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.