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.

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

Dixit
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.

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Holiday Wishlist?

November 10, 2009

Since I started getting into hobby games in earnest 2.5 years ago, I’ve picked up 28 new games. Of these, I’ve only purchased five. Sara and I try to limit ourselves to a pretty small “entertainment” budget, which means that the lion’s share of my games show up in neatly wrapped boxes on my birthday or under the Christmas tree. My family usually asks for some sort of holiday wishlist around this time of year, and I thought that posting it here would allow for some feedback and perhaps others posting their own wishlists. So, in no particular order…

Conquest of Paradise: Despite some slight negative feeling towards this game, it really intrigues me. I learned how to play this from the designer at the 2009 World Boardgaming Championships (WBC), and there’s a lot of neat mechanics at work like “blind” exploration, hidden fleet movement, etc. It seems to suffer a bit from too little playtesting, but I think with a few house-rules, it could really be excellent. Plus, GMT is selling it quite cheaply!

Endeavor: This Euro-ish game of exploration, colonization, and conquest has been getting a lot of good press recently. Players compete to grab resources in the New World, and use them to grow in power back in Europe. I read a review in which the author described it as “the post gateway game,” which is sort of a weak point in my game collection right now.

Pacific Typhoon: A  card game about the Pacific theater in World War II. This is GMT’s sequel to Atlantic Storm by Avalon Hill. I had never really heard of this game until I noticed the number of people playing it in random corners around the WBC. This looks like a good cross-over war game.

Small World Expansions: At $10 apiece, Grand Dames and Cursed! look like cheap ways to spice up the base game for those of us who have been playing like fiends since it came out.

War of the Ring: Although I am a huge Lord of the Rings nut, I’ve never sat down to play this game. I know it won’t get to the table much due to its playtime, but I can’t pass up the chance to marshal the forces of good against evil, or vice versa.

Wits & Wagers Expansion: From what I saw at the 2009 WBC Wits & Wagers game show, these questions are most obscure than ever–perfect!

That Mystery Game I don’t know the name to yet: I’m putting a call out for suggestions. My brother is getting married soon, which means when we meet over at Mom and Dad’s house for Sunday dinner, there will be six of us (Mom, Dad, brother, his wife, Sara, and me). I’m looking for a light game that can be played in 60-90 minutes for a group of six people that like to play Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan. Any titles come to mind?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about my wishlist or have you share your own.


WBC, Day 5 continued: John’s Perspective

August 7, 2009

Well, it is 11:00 and I am sitting on the bed in our hotel room, chomping on a few Wheat Thins and looking back over the day. It was great fun! After Here I Stand, I bought the guys from my semifinals game a round of beer (oh, I will miss Yuengling back in MN), and then some of us settled in for a quick demo/pickup game of Conquest of Paradise. The designer, Kevin McPartland, came over and introduced us all to it, which was gracious of him. He has an immense enthusiasm for what the Polynesian people have done throughout history. This is a two to four-player game. It’s published by GMT, which is odd; it feels like a civilization-building type game, which is very out of character for them. After one play, I am impressed by the marriage of theme and mechanics, though the game feels a bit too short to me. Just as you are done exploring and are busy building up an army, it ends!

After we wrapped up, I got in a three-player game of Small World with Ted from the Here I Stand semi-finals and Tim, a random guy we met in the open gaming room. This was followed by another game with Russ and Noah. And this is when I snapped my eleven game losing streak! I don’t care if Russ had never played the game before and if Noah was ten years old. It doesn’t matter. I won.

I also managed to get in a demo of Dominion: Intrigue, a nifty little card game that feels collectible, but isn’t. It’s a fun brain-puzzler sort of game. You have to purchase cards and build a deck to amass victory points.

Later in the afternoon, Russ and I headed over to a conference room for a one-hour look at Virgin Queen, the “sequel” to Here I Stand. I’ll have a whole post on this in the near future, but suffice to say that it looks like it’s coming along nicely and will (once again) set a new standard for what can be done with card-driven games.

In the evening, we met up with Dennis from the Here I Stand tournament and Battlestar Galactica demo and created a team for the Wits & Wagers game show. I’d guess about 60+ people showed up, and there was a lot of good-natured heckling. I appreciated the chance to blow off a little steam and learn insane bits of trivia like…how many US states allow marriage between first cousins. (That’s sixteen, by the way. Land of the free and home of the…shrinking gene pool?) That got out around 9:30 PM, so we headed to open gaming for one! last! game! It ended up being…Small World. It’s a fun, light little game that doesn’t take a lot of brainpower. And after 12 hours of gaming, you’re no good for anything else.

Today went so well that we decided to essentially end on a high note. We’re sleeping in tomorrow, and will be taking one last lap around the vendors’ hall before heading out. More reflections on the WBC as a whole later on.


WBC, Day 5: Russ’s Perspective

August 7, 2009

I nearly gave up on getting an internet connection. It seems the hotel we’re staying at doesn’t have the most reliable one. However, the long load times and retries allowed me to check out the rules of the new game I bought, World at War: Eisenbach Gap.

My brief encounter with the game yesterday put it on my radar. Today, at the vendor area, after talking with the designer, Mark Walker, and getting a run down of how the game works, I was sold (and walked away with a signed box).

The game itself seems to be a relatively quick playing tactical war game. It is set in a 1985 where the Cold War went hot and Soviet tanks and helicopters face off against NATO forces in West Germany. Suffice to say, I’m excited about playing a game that isn’t about knights, muskets, or panzerfausts.

The other exciting news is I finally found victory in a tournament game. Yes, that’s right! I made it to round two of the Twilight Struggle single elimination tournament.

My first game put me up against another casual player. I played the USSR and began a slow crawl, earning victory points throughout the early and mid-war. I pressured him hard, controlled much of South East Asia and eventually took West Germany. He played a well-fought game, but eventually the momentum was moving in my favor. On the first turn of the late war, I pulled three scoring cards and Aldrich Ames. I played Ames in the headline phase and found the US player holding a great number of Soviet events. I reordered his hand to get me the maximum number of victory points. After two action impulses and a Europe Scoring, the USSR was pushed up to 20 victory points and I won.

My second game put me in the shoes of the US and placed me against a more experienced player. I got an early lead in turn 1 that put him on his heels. Unfortunately, luck left me and I found myself struggling through card plays. I was pulling so many scoring cards that I couldn’t conduct the operations I needed to. And, thanks to the tight DEFCON track, I was always losing VP due to military ops at the end of the turn. After getting blocked out of South America, the VP track shifted to the Soviet side and just kept crawling up. The death knell for me was on turn 5. I had Flower Power in effect from a late turn 4 play and was hit with Quagmire. This allowed the USSR player to push hard in Europe, score it, and win the game.

It was interesting seeing my opponent’s strategy and even though I lost, I learned a lot and can’t wait to take on John, Joe, or any of the other Twilight Struggle players back home.

Finally, I had some fun getting good and surly at the Wits & Wagers gameshow (I told you to listen to me about the number of Tootsie Roll licks) and I can’t end this post without mentioning how I beat John at Dominion.