A New Look

A World Without String is now a WordPress based site.  I’m moving content over carefully from my old site.  When everything is ready I’ll redirect the domain to send visitors here instead.

Here’s hoping you enjoy visiting this site and that it remains a useful resource and entertaining place to read about the board games I review and write about.

Unfortunately, any comments included on the old site were lost when everything was converted.  This Blog used to be hosted on Apple’s MobileMe services, and when they shut that down and asked all their customers to move to iCloud, I had to find a new host because Apple was no longer going to host web sites.  Since I already have several web sites hosted with Lunar Pages, and they provide plenty of space included in the basic package, it was a simple choice to re-host using my existing service provider.  I’ve had success using WordPress for another Blog and wanted to try it out for a heavier-weight Blog like this one, and well, here we are.

The game reviews are all listed in alphabetic order off to the side for easy direct accessing. As I create new board game reviews I will add an entry here in this general section and a link to the new review page as it comes available.

That picture above is from the really awesome game Letters From Whitehapel.  It’s one of the excellent new games that have arrived in our home in the past 12 months.  I hope to get started on several game reviews soon.

In the mean time, please leave a comment if you find a broken link.

Board Games You Keep

Eclipse

Today, I was thinking about the games collection that I own and love.  I began to wonder how difficult it would be to reduce the number of games in the collection if for some reason I really had to drop some titles.  There is no specific trigger for that concern.  I just wondered how I would decide which games would have to stay;  Which games are essential.

It occurred to me that though some of the games are rated a “10” when I think in terms of ranking them, that several low ranking games would have to stay too.  The high rated games in my collection are ones I think of as great strategy games.  But there are essential games also because of their accessibility or just plan fun with a larger group.

So which games are the essentials?

Some games are obvious easy candidates for the must-have list.  The others require some reflection and consideration.  Here’s the list.  I’ve included links with each game where you can learn more about them and even an on-line board game store where you can order your own copy.  I’ve been purchasing board games on-line from Thought Hammer for years now and always recommend them, although I have no affiliation with the company.  I just recommend them.  Of course, some of these games can be purchased at your local hobby game stores and some can be found in “big box” department store like “Target”.  I recommend you check local suppliers first because they help to keep this gaming hobby thriving.

Ticket To Ride

Ticket to Ride

This one has to be included no matter what.  It’s not a highly rated game when compared to the deeper strategy games.  But this is “the gateway game”.  It’s the game you pull out with the family when you want to introduce someone to modern board game design.  It plays quickly, is easy to learn, and everybody loves playing it when introduced.  I’ve introduced this game to several adults and families that have gone out and immediately purchased their own copy.

When we play the game we always include the USA 1910 expansion.  It adds more destination card choices and the original game cards are replaced with much larger and easier to manage cards.  Our family loves this game.  We also “tricked it out” a bit by purchasing wooden train pieces — including ones in purple and pink — to replace the original game’s plastic train pieces.  The original pieces are fine, but these wooden ones look cool and feel nice to touch.  I purchased the wooden pieces at Mayday Games on-line but I’m not sure they still carry them.

One last note about this game.  It has been a success story for the board game industry and stands out as one of the board games you can actually find at stores like Target now.

Escalation!

Escalation!

We often use this card game for quick fun.  Again, easy to learn, and plays really fast.  Everyone has a great time.

This is another of those games that doesn’t earn a high strategy game rating but wins for shear fun.  Escalation! is another of those games we own that, when introduced to new players, they want to go purchase their own copy.

We played this game so many times that we have worn the cards down and have purchase several replacement decks over time.

Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition

Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition

No doubt about it, this is a heavy strategy game.  It’s deep and takes a long time to play.  It’s another family favorite.  We have played this game over 40 times.  The game is a rich immersive experience.  You set aside a Saturday to play it, but it’s always worth it.

By no means is this an introductory game and it’s not everyone’s “cup of tea”.  But we love it.  There have been 2 expansions that have come out for this game over the past few years.  Each expansion adds more interesting player alien races to choose and more options and ships.  I find both expansions to be valuable and worth owning.  It all fits in the same box if you remove the original box insert.  We have “tricked” this game out a bit too by adding custom colored dice for each player to use.

Power Grid

Power Grid

This is a great “euro”-style game.  Another family favorite.  Power Grid is an economic game where players purchase power plants and resources (coal, oil, nuclear, etc.) to operate those power plants.  Players must also make connections between cities to form their “power grid”.  You spend money to buy plants, resources and city connections.  You earn money by providing power to your cities.  This is a strategy game and can get pretty involved for the players.

An amazing characteristic of this game which we have encountered many times while playing, is that the game almost always ends with a very close final score.  The other feature I observe is that the game plays along casual until about the last two turns.  By that point everyone is quiet and thinking through the options for their next turn.  It’s cool to experience and part of what makes playing the game memorable for players.  Like many “Euro-style” board games, you feel like you are engaged in the game until the very end.

Carcassonne

Carcassonne

This is a classic tile-laying game.  Players build up cities and roads from randomly drawn tiles.  It behave likes a puzzle game and, depending on the players, either feels casual and light or highly competitive.  You score points for completing roads, cities, and other game features.  It’s one of my wife’s favorite games.

Carcassonne is another good game for introducing people to the hobby.  There are seemingly infinite expansions for this game and we’ve purchased probably every one.  We purchased extra player pieces for this game in new colors — again including purple and pink.

I have seen the game Carcassonne for sale at Toys R Us and Barnes & Noble book stores.

Runebound (2nd Edition)

Runebound (2nd edition)

This is not a game we play as often as we did when we first purchased it.  However, it still gets pulled out sometimes even when we have new players visiting.

Runebound is a board game with a strong role-playing fantasy element.  Players move their figure around the game board and encounter challenges to defeat.  As they build up their skills and inventory of weapons, spells, and other tools, they become better prepared for the highest level of challenges in the game and win.

Our family also loves this game and we have “tricked it out” as well by adding custom colored dice for each player and we substituted the cardboard bits representing challenges with glass beads.  The game looks very appealing while playing.  Runebound is not a lightweight game, but also not difficult to learn and play.  The one down side to consider is that a game can take a long time to play if there are many players.

Bohnanza

Bohnanza

A game about bean farming seems an unlikely theme for family fun.  But this card game proves to be both unique and fun.

One of the interesting game design mechanisms used by Bohnanza is that you are not permitted to arrange the cards in your hand.  You play them in the order they were dealt.  I know, that sounds really odd.  But you have to try it.  It’s fun, the artwork is silly and it’s another easy game to learn and play.

Eclipse

Eclipse

Eclipse has become my “new hotness” game.  This game is a great blend of “euro-style” and “thematic-style” board game design.  It’s an epic space game like Twilight Imperium but lighter and quicker to play.

I consider it to be an essential part of my gaming collection and a compliment to and not a replacement for TI-3.  What makes this game stand out is the elegance of the design mechanisms.  There are many clever elements to the game play design.

The ratings for this game in the larger hobby board game community is amazing.  The game was introduced a few months ago and has already skyrocketed to a top 5 ranking.  If you get a chance to play the game you’ll understand why too.

The only real problem with this game right now, in my mind, is that it’s impossible to find.  The initial production run has sold out everywhere.  You can find copies available for $50 to $100 over the standard retail price.  The game publisher announced the next production run will be ready in May or June of 2012.  That’s a long time to wait for as much fun as this game has been.  If you can find a copy at the $85 – $100 price, get it.  More than that, you’d have to decide for yourself.  I was quite fortunate to get a copy as a Christmas gift from my wife.

I cannot say enough good things about this game.  It may be the best new board game that came out in 2011.  I’ll certainly play it whenever I can find a chance.

Shadows Over Camelot

Shadows Over Camelot

We have introduced this game to families and it has always been well received.  It’s easy to learn, and with the available expansion, handles up to 8 players.

This is a cooperative game.  That is, all the players are working together to accomplish goals and not lose against the game itself.  The game is hard to beat.

The interesting feature of this game is that one of the players secretly plays the role of a traitor and tries to remain undetected throughout the game.  The traitor is working against the other players.  The tension and potential for mis-trust and deception make this a fun game to experience.

Shadows Over Camelot is another one of those games that when played have resulted in the other families playing to purchase their own copy.

Thebes

Thebes

Also known as “Jenseits von Theben”, Thebes is a great introductory game.  The game is published by Queen Games and they always do an excellent job with the production values.  The board is attractive and the components are first class.

In this game each player is kind of like an “Indiana Jones” character, exploring ancient sites around the globe, seeking valuable artifacts.  A very cool game design mechanism with this game is that each “site” has a dedicated cloth bag full of cardboard tiles.  Most of the tiles represent sand, nothing of value.  But also within each bag are the few precious artifacts.  The players travel to these ancients sites and commit to digging for a certain amount of time.  The longer you dig at a site the higher the odds of pulling good stuff out of the bag.  The trade off is that you may also be wasting time needed elsewhere on the game board.  And here’s the really cool trick.  After a player “searches” through the cloth bag (blindly, without seeing the tiles they have extracted until they are done, and the useless sand tiles are the same shape as the artifact tiltes), they put back all the useless “sand” tiles.  This makes it even harder for the next player to find anything valuable at the site.  It is such a simple thematic element that just enhances the enjoyment of playing this game.  Some folks feel this inclusion of a certain level of luck in the game diminishes it’s appeal.  I disagree.  A little bit of luck in a game is what makes it feel like fun to newer players.  Our family loves this game and we introduce it to new players frequently.

Starfarers of Catan

Starfarers of Catan

The now-classic German board game Settlers of Catan has an official space-themed version with this entry.  We actually prefer this game to the standard Settlers of Catan.  The game has a very cool looking board and some amazing “mother ships” that each player uses to both produce the random event selections as well as identify the enhancements made to their space fleet (speed, freight capacity, and cannons to ward off space pirates).

The game plays very much like Settlers of course, where each player rolls dice to determine the resources they collect each turn.  There is no direct conflict between players.  This is not a war game.  Each player tries to earn victory points by exploring, building and creating alliances with alien races.  This was one of the early Euro-style games for our family and remains a favorite.  It’s easy to learn but can take a while to play.

Dominion

Dominion

In 2008 the game Dominion was introduced to hobby board gamers.  It introduced a very simple and clever “deck building” game design mechanism that instantly became a huge hit.  It’s really a card game but comes in a standard sized board game box.  Many new deck building game designs have followed in the following years, but I still enjoy playing Dominion.

Like Carcassonne, there are several expansions you can add.  Dominion is actually quite easy to learn, fast and (here’s the amazing part) addictive to play.  It always happens.  Whenever I introduce Dominion to new players and we finish a game they always want to play it again right away.  It’s a good game.  The only complaint I have about it is each player ends up frequently having to shuffle your card deck as the game progresses.  In fact, you shuffle almost every other turn.  Still, it’s fun and plays fast.

Race for the Galaxy

Race for the Galaxy

This is a card game.  It’s got a little bit of a learning curve to it.  Mostly that’s because each card has little icons festooned around the edges of the artwork and it take a little while to “get it”.  But once it clicks for the players, which generally only takes one or two practice rounds, the game starts humming along.

It is a little bit like Dominion in that you are evaluating your card choices each turn, but this is a nice rich strategy game experience.  This is another one of those games that has that addictive feel to it and you want to play several games in a row to try out other winning strategy ideas.  There are 3 expansions available for this game and I recommend them all if you have played the base game and enjoyed it.  The second expansion, and they have to be added to the game in order, even includes a provision for an automated “robot” player that yields a pretty good solitaire experience.

Pandemic

Pandemic

This is another cooperative game.  Each player is part of a team working together to contain the outbreak of several diseases around the globe.

The board game and it’s components are top notch quality.  And the game design is quite elegant, with several clever design ideas combined to make a thematic and approachable fun game to play.

There is an expansion for this game that provides for several options that you can choose to include in the game.  I think the neatest component from the expansion is that it comes with little plastic petri dishes you can use to store the game’s virus cubes in.  Very cool.  The expansion also provides an optional bio-terrorist option where a player can be secretly working against the others.  I think the game s challenging enough without one of the players as an adversary.

Wits & Wagers

Wits & Wagers

I like this game quite a bit when I need a game that can be played with a larger group and has a “party game” feel to it.  The interesting design feature of this game is that it’s a trivia game where you don’t have to know the right answer.  Instead everyone places bets on a game board of what they think the correct trivia question answer is.  You just bet on which answer from everyone’s guesses is the correct answer.  You don’t have to know the answer, you just have to be willing to bet which other player does know the answer.

This game actually scales up quite well to very large groups if needed.  You treat the game as if everyone is participating in a game show and working together on teams.  Wits & Wagers is a very successful board game and has won many awards for it’s design.  It’s a trivia game done right.  I have seen this game for sale at Target.

Killer Bunnies

Killer Bunnies

Let’s be plain and up-front about this.  Killer Bunnies is not a strategy game.  Not really.  It’s a fun, easy to learn, silly little game about trying to keep your own bunnies alive while doing horrible things to the bunnies of your opponents.

The game is a card game and the artwork on each card is quite fun.  We always have a good time playing when everyone is in the mood for a lighter “take-that” kind of card game.  There are numerous expansions available for this game too and we purchased them all.  Fortunately, we’re able to fit everything in one box.

We hadn’t played this game in quite a while and recently had some company over where I thought it might be fun to pull out and play again.  It was as fun as we expected.


I’d better stop there.  Of the games in my collection there are many more that I truly love to play and would want to include in any gaming library.  But the above list is pretty good and accomplishes creating a must-have list for me.  There are 16 games here.  I’m sure I could add another 48 “must haves” if I keep thinking about it.

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 Played in 2008

Here is a summary of board games I played in 2008.  These are “face-to-face” games, not games played with a computer.  I expect game playing to be a regular activity for the remainder of December, with the Holidays and all, so these numbers are expected to change.  It is interesting for me to see how many different board games I played this past year.  And it’s also interesting how some of the really “hot” board games from 2007 didn’t see as much activity this year.

I also believe that 2008 was an excellent year for new board games.  There were so many interesting titles that hit the table this year.  For some of the games, they were played a lot at first and then less often in the following months.  However, this was not always because of the attraction of new games to try, rather that there were so many exceptional great games we added in 2008, so we were always rotating through more game titles than usual.

This summary is ranked from most frequently played to least. Most frequently played is first.

Carcassonne
2 – 5 players
60 minutes
Ages 8+
Played in 2008: 30
This was one of the first “euro” games we purchased and still remains a favorite.  I think we own all the expansions but frequently play with just a few:
Inns & Cathedrals
Traders & Builders
Abbey & Mayor

Pandemic
2 – 4 players
45 minutes
Ages 10+
Played in 2008: 28

A new game for us in 2008.  I’ve played this game at work over lunch, at home with family and out with friends.  It’s a cooperative  board game, all the players struggle to beat the game itself.  The theme is that each player is a researcher working in a team trying to save the world from outbreaks of diseases.  The game mechanics are quite clever and the game components and colors are first-rate.  This is an excellent game, and obviously very popular.  Pandemic is one of the those games that when it gets newly introduced to people, they often want to go out and purchase their own copy.

I still enjoy playing this game and even enjoy playing it solitaire.  However, it’s not as “hot” as it originally was with my family.  Still if I were constructing a collection of board games to introduce, this one would definitely be included.  I’ve written up a review about this game.

Escalation!

2 – 6 players

15 minutes

Ages 10+

Played in 2008: 21

We started playing this game in 2007 and it still remain a family favorite.  I’ve recorded that we have played this game 77 times since we first owned it.  Escalation! is a fast-paced, fun card game.  We frequently use it to “break the ice” when beginning a game session.  I’ve also written up a review about this game.

Mr. Jack
2 players
30 minutes
Ages 9+
Played in 2008: 16

This is a very cool strategy game and was new for us in 2008.  The premise of the game is that one player is playing “Mr. Jack” and the other is trying to figure out who he is.  The challenge is that there are several detective figures on the game board and one of them is Mr. Jack.

The game plays pretty quick, I’ve introduced it a lunch time at work and it has seen several plays there.  It feels a little like Chess because you need to out-think you opponent carefully.  I like this game a lot, and frequently play with my son.

Stone Age
2 – 4 players
60 minutes
Ages 10+ 
Played in 2008: 13

A new game for us in 2008 too.  This is a “worker placement” game with a bit of luck too.  The board game is beautiful and the components are first-rate.  There’s even a leather dice cup.

For a while there our family played this game every week.  It’s still highly regarded by my family.

Chess
2 players
A classic and familiar game to many
Played in 2008: 12

My youngest brother hand made a wooden chess board for me back when he was in High School Wood Shop class.  I still use it to this day with a very nice set of wooden chess pieces given to me 30 years ago.  I taught Nicholas to play Chess years ago and he’s getting better at it.  These games were all played between the two of us.

Factory Fun
2 – 4 players
45 minutes
Ages 10+
Played in 2008: 12

My wife surprised me with this game as a Christmas gift last year.  She looked over my Wish List on Board Game Geek and discovered I was interested in this game.  I’m not sure how she found a copy but I was delighted.

This is a “puzzle” game.  Each player adds interesting factory machines onto their factory floor game board, looking for ways to optimize the connections (inputs and output) and locations on the floor.  I’ve played this game over lunch at work.  It also works as a solitaire game.

 

Felix: The Cat in the Sack

3 – 5 players

20 minutes

Ages 8+

Played in 2008: 10

This is a light card, auction game, by Friedemann Friese, the designer of Power Grid.  It’s not quite as fun as Escalation!, but we also use this game as a session “starter”.

 

Agricola

1 – 5 players

120 minutes

Ages 12+

Played in 2008: 8

We received our copy of this game in August, so there’s hasn’t been much of the year for playing it.  Even then it shows a healthy 8 plays in only a few months.

Agricola is a board game about farming.  And it’s an excellent game.  There’s a set of rules for the family/starter and the regular rules which provides for a rich gaming experience.  This really is an outstanding game.  I’ve read great reviews about it and enjoyed teaching it to others.  Invariably, while the game is on-going I’ll hear someone remark how cool this game is.  I recommend that if you want to learn this game, waste no time and go over and see the excellent video tutorial Scott Nicholson created on his Board Games With Scott web site.

Note that there are official rules to play this game solitaire.  Also, it’s become such a popular game that many people have “tricked out” their components with custom made pieces.  We did it too.  We made a whole set of very cute and fun custom Sheep, Pigs and Cows for use in playing this game.  It just adds to the fun.  This game is rated number 1on Board Game Geek, having been the first board game to displace Puerto Rico from it’s long-held number 1 position.

Agricola may not be for everyone but I recommend you give it a try if possible.  The only downside I feel with the game is that it can take about 3 hours to play the first time with newbies.

Hive

2 players

20 minutes

Ages 9+

Played in 2008: 8

Hive is an abstract strategy game.  Each player is provided with a set of insects that have unique movement abilities, like pieces do in Chess.  However, this plays nothing like Chess.  The board is formed by the placement of the pieces.  And the pieces can move around as each player tries to surround the opponent’s Queen Bee.

I keep a copy of this game in the car and often play a game with Nicholas if we go out somewhere for lunch or dinner.

Ticket To Ride

2 – 5 players

45 minutes

Ages 8+

Played in 2008: 8

This was our first “Euro” game and remains a family favorite.  If I’m introducing someone to European Strategy Board Games, I always bring out Ticket To Ride.  It’s reputation as an excellent “gateway” game is deserved.  We always play with the USA 1910 expansion nowadays.

Our family can usually complete a game of Ticket To Ride in 30 to 45 minutes.  We haven’t done anything to “trick” this game out, even though it is a family favorite.  I do admit though that we purchased the Ticket To Ride: Marklin game just to have the purple and white train pieces so we could use them with the original game.  You can see we’re pretty big fans of Ticket To Ride.

Cuba

2 – 5 players

120 minutes

Ages 10+

Played in 2008: 7

This is another “worker placement” game with beautiful components and game board.  It’s an economics game.  I think it’s quite a bit of fun and consider it a medium-weight strategy game, not quite as light as Ticket To Ride.  We played Stone Age and Cuba often in the same weeks, and did not tire of either.


I’m not going to break out details about the other games, but they are all excellent examples of modern board games and I am happy to have them in our collection.  Each of these games were played about a half-dozen times in the past year.  Some of the board games have not been played very often just because there’s hasn’t been lot of time, and there are so many excellent new games to choose from.  Here’s some of the remaining list.  Each entry has a link to it’s entry at Board Game Geek.

Thanksgiving Day Board Gaming

Our schedule prohibits traveling back to Ohio to visit with family members this Thanksgiving Day.  Between school schedules and my work activities, we decided to stay in Omaha for the holiday.

When talking with one of my friends from work we realized that there was an opportunity for our two families to get together and spend the day playing board games.  We’ll also stay for dinner and just make a great day of it.  Since we’re the invited guests we will be bringing a gift, but instead of a bottle of wine we thought we’d donate a new board game.  I’m not going to say which one since my friend may read this before Thanksgiving day arrives.  But it is a new additional copy of one of the games we are bringing.

Since I obviously own a large selection of excellent board games, we’ll bring along several for playing.  I thought it would be good to share here which games we selected to bring and why.  First, some parameters.  There will be 6 adults present and several children, ranging from 5 to late teen years of age.  Probably the youngest will not really be playing board games.  I imagine that we’ll have several games running in parallel.  My friend’s family enjoys playing board games and has a few very nice Euro Games already.  For example they love playing Ticket To Ride, Nexus Ops and Pandemic.  Excellent games.

We also discussed the challenge levels of the games we will play and agreed that a mix of lighter fare, like Ticket To Ride and heavier games like Power Grid would work well.  Here are the games we’ll be bringing along.  I’m not certain we’ll play them all but it’s a good selection.  The list is alphabetical and not in any favored order.  Although, as it happens, the fist entry in the list is one of my newer favorites.

 Agricola

1 to 5 players

120 minutes

Ages 12 and up

This board game is currently number 1 on Board Game Geek.  It’s a great choice because it’s very easy to teach yet has great depth and fun.  It has a “family” version of rules, and a more in-depth “gamers” version.  We play the heavier version because it’s easy to understand and is quite engaging.

Agricola is a new game about farming.  It sounds dull, but it’s actually a lot of fun.  Each turn goes very fast and every decision can be difficult.

The stock game comes with little painted wooden cubes to represent the farm animals (sheep, cattle and pigs).  For our own copy my family made custom animals from hobby clay.  Here’s a photograph of one of the custom “animeeples” my wife created for this game.  We’ll be sure to bring the custom “animeeples” when we play.  They are too cute and add to the fun of playing this excellent game.

Ave Caesar

2 – 6 players

30 minutes

Ages 12 and up

This is a fun racing game.  It’s very easy to teach.  Ave Caesar has a beautiful board and nice little chariots that each player races around the track.  Think “Ben Hur” and you get the idea.

It’s a lightweight game and should provide plenty entertainment for the younger boys and girls.  Although I’ve played this game several times with adults and it’s fun too.

Carcassonne

2 – 5 players

60 minutes

Ages 8 and up

This is the most famous euro-style tile laying strategy game.  It’s easy to learn, with maybe the exception of scoring the Farmers, and provides a lot of enjoyment.

We own all the expansions to Carcassonne and it’s one of my wife’s absolute favorite games.  The interesting thing about Carcassonne is that, depending on the players, it can vary from being lightweight fun to an outright battle-to-the-death strategy game.

Escalation!

2 – 6 players

15 minutes

Ages 10 and up

I’ve written a review about this game.  It’s a fast-paced easy to learn card game that always generates plenty of laughs.  Escalation! is one of my favorite games design by Reiner Knizia.

We often use Escalation! to start our gaming sessions.  It gets everyone in the right mood.  It’s light, fun and plays quickly.  I’m thinking this game will probably be played in parallel to the “deeper” games by younger members.

Galaxy Trucker

2 – 4 players

60 minutes

Ages 10 and up

This is a new game with great components and fun.  It’s lightweight and plays pretty quick.

Each player has to build a spaceship out of components you place together on a game board.  They can only be assembled in a “correct” manner, and you’re racing against the other players to get finished.

Then, once you have your majestic space ship assembled, all players go on a hazardous journey encountering space pirates, asteroids and other challenges.  Pieces of your space ship may become damaged and very likely fall off and be destroyed.  The fun in this game, believe it or not, is how much fun it is watching yours and your competition’s ship get pummeled to bits as the game proceeds.  It’s quite a bit of fun and easy to learn.

Metropolys

2 – 4 players

30 minutes

Ages 8 and up

This is also a new board game.  It’s easy to learn but gets your brain going in no time.  I’d rate this a game that’s only slightly more difficult to play than Ticket To Ride.

Each  player places wooden building components, almost in an auction-style game mechanic, onto the game board.  You have to pay attention to what your opponents are trying to do and plan your steps accordingly.

We play this game at the office over lunch some times.  My friend mentioned that he really liked this game and wanted to introduce it to his family.

Power Grid

2 – 6 players

120 minutes

Ages 12 and up

I love this game.  It’s one of my favorite deeper Euro games.  At it’s heart this is an economics game.  Each player is buying power plants that operate on varying kinds of fuel (coal, oil, burning trash, nuclear, or solar).  They must also build a network of powered cities onto the game board.

The purchase price of power plants increase as they become more powerful and efficient.  You end up bidding against the other players to buy power plants.  The resources needed to power your plants are available on a sliding demand scale right on the board.  As the availability of resources declines their price go up.  Each player, as they take turns, can purchase and stock resources.  This has the ability to influence what the other players may pay for resources they need.  It’s even possible to starve another player out since there’s a limited number of resources available in the game.  And lastly, as you place cities on the grid it also costs money.  Earlier investments in a location are cheaper.

With every turn you also generate electricity and power the cities connected on your grid.  The more cities you power the more income you receive.  The game has tight economics and every turn has interesting choices for players to make as they compete to have the most cities powered at the games’ end.  This is a great deeper strategy game.

Shadows over Camelot

3 – 7 players

(with the expansion it supports 8 players)

90 minutes

Ages 10 and up

Shadows over Camelot is a co-operative game.  With a twist.  The players are knights of King Arthur’s Round Table and they are trying to defend against evils on multiple fronts at once.

The rules are easy to learn and the board game and components, just like all the Day of Wonder games, are beautiful and outstanding.

The game is already difficult to “beat”.  But here’s the real twist that makes this game so much fun.  One of the players is potentially secretly a traitor and working to make everyone else lose.  It’s not assured in every game that someone is a traitor, but the odds are high that it happens.  The traitor is randomly, secretly, chosen by a card deal at the beginning of the game.

That potential for a possible traitor makes for a lot of additional tension and built-in doubts about the agenda of your fellow team mates.  Did he or she do that action because it was the best that they could do, or are they secretly a traitor?  Of course, you can accuse another player of being a traitor, but you better be right.  The interesting things is that a game may coincidently not actually have a traitor present, but no one knows for sure, so everyone scrutinizes and wonders about everything.  With the expansion, which we’ll be using, the game supports eight players and there’s actually the possibility for there to be 2 secret traitors.

After Thanksgiving Day Games post-note:

“Shadows Over Camelot” was the big hit of the evening.  We played it with a fairly large group of players — I think 8 — and with a mix of age ranges for the players from adults to early teens.  The game was enjoyed so much it got played twice in a row, even though it was getting late in the evening.

Starfarers of Catan

3 – 4 players

(with the expansion it supports up to 6 players)

120 minutes

Ages 10 and up

This is a great science fiction themed edition to the Settlers of Catan series.  We like this game a great deal.  It has excellent components, with some of the best looking retro-space ships available for each player.  The game has an additional exploration component, as each player explores the cosmos they discover what the various star systems provide as resources.  There’s also alien races to encounter and develop trade relations with.  We purchased the optional painted alien figures for our game to just add to the overall fun.

This game, like Ticket To Ride and Power Grid, was one of the first Euro board games our family learned to play and it still has a special place among our favorites.  It’s another one of my wife’s favorite games.  It’s middle-weight in depth and learning.  The only downside is that the game can take a long time with inexperienced players.  Although we can support up to 6 players, I think this game plays best with 3 or 4.

Thebes

(Also known as Jenseits von Theben)

2 – 4 players

60 minutes

Ages 10 and up

In this game you feel like an explorer seeking treasures and artifacts from ancient ruins around the globe.  It’s easy to imagine yourself as Indiana Jones.  You travel to exotic locations and “dig” for hidden treasures.  You can also return to various countries in Europe and exhibit your discoveries for points.

This game is lightweight and fun.  There’s a strong element of luck to it.  The components are outstanding.  There’s little colored cloth bags representing each dig site.  When you “dig” at the site you randomly extract cardboard chits from the bag.  Most of them will be “sand”, empty and of no value.  However there are also tablets, and statues and other rare artifacts that can bring you many points.  One of the cool thematic game mechanics concerns these bags.  When you draw out the useless “sand” chits you put them back in the bag at the end of your turn.  This makes the odds of the next player visiting the same dig site even worse.  Very cool.

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.

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.