Family Reunion Time

June 24, 2011

Next week I’ll be taking a much needed vacation with my family. We’ll be heading to Wisconsin Dells to relax, have fun doing some touristy stuff and most importantly visit with my extended family. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen some of my cousins – who, like me, are now married with children – the last time I saw a lot of them were at my Grandparent’s funerals. I’m looking forward to chatting and spending time with them. And when we get together we play games.

I have fond memories of visiting my Grandparents’ house as a kid. The crossword puzzle was always completed by Grandma before we were even out of bed. Playing Boggle against her was a losing affair. And at night we gathered around the dining room table to play poker and “Cayman Rummy” – a rummy variant they invented while vacationing in the Caymans.

They’re will be plenty of card games being played, but here’s a list of games I’ll be bringing for the trip. My criteria for bringing a game are: portable/small, easy to learn, plays quickly and multiple players. Obviously not every game meets all 4 criteria but here we go:

Travel Blokus
Although this is only for 2 players, how can I pass up bringing one of the few games specifically designed for travel. Plus the game can be taught and played in about 15 minutes.

This is one that meets all 4 criteria. I’ve had good success introducing this game to several people and they all enjoy it.

Another game that has been a hit after introducing it to several people. I think people enjoy the creativity it allows.

Space Hulk: Death Angel
I think some of my cousin’s children will be approaching – or already in – their teens years. I’m thinking I should be able to get a group of young men to rally together and slay some genestealers. Plus the box is so small I can’t justify leaving it behind.

Wits & Wagers
A trivia game for up to seven people that isn’t boring. Plus it plays quickly. Although the box is pretty big… maybe I’ll throw the components into a smaller box to make room for another game.

Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers

I’m bringing this instead of regular Carc for two reasons: 1) my little sister has the Big Box so I don’t want to be redundant if she brings that and 2) it’s my most recent game acquisition so it still has that new game shininess.

King Me!
Another one that meets all 4 criteria. I actually like this game more than I thought I would after a few plays. A little bit of psychological warfare in a small package.

I’ll let you know how these games go over.

Inside the Box: Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game

November 5, 2010

Inside the Box is an in-depth look at the contents of a board game. It covers the quality, quantity, and aesthetic value of what is found inside the game box.

Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game is a mouthful. It’s also a one of the latest games in Fantasy Flight’s Silver Line series. A group of games that are on the “lighter side” and can be “set up and played within an hour.” These games are generally found in small boxes and have relatively small price tags: Death Angel can be picked up for only $20-25. In this game the players use squads of space marines cooperatively to fight off the alien horde. Here’s a look at what you get.

The box cover sums up the game well: two space marines being swarmed by what seems like an unlimited number of genestealers.

Death Angel Contents

Death Angel Contents

The great artwork continues on all of the components – most of which are cards. There are 128 cards that are divided into 7 card types:
• Each Genestealer and Brood Lord card is used to represent an enemy alien unit. These creatures are vile and frightening and you certainly don’t want to mess with them. Each card also has a symbol on it to help with gameplay.
• The Action and Space Marine cards represent your forces. These guys look tough enough to take on anything. The marines are broken into 6 different combat teams represented by 6 different colors. The action cards also have a symbol on them, but this symbol isn’t found on the corresponding marine cards. Because the colors aren’t vivid or don’t contrast enough to be easily differentiated this makes game play a little difficult at times. Not putting the symbols on the marines was a big mistake.
Card Examples

Card Examples

• The space marines fight and move through the levels through the use of Location and Terrain cards. Although the some of the Terrain cards you see the most, like the Vent or Corridor, are a bit boring, the Artefact looks good. There are also 3 different randomly chosen location cards for each level to allow for lots of replayability.
• The last deck of cards is the Event deck. These cards are resolved at the end of each round to spawn new enemies. They also offer up some special events that can help or hurt the team.

The only other components is one counter sheet with support and combat team tokens and a die.

The Tokens and Die

The Tokens and Die

The combat tokens only purpose is to be placed in front of each player to remind the others of what units are his. The main feature is the symbol of their units, which as I already mentioned, should have been included on the marine cards. The support token guns are simple but effective. The custom die included in the game goes from 0-5 (and you thought rolling a 1 was bad!) as well as having three sides with skulls on them. This one die can then be used for the various types of rolls used in the game. This die is also very cool – it is certainly the coolest die I own.

The rules are… well… Fantasy Flight rules. For whatever reason this company makes great looking games, but their rulebooks have always been a problem for me. I think my main problem is that their rules don’t read front to back. They offer the game rules in more of a summary format and then direct you to other pages for more details. In theory this should be great. But for whatever reason I felt like I was constantly searching for sections and pages, then flipping back to remember why I was trying to find them. For example, just to setup the game you need to flip back and forth 8 times. I think if the rules were presented in a more linear fashion they would make for an easier read.

Overall, the presentation of the game is fantastic. There are almost as many unique artworks as there are cards in the decks. The cards and token quality is very good and did I mention the die is cool? The rules can be grasped after one or two plays so they aren’t a deal breaker. The non-colorblind friendly marine cards are a big disappointment especially considering they created symbols and chose not to use them. However, I certainly felt like I got my money’s worth and I look forward to checking out some of their other Silver Line games.

Metro Game Day IV: Recap

October 19, 2010

We had a smaller group this time, but we had fun and got several plays in on Saturday. So, as promised, below is a list of the games that were played:

Space Hulk: Death Angel
John was the first guest to arrive at Game Day. While waiting for the others to arrive I taught him how to play Death Angel. John safely avoided rolling a 0 the whole game on Brother Claudio’s attack which helped us make our way to the last level. However, my team was dropping like flies. On the 4th level we – and by we, I mean John since I was out of it at that point – entered the Genestealer Lair with 3 marines. They didn’t stand a chance.

Alas poor Claudio...

A mid-game rule check while playing Death Angel

Power Grid
By the time we finished, Russ and Lily had arrived and my wife was done nursing the future space marine so we broke out a 5 player game of Power Grid. This was the first game for my wife, so after a rules explanation we dug into powering Germany. Lily took a lead early on and held onto it for most of the game. My wife and I took a slower approach and trailed while Russ and John duked it out in the west. Shortly after Phase 3 hit the Cold Fusion plant came out and there was a fierce bidding war between Russ and Lily. The plant finally sold for ~$105 to Lily which allowed her to power 15 cities at the end of the game for only 1 coal or oil! But John and I also made it to 15 and because of our more frugal bidding, with more money. The final tally was John with $40, me with $36 and Lily with $18. This was by far the most enjoyable game of Power Grid I’ve played. We all took our turns fairly quickly which helped move the game along. And having 5 players meant there was always active bidding and a struggle for resources and cities. This game is really growing on me.

I still can't believe I only lost by $4!

Russ and John enjoying themselves while my wife takes a better look at the board.

Blokus Trigon
After the intensity of Power Grid, my wife had to duck out with the kids for birthday party. So the four of us remaining played a quick game of Blokus Trigon. I got my first victory of the day winning with 9 points to Lily’s 12.

Cosmic Encounter
By the time we finished Shannon had arrived and was ready to try a game of Cosmic Encounter. The Clone, Pacifist, Chosen, and Filch aliens all attempted to conquer my Miser’s planets. My horde contained the 40 attack, an artifact and the +5 reinforcement card! The game was full of silly attacks, zaps and alliances so we all had fun. When 4 of us were at 4 points, my Filch brother attacked my empty planet. I defended with my 40 to prevent him from winning but he of course had an artifact which turned everything into a negotiation. We decided at that point to end the game as shared rulers of the galaxy.

Crusader Rex & Blokus Trigon
Russ and John had enough silliness and moved onto a more serious game of Crusader Rex. With my wife and kids back, I took a break to watch the kids and this game for a while. Russ and his Saracens had some hot dice at the start of the game, but John’s Crusaders put up a good fight. They duked it out for quite some time while the four women (John’s wife joined us for the evening) played a game of Blokus and the kids and I ate dinner. Lily pulled off her first victory of the day in Blokus.

Shadows over Camelot
The Crusade was still raging when the four ladies and I decided to team up against everything evil in Camelot. We drew more cards than people for alliances so it was unknown who the traitor was or even if there would be one. We teamed up quite well and had early successes against the Saxons and the Black Knight. After a couple of bad progressions of evil though we had to regroup. We successfully won Excalibur and then moved on to find the Holy Grail. We took the grail and successfully defended Camelot with 7 white swords to 5 black… or so we thought. Quietly Shannon had been working against us this whole time. She revealed herself as the traitor with much gusto and snatched away our victory.

The Crusaders also succumbed to defeat shortly after. It was not a good day to be a knight!

Tigris & Euphrates
It was getting late so most people headed out. We put the kids to bed and then Russ, my wife and I played a game of Tigris & Euphrates. It was Russ’ first game and my wife and I had previously only played a handful of times with just the two of us. It was interesting to see the way the game changes with 3 players versus just 2. I built up a sizable kingdom in the top left part of the map while Russ had one in the bottom right. We however let Russ’ two monuments go too long before we were able to create some conflicts to break it up. I made a surge at the end of the game in blue that allowed me to get 2nd place, but it was no match for the balance of Russ’ civilization.

One thing I usually do is play a new game on Game Day and that didn’t happen this time, but I did get my other goals accomplished:
– I won a game.
– I got to try some ‘old’ games with new and more people.
– I got all three of my most recent purchases to the table.
– And most importantly I had a great time with friends just relaxing and playing games!