Thursday, November 24, 2016

As the Years Go By (Mark's 100 - 2014)

It's finally done. I've managed to post all of my 2014 Top #100 games. Of course, we're nearly done with 2016, so it's not exactly timely any more. 

My plan is to do a one-time countdown of Top Board Game Expansions next... but I'm guessing that won't start for a couple of weeks (or more). 

In the meantime, here's a chart of when my top 100 games were published. I was intrigued by the low point of 1998 which was in the thick of my German game buying spree. (Man, I miss Adam Spielt.) There are a lot of good games that year - Elfenland, Samurai, El Caballero... but they are all games that I eventually sold or traded. I've still got Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper (but it's not my favorite MR game), Zirkus Flohcati, Basari & Medieval Merchant... but they all don't quite make my top 100.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

#1: Memoir '44 (Mark's 100)

Memoir '44

Mark's Ranking
  • 2014: 1st
  • 2012: 1st
  • 2010: 2nd
  • 2005: 3rd
  • chosen on all four lists
  • rank: 106
  • rating: 7.5
Print Status
  • in print
Why It's On The List
  • The best (and best supported!) of the Command & Colors games... it combines a wonderous toy factor (plastic army men & tanks!) along with remarkably evocative recreations of WW2 battles. This is the perfect collision of all the eras of my gaming life: it's got enough warfare &; tactics for the chit-pusher in me, the gorgeous plastic bits remind me of the day we cracked open Axis & Allies for the first time, and the speedy gameplay fits my current lifestyle. The plethora (si, Jeffe) of scenarios is a definite point in favor of Memoir '44, as well as one of the cleverest 'fog of war' mechanisms ever - the command deck.
Tips & Tricks:
  • Memoir '44 is splendid right out of the box... though the first couple of scenarios are probably the weakest and don't show off the game as well as they could. (They do a good job of getting players used to how the game works.) Don't give up on it until you've played some of the later scenarios.
  • There are a LOT of expansions... and I personally own at least one or two of each of them. (Point of fact: my Memoir '44 collection weighs over 30 pounds now.) There are no duds in the set... though probably the least valuable to a casual player is the Terrain Pack.
  • There's a desktop program for playing Memoir '44 online that is very good... I just don't get to play it as much as I'd like.
  • My favorite way to play is 2 player Breakthrough (using the Breakthrough deck included in the Winter Wars expansion). Close behind that is playing in Overlord (multi-player team) mode or playing a campaign (using one of the Campaign Books).

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Sentinels of the Multiverse: The Bloodsworn Arena

The boys & I are big fans of the cooperative superhero card game Sentinels of the Multiverse... we own all of the current physical expansions, we've sponsored the upcoming "final" Kickstarter for Oblivaeon, and we have the full digital version on our iPad. Son the Younger even has a plushy Mr. Chomps (see above).

Yes, it's a sickness. Let's not dwell on that.

When we (and when I say "we", I actually mean "I" - but it sounds better when I included my sons) pledged for the Season 2 Kickstarter of the digital version of Sentinels, one of the things we were most excited about was a Bloodsworn Arena mode. (What follows is the description from the Kickstarter page...)
How many villains can you defeat in a row with the ultimate hero team? Make your own storyline with this randomized campaign mode and last as long as you can. Fans of the game have made several versions of this idea on the tabletop.

If we can reach this goal, Handelabra Games will create an “Arena Mode” for the video game. The details and options of the new mode will be worked out when we get to the design and development stage, and we’ll be getting your input at that time. Some ideas and options include a single fixed hero team with no HP recovery; a drafting mechanic where fallen heroes are replaced; ramping up difficulty with advanced and challenge modes; and more! No matter what, this new mode will keep you on your toes.
Sadly, while the Season 2 Kickstarter was successful, it wasn't successful enough to reach this particular stretch goal.

So, after fruitlessly searching the InterWebs (Homer Simpson: "Oh, they have the internet on computers now!") for some home-brewed Arena rules, we made our own. We offer them here for you as an early Thanksgiving gift. (Homer Simpson: "And Lord, we are especially thankful for nuclear power, the cleanest, safest energy source there is—except for solar, which is just a pipe dream. Anyway, we’d like to thank you for the occasional moments of peace and love our family has experienced. Well, not today, but you saw what happened! Oh, Lord, be honest! Are we the most pathetic family in the universe or what?!")


The Arena Rules
  • We selected a number of the weaker villains
    • Akash'buhta
    • Ambuscade
    • Baron Blade
    • Deadline
    • Omnitron
    • The Ennead
  • After choosing our team and environment, we shuffled the villains and put the first one into play.
  • We played a normal game of SotM... and when we defeated the first villain, the following things happened:
    • The current hero finished their turn.
    • All defeated Villain cards were removed from the game.
    • All Hero and Environment ongoing cards stayed in place.
    • Heroes retained their current card hand & discard pile.
    • Heroes do not refresh hit points.
    • A new Villain was taken from the stack and set up as usual.
  • The new Villain went first... skipping any Hero turns and/or Environment turns.
  • Lather, rinse, repeat... until the team goes down in a blaze of glory.
  • Possible variants we didn't try:
    • giving each hero back X number of hit points when a villain is defeated (X = number of heroes in the game + number of villains successfully defeated)
    • allowing each player to choose one "backup" hero that jumps in when their hero goes down - would need to decide if incapacitated heroes still get to use their power
How We Did

  • Our team (in player order):
    • Parse
    • K.N.Y.F.E.
    • Unity
  • The environment:
    • Madame Mittermeier’s Fantastical Festival of Conundrums & Curiosities
  • The villains we defeated (in order):
    • Omnitron
    • Ambuscade
    • Akash'bhuta
    • The Ennead
  • The villain who took us out:
    • Deadline (but he only had 15 hit points left)
  • Most impressive attack:
    • Unity's team of robots managed to inflict 56 points of damage on Deadline in one turn... and then catastrophe(s) struck and destroyed them all.
  • Our "review" of our own rules:
    • While it runs a little long, we had a blast playing this way. Particularly with heroes that pile up ongoing cards, you can make some pretty spectacular plays - and that's always fun.
    • The boys & I are concerned that this might not work as well with the tougher villains.
    • We also wondered how this would work against Vengeance-style villains.
    • Overall, we had a lot of fun... and are talking about trying it again soon.

Monday, November 21, 2016

#2: The Settlers of Catan (Mark's 100)

The Settlers of Catan

Mark's Ranking
  • 2014: 2nd
  • 2012: 5th
  • 2010: 1st
  • 2005: 1st
  • appeared on all four lists
  • rank: 214
  • rating: 7.3
Print Status
  • in print
Why It's On The List
  • The game that launched the European "game" invasion... the first true "franchise" game for Kosmos & Mayfair... a game so simple & yet so innovative that it could inspire devoted play with almost any crowd. This infinitely variable game of trading & building is still a personal favorite, even when way too many gamers have left it behind.
Tips & Tricks:
  • While your first game may take 90+ minutes, it's not unusual for experienced players to knock out a game in 60 minutes or less. A lot of that depends on how quickly trading goes and how "aware" the people you're playing are - example: it doesn't matter how many times you ask for "brick", if we haven't rolled it in two rounds, it isn't there for trade. Sigh.

Friday, November 18, 2016

#3: 7 Wonders (Mark's 100)

7 Wonders

Mark's Ranking
  • 2014: 3rd
  • 2012: 21st
  • 2010: prior to publication
  • 2005: prior to publication
  • rank: 28
  • rating: 7.8
Print Status
  • in print
Why It's On The List
  • Card drafting meets civilization building... and it's playable with 3-7 players in a pretty consistent 45 minutes. No "wonder" it got all those awards... 
Tips & Tricks:
  • I'm a big enough fan to picked up all of the available expansions - Leaders, Cities, Wonder Pack & Babel. And with experienced players, I like playing with all of them, though it is a bit overwhelming.
  • Cities is the easiest expansion to add to the game - and it contains the rules for team play, which is actually pretty cool.
  • The laws portion of Babel and Leaders are the two most difficult expansions to add - they have lots of new symbols that can confuse players.
  • You don't have to jump on the science train to score big points - but you do need to burn up science cards for cash or wonder building to prevent others from doing it.
  • Military still doesn't make sense to me - the worst point loss you can take is -6... and it can be less than that if you can talk your neighbor(s) into a truce.
  • 7 Wonders: Duel is a fantastic game (a two player civ builder) and I can't wait to try Pantheon (the expansion).
  • Here's my first look at the Cities expansion after I played the prototype.
  • I wrote a preview of the Babel expansion back in 2014 as well.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

#4: Clash of Cultures (Mark's 100)

Clash of Cultures 

Mark's Ranking
  • 2014: 4th
  • 2012: new
  • 2010: prior to publication
  • 2005: prior to publication
  • rank: 146
  • rating: 7.7
Print Status
  • in print... I think (it's still reasonable on Amazon)
Why It's On The List
  • My favorite civilization-building game... the free-wheeling tech-tree and relatively simple mechanics make for an excellent play experience with 2, 3 or 4 players.
Tips & Tricks:
  • I've been involved in an online game of the Tresham version of Civilization... and it makes me like Clash of Cultures even more. The tech tree decisions are more interesting, the random events aren't earth-shattering, and the gameplay has more variety. I'm pretty much done with classic Civ.
  • There are multiple ways to win Clash of Cultures - we've had games that focused on military build-up and games where trade was king. The direction of the game is often affected by the layout of the board.
  • The expansion is highly recommended - it not only adds cavalry & elephants & extra buildings, it adds historically based civilizations to the game.
  • I have not written a lot about Clash of Cultures... I need to fix that!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Abaddon: Shattered Command

Some ways back I wrote a mini-review of Richard Borg's Abaddon:



review copy provided by the publisher
Extremely Short Summary:

What we have here is your standard “giant robot armies skirmishing on the surface of a valuable but forbidding planet” scenario – filtered through a fog-of-war command system designed by Richard Borg that is a cousin to the Command & Colors system.

Thumbs Up:
  • very nice minis
  • options for play with 2, 3 or 4 players – all of which work well
  • variety of scenarios (with different objectives)
Thumbs Down:
  • the rules could use a polish (though I appreciate the willingness of Toy Vault to include an errata page when the game was published)
  • as in almost all multi-scenario battle games, the introductory/teaching scenarios do a lousy job of showing off how the good the system can be when it’s firing on all cylinders
The Verdict (a year later):

When I played Abaddon on a pre-production copy last year (4 times in a week!), I was delighted by the awesome miniatures and the fast & furious game play. I understood why some gamers didn’t like it – it is more chaotic due to the use of both dice & cards for command than any of Richard Borg’s C&C games. At the same time, I could see it really appealing to my elementary age boys.

Two other observations from a year ago:
  • Mike Gray (from Hasbro) passed by the table while we were playing and remarked that Richard had shown him this game as a prototype a number of years ago.
  • I was given the opportunity to play one of the first “web” scenarios – and both the reorientation of the board and the interesting choices that both players are forced to make from the beginning gave me great hope for Abaddon.

We've continued to play Abaddon - I still think it's a lot of fun and enjoy bringing it down for some rough & tumble battling.

So imagine my excitement when I saw that Toy Vault is launching a Kickstarter to expand Abaddon... with Abaddon: Shattered Command!

The expansion will add Command Bunker tokens (minis if they get enough $$ pledged), Unit Upgrades, rules for building scenarios and entering terrain... and, of course, more scenarios.

The expansion is $15 in the U.S. - and if you missed getting the base game, you can do that with the expansion for just $40. (That's an excellent deal, btw.)

The Kickstarter goes through mid-December - but you should jump on now.

Note: I am not being paid or reimbursed for this blog post. I was given a review copy of the game right after it was released... but I just found out about this new expansion project thanks to the folks at BGG.