Boardgames for the Fall Season of 2007

Gaming has been scarce this Fall.  Having a teenager around the house and work related activities have been priorities for attention.  Things are well, it’s just that writing about board games has taken a “back seat”.  I haven’t played a lot of board games in recent months either, but there have been some really neat new games to talk about and few old favorites.  So here goes…

1960: The Making Of The President

This is by far the best new game I have played in this past year.  It’s a real gem.  It’s a 2-person only game and can be played in about 2 hours or less.  The game recreates the Presidential election between Nixon in Kennedy in 1960.  The board is beautiful and there’s excellent quality components.

Now you might think that a game about an election would be boring.  But the theme shines through.  There are cards used throughout the game that teach or remind about the very close national election of 1960.  The pictures on the cards are wonderful to look over and they play directly into the theme of the game.  Essentially, one player plays the Nixon campaign and the other player Kennedy.  You make choices throughout the game that will improve your standings on any one or more of the 50 states.  You can also place emphasis on issues of the day.  And you can spend resources on media marketing (radio, TV, newspapers).

As you play you try to gain the advantage in states having enough electoral votes to win at the end.  The last turn of the game, where electoral votes are counted up feel so realistic, it’s just fun.  And all too often the game is very close, just like the real election was in 1960.  There’s no guarantee that either player will win and the theme and built-in history lesson is fantastic.  I really love playing this game.

It takes a little while to play the first time through, and truly neither player has a good sense for strategy.  But after a while it just clicks and you want to try it all over again.  Of course, your opponent feels the same way and once again it’s a tight election night.  Highly recommended.

Thebes

A wonderful nicely themed game about archeology.  Essentially you play an Indiana Jones-like character, visiting important sites around the world.  There’s an interesting game mechanic that accounts for elapsed time that makes for a fairly fun and fast play.  The game is again highly thematic and the components and board are absolutely beautiful.  This game handles up to 4 players.

Cold War: CIA vs KGB

This is a quick and fun 2-player card game.  Seems like lately I’ve been digging games with an historic theme.  This is a card game where each player has spies of one type or another, each competing against each other to give the highest influence over a given series of events.  There’s high level of analysis and bluffing possible and a bit of luck.  Each round a player is trying to gain just the right amount of influence without going too far and creating political unrest in the target country.  One of the really cool twists in the game is that a player can sometimes choose the Master Spy as their in-play agent.  The Master Spy causes you to want to lose the round.  Only the other player doesn’t know that so there’s this whole game mechanic regarding wondering what the other player’s motives actually are with the round.  It’s quite fun.  We play this sometimes at lunch.

Niagara

One of the most interesting features about this game is that you play it using the box.  The box halves are inverted and placed on the table.  Then the game board is placed on top.  The board itself hangs over one edge where the Falls are.  Each player is manipulating 2 little wooden boats up and down the river above the falls and obtaining gems of different colors from the shores.  Of course, your boats shouldn’t go over the Falls.  Each player can take an action to change the speed of the river current, which impacts all boats.  This is a good family game and is fairly light and fun.  I can play it once in a while and Nicholas really enjoys playing this game with our family.

Robo Rally

We played a wicked three person game of this a few weeks ago.  It’s a game that I think appeals quite naturally to programmers.  Each player controls a little robot placed on the board.  The board has thematic elements that represent spinning locations, moving conveyor belts and lasers.  All of these obstacles can make getting your little robot to go where you want quite difficult.  At the beginning of each round, players are dealt a small number of random program instruction cards for their robot to use.  These cards might say something l like, “Turn Right”, “For Forward 2 Spaces”, “Turn Around”.  The trick is that everyone needs to select the cards they want to use for their robot and the order they want them executed.  There’s a time pressure too because there’s a little 30-second sand timer with the game.  The last player has to have their robot “programmed” before the timer runs out.  It’s quite fun and a little abstract.  You have to be really good a projecting yourself onto the robot mentally to choose the proper steps to program.  In addition to the game board itself having hazards, each robot also has a laser beam pointing out the front.  If the laser points at another robot it takes damage hits.

Cash n Guns

This game is great for laughs, with the right group.  It comes with 6 orange foam guns.  You pretend to be gangsters all in a large warehouse, or someplace.  Like the movie Reservoir Dogs.  You only have a few bullets and several blanks.  Then at the right moment each player points their gun at an opponent.  Then you start bluffing.  Eventually each player either folds or takes a chance.  It’s actually a lot more fun than I make it sound.  However, I’m fairly certain games where you act like a gangster and point guns at each other isn’t always an appropriate game for the group.

Australia

I really like this game.  It’s not highly rated on Board Game Geek.  The board is well done and the components include these little plastic airplanes and a whole bunch of Rangers.  You have to study the board carefully and watch what the other players are doing.  It’s an area control game where each player places Rangers on the corners of adjacent areas to try to project influence.  It can be quite a brain burner.

Last Night On Earth

This game calls back to all those old B-Movie Zombie thrillers.  This game is actually a very good Zombies Game.  Players form teams with control of either the zombies or the poor hapless citizens.  It’s highly thematic with cards having actors and actresses portraying events and actions.  The game is well balanced for either side and provides a fun medium-to-light game activity.

Ticket To Ride (with 1910 expansion)

We still play this game often even after 3 years.  The 1910 expansion just replaces all the original train and ticket cards and adds quite a few more ticket cards.  There’s still the 10 point bonus for longest contiguous route but there’s now a 15 point bonus available for most completed tickets.  We still enjoy playing this game and it continues to be a favorite when we want something everyone can agree on that plays pretty quick.

Ra

This is one of Reiner Knizia’s best designed games.  The theme is pasted on, like most of his games are, but it’s still fun and the components are beautiful.  The game is a wonderful auction mechanic with levels of luck.  Melissa purchased a beautiful brass Egyptian figure we use to the Ra marker.  It’s become one of her favorite games.

Nexus Ops

I had forgotten how much fun this game is and then Nicholas and I played it again one evening.  The game has these neat glowing plastic alien creatures and a hex board.  It’s pretty much a war game that works for 2 to 4 players.