansion, which adds more destination tickets and improves the cards size, or the new Switzerland map which is specifically design for only 2 or 3 players and makes a very competitive game.

Starfarers of Catan

This was also an early purchase and remains a favorite.  I really love the components and how the playing experience feels.  We often play the 2-player variant.

 

 

 

Power Grid

This game was the first “complex” Euro Game we owned.  It plays well at 2-player and higher.  At heart it’s an economics game where you need to maintain a strategic view on your spending yet most importantly watch how you spend and grow with each turn.  Great game.  Even though we own all the board expansions and the new Power Plant deck expansion (which we use all the time now), the original USA map is still our familiar favorite.

 

 

Lost Cities

Lost Cities is the well known “spouse game”.  This game is 2-player only, and it really is just a card game.  It plays fast and for some reason has a reputation as being favored by women.  I know whenever we play I hardly ever win.

 

Twilight Imperium III

This was the game that introduced us to large-scale deep themes.  It has many decisions you choose every turn.  It is such a wonderful experience because you can follow a military focus, political, or economic.  Yet, usually you cannot win with out balance to how you play.  The game takes about 3 hours for 3 players, and about an hour-per-player when you add more.  It’s one of those games that you never notice how much time elapsed because it gets you so immersed.  I am quite fortunate that my wife loves playing this game.

Gloria Mundi

This game is not as well recognized but we love it.  It works with 2 to 6 players.  The board and components are beautiful and every turn has agonizing decisions.

Conceptually, the game is about Roman statesmen fleeing Rome as it falls.  You try to make out better than your opponents before the Goth reaches and destroys Rome.

Tikal

Tikal is one of the “mask” games.  So nick-named because of the cover artwork and similar game mechanisms with “Java” and “Mexica”.  Tikal is the favorite of all three for us.  It’s another game with rich colors and components.

Tikal is a game for thinking on every turn.

Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery

Age of Empires is a board game named after the popular computer game.  It has a wonderful balance of too many optional decisions available every turn and paying close attention to what all the other players are doing.  The game always plays “tight” and is quite fun.

Pandemic

Pandemic is the new hot game released earlier this year.  It’s really difficult to find.  The first print run sold out everywhere quickly.  The second print run which is due to arrive at stores in June has already been sold out by distributors.  I’m sure another run will come soon.

There’s a reason this game is so popular.  It’s fun to play and plays in about an hour.  It’s a cooperative game.  All the players work together to defeat the game.  It’s difficult to win, but can be done.  The components and board are wonderful to see.  Every time I get a chance to introduce this game it is well received.  I was quite fortunate to find a copy at a local game shop the first week it came out, before all the popularity buzz made it rare to find.

I should write a review about this game.

Container

Speaking of reviews, I just did one on this most excellent game.  It’s a challenging economics game.  Container is hard to play and win.  I only wish there was a decent 2-player variant.

 

Escalation!

My most recent game review was about this quick fun-filled card game from designer Reiner Knizia.  Wonderful fun.

 

 

Puerto Rico

This game is the highest rated game on Board Game Geek.  It’s full of great decisions with every turn and even plays well with a 2-person variant.  For my birthday the year we bought this game, my wife and I played Puerto Rico 8 times in a row.  It plays like that.  when you finish a game you often wonder how another strategy might play out.

1960: The Making of the President

I’ve mentioned this 2-player game before and really need to write a review for it as well.  This game is also not as easy to find because of it’s recent popularity.  As unusual as it sounds, the game is about the USA presidential election in 1960 between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy.  The game plays well and is very engaging.  We love how it makes real for us the election process.  The game does a wonderful job of being fun as well as informative.  There are many cards included as part of the game, each card having a pertinent event and photograph from that era, with historical text.  I was pretty young when this election happened, but can see why they chose it for the theme of the game.  It is very competitive and feels so timely.

Ra

Ra is another favorite for us.  It’s another excellent design from Reiner Knizia.  We play the 2-person variant and it works well from 3 to 5 players.  With 4 players it’s really interesting.

Shadows over Camelot

Can you say Monty Python?  Actually, this is not a game about The Holy Grail, or at least not about the movie.  But the theme fits wonderfully.  This is another highly enjoyed cooperative game.  All players are Knights of Round Table and struggle against the game.  A most unique aspect of this game is that one of the players may secretly be a traitor working in the midst but against the other players.  Quite fun.

Cuba

This is another economics game and is themed around Cuba before the revolution.  The artwork is beautiful and there are many interesting game mechanics at work here.  I would do well to write up a review about this game as well.  It’s another family favorite.

Kingsburg

A recent addition to our games collection.  This game uses dice in an interesting way.  You roll them and select how you want the numbers on the dice faces divided amongst specific places on the game board.  Sometimes you decide how to place based upon what you see on your opponent’s dice.

 

Runebound 2nd Edition

I’ve written a review of this game before.  We enjoy playing this adventure game.  I enjoy that you can also play it solitaire when there’s no one else around.

 

 

World of Warcraft: The Boardgame

This is a huge expansive adventure game where two teams battle monsters on the board and not each other.  Yet they are competing against the opposite team.  It takes a while to play this game (about 3+ hours), and a really big table.  I was impressed how well the entire family enjoys diving into this one.

Ys

An interesting game with an interesting name.  I think you pronounce it like “ease”, like the word  peace without the letter P.  I substituted the wooden cubes that came with the game for glass gems.  Makes a much more attractive game.  This game has auctions and bluffing.  It’s unique and interesting to introduce to folks.

 

Warrior Knights

Love playing this game.  It’s got war, politics and religion.  I’ve written an extensive review about this game you can find in the archives.

 

 

Starship Catan

This is a 2-player game that’s themed in the same “universe” as Starfarers of Catan.  I think it can move a little slow and you need to have good memory to play this game well.  It is a game that my wife and I have played on quiet evenings.

Mission: Red Planet

Love the Steam Punk science fiction theme of this game.  It’s a blend of and area-control game with a little bit of special character powers like “Citadels”.  The game is about exploration and colonization of Mars.  The colors and components of this game are appealing for playing.

 

Nautilus

This is another science fiction themed game of exploration of the deep ocean floor.  Components and colors are wonderful.  I’ve mentioned this game before in a review.

 

 

Now, just to be clear, there are some games my wife does not like to play.  I like these games however.

Memoir ’44

Railroad Tycoon: The Boardgame

Mr. Jack

Hive

Arkham Horror

Chess

Robo Rally

Robo Rally, a game that I think is well suited for engineers and programmers.  My wife absolutely will not play this game.

Chess, I get to play this one with my son.

Mr. Jack is awesome.  It’s a 2-player game with bluffing and movement.  One person plays Jack the Ripper and the other player mans a team of detectives.  Here’s the interesting twist.  One of the detectives is Jack.  The identity changes with each game and is hidden from the detective player.  So Jack is trying to avoid being detected and the opposite player is trying to figure out who it is before times run out.  The game plays fast.  My wife didn’t enjoy playing because she thought it felt too much like Chess.  I can see that because you have to think at least 1 turn ahead.

Hive is an excellent 2-player game.  It also feels a lot like Chess and is wonderfully unique.

Railroad Tycoon: The Boardgame is total fun.  It’s a slightly simplified version of the highly regarded “Age of Steam”.  It’s a railroad game with pick-up and delivery of goods to cities.  We play this game once in a while as a family but my wife does not prefer it.  Funny thing too since she won last time we played.

Arkham Horror is a deep thematic game.  And you can also play it solo.  My wife actually picked this game out.  We play it once in a while but I have a lot more enthusiasm for it.

Memoir ’44 is a light war game.  It’s for two players and has excellent components.  It’s a modern card-driven game and plays quickly.  I play this one with my son.

Most Played Games

When I play Face-2-Face board games I keep a record of which games are played and on what days.  This helps me to know which games really are popular both over the short term and over a period of several years.  I’ve only started to log games played since June of 2005, so the history is not very deep.  However that was when I started to play the more modern games like Ticket To Ride.

So what do these stats show?  Here’s a list of most played games for me.

There are a few surprises in the list.  Lost Cities is a quick card game that my wife and I love to play, so that was not a surprise to see at the top of the list.  I play Chess fairly often with my son, although he never lets me play with a Queen.

 

Ticket To Ride is just a fun and popular game.  When just my wife and I play we can enjoy the game and complete it in around 20 minutes.  Ticket To Ride was also the first game that started this list so it’s been on the list the longest.  Carcassonne is a fine game and I’ve had it since I started to keep statistics, so it makes sense to be high on the list.

 

Starfarers of Catan is a family favorite and we’ve owned the game for almost as long as Carcassonne.  Power Grid is also a family favorite and was part of that initial collection of strategy games I purchased within a few months of discovering Ticket To Ride.

 

Hive is another quick 2-person game I play often with my son.  We usually take it with us if we are heading out for a dinner at a fast-food place.  Playing Hive while eating Taco Salad has become a favorite pastime.

 

Twilight Imperium 3 is a little bit of a surprise.  While I’ve owned the game since 2005, when it came out, I never played the game until March of 2006.  The rules were intimidating and I also knew it had a reputation of being a long game, so there’s was a belief that it would be difficult to find players.  Oddly enough this game became another family favorite and gets played pretty often nowadays.  29 game plays for a game that takes 3 to 4 hours is pretty amazing.  Our family sometimes plays this game every weekend.

 

Deflexion, now known as Khet, and Heroscape are both games I enjoy playing with my son.  So it’s no surprise to see these entries.

 

What about recently?  Here’s a breakdown of games played in the last 30 days.

Long-time favorites continue to get played.  There are some new entries in the list.

Tikal and Mexica are part of the “Mask” series of board games.  The series also includes “Java”, which I own but have yet to play.  That will be soon.  I really like Tikal.  it’s beautiful and thought provoking.  I find it plays well with 2 too.

El Grande is awesome and I hope to see more plays of this game soon.  I feel the same way about Around the World in 80 Days.

 

Twilight Imperium III Tutorial

I’ve been working diligently on a tutorial for Twilight Imperium III and it’s finally ready.  If you’ve been reading this BLOG you already know this is one of my favorite games.  However, I’ve found that it was really difficult to learn the game and there isn’t much in the way of help.

Without too much more explanation, please go see it.

TI-3 Tutorial

Playing Power Grid on-line at BSW

I much prefer playing board games in person with friends and family gathered around a table.  However, you sometimes want to play a game when opponents arenot easy to find or schedule.  The finest on-line board game playing site is BrettSpielWelt (BSW).  It’s a great place to meet and play from an extensive list of “Eurogames”.  And it’s all free.

Months ago I wrote and posted instructions for how to play Power Grid on BSW.  It occurred to me this weekend that I’d never made a BLOG entry about it.  You can find my on-line instructions here.  Mind you, these are not instructions on how to play the game, just how to play it on-line at BSW.

Have fun if you try it.  Beware, there are players on BSW that are very strong at this game and will quickly “put you in your place” if you do not have a good playing strategy.  There’s also a lot of friendly supportive players there as well.  BSW is a German games site and the dominant language spoken there is German.  But there are many people who speak English.  Being polite is a great way to make progress while learning.

I much prefer the stand-alone Java client over the web browser interface and recommend you download and install that tool when you play.

Have fun if you try it!

Favorite Board Game Podcasts

It seems that more and more I listen less and less to music while driving. And I can’t remember the last time I turned on the radio. I’ve always got either my iPod Shuffle or iPod playing something in one of the cars. Lately I’m listening to either movie soundtrack albums or Podcasts.

And Podcasts that interest me are either about board games or Lost . Oh, I listen to some tech Podcasts once in a while, but the board-gaming ones get the most “air time” while driving.

Recently one of my favorite board game Podcasts reached the 1-year mark.  Mark Johnson’s “Boardgames To Go ” is one of my long time faves. I’ve been listening to Mark since the beginning. Great content.

Another favorite is “The Dice Tower” . This podcast is also been going on for quite a while. I find Tom Vasel and Joe Steadman to be informative and entertaining. I’ve also been mentioned in the last 4 episode of “The Dice Tower” but not by trying. I accidently won one of their contests by discovering they had a Frappr map running and adding myself to their map. So imagine my surprise to be listening to a podcast about 2 weeks later when they announced the contest where you had to add yourself to their map and they they would randomly draw a winner – and then they drew my name as a winner. Made me laugh. And then I had some correspondence and even a voice mail with them about another topic. So I ended up getting mentioned in 4 recent episodes.

Board Game Babylon is also a favorite gaming Podcast for me. Sorry, I don’t have a capture of his site logo.

You can subscribe to these Podcasts in the usual ways. They’re also available as a free subscription from the iTunes Music Store

 

Take Time to Play Games With Your Family This Season

In spite of the harsh winter and hectic stressful nature of the season, or maybe because of all that, be sure to take some time out to enjoy actually being together with your family. The snow and cold will tend to bring you together indoors. Have hot chocolate and cookies ready and try a few board games.

I’ve been introducing “Euro-style” games to many new people in the past 2 months. It’s wonderful to see people, children and adults, sitting down together around a board game and learning there’s so much more to games than Monopoly, Sorry, Life and Trouble. Those are all fine games, but watch what happens when you introduce people to playing a game like “Ticket To Ride”. It always goes the same. Everyone is delighted and I always get asked where you can buy these games.

I’d like to take an opportunity to share my opinions about good choices for these newer style board games for first-time players and maybe even folks who haven’t experienced great board games in a while. While it’s natural to look at these games as excellent Holiday gifts (and they are) I also suggest you buy one or two for yourself and bring them with you when you get together with your family. Gather folks around the tables. They will remember how much they enjoyed the experience and the friendly banter and table-talk that happens when friends and family gather around a board game to play. It’s an excellent alternative to continuous television. Many of these games play in less than an hour. Some take 2 hours. A few take 3 hours. If your initial reaction is that this is a long time, consider how inexpensive an investment in time and money an excellent board game is for 2 hours of entertainment. And you can play again and again. It’s cheaper than a current run movie, takes less time and besides, you can talk.

Let’s get introduced to a few games first and then I’ll provide tips on where you can find these games. Here’s a nice list.

Ticket To Ride

or

Ticket To Ride Europe

2 to 5 players

45 minutes

Lightweight rules

Ages 8+

Publisher: Days of Wonder

 

This game is great. It won the German Game of The Year award in 2004. That’s a highly regarded award for family games. Whenever I introduce this game to friends and family someone always asks where they can buy it after having played it. It plays very fast. The rules are simple to learn, it usually takes 5 minutes to learn, and it’s very engaging. The game scales well too. It works well with only 2 players and plays quite well with up to 5 players. Ticket To Ride Europe is a later version of the game. The original Ticket To Ride uses a map of the United States and portions of Canada. The Europe edition uses a map of Western Europe. The Europe version has some rules changes and introduces new game elements (train stations and the ability to use ferry’s and tunnels).

Ticket To Ride plays well with children 8 years and older as well as adults. I’ve even seen great games played with adults and children competing.

The game theme is about making train connections between cities in the U.S. The artwork and pieces showcase a time back when Phileas Fogg attempted to travel “Around the World in 80 Days”. Players use colorful plastic train cars to show their city connections. There are no dice in this game. Instead, each player accumulates cards having different colored railroad train cars depicted on them. The colors of the cards are used to build routes on the game board. You have to constantly make the choices between adding to the collection of cards in your hand, connections on the board, or commitments to connect certain far apart cities via “Ticket” cards. In many cases there are a limited set of connections available between cities and each player makes decisions on when the best time to claim connections and score or build up more cards for future connections.

I find the original Ticket To Ride to be the better choice as a “gateway” game – a game for people new to Euro Games. So between the two I always recommend “Ticket To Ride”. But here’s the thing. If you buy only one game recommended in this list get “Ticket To Ride”.

Carcassonne

2 to 5 players

60 minutes

Lightweight Rules

Ages 10+

Publisher: Rio Grande Games (as of 2012, Z-Man Games)

Carcassonne is a unique experience for many people. The board is constructed with each player turn by placing terrain tiles. The pieces are well made and attractive. In addition to the game board tiles, each player also has a small collection of little wooden people which are placed on the tiles as the game progressed. The little wooden people are called “Meeple”. When a tile is placed to extend the board the player can optionally add a “Meeple” to that tile. If the “Meeple” is placed on the road it is considered a “thief” and will score when the road completes. When it is placed in a city the piece is considered a “knight” and scores only when the city is completed. You can also place Meeple in a Cloister as a “monk”. And finally a Meeple can be placed on the land around the cities as a “farmer”. How you place your tiles and Meeple contribute to your scoring.

This game is also easy to understand. Scoring is sometimes a little slow to learn, but the tile and Meeple placement is easily and quickly understood by new players. Recommended minimum age for this game is 10. I’ve seen this one played by adults and adults mixed in with children.

I often use this game as an introduction game as well. There are many expansion kits you can purchase for Carcassonne. Our family is so hooked on this game we have purchased every expansion pack that is available.

Carcassonne is a relatively quick and approachable game. We often play this game when there’s not a lot of agreement on game choices or available time.

Power Grid

2 to 6 players

2 hours

Heavyweight rules

Ages 12+

Publisher: Rio Grande Games

 

I think this game is flawless. It’s a little busy, with all the components and phases in each turn. But the game play is fantastic. The board is beautiful, having the United States on one side and Germany on the other side of the board. There are many interesting painted wooden pieces. Cards are used to represent the interesting power plants that a player may choose to purchase and operate. Gameplay is largely economic business.

Each player chooses to purchase a limited number of power plants, each using a specific resource for fuel (coal, oil, garbage, uranium, or wind/solar). The player also purchases the appropriate fuel from a clever resource market game design element. That gets interesting because costs vary as game play goes on and because of competing players trying to use the same resources. The players also build cities into their power grid and there are costs associated with which cities you choose to add and when the get added. Again, there are no dice. The randomness comes from the variations in the power plant market and whatever each other player is doing. It’s very well balanced. The player in last place has advantages that help keep all players engaged until the game ends. The winner of the game is often not known until the last or second-to-last turn. You win the game by have the most power cities in your grid.

Puerto Rico

3 to 5 players

90 minutes

Heavyweight rules

Ages 12+

Publisher: Rio Grande Games

This game has a really high reputation amongst serious strategy board game players. It has some very clever game ideas at work. Essentially, you are a plantation owner and you make economic choices about which crops you should grow and what kind of harvesting facilities and shipping you should perform. Of course the competitors are doing the same thing and in this game you really need to keep an eye on what the other players are doing too. There are a lot of interesting strategies you can try while playing this game.

It works best with 3 or more players but you can actually play a 2-player variant of this game. My wife and I play this game several times in a row.

Primordial Soup

3 to 4 players

90 minutes

Medium-weight rules

Ages 12+

Publisher: Z-Man Games

I love the colorful wooden pieces in this game. The humor in the artwork is fun. Each player runs their own little tribe of colorful amoeba. They struggle to survive, reproduce and evolve. There are cards in the game which represent the genes that a player’s amoeba have adapted. The cards are delightful in their humor and make for interesting game play.

Starfarers of Catan

3 to 4 players

2 hours

Medium-weight rules

Ages 12+

Publisher: Mayfair Games

The coolest thing about this game is the pieces. Each player gets a fairly large plastic rocketship. On that ship you attach rings to show how much cargo capacity your fleet has, engine boosters to increase speed, and blasters for better protection against space pirates. The general theme is that you are spaced faring players exploring and building colonies by taking advantage of the resources that individual planetary systems can provide. You encounter alien races and can establish trade relations with them. You also encounter space pirates which try to take away your cargo or damage your fleet.

It’s obviously a Science Fiction themed game. Our whole family enjoys playing this one. My only complaint about the game is that the large mother ships have fragile plastic rings where the booster engines get attached. It’s way too easy to snap these off. Fortunately the vendor has come up with a work-around. All you need do is contact them via e-mail and they will send you free of charge replacement booster rings that work great.
Update: I’ve been told that Mayfair games has started including the replacement booster rings with the game now.

Lost Cities

2 players

30 minutes

Lightweight rules

Ages 10+

Publisher: Rio Grande Games

This is a very quick and addicting 2-player game. It’s really a card game with special cards. I recommend this one as a game for parents as well as kids. Lost Cities is legendary as being an excellent game that wives excel at. Melissa wins this game whenever we play almost all the time.

The basic idea behind the game is that each player is working from the same deck of cards which represent a number of expeditions to discover lost cities. The expeditions are represented by graphics and color. Any one expedition must be run in numerical sequential order. And once you begin an expedition you must make a minimum amount of progress or that expedition will score negatively for you. Of course your opponent may be trying to complete the same expedition. And since you are both working from the same deck of expedition cards, you can see how this gets interesting.

Alhambra

2 to 6 players

45 minutes

Medium-weight Rules

Ages 8+

Publisher: Rio Grande Games

Alhambra won the “Game of the Year” award in Germany in 2003. It’s a bit like Carcassonne in that each player is laying tiles. But you are also purchasing the tiles from a market. There are cards of multiple kinds of currency and each player needs to use the correct combinations of currency types and amounts to purchase tiles.

The tiles are added to your own little layout of a garden. In many cases there are also outside walls on your tile pieces and these walls contribute to your scoring. However the walls also interfere with your ability to add tiles to your garden because you must maintain a path by which you can walk through your ever expanding garden without getting walled off.

Scoring is interesting. The player with the most of a certain colored garden tile gets the most points. Second place and third place can score too but in lower amounts. So each player buys the garden tiles that will connect in their garden as well as provides the larger collection of any type in the game to increase scoring.

Nautilus

2 to 4 players

2 hours

Medium-weight rules

Ages 12+

Publisher: Mayfair Games

This is another Science Fiction themed game. Each player is building an underwater research station. You use scientists and submarines to research and explore the ocean bed, looking for Atlantis and sunken treasures.

The colors and theme are fantastic for this game. Game time can be a little long but we’ve played it a number of times and really enjoy this game.

Arkham Horror

1 to 8 players

3 hours

Heavyweight rules

Ages 12+

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

This is a highly themed game. It takes place in the town of Arkham, Massachusets during the 1920’s. In the game monsters and mysterious creatures appear in and around the town and cause havoc. Each player plays the part of a detective, scientist, teacher or one of many other characters as they explore around the town and either avoid the monsters or take them on in battle.

A really unique feature of this game is that the players collaborate. You do not compete against each other. Each player is working together to destroy the monsters and keep Arkham from a high level of terror panic.

This game has taken 3 hours to play every time we have done it. The theme and artwork is excellent. You really do get a sense of doom and foreboding while playing this game. It’s a collaborative game where the players are working against the game and not each other. In fact, the players have to work together as a team to win.

Robo Rally

2 to 8 players

2 hours

Medium-weight rules

Ages 10+

Publisher: Avalon Hill

Robo Rally reminds me a lot of that TV show where the robots are put into a combat arena to survive. It’s also an ideal game for programmers, I think. Each player is given a small robot which is placed in the game board and several programming cards. Then in each turn the player decides which program steps, from the small random collection of programming steps he was dealt, his program will execute that turn. The robots have lasers for shooting at each other and can push each other off the board or into a pit. The board also has conveyor belts and lasers and rotating board squares to further complicate the player’s plans. Each player is trying to survive and race the other robots to specific flag squares on the board.

Not everyone likes this game. It generates an environment where the player must make critical decisions under time pressure. To succeed you need to be able to think of yourself standing on the board, oriented as your robot, to make the correct decisions about which way it should rotate, turn and move as the game plays. Nicholas and I love to play this game. Melissa does not.

Killer Bunnies

2 to 8 players

90 minutes

Medium-weight Rules

Ages 12+

Publisher: Playroom Entertainment

This game is card game. It’s fun and the theme is cute. And the truth is there’s an element of luck in who wins. But I’ve seen this game be fun no matter who ends up winning.

Each player has one or more bunnies they are trying to keep alive. The object of the game is for one of your bunnies to get the Magic Carrot at the games end. To do this you need to keep your bunny alive while destroying the bunnies of your opponents. The death of the bunnies is full of humor and outrageous weapons (Kitchen Whisk, Stray Lawn Dart, Nuclear Weapon). You also have cards that protect your bunny and sustain it’s life. The artwork on the cards keep the game full of fun and humor.

Our family got into a serious Bunny habit for a while there and played this game every night for several weeks. It really is that much fun.

Heroscape

2 to 4 players

60 minutes

Lightweight rules

Ages 8+

Publisher: Hasbro

This is a wargame played with pre-painted miniatures. The board is 3-dimensional plastic hexes and the painted figures look really cool. The figures represent each player’s army and consists of heros from all time. There’s an awesome looking dragon, Men In Black characters, Viking Warriors, Samurai Warriors, a real mix.

It’s pretty much a “boys game” and it’s quite fun to play. It’s also quite a deal cost-wise since the pre-painted miniatures would cost a small fortune with any other game. The large scale production of a company like Hasbro makes the cost reasonable.

The game comes with 2 sets of rules. A basic game can be learned in minutes but it’s not where the real strategy comes in. The more advanced rules set are easy to learn once you play the basic game a few times. There are numerous on-line scenarios and board layouts you can construct and a large array of expansion packs contains army men, robots from the future, and really cool looking Hell Hounds and a number of interesting dragons. You can also buy expansion packs that add stone bridges, roads, lava tiles and trees.

One piece of advice. Buy a large plastic tub to contain all the pieces after the game is removed from the box. It’s very difficult to get everything back in the original box, especially since you have to attach the wings to the dragon and they do not come off once attached.

Nexus Ops

2 to 4 players

60 minutes

Medium-weight rules

Ages 12+

Publisher: Avalon Hill

This is a Science Fiction themed war game. Each player controls an alien race of really cool looking day-glow colored plastic figures. The board is configured each time you play depending on how many players are in the game. There are cards to specify secret missions and cards that grant special abilities to your alien figures.

Formula De Mini

2 to 8 players

60 minutes

Lightweight Rules

Ages 10+

Publisher: Descartes Editeur

This is a smaller version of a French game called Formula De. There are multiple race tracks available and colored dice that represent the speed of the car as it races around the track. You up-shift to a higher gear when you want to move your car around the game board quickly and down-shift for the turns. If you mess up going too fast into a turn you can crash and fall behind the others.

Blokus

1 to 4 players

60 minutes

Lightweight rules

Ages 5+

Publisher: Euro World

This is an abstract strategy game with colorful plastic tetris-like pieces that each player places in the game board. You try to place your pieces to block in your opponents. It plays quick and Nicholas and I play this on some evenings for a quick game. There’s also a 2-player version of this game called Travel Blokus which is a smaller more portable size. We keep a copy of Travel Blokus in the car and sometimes play it while out at lunch.

Deflexion

2 players

20 minutes

Lightweight rules

Ages 8+

Publisher: self published

This is a unique game. It plays like chess and is only for 2 players. Each player moves their pieces around the game board and then activate real pen lasers to fire at their targets. Most of the pieces have mirrors on them so the laser bounces around the board before it reaches the final target.

There’s a neat story about how this game was created. 2 students at Tulane University developed the game with their mechanical engineering professor. They self-funded an initial 500 copies of the game with a grant from the National Collegiate Inventors & Inventors Alliance. They live in New Orleans and Katrina wiped out two of their homes. Fortunately the warehouse holding their new games was in Texas. Since introduction this game has been a success story for them.

Monsters Menace America

2 to 4 players

90 minutes

Medium-weight Rules

Ages 10+

Publisher: Avalon Hill

This is a fun little game that’s played with campy Science Fiction themed plastic monsters. Each player controls one monster that stomps across a map of the USA, destroying cities and monuments. The military is controlled by each player and will attack the other player monster.

It’s pretty campy. There’s a mechanism in the game that if your monster gets too weak it gets sent to Hollywood as a chained-up attraction. The parts are cool and the game-play is easy. I’m not certain this game would become a long time favorite but it makes for a fun and entertaining change of pace.

 


 

Final comments about these games and where they can be purchased.

Even though these games are classified as “Euro Games” or “German-style strategy games” they are not all imports. Ticket To Ride is manufactured by an American game company called “Days of Wonder”. In fact, Days of Wonder makes quite a few excellent games and I’ve never seen one that was not of high quality and design. Hasbro makes Heroscape. Avalon Hill is actually a division of Hasbro. And Deflexion is designed by some American college students and a professor at Tulane University.

With the exception of “Heroscape”, you probably will not find any of these games at your local department store or toy store. Target and Toys R Us carry Heroscape, and a number of the expansion packs too. Sometimes you can find the Avalon Hill (Robo Rally, Nexus Ops, Monsters Menace America) titles at Toys R Us. I once saw Carcassonne at a Toys R Us too, and I’ve read that some Toys R Us stores carry Ticket To Ride.

With a few exceptions, your choices are either purchase these games on-line or from local game hobby shops. I recommend you visit your local games hobby shop and look around. They always have a helpful staff and quite often the customers there are eager to help make choices and recommendations. Your local hobby games shop sells these games at retail cost, so you would pay a little more. But you get to walk out of the store with the paid game in your hands and you are supporting the local gaming hobby.

The easiest way to find these game hobby shops is go to your Yellow Pages or Yellow Book and search for either board games or comic book shops. Here in Omaha, quite a few comic book shops also sell Euro Games.

On-line you have many choices. My personal favorite on-line games store is Thought Hammer. Here is a list of a few I have used for purchasing games:

Thought Hammer

Time Well Spent

Fair Play Games

I’ve probably forgotten a vendor I’ve also used in the past. The on-line retailers that I’ve linked here are ones that I have used personally. They usually offer about 35% off list prices and have free shipping when your order gets large enough. I have found that customer service at these on-line stores to be very good.

Also, the game vendors that I have dealt with so far (Rio Grande Games, Fantasy Flight Games, Days of Wonder, Mayfair Games) have excellent customer support. Sometimes you break a game piece or lose one. Sometimes something was accidently missed in the original box. You can often contact them via telephone or e-mail and get replacements pieces, in many cases for free.

One other thing. These games often have lots of components. Have some re-sealable bags handy for dividing up the parts before storing them back in the box. It makes beginning the next game so much faster.